Category Archives: Potent Quotables

Potent Quotables

Oh, how incomprehensible everything was, and sad, although it was also beautiful. One lived and ran about the earth, and rode through forests, and certain things looked so challenging and promising and nostalgic: a star in the evening, a blue harebell, a reed-green pond, the eye of a person or cow. And sometimes it seemed as if something never seen but long desired was about to happen, that a veil would drop from it all; but then it passed, nothing happened, the riddle remained unsolved, the secret spell unbroken, and in the end one grew old and looked cunning like Father Anselm or wise like Abbot Daniel, and still one knew nothing perhaps, was still waiting and listening.

Herman Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund


Potent Quotables

The movement and cross-currents of so many crowded minds drove me about, restlessly, like themselves. In the night my colour was unseen. I could walk as I pleased, an unconsidered Arab: and this finding myself among, but cut off from, my own kin made me strangely alone. Our armoured-car men were persons to me, from their fewness and our long companionship; and also in their selves, for these months unshieldedly open to the flaming sun and bullying wind had worn and refined them into individuals. In such a  mob of unaccustomed soldiery, British, Australian and Indian, they went as strange and timid as myself; distinguished also by grime, for with weeks of wearing their clothes had been moulded to them by sweat and use and had become rather integuments than wrappings.

But these others were really soldiers, a novelty after two years’ irregularity. And it came upon me freshly how the secret of uniform was to make a crowd solid, dignified, impersonal: to give it the singleness and tautness of an upstanding man. This death’s livery which walled its bearers from ordinary life, was sign that they had sold their wills and bodies to the State: and contracted themselves into a service not the less abject for that its beginning was voluntary. Some of them had obeyed the instinct of lawlessness: some were hungry: others thirsted for glamour, for the supposed colour of a military life: but, of them all, those only received satisfaction who had sought to degrade themselves, for to the peace-eye they were below humanity. Only women with a lech were allured by those witnessing clothes; the soldiers’ pay, not sustenance like a labourer’s, but pocket-money, seemed most profitably spent when it let them drink sometimes and forget.

Convicts had violence put upon them. Slaves might be free, if they could, in intention. But the soldier assigned his owner the twenty-four hours’ use of his body; and sole conduct of his mind and passions. A convict had license to hate the rule which confined him, and all humanity outside, if he were greedy in hate: but the sulking soldier was a bad soldier; indeed, no soldier. His affections must be hired pieces on the chess-board of the king.

T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Potent Quotables

The tip of the cape at San Lucas, with huge grey Friars standing up on the end, has behind the rocks a little beach which is a small boy’s dream of pirates. It seems the perfect place to hide and from which to dart out in a pinnace on the shipping of the world; a place to which to bring the gold bars and jewels and beautiful ladies, all of which are invariably carried by the shipping of the world. And this little beach must so have appealed to earlier men, for the names of pirates are still in the rock, and the pirate ships did dart out of here and did come back. But now in the back of the Friars on the beach there is a great pile of decaying hammer-head sharks, the livers torn out and the fish left to rot. Some day, and that soon, the more mature piracy will stud this point with gray monsters and will send against the shipping of the Gulf, not little bands of ragged men, but projectiles filled with TNT. And from that piracy no jewels or beautiful ladies will come back to the beach behind the rocks.

John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

Potent Quotables

By privileging the institutionally strategic over the intellectually sound, and by effectively conceding that these operate on separate planes, these arguments affirm the status of women’s studies as something distinct from the rest of the university’s intellectual mission for research and teaching. In effect, by admitting its thoroughly politicized rationale, these defenses replicate the low value that hostile outsiders often accuse women’s studies of attaching to the caliber of arguments and to intellectual life as a whole; suspicions about the non or anti-intellectual dimensions of women’s studies are thus confirmed.

Wendy Brown, The Impossibility of Women’s Studies

Potent Quotables

[S]imply rejecting a whole class of methods is not just a logical error — it is a political one as well. Anyone who cares about society, about social and environmental justice, about peace, and who is committed to democracy, cannot give up on the idea of science. Humans are intentional and social actors. If we do not accept some standard for valid knowledge, we cannot agree on how to proceed. If those critical of existing social arrangements reject any basis for valid knowledge, they cannot make politically effective claims about where and how change needs to occur. If critical researchers say that science is nothing but ideology, why should we bother to listen to any social scientist, incuding them?

Joey Sprague

Potent Quotables

I started off with language: How does language relate to reality? People can say, “You’ve said something true or false, or relevant, or irrelevant, or intelligent or stupid”–and that’s a remarkable fact. In the style of philosophy, we ought to be astounded by what any sane person takes for granted, namely that by flapping this hole in my face and making noises I can give a lecture, or advance a thesis, or convince people, or all the other things you can do with language.

– John Searle, Reason interview

Potent Quotables

In honour of the launch of the new blog, I’ve decided to introduce a new feature called Potent Quotables, which will be a quote or a short passage from something I’ve read that I found interesting at the time (if I still find it interesting, that’s a bonus). There won’t be any commentary or context provided, unless there’s something I really want to say about it, in which case it will cease to be a potent quotable. Here goes.

In the best of current debates [about transsexualism], the standard mode is one of relentless totalization. The most egregious example in this paper, Raymond’s stunning “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies” (what if she had said, e.g., “all blacks rape women’s bodies”), is no less totalizing than Kates’s “transsexuals…take on an exaggerated and stereotypical female role,” or Bolin’s “transsexuals try to forget their male history.” There are no subjects in these discourses, only homogenized, totalized objects–fractally replicating earlier histories of minority discourses in the large. So when I speak the forgotten word, it will perhaps wake memories of other debates. The word is some.

Sandy Stone, The Empire Strikes Back