Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists then in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor to think well; this is the principle of morality. ~ Blaise Pascal
Nature gets credit which should in truth be reserved for ourselves: the rose for its scent, the nightingale for its song, and the sun for its radiance. The poets are entirely mistaken. They should address their lyrics to themselves and should turn them into odes of self-congratulation on the excellence of the human mind. ~ A. N. Whitehead
Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: —
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.
Variant: Mind is the Master Power that molds and makes, And we are mind. And ever more we take the tool of thought, and shaping what we will, bring forth a thousand joys, or a thousand ills. We think in secret, and it comes to pass, environment, is but our looking glass
Just as a gardener cultivates his plot, keeping it free from weeds, and growing the flowers and fruits which he requires, so may a man tend the garden of his mind, weeding out all the wrong, useless, and impure thoughts, and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful, and pure thoughts. By pursuing this process, a man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life. He also reveals, within himself, the laws of thought, and understands, with ever-increasing accuracy, how the thought-forces and mind elements operate in the shaping of his character, circumstances, and destiny.
James Allen, in: Libraries: A Monthly Review of Library Matters and Methods, 1909, p. 208
Mind is infinite and self-ruled, and is mixed with nothing, but is alone itself by itself.
Anaxagoras, Frag. B 12 from Early Greek Philosophy, Chapter 6, John Burnet (1920).
It is the nature of the mind that makes individuals kin, and the differences in the shape, form or manner of the material atoms out of whose intricate relationships that mind is built are altogether trivial.
There is good evidence for a sensorimotorself, an emotional and motivational self probably represented in the right hemisphere, a social self-system, and perhaps an appetitive self. All these self-systems ordinarily work in reasonable coordination with each other, though they can be in conflict at times.
Bernard J. Baars, "Understanding Subjectivity: Global Workspace Theory and the Resurrection of the Observing Self" Journal of Consciousness Studies, 3, No. 3, 1996, pp. 211-16.
They scare me more than any other fictional creature out there because they break all the rules. Werewolves and vampires and mummies and giant sharks, you have to go look for them. My attitude is if you go looking for them, no sympathy. But zombies come to you. Zombies don't act like a predator; they act like a virus, and that is the core of my terror. A predator is intelligent by nature, and knows not to overhunt its feeding ground. A virus will just continue to spread, infect and consume, no matter what happens. It's the mindlessness behind it.
Max Brooks Lance Eaton (October 2, 2006). "Zombies Spreading like a Virus: PW Talks with Max Brooks". Interview. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved January 15, 2009
The lack of rational thought has always scared me when it came to zombies, the idea that there is no middle ground, no room for negotiation. That has always terrified me. Of course that applies to terrorists, but it can also apply to a hurricane, or flu pandemic, or the potential earthquake that I grew up with living in L.A. Any kind of mindless extremism scares me, and we're living in some pretty extreme times.
Max Brooks (October 6, 2006). "Zombie Wars". Washington Post. Retrieved September 19, 2008.
Whatever an enemy might do to an enemy, or a foe to a foe, the ill-directed mind can do to you even worse.
Whatever a mother, father or other kinsman might do for you, the well-directed mind can do for you even better.
The mind which does not have a place to turn or any stable base will undergo change from hour to hour and from minute to minute due to the variety of its distractions. ... By the things that come to it from outside it will be continually transformed.
The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore so it eats it! (It's rather like getting tenure.)
The scientific course is to put the burden of proof on the attribution. As a scientist, you can't just declare, for instance, that the presence of glutamate molecules amounts to the presence of mind; you have to prove it, against a background in which the "null hypothesis" is that mind is not present. There is substantial disagreement among scientists as to which species have what sorts of mind, but even those scientists who are the most ardent champions of consciousness in animals accept this burden of proof—and think they can meet it, by devising and confirming theories that show which animals are conscious. But no such theories are yet confirmed, and in the meantime we can appreciate the discomfort of those who see this agnostic, wait-and-see policy as jeopardizing the moral status of creatures that they are sure are conscious.
