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You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.

A. Einstein

A quotes database

Date: 22/09/2015, 13:41

Category: technology

I love reading quotes from famous authors. When I read a quote that hits me, I try to understand the background of the author, in order to make sure I fully understand the meaning the quote in question is trying to convey.

Some times quotes are misattributed taking advantage of the author’s weight. A prominent example is Isocrate’s quote about democracy. This quote, made the rounds of the internet and was featured in a few prominent Greek newspapers a couple of years ago. Allegedly Isocrates said:

Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.

In reality Isocrates was praising Cleisthenes and Solon for their virtuous ruling as you can read in the original quote:

Those who directed the state in the time of Solon and Cleisthenes did not establish a citizen which […] trained the citizens in such fashion that they looked upon insolence as democracy, lawlessness as liberty, impudence of speech as equality, and licence to do what they pleased as happiness, but rather a citizen which detested and punished such men and by so doing made all the citizens better and wiser. Isocrates - Areopagiticus, 7.20 (Norlin)

Misinformation is omnipresent, we should never trust sources blindly. Attributions should be double-checked, even when they come from major proponents of observation and rigor like Bertrand Russel1.

This is why I decided to make my own collection of quotes using a google spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is publicly available via the sheetsu API for Google spreadsheets. You can use the API URL if you want to use it. There are not many quotes yet and don’t expect the database to grow fast. I’d rather go slow and pick the ones I like as I cross them.

If you are interested in helping compile a proper, rigorous, open source quotes database you are more than welcome! Just drop a mail.

  1. Herbert R. “Rescuing Aristotle” - Scientia Salon - October 3, 2014 link