Quotations about   vice

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Man is a reasoning animal. Therefore, man’s highest good is attained if he has fulfilled the good for which nature designed him at birth. And what is it which this reason demands of him? The easiest thing in the world — to live in accordance with his nature. But this has turned into a hard task by the general madness of mankind; we push one
another into vice.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Letters to Lucilius, Letter 41 (c. 65 AD)
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Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
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It is our conviction that if souls were visible to the eyes, we should be able to see distinctly that strange thing, that each one individual of the human race corresponds to some one of the species of the animal creation; and we could easily recognize this truth, hardly perceived by the thinker, that from the oyster to the eagle, from the pig to the tiger, all animals exist in man, and that in each one of them is in a man. Sometimes even several of them at a time.

Animals are nothing else than the figures of our virtues and our vices, straying before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls. God shows them to us in order to induce us to reflect.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Part 1, “Fantine,” Book 5, ch. 5 (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
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Introducing Javert.

Alt. trans. [Fahnestock/MacAfee]: "It is our belief that if the soul were visible to the eye, every member of the human species would be seen to correspond to some species of the animal world, and a truth scarcely perceived by thinkers would be readily confirmed, namely, that from the oyster to the eagle, from the swine to the tiger, all animals are to be found in men and each of them exists in some man, sometimes several at a time. Animals are nothing but the portrayal of our virtues and vices made manifest to our eyes, the visible reflections of our souls. God displays them to us to give us food for thought."
Added on 31-May-19 | Last updated 31-May-19
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It is by means of my vices that I understand yours.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (Spring-Summer 1844)
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He recorded this phrase multiple times, including in his lecture, "The Anglo-American" (7 Dec 1852), and Notebook S Salvage.
Added on 16-Apr-19 | Last updated 16-Apr-19
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Ambition hath one heel nailed in hell, though she stretch her finger to touch the heavens.

John Lyly (c. 1553-1606) was an English writer [also Lilly or Lylie]
Midas: A Comedy, Act 2, sc. 1 [Sophronia] (1592)
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Sometimes misquoted as "nailed in well." Sometimes misattributed to Lao-tzu.
Added on 23-Aug-17 | Last updated 5-Sep-17
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What once were vices, are now the manners of the day.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], Letter 109
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The slander of some people is as great a recommendation as the praise of others. For one is as much hated by the dissolute world, on the score of virtue, as by the good, on that of vice.

fielding-slander-recommendation-praise-wist_info-quote

Henry Fielding (1707-1754) English novelist, dramatist, satirist
The Temple Beau, Act 1, sc. 1 (1729)
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Added on 24-Jan-17 | Last updated 24-Jan-17
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Observe a man’s actions; scrutinize his motives; take note of the things that give him pleasure. How, then, can he hide from you what he really is?

confucius-what-he-really-is-wist_info-quote

Confucius (551-479 BC) Chinese philosopher [Ku'ng Ch'iu / King Qiu, Ku'ng Fu-tzu / Kong Fuzi]
(Attributed)

Attributed in Brian Brown, The Wisdom of the Chinese: Their Philosophy in Sayings and Proverbs (1920).
Added on 29-Nov-16 | Last updated 29-Nov-16
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Children will imitate their fathers in their vices, seldom in their repentance.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) British Baptist preacher, author [Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon]
Spurgeon’s Sermons, 3rd Series, Sermon 21, “Manasseh” (1883)
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Added on 22-Nov-16 | Last updated 22-Nov-16
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He that is good will infallibly become better, and he that is bad will as certainly become worse; for vice, virtue, and time are three things that never stand still.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, #457 (1821 ed.)
Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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The meaning of good & bad, of better & worse, is simply helping or hurting.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (27 Aug 1838)
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Added on 10-Oct-16 | Last updated 10-Oct-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)
Added on 26-Sep-16 | Last updated 26-Sep-16
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Obstinacy in a bad cause is but consistency in a good.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Religio Medici, 1.25 (1642) [ed. Symonds (1886)]
Added on 18-May-16 | Last updated 18-May-16
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Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today.

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

This line frequently quoted to show the antiquity of the sentiment. However, it is only found in the Arrowsmith translation. Compare, for example, to Hickie (1853)
Added on 12-May-16 | Last updated 12-May-16
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Like the tiger, that seldom desists from pursuing man after having once preyed upon human flesh, the reader, who has once gratified his appetite with calumny, makes ever after, the most agreeable feast upon murdered reputation.

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774) Irish poet, playwright, novelist
The Traveler; Or, A Prospect of Society (1764)
Added on 11-Apr-16 | Last updated 11-Apr-16
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When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.

West - when im bad im better - wist_info quote

Mae West (1892-1980) American film actress
I’m No Angel (1933)
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Added on 29-Mar-16 | Last updated 29-Mar-16
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There is a capacity of virtue in us, and there is a capacity of vice to make your blood creep.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1831)
Added on 9-Mar-16 | Last updated 9-Mar-16
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“Vice,” said Mr. Dooley, “is a creature of such heejous mein, as Hogan says, that th’ more ye see it th’ betther ye like it.”

[“Vice,” said Mr. Dooley, “is a creature of such hideous mien, as Hogan says, that the more you see it the better you like it.”]

