Quote about tolerating paradox
June 5, 2013 3:13 PM   Subscribe

There's a famous quote that goes something like "Intelligence is the Ability to Tolerate Paradox". But that's obviously not it, given that it doesn't google at all. Can anyone help?
posted by Quisp Lover to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack-Up", Esquire Magazine (February 1936)
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:18 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Good one, and exactly what I'm trying to express. It is not, however, the quote I'm looking for.

It's surely been said in many ways by many people, but I'm looking for one more akin to "Intelligence is the Ability to Tolerate Paradox".
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:21 PM on June 5, 2013

Probably not the exact phrase you have in mind, but there's Emerson's famous line from Self-Reliance: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."
posted by mosk at 3:47 PM on June 5, 2013

Given how closely that matches the (very famous) Fitzgerald quote, I would guess it is someone misquoting or paraphrasing Fitzgerald. Wikiquote even files the Fitzgerald line under their Paradox page.

Google does find a few examples of "to tolerate paradox," including this quote from a self-help book: "heroism can be redefined for our age as the ability to tolerate paradox."
posted by mbrubeck at 3:47 PM on June 5, 2013

I heard a quote like this but it said "ambiguity" instead of "paradox," if that's useful for further googling.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:48 PM on June 5, 2013

In the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy computer game, if you consult the guide about intelligence it says this:
Thirty million generations of philosophers have debated the definition of intelligence. The most popular definition appears in the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation android manuals: "Intelligence is the ability to reconcile totally contradictory situations without going completely bonkers -- for example, having a stomach ache and not having a stomach ache at the same time, holding a hole without the doughnut, having good luck and bad luck simultaneously, or seeing a real estate agent waive his fee."
Any chance this is what you're thinking of?
posted by aubilenon at 3:56 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Douglas Adams had a bit in the Infocom video game HHGttG where you have to prove your intelligence to a door by having both "tea" and "no tea" in your possession. I can't find an exact quote, but it sounds like it could be what you are thinking of.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:04 PM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: Love the HHGttG, but this isn't it, no.

mbrubeck, I saw the heroism quote, too. Interesting, but not the thing I'm looking for, alas.

cowbell, agreed, it could be "ambiguity"...or, for that matter, "contradiction". I'll try working it. Was hoping someone would drop it in my lap, but I'm apparently too far off.

Thanks, all!
posted by Quisp Lover at 5:42 PM on June 5, 2013

Related idea: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large -- I contain multitudes." -- Walt Whitman
posted by fings at 6:48 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Great thread, great like-minded quotes, but, alas, not the one I'm pursuing! :(
posted by Quisp Lover at 6:33 AM on June 6, 2013

Similar idea but flipped round: Sigmund Freud - "Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity"
posted by crocomancer at 7:03 AM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: I'd have thought it'd be the inability to tolerate a lot more things besides just ambiguity!
posted by Quisp Lover at 1:28 PM on June 6, 2013

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