Quotations about   excuse

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“But humans do it” is maybe the worst excuse for any behavior I’ve ever heard.

Jeph Jacques
Jeffrey Paul "Jeph" Jacques (b. 1980) American cartoonist
Questionable Content #4679 “I Learned It from You” (Dec 2021)
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Added on 6-Jan-22 | Last updated 6-Jan-22
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When you get right down to it, one of the most important tasks of a manager is to eliminate his people’s excuse for failure.

Robert Townsend
Robert Townsend (1920-1998) American business executive and author
Further Up the Organization (1984)
Added on 30-Nov-21 | Last updated 30-Nov-21
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People at the top do not want to share their power. They’ve always got some marvellous reason: I’m following my religion; I’m following the laws of economics. Even Stalin: I’m representing the vanguard of the working class, so please don’t cause trouble. That is the battle that every generation has, and yet we mustn’t be pessimistic about it.

Tony Benn
Tony Benn (1925-2014) British politician, writer, diarist
“Hope Is the Key,” Interview, Share International (Jan 2003)
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Added on 2-Nov-21 | Last updated 2-Nov-21
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People may see hypocrisy and cynicism all around them, but in my experience, almost without exception, they believe their own views and actions — even when contradictory, even when private motivations differ from public explanations — are righteous and principled.

John F Harris
John F. Harris (b. c. 1963) American political journalist, editor
“‘He Is Our O.J.'” Politico (9 Jan 2020)
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Added on 21-Jul-21 | Last updated 21-Jul-21
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I don’t have much truck with the “religion is the cause of most of our wars” school of thought because that is manifestly done by mad, manipulative and power-hungry men who cloak their ambition in God.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
“I create gods all the time — now I think one might exist,” Daily Mail (21 Jun 2008)
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Added on 13-Jul-21 | Last updated 13-Jul-21
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It is always tempting when you have political discontent in your own country to say it is the fault of some other country and not of your own government.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
How Wars Begin (1979)
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Added on 28-Jun-21 | Last updated 28-Jun-21
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When I talk about the death penalty to people, there are a zillion pragmatic arguments to make that the death penalty is more expensive, that you could make mistakes with the death penalty. I try to never use them, because I believe that as soon as I use them, I have dropped what matters to me. Because those arguments are disingenuous. To say, “What if we put an innocent person to death?” I am then telling you that if you can promise me we won’t put any innocent people to death that I’m somehow OK with that, and I’m fucking not. Killing people is wrong. Government shouldn’t fucking do it. End of story.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
Interview by Kahterine Mangu-Ward, Reason (Jan 2017)
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Added on 10-Jun-21 | Last updated 10-Jun-21
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We may then lay down this rule of friendship — neither ask nor consent to do what is wrong. For the plea “for friendship’s sake” is a discreditable one, and not to be admitted for a moment. This rule holds good for all wrong-doing, but more especially in such as involves disloyalty to the republic.

[Haec igitur lex in amicitia sanciatur, ut neque rogemus res turpes nec faciamus rogati. Turpis enim excusatio est et minime accipienda cum in ceteris peccatis, tum si quis contra rem publicam se amici causa fecisse fateatur.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship],” ch. 12 / sec. 40 (44 BC) [tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]
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Original Latin. Alternate translations:

Let this law therefore be established in friendship, viz., that we should neither ask things that are improper, nor grant them when asked; for it is a disgraceful apology, and by no means to be admitted, as well in the case of other offenses, as when any one avows he has acted against the state for the sake of a friend.
[tr. Edmonds (1871)]

As to friendship, then, let this law be enacted, that we neither ask of a friend what is wrong, nor do what is wrong at a friend’s request. The plea that it was for a friend’s sake is a base apology, -- one that should never be admitted with regard to other forms of guilt, and certainly not as to crimes against the State.
[tr. Peabody (1887)]

Therefore let this law be established in friendship: neither ask dishonourable things, nor do them, if asked. And dishonourable it certainly is, and not to be allowed, for anyone to plead in defence of sins in general and especially of those against the State, that he committed them for the sake of a friend.
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

Therefore, let this law be established for friendship: that we should neither ask for foul things nor fulfill requests for them. For this is a foul excuse and ought not be accepted for any crime, but especially not if someone is shown to have placed themselves against the Republic for the sake of a friend.
[Source]

Added on 26-Apr-21 | Last updated 26-Apr-21
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My word, how mortals take the gods to task!
All their afflictions come from us, we hear.
And what of their own failings? Greed and folly
double the suffering in the lot of man.

[ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται.
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ’ ἔμμεναι· οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε’ ἔχουσιν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 1, l. 32ff (1.32) [Zeus] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

O how falsely men
Accuse us Gods as authors of their ill!
When, by the bane their own bad lives instill,
They suffer all the mis’ries of their states,
Past our inflictions, and beyond their fates.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

Ha! how dare mortals tax the Gods, and say,
Their harms do all proceed from our decree,
And by our setting; when by their crimes they
Against our wills make their own destiny?
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 37ff]

Perverse mankind! whose wills, created free,
Charge all their woes on absolute degree;
All to the dooming gods their guilt translate,
And follies are miscall'd the crimes of fate.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Alas! how prone are human-kind to blame
The Pow’rs of Heav’n! From us, they say, proceed
The ills which they endure, yet more than Fate
Herself inflicts, by their own crimes incur.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 41ff]

Mortals, ye Powers, upbraid us with their voice,
And brand us for the fount of all their ill,
Who, of their own acts, not of fate but choice,
Heap to themselves much toil and sorrow still.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 6]

Why! what reproach,
Ye gods! do mortals cast on deities!
To us all their calamities they trace,
While they, themselves, through their own senseless acts,
Feel pangs their destiny had ne'er decreed.
[tr. Musgrave (1869)]

Oh heavens! how mortals now to blame the gods!
From us they say spring ills! but they themselves
By their own folly bring unfated woes.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For of us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves, through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

Lo, how men blame the gods! From us, they say, spring troubles. But through their own perversity and more than is their due they meet with sorrow.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all nothing but their own folly.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Oh my, how mortals hold us gods responsible! For they say that their misfortunes come from us. But they get their sufferings, beyond what is fated, by way of their own acts of recklessness.
[tr. Butler (1898), rev. Kim/McCray/Nagy/Power (2018)]

Look you now, how ready mortals are to blame the gods. It is from us, they say, that evils come, but they even of themselves, through their own blind folly, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

It vexes me to see how mean are these creatures of a day towards us Gods, when they charge against us the evils (far beyond our worst dooming) which their own exceeding wantonness has heaped upon themselves.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own wickedness that brings them sufferings worse than any which Destiny allots them.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame upon us
gods, for they say evils come from us, but it is they, rather,
who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves -- in their depravity -- design
grief greater than the griefs that fate assigns.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

Ah how shameless -- the way these mortals blame the gods.
From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes,
but they themselves, with their own reckless ways,
compound their pains beyond their proper share.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

Mortals! They are always blaming the gods
For their troubles, when their own witlessness
Causes them more than they were destined for!
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 37ff]

Strange to behold, what blame these mortals can bring against godhead! For their ills, they assert, are from us, when they themselves by their mad recklessness have pain far past what is fated.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own transgressions which bring them suffering that was not their destiny.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

This is not good! See how mortals find fault with us gods!
They say it is from us that all evil things come, yet it is by their
own recklessness that they suffer hardship beyond their destiny.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

This is absurd,
that mortals blame the gods! They say we cause
their suffering, but they themselves increase it
by folly.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

My oh my, the way mortals will fasten blame on the gods!
From us, they say, evils come, yet they themselves
through their own blind recklessness have ills beyond
their fated lot.
[tr. Green (2018)]

It’s disgraceful how humans blame the gods.
They say their tribulations come from us,
when they themselves, through their own foolishness,
bring hardships which are not decreed by Fate.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 41ff]

Added on 14-Apr-21 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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Caution in handling generally accepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 1, ch. 1 (1973)
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Added on 8-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Every man always has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is right not to sacrifice himself.

Alexander Solzhenitsen (1918-2008) Russian novelist, emigre [Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn]
The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, Part 1, ch. 1 (1973) [tr. Whitney]
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Added on 24-Mar-21 | Last updated 24-Mar-21
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Oh, but I hate it more
when a traitor, caught red-handed,
tries to glorify his crimes.

