Quotations about ethics and morality. Society shapes the behavior of members by ethics and morality, which can differ from culture to culture. Some aspects of ethics are practically universal, like the Golden Rule, as some behaviors create more solidarity and happiness for others in the society. What have some of the thinkers through the ages said about ethics and morality — doing good and doing right in our relationships with others?

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Economic equality is not as such of particular moral importance. With respect to the distribution of economic assets, what is important from the point of view of morality is not that everyone should have the same but that each should have enough.

There are four types of people: One who says, ‘What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine’ is a boor. One who says ‘What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours’ — this is a median characteristic…. One who says, ‘What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours’ is pious. And one who says ‘What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine’ is wicked.

— Pirkei Avot

Humanity is not without answers or solutions regarding how to liberate itself from scenarios that invariably end with mass exterminations. Tools such as compassion, trust, empathy, love, and ethical discernment are already in our possession. The next sensible step would be to use them.

— Aberjhani

The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.

— Abigail Van Buren

Our concern is not how to worship in the catacombs, but how to remain human in the skyscrapers

— Abraham Joshua Heschel

When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.

— Abraham Lincoln

I do not believe in the immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern without any superhuman authority behind it.

— Albert Einstein

Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

— Albert Einstein

The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. . . . The ordinary objects of human endeavour — property, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.

— Albert Einstein

I believe, indeed, that overemphasis on the purely intellectual attitude, often directed solely to the practical and factual, in our education, has led directly to the impairment of ethical values.

— Albert Einstein

Without “ethical culture,” there is no salvation for humanity.

— Albert Einstein

Ethics, too, are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives me the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil.

— Albert Schweitzer

Thought cannot avoid the ethical or reverence and love for all life. It will abandon the old confined systems of ethics and be forced to recognize the ethics that knows no bounds. But on the other hand, those who believe in love for all creation must realize clearly the difficulties involved in the problem of a boundless ethic and must be resolved not to veil from [humankind] the conflicts which this ethic will involve [us], but allow [us] really to experience them. To think out in every implication the ethic of love for all creation — this is the difficult task which confronts our age.

— Albert Schweitzer

What does Reverence for Life say abut the relations between [humanity] and the animal world? Whenever I injury any kind of life I must be quite certain that it is necessary. I must never go beyond the unavoidable, not even in apparently insignificant things. The farmer who has mowed down a thousand flowers in his meadow in order to feed his cows must be careful on his way home not to strike the head off a single flower by the side of the road in idle amusement, for he thereby infringes on the law of life without being under the pressure of necessity.

— Albert Schweitzer

Ethics cannot be based upon our obligations toward [people], but they are complete and natural only when we feel this Reverence for Life and the desire to have compassion for and to help all creatures insofar as it is in our power. I think that this ethic will become more and more recognized because of its great naturalness and because it is the foundation of a true humanism toward which we must strive if our culture is to become truly ethical.

— Albert Schweitzer

The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings.

— Albert Schweitzer

Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting, and enhancing life and that to destroy, harm, or to hinder life is evil. Affirmation of the world — that is affirmation of the will to live, which appears in phenomenal forms all around me — is only possible for me in that I give myself out for other life.

— Albert Schweitzer

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

— Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic

The end cannot justify the means, for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced.

— Aldous Huxley

There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.

— Aldous Huxley

Philosophy, law and ethics, to be effective in a dynamic world must be dynamic; they must be made vital enough to keep pace with the progress of life and science.

— Alfred Korzybski

As society is now constituted, a literal adherence to the moral precepts scattered throughout the gospels would mean sudden death.

— Alfred North Whitehead

There is no need to force our own theological points of view upon one another or to insist that the moral life grows out of final, absolute authority.

— Algernon Black

We have the gift of human life, wherever it comes from, and the means of developing what is distinctively human…. When we ask, “What does it mean to be human?”, we find the answer in our ethical nature and in the cultivation of the gifts and possibilities of human beings. For it is the truth and beauty and goodness within human beings, that human beings must fulfill…. To believe in freedom, we have to believe in people.

