Men of strong minds and who think for themselves, should not be discouraged on finding occasionally that some of their best ideas have been anticipated by former writers; they will neither anathematize others nor despair themselves. They will rather go on discovering things before discovered, until they are rewarded with a land hitherto unknown, an empire indisputably their own, both right of conquest and of discovery.
Charles Caleb Colton
It is beyond a doubt that during the sixteenth century, and the years immediately preceding and following it, poisoning had been brought to a pitch of perfection which remains unknown to modern chemistry, but which is indisputably proved by history. Italy, the cradle of modern science, was at that time, the inventor and mistress of these secrets, many of which are lost.
Honore de Balzac
Just to be heading away from the sea, to be immersed in a beautiful landscape again, to hear the sound of crows, was such a welcome change, and all to be seen so very appealing, a land of peace and plenty, every field perfectly cultivated, hillsides bordering the river highlighted by white limestone cliffs, every village and distant che¢teau so indisputably ancient and picturesque.
We know it (meat eating) is indisputably the number one cause of global warming. So what does it mean exactly to be an environmentalist on a daily basis if you are not thinking about the number one cause of global warming or one of the top two or three causes of all other environmental problems? Does it mean you are necessarily someone who doesn't care about the environment? Obviously not, but it might mean you have a blind spot for something big.
Jonathan Safran Foer
While sports are indisputably a positive source of strength and self-development for girls, they can accomplish this only if the environment in which female athletes throw their javelins, kick their soccer balls, and swim their fast and furious laps is an environment that respects girls and takes them seriously as athletes.
Indisputably we live in a shaped reality, an artificialism. Most people who grasp this are thinking only at a consumer-level, of the "things" they like and need and feel impelled to acquire. But our societal and political arrangements are just as much manipulations of game-pieces and rules as is any Atari or Sega product. The subliminal psychology that drives people to become addicted to games, not to be able to see over the edges of their labyrinths, is transferable to any field whatsoever.
Herodotus is not more indisputably the father of history than is Sir Boyle Roche the father of Bulls. No doubt there were makers of bulls before his day, even as brave men lived before Agamemnon; but they are not remembered, and if their bulls have survived them they are credited to Sir Boyle by a posterity generously forgiving and forgetful of his famous indictment.
If you can't reuse or repair an item, do you ever really own it? Do you ever really own it? Do you ever develop the sense of pride and proprietorship that comes from maintaining an object in fine working order? We invest something of ourselves in our material world, which in turn reflects who we are. In the era of disposability that plastic has helped us foster, we have increasingly invested ourselves in objects that have no real meaning in our lives. We think of disposable lighters as conveniences - which they indisputably are; ask any smoker or backyard-barbecue chef - and yet we don't think much about the tradeoffs that that convenience entails.
Today, reports of the day's events are conveyed to the viewing public by way of alternate universes, The Fox News cable channel conveys its version of reality, while at the other end of the ideological spectrum MSNBC presents its version. They and their many counterparts on radio are more the result of an economic dynamic than a political one. Dispatching journalists into the field to gather information costs money; hiring a glib bloviator is relatively cheap, and inviting opinionated guests to vent on the air is entirely cost-free. It wouldn't work if it weren't popular, and audiences, it turns out, are endlessly absorbed by hearing amplified echoes of their own biases. It's divisive and damaging to the healthy functioning of our political system, but it's also indisputably inexpensive and, therefore, good business.
