IR Folks from Times Past

IR Folks from Times Past

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Come now, and let us reason together. Isaiah, I, 18, C 700 B.C.

The law of things is a law of universal reason, but most men live as if they had a wisdom of their own. Heraclitus, Fragment, c. 500 B.C.

I desire to reason with God. Job, 3, c. 325 B.C.

Reason is the mistress and queen of all things. (Domina omnium et regina ratio.) Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes, II, 45 B.C.
Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but — more frequently than not — struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. Martin Luther, Table-Talk, CCCLIII, 1569

Every why hath a wherefore. Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, II, 1593

The will of man is by his reason sway'd. Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, II, c. 1596

There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immovable, proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle axioms. This way is now in fashion. The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by a gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried. Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, I, 1620

Reason is the life of the law; nay, the Common Law itself is nothing else but reason. Edward Coke, Institutes, I, 1628

Reason lies between the spur and the bridle. George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs, 1640

Men never wish ardently for what they only wish for from reason. La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1665

The reasoning of the strongest is always the best. Jean de la Fontaine, Fables, I, 1668.

A man without reason is a beast in season. John Ray, English Proverbs, 1670

Dim as the borrowed beams of moon and stars
To lonely, weary, wand'ring travelers,
Is reason to the soul.
John Dryden, Religio Laici, 1682

Reason, thou vain impertinence,
Deluding hypocrite, begone!
And go and plague your men of sense,
But let my love and me alone.
Anon., Miscellany of Poems and Translations by Oxford Hands, 1685

We love without reason, and without reason we hate. J.F. Regnard, Les folies amoureuses, 1704

Every bias, instinct, propension within is a natural part of our nature, but not the whole: add to these the superior faculty whose office it is to adjust, manage and preside over them, and take in this its natural superiority, and you complete the idea of human nature. Joseph Butler, Sermons Upon Human Nature, 1726

Let any man but look back upon his own life, and see what use he has made of his reason, how little he has consulted it, and how less he has followed it. William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, xvi, 1728.

Logicians have but ill defin'd,
  As rational, the human kind;
Reason, they say, belongs to man;
But let them prove it if they can.
Jonathan Swift, The Logicians Refuted. 1731

Reason is the only faculty we have wherewith to judge concerning anything, even revelation itself. Joseph Butler, The Analogy of Religion, II, 1736

We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, I, 1739

If there be a God, He is the Author of nature as well as of revelation. He gave us the one to explain the other, and reason to make them agree. J. O. de la Mettrie, L'Homme machine, 1748

Plain right reason is, nine times in ten, the fettered and shackled attendant of the triumph of the heart and the passions. Lord Chesterfield, Letter to his son, March 16, 1752

If you will not hear reason, she will surely rap your knuckles. Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1757

Passion and prejudice govern the world; only under the name of reason. John Wesley, Letter to Joseph Benson, Oct. 5, 1770

Hercules vanquished the Nemean lion, and a strong athlete named Voltaire has crushed the hydra of fanaticism under his feet. Reason becomes stronger every day in our Europe. Frederick the Great, June 18, 1776

Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. Thomas Jefferson, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

Reason is nothing but the analysis of belief.  Franz Schubert, Diary, March 27, 1824

You know, my friends, with what a brave carouse
I made a second marriage in my house;
    Divorced old barren reason from my bed,
And took the daughter of the vine to spouse.
Edward Fitzgerald, Tr., of Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat (c. 1100), 1857

I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

Reason unites us, not only with our contemporaries, but with men who lived two thousand years before us, and with those who will live after us. Lyof N. Tolstoy, Of Reason, Faith and Prayer, 1901
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Source: Mencken, Dictionary of Quotations, 1007-09