Quotations about   freedom of thought

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



We cannot have a society half slave and half free; nor can we have thought half slave and half free. If we create an atmosphere in which men fear to think independently, inquire fearlessly, express themselves freely, we will in the end create the kind of society in which men no longer care to think independently or to inquire fearlessly.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“What Ideas Are Safe?” Saturday Review (5 Nov 1949)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Freedom and Order (1966).
Added on 23-Mar-22 | Last updated 23-Mar-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Commager, Henry Steele

Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought.

Graham Greene (1904-1991) English novelist [Henry Graham Greene]
“Freedom of Thought,” speech accepting the Jerusalem Prize (6 Apr 1981)
    (Source)
Added on 28-Jul-21 | Last updated 28-Jul-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , ,
More quotes by Greene, Graham

People say we ought not to allow ourselves to be drawn into a theoretical antagonism between Nazidom and democracy; but the antagonism is here now. It is this very conflict of spiritual and moral ideas which gives the free countries a great part of their strength. You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. On all sides they are guarded by masses of armed men, cannons, aeroplanes, fortifications, and the like — they boast and vaunt themselves before the world, yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts; words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar our thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind. Cannons, airplanes, they can manufacture in large quantities; but how are they to quell the natural promptings of human nature, which after all these centuries of trial and progress has inherited a whole armoury of potent and indestructible knowledge?

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
“The Defence of Freedom and Peace (The Lights are Going Out),” radio broadcast (16 Oct 1938)
    (Source)
Added on 22-Apr-21 | Last updated 22-Apr-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Churchill, Winston

The time to assert rights is when they are denied; the men to assert them are those to whom they are denied. The community which dares not protect its humblest and most hated member in the free utterance of his opinions, no matter how false or hateful, is only a gang of slaves.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) American abolitionist, orator
“Mobs and Education,” Speech, Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society, Boston (16 Dec 1860)
    (Source)

As reported in the Liberator (21 Dec 1860).

Note: There is a synthetic quotation frequently attributed to Phillips that is a actually combination of this one, and these three others:

No matter whose lips that would speak, they must be free and ungagged. The community which dares not protect its humblest and most hated member in the free utterance of his opinions, no matter how false or hateful, is only a gang of slaves. If there is anything in the universe that can’t stand discussion, let it crack.

While Phillips often reused rhetorical elements (as most orators do), this particular combination appears to be combination not actually found in his speeches or writing.
Added on 24-Feb-21 | Last updated 24-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Phillips, Wendell

“The right to think, to know and to utter,” as John Milton said, is the dearest of all liberties. Without this right, there can be no liberty to any people; with it, there can be no slavery.

John A. Andrew (1818-1867) American lawyer, politician, abolitionist
Letter (1860)
    (Source)

Letter written after his election as Massachusetts governor. referencing Milton's Areopagitica. Quoted by Wendell Phillips in his "Mobs and Education" speech (16 Dec 1860), and often attributed to Phillips.
Added on 22-Feb-21 | Last updated 22-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Andrew, John A.

Errors and mistakes, however gross, in matters of opinion, if they are sincere, are to be pitied, but not punished nor laughed at. The blindness of the understanding is as much to be pitied as the blindness of the eye, and there is neither jest nor guilt in a man’s losing his way in either case. Charity bids us set him right if we can, by arguments and persuasions; but charity, at the same time, forbids, either to punish or ridicule his misfortune.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (21 Sep 1747)
    (Source)

On religious tolerance.
Added on 28-Jan-21 | Last updated 28-Jan-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Chesterfield (Lord)

Every man’s reason is, and must be, his guide; and I may as well expect that every man should be of my size and complexion, as that he should reason just as I do. Every man seeks for truth; but God only knows who has found it. It is, therefore, as unjust to persecute as it is absurd to ridicule people for those several opinions which they cannot help entertaining upon the conviction of their reason.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (21 Sep 1747)
    (Source)

Speaking of religious beliefs.
Added on 21-Jan-21 | Last updated 21-Jan-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Chesterfield (Lord)

The humanist has four leading characteristics — curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“George and Gide” Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
    (Source)
Added on 15-Apr-20 | Last updated 15-Apr-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Forster, E. M.

Opinions are not to be learned by rote, like the letters of an alphabet, or the words of a dictionary. They are conclusions to be formed, and formed by each individual in the sacred and free citadel of the mind, and there enshrined beyond the arm of law to reach, or force to shake; ay! and beyond the right of impertinent curiosity to violate, or presumptuous arrogance to threaten.

