Alfred North Whitehead Quotes

Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude.

Human life is driven forward by its dim apprehension of notions too general for its existing language.

— Alfred North Whitehead

No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The vitality of thought is in adventure. Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them. When the idea is new, its custodians have fervor, live for it, and if need be, die for it.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge.

— Alfred North Whitehead

We think in generalities, but we live in detail.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.

— Alfred North Whitehead

I would be a billionaire if I was looking to be a selfish boss. That’s not me.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Life is an offensive, directed against the repetitious mechanism of the Universe.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Simple solutions seldom are. It takes a very unusual mind to undertake analysis of the obvious.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Wisdom alone is true ambition’s aim, wisdom is the source of virtue and of fame; obtained with labour, for mankind employed, and then, when most you share it, best enjoyed.

— Alfred North Whitehead

No period of history has ever been great or ever can be that does not act on some sort of high, idealistic motives, and idealism in our time has been shoved aside, and we are paying the penalty for it.

— Alfred North Whitehead

But you can catch yourself entertaining habitually certain ideas and setting others aside; and that, I think, is where our personal destinies are largely decided.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains.

— Alfred North Whitehead

In formal logic, a contradiction is the signal of defeat, but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory.

— Alfred North Whitehead

True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason.

— Alfred North Whitehead

What is morality in any given time or place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like and immorality is what they dislike.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The task of a university is the creation of the future, so far as rational thought and civilized modes of appreciation can affect the issue.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Civilizations can only be understood by those who are civilized.

— Alfred North Whitehead

If a dog jumps into your lap, it is because he is fond of you; but if a cat does the same thing, it is because your lap is warmer.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Speak out in acts; the time for words has passed, and only deeds will suffice.

— Alfred North Whitehead

When you’re average, you’re just as close to the bottom as you are the top.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Man can acquire accomplishments or he can become an animal, whichever he wants. God makes the animals, man makes himself.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Periods of tranquility are seldom prolific of creative achievement. Mankind has to be stirred up.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Ideas won’t keep; something must be done about them.

— Alfred North Whitehead

It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Without adventure civilization is in full decay.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Common sense is genius in homespun.

— Alfred North Whitehead

An enormous part of our mature experience cannot not be expressed in words.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Familiar things happen, and mankind does not bother about them. It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Every philosophy is tinged with the coloring of some secret imaginative background, which never emerges explicitly into its train of reasoning.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Philosophy is the product of wonder.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct form ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Seek simplicity but distrust it.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Speech is human nature itself, with none of the artificiality of written language.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not discover it.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Religion is the last refuge of human savagery.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Art flourishes where there is a sense of adventure.

— Alfred North Whitehead

It takes an extraordinary intelligence to contemplate the obvious.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Fundamental progress has to do with the reinterpretation of basic ideas.

— Alfred North Whitehead

It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The silly question is the first intimation of some totally new development.

— Alfred North Whitehead

It is in literature that the concrete outlook of humanity receives its expression.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Almost all new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first produced.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Fools act on imagination without knowledge, pedants act on knowledge without imagination.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The total absence of humor from the Bible is one of the most singular things in all literature.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, seek simplicity and distrust it.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The absolute pacifist is a bad citizen; times come when force must be used to uphold right, justice and ideals.

— Alfred North Whitehead

I have always noticed that deeply and truly religious persons are fond of a joke, and I am suspicious of those who aren’t.

— Alfred North Whitehead

There are no whole truths: all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays to the devil.

— Alfred North Whitehead

Knowledge shrinks as wisdom grows.

— Alfred North Whitehead

I have suffered a great deal from writers who have quoted this or that sentence of mine either out of its context or in juxtaposition to some incongruous matter which quite distorted my meaning, or destroyed it altogether.

— Alfred North Whitehead

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