count angels on pinheads

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count angels on pinheads (third-person singular simple present counts angels on pinheads, present participle counting angels on pinheads, simple past and past participle counted angels on pinheads)

  1. Verbal form of angels dancing on the head of a pin.
    • 1962, Flinders University of South Australia & the University of Adelaide Deptartment of Economics, Australian Economic Papers, page 12:
      …secondly, because it is thought to be wholly destructive, and “something has to be taught” — which is the equivalent of teaching people to count angels on pinheads when you no longer believe in the heavenly host and, thirdly, because it has seemed to be socialist in tone, direction and intention.
    • Date unknown: United States Congress House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Hearings, p1315
      It adds to the trend that law schools and law journals are no longer content to count angels on pinheads.
    • 1995, Henry David Thoreau & Walter Roy Harding, Walden: an annotated edition, page 1:
      It is not concerned with theological disputation; he does not count angels on pinheads.
    • 1951, The John Dewey Society, the Philosophy of Education Society (U.S.), and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign College of Education, Educational Theory, p185
      In requesting that a closer look be given to hypothetical thinking and its role in the solving of problems, I do not suggest that counting angels on pinheads is a fruitful educational exercise. Thinking about the actual is one aspect of analytical thinking.
    • 1999, Carol J. Dempsey & Russell A. Butkus, All Creation is Groaning: An Interdisciplinary Vision for Life in a Sacred Universe, page VIII:
      Connectedness is a requirement for higher education if our academic work is not to be merely the technological equivalent of counting angels on pinheads.
    • 2006, Norman D. Cook, Models of the Atomic Nucleus: With Interactive Software, page 118:
      Such assertions are motivated by the desire to leave the independent-particle model in place as the central paradigm in nuclear theory, but they inadvertently push theoretical nuclear physics in the direction of counting angels on pinheads: “Sure they’re there! It’s just that there aren’t any observable implications of their celestial presence!”