Nicholas Murray Butler

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Butler, 1915

Nicholas Murray Butler (April 2, 1862December 7, 1947) was an American philosopher, diplomat, and educator. Butler was president of Columbia University, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


  • There was a time when philosophy might have been defined as the science of human activity, so all-comprehensive was it. The ambitious Greek who would attach his name to a philosophical system must include in his scheme all that could be known, done, and speculated about God, the world, and man. In the course of time and the specialization of the sciences this view of philosophy fell away, and was replaced by the more exact and narrower conception of modern times.
  • The United States is in sore need today of an aristocracy of intellect and service. Because such an aristocracy does not exist in the popular consciousness, we are bending the knee to the golden calf of money. The form of monarchy and its pomp offer a valuable foil to the worship of money for its own sake. A democracy must provide itself with a foil of its own and none is better or more effective than an aristocracy of intellect and service.
  • Many definitions have been given of the word “education,” but underlying them all is the conception that it denotes an attempt on the part of the adult members of a human society to shape the development of the coming generation in accordance with its own ideals of life. It is true that the word has not infrequently been used in wider senses than this.
    • Butler (1911) "Education" in Encyclopædia Britannica, (11th ed.), 1911. (United States)
  • All the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think. The trouble is that men very often resort to all sorts of devices in order not to think, because thinking is such hard work.
    • Attributed to Butler in: American Dental Association (1959) The Journal of the American Dental Association. Vol 59. p. 289

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