Hieronymus Bosch, “The Ship of Fools in Flames” (n.d.), pen and bistre, 176 x 153 mm. Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna (Image via Web Gallery of Art)

This week, Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, invoked the Fifth Amendment before a House committee investigating the company’s fiftyfold price increase of a decades-old drug. Shkreli later tweeted,”Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.”

Man is a clever animal who behaves like an imbecile.

—Albert Schweitzer

An audience is never wrong. An individual member of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark — that is critical genius.

—Billy Wilder

What a chimera then is man. What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy. Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depositary of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error: the pride and refuse of the universe.

—Blaise Pascal, Pensees

The essence of war is violence. Moderation in war is imbecility.

—John Arbuthnot Fisher

As a rule, all heroism is due to a lack of reflection, and thus it is necessary to maintain a mass of imbeciles. If they once understand themselves the ruling men will be lost.

—Ernest Renan

When I was young, I ran to see Astaire and Rogers, Huston, Lubitsch — they were formative for me. I also read ‘Flash Gordon’ when I was 6, but if I were still reading it when I was 16, I’d have been an imbecile.

—Lina Wertmuller

To be able to write a play a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naive, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool.

—Robert E. Sherwood

So, cutting the lashing of the waterproof match keg, after many failures Starbuck contrived to ignite the lamp in the lantern; then stretching it on a waif pole, handed it to Queequeg as the standard-bearer of this forlorn hope. There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.

—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

We are a country of millions of fools, who believe the most imbecile things about ourselves and the world, but when it comes to poetry only solemnity counts and joking is un-American.

—Charles Simic, interview, The Paris Review, 2004

We are the same people
only further from home
on freeways fifty lanes wide
on a concrete continent
spaced with bland billboards
illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness.

—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of the Mind

Hyperallergic's Weekend editors are Natalie Haddad, Thomas Micchelli, Albert Mobilio, and John Yau.

One reply on “Weekend Words: Imbecile”

  1. I fail to see why on earth the editors would publish this mass of contradiction. Skreli is a turd, and also a shit, but this list of quotes about imbeciles completely contradicts the purported point the editors are seemingly trying to make.

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