More Aphorisms




The trouble with doing or writing anything sub specie aeternitatis is that you are not going to be around for the aeternitas bit.

While it is nice to be an eminence grise, there comes a point when you suspect it is perhaps more grise than eminence (and certainly more oblige  than noblesse.)

I was not actually misquoted or seriously misrepresented.(On the best you can say of a book review.) 

Just because I did a good thing doesn't mean I am a good person.

When it comes to adaptation there is no substitute for centuries.

We have no choice but to be human.

Kinship is to anthropology what logic is to philosophy and the nude is to art.

History is not kind to the hopeful.

The state of nature was never the war of all against all: it was the war of some against others, and the some and the others were mostly groups of kin

The nature of order is part of the order of nature.

If man cannot be perfect, he can learn to live more tolerantly with his imperfections.

Humans are eternal adolescents: put them in a fast car and they'll speed.

A trout is only as smart as he has to be: a fisherman is twice as smart as he needs to be.

We are like someone who has been handed a great fortune along with instructions to commit suicide.

We may never have lived in sillier times.

We live in an intellectually lazy age.

When I hear the word “postmodern” I reach for my gun. (After Goebbels)

It does not need all of the people all of the time, just most of the people some of the time will do.

It is not that man is as culture does, but that culture does as man is.

Something went wrong at the end of the seventeenth century.

Race is an evolutionary episode.

This is the brilliance of the process of raciation in Homo sapiens: it has allowed genetic diversity without speciation, which means that the developed differences can be pooled and repooled.

Sumus ergo cogitamus. (Inversion of Descartes: cogito ergo sum.)

We could almost define man as the animal that wants things.

We are the only animals that blame each other for their misfortunes.

As one who is constantly shaken by the evidence of man's capacity to create truly hideous and revolting cultures, I would feel happier to think that something in human nature was always going to be able to say 'no' to human culture in the name of common humanity.

If wars are indeed "culturally and not biologically caused" then, given the record of culture, we are indeed in serious trouble.

When the state fails to protect, people turn to the security of kinship.

Man is what he produces and was produced by what he is.

Being good is nowhere near as important as ethical theory would have it: the problem is to be human.

If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a social construction of a duck.

It is a sociological generalization seldom made but easily tested, that somewhere a war is going on and always has been.

In anthropology, with every active mouth, God sends but one indifferent brain.

     (After Malthus, who said that with every hungry mouth God sent two active hands.)

We should try, after a hundred years, to take Darwin seriously.

Fox's first law: All foreigners are funny.

Fox's iron law of departmental mediocrity: While good departments may get better, mediocre departments will always get worse.

     (Since mediocrities will resist appointing anyone smarter than themselves.)

Fox iron law of bureaucratic stupidity: Whenever the administration does something so stupid it is impossible to conceive of it doing anything more stupid, it will.

Fox's rule of Irish Gaelic usage: Those that speak it can't read it; those that read it can't speak it.

Fox's first rule of feminism: If you don't like the current state of feminist thinking, wait a minute. (After Mark Twain on the New England weather.)

Fox's second rule of feminism: Women are men who take time off occasionally to have babies.

Fox's third rule of feminism: Children are either little fetuses to be aborted, or little nuisances to be dumped in day-care centers.

Fox's first contradiction of feminism: Women are fundamentally different from men and hence their superiors: Women are exactly the same as men and hence their equals.

Since I refuse to write book reviews, I think it only fair never to read them.

In university teaching every proposition should be up for grabs, including this proposition.

All Cretans may be liars, but some Cretans are bigger liars than others.

The meek may very well inherit the earth; in the meantime be vigilant and keep up your guard.

To restore the basic conservatism of the species may require the most radical action of all.

Cultural relativism did not abolish ethnocentrism, as it intended; it simply extended the privilege to all cultures.

To lose some of one's instincts is unfortunate: to lose all of them smacks of carelessness.
     (After Oscar Wilde)

Instinct is the organism's demand for an appropriate environment.

Corollary: Nature is the demand for appropriate Nurture.
     (Hence the Nature/Nurture problem does not exist.)

For love to work you must forget the past. The trouble is, the past won’t forget you.

What you are is what you make of yourself from what you are given; what you are given does not make you what you are.

There may not be a free lunch, but it sure as hell is deductible.

For all his Irish sympathies, [Roger] Casement was thoroughly English, and therefore preferred to live a lie rather than tell one.

To ensure genetic survival the sex urge need only be satisfied a few times in a lifetime; the hunger urge has to be satisfied every day.

I collected examples until I reached a hundred since that gives a nice round number and one can quote accurate percentages without the tedium of calculation.

What is most worth dying for: material interests or diacritical ideas? It is ideas that make us human after all.

The human loss of theta rhythms may have been one of the most liberating developments in our evolutionary history.

​[And contradicts the generalization that we never lose anything in evolution.]

Add music to meter and rhyme and you have the crazy mix that made Plato shudder and fear for The Forms.


Not including material from THE VIOLENT IMAGINATION, later incorporated into THE PASSIONATE MIND, q. v. especially “The Interrogation: A Nightmare.”)

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