The Existence of Forgetting Has Never Been Proved

Friedrich Nietzsche? Thomas De Quincey? W. H. Auden? Louis Kronenberger? Apocryphal?

memory08Dear Quote Investigator: A provocative comment about human memory has been attributed to the controversial philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:

The existence of forgetting has never been proved: we only know that some things do not come to mind when we want them.

This statement suggests that human memory is more capacious than we imagine, but recollection is hampered because retrieval is sometimes difficult. As an experimental psychologist researching the plasticity of human memory I find this perspective fascinating, and I would like to include the statement in an article under preparation. Unfortunately, the lack of a good citation is problematic. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1881 Friedrich Nietzsche released “Morgenröthe: Gedanken über die moralischen Vorurtheile” which has been given the English title “The Dawn of Day”. The work consisted of more than 550 short numbered sections, and in the 126th Nietzsche discussed memory and forgetfulness. The beginning of this excerpt from a 1911 translation by J. M. Kennedy strongly matched the quotation under examination. The full passage was somewhat convoluted. Boldface has been added to excerpts 1 2

FORGETFULNESS.—It has never yet been proved that there is such a thing as forgetfulness: all that we know is that we have no power over recollection. In the meantime we have filled up this gap in our power with the word “forgetfulness,” exactly as if it were another faculty added to our list. But, after all, what is within our power? If that word fills up a gap in our power, might not the other words be found capable of filling up a gap in the knowledge which we possess of our power?

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Notes:

  1. 1911, The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Edited by Dr. Oscar Levy, Volume 9: The Dawn of Day, Translated by J. M. Kennedy, Section 126, Quote Page 131, Published by T. N. Foulis, Edinburgh. (HathiTrust Full View) link link
  2. 1924 (Copyright 1911), The Dawn of Day by Friedrich Nietzsche, Translated by J. M. Kennedy, Section 126, Quote Page 131, Published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London. (Reprint of 1911 edition) (Internet Archive) link link

Freedom of the Press Is Guaranteed Only to Those Who Own One

A. J. Liebling? H. L. Mencken? Norman Woelfel? Arthur Calwell?

press07Dear Quote Investigator: There is a famously sardonic remark about the media and control. Here are four versions:

1) Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.
2) Freedom of the press is confined to the people who own one.
3) Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.
4) Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

The underpinnings of this adage may be shifting because of the ubiquity of the internet, but I still think it is compelling. These words have been attributed to commentator H. L. Mencken and journalist A. J. Liebling. Would you please examine its provenance?

Quote Investigator: An exact match to the fourth expression was printed in the “The New Yorker” magazine in 1960. A. J. Liebling wrote an essay titled “The Wayward Press: Do You Belong in Journalism?” that included the following passage. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

The best thing Congress could do to keep more newspapers going would be to raise the capital-gains tax to the level of the income tax. (Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.) There are irresistible reasons for a businessman either to buy or to sell, and anybody who owns the price of a newspaper nowadays must be a businessman.

The motivation of Liebling’s stylistic choice to place the statement between parentheses was not completely clear. It was possible that he was repeating an existing adage. Nevertheless, the top reference works today credit Liebling based on this 1960 citation. 2 3

Interestingly, strong thematic matches appeared in the 1940s as shown below, but the phrasing was not as elegant and compact. Also, these earlier comments did not display a humorous edge.

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Notes:

  1. 1960 May 14, The New Yorker, “The Wayward Press: Do You Belong in Journalism?” by A. J. Liebling, Start Page 105, Quote Page 109, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital scans)
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section A. J. Liebling, Quote Page 459, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)
  3. 2006, The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page 172 and 319, St Martin’s Griffin, New York. (Verified on paper)

Science Is Organized Knowledge. Wisdom Is Organized Life

Immanuel Kant? Herbert Spencer? Will Durant? Raoul Jossett? Anonymous?

organize08Dear Quote Investigator: There is a fascinating two-part adage about science and wisdom that is commonly attributed to the influential 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant:

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

I have attempted to find a convincing citation for this saying, but none of the websites or books that present these words have been helpful. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: Immanuel Kant communicated in German, and QI believes that he probably did not write or speak a statement in German that corresponded to the English quotation above. Instead, QI believes that the first part of the expression was crafted by the influential philosopher and sociologist Herbert Spencer. In addition, QI conjectures that the popular historian Will Durant constructed the second part while he was attempting to explain the thoughts of Kant; Durant also combined the two parts.

