Virtue consists, not in avoiding wrong-doing, but in having no wish thereto.

[Ἀγαθὸν οὐ τὸ μὴ ἀδικεῖν, ἀλλὰ τὸ μηδὲ ἐθέλειν.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 62 (Diels) [tr. Freeman (1948)]

Original Greek. Diels cites this as "62. ( 38 N.) DEMOKRATES. 27" ; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium III, 9, 29. Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter.

Alternate translations:

  • "To be good is not only not to do an injury, but not so much as to desire to do one." [tr. Clarke (1750), Democrates, "Ethica."]
  • "Good means not [merely] not to do wrong, but rather not to desire to do wrong.: [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
  • "To be good is not to refrain from wrongdoing but not even to want to commit it." [tr. Barnes (1987)]
  • "It is not good to not commit injustice, but rather to not desire to." [tr. @sententiq (2018), frag. 61]
  • "Virtue consists not in avoiding wrongdoing, but in having no desire for it." [Source]
Added on 9-Feb-21 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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