Quotations

Here are some quotations that I find interesting or notable. This does not mean that I agree with all or even the majority of them. They are roughly sorted, first by subject topic and then by freshness. I add new ones to the end of each category from time to time.

Computer Science, Math

The Wiener report, a.k.a. the ‘yellow peril’, because of the color of the cover and the difficulty of what was in between, was made public only after the war. It was first classified, presumably based on the principle that something that is not understood must be dangerous, a principle that intelligence agencies still honor today.

Jan C. Willems, In control, almost from the beginning until the day after tomorrow

Looking now at the merits of our approach, we see that the essential one as the eradication of the notion of state of a complex system.

Gilles Kahn, The Semantics of a Simple Language for Parallel Programming

Programming languages semanticists should be the obstetricians of programming languages, not their coroners.

John C. Reynolds

Any group of talented people can do an elaborate body of work, with terminologies, seminars, papers and journals, and give its members a feeling of being in the center of the world, while, at the same time, be completely ignored elsewhere.

Oded Maler, Systèmes Discrets, Temporisés et Hybrides

Once upon a time, there was a university with a peculiar tenure policy. All faculty were tenured, and could only be dismissed for moral turpitude. What was peculiar was the definition of moral turpitude: making a false statement in class. Needless to say, the university did not teach computer science. However, it had a renowned department of mathematics.

John C. Reynolds, Types, Abstraction and Parametric Polymorphism

This revelation was both gratifying and embarrassing. After writing with tiresome sarcasm about the lack of meaning in the type-free lambda-calculus introduced only formally, the author himself found an interesting kind of semantical interpretation for the "type-free" language.

Dana Scott, A type-theoretical alternative to ISWIM, CUCH, OWHY

The title I used when I gave this talk was Computer Science Contradicts Mathematics. Many modern programming languages are inconsistent with standard mathematical foundations. The task of finding sound interpretations for what it is that computer scientists do strikes this writer as, perhaps, the highest type of applied mathematics.

Peter Freyd, Algebraically Complete Categories

Proof assistants [...] give a second chance to students/engineer/scientists who are insecure in their abilities to do mathematics on paper.

Xavier Leroy

The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures... Yet the program construct, unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. [...] The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be.

Fred Brooks, The Mythical Man-Month

There is nothing more practical than a good theory.

Kurt Lewin, Field theory in social science; selected theoretical papers

Naively speaking, the construction is a glorification of the construction of the integers from the natural numbers. Less naively, the construct provides a left biadjoint to the forgetful 2-functor from the 2-category of tortile monoidal categories to the 2-category of traced monoidal categories [...].

André Joyal, Ross Street and Dominic Verity, Traced monoidal categories

L'avantage d'un langage bien construit est tel que sa notation simplifiée devient souvent la source de profondes théories.

Pierre-Simon Laplace, quoted in Mathematical Maxims and Minims, by N. Rose

In denotational semantics one follows an ideal of compositionality, where the meaning of a compound phrase is given as a function of the meaning of its parts. In the case of operational semantics one considers the behaviour of a program phrase, which is just the collection of the transitions it can make. This behaviour is, however, not compositional when thought of as a function of program phrases.

Gordon Plotkin, The Origins of Structural Operational Semantics

If it should turn out that the basic logics of a machine designed for the numerical solution of differential equations coincide with the logics of a machine intended to make bills for a department store, I would regard this as the most amazing coincidence that I have ever encountered.

Howard Aiken, quoted in The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing, M. Davis

[...] Sprawl software is software that, by virtue of being sprawl software, creates its own "management problem". Sprawl software creates, out of thin air, actual living breathing instances of new patterns of domination and subjugation (on a massive scale).

Thomas Lord, LtU Comment

Every constructive proof can be regarded as the development of a (possibly) new notation, and the verification that certain computations performed with the aid of that notation produce certain results.

Errett Bishop, quoted by Thierry Coquand

Il me semble que notre rôle à nous, pauvres chercheurs isolés, dans la mesure où développer un compilateur complet au niveau académique est une entreprise risquée voire impossible, est plutôt d'introduire un certain nombre de techniques bien définies qui, elles, peuvent être utilisées dans l'industrie comme "trucs" dans les cas particuliers justement mis en évidence. Mais développer des heuristiques vaguement définies, faites d'astuces mystérieuses, dont on ne peut rien dire de précis et surtout qu'un autre groupe de chercheur ne peut reproduire faute de détails, me semble de peu d'intérêt du point de vue de la recherche.