Minds are the ultimate terra incognita, beyond the reach of all science and—in the case of languageless minds—beyond all empathetic conversation as well. So what? A little humility ought to temper our curiosity. Don't confuse ontological questions (about what exists) with epistemological questions (about how we know about it). We must grow comfortable with this wonderful fact about what is off-limits to inquiry.
Another prospect to consider is that among the creatures who lack language, there are some who do not have minds at all, but do everything "automatically" or "unconsciously." …We may never be able to tell where to draw the line between those creatures that have minds and those that do not, but this is just another aspect of the unavoidable limitations on our knowledge. Such facts may be systematically unknowable, not just hard to uncover.
The differences between minds might be... like the differences between languages, or styles of music or art—inexhaustible in the limit, but approachable to any degree of approximation you like. But the difference between having a mind and not having a mind at all—being something with its own subjective point of view and being something that is all outside and no inside, like a rock or a discarded sliver of fingernail—is apparently an all-or-nothing difference.
It appears that the tendency of mind to infiltrate and control matter is a law of the universe. Individual minds die and individual planets may be destroyed. But... The infiltration of mind into the universe will not be permanently halted by any catastrophe or by any barrier that I can imagine. If our species does not choose to lead the way, others will do so, or may have already done so. If our species is extinguished, others will be wiser or luckier. Mind is patient. Mind has waited for 3 billion years before composing its first string quartet.
Matter in quantum mechanics is not an inert substance but an active agent, constantly making choices between alternative possibilities according to probabilistic laws. ...It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every electron. ...Our brains appear to be devices for the amplification of the mental component of the quantum choices made by molecules inside our heads. ...There is evidence from peculiar features of the laws of nature that the universe as a whole is hospitable to the growth of mind. ...an extension of the Anthropic Principle up to a universal scale.
However closely we may associate thought with the physical machinery of the brain, the connection is dropped as irrelevant as soon as we consider the fundamental property of thought—that it may be correct or incorrect. ...that involves recognising a domain of the other type of law—laws which ought to be kept, but may be broken.
When the object of sense is very violent, it injures sense at once, so that sense, after its occurrence, cannot immediately discern its weaker objects. Thus extreme brightness offends the eye, and a very loud noise offends the ears. Mind, however, is otherwise; by its most excellent object it is neither injured nor ever confused. Nay, rather, after this object is known, it distinguishes inferior things at once more clearly and more truly.
Marsilio Ficino, Five Questions Concerning the Mind (1495) as translated by J. L. Burroughs in The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (1948).
Our best scientific theory about the mind is better than empiricism; but, in all sorts of ways, it’s still not very good.
Science does progress toward more adequate understanding of the empirical world, but no pristine, objective reality lies "out there" for us to capture as our technologies improve and our concepts mature. The human mind is both an amazing instrument and a fierce impediment—and the mind must be interposed between observation and understanding. Thus we will always "see" with the aid (or detriment) of conventions. All observation is a partnership between mind and nature, and all good partnerships require compromise. The mind, we trust, will be constrained by a genuine external reality; this reality, in turn, must be conveyed to the brain by our equally imperfect senses, all jury-rigged and cobbled together by that maddeningly complex process known as evolution.
Stephen Jay Gould, "Last Snails and Right Minds," Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History (1995)
Mind is mysterious and has myriad appearances. It cannot be identified in the way external objects can. It has no shape, form or colour. This mere clear awareness is of the nature of experience and feeling. It is something like colored water—although the water is not of the same nature as the color, so long as they are mixed, the true color of the water is not obvious. Similarly, the mind does not have the nature of external objects such as physical form, and so forth. However the mind is so habituated to following the five sensory consciousnesses that it becomes almost indistinguishable from the physical form, shape, color and so forth, that it experiences.
