Quotations about   superiority

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If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?

[Puisque les tendances naturelles de l’humanité sont assez mauvaises pour qu’on doive lui ôter sa liberté, comment se fait-il que les tendances des organisateurs soient bonnes ? Les Législateurs et leurs agents ne font-ils pas partie du genre humain ? Se croient-ils pétris d’un autre limon que le reste des hommes?]

Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) French philosopher, economist, politician
The Law [La Loi] (1850) [tr. Russell]
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French source.
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But we are as other men, exactly. Of one blood, one species, one brain, one figure, one fundamental set of collective instincts, one solitary body of information, one everything. Superiority and inferiority are individual, not racial or national.

Philip Wylie (1902-1971) American author
Generation of Vipers (1942)
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Added on 28-Jun-21 | Last updated 28-Jun-21
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If the first blow hasn’t knocked all the wits out of the victim’s head, he may realize that turning the other cheek amounts to manipulation of the offender’s sense of guilt, not to speak of his karma. The moral victory itself may not be so moral after all, not only because suffering often has a narcissistic aspect to it, but also because it renders the victim superior, that is, better than his enemy. Yet no matter how evil your enemy is, the crucial thing is that he is human; and although incapable of loving another like ourselves, we nonetheless know that evil takes root when one man starts to think that he is better than another.

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) Russian-American poet, essayist, Nobel laureate, US Poet Laureate [Iosif Aleksandrovič Brodskij]
Commencement Address, Williams College (24 May 1984)
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Added on 25-May-21 | Last updated 25-May-21
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This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason.

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) English intellectual, polemicist, socio-political critic
“David Mamet’s Right-Wing Conversion,” New York Times (17 Jun 2011)
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Reviewing David Mamet’s The Secret Knowledge.
Added on 12-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 5, ch. 2 / 1302a.29 [tr. Jowett (1885)]
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Alternate translations:

  • "Now, what they aim at may be either just or unjust; just, when those who are inferior are seditious, that they may be equal; unjust, when those who are equal are so, that they may be superior." [tr. Ellis (1912)]
  • "When inferior, people enter on strife in order that they may be equal, and when equal, in order that they may be greater." [tr. Rackham (1932)]
  • "The lesser engage in factional conflict in order to be equal; those who are equal, in order to be greater." [tr. Lord (1984)]
Added on 26-Feb-21 | Last updated 26-Feb-21
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Men of all races have always sought for a convincing explanation of their own astonishing excellence and they have frequently found what they were looking for.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
Dead Man in the Silver Market, ch. 1, opening lines (1954)
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Added on 22-Jul-20 | Last updated 22-Jul-20
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It is not the idea as such which the censor attacks, whether it be heresy or radicalism or obscenity. He attacks the circulation of the idea among the classes which in his judgment are not to be trusted with the idea.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
Men of Destiny, ch. 8 “The Nature of the Battle Over Censorship,” sec. 2 (1927)
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Added on 3-Jul-20 | Last updated 3-Jul-20
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Male supremacy: Doctrine built upon three forms of superiority: the ability to grow a handlebar mustache, the ability to answer most of Nature’s calls efficiently, and the possession of pockets.

Marie Shear (1940-2017) American writer and feminist activist
“Media Watch: Celebrating Women’s Words,” New Directions for Women (May/Jun 1986)
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And the man who is arrogant belittles his victim. For arrogance is doing and saying things which bring shame to the victim, not in order that something may come out of it for the doer other than the mere fact it happened, but so that he may get pleasure. … The cause of the pleasure enjoyed by those who are arrogant is that they think that in doing ill they are themselves very much superior. That is why the young and the wealthy are arrogant. For they think that in being arrogant they are superior.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric, Book 2, ch. 2 (1378b23-29)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Insolence is also a form of slighting, since it consists in doing and saying things that cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to yourself, or because anything has happened to yourself, but simply for the pleasure involved. ... The cause of the pleasure thus enjoyed by the insolent man is that he thinks himself greatly superior to others when ill-treating them. That is why youths and rich men are insolent; they think themselves superior when they show insolence." [tr. Roberts (1924)]
  • "And he who is insolent to someone also slights him, for insolence is doing and saying such things as are a source of shame to the person suffering them, not so that some other advantage may accrue to the insolent person or because something happened to him, but so that he may gain pleasure thereby .... And a cause of the pleasure the insolent feel is their supposing that, by inflicting harm, they themselves are to a greater degree superior. Hence the young and the wealthy are insolent, for they suppose that, by being insolent, they are superior." [tr. Bartlett (2019)]
Added on 22-Jan-20 | Last updated 22-Jan-20
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It is also characteristic of the great-souled man … to be haughty towards men of position and fortune, but courteous towards those of moderate station, because it is difficult and distinguished to be superior to the great, but easy to outdo the lowly, and to adopt a high manner with the former is not ill-bred, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people: it is like putting forth one’s strength against the weak.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics, Book 4, ch. 3, l. 26 – 1124b.19 [tr. Rackham]
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Sometimes paraphrased: "It is not ill-bred to adopt a high manner with the great and the powerful, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people."

