Quotations about   terror

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Pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves.

[ἔλεος μὲν περὶ τὸν ἀνάξιον, φόβος δὲ περὶ τὸν ὅμοιον]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Poetics [Περὶ ποιητικῆς, De Poetica], ch. 13 / 1453a (c. 335 BC) [tr. Butcher (1895)]
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On the essential elements of tragedy. Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "Pity is occasioned by undeserved misfortune, and fear by that of one like ourselves." [tr. Bywater (1909)]
  • "Pity is concerned with unmerited ill-fortune, fear with what happens to one's like." [tr. Margoliouth (1911)]
  • "Pity for the undeserved misfortune, fear for the man like ourselves." [tr. Fyfe (1932)]
  • "We pity those who suffer undeservedly, and feel fear for people who are like ourselves." [tr. Janko (1987)]
  • "The one [pity] is to do with the man brought to disaster undeservedly, the other [terror] is to do with [what happens to] men like us." [tr. Whalley (1997)]
  • "One of these sentiments, namely pity, has to do with undeserved misfortune, and the other, namely fear, has to do with someone who is like ourselves." [tr. Sachs (2006)]
Added on 28-May-21 | Last updated 28-May-21
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The splendor of the goal of the French Revolution is simultaneously the source of our strength and of our weakness: our strength, because it gives us an ascendancy of truth over falsehood, and of public rights over private interests; our weakness, because it rallies against us all vicious men, all those who in their hearts seek to despoil the people . … It is necessary to stifle the domestic and foreign enemies of the Republic or perish with them. Now in these circumstances, the first maxim of our politics ought to be to lead the people by means of reason and the enemies of the people by terror. If the basis of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the basis of popular government in time of revolution is both virtue and terror: virtue without which terror is murderous, terror without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing else than swift, severe, indomitable justice; it flows, then, from virtue.

Maximilien Robespierre (1758-174) French lawyer, politician, revolutionary leader
Speech, National Convention (7 May 1794)
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In a parallel thought, he wrote in On the Principles of Political Morality (1794):

If virtue be the spring of a popular government in times of peace, the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country.
Added on 16-Jan-17 | Last updated 13-May-21
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The practice of terror serves the true believer not only to cow and crush his opponents but also to invigorate and intensify his own faith.

hoffer-practice-of-terror-intensify-faith-wist_info-quote

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, ch. 85 (1951)
Added on 9-Jan-17 | Last updated 9-Jan-17
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Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
In Young India (22 Sep 1920)
Added on 28-Nov-16 | Last updated 28-Nov-16
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The climax of terror is reached when the police state begins to devour its own children, when yesterday’s executioner becomes today’s victim.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
On Violence, ch. 3 (1970)
Added on 14-Nov-16 | Last updated 14-Nov-16
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If you ever want to feel like you’re on the verge of total, abject bowel-releasing terror, try making your way a klick or two out of a forest, at night, with the certain feeling you’re being hunted. It makes you feel alive, it really does, but not in a way you want to feel alive.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Zoe’s Tale (2008)
Added on 27-Sep-16 | Last updated 27-Sep-16
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Nothing is terrible except fear itself.

[Nil terribile nisi ipse timor.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Part 2, “Fortitudo” (1605)
Added on 21-Jul-16 | Last updated 21-Jul-16
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If you can’t joke about the most horrendous things in the world, what’s the point of jokes? What’s the point in having humor? Humor is to get us over terrible things. That’s all it’s for. That’s why you should laugh at funerals. Of course it’s the wrong thing to say. That’s why it’s funny.

Gervais - humor terrible things - wist_info quote

Ricky Gervais (b. 1961) English comedian, actor, director, writer
Interview with Chris Heath, GQ (15 May 2013)
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Added on 7-Jul-16 | Last updated 7-Jul-16
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     More to the point, nameless hideous monsters are freaking terrifying. You always fear what you don’t know, what you don’t understand, and the first step to having understanding of something is to know what to call it. It’s a habit of mine to give names to anything I wind up interacting with if it doesn’t have one readily available. Names have power — magically, sure, but far more important, they have psychological power. Something horrible with a name holds less power over you, less terror, than something horrible without one.
     “Octokongs,” I pronounced grimly. “Why did it have to be octokongs?”

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Skin Game (2014)
Added on 16-Nov-15 | Last updated 16-Nov-15
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Somebody was screaming and I had to check it wasn’t me. It could have been me. I certainly wanted to scream, but I remembered that right then and there Leslie and I were the only coppers on the scene and the public doesn’t like it when the police start screaming; it contributes to an impression of things not being conducive to public calm.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Rivers of London [Midnight Riot] (2011)
Added on 21-Oct-15 | Last updated 21-Oct-15
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I believe that the gods themselves are frightened of the world which they have fashioned.

Peter Ackroyd (b. 1949) English biographer, novelist, critic
The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde (1983)
Added on 16-Sep-14 | Last updated 16-Sep-14
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Vows made in Storms are forgot in Calms.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #5408 (1732)
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Added on 31-Oct-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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A Degree of Fear sharpeneth, the Excess of it stupifieth.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Fear,” Political, Moral and Miscellaneous Reflections (1750)
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Added on 18-May-10 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) US President (1933-1945)
First Inaugural Address (4 Mar 1933)
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See Bacon.
Added on 31-Aug-07 | Last updated 21-Jul-16
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