Your life doesn't get any better than your mind is: You might have wonderful friends, perfect health, a great career, and everything else you want, and you can still be miserable. The converse is also true: There are people who basically have nothing—who live in circumstances that you and I would do more or less anything to avoid—who are happier than we tend to be because of the character of their minds. Unfortunately, one glimpse of this truth is never enough. We have to be continually reminded of it.
The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter—not of course our individual minds, but the mind in which the atoms out of which our individual minds have grown exist as thoughts.
"Some," answered Imlac, "have indeed said that the soul is material, but I can scarcely believe that any man has thought it, who knew how to think; for all the conclusions of reason enforce the immateriality of mind, and all the notices of sense and investigations of science, concur to prove the unconsciousness of matter.
[Imlac continues] "It was never supposed that cogitation is inherent in matter, or that every particle is a thinking being. Yet, if any part of matter be devoid of thought, what part can we suppose to think? Matter can differ from matter only in form, density, bulk, motion, and direction of motion: to which of these, however varied or combined, can consciousness be annexed? To be round or square, to be solid or fluid, to be great or little, to be moved slowly or swiftly one way or another, are modes of material existence, all equally alien from the nature of cogitation. If matter be once without thought, it can only be made to think by some new modification, but all the modifications which it can admit are equally unconnected with cogitative powers."
I believe that the mind may make its own immortality: thought is the spiritual part of existence; and so long as my mind influences others, so long as my thoughts remain behind, so long shall my spirit be conscious and immortal. The body may perish—not so the essence which survives in the living and lasting page.
In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits... In the province of connected minds, what the network believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the network's mind there are no limits.
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation, or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
Some form of self-awareness is surely essential to highly intelligent thought... On the other hand, I doubt that any part of a mind can see very deeply into other parts; it can only use models it constructs of them.
Good theories of the mind must span at least three different scales of time: slow, for the billions of years in which our brains have survivied; fast, for the fleeting weeks and months of childhood; and in between, the centuries of growth of our ideas through history.
Mind has come up with this brilliant way of looking at the world — science — but it can’t look at itself. Science has no place for the mind. The whole of our science is based upon empirical, repeatable experiments. Whereas thought is not in that category, you can’t take thought into a laboratory. The essential fact of our existence, perhaps the only fact of our existence – our own thought and perception is ruled off-side by the science it has invented. Science looks at the universe, doesn’t see itself there, doesn’t see mind there, so you have a world in which mind has no place. We are still no nearer to coming to terms with the actual dynamics of what consciousness is.
Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.
All our dignity consists then in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor to think well; this is the principle of morality.
Blaise Pascal, Pensées, #347, W. F. Trotter, trans. (New York: 1958).
That which possesses discriminating awareness, that which possesses a sense of duality—which grasps or rejects something external—that is mind. Fundamentally it is that which can associate with an 'other'—with a 'something', that is perceived as different from the perceiver.
The mind within the senses does not dwell, It has no place in outer things, like form, And in between, the mind does not abide;
Not out, not in, not elsewhere can the mind be found.
Something not within the body, and yet nowhere else, That does not merge with it nor stand apart—
Something such as this does not exist, not even slightly. Beings have nirvana in their nature.
Emphatically did the Buddha proclaim again and again that man is in full possession of all the resources needed for self-help. The most simple and most comprehensive way in which he spoke about these resources is this method of Satipaṭṭhāna. Its essence may be compressed into two words: “Be mindful!” That means: Be mindful of your own mind! And why? Mind harbours all: the world of suffering and its origin, but also ill’s final cessation and the path to it. Whether one or the other will be predominant depends again on our own mind, on the direction that the flux of mind receives through this very moment of mind-activity that faces us just now. Satipaṭṭhāna, always dealing with this crucial present moment of mind activity, must necessarily be a teaching of self-reliance. But self-reliance must be gradually developed, because men, knowing not how to handle the tool of the mind, have become used to leaning on others and on habit; and, owing to that, this splendid tool, the human mind, has in fact become unreliable through neglect.
