Necessity

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Not even the gods fight against necessity. ~ Simonides of Ceos

Necessity is the quality or state of being necessary, unavoidable, or absolutely requisite. In Greek mythology this quality was personified as the goddess Ananke who was mother of the Moirae, the Fates; in Roman mythology she was known as Necessitas. This page is for quotations on the theme of Necessity and the necessary.

Alphabetized by author or source
Anonymous · A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P -Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · See also · External links

Anonymous[edit]

Necessity has no law.
The law of necessity dispenses with things which otherwise are not lawful to be done.
  • Necessitas non habet legem
    • Necessity has no law.
      • Anonymous Latin proverb which arose in the middle ages, leading to many variant expressions and extensions in many cultures.
    • Variants:
    • Quia enim necessitas non habet legem, set ipsa sibi facit legume
    • Necessity knows no laws.
      • Spanish proverb, as quoted in The International Thesaurus of Quotations (1970) edited by Rhoda Thomas Tripp, p. 429
    • الضرورات تبيح المحظورات
      • Necessity knows no restrictions.
        • Arabic Proverb
    • Necessity knows no laws, and a man must part with his last farthing to buy bread.
      • "C." in The Farmer's Magazine Vol. 1, No. 4 (October 1838), p. 271
    • Necessity knows no laws or customs.
      • Joseph Kinmont Hart, Mind in Transition : Patterns, Conflicts and Changes in the Evolution of the Mind (1938), p. 88
  • Necessity is the mother of invention.
    • English proverb; early notable authors who used this proverb include Jonathan Swift, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (1726), and Sir Walter Raleigh, in The History of the World (1614)
    • Commonly misattributed to Plato from Benjamin Jowett's popular idiomatic translation (1871) of Plato's Republic, Book II, 369-c as "The true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention." Jowett himself (Plato's Republic: The Greek Text, Vol. III "Notes", 1894, p. 82) gives a literal translation of Plato as "our need will be the real creator," without the proverbial flourish.
  • Necessitas est lex temporis et loci
    • Necessity is the law of time and place.
    • Hale's V. C. 54, reported in The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904) edited by James William Norton-Kyshe, p. 182
  • The law of necessity dispenses with things which otherwise are not lawful to be done.
    • Per Cur., Manby v. Scott (1672), 1 Levinz, 4; 2 Sm. L. C. (8th ed.) 446, reported in The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904) edited by James William Norton-Kyshe, p. 182
  • Necessity turns lion into fox.
    • Persian proverb, as quoted in The International Thesaurus of Quotations (1970) edited by Rhoda Thomas Tripp, p. 428
  • Where necessity speaks it demands.
    • Russian proverb, as quoted in The International Thesaurus of Quotations (1970) edited by Rhoda Thomas Tripp, p. 429

A[edit]

  • These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by the scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.
  • The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many.
    • John Adams, in A Defence of the Constitutions of Government (1787), Ch. 18
  • Against necessity
    against its strength, no one can fight and win.
  • Necessità c'induce, e non diletto.
    • It is necessity and not pleasure that compels us.
    • Dante Alighieri, Inferno, XII. 87
  • Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from necessity.

B[edit]

