Quotations about   ability

Note that not all quotations have been tagged, so the Search function may find additional quotations on this topic.



It might be argued that a man who employs this kind of skill with words for immoral purposes can do great harm, but the same goes for everything good except for virtue, and it goes above all for the most valuable things, such as strength, health, and generalship. After all, moral use of these things can do the greatest good, and immoral use the greatest harm.

[εἰ δ᾽ ὅτι μεγάλα βλάψειεν ἂν ὁ χρώμενος ἀδίκως τῇ τοιαύτῃ δυνάμει τῶν λόγων, τοῦτό γε κοινόν ἐστι κατὰ πάντων τῶν ἀγαθῶν πλὴν ἀρετῆς, καὶ μάλιστα κατὰ τῶν χρησιμωτάτων, οἷον ἰσχύος ὑγιείας πλούτου στρατηγίας: τούτοις γὰρ ἄν τις ὠφελήσειεν τὰ μέγιστα χρώμενος δικαίως καὶ βλάψειεν ἀδίκως.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 1, ch. 1, sec. 13 / 1355b (350 BC) [tr. Waterfield (2018)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

But if it be urged that a man, using such a power of words for an unjust purpose, would do much harm, this is common to all the goods, with the exception of virtue; and especially in the case of the most useful, as for instance strength, health, wealth, and command: for by the right use of these a man may do very much good, and by the wrong very much harm.
[Source (1847)]

If, however, any one should object that a person, unfairly availing himself of such powers of speaking, may be, in a very high degree, injurious; this is an objection which will like in some degree against every good indiscriminately, except virtue; and with especial force against those which are most advantageous, as strength, health, wealth, and generalship. Because employing these fairly, a person may be beneficial in points of the highest importance; and by employing them unfairly may be equally injurious.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

If it is objected that the abuser of the rhetorical faculty can do great mischief, this, at any rate, applies to all good things except virtue, and especially to the most useful things, as strength, health, wealth, generalship. By the right use of these things a man may do the greatest good, and by the unjust use, the greatest mischief.
[tr. Jebb (1873)]

If it is argued that one who makes an unfair use of such faculty of speech may do a great deal of harm, this objection applies equally to all good things except virtue, and above all to those things which are most useful, such as strength, health, wealth, generalship; for as these, rightly used, may be of the greatest benefit, so, wrongly used, they may do an equal amount of harm.
[tr. Freese (1924)]

And if it be objected that one who uses such power of speech unjustly might do great harm, that is a charge which may be made in common against all good things except virtue, and above all against the things that are most useful, as strength, health, wealth, generalship. A man can confer the greatest of benefits by a right use of these, and inflict the greatest of injuries by using them wrongly.
[tr. Roberts (1954)]

And if someone using such a capacity for argument should do great harm, this at least, is common to all good things -- except virtue -- and especially so in the case of the most useful things, such as strength, health, wealth, and generalship. For someone using these things justly would perform the greatest benefits -- and unjustly, the greatest harm.
[tr. Bartlett (2019)]

Added on 2-Apr-21 | Last updated 2-Apr-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Aristotle

In art as in lovemaking, heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and so does heartless skill, but what you want is passionate virtuosity.

John Barth (b. 1930) American writer
Quoted in Charles B. Harris, Passionate Virtuosity: The Fiction of John Barth (1983)
    (Source)

Quoted as such in the introductory materials, without specific citation. Barth used the phrase on multiple occasions, including:
  • "My feeling about technique in art is that it has about the same value as technique in love-making. That is to say, on the one hand, heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and, on the other hand, so does heartless skill; but what you want is passionate virtuosity." [first used, in Alan Prince, "An Interview with John Barth," Prism (Spring 1968)]
  • "Heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal, Dunyazade; so does heartless skill. But what you want is passionate virtuosity." [Barth, Chimera (1972)]
Added on 12-Mar-20 | Last updated 12-Mar-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Barth, John

Yet I think that to all living things there is a pleasure in the exercise of their energies, and that even beasts rejoice in being lithe and swift and strong. But a man at work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and imagination help him as he works. Not only his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the men of past ages guide his hands; and, as a part of the human race, he creates. If we work thus we shall be men, and our days will be happy and eventful.

William Morris (1834-1896) British textile designer, writer, socialist activist
“Useful Work versus Useless Toil,” lecture (1884)
    (Source)

Printed in Signs of Change (1888).
Added on 11-Mar-20 | Last updated 11-Mar-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Morris, William

Wings are freedom only when they are wide open in flight. On one’s back they are a heavy weight.

[Крылья — свобода, только когда раскрыты в полёте, за спиной они — тяжесть.]

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) Russian poet
Notebook 1 (1921)
    (Source)

Literally "Wings -- freedom, only when opened in flight, behind their backs -- heavy."
Added on 24-Feb-20 | Last updated 24-Feb-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Tsvetaeva, Marina

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

[πόλλ’ οἶδ’ ἀλώπηξ, ἐχῖνος δ’ἓν μέγα]

Archilochus (c. 680-645 BC) Greek lyric poet and mercenary [Ἀρχίλοχος, Archilochos, Arkhilokhus]
Fragment 201
    (Source)

As quoted in Isaiah Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953). The fragment is found in a group of proverbs collected by Zenobius. Alt. trans.:
  • The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.
  • The fox knows many tricks; the hedgehog one good one.
  • The fox knows many tricks; and the hedgehog only one; but that is the best one of all.
  • Fox knows many, Hedgehog one solid trick.
  • Fox knows tricks and still gets caught; Hedgehog knows one but it always works. (Source)
Added on 17-Jan-20 | Last updated 21-Jan-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Archilochus

Ability is a poor man’s wealth.

