From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
When what is ordered by an authority is opposed to the object for which that authority was constituted, ... not only is there no obligation to obey the authority, but one is obliged to disobey it, as did the holy martyrs who suffered death rather than obey the impious commands of tyrants. ~ Thomas Aquinas

Authority is power given by the state (in the form of Members of Parliament, Judges, Police Officers, etc.) or by academic knowledge of an area (someone can be an authority on a subject).

Arranged alphabetically by author or source:
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


  • By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion.
  • Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.


  • All authority must be out of a man's self, turned * * * either upon an art, or upon a man.
    • Francis Bacon, Natural History, Century X, Touching emission of immateriate virtues, etc.
  • I don't give a shit who says what. If the muthafucka is wrong, he's wrong. ... In this country, authority is a cover for wrong. I don't respect wrong and I don't respect authority that represents wrong.
  • The peaceful transfer of authority is rare in history, yet common in our country. With a simple oath, we affirm old traditions and make new beginnings.
  • Authority intoxicates,
    And makes mere sots of magistrates;
    The fumes of it invade the brain,
    And make men giddy, proud, and vain.
    • Samuel Butler, Miscellaneous Thoughts, line 283, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 47.


  • While we bicker day-to-day about this politician or that one, the true power players like the military industrial complex are doing things like creating A.I. that will control our future world. By keeping us preoccupied with nonsense, they can build our prison in peace & quiet.
  • We desperately need a sociopath test for all politicians. We have the technology to find out if people lack empathy. If they do, they should be banned from running for office, serving on corporate boards, or having any kind of authority.
  • Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, "authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse."
  • In Amazon societies, women were mothers and their society's only warriors; mothers and their society's only hunters; mothers and their society's only political and religious leaders. No division of labor based on sex seems to have existed in such societies. Although Amazon leaders existed and queens were elected, the societies seem to have been...ones in which any woman could aspire to and achieve full human expression.
  • I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.


  • There is no greater mindlessness and absurdity than to force conscience and the spirit with external power, when only their creator has authority for them.
    • As quoted in "The Transylvania Journey" by Rev. Michael McGee (25 July 2004), and in Whose God? and Three Related Works (2007) by Benjamin C. Godfrey, p. 61
  • Autoritätsdusel ist der größte Feind der Wahrheit.
    • Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
    • Ferenc David Letter to Jost Winteler (1901), quoted in The Private Lives of Albert Einstein by Roger Highfield and Paul Carter (1993), p. 79. Einstein had been annoyed that Paul Drude, editor of Annalen der Physik, had dismissed out of hand some criticisms Einstein made of Drude's electron theory of metals.
  • Nearest the king, nearest the gallows.
    • Danish proverb, in A Book of Proverbs, edited by Raymond Lamont_Brown (1970), p. 135
  • All authority is violence. [...] We may well assume that not all those who govern have the courage to make such a confession; and furthermore it might be dangerous for them to make it too loudly. They try to mask the crime from themselves; at least they try to conceal it from the notice of those who submit to their law. If they can not totally deny it, they attempt to justify it. The most radical justification would be to demonstrate that it is necessary: it then ceases to be a crime, it becomes fatality.


