Quotations about:
    selfishness


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Men can be unjust, because it is in their interest to act so, and they prefer their own satisfaction to that of others. They always act with themselves in mind. No one is gratuitously wicked; there must be a determining cause, and it is always one of self-interest.

[Les hommes peuvent faire des injustices, parce qu’ils ont intérêt de les commettre et qu’ils préfèrent leur propre satisfaction à celle des autres. C’est toujours par un retour sur eux-mêmes qu’ils agissent: nul n’est mauvais gratuitement; il faut qu’il y ait une raison qui détermine, et cette raison est toujours une raison d’intérêt.]

Charles-Lewis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) French political philosopher
Persian Letters [Lettres Persanes], Letter 84, Usbek to Rhédi (1721) [tr. Healy (1964), # 83]

Montesquieu's argues that an omnipotent God must be just, because God has no interest that cannot be satisfied through injustice.

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Men may commit injustice, because it is in their interest to do it, and they chuse rather to satisfy themselves and others. It is always with an eye to themselves that they act: no body is wicked gratis: he will have some reason to sway him; and that reason is always a reason of interest.
[tr. Ozell (1760 ed.)]

Men may do injustice, because it is in their interest to commit it, and because they prefer their own private satisfaction to that of others. It is always with a view to themselves that they act: nobody is wicked for nothing: he must have some reason that determines himl and this reason is always a reason of interest.
[tr. Floyd (1762), # 83]

Men act unjustly, because it is their interest to do so, and because they prefer their own satisfaction to that of others. They act always to secure some advantage to themselves: no one is a villain gratis; there is always a determining motive, and that motive is always an interested one.
[tr. Davidson (1891)]

Men act unjustly, because it is their interest to do so, and they prefer their own satisfaction to that of others. In acting they always have in view the effect their action will have on themselves: no one is bad for nothing; every one must have a determining motive, and that motive is self-interest.
[tr. Betts (1897)]

Men can commit injustices, because it is in their interest to do so, and they would rather satisfy themselves than others. It is always through thinking of themselves that they act unjustly; no one is gratuitously bad, there must be a reason which determines the act, and that reason is invariably one of self-interest.
[tr. Mauldon (2008)]

Men are capable of injustice, because their self-interest leads them toward it, and because they prefer their own satisfaction to that of others. Everything always revolves around themselves. No evil is ever done gratuitously, for there is always a reason behind it, and that reason is always one of self-interest.
[tr. MacKenzie (2014), # 83]

 
Added on 9-May-24 | Last updated 9-May-24
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The fiercest fanatics are often selfish people who were forced, by innate shortcomings or external circumstances, to lose faith in their own selves. They separate the excellent instrument of their selfishness from their ineffectual selves and attach it to the service of some holy cause. And though it be a faith of love and humility they adopt, they can be neither loving nor humble.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Part 2, ch. 7, § 38 (1951)
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Added on 27-Feb-24 | Last updated 27-Feb-24
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There are more who want to be loved than who want to love.
 
[Y a plus de gens qui veulent être aimés que de gens qui veulent aimer eux-mêmes.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 6, ¶ 360 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

There are more people who wish to be loved than there are who are willing to love.
[Source (<1884)]

Men are more eager to be loved than anxious to love.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

There are more people who want to be loved than there are people who want to love.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

There are more people who want to be loved than people who want to love.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]

 
Added on 19-Feb-24 | Last updated 19-Feb-24
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No form of liberty is worth a darn which doesn’t give us the right to do wrong now and then.

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major, ch. 3, § 16 (1916)
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Added on 9-Nov-23 | Last updated 9-Nov-23
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To show lack of consideration for those who in any capacity serve us — whether in restaurants, hotels, or stores, or in public places anywhere — is always an evidence of ill-breeding as well as inexcusable selfishness. It is only those who are afraid that someone may encroach upon their exceedingly insecure dignity who show neither courtesy nor consideration except to those whom they think it would be to their advantage to please.

