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Our Constitution relies on our electorate’s complete ideological freedom to nourish independent and responsible intelligence and preserve our democracy from that submissiveness, timidity and herd-mindedness of the masses which would foster a tyranny of mediocrity.

Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954) US Supreme Court Justice, lawyer, jurist, politician
American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 442 (1950) [concurrence and dissent]
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Added on 30-Jan-23 | Last updated 30-Jan-23
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Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their powers: that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, & to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him: every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Francis W. Gilmer (7 Jun 1816)
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Added on 17-Oct-22 | Last updated 17-Oct-22
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But remember, that manners must adorn knowledge, and smooth its way through the world. Like a great rough diamond, it may do very well in a closet by way of curiosity, and also for its intrinsic value; but it will never be worn, nor shine, if it is not polished.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #155 (1 Jul 1748)
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Added on 10-Oct-22 | Last updated 10-Oct-22
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No society, certainly not a large and heterogeneous one, can fail in time to explode if it is deprived of the arts of compromise, if it knows no way of muddling through. No good society can be unprincipled; and no viable society can be principle-ridden.

Alexander Bickel
Alexander M. Bickel (1924-1974) Romanian-American law professor, constitutional scholar
The Least Dangerous Branch, ch. 2 (1962)
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Added on 20-Sep-22 | Last updated 20-Sep-22
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It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilization. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs.

Kenneth Clark
Kenneth Clark (1903-1983) British art historian, museum director, broadcaster
Civilization: A Personal View, ch. 13 “Heroic Materialism” (1969)
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Added on 24-Aug-22 | Last updated 24-Aug-22
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Genocide is natural! Rape is natural! No, what’s natural is not necessarily good — often it’s repulsive. One of the most important functions of human society, and the driving force behind most political institutions, is to prevent humans from doing what comes naturally.

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond (b. 1937) American geographer, historian, ornithologist, author
“Choosing Success,” interview by Catherine Seip, National Review (30 Jun 2006)
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Added on 18-Jul-22 | Last updated 18-Jul-22
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Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
(Spurious)
 
Added on 12-Jul-22 | Last updated 12-Jul-22
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Besides justifying the transfer of wealth to kleptocrats, institutionalized religion brings two other important benefits to centralized societies. First, shared ideology or religion helps solve the problem of how unrelated individuals are able to live together without killing each other — by providing them with a bond not based on kinship. Second, it gives people a motive, other than genetic self-interest, for sacrificing their lives on behalf of others.

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond (b. 1937) American geographer, historian, ornithologist, author
Guns, Germs, and Steel, ch. 14 (1997)
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Added on 11-Jul-22 | Last updated 11-Jul-22
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I think that the successful genres of a particular period are reflections of the needs and thoughts and social struggles of that time. When you see a bunch of similar projects meeting with success, you’ve found a place in the social landscape where a particular story (or moral or scenario) speaks to readers. You’ve found a place where the things that stories offer are most needed. And since the thing that stories most often offer is comfort, you’ve found someplace rich with anxiety and uncertainty. (That’s what I meant when I said to Melinda Snodgrass that genre is where fears pool.)

Daniel Abraham
Daniel Abraham (b. 1969) American writer [pseud. James S. A. Corey (with Ty Franck), M. L. N. Hanover]
“100 Aspects of Genre: Learning from the Dead and the Dying,” blog entry (19 Oct 2010)
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Added on 7-Jul-22 | Last updated 8-Jul-22
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Why weren’t these problems obvious to the Maya kings, who could surely see their forests vanishing and their hills becoming eroded? Part of the reason was that the kings were able to insulate themselves from problems afflicting the rest of society. By extracting wealth from commoners, they could remain well fed while everyone else was slowly starving. What’s more, the kings were occupied with their own power struggles. They had to concentrate on fighting one another and keeping up their images through ostentatious displays of wealth. By insulating themselves in the short run from the problems of society, the elite merely bought themselves the privilege of being among the last to starve.

