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[Philosophy of the Future] 12 Conceptions of Futurity (in 70 quotes)

By Philosophy of the Future, we mean “Philosophy addressing the topic of the Future”, not the Evolution of Philosophy in the Future.

The topic of the Future of Philosophy is quite popular as we witness a regain in curiosity for the philosophical practice, be it in open classes for the general audience, on airwaves, podcast, Clubhouse, social media, in new book collections about the philosophy of everyday topics, in children classrooms, or even in corporate environment. The global pandemic, mental health issues, and resort to mindfulness practices to deal with the situation, have seen a renewed interest for ancient wisdom and intellectual exchange.

However the Future as a core topic for philosophers is a less defined area that we wanted to investigate. It has often been addressed as a subtopic in a larger scope.

Here we draw a panorama of how the Future has been addressed by philosophers, thinkers, writers, and leaders over the centuries, by clustering Futurity considerations along main themes, and by including inspiring quotes. Feel free to react and add to them in the Comment section.

1. The Future in connection to the Past.

  • “Study the past if you would define the future.” ― Confucius“
  • “There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” ― Graham Greene
  • “We must never allow the future to collapse under the burden of memory.” ― Milan Kundera
  • “Why should we look to the past in order to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to look.” ― James Burke
  • “Think of tomorrow, the past can’t be mended.” ― Confucius
  • “This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies. Of course this is not total freedom — we cannot avoid being shaped by the past. But some freedom is better than none.” ― Yuval Noah Harari
  • “Our narrating self would much prefer to continue suffering in the future, just so it won’t have to admit that our past suffering was devoid of all meaning. Eventually, if we want to come clean about past mistakes, our narrating self must invent some twist in the plot that will infuse these mistakes with meaning.” ― Yuval Noah Harari

2. The Future in connection to the Present, with a focus on our Sense of Agency.

  • “The future starts today, not tomorrow.” ― Pope John Paul II
  • “It is said that the present is pregnant with the future.” ― Voltaire
  • “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” ― William Gibson
  • “The future depends on what you do today.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
  • “When you make a choice, you change the future.” ― Deepak Chopra
  • “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” ― Abraham Lincoln
  • “Time forks perpetually toward innumerable futures. In one of them I am your enemy.” ― Jorge Luis Borges
  • “People are like dice. We throw ourselves in the direction of our own choosing.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre

3. The Future as part of a Time Continuum.

  • “If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past and the future.” ― Blaise Pascal
  • “I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.” ― James Joyce
  • People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” ― Albert Einstein
  • “… truth, whose mother is history, who is the rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, example and lesson to the present, and warning to the future.” ― Miguel de Cervantes
  • “Past and future monopolize the poet’s sensory and intellectual faculties, detached from the immediate spectacle. These two philtres become utterly clear the moment one stops being hypnotized by the cloudy precipitate constituted by the world of today.” ― Andre Breton
  • “What is realised in my history is not the past definite of what was, since it is no more, or even the present perfect of what has been in what I am, but the future anterior of what I shall have been for what I am in the process of becoming.” ― Jacques Lacan
  • “At some point the future becomes reality. And then it quickly becomes the past.” ― Haruki Murakami
  • “Imagination sees the complete reality, — it is where past, present and future meet…” ― Kahlil Gibran

4. The Future as a Perturbation from living the current moment.

  • “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” ― Marcus Aurelius
  • “I am a person who continually destroys the possibilities of a future because of the numbers of alternative viewpoints I can focus on the present.” ― Doris Lessing
  • “I struggle so hard to remain entirely in the present, killing inside me the past and the future.” ― Fernando Pessoa
  • “There were moments when he felt as if he were being buried alive under his future.” ― Edith Wharton
  • “Time is basically an illusion created by the mind to aid in our sense of temporal presence in the vast ocean of space. Without the neurons to create a virtual perception of the past and the future based on all our experiences, there is no actual existence of the past and the future. All that there is, is the present.” ― Abhijit Naskar
  • “I never think of the future — it comes soon enough.” ― Albert Einstein

5. The Future as Lyrical Inspiration.

  • “Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.” ― Haruki Murakami
  • “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “Love is the only future God offers.” ― Victor Hugo
  • “Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches.” ― Italo Calvino
  • “Now I come to you full of future. And from habit we begin to live our past.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke Lou Andreas-Salomé
  • “Yesterday is but to-day’s memory and to-morrow is to-day’s dream.” ― Kahlil Gibran

