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Which Intellectual Values, Principles or Precepts
Would Help the Cause of Liberal Education?

It is a fact of experience and common-sense that education has to be governed by some set of human values, however sharply we may disagree about the content of these.

Christopher Derrick

Historically, almost all education systems, at all levels, had quite explicit points of view on values.


A thing cannot be true in theory and yet false in practice. Practice is the empirical check on theory, and if practice confutes theory, theory must be revised.

Arnold Lunn

The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In theory, it can never work.

Miikka Ryökäs

All explanations come to an end somewhere.

Thomas Nagel

It is not every question that deserves an answer. For example: How do we know that other people aren’t zombies?

All knowledge must be built up upon our instinctive beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left.

Bertrand Russell

I do not think it is possible to get anywhere if we start from scepticism. We must start from a broad acceptance of whatever seems to be knowledge and is not rejected for some specific reason.

Bertrand Russell

All science requires faith in the inner harmony of the world.

Albert Einstein

He who wishes to learn must believe.


Being fair to the philosophical opposition means conceding that honest, intelligent, well informed people can be found in the opposing camp.

The Catholic and the Communist [among others] are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent. Each of them tacitly claims that “the truth” has already been revealed, and that the heretic, if he is not simply a fool, is secretly aware of “the truth” and merely resists it out of selfish motives.

George Orwell (from The Prevention of Literature, 1946)

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition. It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

G. K. Chesterton

One can’t be right until one has first conceived the possibility of being wrong.

Diana Kuhn

Every man has a right to be wrong in his opinions. But no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.

Bernard Baruch

All who accept reason as the criterion to distinguish between true and false beliefs are entitled to describe themselves as “rationalists” in contrast to “fideists” who consciously or unconsciously assume that they are entitled in an argument to appeal to their personal intuitions about the nature of ultimate reality.

Arnold Lunn

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.

Bertrand Russell

PARAPHRASE: Everything is complicated and subtle to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it simple and straightforward.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Carl Sagan

Facts are often part of a web of evidence—facts may or may not be evidence, depending on the context—but the same set of agreed facts can be taken as evidence in support of different interpretations or theories of the overall situation.


Fundamental scepticism, where it is fully believed, is a pathological condition and calls for intervention and help of the psychiatric kind.

Christopher Derrick

The arguments of the sceptic are, says Hume, valid. But only theoretically. Having conceded their validity as arguments he drives home the point that it is impossible for anyone actually to live as a sceptic.

Bryan Magee

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.

John Stuart Mill

The more knowledge we possess of the opposite point of view, the less puzzling it is to know what to do [or say].

Winston Churchill

It’s irrational to beg the question, i.e., to assume what it is one’s business to prove.

In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

Stephen Jay Gould

One thing we are sure of, and that is the reality and substantiality of the luminiferous ether.

Lord Kelvin

If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. There are some premises that can’t be reached as conclusions.

C. S. Lewis

It is notoriously impossible to prove that the external world exists.

Bryan Magee

Just because we can’t define something as a truth doesn’t mean we can’t feel it as a fact.

G. K. Chesterton

No useful discussion is possible unless both parties to the discussion start from the same premise.

Mediæval Maxim

No argument can establish the truth of its premises, since if it tried to do so it would be circular; and therefore no argument can establish the truth of its conclusions.

Bryan Magee

Not every word can be defined.

As nothing can be proved but by supposing something intuitively known, and evident without proof, so nothing can be defined but by the use of words too plain to admit a definition.

Samuel Johnson

Objectivity means that we can separate facts from our thoughts and feelings about those facts.

It is important to concede everything which should be conceded because it is not only bad policy but intellectually dishonest to defend the indefensible.

Arnold Lunn

The attempt to establish the truth of any particular philosophy by purely intellectual processes is absolutely hopeless—and for purely intellectual reasons.

Philosophical argument, strictly speaking, consists mainly of an endeavour to cause the hearer to perceive what has been perceived by the speaker. The argument, in short, is not of the nature of proof, but of exhortation: Look, can’t you see what I see!

Bertrand Russell

Religious (or simple) fundamentalism is the inability to see that words can’t do what we thought they could do, namely, establish truth with authority and without ambiguity. Philosophical (or sophisticated) fundamentalism is the inability to see that arguments can’t do what we thought they could do, namely, establish truth authoritatively and unambiguously.

The analogy is a particularly tricky form of rhetoric when it becomes the basis of an argument rather than merely a figure of speech.

Northrop Frye

A drop of water is not immortal; it can be resolved into oxygen and hydrogen. If, therefore, a drop of water were to maintain that it had a quality of aqueousness which would survive its dissolution we should be inclined to be sceptical.

Bertrand Russell (arguing against immortality)

The closest we can get to impartiality is admitting we are partial.

G. K. Chesterton

Arguments that don’t satisfy us emotionally usually don’t satisfy us intellectually.

The first step in escaping fundamentalism is to distinguish between what a sentence says and what it means.

When you say that the earth is round, do you mean it? No, you don’t mean it. But it’s true. In fact, most of the sentences we regard as true reflect facts and opinions that are much more complicated than the explicit meaning of the sentence.

The simple realization that there are other points of view is the beginning of wisdom. Knowing what they are is a big step. The final achievement is understanding why they are held.

When a subject is highly controversial one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one’s audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker.

Virginia Woolf

There is such a thing as irrational scepticism just as there is such a thing as irrational belief. They are just opposite sides of the same logical coin.

Any premises that are capable of being put into words are also capable of being verbally questioned. Any argument whatsoever can thus be made into an infinite regress.

Christopher Derrick

To [John] Hick it has at once to be conceded: that it is one thing to say that a belief is unfounded or well-founded; and quite another to say that it is irrational or rational for some particular person, in his particular time and circumstances, and with his particular experience and lack of experience, to hold or to reject that belief.

Anthony Flew

In the Summa Theologica Thomas Aquinas poses the question of whether heretics can be endured, tolerated. And his answer is that heretics can not be tolerated. If it was just to condemn counterfeiters to death, then surely it was necessary to put to death those who had committed the far worse crime of counterfeiting the faith.

True science is never philosophically partisan. It is open to any new knowledge or understanding whatever the metaphysical implications.

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.

T. H. Huxley

Without sympathy there can be no effective criticism.

Arnold Lunn

You cannot win a man from his belief, political or religious, unless you can see why it attracts him and can almost imagine holding it yourself.

Frank Sheed

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