  • It's utterly incomprehensible to me how someone could say we don’t need a teaching authority of the Church. If we have five Bible scriptures and 18 opinions regarding them, who is to determine? Either it's the fact that My intellect is better than yours; I've studied more than you; I can persuade better than you can; I'm more passionate than you that makes my opinion win over yours. Or we have a teaching authority that says, The rule book says this is how you settle this issue.
  • Authorities ... are where they are only because God is allowing them to be there. They exist only at his sufferance. And if God is willing to put up with...the Roman Empire, you ought to be willing to put up with it, too. There is no indication God has called you to clear it out of the way or get it converted for him. You can't fight an Empire without becoming like the Roman Empire; so you had better leave such matters in God's hands where they belong.
    • Vernard Eller, Christian Anarchy: Jesus’ Primacy Over the Powers (1987)
  • Auctoritas siquidem ex vera ratione processit, ratio vero nequaquam ex auctoritate. Omnis enim auctoritas, quae vera ratione non approbatur, infirma videtur esse. Vera autem ratio, quum virtutibus suis rata atque immutabilis munitur, nullius auctoritatis adstipulatione roborari indigent.
    • For authority proceeds from true reason, but reason certainly does not proceed from authority. For every authority which is not upheld by true reason is seen to be weak, whereas true reason is kept firm and immutable by her own powers and does not require to be confirmed by the assent of any authority.
    • Johannes Scotus Eriugena (815 – c. 877) De Divisione Naturae, Bk. 1, ch. 69; translation by I. P. Sheldon-Williams, cited from Peter Dronke (ed.) A History of Twelfth-Century Western Philosophy (Cambridge: CUP, 1988) p. 2.
  • Let’s look at the real world and set who is causing all this violence and repression of human rights. The wholesale murder by standing armies in World Wars I and II, the pillage and tape of former colonial counties, military invasions or so-called “police operations” in Korea and Vietnam — all of these have been done by governments. It is government and state/class rule, which is the source of all violence. This includes all governments. The so-called “Communist” world is not communist and the “Free” world is not free. East and West, Capitalism, private or state remains an inhuman type of society where the vast majority is bossed at work, at home, and in the community. Propaganda (news and literary), policemen and soldiers, prisons and schools, traditional values and morality all serve to reinforce the power of the few and to convince or correct the many into passive acceptance of a brutal degrading and irrational system. This is what Anarchists mean by authority being oppression, and it is just such authoritarian rule which is at work in the United States of America, as well as the “Communist” governments of China or Cuba.


  • I feel boundless anger against parental authority, which crushed me under the high-sounding name of parental love, and against state and social authority, which abused me in the name of universal love.
  • Because the wielders of power continue to defend their authority in the usual manner and oppress the weak – and because my past experience has been a story of oppression by all sources of authority – I decided to deny the rights of all authority, rebel against them, and stake not only my own life but that of all humanity on this endeavor.


  • Mistakes made by influential scholars are indeed liable to be repeated by later generations content to rest in the unstable shade of authority.
    • Goudriaan 1987: 294. quoted from Schetelich, M. (2002). Bild, Abbild, Mythos-die Arier in den Arbeiten deutscher Indologen. " Arier" und" Draviden", 40-56. page 50






  • Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


  • I have worked for this restlessness oriented toward inward deepening. But “without authority.” Instead of conceitedly making myself out to be a witness for the truth and causing others rashly to want to be the same, I am an unauthorized poet who influences by means of the ideas.
  • If, in order to make someone get out of my room, I have to use force, I have to change my own behaviour to realise the act in question, and I show through this behaviour that I have no authority; things are completely different if I do not move and this person leaves the room, that is to say, changes, as a result of my simply saying 'get out!' If the given order provokes a discussion, that is to say, forces the one who gives it to do something himself – namely engage in a discussion – as a function of this order, then there is no authority. And even less so if the discussion leads to giving up the order or even to a compromise, that is to say, precisely to changing the act that was supposed to provoke an outward change without itself changing.
  • Obviously, absolute Authority in the strong sense of the word is never realised in fact. Only God is held to possess it.