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond (b. 1937) American geographer, historian, ornithologist, author
“The Ends of the World as We Know Them,” New York Times (1 Jan 2005)
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Added on 21-Jun-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-22
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American society has always exercised a stronger pressure on individual behavior than Western European societies; but in time of war this pressure is notched a few degrees, and starts to become quite alarming.

Tzvetan Todorov
Tzvetan Todorov (1939-2017) Bulgarian-French historian, philosopher, literary critic, sociologist
The New World Disorder: Reflections of a European, ch. 3 (2005)
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Added on 15-Jun-22 | Last updated 15-Jun-22
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Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So, just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
“Farewell Address,” Chicago (10 Jan 2017)
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Added on 17-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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The societies to which most readers of this book belong represent a narrow slice of human cultural diversity. Societies from that slice achieved world dominance not because of a general superiority, but for specific reasons: their technological, political, and military advantages derived from their early origins of agriculture, due in turn to their productive local wild domesticable plant and animal species. Despite those particular advantages, modern industrial societies didn’t also develop superior approaches to raising children, treating the elderly, settling disputes, avoiding non-communicable diseases, and other societal problems. Thousands of traditional societies developed a wide array of different approaches to those problems.

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond (b. 1937) American geographer, historian, ornithologist, author
The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?, Epilogue (2012)
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Added on 10-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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In fact, one of the main lesson to be learned from the collapses of the Maya, Anasazi, Easter Islanders, and those other past societies (as well as from the recent collapse of the Soviet Union) is that a society’s steep decline may begin only a decade or two after the society reaches its peak numbers, wealth, and power. […] The reason is simple: maximum population, wealth, resource consumption, and waste production mean maximum environmental impact, approaching the limit where impact outstrips resources. On reflection, it’s no surprise that declines of societies tend to follow swiftly on their peaks.

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond (b. 1937) American geographer, historian, ornithologist, author
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Part 4, ch. 16 (2005)
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Added on 18-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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For that is an absurd position which is taken by some people, who say that they will not rob a parent or a brother for their own gain, but that their relation to the rest of their fellow-citizens is quite another thing. Such people contend in essence that they are bound to their fellow-citizens by no mutual obligations, social ties, or common interests. This attitude demolishes the whole structure of civil society.

[Nam illud quidem absurdum est, quod quidam dicunt, parenti se aut fratri nihil detracturos sui commodi causa, aliam rationem esse civium reliquorum. Hi sibi nihil iuris, nullam societatem communis utilitatis causa statuunt esse cum civibus, quae sententia omnem societatem distrahit civitatis.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 3, ch. 6 (3.6) / sec. 28 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

For as to what is usually said by some men, that they would not take anything away from a father or brother for their own advantage, but that there is not the same reason for their ordinary citizens, it is foolish and absurd: for they thrust themselves out from partaking of any privileges, and from joining in common with the rest of their citizens, for the public good; an opinion that strikes at the very root and foundation of all civil societies.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

That indeed is absurd, which some men avow, that for their own advantage they would take nothing from a parent or a brother; but that the case of other citizens is different. These men, stablish with their fellow-citizens no common right, no society for common advantage; an opinion that unhinges the whole internal intercourse of a state.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

For that which some say, that they would take nothing wrongfully, for the sake of their own advantage, from a parent or brother, but that the case is different with other citizens, is indeed absurd. These establish the principle that they have nothing in the way of right, no society with their fellow citizens, for the sake fo the common interest -- an option which tears asunder the whole social compact.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

For this is absurd indeed which some say, that they would take nothing from a parent or a brother for their own benefit, but that it is quite another thing with persons outside of one’s own family. These men disclaim all mutual right and partnership with their fellow-citizens for the common benefit, -- a state of feeling which dismembers the fellowship of the community.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

It is absurd for people to say that they will not despoil a father or a brother for their own advantage but that fellow-citizens stand on quite a different footing. That is practically to assert that they are bound to their fellow-citizens neither by mutual obligations, social ties, nor common interests. But such a theory tears in pieces the whole fabric of civil society.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

The contention that some people advance is absurd, of course: they argue that they would not deprive a parent or brother of anything for their own advantage but that there is another standard applicable to all other citizens. These people do not submit themselves to any law or to any obligation to cooperate with fellow citizens for the common benefit. Their attitude destroys any cooperation within the city.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

 
Added on 10-Mar-22 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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We should measure the prosperity of a nation not by the number of millionaires, but by the absence of poverty, the prevalence of health, the efficiency of the public schools, and the number of people who can and do read worthwhile books.