[μισῶ γε μέντοι χὤταν ἐν κακοῖσί τις
ἁλοὺς ἔπειτα τοῦτο καλλύνειν θέλῃ.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 495ff [Creon] (441 BC) [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 552ff]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Howbeit, to me it is no less abhorrent,
When, caught in criminality, the culprit
Seeks with fine words to beautify his deed.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

More hateful still the miscreant who seeks
When caught, to make a virtue of a crime.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

But not less hateful
Seems it to me, when one that hath been caught
In wickedness would give it a brave show.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

But, truly, I detest it, too, when one who has been caught in treachery then seeks to make the crime a glory.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

I cannot bear to see the guilty stand
Convicted of their crimes, and yet pretend
To gloss them o'er with specious names of virtue.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

But verily this, too, is hateful, -- when one who hath been caught in wickedness then seeks to make the crime a glory.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

But now much worse than this
Is brazen boasting of barefaced anarchy.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 390ff]

The criminal who being caught still tries.
To make a fair excuse , is damned indeed.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 414ff]

I hate it too when someone caught in crime
then wants to make it seem a lovely thing.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

But this is worst of all: to be convicted
And then to glorify the name as virtue.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

But how I hate it when she's caught in the act, And the criminal still glories in her crime. [tr. Woodruff (2001)]

I hate it when someone, caught in ugliness, afterwards wants to make it look pretty. [tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

And there’s nothing I hate more than when someone is caught committing a crime and tries to hide it by embellishing it with sweet words.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

How I despise
a person caught committing evil acts
who then desires to glorify the crime.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 562ff]

I, for my part, hate anyone caught in the act who tries to beautify his crimes thereupon.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]

I hate it when someone is caught in the midst of their evil deeds and tries to gloss over them.
[tr. @sentantiq (2020)]

Added on 18-Mar-21 | Last updated 18-Mar-21
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Several excuses are always less convincing than one.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Point CounterPoint, ch. 1 (1928)
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Added on 15-Dec-20 | Last updated 15-Dec-20
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Blaming mother is just a negative way of clinging to her still.

Nancy Friday (1933-2017) American author and feminist
My Mother/My Self, ch. 2 (1977)
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The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God’s name, it was bad theology. Compassion was the litmus test for the prophets of Israel, for the rabbis of the Talmud, for Jesus, for Paul, and for Muhammad, not to mention Confucius, Lao-tsu, the Buddha, or the sages of the Upanishads.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness (2004)
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Added on 12-Oct-20 | Last updated 12-Oct-20
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“My thoughts are not your thoughts. For as high as the heavens are the above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts, my ways above your ways.” It should be written over every preacher’s pulpit. […] Because so often we think that God’s ways are our ways. God’s thoughts are our thoughts. And we created God in our own image and likeness saying, “God approves of this. God forbids that. God desires the other.” […] This is where some of the worst atrocities of religion have come from. Because people have used this to give a sacred seal of a divine approval to some of their worst hatreds, loathings, and fears.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
NOW Interview with Bill Moyers, PBS (1 Mar 2002)
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Quoting Isaiah 55:8.
Added on 31-Aug-20 | Last updated 31-Aug-20
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Tell him I was too fucking busy — or vice versa.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
(Attributed)

In Hard Times, Vol. 6 (1967), the anecdote is that a messenger pounded on her door for several minutes, having been sent by a New Yorker editor for some promised writing. She finally opened a second-floor window, called down to find out what was the matter, and provided this retort.

In Oscar Levant, The Unimportance of Being Oscar (1968), it's phrased "Too fucking busy, and vice versa."
Added on 8-Jun-20 | Last updated 8-Jun-20
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The great appeal of fatalism, indeed, is as a refuge from the terror of responsibility.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Decline of Greatness,” Saturday Evening Post (1 Nov 1958)
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The same phrase is used in the successor essay, "On Heroic Leadership," sec. 2. (1960)
Added on 14-May-20 | Last updated 14-May-20
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Men of faith know that throughout history the crimes committed in liberty’s name have been exceeded only by those committed in God’s name.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Mills E. Godwin, Governor of Virginia (Dec 1966)

On KKK cross-burnings. Quoted in various papers of the time.
Added on 11-May-20 | Last updated 11-May-20
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In my defense, I was left unsupervised.

