"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled."
— Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures
"The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting — no more — and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth. Suppose someone were to go and ask his neighbors for fire and find a substantial blaze there, and just stay there continually warming himself: that is no different from someone who goes to someone else to get to some of his rationality, and fails to realize that he ought to ignite his own flame, his own intellect, but is happy to sit entranced by the lecture, and the words trigger only associative thinking and bring, as it were, only a flush to his cheeks and a glow to his limbs; but he has not dispelled or dispersed, in the warm light of philosophy, the internal dank gloom of his mind." (emphasis added)
— Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures
"For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth."'
translation from the Loeb Classical Library, 1927.
See Quote Investigator for other variants and return here to discuss.
The full text can be read at On Listening to Lectures.
- Good quote. +1 18.104.22.168 17:52, 30 October 2008
- Good quote. +2 22.214.171.124 04:21, 1 October 2009
- When I first read that quote I found it very interesting to say the least. It immediately struck a chord with me. The image alone of our minds being a vessel, limited in space and capacity for learning, is a bit abysmal to contemplate. However, the idea that our minds, if given the proper upkeep, desire, motivation, and due encouragement; could burn on forever ( or at least within the realm of our individual life times), is refreshing. I believe that it is true. We as individuals are never limited to only learn a certain amount of material. I think that at some point, some of us, just give up on the idea do to lack of self esteem and/or self confidence. And if we could overcome those things, we could push not only ourselves, but our society, culture, and species to much greater heights. SkepticUsh 02:46, 22 July 2010 (EST)
- Unless the pun was intended (and, if so, needs to be indicated in some way), "struck a cord" should be "struck a chord". comment added by 126.96.36.199, 16:21, 16 January 2011. (UTC)
- We are not just a collection of some kind certain imformation but a soul with infinite possibility，we are also not CPU only known to edit imfo like what i‘m doing now，but magically a sort of existence in the void universe.For us knowledge is just for insperation not for store,we can create our own things as well as we're free to do so. 188.8.131.52 18 November 2010
- I agree, it is Mind Expanding, Many Jewels of Intelligence are hidden in that Quote, one only needs to extract them with the vibrancy of productive thought.--Gaon Abhinava 02:30, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
- It is an interesting thought... and a clever metaphor. It makes me feel like there is so much more that I could do and that I want to do it all. Comment added by Sulphuric Glue 23 August 2012
- Such aphoristic homologies--while cerebrally alluring and imaginatively evocative--nevertheless suffer from having little to no discernible bearing on reality. Sure, such equivokes are droll, and occasionally display modest inspirational value--and with commensurately meager brevity--but fail to accurately depict the true nature of learning. I contend, perhaps pessimistically, that the reality of the situation is actually quite ineffable. --Ghost Lourde (discuss • contribs) 06:32, 29 November 2014 (UTC)
- I disagree with @Ghost Lourde. For the length of the passage (and likely he has in fact written considerably more on the topic), he conveys a significant idea very effectively. The idea is most readily applicable to engineering (my original major). You can learn plenty of facts, but unless you learn to apply your knowledge and create solutions to problems (especially new problems), such knowledge is but an ephemeral secondary glow. Good education exercises your ability to think critically, synthesize knowledge on your own (there is no recipe for every single situation), and encourages you to explore and create solutions to problems that may be new and always a little different. It kindles a light within. This higher ideal of education applies to ethics, strategic policy, science, professional education, just about anything. His analogy, like any, may be limited and suggestive, but his analogy is effective, though it leaves it to you to explore its possibilities (and possible limitations). I think it really strikes a chord with many people. The mentality (of educational intent) contrasts extremely with the typical army or marine (particularly combat arms) grunt mentality, with which I am familiar, where the overwhelming emphasis is to be a nearly unthinking, disciplined machine. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 2602:306:8053:28f0:cc4c:a637:e169:e56 (talk • contribs) 15:46, 23 July 2015 (UTC)