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This person would establish his appetitive and money-making part on the throne, setting it up as a great king within himself. ... He makes the rational and spirited parts sit on the ground beneath appetite, one on either side, reducing them to slaves. He won't allow the first to reason about or examine anything except how a little money can be made into great wealth. And he won't allow the second to value or admire anything but wealth and wealthy people or to have any ambition other than the acquisition of wealth. ~ Plato
If you wish to remove avarice you must remove its mother, luxury. ~ Cicero
The love of gain, which is a large, incalculably large, element in every soul, when once applied to the desire for God, will bless the man who has it. ~ Gregory of Nyssa

Greed (or avarice or covetousness) is the self-serving desire for the pursuit of money, wealth, power, food, or other possessions, especially when this denies the same goods to others. It is generally considered a vice, and is one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism.



  • You begrudge your fellow human beings what you yourself enjoy; taking wicked counsel in your soul, you consider not how you might distribute to others according to their needs, but rather how, after having received so many good things, you might rob others.
    • Basil of Caesarea, Homily 6, “I Shall Tear Down My Barns,” C. P. Schroeder, trans., in Saint Basil on Social Justice (2009), p. 62
  • "But whom do I treat unjustly," you say, "by keeping what is my own?" Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all in common — this is what the rich do. They seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need.
    • Basil of Caesarea, Homily 6, “I Shall Tear Down My Barns,” C. P. Schroeder, trans., in Saint Basil on Social Justice (2009), p. 69
  • Who are the greedy? Those who are not satisfied with what suffices for their own needs. Who are the robbers? Those who take for themselves what rightfully belongs to everyone. And you, are you not greedy? Are you not a robber? The things you received in trust as a stewardship, have you not appropriated them for yourself? Is not the person who strips another of clothing called a thief? And those who do not clothe the naked when they have the power to do so, should they not be called the same? The bread you are holding back is for the hungry, the clothes you keep put away are for the naked, the shoes that are rotting away with disuse are for those who have none, the silver you keep buried in the earth is for the needy. You are thus guilty of injustice toward as many as you might have aided, and did not.
    • Basil of Caesarea, Homily 6, “I Shall Tear Down My Barns,” C. P. Schroeder, trans., in Saint Basil on Social Justice (2009), p. 70
  • The love of gain, which is a large, incalculably large, element in every soul, when once applied to the desire for God, will bless the man who has it.
  • Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.
  • Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.
  • Nature … has born and reared all men alike, and created them genuine brothers, not in mere name, but in very reality, though this kinship has been put to confusion by the triumph of malignant covetousness, which has wrought estrangement instead of affinity and enmity instead of friendship.
    • Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 79.
  • We must mention the higher, nobler wealth, which does not belong to all, but to truly noble and divinely gifted men. This wealth is bestowed by wisdom through the doctrines and principles of ethic, logic and physic, and from these spring the virtues, which rid the soul of its proneness to extravagance, and engender the love of contentment and frugality, which will assimilate it to God. For God has no wants, He needs nothing, being in Himself all-sufficient to Himself, while the fool has many wants, ever thirsting for what is not there, longing to gratify his greedy and insatiable desire, which he fans into a blaze like a fire and brings both great and small within its reach. But the man of worth has few wants, standing midway between mortality and immortality.
    • Philo, On The Virtues, F. Colson, trans. (1939), pp. 167-169.
  • Don't you think that this person would establish his appetitive and money-making part on the throne, setting it up as a great king within himself, adorning it with golden tiaras and collars and girding it with Persian swords?
I do.
He makes the rational and spirited parts sit on the ground beneath appetite, one on either side, reducing them to slaves. He won't allow the first to reason about or examine anything except how a little money can be made into great wealth. And he won't allow the second to value or admire anything but wealth and wealthy people or to have any ambition other than the acquisition of wealth.
  • Plato, Socrates and Adeimantus in The Republic, 553b-d, G. Grube and C. Reeve, trans., Plato: Complete Works (1997), pp. 1164-1165
  • So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

Sixteenth century[edit]

  • Covet. I am Covetousness, begotten of an old churl in a leather bag: and might I now obtain my wish, this house, you and all, should turn to gold, that I might lock you safe into my chest. O my sweet gold!
    • Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, Act II, Sc II, ln. 127-130 (1616 edition).
  • Excess of wealth is cause of covetousness.

