Not only are moral laws with their principles essentially distinguished from every other kind of practical knowledge in which there is anything empirical, but all moral philosophy rests wholly on its pure part. When applied to man, it does not borrow the least thing from the knowledge of man himself (anthropology), but gives laws a priori to him as a rational being. No doubt these laws require a judgment sharpened by experience, in order on the one hand to distinguish in what cases they are applicable, and on the other to procure for them access to the will of the man and effectual influence on conduct; since man is acted on by so many inclinations that, though capable of the idea of a practical pure reason, he is not so easily able to make it effective in concreto in his life.
The whole course of our life must be subject to moral maxims; but this is impossible, unless with the moral law, which is a mere idea, reason connects an efficient cause which ordains to all conduct which conforms to the moral law an issue either in this or another life, which is in exact conformity with our highest aims.
An imperative which commands a certain conduct immediately, without having as its condition any other purpose to be attained by it...is categorical. It concerns not the matter of the action, or its intended result, but its form and the principle of which it is itself a result; and what is essentially good in it consists in the mental disposition, let the consequence be what it may. The imperative may be called that of Morality.
It is not right for men to seek happiness or wish to be happy, rather they should wish so to conduct their lives that they deserve to be happy.
The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.
In all human minds, in howsoever widely different proportions, self-regard, and sympathy for others or say extra-regard have place. But, in self-regard even sympathy has its root: and if, in the general tenour of human conduct, self-regard were not prevalent over sympathy - even over sympathy for all others put together, no such species as the human could have existed.
Confront improper conduct, not by retaliation, but by example.
What a superlatively grand and consoling idea is that of death! Without this radiant idea - this delightful morning star, indicting that the luminary of eternity is going to rise, life would, to my view, darken into midnight melancholy. The expectation of living here, and living thus always, would be indeed a prospect of overwhelming despair. But thanks to that fatal decree that dooms us to die; thanks to that gospel which opens the vision of an endless life; and thanks above all to that Saviour friend who has promised to conduct the faithful through the sacred trance of death, into scenes of Paradise and everlasting delight.
As soon as any part of a person’s conduct affects prejudicially the interests of others, society has jurisdiction over it, and the question whether the general welfare will or will not be promoted by interfering with it, becomes open to discussion.
Customs are made for customary circumstances and customary characters... The mind itself is bowed to the yoke; even in what people do for pleasure, conformity is the first thing thought of; they live in crowds: they exercise choice only among things commonly done: peculiarity of taste, eccentricity of conduct, are shunned equally with crimes: until by dint of not following their own nature they have not nature to follow: their human capacities are withered and starved: they become incapable of any strong wishes or native pleasures, and are generally without either opinions or feelings of home growth, or properly their own.
Customs are made for customary circumstances; even in what people do for pleasure, conformity is the first thing thought of; they live in crowds: they exercise choice only among things commonly done: peculiarity of taste, eccentricity of conduct, are shunned equally with crimes: until by dint of not following their own nature they have not nature to follow. Whatever crushes individuality is despotism. [And] I am not aware that any community has a right to force another to be civilized.
Though society is not founded on a contract, and though no good purpose is answered by inventing a contract in order to deduce social obligations from it, every one who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit, and the fact of living in society renders it indispensable that each should be bound to observe a certain line of conduct towards the rest.
Happiness is the test of al rules of conduct and the end of life. But… this end was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy, I thought, who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.
The effect of custom, in preventing any misgiving respecting the rules of conduct which mankind impose on one another, is all the more complete because the subject is one on which it is not generally considered necessary that reasons should be given, either by one person to others or by each to himself.
Protection against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them.
Some glances of real beauty may be seen in their faces who dwell in true meekness. There is a harmony in the sound of that voice to which divine love gives utterance, and some appearance of right order in their temper and conduct whose passions are regulated.
A man's first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart; his next, to escape the censures of the world. If the last interferes with the former, it ought to be entirely neglected; but otherwise there cannot be a greater satisfaction to an honest mind, than to see those approbations which it gives itself, seconded by the applauses of the public. A man is more sure of his conduct, when the verdict which he passes upon his own behavior is thus warranted and confirmed by the opinion of all that know him.
He who wishes to lead a movement must conduct a fight on two fronts – against those who lag behind and those who rush ahead.
Real, constructive mental power lies in the creative thought that shapes your destiny, and your hour-by-hour mental conduct produces power for change in your life. Develop a train of thought on which to ride. The nobility of your life as well as your happiness depends upon the direction in which that train of thought is going.
A society that presumes a norm of violence and celebrates aggression, whether in the subway, on the football field, or in the conduct of its business, cannot help making celebrities of the people who would destroy it.