Frances "Fanny" Wright (1795-1852) Scottish-American writer, lecturer, social reformer
A Course of Popular Lectures, Lecture 6 “Formation of Opinions” (1829)
    (Source)
Added on 30-Oct-19 | Last updated 30-Oct-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Wright, Fanny

Be not afraid! In admitting a creator, refuse not to examine his creation; and take not the assertions of creatures like yourselves, in place of the evidence of your senses and the conviction of your understanding.

Frances "Fanny" Wright (1795-1852) Scottish-American writer, lecturer, social reformer
A Course of Popular Lectures, Lecture 3, “Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge” (1829)
    (Source)
Added on 20-Sep-19 | Last updated 20-Sep-19
Link to this post | 1 comment
Topics: , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Wright, Fanny

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.

Milton - above all liberties - wist_info quote

John Milton (1608-1674) English poet
Areopagitica: a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing (1644)
    (Source)
Added on 14-Jun-16 | Last updated 27-Jan-20
Link to this post | 1 comment
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Milton, John

Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the ideas that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny of every kind. In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man’s freedom.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) US President (1933-1945)
“Message to American Booksellers Association” (23 Apr 1942)
Added on 18-Feb-16 | Last updated 18-Feb-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Roosevelt, Franklin Delano

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English modernist writer [b. Adeline Virginia Stephen]
A Room of One’s Own, ch. 4 (1929)
Added on 28-Jul-14 | Last updated 28-Jul-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Woolf, Virginia

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in. If you challenge your own, you won’t be so quick to accept the unchallenged assumptions of others. You’ll be a lot less likely to be caught up in bias or prejudice or be influenced by people who ask you to hand over your brains, your soul, or your money because they have everything all figured out for you.

Alan Alda (b. 1936) American actor [b. Alponso Joseph D'Abruzzo]
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, ch. 2 “Lingering at the Door” (2007)
    (Source)

Originally given at the commencement speech at Connecticut College in May, 1980, where his daughter Eve was graduating.
Added on 13-Dec-12 | Last updated 30-Oct-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Alda, Alan

Gentlemen, you can never make me believe — no statute can ever convince me, that there is any infinite Being in this universe who hates an honest man. It is impossible to satisfy me that there is any God, or can be any God, who holds in abhorrence a soul that has the courage to express his thought. Neither can the whole world convince me that any man should be punished, either in this world or in the next, for being candid with his fellow-men. If you send men to the penitentiary for speaking their thoughts, for endeavoring to enlighten their fellows, then the penitentiary will become a place of honor, and the victim will step from it — not stained, not disgraced, but clad in robes of glory.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Trial of C.B. Reynolds for blasphemy (May 1887)
    (Source)
Added on 22-Feb-12 | Last updated 18-Apr-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Ingersoll, Robert Green

And I believe, too, in the gospel of Liberty, in giving to others what we claim for ourselves. I believe there is room everywhere for thought, and the more liberty you give away, the more you will have. In liberty extravagance is economy. Let us be just. Let us be generous to each other.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“What Must We Do To Be Saved?” Sec. 11 (1880)
    (Source)
Added on 23-Nov-11 | Last updated 11-Aug-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Ingersoll, Robert Green

In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) French writer, diplomat, politician
Democracy in America, Vol. 1, ch. 15 (1835)
Added on 31-Mar-11 | Last updated 3-Nov-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Tocqueville, Alexis de

The secret thoughts of a man run over all things holy, prophane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame, or blame.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) English philosopher
Leviathan, Part 1, ch. 8 (1651)
    (Source)
Added on 23-Sep-10 | Last updated 6-Nov-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Hobbes, Thomas

Goethe says that, if you plant an oak in a flower-vase, either the oak must wither or the vase crack; some men go for saving the vase. Too many nowadays have that anxiety; the Puritans would have let it crack. So say I. If there is anything that cannot bear free thought, let it crack.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) American abolitionist, orator
Speech, Pilgrim Society, Plymouth (21 Dec 1855)
    (Source)
Added on 15-Sep-10 | Last updated 17-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Phillips, Wendell

He who endeavors to control the mind by force is a tyrant, and he who submits is a slave.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
The Philosophy of Ingersoll, “Fragments” (1906) [ed. Goldthwaite]
Added on 13-Sep-10 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Ingersoll, Robert Green

When opinions are free, either in matters of government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American political philosopher and writer
The Age of Reason, Closing Words (1796)
Added on 19-Aug-10 | Last updated 14-Jan-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Paine, Thomas

Conscience can’t be compelled.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #1144 (1732)
    (Source)
Added on 29-Jul-10 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Fuller, Thomas (1654)

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) American jurist, Supreme Court Justice
United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U.S. 644 (1929) [Dissent]
    (Source)
Added on 20-Jul-10 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Holmes, Jr., Oliver Wendell

The first thing I want to teach is disloyalty. … This will beget independence — which is loyalty to one’s best self and principles, and this is often disloyalty to the general idols and fetishes.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook [ed. Paine (1935)]
Added on 9-Oct-09 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Twain, Mark

The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.

