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THEORIES
[ Also see Abstract Action Assertions Assumptions Belief Evidence Facts Hypotheses Metaphysics Opinion Philosophy Principles Proof Speculation Statistics Thought Truth ]

We all agree that your theory is crazy, but is it crazy enough?
      - Niels Henrik David Bohr

The human mind feels restless and dissatisfied under the anxieties of ignorance. It longs for the repose of conviction; and to gain this repose it will often rather precipitate its conclusions than wait for the tardy lights of observation and experiment. There is such a thing, too, as the love of simplicity and system,--a prejudice of the understanding which disposes it to include all the phenomena of nature under a few sweeping generalities,--an indolence which loves to repose on the beauties of a theory rather than encounter the fatiguing detail of its evidences.
      - Thomas Chalmers

'Tis mighty easy o'er a glass of wine
  On vain refinements vainly to refine,
    To laugh at poverty in plenty's reign,
      To boast of apathy when out of pain,
        And in each sentence, worthy of the schools,
          Varnish'd with sophistry, to deal out rules
            Most fit for practice, but for one poor fault
              That into practice they can ne'er be brought.
      - Charles Churchill

A theory has only the alternative of being right or wrong. A model has a third possibility: it may be right, but irrelevant.
      - Manfred Eigen,
        "The Physicist's Conception of Nature" edited by Jagdish Mehra

A theory can be proved by experiment; but no path leads from experiment to the birth of a theory.
      - Albert Einstein

It is the theory that decides what can be observed.
      - Albert Einstein

The scientific theorist is not to be envied. For Nature, or more precisely experiment, is an inexorable and not very friendly judge of his work. It never says "Yes" to a theory. In the most favorable cases it says "Maybe," and in the great majority of cases simply "No." If an experiment agrees with a theory it means for the latter "Maybe," and if it does not agree it means "No." Probably every theory will someday experience its "No"--most theories, soon after conception.
      - Albert Einstein,
        in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, by H. Dukas and B. Hoffman

Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.
      - Ralph Waldo Emerson

To despise theory is to have the excessively vain pretension to do without knowing what one does, and to speak without knowing what one says.
      - Bernard de Bovier de Fontenelle

The conceptions I have summarized here I first put forward only tentatively, but in the course of time they have won such a hold over me that I can no longer think in any other way.
      - Sigmund Freud,
        Civilization and Its Discontents

General propositions do not decide concrete cases. The decision will depend on a judgment or intuition more subtle than any articulate major premise.
      - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.,
        Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 74 (1905)

I dare say that I have worked off my fundamental formula on you that the chief end of man is to frame general propositions and that no general proposition is worth a damn.
      - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.,
        written to Pollock, November 22, 1920, found in "Holmes-Pollock Letters," p. 59

A theory is no more like a fact than a photograph is like a person.
      - Edgar Watson Howe

A young boy is a theory, an old man is a fact.
      - Edgar Watson Howe

First, you know, a new theory is attacked as absurd; then it is admitted to be true, but obvious and insignificant; finally it is seen to be so important that its adversaries claim that they themselves discovered it.
      - William James

The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that theory.
      - Thomas Jefferson

A theory must be tempered with reality.
      - Jawaharlal Nehru

A hypothesis is something which looks as if it might be true and were true, and which is capable of verification or refutation by comparison with facts.
      - Charles Sanders Peirce

Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.
      - Karl Popper

Theory helps us to bear our ignorance of facts.
      - George Santayana

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.
      - Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

The theory that can absorb the greatest number of facts, and persist in doing so, generation after generation, through all changes of opinion and of detail, is the one that must rule all observation.
      - John Weiss


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