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Principles

  • One of the most marked characteristics of our day is a reckless neglect of principles, and a rigid adherence to their semblance.

  • I am open to conviction on all points except dinner and debts. I hold that the one must be eaten and the other paid.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1857), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

  • The first thing a principle does is to kill somebody.

  • The young were always theoretical; only the middle-aged could realize the deadliness of principles.

  • Ladies: I have received from you recently several communications, inviting me to be your Guest of Honor at a function to take place in Washington some time this month. I replied, not only that I was unable to attend, but that I regretted this inability; I said that I was sensible to the honor you did me, and that I hoped you would invite me again. Your recent gross and shocking insolence to one of the most distinguished writers of our time has changed all that. It is not in the power of an organization which has insulted Elinor Wylie, to honor me. And indeed I should feel it unbecoming on my part, to sit as Guest of Honor in a gathering of writers, where honor is tendered not so much for the excellence of one's literary accomplishment as for the circumspection of one's personal life. Believe me, if the eminent object of your pusillanimous attack has not directed her movements in conformity with your timid philosophies, no more have I mine. I too am eligible for your disesteem. Strike me too from your lists, and permit me, I beg you, to share with Elinor Wylie a brilliant exile from your fusty province.

  • When two good men contend about principles, both are always right.

  • In order to fight any issue, it is necessary to fight for something, not merely against something.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • 1972, in Michael Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • We are not responsible for our feelings, as we are for our principles and actions. ... Our care, then, should be to look to our principles, and to avoid all anxiety about our emotions. Their nature can never be wrong where our course of action is right, and for their degree we are not responsible.

    • Harriet Martineau,
    • "On the Agency of Feelings in the Formation of Habits," Miscellanies, vol. 1 ()
  • Too much principle is often more harmful than too little.

  • ... convictions ... are always getting in the way of opportunities.

  • ... a successful politician does not have convictions; he has emotions.

  • The worth of every conviction consists precisely in the steadfastness with which it is held.

  • Conviction is the Conscience of the Mind.

  • If I've learned any one lesson from life, it's this: If you don't stand for something, you will stand for anything.

  • ... the distinction between 'prejudice' and 'principle' is itself a matter of prejudice.

  • It is against my entire code, but then I have never begun to use my code, although I judge everything by it.

  • Any positive thinker is compelled to see everything in the light of his own convictions.

  • The owner of it wished to get the tenant out, but was prevented by one of the fussy new laws that constitute such a threat to Spanish freedom: he had determined, therefore, simply to allow the whole thing to fall in over the tenant's head. When nothing but a pile of stones remained, it was true, he would have lost a valuable property: but he would have made his point, and in our sordid times it is refreshing to come on such fire and feeling, and such tenacity of principle.

  • You know the public is more easily swayed by persons than by principles.

  • Principles have a way of yielding to power.

  • ... if we don't stand for something, you may be sure we will fall for anything.

  • There is nothing as dangerous as an unembodied principle: no matter what blood flows, the principle comes first. The First Amendment absolutists operate precisely on unembodied principle ...

  • Principles are sometimes an unaffordable luxury.

  • One ought to be against racism and sexism because they are wrong, not because one is black or one is female.

  • A fundamental feminist principle is that the means are the ends; that how we do something is what we get.

    • Anonymous,
    • 1977, in Sonia Johnson, Wildfire ()
  • The guiding principle of my life, 'the means are the ends,' has taught me that our participation in a corrupt system facilitates it and corrupts and therefore defeats us.

  • 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?

  • Never let us confuse what is legal with what is right. Everything Hitler did in Nazi Germany was legal, but it was not right.