Good and evil

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In religion, ethics, philosophy, and psychology "good and evil" is a very common dichotomy. In its most general context, the concept of good denotes that conduct which is to be preferred and prescribed by society and its social constituents as beneficial and useful to the social needs of society and its preferred conventions. Evil is the absence or opposite of that which is described as being good and denotes profound immorality. The philosophical question of whether morality is absolute, relative, or illusory leads to questions about the nature of evil, with views falling into one of four opposed camps: moral absolutism, amoralism, moral relativism, and moral universalism.

Quotes[edit]

Good can imagine Evil, but Evil cannot imagine Good. ~ W. H. Auden
To cease from evil, to do good, and to purify the mind yourself, this is the teaching of all the Buddhas. ~ Gautama Buddha
[G]ood and evil are present in this world, and between the two there can be no compromise. ~ George W. Bush
  • The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
  • Good can imagine Evil, but Evil cannot imagine Good.
  • So, Lone Starr, now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.
  • No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.
  • I have often spoken to you about good and evil. This has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense and to advance the cause of peace.
  • I think the old, sound, and honest maxim that "you shall not do evil that good may come," is applicable in law as well as in morals.
    • Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet, C.J., Reg. v. Hicklin and another (1868), 11 Cox, C. C. 27; S. C. 3 L. R. Q. B. 372; reported in Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904) by James William Norton-Kyshe, p. 92.
  • I do not believe in evil absolute. I have recounted that philosophy in specific in the Annals, and it affects my every observation throughout my tenure as Annalist. I believe in our side and theirs, with the good and evil decided after the fact, by those who survive. Among men you seldom find the good with one standard and the shadow with another.
  • Evil beginning houres may end in good.
  • Non è male alcuno nelle cose umane che non abbia congiunto seco qualche bene.
    • There is no evil in human affairs that has not some good mingled with it.
    • Francesco Guicciardini, Storia d'Italia (1537-1540).
  • Being against evil doesn't make you good.
  • Only by contact with evil could I have learned to feel by contrast the beauty of truth and love and goodness.
  • It is a mistake always to contemplate the good and ignore the evil, because by making people neglectful it lets in disaster. There is a dangerous optimism of ignorance and indifference.
    • Helen Keller, Optimism (1903).
  • The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil, than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost every thing, especially of governmental policy, is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded.
    • Abraham Lincoln, remarks in the United States House of Representatives (June 20, 1848), reprinted in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 1, p. 484
  • It must be that evil communications corrupt good dispositions.
    • Menander. Found in Dubner's edition of his Fragments appended to Aristophanes in Didot's Bibliotheca Græca, p. 102, line 101. Quoted by St. Paul. See I Corinthians, XV. 33. Same idea in Plato, Republic, 550.
  • He thought of the jungle, already regrowing around him to cover the scars they had created. He thought of the tiger, killing to eat. Was that evil? And ants? They killed. No, the jungle wasn't evil. It was indifferent. So, too, was the world. Evil, then, must be the negation of something man had added to the world. Ultimately, it was caring about something that made the world liable to evil. Caring. And then the caring gets torn asunder. Everybody dies, but not everybody cares.

    It occurred to Mellas that he could create the possibility of good or evil through caring. He could nullify the indifferent world. But in so doing he opened himself up to the pain of watching it get blown away. His killing that day would not have been evil if the dead soldiers hadn't been loved by mothers, sisters, friends, wives. Mellas understood that in destroying the fabric that linked those people, he had participated in evil, but this evil had hurt him as well. He also understood that his participation in evil, was a result of being human. Being human was the best he could do. Without man there would be no evil. But there was also no good, nothing moral built over the world of fact. Humans were responsible for it all. He laughed at the cosmic joke, but he felt heartsick.

  • There is Good and there is Evil and Evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon, I shall not compromise in this.
  • Let us never forget the Christian maxim "that we should not do evil that good may come of it." '
    • Crampon, J., R. v. O'Connell (1843), 5 St. Tr. (N. S.) 703; reported in Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904) by James William Norton-Kyshe, p. 92.
  • We must now take precautions to prevent you from being embarrassed by something in which the ignorant majority is at fault for lack of proper consideration, and so from supposing with them, that man has not been created truly good simply because he is able to do evil. ... If you reconsider this matter carefully and force your mind to apply a more acute understanding to it, it will be revealed to you that man's status is better and higher for the very reason for which it is thought to be inferior: it is on this choice between two ways, on this freedom to choose either alternative, that the glory of the rational mind is based, it is in this that the whole honor of our nature consists, it is from this that its dignity is derived.
    • Pelagius, Letter to Demetrias, B. Rees, trans., Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 207
  • A good End cannot sanctifie evil Means; nor must we ever do Evil, that Good may come of it.
    • William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude in Reflections & Maxims (1903, reprinted 1976), no. 537, p. 102.
  • Ut acerbum est, pro benefactis quom mali messem metas!
    • How bitter it is to reap a harvest of evil for good that you have done!
    • Plautus, Epidicus, V. 2. 53.
  • 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.
  • What good is that goodness if it does not return good even to those who cause evil?
  • Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.
  • Human nature is evil; its goodness derives from conscious activity.
    • Xun Zi, “Human Nature is Evil,” Sources of Chinese Tradition (1999), vol. 1, pp. 179-180
  • Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.

The Bible[edit]

Quotes reported in The Bible.
  • Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil.
    • Isaiah. V. 20.
  • Evil communications corrupt good manners.
  • How shall God judge the world? For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.
    • Paul of Tarsus, in Romans, III., 6-8 (KJV). reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 92.
  • For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.
  • Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations.
  • 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.
  • He who does evil that good may come, pays a toll to the devil to let him into heaven.
    • J. C. and A. W. Hare, Guesses at Truth, p. 444.
  • Das Leben ist der Güter höchstes nicht
    Der Uebel grösstes aber ist die Schuld.
    • Life is not the supreme good, but the supreme evil is to realize one's guilt.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Die Braut von Messina.
  • There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
    Would men observingly distil it out.
  • We too often forget that not only is there a "soul of goodness in things evil," but very generally a soul of truth in things erroneous.
  • So far any one shuns evils, so far as he does good.
  • From seeming evil still educing good.
  • 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's Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • The best antidote against evils of all kinds, against the evil thoughts that haunt the soul, against the needless perplexities which distract the conscience, is to keep hold of the good we have. Impure thoughts will not stand against pure words and prayers and deeds. Little doubts will not avail against great certainties. Fix your affections on things above, and then you will less and less be troubled by the cares, the temptations, the troubles of things on earth.

Attributed[edit]

  • 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.
  • The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.
    • Attributed to Plato on the letterhead of the Constitution Party. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).

External links[edit]

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