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My Page of Quotations

On Decisions and Strategy

What would be the point of ciphering messages that very clever enemies couldn't break? You'd end up not knowing what they thought you thought they were thinking...

Terry Pratchett. The Fifth Elephant, p. 53.

Treason can help our enemies destroy our country by making them stronger; adventurism can destroy our country by making our enemies more numerous.

Fred Iklé. Every War Must End, revised edition. 1991. Columbia University Press. p. 61.

The decisions a general has to make would furnish a problem of mathematical calculations not unworthy of the powers of a Newton or an Euler.

von Clausewitz. On War. 1832.

Success in war is obtained by anticipating the plans of the enemy, and by diverting his attention from our own designs.

Francesco Guicciacardini, 1483-1540.

Grand strategy must always remember that peace follows war.

B. H. Liddell Hart. Thoughts on War, ii. 1944.

On Liberty and War

I am not frightened at the word rebellion. I do not scruple to say that I have sympathized more or less ardently with most of the rebellions, successful and unsuccessful, which have taken place in my time. But I certainly never conceived that there was a sufficient title to my sympathy in the mere fact of being a rebel; that the act of taking arms against one's fellow-citizens was so meritorious in itself, was so completely its own justification, that no question need be asked concerning the motive.

John Stuart Mill. "The Contest in America."

Secession may be laudable, and so may any other kind of insurrection; but it may also be an enormous crime.

John Stuart Mill. "The Contest in America."

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.

John Stuart Mill. "The Contest in America."

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature, who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.

John Stuart Mill. "The Contest in America."

The great aim of the struggle for liberty has been equality before the law.

Friedrich von Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty. 1960.

On Theory and Modeling

There is no question of your working out the entire future of the Glactic Emprie, you know. You needn't trace out in detail the workings of every human being or even every world. There are merely certain questions you must answer: Will the Glactic Empire crash and, if so, when? What will be the condition of humanity afterward? Can anything be done to prevent the crash or ameliorate conditions afterward? These are comparatively simple questions, it seems to me.

Chetter Hummins (aka Eto Demerzal, aka R. Daneel Olivaw) to Hari Seldon in Isaac Asimov's Prelude to Foundation, p. 57.

A "theory" that cannot be arrow-diagrammed is not a theory...

Stephen Van Evera. Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. 1997. Cornell University Press. p. 14, emphasis in original.

Theory is the poetry of science. It is simplification, the essential abstraction, the exaggeration of truth. Through simplification theory creates a caricature of reality. Through deduction the premises of the caricature are translated into empirical--and therefore refutable--generalizations. The caricature itself is not the real world--it mocks it. Yet mind true things by their mockeries! The caricature mocks reality; the deductions from the caricature illuminate it.

Robert A. Mundell. "A Reply: Capital Mobility and Size." 1964. Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 30(3): 421-431.

The single most important decision in modeling is the design of the game.

James D. Morrow. Game Theory for Political Scientists. 1994. Princeton University Press. p. 57, emphasis in the original.

The art of modeling resides in the ability to sense what is of primary importance, as distinguished from what is of only secondary consequence. It relies on the selection of details for inclusion or exclusion in a simplified representation of reality. The science of modeling depends on the ability to extract testable, falsifiable relationships among variables that follow in a logically coherent fashion, so that the connection between the model's structure and its empirical implications is clear and consistent.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman. War and Reason. 1992. Yale University Press. p. 22.

Anything else we can find that is described by the model will behave as the model behaves.

Thomas C. Schelling. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. 1978. W. W. Norton and Company. p. 88, emphasis in the original.

As we add dimensions [complexity] to the model, and the model becomes more particular, we can be less confident that our model is of something we shall ever want to examine. And after a certain amount of heuristic experiments with building blocks, it becomes more productive to identify the actual characteristics of the phenomena we want to study, rather than to explore general properties....

Thomas C. Schelling. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. 1978. W. W. Norton and Company. p. 183-4

To go further and explain more of the behaviors seen in experiments such as these, some economists have made strong and not too realistic assumptions and then churned out the observed behavior from complicated models. I do not believe that we learn much from this approach. As these models and assumptions become more convoluted to fit the data, they provide less and less insight.

Kaushik Basu. “The Traveler's Dilemma”, May 20, 2007,

On Society

But the parties in a protracted civil war almost invariably end by taking more extreme, not to say higher grounds of principle, than they began with. Middle parties and friends of compromise are soon left behind;...

John Stuart Mill. "The Contest in America."

A good part of social organization--of what we call society--consists of institutional arrangements to overcome these divergences between perceived individual interest and some larger collective bargain.

Thomas C. Schelling. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. 1978. W. W. Norton and Company. p. 127.

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order. Life refuses to be embalmed alive. The more prolonged the halt in some unrelieved system of order, the greater the crash of the dead society.

Alfred North Whitehead. Process and Reality. 1929. The Macmillan Co. p. 515.

There's only one force tougher to manage than plasma: politics.

Michael Parfit. "Powering the Future: Where on Earth can our energy-hungry society turn to replace oil, coal, and natural gas?" National Geographic. 2005. 208(2): 29.

On Philosophy of Science

Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science.

Jules Henri Poincaré.

...Science walks forward on two feet, namely theory and experiment.... Sometimes it is one foot which is put forward first, sometimes the other, but continuous progress is only made by the use of both - by theorizing and then testing, or by finding new relations in the process of experimenting and then bringing the theoretical foot up and pushing it on beyond, and so on in unending alternations.

Robert A. Millikan, Nobel Prize Winner in Physics, Nobel Lecture, 1924.

Bias cannot be equated with the existence of a preference; rather, bias should be defined as our unwillingness to abandon these preferences (or at least to challenge them further and rigorously) when nature seems to say "no" to our explicit searches and tests.

Stephen Jay Gould. The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox: Mending the Gap between Science and the Humanities. 2003. Three Rivers Press. p. 34.

The pilgrim fathers of the scientific imagination as it exists today are the great tragedians of ancient Athens, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides. Their vision of fate, remorseless and indifferent, urging a tragic incident to its inevitable issue, is the vision, possessed by science. Fate in Greek Tragedy becomes the order of nature in modern thought.

Alfred North Whitehead. Science and the Modern World. 1929. The Macmillan Co. pp. 14-5.

The results of science are never quite true. By a healthy independence of thought [perhaps] we sometimes avoid adding other people's errors to our own.

Alfred North Whitehead. The Aims of Education. 1929. The Macmillan Co. p. 233.

There can be no true physical science which looks first to mathematics for the provision of a conceptual model. Such a procedure is to repeat the errors of the logicians of the middle ages.

Alfred North Whitehead. The Principle of Relativity. 1922. Cambridge University Press. p. 39.

On Academic Writing

Unfortunately, too much of modern science, although now so long, and so clearly, beyond any need thus to mark its territory of distinction from humanistic study, has retained and intensified this attitude into an active distaste for stylistic felicity in writing---as if the factual content of a work becomes debased if an author also possesses a fortunate talent for decent prose.

Stephen Jay Gould. The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox: Mending the Gap between Science and the Humanities. 2003. Three Rivers Press. p. 47.

Tables, graphs, diagrams, and displayed equations should elucidate the argument, not obscure it.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, Economical Writing, second edition. 2000. Waveland Press. p. 47
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Department of Political Science The University of New Mexico Department of Political Science The University of New Mexico