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12/26/2011

The use and meaning of quotes

Very often we like to quote what other people said in our posts. And we quote for various reasons. One major use of quotes is that the person is an authority and what he said is important or makes sense. The famous quote of Lord Acton is being used daily in cyberspace, ‘Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

When people make this quote, they are agreeing completely with the author. Absolute power corrupts, a fact. But people may make this quote and then explains why they agree or even disagree. And they will explain why they disagree, sometimes by writing a whole book on it.

Some may misquote or quote it partially by saying power corrupts, and power corrupts absolutely, which has a slightly different meaning. It needs not be absolute power to corrupt absolutely. But the person who quoted is happy that as long as it is power, needs not be absolute, it can still corrupt absolutely. Other wise there is no point in making the reference. He believes that power alone can corrupt absolutely.

This is different from Acton’s original intent or idea. Acton only pronounced that in order for power to corrupt absolutely, it must be absolute power. His criteria is more demanding, not anyhow power, little power, small power, as long as it is power, it corrupts absolutely.

When someone quotes, it is quite easy to understand his intent or thinking, his values, what he subscribes to, what he agrees or disagrees, or what he believes in what he quoted.

‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ Anyone making this quote must agree with the saying or enjoys the brevity of making a profound expression with so few words. This is an artistic reason for making a quote.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Power corrupts, be it absolute or relative, due to human nature, eg. - life cycle.
~li345feng~

Anonymous said...

Lord Acton's Quote in its entirety:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

The quote contains 2 warnings. Most people forget the second warning in the second sentence.

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/absolute-power-corrupts-absolutely.html

Anonymous said...

Other worthwhile ideas from Lord Acton:

"And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands,
all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control.
History has proven that."


"Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice;
nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity."


http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/lord_acton.html

Anonymous said...

If absolute power corrupts absolutely, God, who has absolute power, must be the ultimate corrupter?

Anyone who claims he is channelling God must be absolutely corrupt?

Matilah_Singapura said...

The meaning of words is anchored in the context of their use. IMO Lord Acton quote was made in the political context. "Great Men" are almost always notable political figures.

In maths there's a phenomenon called "power law distribution". It can be used to explain how rich get richer, how certain political ideas end up dominant.

To me that seems a more level headed approach than to argue from " evil" or " human corruption".

Human kind needs power to guide it. It is reasonable to expect stiff competition for the ultimate role of Absolute Authority.

We are all WIRED TO RESPOND TO AUTHORITY.

Anonymous said...

The issue is not THE power but the carrier or the conduit - as clearly evident

Anonymous said...

So many Acton comments when the real target is Shanseng.

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