John Leland (1754-1841) American Baptist minister, civil libertarian
A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia (1845)
Added on 17-Jun-09 | Last updated 31-May-19
Link to this post | 1 comment
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Leland, John

No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
The Meaning of It All, “The Uncertainty of Values” (1999)
    (Source)
Added on 17-Nov-08 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Feynman, Richard

Standing in the presence of the Unknown, all have the same right to think, and all are equally interested in the great question of origin and destiny. All I claim, all I plead for, is liberty of thought and expression. That is all.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
Added on 11-Sep-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Ingersoll, Robert Green

I believe that that community is already in process of dissolution where each man begins to eye his neighbor as a possible enemy, where non-conformity with the accepted creed, political as well as religious, is a mark of disaffection; where denunciation, without specification or backing, takes the place of evidence; where orthodoxy chokes freedom of dissent; where faith in the eventual supremacy of reason has become so timid that we are not enter our convictions into the open list, to win or lose. Such fears as these are a solvent which can eat out the cement that binds the stones together; they may in the end subject us to a despotism as evil as any that we dread; and they can be allayed only in so far as we refuse to proceed on suspicion, and trust one another until we have tangible ground for misgiving,

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“A Plea for the Open Mind and Free Discussion,” speech, University of the State of New York, Albany (24 Oct 1952)
    (Source)
Added on 12-May-08 | Last updated 25-Jan-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Hand, Learned

There is surely no contradiction in saying that a certain section of the community may be quite competent to protect the persons and property of the rest, yet quite unfit to direct our opinions, or to superintend our private habits.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
Southey’s Colloquies on Society (1830)
Added on 24-Mar-08 | Last updated 16-Jan-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Macaulay, Thomas Babington

Now we have come to the conclusion that every man has a right to think. Would God give a bird wings and make it a crime to fly? Would he give me brains and make it a crime to think? Any God that would damn one of his children for the expression of his honest thought wouldn’t make a decent thief. When I read a book and don’t believe it, I ought to say so. I will do so and take the consequences like a man.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech on Religious Intolerance, Pittsburgh Opera House (14 Oct 1879)
Added on 16-Jan-08 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Ingersoll, Robert Green

The last lesson a man ever learns is, that liberty of thought and speech is the right for all mankind; that the man who denies every article of our creed is to be allowed to preach just as often and just as loud as we ourselves. We have learned this, — been taught it by persecution on the question of slavery. No matter whose lips that would speak, they must be free and ungagged. Let us always remember that he does not really believe his own opinions, who dares not give free scope to his opponent. Persecution is really want of faith in our creed.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) American abolitionist, orator
“The Boston Mob,” speech, Antislavery Meeting, Boston (21 Oct 1855)
    (Source)

"On the Twentieth Anniversary of the Mob of October 21, 1835."
Added on 8-Aug-07 | Last updated 17-Feb-21
Link to this post | 1 comment
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Phillips, Wendell

At Cambridge University I was taught a laudable method of argument: you never personalise, but you have absolutely no respect for people’s opinions. You are never rude to the person, but you can be savagely rude about what the person thinks. That seems to me a crucial distinction: people must be protected from discrimination by virtue of their race, but you cannot ring-fence their ideas. The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.

Salman Rushdie (b. 1947) Indian novelist
“Do we have to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again?” The Independent (22 Jan 2005)
    (Source)
Added on 11-Feb-05 | Last updated 7-Mar-18
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Rushdie, Salman

Freedom of speech and freedom of action are meaningless without freedom to think. And there is no freedom of thought without doubt.

Bergen Evans (1904-1978) American educator, writer, lexicographer
The Natural History of Nonsense, ch. 19 (1946)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 13-May-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Evans, Bergen

But it’s no show just to protect the serious, the solemn, and the high-minded. We must protect the flippant, the zany, the heretical, and the downright queer. The Constitution gives every American the inalienable right to make a damn fool of himself.

John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, writer, critic
In Nation (27 Mar 1954)
    (Source)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Jul-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Ciardi, John

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Dictionnaire philosophique portatif, “Tolerance” (1764)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Apr-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Voltaire

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

[Wenige sind imstande, von den Vorurteilen der Umgebung abweichende Meinungen gelassen auszusprechen; die Meisten sind sogar unfähig, überhaupt zu solchen Meinungen zu gelangen.]

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“Neun Aphorismen” (23 May 1953), Essays Presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (1954) [Einstein Archives 28-962]
    (Source)

Original German.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Einstein, Albert