Quotations about   excess

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Life often begins after dark, and I’ve found too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

Mae West (1892-1980) American film actress
Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It, ch. 21 (1959)
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Added on 5-May-22 | Last updated 5-May-22
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The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall; the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall; but in charity there is no excess, neither can angel or man come in danger by it.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature,” Essays, No. 13 (1625)
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Often trimmed down to "In charity there is no excess."
Added on 25-Mar-22 | Last updated 25-Mar-22
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Remember that we can own only what we can assimilate and appreciate, no more. Many wealthy people are little more than janitors of their possessions.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) American architect, interior designer, writer, educator [b. Frank Lincoln Wright]
On Architecture: Selected Writings (1894-1940) (1941)
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Added on 7-Feb-22 | Last updated 8-Feb-22
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A word of caution to neophyte Martini drinkers: When taken to excess, this perfectly civilized drink can lead directly to uncivilized behavior. … The purpose of the Martini is to enhance the evening, not to obliterate it.

Barnaby Conrad III (b. 1952) American author, artist, editor
“Martini Madness,” Cigar Aficionado (Spring 1996)
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Added on 8-Sep-17 | Last updated 8-Sep-17
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These things are good in little measure and evil in large; yeast, salt, and hesitation.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 34a

Alt. trans.: "Our Rabbis taught: If one is asked to pass before the Ark, he ought to refuse, and if he does not refuse he resembles a dish without salt; but if he persists too much in refusing he resembles a dish which is over-salted. How should he act? The first time he should refuse; the second time he should hesitate; the third time he should stretch out his legs and go down. Our Rabbis taught: There are three things of which one may easily have too much while a little is good, namely, yeast, salt, and refusal."

Alt. trans.: "There are three things that are harmful in excess but are beneficial when used sparingly. They are: Leavening in dough, salt in a cooked dish and refusal for the sake of propriety." [William Davidson Talmud]

Alt. trans.: "There are three things of which you may easily have too much, while a little is good: yeast, salt, and hesitation." [Joshua of the South, Berakot 5.3]

Alt trans.: "Three things are disagreeable when used in excess, and pleasant when moderately indulged in: yeast, salt, and hesitancy in accepting proffered honours." [Paul Isaac Hershon, The Pentateuch According to the Talmud: Genesis, Part 1, Genesis 19:26, Synoptical Notes: "Salt"]
Added on 13-Jul-17 | Last updated 13-Jul-17
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Books to the ceiling, books to the sky.
My pile of books are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.

Arnold Lobel (1933-1987) American author, illustrator
The Fiction Magazine, Vol. 5 (1986)
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Added on 15-Jun-17 | Last updated 15-Jun-17
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Moderation in all things.

Cleobulus (6th C BC) Greek poet, sage [Kleoboulos]
(Attributed)
Added on 10-Mar-16 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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Senseless extravagance is the best friend of revolution.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Our Present Discontents,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1919)
Added on 7-Dec-15 | Last updated 4-Jan-16
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I think I don’t regret a single “excess” of my responsive youth — I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace.

Henry James (1843-1916) American writer
Letter to Hugh Walpole (21 Aug 1913)
Added on 1-Sep-14 | Last updated 1-Sep-14
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Rain, rain. The good rain, like a bad preacher, does not know when to leave off.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (23 Apr 1834)
Added on 28-Nov-12 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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It is an embarrassment to the possessor to have more than he needs.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], #1063 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
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Virtue, then, is a state involving rational choice, consisting in a mean relative to us and determined by reason — the reason, that is, by reference to which the practically wise person would determine it. It is a mean between two vices, one of excess, the other of deficiency. It is a mean also in that some vices fall short of what is right in feelings and actions, and others exceed it, while virtue both attains and chooses the mean.

[ἔστιν ἄρα ἡ ἀρετὴ ἕξις προαιρετική, ἐν μεσότητι οὖσα τῇ πρὸς ἡμᾶς, ὡρισμένῃ λόγῳ καὶ ᾧ ἂν ὁ φρόνιμος ὁρίσειεν. μεσότης δὲ δύο κακιῶν, τῆς μὲν καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν τῆς δὲ κατ᾽ ἔλλειψιν: καὶ ἔτι τῷ τὰς μὲν ἐλλείπειν τὰς δ᾽ ὑπερβάλλειν τοῦ δέοντος ἔν τε τοῖς πάθεσι καὶ ἐν ταῖς πράξεσι, τὴν δ᾽ ἀρετὴν τὸ μέσον καὶ εὑρίσκειν καὶ αἱρεῖσθαι.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 2, ch. 5 (2.6.15-16) / 1106b.35 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Crisp (2000)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Virtue then is “a state apt to exercise deliberate choice, being in the relative mean, determined by reason, and as the man of practical wisdom would determine.” It is a middle state between too faulty ones, in the way of excess on one side and of defect on the other: and it is so moreover, because the faulty states on one side fall short of, and those on the other exceed, what is right, both in the case of the feelings and the actions; but Virtue finds, and when found adopts, the mean.
[tr. Chase (1847)]

Moral virtue, then, is a certain formed state, or habit of purpose, which conforms to the relative mean in action, and which is determined to that mean byu reason, or as the prudent man would determine it. And it is the mean between two vices, one of which consists in excess, and the other in defect. So that vices sometimes fall short of what is right in our emotions and in our actions, and sometimes exceed it, while virtue fines the mean and chooses it.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