  • The Speech... “Let’s face’s a dog-eat-dog world... Every man for himself. For all your ideas about making the world a better place, when it comes down to it, everyone’s just interested in their own skin. It’s a rat race. That’s the way all of nature works... The survival of the fittest... People like you want to change the world. But when you’ve had the experience I’ve had, you’ll know better. Our society is structured this way simply because that’s what works best... This type of conversation...channels the themes we hear every day from those in a position of authority — from talking heads on TV, from successful businesspeople, from teachers, from school textbooks... its ideas seep into our daily thoughts... They infuse much of what is accepted as indisputably true in most conversations that take place about world affairs. They are so pervasive that most of us never question them...
    In fact, every one of those building blocks is flawed. ...This worldview has accomplished a lot. It wrested intellectual control from the hidebound superstitions of traditional Christian theology, and laid the foundation for modern science — one of humanity’s greatest achievements. But it has also been an underlying cause of the horrendous devastation suffered by non-European peoples and cultures, and boundless destruction of the natural world. And the fundamental flaws in its construction have now become so gaping that they threaten the very survival of our civilization—and much of the living Earth... Many people across the globe are realizing that there is something terribly wrong with the direction our world is headed.
  • These basic elements, give or take a few, form the foundation of the predominant worldview. They infuse much of what is accepted as indisputably true in most conversations that take place about world affairs. They are so pervasive that most of us never question them. We feel they must be based on solid facts —why else would all those people in positions of authority rely on them? That’s the characteristic that makes a worldview so powerful. Like fish that don’t realize they’re swimming in water because it’s all they know, we tend to assume that our worldview simply describes the world the way it is—rather than recognizing it’s a constructed lens that shapes our thoughts and ideas into certain preconditioned patterns.


  • This my dear friend is the one truly great contribution of my Wonder Woman strip to moral education of the young. The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound--enjoy submission to kind authority, wise authority, not merely tolerate such submission. Wars will only cease when humans enjoy being bound.
  • I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.
  • Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.
  • Both political Parties, and the remnants of Liberalism as well, stand bound by the great vested interests of "Right" and "Left" which created them. In Opposition, there is the same profusion of promise; in office, the same apathy and inertia. In post-War England,their creeds have become platitudes; they consistently fail to grapple with the problems of the time. Their rule has led, with tragic inevitability, to the present chaos. Therefore our Fascist Movement seeks on the one hand authority as the basis of all solid achievement; we seek, on the other hand, progress, which can be achieved only by the executive instrument that order, authority and decision alone can give.
    • Oswald Mosley, The Greater Britain, 1932. Quoted in Joel H. Wiener,Great Britain: the lion at home: a documentary history of domestic policy, 1689-1973: Volume 4, 1974. Chelsea House publishers, New York. Also in Walter L. Arnstein, The Past Speaks: Sources and Problems in British History, Lexington, Mass. : D.C. Heath, 1993.






  • Officium officialium, quorum te numero aggregasti, hodie est, jura confundere, suscitare lites, transactiones rescindere, innectere dilationes, suprimere veritatem, fovere mendacium, quaestum sequi, aeqitatem vendere, inhiare exactionibus, versutias concinnare.
    • The role of officials today is to upset the laws, to stir up lawsuits, to annul agreements, to devise delays, to suppress the truth, to encourage falsehood, to follow profit, to sell justice, to attend closely to exacting money, to practise cunning.
    • Peter of Blois letter 25, to the Judicial Vicar of the Bishop of Chartres, in J. A. Giles (ed.) Petri blesensis bathoniensis archidiaconi opera omnia (Oxonii: J. H. Parker, 1846-7) vol. 1, p. 91; translation from Walter Bower and D. E. R. Watt (eds.) Scotichronicon (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1987) vol. 7, p. 61.
Genuine authority constrains the arbitrary exercise of power.
  • Authority is not mere power, and it is extremely unhelpful, even dangerous, to confuse the two. When people exert power over others, they compel them, forcefully. They apply the threat of privation or punishment so their subordinates have little choice but to act in a manner contrary to their personal needs, desires, and values. When people wield authority, by contrast, they do so because of their competence—a competence that is spontaneously recognized and appreciated by others, and generally followed willingly, with a certain relief, and with the sense that justice is being served. […]
Now, power may accompany authority, and perhaps it must. However, and more important, genuine authority constrains the arbitrary exercise of power. This constraint manifests itself when the authoritative agent cares, and takes responsibility, for those over whom the exertion of power is possible. The oldest child can take accountability for his younger siblings, instead of domineering over and teasing and torturing them, and can learn in that manner how to exercise authority and limit the misuse of power. Even the youngest can exercise appropriate authority over the family dog.




