Only The Dead

Posted in GSU photo archive, History, Quotes, War by chamblee54 on July 7, 2015








‏@EdDarrell “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Who said that? Contrary to what Black Hawk Down says, this quote is not in any of Plato’s writings. The student of Socrates may have said it, and it may sound like something he would have said. However, nobody has been able to find it in his work.

George Santayana was a writer, philosopher, and sayer of smart things. “Only the dead…” appears in Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, number 25 (1922). The signature quote from Mr. Santayana is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It is found in The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense.

“Only the dead have seen the end of war” is an aphorism that sounds good until you think about it a bit. It was written by a living person. It has never been confirmed by conversation with a dead person. For all we know, the dead see plenty of war.

A google search inspired by the original tweet turned up a dandy post, Quotes Behaving Badly: 9 Quotes That Are Wrong, Dishonest, Mis-attributed or Idiotic. As the reader(s) of this blog know, quote debunkers are much needed on the internet. The first of the Four Principles of Quotation puts it another way. “Whenever you see a quotation given with an author but no source assume that it is probably bogus.” It doesn’t matter if the inspiring words are calligraphied in front of a breathtaking mountain backdrop, or if credit is given to a dead white man.

The Four Principles page cited discusses an old warhorse quote, “Whenever you see a quotation given with an author but no source assume that it is probably bogus.” Thomas Jefferson is one of those accused of saying that. Quotes Behaving Badly also mentions this chestnut.

To begin with, no one seems to know who originally said it, and what the exact words were. Worse is the way this quote is used by demagogues. So called leaders use this quote to manipulate others. Often, these people do not know what they are talking about. Their actions make the situation worse, rather than better. But they are doing something.

Quotes Behaving Badly takes on more versions of the misused quote. There is the quote from a character in a novel, which is strawmanned into representing the thoughts of the author. There is also the quote taken out of context.

“Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst.” This is in Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. PG has never read ST, and does not know the context of the quote.

Quotes Behaving Badly implies that the quote is from a villain in the story. “The problem is that an author cannot take ownership for the dialogue of the characters he creates. If two characters debate, does the author then believe both sides of a debate? And would the author have to support the views and opinions super villains, serial killers, dictators, and even child molesters.”

There is a humongous archive dedicated to Mohanda Gandhi. If he said it, then there should be a written record. That does not mean that people will use the quote properly.

“I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.” The next line contradicts the first part. “But I believe that non-violence is infinitely superior to violence…”

Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.









2 Responses

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  1. Ed Darrell said, on July 7, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Got any details on that Texaco station photo? Where? When?

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