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That which especially distinguishes a high order of man from a low order of man, that which constitutes human goodness, human nobleness, is surely not the degree of enlightenment with which men pursue their own advantage; but it is self-forgetfulness; it is self-sacrifice; it is the disregard of personal pleasure, personal indulgence, personal advantage, remote or present, because some other line of conduct is more right. ~ James Anthony Froude
They live best, I think, who strive best to become as good as possible: and the pleasantest life is theirs who are conscious that they are growing in goodness. ~ Xenophon

Good, or Goodness, are terms designating desired, healthy or proper qualites, in contrast with undesired bad, harmful or evil qualites.

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  • If the function of man is an activity of soul which follows or implies a rational principle, ... and we state the function of man to be a certain kind of life, and this to be an activity or actions of the soul implying a rational principle, and the function of a good man to be the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed when it is performed in accordance with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete.
    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, Chapter 7.


  • Some good we all can do; and if we do all that is in our power, however little that power may be, we have performed our part, and may be as near perfection as those whose influence extends over kingdoms, and whose good actions are felt and applauded by thousands.


  • Goodness is always an asset. A man who is straight, friendly and useful may never be famous, but he is respected and liked by all who know him. He has laid a sound foundation for success and he will have a worthwhile life.
  • He who so interprets the supreme good as to disjoin it from virtue, and measures it by his own convenience, and not by the standard of right,—he, I say, if he be consistent with himself, and be not sometimes overcome by natural goodness, can cultivate neither friendship, nor justice, nor generosity.


  • Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


  • Only those few people who practice it believe in goodness.
  • Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist ... must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.


  • That which especially distinguishes a high order of man from a low order of man, that which constitutes human goodness, human nobleness, is surely not the degree of enlightenment with which men pursue their own advantage; but it is self-forgetfulness; it is self-sacrifice; it is the disregard of personal pleasure, personal indulgence, personal advantage, remote or present, because some other line of conduct is more right.


  • Only the mediocre are always at their best.
  • I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.
    • Attributed to Stephen Grellet, variants of this have been been widely circulated as a Quaker saying since at least 1869, and attributed Grellet since at least 1893. W. Gurney Benham in Benham's Book of Quotations, Proverbs, and Household Words (1907) states that though sometimes attributed to others, "there seems to be some authority in favor of Stephen Grellet being the author, but the passage does not appear in any of his printed works." It appears to have been published as an anonymous proverb at least as early as 1859, when it appeared in Household Words : A Weekly Journal.


  • Every person has the choice between Good and Evil. Choose Good, and stand against those who would choose Evil.
    • Friedrich Kellner, “Welt muss mehr denn je diese Botschaft hören,” Giessener Allgemeine Zeitung, Giessen, Germany, April 12, 2005.


  • 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. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.
  • Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger — according to the way you react to it.


  • All other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not the science of goodness.
    • Montaigne, Essays, M. Screech, trans. (1991), Book I, ch. 25, “On Schoolmasters’ Learning,” p. 159


  • We care so little of other people that even Christianity urges us to do good for the love of God.
  • He that does good for good's sake seeks neither praise nor reward, though sure of both at last.
    • William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude in Reflections and Maxims (1682) no. 441.
  • Nor is it a matter for wonder that the good do not appear herded in great thongs. First because specimens of great goodness are rare, secondly, because they avoid the great crowd of the more thoughtless and keep themselves at leisure for the contemplation of what nature has to show.
    • Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 63
  • Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.
  • The more skillfully the language of goodness is assumed, the greater the depravity.
    • Publius Syrus, The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus (1856), # 114


  • In philosophy, hitherto, ethical neutrality has been seldom sought and hardly ever achieved. Men have remembered their wishes, and have judged philosophies in relation to their wishes. Driven from the particular sciences, the belief that the notions of good and evil must afford a key to the understanding of the world has sought a refuge in philosophy. But even from this last refuge, if philosophy is not to remain a set of pleasing dreams, this belief must be driven forth [out]. It is a commonplace that happiness is not best achieved by those who seek it directly; and it would seem that the same is true of the good. In thought, at any rate, those who forget the good and evil and seek only to know the facts are more likely to achieve good than those who view the world through the distorting medium of their own desires.


