Quotations about   deceit

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Of course I lie to people. But I lie altruistically — for our mutual good. The lie is the basic building block of good manners. That may seem mildly shocking to a moralist — but then what isn’t?

Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) English writer and raconteur [b. Denis Pratt]
Manners from Heaven: A Divine Guide to Good Behavior (1984)
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Added on 19-Oct-17 | Last updated 19-Oct-17
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You must not tell lies because if you do you will find yourself unable to believe anything that is told to you.

Shaw - lies - wist_info

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism, and Fascism, ch. 74 (1928)
Added on 4-Nov-15 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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Lying is done with words, and also with silence.

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) American poet, essayist, feminist
“Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying” (1975)
Added on 21-Oct-15 | Last updated 21-Oct-15
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A single lie destroys a whole reputation for integrity.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish writer.
The Art of Wordly Wisdom, 181 (1647) [tr Jacobs (1943)]
Added on 7-Oct-15 | Last updated 7-Oct-15
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The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 39 (1903)
Added on 23-Sep-15 | Last updated 23-Sep-15
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I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 19 [ed. Festing-Jones] (1907)
Added on 16-Sep-15 | Last updated 16-Sep-15
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The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
Speech, Buckinghamshire (1784)
Added on 29-Jul-15 | Last updated 29-Jul-15
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You can’t pray a lie.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ch. 31 (1884)
Added on 28-Apr-15 | Last updated 28-Apr-15
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An Ambassador is an honest man, sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.

[Legatus est vir bonus, peregrè missus ad mentiendum Reipublicae causâ.]

Henry Wotton (1568-1639) English author, diplomat, politician
Reliquiae Wottonainae (1651)
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Wotton wrote in an apology to Velserus in 1612, that during his travel through Augsburg in 1604, "This merry definition of an ambassador I had chanced to set down at my friend's, Mr. Christopher Fleckamore, in his Album". It seems to have been intended as a pun when translated to English.Sometimes translated as "An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country."
Added on 23-Mar-15 | Last updated 23-Mar-15
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The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, sc. 3. [Antonio] (c. 1597)
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Added on 6-Mar-15 | Last updated 6-Mar-15
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He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers.

Charles Péguy (1873-1914) French poet, essayist, editor
“Basic Verities: The Honest People,” Basic Verities: Prose and Poetry [tr. A and J. Green (1943)]
Added on 28-Aug-14 | Last updated 28-Aug-14
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Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler (7 Jan 1752)
Added on 18-Aug-14 | Last updated 18-Aug-14
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Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Autobiography, Virtue #7 “Sincerity,” 1784 (1798)
Added on 2-Jul-14 | Last updated 2-Jul-14
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But when our country had grown great through toil and the practice of justice, when great kings had been vanquished in war, savage tribes and mighty peoples subdued by force of arms, when Carthage, the rival of Rome’s sway, had perished root and branch, and all seas and lands were open, then Fortune began to grow cruel and to bring confusion into all our affairs. 2 Those who had found it easy to bear hardship and dangers, anxiety and adversity, found leisure and wealth, desirable under other circumstances, a burden and a curse. 3 Hence the lust for money first, then for power, grew upon them; these were, I may say, the root of all evils. 4 For avarice destroyed honour, integrity, and all other noble qualities; taught in their place insolence, cruelty, to neglect the gods, to set a price on everything. 5 Ambition drove many men to become false; to have one thought locked in the breast, another ready on the tongue; to value friendships and enmities not on their merits but by the standard of self-interest, and to show a good front rather than a good heart.

[Sed ubi labore atque iustitia res publica crevit, reges magni bello domiti, nationes ferae et populi ingentes vi subacti, Carthago aemula imperi Romani p18ab stirpe interiit, cuncta maria terraeque patebant, saevire fortuna ac miscere omnia coepit. 2 Qui labores, pericula, dubias atque asperas res facile toleraverant, eis otium, divitiae,7 optanda alias, oneri miseriaeque fuere. 3 Igitur primo pecuniae, deinde imperi cupido crevit; ea quasi materies omnium malorum fuere. 4 Namque avaritia fidem, probitatem ceterasque artis bonas subvortit; pro his superbiam, crudelitatem, deos neglegere, omnia venalia habere edocuit. 5 Ambitio multos mortalis falsos fieri subegit, aliud clausum in pectore aliud in lingua promptum habere, amicitias inimicitiasque non ex re sed ex commodo aestumare magisque voltum quam ingenium bonum habere.]

Sallust (c. 86-35 BC) Roman historian and politician [Gaius Sallustius Crispus]
Catiline’s War [Bellum Catilinae], pt. 10 (42 BC) [tr. Loeb (1921)]

Alt. trans.:
  • "Ambition prompted many to become deceitful; to keep one thing concealed in the breast, and another ready on the tongue; to estimate friendships and enmities, not by their worth, but according to interest; and to carry rather a specious countenance than an honest heart."
  • "It is the nature of ambition to make men liars and cheats, to hide the truth in their breasts, and show, like jugglers, another thing in their mouths, to cut all friendships and enmities to the measure of their own interest, and to make a good countenance without the help of good will." (Source)
Added on 1-May-14 | Last updated 1-May-14
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Fear not those who argue but those who dodge.

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) Austrian writer
Aphorisms (1905)
Added on 25-Apr-14 | Last updated 25-Apr-14
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A man who himself does not believe what he tells another … has even less worth than if he were a mere thing. For a thing, as something real and given, has the property of being serviceable. … But the man who communicates his thoughts to someone in words which yet (intentionally) contain the contrary of what he thinks on the subject has a purpose directly opposed to the natural purposiveness of the power of communicating one’s thoughts, and therefore renounces his personality and makes himself a mere deceptive appearance of man, not man himself.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Metaphysics of Morals [Metaphysik der Sitten], “The Doctrine of Virtue [Tugendlehre]” (1797) [tr. Gregor (1964)]
Added on 20-Feb-14 | Last updated 25-Sep-15
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Nor can a man dupe others long, who has not duped himself first.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1852)
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Often rendered: "A man cannot dupe others long, who has not duped himself first."
Added on 26-Nov-13 | Last updated 26-Nov-13
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Those words, “temperate and moderate,” are words either of political cowardice, or of cunning, or seduction. A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue, but moderation in principle is a species of lie.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American political philosopher and writer
“Letter addressed to the addressers on the late proclamation” (1792)
Added on 19-Jan-12 | Last updated 1-Jul-16
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If falsehood, like truth, had but one face, we would be more on equal terms. For we would consider the contrary of what the liar said to be certain. But the opposite of truth has a hundred thousand faces and an infinite field.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Liars,” Essays, Vol. I, ch. 9 (1575)

Alt trans. [C. Cotton (1877)]: "If falsehood had, like truth, but one face only, we should be upon better terms; for we should then take for certain the contrary to what the liar says: but the reverse of truth has a hundred thousand forms, and a field indefinite, without bound or limit."

Alt trans. [Florio (1603)]: "If a lie had no more faces but one, as truth had, we should be in farre better termes than we are: For whatsoever a lier should say, we would take it in a contrarie sense. But the opposite of truth has many shapes, and an undefinite field."

Added on 13-Jul-09 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.

H. H. Munro (1870-1916) Scottish writer [Hector Hugh Munro; pseud. Saki]
“Clovis on the Alleged Romance of Business,” The Square Egg (1924)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 31-May-17
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The truth is often a terrible weapon of aggression. It is possible to lie, and even to murder with the truth.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) Austrian psychologist
The Problems of Neurosis, ch. 2 (1929)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jun-17
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