Quotations about ethics have been with us since time immemorial. Thales, Anaximander, Socrates, Pythagoras, Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, Koholet (the apparent author of the wisdom-relevant book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes), and the Bhagavad-Gita all are primary sources for ethics quotes.
When I think of quotations about ethics, I think moral, principled, integrity, character, upstanding, diligent, rational, and ethical. Ethics quotes are usually thought-provoking, sometimes inspirational, and always insightful. Ethics is truly one of humanity’s highest aspirations. A flourishing and good life by definition involves a morally-upright series of actions.
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Wikipedia provides a good, solid, quick-and-dirty definition of ethics: “Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The term ethics derives from Ancient Greek ἠθικός (ethikos), from ἦθος (ethos), meaning ‘habit, custom’.
I have sometimes found straightforward definitions of values to be wider than they are deep. That is why ethics quotes are so valuable – it’s like finding 1,000 of the wisest and sharpest human beings that were or are alive and asking them to sum up in a sentence or two what ethics is really about. Isn’t that inspiring, and amazing?
Did you know that humans can never know for a certainty what the right thing to do in a given situation is, but ethical theories can help us with our decision making. It’s all about values, intuition, rationality, and decisiveness. Making moral decisions is never easy, but no human being escapes the presence of moral dilemmas and difficult situations. Know more about what you think about ethics by taking this free ethical inventory, The Ethical Decision-Making Guide!
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Here are a few examples of the range, beauty, and incisiveness of quotations relevant to ethics, morality, and right and wrong:
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”
“Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” ~ Immanuel Kant
“When there is a moral dilemma, no solution is going to be completely satisfactory. Different people may come to different solutions because they priorities duties differently. The purpose of moral deliberation in these cases is to arrive at the best solution or, if this doesn’t occur, the best possible alternatives.”
“It’s not so much staying alive, it’s staying human that’s important. What counts is that we don’t betray each other.”
“Torn between our hearts and our heads, ethics will always be a kind of tragedy.”
“Our ability to selectively engage and disengage our moral standards…helps explain how people can be barbarically cruel in one moment and compassionate the next.”
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“Ethics is about making a habit out of taking pains to determine what is right in a particular situation using general rules one has thought about ahead of time, and then doing that act faithfully. Every time. Slowly at first, and then it becomes second-nature. One day, you will have earned the right to call yourself good.”
“When ethics are present by virtue of the character, conduct, and intentions of our family, our community, and our world, ethical behavior becomes our natural response to life.”
“Moral issues are complex. No one theory offers the complete truth or perfect solution to a moral dilemma. On the other hand, theories can work together to provide us with more comprehensive tools for effectively analyzing moral issues.”
“Acts are not made right or wrong simply by people believing that they are right or wrong.”
“Our word character comes from an ancient Greek term meaning to “visibly and permanently mark,” as by scratching the face of stone. A person’s character is the permanent and visible sign of his or her inner nature.”