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Quotes: Is the world an illusion, and what do we know about it?

Upton Sinclair:

In college, when they were teaching me the theories of the world's leading philosophers, I said to the stout and jolly professor: "Why doesn't someone make a philosophy based on common sense?" Said he: "What do you mean by common sense?" I replied: "The things we all really know are true." That was more than forty years ago; the philosophers called "pragmatists" were already at work, but nobody appeared to know about them in the College of the City of New York, nor later in Columbia University.

Rene Descartes:

Common sense is the best distributed thing in the whole world. Everyone thinks that they are well endowed with it, so that even those who are most difficult to please in every other respect do not usually wish to have more than they already possess.

Clive James:

I am showing them [young people] the way to a necessary failure: the grim but edifying realization that a complete picture of reality is not to be had.

Fernando Pessoa:

There is only one problem: reality, and that is insoluble and alive. What do I know about the difference between a tree and a dream? I can touch the tree; I know I have the dream. What does that really mean?

Upton Sinclair, again:

When Dr. Samuel Johnson kicked a stone, and said he knew it was there, the old fellow wasn't telling us anything except that he was a dogmatist... * * * The difference between myself and the materialist is that I don't know and say so, while he doesn't know but says he does. * * * Let us be ever so proud of our intellect, a portion of our subconscious remains the primitive thing that evolution has made it; and upon that mind we have to depend for the assimilating of our food, the making of new blood, the repair of tissues--yes, even of the mighty cortex, which has explored all the secrets of the universe, but does not know how to build a single cell of its own tissue.

Ralph Minogue:

Humans have always suffered the illusion of knowledge while living the reality of belief.


Upton Sinclair, What God Means to Me. New York: Ferris Printing Company, 1935. 24.

Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method, Part I

Clive James. Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts. (2007) New York: Norton, 2008. p. xxv.

Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet. Edited by Maria Jose de Lancastre. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. London: Serpent's Tail, 1991 (a collection of writings that were unorganized upon Pessoa's death in 1935). p. 126.

Upton Sinclair, What God Means to Me. New York: Ferris Printing Company, 1935. 15-6, 24, 39.

Ralph Minogue. Responsibility To, Responsibility For. Baltimore: AmErica House, 2000. p 21.


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