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Purpose is a term having various meanings involving intentions, targets, aims, goals, and objects or results which are desired. Most involve conceptions of an individual's voluntary behavior or active awareness, and have had significant histories of involvement in religion, philosophy, science, technology, politics, war and forms of art and magic.


A - F

I need to have a purpose in life and for that I might sacrifice some of the luxuries that I enjoy; fortunately I am fairly adaptable. I try to be aware, flexible and unbiased in my thinking. ~ Margot Fonteyn
  • A narrow religion, a sectarian religion, an exclusive religion can live only for a limited time and a limited purpose.
  • I am working in everybody and whatever men may think or do, they can do nothing but help in my purpose.
  • Not result is the purpose of action, but God's eternal delight in becoming, seeing and doing.
  • The great rule of life is to have no schemes but one unalterable purpose.
    • Sri Aurobindo, ., Nahar, S., Aurobindo, ., & Institut de recherches évolutives (Paris). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de Recherches Evolutives. 3rd Edition (2000). [1]
  • All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
    • Jorge Luis Borges, in Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems: Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981–1983 (1984)
  • Oppression tries to defend itself by its utility. But we have seen that it is one of the lies of the serious mind to attempt to give the word “useful” an absolute meaning; nothing is useful if it is not useful to man; nothing is useful to man if the latter is not in a position to define his own ends and values, if he is not free. Doubtless an oppressive regime can achieve constructions which will serve man: they will serve him only from the day that he is free to use them; as long as the reign of the oppressor lasts, none of the benefits of oppression is a real benefit. Neither in the past nor in the future can one prefer a thing to man, who alone can establish the reason for all things.
  • I would rather work with five people who really believe in what they are doing rather than five hundred who can't see the point.
  • There is only one valid definition of a business purpose: to create a customer.
  • I need to have a purpose in life and for that I might sacrifice some of the luxuries that I enjoy; fortunately I am fairly adaptable. I try to be aware, flexible and unbiased in my thinking. If I have learnt anything, it is that life forms no logical patterns. It is haphazard and full of beauties which I try to catch as they fly by, for who knows whether any of them will ever return?
  • I, too, believed it was impossible to change the existing society into one that would be for the benefit of all; neither could I espouse any given ideal for society. But [...] I felt that even if one did not have an ideal vision of society, one could have one’s work to do. Whether it was successful or not was not our concern; it was enough that we believed it to be a valid work. The accomplishment of that work, I believed, was what our real life was about. Yes. I want to carry out a work of my own; for I feel that by so doing our lives are rooted in the here and now, not in some far-off ideal goal.

G - L

  • Aim at the sun, and you may not reach it; but your arrow will fly far higher than if aimed at an object on a level with yourself.
    • Joel Hawes, as quoted in You're Born an Original - Don't Die a Copy (1993) by John Mason.
  • The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance.
  • Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them.

M - R

  • Everyone has a goal which appears to be great, at least to himself, and is great when deepest conviction, the innermost voice of the heart, pronounces it great. ... This voice, however, is easily drowned out, and what we thought to be inspiration may have been created by the fleeting moment and again perhaps destroyed by it. ... We must seriously ask ourselves, therefore, whether we are really inspired about a vocation, whether an inner voice approves of it, or whether the inspiration was a deception, whether that which we took as the Deity’s calling to us was self-deceit. But how else could we recognize this except by searching for the source of our inspiration?
    • Karl Marx, Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, L. Easton, trans. (1967), p. 36.
  • Our purpose is to educate as well as to entertain.
  • We all engage in purposeful activity, and we judge ourselves and others in terms of success in achieving the purposes that we set before ourselves. Yet we accept as the final product of this purposeful activity a picture of the world from which purpose has been eliminated. Purpose is a meaningful concept in relation to our own consciousness of ourselves, but it is allowed no place in our understanding of the world of facts.
    • Lesslie Newbigin, in Foolishness to the Greeks : Gospel and Western Culture (1986)
  • The hypothesis will lead to our thinking of features of each Universe as purposed; and this will stand or fall with the hypothesis. Yet a purpose essentially involves growth, and so cannot be attributed to God. Still it will, according to the hypothesis, be less false to speak so than to represent God as purposeless.
  • There is no good reason why we should fear the future, but there is every reason why we should face it seriously, neither hiding from ourselves the gravity of the problems before us nor fearing to approach these problems with the unbending, unflinching purpose to solve them aright.

S - Z

There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. [...] Live being true to the single purpose of the moment. ~ Yamamoto Tsunetomo
  • There's no escaping reason, no denying purpose, for as we both know, without purpose we would not exist. It is purpose that created us, purpose that connects us, purpose that pulls us, that guides us, that drives us; it is purpose that defines us, purpose that binds us.
  • There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. [...] Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.
  • I take great satisfaction in seeing people and organizations achieve goals they might have originally believed to be beyond their reach.

See also

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