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No moral system can rest solely on authority. ~ Alfred Jules Ayer

Morality is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are "good" (or right) and those that are "bad" (or wrong).


Socrates taught that true felicity is not to be derived from external possessions, but from wisdom, which consists in the knowledge and practice of virtue… ~ William Enfield
Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity. ~ James Anthony Froude
If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong. I do not say "give them up," for they may be all you have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Morality is character and conduct such as is required by the circle or community in which the man's life happens to be placed. It shows how much good men require of us.
  • Morality's not practical. Morality's a gesture. A complicated gesture learnt from books.
  • All systems of morality are fine. The gospel alone has exhibited a complete assemblage of the principles of morality, divested of all absurdity. It is not composed, like your creed, of a few common-place sentences put into bad verse. Do you wish to see that which is really sublime? Repeat the Lord's Prayer.
    • Napoleon Bonaparte, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 419.
  • There are two principles of established acceptance in morals; first, that self-interest is the mainspring of all of our actions, and secondly, that utility is the test of their value.
  • As our own species is in the process of proving, one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.
  • It would be deeply depressing if the only way children could get moral values was from religion. Either from scripture, and God knows we don't want them to get it from scripture, I mean, just look at scripture. Or, from being afraid of God, being intimidated by God. Anybody who is good for only those two reasons is not really being good at all. Why not teach children things like the Golden Rule, do as you would be done by, how would you like it if other children did that to you, so why do you do it to them... I think it's depressing that anybody should suggest that you actually need God in order to be moral. I would hope that our morals come from a better source than that, and therefore they are genuinely moral rather than based on outmoded scripture, or based on fear.
  • The system of morality which Socrates made it the business of his life to teach was raised upon the firm basis of religion. The first principles of virtuous conduct which are common to all mankind are, according to this excellent moralist, laws of God; and the conclusive argument by which he supports this opinion is, that no man departs from these principles with impunity.
  • Socrates taught that true felicity is not to be derived from external possessions, but from wisdom, which consists in the knowledge and practice of virtue; that the cultivation of virtuous manners is necessarily attended with pleasure as well as profit; that the honest man alone is happy; and that it is absurd to attempt to separate things which are in nature so closely united as virtue and interest.
  • It is the dutiful disposition of each person to spread morality outside of himself to the best of his ability and knowledge, i.e., to see to it that everyone has the same disposition he has … It follows from this that the overall end of the moral community as a whole is to produce unanimity concerning matters of morality.
    • Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in The System of Ethics : According to the Principles of the Wissenschaftslehre (2005), p. 329.
  • The moral and religious system which Jesus Christ transmitted to us is the best the world has ever seen, or can see.
  • Morality rests upon a sense of obligation; and obligation has no meaning except as implying a Divine command, without which it would cease to be.
    • James Anthony Froude, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 419.
  • Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity. For every false word or unrighteous deed, for cruelty and oppression, for lust or vanity, the price has to be paid at last.
    • James Anthony Froude, in the lecture "The Science of History" (5 February 1864); published in Representative Essays (1885) by George Haven Putnam, p. 274; John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton quoted the first sentence of this an address of 1895, and this has often been misattributed to him.
  • It is safe to say that no other superstition is so detrimental to growth, so enervating and paralyzing to the minds and hearts of the people, as the superstition of Morality.
  • I think if we study the primates, we notice that a lot of these things that we value in ourselves, such as human morality, have a connection with primate behavior. This completely changes the perspective, if you start thinking that actually we tap into our biological resources to become moral beings. That gives a completely different view of ourselves than this nasty selfish-gene type view that has been promoted for the last 25 years.
  • Our moral traditions, like many other aspects of our culture, developed concurrently with our reason, not as its product.
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit (1988), Introduction: Was Socialism a Mistake?
  • So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.
