Quotes on Morality

The meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.

— John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

No evil propensity of the human heart is so powerful that it may not be subdued by discipline.

— Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Goodness in man can only grow in a climate of liberty.

— F.A. Harper

Character is destiny.

— Heraclitus

When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.

— Frederick Bastiat, The Law

The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.

— Ayn Rand

Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil.

— Robert Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.

— Ayn Rand

Man’s motive power is his moral code.

— Ayn Rand

There is something even more valuable to civilization than wisdom, and that is character.

— H. L. Mencken

The moral sense is as much a part of our constitution as that of feeling, seeing, or hearing.

— Thomas Jefferson

Morals – all correct moral laws – derive from the instinct to survive. Moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level.

— Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

“Die trying” is the proudest human thing.

— Robert Heinlein, Have Space Suit—Will Travel

Honor is the reward of virtue.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.

— Henry David Thoreau

It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving, it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

— Thomas Paine

Man-every man-is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.

— Ayn Rand, Introducing Objectivism

Every guilty person is his own hangman.

— Lucius Annaeus Seneca

One that confounds good and evil is an enemy to the good.

— Edmund Burke, On the Impeachment of Warren Hastings

Quality is not an act, it is a habit.

— Aristotle

So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no they do not.

— Milton Friedman

Correct morality can only be derived from what man is – not from what do-gooders and well-meaning aunt Nellies would like him to be.

— Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.

— Marcus Aurelius

Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.

— Adam Smith

Gratitude is a duty which ought to be paid, but which none have a right to expect.

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one.

— Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pleasures and pains of his species must become his own.

— Percy Bysshe Shelly

The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.

— Thomas Brackett Reed, 1886

Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.

— Ayn Rand

There is no such dichotomy as “human rights” versus “property rights.” No human rights can exist without property rights.

— Ayn Rand

Every aspect of Western culture needs a new code of ethics – a rational ethics – as a precondition of rebirth.

— Ayn Rand

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind – that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

— H. L. Mencken

The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society.

— Mark Skousen

Honor is self-esteem made visible in action.

— Ayn Rand

Fame is something which must be won; honor, only something which must not be lost.

— Arthur Schopenhauer

Justice is the crowning glory of the virtues.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

It is not, what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice, tells me I ought to do.

— Edmund Burke

Without doubt the greatest injury of all was done by basing morals on myth. For, sooner or later, myth is recognized for what it is, and disappears. Then morality loses the foundation on which it has been built.

— Lord Herbert Louis Samuel

Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.

— Edmund Burke

True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding out the true path for ourselves and fearlessly following it.

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Samuel Miller, 1808

We seem to be moving steadily in the direction of a society where no one is responsible for what he himself did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did, either in the present or in the past.

— Thomas Sowell

Virtue, as well as evil, lies in our power.

— Aristotle

The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his action.

— Confucius

Life-the way it really is-is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse.

— Joseph Brodsky

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor.

— Miyamoto Musashi

I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams (28 October 1813)

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.

— H. L. Mencken

Once one accepts the principle of self-ownership, what’s moral and immoral becomes self-evident. Murder is immoral because it violates private property. Rape and theft are also immoral — they also violate private property.

— Walter Williams

The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt.

— Ayn Rand

There is only one justification for having sinned, and that is to be glad of it.

— H. L. Mencken

Virtue is a disposition, or habit, involving deliberate purpose or choice.

— Aristotle

The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.

— Ayn Rand

In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.

— Ayn Rand

Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.

— Alex Hamilton, 9 November, 1978

Character is much easier kept than recovered.

— Thomas Paine

A thief is more moral than a congressman; when a thief steals your money, he doesn’t demand you thank him.

— Walter E. Williams

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

— H. L. Mencken

That which is outside the possibility of choice is also outside the province of morality.

— Ayn Rand

We become just by performing just action, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave action.

— Aristotle

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.

— Mark Twain

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.

— Thomas Paine

A society that does not recognise that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.

— Friedrich Hayek, The Market : Ethics, Knowledge, and Politics (1998)

It is easy to perform a good action, but not easy to acquire a settled habit of performing such actions.

— Aristotle

Moral cowardice is fear of upholding the good because it is good, and fear of opposing the evil because it is evil.

— Ayn Rand

Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive work – pride is the result.

— Ayn Rand

Integrity is an absolute virtue.

— Cullen Hightower

I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

— Martin Luther King, In a letter on 16 April, 1963.

Live each golden moment as if it were eternity – without fear, without hope, but with a sybaritic gusto.

— Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

No matter how worthy the cause, it is robbery, theft, and injustice to confiscate the property of one person and give it to another to whom it does not belong.

— Walter Williams

Everyone has the right to make his own decisions, but none has the right to force his decision on others.

— Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness

A man who struggles not to acknowledge that evil is evil, finds it increasingly dangerous to acknowledge that the good is the good.

— Ayn Rand

The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships.

— Ayn Rand

A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers — and this is the basis of all human morality.

— John F. Kennedy

I have often thought that morality may perhaps consist solely in the courage of making a choice.

— Leon Blum

There is … only one categorical imperative. Is is: Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that is should become a universal law.

— Immanuel Kant

In nothing do humans approach so nearly to the gods as doing good to others.

— Cicero

A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.

— Thomas Paine

There can be no such thing, in law or in morality, as actions forbidden to an individual, but permitted to a mob.

— Ayn Rand

Do not overestimate the decency of the human race.

— H. L. Mencken

To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.

— Confucius

Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration – courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth.

— H. L. Mencken

Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues.

— John Locke

“Value” has no meaning other than in relationship to living beings. The value of a thing is always relative to a particular person, is completely personal and different in quantity for each living human-“market value” is a fiction, merely a rough guess at the average of personal values, all of which must be quantitatively different or trade would be impossible.

— Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Indiscriminate tolerance and indiscriminate condemnation are not two opposites: they are two variants of the same evasion.

— Ayn Rand

It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.

— Ronald Reagan

Give me chastity and self-restraint, but do not give it yet.

— Saint Augustine

Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises; for never intending to go beyond promises, it costs nothing.

— Edmund Burke

Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.

— Albert Einstein