Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Greek philosopher in 1st Century CE Rome, Epictetus described the ability to doubt, challenge, and even condemn opinion as the beginning of philosophy. 19th Century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer talked about how while everyone wants to have an opinion, very few are willing to think for themselves so most accept ready-made, pre-packaged opinions without thinking them through. Spinoza believed uncontemplated opinions to be shackles that secretly enslave us and thought-leaders from Benjamin Franklin to Bertrand Russell warn against having too solid of an opinion too soon. Balthasar Gracian famously told us that “All fools are fully convinced and everyone fully convinced is a fool.” The problem isn’t having opinions though. Modern life is most-likely impossible without opinions. The problem is believing our opinions or at least taking them too seriously. If we believe in them as absolute truth, they become a narrow, cement-made prison. If we understand them as an hypothesis, a current description open to revision and change, they stay our servants instead of becoming a tyrannical master.

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Quotes (63)

“People with opinions just go around bothering one another.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Learn the unshaken heart of persuasive truth. Don’t believe status quo opinions in which there is no truth at all.”

Parmenides 540 – 450 BCE via Shan Dao
Grandfather of Western philosophy
from On Nature

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Everyone believes his own native customs, and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best.”

Herodotus Ἡρόδοτος c. 484 - 425 BCE
“The Father of History”
from Histories

“Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.”

Democritus Dēmókritos 460 – 370 BCE
Father of modern science and greatest of ancient philosophers

Themes: Opinion

21. Following Empty Heart

“Most of us are as sure about the truth of our opinions as the wise are about the truth of what they know.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE via Shan Dao
from Nicomachean Ethics

Themes: Opinion

“Good luck changes into bad and bad luck changes into good. The workings of events are beyond comprehension.”

Liú Ān 劉安 c. 179–122 BCE via Lin Yutang
from Huainanzi

“It is only our opinions and principles that can render us unhappy, and it is only the ignorant person that finds fault with another.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Opinion

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

Themes: Opinion

21. Following Empty Heart

“You always own the option of having no opinion.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

Themes: Opinion

9. Know When to Stop

“Don't search for truth, just stop having opinions.”

Jianzhi Sengcan 鑑智僧璨 529 – 606 CE
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)

Themes: Opinion

“Do not seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.”

Jianzhi Sengcan 鑑智僧璨 529 – 606 CE
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)

“In these days people only seek to stuff themselves with knowledge… All you can call them is people who suffer from indigestion… All the concepts you have formed in the past must be discarded and replaced by void.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运 ? - 850 CE
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)

Themes: Opinion

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“Is not the supreme end of philosophy to search out by means of reason the truth that opinions and substitute in their place, the reign of reason in all things?”

Peter Abelard Pierre Abélard 1079 – 1142 CE
from Dialogue Between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian

“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment; cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition.”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)

Themes: Paradox Opinion

“A man is not hurt so much by what happens, as by his opinion of what happens.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE

Themes: Opinion

“Usually those who have limited understanding think they know more, and those who have no brains, think they know everything.”

Giordano Bruno 1548 – 1600 CE

Themes: Illusion Opinion

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Long experience has taught me this about the status of mankind with regard to matters requiring thought: the less people know and understand about them, the more positively they attempt to argue.”

Galileo 1564 – 1642 CE

Themes: Opinion

56. One with the Dust

“Everything is good or everything is bad according to who you ask… aim to be independent of any one opinion, of any one fashion, of any one century.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Opinion

“All fools are fully convinced and everyone fully convinced is a fool.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Force and not opinion is the queen of the world; but it is opinion that uses force.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time
from Pensée

Themes: Opinion

“Men are mistaken in thinking themselves free; their opinion is made up of consciousness of their own actions, and ignorance of the causes by which they are determined.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

Themes: Opinion

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“From all those ideas which have crowded into my brain in conflict with each other, I have obtained nothing but uncertainty. However, it is much more sad and foolish for a man to believe he knows what in fact he does not.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE via Raymond Naves, Shan Dao
from Philosophical Dictionary

“Beauty, like supreme dominion is but supported by opinion.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE

Themes: Opinion Beauty

“Our debates were… to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth without… desire of victory… all expressions of positiveness in opinions or direct contradiction were prohibited.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Themes: Victory Opinion

21. Following Empty Heart

“As force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded, and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular.”

David Hume 1711 – 1776 CE
"One of the most important philosophers"

“To reign by opinion, begin by trampling it under your feet.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE
from Émile, 1762

Themes: Opinion

“Nothing can contribute more to peace of soul than the lack of any opinion whatever.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742 – 1799 CE
One of history’s best aphorists

Themes: Opinion Peace

“Judge men not by their opinions but by what their opinions have made of them.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742 – 1799 CE via Mautner, Hatfield
One of history’s best aphorists
from Aphorisms

Themes: Opinion

“The feeble tremble before opinion, the foolish defy it, the wise judge it, the skillful direct it.”