Emily Post (1872-1960) American author, columnist [née Price]
Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, ch. 8 “Entertaining at a Restaurant” (1922; 1955 10th ed.)
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See also Paul Eldridge.
 
Added on 7-Sep-23 | Last updated 7-Sep-23
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Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.

Jane Austen
Jane Austen (1775-1817) English author
Mansfield Park, ch. 7 [Mary Crawford] (1814)
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Added on 4-May-23 | Last updated 4-May-23
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For me you mix Veientian,
While you take Massic wine:
I’d rather smell your goblet
Than to take a drink from mine.

[Veientana mihi misces, ubi Massica potas:
Olfacere haec malo pocula, quam bibere.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 3, epigram 49 (3.49) (AD 87-88) [tr. Nixon (1911), “Let the Cup Pass”]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

You Massick drink, Veientan give to me.
I need not taste; the smell doth satisfie.
[tr. Wright (1663)]

You mix Veientan wine for me, while you yourself drink Massic. I would rather smell the cups which you present me, than drink of them.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

You mix Veientan wine for me, whereas you drink Massic. I would rather smell these cups of mine than drink them.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Yourself you drink a vintage rare
While giving me vin ordinaire.
To smell the heel-taps of your wine
Is better far than drinking mine.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921), "The Mean Host"]

You pour me cheap red wine while you drink Massic.
I'd rather sniff this cup than drink from it.
[tr. Bovie (1970)]

You drink the best, yet serve us third-rate wine.
I'd rather sniff your cup than swill from mine.
[tr. Michie (1972)]

You serve me plonk, and you drink reservé.
My taste-buds back away from mine’s bouquet.
[tr. Harrison (1981)]

You mix Veientan for me and serve Massic for yourself. I had rather smell these cups than drink.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Your cup breathes odors fine
That never came from mine.
Better is what you waft
Than what I'm forced to quaff.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

You mix Veientan for me, while you drink Massic wine.
I'd rather smell your cups than drink from mine.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

You pour me Blue Nun, while you drink Brunello wine.
I’d rather smell your glass, than take a sip from mine.
[tr. Ynys-Mon (2016)]

 
Added on 31-Mar-23 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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All we hear is “What’s the matter with the country?” “What’s the matter with the world?” There ain’t but one thing wrong with every one of us in the world, and that’s selfishness.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
“Daily Telegrams” column (10 Mar 1935)
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Added on 1-Dec-22 | Last updated 1-Dec-22
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Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully.

Richard Bach (b. 1936) American writer
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, ch. 13, epigraph (1977)
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Added on 29-Nov-22 | Last updated 29-Nov-22
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It’s like this: if you have one piece of cake, and you eat it, that’s fine. If you have two pieces of cake, you should probably share some with a friend. But maybe not. Occasionally we could all use two pieces of cake. But if you have a whole cake, and you eat all of it, that’s not very cool. It’s not just selfish, it’s kinda sick and unhealthy.

Patrick Rothfuss
Patrick Rothfuss (b. 1973) American author
“Concerning Cake, Bilbo Baggins and Charity,” Blog Entry (19 Jan 2014)
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Added on 24-Oct-22 | Last updated 24-Oct-22
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All of us are infected today with an extraordinary egoism. And that is not freedom; freedom means learning to demand only of oneself, not of life and others, and knowing how to give: sacrifice in the name of love.

Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) Russian film director, screenwriter, film theorist [Андрей Арсеньевич Тарковский]
Sculpting in Time (1986) [tr. Hunter-Blair]
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Added on 10-Oct-22 | Last updated 10-Oct-22
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I have begun in old age to understand just how oddly we are all put together. We are so proud of our autonomy that we seldom if ever realize how generous we are to ourselves, and just how stingy with others. One of the booby traps of freedom — which is bordered on all sides by isolation — is that we think so well of ourselves. I now see that I have helped myself to the best cuts at life’s banquet.

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) Canadian-American writer
“Ralph Ellison in Tivoli” (1998)
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Originally printed in News from the Republic of Letters, No. 3 (1998). Reprinted in the Los Angeles Times (10 May 1998).
 
