10 Influential Quotes

A quote may consist of just a few words, but it has the power to make indelible impressions on human thought. Here is my selection of 10 very influential quotes (placed in chronological order) which run like a refrain throughout human history and have shaped the very way we think today.

1) "What you do not want others to do to you, do not do unto others." – Confucius (551 – 479 B.C)

Among the oldest known explicit statement of the Golden Rule, it has served as a fundamental ethical principle of people of nearly all cultures. The idea of ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ is not only a part of all major world religions but also exists in philosophy as the ethics of reciprocity.

2) “One cannot step twice in the same river.” – Heraclitus (535 – 475 BC)

This quote represents the constantly changing nature of reality and the view that, ‘everything flows’, that the world is not a finished product, but rather an on-going process. Be it Iqbal’s ‘Sabaat aik tagheur ko hai zamanay mai’ or the process philosophy of Bergson and Whitehead, they are all vessels on this river of Heraclitus.

3) “The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates (470 - 399 BC)

The Athenians may have sentenced Socrates to death, but they could never silence his philosophy of self-examination and logical questioning, so well expressed in this quotation. These words stand for the justification of philosophy and the spirit of rationality, and have inspired men since ages.

4) “I think therefore I am.” – RenĂ© Descartes (1596 – 1650)

If there is one quote that lies at the foundation of modern philosophy, it is this one. Descartes wished to find the indubitable truth, and he began by doubting everything: his senses, the existence of the world and even the validity of logic… but then he realized, if he is doubting, it means he is thinking, and if he is thinking, he must exist; and so, he found the irrefutable fact of his existence.

5) “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” – Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662)

These words of Pascal stand for the eternal rebellion of heart against mind, the sentiments behind all ‘leaps of faith’, the ideas that reason alone is insufficient to comprehend life, and that heart too has an access to reality which reason knows nothing of. From Rousseau’s natural religion to Kahlil Gibran’s mystic words, the idea remains the same.

6) “Sapere Aude! Dare to know!” – Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804)

Kant declared it as the motto of the age of Enlightenment, man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity; the immaturity which was a result of man’s lack of courage to think logically and pursue knowledge. Kant’s motto has resonated throughout history and has given audacity to thinkers to face the truth.

7) “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” – Karl Marx (1818 - 1883)

This quote represents the idea of social justice that has driven the movements of socialism and communism, affecting not only human thought in theory but also making a permanent mark on international politics.

8) "This survival of the fittest… the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life." – Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903)

This is a life of ruthless competition and only the strongest survive… welcome to the world of natural selection; this power-centered view of life, epitomized by the quote, has carved a permanent niche for itself in the social consciousness of humanity. It is also among the central ideas of Darwinism and theory of evolution. [It is a common misconception that Darwin coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’.]

9) “God is dead.” – Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)

This quote is not just a declaration of atheism, as is generally believed, but a depiction of the declining role of God in the lives of men. The breakdown of religion as a source of morality for the modern world has led to an existential crises of a lack of values; the West is now left with a God-shaped hole.

10) “Man is condemned to be free.”- Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980)

Man can do whatever he wants, but he cannot run away from his own freedom, the brute fact that it is he who chooses for himself, he who defines what he is. This choice brings responsibility, and often anguish and despair. Man is ‘condemned’ to it because he didn’t ask for this liberty; it was imposed on him, and now he is responsible for it. Being among the central ideas of Existentialism, this quote has influenced the lives of millions of people.

Comments

Abdul Sami said…
nice collection... :) !!!
M. Umer Toor said…
@ Awais

Hi. I want your worthy permission to quote this passage, probably written by you in a class presentation. Reference will be made to its creator. Thanks

Quote:
"5) “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” – Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662)

These words of Pascal stand for the eternal rebellion of heart against mind, the sentiments behind all ‘leaps of faith’, the ideas that reason alone is insufficient to comprehend life, and that heart too has an access to reality which reason knows nothing of. From Rousseau’s natural religion to Kahlil Gibran’s mystic words, the idea remains the same."

Waiting for your comment, you can post it at here..
Awais said…
@ Umer

Apart from the direct quotations, the rest are my words.

And yes, i would be glad to give you the permission, and would be grateful if you made a reference to my blog :) Go ahead.
M. Umer Toor said…
Thanks. I'll certainly with love!