Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Justification

"Faith is by its nature non-rational. Having faith does not in any way remove responsibility for one’s own ethical and existential decisions. Faith is about `opting out’ of the need for rational justification rather than a deliberate attempt to act contrary to reason." - Julian Baggini

"The occasions to which the concept of the just war can be rightly applied have become highly restricted. A war to “defend the victims of wanton aggression” where the demands of justice join the demands of order, is today the clearer case of a just war… The concept of a just war does not provide moral justification for initiating a war of incalculable consequences to end such oppression." - Angus Dun and Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

"Action makes propaganda’s effect irreversible. He who acts in obedience to propaganda can never go back. He is not obliged to believe in that propaganda because of his past action. He is obliged to receive from it his justification and authority, without which his action will seem to him absurd or unjust, which would be intolerable." - Jacques Ellul

"Prayer is an expression of man’s inner yearning for a response in the awful silence of the universe. It is a unique process of discovery whereby the searching ego affirms itself in the very moment of self-negation, and thus discovers its own worth and justification as a dynamic factor in the life of the universe." - Mohamed Iqbal or Sir Muhammad Iqbal, aka Allama Iqbal

"Man is simply here; he has to make what he can of a universe that is not even hostile but strange and uncertain. Man is never given a purpose or mission; he must devise them for himself, knowing that their fulfillment has no external justification or reward - altogether and absurd situation." - Jacques Barzun, fully Jacques Martin Barzun

"It is a tribute to the strength of the sheer craving for freshness, that change, whose justification lies in aim at the distant ideal, should be promoted by Art which is the adaptation of immediate Appearance for immediate Beauty. Art neglects the safety of the future for the gain of the present. In doing it is apt to render its Beauty thin. But after all, there must be some immediate harvest. The Good of the Universe cannot lie in indefinite postponement." - Alfred North Whitehead

"The only justification in the use of force is to reduce the amount of force necessary to be used." - Alfred North Whitehead

"If perfection is, as it should be, the ultimate justification of being, we may understand the ground of the moral dignity of beauty." - George Santayana

"The justification and the purpose of freedom of speech is not to indulge those who want to speak their minds. It is to prevent error and discover truth. There may be other ways of detecting error and discovering truth than that of free discussion, but so far we have not found them." - Henry Steele Commager

"The principal of ethics being a categorical imperative does not admit of proof, but it admits of a justification from principles of pure practical reason." - Immanuel Kant

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." - John Kenneth Galbraith, aka "Ken"

"Our ethical and philosophical doctrines in general… are merely the justification a posteriori [i.e., after the fact] of our conduct… the means we seek in order to explain and justify to others and to ourselves our own mode of action." -

"Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple." - Edward de Bono

"The Declaration of Independence . . . is much more than a political document. It constitutes a spiritual manifesto—revelation, if you will—declaring not for this nation only, but for all nations, the source of man's rights. Nephi, a Book of Mormon prophet, foresaw over 2,300 years ago that this event would transpire. The colonies he saw would break with Great Britain and that 'the power of the Lord was with [the colonists],' that they 'were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations' (1 Nephi 13:16, 19). "The Declaration of Independence was to set forth the moral justification of a rebellion against a long-recognized political tradition—the divine right of kings. At issue was the fundamental question of whether men's rights were God-given or whether these rights were to be dispensed by governments to their subjects. This document proclaimed that all men have certain inalienable rights. In other words, these rights came from God." - Ezra Taft Benson

"If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion. " - F. A. Hayek, fully Friedrich August Hayek or von Hayek

"The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work." - John Von Newmann

"A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line...To snatch in a moment of courage, from the remorseless rush of time, a passing phase of life is only the beginning of the task. The task approached in tenderness and faith is to hold up unquestioningly, without choice and without fear, the rescued fragment before all eyes and in the light of a sincere mood. It is to show its vibration, its colour, its form; and through its movement, its form, and its colour, reveal the substance of its truth -- disclose its inspiring secret: the stress and passion within the core of each convincing moment. In a single-minded attempt of that kind, if one be deserving and fortunate, one may perchance attain to such clearness of sincerity that at last the presented vision of regret or pity, of terror or mirth, shall awaken in the hearts of the beholders that feeling of unavoidable solidarity; of the solidarity in mysterious origin, in toil, in joy, in hope, in uncertain fate, which binds men to each other and all mankind to the visible world." - Joseph Conrad, born Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski

"I am not your justification for existence." - Margaret Atwood, fully Margaret Eleanor Atwood