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) American writer, historian, social reformer [William Edward Burghardt Du Bois]
“On the Future of the American Negro,” speech (Mar 1953)
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Added on 9-Mar-22 | Last updated 9-Mar-22
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Any social organization does well enough if it isn’t rigid. The framework doesn’t matter as long as there is enough looseness to permit that one man in a multitude to display his genius. Most so-called social scientists seem to think that organization is everything. It is almost nothing — except when it is a straitjacket. It is the incidence of heroes that counts, not the pattern of zeros.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Glory Road, ch. 2 [Rufo] (1963)
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Added on 15-Feb-22 | Last updated 15-Feb-22
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No human society is too primitive to have some kind of literature. The only thing is that primitive literature hasn’t yet become distinguished from other aspects of life: it’s still embedded in religion, magic and social ceremonies.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
The Educated Imagination, Talk 2 “The Singing School” (1963)
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Added on 13-Dec-21 | Last updated 13-Dec-21
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Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named … but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Friday (1982)
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Added on 6-Dec-21 | Last updated 6-Dec-21
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One person by himself is not a complete human being.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
The Educated Imagination, Talk 1 “The Motive for Metaphor” (1963)
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Added on 6-Dec-21 | Last updated 6-Dec-21
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Civilization will cease without civility.

Helen Hayes (1900-1993) American actress
Loving Life (1987) [with Marion Glasserow Gladney]
 
Added on 29-Nov-21 | Last updated 29-Nov-21
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If I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.

William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Ethics of Belief,” Part 1 “The Duty of Inquiry,” Lecture, London (11 Apr 1876)
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Added on 29-Nov-21 | Last updated 29-Nov-21
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No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.

Nye Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan (1897-1960) Welsh politician
In Place of Fear (1952)

Bevan was the key politician responsible for the 1946 founding of the UK's National Health Service.
 
Added on 14-Sep-21 | Last updated 14-Sep-21
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Yet if states were destroyed, local institutions corrupted, and economic incentives directed towards murder, few of us would behave well. There is little reason to think that we are ethically superior to the Europeans of the 1930s and 1940s, or for that matter less vulnerable to the kind of ideas that Hitler so successfully promulgated and realized.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, “Conclusion” (2015)
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Added on 18-Aug-21 | Last updated 18-Aug-21
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The ideal capitalism envisioned by advocates of the free market depends upon social virtues and wise policies that it does not itself generate.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, “Conclusion: Our World” (2015)
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Added on 21-Jul-21 | Last updated 21-Jul-21
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Cultures are cunning tailors. They cut garments from convenience and then work hard to reshape individuals to fit them.

Charles King
Charles King (b. 1967) American historian, political scientist, academic, author
Gods of the Upper Air (2019)
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Added on 16-Jul-21 | Last updated 16-Jul-21
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If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living in truth. This is why it must be suppressed more severely than anything else.

Havel - main pillar system living a lie not surprising fundamental threat living in truth - wist.info quote

Václav Havel (1936-2011) Czech playwright, essayist, dissident, politician
The Power of the Powerless, title essay (1979)
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Added on 14-Jul-21 | Last updated 14-Jul-21
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We can’t function as a society unless we have norms of how to behave. You can’t pass enough laws to take care of every human interaction.

