Quotations about   malice

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A certain combination of incompetence and indifference can cause almost as much suffering as the most acute malevolence.

Bruce Catton
Bruce Catton (1899-1978) American historian and journalist
A Stillness at Appomattox (1953)
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Regarding prison camps during the US Civil War.
Added on 13-Jan-22 | Last updated 13-Jan-22
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There is no rampart that will hold out against malice.

[Contre la médisance il n’est point de rempart.]

Molière (1622-1673) French playwright, actor [stage name for Jean-Baptiste Poquelin]
Tartuffe, Act 1, sc. 1, l. 99 (1664)
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Alt. trans.: "Against backbiting there is no bulwark."
Added on 24-Apr-20 | Last updated 24-Apr-20
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Human blunders, however, usually do more to shape history than human wickedness.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
The Origins of the Second World War, ch. 10 “The War of Nerves” (1961)
Added on 15-Apr-20 | Last updated 15-Apr-20
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There is no possibility of being witty without a little ill-nature; the malice in a good thing is the barb that makes it stick.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) Irish dramatist, satirist, politician
The School for Scandal, Act 1 (1777)
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Added on 23-Mar-20 | Last updated 23-Mar-20
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Malice is of a low Stature, but it hath very long Arms.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Malice and Envy,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
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Added on 16-Mar-20 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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I ask you not to hate people who treat you badly. … This is easier to write than it is to live but there are ignorant people. Only a few are truly malicious. Hate is a poison. It can spread through your system. Forgive them if you can. Forget them if you must.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Interview in OutSmart magazine (Jan 1998)
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Added on 20-Nov-17 | Last updated 20-Nov-17
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The ratio of damn fools to villains is high.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
The Puppet Masters, ch. 26 (1951)
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Added on 17-Nov-17 | Last updated 16-Feb-18
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If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have paradise in a few years.

Russell - happiness unhappiness paradise - wist_info quote

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
New York Times (18 May 1961)
Added on 4-Feb-16 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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For at least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice, and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism, and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
“Knowledge and Understanding,” Vedanta and the West (May-Jun 1956)
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Revision of a 1955 lecture given at the Vedanta Society of Southern California; this phrase, however, does not occur in it (the surrounding text is found around the 10:00 mark). Reprinted in Adonis and the Alphabet, and Other Essays (in the US Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, and Other Essays) (1956).
Added on 5-Nov-14 | Last updated 25-Jan-22
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Ignorance of the world leaves one at the mercy of its malice.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
Table Talk, “On the Disadvantages of Intellectual Superiority” (1822)
Added on 22-Feb-11 | Last updated 17-Aug-21
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And I have again observed, my dear friend, in this trifling affair, that misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. At all events, the two latter are of less frequent occurrence.

[Und ich habe, mein Lieber, wieder bei diesem kleinen Geschäft gefunden, dass Missverständnisse und Trägheit vielleicht mehr Irrungen in der Welt machen als List und Bosheit. Wenigstens sind die beiden letzteren gewiss seltener.] 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Die Leiden des jungen Werthers [The Sorrows of Young Werther], “Letter from May 4th” (1774)

Alt. trans.: "Misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent."
Added on 29-Jan-09 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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The widespread interest in gossip is inspired, not by a love of knowledge, but by malice: no one gossips about other people’s secret virtues, but only about their secret vices. Accordingly most gossip is untrue, but care is taken not to verify it. Our neighbour’s sins, like the consolations of religion, are so agreeable that we do not stop to scrutinize the evidence closely.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Aims of Education” (1929)
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Usually shortened to "No one gossips about other people's secret virtues."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Nov-15
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Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Robert J. Hanlon, “Hanlon’s Razor,” Murphy’s Law, Book Two (ed. A. Bloch) (1980)

Cf. Heinlein (again), Napoleon, Taylor, Bonhoeffer, and Goethe. See here for more information, including discussion that "Robert J. Hanlon" may be a corruption or obfuscation of "Robert A. Heinlein."

Various variants in combinations with "ascribe," "what can be," and "incompetence."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Aug-21
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Rascality has limits; stupidity has not.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) French emperor, military leader
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Nov-17
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