Virtue then is a state of deliberate moral purpose consisting in a mean that is relative to ourselves, the mean being determined by reason, or as a prudent man would determine it. It is a mean state firstly as lying between two vices, the vice of excess on the one hand, and the vice of deficiency on the other, and secondly because, whereas vices either fall short of or go beyond what is proper in the emotions and actions, virtue not only discovers but embraces the mean.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

Virtue, then, is a habit or trained faculty of choice, the characteristic of which lies in moderation or observance of the mean relatively to the persons concerned, as determined by reason, i.e. by the reason by which the prudent man would determine it. And it is a moderation, firstly, inasmuch as it comes in the middle or mean between two vices, one on the side of excess, the other on the side of defect; and, secondly, inasmuch as, while these vices fall short of or exceed the due measure in feeling and in action, it finds and chooses the mean, middling, or moderate amount.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect; and again it is a mean because the vices respectively fall short of or exceed what is right in both passions and actions, while virtue both finds and chooses that which is intermediate.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

Virtue then is a settled disposition of the mind determining the choice of actions and emotions, consisting essentially in the observance of the mean relative to us, this being determined by principle, that is, as the prudent man would determine it. And it is a mean state between two vices, one of excess and one of defect. Furthermore, it is a mean state in that whereas the vices either fall short of or exceed what is right in feelings and in actions, virtue ascertains and adopts the mean.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

Virtue, then, is a deliberately choosing state, which is in a medial condition in relation to us, one defined by a reason and the one by which a practically-wise person would define it. Also, it is a medial condition between two vices, one of excess and the other of deficiency. Further, it is also such a condition because some vices are deficient in relation to what the relevant feelings and actions should be and other are excessive, but virtue both finds the mean and chooses it.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

[Ethical] virtue, then, is a habit, disposed toward action by deliberate choice, being at the mean relative to us, and defined by reason and as a prudent man would define it. It is a mean between two vices, one by excess and the other by deficiency; and while some of the vices exceed while the others are deficient in what is right in feelings and actions, virtue finds and chooses the mean.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

So virtue is a purposive disposition, lying in a mean that is relative to us and determined by a rational principle, and by that which a prudent man would use to determine it. It is a mean between two kinds of vice, one of excess and the other of deficiency; and also for this reason, that whereas these vices fall short of or exceed the right measure in both feelings and actions, virtue discovers the mean and chooses it.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

Virtue, therefore, is a characteristic marked by choice, residing in the mean relative to us, a characteristic defined by reason and as the prudent person would define it. Virtue is also a mean with respect to two vices, the one vice related to excess, the other to deficiency; and further, it is a mean because some vices fall short of and others exceed what should be the case in both passions and actions, whereas virtue discovers and chooses the middle term.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Added on 31-Jan-11 | Last updated 26-Apr-22
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Their mistakes are always due to lack of moderation and taking things too far, contrary to Chilon’s saying. That is, they do everything to excess: they love excessively, they hate excessively, and so on and so forth.

καὶ ἅπαντα ἐπὶ τὸ μᾶλλον καὶ σφοδρότερον ἁμαρτάνουσι, παρὰ τὸ Χιλώνειον (πάντα γὰρ ἄγαν πράττουσιν: φιλοῦσι γὰρ ἄγαν καὶ μισοῦσιν ἄγαν καὶ τἆλλα πάντα ὁμοίως), καὶ εἰδέναι ἅπαντα οἴονται καὶ διισχυρίζονται (τοῦτο γὰρ αἴτιόν ἐστιν καὶ τοῦ πάντα ἄγαν)

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 2, ch. 12, sec. 14 (2.12.14) / 1389b (350 BC) [tr. Waterfield (2018)]
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Speaking of youth.

Chilon was one of "the Seven Wise Men" of Greece. His maxim was "Μηδὲν ἄγαν" ["Never go to extremes."] (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 1.41)

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

  • "And all their errors are on the side of excess, and too much zeal, contrary to Chilo's rule; for they carry every thing too far. For they are extreme in their friendships, and in their hates, and in all other their actions are similarly excessive." [Source (1847)]

  • "And all their errors are on the side of excess and too great earnestness, in contravention of Chilo's rule; for the young carry everything to an excess; for their friendships are in excess, their hatreds are in excess, and they do everything else with the same degree of earnestness." [tr. Buckley (1850)]

  • "All their mistakes are on the side of excess or vehemence -- against the maxim of Chilon; they do everything too much; they loe to much, hate too much, and so in all else." [tr. Jebb (1873)]

  • "All their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They disobey Chilon's precept by overdoing everything, they love too much and hate too much, and the same thing with everything else." [tr. Roberts (1924)]

  • "All their errors are due to excess and vehemence and their neglect of the maxim of Chilon, for they do everything to excess, love, hate, and everything else." [tr. Freese (1926)]

  • "And quite all the mistakes they make tend in the direction of excess and vehemence, in violation of the saying of Chilon, for they do all things excessively: they feel friendly affection to excess and hatred to excess, and all else similarly." [tr. Bartlett (2019)]

Added on 13-Dec-10 | Last updated 1-Feb-22
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Our very defects are … shadows of our virtues.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1831, undated)
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You might have been enough the man you are
With striving less to be so.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Coriolanus, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 19 (1609)
Added on 14-Oct-05 | Last updated 26-May-16
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I have not been afraid of excess: excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up, ch. 15 (1938)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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