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The Value of Quotes
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Posted 3/3/08

"A witty saying proves nothing." - Voltaire


I'm sure many of you find it both amusing and useful to insert quotations into your arguments and into your conversations to help bring about a point. It's commonly found that a witty saying, in fact, can actually prove quite a bit, or at the very least, win an argument. However, this wonderful quote by Voltaire, though ironically used in a way to undermine its own intent, still deserves some consideration.

Do quotes really help support an argument? Should they? If I'm arguing that violence is wrong, does quoting Gandhi help my point of view? Most would argue yes. Gandhi was a very wise and trustworthy source of knowledge. Obviously his quotes must be valid in the context. How could they not be?


"The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages are perpetuated by quotations." - Isaac D'Israeli


I could easily come up with ten quotes supporting Voltaire, as easily as I could quotes supporting D'Israeli. If I were to argue in support of the latter, knowing all ten quotes and using them effectively, is my argument somehow more valid than that of an opposition who does not know the ten that support their argument? My personal inclination is to say no. Though a witty quotation will wow the judges in a debate and serve as a way to flaunt how well read you are at the same time, they provide no real benefit to the argument. No matter how powerful the quote, it is still an opinion. There are a vast number of opinions in the world to be quoted. Its hard to argue that a handful are more valid than the next, no matter how famous.

What are your thoughts?
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Posted 3/3/08

The only way to convince the thoughts of other is to awe them before they awe you.

Any random quotes can awe them as long as it sounds like it has something related to the topic. So quotes are worth nothing at all, yet it matters for winning in pointless arguements that many believed lead somewhere.
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Posted 3/5/08

winsomemastix wrote:

Do quotes really help support an argument? Should they? If I'm arguing that violence is wrong, does quoting Gandhi help my point of view? Most would argue yes. Gandhi was a very wise and trustworthy source of knowledge. Obviously his quotes must be valid in the context. How could they not be?

Though a witty quotation will wow the judges in a debate and serve as a way to flaunt how well read you are at the same time, they provide no real benefit to the argument. No matter how powerful the quote, it is still an opinion. There are a vast number of opinions in the world to be quoted. Its hard to argue that a handful are more valid than the next, no matter how famous.

What are your thoughts?


I like quotes.
Infact I like them quite a bit.

What is your point? Are you saying that since quotes are meerly opinions, they cannot prove an argument?

Alright then, how do you prove an argument?

You would probably say something along the lines of:
Proof is the uncovering of the truth using facts, right?

So then what are facts?

I would say that facts are meerly widely accepted opinions.

You're probably thinking "yeah right...-_-"

Here, let me give you an example:
Take the dictionary. All the definitions in the dictionary are meerly "accepted opinions." Someone came up with the definitions and it became the "accepted" definition. Since each person is different, each person's view of the world differs.

So, in order to get people to accept your opinions and to prove your point, I would say that quotes are definitely useful.
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Posted 3/5/08
Given two equally good arguments, having quotations in one seem to put that one in a more favorable light than the other. I think its a heuristic thing. Good impression management tends to sway those with no strong opinions of their own.

So yes, a witty saying proves nothing, but it cues people to find your point more believable.
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Posted 3/5/08

qweruiop wrote:

I like quotes.
Infact I like them quite a bit.

What is your point? Are you saying that since quotes are merely opinions, they cannot prove an argument?

Alright then, how do you prove an argument?

You would probably say something along the lines of:
Proof is the uncovering of the truth using facts, right?

So then what are facts?

I would say that facts are merely widely accepted opinions.

You're probably thinking "yeah right...-_-"

Here, let me give you an example:
Take the dictionary. All the definitions in the dictionary are merely "accepted opinions." Someone came up with the definitions and it became the "accepted" definition. Since each person is different, each person's view of the world differs.

So, in order to get people to accept your opinions and to prove your point, I would say that quotes are definitely useful.


Well, I wouldn't narrow down the argument to simply saying quotes are invalid because they are opinions. In fact, if that were the argument, I would disagree. Opinions are valid, if only because there is very little certainty to be found in life. Most things we "know" are assumptions, because we can't know everything. We are not omniscient. We have to assume things because we can never know every detail. Even the foundations of objective logic are based on a subjective idea. You can't decide what's logical without first making a subjective decision about what your objective actually is.