"Our ethical and philosophical doctrines in general… are merely the justification a posteriori [i.e., after the fact] of our conduct… the means we seek in order to explain and justify to others and to ourselves our own mode of action." - Miguel de Unamuno, fully Miguel de Unamuno y Jogo

"I believe Mackey’s flat statement that “corporate philanthropy is a good thing” is flatly wrong. Consider the decision by the founders of Whole Foods to donate 5 percent of net profits to philanthropy. They were clearly within their rights in doing so. They were spending their own money.…But what reason is there to suppose that the stream of profit distributed in this way would do more good for society than investing that stream of profit in the enterprise itself or paying it out as dividends and letting the stockholders dispose of it? The practice makes sense only because of our obscene tax laws, whereby a stockholder can make a larger gift for a given after-tax cost if the corporation makes the gift on his behalf than if he makes the gift directly. That is a good reason for eliminating the corporate tax or for eliminating the deductibility of corporate charity, but it is not a justification for corporate charity." - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"There are multiple descriptions of the same real world situation. The only justification for language is to empower yourself. If the verbal description you create of the situation you find yourself in leads to paralysis and ineffectual behaviour, then throw those damn words away and find yourself a new set. There is always some useful description of the world that empowers and gives you choices and your task, if you are going to use words at all, is to find that set of words." - Moshé Feldenkreis, fully Moshé Pinchas Feldenkrais

"At times life seems to be a cruel game. The only justification for it is that in reality it is only a dream. That is why there are so many differences in the world. Some people are poor, some are rich, some healthy, some sick, and so on. You have had many experiences through many incarnations and you will have others in future incarnations, but they should not frighten you. You must play all parts in the motion picture of life, inwardly saying: 'I am Spirit.' This is the great consolation that wisdom gives us." - Paramahansa Yogananda, born Mukunda Lal Ghosh

"It is evident, on the basis of our considerations, that this appearance of success cannot in the least be regarded as a sign of truth and correspondence with nature. Quite the contrary, suspicion arises that the absence of major difficulties is a result of the decrease of empirical content brought about by the elimination of alternatives, and of facts that can be discovered with their help. In other words, the suspicion arises that this alleged success is due to the fact that the theory, when extended beyond its starting point, was turned into rigid ideology. Such Ideology is "successful" not because it agrees so well with the facts; it is successful because no facts have been specified that could constitute a test, and because some such facts have been removed. Its "success" is entirely man-made. It was decided to stick to some ideas, come what may, and the result was, quite naturally, the survival of these ideas. If now the initial decision is forgotten, or made only implicitly, for example, if it becomes common law in physics, then the survival itself will seem to constitute independent support., it will reinforce the decision, or turn it into an explicate one, and in this way close the circle. This is how empirical "evidence" may be created by a procedure which quotes as its justification the very same evidence it has produced." - Paul Feyerabend, fully Paul Karl Feyerabend

"Every new theory as it arises believes in the flush of youth that it has the long sought goal; it sees no limits to its applicability, and believes that at last it is the fortunate theory to achieve the 'right' answer. This was true of electron theory—perhaps some readers will remember a book called The Electrical Theory of the Universe by de Tunzelman. It is true of general relativity theory with its belief that we can formulate a mathematical scheme that will extrapolate to all past and future time and the unfathomed depths of space. It has been true of wave mechanics, with its first enthusiastic claim a brief ten years ago that no problem had successfully resisted its attack provided the attack was properly made, and now the disillusionment of age when confronted by the problems of the proton and the neutron. When will we learn that logic, mathematics, physical theory, are all only inventions for formulating in compact and manageable form what we already know, like all inventions do not achieve complete success in accomplishing what they were designed to do, much less complete success in fields beyond the scope of the original design, and that our only justification for hoping to penetrate at all into the unknown with these inventions is our past experience that sometimes we have been fortunate enough to be able to push on a short distance by acquired momentum. " - Percy W. Bridgman, fully Percy Williams Bridgman

"The man in the street will, therefore, twist the statement that the scientist has come to the end of meaning into the statement that the scientist has penetrated as far as he can with the tools at his command, and that there is something beyond the ken of the scientist. This imagined beyond, which the scientist has proved he cannot penetrate, will become the playground of the imagination of every mystic and dreamer. The existence of such a domain will be made the basis of an orgy of rationalizing. It will be made the substance of the soul; the spirits of the dead will populate it; God will lurk in its shadows; the principle of vital processes will have its seat here; and it will be the medium of telepathic communication. One group will find in the failure of the physical law of cause and effect the solution of the age-long problem of the freedom of the will; and on the other hand the atheist will find the justification of his contention that chance rules the universe. " - Percy W. Bridgman, fully Percy Williams Bridgman

