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Quotes

on the search for knowledge

You have to recognize, with stage magic, that if you start by asking how the elephant disappeared, you’re already making a mistake—because the elephant might never have been there in the first place. You have to first ask what the question is before you start to figure out the answer. – Anwar Shaikh, 2017

The entire universe of science is constructed upon the lived world, and if we wish to think science rigorously, to appreciate precisely its sense and its scope, we must first awaken that experience of the world of which science is the second-order expression. – Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception

The progress of science is the discovery at each step of a new order which gives unity to what had seemed unlike. – Jacob Bronowski

… rarely can a man observe what does not yet exist for him as a conceptual possibility. – N.R. Hanson, Patterns of Discovery, 1958

I know that I know nothing. – Socrates

The laws of mathematics, insofar as they refer to reality, are not certain, and insofar as they are certain, do not refer to reality. – Albert Einstein

Ideas do not have to be correct in order to be good; it is only necessary that, if they do fail, they do so in an interesting way. – Robert Rosen, Life Itself, 1991

A new instrument is now emerging, … a relative, organismic, descriptive unit, applicable as was the old mechanistic and absolute unit, to all branches of human inquiry. – Raymond Wheeler, The Laws of Human Nature, Preface, 1932

[Philosophical problems] are, of course, not empirical problems; but they are solved through an insight into the workings of our language, and that in such a way that these workings are recognized—despite an urge to misunderstand them. The problems are solved, not through the contribution of new knowledge, rather through the arrangement of things long familiar. Philosophy is a struggle against the bewitchment of our understanding by the resources of our language. – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 1953