  • I judge things from an evolutionary perspective — "How does this serve and contribute to the process of our own evolution?" — rather than think of good and evil in moral terms. I see the triumph of good over evil as a manifestation of the error-correcting process of evolution.
    • Jonas Salk, in Academy of Achievement interview, in San Diego, California (16 May 1991).
  • Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile;
    Filths savour but themselves.
  • It is quite useless to declare that all men are born free if you deny that they are born good. Guarantee a man's goodness and his liberty will take care of itself. To guarantee his freedom on condition that you approve of his moral character is formally to abolish all freedom whatsoever, as every man's liberty is at the mercy of a moral indictment which any fool can trump up against everyone who violates custom, whether as a prophet or as a rascal.
  • People aren't either wicked or noble. They're like chef's salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.
  • For he that is a good man, is three quarters of his way towards the being a good Christian, wheresoever he lives, or whatsoever he is called.
  • Most people are bad; if they are strong they take from the weak. The good people are all weak; they are good because they are not strong enough to be bad.


  • It is not so important that many should be good as you, as that there be some absolute goodness somewhere; for that will leaven the whole lump.
  • The touchstone of goodness is to own one's defeat even to inferiors.
  • What good is that goodness if it does not return good even to those who cause evil?
  • One may slain every goodness and yet escape, but no escape for one who slain gratitude.
  • If goodness has causes, it is not goodness; if it has effects, a reward, it is not goodness either. So goodness is outside the chain of cause and effect.
    • Leo Tolstoy, Levin in Anna Karenina, C. Garnett, trans. (New York: 2003), Part 8, Chapter 12, p. 735
  • Every person has only one purpose: to find perfection in goodness. Therefore, only that knowledge is necessary which leads to this.
    • Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom, P. Sekirin, trans. (1997), May 3


  • Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.
  • What is good looking, as Horace Smith remarks, but looking good? Be good, be womanly, be gentle, — generous in your sympathies, heedful of the well-being of all around you; and, my word for it, you will not lack kind words of admiration.


  • For avoiding slavery to the belly or to sleep and incontinence, is there, think you, any more effective specific than the possession of other and greater pleasures, which are delightful not only to enjoy, but also because they arouse hopes of lasting benefit? ... Do you think then that out of all this thinking there comes anything so pleasant as the thought: ‘I am growing in goodness and I am making better friends'? And that, I may say, is my constant thought.
  • They live best, I think, who strive best to become as good as possible: and the pleasantest life is theirs who are conscious that they are growing in goodness.
  • Human nature is evil; its goodness derives from conscious activity. Now it is human nature to be born with a fondness for profit. Indulging this leads to contention and strife, and the sense of modesty and yielding with which one was born disappears. One is born with feelings of envy and hate, and, by indulging these, one is led into banditry and theft, so that the sense of loyalty and good faith with which he was born disappears. One is born with the desires of the ears and eyes and with a fondness for beautiful sights and sounds, and, by indulging these, one is led to licentiousness and chaos, so that the sense of ritual, rightness, refinement, and principle with which one was born is lost. Hence, following human nature and indulging human emotions will inevitably lead to contention and strife, causing one to rebel against one’s proper duty, reduce principle to chaos, and revert to violence. Therefore one must be transformed by the example of a teacher and guided by the way of ritual and rightness before one will attain modesty and yielding, accord with refinement and ritual, and return to order.
    • Xun Zi, “Human Nature is Evil,” Sources of Chinese Tradition (1999), vol. 1, pp. 179-180

