Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"In civilized life, law floats in a sea of ethics." - Earl Warren

"In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilt if he only thinks of doing so." - Immanuel Kant

"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

"In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of another. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so." - Immanuel Kant

"Action indeed is the sole medium for expression of ethics." - Jane Addams

"I can neither seek within myself the true condition which will impel me to act, nor apply to a system of ethics for concepts which will permit me to act... No general ethics can show you what is to be done; there are no omens in the world." - Jean-Paul Sartre

"There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite." - Jorge Luis Borges

"Unlike Hinduism and most Western ethics, Buddhism is nonhierarchical, emphasizing oneness and the interrelatedness and moral value of all living beings. Right living, therefore, includes compassion and an attitude of nonviolence toward all of nature." - Judith A. Boss

"Acquire good physique and mental robustness which comes from fresh air, sound and plain food, constant and compelling attention to waste matter, proper and peaceful sleep, and concentration on true religion, ethics, art and literature." - Lord Fisher, aka Lord John Arbutnoth Fisher, fully Admiral of the Fleet John Arbuthnot "Jacky" Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher of Kilverstone

"Ethics does not treat of the world. Ethics must be a condition of the world, like logic." - Ludwig Wittgenstein, fully Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein

"Do not confuse your vested interests with ethics. Do not identify the enemies of your privilege with enemies of humanity." - Max Lerner, fully Maxwell "Max" Alan Lerner, aka Mikhail Lerner

"There's no such thing as business ethics; there's just ethics. And ethics makes no concessions for the real or imagined necessities of making a profit." - Michael S. Josephson

"Caring is the heart of ethics, and ethical decision-making. It is scarcely possible to be truly ethical and yet unconcerned with the welfare of others. That is because ethics is ultimately about good relations with other people." - Michael S. Josephson

"Ethics is putting principles into action. Consistently between what we say we value and what our actions say we value is a matter of integrity." - Michael S. Josephson

"The moral challenge is to carry out our pursuits with character, to treat ethics as a ground rule, not an option, even when the standards of ethics impede our ability to get what we want." - Michael S. Josephson

"The real test of our ethics is whether we are willing to do the right thing even when it is not in our self-interest." - Michael S. Josephson

"Though the ethical challenges we face in the workplace may be different from those in our personal lives, the principles of ethical conduct that apply to those challenges do not change. There is no such thing as business ethics - there is only ethics." - Michael S. Josephson

"Yes, there are powerful systemic forces that can make it difficult for us to do the right thing. In the last analysis, however, ethics is our individual responsibility." - Michael S. Josephson

"Science could not survive without a community sharing scientific values. Moral systems do not continue unless individuals subscribe to a common set of ethics. Values are so ephemeral that they require the joining psychic input of a group to retain their hold on each person’s attention. They may be created by individuals, but they must be maintained by the collectivity." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, native form is Csíkszentmihályi Mihály

"History is taught with little regard to the ecology, the economics, the sociology or psychology - let alone the biology - that are necessary to understand human action. The same is true of all other academic subjects. Yet if we continue to teach physics separately from ethics, or molecular biology without concern for empathy, the chances of a monstrous evolutionary miscarriage are going to increase. To avoid these possibilities, it is imperative to begin thinking about a truly integrative, global education that takes seriously the actual interconnectedness of causes and effects." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, native form is Csíkszentmihályi Mihály

"Ethics, like natural selection, make existence possible. Aesthetics, like sexual selection, make life lovely and wonderful, fill it with new forms, and give it progress, and variety and change." - Oscar Wilde, pen name for Fingal O'Flahertie Wills

"Responsibility educates, and politics is but another name for God’s way of teaching the masses ethics, under the responsibility of great present interests." - Wendell Phillips

"The Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar." - D. H. Lawrence, fully David Herbert "D.H." Lawrence

"Ethics, as has been well said, are the finest fruits of humanity; but they are not its roots. " - Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, also known as Mulock, Mrs Craik, Mrs Craik, Miss Mulok, Miss Muloch, Miss Mulock

