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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Fool Quotes (42 quotes)

Les hommes se tromperont toujours, quand ils abandonneront l'expérience pour des systèmes enfantés par l’imagination. L’homme est l’ouvrage de la nature, il existe dans la nature, il est soumis à ses lois, il ne peut s’en affranchir, il ne peut même par la pensée en sortir; c’est en vain que son esprit veut s’élancer au delà des bornes du monde visible, il est toujours forcé d’y rentrer.
Men always fool themselves when they give up experience for systems born of the imagination. Man is the work of nature, he exists in nature, he is subject to its laws, he can not break free, he can not leave even in thought; it is in vain that his spirit wants to soar beyond the bounds of the visible world, he is always forced to return.
Opening statement of first chapter of Système de la Nature (1770), Vol. 1, 1. Translation by Webmaster using Google Translate. In the English edition (1820-21), Samuel Wilkinson gives this as “Man has always deceived himself when he abandoned experience to follow imaginary systems.—He is the work of nature.—He exists in Nature.—He is submitted to the laws of Nature.—He cannot deliver himself from them:—cannot step beyond them even in thought. It is in vain his mind would spring forward beyond the visible world: direful and imperious necessity ever compels his return.”
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A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
In Mostly Harmless (1992), 135.
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A doctor who doesn’t say too many foolish things is a patient half-cured. (1921)
'Le Côté de Guermantes', À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27).
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A fool must now and then be right, by chance
'Conversation' (published 1782). In William Cowper and Humphrey Sumner Milford (ed.), The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper (1905), 92.
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A fool, Mr, Edgeworth, is one who has never made an experiment.
Remark to Richard Lovell Edgeworth, as quoted by W. Stanley Jevons in ‘Experimental Legislation’, Popular Science (Apr 1880), 16, 754.
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A philosopher is a fool who torments himself while he is alive, to be talked of after he is dead.
As translated, without citation, in Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men: With Historical and Explanatory Notes (1887), 6.
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Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed,—chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man’s life only saplings can be grown, in the place of the old trees—tens of centuries old—that have been destroyed.
John Muir
In 'The American Forests', Atlantic Monthly (Aug 1897), Vol. 80, 157.
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Any man who does not make himself proficient in at least two languages other than his own is a fool.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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Astrology is a disease, not a science... It is a tree under the shadow of which all sorts of superstitions thrive. ... Only fools and charlatans lend value to it.
Letter to Marseilles, 1195. Responsa, ii. 25b. In ‎Philip Birnbaum (ed.), Mishneh Torah: Maimonides' Code of Law and Ethics (1974), 35.
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Classification is now a pejorative statement. You know, these classifiers look like “dumb fools.” I’m a classifier. But I’d like to use a word that includes more than what people consider is encompassed by classification. It is more than that, and it’s something which can be called phenomenology.
'Oral History Transcript: Dr. William Wilson Morgan' (8 Aug 1978) in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
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Every discovery in science is a tacit criticism of things as they are. That is why the wise man is invariably called a fool.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer.
Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words (1865), 97.
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Experience of actual fact either teaches fools or abolishes them.
The Homiletic Review, Vol. 83-84 (1922), Vol. 84, 380.
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He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, he is a fool—shun him;
He who knows not, and knows he knows not, he is simple—teach him;
He who knows, and knows not he knows, he is asleep—wake him;
He who knows, and knows he knows, he is wise—follow him.
Hesiod, 'Works and Days,' 293-7. In William White, Notes and Queries (1904), Series 10, Vol. 1, 235, the correspondent H.A. Strong says that the origin of these lines is to be found in Hesiod [Greek, 8th Century B.C.], Works and Days, 293-7; that the passage was very celebrated in antiquity, and is quoted by Aristotle, Nic. Eth., i. 4; and that both Livy (xxii. 29) and Cicero (Pro Cluent., 31) refer to it. Another correspondent (J.H.K.) said it was stated to be an Arab proverb in Lady [Isabel] Burton, Life of [Captain] Sir Richard [F.] Burton [(1894, Vol. 1, 548, footnote, wherein the quote begins 'Men are four.'].
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Heraldry has been contemptuously termed 'the science of fools with long memories.'
The Pursuivant of Arms: Or, Heraldry Founded Upon Facts (1873), 3.