Alain Darte, De l'organisation des calculs dans les codes répétititfs

Et toute science, quand nous l’entendons non comme un instrument de pouvoir et de domination, mais comme aventure de connaissance de notre espèce à travers les âges, n'est autre chose que cette harmonie, plus ou moins vaste et plus ou moins riche d'une époque à l’autre, qui se déploie au cours des générations et des siècles, par le délicat contrepoint de tous les thèmes apparus tour à tour, comme appelés du néant.

Alexandre Grothendieck, Récoltes et Semailles

One of the nicest application of denotational semantics is certainly the Kahn-MacQueen representation of [a] dataflow-network as a set of recursive equations over streams.

Thierry Coquand, Domains for polymorphism

The establishment of a truly operational semantics of algorithms is perhaps the most important problem in computer science.

Jean-Yves Girard, Proofs and Types

The choice of good terminology, it is too often forgotten, requires a bit of literary talent. Such talent is not displayed by calling a terminal object a 'terminator'.

Jaap van Oosten, Realizability: An Introduction to its Categorical Side

The first of these papers [...] introduced the very abstract idea of a "category"—a subject then called "general abstract nonsense"! When Eilenberg and I submitted a full presentation in 1945 (to the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society), we feared that the editor would turn it down as too "far out," not really mathematics. So Eilenberg, who knew the editor well, persuaded him to choose as referee a young mathematician—one whom we could influence because he was then a junior member of the Applied Mathematics Group at Columbia University (war research), where Eilenberg and I were then also members, and I was Director.

Saunders MacLane, The PNAS way back then

Crucially, also, types structure the search for programs in useful ways [...]. Sometimes it's easier to search for good programs in the space of well typed programs, rather than in the space of ascii turds.

Conor McBride, Quora comment

HIGHER ORDER LOGICS: Generalisations of logic above the second order. There is a strong difference between first and second-order, but third order is very much like second order ; it is also of little use, but for the writing of easy papers; one can use the Emacs command M-x higherorder-my-file to that effect. This is an example of really formal mathematics, doable by a computer.

Jean-Yves Girard, Locus Solumn

If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.

John von Neumann, quoted in Archaeology of computers: Reminiscences, 1945--1947, Franz L. Alt

A more serious problem is the one of the "big theorems" which are both very useful and too long to check (unless you spend on them a sizable part of your lifetime...). A typical example is the Feit-Thompson Theorem: groups of odd order are solvable. (Chevalley once tried to take this as the topic of a seminar, with the idea of giving a complete account of the proof. After two years, he had to give up.) What should one do with such theorems, if one has to use them? Accept them on faith? Probably. But it is not a very comfortable situation.

Jean-Pierre Serre, interviewed by C.T. Chong and Y.K. Leong in the Mathematical Intelligencer (quoted by François Garillot in his PhD thesis)

Notice that we use the word mathematical instead of the more usual word formal. It is now clear to most language designers and users that language semantics should be formally defined. However, almost anything can be formalized with enough sweat and enough Greek letters and funny symbols. We go a step further and claim that semantics should be mathematically relevant to be of any real use. What really matters in mathematical semantics is that the objects and object combinations obey deep combinatorial and algebraic properties.

Gérard Berry, The Esterel v5 Language Primer, June 2000

Tout ce qui est formel est insignifiant.

René Thom, quoted by Vincent Danos during the Journée Mathématique en l'honneur d'Albert Burroni

We believe the topological approach has a great deal of promise for the theory of distributed and concurrent computation, and that it merits further investigation. We look forward to the day when knowledge of elementary combinatorial and algebraic topology is considered as essential to theoretical computer science as knowledge of graph theory or probability theory.

Maurice Herlihy and Nir Shavit, The Topological Structure of Asynchronous Computability

I think Lurie is slightly sensitive to the criticism that his work is too abstract (not that I’m making that criticism myself — I’m not really in a position to judge how abstract it is).

Timothy Gowers, Blog post

The original version of this book discussed the first period [of Homological Algebra] only; this new edition remains at the same introductory level, but it now introduces the second period as well. This change makes sense pedagogically, for there has been a change in the mathematics population since 1979; today, virtually all mathematics graduate students have learned something about functors and categories, and so I can now take the categorical viewpoint more seriously.

Joseph J. Rotman, An Introduction to Homological Algebra, introduction to the second edition

Language is the raw material of software engineering, rather as water is the raw material for hydraulic engineering. The difference is that water is rather well understood by physical science ; but software – as a raw material – is still not scientifically understood. Nevertheless our software engineers have filled the world with software at enormous speed.