Added on 5-Oct-22 | Last updated 5-Oct-22
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If I had omitted setting down something of that which has appeared to me as clear, so that the knowledge would perish when I perish, as is inevitable, I should have considered that conduct as extremely cowardly with regard to you and everyone who is perplexed. It would have been, as it were, robbing one who deserves the truth of the truth, or grudging an heir his inheritance. And both those traits are blameworthy.

Maimonides
Maimonides (1135-1204) Spanish Jewish philosopher, scholar, astronomer, physician [Moses ben Maimon, Rambam, רמב״ם]
Guide for the Perplexed, Part 3, Introduction (c. 1190) [tr. Pines (1963)]
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Alternate translation:

But if, on the other hand, I were to abstain from writing on this subject, according to my knowledge of it, when I die, as I shall inevitably do, that knowledge would die with me, and I would thus inflict great injury on you and all those who are perplexed. I would then be guilty of withholding the truth from those to whom it ought to be communicated, and of jealously depriving the heir of his inheritance. I should in either case be guilty of gross misconduct.
[tr. Friedlander (1885)]

 
Added on 28-Jun-22 | Last updated 14-Jul-22
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But this I can tell you true — until you divest yourself of the notion that you are a collection of needs, an empty vessel that someone else must fill up, there will be no safe place to harbor yourself, no safe shore to reach. As long as you think mostly of getting, you will have nothing real to give.

Merle Shain (1935-1989) Canadian journalist and author
Hearts That We Broke Long Ago, ch. 8 (1985)
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Added on 25-Mar-22 | Last updated 25-Mar-22
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Precisely in trifles, wherein a man is off his guard, does he show his character, and then we are often able at our leisure to observe in small actions or mere mannerisms the boundless egoism which has not the slightest regard for others and in matters of importance does not afterwards deny itself, although it is disguised. We should never miss such an opportunity. If in the petty affairs and circumstances of everyday life, in the things to which the de minimis lex non curat applies, a man acts inconsiderately, seeking merely his own advantage or convenience to the disadvantage of others; if he appropriates that which exists for everybody; then we may be sure that there is no justice in his heart, but that he would be a scoundrel even on a large scale if his hands were not tied by law and authority; we should not trust him across our threshold. Indeed, whoever boldly breaks the laws of his own circle will also break those of the State whenever he can do so without risk.

[Gerade in Kleinigkeiten, als bei welchen der Mensch sich nicht zusammennimmt, zeigt er seinen Charakter, und da kann man oft, an geringfügigen Handlungen, an bloßen Manieren, den gränzenlosen, nicht die mindeste Rücksicht auf Andere kennenden Egoismus bequem beobachten, der sich nachher im Großen nicht verleugnet, wiewohl verlarvt. Und man versäume solche Gelegenheit nicht. Wenn Einer in dem kleinen täglichen Vorgängen und Verhältnissen des Lebens, in den Dingen, von welchen das de minimis lex non curat gilt, rücksichtslos verfährt, bloß seinen Vertheil oder seine Bequemlichkeit, zum Nachtheil Andere, sucht; wenn er sich angeignet was für Alle da ist u. s. w.; da sei man überzeugt, daß in seinem Herzen keine Gerechtigkeit wohnt, sondern er auch im Großen ein Schuft sein wird, sobald das Gesetz und die Gewalt ihm nicht die Hände binden, und traue ihm nicht über die Schwelle. Ja, wer ohne Scheu die Gesetze seines Klubs bricht, wird auch die des Staates brechen, sobald er es ohne Gefahr kann.]

