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quotations about ideas

Ideas quote

All great ideas are dangerous.

OSCAR WILDE, De Profundis

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.


What we need is hatred. From it our ideas are born.

JEAN GENET, The Blacks

My weakness has always been to prefer the large intention of an unskilful artist to the trivial intention of an accomplished one: in other words, I am more interested in the high ideas of a feeble executant than in the high execution of a feeble thinker.

THOMAS HARDY, letter, Jul. 8, 1901

Ideas are the pulses of the soul.


I try not to do anything that's too close to what I've done before. And the nice thing is we have a big universe here. It's filled with new ideas. All you have to do is grab them.

STAN LEE, Brandweek, May 2000

Every idea appears at first as a strange visitor, and when it begins to be realized, it is hardly distinguishable from fantasy.

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.

VICTOR HUGO, Histoire d'un crime

The ideas of people in general are not raised higher than the roofs of the houses. All their interests extend over the earth's surface in a layer of that thickness. The meeting-house steeple reaches out of their sphere.

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, American Note-Books, 1836

America is not just a country, it's an idea.

BONO, 2004 PENN Address

With the growth of knowledge our ideas must from time to time be organized afresh. The change takes place usually in accordance with new maxims as they arise, but it always remains provisional.

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe

An idea ran back and forward in his head like a blind man knocking over the solid furniture.


Speculation and the exploration of ideas beyond what we know with certainty are what lead to progress.

LISA RANDALL, New York Times, Sep. 18, 2005

Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.

BARACK OBAMA, speech, Jun. 4, 2009

Ideas are born in chaos.


The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as escaping from old ones.

To live in a great idea means to treat the impossible as though it were possible. It is just the same with a strong character; and when an idea and a character meet, things arise which fill the world with wonder for thousands of years.

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe

Ideas are your children, for you have no others. Ideas are your contribution to posterity.

SIMON MAWER, The Gospel of Judas

One who accepts the general ideas of his time gets along smoothest, but he does the least for progress.

LEWIS F. KORNS, Thoughts

Great trees are of slow growth; and great ideas have to be before the mind and in the heart a long time before they are sufficiently familiar to have the face of friends.

REUEN THOMAS, Thoughts for the Thoughtful

The collision of a great man with a great idea strikes fire in dry flax.

AUSTIN O'MALLEY, Keystones of Thought

Tyrannies are overthrown by ideas. Armies are defeated by ideas. Nations, and Time itself, are overmatched by ideas.

HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

Whoso shrinks from ideas ends by having nothing but sensations.

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe

Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, JR., attributed, Inspirational Quotes to Motivate, Rejuvenate, Stimulate, and Elevate

People don't realize how much they are in the grip of ideas. We live among ideas much more than we live in nature.

SAUL BELLOW, Conversations with Saul Bellow

You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.

NEIL GAIMAN, "Where do you get your ideas?"

As a rule, with me an unfinished [idea] is a thing that might as well be rubbed out. It’s better, if there’s something good in it that I might make use of elsewhere, to leave it at the back of my mind than on paper in a drawer. If I leave it in a drawer it remains the same thing but if it’s in the memory it becomes transformed into something else.

T. S. ELIOT, The Paris Review, Spring-Summer, 1959

No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there.


Ideas generate ideas; like a potato, which, cut in pieces, reproduces itself in a multiplied form.

ELIZA COOK, Diamond Dust

You can't kill ideas with a sword.

DAVID WEBER, By Schism Rent Asunder

A powerful idea communicates some of its power to the man who contradicts it. Partaking of the universal community of minds, it infiltrates, grafts itself on to, the mind of him who it refutes, among other contiguous ideas, with the aid of which, counter-attacking, he complements and corrects it; so that the final verdict is always to some extent the work of both parties to a discussion.

MARCEL PROUST, Within a Budding Grove

Wide acceptance of an idea is not proof of its validity.

DAN BROWN, The Lost Symbol

An idea is like a cold germ: sooner or later someone always catches it.

STEPHEN KING, Under the Dome

If those in charge of our society — politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television — can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.

HOWARD ZINN, Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

JOHN STEINBECK, interview with Robert van Gelder, Apr. 1947

Unless our ideas are questioned, they become part of the furniture of eternity.

WALTER LIPPMANN, The Stakes of Diplomacy

If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere, you even smell it.

THOMAS MANN, Tonio Kröger

A man is not clever simply because he has many ideas, just as he is not necessarily a good general because he has many soldiers.

CHAMFORT, The Cynic's Breviary

Good ideas do not need to be shouted. They can take care of themselves.

JOHN DANIEL BARRY, "Self," Reactions and Other Essays

Ideas mutate, and spread; they change their hosts as much as their hosts change them.


Ideas lead revolutions.


We change ideas like neckties.

EMIL CIORAN, A Short History of Decay

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Read Bertrand Russell's lecture on General Ideas and Thought


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