One of the themes running through civilization of every stripe since mankind began to organize itself into cities has of course been morality. One of the earliest written sources we still consult is the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament as Christians call it – and as soon as the characters meet God, God is giving them direction. The choice to disobey (and eat the forbidden fruit) is a testament to the will humans possess. We don’t want to be indoctrinated, subservient, and mindless; we desire deeply to decide what we think is right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust. Herein I will present a diverse grouping of morality quotes from books of wisdom: the three books that comprise The Values of the Wise Series.
Ethics is part and parcel of wisdom; one cannot be wise and self-centered; cultivate both wisdom and do harmful things to others. Thus, a classic source of morality quotes is books of wisdom. Values of the Wise boasts three wonderful books on values and ethics, all of which feature a chapter or two on an ethical topic. In Building a Life of Value, an entire chapter is entitled: “Honor, Integrity & Morality”. In Living a Life of Value, relevant chapters include: “Certain Unalienable Responsibilities” (Wendell Berry), “Happiness Through Honorable Actions” (Julian Kalmar), “The Ethics Scandals of Our Day” (Tom Morris), and “Taking the High Road in Business” (Stanley Westreich). In Values & Ethics: From Living Room to Boardroom, chapters relevant to morality quotes include: “A Life of Integrity and Meaning” (with Kathleen Brooks and Gary E. Kessler), “Character Education” (with Bernice Lerner), “Morality Applied to Politics” (with Arianna Huffington and David Callahan), “Business Ethics” (with Ronald Duska and Michael Boylan), and “The Ethics and Function of the Media” (with Daniel Hallin and Fred Brown). As well, in the latter book, most of these chapters are also audio files you can listen to for free here.
How do you make your moral decisions? I used morality quotes and a bit of computer programming to create the Ethical Decision-Making Guide, a computerized assessment to gauge how you feel about various “moral theories” – i.e., the possible views or perspectives on how to decide right from wrong. Some of the top contenders tend to be utilitarianism, religious ethics, casuistry, deontology, and ethical intuitionism. Some are better than others, but all have disadvantages. Be the best person you can be – learn more about your particular ethical stance here. Free, no obligation.
Just to put a finer point on that, one must be careful not to assemble bits and pieces of moral philosophy and call it a well-thought-out position on ethics. Yes, each situation is unique, and moral dilemmas can be fiercely challenging – calling forth every bit of our intelligence and effort (and often, not exactly being a testament to human consistency!). However, a mishmash of ingredients does not often make for the best entrees, and in the hands of the unpracticed, disparate, and eclectic ingredients can be a culinary disaster. One has to think well in advance of a particular moral decision what one stands for – and why. It takes practice, Aristotle said thousands of years ago. He was not wrong. Thus, it can be important to lightly and briefly ally yourself with a particular moral stance (e.g., “rule utilitarianism” or perhaps “virtue ethics”) and make that the base of one’s decision-making. That was always how we were ideally supposed to do it back when I was studying to be a psychotherapist and family therapist: adopt a particular “theoretical orientation” and get that solid. It’s a point of view from which to view facts and data; theory is required to interpret and assimilate and make judgments about ethical nuances. Perhaps we change – even the prolific Plato changed over his career as preeminent philosopher – but we can’t be wishy-washy and unmoored when it comes to ethics, lest we float around like a jellyfish until we anchor to a decision (which may not be a wise one). Here is what one authority on the subject had to say: “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”
So now I will present a unique assortment of morality quotes from books of wisdom: the three I mentioned above. I welcome you to search on your own because I have been assembling morality quotes (as well as quotations about other values) for over a decade now. The product is a deep and wide collection you can search for free: The Wisdom Archive. Type in a word or a name and see which morality quotes and quotations about values you find!
What is morality? What does it mean to do the right thing? It seems it should be easy to know, if hard to do. But in the real world, it is often mercilessly difficult even to figure out the standards we then fail to live up to.
When there is a moral dilemma, no solution is going to be completely satisfactory. Different people may come to different solutions because they prioritize duties differently. The purpose of moral deliberation in these cases is to arrive at the best solution or, if that doesn’t occur, the best possible alternatives.
It is my belief that the lack of understanding of the true cause of happiness is the principal reason why people inflict suffering on others. Some people think that causing pain to others may lead to their own happiness, or that their own happiness is of such importance that the pain of others is of no significance. But this is clearly shortsighted. No one truly benefits from causing harm to another being.
There was a time, I thought, when there was general agreement among Americans that torture was beyond the pale. But when people are frightened enough, nothing is beyond the pale. And we’re in an era in which the highest leaders in the land stoke – rather than attempt to allay – the fears of ordinary citizens.
If in your own judgment, you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.
The Master said, “The gentleman understands what is moral. The small man understands what is profitable.”
A person’s behavior is no better than his knowledge of what he’s doing. Socrates taught that knowledge and virtue are one, in the sense that a person who knows what’s right will also do what’s right.
It is significant to note that Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Paul Robeson, Fannie Lou Hamer, and A. Philip Randolph were not elected officials, nor did they draw their political authority from the electoral arena. King’s chief political practice was going to jail to assert his political and moral beliefs.
Acts are not made right or wrong simply by people believing that they are right or wrong.
Having searched my conscience and my files, I cannot contend that I have always been right or wise, but I have attempted to pursue the truth with some diligence and to report it, even though, as in this case, I had been warned in advance that I would be subjected to the attention of Senator McCarthy.
Revolutionary or reactionary, the problem with this is that it is ideology divorced from humanity, empty as the transparent carapace of a cicada, the living thing gone from within. Political protest through killing the children in a day-care center, or restaurant workers, or a doctor who has delivered hundreds of babies – no matter how you configure that equation, it will not compute.
The New Testament demonstrated that neither wealth nor poverty was an accurate index of moral worth. After all, Jesus was the highest man, the most blessed, and yet on Eearth he had been poor, ruling out any simple equation between righteousness and riches.
How can I maintain my integrity while seeking success? Those of us with ambitions and dreams of success struggle with this question every day.
From Madison to Jefferson, Lincoln, and Eisenhower, in their own ways they told us that money corrupts and that it could be the death of our republic.
Power, privilege, and position are great resources. Use them well. Do not become attached to them; for when we do, we begin to lose our moral fiber.
Morality is its own advocate; it is never necessary to apologize for it.
Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.
The critical importance of honest journalism and a free flowing, respectful national conversation needs to be had in our country. But it is being buried as collateral damage in a war whose battles include political correctness and ideological orthodoxy.
There you have some of the most unique morality quotes around. Becoming more moral is a long process. Don’t expect perfection, but make steady progress. Values of the Wise is here to help.