"Live one day at a time emphasizing ethics rather than rules. " -

"More is given to us than to any people at any time before; and, therefore, more is required of us. We have made, and still are making, enormous advances on material lines. It is necessary that we commensurately advance on moral lines. Civilization, as it progresses, requires a higher conscience, a keener sense of justice, a warmer brotherhood, a wider, loftier, truer public spirit. Failing these, civilization must pass into destruction. It cannot be maintained on the ethics of savagery. For civilization knits men more and more closely together, and constantly tends to subordinate the individual to the whole, and to make more and more important social conditions." - Henry George

"Physical revolution has no meaning; there is only one revolution, psychological, inward revolution because the human being - you - is the society. You have built this society and in that society, in that culture you're caught; therefore, you are the world and the world is you, not verbally, theoretically or intellectually, but actually. You are the world and the world is you and if you are confused, if you are disturbed, if you are neurotic, unbalanced, whatever structure you create as social morality, as law, as ethics or as religion must equally be confused." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"A truth in ethics is a conclusion backed by reasons. The “correct” answer to a moral question is simply the answer that has the weight of reason on its side. Such truths are objective in the sense that they are true independently of what we might want or think. We cannot make something good or bad just by wishing it to be so because we cannot merely will that the weight of reason be on its side or against it. And this also explains our fallibility: We can be wrong about what is good or bad because we can be wrong about what reason commends." - James Rachels

"The Philosophy of Tea is not mere aestheticism ... for it expresses conjointly with ethics and religion our whole point of view about man and nature. It is hygiene, for it enforces cleanliness; it is economics, for it shows comfort in simplicity rather than in the complex and costly; it is moral geometry, inasmuch as it defines our sense of proportion to the universe." -

"Indeed the involuntary character of psychiatric treatment is at odds with the spirit and ethics of medicine itself." - Kate Millet, Katherine Murray Millett

"Surely the love of our country is a lesson of reason, not an institution of nature. Education and habit, obligation and interest, attach us to it, not instinct. It is, however, so necessary to be cultivated, and the prosperity of all societies, as well as the grandeur of some, depends upon it so much, that orators by their eloquence, and poets by their enthusiasm, have endeavoured to work up this precept of morality into a principle of passion. But the examples which we find in history, improved by the lively descriptions and the just applauses or censures of historians, will have a much better and more permanent effect than declamation, or song, or the dry ethics of mere philosophy." - Henry St John, Lord Bolingbroke, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke

"In the New Testament, religion is grace and ethics is gratitude." - Thomas Erskine, Lord Erskine, 1st Baron Erskine

"Having discovered what requirements religion and sciences put on our attitude to the uppermost questions of the world view, we are now going to investigate whether, and to what extent, those two kinds of requirements can be brought into mutual agreement. It is primarily evident that this investigation (Prüfung) can concern only such laws in which religion and sciences meet each other. There are namely many fields in which they do not have anything in common. For example, all questions of ethics are irrelevant for natural sciences, equally as the values of natural constants are of no meaning for the religion. The religion and science meet, on the contrary, in the question about the existence and essence of the supreme power (Macht) governing the world, and here the answers they both furnish, are at least to a certain extent mutually comparable. They are in no way, as we have seen, in contradiction (Widerspruch), but they agree in that firstly, there exists a reasonable world order (vernünftiger Weltordnung) independent from man and secondly, the essence of this order is never knowable directly, but only indirectly, or it can be only intuitively guessed. Religion uses to this effect its own specific (eigentümlichen) symbols, exact sciences use measurements based on sensual perceptions. In this sense nothing prevents us – and our instinct of knowledge, demanding a unified world view, even requires it – to identify the world order of natural sciences with the god of religion (Gott der Religion). According to this, the deity (die Gottheit), which believing man strives to approach using his visual symbols, is in its essence identical (wesensgleich) with the power of natural laws (naturgesetzlichen Macht), about which the researching man learns to a certain extent with the help of sensual experiences." - Max Planck, fully Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck

