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The dividing line between those who want to think and therefore have to judge by themselves, and those who do not, strikes across all social and cultural or educational differences. In this respect, the total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler regime may teach us that under such circumstances those who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards are not reliable: we now know that moral norms and standards can be changed overnight, and that all that then will be left is the mere habit of holding fast to something. Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain: that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship” (1964)
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Added on 4-Aug-20 | Last updated 4-Aug-20
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We will more easily accomplish what is proper if, like archers, we have a target in sight.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1 (350 BC)
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Alt. trans.:
  • “It concerns us to know the purposes we seek in life, for then, like archers aiming at a definite mark, we shall be more likely to attain what we want.”
  • Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right?" [tr. Ross]
Added on 2-Jun-17 | Last updated 2-Jun-17
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Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005) Austrian-American business consultant
(Attributed)

Frequently attributed to Drucker, but not found in his writings. See here for more discussion.
Added on 8-May-17 | Last updated 23-May-17
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When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #50 (25 Sep 1750)
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Added on 20-Feb-17 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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What once were vices, are now the manners of the day.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], Letter 109
Added on 2-Feb-17 | Last updated 6-Feb-17
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I never expected to see the day when girls would get sunburned in the places they do today.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
(Attributed)

Quoted in P.G. Wodehouse & Guy Bolton, Bring on the Girls: The Improbable Story of Our Life in Musical Comedy (1953).
Added on 26-Jan-17 | Last updated 26-Jan-17
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In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

porter-anything-goes-wist_info-quote

Cole Porter (1891-1964) American composer and songwriter
“Anything Goes” (1934)
Added on 19-Jan-17 | Last updated 19-Jan-17
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Fashions in sin change.

Hellman - fashions in sin change - wist_info quote

Lillian Hellman (1906-1987) American playwright, screenwriter
Watch on the Rhine (1941)
Added on 25-Aug-16 | Last updated 25-Aug-16
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Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Clouds, l. 914 (c. 423 BC) [tr. Arrowsmith (1962)]

This phrase comes from a single translation, by William Arrowsmith (1962), of Aristophanes, The Clouds, l. 914. It is the only translation that includes anything like that:
[909] Philosophy: Why, you Precocious Pederast! You Palpable Pervert!
[910] Sophistry: Pelt me with roses!
[910] Philosophy: You Toadstool! O Cesspool!
[911] Sophistry: Wreath my hairs with lilies!
[911] Philosophy: Why, you Parricide!
[912] Sophistry: Shower me with gold! Look, don't you see I welcome your abuse?
[913] Philosophy: Welcome it, monster? In my day we would have cringed with shame.
[914] Sophistry: Whereas now we're flattered. Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today.

Compare to Hickey (1853):
[909] Just Cause: You are debauched and shameless.
[910] Unjust Cause: You have spoken roses of me.
[910] Just Cause: And a dirty lickspittle.
[911] Unjust Cause: You crown me with lilies.
[911] Just Cause: And a parricide.
[912] Unjust Cause: You don't know that you are sprinkling me with gold.
[913] Just Cause: Certainly not so formerly, but with lead.
[914] Unjust Cause: But now this is an ornament to me.
Added on 12-May-16 | Last updated 8-Jul-20
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The virtues of society are the vices of the saint. The terror of reform is the discovery that we must cast away our virtues, or what we have always esteemed such, into the same pit that has consumed our grosser vices.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Circles,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 6-Sep-13 | Last updated 27-Feb-17
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Ben, the ethics of sex is a thorny problem. Each of us is forced to grope for a solution he can live with — in the face of a preposterous, unworkable, and evil code of so-called ‘morals.’ Most of us know the code is wrong; almost everybody breaks it. But we pay Danegeld by feeling guilty and giving lip service. Willy-nilly, the code rides us, dead and stinking, an albatross around the neck.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land [Jubal] (1961)
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In the 1960 "uncut" edition, the passage reads as: "Ben, the ethics of sex is a thorny problem because each of us has to find a solution pragmatically compatible with a preposterous, utterly unworkable, and evil public code of so-called "morals." Most of us know, or suspect, that the public code is wrong, and we break it. Nevertheless we pay Danegeld by giving it lip service in public and feeling guilty about breaking it in private. Willy-nilly, that code rides us, dead and stinking, an albatross around the neck."
Added on 24-Mar-09 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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Once again prosperous and successful crime goes by the name of virtue; good men obey the bad, might is right and fear oppresses law.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Hercules Furens, Part 1, l.255 [Amphitryon] [tr. Miller (1917)]
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Alt. trans.: "Successful and fortunate crime is called virtue."
Added on 21-Nov-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-17
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