Seventeenth century[edit]

  • When everyone covets something, they are easily annoyed by it.
  • Men hate the individual whom they call avaricious only because nothing can be gained from him.
    • Voltaire [François Marie Arouet] (1694-1778), French philosopher and essayist. [Philosophical Dictionary (1764).
  • Covetousness brings nothing home.
    • English proverb, from J. Clarke's Paroemiologia Anglo-Latina (1614).
  • When all sins grow old, covetousness is young.
    • English proverb. As noted in George Herbert's Jacula Prudentum (1651).

Eighteenth century[edit]

  • Greedy folk have long arms.
    • English proverb. As noted in J. Kelly's Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs (1721).
  • Benevolence may, perhaps, be the sole principle of action in the Deity, and there are several, not improbable, arguments which tend to persuade us that it is so. It is not easy to conceive what other motive an independent and all-perfect Being, who stands in need of nothing external, and whose happiness is complete in himself, can act from. But whatever may be the case with the Deity, so imperfect a creature as man, the support of whose existence requires so many things external to him, must often act from many other motives. The condition of human nature were peculiarly hard, if those affections, which, by the very nature of our being, ought frequently to influence our conduct, could upon no occasion appear virtuous, or deserve esteem and commendation from any body.
    • Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), 7.2.89

Nineteenth century[edit]

  • The people who believe most that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being very rich, and who most give their lives and thoughts to becoming rich, are just the very people whom we call the Philistines. Culture says: “Consider these people, then, their way of life, their habits, their manners, the very tones of their voice; look at them attentively; observe the literature they read, the things which give them pleasure, the words which come forth out of their mouths, the thoughts which make the furniture of their minds; would any amount of wealth be worth having with the condition that one was to become just like these people by having it?”
    • Matthew Arnold, “Sweetness and Light,” Culture and Anarchy (1869), p. 16.
  • The covetousness or the malignity, which saddens me, when I ascribe it to society, is my own. I am environed by my self.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), American essayist, poet and aphorist. 'Character', Essays, Second Series.
  • In aristocracies, it is not precisely work that is scorned, but work with a view to profit. Work is glorious when ambition or virtue alone makes one undertake it. Under aristocracy, nevertheless, it constantly happens that he who works for honor is not insensitive to the lure of gain. But these two desires meet only in the depth of his soul. He takes much care to conceal from all regard the place where they unite. ... Thus the idea of gain remains distinct from that of work. No matter that they are joined in fact. ... In democratic societies, these two ideas are, on the contrary, always visibly united.
  • Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold.

Twentieth century[edit]

  • If money is, as it is often posited, the root of all evil, then where does that leave greed? Let's do the math: Greed takes up most of your time and most of your money, so therefore greed = time x money. And, as we all know, time = money. Ergo, greed = money x money. So, if money is the square root of all evil, then we are forced to conclude that greed is evil as well, perhaps even more so, in that it forced us to do math.
    But when does the desire to simply possess something turn into unchecked greed? That's easy: when the things that you possess start possessing you.
    • Dale E. Basye and Bob Dob, in Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck (2009), "Backword", p. 361.
  • Marketers keep inventing desires, necessities for you and for me. I need this. I need that. I need. I need. It’s the need of a smoking fit. If you don’t smoke that cigarette now, you’ll die—when in reality you die because you succumb to the rage and rattle of the needy greed that keeps you busy needing more and more things. Is this the American Dream—the greedy need?"
    • novelist Giannina Braschi, from the chapter "Piggybank" in "United States of Banana", 2011.
  • Greed will always leave you dissatisfied because you'll never be able to get everything you desire. Greed never allows you to think you have enough; it always destroys you by making you strive ever harder for more.
    • Rabbi Benjamin Blech, American academic and writer. Taking Stock: A Spiritual Guide to Rising Above Life's Financial Ups and Downs (2003).
  • We find greedy men, blind with the lust for money, trafficking in human misery.
    • Thomas C. Clark, address before the Boston Chamber of Commerce, Boston, Massachusetts (October 8, 1947); reported in Boston Business (November 1947), p. 16.
  • The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need but not for every man's greed.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, as quoted by Pyarelal Nayyar in Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase (Volume 10), page 552 (1958).
  • Greed, like the love of comfort, is a kind of fear.
    • Cyril Connolly (1903–1974), British literary critic and author. The Unquiet Grave (1944).
  • The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms: greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind, and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.
  • Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.
    • Erich Fromm (1900–1980), American psychologist. Escape from Freedom (1941).
  • The excesses of the 80s must not reappear in the 90s, The last thing we need now is a return to the 80s philosophy of 'greed is good' and that the only useful interest is self-interest.
    • Paul Keating, from a speech he delivered in Bankstown, New South Wales on the 24th of February 1993