Robin Milner, Bologna University honoris causa doctoral address (quoted by Paul-André Melliès in his HDR)

The aim of theory really is, to a great extent, that of systematically organizing past experience in such a way that the next generation, our students and their students and so on, will be able to absorb the essential aspects in as painless a way as possible, and this is the only way in which you can go on cumulatively building up any kind of scientific activity without eventually coming to a dead end.

Michael F. Atiyah, How research is carried out

But most of all a good example is a thing of beauty. It shines and convinces. It gives insight and understanding. It provides the bedrock of belief.

Michael F. Atiyah, How research is carried out

Les logiciens qui croient que sur leurs résultats repose tout l'édifice mathématique sont comme les araignées des sous sols de l'Empire State qui s'imaginent que leurs toiles font tenir l'édifice.

Samuel Eilenberg

Avant qu'on n'y parvienne, il sera sans doute devenu évident pour tous, sous la poussée des événements, la science spéculative et parcellarisée ne faisant plus vivre son homme, qu'il est des tâches plus urgentes que de mettre sur pied même la plus belle théorie du monde, conjectural ou non.

Alexandre Grothendieck, Esquisse Thématique, sous-section Divagations motiviques

Alfred Young's style of mathematical writing has unfortunately gone out of fashion: it is based on the assumption that the reader is to be treated as a gentleman with a sound mathematical education, and gentlemen need not be told the lowly details of proofs. As a consequence, we have to figure out certain inferences for which Young omits any explanation out of respect for his readers.

Gian-Carlo Rota, Indiscrete Thoughts, chapter III

The axiomatization of the notion of category, discovered by Eilenberg and Mac Lane in the forties, is an example of beauty in a definition, though a controversial one. It has given rise to a new field, category theory, which is rich in beautiful and insightful definitions and poor in elegant proofs. The basic notions of this field, such as adjoint and representable functor, derived category, and topos, have carried the day with their beauty, and their beauty has been influential in steering the course of mathematics in the latter part of this century; however, the same cannot be said of the theorems which remain clumsy.

Gian-Carlo Rota, Indiscrete Thoughts, chapter X

I agree that algebraic topologists (and other practitioners of what might be called "homotopy coherent mathematics") face special obstacles in expressing their ideas. To a large extent, these difficulties come from the fact that the notion of "commutative diagram" which appears in ordinary mathematics needs to be replaced by a more sophisticated notion of "homotopy coherent diagram". And while the commutativity of a diagram is a property, the homotopy coherence of a diagram involves an additional datum (a "witness") which can be of a very complicated nature (depending on the diagram). The theory of quasicategories is an attempt to address this issue by packaging and manipulating these "witnesses" in an efficient way, so that you can talk about them without losing your mind.

Jacob Lurie, comment on the "Mathematics without Apologies" blog

The greatest danger to good computer science research today may be excessive relevance... Another danger is that commercial pressure of one sort or another will divert the attention of the best thinkers from real innovation to exploitation of the current fad, from prospecting to mining a known lode.

Denis Ritchie, A Quarter-Century of Unix

I recall Mac Lane referring to "my old enemy Grothendieck" over coffee one morning. I was too young at the time to ask him what he meant, and then the conversation progressed to a joint grumble about the complexity of the first two volumes of SGA4. Mac Lane and I shared the conviction that easy mathematics, and particularly category theory, should be expressed simply.

Rick Jardine, Tōhoku, Inference Review

It is our thesis that formal elegance is a prerequisite to efficient implementation.

Gérard Huet, Formal Structures in Computation and Deduction

Il en est qui, face à cela, se contentent de hausser les épaules d’un air désabusé et de parier qu’il n’y a rien à tirer de tout cela, sauf des rêves. Ils oublient, ou ignorent, que notre science, et toute science, serait bien peu de chose, si depuis ses origines elle n’avait été nourrie des rêves et des visions de ceux qui s’y adonnent avec passion.

Alexandre Grothendieck, Esquisse d'un Programme

La Syntaxe est, entre autres choses, l'art de la perspective dans la pensée.

Paul Valéry, Cahiers

This result is folklore, which is a technical term for a method of publication in category theory. It means that someone sketched it on the back of an envelope, mimeographed it (whatever that means) and showed it to three people in a seminar in Chicago in 1973, except that the only evidence that we have of these events is a comment that was overheard in another seminar at Columbia in 1976. Nevertheless, if some younger person is so presumptuous as to write out a proper proof and attempt to publish it, they will get shot down in flames.

Paul Taylor, Comment on Andrej Bauer's blog

Natura non facit saltus.