"The concept that above him is "an Eye that sees and an Ear that hears," he has never heard it spoken in a heartfelt manner. And if it ever was mentioned, it was only superficial lip-service. Not only that, but from the first day he went to school, it was made clear to him that it is not the school's role to get involved in his character and ethical growth; rather, he is told that he is an independent person and the school merely offers the opportunity to accumulate knowledge, which he can later use to whatever end he sees fit. Any discussion of ethics is, at best, based upon fear of punishment, and this undermines the student's focus and belief – intentionally or unintentionally – that there is "an Eye that sees and an Ear that hears" all his actions." - Menachem Mendel Schneerson, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe

"It’s a sign of troubled times when the concept of “pressure” becomes an acceptable excuse for ethical shortcuts and moral shortcomings. Pressures are just temptations in disguise and it’s never been acceptable to give in to temptation. Ethics is about the way things ought to be, not about the way things are. When it comes to ethics, motive is very important. A person of character does the right thing for the right reason. Compliance is about what we must do; ethics is about what we should do. Ethical people often do more than the law requires and less than it allows. The area of discretion between the legal “must” and the moral “should” tests our character. Noble talk and framed ethics statements are no substitute for principled conduct. The test is doing the right thing." - Michael S. Josephson

"Humanism may not be universal but may be quite relative to a certain situation. What we call humanism has been used by Marxists, liberals, Nazis, Catholics. This does not mean that we have to get rid of what we call human rights or freedom, but that we can't say that freedom or human rights has to be limited at certain frontiers. For instance, if you asked eighty years ago if feminine virtue was part of universal humanism, everyone would have answered yes. What I am afraid of about humanism is that it presents a certain form of our ethics as a universal model for any kind of freedom. I think that there are more secrets, more possible freedoms, and more inventions in our future than we can imagine in humanism as it is dogmatically represented on every side of the political rainbow: the Left, the Center, the Right." - Michel Foucault

"There's nothing wrong with capitalism that ethics wouldn't cure." - Patricia Sun

"At the descriptive level, certainly, you would expect different cultures to develop different sorts of ethics and obviously they have; that doesn't mean that you can't think of overarching ethical principles you would want people to follow in all kinds of places." - Peter Singer

"More often there's a compromise between ethics and expediency." - Peter Singer

"A detailed investigation of the problem as to whether the Creto-Mycenaean-Greek-Roman and the Western total culture has been integrated into Sensate, Integral, and Ideational supersystems and how this integration has manifested itself in paintings, sculpture, architecture, music, literature, in science and philosophy, ethics and law, forms of social, political, and economic organizations, in the movement of wars and revolution, and how and in what centuries from the twelfth century B.C. up to the twentieth century A.D. Sensate, Integral, and Ideational supersystems dominated-these are the central problems studied in the Dynamics." - Pitirim A. Sorokin, fully Pitirim Alexandrovich (Alexander) Sorokin

"Posidonius found the idea of personal immortality absurd. Since the evil daimon is innate to the individual soul and absent from the World-Soul, the soul cannot become immortal by freeing itself of wrongdoing, for the individual soul as a whole cannot join the World-Soul. But the individual can through right ethics place the superior daimon in charge of all aspects of soul, subordinate the passional tendencies by withdrawing from the lower daimon, and thus engage in a microcosmic version of ceaselessly reducing chaos to kosmos. By assimilating the action of the higher daimonic aspect of soul to the celestial motion of the World-Soul, the individual merges the immortal part of the soul with the governing principle of the universe. The wise man does not seek immortality, for he knows there is that in him which is immortal. Perhaps Posidonius found in this standpoint the possibility of self-conscious, though not personal, immortality through cultivation of the highest in the individual. [paraphrased]" - Posidonius, aka Posidonius of Rhodes or Posidonius of Apameia (meaning "of Poseidon") NULL

"For Posidonius, ouranos, heaven, offers the paradigm for man. The stars teach ethics. The individual who pursues his duties without emotional involvement in them and without the correlative expectation of results, who recognizes honesty as the good and the hallmark of the wise man, and who seeks to honour the higher daimon in himself discovers a fidelity within the soul which is both its overarching oikeiosis and its link to the World-Soul. He sees that the principles of physics can be translated into the laws of psychology from which are derived ethics and the rules of right conduct. Without wavering in his loyalty to the deepest insights of the Stoic tradition, Posidonius exemplified in his own life and thought the ability of the philosopher to penetrate afresh and more precisely the mystery of the kosmos and the less ordered realm in which human beings dwell. His fearlessness of method and the marriage of observation and abstract thought influenced the generations which came immediately after him, and inspired a number of thinkers in the dawn of the European Enlightenment. [paraphrased]" - Posidonius, aka Posidonius of Rhodes or Posidonius of Apameia (meaning "of Poseidon") NULL