Jerry Springer
Jerry Springer (b. 1944) Anglo-American broadcaster, actor, producer, politician
Interview by Stephanie Ruhle, MSNBC, @1:12 (1 Nov 2019)
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Added on 7-Jul-21 | Last updated 7-Jul-21
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Society is like the air, necessary to breathe but insufficient to live on.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason, Vol. 2: Reason in Society, ch. 8 “Ideal Society” (1905)
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Added on 23-Jun-21 | Last updated 23-Jun-21
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“What is truth?” Sometimes people ask this question because they wish to do nothing. Generic cynicism makes us feel hip and alternative even as we slip along with our fellow citizens into a morass of indifference. It is your ability to discern facts that makes you an individual, and our collective trust in common knowledge that makes us a society.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, ch. 10 (2017)
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Added on 16-Jun-21 | Last updated 16-Jun-21
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Perhaps the hardest thing for humans to do is to imagine the world as it is imagined by others. We tend to confuse acting in accordance with the goals and values of the society in which we live with rationality; we tend to confuse intelligence with thinking in accordance with those goals and values. And, of course, we are always inclined to see events as predetermined — and we are almost always wrong.

Masha Gessen (b. 1967) Russian-American journalist, author, translator, activist
“The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments,” The New Yorker (20 Feb 2018)
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Added on 7-Jun-21 | Last updated 7-Jun-21
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Americans today often speak of racial prejudice as a thing that simply exists — like air — with no nod to the actual work it takes to create and maintain systems based upon prejudice.

Annette Gordon-Reed (b. 1958) American historian, law professor, author
“The Captive Aliens Who Remain Our Shame,” New York Review of Books (19 Jan 2017)
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Added on 24-May-21 | Last updated 24-May-21
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His father wasn’t the monster he could have been with the power he held over his slaves. He wasn’t a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Kindred, ch. 4, sec. 6 (1979)
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Added on 13-May-21 | Last updated 13-May-21
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A society is most vigorous, and appealing, when both partisan and critic are legitimate voices in the permanent dialogue that is the testing of ideas and experience. One can be a critic of one’s country without being an enemy of its promise.

Daniel Bell (1919-2011) American sociologist, writer, editor, academic
The End of Ideology, Introduction (1961 ed.)
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Added on 5-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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But, however tardily, I nonetheless caught myself and realized I had always devoted my time and attention to people who fascinated me and were pleasant, who engaged my sympathy, and that as a result I was seeing society like the Moon, always from one side.

Alexander Solzhenitsen (1918-2008) Russian novelist, emigre [Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn]
The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2 (1974) [tr. Whitney]
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Added on 31-Mar-21 | Last updated 31-Mar-21
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And what is an authentic lunatic? He is a man who has preferred to become what is socially understood as mad rather than forfeit a certain superior idea of human honor. In its asylums, society has managed to strangle all those it has wished to rid itself of or defend itself from, because they refused to make themselves accomplices to various flagrant dishonesties. For a lunatic is also a man whom society has not wished to listen to, and whom it is determined to prevent from uttering unbearable truths.

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) French playwright, actor, director
Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society [Le Suicidé de la Société] (1947) [tr. Watson]
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Alternate translation:

And what is an authentic madman? It is a man who preferred to become mad, in the socially accepted sense of the word, rather than forfeit a certain superior idea of human honor. So society has strangled in its asylums all those it wanted to get rid of or protect itself from, because they refused to become its accomplices in certain great nastinesses. For a madman is also a man whom society did not want to hear and whom it wanted to prevent from uttering certain intolerable truths.
 
Added on 3-Mar-21 | Last updated 3-Mar-21
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But since, as Plato has admirably expressed it, we are not born for ourselves alone, but our country claims a share of our being, and our friends a share; and since, as the Stoics hold, everything that the earth produces is created for man’s use; and as men, too, are born for the sake of men, that they may be able mutually to help one another; in this direction we ought to follow Nature as our guide, to contribute to the general good by an interchange of acts of kindness, by giving and receiving, and thus by our skill, our industry, and our talents to cement human society more closely together, man to man.