  • what man calls civilization
    always results in deserts
    man is never on the square
    he uses up the fat and greenery of the earth
    each generation wastes a little more
    of the future with greed and lust for riches
    • Don Marquis, "What the Ants Are Saying," stanza 5, Archy Does His Part, in The Lives and Times of Archy & Mehitabel (1950), p. 475.
  • I have never understood why it is "greed" to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.
    • Thomas Sowell, American economist and political commentator. Barbarians Inside the Gates: And Other Controversial Essays (1999).
  • Greed is alright, by the way. I think greed is healthy. I want you to know that, I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.
    • Ivan Frederick Boesky Former Wall Street arbitrageur (notable for his prominent role in an insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States in the mid 1980s). Quotation from his Commencement speech at School of Business Administration the University of California, Berkeley, 18th May 1986.
  • If you take away ideology, you are left with a case by case ethics which in practise ends up as me first, me only, and in rampant greed.
    • Richard Nelson, American playwright. From the Independent (UK) newspaper, 12th July 1989.
  • There is nothing inherently wrong with greed as a human motivator—greed motivating evolution.
    • Oliver Stone, American film director. Taken from DVD Director's commentory (2000) on his film, Wall Street.
  • Lesson number one: Don't underestimate ... the other guy's greed!
  • Lust and greed are more gullible than innocence.
    • Mason Cooley (1927-2002), American literary academic and aphorist. City Aphorisms, Eighth Selection (1991).
  • Greed often finds more pleasure in taking from others than in giving to itself.
    • Simon May, English philosopher. The Pocket Philosopher: a handbook of Aphorisms (1999).
  • Enter stranger, but take heed
    Of what awaits the sin of greed,
    For those who take, but do not earn,
    Must pay most dearly in their turn.
    • J. K. Rowling, 'Diagon Alley', Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997).
  • Greed is eternal.
  • The pronouns "my" and "mine" look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God's gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 53.
  • So for a good old-gentlemanly vice,
    I think I must take up with avarice.
  • Avaritiam si tollere vultis, mater ejus est tollenda, luxuries.
    • If you wish to remove avarice you must remove its mother, luxury.
    • Cicero, De Oratore, II, 40.
  • Ac primam scelerum matrem, quæ semper habendo
    Plus sitiens patulis rimatur faucibus aurum,
    Trudis Avaritiam.
    • Expel avarice, the mother of all wickedness, who, always thirsty for more, opens wide her jaws for gold.
    • Claudianus, De Laudibus Stilichonis, II, 111.
  • Non propter vitam faciunt patrimonia quidam,
    Sed vitio cæci propter patrimonia vivunt.
    • Some men make fortunes, but not to enjoy them; for, blinded by avarice, they live to make fortunes.
    • Juvenal, Satires, XII, 50.
  • Crescit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia crescit.
    • The love of pelf increases with the pelf.
    • Juvenal, Satires, XIV, 139.
  • That disease
    Of which all old men sicken, avarice.
  • There grows,
    In my most ill-compos'd affection such
    A stanchless avarice, that, were I king,
    I should cut off the nobles for their lands.
  • Desunt inopiæ multa, avaritiæ omnia.
    • Poverty wants much; but avarice, everything.
    • Publilius Syrus, Maxims, 441.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • It is impossible to conceive any contrast more entire and absolute than that which exists between a heart glowing with love to God, and a heart in which the love of money has cashiered all sense of God — His love, His presence, His glory; and which is no sooner relieved from the mockery of a tedious round of religious formalism, than it reverts to the sanctuaries where its wealth is invested, with an intenseness of homage surpassing that of the most devout Israelite who ever, from a foreign land, turned his longing eyes toward Jerusalem.
  • Avarice is to the intellect what sensuality is to the morals —
  • Objects close to the eye shut out much larger objects on the horizon; and splendors born only of the earth eclipse the stars. So a man sometimes covers up the entire disk of eternity with a dollar, and quenches transcendent glories with a little shining dust.
  • Jesus, save me from the infatuation of avarice! I, too, will lay up a treasure, but Thou shalt have the keeping of it.

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