Quotations about   wickedness

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Nothing could be less worthy of you than to think anything worse than dishonor, infamous behavior, and wickedness. To escape these, any pain is not so much as to be avoided as to be sought voluntarily, undergone, and welcomed.

[Quid enim minus est dignum quam tibi peius quicquam videri dedecore flagitio turpitudine? Quae ut effugias, quis est non modo recusandus, sed non ultro adpetendus subeundus excipiendus dolor?]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 2, ch. 5 / sec. 14 [Marcus] (45 BC) [tr. Douglas (1990)]
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Original Latin. Alternate translations:

For what is more unsuitable to that high Character, than for you to think any thing worse, than dishonour, scandal, baseness? to avoid which, what Pain would not only not be declin'd, but also be eagerly pursu'd, undergone, encounter'd?
[tr. Wase (1643)]

For what is so unbecoming? What can appear worse to you, than disgrace, wickedness, immorality? To avoid which, what pain should we not only not refuse, but willingly take on ourselves?
[tr. Main (1824)]

For what is less worthy than for anything to appear worse to you than disgrace, turpitude, wickedness? which to escape, what pain is to be refused, or rather not to be welcomed, sought for, embraced?
[tr. Otis (1839)]

For what is so unbecoming -- what can appear worse to you, than disgrace, wickedness, immorality? To avoid which, what pain is there which we ought not (I will not say to avoid shirking, but even) of our own accord to encounter, and undergo, and even to court?
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

For what is more unworthy than that anything should seem to you worse than disgrace, crime, baseness? To escape these what pain should be not only not shunned, but voluntarily sought, endured, welcomed?
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

There is nothing more unworthy than for you to think anything worse than disgrace, criminal behavior, and infamous conduct. In order to escape these, any pain is not so to be rejected, as to be actively sought out, undergone, welcomed.
[tr. Davie (2017)]

Added on 12-Jul-21 | Last updated 12-Jul-21
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Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
(Attributed)

Commonly attributed to Keynes, it is not found in his works. A more likely variant is "Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all," but this, too, is not established in Keynes' works. Also sometimes found attributed (without citation) to John Kenneth Galbraith.

George Schuster, Christianity and Human Relations in Industry (1951) quotes (uncited) Keynes referring to capitalism as "the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds."

E. A. G. Robinson was a close colleague of Galbraith, and in his book Monopoly (1941), he said, "The great merit of the capitalist system, it has been said, is that it succeeds in using the nastiest motives of nasty people for the ultimate benefit of society." Robinson may be quoting Galbraith, or Galbraith may have anecdotally quoted Robinson.

More detailed discussion of this here, here, and here.
Added on 21-Jan-21 | Last updated 21-Jan-21
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If it be true, that men are miserable because they are wicked, it is likewise true, that many are wicked because they are miserable.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) English poet and critic
Aids to Reflection, “Prudential Aphorisms II” (1831 ed.)
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Added on 31-Aug-20 | Last updated 31-Aug-20
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To expose vices to the ridicule of all the world is a severe blow to them. Reprehensions are easily suffered, but not so ridicule. People do not mind being wicked; but they object to being made ridiculous.

[C’est une grande atteinte aux vices que de les exposer à la risée de tout le monde. On souffre aisément des répréhensions, mais on ne souffre point la raillerie. On veut bien être méchant, mais on ne veut point être ridicule.]

Molière (1622-1673) French playwright, actor [stage name for Jean-Baptiste Poquelin]
Tartuffe, Preface (1664) [tr. Van Laun (1876)]
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Alt. trans.: "To expose vices to everyone’s laughter is to deal them a mighty blow. People easily endure reproofs, but they cannot at all endure being made fun of. People have no objection to being considered wicked, but they are not willing to be considered ridiculous." [tr. Kerr]
Added on 17-Apr-20 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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Human blunders, however, usually do more to shape history than human wickedness.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
The Origins of the Second World War, ch. 10 “The War of Nerves” (1961)
Added on 15-Apr-20 | Last updated 15-Apr-20
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And I have again observed, my dear friend, in this trifling affair, that misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. At all events, the two latter are of less frequent occurrence.

[Und ich habe, mein Lieber, wieder bei diesem kleinen Geschäft gefunden, dass Missverständnisse und Trägheit vielleicht mehr Irrungen in der Welt machen als List und Bosheit. Wenigstens sind die beiden letzteren gewiss seltener.] 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Die Leiden des jungen Werthers [The Sorrows of Young Werther], “Letter from May 4th” (1774)

Alt. trans.: "Misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent."
Added on 29-Jan-09 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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