Sig Lines
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If someone tells you he is going to make a “realistic decision,” you immediately understand that he has resolved to do something bad.

Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) American author, critic, political activist
“American Realist Playwrights,” On the Contrary (1961)
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Historians have a word for Germans who joined the Nazi party, not because they hated Jews, but out of a hope for restored patriotism, or a sense of economic anxiety, or a hope to preserve their religious values, or dislike of their opponents, or raw political opportunism, or convenience, or ignorance, or greed.

That word is “Nazi.” Nobody cares about their motives any more.

They joined what they joined. They lent their support and their moral approval. And, in so doing, they bound themselves to everything that came after. Who cares any more what particular knot they used in the binding?

Andrew R. Moxon (contemp.) American writer, critic [a.k.a. Julius Goat]
Blogspot (16 Jan 2017)
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Frequently mis-attributed to Twitter, where Moxxon also posts under his @JuliusGoat handle. The original Julius Goat Blogspot site is no longer online.
Added on 14-Nov-18 | Last updated 14-Nov-18
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Being cruel to be kind is just ordinary cruelty with an excuse made for it.

Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884-1969) English novelist
Daughters and Sons, ch. 6 (1937)
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The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) American-British poet, critic, playwright [Thomas Stearns Eliot]
Murder in the Cathedral, Act 1 [Thomas] (1935)
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When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart — every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“On Forgiveness”
Added on 18-Oct-16 | Last updated 18-Oct-16
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A thief believes everybody steals.

Edgar Watson "Ed" Howe (1853-1937) American journalist and author [E. W. Howe]
Country Town Sayings (1911)
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It’s okay if you don’t want to feed the hungry, or heal the sick, or house the homeless. Just don’t say you’re doing it for their own good. Don’t say you’d like to help people, but your hands are tied, because if you did it would cause a “culture of dependency,” or “go against the Bible,” or, worst of all, “rob them of their freedom” to be sick and hungry. Just admit you’re selfish, and based on how little your beliefs mirror the actual teachings of Jesus you might as well be worshiping Despicable Me.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Real Time with Bill Maher (8 Nov 2013)
Added on 15-Jun-16 | Last updated 16-Jun-16
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There are two kinds of Friends in our Society, and two kinds of people in the world: there are therefore people, and there are however people. Therefore people say, “There are children going to bed hungry in our community, Therefore …” and they proceed to devise and define the ways in which they can meet the need in their community. However people make the same beginning statement, “There are children going to bed hungry in our community,” but they follow that statement with, “However …” and they explain why nothing can be done about it.

Henry Joel Cadbury (1883-1974) American biblical scholar, Quaker historian, writer, activist
(Attributed)

Quoted in Synthesis (8 May 1994).
Added on 17-May-16 | Last updated 17-May-16
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MICHAEL: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.

SAM: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.

MICHAEL: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

Lawrence Kasdan (b. 1949) American screenwriter, director, producer
The Big Chill (1983) [with Barbara Benedek]
Added on 29-Jan-16 | Last updated 29-Jan-16
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We lie to ourselves, in order that we may still have the excuse of ignorance, the alibi of stupidity and incomprehension, possessing which we can continue with a good conscience to commit and tolerate the most monstrous crimes.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
“Words and Behavior,” The Olive Tree and Other Essays (1936)
Added on 28-Oct-15 | Last updated 28-Oct-15
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The more lies are told, the more important it becomes for the liars to justify themselves by deep moral commitments to high-sounding objectives that mask the pursuit of money and power.

Bertram M. Gross (1912-1997) American social scientist, academic, bureaucrat
Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America, ch. 9 (1980)
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There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life. Moreover, when we have an alibi for not writing a book, painting a picture, and so on, we have an alibi for not writing the greatest book and not painting the greatest picture. Small wonder that the effort expended and the punishment endured in obtaining a good alibi often exceed the effort and grief requisite for the attainment of a most marked achievement.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Sec. 181 (1955)
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If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.

