Philosophy: Ground Zero For Quotation Confusion

Is there anything more confusing than one of Nietzsche’s aphorisms? How about a line, any line, from Hegel? Whether you’re a Philosophy undergraduate, a fan of philosophy, or just heard the quote and want to make sense of it, we’ll at least try to have you covered.

In this category and the related sub-categories, we’ll look at some of the most cited quotes in the history of Philosophy. From   Camu to Kierkegaard to Hegel we’ll explain the situation that surrounded the famous quote and (hopefully) provides some context in the hopes readers may understand just what the author was talking about.

For an in-depth breakdown of certain philosophical positions, there is perhaps no better source than the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy are peer-reviewed and meet the highest levels of scholarship (at least among those pieces that are publicly available online). 

If you don’t see a philosophical quote that you need or would like to have explained, visit our contact us page and we’ll add it to the queue. Also, visit the same place if you’ve spotted a flaw in any piece you find in this section or elsewhere on the site.

Foundational Quotes in Philosophy

While we have a full list of philosophy quotes available below, here is a sampling of some of the most requested quotes about the ancient tradition.

If I Am The Wisest Man Alive Quote by Socrates

There is perhaps no more cited quote in the history of philosophy then this quote allegedly spoken by the man himself which gets the foundations of intellectual humility required for philosophical inquiry.

I think Therefore I am by Rene Descartes

After Socrates but before Russell, Rene Descartes ushered in a new wave of Philosophy with his first and second meditations. This quote by Descartes, lead him to question the foundations of using evidence to discover truth.

The Man Who Has No Tincture of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

A key figure in the Analytic tradition of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell was noted for speaking about the importance of philosophical inquiry. Read more about this Bertrand Russell quote.

Famous Einstein Quotes

He’s so frequently discussed, we curated a list of some of Albert Einstein’s most used quotes.

God Does Not Play Dice: The quote by Einstein is often used casually. However those five words were actually fundamental to Einstein’s views about the Universe and belie his preferred interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Niels Bohr, however, may have gotten the better of him in this exchange with his response.

Views on Gandhi: It’s no secret that the late Physicist was fond of the Indian activist. We break down his moving quote about the famed pacifist.

 

 

 

philosopher thinking

He Who Has A Why To Live Can Bear Almost Any How

Who said he who has a why to live can bear almost any how? And what did they mean? It may (or may not) surprise you to learn that this quote was uttered by one of the world’s most famous philosophers: Friedrich Nietzsche. Let’s get to what he was talking about.

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Objective Uncertainty That Is Held Fast Soren Kierkegaard

Among the many jaw dropping lines spoken by Soren Kierkegaard, he has perhaps most known for his philosophical contributions to debates around religion and god. We’re going to break down one of his most profound, if not impenetrable, lines he ever wrote or spoke which was: objective uncertainty that is held fast in an appropriation process that is of the most passionate inwardness.

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dictator giving orders

The Whole Problem With This World Is That Fools and Fanatics Are Always So Certain and The Wiser So Full of Doubt Meaning

The renowned philosopher, logician and public intellectual Bertrand Russell famously remarked “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people are so full of doubt.” While the quotes meaning and utility may be obvious to some, we’re going to explain where it came from and the context behind Bertrand Russell’s famous quote.

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Einstein on dice

God Does Not Play Dice Albert Einstein

Good Doesn’t Play Dice is a quote by Theoretical Physicist Albert Einstein made to fellow physicist Niels Bohr. The quote came out of an argument regarding the specifics of Quantum Mechanics. Given the unique complexity of this quote, and the fact it’s embedded in a larger debate, we’ll provide a simple explanation and a more complex one that gives the quote a proper setting.

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Rene Descartes thought experiment

I Think Therefore I Am Quote By Rene Descartes

What does “I think therefore I Am” possibly mean and why is it critical to the history of philosophy and knowledge? Let’s break down what Rene Descartes was thinking when he wrote the famous line which translates to “I think therefore I am.” The short story short (we’ll get to the longer story), Descartes imagines a dream that is so real it feels like he is awake. Descartes is going to question how one can tell the difference between the dream world and the real world and ultimately question everything he knows. As we do, we’ll explain the larger context of his discussion, and what he is trying to achieve by using this example.

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jean paul sarte camus

Our Friendship Was Not An Easy One, But I Shall Miss It

Fans of philosophy are all too familiar with the long running rivalry between legendary philosophers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. In print, in person and everywhere in between, the two were vicious, friendly competitors disagreeing over everything from existentialism to World War II.

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If I am the wisest man alive, it is for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing Socrates

Though it’s discussed in almost every introductory class in Philosophy, the quote by Socrates “if I am the wisest man alive, for i know one thing, and that is that i know nothing”, many have no idea what actually means. First, we’ll need some context. Socrates, speaking to the Oracle of Delphi famously uttered the following quote: If I am the wisest man alive, it is for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. Though there may be some debate about whether or not he said it (we think he did), there is little debate about what he meant.

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illustration of Hegel

Owl of Minerva Spreads Its Wings Only With The Falling of the Dusk

Not only is Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel one of the most famous philosopher’s of all time, but he’s also famously difficult to understand. Philosopher and podcaster Tamler Sommers once stated “he’s probably a top tier thinker…but I’ll never know because I can’t get through any of his books.” Among his most cited quotes is this one about how to observe and evaluate history.

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Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein On Mahatma Gandhi

While it may seem counterintuitive to many, Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandi an affection for one another. Particular in the case of the former (Einstein) on the latter (Gandhi). Read below for his full, in context, feelings about the great activist leader.

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Søren Kierkegaard

Subjective Toward Themselves and Objective Toward All Others Søren Kierkegaard

In 1841, Søren Kierkegaard wrote that the whole problem is that people are “Subjective Toward Themselves and Objective Toward All Others.” While just another quote by a philosopher, the quote would ultimately manifest in one of the most foundational psychological findings in the field. We’ll explain the quote, provide references and then get to its historical legacy and importance.

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The Man Who Has No Tincture of Philosophy Goes Through Life Imprisoned

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician and much more. As one of the major figures of Western Philosophy, his quotes about the value and importance of philosophy are standard requirements for any Philosophy 1101 student. This being our first quote from Dr. Russell that we’ve indulged in, we’ll start with one of his most used and most perplexing on the importance of philosophy.

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uncommon man reading

Practical Man As This Word Is Often Used

Whether as a Philosopher, Mathematician, or Logician Bertrand Russell was a revolutionary mind with insights that transformed all three fields. His book “A History of Western Philosophy”, published in 1945, is among the most recommended and revered books about western philosophy in a vast collection of books about the subject.

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Niels Bohr Quote

Stop Telling God What To Do Niels Bohr

Stop Telling God What To Do is a famous quote by physicist Niels Bohr. The line was a rebuttal to a famous quote by Albert Einstein that “God Does Not Play Dice.” We’ll explain the background of the quote and the events that preceded it on this page.

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