Moral: Conforming to a local and mutable standard of right; having the quality of general expediency.
—Ambrose Bierce (1842–1913) American Short-story Writer, Journalist
Time is the great equalizer in the field of morals.
—H. L. Mencken (1880–1956) American Journalist, Literary Critic
Ah! How neatly tied, in these people, is the umbilical cord of morality! Since they left their mothers they have never sinned, have they? They are apostles, they are the descendants of priests; one can only wonder from what source they draw their indignation, and above all how much they have pocketed to do this, and in any case what it has done for them.
—Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) French Actor, Drama Theorist
A set of rules laid out by professionals to show the way they would like to act if it was profitable.
—Frank Lane (1896–1981) American Sportsperson, Businessperson
The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, “I was wrong.”
—Sydney J. Harris (1917–86) American Essayist, Drama Critic
Though sages may pour out their wisdom’s treasure, there is no sterner moralist than pleasure.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
Morality is simply the attitude we adopt toward people whom we personally dislike.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet, Playwright
Let but the public mind once become thoroughly corrupt, and all attempts to secure property, liberty, or life, by mere force of laws written on parchment, will be as vain as to put up printed notices in an orchard to keep off canker-worms.
—Horace Mann (1796–1859) American Educator, Politician, Educationalist
Why, a moral truth is a hollow tooth which must be propped with gold.
—Edgar Lee Masters (1869–1950) American Poet, Novelist
I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.
—Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) American Author, Journalist, Short Story Writer
Compound for sins they are inclined to by damning those they have no mind to.
It is safe to say that no other superstition is so detrimental to growth, so enervating and paralyzing to the minds and hearts of the people, as the superstition of Morality.
—Emma Goldman (1869–1940) Lithuanian-American Anarchist, Feminist
The essence of morality is a questioning about morality; and the decisive move of human life is to use ceaselessly all light to look for the origin of the opposition between good and evil.
—Georges Bataille (1897–1962) French Essayist, Intellectual
We become moral when we are unhappy.
—Marcel Proust (1871–1922) French Novelist
Modern morality and manners suppress all natural instincts, keep people ignorant of the facts of nature and make them fighting drunk on bogey tales.
—Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) English Occultist, Mystic, Magician
We never reach our ideals, whether of mental or moral improvement, but the thought of them shows us our deficiencies, and spurs us on to higher and better things.
—Tryon Edwards American Theologian
The pure, the bright,
The beautiful that stirred our hearts in youth,
The impulses to wordless prayer,
The streams of love and truth,
The longing after something lost,
The spirit’s yearning cry,
The striving after better hopes;
These things can never die.
The timid hand stretched forth to aid a brother in his need,
A kindly word in grief’s dark hour that proves a friend indeed;
The plea for mercy softly breathed,
When justice threatens high,
The sorrow of a contrite heart;
These things shall never die, shall never die.
Let nothing pass,
For every hand must find some work to do,
Lose not a chance to waken love.
Be firm and just and true,
So shall a light that cannot fade beam on thee from on high,
And angel voices say to thee;
These things can never die.
—Charles Dickens (1812–70) English Novelist
There can be no high civility without a deep morality.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
—C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) Irish-born British Academic, Author, Literary Scholar
From pride, from pride, our very reas’ning springs.
—Alexander Pope (1688–1744) English Poet
Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. So aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.
—Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) American Philosopher
He who steadily observes those moral precepts in which all religions concur will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ.
—Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) American Head of State, Lawyer
Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.
—H. G. Wells (1866–1946) English Novelist, Historian, Social Thinker
Many people convince themselves if it is economically necessary, it’s morally right. That’s not always the case.
A moral lesson is better expressed in short sayings than in long discourse.
—Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann (1728–1795) Swiss Philosophical Writer, Naturalist, Physician
Conscience, the sense of right, the power of perceiving moral distinctions, the power of discerning between justice and injustice, excellence and baseness, is the highest faculty given us by God, the whole foundation of our responsibility, and our sole capacity for religion. …God, in giving us conscience, has implanted a principle within us which forbids us to prostrate ourselves before mere power, or to offer praise where we do not discover worth.
—William Ellery Channing (1780–1842) American Unitarian Theologian, Poet
Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
—George Washington (1732–99) American Head of State, Military Leader
Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616) British Playwright
Morality is the custom of one’s country and the current feeling of one’s peers.
There are two principles of established acceptance in morals; first, that self-interest is the mainspring of all of our actions, and secondly, that utility is the test of their value.
—Charles Caleb Colton (c.1780–1832) English Clergyman, Aphorist