Kant died in 1804, and the earliest evidence of the first phrase was published in an essay titled “The Art of Education” by Spencer in May 1854. Boldface has been added to excerpts. 1

Science is organized knowledge; and before knowledge can be organized, some of it must first be possessed. Every study, therefore, should have a purely experimental introduction; and only after an ample fund of observations has been accumulated, should reasoning begin.

Further discussion of Spencer’s remark is presented in a separate website entry located here. This article will explore the full two-part expression.

In 1924 the historian Will Durant published a one-volume popular work titled “The Story of Philosophy” which included a section called “Kant and German Idealism”. During the following decades revised editions were released. The following passage appeared in the 1938 and 1943 editions. QI has not yet been able to examine the 1924 edition.

Durant explained Kant’s philosophical position by discussing a hierarchical sequence of interacting levels. The quotation under examination was part of Durant’s elucidation: 2 3

Sensation is unorganized stimulus, perception is organized sensation, conception is organized perception, science is organized knowledge, wisdom is organized life: each is a greater degree of order, and sequence, and unity. Whence this order, this sequence, this unity? Not from the things themselves; for they are known to us only by sensations that come through a thousand channels at once in disorderly multitude; it is our purpose that put order and sequence and unity upon this importunate lawlessness.

This passage reflected Durant’s conception of Kant’s ideas, and it was not directly translated from Kant’s German. Indeed, Durant remarked in a footnote that his discussion of the difficult philosopher employed few quotations: 4

A word about what to read. Kant himself is hardly intelligible to the beginner, because his thought is insulated with a bizarre and intricate terminology (hence the paucity of direct quotation in this chapter).

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Notes:

  1. 1854 May, The North British Review, Article 5: The Art of Education by Herbert Spencer, Start Page 137, Quote Page 152, Published by W. P. Kennedy, Edinburgh, Scotland. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1938, The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. New Revised Edition, Section: Kant and German Idealism, Sub-Section: Transcendental Analytic, Quote Page 295 and 296, Published by Garden City Publishing Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1943, The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant, Second Edition, (Footnote 13), Quote Page 201, Published by Garden City Publishing Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1938, The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant, New Revised Edition, Section: Kant and German Idealism, (Footnote 2), Quote Page 289, Published by Garden City Publishing Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper)

Science Is Organized Knowledge

Immanuel Kant? Herbert Spencer? Thomas Henry Huxley? R. Strachey?

tree10Dear Quote Investigator: The following two part adage is usually attributed to the famous 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant:

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

I have not seen any citation in German or English showing that Kant ever wrote or said this. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: This entry examines only the first sentence of this two sentence quotation, and a separate entry explores the full quotation.

Immanuel Kant died in 1804, and the earliest evidence found by QI appeared many years later. In May 1854 the prominent English philosopher and sociologist Herbert Spencer published an essay titled “The Art of Education” in “The North British Review” which included the adage. Boldface has been added to excerpts. 1

A leading phenomenon in human progress is, that every science is evolved out of its corresponding art. It results from the necessity we are under, both individually and as a race, of reaching the abstract by way of the concrete, that there must be practice and an accruing experience with its empirical generalizations, before there can be science. Science is organized knowledge; and before knowledge can be organized, some of it must first be possessed. Every study, therefore, should have a purely experimental introduction; and only after an ample fund of observations has been accumulated, should reasoning begin.

QI believes that Spencer should be credited with this definitional phrase. The statement has been ascribed to him in multiple reference works, e.g., “A New Dictionary of Quotations” compiled by H. L. Mencken 2 and the “FPA Book of Quotations” selected by Franklin Pierce Adams. 3

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Notes:

  1. 1854 May, The North British Review, Article 5: The Art of Education by Herbert Spencer, Start Page 137, Quote Page 152, Published by W. P. Kennedy, Edinburgh, Scotland. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1942, A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources, Selected and Edited by H. L. Mencken (Henry Louis Mencken), Topic: Science, Quote Page 1065, Column 1, Alfred A. Knopf. New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1952, FPA Book of Quotations, Selected by Franklin Pierce Adams, Section: Science, Quote Page 703, Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York. (Verified on paper)

