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Write Injuries in Dust, Benefits in Marble.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
Poor Richard’s Almanack, “August” (1747)

As with so much else of Franklin's, this phrase is not without earlier forms, e.g.: Thomas More, History of King Richard III (1513):

For men use, if they have an evil turn, to write it in marble; and whosoever does us a good turn, we write it in dust.

Or see Shakespeare, Henry VIII 4.2.45-46 (1613):

Men's evil manners live in brass, their virtues
We write in water.

Variants include "but kindnesses in marble" or "but kindness in marble."

This also shows up as a French saying in various forms:

  • "Ecrivez les injures sur le sable, mais les bienfaits sur le marbre."
  • "Écrivez les injures sur le sable, gravez les bienfaits sur le marbre."
Added on 7-Feb-23 | Last updated 7-Feb-23
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Well, we cuss the lawmakers. But I notice we’re always perfectly willin’ to share in any of the sums of money that they might distribute.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
Radio broadcast (7 Apr 1935)
Added on 2-Feb-23 | Last updated 2-Feb-23
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It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.”

Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell (b. 1963) Anglo-Canadian journalist, author, public speaker
Outliers: The Story of Success, ch. 1 “The Matthew Effect,” sec. 5 (2008)
Added on 16-Jan-23 | Last updated 16-Jan-23
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I know that I suffer and this is no small pain:
Not to know, now that brings some pleasure to
The troubled — ignorance is an advantage amid grief.

[φρονῶ δ’ ὃ πάσχω, καὶ τόδ’ οὐ σμικρὸν κακόν·
τὸ μὴ εἰδέναι γὰρ ἡδονὴν ἔχει τινὰ
νοσοῦντα, κέρδος δ’ ἐν κακοῖς ἀγνωσία.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Antiope [Αντιοπη], frag. 205 (Kannicht) (c. 410 BC) [tr. @sentantiq (2015)]

A source for the phrase, "Ignorance is bliss." (Source (Greek); see also TGF frag 204). Alternate translation:

I understand what I endure, and this
Is no small evil; for to the diseas'd
There is a kind of pleasure in not knowing
Their malady; such ignorance is gain
To those who labor under grievous woes.
[tr. Wodhall (1809); Barnes 23, Musgrave 24]

I understand what I suffer, and this is not a small evil:
for not to know that one is ailing has some pleasure,
in misery ignorance is an advantage.
[tr. Will (2015)]

Added on 20-Sep-22 | Last updated 20-Sep-22
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But I have learned from philosophers that among evils one ought not only to choose the least, but also to extract even from these any element of good that they may contain.

[Sed quia sic ab hominibus doctis accepimus, non solum ex malis eligere minima oportere, sed etiam excerpere ex his ipsis, si quid inesset boni ….]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 3, ch. 1 (3.1) / sec. 3 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

This is given us for a rule by the learned, that when several evils are threatening us at once, we should not only choose to undergo the least, but extract some advantage out of them, if it be possible.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

We have been taught by learned men, not only that we ought to choose the least of evils, but also to extract from them, whatever good they contain.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

We have bene taught by learned men, that out of evils it is fit not only to choose the least, but also from those very evils to gather whatever good is in them.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

Philosophers say that one ought not only of evils to choose the least, but from even these least evils to extract whatever of good there may be in them.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

Having been taught by philosophers not only to choose the lesser evil but even to extract whatever good is in it.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

Learned men have taught us that not only with a choice of evils we should choose the least, but that from the evil we should endeavor to extract some good.
[Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906 ed.)]

Philosophers have taught me not only that one ought to choose the lesser evils but also that even from them one ought to gather whatever good they might contain.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

See also Thomas à Kempis.
Added on 24-Feb-22 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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By virtue of exchange, one man’s prosperity is beneficial to all others.

Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) French philosopher, economist, politician
Harmonies of Political Economy, ch. 4, para. 110 (1850)

Alternate translation: "In consequence of Exchange, the gain of each is the gain of all." [tr. Stirling]
Added on 1-Jul-21 | Last updated 1-Jul-21
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Fairness for everyone would be possible only if everyone’s interests were the same, if everyone were in agreement as to what baseline considerations must be in place for a procedure to be labeled “fair.” But if that were the case, the question of fairness would never be raised. It is raised precisely because everyone’s interests are not the same, and since different interests will generate different notions of fairness (the debate between those who call for equality of access and those who call of equality of opportunity is an example), any regime of fairness will always be unfair in the eyes of those for whom it was not designed.