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” ch. 4 “Counsels and Maxims [Paränesen und Maximen],” § 3.29 (1851) [tr. Payne (1974)]
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The Latin means, "The law is not concerned with trifles." (Source (German)) Alternate translations:

A man shows his character just in the way in which he deals with trifles, -- for then he is off his guard. This will often afford a good opportunity of observing the boundless egoism of man's nature, and his total lack of consideration for others; and if these defects show themselves in small things, or merely in his general demeanor, you will find that they also underlie his action in matters of importance, although he may disguise the fact. This is an opportunity which should not be missed. If in the little affairs of every day, -- the trifles of life, those matters to which the rule de minimis non applies, -- a man is inconsiderate and seeks only what is advantageous or convenient to himself, to the prejudice of others' rights; if he appropriates to himself that which belongs to all alike, you may be sure there is no justice in his heart, and that he would be a scoundrel on a wholesale scale, only that law and compulsion bind his hands. Do not trust him beyond your door. He who is not afraid to break the laws of his own private circle, will break those of the State when he can do so with impunity.
[tr. Saunders (1890)]

Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on their guard. It is in insignificant matters, and in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feeling of others, and denies nothing to itself.
[In Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts, "Character" (1891); this is the version quoted most often.]

 
Added on 17-Dec-21 | Last updated 18-Jan-23
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Some people think that evolutionary psychology claims to have discovered that human nature is selfish and wicked. But they are flattering the researchers and anyone who would claim to have discovered the opposite. No one needs a scientist to measure whether humans are prone to knavery. The question has been answered in the history books, the newspapers, the ethnographic record, and the letters to Ann Landers. But people treat it like an open question, as if someday science might discover that it’s all a bad dream and we will wake up to find that it is human nature to love one another.

Steven Pinker (b. 1954) Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, author
How the Mind Works, ch. 7 (1997)
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Added on 9-Jun-21 | Last updated 9-Jun-21
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The selfish man believes that by closing his heart against his fellows, and centering in self every thought and feeling, he escapes much suffering. But his egotistical calculations are invariably defeated; for his contracted sympathies being all directed to one focus, he so aggravates the ills he endures, that he expends on self along more painful pity than the most enthusiastic philanthropist devotes to mankind.

Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849) Irish novelist [Lady Blessington, b. Margaret Power]
Desultory Thoughts and Reflections (1839)
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Added on 8-Jun-21 | Last updated 8-Jun-21
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It is just as foolish to complain that people are selfish and treacherous as it is to complain that the magnetic field does not increase unless the electric field has a curl. Both are laws of nature.

John von Neumann (1903-1957) Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, inventor, polymath [János "Johann" Lajos Neumann]
(Attributed)
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More in Eugene Wigner, "John von Neumann (1903-1957)," Yearbook of the American Philosophical Society (1958); later collected in Wigner's Symmetries and Reflections.
 
Added on 1-Jun-21 | Last updated 1-Jun-21
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And the great danger facing us today is not so much the atomic bomb that was created by physical science. Not so much that atomic bomb that you can put in an aeroplane and drop on the heads of hundreds and thousands of people — as dangerous as that is. But the real danger confronting civilization today is that atomic bomb which lies in the hearts and souls of men, capable of exploding into the vilest of hate and into the most damaging selfishness — that’s the atomic bomb that we’ve got to fear today. Problem is with the men. Within the heart and the souls of men. That is the real basis of our problem.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“Rediscovering Lost Values,” Sermon, Second Baptist Church, Detroit (28 Feb 1954)
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Added on 21-Apr-17 | Last updated 21-Apr-17
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The moral of it is, that if we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love our friends for THEIR sakes rather than OUR OWN; we must look at their truth to THEMSELVES, full as much as their truth to US. In the latter case, every wound to self-love would be a cause of coldness; in the former, only some painful change in the friend’s character and disposition — some frightful breach in his allegiance to his better self — could alienate the heart.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) British novelist [pseud. Currer Bell]
Letter to W S. Williams (21 Jul 1851)
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Added on 7-Apr-17 | Last updated 7-Apr-17
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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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Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is but conceit.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
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Added on 9-Jun-16 | Last updated 25-Mar-22
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What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not possess the Kingdom of God.

