Might makes right
"Might makes right" is an aphorism on the origin of morality, with both descriptive and prescriptive senses. Descriptively, it asserts that a society's view of right and wrong is determined by those in power, with a meaning similar to "History is written by the victors". That is, although all people have their personal ideas of the good, only those strong enough to overcome obstacles and enemies can put their ideas into effect, and spread their own standards to society at large. Prescriptively (or normatively), the phrase is most often used pejoratively, to protest perceived tyranny.
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- The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are.
- Whence this sneaking admiration we all have for bullies and prize-fighters? Whence the self-congratulation of “dominant” races, as if “dominant” meant “righteous” and carried with it a title to inherit the earth? Whence the scorn of so-called weak or unwarlike races and individuals, and the very comfortable assurance that it is their manifest destiny to be wiped out as vermin before this advancing civilization? As if the possession of the Christian graces of meekness, non-resistance and forgiveness, were incompatible with a civilization professedly based on Christianity, the religion of love!
- Anna J. Cooper, A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892), p. 51
- Our God is power; strength, our standard of excellence, inherited from barbarian ancestors through a long line of male progenitors, the Law Salic permitting no feminine modifications.
- Anna J. Cooper, A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892), p. 53
- When the dictators of today appeal to reason, they mean that they possess the most tanks. They were rational enough to build them; others should be rational enough to yield to them.
- Max Horkheimer, “The End of Reason,” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (1982), p. 28
- Rursus prosperum ac felix scelus virtus vocatur; sontibus parent boni, ius est in armis, opprimit leges timor.
- Prosperous and successful crime goes by the name of virtue; good men obey the bad, might is right and fear oppresses law.
- Seneca, Hercules Furens (The Madness of Hercules), lines 251-253 (Amphitryon)