Stanley Fish (b. 1938) American literary theorist, legal scholar, author
There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech, And It’s A Good Thing, Too, Part 1, ch. 5 (1994)
Added on 4-Jun-21 | Last updated 4-Jun-21
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Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance; at least I suppose this quill I hold in my hand writes better than a peacock’s would, and the peasants of Vevay, whose fields in spring time are as white with lilies as the Dent du Midi is with its snow, told me the hay was none the better for them.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Stones of Venice, ch. 2 “The Virtues of Architecture,” sec. 17 (1851)
Added on 24-Feb-21 | Last updated 24-Feb-21
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Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist

Commonly attributed to Keynes, it is not found in his works. A more likely variant is "Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all," but this, too, is not established in Keynes' works. Also sometimes found attributed (without citation) to John Kenneth Galbraith.

George Schuster, Christianity and Human Relations in Industry (1951) quotes (uncited) Keynes referring to capitalism as "the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds."

E. A. G. Robinson was a close colleague of Galbraith, and in his book Monopoly (1941), he said, "The great merit of the capitalist system, it has been said, is that it succeeds in using the nastiest motives of nasty people for the ultimate benefit of society." Robinson may be quoting Galbraith, or Galbraith may have anecdotally quoted Robinson.

More detailed discussion of this here, here, and here.
Added on 21-Jan-21 | Last updated 21-Jan-21
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The ability of the rich and their acolytes to see social virtue in what serves their interest and convenience and to depict as ridiculous or foolish what does not was never better manifested than in their support of gold and their condemnation of paper money.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went, ch. 9 (1975)
Added on 12-Jan-21 | Last updated 12-Jan-21
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“For your own good” is a persuasive argument that will eventually make a man agree to his own destruction.

Janet Frame (1924-2004) New Zealand author [pen name of Nene Janet Paterson Clutha]
Faces in the Water, ch. 4 (1961)
Added on 11-May-20 | Last updated 11-May-20
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What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee.

[Τὸ τῷ σμήνει μὴ συμφέρον οὐδὲ τῇ μελίσσῃ συμφέρει.]

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 6, #54 (2nd C AD)

Original here. Alt. trans.:
  • "That which is not good for the beehive, cannot be good for the bee." [tr. Casaubon (1634); numbered 49]
  • "What does not benefit the hive is no benefit to the bee." [tr. Farquharson (1944)]
  • "That which is not for the interest of the whole swarm is not for the interest of the bee." [tr. Collier]
  • "What injures the hive injures the bee." [tr. Hays (2002)]
  • "What is not good for the hive is not good for the bee."
Added on 17-Apr-20 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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Books are a delightful society. If you go into a room filled with books, even without taking them down from their shelves, they seem to speak to you, to welcome you, to tell you that they have something inside their covers that will be good for you, and that they are willing and desirous to impart it to you.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone (1809-1898) English Liberal politician, Prime Minister (1868-74, 1880-85, 1886, 1892-94)
“The Workman’s Opportunities,” speech, Saltney (26 Oct 1889)
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The meaning of good & bad, of better & worse, is simply helping or hurting.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1838-08-27)
Added on 10-Oct-16 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer, literary scholar, lay theologian [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The Weight of Glory,” sermon, Oxford University Church of St Mary the Virgin (8 Jun 1941)
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He without benefit of scruples
His fun and money soon quadruples.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
In The Selected Verse of Ogden Nash (1945)
Added on 1-Jul-16 | Last updated 1-Jul-16
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The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience. It would be easy, however, to destroy that good conscience by shouting to them: if you want the happiness of the people, let them speak out and tell what kind of happiness they want and what kind they don’t want! But, in truth, the very ones who make use of such alibis know they are lies; they leave to their intellectuals on duty the chore of believing in them and of proving that religion, patriotism, and justice need for their survival the sacrifice of freedom.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Homage to an Exile” (1955)

Published as an essay in Actuelles III, originally a speech (7 Dec 1955) at a banquet in honor of President Eduardo Santos, editor of El Tiempo, driven out of Columbia by a dictatorship". Reprinted in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (1960).
Added on 5-Jan-15 | Last updated 5-Jan-15
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Don’t spit in the soup. We’ve all got to eat.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American politician, educator, US President (1963-69)

A favorite political comment of Johnson's, going back at least as far as when he was US Senate majority leader. It's sometimes labeled as an old adage from Texas politics.

The core metaphor of "spitting in the soup" (ruining/sabotaging something) long predates Johnson; the phrase's application to politics ("don't make things so toxic or failed that you hurt your colleagues and the political institution itself") seems more applicable than ever.

The connection to Johnson seems to have solidified with its inclusion in Jack Shepherd, Christopher Wren, eds., Quotations from Chairman LBJ, Epigraph (1968).

As a verbal comment, and given folk wanting to elicit (or mock) Johnson's Texas accent, variants include "we all got to eat," "we've all gotta eat," etc.
Added on 5-Jun-13 | Last updated 11-Aug-23
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When you go in search of honey you must expect to be stung by bees.