[Sed quoniam, ut praeclare scriptum est a Platone, non nobis solum nati sumus ortusque nostri partem patria vindicat, partem amici, atque, ut placet Stoicis, quae in terris gignantur, ad usum hominum omnia creari, homines autem hominum causa esse generatos, ut ipsi inter se aliis alii prodesse possent, in hoc naturam debemus ducem sequi, communes utilitates in medium afferre mutatione officiorum, dando accipiendo, tum artibus, tum opera, tum facultatibus devincire hominum inter homines societatem.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 7 (1.7) / sec. 22 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Referring to Plato, Epistle 9, to Archytas: "No one of us exists for himself alone, but one share of our existence belongs to our country, another to our parents, a third to the rest of our friends, while a great part is given over to those needs of the hour with which our life is beset." [tr. Bury (1966)]

Alternate translations:

"But seeing (as is excellently said by Plato) we are not born for ourselves alone; but that our native country, our friends and relations, have a just claim and title to some part of us;" and seeing whatsoever is created on earth was merely designed (as the Stoics will have it) for the service of men; and men themselves for the service, good, and assistance of one another; we certainly in this should be followers of Nature, and second her intentions; and by producing all that lies within the reach of our power for the general interest, by mutually giving and receiving good turns, by our knowledge, industry, riches, or other means, should endeavour to keep up that love and society, that should be amongst men.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

But, according to the excellent observation of Plato, "since we were not born for ourselves alone, our country and our friends have separate claims upon us." The produce of the earth, according to the Stoics, is intended wholly for the use of man; but men were designed for the service of men, by being made able to communicate reciprocal benefits to each other. In this view we ought to follow nature as our guide; and, by the exchange of services, by giving and receiving, to bring forward general advantages for the common good. We ought, by knowledge, industry, and wealth, to bind closer the society of men with men.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

But (as has been strikingly said by Plato) we are not born for ourselves alone, and our country claims her share, and our friends their share of us; and, as the Stoics hold, all the earth produces is created for the used of man, so men are created for the sake of men, that they may mutually do good to one another; in this we ought to take nature for our guide, to throw into the public stock the offices of general utility by a reciprocation of duties; sometimes by receiving, sometimes by giving, and sometimes to cement human society by arts, by industry, and byh our resources.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

But since, as it has been well said by Plato, we are not born for ourselves alone; since our country claims a part in us, our parents a part, our friends a part; and since, according to the Stoics, whatever the earth bears is created for the use of men, while men were brought into being for the sake of men, that they might do good to one another, -- in this matter we ought to follow nature as a guide, to contribute our part to the common good, and by the interchange of kind offices, both in giving and receiving, alike by skill, by labor, and by the resources at our command, to strengthen the social union of men among men.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

But since our life, to quote the noble words of Plato, has not been given to us for ourselves alone (for our country claims a share, our friends another), and since, as the Stoics hold, all the products of the earth are destined for our use and we are born to help one another, we should here take nature for our guide and contribute to the public good by the interchange of acts of kindness, now giving, now receiving, and ever eager to employ our talents, industry and resources in strengthening the bonds of human society.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

Plato wrote brilliantly on this point: "We have not been born for ourselves alon; our native land claims a portion of our origin, our friends claim a portion." The Stoics like to repeat that everything that comes into being in the world is created for the benefit of man, that even men themselves are born for mankind's sake, that people can be helpful among themselves, one to another. The Stoics say that we should follow nature's lead in this and that we should contribute to the public benefit by the mutual interchange of obligations, by both giving and receiving. By our skills, by our efforts, by our capacities we should thus link men together into a human society.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

 
Added on 22-Feb-21 | Last updated 8-Sep-22
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The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) American politician, diplomat, sociologist
Godkin Lecture, Harvard (1985)
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As reprinted in his book, Family and Nation (1986).
 
Added on 19-Feb-21 | Last updated 19-Feb-21
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In our time, as in times before, creep on the insidious forces that, producing inequality, destroy Liberty. On the horizon the clouds begin to lower. Liberty calls to us again. We must follow her further; we must trust her fully. Either we must wholly accept her or she will not stay. It is not enough that men should vote; it is not enough that they should be theoretically equal before the law. They must have liberty to avail themselves of the opportunities and means of life; they must stand on equal terms with reference to the bounty of nature. Either this, or Liberty withdraws her light! Either this, or darkness comes on, and the very forces that progress has evolved turn to powers that work destruction. This is the universal law. This is the lesson of the centuries. Unless its foundations be laid in justice the social structure cannot stand.

Henry George (1839-1897) American economist
The Law of Human Progress, Book 10, ch. 5 “The Central Truth” (1879)
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Added on 15-Feb-21 | Last updated 15-Feb-21
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Now, that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech.