It’s the Guy You Give Something To That You Can’t Please

Will Rogers? Apocryphal?
rogers08Dear Quote Investigator: We live in an age of free apps, free ebooks, and free online services, but that does not restrain criticism. The popular humorist Will Rogers once spoke about the inability to please some individuals who receive material for free. I haven’t been able to precisely locate this quotation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1926 Will Rogers wrote in his syndicated newspaper column about his experiences while touring the United States. His reception had been wonderful during his 75 nights on the road, and he had recently performed in Massachusetts: 1

Can you imagine me appearing at Symphony hall in Boston? From the Stock yards at Claremore, Oklahoma to Symphony hall, Boston. Me, with my repertoire of 150 words (most of them wrong), trying to enlighten the descendants of the Cod. But they were fine.

However, in Boston a hostile music critic named Parker reviewed the comedian’s performance, and Rogers presented a summary of his negative analysis:

Just one old boy there that thought we were “desecrating” their temple of art by causing laughter in it.

Rogers addressed the critic and then employed the quotation under examination which he labelled an “old gag”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Your seat was about the only free one. It’s the old gag; people that pay for things never complain. It’s the guy you give something to that you can’t please.

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Notes:

  1. 1926 January 3, The Lincoln Sunday Star (The Lincoln Star), Will Rogers Is Prying Into Dictionaries Now by Will Rogers (McNaught Syndicate), Quote Page 4, Column 3 to 5, Lincoln, Nebraska. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1926 January 3, The Lincoln Sunday Star (The Lincoln Star), Will Rogers Is Prying Into Dictionaries Now by Will Rogers (McNaught Syndicate), Quote Page 4, Column 3 to 5, Lincoln, Nebraska. (Newspapers_com)

Spoonerism: You Have Hissed All My Mystery Lectures

William A. Spooner? Apocryphal?

spooner10Dear Quote Investigator: The funniest reproach aimed at a student that I have ever heard was spoken by Reverend William A. Spooner who was the Warden of New College, Oxford. The clergyman was famous for jumbling the letters and sounds of words when he spoke. His castigation of the student began with this curious remark:

You have hissed all my mystery lectures.

Unscrambling the statement revealed its meaning:

You have missed all my history lectures.

I know that most spoonerisms were never actually spoken by Spooner. Would you please explore the provenance of the short speech that began with the line above?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match for the phrase above found by QI was printed in “The Strand Magazine” in an article titled “Spooneriana” by A. T. Corke in 1911. Spooner lived from 1844 to 1930. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

But the apotheosis of his vagaries is reached in this stern reprimand to an erring and, let us hope, repentant undergraduate: “Sir, your conduct has been nothing less than disgraceful; you have hissed three of my mystery lectures, you have been convicted of fighting a liar in the inner quad, and in addition, there is no doubt whatever in my own mind that you have tasted a whole worm!”

The text without the swapped elements would read as follows:

Sir, your conduct has been nothing less than disgraceful; you have missed three of my history lectures, you have been convicted of lighting a fire in the inner quad, and in addition, there is no doubt whatever in my own mind that you have wasted a whole term!

In some later versions of the passage above the student is told:

Please leave Oxford on the next town drain.

The final two words referred to the “down train”. This spoonerism was also included in a different section of the article in “The Strand Magazine”:

. . . his complaint to the station-master of the continued unpunctuality of the “town drain”

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Notes:

  1. 1911 December, The Strand Magazine, Volume 42, Spooneriana by A. T. Corke, Start Page 770, Quote Page 771, Column 2, Published by George Newnes, Strand, London. (HathiTrust)

Spoonerism: You Are Occupewing My Pie

William A. Spooner? Apocryphal?

occupewing07Dear Quote Investigator: I love spoonerisms, humorous phrases in which the initial sounds or letters of some words are swapped. According to a popular anecdote William A. Spooner who was the Warden of New College, Oxford was late to church services one day and found that a woman was sitting in his customary pew. He addressed her with the following garbled words:

Pardon me, madam, you are occupewing my pie.

Spooner was attempting to say:

Pardon me, madam, you are occupying my pew.

Apparently, a large number of spoonerisms were really constructed by clever students and other humorists. Would you please explore whether this phrase was really spoken by Spooner.

