Sound and Fury

Signifying nothing

On the attribution of witty aphorisms

with one comment

Hugh Pennington attributes the aphorism “Making predictions about the future is difficult, especially about the future” to Sam Goldwyn. (It’s in the second last paragraph) This is a phrase I’ve always thought was due to Neils Bohr, though a little digging shows that this phrase has been attributed to a number of other sources.

I’ve seen this happen with a couple of other pithy phrases. For example the phrase “The mere absurdity of a proposition is no guarantee that some philosopher will not endorse it” has been attributed to a number of people. The form of the sentence as it appears above is due to John Burgess. I’ve seen a similar sentiment attributed to Descartes and even to Cicero.

A third example is the idea of God as a circle whose centre is everywhere. I had it in my head that this was due to Spinoza, though it certainly seems to pop up in a variety of places…

I wonder what explains this multiple attribution? More examples or “canonical” attributions to any of these quotations are more than welcome!

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Written by Seamus

July 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Posted in random

One Response

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  1. “Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not discover it.” — Alfred North Whitehead

    Bill Reed

    September 20, 2009 at 3:08 pm


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