[διότι δὲ πολιτικὸν ὁ ἄνθρωπος ζῷον πάσης μελίττης καὶ παντὸς ἀγελαίου ζῴου μᾶλλον, δῆλον. οὐθὲν γάρ, ὡς φαμέν, μάτην ἡ φύσις ποιεῖ·]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 1, ch. 2, sec. 10 / 1253a.7-11 [tr. Jowett (1885)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "And that man is a social animal in a fuller sense than any bee or gregarious animal is evident; for nature, we say, makes nothing without an object, and man is the only animal that possesses rational speech." [tr. Bolland (1877)]
  • "The gift of speech also evidently proves that man is a more social animal than the bees, or any of the herding cattle: for nature, as we say, does nothing in vain, and man is the only animal who enjoys it." [tr. Ellis (1912)]
  • "And why man is a political animal in a greater measure than any bee or any gregarious animal is clear. For nature, as we declare, does nothing without purpose; and man alone of the animals possesses speech." [tr. Rackham (1932)]
  • "That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain; and man alone among the animals has speech." [tr. Lord (1984)]
  • "It is also clear why a human is more of a political animal than any bee or any other gregarious animal. For nature does nothing pointlessly, as we say, and a human being alone among the animals has speech." [tr. Reeve (2007)]
  • "It is clear that man is a political animal, more than every bee and herd animal: for nature makes nothing in vain and man alone of living things has reason." [tr. @sentantiq (2011)]
 
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I don’t long for the good old days when there was no servant problem. Back in those days, I’d have been a servant.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
(Attributed)
 
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The ability of the rich and their acolytes to see social virtue in what serves their interest and convenience and to depict as ridiculous or foolish what does not was never better manifested than in their support of gold and their condemnation of paper money.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went, ch. 9 (1975)
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Good government makes everything well ordered and fit,
And at the same time it throws shackles on the unjust.
It levels out the rough, stops insolence, and weakens arrogance.
It causes the growing blossoms of blindness to wither.
It straightens crooked judgments and it levels out over-reaching deeds.
It stops the acts of civil conflict and
It stops the anger of grievous strife and because of it
Everything among men is wisely and appropriately done.

[Εὐνομίη δ’ εὔκοσμα καὶ ἄρτια πάντ’ ἀποφαίνει,
καὶ θαμὰ τοῖς ἀδίκοις ἀμφιτίθησι πέδας·
τραχέα λειαίνει, παύει κόρον, ὕβριν ἀμαυροῖ,
αὑαίνει δ’ ἄτης ἄνθεα φυόμενα,
εὐθύνει δὲ δίκας σκολιάς, ὑπερήφανά τ’ ἔργα
πραΰνει· παύει δ’ ἔργα διχοστασίης,
παύει δ’ ἀργαλέης ἔριδος χόλον, ἔστι δ’ ὑπ’ αὐτῆς
πάντα κατ’ ἀνθρώπους ἄρτια καὶ πινυτά.]

Solon (c. 638 BC - 558 BC) Athenian statesman, lawmaker, poet
Fragment 4.32-39 W [tr. @sententiq (2015)]
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Solon's description of eunomiē (lawfulness). Alt. trans.:
Lawfulness, puts all things into good order and makes them sound,
And often places shackles about those who are unjust.
She smooths what is rough, puts an end to excess, enfeebles arrogance;
She withers the flowers of ruin as they spring up;
She straightens crooked judgments, and overbearing acts she turns to gentleness;
She puts an end to acts of dissension,
Puts an end to the bitterness of painful strife:
Beneath her hand all things among mankind are sound and prudent.
[tr. Miller (1996)]

Good Government displays all neatness and order,
And many times she must put shackles on the breakers of laws
She levels rough places, stops Glut and Greed, takes the force from Violence:
She dries up the growing flowers of Despair as they grow;
She straightens out crooked judgments given, gentles the swollen ambitions,
And puts an end to acts of divisional strife;
She stills the gall of wearisome Hate,
And under her influence all life among mankind is harmonious and does well.
[tr. Lattimore]
 
Added on 22-Oct-20 | Last updated 22-Oct-20
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Society is only incidentally and in certain cases regulative, and law is no equivalent to the social order. […] Even in our civilization the law is never more than a crude implement of society, and one it is often enough necessary to check in its arrogant career. It is never to be read off as if it were the equivalent of the social order.

