George Orwell - Albert Einstein - Bertrand Russell - Howard Jacobson - Nicolai Berdyaev - Karel Capek - T E Hulme - Robert M Pirsig - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon - Robert Anton Wilson - Christopher Hitchens - Noam Chomsky - James Burke TV - Richard Dawkins - Jacob Bronowski TV - Herbert Spencer -
At all times the Party is in possession of absolute truth, and clearly the absolute can never have been different from what it is now. It will be seen that the control of the past depends above all on the training of memory. George Orwell, 1984
The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library. Albert Einstein
Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality. Bertrand Russell, Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic? A Plea for Tolerance in the Face of New Dogmas, 1947
Dogmatism and scepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance. Bertrand Russell
Let’s confront the absolutists: though who absolutely believe, and those who absolutely don’t. Howard Jacobson, The Bible: A History, Channel 4 2010
There is absolute truth in anarchism and it is to be seen in its attitude to the sovereignty of the state and to every form of state absolutism ... The religious truth of anarchism consists in this, that power over man is bound up with sin and evil, that a state of perfection is a state where there is no power of man over man, that is to say, anarchy. The Kingdom of God is freedom and the absence of such power the Kingdom of God is anarchy. Nikolai Berdyaev, in Slavery and Freedom p147, 1939
Relativism is not indifference; on the contrary, passionate indifference is necessary in order for you not to hear the voices that oppose your absolute decrees ... Relativism is neither a method of fighting, nor a method of creating, for both of these are uncompromising and at times even ruthless; rather, it is a method of cognition. Karel Čapek, On Relativism, 1925
In the light of absolute values (religious or ethical) man himself is judged to be limited or imperfect, while he can occasionally accomplish acts which partake of perfection, he, himself can never be perfect. T E Hulme, Speculations, 1924
Socrates is not just expounding noble ideas in a vacuum. He is in the middle of a war between those who think truth is absolute and those who think truth is relative. He is fighting that war with everything he has. Robert M Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ch29, 1974
All parties without exception, when they seek for power, are varieties of absolutism. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Only the madman is absolutely sure. Robert Anton Wilson
George Bush made a mistake when he referred to the Saddam Hussein regime as ‘evil’. Every liberal and leftist knows how to titter at such black-and-white moral absolutism. Christopher Hitchens
Responsibility I believe accrues through privilege. People like you and me have an unbelievable amount of privilege and therefore we have a huge amount of responsibility. We live in free societies where we are not afraid of the police; we have extraordinary wealth available to us by global standards. If you have those things, then you have the kind of responsibility that a person does not have if he or she is slaving seventy hours a week to put food on the table; a responsibility at the very least to inform yourself about power. Beyond that, it is a question of whether you believe in moral certainties or not. Noam Chomsky
There are no absolutes ... Buddhism is all about that. You know – no absolutes, no centre to the universe, nothing but er nothingness. James Burke, Connections s3e3: Drop the Apple, BBC 1997
Not all absolutism is derived from religion. Nevertheless, it is pretty hard to defend absolutist morals on grounds other than religious ones. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion p232
Such absolutism nearly always result from strong religious faith, and it constitutes a major reason for suggesting that religion can be a force for evil in the world. ibid. p286
The absolute morality that a religious person might profess would include stoning people for adultery, death for apostasy, punishment for breaking the Sabbath. These are all things which are religiously based on absolute moralities. I don’t think I want an absolute morality. Richard Dawkins, Australian ABC March 2009
There is no absolute knowledge ... All information is imperfect. Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man 11/13: Knowledge or Certainty ***** BBC 1973
All knowledge, all information, between human beings can only be exchanged within a play of tolerance. ibid.
All knowledge is limited. It’s an irony of history that at the very time this was being worked out, there should arise under Hitler and Germany and giants elsewhere a counter-conception, a principle of monstrous certainty. When the future looks back on the 1930s, it will think of them as a crucial confrontation of culture as I have been expounding it – the Ascent of Man. Against the throwback of despotic belief to the notion that they have absolute certainty. ibid.
When people believe that they have absolute knowledge with no test in reality this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods. ibid.
We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. ibid.
Absolute morality is the regulation of conduct in such a way that pain shall not be inflicted. Herbert Spencer