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He’s a Fool that makes his Doctor his Heir.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1733). See the Francis Bacon page for: Male secum agit æger, medicum qui hæredem ficit. That sick man does ill for himself, who makes his physician his heir. (1625)
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I happen to be a kind of monkey. I have a monkeylike curiosity that makes me want to feel, smell, and taste things which arouse my curiosity, then to take them apart. It was born in me. Not everybody is like that, but a scientific researchist should be. Any fool can show me an experiment is useless. I want a man who will try it and get something out of it.
Quoted in Guy Suits, ''Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 357.
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I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Trees and Other Poems (1914), 19.
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If all boys could be made to know that with every breath of cigarette smoke they inhale imbecility and exhale manhood ... and that the cigarette is a maker of invalids, criminals and fools—not men—it ought to deter them some. The yellow finger stain is an emblem of deeper degradation and enslavement than the ball and chain.
Quoted in Henry Ford, The Case Against the Little White Slaver (1914), Vol. 1, 20.
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If our intention had been merely to bring back a handful of soil and rocks from the lunar gravel pit and then forget the whole thing, we would certainly be history's biggest fools. But that is not our intention now—it never will be. What we are seeking in tomorrow's [Apollo 11] trip is indeed that key to our future on earth. We are expanding the mind of man. We are extending this God-given brain and these God-given hands to their outermost limits and in so doing all mankind will benefit. All mankind will reap the harvest…. What we will have attained when Neil Armstrong steps down upon the moon is a completely new step in the evolution of man.
Banquet speech on the eve of the Apollo 11 launch, Royal Oaks Country Club, Titusville (15 Jul 1969). In "Of a Fire on the Moon", Life (29 Aug 1969), 67, No. 9, 34.
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In 1906 I indulged my temper by hurling invectives at Neo-Darwinians in the following terms. “I really do not wish to be abusive [to Neo-Darwinians]; but when I think of these poor little dullards, with their precarious hold of just that corner of evolution that a blackbeetle can understand—with their retinue of twopenny-halfpenny Torquemadas wallowing in the infamies of the vivisector’s laboratory, and solemnly offering us as epoch-making discoveries their demonstrations that dogs get weaker and die if you give them no food; that intense pain makes mice sweat; and that if you cut off a dog’s leg the three-legged dog will have a four-legged puppy, I ask myself what spell has fallen on intelligent and humane men that they allow themselves to be imposed on by this rabble of dolts, blackguards, imposters, quacks, liars, and, worst of all, credulous conscientious fools.”
In Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), lxi
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In reality, all Arguments from Experience are founded on the Similarity which we discover among natural Objects, and by which we are induc'd to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such Objects. And tho' none but a Fool or Madman will ever pretend to dispute the Authority of Experience, or to reject that great Guide of human Life, it may surely be allow'd a Philosopher to have so much Curiosity at least as to examine the Principle of human Nature, which gives this mighty Authority to Experience, and makes us draw Advantage from that Similarity which Nature has plac'd among different Objects. From Causes which appear similar we expect similar Effects. This is the Sum of our experimental Conclusions.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 63.
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Intelligence is an extremely subtle concept. It’s a kind of understanding that flourishes if it's combined with a good memory, but exists anyway even in the absence of good memory. It’s the ability to draw consequences from causes, to make correct inferences, to foresee what might be the result, to work out logical problems, to be reasonable, rational, to have the ability to understand the solution from perhaps insufficient information. You know when a person is intelligent, but you can be easily fooled if you are not yourself intelligent.
In Irv Broughton (ed.), The Writer's Mind: Interviews with American Authors (1990), Vol. 2, 57.
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It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.
Utilitarianism (1861), 212.
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Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men.
'On the Hypothesis that Animals are Automata', The Fortnightly (1874), 22, 577.
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Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history, as sketched above. It seems plain to me that whatever he is he is not a reasoning animal. His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one.
In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which the other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.
Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh—not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.
In Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings (),
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Never fear big long words.
Big long words name little things.
All big things have little names.
Such as life and death, peace and war.
Or dawn, day, night, hope, love, home.
Learn to use little words in a big way.
It is hard to do,
But they say what you mean.
When you don't know what you mean, use big words.
That often fools little people.