Leibniz

Here first I discuss Grothendieck's philosophy of representable functors, and give one of the main illustrative examples [...]. All of algebraic geometry can be systematically developed from this point of view, making it very clean and beautiful, and incomprehensible for the beginner.

Angelo Vistoli, Grothendieck topologies, fibered categories and descent theory in FGA Explained

M. Fourier avait l'opinion que le but principal des mathématiques était l'utilité publique et l'explication des phénomènes naturels; mais un philosophe comme lui aurait dû savoir que le but unique de la science, c'est l'honneur de l'esprit humain, et que sous ce titre, une question de nombres vaut autant qu'une question de système du monde.

Charles Gustaves Jacob Jacobi, lettre adressée à Adrien-Marie Legendre

To understand failure, we must first allow it.

Gabriel Scherer

Each structure carries with it its own language, freighted with special intuitive references derived from the theories from which the axiomatic analysis described above has derived the structure. And, for the research worker who suddenly discovers this structure in the phenomena which he is studying, it is like a sudden modulation which orients at one stroke in an unexpected direction the intuitive course of his thought, and which illumines with a new light the mathematical landscape in which he is moving about.

Nicolas Bourbaki, The Architecture of Mathematics

In a free society, "academia" is a free association and nothing more.

Thomas Lord, LtU comment

One metaphor of proof is a route, which might be a desert track boring and unimpressive until one finally reaches the oasis of one's destination, or a foot path in green hills, exciting and energizing, opening great vistas of unexplored lands and seductive offshoots, leading far away even after the initial destination point has been reached.

Yuri Manin, Truth as Value and Duty: Lessons of Mathematics

The vision is that a good deal of what is normally regarded as "symbolic" computing can be done numerically, with a potentially vast gain in computer time and memory. And what does "numerically" ultimately mean? It means pruning an algebraic representation at every step rather than just once at the end of all the steps.

Lloyd N. Trefethen, Computing Numerically with Functions Instead of Numbers

Models, such as a cost semantics, are what distinguishes computer science from computer programming. These models give us theories which, through the use of formal proofs and empirical tests, can be verified or refuted. These models also reveal something of human character of the study of abstraction: that science, as a human endeavor, reflects our desire to seek out simplicity and beauty in the world around us, including truths about computation.

Daniel Spoonhower, Scheduling Deterministic Parallel Programs

It is difficult to figure out what is critical to the well-functioning of a complex operational mechanism. In contrast, we have more experience in finding the general conditions under which a mathematical result is valid.

Gilles Kahn and Gordon Plotkin, Concrete Domains

The mathematics has a life on its own, which is only patchily covered and understood in terms of existing process languages and their operational semantics.

Glynn Winskel and Gian-Luca Cattani, Profunctors, Open Maps and Bisimulation

Dijkstra blamed the use of "goto" for spaghetti code. The unstructured use of assignment is a bigger problem in creating obscure dependencies and side effects.

Carl Hewitt, LtU comment

Je pense que quand les professeurs ne font pas un effort pour expliquer d’où viennent leurs idées, d’où vient leur intuition, eh bien, ils pratiquent, délibérément ou non, une attitude raciste et sexiste à l’égard des catégories qui ne baignent pas par ailleurs dans la culture mathématique, et qui n’ont aucun moyen de savoir, autre que l’enseignement, d’où viennent les idées en cours.

Michèle Vergne, interview dans Images des Mathématiques

The limitations of categories are the same as those of savoir-vivre, i.e., the real good manners are without ostentation.

Jean-Yves Girard, Locus Solumn

The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or the words must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in this world for ugly mathematics.

G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology (1941)

Lanterne est un administrateur de la recherche né : peu importe qu'il n'ait pas "une vision très profonde des besoins réels du secteur, il sait lire les textes de Bruxelles, se mouler dans les organigrammes". Leduc est une coqueluche des médias et "dans la chaleur communicative des projecteurs", il sort parfois de son domaine d'expertise et "commet de graves impairs". Pluvieux "fut un rénovateur inspiré, donnant de la verdeur à une science un peu vieillotte" ; mais il s'est laissé glisser dans une administration d'où il est sorti fatigué. Après avoir défriché un domaine et créé une école de pensée, Vladimir se prend pour un prophète et entraîne "nombre de jeunes dans des programmes brumeux" visant à "comprendre la nature profonde de la vie". Ancre s'est glissé dans l'une des multiples commissions qui examinent les recherches des autres, et même quand son expertise atteint des limites, il s'érige en arbitre des élégances.

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Petit point

In no engineering discipline the successful pursuit of academic ideals pays more material dividends than in software engineering.

