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Morality

  • Life itself, however, flows and is sequential and punishes those who try to compartmentalize it. Thus if, for any reason whatsoever, moral standards are conspicuously and unprecedentedly breached in one area of society, such as the political, it will follow as the night the day that those standards will start collapsing all down the line—in sports, entertainment, education, the armed forces, business and government.

  • ... moral vanity is the snare of good people.

  • The more immoral we become in big ways, the more puritanical we become in little ways.

  • ... her morality often changed color against the stronger color schemes of her wishes.

  • ... moral indignation is a pleasure, often the only pleasure, in many lives. It's also one of the few pleasures people feel obliged to force on other people.

  • Moral truth, resting entirely upon the ascertained consequences of actions, supposes a process of observation and reasoning.

  • Morality, like language, is an invented structure for conserving and communicating order.

  • Morality is a test of our conformity rather than our integrity.

  • I am not impressed by external devices for the preservation of virtue in men or women. Marriage laws, the police, armies and navies are the mark of human incompetence.

  • What was the staunchest code of ethics but a trunk with a series of false bottoms? Now and then one had the illusion of getting down to absolute right or wrong, but it was only a false bottom — a removable hypothesis — with another false bottom underneath. There was no getting beyond the relative.

    • Edith Wharton,
    • "The Twilight of the God," Collected Stories 1891-1910 ()
  • No morals are better than bad ones.

  • The morals of to-day are the immorals of yesterday, the creeds of tomorrow.

  • Your morals are like roads through the Alps. They make these hairpin turns all the time.

  • A concern with 'public morality' is — if not the last refuge of a scoundrel — the first foray of the fascist.

    • Erica Jong,
    • "Deliberate Lewdness and the Creative Imagination: Should We Censor Pornography?" What Do Women Want? ()
  • The act of acting morally is behaving AS IF EVERYTHING WE DO MATTERS.

  • ... the most painful moral struggles are not those between good and evil, but between the good and the lesser good.

  • Morals refine manners, as manners refine morals.

  • A rational process is a moral process.

  • The code of competence is the only system of morality that's on a gold standard.

  • The moral absolute should be: if and when, in any dispute, one side initiates the use of physical force, that side is wrong — and no consideration or discussion of the issues is necessary or appropriate.

  • ... a straight line is the shortest possible line between any two points — an axiom equally true in morals as in mathematics.

  • History is not written in the interests of morality.

  • ... influence which is given on the side of money is usually against truth.

  • ... it is wiser to be conventionally immoral than unconventionally moral. It isn't the immorality they object to, but the originality.

  • The glossy surface of our civilization hides a real intellectual decadence.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "The Power of Words," The Simone Weil Reader ()
  • Much of modern art is devoted to lowering the threshold of what is terrible. By getting us used to what, formerly, we could not bear to see or hear, because it was too shocking, painful, or embarrassing, art changes morals.

  • I make an idol of my moral consciousness. My pursuit of the good is corrupted by the sin of idolatry.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • 1970, in David Rieff, ed., As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh ()
  • A lot of what I've written in criticism of my lust for virtue — my discovery that I've committed idolatry, making of the good an idol — is open to the charge of being still caught within the dialectic of idolatry. I've made a moral criticism of my moral consciousness. Meta-idolatry.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • 1970, in David Rieff, ed., As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh ()
  • Fine blunderers in ethics we are, so generally conveying to children the basic impression that pleasantness must be wrong, and right doing unpleasant!

  • As to ethics, unfortunately, we are still at sea. We never did have any popular base for what little ethics we knew, except the religious theories, and now that our faith is shaken in those theories we cannot account for ethics at all. It is no wonder we behave badly, we are literally ignorant of the laws of ethics, which is the simplest of sciences, the most necessary, the most continuously needed. The childish misconduct of our 'revolted youth' is quite equaled by that of older people, and neither young nor old seem to have any understanding of the reasons why conduct is 'good' or 'bad.'

  • ... the rules were changing. We were all soon to be marooned on a kind of moral polar ice pack that was shifting and breaking apart even as we walked across it.

  • Grandmother was rather severe with us ... Inappropriate conduct was bad manners, bad manners were bad morals, and bad morals led to bad manners, and there you were, ringed with fire, and no way out.

  • I get so tired of moral bookkeeping. Who are They? Why does it concern me what They do?

  • Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.

  • For her, morals did not exist. She would not have known what a moral was if it could be made to dance naked in front of her.

  • Morality did not keep well; it required stable conditions; it was costly; it was subject to variations, and the market for it was uncertain.

  • You are so afraid of losing your moral sense that you are not willing to take it through anything more dangerous than a mud-puddle.

    • Gertrude Stein,
    • "Q.E.D." (1903), in Fernhurst, Q.E.D., and Other Early Writings ()
  • ... they who are not fastidious as to the means, seldom fail of securing the result they aim at.

