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March 22, 2011 / theslowblitz

What is the purpose of quotes?

I have said before that I enjoy reading quotes, but I wonder how much do I really get out of reading them. If they seem true to me, then I need not have read them, because the wisdom they may impart I already have. If they seem false, then what is there to gain in reading them?

I suppose that even if I do not entirely believe a quote is true, it may raise a possibility for me, which with further experiences may lead to a change of mind. If I do believe a quote is true, having my vague beliefs properly stated may allow me to think of it in a new way, or solidify it as part of my identity.

There are also things that quotes mention that I am unable to determine as true or false, due to lack of experience. In that way, quotes may provide a rough guide when I do encounter such a situation, which is much better than going blind.

However, quotes are very non-specific, and are the summation of a set of connected beliefs and experiences into one sentence, or at best one paragraph. This can be counter-acted by thinking about it some, a process which refines your knowledge about the subject, but requires some previous knowledge as well. It does not provide steps or counter-balances, leaving you to slowly figure things out yourself before you eventually come to a conclusion and a greater understanding of the quote, as opposed to the quote providing you the deep understanding. There is also no proof, and its truth must be based entirely on the credibility of its author and the degree to which it sounds right.

I can only conclude that quotes are very useful in building knowledge, but is quite useless at providing it.

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