Soul of the world, divine Necessity,
Servant of God, and master of all things. ~ Philip James Bailey
Ananke must above all be regarded as cosmic force, that is as the ruling law in the universe. ~ Otto Brendel
In the image of the sphere, where the true existence of thought can alone recognize itself, the non-corporeal Ananke becomes conceivable, being the law that forms the world and holds it together. The entire cosmos, as it were, becomes her image and attribute… ~ Otto Brendel
  • Wo wir unfähig sind, die Gesetze der Notwendigkeit zu erkennen, da glauben wir, frei zu sein.
    • When we are incapable of recognizing the laws of necessity, we believe ourselves to be free.
      • Ludwig Börne, as quoted in Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists (2007) by James Geary, p. 16
    • Variant translation: Wherever it is impossible for us to recognize the law of necessity, we believe we are free.
  • Ananke must above all be regarded as cosmic force, that is as the ruling law in the universe; thus … the super-personal, cosmic significance of "the All" ruled by Ananke as well, can be accepted as certain. It represents in the universe the inviolability of cause and effect and does so as dual essence, as a mythical personage belonging to the oldest theogony or as the earliest philosophical concept of the mechanics of natural events. The two fuse and need not be separated here; but we must also state that the mythical figure was never entirely accepted in the religion proper, the rites of the faith. Ananke remained an elusive outsider, often perceived as cruel. But it is important that at an early stage religious and philosophical speculation closely linked Ananke to the elements of the world's existence (among which Goethe included her too). Like the intellect, Ananke is said to be a highly refined, non-corporeal substance which penetrates the whole world and touches its boundaries. Altogether she is a force belonging to the extremities of the world; like Pythagoras' Chronos she is the outermost layer of the sphere, encircling the cosmos or being the farthest vault of the heavens. The complete identity of her nature shines through the variously established but actually transparent concepts. She may be ethereal for the same reason that she is occasionally even equated with the ether — the world soul and supreme element — thereby becoming associated with the concept of the immaterial and the omnipresent which fills the world as the divine primal substance. We may quote here … Empedocles's cosmic law that "spreads all over the wide-ruling ether" and which, therefore, must have the same place and function in the universe. Finally one can apply here the universal formula of the beginning, middle and end of all things being nothing other than a variant of the formula of the sphere; however, this expresses the creator of being, instead of being itself. Hence Ananke belongs here as the goddess of wisdom, as Aeschylus called her, for the same reason the inner logic of the entire train of thought ends with her. Finally the question is posed about the divine, the sphere itself, and thus the chain comes to an end, forming a perfect ring. It seems to be good archaic terminology, perhaps not without relation to other, mythical aspects of the idea, that Necessity stands for the Strongest, since domination is ascribed to her as to an old goddess of the universe. In the image of the sphere, where the true existence of thought can alone recognize itself, the non-corporeal Ananke becomes conceivable, being the law that forms the world and holds it together. The entire cosmos, as it were, becomes her image and attribute, and Thales in pointing to her poses a question and simultaneously gives the answer.
    • Otto Brendel, on statements of Thales and other ancient greeks on Ananke (Necessity), in Symbolism of the Sphere : A Contribution to the History of Earlier Greek Philosophy (1977), p. 37

C[edit]

  • When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.
    • Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland, as quoted in Reason, Thought, and Language; Or, The Many and the One : A Revised System of Logical Doctrine in Relation to the Forms of Idiomatic Discourse (1906) by Douglas Macleane
  • Thanne is it wysdom, as thynketh me,
    To maken vertu of necessité,
    And take it weel, that we may not eschu,
    And namely that that to us alle is due.
  • I don't think necessity is the mother of invention — invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.
  • We declared our intentions to preserve monarchy, and they still are so, unless necessity enforce an alteration.
    • Oliver Cromwell, in a speech in the Commons during the debate which preceded the "Vote of No Addresses" (January 1648) as recorded in the diary of John Boys of Kent.
  • Cruel necessity.
    • Oliver Cromwell, reported remarks over the body of Charles I after his execution (January 1649), as quoted in Oliver Cromwell : A History (1895) by Samuel Harden Church, p. 321
  • Necessity hath no law. Feigned necessities, imagined necessities... are the greatest cozenage that men can put upon the Providence of God, and make pretenses to break known rules by.
    • Oliver Cromwell, in a speech to the First Protectorate Parliament (12 September 1654)

D[edit]

It is not necessary for the public to know whether I am joking or whether I am serious, just as it is not necessary for me to know it myself. ~ Salvador Dalí
  • It is not necessary for the public to know whether I am joking or whether I am serious, just as it is not necessary for me to know it myself.

