The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

… a system (is) empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience. These considerations suggest that not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system is to be taken as a criterion of demarcation … It must be possible for an empirical or scientific system to be refuted by experience. SIR KARL POPPER, The Logic Of Scientific Discovery.

A powerful idea communicates some of its power to the man who contradicts it. MARCEL PROUSE (1871-1922), Remembrance of Things Past, 1911.

The person who vehemently disbelieves is quite aware of the possibility of believing. Even those ideas that a man never learns to take seriously are nonetheless within the scope of his potential belief … No rejected belief is ever completely discredited. What has once been believed lingers on as a faint possibility. SNELL and GAIL PUTNEY, The Adjusted American, 1964.

The fanatic who refused to admit the existence of a feared facet of himself may eventually be confronted with undeniable evidence that he harbors the very attitude or desires he has sought to eradicate in others. SNELL and GAIL PUTNEY, The Adjusted American, 1964.

The slogan, “The end justifies the means,” a great favorite of revolutionists and opportunists, is an affirmation of activist ethics. It sounds like a realistic, down-to-earth principles and is often cited to counter ethical arguments based on “abstract” moral considerations or on sentiment. What are a few hundred drops of the guillotine weighed against the odds. ANATOL RAPOPORT, Operational Philosophy, 1953.

By “ideology” I mean here a system of ideas, values, and beliefs, both normative and allegedly factual, which purport to explain complex social phenomena and which also aid to justify and direct public policy and action. ANDREW J. RECK in Ideology And The American Experience (Roth and Whittemore), 1986.

Nothing sways the stupid more than arguments they can’t understand. CARDINAL De RETZ (1614-1679), Memoires, 1762-79.

We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is obviously not the ideas themselves that are dear to us, but our self-esteem, which is threatened. JAMES HARVEY ROBINSON (1863-1936), The Mind In The Making.

There is nothing more horrible than the murder of a beautiful theory by a brutal gang of facts. FRANCOIS, DUC de la ROCHEFOUCAULD (1613-1680).

The relative openness or closedness of a mind cuts across specific content: that is, it is not restricted to any one particular ideology, or religion, or philosophy, or scientific viewpoint. MILTON ROKEACH, The Open And Closed Mind, 1960.

What makes our opponents useful is that they allow us to believe that without them we would be able to realize our goals. JEAN ROSTAND, Journal d’un Charactere, 1931.

Heretical view arise when the truth is uncertain, and it is only when the truth is uncertain that censorship is invoked. BERTRAND RUSSELL (1872-1970), The Value Of Free Thought.