Quotations about   good

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Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them, and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavour to warp and spoil it to their turn.

William Penn (1644-1718) English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, statesman
First Frame of Government for Pennsylvania, Preface (1682)
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Added on 27-May-20 | Last updated 27-May-20
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As nought good endures beneath the skies,
So ill endures no more.

[Come cosa buona non si trova
Che duri sempre, così ancor né ria.]

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) Italian poet
Orlando Furioso, Canto 37, st. 7 (1532) [tr. Rose (1831)]
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Alt trans.: "For learn this truth, by just experience found, / Nor good, nor ill has one eternal round." [tr. Hoole (1807), l. 51]
Added on 20-Apr-20 | Last updated 20-Apr-20
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Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.

Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Amos 5:11-14
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Alt trans.:
  • [NRSV] "Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins -- you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said."
  • [GNT] "You have oppressed the poor and robbed them of their grain. And so you will not live in the fine stone houses you build or drink wine from the beautiful vineyards you plant. I know how terrible your sins are and how many crimes you have committed. You persecute good people, take bribes, and prevent the poor from getting justice in the courts. And so, keeping quiet in such evil times is the smart thing to do! Make it your aim to do what is right, not what is evil, so that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty really will be with you, as you claim he is."
  • [TJB] "Well then, since you have trampled on the poor man, extorting levies on his wheat -- those houses you have built of dressed stone, you will never live in them; and those precious vineyards you have planted, you will never drink their wine. For I know that your crimes are many, and your sins enormous: persecutors of the virtuous, blackmailers, turning away the needy at the city gate. No wonder the prudent man keeps silent, the times are so evil. Seek good and not evil so that you may live, and that Yahweh, God of Sabaoth, may really be with you as you claim he is."
Added on 18-Feb-20 | Last updated 18-Feb-20
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We must learn to suffer whatever we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of discords as well as of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only some of them, what could he sing? He has got to know how to use all of them and blend them together. So too must we with good and ill, which are of one substance with our life. Without such blending our being cannot be: one category is no less necessary than the other.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 3, Essay 13 “On Experience” (1587-88) [tr. Screech (1987)]
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Alt. trans.
  • [Frame (1943)] "We must learn to endure what we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of contrary things, also of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only one kind, what would he have to say? He must know how to use them together and blend them. And so must we do with good and evil, which are consubstantial with our life. Our existence is impossible without this mixture, and one element is no less necessary for it than the other."
  • [Source] "We must learn to suffer what we cannot evade; our life, like the harmony of the world, is composed of contrary things -- of diverse tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, sprightly and solemn: the musician who should only affect some of these, what would he be able to do? He must know how to make use of them all, and to mix them; and so we should mingle the goods and evils which are consubstantial with our life; our being cannot subsist without this mixture, and the one part is no less necessary to it than the other."
  • [Florio (1603)] A man must learne to endure that patiently which he cannot avoyde conveniently. Our life is composed, as is the harmony of the world, of contrary things: so of divers tunes, some pleasant, some harsh, some sharpe, some flat, some low, and some high. What would that musitian say that should love but some one of them? He ought to know how to use them severally and how to entermingle them. So should we both of goods and evils which art consubstnatiall to our life; our being cannot subsist without this commixture, whereto one side is no lesse necessary than the other."
Added on 13-Feb-20 | Last updated 13-Feb-20
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A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Matthew 7:18–20 (KJV)

    Alt. trans.:
  • "A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a poor tree cannot bear good fruit. And any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do." (GNT)
  • "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits." (NRSV)
Added on 17-Aug-18 | Last updated 17-Aug-18
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It is the mark of a good action that it appears inevitable in retrospect.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish essayist, novelist, poet
“Reflections and Remarks on Human Life,” #6 (1878)
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Added on 20-Nov-17 | Last updated 20-Nov-17
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If a man is not rising upwards to be an angel, depend upon it, he is sinking downwards to be a devil. He cannot stop at the beast. The most savage of men are not beasts; they are worse, a great deal worse.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) English poet and critic
Table Talk (30 Aug 1833)
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Added on 2-Oct-17 | Last updated 2-Oct-17
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This simply means that there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. When we look beneath the surface, beneath the impulsive evil deed, we see within our enemy-neighbor a measure of goodness and know that the viciousness and evilness of his acts are not quite representative of all that he is. We see him in a new light. We recognize that his hate grows out of fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstanding, but in spite of this, we know God’s image is ineffably etched in being. Then we love our enemies by realizing that they are not totally bad and that they are not beyond the reach of God’s redemptive love.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery (25 Dec 1957)
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Added on 11-Aug-17 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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The way to avoid evil is not by maiming our passions, but by compelling them to yield their vigor to our moral nature. Thus they become, as in the ancient fable, the harnessed steeds which bear the chariot of the sun.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts (1858)
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Added on 10-Jul-17 | Last updated 10-Jul-17
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Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
The Measures of Man (1959)
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We should not be too hasty in bestowing either our praise or censure on mankind, since we shall often find such a mixture of good and evil in the same character, that it may require a very accurate judgment and a very elaborate inquiry to determine on which side the balance turns.