  • This Court does not sit as a Court of morality, to inflict punishment against those who offend against the social law.
    • Sir F. H. Jeune, Evans v. Evans (1899), L. R. Prob. Div. [1899], p. 202; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 178.
  • You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
    • Jesus Christ, in Luke 16:15
  • Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus.
  • Our world hinges on moral foundations. God has made it so. God has made the universe to be based on a moral law. So long as man disobeys it he is revolting against God. That's what we need in the world today: people who will stand for right and goodness. It's not enough to know the intricacies of zoology and biology, but we must know the intricacies of law. It is not enough to know that two and two makes four, but we've got to know somehow that it's right to be honest and just with our brothers. It's not enough to know all about our philosophical and mathematical disciplines, but we've got to know the simple disciplines of being honest and loving and just with all humanity. If we don't learn it, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own powers.
  • Morality is a venereal disease. Its primary stage is called virtue; its secondary stage, boredom; its tertiary stage, syphilis.
    • Karl Kraus, "The Riehl Case" in Die Fackel; also in Karl Kraus (1971) by Harry Zohn, p. 47.
  • Uatu the Watcher: In claiming to be evil, Magneto forced Xavier and his X-Men into the position of the opposite polarity...that of being good.
He forced Xavier into the role of being Magnus's moral barometer.
Of being judge over mutant kind...
...And morality has always been the greatest basis for prejudice
Machine Man: So Magneto planed to defeat Xavier by making him a bigot? And then appealing to those within the growing mutant ranks to find freedom from Xavier in him? I can't believe it. How did he ever conceive of such a plan?
Uatu the Watcher: Because Magneto knew what many do not in regards to good and evil X-51.
He knew that moral behavior was a choice not a characteristic. Those who claim to be evil, and those who have cursed and threatened their fellow man have often done so for a perceived greater good.
Machine Man: But there is no good and evil Uatu, you said so.
Uatu: Yes.
Look at the world as it is today, X-51. Look upon those given power for the first time...and see them struggle against the constraints of social morality.
  • Earth X, ch. 6, script and story by Jim Krueger, story by Alex Ross
  • Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
    • Isaiah 5:20
  • He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD
    • Proverbs 17:15
  • Morality without religion is only a kind of dead reckoning, — an endeavor to find our place on a cloudy sea by measuring the distance we have run, but without any observation of the heavenly bodies.
  • It was morality that burned the books of the ancient sages, and morality that halted the free inquiry of the Golden Age and substituted for it the credulous imbecility of the Age of Faith. It was a fixed moral code and a fixed theology which robbed the human race of a thousand years by wasting them upon alchemy, heretic-burning, witchcraft and sacerdotalism.
  • Whatever is contrary, bonos mores est decorum, the principles of our law prohibit, and the King's Court, as the general censor and guardian of the public manners, is bound to restrain and punish.
    • Lord Mansfield, Jones v. Randall (1774), Lofft. 386; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 177.
  • The reason why no mention is made in our ancient books of uses, is, because men were then of better Consciences than now they are, so as the feoffees did not give occasion to their feoffors to bring subpoenas to compell them to perform the trusts reposed in them.
    • Manwood, J., Brett's Case (1583), 2 Leonard's Rep. 15; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 177.
  • Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that 99% of them are wrong.
  • Moral argument tries to appeal to a capacity for impartial motivation which is supposed to be present in all of us. Unfortunately it may be deeply buried, and in some cases it may not be present at all. In any case it has to compete with powerful selfish motives, and other personal motives that may not be so selfish, in its bid for control of our behavior. The difficulty of justifying morality is not that there is only one human motive, but that there are so many.
    • Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (1987), Ch. 7. Right and Wrong
  • Bad company ruins good morals.
  • I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
  • Morality has always had a difficult time of it; utility and legality even begrudge the fact of its existence.
    • Friedrich Schlegel, Philosophical Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991), “Athenaeum Fragments,” § 373
  • People who are eccentric enough to be quite seriously virtuous understand each other everywhere, discover each other easily, and form a silent opposition to the ruling immorality that happens to pass for morality.
  • My thesis is that morality exists outside the human mind in the sense of being not just a trait of individual humans, but a human trait; that is, a human universal.
  • If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong. I do not say "give them up," for they may be all you have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. ?.

