Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Society

"Foremost among the barriers to equality is the system which ignores the mother’s service to Society in making a home and rearing children. The mother is still the uncharted servant of the future, who receives from her husband, at his discretion, a share in his wages." - Katharine Anthony, fully Katharine Susan Anthony

"My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood." - Lee Atwater, fully Harvey LeRoy "Lee" Atwater

"Instinct gave place temporarily to a system of habits, each one of which became contingent, their convergence of which became contingent, their convergence towards the preservation of society being alone necessary, and this necessity bringing back instinct with it. The necessity of the whole, felt behind the contingency of the parts, is what we call moral obligation in general - it being understood that the parts are contingent in the eyes of society only; to the individual, into whom society inculcates its habits, the part is as necessary as the whole." - Henri Bergson, aka Henri-Louis Bergson

"The prevailing manners of an age depend, more than we are aware of, or are willing to allow, on the conduct of the women: this is one of the principal things on which the great machine of human society turns." - Hugh Blair

"Those can most easily dispense with society who are the most calculated to adorn it; they only are dependent on it who possess no mental resources, for though they bring nothing to the general mart, like beggars, they are too poor to stay at home." - Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington, Lady Blessington, born Margaret Power

"When Americans are morally divided, it is appropriate that our laws reflect that fact... Our popular institutions, the legislative and executive branches, were structured to provide safety to achieve compromise when we are divided, to slow change, to dilute absolutisms... They are designed, in short, to do the very things that abstract generalizations about moral principles and the just society tend to bring into contempt." - Robert Bork, fully Robert Heron Bork

"The great hope of society is in individual character." - William Ellery Channing

"The world is governed much more by opinion than by laws. It is not the judgment of courts, but the moral judgment of individuals and masses of men, which is the chief wall of defence around property and life. With the progress of society, this power of opinion is taking the place of arms." - William Ellery Channing

"The deepest life of nature is silent and obscure; so often the elements that move and mould society are the results of the sister’s counsel and the mother’s prayer." - Edwin Hubbell Chapin

"The essence of justice is mercy. Making a child suffer for wrong-doing is merciful to the child. There is no mercy in letting a child have its own will, plunging headlong to destruction wit the bits in its mouth. There is no mercy to society nor to the criminal if the wrong is not repressed and the right vindicated. We injure the culprit who comes up to take his proper doom at the bar of justice, if we do not make him feel that he has done a wrong thing. We may deliver his body from the prison, but not at the expense of justice nor to his own injury." - Edwin Hubbell Chapin

"All men seek the society of those who think and act somewhat like themselves." - William Cobbett

"Deceivers are the most dangerous members of society. They trifle with the best affections of our nature, and violate the most sacred obligations." - George Crabbe

"Any power must be an enemy of mankind which enslaves the individual by terror and force whether it arises under the Fascist or the Communist flag. All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded to the individual." - Albert Einstein

"Without creative personalities able to think and judge independently, the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community." - Albert Einstein

"From its first day to this, sheer greed was the driving spirit of civilization; wealth and again wealth and once more wealth, wealth, not of society, but of the single scurvy individual - here was its one and final aim." - Friedrich Engels

"Change, not habit, is what gets most of us down; habit is the stabilizer of human society, change accounts for its progress." - William Feather

"The ultimate foundation of a free society is the binding tie of cohesive sentiment." - Felix Frankfurter

"Ultimately there can be no freedom for self unless it is vouchsafed for others; there can be no security where there is fear, and democratic society presupposes confidence and candor in the relations of men with one another and eager collaboration for the larger ends of life instead of the pursuit of petty, selfish or vainglorious aims." - Felix Frankfurter

"The blackout of images of women or men visibly over sixty-five, engaged in any vital or productive adult activity, and their replacement by the ‘problem’ of age, is our society’s very definition of age. Age is perceived only as a decline or deterioration from youth." - Betty Friedan

"Shame and guilt are noble emotions essential in the maintenance of civilized society, and vital for the development of some of the most refined and elegant qualities of human potential - generosity, service, self-sacrificed, unselfishness and duty." - Willard Gaylen

"One can be instructed in society; one is inspired only in solitude." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"The adult world is... built on the shifting grounds of friendship and competition. The double message of this society and economy are to get along and get ahead. We want our children to fit in and to stand out. We rarely address the conflict between these goals." - Ellen Goodman

"Justice, I think, is the tolerable accommodation of the conflicting interests of society, and I don’t believe there is any royal road to attain such accommodations concretely." -

"A society committed to the search for truth must give protection to, and set a high value upon, the independent and original mind, however angular, however rasping, however socially unpleasant it may be; for it is upon such minds, in large measure, that the effective search for truth depends." - Caryl Parker Haskins

"When a miser contents himself with giving nothing, and saving what he has got, and is in others respects guilty of no injustice, he is, perhaps, of all bad men the least injurious to society; the evil he does is properly nothing more than the omission of the good he might do. If, of all the vices, avarice is the most generally detested, it is the effect of an avidity common to all men; it is because men hate those from whom they can expect nothing. The greedy misers rail at sordid misers." - Claude-Adrien Helvétius

"Moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is good and evil in the conversation and society of mankind. God and evil are names that signify our appetites and aversions, which in different tempers, customs and doctrines of men are different." - Thomas Hobbes

"To this war of every man, against every man, this is also consequent that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law: where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice, and injustice, are none of the faculties neither of the body, nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his sense, and passions. They are qualities, that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition, that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thing distinct; but only that to be every man’s, that he can get; and for so long, as he can keep it." - Thomas Hobbes

