Gregory Foster

Gregory Foster

Gregory Foster on the protests in Egypt on January 28, 2011

Photograph of notecard entersection by @gregoryfoster (Austin, Texas: January 29, 2011 late pm)

Photograph of notecard entersection by @gregoryfoster (Austin, Texas: January 29, 2011 late pm)

the attempt to suppress media
      media creation

[image: the two Palestinian->Egyptian youths photographed lifting police van battery]

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche on “good memory”

Many a man fails to become a thinker for the sole reason that his memory is too good.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche in Human, All Too Human (Parts I and II): a book for free spirits, Part II, “Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions”, translated by Paul V. Cohn, Number 122, ( Publishing, 2009), p. 226. First published as Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche (Mixed Opinions and Maxims), (Chemnitz, Germany: Schmeitzner, 1879).

Google Book Viewer

"Many a man fails to become a thinker for the sole reason that his memory is too good."

Many a man fails to become a thinker only because his memory is too good.
— in Human, All Too Human, translated by R. J. Hollingdale, Edition 2, (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 241.

Google Book Viewer

"Many a man fails to become a thinker only because his memory is too good."

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing on right action

Denn zu einem großen Manne gehört beides: Kleinigkeiten als Kleinigkeiten, und wichtige Dinge als wichtige Dinge zu behandeln.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in Lessing’s Hamburgische dramaturgie: Für die oberste klasse höherer lehranstalten und den weiteren kreis der gebildeten erläutert, edited by Friedrich Schröter and Richard Thiele, (Halle, Germany: Buchhandlung des Maisenhauses, 1877), p. 208. First published as Hamburgische Dramaturgie, (Hamburg, Germany; Bremen, Germany: Cramer, 1767-68).

Google Book Viewer

"Denn zu einem großen Manne gehört beides"


For to a great man both things are needful; to treat trifles as trifles and important matters as important matters.
— in Selected Prose Works of G. E. Lessing, translated from the German by Helen Zimmern and Edward Calwert Beasley, edited by Edward Bell, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1889), p. 326. First published (London: George Bell and Sons, 1879).

Google Book Viewer

"For to a great man both things are needful"

Frequent Paraphrases

  • It is the mark of a great man to treat trifles as trifles, and important matters as important.
  • It is the mark of great people to treat trifles as trifles and important matters as important.

Roy Batty on death and artificial intelligences

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Time to die.
— Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the film “Blade Runner” directed by Ridley Scott (The Ladd Company, 1982). Screenplay written by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples (Brighton Productions, Inc., 1980). Adapted from Philip K. Dick‘s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1968).

Alexis de Toqueville on American materialism


In certain remote corners of the Old World you may still sometimes stumble upon a small district that seems to have been forgotten amid the general tumult, and to have remained stationary while everything around it was in motion. The inhabitants, for the most part, are extremely ignorant and poor; they take no part in the business of the country and are frequently oppressed by the government, yet their countenances are generally placid and their spirits light.

In America I saw the freest and most enlightened men placed in the happiest circumstances that the world affords; it seemed to me as if a cloud habitually hung upon their brow, and I thought them serious and almost sad, even in their pleasures.

The chief reason for this contrast is that the former do not think of the ills they endure, while the latter are forever brooding over advantages they do not possess. It is strange to see with what feverish ardor the Americans pursue their own welfare, and to watch the vague dread that constantly torments them lest they should not have chosen the shortest path which may lead to it.

A native of the United States clings to this world’s goods as if he were certain never to die; and he is so hasty in grasping at all within his reach that one would suppose he was constantly afraid of not living long enough to enjoy them. He clutches everything, he holds nothing fast, but soon loosens his grasp to pursue fresh gratifications.

In the United States a man builds a house in which to spend his old age, and he sells it before the roof is on; he plants a garden and lets it just as the trees are coming into bearing; he brings a field into tillage and leaves other men to gather the crops; he embraces a profession and gives it up; he settles in a place, which he soon afterwards leaves to carry his changeable longings elsewhere. If his private affairs leave him any leisure, he instantly plunges into the vortex of politics; and if at the end of a year of unremitting labor he finds he has a few days’ vacation, his eager curiosity whirls him over the vast extent of the United States, and he will travel fifteen hundred miles in a few days to shake off his happiness. Death at length overtakes him, but it is before he is weary of his bootless chase of that complete felicity which forever escapes him.

At first sight there is something surprising in this strange unrest of so many happy men, restless in the midst of abundance. The spectacle itself, however, is as old as the world; the novelty is to see a whole people furnish an exemplification of it.

Their taste for physical gratifications must be regarded as the original source of that secret disquietude which the actions of the Americans betray and of that inconstancy of which they daily afford fresh examples. He who has set his heart exclusively upon the pursuit of worldly welfare is always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach, to grasp, and to enjoy it. The recollection of the shortness of life is a constant spur to him. Besides the good things that he possesses, he every instant fancies a thousand others that death will prevent him from trying if he does not try them soon. This thought fills him with anxiety, fear, and regret and keeps his mind in ceaseless trepidation, which leads him perpetually to change his plans and his abode.

