Iain Pears Quotes

The simple fact that something has not been done, is no proof that it cannot be.

Do you know, the only people I can have a conversation with are the Jews? At least when they quote scripture at you they are not merely repeating something some priest has babbled in their ear. They have the great merit of disagreeing with nearly everything I say. In fact, they disagree with almost everything they say themselves. And most importantly, they don’t think that shouting strengthens their argument.

Virtue comes through contemplation of the divine, and the exercise of philosophy. But it also comes through public service. The one is incomplete without the other. Power without wisdom is tyranny; wisdom without power is pointless.

When all this is over, people will try to blame the Germans alone, and the Germans will try to blame the Nazis alone, and the Nazis will try to blame Hitler alone. They will make him bear the sins of the world. But it’s not true. You suspected what was happening, and so did I. It was already too late over a year ago. I caused a reporter to lose his job because you told me to. He was deported. The day I did that I made my little contribution to civilization, the only one that matters.

In my small way, I preserved and catalogued, and dipped into the vast ocean of learning that awaited, knowing all the time that the life of one man was insufficient for even the smallest part of the wonders that lay within. It is cruel that we are granted the desire to know, but denied the time to do so properly. We all die frustrated; it is the greatest lesson we have to learn.

The point of civilization is to be civilized; the purpose of action is to perpetuate society, for only in society can philosophy truly take place.

For the first time, she did want more. She did not know what she wanted, knew that it was dangerous and that she should rest content with what she had, but she knew an emptiness deep inside her, which began to ache.

Was not Hypatia the greatest philosopher of Alexandria, and a true martyr to the old values of learning? She was torn to pieces by a mob of incensed Christians not because she was a woman, but because her learning was so profound, her skills at dialectic so extensive that she reduced all who queried her to embarrassed silence. They could not argue with her, so they murdered her.

The evil done by men of goodwill is the worst of all … We have done terrible things, for the best of reasons, and that makes it worse.

Every cataclysm is welcomed by somebody; there is always someone to rejoice at disaster and see in it the prospect of a new beginning and a better world.

Action is the activity of the rational soul, which abhors irrationality and must combat it or be corrupted by it. When it sees the irrationality of others, it must seek to correct it, and can do this either by teaching or engaging in public affairs itself, correcting through its practice. And the purpose of action is to enable philosophy to continue, for if men are reduced to the material alone, they become no more than beasts.

Manlius … took care in his invitations, actively sought to exclude from his circle crude and vulgar men like Caius Valerius. But they were all around; it was Manlius who lived in a dream world, and his bubble of civility was becoming smaller and smaller. Caius Valerius, powerful member of a powerful family, had never even heard of Plato. A hundred, even fifty years before, such an absurdity would have been inconceivable. Now it was surprising if such a man did know anything of philosophy, and even if it was explained, he would not wish to understand.

She was looking for something I could never give her.” Again his dark eyes bored into Julia’s mind. “You have something of the same about you, young woman. Take my advice: Don’t think you will find it in another person. You won’t. It’s not there. You must find it in yourself.

For what are we but our past? If that is lost, we become nothing.

The devil himself can become beauty, so we are told, to corrupt mankind.” (Marco)

He who profits by villainy, has perpetrated it.

Diplomacy and virtue do not make easy companions.

I learned that I’ have to be detached if I was ever to achieve anything at all.

Who you are is less important than what you seem.

Shame, I do believe, is the most powerful emotion known to man; most discoveries and journeys of importance have been accomplished because of the ignominy that would be the result if the attempt was abandoned.

God forbid that I should ever suffer the shame of publishing a book for money, or of having one of my family so demean themselves. How can one tell who might read it? No worthy book has ever been written for gain, I think.


And a more foolish notion can scarcely be imagined, it being obvious that the reader is only informed of what the writer wishes him to know, and is thus seduced into believing almost anything.

[Men] prefer the foolish belief and the passions of the earth [to the enlightenment of their souls]. They believe the absurd and shrink from the truth.No, they do not. They are afraid, that is all. And they must remain on earth until they come to the way of leaving it.And how do they leave? How is the ascent made? Must one learn virtue?Here she laughs. You have read too much, and learned too little. Virtue is a road, not a destination. Man cannot be virtuous. Understanding is the goal. When that is achieved, the soul can take wing.

Power without wisdom is tyranny; wisdom without power is pointless.

For men are held above their fellows by the gossamer of reputation, which is so soft and fragile a breath can blow it away.