"In an age when immense technological advances have created lethal weapons which could be, and are, used by the powerful and the unprincipled to dominate the weak and the helpless, there is a compelling need for a closer relationship between politics and ethics at both the national and international levels. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations proclaims that 'every individual and every organ of society' should strive to promote the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings regardless of race, nationality or religion are entitled. But as long as there are governments whose authority is founded on coercion rather than on the mandate of the people, and interest groups which place short-term profits above long-term peace and prosperity, concerted international action to protect and promote human rights will remain at best a partially realized struggle." - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

"The blind willingness to sacrifice people to truth, however, has always been the danger of an ethics abstracted from life." - Carol Gilligan

"Naturally, I do not believe that a course of formal training is any guarantee of a therapist’s infallibility and integrity. But I do think that such training is absolutely indispensable. Without supervision and membership of a reputable professional association defining the ethical standards it expects its members to live up to and empowering an ethics commission to uphold those standards, therapists can indulge more or less at will in the abuse of the patients dependent upon them." - Alice Miller, née Rostovski

"It was not at all the intention of the Jewish teachers and sages of old to teach the fear of God. Many of their utterances regarding the relationship between God and man have been greatly misunderstood and therefore misinterpreted. This misunderstanding has been due greatly to the dual meaning of the Hebrow word, "Yirah." "Yirah" means both to reverence and to fear. This word, employed numerous times throughout the Pentateuch with reference to man's attitude toward God, may lead to the translation of either, "Fear thy God," or, "Reverence thy God." It is clear that the translators of the Bible did not consider the significance of the latter meaning and its import upon both the ethics and the character of the race. To revere our God means that we are to look upon him as a Father, a Shepherd, to guide our steps and watch over our destiny ; it means that we are His children and His flock, that He has brought us into existence as an expression of His love. It means that the whole universe is an outflow of His love,and in response to His profound love, we revere His name. To say that God requests fear is to limit his powers, to lower Him to the level of an earthly king, who sways his people with the tyranny of fear. The true attributes of God are outlined in Exodus 34 :6, "The Lord, the Lord God is merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth." " - Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein

"A system of ethics may be based either on fear or on love, but not on both. When based on fear, the letter of the law, as a rule, will be executed, but not its spirit. Because of fear, men may deal honestly with one another, but they will not necessarily be honest men, they may speak truthfully even and not be truthful. Fear develops a dual personality, one manifested in the presence of the object feared, the other, perhaps of extremely opposite tendencies, unfolded in the secret chamber of the heart. In a system of ethics based on fear, man is persuaded that he is weak and untrustworthy, that his nature is hopelessly corrupt, unable to master itself except at the lash of a Force lying outside himself. Man, it then would seem, is innately wicked ; his wickedness must be chained by threats of divine wrath and punishment ; he, of his own accord, would not walk in the path that is straight ; he must be forced into it by the gaps and ditches that are lurking dangerously outside this path. Such a system, in which man is convinced that he is unable to take care of himself, build his own character, merely tends to generate moral weakness and cowardice. A system of ethics based on love develops a unified personality, a oneness between thought and action. It enhances, more and more, the moral courage which is basic to man. Through love, man becomes conscious of the great force of goodness and virtue that lie within him. He knows that he is possessed of inherent goodness and godliness, if he knows that in himself is a spark of the divine, a force that makes for perfection. All he needs to do is to allow this divine spark to illuminate and permeate his whole being, and darkness and evil will disappear from his heart." - Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein

"The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle." - Albert Einstein

"Such is the brutalization of commercial ethics in this country that no one can feel anything more delicate than the velvet touch of a soft buck." - Raymond Chandler, fully Raymond Thornton Chandler

"An organized money market has many advantages. But it is not a school of social ethics or political responsibility." - R. H. Tawney, fully Richard Henry Tawney