That's all beside the point. What I'm asking is whether quoting someone else's opinion is any basis for affirming your own. Is asserting that someone else shares your sentiment actually valid? It seems to me that, by quoting someone, you aren't really supporting your argument so much as depending on a widely trusted intellect in place of your own. By calling up a trusted thinker, you manipulate the opinion others have of you and not the actual idea. They trust your side because they trust the person you quoted. Does that really prove anything? I don't think so.

In short, what cardmage said. Quotes prove nothing, they just make people more ready to believe you. They feel they can trust your argument more. Whether or not it's possible to prove anything in the first place is another matter.
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AHTL 
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Posted 3/5/08
Quotes can often be of great usage, but I tend to feel that they are rather abused, sort of speaking. As if, the real meaning behind the quote isn't truly being understood, but only partially, thus removing the true intent of the quote.

And the more often quotes are used, the less ... meaningful they seem. It kind of like when you're eating a lot of the same product, for instance noodles, in the end you'll get dead tired of it. Using quotes to sway an 'opponent' over to your side of the argument fails more than it succeeds in my opinion - mind I have no true experience in this as I prefer to use personal experience / intelligence when arguing.

One reason is that, I believe that when a person uses a *famous* quote by someone, they are doing so because they are too lazy to give their argument(s) solid ground to be based on. They instead lean on something that already exists, thus removing them from the blame if they happened to be wrong, they *safely* hide behind the quote(s) they used and pretend to be all wise and mighty on their high seat of *higher intelligence*.

A every good example of this misuse of quotation is the flaming atheists that exist out there on the endless land of the internet. They flame and mock every believer, and use quotation after quotation to show how *right* they are and how *wrong* the believers are. I'll be mild and say that I feel slightly pissed off by their senseless behavior.

They claim they have so many facts and proofs that what the believers believe in doesn't exist, is invalid etc ~ when in fact, or I believe so, one cannot prove that something divine doesn't exist. Since there is always something we know, and surely there is a reason for our great need for something bigger than ourselves?

~ Mind, not everyone feels that need for something bigger than ourselves, I guess.
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Posted 3/5/08

winsomemastix wrote:

That's all beside the point. What I'm asking is whether quoting someone else's opinion is any basis for affirming your own. Is asserting that someone else shares your sentiment actually valid? It seems to me that, by quoting someone, you aren't really supporting your argument so much as depending on a widely trusted intellect in place of your own. By calling up a trusted thinker, you manipulate the opinion others have of you and not the actual idea. They trust your side because they trust the person you quoted. Does that really prove anything? I don't think so.



Hmmm.....
Alright, I'm beginning to understand where you're coming from.

You are speaking of using other people's reputation to sway people's opinion and make them agree with you, am I right?

This is a completely separate issue. I believe that the power of the quote comes from it's content and not its author.


winsomemastix wrote: "Quotes prove nothing, they just make people more ready to believe you."


Quotes sometimes help you to see things in a way you haven't seen before. However you are absolutely right about the people who use them as something to hide behind. If they don't really understand the quote, then their efforts to prove their point are all in vain.

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Posted 3/5/08

AHTL wrote:

Quotes can often be of great usage, but I tend to feel that they are rather abused, sort of speaking. As if, the real meaning behind the quote isn't truly being understood, but only partially, thus removing the true intent of the quote.

And the more often quotes are used, the less ... meaningful they seem. It kind of like when you're eating a lot of the same product, for instance noodles, in the end you'll get dead tired of it. Using quotes to sway an 'opponent' over to your side of the argument fails more than it succeeds in my opinion - mind I have no true experience in this as I prefer to use personal experience / intelligence when arguing.

One reason is that, I believe that when a person uses a *famous* quote by someone, they are doing so because they are too lazy to give their argument(s) solid ground to be based on. They instead lean on something that already exists, thus removing them from the blame if they happened to be wrong, they *safely* hide behind the quote(s) they used and pretend to be all wise and mighty on their high seat of *higher intelligence*.