Some sleepers have intelligent faces even in sleep, while other faces, even intelligent ones, become very stupid in sleep and therefore ridiculous. I don't know what makes that happen; I only want to say that a laughing man, like a sleeping one, most often knows nothing about his face. A great many people don't know how to laugh at all. However, there's nothing to know here: it's a gift, and it can't be fabricated. It can only be fabricated by re-educating oneself, developing oneself for the better, and overcoming the bad instincts of one's character; then the laughter of such a person might quite possibly change for the better. A man can give himself away completely by his laughter, so that you suddenly learn all of his innermost secrets. Even indisputably intelligent laughter is sometimes repulsive. Laughter calls first of all for sincerity, and where does one find sincerity? Laughter calls for lack of spite, but people most often laugh spitefully. Sincere and unspiteful laughter is mirth. A man's mirth is a feature that gives away the whole man, from head to foot. Someone's character won't be cracked for a long time, then the man bursts out laughing somehow quite sincerely, and his whole character suddenly opens up as if on the flat of your hand. Only a man of the loftiest and happiest development knows how to be mirthful infectiously, that is, irresistibly and goodheartedly. I'm not speaking of his mental development, but of his character, of the whole man. And so, if you want to discern a man and know his soul, you must look, not at how he keeps silent, or how he speaks, or how he weeps, or even how he is stirred by the noblest ideas, but you had better look at him when he laughs. If a man has a good laugh, it means he's a good man. Note at the same time all the nuances: for instance, a man's laughter must in no case seem stupid to you, however merry and simplehearted it may be. The moment you notice the slightest trace of stupidity in someone's laughter, it undoubtedly means that the man is of limited intelligence, though he may do nothing but pour out ideas. Or if his laughter isn't stupid, but the man himself, when he laughs, for some reason suddenly seems ridiculous to you, even just slightly-know, then, that the man has no real sense of dignity, not fully in any case. Or finally, if his laughter is infectious, but for some reason still seems banal to you, know, then, that the man's nature is on the banal side as well, and all the noble and lofty that you noticed in him before is either deliberately affected or unconsciously borrowed, and later on the man is certain to change for the worse, to take up what's 'useful' and throw his noble ideas away without regret, as the errors and infatuations of youth.
An imaginary circle of empathy is drawn by each person. It circumscribes the person at some distance, and corresponds to those things in the world that deserve empathy. I like the term "empathy" because it has spiritual overtones. A term like "sympathy" or "allegiance" might be more precise, but I want the chosen term to be slightly mystical, to suggest that we might not be able to fully understand what goes on between us and others, that we should leave open the possibility that the relationship can't be represented in a digital database. If someone falls within your circle of empathy, you wouldn't want to see him or her killed. Something that is clearly outside the circle is fair game. For instance, most people would place all other people within the circle, but most of us are willing to see bacteria killed when we brush our teeth, and certainly don't worry when we see an inanimate rock tossed aside to keep a trail clear. The tricky part is that some entities reside close to the edge of the circle. The deepest controversies often involve whether something or someone should lie just inside or just outside the circle. For instance, the idea of slavery depends on the placement of the slave outside the circle, to make some people nonhuman. Widening the circle to include all people and end slavery has been one of the epic strands of the human story - and it isn't quite over yet. A great many other controversies fit well in the model. The fight over abortion asks whether a fetus or embryo should be in the circle or not, and the animal rights debate asks the same about animals. When you change the contents of your circle, you change your conception of yourself. The center of the circle shifts as its perimeter is changed. The liberal impulse is to expand the circle, while conservatives tend to want to restrain or even contract the circle. Empathy Inflation and Metaphysical Ambiguity Are there any legitimate reasons not to expand the circle as much as possible? There are. To expand the circle indefinitely can lead to oppression, because the rights of potential entities (as perceived by only some people) can conflict with the rights of indisputably real people. An obvious example of this is found in the abortion debate. If outlawing abortions did not involve commandeering control of the bodies of other people (pregnant women, in this case), then there wouldn't be much controversy. We would find an easy accommodation. Empathy inflation can also lead to the lesser, but still substantial, evils of incompetence, trivialization, dishonesty, and narcissism. You cannot live, for example, without killing bacteria. Wouldn't you be projecting your own fantasies on single-cell organisms that would be indifferent to them at best? Doesn't it really become about you instead of the cause at that point?