  • Kant, as we all know, compared moral law to the starry heavens, and found them both sublime. On the naturalistic hypothesis we should rather compare it to the protective blotches on a beetle's back, and find them both ingenious.
    • Arthur J. Balfour, Foundations of Belief.
  • No mere man since the Fall, is able in this life perfectly to keep the Commandments.
    • Book of Common Prayer, Shorter Catechism.
  • Rough Johnson, the great moralist.
  • The Bearings of this observation lays in the application on it.
    • Dickens, Dombey and Son, Chapter XXIII.
  • The moral system of the universe is like a document written in alternate ciphers, which change from line to line.
    • Froude, Short Studies on Great Subjects. Calvinism.
  • Morality, when vigorously alive, sees farther than intellect, and provides unconsciously for intellectual difficulties.
    • Froude, Short Studies on Great Subjects. Divus Cæsar.
  • Dr. Johnson's morality was as English an article as a beefsteak.
  • Turning the other cheek is a kind of moral jiu-jitsu.
  • We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality.
    • Macaulay, On Moore's Life of Lord Byron (1830).
  • I find the doctors and the sages
    Have differ'd in all climes and ages,
    And two in fifty scarce agree
    On what is pure morality.
    • Moore, Morality.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)[edit]

  • For what end shall we be connected with men, of whom this is the character and conduct?… Is it, that we may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution; soberly dishonoured; speciously polluted; the outcasts of delicacy and virtue, and the lothing of God and man?
    • Timothy Dwight, The Duty of Americans, at the Present Crisis (1798), p. 20–21. Dwight, president of Yale, preached this sermon on July 4, 1798, at New Haven, Connecticut. In 1798, much of the anti-French feeling was directed at the Jeffersonians, who were the champions in America of the French Revolution. In the congressional elections that year, the Jeffersonians lost heavily as the Federalists won control of both the House and the Senate. In this sermon, Dwight warned that a victory for the Jeffersonians meant lustful moral depravity. Saul K. Padover, Jefferson (1942), p. 251–52.
  • Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.
    • John F. Kennedy, remarks in Bonn, West Germany, at the signing of a charter establishing the German Peace Corps, June 24, 1963. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 503. This remark may have been inspired by the passage from Dante Alighieri's La Comedia Divina, trans. Geoffrey L. Bickersteth, "Inferno", canto 3, lines 35–42 (1972):

      by those disbodied wretches who were loth
      when living, to be either blamed or praised.
      … … … … … …
      Fear to lose beauty caused the heavens to expel
      these caitiffs; nor, lest to the damned they then
      gave cause to boast, receives them the deep hell.

      A more modern-sounding translation: "They are mixed with that repulsive choir of angels … undecided in neutrality. Heaven, to keep its beauty, cast them out, but even Hell itself would not receive them for fear the wicked there might glory over them".—Dante's Inferno, trans. Mark Musa, p. 21 (1971).
  • I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world.
    • Robert F. Kennedy, "Day of Affirmation", address delivered at the University of Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966. Congressional Record, June 6, 1966, vol. 112, p. 12430.
  • Even in war moral power is to physical as three parts out of four.
    • Attributed to Napoleon I; reported in Maturin M. Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1899), p. 407. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). A handwritten note in Congressional Research Service files says that the War Department Library had searched many times without success for a different version: "Morale is to material as is the ratio of three to one".
  • Ethics, too, are nothing but reverence for life. That is what gives me the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil.
    • Albert Schweitzer, "Civilization and Ethics", Preface, The Philosophy of Civilization, trans. C. T. Campion, part 2 (1949, reissued 1981), p. 79.

See also[edit]

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