C.A.R. Hoare, quoted by Edsger Dijkstra in On the fact that the Atlantic has two sides

The conclusion we draw from this state of affairs is that no really satisfactory programming environment will exist for ugly languages.

Véronique Donzeau-Gouges, Gérard Huet, Bernard Lang, Gilles Kahn, Programming environment based on structure editors: the MENTOR experience

Quand le mathématicien calcule l’état futur d’un système au bout du temps t, rien ne l’empêche de supposer que, d’ici là, l’univers matériel s’évanouisse pour réapparaître tout à coup. C’est le tième moment seul qui compte, — quelque chose qui sera un pur instantané. Ce qui coulera dans l’intervalle, c’est-à-dire le temps réel, ne compte pas et ne peut pas entrer dans le calcul.

Henri Bergson, L'Évolution créatrice

Social Sciences, Economics

Les professions libérales seraient donc bien le caractère essentiel de la classe bourgeoise, si c'est par elles qu'on y entre, par elles qu'on s'y maintient, et si c'est faute d'être capable ou d'être digne de les exercer qu'on se déclasse. Avec l'égalité devant la loi; la plus importante et définitive conquête de la Révolution fut l'abolition des privilèges de naissance et l'accession de tous à toutes les professions.

Edmond Goblot, La barrière et le niveau. Étude sociologique sur la bourgeoisie française moderne, chapitre "Classes et professions"

Mais si la bourgeoisie moderne était une supériorité d'intelligence et de culture, ceux qu'on appelle depuis peu les intellectuels formeraient une classe supérieure à la bourgeoisie, ou bien, dans la bourgeoisie, une sous-classe, occupant un rang supérieur. Il n'en est rien. Il n'y a que des professions intellectuelles; elles ne sont, pas des classes, encore moins une classe. Les intellectuels sont des bourgeois, et d'un rang social peu élevé s'ils ne sont bourgeois que par leur intelligence. La considération qu'on a pour eux a quelque chose d'un peu équivoque : on ne sait trop si ces professions sont humbles ou supérieures, enviées ou dédaignées. La manière dont on les juge, quand ce jugement n'est pas corrigé par la réflexion, se nuance d'un peu de défaveur ou de pitié condescendante. On admire que des hommes si éclairés s'imposent tant de travail pour si peu de profit. Le premier mouvement est de penser que, leur choix fut une maladresse et que c'en est une autre que d'y persévérer. À la réflexion, tout de même, on s'incline devant le désintéressement.

Edmond Goblot, La barrière et le niveau. Étude sociologique sur la bourgeoisie française moderne, chapitre "Classes et professions"

Nous croyons féconde cette idée que la vie sociale doit s'expliquer, non par la conception que s'en font ceux qui y participent, mais par des causes profondes qui échappent à la conscience.

Émile Durkheim, Essais sur la conception matérialiste de l'histoire, compte-rendu de A. Labriola, Revue Philosophique, vol XLIV

Quelle que soit la nature du gouvernement, le pays souffre si les instruments du pouvoir sont hostiles à l’esprit même des institutions publiques. À une monarchie, il faut un personnel monarchiste. Une démocratie tombe en faiblesse, pour le plus grand mal des intérêts communs, si ses hauts fonctionnaires, formés à la mépriser et, par nécessité de fortune, issus des classes mêmes dont elle a prétendu abolir l’empire, ne la servent qu’à contrecœur.

Marc Bloch, L'Étrange Défaite

It seems disrespectful to the defining political idea of the twentieth century to reduce it to work-a-day and unheroic and reformist policy proposals; but better this disrespect from its friends than the crimes of its fanatics.

Cosma Shalizi, Socialism notebook

Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

John Maynard Keynes

The point about any new socialism is that it must not be a crusade. It must, as Stendhal said about his study of love, be dry-free of ardour. It must look at the boundary between private and communal economic power, not with faith and passion, but coldly, without messianic or crusading zeal. Political control of economic life is not the consummation of world history, the fulfilment of destiny, or the imposition of righteousness; it is a painful necessity.

Ernest Gellner, The rest of History

[Corporations are] Islands of conscious power in this ocean of unconscious co-operation like lumps of butter coagulating in a pail of buttermilk.

D.H. Robertson, quoted by Ronald Coase in The Nature of the Firm

Professor Hayek [...] does not see, or will not admit, that a return to ‘free’ competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State.

George Orwell, review F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom

Culture and Politics

What's the easiest film to make? I claim the easiest film to make is to put a camera in a room with some people, and they talk. You get a video camera, and you can do it for $500. What's the hardest film to make? It's got explosions and spaceships and lasers flying all over the place. [...] What's the easiest game to make? It's got explosions, and maybe elves or orcs, and whatever. What's the hardest game to make? Well, it's got some people in a room talking.