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 326-29.
  • Whatever any one does or says, I must be good.
  • What good I see humbly I seek to do,
    And live obedient to the law, in trust
    That what will come, and must come, shall come well.
    • Edwin Arnold, The Light of Asia (1879), Book VI, line 273.
  • Because indeed there was never law, or sect, or opinion, did so much magnify goodness, as the Christian religion doth.
  • For the cause that lacks assistance,
    The wrong that needs resistance,
    For the future in the distance,
    And the good that I can do.
  • The good he scorned
    Stalked off reluctant, like an ill-used ghost,
    Not to return; or if it did, in visits
    Like those of angels, short and far between.
  • One may not doubt that, somehow Good
    Shall come of Water and of Mud;
    And sure, the reverent eye must see
    A purpose in Liquidity.
  • There shall never be one lost good! What was shall live as before;
    The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
    What was good shall be good, with, for evil, so much good more;
    On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven a perfect round.
  • No good Book, or good thing of any sort, shows its best face at first.
  • Ergo hoc proprium est animi bene constituti, et lætari bonis rebus, et dolere contrariis.
    • This is a proof of a well-trained mind, to rejoice in what is good and to grieve at the opposite.
    • Cicero, De Amicitia, XIII.
  • Homines ad deos nulla re propius accedunt, quam salutem hominibus dando.
    • Men in no way approach so nearly to the gods as in doing good to men.
    • Cicero, Oratio Pro Quinto Ligario, XII.
  • Cui bono?
    • What's the good of it? for whose advantage?
    • Cicero, Oratio Pro Sextio Roscio Amerino, XXX. Quoted from Lucius Cassius—Second Philippic. ("Qui bono fueret.") See Life of Cicero, II. 292. Note.
  • That good diffused may more abundant grow.
  • Doing good,
    Disinterested good, is not our trade.
  • Now, at a certain time, in pleasant mood,
    He tried the luxury of doing good.
  • Who soweth good seed shall surely reap;
    The year grows rich as it groweth old,
    And life's latest sands are its sands of gold!
  • Look around the habitable world, how few
    Know their own good, or knowing it, pursue.
  • If you wish to be good, first believe that you are bad.
  • For all their luxury was doing good.
  • Ein guter Mensch, in seinem dunkeln Drange,
    Ist sich des rechten Weges wohl bewusst.
  • And learn the luxury of doing good.
  • Impell'd with steps unceasing to pursue
    Some fleeting good, that mocks me with the view,
    That, like the circle bounding earth and skies,
    Allures from far, yet, as I follow, flies.
  • If goodness leade him not, yet wearinesse
    May tosse him to my breast.
  • Vir bonus est quis?
    Qui consulta patrum, qui leges juraque servat.
    • Who is a good man? He who keeps the decrees of the fathers, and both human and divine laws.
    • Horace, Epistles, I. 16. 40.
  • God whose gifts in gracious flood
    Unto all who seek are sent,
    Only asks you to be good
    And is content.
  • He was so good he would pour rose-water on a toad.
  • Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?
    • John. I. 46.
  • How near to good is what is fair!
    • Ben Jonson, Love Freed from Ignorance and Folly.
  • Rari quippe boni: numero vix sunt totidem quot
    Thebarum portæ, vel divitis ostia Nili.
    • The good, alas! are few: they are scarcely as many as the gates of Thebes or the mouths of the Nile.
  • Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
    Do noble things, not dream them all day long;
    And so make life, death, and that vast forever
    One grand, sweet song.
  • Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever;
    Do lovely things, not dream them, all day long;
    And so make Life, and Death, and that For Ever,
    One grand sweet song.
    • Charles Kingsley, Farewell. Version in ed. of 1889. Also in Life. Ed. by his wife, Volume I, p. 487, with line: "And so make Life, Death, and that vast For Ever".
  • Weiss
    Dass alle Länder gute Menschen tragen.
  • Segnius homines bona quam mala sentiunt.
    • Men have less lively perception of the good than of the bad.
      • Livy, Annales, XXX. 21.
  • The soil out of which such men as he are made is good to be born on, good to live on, good to die for and to be buried in.
  • Si veris magna paratur
    Fama bonis, et si successu nuda remoto
    Inspicitur virtus, quicquid laudamus in ullo
    Majorum, fortuna fuit.
    • If honest fame awaits the truly good; if setting aside the ultimate success of excellence alone is to be considered, then was his fortune as proud as any to be found in the records of our ancestry.
  • The crest and crowning of all good,
    Life's final star, is Brotherhood.
  • None
    But such as are good men can give good things,
    And that which is not good, is not delicious
    To a well-governed and wise appetite.
  • * * his providence
    Out of our evil seek to bring forth good.
  • A glass is good, and a lass is good,
    And a pipe to smoke in cold weather;
    The world is good, and the people are good,
    And we're all good fellows together.
  • I know and love the good, yet ah! the worst pursue.
    • Petrarch, To Laura in Life, Canzone XXI.
  • Itidemque ut sæpe jam in multis locis,
    Plus insciens quis fecit quam prodens boni.
    • And so it happens oft in many instances; more good is done without our knowledge than by us intended.
  • Bono ingenio me esse ornatam, quam auro multo mavolo.
    Aurum fortuna invenitur, natura ingenium donum.
    Bonam ego, quam beatam me esse nimio dici mavolo.
    • A good disposition I far prefer to gold; for gold is the gift of fortune; goodness of disposition is the gift of nature. I prefer much rather to be called good than fortunate.
  • Every good thing is gentle and consistent, progressing in good order and not going beyond what is right.
  • Gute Menschen können sich leichter in schlimme hineindenken als diese injene.
    • Good men can more easily see through bad men than the latter can the former.
  • You're good for Madge or good for Cis
    Or good for Kate, maybe:
    But what's to me the good of this
    While you're not good for me?
  • Esse quam videri bonus malebat.
    • He preferred to be good, rather than to seem so.
  • What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon also be beautiful.
  • Bonitas non est pessimis esse meliorem.
    • It is not goodness to be better than the very worst.
  • There lives within the very flame of love
    A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it;
    And nothing is at a like goodness still;
    For goodness, growing to a pleurisy,
    Dies in his own too much.
  • There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
    Would men observingly distil it out.
  • I am in this earthly world; where to do harm,
    Is often laudable, to do good sometime
    Accounted dangerous folly.
  • For the Lord Jesus Christ's sake,
    Do all the good you can,
    To all the people you can,
    In all the ways you can,
    As long as ever you can.
    • Tombstone inscription in Shrewsbury, England. Favorite of Mr. Moody.
  • For who is there but you? who not only claim to be a good man and a gentleman, for many are this, and yet have not the power of making others good. Whereas you are not only good yourself, but also the cause of goodness in others.
  • How pleasant is Saturday night,
    When I've tried all the week to be good,
    Not spoken a word that is bad,
    And obliged every one that I could.
  • One person I have to make good: myself. But my duty to my neighbor is much more nearly expressed by saying that I have to make him happy—if I may.
  • She has more goodness in her little finger than he has in his whole body.
  • O, yet we trust that somehow good
    Will be the final goal of ill,
    To pangs of nature, sins of will
    Defects of doubt and taints of blood.
  • 'Tis only noble to be good.
    • Alfred Tennyson, Lady Clara Vere de Vere. Same in Juvenal, Satires, VIII. 24.
  • From seeming evil still educing good.
  • To be good and lead a good life means to give to others more than one takes from them.
  • Man should be ever better than he seems.
  • Le plus grand ennemi du bon, c'est le mieux.
    • The better is the greatest enemy of the good.
    • French proverb, as cited in Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1820), §216.
    • Variants:
      • Dans ses écrits un sage Italien
        Dit que le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.
        • In his writings a wise Italian
          Says that the better is the enemy of the good.
        • Voltaire, La Bégueule (The Prude) (1772)
      • The perfect is the enemy of the good.
        • Modern paraphrase of Voltaire.