Henry Fielding (1707-1754) English novelist, dramatist, satirist
The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, the Great, Vol. 5 (1743)
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Added on 31-Jan-17 | Last updated 31-Jan-17
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He that is good will infallibly become better, and he that is bad will as certainly become worse; for vice, virtue, and time are three things that never stand still.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, #457 (1821 ed.)
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The meaning of good & bad, of better & worse, is simply helping or hurting.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (27 Aug 1838)
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Added on 10-Oct-16 | Last updated 10-Oct-16
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Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

Tutu - little bits of good - wist_info quote

Desmond Tutu (b. 1931) South African cleric, Archbishop of Cape Town, Nobel Laureate
(Attributed)
Added on 22-Apr-16 | Last updated 22-Apr-16
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Under the guidance of reason, we should pursue the greater of two goods, and the lesser of two evils.

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) Dutch philosopher
Ethics, “Reason and Desire” (1677) [tr. Runes (1957)]
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When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.

West - when im bad im better - wist_info quote

Mae West (1892-1980) American film actress
I’m No Angel (1933)
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Added on 29-Mar-16 | Last updated 29-Mar-16
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LADY MACBETH: Whither should I fly?
I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Macbeth, Act 4, scene 2, l. 74 (1605)
Added on 22-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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Good is that which makes for unity; Evil is that which makes for separateness.

Huxley - good unity evil separateness - wist_info quote

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Ends and Means, “Ethics” (1937)
Added on 15-Mar-16 | Last updated 15-Mar-16
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There is a capacity of virtue in us, and there is a capacity of vice to make your blood creep.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1831)
Added on 9-Mar-16 | Last updated 9-Mar-16
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It is circumstance and proper measure that give an action its character, and make it either good or bad.

Plutarch (AD 46-127) Greek historian, biographer, essayist [Mestrius Plutarchos]
Parallel Lives, “Agisilaus” [tr. Dryden (1693)]
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There ain’t any news in being good. You might write the doings of all the convents of the world on the back of a postage stamp, and have room to spare.

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
(Attributed)
Added on 4-Mar-16 | Last updated 4-Mar-16
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ANTONY: The evil men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene 2, l. 80 (1599)
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HAMLET: There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2, l. 254 (1600)
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When “Do no Evil” has been understood,
Then learn the harder, braver rule, “Do Good.”

Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943) American poet, humorist
“Of Duty” (1924)
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All God’s creatures are His family; and he is the most beloved of God who does most good to God’s creatures.

Muhammad (570-632) Arabian merchant, prophet, founder of Islam [Mohammed]
The Sayings of Muhammad, #251 [tr. Al-Suhrawardy (1941)]
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By doing good we become good.

Rousseau - doing good - wist_info quote

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) French philosopher and writer
Emile, ch. 4 (1762) [tr. Foxley (1911)]
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FIRST GOD: Show interest in her goodness — for no one can be good for long if goodness is not in demand.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
The Good Person of Sezuan [Der gute Mensch von Sezuan], Scene 1a (1943) [tr. Bentley]
Added on 14-Jan-16 | Last updated 14-Jan-16
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Only evil grows of itself, while for goodness we want effort and courage.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss philosopher, poet, critic
Journal (16 Nov 1864) [tr. Ward (1887)]
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The good person loves people and uses things, while the bad person loves things and uses people.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight, ch. 4 (1982)
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The good may prove to be a hidden form of evil. The evil may prove to be a new and not yet recognized form of the good.

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (1874-1948) Russian religious and political philosopher
The Destiny of Man, 2.4.1 (1931) [tr. Duddington (1955)]
Added on 29-Dec-15 | Last updated 29-Dec-15
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Good and bad men are each less so than they seem.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) English poet and critic
Table Talk, “19 April 1830” (1835)
Added on 22-Dec-15 | Last updated 22-Dec-15
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The common interests
of states and individuals alike demand
that good and evil receive their just rewards.

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Hecuba, l. 900 [tr. Arrowsmith (1964)]
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Nothing is good or bad but by Comparison.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia, #3666 (1732)
Added on 1-Dec-15 | Last updated 1-Dec-15
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There is a sort of gratification in doing good which makes us rejoice in ourselves.