Chris Hecker, Going against the grain

The Big Lebowski's famous catch phrase, "the Dude abides," encapsulates the problem. It is easy for a white male stoner to simply "abide" because the deck is already stacked in his favor, yet his status as a relative outsider, a so-called "loser" that the "square community doesn't give a shit about," allows him to occupy a quasi-disenfranchised position, gaining him access to simulated ethnicity via the tropes of geek melodrama.

Kom Kunyosying and Carter Soles, Postmodern geekdom as simulated ethnicity

May the Force never arrive on your doorstep at three o'clock in the morning.

Michael Moorcock, Starship Stormtroopers

Perhaps most astounding in this whole ideological facelift was the emergence of the MBA and computer geek and investment banker, figures widely reviled and ridiculed in the climate of the 1960s, as little less than culture heroes and "revolutionaries".

Loren Goldner, The Historical Moment That Produced Us

If the poor, as John Steinbeck once observed, see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires, it seems fair to assume that on LinkedIn, followers see themselves as temporarily embarrassed thought leaders.

Ann Friedman, All LinkedIn with Nowhere to Go

For all the chatter about China Miéville's politics, in the end his revolution is likely to be less political than it is to be aesthetic.

Matthew Cheney, Crooked Timber

On ne peut qu’être frappé par les innombrables ressemblances qui rapprochent militantisme et activité religieuse. [...] Mais le militantisme révolutionnaire n’est qu’une parodie de la religion. La richesse, la démence, la démesure des projets religieux lui échappent ; il aspire au sérieux, il veut être raisonnable, il croit pouvoir gagner en échange un paradis ici-bas. Cela ne lui est même pas donné. Jésus Christ ressuscite et monte au ciel[,] Lénine pourrit sur la Place Rouge.

Anonyme, Le militantisme, stade suprême de l'aliénation

"What choice do I have?" ask the liberal gentrifiers, if you press them a bit. "This is the only place I can afford to live!" This sums everything up perfectly, puncturing the bubble of individual choices that make up liberal politics.

Gavin Mueller, Liberalism and Gentrification

Basically, in [former US Vice President Dick] Cheney’s world, nothing Americans do can be called torture, because we are not Al Qaeda and we are not the Japanese in the Second World War (whom we prosecuted for waterboarding) and we are not ISIS. "The way we did it," as he said of waterboarding, was not torture. In other words, it was not really the Justice Department that "blessed," or rather transubstantiated, torture; it was our American-ness. Is there an argument that could degrade that American identity more?

Amy Davidson, Torture in a Dick Cheney Minute

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left no other nexus between people than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.

Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

Tolkien and his admirers (many of them leftists) gave his escapism an emancipatory gloss, claiming that jailers hate escapism. As the great anarchist fantasist Michael Moorcock has pointed out, this is precisely untrue. Jailers love escapism. What they hate is escape.

China Miéville, Tolkien - Middle Earth Meets Middle England

Une 2 CV faite, une autre à faire... Je calcule. Cent cinquante par jour. Deux cent vingt jours par an. En ce moment, fin juillet, il doit en être à peu près à la trente-trois millième. Trente-trois mille fois dans l’année, il a refait les mêmes gestes. Pendant que des gens allaient au cinéma, bavardaient, faisaient l’amour, nageaient, skiaient, cueillaient des fleurs, jouaient avec leurs enfants, écoutaient des conférences, se goinfraient, se baladaient, parlaient de la Critique de la Raison pure, se réunissaient pour discutailler des barricades, du fantasme de la guerre civile, de la question du fusil, de la classe ouvrière comme sujet et des étudiants comme substitut du sujet et de l’action exemplaire qui révèle et du détonateur, pendant que le soleil se levait sur Grenade et que la Seine clapotait doucement sous le pont Alexandre III, pendant que le vent couchait les blés, caressait l’herbe des prairies et faisait murmurer les feuillages dans les bois, trente-trois mille carcasses de 2 CV ont défilé devant Mouloud depuis septembre, pour qu'il soude trente-trois mille fois le même interstice de cinq centimètres de long, et chaque fois il a pris son bâton d’étain, son chalumeau, sa palette.