Quoted in Saturday Review (1962), 45, No. 2. It was written (1936) for his son, as advice for young copy writers. - 1995
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Physicians get neither name nor fame by the pricking of wheals or the picking out thistles, or by laying of plaisters to the scratch of a pin; every old woman can do this. But if they would have a name and a fame, if they will have it quickly, they must do some great and desperate cures. Let them fetch one to life that was dead; let them recover one to his wits that was mad; let them make one that was born blind to see; or let them give ripe wits to a fool: these are notable cures, and he that can do thus, if he doth thus first, he shall have the name and fame he deserves; he may lie abed till noon.
In John Bunyan and Robert Philip (ed.), The Works of John Bunyan (1850), Vol. 1, 75.
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Science is a way to not fool ourselves.
Attributed. Contact webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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Scientists are the easiest to fool. ... They think in straight, predictable, directable, and therefore misdirectable, lines. The only world they know is the one where everything has a logical explanation and things are what they appear to be. Children and conjurors—they terrify me. Scientists are no problem; against them I feel quite confident.
Code of the Lifemaker (1983, 2000),Chapter 1.
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The average gambler will say “The player who stakes his whole fortune on a single play is a fool, and the science of mathematics can not prove him to be otherwise.” The reply is obvious: “The science of mathematics never attempts the impossible, it merely shows that other players are greater fools.”
[Concluding remarks to his mathematical proof, with certain assumptions, that a gambler's best strategy would be to always make his largest stake on his first play.]
In 'Gambler's Ruin', Annals of Mathematics (Jul 1909), 2nd Series, 10, No. 4, 189. This is also seen, without primary source, quoted as “It is true that a man who does this is a fool. I have only proved that a man who does anything else is an even bigger fool,” in Harold Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles (1988), 39.
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The errors of a wise man are literally more instructive than the truths of a fool. The wise man travels in lofty, far-seeing regions; the fool in low-lying, high-fenced lanes; retracing the footsteps of the former, to discover where he diviated, whole provinces of the universe are laid open to us; in the path of the latter, granting even that he has not deviated at all, little is laid open to us but two wheel-ruts and two hedges.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 425:26.
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The fool rushed to certain conclusions.
The middling man approached them warily, and with circumspection.
And the wise man, perceiving them from afar, decided to go round another way.
'Discretion' in Little Stings (1907, 1908), 140.
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The Nobel Prize gives you an opportunity to make a fool of yourself in public.
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The tragedy of the world is that those who are imaginative have but slight experience, and those who are experienced have feeble imaginations. Fools act on imagination without knowledge, pedants act on knowledge without imagination.
In Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 140.
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There are no foolish questions and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.
Quoted, without citation, in Frank Crane, American Magazine (May 1923), 95, 41.
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This is the excellent foppery of the world: that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeits of our own behaviour—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the Dragon's tail and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows that I am rough and lecherous. Fut! I should have been that I am had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.
King Lear (1605-6), I, ii.
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Through our scientific and technological genius we’ve made of this world a neighborhood. And now through our moral and ethical commitment we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers—or we will all perish together as fools.
Commencement Address for Oberlin College, Ohio, 'Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution' ,(Jun 1965). Oberlin College website.
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Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.
Often seen attributed to Plato. Please contact Webmaster, who has so far found none, if you know a primary source from Plato's writing. Seen without citation in Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations (1891), 560.
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Without birds to feed on them, the insects would multiply catastrophically. ... The insects, not man or other proud species, are really the only ones fitted for survival in the nuclear age. ... The cockroach, a venerable and hardy species, will take over the habitats of the foolish humans, and compete only with other insects or bacteria.
As quoted in obituary by Douglas Martin, New York Times (20 Jan 2005).
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You can be a thorough-going Neo-Darwinian without imagination, metaphysics, poetry, conscience, or decency. For “Natural Selection” has no moral significance: it deals with that part of evolution which has no purpose, no intelligence, and might more appropriately be called accidental selection, or better still, Unnatural Selection, since nothing is more unnatural than an accident. If it could be proved that the whole universe had been produced by such Selection, only fools and rascals could bear to live.
Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), lxi-lxii.
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You can't possibly be a scientist if you mind people thinking that you're a fool.
Character Wonko the Sane in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (1985), collected in The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2002), 587.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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