6. The Future as a Leader’s Stance.

  • “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • “We should use our imagination more than our memory.” ― Shimon Peres
  • “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” ― John F. Kennedy
  • “Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’” ― George Orwell
  • “If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future. ” ― Winston Churchill

7. The Future in Phenomenology, and the idea of a Creative Future.

  • “The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.” ― Henri Bergson
  • “Remembering, although it is not expectation, does have a horizon directed towards the future of the remembered.” ― Edmund Husserl
  • “Every original constitutive process is animated by protentions [or expectations] that emptily constitute what is coming as coming, that catch it and bring it to fulfillment.” ― Edmund Husserl
  • “The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is thus more fruitful than the future itself, and this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality.” ― Henri Bergson
  • “Temporality temporalizes as a future which makes present in the process of having been.” ― Martin Heidegger
  • “The very relationship with the other is the relationship with the future.” — Emmanuel Levinas

8. The Future as (Un)predictable. Imagination and the Inoculation principle.

  • “I was not predicting the future, I was trying to prevent it.” ― Ray Bradbury
  • “We have no future because our present is too volatile. … We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition” ― William Gibson
  • “He who knows the past well can best explain the present and can tell the probable certainties and uncertainties of the future better” ― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
  • “And a lot of it will be wrong, but just enough of it will be right.” ― Ray Bradbury
  • “In dealing with the future, it is far more important to be imaginative than to be right.” ― Alvin Toffler

9. The Future as an Optimistic Philosophy.

  • “I am an optimist. Anyone interested in the future has to be otherwise he would simply shoot himself.” ― Arthur C. Clarke
  • “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.”― John F. Kennedy
  • “As soon as someone dies, frenzied construction of the future (shifting furniture, etc.): futuromania.” ― Roland Barthes
  • “The unpredictability of the future means absolutely nothing to the dreams of an ambitious positive mind.” ― Edmond Mbiaka
  • “Youthful cynicism is sad to observe, because it indicates not so much knowledge learned from bitter experiences as insufficient trust even to attempt the future.” ― Maya Angelou
  • “I am one of those who think, like Nobel, that humanity will draw more good than evil from new discoveries.” ― Marie Curie

10. The Future as the Gift of Visionaries, and the Emergence of Homo Deus.

  • Future ages will produce further great advances in this realm of culture, probably inconceivable now, and will increase man’s likeness to a god still more.” ― Sigmund Freud
  • “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” ― Albert Einstein
  • “The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.” ― Nikola Tesla
  • “Men do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands. Theirs is the task of determining first of all whether they want to go on living or not. Theirs is the responsibility, then, for deciding if they want merely to live, or intend to make just the extra effort required for fulfilling, even on this refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, which is a machine for the making of gods.” ― Henri Bergson
  • “Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” ― Kahlil Gibran
  • “Any system which allows men to choose their own future will end by choosing safety and mediocrity, and in such a Reality the stars are out of reach.” ― Isaac Asimov
  • “I titled the book ‘Homo Deus’ because we really are becoming gods in the most literal sense possible. We are acquiring abilities that have always been thought to be divine abilities — in particular, the ability to create life. And we can do with that whatever we want.”

11. The Future in building our Responsibility, with a focus on the Eternal Return.

  • Eternal Return to “Calibrate our actions in such a way as to make their consequences bearable, livable with, in a hypothetical perpetuity”. ― Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “What, if some day or night, a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life, as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh… must return to you — all in the same succession and sequence — even this spider and this moonlight between the trees and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again — and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

12. The Future in Ethics and Intergenerational Justice.

  • “Must we take future subjects (people who don’t even exist yet) into account when judging the rightness or wrongness of our actions?” ― Alexander Joy
  • “Present generations stand under two types of obligations of intergenerational justice: They are obliged (i) not to violate the rights of future generations and (ii) to provide compensation to contemporaries with respect to harms victims in the past suffered at the hands of past perpetrators.” ― Meyer, Lukas
  • “The special features of our relations to (remote) future people — especially the lack of particular knowledge, the impossibility of cooperation, and the permanent asymmetry of influence — do not stand in the way of attributing rights to them that ground corresponding duties owed by us.” ― Meyer, Lukas

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Sylvia Gallusser

Sylvia Gallusser

Global Futurist - Strategic Foresight, Futures Thinking, Future Fiction, Sensemaking. Founder @Silicon Humanism. Board Member @Grey Swan Guild.

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