A book should contain pure discoveries, glimpses of terra firma, though by shipwrecked mariners, and not the art of navigation by those who have never been out of sight of land.—A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
A man’s ignorance sometimes is not only useful, but beautiful—while his knowledge, so called, is oftentimes worse than useless, besides being ugly. Which is the best man to deal with—he who knows nothing about a subject, and, what is extremely rare, knows that he knows nothing, or he who really knows something about it, but thinks that he knows all?—"Walking"
As for your high towers and monuments, there was a crazy fellow once in this town who undertook to dig through to China, and he got so far that, as he said, he heard the Chinese pots and kettles rattle; but I think that I shall not go out of my way to admire the hole which he made. Many are concerned about the monuments of the West and the East—to know who built them. For my part, I should like to know who in those days did not build them—who were above such trifling.—Walden
How far can you carry your practicalness? How far does your knowledge really extend?—Journal, 7 June 1851
I am still a learner, not a teacher, feeding somewhat omnivorously, browsing both stalk and leaves—but I shall perhaps be enabled to speak with the more precision and authority by and by—if philosophy and sentiment are not buried under a multitude of details.—Thoreau to H. G. O. Blake, 21 May 1856
I do not know that this higher knowledge amounts to anything more definite than a novel and grand surprise on a sudden revelation of the insufficiency of all that we called Knowledge before—a discovery that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy.—"Walking"
I expect the Christian not to be superstitious but to be distinguished by the clearness of his knowledge, the strength of his faith, the breadth of his humanity.—Journal, 25 September 1851
If a man is rich and strong anywhere, it must be on his native soil. Here I have been these forty years learning the language of these fields that I may the better express myself. If I should travel to the prairies, I should much less understand them, and my past life would serve me but ill to describe them.—Journal, 20 November 1857
If we knew all things thus mechanically merely, should we know anything really?—Journal, 14 December 1851
It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.—Journal, 4 October 1859