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Evil

  • We human beings cause monstrous conditions, but precisely because we cause them we soon learn to adapt ourselves to them. Only if we become such that we can no longer adapt ourselves, only if, deep inside, we rebel against every kind of evil, will we be able to put a stop to it. ... while everything within us does not yet scream out in protest, so long will we find ways of adapting ourselves, and the horrors will continue.

  • ... there is evil everywhere under the sun.

  • Evil is not something superhuman, it's something less than human.

  • ... evil soon makes tools out of those who don't hate it.

  • Evil alone has oil for every wheel.

  • [About Eichmann:] It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lesson that this long course in human wickedness had taught us — the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.

  • The sad truth of the matter is that most evil is done by people who never made up their minds to be or do either evil or good.

  • As citizens, we must prevent wrong-doing because the world in which we all live, wrong-doer, wrong-sufferer, and spectator, is at stake; the City has been wronged.

  • It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong, because you can remain the friend of the sufferer; who would want to be the friend of and have to live together with a murderer? Not even another murderer.

  • Evil is obvious only in retrospect.

  • In the face of evil, detachment is a dubious virtue.

  • But little evil would be done in the world if evil never could be done in the name of good.

  • In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.

  • The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it.

  • The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.

  • Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty.

  • Evil is dull, that is the worst of it ...

  • Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.

  • If you want to be your own master ... always be surprised by evil; never anticipate it.

  • The Devil is always easier raisd than laid.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • letter (1794), in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams ()
  • The devil's most devilish when respectable.

  • ... there is no moderation in the use of what is harmful.

  • It may be necessary temporarily to accept a lesser evil, but one must never label a necessary evil as good.

  • There is no real evil in life, except great pain; all the rest is imaginary, and depends on the light in which we view things.

    • Madame de Sévigné,
    • 1680, Letters of Madame de Sévigné to Her Daughter and Her Friends, vol. 6 ()
  • Attempted modifications of an essential evil always fail.

  • The great human problem of evil stems from the illusion of separateness. Whenever this illusion is overcome, we behave lovingly to one another.

  • ... the lowest depth of women's degradation in Christendom was reached in the public sentiment (guided by ecclesiastics) which condemned thousands of poor creatures to be tortured and publicly burnt alive at the stake for their imaginary league with Christendom's imaginary devil!

  • As for an authentic villain, the real thing, the absolute, the artist, one rarely meets him even once in a lifetime. The ordinary bad hat is always in part a decent fellow.

    • Colette,
    • 1928, in Enid McLeod, trans., Break of Day ()
  • We no longer believe in boundless good, but we do believe very strongly in boundless bad, boundless evil, and we spend the majority of our lives either being terrified of it, or deciding just how much of it is likely to descend on us at any given moment.

  • Many people believe that evil is the presence of something. I think it's the absence of something.

  • Stupidity always accompanies evil. Or evil, stupidity.

    • Louise Bogan,
    • c. 1935, in Ruth Limmer, ed., Journey Around My Room ()
  • Evil isn't a cosmological riddle, only just selfish human behavior.

  • Evil I had never found satisfactorily placeable as an integral element of the universal, or total, content of existence. Indeed, evil is evil just because there is no logical place for it, no room in reality for it. It is unreal, and yet real as something unreal.

  • The problem of good and evil is not the problem of good and evil, but only the problem of evil. In opposition to good there are evil characters, but there are no good characters in opposition to evil. Evil is arguable, but good is not. Therefore the Devil always wins the argument.

  • ... evils we have never experienced, we are unprepared to resist.

  • It is a fact, however, that there is no rest for the wicked.

  • Blessed ... is he who has it in his power to do evil, yet does it not.

  • ... the corruption of the best is the worst ...

  • Can spirit from the tomb, or fiend from hell, / More hateful, more malignant be than man — / Than villainous man?

  • To vice, innocence must always seem only a superior kind of chicanery.

  • Faced with two evils, I picked one every time.

  • There are many vices which are not believed because of their magnitude ...

  • I love to walk in lonely solitude & leave the bustel of the nosey town behind me & while I look on nothing but what strikes the eye with sights of bliss & then I think myself tronsported far beyond the reach of the wicked sons of men where their is nothing but strife & envying pilefring & murder where neither contentment nor retirement dweels but there dwels drunkenness.

    • Marjorie Fleming,
    • age 7 (1810), in Frank Sidgwick, The Complete Marjory Fleming ()
  • Insanity has excuses; wickedness has not.

  • ... the lesser evil is also evil ...

  • Well! evil to some is always good to others.

  • In all men is evil sleeping; the good man is he who will not awaken it, in himself or in other men.

  • ... no man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.

  • Natural villains are hard to come by, what with all the shrinks and social-scientist types threatening to understand everybody into the ground ...

  • All that the Devil asks is acquiescence ...

  • There is so much evil / but none of us knows an evil person.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Science Fiction at a San Francisco Beach," Woman Before an Aquarium ()
  • [On evil:] There are two kinds. And the worst kind isn't black hearts. It's a failure of the imagination. Blandness and blindness. That's the horror of it. It's some upright Christian soul, some bumbling bureaucrat who refuses to see the truth, who washes his dainty hands of the poverty and misery around him, who signs his name routinely to some damnable bland blind piece of paper, ten copies, please, Miss Blah. That's the worst kind.

  • ... this was the only answer she'd ever found to evil: to go on living and to help others live in happiness.