  • ... religion and morality are a much better whip to keep people in submission than even the club and the gun.

  • I believe that while art is always beyond morality, it is never above it.

    • Jennifer Stone,
    • "R. Crumb: A Portrait of the Artist in the Age of Anxiety," in Berkeley Insider ()
  • Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends... when millions are slaughtered, when torture is practiced, starvation enforced, oppression made a policy, as at present over a large part of the world, and as it has often been in the past, it must be at the behest of very many good people, and even by their direct action, for what they consider a worthy object.

  • I ask myself, have nations ever declined from a loss of moral sense rather than from physical reasons or the pressure of barbarians? I think that they have.

  • It is as easy for most of us to keep from stealing our dinners as it is to digest them, and there is quite as much voluntary morality involved in one process as the other.

    • Jane Addams,
    • title essay, Democracy and Social Ethics ()
  • To attain individual morality in an age demanding social morality, to pride one's self on the results of personal effort when the time demands social adjustment, is utterly to fail to apprehend the situation.

    • Jane Addams,
    • title essay, Democracy and Social Ethics ()
  • The type of figleaf which each culture employs to cover its social taboos offers a twofold description of its morality. It reveals that certain unacknowledged behavior exists and it suggests the form that such behavior takes.

  • Morality is the Science of harmonious relations between intelligent beings.

  • Once you know something is wrong, you're responsible, whether you see it, or hear about it, and most particularly when you're a part of it.

  • People want to be amused, not preached at, you know. Morals don't sell nowadays.

  • Whatever good you would do out of fear of punishment, or hope of reward hereafter, the Atheist would do simply because it is good; and being so, he would receive the far surer and more certain reward, springing from well-doing, which would constitute his pleasure, and promote his happiness.

    • Ernestine L. Rose,
    • "A Defence of Atheism," lecture in Boston (1861), in Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition "No Gods -- No Masters": The Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries ()
  • ... the history of liberal political thought in western Europe and America is a history of thinkers extending — sometimes reluctantly, sometimes willingly — moral assumptions and institutional protections to new groups.

  • Economics lie at the very root of practical morality.

  • Traditional morality ... does not teach us how to let the other follow his or her own path, meet with whomever he or she desires, go where he or she wants.

  • Feeling that morality has nothing to do with the way you use the resources of the world is an idea that can't persist much longer. If it does, then we won't.

  • Everything you're sure is right can be wrong in another place.

  • Between God and love, I recognize no mediator but my conscience ...

  • ... scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1800, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • ... we have made an extraordinary transition. From moral absolutes to moral relativism. ... Moral problems become medical ones and yesterday's sinners become today's patients.

  • When you take the high moral road it is difficult for anyone to object without sounding like a complete fool.

  • If you pretend that business is beyond morality, that's the kind of morality you get.

  • It is always so much easier to be moral than it is to be spiritual.

    • Mary Austin,
    • in Alice Hegan Rice, My Pillow Book ()
  • It is the bane of moralists and philosophers that they never know where to stop.

  • People are very inclined to set moral standards for others.

  • When a new idea assaults the power of established authority, authority always screams out that morality has been affronted. It makes no difference if this idea is that the world is round or that women should vote or that the workers should control industry.

  • Morals are a matter of private agreement; decency is of public concern.

  • ... moral codes and standards in our societies very rarely apply to all people equally. This is the most damning proof of how immoral such codes and standards really are.

  • It cannot surely be questioned but that we want a System of Morals better than any of those which are current amongst us.

    • Frances B. Cobbe,
    • "Theory of Intuitive Morals" (1855), Life of Frances Power Cobbe, vol. 1 ()
  • ... whatsoever it is morally right for a man to do, it is morally right for a woman to do.

  • ... whatever it is morally right for man to do, it is morally right for woman to do.

  • Where there is no freedom there can be no morality.

    • Alison Neilans,
    • "Changes in Sex Morality," in Ray Strachey, ed., Our Freedom and Its Results ()
  • A straight line is the shortest in morals as in geometry.

    • Rachel,
    • in Joseph L. Baron, ed., A Treasury of Jewish Quotations ()
  • Morality is observance of the laws of wholesome living ... In matters of morals we can hold certain assumptions: that there are some things better or worse in human affairs; that we ought to discover the better ways; that human beings are of great worth; that good should be done and evil avoided.

  • Let me get this straight. A president can be impeached for having sex in the White House, but we do not fire administration officials or impeach a president for war crimes, human rights abuses and questionable legal practices. What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with this culture?

  • Morality is not tied to divine bookkeeping. God and humanity are not business partners checking out each other's claims.

  • We know that priorities are amiss in the world when a man gets a military medal of honor for killing another man and a dishonorable discharge for loving one.