Alt. trans.: "Towards those in high position and prosperity he bears himself with pride, but towards ordinary men with moderation; for in the former case it is difficult to show superiority, and to do so is a lordly mater; whereas in the latter case it is easy. To be haughty among the great is no proof of bad breeding, but haughtiness among the lowly is as base-born a thing as it is to make trial of great strength upon the weak." [tr. Williams (1869)]
Added on 3-Aug-17 | Last updated 3-Aug-17
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We are the highest achievement reached so far by the great constructors of evolution. We are their “latest” but certainly not their last word. The scientist must not regard anything as absolute, not even the laws of pure reason. He must remain aware of the great fact, discovered by Heraclitus, that nothing whatever really remains the same even for one moment, but that everything is perpetually changing. To regard man, the most ephemeral and rapidly evolving of all species, as the final and unsurpassable achievement of creation, especially at his present-day particularly dangerous and disagreeable stage of development, is certainly the most arrogant and dangerous of all untenable doctrines.

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989) Austrian zoologist, ethologist, ornithologist
On Aggression, ch. 12 “On the Virtue of Scientific Humility” (1963)
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Added on 24-Apr-17 | Last updated 24-Apr-17
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The only thing most people do better than anyone else is read their own handwriting.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Dec-16 | Last updated 14-Dec-16
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Now Jesus himself saw the power that competition holds over men. He did not ignore it. Yet he does something with the conception of competition that hadn’t been done before. He takes the conception which has been used for lower purposes and rescues it from many of its dangers, by suggesting a higher method of its use. This is how he applied the term to his disciples. He saw them in danger of using it for low purposes. They wanted to compete for reputation and position — “which of them should be accounted greatest?” Jesus says so, if you must use the power of competition, if you must compete with on another, make it as noble as you can by using it on noble things. Use it for a fine, unselfish thing. “He that is greatest among you shall serve.” Use it for human good. Who shall be the most useful. Compete with one another in humility. See which can be the truest servant. It seems that Christ says, “Use it, but use it for higher and holier purposes. Use it not to surpass one another in esteem, but use it to increase the amount of usefulness and brother-help.” Such conceptions of competition lead to the surprising and ennobling position that there can be competition without hate and jealousy. Behold! You can struggle to beat and yet rejoice to be beaten.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Cooperative Competition / Noble Competition,” sermon outline
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Added on 23-Nov-16 | Last updated 23-Nov-16
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A friend in power is a friend lost.

Henry Adams (1838-1918) American journalist, historian, academic, novelist
The Education of Henry Adams, ch. 7 (1907)
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Most people seem to take pleasure in feeling superior to someone. I’m not like that, which pleases me because it makes me feel superior.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Jhegaala (2008)
Added on 30-Sep-16 | Last updated 30-Sep-16
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It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice: for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Journal (1820)
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All people believe their suffering is greater than others’. Just as they secretly believe they are smarter, and more deserving of fame.

Erica Jong (b. 1942) American writer, poet
How to Save Your Own Life (1977)
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You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

Malcolm X - wrong is wrong - wist_info

Malcolm X (1925-1965) American revolutionary, religious leader [b. Malcolm Little]
“Prospects for Freedom in 1965,” speech, New York (7 Jan 1965)
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BADGER: You think you’re better than other people!
MAL: Just the ones I’m better than.

Jane Espenson (b. 1964) American television writer and producer
Firefly, 1×04 “Shindig” (1 Nov 2002)
Added on 7-May-15 | Last updated 7-May-15
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Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.

Wilson Mizner (1876-1933) American screenwriter and wit
In Alva Johnston, The Legendary Mizners, ch. 4 (1953)

Also quoted in Evan Esar, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (1949).
Added on 23-Apr-15 | Last updated 23-Jan-17
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We measure the excellency of other men by some excellency we conceive to be in ourselves.

