Alfred North Whitehead Quotations

Alfred North Whitehead

A man of science doesn't discover in order to know, he wants to know in order to discover.

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

In order to acquire learning, we must first shake ourselves free of it.

It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking about what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the numbers of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in battle -- they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.

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

Necessity is the mother of invention is a silly proverb. Necessity is the mother of futile dodges is much nearer the truth.

Seek simplicity, and distrust it.

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

The concept of matter presupposed simple location...but in the modern concept the group of agitations which we term matter is fused into its environment. There is no possibility of a detached, self-contained existence.

The major advances in civilization are processes that all but wreck the societies in which they occur.

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.

The vigor of civilized societies is preserved by the widespread sense that high aims are worth-while. Vigorous societies harbor a certain extravagance of objectives, so that men wander beyond the safe provision of personal gratifications. All strong interests easily become impersonal, the love of a good job well done. There is a sense of harmony about such an accomplishment, the Peace brought by something worth-while.

To see what is general in what is particular and what is permanent in what is transitory is the aim of scientific thought.