Robert Linhart, L'Établi

L’organisation pédagogique nous apparaît comme plus hostile au changement, plus conservatrice et traditionnelle peut-être que l’église elle-même, parce qu’elle a pour fonction de transmettre aux générations nouvelles une culture qui plonge ses racines dans un passé éloigné... les hommes de la Renaissance, par hostilité vis-à-vis de la scolastique, n’ont pas retenu de l’enseignement médiéval ce qui méritait d’en être conservé, le souci d’une forte culture logique, et ont ainsi frayé les voies à une culture purement littéraire, gréco-latine, qui cherche à former surtout des écrivains diserts, des maîtres d’éloquence, des causeurs mondains.

Maurice Halbwachs, cité par Pascal Engel dans La philosophie française en revue

Entrez dans la bourse de Londres, cette place plus respectable que bien des cours, dans laquelle s'assemblent les députés de toutes les nations pour l'utilité des hommes : là, le Juif, le mahométan et le chrétien traitent l'un avec l'autre comme s'ils étaient de la même religion, et ne donnent le nom d'infidèles qu'à ceux qui font banqueroute. Là le présbytérien se fie à l'anabaptiste, et l'anglican reçoit la promesse du quaker. Au sortir de ces pacifiques et libres assemblées, les uns vont à la synagogue, les autres vont boire ; celui-ci va faire baptiser dans une grande cuve au nom du Père, par le Fils, au Saint-Esprit ; celui-là fait couper le prépuce de son fils, et fait marmoter sur l'enfant des paroles hébraiques qu'il n'entend point ; les autres vont dans leur église attendre l'inspiration de Dieu, leur chapeau sur la tête : et tous sont contents.

Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique

Les femmes de droite ont examiné le monde ; elles trouvent que c’est un endroit dangereux. Elles voient que le travail les expose à davantage de danger de la part de plus d’hommes ; il accroît le risque d’exploitation sexuelle. Elles voient ridiculisées la créativité et l’originalité de leurs semblables ; elles voient des femmes expulsées du cercle de la civilisation masculine parce qu’elles ont des idées, des plans, des visions, des ambitions. Elles voient que le mariage traditionnel signifie se vendre à un homme, plutôt qu’à des centaines : c’est le marché le plus avantageux. Elles voient que les trottoirs sont glacials et que les femmes qui s’y retrouvent sont fatiguées, malades et meurtries. Elles voient que l’argent qu’elles-mêmes peuvent gagner au travail ne les rendra pas indépendantes des hommes, qu’elles devront encore jouer les jeux sexuels de leurs semblables : au foyer et aussi au travail. Elles ne voient pas comment elles pourraient faire pour que leur corps soit véritablement le leur et pour survivre dans le monde des hommes. Elles savent également que la gauche n’a rien de mieux à offrir : les hommes de gauche veulent eux aussi des épouses et des putains ; les hommes de gauche estiment trop les putains et pas assez les épouses. Les femmes de droite n’ont pas tort. Elles craignent que la gauche, qui élève le sexe impersonnel et la promiscuité au rang de valeurs, les rendra plus vulnérables à l’agression sexuelle masculine, et qu’elles seront méprisées de ne pas aimer ça. Elles n’ont pas tort.

Andrea Dworkin, Les femmes de droite

[...] But all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided

Karl Marx, The Capital, Volume III, Part VII, Chapter 48

The pride of man makes him love to domineer, and nothing mortifies him so much as to be obliged to condescend to persuade his inferiors*. Wherever the law allows it, and the nature of the work can afford it, therefore, he will generally prefer the service of slaves to that of freemen.

Adam Smith, The Wealth of the Nations

Rational economic man – self-absorbed, calculating, maximising – is recognisably a male stereotype. Many economists have given an evolutionary account of why it makes sense to use this character as the centrepiece of their models. They claim that rational economic man predominates because he would triumph in the survival of the fittest. I have always been sceptical of this explanation. I suspect that rational economic man would die out because no one would want to mate with him.

John Kay, A little empathy would be good for economics blog post

Philosophy

Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces that make it a living thing.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

[...] if every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others... if the shuttle weaved and the pick touched the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not need servants, nor masters slaves.

Aristotle, Politics

In the modern world, if communities are unhappy, it is often because they have ignorances, habits, beliefs, and passions, which are dearer to them than happiness or even life. I find many men in our dangerous age who seem to be in love with misery and death, and who grow angry when hopes are suggested to them. They think hope is irrational and that, in sitting down to lazy despair, they are merely facing facts.

Bertrand Russell, The Final Years

J'aime tous les hommes dans leur humanité et pour ce qu'ils devraient être, mais je les méprise pour ce qu'ils sont.

Émile Henry

When pygmies cast such long shadows, it must be very late in the day.

