Robert M. Pirsig quote

"How are you going to teach virtue if you teach the relativity of all ethical ideas? Virtue, if it implies anything at all, implies an ethical absolute. A person whose idea of what is proper varies from day to day can be admired for his broadmindedness, but not for his virtue."

Robert M. Pirsig

Born: September 6, 1928

Occupation: Writer

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More quotes of Robert M. Pirsig

Robert M. Pirsig

Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value.

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Robert M. Pirsig

If someone's ungrateful and you tell him he's ungrateful, okay, you've called him a name. You haven't solved anything.

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Robert M. Pirsig

We have artists with no scientific knowledge and scientists with no artistic knowledge and both with no spiritual sense of gravity at all, and the result is not just bad, it is ghastly.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?

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Robert M. Pirsig

What the Metaphysics of Quality would do is take this separate category, Quality, and show how it contains within itself both subjects and objects. The Metaphysics of Quality would show how things become...

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Robert M. Pirsig

When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.

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Robert M. Pirsig

In the high country of the mind one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty...

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Robert M. Pirsig

The more you read, the more you calm down.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Now he began to see for the first time the unbelievable magnitude of what man, when he gained power to understand and rule the world in terms of dialectic truths, had lost. He had built empires of scientific...

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Robert M. Pirsig

The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. To...

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Robert M. Pirsig

We always condemn most in others that which we most fear in ourselves.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind...

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Robert M. Pirsig

When you live in the shadow of insanity, the appearance of another mind that thinks and talks as yours does is something close to a blessed event.

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Robert M. Pirsig

It's so hard when contemplated in advance, and so easy when you do it.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular...

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Robert M. Pirsig

Schools teach you to imitate. If you don't imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a...

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Robert M. Pirsig

I argued that physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong. Then you fasten on to whatever thing is uncomfortable and call that the cause. But if the mood is right, then physical discomfort...

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Robert M. Pirsig

Of course, the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people's minds. It's best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to...

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Robert M. Pirsig

The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Even in the presence of others he was completely alone.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands.

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Robert M. Pirsig

To live for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The truth knocks on the door and you say, go away, I'm looking for the truth, and it goes away. Puzzling.

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Robert M. Pirsig

We keep passing unseen through little moments of other people's lives.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Metaphysics is a restaurant where they give you a thirty thousand page menu, and no food.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The solutions all are simple - after you have arrived at them. But they're simple only when you know already what they are.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Traditional scientific method has always been at the very best, 20 - 20 hindsight. It's good for seeing where you've been. It's good for testing the truth of what you think you know, but it can't tell...

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Robert M. Pirsig

If you stare at a wall from four in the morning till nine at night, and you do that for a week, you are getting pretty close to nothingness.

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Robert M. Pirsig

One geometry cannot be more true than another; it can only be more convenient. Geometry is not true, it is advantageous.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The funny thing about insane people is that it is kind of the opposite of being a celebrity. Nobody envies you.

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Robert M. Pirsig

One of the most moral acts is to create a space in which life can move forward.

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Robert M. Pirsig

If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Logic presumes a separation of subject from object; therefore logic is not final wisdom.This is Zen. This is my motorcycle maintenance.

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Robert M. Pirsig

And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good— Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

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Robert M. Pirsig

When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things.

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Robert M. Pirsig

You are never dedicated to do something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically...

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Robert M. Pirsig

If your mind is truly, profoundly stuck, then it might be much better off than when it was loaded with ideas

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Robert M. Pirsig

If you don't generalize you don't philosophize.

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Robert M. Pirsig

It's paradoxical that where people are most closely crowded, in the big coastal cities of the East and West, the loneliness is the greatest...The explanation is that the physical distance between people...

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Robert M. Pirsig

How are you going to teach virtue if you teach the relativity of all ethical ideas? Virtue, if it implies anything at all, implies an ethical absolute. A person whose idea of what is proper varies from...

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Robert M. Pirsig

It's better not to see than to see wrongly.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The pencil is mightier than the pen.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The idea that the majority of students attend a university for an education independent of the degree and grades is a hypocrisy everyone is happier not to expose. Occasionally some students do arrive for...