Ruth Benedict (1887-1947) American anthropologist
Patterns of Culture, ch. 8 “The Individual and Culture” (1934)
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Society in its full sense […] is never an entity separable from the individuals who compose it. No individual can arrive even at the threshold of his potentialities without a culture in which he participates. Conversely, no civilization has in it any element which in the last analysis is not the contribution of an individual.

Ruth Benedict (1887-1947) American anthropologist
Patterns of Culture, ch. 8 “The Individual and Culture” (1934)
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Sometimes quoted as "The community is never an entity ...."
 
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Any power must be the enemy of mankind which enslaves the individual by terror and force, whether it arises under a Fascist or Communist flag. All that is valuable in human society depends on the opportunity for development accorded to the individual.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Press statement, England (15 Sep 1933)
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A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. For the traitor appears not a traitor — he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation — he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city — he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the carrier of the plague. You have unbarred the gates of Rome to him.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Spurious)

This text, widely passed around on social media, was made up for Cicero in Taylor Caldwell, A Pillar of Iron (1965).
 
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Modern politics cannot be a matter of genuine moral consensus. And it is not. Modern politics is civil war carried on by other means.

Alasdair MacIntyre (b. 1929) Scottish philosopher
After Virtue: A Study of Moral Theory, ch. 17 (1981)
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He may have gone quite far in our society, but no matter how far one goes, one cannot avoid bringing oneself along.

Peter David (b. 1956) American writer
Babylon 5: Legions of Fire III – Out of the Darkness (2000)
 
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The certainties of one age are the problems of the next.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 5 (1926)
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Added on 17-Apr-20 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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The world is very full of people — appallingly full; it has never been so full before — and they are all tumbling over each other. Most of these people one doesn’t know and some of them one doesn’t like; doesn’t like the colour of their skins, say, or the shapes of their noses, or the way they blow them or don’t blow them, or the way they talk, or their smell or their clothes, or their fondness for jazz or their dislike of jazz, and so on. Well, what is one to do?

There are two solutions. One of them is the Nazi solution. If you don’t like people, kill them, banish them, segregate them, and then strut up and down proclaiming that you are the salt of the earth.

The other way is much less thrilling, but it is on the whole the way of the democracies, and I prefer it. If you don’t like people, put up with them as well as you can. Don’t try to love them; you can’t, you’ll only strain yourself. But try to tolerate them. On the basis of that tolerance a civilised future may be built.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“The Unsung Virtue of Tolerance,” radio broadcast (Jul 1941)
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Published as "Tolerance," Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
 
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I see men assassinated around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead: men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls and high school ideals.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
Sunlight Here I Am: Interviews and Encounters, 1963-1993 (2003)
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When asked his reaction to the assassination of John Kennedy.
 
Added on 24-Jan-20 | Last updated 24-Jan-20
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Let us shun extremes, not only because each extreme is in itself a positive evil, but also because each extreme necessarily engenders its opposite. If we love civil and religious freedom, let us in the day of danger uphold law and order. If we are zealous for law and order, let us prize, as the best safeguard of law and order, civil and religious freedom.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
Speech on re-election to Parliament, Edinburgh (2 Nov 1852)
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Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

H.G. Wells (1866-1946) British writer [Herbert George Wells]
The Outline of History, Vol. 2, ch. 41, sec. 4 (1921)
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Also attributed to Wells: "Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have."
 
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The security of society lies in custom and unconscious instinct, and the basis of the stability of society, as a healthy organism, is the complete absence of any intelligence amongst its members. The great majority of people being aware of this, rank themselves naturally on the side of that splendid system that elevates them to the dignity of machines, and rage so wildly against the intrusion of the intellectual faculty into any question that concerns life, that one is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
“The Critic as Artist,” Intentions (1891)
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