Wilson Mizner (1876-1933) American screenwriter and wit
In Alva Johnson, The Legendary Mizners, ch. 4 (1953)
Added on 7-Apr-15 | Last updated 7-Apr-15
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How convenient does it prove to be a rational animal, that knows how to find or invent a plausible pretext for whatever it has an inclination so to do.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
The Life of Benjamin Franklin (1791)
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Often paraphrased: "Man is a rational animal. He can think up a reason for anything he wants to believe." Sometimes attributed to Anatole France.
Added on 20-Mar-15 | Last updated 20-Mar-15
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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).
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Don’t excuse yourself by accusing Satan.

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) English Puritan divine, writer
(Attributed)
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Liberty, next to religion, has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
“The History of Freedom in Antiquity,” Speech, Bridgenorth Institute (28 Feb 1877)
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Necessity can make a doubtful action innocent, but it cannot make it commendable.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
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We live in an age of Wrath. It is to be found in the terrorist, the kidnapper, the hijacker, the looter, and in the clenched fist of the demonstrator. […] When we ask what is their justification, they hardly have to give an answer, because our age finds it for them. They are angry. That is apparently enough. We justify their Wrath, so we justify their violence. If someone thinks that he has cause to be angry, he may act from his Anger as destructively as he sees fit. In fact, we have come close to the point of giving to Wrath an incontestable license to terrorize our society, just as an angry man may terrorize his family, but whereas we do not excuse the husband or the father, we extend our sympathy and understanding to the terrorist.

Henry Fairlie (1924-1990) British journalist and social critic
The Seven Deadly Sins Today (1978)
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Necessity can make a doubtful action innocent, but it cannot make it commendable.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
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Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare;
At whatever time the deed took place — MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) American-British poet, critic, playwright [Thomas Stearns Eliot]
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, “Macavity: The Mystery Cat” (1939)
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So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,
The Tyrant’s plea, excus’d his devilish deeds.

John Milton (1608-1674) English poet
Paradise Lost, 4.383 (1667)
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Don’t make excuses — make good!

Hubbard - make good - wist_info quote

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
A Thousand and One Epigrams (1911)
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We are all exceptional cases. We all want to appeal against something! Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself!

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall (1956) [tr. J. O’Brien]
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Anger is never without an Argument, but seldom with a good one.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Anger,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
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I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
Letter to Bp. Mandell Creighton (3 Apr 1887)
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Often paraphrased, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

There is an alternate, probably spurious version of this quote, for which I have been unable to find an actual citation (except where it is mis-cited to this letter to Bp. Creighton): "And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." As the word "gangster" has only been traced back to 1886, and that in the US, its use by Acton (esp. in a modern sense) seems unlikely.
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EDMUND: This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, — often the surfeit of our own behavior, — we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Lear, Act 1, sc. 2 (c. 1605)
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Whenever people say “we mustn’t be sentimental,” you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, “we must be realistic,” they mean they are going to make money out of it.

Brigid Brophy (1929-1995) Anglo-Irish writer, novelist, playwright
Unlived Life
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What I like most about myself is that I is that I’m so understanding when I do something wrong.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #1189
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Such are the evils made acceptable by Religion!

[Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.]

Lucretius (c. 100-c. 55 BC) Roman poet [Titus Luretius Carus]
De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things], I.101
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A man always has two reasons for what he does — a good one, and the real one.

John Pierpont "J. P." Morgan (1837-1913) American banker and financier
(Attributed)

Quoted in Owen Wister, Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship, p. 280 (1930). There's no record in Morgan's writings, and versions of the quote from others can be found in the early 1800s. See here for more details.

Sometimes given as "A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing: one that sounds good, and a real one."
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Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
In More Maxims of Mark [ed. M. Johnson (1925)]
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Any excuse will serve a tyrant.

Aesop (620?-560? BC) Legendary Greek storyteller
Fables [Aesopica], “The Wolf and the Lamb” (6th C BC) [tr. Jacobs (1894)]
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Alternate translations:

  • "'Tis an Easie Matter to find a Staff to Beat a Dog." [tr. L'Estrange (1692)]
  • "A tyrant never wants a plea." [tr. James (1848)]
  • "The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny." [tr. Townsend (1887)]
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When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Caesar and Cleopatra, Act 3 [Apollodorus] (1898)
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