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Robert M. Pirsig

The only zen thoughts you can find on a mountain summit are those you brought yourself.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Anxiety is sort of the opposite of ego. You're so sure you'll do everything wrong you're afraid to do anything at all. It results from over-motivation- leading to errors that lead to an underestimation...

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Robert M. Pirsig

The most moral activity of all is the creation of space for life to move around.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Science values static patterns.

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Robert M. Pirsig

It's normal at this point for the fear-anger syndrome to take over and make you want to hammer on that side plate with a chisel, to pound it off with a sledge if necessary. You think about it, and the...

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Robert M. Pirsig

There is a perennial classical question that asks which part of the motorcycle, which grain of sand in which pile, is the Buddha. Obviously to ask that question is to look in the wrong direction, for the...

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Robert M. Pirsig

When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The bones and flesh and legal statistics are the garments worn by the personality, not the other way around.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The TV scientist who mutters sadly, "The experiment is a failure; we have failed to achieve what we had hoped for," is suffering mainly from a bad script writer. An experiment is never a failure solely...

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Robert M. Pirsig

The range of human knowledge today is so great that we're all specialists and the distance between specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely between them almost has to...

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Robert M. Pirsig

…the doctrinal differences between Hinduism and Buddhism and Taoism are not anywhere near as important as doctrinal differences among Christianity and Islam and Judaism. Holy wars are not fought over...

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Robert M. Pirsig

Absence of Quality is the essence of squareness.

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Robert M. Pirsig

If you have a high evaluation of yourself then your ability to recognize new facts is weakened.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Why, for example, should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen struggle for billions of years to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? What's the motive?

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Robert M. Pirsig

We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time...

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Robert M. Pirsig

When you look directly at an insane man all you see is a reflection of your own knowledge that he's insane, which is not to see him at all.

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Robert M. Pirsig

It was the ghost of rationality itself ... This is the ghost of normal everyday assumptions which declares that the ultimate purpose of life, which is to keep alive, is impossible, but that this is the...

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Robert M. Pirsig

When a shepherd goes to kill a wolf, and takes his dog to see the sport, he should take care to avoid mistakes. The dog has certain relationships to the wolf the shepherd may have forgotten.

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Robert M. Pirsig

This inner peace of mind occurs on three levels of understanding. Physical quietness seems the easiest to achieve, although there are levels and levels of this too, as attested by the ability of Hindu...

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Robert M. Pirsig

(What makes his world so hard to see clearly is not its strangeness but its usualness).Familiarity can blind you too.

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Robert M. Pirsig

I've wondered why it took us so long to catch on. We saw it, and yet we didn't see it. Or rather we were trained not to see it. Conned perhaps into thinking that the real action was metropolitan and all...

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Robert M. Pirsig

The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do.

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Robert M. Pirsig

A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit about stewing about things. He’s at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes. That’s...

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Robert M. Pirsig

Art is anything you can do well. Anything you can do with Quality.

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Robert M. Pirsig

It is always good policy to tell the truth unless of course you are an exceptionally good liar. Jerome K. Jerome It is a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, go away, I'm looking for...

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Robert M. Pirsig

Even though quality cannot be defined, you know what quality is.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The more you look, the more you see.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow...

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Robert M. Pirsig

I think present-day reason is an analogue of the flat earth of the medieval period. If you go too far beyond it youre presumed to fall off, into insanity. And people are very much afraid of that. I think...

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Robert M. Pirsig

For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Cultivate peace of mind which does not separate one's self from one's surroundings. When that is done successfully, then everything else follows naturally.

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Robert M. Pirsig

You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Stuckness shouldn't be avoided. It's the physic predecessor of all real understanding.

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Robert M. Pirsig

You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive

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Robert M. Pirsig

The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality.

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Robert M. Pirsig

We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with the emphasis on "good" rather than on "time"....

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Robert M. Pirsig

The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Is it hard?' Not if you have the right attitudes. Its having the right attitudes thats hard.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person...