Gian-Carlo Rota, Indiscrete Thoughts, chapter XXII, Review of Recent Philosophers: a supplement to A Hundred Years of Philosophy

Égaré dans une forêt immense pendant la nuit, je n'ai qu'une petite lumière pour me conduire ; survient un inconnu qui me dit : "Mon ami, souffle ta bougie pour mieux trouver ton chemin." Cet inconnu est un théologien.

Denis Diderot

Now we are all sons of bitches.

Kenneth Bainbridge, to Robert Oppenheimer after the Trinity test

Poetry

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

Richard Brautigan, All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace, 1967

Il y a ma vie prise au lasso de l'existence. Il y a ma liberté qui me
renvoie à moi-même. Non, je n'ai pas le droit d'être un Noir.
Je n'ai pas le devoir d'être ceci ou cela...
Si le Blanc me conteste mon humanité, je lui montrerai, en faisant peser sur
sa vie tout mon poids d'homme, que je ne suis pas ce "Y a bon banania" qu'il
persiste à imaginer.
Je me découvre un jour dans le monde et je me reconnais un seul droit : celui
d'exiger de l'autre un comportement humain.
Un seul devoir. Celui de ne pas renier ma liberté au travers de mes choix.
Je ne veux pas être la victime de la Ruse d'un monde noir.
Ma vie ne ne doit pas être consacrée à faire le bilan des valeurs nègres.
Il n'y a pas de monde blanc, il n'y a pas d'éthique blanche, pas davantage
d'intelligence blanche.
Il y a de part et d'autre du monde des hommes qui cherchent.
Je ne suis pas prisonnier de l'Histoire. Je ne dois pas y chercher le sens de
ma destinée.

Frantz Fanon, Peau noire, masques blancs, 1952

Ô puissant, ô cruel, ô toi clair Bourbaki,
Vas-tu nous déchirer dans un accès de crise
Le Goursat filandreux, miroir de l'Analyse,
Défenseur attardé d'un passé qui a fui ?

La suite d'autrefois se croyait l'infini,
Inutile, et que sans la comprendre utilise
le maldroit conscrit, lui que Valiron grise
De son cours ténébreux qui distille l'ennui.

Ignorant les secrets de la Topologie
À l'espace infligée, et toi qui l'étudies,
Il nage dans l'erreur où son langage est pris.

Il contemple étonné, comme enivré d'un philtre,
L'adhérence, un manteau qu'il n'a jamais compris,
Que vêt sur un compact, immobile, le FILTRE.

Pierre Samuel, Le Filtre, 1945

Polynomials and power series.
May they forever rule the world.

Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate.
Eliminate the eliminator of elimination theory.

As you must resist the superboubaki coup,
so must you fight the little bourbakis too.

Kronecker, Kronecker, Kronecker above all
Kronecker, Mertens, Macaulay, and Sylvester.

Not the theology of Hilbert,
But the constructions of Gordon.

Not the surface of Riemann,
But the algorithm of Jacobi.

Ah! the beauty of the identity of Rogers and Ramanujan!
Can it be surpassed by Dirichlet and his principle?

Germs, viruses, fungi, and functors,
Stacks and sheaves of the lot
Feat them not
We shall be victors.

Come ye forward who dare present a functor,
We shall eliminate you
By resultants, discriminants, circulants and alternants.
Given to us by Kronecker, Mertens, Sylvester.

Let not here enter the omologists, homologists,
And their cohorts the cohomologists crystalline
For this ground is sacred.

Onward Soldiers! defend your fortress,
Fight the Tor with a determinant long and tall,
But shun the Ext above all.

Morphic injectives, toxic projectives,
Etal, eclat, devious devisage,
Arrows poisonous large and small
May the armor of Tschirnhausen
Protect us from the scourge of them all.

You cannot conquer us with rings of Chow
And shrieks of Chern
For we, too, are armed with polygons of Newton
And algorithms of Perron.

To arms, to arms, fractions, continued or not,
Fear not the scheming ghost of Grothendieck
For the power of power series is with you,
May they converge or not
(May they be polynomials or not)
(May they terminate or not).

Can the followers of G by mere “smooth” talk
Ever make the singularity simple?
Long live Karl Weierstrass!

What need have we for rings Japanese, excellent or bad,
When, in person, Nagata himself is on our side.

What need to tensorize
When you can uniformize,
What need to homologize
When you can desingularize
(Is Hironaka on our side?)

Alas! Princeton and fair Harvard you, too,
Reduced to satellite in the Bur-Paris zoo.

Shreeram S. Abhyankar, Polynomials and Power Series, May They Forever Rule the World, 1970