"Deductivism in mathematical literature and inductivism in scientific papers are simply the postures we choose to be seen in when the curtain goes up and the public sees us. The theatrical illusion is shattered if we ask what goes on behind the scenes. In real life discovery and justification are almost always different processes. " - Peter Medawar, fully Sir Peter Brian Medawar

"How far down the evolutionary scale shall we go? Shall we eat fish? What about shrimps? Oysters? To answer these questions we must bear in mind the central principle on which our concern for other beings is based…the only legitimate boundary to our concern for the interests of other beings is the point at which it is no longer accurate to say that the other being has interests. To have interests, in a strict, non-metaphorical sense, a being must be capable of suffering or experiencing pleasure. If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for disregarding that suffering, or for refusing to count it equally with the like suffering of any other being. But the converse of this is also true. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of enjoyment, there is nothing to take into account." - Peter Singer

"If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering - insofar as rough comparisons can be made - of any other being. So the limit of sentience is the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others. To mark this boundary by some other characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary manner. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin color? " - Peter Singer

"The inevitable hypocrisy, which is associated with the all the collective activities of the human race, springs chiefly from this source: that individuals have a moral code which makes the actions of collective man an outrage to their conscience. They therefore invent romantic and moral interpretations of the real facts, preferring to obscure rather than reveal the true character of their collective behavior. Sometimes they are as anxious to offer moral justifications for the brutalities from which they suffer as for those which they commit. The fact that the hypocrisy of man's group behavior... expresses itself not only in terms of self-justification but in terms of moral justification of human behavior in general, symbolizes one of the tragedies of the human spirit: its inability to conform its collective life to its individual ideals. As individuals, men believe they ought to love and serve each other and establish justice between each other. As racial, economic and national groups they take for themselves, whatever their power can command." - Reinhold Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

"Despite the Great Chain of Being's traditional ranking of humans between animals and angels, there is no evolutionary justification for the common assumption that evolution is somehow 'aimed' at humans, or that humans are 'evolution's last word'." - Richard Dawkins

"In too many modern churches there is no emphasis on theology at all. There is a kind of justification by works or by keeping up with modern trends " - Robertson Davies

"From the night, his solitude, the poet finds day and starts a diary that is lethal to the inert. The dark landscape yields a dialogue." - Salvatore Quasimodo

"No, our science is no illusion. But an illusion it would be to suppose that what science cannot give us we can get elsewhere." - Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud

"In Plato, art is mystification because there is the heaven of Ideas; but in the earthly domain all glorification of the earth is true as soon as it is realized. Let men attach value to words, forms, colors, mathematical theorems, physical laws, and athletic prowess; let them accord value to one another in love and friendship, and the objects, the events, and the men immediately have this value; they have it absolutely. It is possible that a man may refuse to love anything on earth; he will prove this refusal and he will carry it out by suicide. If he lives, the reason is that, whatever he may say, there still remains in him some attachment to existence; his life will be commensurate with this attachment; it will justify itself to the extent that it genuinely justifies the world. This justification, though open upon the entire universe through time and space, will always be finite. Whatever one may do, one never realizes anything but a limited work, like existence itself which tries to establish itself through that work and which death also limits. It is the assertion of our finiteness which doubtless gives the doctrine which we have just evoked its austerity and, in some eyes, its sadness. As soon as one considers a system abstractly and theoretically, one puts himself, in effect, on the plane of the universal, thus, of the infinite. ...existentialism does not offer to the reader the consolations of an abstract evasion: existentialism proposes no evasion. On the contrary, its ethics is experienced in the truth of life, and it then appears as the only proposition of salvation which one can address to men. Taking on its own account Descartes’ revolt against the evil genius, the pride of the thinking reed in the face of the universe which crushes him, it asserts that, despite his limits, through them, it is up to each one to fulfill his existence as an absolute. Regardless of the staggering dimensions of the world about us, the density of our ignorance, the risks of catastrophes to come, and our individual weakness within the immense collectivity, the fact remains that we are absolutely free today if we choose to will our existence in its finiteness, a finiteness which is open on the infinite. And in fact, any man who has known real loves, real revolts, real desires, and real will knows quite well that he has no need of any outside guarantee to be sure of his goals; their certitude comes from his own drive. There is a very old saying which goes: “Do what you must, come what may.” That amounts to saying in a different way that the result is not external to the good will which fulfills itself in aiming at it. If it came to be that each man did what he must, existence would be saved in each one without there being any need of dreaming of a paradise where all would be reconciled in death." - Simone de Beauvoir, fully Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir

