Ethics Quotes

The sages, also have first devoted themselves to study, and thus know the truth. The common people, also have
knowledge of [good] from birth….Study and self-control should follow the lead of intuitive knowledge
—The Philosophy of Wang Yang Ming

The nature of man is evil; the good which it shows is factitious….So the nature of man, being evil, must be submitted to
teachers and laws, and then it becomes correct.
—Hsun Tzu, The Chinese Classics, Vol II

[V]irtue in a man will be the disposition which (a) makes him a good man, and (b) enables him to perform his function
—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. 2 Ch. 6

No quality of human nature is more remarkable both in itself and its human consequences, than the propensity we have
to sympathize with others.
—David Hume, A Treatise on Human Nature (1740)

If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights
and condemned to slave labor. Any alleged “right” of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another,
is not and cannot be a right.
—Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights” (1963)

Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive liberty compatible with an similar liberty for others.
—John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971), p. 60

Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that
every human being is a person, that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. By virtue of this, he has
rights and duties, flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature. These rights are therefore universal,
inviolable and inalienable.
—Pope John XXIII, “Pacem in terris” (1963), par. 9

When people begin to ignore human dignity, it will not be long before they begin to ignore human rights.
—G.K. Chesterton, All is Grist (1932)

It is a preconception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that in spite of the diversity in cultures and
differences in existential conditions in the world, a common standard of rights can be established for all people and
—Mansour Farhang, Iranian ambassador to the United Nations

To be truthful (honest) in all deliberations, therefore, is a sacred and absolutely commanding decree of reason, limited by
no expediency.
—Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason ( 1788)

Whenever experimenters claim that their experiments are important enough to justify the use of animals, we should ask
them whether they would be prepared to use a brain-damaged human being at a similar mental level to the animals they
are planning to use.
—Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (1990), pp. 82-3

He should work to promote what is beneficial to the world, both directly and indirectly, and avoid what is of no benefit.
Such is the way of the superior man.
—Mo Tzu, Against Confucians, Pt. 1, Sect 39

Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to
point out what we ought to do.
—Jeremy Bentham, Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)

For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claim that your life belongs to God and those who
claimed that it belongs to your neighbors…no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live
—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957)

The individual is most likely to contribute to social betterment by rationally pursuing his own best long-range interests
—Robert G. Olson, The Morality of Self-Interest (1965)

Altruism is the theory of ethics that motivates the hostility toward capitalism and egoism. According to altruism, a
morally good action is one that places others above self; as such, altruism commands self-sacrifice. It does not mean
kindness or gentleness, but he act of giving up a higher value for the sake of a lower value or non-value.
—Jerry Kirkpatrick, In Defense of Advertising: Arguments from Reason, Ethical Egoism and Laissez-Faire Capitalism (1994), p. 18

People with bad consciences always fear the judgment of children.
—Mary McCarthy, On the Contrary

The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.
—Bede Jarrett (historian)

Some good must come by clinging to the righr. Conscience is a man’s compass, and though the needle sometimes
deviates, though one perceives irregularities in directing one’s course by it, still one must try to follow its direction.
—Vincent van Gogh, Dear Theo: An Autobiography of Vincent van Gogh

God would never have allowed evils to subsist in his creation, were it not that he might find in them the occasion to
produce good things unique in kind, and dependent for their unique character on the character of the evils in question.
—Austin Farrer, Love Almighty and Ills Unlimited: An Essay on Providence and Evil (1952), p. 163

I can’t combine faith in God with Auschwitz. Either there is no God, or I don’t belong to him.
—Milan Machovec (Polish Marxist philosopher)

There is no Good save obedient behavior, save the obedient will. But this obedience is rendered not to a law or a
principle which can be known beforehand, but only to the free, sovereign will of God. The Good consists in always
doing what God wills at any particular moment.
—Emil Brunner, The Divine Imperative (1947)

Each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior, exalts its own divinities, and looks with contempt
on outsiders. Each group thinks its own folkways are the only right ones, and if it observes groups that have other
folkways, these excite its scorn. Opprobrious epithets are derived from these differences. “Pig-eater,” “cow-eater,”
“uncircumcised,” “jabberers,” are epithets of contempt.
—William Graham Sumner, Folkways, (1906), p. 13

One of the first features which mark the distinction between a civilized, and a rude nation, is the value attached to
human life, and the protection given it by the former….Respect for human life, and vigilant protection of it, is a feature
of civilization sadly absent in this country [the United States]
—Frederick Douglass, “Contradictions in American Civilization” (1861)

For if anyone, no matter who, were given the opportunity of choosing from amongst all the nations of the world the set
of beliefs which he thought best, he would inevitably, after careful consideration of their relative merits, choose that of
his own country. Everyone without exception believes his own native customs…to be the best.
—Herodotus, The Histories (c. 500 B.C.E.)

It is tempting to deny the existence of evil since denying it obviates the need to fight it.
—Alexis Carrel, Reflections on Life

What I feel is right is right. What I feel is wrong is wrong.
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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