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Spirit and sentiment are formed by conversation. Spirit and sentiment are ruined by conversation. ... It is, then, all-important to know how to choose our society in order to form rather than ruin them; and one cannot make this choice unless one has already formed them and not ruined them. Thus a circle is formed, and those are fortunate who escape it. ~ Pascal
Conversation is a game of circles. ~ Emerson

The word conversation is the verbalization of concepts involving abstractions and concrete objects which make up the world we live in. Also, a conversation is communication by two or more people, or by ones self. It can be very involved or just simple small talk.



  • Rarus sermo illis et magna libido tacendi.
    • Their conversation was brief, and their desire was to be silent.
    • Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), II. 14.
  • Talis hominibus est oratio qualis vita.
  • Sermo animi est imago; qualis vir, talis et oratio est.
    • Conversation is the image of the mind; as the man, so is his speech.
    • Syrus, Maxims.

17th century[edit]

  • There is, however, nothing wanting to the idleness of a philosopher but a better name, and that meditation, conversation, and reading should be called “work.”
  • L’esprit de la conversation consiste bien moins à en montrer beaucoup qu’à en faire trouver aux autres: celui qui sort de votre entretien content de soi et de son esprit, l’est de vous parfaitement. Les hommes n’aiment point à vous admirer, ils veulent plaire; ils cherchent moins à être instruits, et même réjouis, qu’à être goûtés et applaudis; et le plaisir le plus délicat est de faire celui d’autrui.
    • The true spirit of conversation consists more in bringing out the cleverness of others than in showing a great deal of it yourself; he who goes away pleased with himself and his own wit is also greatly pleased with you. Most men would rather please than admire you; they seek less to be instructed, and even to be amused, than to be praised and applauded; the most delicate of pleasures is to please another person.
    • Jean de La Bruyère, Les Caractères (1688), “Of Society and Conversation,” #16
  • A young man before he leaves the shelter of his father's house, and the guard of a tutor, should be fortify'd with resolution, and made acquainted with men, to secure his virtues, lest he should be led into some ruinous course, or fatal precipice, before he is sufficiently acquainted with the dangers of conversation, and his steadiness enough not to yield to every temptation.
  • With thee conversing I forget all time:
    All seasons and their change, all please alike.
  • On se forme l’esprit et le sentiment par les conversations. On se gâte l’esprit et le sentiment par les conversations. Ainsi les bonnes ou les mauvaises le forment ou le gâtent. Il importe donc de tout de les savoir choisir pour se le former et ne le point gâter; et on ne peut faire ce choix, si on ne l’a déjà formé et point gâté. Ainsi cela fait un cercle, d’où sont bienheureux ceux qui sortent.
    • Spirit and sentiment are formed by conversation. Spirit and sentiment are ruined by conversation. ... It is, then, all-important to know how to choose our society in order to form rather than ruin them; and one cannot make this choice unless one has already formed them and not ruined them. Thus a circle is formed, and those are fortunate who escape it.

18th century[edit]

  • With good and gentle-humored hearts
    I choose to chat where'er I come
    Whate'er the subject be that starts.
    But if I get among the glum
    I hold my tongue to tell the truth
    And keep my Breath to cool my broth.
  • But conversation, choose what theme we may,
    And chiefly when religion leads the way,
    Should flow, like waters after summer show'rs,
    Not as if raised by mere mechanic powers.
  • I never, with important air,
    In conversation overbear.
    * * * *
    My tongue within my lips I rein;
    For who talks much must talk in vain.
    • John Gay, Fables (1727), Part I. Introduction, line 53.
  • They would talk of nothing but high life and high-lived company, with other fashionable topics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and the musical glasses.
  • Tom Birch is as brisk as a bee in conversation; but no sooner does he take a pen in his hand, than it becomes a torpedo to him, and benumbs all his faculties.
  • That silence is one of the great arts of conversation is allowed by Cicero himself, who says, there is not only an art, but even an eloquence in it.
    • Hannah More (1745–1833) , Essays on Various Subjects, Thoughts on Conversation.
  • Form'd by thy converse, happily to steer
    From grave to gay, from lively to severe.
  • And surely one of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing which any of the company can reasonably wish had been left unsaid…
  • A dearth of words a woman need not fear;
    But 'tis a task indeed to learn to hear:
    In that the skill of conversation lies;
    That shows or makes you both polite and wise.

19th century[edit]

  • What are the great faults of conversation? Want of ideas, want of words, want of manners, are the principal ones, I suppose you think. I don't doubt it, but I will tell you what I have found spoil more good talks than anything else;- long arguments on special points between people who differ on the fundamental principles upon which these points depend. No men can have satisfactory relations with each other until they have agreed on certain ultimata [finalities] of belief not to be disturbed in ordinary conversation, and unless they have sense enough to trace the secondary questions depending upon these ultimate beliefs to their source. In short, just as a written constitution is essential to the best social order, so a code of finalities is a necessary condition of talk between two persons.
  • Ill nature is to conversation what oil is to the lamp—the only thing that keeps it alive.
  • A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years' study of books.
  • One specialist ... may be of the greatest use in conversation. A set of specialists when they get together are either unintelligible to the average mind or exceedingly tedious.
  • If ... we meet a man of acknowledged mental superiority, whether generally or in his special department, it is our social duty by intelligent questioning, by an anxiety to learn from him, to force him to condescend to our ignorance, or join in our fun, till his broader sympathies are awakened, and he plays with us as if we were children. Indeed this very metaphor points out one of the very remarkable instances of social equality asserted by an inferior—I mean the outspoken freedom of the child—which possesses a peculiar charm, and often thaws the dignity or dissipates the reserve of the great man and woman whose superiority is a perpetual obstacle to them in ordinary society.
  • The same thing has been said by all whom Prometheus has formed out of better clay. What pleasure could they find in the company of people with whom their only common ground is just what is lowest and least noble in their own nature—the part of them that is commonplace, trivial and vulgar? What do they want with people who cannot rise to a higher level, and for whom nothing remains but to drag others down to theirs?
  • The pith of conversation does not consist in exhibiting your own superior knowledge on matters of small consequence, but in enlarging, improving, and correcting the information you possess, by the authority of others.

20th century[edit]

  • CONVERSATION, n. A fair to the display of the minor mental commodities, each exhibitor being too intent upon the arrangement of his own wares to observe those of his neighbor.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • Communication can only take place among equals.
    • Kenneth Boulding (1974). Collected Papers: Toward a general social science. L.D. Singell ed. p. 240.
  • The Great Conversation began before the beginnings of experimental science. But the birth of the Conversation and the birth of science were simultaneous. The earliest of the pre-Socratics were investigating and seeking to understand natural phenomena; among them were men who used mathematical notions for this purpose. Even experimentation is not new; it has been going on for hundreds of years. But faith in experimentation as an exclusive method is a modern manifestation. is now regarded in some quarters... as the sole method of obtaining knowledge of any kind.
  • Do you know that conversation is one of the greatest pleasures in life? But it wants leisure.
  • British conversation is like a game of cricket or a boxing match; personal allusions are forbidden like hitting below the belt, and anyone who loses his temper is disqualified.
  • Each word is a singularity, or is connected with a singularity, in our way of understanding existence.
    • Léon Rosenfeld (1904–74) As quoted in A Question of Physics: Conversations in Physics and Biology (1979), Paul Buckley and F. David Peat, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, p. 29.
  • There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all.
  • Conversation is imperative if gaps are to be filled, and old age, it is the last gap but one.
  • A philosopher who is not taking part in discussions is like a boxer who never goes into the ring.

21st century[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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