  • To modern educated people, it seems obvious that matters of fact are to be ascertained by observation, not by consulting ancient authorities. But this is an entirely modern conception, which hardly existed before the seventeenth century. Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths. He said also that children would be healthier if conceived when the wind is in the north. One gathers that the two Mrs. Aristotles both had to run out and look at the weathercock every evening before going to bed. He states that a man bitten by a mad dog will not go mad, but any other animal will (Hiss. Am., 704a); that the bite of the shrewmouse is dangerous to horses, especially if the mouse is pregnant (ibid., 604.b); that elephants suffering from insomnia can be cured by rubbing their shoulders with salt, olive oil, and warm water (ibid., 605.a); and so on and so on. Nevertheless, classical dons, who have never observed any animal except the cat and the dog, continue to praise Aristotle for his fidelity to observation.


  • Shall remain!
    Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you
    His absolute "shall"?
  • Thou hast seen a farmer's dog bark at a beggar,
    And the creature run from the cur:
    There, thou might'st behold the great image of authority;
    A dog's obeyed in office.
  • Those he commands, move only in command,
    Nothing in love: now does he feel his title
    Hang loose about him, like a giant's robe
    Upon a dwarfish thief.
  • But man, proud man,
    Drest in a little brief authority,
    Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd,
    His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
    Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
    As make the angels weep.
  • [W]hen reason’s voice,
    Loud as the voice of Nature, shall have waked
    The nations; and mankind perceive that vice
    Is discord, war and misery; that virtue
    Is peace and happiness and harmony;
    When man’s maturer nature shall disdain
    The playthings of its childhood; -kingly glare
    Will lose its power to dazzle, its authority
    Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne
    Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall,
    Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood’s trade
    Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
    As that of truth is now.


The order of authority derives from God, as the Apostle says [in Romans 13:1-7]. For this reason, the duty of obedience is, for the Christian, a consequence of this derivation of authority from God, and ceases when that ceases. But, as we have already said, authority may fail to derive from God for two reasons: either because of the way in which authority has been obtained, or in consequence of the use which is made of it. ~ Thomas Aquinas
  • Punitis ingeniis, gliscit auctoritas.
    • When men of talents are punished, authority is strengthened.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), IV. 35.
  • Authority forgets a dying king
    Laid widow'd of the power in his eye
    That bow'd the will.
  • The order of authority derives from God, as the Apostle says [in Romans 13:1-7]. For this reason, the duty of obedience is, for the Christian, a consequence of this derivation of authority from God, and ceases when that ceases. But, as we have already said, authority may fail to derive from God for two reasons: either because of the way in which authority has been obtained, or in consequence of the use which is made of it. There are two ways in which the first may occur. Either because of a defect in the person, if he is unworthy; or because of some defect in the way itself by which power was acquired, if, for example, through violence, or simony or some other illegal method.
    • Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, in Aquinas: Selected Political Writings (Basil Blackwell: 1974), p. 183
  • With regard to the abuse of authority, this also may come about in two ways. First, when what is ordered by an authority is opposed to the object for which that authority was constituted (if, for example, some sinful action is commanded or one which is contrary to virtue, when it is precisely for the protection and fostering of virtue that authority is instituted). In such a case, not only is there no obligation to obey the authority, but one is obliged to disobey it, as did the holy martyrs who suffered death rather than obey the impious commands of tyrants. Secondly, when those who bear such authority command things which exceed the competence of such authority; as, for example, when a master demands payment from a servant which the latter is not bound to make, and other similar cases. In this instance the subject is free to obey or disobey.
    • Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, in Aquinas: Selected Political Writings (Basil Blackwell: 1974), p. 183
  • The ambiguity of leadership in the sense of authority starts the moment that actual authority, which is based on the division of experience, is frozen into an authority bound to a particular social position. ... All institutional hierarchy is based on this transformation of actual into established authority.
    • Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume 3 (University of Chicago Press: 1957), p. 83
  • Authority is ... open to rejection in the name of justice. Established authority tries to prevent such rejection, and here an ambiguity appears: a successful rejection of authority would undercut the social structure of life, whereas a surrender to authority would destroy the basis of authority—the personal self and its claim for justice.
    • Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume 3 (University of Chicago Press: 1957), p. 83






  • Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. Far from being rivals or enemies religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistance. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other.
    • James Wilson, The Works of the Honourable James Wilson (Philadelphia: Bronson and Chauncey, 1804), Vol. I, pp. 106 & 103-105.
  • It seemed even the smallest exercise of arbitrary authority could go to one’s head like wine. I told myself to remember this when I was older.
    • John C. Wright, Orphans of Chaos (2005), Chapter 4, “Headmaster Boggin” Section 1







See also

Wikipedia has an article about:
Social and political philosophy
Ideologies Anarchism ⦿ Aristocratic Radicalism (NietzscheBrandes...) ⦿ Autarchism ⦿ Ba'athism (• Aflaqal-AssadHussein) ⦿ Communism ⦿ (Neo-)Confucianism ⦿ Conservatism ⦿ Constitutionalism ⦿ Dark Enlightenment ⦿ Environmentalism ⦿ Fascism (• Islamo-Eco-Francoism...) vs. Nazism ⦿ Feminism (• Anarcha-RadicalGender-criticalSecond-wave...) ⦿ Formalism/(Neo-)cameralism ⦿ Freudo-Marxism ⦿ Gaddafism/Third International Theory ⦿ Legalism ⦿ Leninism/Vanguardism ⦿ Juche (• Kim Il-sungKim Jong IlKim Jong Un...) ⦿ Liberalism ⦿ Libertarianism/Laissez-faire Capitalism ⦿ Maoism ⦿ Marxism ⦿ Mohism ⦿ Republicanism ⦿ Social democracy ⦿ Socialism ⦿ Stalinism ⦿ Straussianism ⦿ Syndicalism ⦿ Xi Jinping thought ⦿ New Monasticism (• MacIntyreDreher...)
Modalities Absolutism vs. Social constructionism/Relativism ⦿ Autarky/Autonomy vs. Heteronomy ⦿ Authoritarianism/Totalitarianism ⦿ Colonialism vs. Imperialism ⦿ Communitarianism vs. Liberalism ⦿ Elitism vs. Populism/Majoritarianism/Egalitarianism ⦿ Individualism vs. Collectivism ⦿ Nationalism vs. Cosmopolitanism ⦿ Particularism vs. Universalism ⦿ Modernism/Progressivism vs. Postmodernism ⦿ Reactionism/Traditionalism vs. Futurism/Transhumanism
Concepts Alienation ⦿ Anarcho-tyranny ⦿ Anomie ⦿ Authority ⦿ Conquest's Laws of Politics ⦿ Duty ⦿ Eugenics ⦿ Elite ⦿ Elite theory ⦿ Emancipation ⦿ Equality ⦿ Freedom ⦿ Government ⦿ Hegemony ⦿ Hierarchy ⦿ Iron law of oligarchy ⦿ Justice ⦿ Law ⦿ Monopoly ⦿ Natural law ⦿ Noblesse oblige ⦿ Norms ⦿ Obedience ⦿ Peace ⦿ Pluralism ⦿ Polyarchy ⦿ Power ⦿ Propaganda ⦿ Property ⦿ Revolt ⦿ Rebellion ⦿ Revolution ⦿ Rights ⦿ Ruling class ⦿ Social contract ⦿ Social inequality ⦿ Society ⦿ State ⦿ Tocqueville effect ⦿ Totalitarian democracy ⦿ War ⦿ Utopia
Government Aristocracy ⦿ Autocracy ⦿ Bureaucracy ⦿ Dictatorship ⦿ Democracy ⦿ Meritocracy ⦿ Monarchy ⦿ Ochlocracy ⦿ Oligarchy ⦿ Plutocracy ⦿ Technocracy ⦿ Theocracy ⦿ Tyranny