The Bible (The New Testament) (AD 1st - 2nd C) Christian sacred scripture
Galatians 5:19-21 [GNT (1976)]
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Alternate translations:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
[KJV (1611)]

When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
[JB (1966)]

When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: sexual vice, impurity, and sensuality, the worship of false gods and sorcery; antagonisms and rivalry, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels, disagreements, factions and malice, drunkenness, orgies and all such things. And about these, I tell you now as I have told you in the past, that people who behave in these ways will not inherit the kingdom of God.
[NJB (1985)]

The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.
[CEB (2011)]

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
[NRSV (2021 ed.)]

 
Added on 2-Mar-15 | Last updated 9-May-24
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Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics — a non-ideological ethics — would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.”

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 57 (24 Nov 2013)
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Quoting St. John Chrysostom, De Lazaro Concio, II, 6
 
Added on 16-Jul-14 | Last updated 16-Jul-14
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Self-interest sets in motion virtues and vices of all kinds.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammatist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #263 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
 
Added on 4-Feb-14 | Last updated 31-May-19
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Too many people don’t care what happens so long as it doesn’t happen to them.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) US President (1909-13) and Chief Justice (1921-1930)
(Attributed)
 
Added on 17-Jan-14 | Last updated 17-Jan-14
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We must honestly admit that capitalism has often left a gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty, has created conditions permitting necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few, and has encouraged small-hearted men to become cold and conscienceless so that, like Dives before Lazarus, they are unmoved by suffering, poverty-stricken humanity. The profit motive, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages cutthroat competition and selfish ambition that inspire men to be more I-centered than thou-centered.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)
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Added on 22-Jun-12 | Last updated 9-Nov-20
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But among the Very Rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
A Miscellany of Men, “The Miser and His Friends” (1912)
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In a similar vein, in "The Paradise of Thieves," The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914), Chesterton has the character Muscari say:

To be clever enough to get all that money,
one must be stupid enough to want it.

 
Added on 18-Jul-11 | Last updated 13-Sep-23
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People often grudge others when they cannot enjoy themselves.

Aesop (620?-560? BC) Legendary Greek storyteller
Fables [Aesopica], “The Dog in the Manger” (6th C BC)
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Alternate translation: "See, what a miserable cur! who neither can eat corn himself, nor will allow those to eat in who can." [tr. James (1848)]

Alternate translation: "What a selfish Dog! He cannot eat the hay himself, and yet refuses to allow those to eat who can." [tr. Townsend (1887)]
 
Added on 11-Jan-11 | Last updated 16-Sep-21
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The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor. The man who has struck it rich in minerals, oil, or other bounties of nature is found explaining the debilitating effect of unearned income from the state. The corporate executive who is a superlative success as an organization man weighs in on the evils of bureaucracy. Federal aid to education is feared by those who live in suburbs that could easily forgo this danger, and by people whose children are in public schools. Socialized medicine is condemned by men emerging from Walter Reed Hospital. Social Security is viewed with alarm by those who have the comfortable cushion of an inherited income. Those who are immediately threatened by public efforts to meet their needs — whether widows, small farmers, hospitalized veterans, or the unemployed — are almost always oblivious to the danger.

Galbraith - selfishness - wist_info

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
“Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National Policy Committee on Pockets of Poverty (13 Dec 1963)

Galbraith used variations on this quote over the years.
  • The above quotation was from a speech given, that was then entered into the Congressional Record, Vol. 109, Senate (18 Dec 1963).
  • This material was reworked into an article "Let us begin: An invitation to action on poverty," in Harper's (March 1964), which was in turn again entered into the Congressional Record, Vol. 110 (1964).
  • One of the last is most often cited: "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor." ["Stop the Madness," Interview with Rupert Cornwell, Toronto Globe and Mail (6 Jul 2002)]
 
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The chief difference between free capitalism and State socialism seems to be this: that under the former a man pursues his own advantage openly, frankly, and honestly, whereas under the latter he does so hypocritically and under false pretences.

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks, #397 (1956)
 
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By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 39, epigraph (1897)
 
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I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle.

Jane Austen
Jane Austen (1775-1817) English author
Pride and Prejudice, ch. 58 [Darcy] (1813)
    (Source)
 
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Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up save in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer, literary scholar, lay theologian [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Four Loves
 
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