— Algernon Black

Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn’t matter. I’m not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for.

— Alice Walker

One doesn’t have to be religious to lead a moral life or attain wisdom.

— Allan Lokos

Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught. Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught.

— Ambrose Bierce

Sensitivity, solidarity, space, sustainability, scholarship and stories are elaborated as six elements of ‘slow ethics’. These elements illuminate the path to ethical care practices across cultures. Slow ethics will, it is hoped, counter the craving for quick fixes, subdue moral panic and provide deeper, quieter and more sustainable approaches which affirm and value the art in care and other moral practices.

— Ann Gallagher

….Every human being may be better … We know it, because we — the human beings we know best — could be better than we are. Every human being should take advantage of his opportunity, however poor. We know this because we feel that we have failed to make the best of our opportunities. Every human being can… become a larger, finer, and fairer specimen of the human race. This is the gospel of religion and this is the gospel of personal ethics. more

— Anna Garlin Spencer, Philadelphia, 1908

Ethics should precede economics… We know this because we’ve seen the results of capitalism without conscience: the pollution of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat; the endangerment of workers; and the sale of dangerous products — from cars to toys to drugs. All in pursuit of greater and greater profits.

— Arianna Huffington

Live so that your friends can defend you but never have to.

— Arnold H. Glasow

A Humanist Code of Ethics:
Do no harm to the earth, she is your mother.
Being is more important than having.
Never promote yourself at another’s expense.
Hold life sacred; treat it with reverence.
Allow each person the digity of his or her labor.
Open your home to the wayfarer.
Be ready to receive your deepest dreams;
sometimes they are the speech of unblighted conscience.
Always make restitutions to the ones you have harmed.
Never think less of yourself than you are.
Never think that you are more than another.

— Arthur Dobrin

Compassion is the basis of morality.

— Arthur Schopenhauer

All my growth and development led me to believe that if you really do the right thing, and if you play by the rules, and if you’ve got good enough, solid judgment and common sense, that you’re going to be able to do whatever you want to do with your life.

— Barbara Jordan

If men were born free, they would, so long as they remained free, form no conception of good and evil.

— Baruch Spinoza

The moral man is he who is opposed to injustice per se, opposed to injustice wherever he finds it; the moral man looks for injustice first of all in himself.

— Bayard Rustin

We have in fact, two kinds of morality, side by side: one which we preach, but do not practise, and another which we practise, but seldom preach.

— Bertrand Russell

A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.

— Bertrand Russell

I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a person who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently.

— C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

In the different voice of women lies the truth of an ethic of care, the tie between relationship and responsibility, and the origins of aggression in the failure of connection.

— Carol Gilligan

The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.

— Charles Darwin

The following proposition seems to me in a high degree probable — namely, that any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts, the parental and filial affections being here included, would inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers had become as well, or nearly as well developed, as in man. For, firstly, the social instincts lead an animal to take pleasure in the society of its fellows, to feel a certain amount of sympathy with them, and to perform various services for them.

— Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

There are two freedoms: the false where a man is free to do what he likes; the true where a man is free to do what he ought.

— Charles Kingsley

One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.

— Charles M. Blow

Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.

— Christopher Hitchens

I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don’t know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do.

— Christopher Reeve

Too often, we idolize a ‘middle’ stance as more rational, more fair, more loving. We wear it as its own kind of moral superiority. But virtue is not synonymous with neutrality. Sometimes integrity demands a choice.

— Cole Arthur Riley

Racism is a moral catastrophe, most graphically seen in the prison industrial complex and targeted police surveillance in black and brown ghettos rendered invisible in public discourse.

— Cornel West

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark’d, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ‘tis necessary that it shou’d be observ’d and explain’d; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.

— David Hume, known as the naturalistic fallacy

When I lay my head on the pillow at night I can say I was a decent person today. That’s when I feel beautiful.

— Drew Barrymore
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