Quote Investigator: Reverend William A. Spooner lived from 1844 to 1930. The earliest evidence of this spoonerism located by QI appeared in an article dated April 9, 1887 titled “Word-Twisting Versus Nonsense” in “The Spectator” of London. Multiple examples of playfully altered expressions were presented. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

With the transposition of initial letters, a new field of solecism is opened up, in which a living cleric, in other respects intelligent and accomplished, works with an involuntary assiduity that is most upsetting to his hearers. “My brethren,” so ran one of his most startling announcements, “we all know what it is to have a half-warmed fish [i.e., half-formed wish] in our hearts.”

With him, however, the mischief goes further, extending to the mutual entanglement of words which is terrible to contemplate. He has been known to speak of “Kinquering congs,” and on one occasion, ever memorable to his interlocutor, addressing himself to a gentleman who had intruded upon his seat in church, he politely remarked,—“Pardon me, Sir, but I think you are occupewing my pie.”

In the initial instances of the story, a man was occupying the pew and not a woman. “The Spectator” article did not print William A. Spooner’s name, but the full context left no doubt as to the identity of the “living cleric”. Also, many later articles ascribed the phrases directly to Spooner. Nevertheless, the evidence was weak. QI and most researchers believe that almost all spoonerisms attributed to Spooner were never actually said by him. The phrases were not uttered spontaneously they were deliberately constructed to elicit laughter.

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Notes:

  1. 1887 April 9, The Spectator, Word-Twisting Versus Nonsense, Start Page: 491, Quote Page 492, Published by John Campbell, Strand, London. (Google Books Full View) link

All Science Is Either Physics or Stamp Collecting

Ernest Rutherford? John Desmond Bernal? Richard Feynman? Anonymous?

coil10Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, while reading about the discovery of a new species of frog I marveled at the remarkable diversity of the biosphere. But, I was also reminded of the following humorous and barbed assertion:

All science is either physics or stamp collecting.

This statement has often been attributed to the prominent physicist Ernest Rutherford, but the only citation I have seen was published in the 1960s which was long after the great experimentalist’s death in 1937. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in the 1939 book “The Social Function of Science” by physicist John Desmond Bernal who ascribed the idea to Ernest Rutherford, but Bernal did not present a precise quotation. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

There must be for any effective scientist an intrinsic appreciation and enjoyment of the actual operations he is performing, and this appreciation will not differ essentially from that of the artist or the sportsman. Rutherford used to divide science into physics and stamp collecting, but if the analogy were to be carried through, it would be reduced to “gadgeteering” and stamp collecting.

In 1945 a periodical published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science called “The Scientific Monthly” printed an instance attributed to Rutherford: 2

In this sense all studies become “scientific” to the degree that they aspire to reach the condition of physics and seek to imitate closely the complex interweaving of selective observation, controlled experiment, and mathematical elaboration which is to be found there. Those who favor this definition may take as their slogan the epigram attributed to the late Sir Ernest Rutherford that science consists only of “physics and stamp-collecting.”

QI has found the saying in neither an interview nor a book nor an article by Rutherford; in short, there was no direct link between the scientist and the adage. Indeed, it was possible that Bernal served as the only avenue for transmission of the sharp apothegm.

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Notes:

  1. 1939, The Social Function of Science by J. D. Bernal (John Desmond Bernal), Quote Page 9, G. Routledge & Sons Ltd., London. (Verified on paper; great thanks to Stephen Goranson and the Duke University library system)
  2. 1945 September, The Scientific Monthly, Volume 61, Number 3, A Lend-Lease Program for Philosophy and Science by Max Black, Start Page 165, Quote Page 168, Column 1, Published by American Association for the Advancement of Science. (JSTOR) link

There Are Only Two Plots: (1) A Person Goes on a Journey (2) A Stranger Comes to Town

Fyodor Dostoyevsky? Leo Tolstoy? Mary Morris? John Gardner? David Long? Ernest Hemingway? Deepak Chopra?

jounrney09Dear Quote Investigator: A provocative remark about stories has been attributed to Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, John Gardner, and others:

There are only two plots in all of literature:
1) A person goes on a journey.
2) A stranger comes to town.

Are you willing to follow plot number one and embark on a journey to discover the origin of this adage?