John Selden (1584-1654) English jurist, antiquary, politician, Orientalist
Table Talk (1689)
Added on 8-Dec-14 | Last updated 8-Dec-14
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It would be hard to name a more certain sign of poor self-esteem than the need to perceive some other group as inferior.

Nathaniel Branden (b. 1930) Canadian-American psychotherapist, writer (b. Nathan Blumenthal)
The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (1994)
Added on 27-Oct-14 | Last updated 27-Oct-14
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Power always Sincerely, conscientiously, de très bon foi, believes itself Right. Power always thinks it has a great Soul and vast Views, beyond the Comprehension of the Weak; and that it is doing God Service when it is violating all his Laws.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Thomas Jefferson (2 Feb 1816)
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de très bon foi = "very candidly"
Added on 16-Oct-14 | Last updated 3-Aug-16
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With whom does the greatest danger for the whole human future lie? Is it not with the good and just? — with those who say and feel in their hearts: “We already know what is good and just, we possess it, too; woe to those who are still searching for it!”

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
Thus Spoke Zarathustra [Also sprach Zarathustra], “Of Old and New Law-Tables” (26) (1883-85) [tr. Hollingdale (1961)]
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Then, do not have one mind, and one alone
that only your opinion can be right.
Whoever thinks that he alone is wise,
his eloquence, his mind, above the rest,
come the unfolding, shows his emptiness.

[μή νυν ἓν ἦθος μοῦνον ἐν σαυτῷ φόρει,
ὡς φὴς σύ, κοὐδὲν ἄλλο, τοῦτ᾽ ὀρθῶς ἔχειν.
ὅστις γὰρ αὐτὸς ἢ φρονεῖν μόνος δοκεῖ,
ἢ γλῶσσαν, ἣν οὐκ ἄλλος, ἢ ψυχὴν ἔχειν,
οὗτοι διαπτυχθέντες ὤφθησαν κενοί.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 705ff [Haemon] (441 BC) [tr. Wyckoff]
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Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

Then cleave not solely to this principle --
Thy words, no other man's, are free from error.
For whoso thinks that he alone is wise,
That his discourse and reason are unmatched,
He, when unwrapt, displays his emptiness.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

Therefore, my father, cling not to one mood,
And deem not thou art right, all others wrong.
For whoso thinks that wisdom dwells with him,
That he alone can speak or think aright,
Such oracles are empty breath when tried.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Do not, then, bear one mood only in yourself: do not think that your word and no other, must be right. For if any man thinks that he alone is wise -- that in speech or in mind he has no peer -- such a soul, when laid open, is always found empty.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

Oh, do not, then, retain thy will
And still believe no sense but thine
Can judge aright; the man who proudly thinks
None but himself or eloquent or wise,
By time betrayed is branded for an idiot.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

Wear not, then, one mood only in thyself; think not that thy word, and thine alone, must be right. For if any man thinks that he alone is wise, -- that in speech, or in mind, he hath no peer, -- such a soul, when laid open, is ever found empty.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

I beg you, do not be unchangeable:
Do not believe that you alone can be right.
The man who thinks that,
The man who maintains that only he has the power
To reason correctly, the gift to speak, to soul ––
A man like that, when you know him, turns out empty.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), ll. 564 ff]

Therefore I say,
Let not your first thought be your only thought.
Think if there cannot be some other way.
Surely, to think your own the only wisdom,
And yours the only word, the only will,
Betrays a shallow spirit, an empty heart.
[tr. Watling (1947), ll. 602 ff]

And now, don't always cling to the same anger,
Don't keep saying that this, and nothing else, is right.
If a man believes that he along has a sound mind,
And no one else can speak or think as well as he does,
Then, when people study him, they'll find an empty book.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

So, don’t be so single-minded. You said it yourself quite rightly: he who thinks that he’s the only one with a brain or a tongue or a soul, if you open him up you’ll find that he’s a hollow man.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

So don’t let your mind dwell on just one thought,
that what you say is right and nothing else.
A man who thinks that only he is wise,
that he can speak and think like no one else,
when such men are exposed, then all can see
their emptiness inside.
[tr. Johnston (2005), ll. 799 ff]

Do not wear one and only one frame of mind in yourself,
that what you say, and nothing else, is right.
Whoever imagines that he and he alone has sense
or has a tongue or an essence that no other has,
these men, when unfolded, are seen to be empty.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett]
Added on 15-Sep-08 | Last updated 9-May-21
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The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.

Dave Barry (b. 1947) American humorist
“25 Things I Have Learned In 50 Years,” # 9 (1997)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Oct-14
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It is the Property of Fools, to be always judging.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #3027 (1732)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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