Latest Commonplace Additions


We are what we pretend to be

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We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

Kurt Vonnegut, 1961

From the book Mother Night


Societies are not merely statistical aggregations

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Societies are not merely statistical aggregations of individuals engaged in voluntary exchange but something much more subtle and complicated. A group or community cannot be understood if the unit of analysis is the individual taken by himself. A society is clearly something greater than the sum of its parts.

Lester Thurow, 1983

From the book Dangerous Currents


Economics is essentially a question of design

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Economics, it turns out, is not a matter of discovering laws: it is essentially a question of design.

Kate Raworth

From the book Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist


You have to create more than you consume

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If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.

Jeff Bezos, 15 Apr 2021

From the letter 2020 Letter to Shareholders


The Eternal Struggle for Human Rights

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The existence and validity of human rights are not written in the stars. The ideals concerning the conduct of men toward each other and the desirable structure of the community have been conceived and taught by enlightened individuals in the course of history. Those ideals and convictions which resulted from historical experience, from the craving for beauty and harmony, have been readily accepted in theory by man – and at all times, have been trampled upon by the same people under the pressure of their animal instincts. A large part of history is therefore replete with the struggle for those human rights, an eternal struggle in which a final victory can never be won. But to tire in that struggle would mean the ruin of society.

Albert Einstein, 20 Feb 1954

From the speech Address to the Chicago Decalogue Society


Gradually and then suddenly

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‘How did you go bankrupt?’ Bill asked.

‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’

Ernest Hemingway, 1926

From the book The Sun Also Rises


Managing our planetary household

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The word ‘economics’ was coined by the philosopher Xenophon in Ancient Greece. Combining oikos meaning household with nomos meaning rules or norms, he invented the art of household management, and it could not be more relevant today. This century we need some pretty insightful managers to guide our planetary household, and ones who are ready to pay attention to the needs of all of its inhabitants.

Kate Raworth, 2017

From the book Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist


The only sensible procedure for a critic

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The only sensible procedure for a critic is to keep silent about works which he believes to be bad, while at the same time vigorously campaigning for those which he believes to be good, especially if they are being neglected or underestimated by the public.

W. H. Auden, 1973

From the essay The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays


The productive orientation is expressed in love

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In the realm of feeling, the productive orientation is expressed in love, which is the experience of union with another person, with all men, and with nature, under the condition of retaining one’s sense of integrity and independence. In the experience of love the paradox happens that two people become one, and remain two at the same time. Love in this sense is never restricted to one person. If I can love only one person, and nobody else, if my love for one person makes me more alienated and distant from my fellow man, I may be attached to this person in any number of ways, yet I do not love.

Erich Fromm, 1956

From the book The Sane Society


The more they yearned for omnipotence

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Blackwell was a sad and troubled man, hardly competent to play God with anybody’s life. But the sadder and more troubled they were, the more they yearned for omnipotence. The really troubled ones believed they had it.

Ross MacDonald, 1962

From the book The Zebra-Striped Hearse


The moment we cease to hold each other

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For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

James Baldwin, 1964

From the book Nothing Personal


Larger, freer, and more loving

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If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.

James Baldwin, 1962

From the essay Letter from a Region of My Mind


White people will have quite enough to do

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I do not know many Negroes who are eager to be ‘accepted’ by white people, still less to be loved by them; they, the blacks, simply don't wish to be beaten over the head by the whites every instant of our brief passage on this planet. White people will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this – which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never – the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.

James Baldwin, 1962

From the essay Letter from a Region of My Mind


The universe is queerer than we can suppose

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Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

J. B. S. Haldane, 1927

From the book Possible Worlds and Other Essays


Start with romance and build to a reality

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I think it’s part of the nature of man to start with romance and build to a reality. There’s hardly a scientist or an astronaut I’ve met who wasn’t beholden to some romantic before him who led him to doing something in life.

Ray Bradbury, 12 Nov 1971

From the book Mars and the Mind of Man


The sort of organisms that interpret and modify their agency

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Humans are just the sort of organisms that interpret and modify their agency through their conception of themselves. This is a complicated biological fact about us.

Amélie Rorty, 1976

From the book The Identities of Persons


We're part of something continuous

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Edith Pretty: We die. We die and we decay. We don't live on.

Basil Brown: I'm not sure I agree. From the first human handprint on a cave wall, we're part of something continuous. So, we… don't really die.

Moira Buffini, 2021

From the film The Dig


The intricate riddle of life

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There is but one solution to the intricate riddle of life; to improve ourselves, and contribute to the happiness of others.

Mary Shelley, 1826

From the book The Last Man


Peaceful ends through peaceful means

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One day, we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.

Martin Luther King Jr., April 1967

From the speech Riverside Church Speech


We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds

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We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.

Anton Chekhov, 1897

From the play Uncle Vanya

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