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
“The Crusade Against Vice,” Mr. Dooley’s Opinions (1901)
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Added on 29-Jan-16 | Last updated 29-Jan-16
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Step by step they were led to things which dispose to vice: the lounge, the bath, the elegant banquet. All this in their ignorance they called civilisation, when it was but a part of their servitude.

[Idque apud imperitos humanitas vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset.]

Tacitus (c.56-c.120) Roman historian, orator, politician [Publius or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus]
Agricola, Book 1, para. 21 (AD 98) [tr. Church and Brodribb]

Alt. trans.: "Because they didn't know better, they called it 'civilization,' when it was part of their slavery."
Added on 7-Jul-15 | Last updated 7-Jul-15
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It is not going in [to the brothel] that is a problem, but not being able to come out.

Aristippus of Cyrene (c. 435 – c. 356 BC) Cyrenaic philosopher, Hedonist
Fragment 59 [Mannebach]
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Added on 5-Jun-15 | Last updated 5-Jun-15
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Anything I like is either illegal or immoral or fattening.

Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943) American critic, commentator, journalist, wit
(Attributed)

Apparently a gag attributed by Woollcott to a Frank Rand of St. Louis on his radio show in Sep. 1933; it was then directly attributed to Woollcott in Reader's Digest in Dec. 1933. It is sometimes cited to Woollcott's essay "The Knock at the Stage Door," The North American Review (Sep 1922), but not found there.See here for more information.Variants:
  • "All the things I like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening."
  • "All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal or fattening."
  • "Everything I want to do is either illegal, immoral or fattening."
Added on 20-Mar-15 | Last updated 20-Mar-15
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Perhaps we need, for worldly success, virtues which make us loved and vices which make us feared.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [tr. Collins (1928)]
Added on 6-Mar-15 | Last updated 6-Mar-15
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There is no such thing as success in a bad business.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927) [ed. Elbert Hubbard II]
Added on 6-Feb-15 | Last updated 6-Feb-15
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The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. There can be no true goodness, nor true love, without the utmost clear-sightedness.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Plague (1947)
Added on 1-Dec-14 | Last updated 1-Dec-14
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Honest statesmanship is the wise employment of individual meannesses for the public good.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
(Attributed)
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Attributed in John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, vol. 10, ch. 18 "Lincoln's Fame" (1886).
Added on 23-Jul-14 | Last updated 23-Jul-14
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What reason is there to admire ourselves because we are not as bad as the worst?

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Natural Questions, Preface (1.5) [tr. Corcoran (1921)]
Added on 2-Jul-14 | Last updated 2-Jul-14
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Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Faust, 1, “Outside the City Gate” (1808-1832) [tr. Wayne (1959)]
Added on 21-May-14 | Last updated 21-May-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 epigrammist, 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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The virtues of society are the vices of the saint. The terror of reform is the discovery that we must cast away our virtues, or what we have always esteemed such, into the same pit that has consumed our grosser vices.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Circles,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 6-Sep-13 | Last updated 27-Feb-17
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The ways to enrich are many, and most of them foul.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
Added on 29-Aug-13 | Last updated 16-May-16
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What will you think of pleasures when you no longer enjoy them?

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 19-Aug-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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Prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Adversity,” Essays, No. 5 (1625)
Added on 11-Feb-13 | Last updated 16-May-16
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It is good to be without vices, but it is not good to be without temptations.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Biographical Studies, “Sir George Cornewall Lewis” (1907)
Added on 1-Jul-10 | Last updated 1-May-17
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God’s merits are so transcendent that it is not surprising his faults should be in reasonable proportion.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Rebelliousness”(1912)

Full text.

Added on 8-Jan-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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The extremes of vice and virtue are alike detestable; absolute virtue is as sure to kill a man as absolute vice is, let alone the dullnesses of it and the pomposities of it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Vice and Virtue,” ii (1912)

Full text.

Added on 11-Dec-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Once again prosperous and successful crime goes by the name of virtue; good men obey the bad, might is right and fear oppresses law.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Hercules Furens, Part 1, l.255 [Amphitryon] [tr. Miller (1917)]
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Alt. trans.: "Successful and fortunate crime is called virtue."
Added on 21-Nov-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-17
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Good nature is more agreeable in conversation than wit, and gives a certain air to the countenance which is more amiable than beauty. It shows virtue in the fairest light, takes off in some measure from the deformity of vice, and makes even folly and impertinence supportable.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
The Spectator #169 (13 Sep 1711)
Added on 10-Jul-08 | Last updated 30-Jul-16
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Where there is much light, the shadows are deepest.

[Wo viel Licht is, ist starker Schatten.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Gotz von Berlichingen, I, 24 (1773)
Added on 6-Jul-04 | Last updated 21-May-14
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Half the vices that the world condemns most loudly have seeds of good in them and require moderate use rather than total abstinence.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 52 (1903)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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The widespread interest in gossip is inspired, not by a love of knowledge, but by malice: no one gossips about other people’s secret virtues, but only about their secret vices. Accordingly most gossip is untrue, but care is taken not to verify it. Our neighbour’s sins, like the consolations of religion, are so agreeable that we do not stop to scrutinize the evidence closely.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Aims of Education” (1929)
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Usually shortened to "No one gossips about other people's secret virtues."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Nov-15
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I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
Speech, accepting the GOP Presidential Nomination, San Francisco (16 Jul 1964)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Nov-15
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Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man.

Franklin - every new year - wist_info quote

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (1755)

More information on this quotation here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 31-Dec-15
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