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Robert M. Pirsig

For me, a writer should be more like a lighthouse keeper, just out there by himself. He shouldn't get his ideas from other people all around him.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that goodness can...

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Robert M. Pirsig

Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle maintenance is purely classic.

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Robert M. Pirsig

The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually, because of that small time lag, is always in the past...

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Robert M. Pirsig

I go on living, more from force of habit than anything else.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Like those in the valley behind us, most people stand in sight of the spiritual mountains all their lives and never enter them, being content to listen to others who have been there and thus avoid the...

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Robert M. Pirsig

Mental patterns do not originate out of inorganic nature. They originate out of society, which originates out of inorganic nature. And, as anthropologists know so well, what a mind thinks is as dominated...

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Robert M. Pirsig

Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the...

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Robert M. Pirsig

To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as 'the system' is to speak correctly . . . They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose....

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Robert M. Pirsig

We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.

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Robert M. Pirsig

Sanity is not truth. Sanity is conformity to what is socially expected. Truth is sometimes in conformity, sometimes not.

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Robert M. Pirsig

I have money, fame, a happy wife, our daughter Nell.

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Related quote

Robert M. Pirsig

How are you going to teach virtue if you teach the relativity of all ethical ideas? Virtue, if it implies anything at all, implies an ethical absolute. A person whose idea of what is proper varies from...

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Pio of Pietrelcina

By the virtue of modesty the devout person governs all his exterior acts. With good reason, then, does St. Paul recommend this virtue to all and declare how necessary it is and as if this were not enough...

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Doreen Virtue

Brilliant ideas are gifts from God, sent to you in answer to your prayers . . . and all you need to do is act upon the ideas, one divinely guided step at a time. If you want to validate if an idea is truly...

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Ibn Hazm

If you are proud of your descent from virtuous ancestors, how empty their virtue will leave your hands if you yourself are not virtuous. How little pride your ancestors will have in you in this world and...

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Rob Brezsny

Assume that your drive to experience pleasure isn't a barrier to your spiritual growth, but is in fact essential to it. Proceed on the hypothesis that cultivating joy can make you a more ethical and compassionate...

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Plato

And all knowledge, when separated from justice and virtue, is seen to be cunning and not wisdom; wherefore make this your first and last and constant and all-absorbing aim, to exceed, if possible, not...

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James Madison

Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks-no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty...

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Who stands firm? Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance...

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Socrates

I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you...

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Marquis de Sade

If God permits virtue to be persecuted on earth, it is not for us to question his intentions. It may be that his rewards are held over for another life, for is it not true as written in Holy Scripture...

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Saint John Chrysostom

Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by...

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Anne Bronte

Well, but you affirm that virtue is only elicited by temptation; - and you think that a woman cannot be too little exposed to temptation, or too little acquainted with vice, or anything connected therewith...

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Jostein Gaarder

Life is short for those who are truly able to understand that one day the entire world will come to a complete end. Not everyone is capable of that. Not everyone has the ability to comprehend what going...

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Giordano Bruno

What you receive from others is a testimony to their virtue; but all that you do for others is the sign and clear indication of your own.

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Peter Singer

Unfortunately for ethical egoism, the claim that we will all be better off if every one of us does what is in his or her own interest is incorrect. This is shown by what are known as "prisoner's dilemma"...

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Ambrose

We ask for what reason our Lord was unwilling to state the time of His coming (cf. Mk. 13:31-32). If we ask it, we shall not find it is owing to ignorance, but to wisdom. For it was not to our advantage...

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Gordon B. Hinckley

There is no substitute for virtue. Keep your thoughts virtuous. Rise above the filth that's all around you in this world and stand tall in strength and virtue. You can do this and you will be happier for...

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Pope Francis

No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually,...

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Neil Gaiman

I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be...

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Patrick Rothfuss

It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he'll look for his own answers.

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Rajneesh

All religions are nothing but a science - or an art - to teach you how to die. And the only way to teach you how to die is to teach you how to live. They are not separate. If you know what right living...

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“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

― Dr. Seuss