Posts Tagged ‘quote’


The sincere mode of behaviour seeks to replace the “mere convention” of ritual with a genuine and thoughtful state of internal conviction. Rather than becoming what we do through ritual, we do what we have become through self-examination.


The need to establish society and morality on the basis of sincerity, though, runs into a deep problem. How can we express true sincerity except by filtering it through the social conventions of language? How are we to know if people’s professions of sincerity are genuine or just acts of hypocrisy, representations of their true self or just what they would say “as if” they were sincere? Worse still, even our own private thoughts can work only through language, and thus can never fully reveal our innermost sincerity (or lack of it). We can accumulate great quantities of discourse, but never dispel the suspicion—even within our own minds—that it is all just artifice. This is why the Puritans produced such an enormous quantity of written self-examination, like Cotton Mather’s famous autobiographical writings. It is just as evident in our teenage children’s endless concern with establishing the truth of feelings-their own and those of their peers. The Calvinist’s “Am I really saved?” and the teenager’s “Am I really in love?” are at heart similar kinds of questions. […] It is not enough to love each other sincerely if people fail to act as if they love each other; and acting as if they love each other includes ritualized forms of expressing concern, verbally and in concrete deeds of helpfulness.

Ritual and its Consequences: an Essay on the Limits of Sincerity – Adam Seligman, Robert Weller, Michael Puett, Bennett Simon

I’ll be honest: I’m imagining The Calvinist’s “Am I really saved?” as being some kind of 90s rave track.

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Simon Critchley, describing G.W.F. Hegel’s theory of religion:

Hegel will say that the divine is not the object of religious consciousness, but substance made real in the world as action and community. The divine for Hegel is not “Oh, is there a God? And, oh, how many attributes does he have? And is he up there, or is he in my head?” This is nothing to do with religion; this is some sort of windy speculation. The divine is community, for Hegel. Community in its action, in its life: that’s what’s Hegel’s after. If Hegel is a Christian thinker, as I think he is […] what Christianity means is the life of the community.

Mark Renton, the smack-head protagonist of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting:

Tom Curzon, the counsellor fae the drugs agency, a guy wi a social work rather than a medical background […] feels that ma concept ay success and failure only operates on an individual rather than an individual and societal level. […] So, according tae Tom, it’s nae good tellin us that ah’ve done well in ma exams, or got a good job, or got off wi a nice burd; that kind ay acclaim means nowt tae us. Of course, ah enjoy these things at the time, or for themselves, but their value cannae be sustained because there’s nae recognition ay the society which values them. What Tom’s trying tae say, ah suppose, is that ah dinnae gie a fuck.

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Here’s a quote from Sherard Cowper-Coles’ memoir Ever the diplomat: confessions of a Foreign Office mandarin on the immediate aftermath of the case of Michael Bettany (a digruntled MI5 counter-intelligence officer who in 1983 made a ham-fisted attempt to get himself recruited by the KGB by delivering confidential documents to the letter box of the chief of the KGB’s London station):

The Prime Minister decided something had to be done about MI5, and a new, external, director general was appointed, in the shape of Sir Antony Duff, a senior Foreign Office official with a distinguished earlier career in the Royal Navy. […] I asked Duff what he thought had been the main problem with MI5. ‘The gossip factor,’ he replied at once. He explained that MI5 officers had been so security-conscious that they had never gossiped to or about each other, thus failed to detect the loneliness and unhappiness that had led Bettaney to go off the rails […] In Duff’s view, successful organisations needed an element of gossip, as a means of what would now be called team-building and as a safety valve.

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Here’s ancient Greek sophist Gorgias on the important of being good with words (taken from Enconium of Helen of Troy, translated by George A. Kennedy):

Speech is a powerful lord that with the smallest and most invisible body accomplishes the most god-like works. It can banish fear and remove grief and instil pleasure and enhance pity. […] Divine sweetness transmitted through words is inductive of pleasure, and reductive of pain. Thus entering into the opinion of the soul the force of incantation is wont to beguile and persuade and alter it by witchcraft, and the two arts of witchcraft and magic are errors of the soul and deceivers of opinion.

Here’s economist and historian Deirdre N. McCloskey on a similar theme (taken from Talking Capitalism: Schumpeter and Galbraith):

Schumpeter and Galbraith spanned the range in the last century from moderate conservative to moderate socialist. These two men of clever words, both master rhetoricians, laid out the case for and the case against unregulated capitalism. […] Regulated or not, though, […] capitalism hangs on words. […] Case-making with sweet words is how business decisions are made. It’s how regulatory agencies do their jobs, too, and how you shop for furniture. It’s how economic scientists persuade. It’s how managers in a free society manage. Talk, talk, talk. Rhetoric rules.

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It can be hard work trying to be scrupulously honest and fair. Words can be tricky little blighters, too. Perhaps it’s better just to make things up wholesale.

In that spirit, here are some interesting quotes.

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I’m not really sure why I read books about management theory. With the thought that forewarned is forearmed, I suppose. Anyway, here’s an interesting quote from Good Strategy / Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters by Richard Rumelt (pp. 47-8):

The philosophy of the age [early 20th century], most fervently adopted by the French, was that willpower, spirit, morale, élan, and aggressiveness were the keys to success. For three years, generals flung highly motivated men at fortified machine-gun emplacements, only to see tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, shredded to mincemeat to gain a mile of useless ground.


At the Somme and Passchendaele, Haig led an entire generation of British and Dominion youths to their deaths—as Joseph Joffre did for the French at Somme, and Erich von Falkenheyn did for the Germans at Verdun.

In Europe, motivational speakers are not the staple of the management lecture circuit that they are in the United States, where the doctrine of leadership as motivation is alive and well. Here, for example, is H. Ross Perot: “Most people give up when they’re just about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from the winning touchdown.”

Hearing this, many American nod in agreement. Many Europeans, by contrast, hear the echo of the “one last push” at Passchendaele.

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I’ve been wanting to write something about brevity for a while now. You know: the soul of wit, brevitas vs. copia, maxims and arrows, and all that sort of thing. I fear I may write too much whilst saying too little. Ho hum.

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