If in addition to the taste for physical well-being a social condition be added in which neither laws nor customs retain any person in his place, there is a great additional stimulant to this restlessness of temper. Men will then be seen continually to change their track for fear of missing the shortest cut to happiness.

It may readily be conceived that if men passionately bent upon physical gratifications desire eagerly, they are also easily discouraged; as their ultimate object is to enjoy, the means to reach that object must be prompt and easy or the trouble of acquiring the gratification would be greater than the gratification itself. Their prevailing frame of mind, then, is at once ardent and relaxed, violent and enervated. Death is often less dreaded by them than perseverance in continuous efforts to one end.

The equality of conditions leads by a still straighter road to several of the effects that I have here described. When all the privileges of birth and fortune are abolished, when all professions are accessible to all, and a man’s own energies may place him at the top of any one of them, an easy and unbounded career seems open to his ambition and he will readily persuade himself that he is born to no common destinies. But this is an erroneous notion, which is corrected by daily experience. The same equality that allows every citizen to conceive these lofty hopes renders all the citizens less able to realize them; it circumscribes their powers on every side, while it gives freer scope to their desires. Not only are they themselves powerless, but they are met at every step by immense obstacles, which they did not at first perceive. They have swept away the privileges of some of their fellow creatures which stood in their way, but they have opened the door to universal competition; the barrier has changed its shape rather than its position. When men are nearly alike and all follow the same track, it is very difficult for any one individual to walk quickly and cleave a way through the dense throng that surrounds and presses on him. This constant strife between the inclination springing from the equality of condition and the means it supplies to satisfy them harasses and wearies the mind.

It is possible to conceive of men arrived at a degree of freedom that should completely content them; they would then enjoy their independence without anxiety and without impatience. But men will never establish any equality with which they can be contented. Whatever efforts a people may make, they will never succeed in reducing all the conditions of society to a perfect level; and even if they unhappily attained that absolute and complete equality of position, the inequality of minds would still remain, which, coming directly from the hand of God, will forever escape the laws of man. However democratic, then, the social state and the political constitution of a people may be, it is certain that every member of the community will always find out several points about him which overlook his own position; and we may foresee that his looks will be doggedly fixed in that direction. When inequality of conditions is the common law of society, the most marked inequalities do not strike the eye; when everything is nearly on the same level, the slightest are marked enough to hurt it. Hence the desire of equality always becomes more insatiable in proportion as equality is more complete.

Among democratic nations, men easily attain a certain equality of condition, but they can never attain as much as they desire. It perpetually retires from before them, yet without hiding itself from their sight, and in retiring draws them on. At every moment they think they are about to grasp it; it escapes at every moment from their hold. They are near enough to see its charms, but too far off to enjoy them; and before they have fully tasted its delights, they die.

To these causes must be attributed that strange melancholy which often haunts the inhabitants of democratic countries in the midst of their abundance, and that disgust at life which sometimes seizes upon them in the midst of calm and easy circumstances. Complaints are made in France that the number of suicides increases; in America suicide is rare, but insanity is said to be more common there than anywhere else. These are all different symptoms of the same disease. The Americans do not put an end to their lives, however disquieted they may be, because their religion forbids it; and among them materialism may be said hardly to exist, notwithstanding the general passion for physical gratification. The will resists, but reason frequently gives way.

In democratic times enjoyments are more intense than in the ages of aristocracy, and the number of those who partake in them is vastly larger: but, on the other hand, it must be admitted that man’s hopes and desires are oftener blasted, the soul is more stricken and perturbed, and care itself more keen.
Alexis de Toqueville in Democracy in America, Volume II, Chapter XIII, translated from the French by Henry Reeve, edited by Francis Bowen and Phillips Bradley, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), p. 136. Originally published in English as Democracy in America: Part the Second, The Social Influence of Democracy, translated by Henry Reeve, (New York: J. & H. G. Langley, 1840). Originally published as De la démocratie en Amérique, (Bruxelles: Hauman, 1835).

Google Book Viewer


John Cage on ideas

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.
John Cage in an interview with Arnold Jay Smith published as “Reaching for the Cosmos: A Composer’s Colloquium,” in DownBeat, Volume 44, Number 18, (October 27, 1977). Available in Richard Kostelanetz‘s Conversing With Cage, Edition 2, (New York: Routledge, 2003), p. 221. First published (New York: Limelight Editions, 1988).

Google Book Viewer

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."

