Quote: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 3 09:16:56 UTC 2011

Several people have contacted me about a quotation commonly attributed
to Einstein. Here is a version from the October 3 Wall Street Journal
which does not credit Einstein:

The popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and
over, expecting different results.

I am confused by some of the information available. Below are links to
Barry Popik's webpage on the saying, a webpage at Quora, and a
WikiQuote webpage for Narcotics Anonymous (short links included if the
long links break).




Apparently the quotation first appeared in the literature of Narcotics
Anonymous and/or Alcoholics Anonymous. But I am not certain about the
reliability of the currently known information. I would love to have
more solid citations. Perhaps someone else on the list has already
looked more deeply into this topic.

Barry Popik's webpage has a citation dated 1973 called "As a Man
Thinketh" by James Allen. But I think that the warning Barry added is
correct. The quotation apparently was added to the work in later
commentary. The 1973 date is not reliable.

I downloaded the PDF from the amonymifoundation.org (the Quora page
has a link), and the document looks legitimate and says "Printed
November 1981". But I do not really know anything about
amonymifoundation.org. Does someone have information from a library or
from some official archive of the Narcotics Anonymous organization?


Peter Baskerville's Quora page and Barry Popik's website refer to a
1980 dated pamphlet called either "Both Step 2: Coming to Believe" or
"Step Two: A Promise of Hope" by James G. Jensen. The link on Barry 's
webpage leads to a 1992 edition of "Step Two: A Promise of Hope" by
James G. Jensen. The Google Books date is wrong. So this book may have
been updated and I do not think that the 1980 date can be fully

Has anyone seen a 1980 edition on paper of an AA pamphlet by James G.
Jensen (or anyone) that contains a version of the quotation? Any other
advances in knowledge would be welcomed.

This is a very popular quotation. Thanks for any help that you can provide.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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