E[edit]

Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. ~ Albert Einstein
Nothing has more strength than dire necessity. ~ Euripides
  • In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer's saying, that "a man can do as he will, but not will as he will," has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others'. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humor, above all, has its due place.
    • Albert Einstein in "Mein Weltbild" (1931) ["My World-view", or "My View of the World" or "The World As I See It"], translated as the title essay of the book The World As I See It (1949)
  • Civilization after civilization, it is the same. The world falls to tyranny with a whisper. The frightened are ever keen to bow to a perceived necessity, in the belief that necessity forces conformity, and conformity a certain stability. In a world shaped into conformity, dissidents stand out, are easily branded and dealt with. There is no multitude of perspectives, no dialogue. The victim assumes the face of the tyrant, self-righteous and intransigent, and wars breed like vermin. and people die.
  • Winning doesn't necessarily mean you're right. History will be a better judge of that.
    • Francis Escudero, as quoted in "Chiz the whiz takes aim at the Upper House" in The Philippine Daily Inquirer (29 May 2005), p. Q1
  • Necessity is an evil; but there is no necessity for continuing to live subject to necessity.
    • Epicurus, in "Vatican Sayings" in Letters, Principle Doctrines and Vatican Sayings (1964), edited by Russel M. Geer
  • How base a thing it is
    when a man will struggle with necessity!
    We have to die.
    • Euripides, in Heracles (c. 422 BC) as translated by William Arrowsmith
  • I hold that mortal foolish who strives against the stress of necessity.
  • Nothing has more strength than dire necessity.
    • Euripides, in Helen (c. 412 BC) as translated by Richmond Lattimore

F[edit]

Necessity dispenseth with decorum. ~ Thomas Fuller
  • Necessity dispenseth with decorum.

G[edit]

H[edit]

  • Necessitatem in virtutem commutarum.
    • To make necessity a virtue (a virtue of necessity).
    • Hadrianus Julius, Addition to Adages of Erasmus. F. Geronimo Bermudes—Nise Lastimosa, Act IV, scene 2. (1577). Burton—Anatomy of Melancholy, Part III, Section 3. Memb. 4. Subsec. 1. Dryden—Palamon and Arcite, Book III, line 1,084. Matthew Henry, Paraphrase of Psalm 37. Hieronymus—In Ruf. 3. Also in Epistles 54. Pettie—Civile Conversation. I. 5. Quintilian—Inst. Orat. I. 8. 14. Rabelais—Gargantua. I, II. Pantagruel, Section 5, Chapter XXII
  • You fight when the necessity arises — no matter the mood! Mood's a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It's not for fighting.
  • The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other. Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy. Elaborate euphemisms may conceal your intent to kill, but behind any use of power over another the ultimate assumption remains: "I feed on your energy."
  • Intelligence takes chance with limited data in an arena where mistakes are not only possible but also necessary.
  • Æqua lege necessitas
    Sortitur insignes et imos.
    • Necessity takes impartially the highest and the lowest.
    • Horace, Carmina, III. 1. 14

I[edit]

J[edit]

K[edit]

L[edit]

Necessity is the mistress and guardian of Nature. ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Every great poem is in itself limited by necessity, — but in its suggestions unlimited and infinite. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Necessity is the mistress and guardian of Nature.
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol. I, as translated by Jean Paul Richter (1888)
  • Oh! marvellous, O stupendous Necessity — by thy laws thou dost compel every effect to be the direct result of its cause, by the shortest path. These are miracles...
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol. I, as translated by Jean Paul Richter (1888)
  • Necessity is the theme and the inventress, the eternal curb and law of nature.
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol. XIX, as translated by Jean Paul Richter (1888)
  • Experience, the interpreter between formative nature and the human race, teaches how that nature acts among mortals; and being constrained by necessity cannot act otherwise than as reason, which is its helm, requires her to act.
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol. XIX, as translated by Jean Paul Richter (1888)
  • Necessity is the law of the time and action, and things are lawful by necessity, which otherwise are not; "Quicguid necessitas cogit, defendit"; and the law of the time must regulate the law of the place in such public things.
  • Necessitas ultimum et maximum telum est.
    • Necessity is the last and strongest weapon.
    • Livy, in Annales IV, 28
  • Every great poem is in itself limited by necessity, — but in its suggestions unlimited and infinite.
  • Discite quam parvo liceat producere vitam,
    Et quantum natura petat.
    • Learn on how little man may live, and how small a portion nature requires.
    • Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Pharsalia, IV. 377

M[edit]

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself. ~ Abraham Maslow
  • What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    • Abraham Maslow, as quoted in Life In the Open Sea (1972) by William M. Stephens, p. 21
  • So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,
    The tyrant's plea, excused his devilish deed.
  • C'est une violente maistresse d'eschole que la necessité.