Quote Investigator: Writer and educator John Gardner died tragically at age 49 in a motorcycle accident in 1982. His influential work of tutelage “The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers” was released posthumously in 1984. Gardner included exercises “for the development of technique”, and the following was listed fifth. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Write the opening of a novel using the authorial-omniscient voice, making the authorial omniscience clear by going into the thoughts of one or more characters after establishing the voice. As subject, use either a trip or the arrival of a stranger (some disruption of order—the usual novel beginning).

The exercise above did not assert that the two possibilities referenced exhausted all plot choices. Also, the statement was only about the beginning of a novel. Nevertheless, these words were the earliest pertinent published evidence known to QI.

In September 1986 “Coda: Poets & Writers Newsletter” published an article by writer David Long titled “Notes from a Contest Judge”. The excerpt below included the first articulation located by QI of the eccentric claim that collapsed all plots to two archetypes: 2

John Gardner once observed that there are only two plots: A stranger rides into town, and A man goes on a journey. I think he’s right: there’s no such thing as a new plot, and I don’t expect to find one in the stack of manuscripts. But I do crave an original telling—one of our shared stories done again, ablaze with new detail.

The phrasing used to express the assertion has varied considerably suggesting that later propagators were not referencing a fixed textual source.

A citation in 1998 claimed that Gardner made a remark similar to the one under investigation circa 1978 during a “Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference”. Yet, memories of events twenty years in the past are often malleable. Details are presented further below.

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Notes:

  1. 1984, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner, Section: Exercises, Quote Page 203, Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. Year: 1986 September/October, Periodical: Coda: Poets & Writers Newsletter, Volume 14, Number 1, Article: Notes from a Contest Judge, Article Author: David Long, Article Subsection Number: 7, Start Page 20, Quote Page 21, Publisher: Poets & Writers, Inc, New York. (Verified with scans thanks to Charles Doyle and the University of Georgia library system)

Storytelling: Just Give Them Two and Two and Let Them Add It Up

Billy Wilder? Ernst Lubitsch? Ted Elliott? Terry Rossio? Ray Bradbury? Vince Gilligan? Andrew Stanton?

twoplus13Dear Quote Investigator: On the commentary track of a video I once heard a screenwriter discuss the requirement to engage the audience’s cognitive powers while spinning a tale:

Give the audience two plus two, and let them come up with four.

A famous Hollywood figure was credited, but I do not recall the name. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: Filmmaker Billy Wilder directed classic comedies such as “Some Like It Hot” and influential film noirs such as “Double Indemnity”. In 1976 and 1986 he presented seminars at the American Film Institute, and segments from his talks were later published as a chapter in the book “Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute”. Wilder cautioned against over-explaining or providing too much exposition to viewers. He credited another well-known director Ernst Lubitsch with an illustrative arithmetic metaphor. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Make it clear to them, but don’t spell it out like the audience are just a bunch of idiots. Just aim it slightly above their station and they’re going to get it. This is what I learned from Ernst Lubitsch. He had a real touch, a gift of involving the audience into writing the script with him as it was unfolding on the screen.

In other words, he was not the kind of a director who kind of hammered it down and said, “Now listen to me, you idiots. There now, put down the popcorn bag, I’m going to tell you something. Two and two is four.” He said, “No, just give them two and two and let them add it up. They’re going to do it for you. And they’re going to have fun with it. They’re going to play the game with you.”

QI has not yet found a citation in which these words were spoken by Ernst Lubitsch. Perhaps this guidance was communicated to Wilder during a private conversation with Lubitsch. In any case, Wilder can be credited with popularizing the figurative language which employed simple addition.

In recent years, successful storytellers such as Vince Gilligan writer/director of “Breaking Bad” and Andrew Stanton writer/director of “Finding Nemo” have discussed the “two plus two” adage for weaving compelling tales.

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Notes:

  1. 2006, Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute, Edited by George Stevens Jr., Chapter: Billy Wilder, Start Page 302, Quote Page 320, (The Wilder chapter is dated December 13, 1978; however, a footnote supplies additional dates: “This transcript contains segments from seminars Wilder gave at the American Film Institute on January 7, 1976 (with his writing partner I. A. L. Diamond) and on March 3, 1986)”, Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (Verified on paper)