  • Roaming in thought over the Universe, I saw the little that is
    Good steadily hastening towards immortality,
    And the vast all that is called Evil I saw hastening to merge itself and become lost and dead.
  • Bene facere et male audire regium est.
    • To do good and be evil spoken of, is kingly.
      • On the Town Hall of Zittau, Saxony. Noted in Carlyle, Frederick the Great, XV. 13.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

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

  • Live for something! Do good and leave behind you a monument of virtue that the storm of time can never destroy. Write your name in kindness, love, and mercy on the hearts of the thousands you come in contact with, year by year, and you will never be forgotten. Your name, your deeds, will be as legible on the hearts you leave behind, as the stars on the brow of evening. Good deeds will shine as the stars of heaven.
  • Goodness consists not in the outward things we do, but in the inward thing we are. To be is the great thing.
  • How many people would like to be good, if only they might be good without taking trouble about it! They do not like goodness well enough to hunger and thirst after it, or to sell all that they have that they may buy it; they will not batter at the gate of the kingdom of heaven; but they look with pleasure on this or that aerial castle of righteousness, and think it would be rather nice to live in it.
  • Great hearts alone understand how much glory there is in being good.
  • Be good my child, and let who will be clever;
    Do noble deeds, not dream them all day long;
    And so make life, death, and that vast forever
    One grand, sweet song.
  • No good thing is ever lost. Nothing dies, not even life which gives up one form only to resume another. No good action, no good example dies. It lives forever in our race. While the frame moulders and disappears, the deed leaves an indelible stamp, and moulds the very thought and will of future generations.
  • For ever and ever, my darling, yes—
    Goodness and love are undying;
    Only the troubles and cares of earth
    Are winged from the first for flying.
    Our way we plough
    In the furrow "now;"
    But after the tilling and growing the sheaf;
    Soil for the root, but the sun for the leaf—
    And God keepeth watch forever.
  • Nothing that man ever invents will absolve him from the universal necessity of being good as God is good, righteous as God is righteous, and holy as God is holy.
  • He who believes in goodness has the essence of all faith. He is a man "of cheerful yesterdays and confident to-morrows."
  • We cannot rekindle the morning beams of childhood; we cannot recall the noontide glory of youth; we cannot bring back the perfect day of maturity; we cannot fix the evening rays of age in the shadowy horizon; but we can cherish that goodness which is the sweetness of childhood, the joy of youth, the strength of maturity, the honor of old age, and the bliss of saints.

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