Ethical Quotes

Index of Ethical Quotes



AQUINAS, Thomas 1224-75,

Summa Theologica

“To disparage the dictate of reason is equivalent to condemning the command of God”

“[Conscience] is the reason making moral judgements or choice values.”

“No evil can be desirable, either by natural appetite or by conscious will. It is sought indirectly, namely because it is the consequence of some good”

“Every act in so far as it has something real about it has something good about it. In so far as it falls short of the full reality that a human act should have, it falls short of goodness, and so it is called bad.”

“[Law] is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by the authority who has the care of the community, and promulgated.”

ARISTOTLE, 384-322 BC,

Nichomachean Ethics

“..intellectual virtue in the main owes its birth and growth to teaching.., while moral virtue comes about as a result of habit…”

“Every Art and every investigation and similarity every action and pursuit is v considered to be aim at some good”

“what is the highest of all practical goods? …It is happiness..”

“Nobody would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other good things”

“Friendship also seems to be the bond that holds communities together..”

“… By human goodness is meant goodness not of the body but the soul and happiness also we define as an activity of the soul.”

“Happiness then we define as the active exercise of the mind in conformity with perfect goodness or virtue”

AYER, A J ,1910-1988

Language Truth and Logic

“…. it is impossible to find a criterion for determining the validity of ethical judgements….because they have no objective validity….They are pure expressions of feeling and as such do not come under the category of truth and falsehood. ” (p.108)

“There is nothing right or wrong about Ethical Language. It is just an expression of our emotion”



“[Intuitionism] gives people a frightening amount of freedom”

BENTHAM, Jeremy 1748-1832,

Declaration of Principles, p.7

“I recognize as the all comprehensive, and only right and proper end of Government, the greatest happiness of the members of the community in question…the greatest happiness of the greatest number”

Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), p.11

“Nature has placed under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure”


Ethical studies, p.163

“yes, we have found ourselves, when we have found our station and its duties, our function as an organ in the social organism”

BUTLER, Joseph (1692-1752)

Sermons no.iii

(on conscience) “Your obligation [is] to follow this law, is its being the law of your nature. That your conscience approves of and attests to such a course of action, is itself an obligation… it is our natural guide, the guide assigned us by the Author of our nature…”


CICERO, (106-43 BC)

De Re Publica

“True law is right reason in agreement with nature….there will be no different laws … but one eternal and unchangeable law will; be valid for all nations and all times”

“The good of the people is the chief law”





Situation Ethics, (1966)

“Whether any form of sex is good or evil depends on whether love is fully served “(p.139)

“there are times when a man has to push his principles aside and do the right thing” (p.13)

“Only one thing is intrinsically good; namely, love: nothing else at all” (p.56)

“The ruling norm of Christian decision is love, nothing else” (p.69)

“Love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else.” P.87

love wills the neighbours good, whether we like him or not. ” p.103

“only the end justifies the meanS”p,120

“loves decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively.” P.134


G stuff goes here.


HARE, R M (1919- )

The Language of Morals (1952)

Freedom and Reason

“It is, most fundamentally, because moral judgements are universalizable that we can speak of moral though as rational (to universalize is to give the reason); and their prescriptivity is very intimately connected with our freedom to form out own moral opinions .”p.5

“I have been maintaining that te meaning of the word ‘ought’ and other moral words is such that a person who uses them commits himself thereby to a universal rule.”p.30

HOBBES, Thomas (1588-1679)

Leviathan, English Works, 2, p.3

“For every man is desirous of what is good for him, and shuns what is evil.”

HUME, David (1711-1776)

An enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, p.298

“… morality is determined by sentiment”

HUTCHESON, Francis (1694-1746)

A system of Moral Philosophy,

“the greatest happiness for the greatest number




KANT, Immanuel, 1724-1804,

Critique of Practical Reason, (1788)

“A good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes … it is good through its willing alone – that is, good in itself”

“Duty…It cannot be less than something which elevates the man above himself as a part of the world of sense.”

“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe…the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. (193,259)

Foundations of the metaphysics of morals 1785 (p80-87)

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

“ morals, the proper and inestimable worth of an absolutely good will consists precisely in the freedom of the principle of action from all influences…”

“For a lie always harms another; if not some other particular man, still it harms mankind generally, for it vitiates the source of law itself.”


LOCKE, John (1632-1704)

Second Treatise of Government, 6

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it … that all being equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in life, health, liberty, or possessions…”


“Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum – “Such evil deeds could religion provoke.””