Henri Poincaré on certainty and doubt in science

To the superficial observer scientific truth is unassailable, the logic of science is infallible; and if scientific men sometimes make mistakes, it is because they have not understood the rules of the game. Mathematical truths are derived from a few self-evident propositions, by a chain of flawless reasonings; they are imposed not only on us, but on Nature itself. By them the Creator is fettered, as it were, and His choice is limited to a relatively small number of solutions. A few experiments, therefore, will be sufficient to enable us to determine what choice He has made. From each experiment a number of consequences will follow by a series of mathematical deductions, and in this way each of them will reveal to us a corner of the universe. This, to the minds of most people, and to students who are getting their first ideas of physics, is the origin of certainty in science. This is what they take to be the role of experiment and mathematics. And thus, too, it was understood a hundred years ago by many men of science who dreamed of constructing the world with the aid of the smallest possible amount of material borrowed from experiment.

But upon more mature reflection the position held by hypothesis was seen; it was recognised that it is as necessary to the experimenter as it is to the mathematician. And then the doubt arose if all these constructions are built on solid foundations. The conclusion was drawn that a breath would bring them to the ground. This sceptical attitude does not escape the charge of superficiality. To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.
Henri Poincaré in his Author’s Preface to Science and Hypothesis, translated from the French by William John Greenstreet, (London; New York: The Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd., 1905), p. xxi. First published as La science et l’hypothèse, (Paris: Ernest Flammarion, 1900). Cited in part by Craig in private email.

Google Book Viewer

"To the superficial observer scientific truth is unassailable"

Alvin Toffler on simulated experience

One of the great unasked questions of our time has to do with the balance between vicarious and non-vicarious experience in our lives. No previous generation has been exposed to one-tenth the amount of vicarious experiences that we lavish on ourselves and our children today, and no one, anywhere, has any real idea about the impact of this monumental shift on personality. Our children mature physically more rapidly than we did. The age of first menstruation continues to drop four to six months every decade. The population grows taller sooner. It is clear that many of our young people, products of television and instant access to oceans of information, also become precocious intellectually. But what happens to emotional development as the ratio of vicarious experience to “real” experience rises? Does the step-up of vicariousness contribute to emotional maturity? Or does it, in fact, retard it?

And what, then, happens when an economy in search of a new purpose, seriously begins to enter into the production of experiences for their own sake, experiences that blur the distinction between the vicarious and the non-vicarious, the simulated and the real? One of the definitions of sanity, itself, is the ability to tell real from unreal. Shall we need a new definition?
Alvin Toffler in Future Shock, Edition 3, (New York: Bantam Books, 1984), p. 235. First published (New York: Random House, Inc., 1970).

Google Book Viewer

"One of the great unasked questions of our time"

Neil Postman on the values of spoken and written expression

Judges, lawyers and defendants do not regard proverbs or sayings as a relevant response to legal disputes. In this, they are separated from the tribal chief by a media-metaphor. For in a print-based courtroom, where law books, briefs, citations and other written materials define and organize the method of finding the truth, the oral tradition has lost much of its resonance—but not all of it. Testimony is expected to be given orally, on the assumption that the spoken, not the written, word is a truer reflection of the state of mind of a witness. Indeed, in many courtrooms jurors are not permitted to take notes, nor are they given written copies of the judge’s explanation of the law. Jurors are expected to hear the truth, or its opposite, not to read it. Thus, we may say that there is a clash of resonances in our concept of legal truth. On the one hand, there is a residual belief in the power of speech, and speech alone, to carry the truth; on the other hand, there is a much stronger belief in the authenticity of writing and, in particular, printing. This second belief has little tolerance for poetry, proverbs, sayings, parables or any other expressions of oral wisdom. The law is what legislators and judges have written. In our culture, lawyers do not have to be wise; they need to be well briefed.
Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public discourse in the age of show business, (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), p. 19. First published (New York: Penguin Books, 1985).

Google Book Viewer

"Judges, lawyers and defendants do not regard proverbs or sayings as a relevant response to legal disputes."

Geronimo on living with spirit

While living I want to live well. I know I have to die sometime, but even if the heavens were to fall on me, I want to do what is right. I think I am a good man, but in the papers all over the world they say I am a bad man; but it is a bad thing to say so about me. I never do wrong without a cause. Every day I am thinking, how am I to talk to you to make you believe what I say; and, I think, too, that you are thinking of what you are to say to me. There is one God looking down on us all. We are all children of the one God. God is listening to me. The sun, the darkness, the winds, are all listening to what we now say.
Geronimo (Chiricahua: Goyaałé, “one who yawns”; transliterated Goyathlay, Goyahkla), as interpreted by Concepcion and transcribed by Captain Bourke, to Brigadier-General George Crook during a conference establishing his temporary surrender (Cañon de los Embudos, Mexico: March 25, 1886). Available in Senate Document Number 88, 51st Congress, First Session. Cited in Congressional Serial Set, Issue 2686, (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1890), p. 78. Cited in part by Terri Jean in 365 Days of Walking the Red Road: The Native American path to leading a spiritual life every day, (Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation, 2003), p. 155. Quotation for May 20th.