"There is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation." - Simone de Beauvoir, fully Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir

"We must not confuse the present with the past. With regard to the past, no further action is possible. There have been war, plague, scandal, and treason, and there is no way of our preventing their having taken place; the executioner became an executioner and the victim underwent his fate as a victim without us; all that we can do is to reveal it, to integrate it into the human heritage, to raise it to the dignity of the aesthetic existence which bears within itself its finality; but first this history had to occur: it occurred as scandal, revolt, crime, or sacrifice, and we were able to try to save it only because it first offered us a form. Today must also exist before being confirmed in its existence: its destination in such a way that everything about it already seemed justified and that there was no more of it to reject, then there would also be nothing to say about it, for no form would take shape in it; it is revealed only through rejection, desire, hate and love. In order for the artist to have a world to express he must first be situated in this world, oppressed or oppressing, resigned or rebellious, a man among men. But at the heart of his existence he finds the exigency which is common to all men; he must first will freedom within himself and universally; he must try to conquer it: in the light of this project situations are graded and reasons for acting are made manifest." - Simone de Beauvoir, fully Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir

"Evolution has ensured that our brains just aren't equipped to visualise 11 dimensions directly. However, from a purely mathematical point of view it's just as easy to think in 11 dimensions, as it is to think in three or four." - Stephen Hawking

"To my mind the failure resolutely to follow progressive policies is the negation of democracy as well of progress, and spells disaster. But for this very reason I feel concern when progressives act with heedless violence, or go so far and so fast as to invite reaction. The experience of John Brown illustrates the evil of the revolutionary short-cut to ultimate good ends. The liberty of the slave was desirable, but it was not to be brought about by a slave insurrection. The better distribution of property is desirable, but it is not to be brought about by the anarchic form of Socialism which would destroy all private capital and tend to destroy all private wealth. It represents not progress, but retrogression, to propose to destroy capital because the power of unrestrained capital is abused. John Brown rendered a great service to the cause of liberty in the earlier Kansas days; but his notion that the evils of slavery could be cured by a slave insurrection was a delusion analogous to the delusions of those who expect to cure the evils of plutocracy by arousing the baser passions of workingmen against the rich in an endeavor at violent industrial revolution. And, on the other hand, the brutal and shortsighted greed of those who pro?t by what is wrong in the present system, and the attitude of those who oppose all effort to do away with this wrong, serve in their turn as incitements to such revolution; just as the insolence of the ultra pro-slavery men ?nally precipitated the violent destruction of slavery." - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny… This means to say that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity. We can evade this responsibility by playing with masks, and this pleases us because it can appear at times to be a free and creative way of living. It is quite easy, it seems, to please everyone. But in the long run the cost and the sorrow come very high. To work out our own identity in God, which the Bible calls working out our salvation, is a labor that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many tears. It demands close attention to reality at every moment and great fidelity to God as He reveals Himself, obscurely, in the mystery of each new situation." - Thomas Merton

"Even if life as a whole is meaningless, perhaps that's nothing to worry about." - Thomas Nagel

"For in this century, within the next decades, will be decided for generations whether all mankind is to become Communist, whether the whole world is to become free, or whether, in the struggle, civilization as we know it is to be completely destroyed or completely changed." - Whittaker Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers

"The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless, it is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it, I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, I am mad for it to be in contact with me." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one's accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which the food comes." - Wendell Berry

"Today, local economies are being destroyed by the "pluralistic," displaced, global economy, which has no respect for what works in a locality. The global economy is built on the principle that one place can be exploited, even destroyed, for the sake of another place." - Wendell Berry

"The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech." - Vincent van Gogh, fully Vincent Willem van Gogh

"By unnerving definition, anything that the heart has chosen for its own mysterious reasons it can always unchoose later—again, for its own mysterious reasons." - Elizabeth Gilbert

"It was always the same; other people gave up loving before she did. They got spoilt, or else they went away; in any case, they were partly to blame. Why did it happen so? She herself never changed; when she loved anyone, it was for life. She could not understand desertion; it was something so huge, so monstrous that the notion of it made her little heart break." - Emile Zola

"I have reached far beyond my competence and have probably secured for good a reputation for flamboyant gestures. But the times still crowd me and give me no rest, and I see no way to avoid ambitious synthetic attempts; either we get some kind of grip on the accumulation of thought or we continue to wallow helplessly, to starve amidst plenty. So I gamble with science and write." - Ernest Becker