The state the Citizens, 1958

“Natural rights must be self-evident and they must be absolute (p.57)

MACINTYRE, Alasdair (1929- )

After Virtue, (1981)

“..we know there are no self evident truths.” (p.69)

“…the introduction of the word intuition by a moral philosopher is always a signal that something has gone badly wrong with the argument “p69)

A Short History of Ethics, (1967)

“Utilitarianism could justify horrendous acts as being for the pleasure of the many” (p.238),

“When I invoke words such as ought and good I at least seek to appeal to a standard which has other and more authority”(p.265)


Ethics (1977)

“There are no objective values” (p.15)

“The assertion that there are objective values or intrinsically prescriptive entities or features of some kind …. is, I hold, not meaningless but false.”(p.40)

MARX, Karl (1818-1883)

Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

“Religion is indeed man’s self consciousness and self-awareness…is the sigh of the oppressed creatures…the soul of soulless conditions…the opium of the people.”

MILL John Stuart Mill, (1806-73)

Utilitarianism (1863)

On Liberty Collected Works, XVIII, P.224

“I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of a man as a progressive being”

MOORE, G E (1873-1958)

Principia Ethica, (1903).

“everything is what it is and not another thing

“a thing is a thing and not another thing”

“If I am asked “what is good” my answer is that good is good, and that is the end of the matter …it cannot be defined”(p6,9-10)

“when you have reduced a horse to its simplest terms, then you can no longer define these terms” (p.7)

“yellow and good are not complex”

“The value of a whole must not be assumed to be the same as the sum of the values of its parts” (p.28)


N stuff goes here.


O stuff goes here.


PHILIPS, D Z (1934- )

“To a Christian, to do one’s duty is to do the will of God.”

PLATO (428-347 BC)

Theaetus 155D

“Philosophy begins in wonder”

Republic, 518B

“..the entire soul must be turned away from this world of change until its eye can bear to look straight at reality, and at the brightest of all realities which we have called the Good.”

Protagoras, 358C

“To prefer evil to good is not in human nature;”

Meno, 86A

“And if the truth of all things always existed in the soul, then the soul is immortal”


“The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved by the gods”

PRITCHARD, H A (1871-1947)

Moral Obligation (1949)

Foundation of Ethics

Right action is that which is “morally suitable to the situation in which an individual; finds himself” (p.146)


Attributed in Plato’s Theatetus, 196C

“Whatever in any city is regarded as just and admirable is just and admirable in that city for as long as it is thought to be so

Quoted in E Hussey, the Pre-Socratics, p.109

“Man is the measure of all things”



“an individualistic and subjective appeal to the concrete circumstances of actions to justify decisions in opposition to the natural law or revealed will.


Q stuff goes here.


Elements of Moral Philosophy,

“to be a moral agent is to be an autonomous or self directed agent”

RAWLS, John (1921-)

A Theory of Justice

“We shall want to say that certain principles of justice are justifies because they would be agreed to in an initial situation of equality,” (p.21)

“the combination of mutual disinterest and the veil of ignorance achieves the same purpose as benevolence” p.148

“I have a moral obligation to aid those who are worse off than myself”

“First principle -Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all. Second Principle – Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.” (p.302)

ROARK, Howard

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, (1905-1982)

“man’s first duty is to himself…His moral obligation is to do what he wishes, provided his wish does not depend primarily on other men.” (p.82)

ROBINSON, Bishop John,

Honest to God

“There is no one ethical system that can claim to be Christian”

ROSS, W. D. (1877- 1971)

The Right and the Good (1930)

“The essential defect of the “ideal utilitarian theory is that it ignores the highly personal; character of duty.” (p.22)

“there is probably no act , for instance, which does good to anyone without doing harm to someone else, and vice versa.” (ch.2)

“That an act.. is prima facie right, is self evident … just as a mathematical axiom … is evident.” (Ch.2)


SHAW, George Bernard (1856–1950)

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

SIDGWICK, Henry (1838-1900)

The Methods of Ethics 1907

“by Utilitarianism is here meant the ethical theory, that the conduct which…is objectively right, is that which will produce the greatest amount of happiness on the whole;…” (p.411)

SPINOZA, Benedict (1632-1677)


“Thus the infant believes that it is by free will that it seeks the breast; the angry boy believes that by free will he wishes vengeance…men believe themselves to be free simply because they are conscious of their actions, knowing nothing of the causes by which they are determined”

STEVENSON, Charles L. (1908-1979)

Facts and Values

“It [the non-cognitive view] maintains that although a speaker normally uses ‘X is yellow’ to express his belief about X, he normally uses ‘X is good’ to express something else, namely his approval of X.” (p.79)


TEMPLE, William

“there is only one ultimate and invariable duty, and its formula is “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. How to do this is another question, but this is the whole of moral duty”

THATCHER, Lady Margaret

“There is no such thing as society, instead there are individual men, women and families.”


On the duty of Civil Disobedience

“That government is best which governs least…The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think is right”







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