N[edit]

Our innermost being, our common foundation, experiences dreams with profound pleasure and joyful necessity. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
From blind physical necessity, which is always and everywhere the same, no variety adhering to time and place could evolve, and all variety of created objects which represent order and life in the universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, Whom I call the Lord God. ~ Isaac Newton
  • Necessity dominates inclination, will, and right.
    • Napoleon I of France, in Napoleon : In His Own Words]] (1916) edited by Jules Bertaut, as translated by Herbert Edward Law and Charles Lincoln Rhodes
  • It is not necessary to prohibit or encourage oddities of conduct which are not harmful.
  • At the beginning of a campaign it is important to consider whether or not to move forward; but when one has taken the offensive it is necessary to maintain it to the last extremity.
  • In civil war it is not given to every man to know how to conduct himself. There is something more than military prudence necessary; there is need of sagacity and the knowledge of men.
  • From blind physical necessity, which is always and everywhere the same, no variety adhering to time and place could evolve, and all variety of created objects which represent order and life in the universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, Whom I call the Lord God.
    • Isaac Newton, as quoted in Our Humanist Heritage (2010) by George Frater, p. 75
  • I have often been told of people who have been able to continue one and the same dream over three and more successive nights: facts which clearly show that our innermost being, our common foundation, experiences dreams with profound pleasure and joyful necessity.
  • Necessity is not an established fact, but an interpretation.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Will to Power (1888), aphorism 552, as translated by Anthony M. Ludovici
  • A person may be as radical as you please, and still may make an extremely conservative estimate of the force of necessity exhibited by a given set of conditions. A radical, for example, may think we should get on a great deal better if we had an entirely different system of government, and yet, at this time and under conditions now existing, he may take a strongly conservative view of the necessity for pitching out our system, neck and crop, and replacing it with another. He may think our fiscal system is iniquitous in theory and monstrous in practice, and be ever so sure he could propose a better one, but if on consideration of all the circumstances he finds that it is not necessary to change that system, he is capable of maintaining stoutly that it is necessary not to change it.
    • Albert Jay Nock, in "A Little Conserva-tive" in The Atlantic Monthly (October 1936)

O[edit]

P[edit]

Necessity can turn any weapon to advantage. ~ Publilius Syrus
  • Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil.
  • It is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.
  • My steps have pressed the flowers,
    That to the Muses' bowers
    The eternal dews of Helicon have given:
    And trod the mountain height,
    Where Science, young and bright,
    Scans with poetic gaze the midnight-heaven.
    Yet have I found no power to vie
    With thine, severe necessity!
    • Thomas Love Peacock, Necessity, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 550-51
  • Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
    • William Pitt the Elder, in a speech on the India Bill (18 November 1783), reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 550-51; also in Famous Sayings and Their Authors (1906) by Edward Latham, p. 44
  • Qui e nuce nucleum esse vult, frangat nucem.
    • He who would eat the kernel, must crack the shell.
    • Plautus, Curculio, I. 1. 55
  • Necessity can turn any weapon to advantage.
  • A wise man never refuses anything to necessity.
  • Necessity knows no law except to conquer.

Q[edit]

  • Necessity resides in the way we talk about things, not in the things we talk about.
  • We give to necessity the praise of virtue.

R[edit]

  • What the Russian autocrats and their supporters fear most is that the success of libertarian Socialism in Spain might prove to their blind followers that the much vaunted "necessity of dictatorship" is nothing but one vast fraud which in Russia has led to the despotism of Stalin and is to serve today in Spain to help the counter-revolution to a victory over the revolution of the workers and the peasants.
  • Efficacior omni arte imminens necessitas.
    • Necessity when threatening is more powerful than device of man.
    • Quintus Curtius Rufus, De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni, IV, 3, 23

S[edit]

