I don’t mean to sound pretentious by calling these little statements “wisdom
sayings.” I just picked that label because it reminds me of the ancient Hebrew genre
of writing known as wisdom literature, which is mainly intended to convey meaningful,
virtuous insights in pithy, memorable forms. (The Old Testament book of Proverbs is a
We collect memorable sayings in our culture, too, of course, though we perhaps tend to prefer
those of the witty or humorous variety over those that prompt us to think about how we could
improve our minds and moral characters. We also seem to prefer those that can be attributed
to famous people over those that are anonymous or were thought up by ordinary folk. But I
still enjoy trying to write a few of them anyway, even if perhaps they won’t turn out
to be meaningful to anyone but me.
On the Virtues of Honest Rational Thought
The chief rival to love of truth is love of being right.
The most worthless of all your beliefs are those you’ve been absolutely convinced
of for too long to remember why.
The weakest building block in your ideology or worldview is usually whichever one you
are most afraid to question or most offended to hear disputed.
What everyone else tells you not to question is precisely what you must question,
because everyone else is afraid to.
Question your fears; don’t fear your questions.
Too much fear of throwing the baby out with the bathwater drowns the baby.
A sentence beginning, “I have always believed...” generally has no
business being finished. What we have always simply thought true we have never
sincerely thought through.
Those who have never changed their minds about anything important are rarely worth
discussing anything important with.
The opinions we most despise are often those we ourselves held yesterday, or fear
we might hold tomorrow.
Reason and an open mind are like the two tracks of a bulldozer. Each will only
propel you in mad circles without the other.
The beliefs we really care about are seldom changed by argument alone.
We also need time to forget that the arguments came from our opponents.
A horse is like a person, except you don’t have to resort to flattery to lead
it to water.
Reading only authors you agree with is no more studying than bouncing balls off
a wall to yourself is playing tennis.
A slippery slope halts the progress of those who fear to step onto it just as
effectively as those who recklessly slide off the end.
The difference between opinion, prejudice, religion, and ideology lies in whether the
opposing view is held to be mistaken, distasteful, immoral, or stupid.
It’s easy to discern the civility in those who agree with us and the acrimony
in those who don’t.
It’s hard to discredit reason—especially if you think you have a good
The problem with postmodernism is that it assumes the elephant was just as wrong
as the six men.
It’s usually a principle:
Your reason’s not invincible
If first you weren’t convincible.
Sow a reason; reap a believer.
Sow a belief; reap a dogmatist.
Sow a dogma; reap a tyrant.
Sow a tyranny; reap a doubter.
Sow a doubt; reap a reasoner.
Refute a pompous man’s argument and watch him dig in.
Refute a duplicitous man’s argument and watch him dig out.
Refute a virtuous man’s argument and watch him dig into.
On the Potential Dangers of Religion
To act on a reasonable belief you can’t rightfully insist on takes a kind of faith.
To insist on an unreasonable belief you can’t rightfully act on becomes a kind of
Having faith in a God can be perilously close to having a god in faith.
Religious certainty is usually nothing more than faith too weak to risk introspection.
The dogma we despise others for not holding is our idol.
Modern man does not think in pictures. Our graven images are doctrines by which we think
we have definitively characterized some act or aspect of God, and which we worship by
refusing to honestly question.
Those who find their politics in their religion will soon find their religion in their
On Other Moral Virtues
To do right by others even when it comes at cost to yourself is to demonstrate faith in
goodness itself, which is probably ultimately the only kind of faith that really matters.
The measure of how genuinely you believe in your moral principles is not in how confidently
they affect your assertions but how deeply they affect your desires.
The character flaws we most despise in others are often what we most fear are in us.
The proud heart is as often clothed in the demand for an apology as in the refusal to
When you’re quite confident you’ve forgiven someone else more than
they’ve forgiven you—perhaps you haven’t.
This page copyright © 2011-2017 Edward A. Morris.
Created May 14, 2011.
Last updated February 14, 2017.
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