Kenneth Kaunda
Kenneth Kaunda (1924-2021) Zambian teacher, revolutionary, politician
Quoted in the Observer (London) (1982-09-05)

Sometimes attributed to Joseph Joubert, but not found in his works.
Added on 25-Mar-13 | Last updated 11-Dec-23
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Honour and profit lie not in one sacke.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Jacula Prudentum, or Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, &c. (compiler), # 232 (1640 ed.)
Added on 5-Nov-10 | Last updated 15-Mar-24
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And he gave it for his opinion, that whosoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Gulliver’s Travels, ch. 6 “Voyage to Brobdingnag” (1726)
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Failure: A man who has blundered but is not able to cash in on the experience.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Roycroft Dictionary (1914)
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HENRY: God almighty,
There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distill it out.
For our bad neighbor makes us early stirrers,
Which is both healthful and good husbandry.
Besides, they are our outward consciences
And preachers to us all, admonishing
That we should dress us fairly for our end.
Thus may we gather honey from the weed
And make a moral of the devil himself.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 1, l. 3ff (4.1.3-12) (1599)

See Spencer.
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There is no doubt that the “grail” of efficiency leads to abuse. Programmers waste enormous amounts of time thinking about, or worrying about, the speed of noncritical parts of their programs, and these attempts at efficiency actually have a strong negative impact when debugging and maintenance are considered. We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil.

Donald E. Knuth (b. 1938) American computer scientist, mathematician, academic
“Structured Programming with go to Statements,” ACM Journal Computing Surveys (Dec 1974)
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Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, or lose your sense of shame, or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill will, or hypocrisy, or a desire for things best done behind closed doors.

[Μὴ τιμήσῃς ποτὲ ὡς συμφέρον σεαυτοῦ, ὃ ἀναγκάσει σέ ποτε τὴν πίστιν παραβῆναι, τὴν αἰδῶ ἐγκαταλιπεῖν, μισῆσαί τινα, ὑποπτεῦσαι, καταράσασθαι, ὑποκρίνασθαι, ἐπιθυμῆσαί τινος τοίχων καὶ παραπετασμάτων δεομένου.]

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 3, #7 [tr. Hays (2003)]

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Never esteem of anything as profitable, which shall ever constrain thee either to break thy faith, or to lose thy modesty; to hate any man, to suspect, to curse, to dissemble, to lust after anything, that requireth the secret of walls or veils.
[tr. Casaubon (1634), #8]

Don't be fond of any thing, or think that for your interest, which makes you break your word, quit your modesty, be of a dissembling, suspicious, or outrageous humor; which puts you up on hating any person, and inclines you to any practice, which won't bear the light, and look the world in the face.
[tr. Collier (1701)]

Never value anything as profitable to thyself which shall compel thee to break thy promise, to lose thy self-respect, to hate any man, to suspect, to curse, to act the hypocrite, to desire anything which needs walls and curtains.
[tr. Long (1862)]

Think nothing for your interest which makes you break your word, quit your modesty, hate, suspect, or curse any person, or inclines you to any practice which will not bear the light and look the world in the face.
[tr. Zimmern (1887)]

Never esteem anything as of advantage to thee that shall make thee break thy word or lose thy self-respect.
[tr. Morgan, in Bartlett's (1894)]

Never value as an advantage to yourself what will force you one day to break your word, to abandon self-respect, to hate, suspect, execrate another, to act a part, to covet anything that calls for walls or coverings to conceal it.
[tr. Farquharson (1944)]

Never value the advantages derived from anything involving breach of faith, loss of self-respect, hatred, suspicion, or execration of others, insincerity, or the desire for something which hast to be veiled and curtained.
[tr. Staniforth (1964)]

Never value as beneficial to yourself something that will force you one day to break your word, abandon your sense of shame, hate, suspect, or curse someone else, pretend, or desire something that needs the secrecy of walls or curtains.
[tr. Gill (2013)]

Value nothing which compels you to break your promise, to abandon your honor, to hate, suspect or curse anyone, to be a hypocrite, or to lust after anything which needs walls or decorations.
[tr. @sentantiq (2019)]

Some causes will force you to betray faith, abandon shame, hate or suspect another person, call down curses, put forward explanations, or desire something that requires walls and fences. Do not regard these causes as necessary or beneficial to yourself.

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Mar-21
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I care not for a man’s religion whose dog or cat are not the better for it.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)

Frequently attributed to Lincoln without citation, it's actually a variant of "I would give nothing for that man's religion, whose very dog and cat are not the better for it," by Rowland Hill (1744-1833), an English preacher, attributed in George Seaton Bowes, Illustrative Gatherings, or, Preachers and Teachers (1860). Lincoln may have used the line.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-May-16
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SON: Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry VI, Part 3, Act 2, sc. 5, l. 55 (2.5.55) (1591)
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