Matthew Wren (1585-1667) English clergyman, bishop, scholar
(Attributed)

First found in Day's Collacon (1884).
Added on 11-Sep-17 | Last updated 11-Sep-17
Link to this post | 2 comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Wren, Matthew

The Abilities of Man must fall short on one side or other, like too scanty a Blanket when you are a-bed. If you pull it upon your Shoulders, you leave your Feet bare; if you thrust it down upon your Feet, your Shoulders are uncovered.

William Temple, 1st Baronet Temple (1628-1699) English statesman and essayist.
Miscellanea (1705)
    (Source)
Added on 28-Aug-17 | Last updated 28-Aug-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Temple, William Baronet

I believe that happiness consists in having a destiny in keeping with our abilities. Our desires are things of the moment, often harmful even to ourselves; but our abilities are permanent, and their demands never cease.

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Reflections on Suicide (1813)
    (Source)
Added on 21-Aug-17 | Last updated 21-Aug-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by De Stael, Germaine

Ability is not something to be saved, like money, in the hope that you can draw interest on it. The interest comes from the spending. Unused ability, like unused muscles, will atrophy.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
    (Source)
Added on 14-Aug-17 | Last updated 14-Aug-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Roosevelt, Eleanor

There is only one proof of ability — action.

[Für das Können gibt es nur einen Beweis: das Tun.]

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) Austrian writer
Aphorisms [Aphorismen] [tr. Wister (1883)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "There is only one proof of ability: doing it."
Added on 7-Aug-17 | Last updated 7-Aug-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Von Ebner-Eschenbach, Marie

He is a man of splendid abilities, but utterly corrupt. He shines and stinks like rotten mackerel by moonlight.

John Randolph of Roanoke (1773-1833) American politician, diplomat
(Attributed)

Comment on Edward Livingson, quoted in W. Cabell Bruce, John Randolph of Roanoke, Vol. 2 (1923). Sometimes incorrectly given as an attack on Henry Clay.
Added on 31-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Randolph, John (Roanoke)

Native ability without education is like a tree which bears no fruit.

Aristippus of Cyrene (c. 435 – c. 356 BC) Cyrenaic philosopher, Hedonist
(Attributed)

Quoted in Edward Parsons Day, Day’s Collacon: An Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations (1884). Not found in original source material.
Added on 17-Jul-17 | Last updated 17-Jul-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Aristippus of Cyrene

Ability hits the mark where presumption overshoots and diffidence falls short.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) English prelate, Catholic Cardinal, theologian
(Attributed)

Also attributed to Golda Meir.
Added on 10-Jul-17 | Last updated 10-Jul-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Newman, John

Would that my ability was equal to my inclination.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) American correspondent, First Lady (1797-1801)
Letter to John Quincy Adams (16 Feb 1786)
    (Source)
Added on 3-Jul-17 | Last updated 3-Jul-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Adams, Abigail

It is a very rare thing for a man of talent to succeed by his talent.

Joseph Roux
Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 4, #88 (1886)
    (Source)
Added on 4-Apr-16 | Last updated 4-Apr-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Roux, Joseph

Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.

Brown - broken English - wist_info quote

H. Jackson "Jack" Brown, Jr. (b. 1940) American writer
Life’s Little Instruction Book, Vol. 3, #1427 (1993)
    (Source)
Added on 12-Jan-16 | Last updated 12-Jan-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Brown, H. Jackson "Jack"

Back then I wanted to be right about my estimate of my abilities. Now I want to be wrong.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001)
Added on 20-Nov-15 | Last updated 20-Nov-15
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Richardson, James

An able man shows his Spirit by gentle words and resolute actions.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (15 Jan 1753)
    (Source)
Added on 27-Apr-15 | Last updated 27-Apr-15
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Chesterfield (Lord)

As we can learn from every man or woman or child around us when, touched and moved, they tell of something they loved or hated this day, yesterday, or some other day long past. At a given moment, the fuse, after sputtering wetly, flares and the fireworks begin. Oh, it’s limping crude hard work for many, with language in their way. But I have heard farmers tell about their very first wheat crop on their first farm after moving from another state, and if it wasn’t Robert Frost talking, it was his cousin, five times removed. I have heard locomotive engineers talk about America in the tones of Thomas Wolfe who rode our country with his style as they ride it in their steel. I have heard mothers tell of the long night with their firstborn when they were afraid that they and the baby might die. And I have heard my grandmother speak of her first ball when she was seventeen. And they were all, when their souls grew warm, poets.

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) American writer, futurist, fabulist
“How to Keep and Feed a Muse,” Zen in the Art of Writing (1989)
Added on 1-Oct-14 | Last updated 1-Oct-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Bradbury, Ray

The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what the man or woman is able to do that the world cares about.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) American educator, writer
“Mind and Matter,” Speech, Alabama State Teachers’ Association, Selma (5 Jun 1895)

Washington reused material in various speeches he gave. In an address to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Boston (30 July 1903), he phrased this: "The world cares very little what you or I know, but it does care a great deal about what you or I do."
Added on 13-Feb-13 | Last updated 20-Jan-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Washington, Booker T.

There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 61 (1903)

Full text.
Added on 14-Nov-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Butler, Samuel

Competence, like truth, beauty and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder.

Lawrence J Peter
Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
The Peter Principle (1969)

See Richard Cumberland.
Added on 20-Dec-07 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Peter, Lawrence J.

If we attend continually and promptly to the little that we can do, we shall ere long be surprised to find how little remains that we cannot do.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Butler, Samuel

O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) American clergyman, hymnist
“Going Up to Jerusalem,” Selected Sermons [ed. William Scarlett (1949)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Jul-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Brooks, Phillips