Spirit of nature! all-sufficing power,
Necessity! thou mother of the world! ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
The casual is not Enough. The freshness of transformation is The freshness of a world. ~ Wallace Stevens
  • Necessitas etiam timidos fortes facit.
    • Necessity makes even the timid brave.
    • Sallust, Catilina, 58
  • Ernst ist der Anblick der Nothwendigkeit.
  • It is in these useless and superfluous things that I am rich and happy.
  • Necessity — thou best of peacemakers,
    As well as surest prompter of invention.
    • Walter Scott, Peveril of the Peak, Heading of Chapter XXVI
  • Necessitas etiam timidos fortes facit.
    • Necessity makes even the timid brave.
    • Sallust, Catilina, 58
  • Ernst ist der Anblick der Nothwendigkeit.
  • Necessity—thou best of peacemakers,
    As well as surest prompter of invention.
    • Walter Scott, Peveril of the Peak, Heading of Chapter XXVI
  • Malum est necessitati vivere; sed in necessitate vivere necessitas nulla est.
    • It is bad to live for necessity; but there is no necessity to live in necessity.
    • Seneca, Epistles, 58
  • Necessity must speak.
    • John Shaw in correspondence during the First Barbary War (1802), cited in Early American Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases (1977) by Bartlett Jere Whiting, p. 300
  • All places, that the eye of heaven visits,
    Are to a wise man ports and happy havens:
    Teach thy necessity to reason thus;
    There is no virtue like necessity.
  • Spirit of nature! all-sufficing power,
    Necessity! thou mother of the world!
  • Necessity may be the mother of lucrative invention, but it is the death of poetical invention.
    • William Shenstone, in "Detached Thoughts : On Writing and Books" in Essays on Men and Manners (1804), p. 129
  • Sheer necessity — the proper parent of an art so nearly allied to invention.
The gods do not fight against necessity.
Not even the gods war against necessity.
I praise and love all men who do no sin willingly; but with necessity even the gods do not contend.
  • Nede hath no lawe.
    • John Skelton, Colyn Cloute, line 865. Langland, Piers Ploughman, Passus. 23, line 10
  • I hold that to need nothing is divine, and the less a man needs the nearer does he approach divinity.
  • The casual is not Enough. The freshness of transformation is

    The freshness of a world. It is our own,
    It is ourselves, the freshness of ourselves,
    And that necessity and that presentation

    Are rubbings of a glass in which we peer.

    • Wallace Stevens, in Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction (1942) "It Must Change", IX
  • I am one of you and being one of you
    Is being and knowing what I am and know.
    Yet I am the necessary angel of earth,
    Since, in my sight, you see the earth again,
    Cleared of its stiff and stubborn, man-locked set

    And, in my hearing, you hear its tragic drone
    Rise liquidly in liquid lingerings,
    Like watery words awash; like meanings said
    By repetitions of half-meanings.

T[edit]

Strongest is Necessity because it governs all things. ~ Thales
  • Strongest is Necessity because it governs all things.
    • Thales, as quoted in Symbolism of the Sphere : A Contribution to the History of Earlier Greek Philosophy (1977), by Otto Brendel p. 36

U[edit]

V[edit]

Necessity relieves us from the embarrassment of choice. ~ Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues
  • Le superflu, chose très nécessaire.
    • The superfluous, a very necessary thing.
    • Voltaire, Le Mondain

W[edit]

For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. ~ Franz Werfel
Necessity first mothered invention. Now invention has little ones of her own, and they look just like grandma. ~ E. B. White
  • He who does not realize to what extent shifting fortune and necessity hold in subjection every human spirit, cannot regard as fellow-creatures nor love as he loves himself those whom chance separated from him by an abyss. The variety of constraints pressing upon man give rise to the illusion of several distinct species that cannot communicate. Only he who has measured the dominion of force, and knows how not to respect it, is capable of love and justice.
    • Simone Weil, "The Iliad or The Poem of Force" (1940-1941) in Simone Weil : An Anthology (1986) edited by Siân Miles, p.192
  • For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.
    • Franz Werfel, as quoted in Philippine Studies (1953) by Ateneo de Manila, p. 269
  • Necessity first mothered invention. Now invention has little ones of her own, and they look just like grandma.
    • E. B. White, in "The Old and the New," in The New Yorker (19 June 1937)
  • Who, doomed to go in company with Pain
    And Fear and Bloodshed,—miserable train!—
    Turns his necessity to glorious gain.
  • Necessity, the mother of invention.

X[edit]

Y[edit]

Z[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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