Saturday Quote-a-thon: Ethics and Morals

>> Saturday, May 30, 2009

It seemed appropriate for this week. You might find a few surprising ones in this mix. I am making a conscious effort to make this NOT about religion. Another time, though, I'll include many that address that hot hot topic.

The 20th century, which was to have yielded the sweet fruits of scientific progress, was instead a century of massive brutality, wholesale carnage, and random destruction such as the world had never seen. We learned, or should have learned, that the advancement of science does not necessarily correspond with an advancement of virtue. When technology increases man's power, it extends the impact and scope of his capability to do evil as well as good. The separation of science from ethics and morality has been and can be disastrous.
-- Linda Bowles

To do evil that good may come of it is for bunglers in politics as well as morals.
- William Penn

Moralizing and morals are two entirely different things and are always found in entirely different people.
-- Don Herold

Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.
--Baltasar Gracián

The best place to look for evil is in the mirror.
--Solomon Short

Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.
-- Plato

The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole men are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. There can be no true goodness, nor true love, without the utmost clear-sightedness.
- Albert Camus

Goodness alone is never enough. A hard cold wisdom is required, too, for goodness to accomplish good. Goodness without wisdom invariably accomplishes evil.
- Robert Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.
- Henry David Thoreau

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
-Mahatma Gandhi

I believe that Gandhi's views were the most enlightened of all the political men of our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence for fighting for our cause, but by non-participation of anything you believe is evil.
-Albert Einstein

I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.
--Ayn Rand

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
- C.S. Lewis

I mistake the American people if they favor the odious doctrine that there is no such thing as international morality; that there is one law for a strong nation and another for a weak one, and that even by indirection a strong power may with impunity despoil a weak one of its territory.
-Grover Cleveland


  • The Mother

    Interesting quote from Plato, considering he designed not one, but two societies that regulated everything, up to and including who could have sex with whom and when.

    And yet I find I agree with him (the aphorism, not the carefully regulated societies).

  • Stephanie B

    I'm often surprised at the quotes associated with people I'd expect to feel differently.

    Hypocrisy has been around a long time.

  • Davida

    These are pretty good. After reading a few a couple of times, I finally decided:
    "Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it" by Baltasar Gracián, is my favorite one from the list.


  • Stephanie B

    I favor quotes that talk about the risks of thinking you can do evil things in the name of greater good.

    I don't think anyone can tread that path without risking becoming the monster they combat. That doesn't mean they are doomed to be monsters, just that once you've convinced yourself something is a necessary evil, the bars to doing more along the same line (no matter how diminishing the return) remains.

    In my opinion.

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