"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly."
"Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality."
Lest there be any confusion, I am not (to the best of my knowledge) related to the historical personage of Dante Alighieri... I'm just a fan of his work.
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Lists of "quotations" abound on the web, and most of them are poorly sourced or even plainly inaccurate. I've gone to pains to ensure that only properly worded and properly sourced quotations are included in this section. These represent a selection of "words of wisdom" in many cases, or in a few, words that it would do us well to hold in our minds for reflection. Please let me know if you find any quotations that you believe are improperly worded or sourced, so that I can make any necessary adjustments.
"Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means-to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal-would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face."
"Has there ever been a society which has died of dissent? Several have died of conformity in our lifetime."
"No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear."
"The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered."
"When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people."
"To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely."
"What is a rebel? A man who says no."
"Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic."
"To insure the adoration of a theorem for any length of time, faith is not enough, a police force is needed as well."
"Equality, in a social sense, may be divided into that of condition and that of rights. Equality of condition is incompatible with civilization, and is found only to exist in those communities that are but slightly removed from the savage state. In practice, it can only mean a common misery."
"Fear prophets ... and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them."
-Umberto Eco, 1980  as Brother William in The Name of the Rose
"Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion."
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
"Truth never damages a cause that is just."
"Of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship ... voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
"In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution."
"A well-proportioned mind is one which shows no particular bias; one of which we may safely say that it will never cause its owner to be confined as a madman, tortured as a heretic, or crucified as a blasphemer. Also, on the other hand, that it will never cause him to be applauded as a prophet, revered as a priest, or exalted as a king. Its usual blessings are happiness and mediocrity."
-Thomas Hardy, 1878, 
"The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war."
"The heights of popularity and patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny; flattery to treachery; standing armies to arbitrary government; and the glory of God to the temporal interest of the clergy."
-David Hume, 1752, 
"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
"What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."
"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it."
"In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe, and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them, therefore, as you would by an angry bull; it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal."
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."
"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."
"I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law."
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals."
"The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law, there is no freedom."
"The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself."
"I flatter myself [we] have in this country extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind."
"Wherever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done."
"As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed."
"War ... should only be declared by the authority of the people, whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits."
"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people... [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and ... degeneracy of manners and of morals ... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
"Testimony of all ages forces us to admit that war is among the most dangerous enemies to liberty, and that the executive is the branch most favored by it of all the branches of Power."
"[Restraints on the press] in all ages, have debauched morals, depressed liberty, shackled religion, supported despotism, and deluged the scaffold with blood."
"The essence of government is power, and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse."
"The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind"
"Originality is the one thing which unoriginal minds cannot feel the use of."
"The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind."
"The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation, to a little more of administrative skill, or that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes—will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish."
"He that rebels against reason is a real rebel, but he that in defence of reason rebels against tyranny has a better title to “Defender of the Faith,” than George the Third."
-Thomas Paine, 1776, 
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."
-Thomas Paine, 1776, 
"Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one."
-Thomas Paine, 1776, 
"Character is much easier kept than recovered."
-Thomas Paine, 1783, 
"My country is the world, and my religion is to do good."
-Thomas Paine, 1792, 
"Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad."
-Thomas Paine, 1792, 
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind."
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church."
-Thomas Paine, 1794, 
"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."
-Thomas Paine, 1794, 
"It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe."
-Thomas Paine, 1794, 
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."
"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
"Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion."
-Oscar Wilde, 1891, 
Links of Convenience
- IP lookup
- Candidates for Speedy Deletion
- List of cognitive biases
- Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard
- Disputed English grammar