Nature gets credit which should in truth be reserved for ourselves: the rose for its scent, the nightingale for its song, and the sun for its radiance. The poets are entirely mistaken. They should address their lyrics to themselves and should turn them into odes of self-congratulation on the excellence of the human mind.
Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (1925), as cited in History, Humanity and Evolution (1989), p. 383.
No scientist has yet provided an acceptable definition of "mind" or "mental" that reveals the character of "unconscious mental processes," and no physicist a lucid definition of "elementary particles" that shows how they can appear or disappear, and why there are so many.
The material particle or the conscious mind—has been discovered not to be sufficiently unchanging to be treated as a thing in isolation... but more often to be the opposite: a changing system in a changing environment.
My mynde to me a kingdome is
Such preasent joyes therein I fynde
That it excells all other blisse
That earth afforde or growes by kynde
Though muche I wante which moste would have
Yet still my mynde forbiddes to crave.
Edward Dyer, Rawlinson MSS, 85, p. 17. (In the Bodleian Library at Oxford). Words changed by Byrd when he set it to music. Quoted by Ben Jonson, Every Man out of his Humour, I. 1. Found in Percy's Reliques. Series I, Book III. No. V. And in J. Sylvester's Works, p. 651.
My minde to me a kingdome is,
Such perfect joy therein I finde
As farre exceeds all earthly blisse
That God or Nature hath assignde
Though much I want that most would have
Yet still my minde forbids to crave.
William Byrd's rendering of Dyer's verse, when he set it to music. See his Psalmen, Sonets and Songs made into Musicke. Printed by Thomas East. (No date. Later edition, 1588).
What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind.
T. H. Key, once Head Master of University School, On the authority of F. J. Furnivall.
Seven Watchmen sitting in a tower,
Watching what had come upon Mankind,
Showed the Man the Glory and the Power
And bade him shape the Kingdom to his mind.
. . . . . .
That a man's mind is wont to tell him more
Than Seven Watchmen sitting in a tower.
Nobody, I believe, will deny, that we are to form our judgment of the true nature of the human mind, not from sloth and stupidity of the most degenerate and vilest of men, but from the sentiments and fervent desires of the best and wisest of the species.
Robert Leighton, Theological Lectures, No. 5, "Of the Immortality of the Soul".
Whoever has received from the divine bounty a large share of temporal blessings, whether they be external and material, or gifts of the mind, has received them for the purpose of using them for the perfecting of his own nature, and, at the same time, that he may employ them, as the steward of God's providence, for the benefit of others.
Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance", Essays: First Series (vol. 2 of The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson), p. 57 (1903).
The mind is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity…. The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.
Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, no. 2, March 24, 1750. The Rambler; A Periodical Paper, Published in 1750, 1751, 1752, p. 3 (1825).
Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of Democracy, and while guided and controlled by virtue, the noblest attribute of man. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge, and the only security which freemen desire.
Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, president of the Republic of Texas, first message to both houses of Congress of the Republic of Texas, Houston, Texas, December 21, 1838.—The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, ed. Charles A. Gulick, Jr., vol. 2, p. 348 (1922). "When a public school was a novelty and the Republic's treasury and credit were at their lowest, only a daring mind and a champion of enlightened liberty could have conceived the idea for insuring the education of the future Texas generations". Philip Graham, The Life and Poems of Mirabeau B. Lamar, p. 53 (1938).
If there is anything in the world that can really be called a man's property, it is surely that which is the result of his mental activity.
Attributed to Arthur Schopenhauer. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work on brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust. But if we work on men's immortal minds, if we impress on them high principles, the just fear of God, and love for their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.
Daniel Webster, speech to the City Council, Boston, Massachusetts, May 22, 1852. The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, vol. 13, p. 518–19 (1903).