A every good example of this misuse of quotation is the flaming atheists that exist out there on the endless land of the internet. They flame and mock every believer, and use quotation after quotation to show how *right* they are and how *wrong* the believers are. I'll be mild and say that I feel slightly pissed off by their senseless behavior.

They claim they have so many facts and proofs that what the believers believe in doesn't exist, is invalid etc ~ when in fact, or I believe so, one cannot prove that something divine doesn't exist. Since there is always something we know, and surely there is a reason for our great need for something bigger than ourselves?

~ Mind, not everyone feels that need for something bigger than ourselves, I guess.


Agreed. They are misused a lot. As you said they are like noodles that are overused.
However they can change your perspective and enable you to see things that you've never noticed before. Usually people see new meaning in these 'old and abused' quotes when they face times of trial and adversities.

"Even overused noodles taste good when you're hungry." -qweruiop

But yeah, I completely agree with you.
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Posted 5/8/08
Quotes are a great help to every one as long as they are used in occasions fitting for them... doesn't matter if it was Einstein or Franklin or Emerson who used them... my speech teacher used to tell us that we relay informations not to impress but to express... better use simple words that everyone can understand rather that use complicated ones... cause you'll end up explaining them anyway...
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Posted 5/8/08
the problem with the use of quotes is that not everyone you speek, or type, too understand why you are using a quote. most of the time the person you are conversing with either does not understand the quote or do not have the same respect for a quote as you. unless it is a pop culture quote using quotes in conversation is generally usless.
ok using quotes as support of an argument in a paper is useful, but other than that i dont really see any other constructive or practical use for quotes. however is still like to use them.

my favorite quote just for the record
"everyone likes to talk about the weather, but nobody wants to do anything about it."
Posted 5/8/08
I'm not really well-informed to use famous quotes for the sake of winning/defending an argument.

I just like to quote people (here in CR) to remind them that what they wrote or said can also count against them. For example, AHTL declares himself a self-proclaimed grammar Nazi. But there was a time he repeatedly forgotten to use commas... and then, there I was, butting in like an ass to remind ATHL that he/she did not kept to the name-title he claimed he/she was.
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Posted 5/8/08
The best (read: most well-known, most portable, etc.) quotes are usually compact and rhetorical, generalizing, or merely word games. I hate them.

Those that aren't are lovely and all, but they certainly shouldn't count as anything more than one man's words. We shouldn't care about what Albert Einstein had to say about God simply because he's well-known and contributed much to other subjects.

As for the argument someone brought up about setting up parameters for what constitutes objectivity, I protest on the grounds that logic, regardless of its limitations in the real world because of its idealistic nature, has yet to be defeated by any other system. Science is more debatable because it deals with perceptions, but what alternative has brought us more success? There is a point at which deconstruction becomes destruction, and that is often when useful systems are dismissed simply on the grounds that they are not perfect. Let's be aware of the uncertainty inherent to existence in our world but not let it run rampant enough to dissolve all establishment.
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Posted 5/9/08

Regulus133 wrote:
As for the argument someone brought up about setting up parameters for what constitutes objectivity, I protest on the grounds that logic, regardless of its limitations in the real world because of its idealistic nature, has yet to be defeated by any other system.


Hmmmm........

Logic? Well there are certain fallacies present in logic, and you just committed one of them:
Appeal to Ignorance

Just because it hasn't been proven otherwise, doesn't mean that logic is the best system. Here is my counterexample: It could very well be the case that we are all being deceived by a higher being into believing that logic is the best system.

This is Descartes's counterexample.

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Posted 5/9/08

qweruiop wrote:

Logic? Well there are certain fallacies present in logic, and you just committed one of them:
Appeal to Ignorance

Just because it hasn't been proven otherwise, doesn't mean that logic is the best system. Here is my counterexample: It could very well be the case that we are all being deceived by a higher being into believing that logic is the best system.

This is Descartes's counterexample.



It wasn't a fallacy, since I didn't say anything about it being true or not. I'm considering this in terms of use-value, not truth-value.

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