Montaigne - gratification - wist_info

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Repentance,” Essays (1588) [tr. Frame (1958)]
Added on 24-Nov-15 | Last updated 24-Nov-15
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There can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Plague, ch. 2 (1947) [tr. Gilbert (1948)]
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An act is not good because we feel obliged to do it; it is rather that we feel obliged to do it because it is good.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
Man Is Not Alone, ch. 13 (1951)
Added on 10-Nov-15 | Last updated 10-Nov-15
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He that fasteth and doth no Good saveth his Bread but loseth his Soul.

Fuller - fasting - wist_info

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia, #2382 (1732)
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It must be a good thing to be good or ivrybody wudden’t be pretendin’ he was.

[It must be a good thing to be good, or everybody wouldn’t be pretending he was.]

Dunne - pretending to be good - wist_info

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
Observations by Mr. Dooley, “Hypocrisy” (1902)
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The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! “Father, the atheists?” Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: We will meet one another there.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
Homily (22 May 2013)
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Our errors and our controversies, in the sphere of morality, arise sometimes from looking on men as though they could be altogether bad, or altogether good.

[Nos erreurs et nos divisions dans la morale viennent quelquefois de ce que nous considérons les hommes comme s’ils pouvaient être tout à fait vicieux ou tout à fait bons.]

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747) French moralist, essayist, soldier
Reflections and Maxims [Réflexions et maximes], # 31 (1746) [tr. Stevens (1940)]
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Added on 24-Oct-14 | Last updated 24-Oct-14
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Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move toward what they think is Good. […] Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
“How the Church Will Change,” interview with Eugenio Scalfari, La Repubblica (1 Oct 2013) [tr. K Wallace]
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Added on 1-Oct-14 | Last updated 1-Oct-14
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It isn’t enough to stand up and fight darkness. You’ve got to stand apart from it, too. You’ve got to be different from it.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Fool Moon (2001)
Added on 8-Jul-14 | Last updated 8-Jul-14
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Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
James 4:17 (NRSV)

  • KJV: Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
  • NIV: If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.
Added on 30-May-14 | Last updated 30-May-14
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Now, as Crowley would be the first to protest, most demons weren’t deep down evil. In the great cosmic game they felt they occupied the same position as tax inspectors — doing an unpopular job, maybe, but essential to the overall operation of the whole thing. If it came to that, some angels weren’t paragons of virtue; Crowley had met one or two who, when it came to righteously smiting the ungodly, smote a good deal harder than was strictly necessary. On the whole, everyone had a job to do, and just did it. And on the other hand, you got people like Ligur and Hastur, who took such a dark delight in unpleasantness you might even have mistaken them for human.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Good Omens [with Terry Pratchett] (1990)
Added on 29-May-14 | Last updated 29-May-14
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He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian artist, engineer, scientist
Note-books (1508-1518)
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Happiness is the only good.
The place to be happy is here.
The time to be happy is now.
The way to be happy is to make others so.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Note to a fan (26 Mar 1897)
Added on 4-Jan-12 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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We too often forget that not only is there “a soul of goodness in things evil,” but very generally also, a soul of truth in things erroneous.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) English philosopher, naturalist
First Principles, Pt. I “The Unknowable,” ch. 1 “Religion and Science”” (1862)
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Quoting Shakespeare.
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Over the centuries, mankind has tried many ways of combating the forces of evil … prayer, fasting, good works and so on. Up until Doom, no one seemed to have thought about the double-barrel shotgun. Eat leaden death, demon …

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett (30 May 1998)
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Added on 17-Apr-08 | Last updated 20-Mar-20
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Thus, then, stands the case. It is good, that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
Speech on the Copyright Bill (5 Feb 1841)
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Added on 15-Apr-08 | Last updated 16-Jan-20
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It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
Viewpoint interview by Bill Stout, KNXT (1 May 1959)

Reprinted in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track, ed. by Michelle Feynman, Appendix I (2006).
Added on 27-Nov-07 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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The web of our life is a mingled yarn, good and ill together.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
All’s Well that Ends Well, Act 4, sc. 3, l. 74 (1602)
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There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distil it out.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 1, l. 4 (1599)
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See Spencer.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-Apr-18
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Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail. I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best a part of my life.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism,” part 1 (1903)
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We may draw good out of evil; we must not do evil, that good may come.

Maria Weston Chapman (1806-1885) American abolitionist, editor
“How Can I Help to Abolish Slavery,” speech, New York (1855)
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Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Book 3 “Christian Behavior,” ch. 7 “Forgiveness” (1952)
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