"We have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”
Viktor Frankl — Man's Search for Meaning
“I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky — Crime and Punishment
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"
Alexander Solzhenitsyn — The Gulag Archipelago
"Anyone who fights monsters should see to it that he does not also become a monster. When you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks also into you."
Friedrich Nietzsche — Beyond Good and Evil
“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents...Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without a belief in a devil.”
Eric Hoffer — The True Believer
“The conception of human rights based upon the assumed existence of a human being as such broke down at the very moment when those who professed to believe in it were for the first time confronted with people who had indeed lost all other qualities and specific relationships - except that they were still human. The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human.”
Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
Voltaire — Miracles and Idolatry
“Ordinary people as well as scholars who had no firm foundation of knowledge, considered it a simple matter to study and know history, to delve into it and sponge on it. Strays got into the flock, bits of shell were mixed with the nut, truth was adulterated with lies.”
Ibn Khaldun — The Muqadimmah
“For every sufferer instinctively seeks a cause for his suffering; still more precisely, a perpetrator, still more specifically, a guilty perpetrator who is susceptible to suffering...the ascetic priests say to him: “that’s right, my sheep! Someone must be to blame for it; but you yourself are this someone, you alone are to blame for it - you alone are to blame for yourself!”"
Friedrich Nietzsche — On the Genealogy of Morals
“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; And in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
James Madison — The Federalist Papers (51)
"Among the laws that rule human societies there is one that seems more precise and clearer than all the others. In order that men remain civilized or become so, the art of associating must be developed and perfected among them in the same ratio as equality of conditions increases."
Alexis de Tocqueville - Democracy In America
"“Western Marxists" should be aware that uncritical use of Marx's ideas, under the comfortable shelter of liberal democracy, as a rule amounts to a selfish, short-sighted indulgence in political and intellectual irresponsibility."
Andrzej Walicki — Marxism and the Leap to the Kingdom of Freedom
“Created by wars that required it, the machine now created the wars it required.”
Joseph Schumpeter — Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy
"Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants."
Alexander Hamilton — The Federalist Papers (1)
“He is distinguished from other public benefactors, by never having made, or pretended to make it his object to benefit the public . . . This unpretending man [James Watt] in reality conferred more benefit on the world than all those who for centuries have made it their especial business to look after the public welfare”
A plea from an 1819 edition of the magazine The Chemist asking for funds to build a monument to Watt
"The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long."
Laozi — Dao De Jing
"But thus I do counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!"
Friedrich Nietzsche — Thus Spoke Zarathustra
"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."
Adam Smith — The Wealth of Nations
“The worst problem of modernity lies in the malignant transfer of fragility and antifragility from one party to the other, with one getting the benefits, the other (unwittingly) getting the harm, with such transfer facilitated by the growing wedge between the ethical and the legal...Owning a hidden option at someone else's expense.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb - Antifragile
"And please, whatever you do, don’t embrace anyone’s sweeping program for remedying historical injustice, because history’s victims are already dead—and soon, there will be plenty more of them. I can hear the sound of the engines revving up, even from here."
David Samuels — Year Zero
"When the facts change I change my mind — what do you do sir?"
John Maynard Keynes
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference"
Reinhold Niebuhr — The Serenity Prayer
"Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up."
Paraphrased by JFK. Source: G.K. Chesteron — The Thing: Why Am I Catholic
"When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."
"We modern civilizations have learned to recognize that we are mortal like the others. We were aware that the visible earth is made of ashes, and that ashes signify something. Through the misty bulk of history we perceived the phantoms of great ships laden with riches and intellect; we could not count them. And now we see that the abyss of history is deep enough to bury all the world. We feel that a civilization is fragile as a life."
Paul Valéry — Crisis of the Mind (1919)