Madame Roland 1754 – 1793 CE via Mémoires de Madame Roland (1795)
(Marie-Jeanne Phlippon)
Revolutionary heroine

Themes: Opinion

“The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water and breeds reptiles of the mid.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE
from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-1793

Themes: Change Opinion

“there are very few who can think, but every man wants to have an opinion; and what remains but to take it ready-made from others, instead of forming opinions for himself?”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Opinion

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.”

Victor Hugo 1802 – 1885 CE
Literary pioneer, poet, and social justice provocateur
from Thoughts, 1907

Themes: Opinion

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

Themes: Opinion

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Men seldom take the opinion of their equal, or of a man like themselves, upon trust.”

Alexis de Tocqueville 1805 – 1859 CE
Pioneering researcher into the conflicts between freedom and equality
from Democracy in America, 1835

Themes: Opinion

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he would be justified in silencing mankind.”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE

Themes: Opinion

18. The Sick Society

“Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of prevailing opinion; against the tendency of society to impose its own... rules of conduct on those who dissent from them”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE
from On Liberty (1859)​

“Throw theory into the fire, it only spoils life.”

Mikhail Bakunin 1814 – 1876 CE
Romantic rebel, revolutionary anarchist, founding father of modern socialism

Themes: Opinion

“Loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

21. Following Empty Heart

“Public opinion, a vulgar, impertinent, anonymous tyrant who deliberately makes life unpleasant for anyone who is not content to be the average person.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

“All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE

Themes: Opinion Belief

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“A fashionable milieu is one in which everybody's opinion is made up of the opinion of all the others. Has everybody a different opinion? Then it is a literary milieu.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

“One should respect public opinion in so far as it is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Opinion

“The genuine Liberal does not say ‘this is true’, he says ‘I am inclined to think that under present circumstances this opinion is probably the best.’”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Opinion

“whenever the conscious mind clings to hard and fast concepts and gets caught in its own rules and regulations - as is unavoidable and of the essence of civilized consciousness - nature pops up with her inescapable demands.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

Themes: Opinion

58. Goals Without Means

“Opinions mean nothing; they may be beautiful or ugly, clever or foolish, anyone can embrace or reject them.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE via Hilda Rosner
from Siddhartha

Themes: Opinion

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries.”

Will Rogers 1879 – 1935 CE

Themes: Opinion

“centralization – the elimination of independent groups – leads to one-sidedness, barrenness… because such centralization suppresses rivalry of opinions.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Opinion

20. Unconventional Mind

“knowledge of God is possible only to those who 'have ceased to cherish opinions'—even opinions that are as true as it is possible for verbalized abstractions to be”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Perennial Philosophy

Themes: Opinion

“Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinion as the result of their own thinking - and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as this of the majority.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
from Art of Loving

67. Three Treasures

“There were on one side people with noble political ideas who tired to apply them, and on the other side those without a particular ideology who tried simply to make things work… I believed in just striving to make things work without a particular message… There is the same idea in Change Tzu: ‘Don’t look any longer for truth, just stop cherishing your opinions!’”

Hergé 1907 – 1983 CE
(Georges Prosper Remi )
Intrepid reporter of world culture

“those who believe with certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE

Themes: Justice Opinion

“Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE

Themes: Opinion

17. True Leaders

“Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

John Kennedy 1917 – 1963 CE
Modern America's most popular president

Themes: Opinion

“All -isms end up in schisms.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE

Themes: Opinion Pluralism

“'Not one or the other or both or neither' explains away all arbitrary conceptions”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

Themes: Opinion

“The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.”

Warren Bennis 1925 – 2014 CE
Authentic Leadership pioneering thought leader

Themes: Opinion

“The word I render as ‘opinion’ can be read as ‘knowing too soon’: the mind obeying orders, judging before the evidence is in closed to fruitful perception and learning… Buddhists and Taoists agree in having a very low opinion of opinion.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE
from Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Themes: Opinion

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Opinions and beliefs can be helpful... as long as we don't believe them”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –
from Tao Te Ching — The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“What’s important isn’t which opinions and beliefs someone has but how they hold them: as a rigid dogma or tentatively, realizing that new evidence at any moment could change them.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Belief Opinion

“I'm for mystery, not interpretive answers. … The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you'll always be seeking.”

Ken Kesey 1935 – 2001 CE

Themes: Opinion

“Apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

Themes: Opinion

“You and your wakefulness have different opinions altogether... the whole thing goes wrong at the very beginning. And that split is not a 'once upon a time' story—it happens all the time in your everyday life.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief, editor
from Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion

Themes: Opinion

“On the flip side of everything we think we absolutely have pegged lurks an equal amount of the unknown. Understanding is but the sum of our misunderstandings... Who can really distinguish between the sea and what's reflected in it? Or tell the difference between the falling rain and loneliness?”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Philip Gabriel
from Sputnik Sweetheart

Themes: Opinion

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