"Tears, except as a private demonstration, are an ill-disguised expression of self-consciousness and vanity, which is inadmissible in good society." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

"Disbelief in futurity loosens in a great measure the ties of morality, and may be for that reason pernicious to the peace of civil society." - David Hume

"It is universally acknowledged that there is a great uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same, in its principles and operations. The same motives always produce the same actions: the same events follow the same causes. Ambition, avarice, self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit: these passions, mixed in various degrees, and distributed through society, have been from the beginning of the world, and still are, the source of all the actions and enterprises, which have ever been observed among mankind." - David Hume

"What may be called “club-opinion” is one of the very strongest forces in life. The thief must not steal from other thieves; the gambler must pay his gambling-debts, though he pay no other debts in the world. The code of honor of fashionable society has throughout history been full of permissions as well as of vetoes, the only reason for following either of which is that so we best serve one of our social selves." - William James

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education." - Thomas Jefferson

"The only moral virtue of war is that it compels the capitalist system to look itself in the face and admit it is a fraud. It compels the present society to admit that it has no morals it will not sacrifice for gain." - Garrison Keillor, fully Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor

"We enter our studies, and enjoy a society which we alone can bring together. We raise no jealousy by conversing with one in preference to another; we give no offense to the most illustrious by questioning him as long as we will, and leaving him as abruptly. Diversity of opinion raises no tumult in our presence: each interlocutor stands before us, speaks or is silence, and we adjourn or decide the business at our leisure." - Walter Savage Landor

"Only by deep involvement in the problems of the greater society can one achieve happiness, or at least, harmony with oneself." - Rita Levi-Montalcini

"Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character." - James Russell Lowell

"Man is in his actions and practice, as well as in his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal. He is not essentially, but becomes through is history, a teller of stories that aspire to truth. But the key question for men is not about their own authorship; I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question, ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’ We enter human society, that is, with one or more imputed characters - roles into which we have been drafted - and we have to learn what they are in order to be able to understand how others respond to us and how our responses to them are a part to be construed... Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious strutters in their actions as in their words. Hence there is no way to give us an understanding of any society, including our own, except through the stock of stories which constitute its initial dramatic resource. Mythology, in its original sense, is at the heart of things. Vico was right and so was Joyce. And so too of course is that moral tradition fro heroic society to its medieval heirs according to which the telling of stories has a key part in educating us into the virtues." - Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre

"Lying is an ugly vice... Since mutual understanding is brought about solely by way of words, he who breaks his word betrays human society. It is the only instrument by means of which our wills and thoughts communicate, it is the interpreter of our soul. If it fails us, we have no more hold on each other, no more knowledge of each other. If it deceives us, it breaks up all our relations and dissolves all the bonds of our society." - Michel de Montaigne, fully Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

"It is a mistake to base one’s hopes for happiness upon the enforcement of security and equality. In principle, both desires are insatiable... No individual or society is secure in a world of emergent probability and sin... To exercise liberty is to take risks, to embrace uncertainties." - Michael Novak

"Society is ever ready to worship success, but rarely forgives failure." - Madame Roland, Jeanne Manon Philon, born Marie-Jeanne Phlipon

"A society in which everyone works is not necessarily a free society and may indeed be a slave society; on the other hand, a society in which there is widespread insecurity can turn freedom into a barren and vapid right for millions of people." -

"Luxury, which cannot be prevented among men who are tenacious of their own convenience and of the respect paid them by others, soon completes the evil society had begun, and, under the pretense of giving bread to the poor, whom it should never have made such, impoverishes all the rest, and sooner or later depopulates the State." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

"Whoever refuses to obey the general will [of the people] shall be constrained to do so by the whole society; this means nothing else than that he shall be forced to be free." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

"If the intellectual has any function in society, it is to preserve a cool and unbiased judgment in the face of all solicitations to passion... During the war, the ordinary virtues, such as thrift, industry, and public spirit, were used to swell the magnitude of the disaster by producing a greater energy in the work of mutual extermination." -

"If you devote your time to study, you will avoid all the irksomeness of this life; nor will you long for the approach of night, being tired of the day; nor will you be a burden to yourself, nor your society insupportable to others." -

"Many souls fail to find God because they want a religion which will remake society without remaking themselves." - Fulton Sheen, fully Archbishop Fulton John Sheen

"To attain excellence in society, an assemblage of qualification is requisite: disciplined intellect, to think clearly, and to clothe thought with propriety and elegance; knowledge of human nature, to suit subject to character; true politeness, to prevent giving pain; a deep sense of morality, to preserve the dignity of speech; and a spirit of benevolence, to neutralize its asperities, and sanctify its powers." - Lydia Sigourney, fully Lydia Huntley Sigourney, née Lydia Howard Huntley

"Have I done anything for society? I have then done more for myself. Let that truth be always present to thy mind, and work without cessation." - William Gilmore Simms

"Good character is human nature in its best form. It is moral order embodied in the individual. Men of character are not only the conscience of society, but in every well governed state they are its best motive power; for it is moral qualities which, in the main, rule the world." - Samuel Smiles

"The crown and glory of life is character. It is the noblest possession of a man, constituting a rank in itself, and estate in the general good will; dignifying every station, and exacting every position in society. It exercises a greater power than wealth and secures all the honor without the jealousies of fame. It carries with it an influence which always tells; for it is the result of proved honor, rectitude and consistency - qualities which, perhaps more than any others, command the general confidence and respect of mankind." - Samuel Smiles