Quotes about Ethics/Values/Morals

The following collection of quotes are a selection that we often use as posters to decorate the walls of workshops and meetings, sometimes merely leaving them for people to appreciate incidentally, sometimes using them as an introduction tool (e.g. choose a quote to which you connect and introduce yourself by sharing the quote and it’s meaning to you), sometimes as aid to sharing guidelines for democratic communication.

You can download a set of these 75 quotes as posters from this link (5MB) and you can download a Word document (4 pages) of the quotes that can be used as a handout from this link.


Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which people transform the world. To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it. Once named, the world in its turn reappears to the namers as a problem and requires of them a new naming. People are not built in silence, but in word, in work, in action-reflection.
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

If there is no struggle, there is no progress – Those who profess to favor freedom and yet renounce controversy are people who want crops without plowing the ground.
Frederick Douglas, Abolitionist Leader 1817 – 1895

When women and men understand that working to eradicate patriarchal domination is a struggle rooted in the longing to make a world where everyone can live fully and freely, then we know our work to be a gesture of love. Let us draw upon that love to heighten our awareness, deepen our compassion, intensify our courage and strengthen our commitment.
bell hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist/Thinking Black

For we have built into all of us, old blueprints of expectation and response, old structures of oppression and these must be altered at the same time that we alter the living condition which are the result of those structures. For the master’s tool will never dismantle the master’s house.
Audre Lorde

We have always lived here: we have the right to go on living where we are happy and where we want to die. Only here can we feel whole; nowhere else would we ever feel complete and our pain would be eternal.
Popul Vuh

We cannot allow some people to be left at the back of the human rights bus… We must ensure the rights of individual groups or people –be they indigenous peoples, or peoples of Asian or African or American descent, or Jews or Muslims– are not sacrificed on an altar of progress for some while there are setbacks to others.
Matthew Coon Come, National Chief Of The Assembly Of First Nations

Racism is a destructive and artificially-manufactured element in the collective human psyche designed to fragment the natural desire of human beings to know and love one another”
Jane Urquhart

On December 7, 1941, an event took place that had nothing to do with me or my family and yet which had devastating consequences for all of us – Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in a surprise attack. With that event began one of the shoddiest chapters in the tortuous history of democracy in North America.
Dr. David Suzuki, Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life.

If we know that our world is necessarily the world we bring forth with others, every time we are in conflict with another human being with whom we want to remain in co-existence, we cannot affirm what for us is certain (an absolute truth) because that would negate the other person. If we want to coexist with the other person, we must see that his(sic) certainty – however undesirable it may seem to us – is as legitimate and valid as our own because, like our own, that certainty expresses his(sic) conservation of structural coupling in a domain of existence – however undesirable it may seem to us. Hence, the only possibility for coexistence is to opt for a broader perspective, a domain of existence in which both parties fit in the bringing forth of a common world.
Humberto Maturana and Fransisco Varela, The Tree of Knowledge

The roots of art and play lie very close together.
Angus Wilson

The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.
Paul  Robeson

Define home “not as a comforable, stable, inherited and familiar space, but instead as an imaginative, politically-charged space where the familiarity and sense of affection and commitment lay in shared collective analysis of social injustice as well as a vision for radical transformation.”
Chandra  Mohanty

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?
Rabbi Hillel

As long as someone else controls your history the truth shall remain just a mystery
Ben  Harper

Be passionately aware that you could be completely wrong
dian marino

Unless freedom is universal, it is only extended privilege.
Christopher Hill

Solidarity is not an act of charity, but mutual aid between forces fighting for the same objective.
Samora Machel

People always call me a feminist when I express opinions which differentiate me from a doormat.
Rebecca West

Sooner or later in life,  everyone discovers that  perfect happiness is unrealizable;  but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable.
Primo Levi

 Ethics, too, are nothing but reverence for life. That is what gives me the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil.
Albert Schweitzer  Kulturphilosophie (1923) Translated by C. T. Campion as Philosophy of Civilisation (1949)

You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.
G.K. Chesterton

The [person] who has become a thinking being feels a compulsion to give every will-to-live the same reverence for life that [they give] to [their] own. [They experience] that other life in [their] own.
Albert Schweitzer  Kulturphilosophie (1923) Translated by C. T. Campion as Philosophy of Civilisation (1949)

The thinking [person] must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; to do so is to renounce our [personhood] and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.
Albert Schweitzer  Kulturphilosophie (1923) Translated by C. T. Campion as Philosophy of Civilisation (1949)

 For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken

When you are not separate from the creative process, time ceases to exist. You might start to feel tired and suddenly realize that much time has passed. It isn’t necessarily a happy time – and may be very difficult to start if it is a job or an obligation. But if’ you start with all the concrete needs and proceed in a thorough way – the creative process will take over and you will forget whether it is work or play. Working in the here and now is one of the most uncontaminated ways to work.
Corita Kent

 Creativity: a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.
Arthur Koestler

A man who has a vision is not able to use the power of it until after he has performed the vision on earth for the people to see.
Black Elk

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Helen Keller, Let Us Have Faith

 Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world, but a hammer with which  to shape it.
Vladimir Mayakovsky

Any philosophy that can be put in a nutshell belongs there.
Sidney J. Harris, Leaving the Surface

 God respects me when I work but He loves me when I sing.
Rabindranath Tagore

You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.

I’d rather know some of the questions than all of the answers.
James Thurber

I’ve tried to live my life right, just like a story.
Angela Sidney, Tagish elder, to Julie Cruikshank, anthropologist

Life does not acommodate you, it shatters you. It is meant to, and it couldn’t do it better. Every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition.
Florida Scott-Maxwell

I never practice;  I always play.
Wanda Landowska

Rocks in the water don’t know the misery of rocks in the sun.
Haitian proverb

And, on the eighth day, it is said, God invented storytelling.

When you get past making labels for things, it is possible to combine and transform elements into new things. Look at things until their import, identity, name, use, and description have dissolved.
Corita Kent

…it is not necessary to the child to awaken to the sense of the strange and humorous by giving a man a luminous nose…to the child it is sufficiently strange and humorous to have a nose at all.
G.K. Chesterton

A story is told as much by silence as by speech.
Susan Griffin

What comes from the lips reaches the ear. What comes from the heart, reaches the heart.
Arab proverb

There’s a certain Buddhistic calm that comes from having… money in the bank.
Tom Robbins

I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought: what the hell good would that do?
Ronnie Shakes

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul?
Matthew 16:26

If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each person’s life, sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
Peter Benenson

In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart.
Anne Frank

“One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Lewis Carroll, through the Looking Glass

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.
Maya Angelou

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.
Isak Dinesen

It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.
Italo Calvino

The struggle against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
Czech Historian

Be realistic, demand the impossible.

Solidarity is based on the principle that we are willing to put ourselves at risk to protect each other.

Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
Paulo Freire

ubuntu: I exist because you exist

Inscrutably involved, we live in the currents of universal reciprocity.
Martin Buber, I and Thou

Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged… We have been taught to either ignore our differences or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community, there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression… Survival is learning to  take our difference and make them strengths.
Audre Lorde

How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue!
A.A. Milne

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.
George Orwell, 1984

The Sufis advise us to speak only after our words have managed to pass through three gates. At the first gate, we ask ourselves, “Are these words true?” If so, we let them pass on; if not, back they go. At the second gate we ask, “Are they necessary?” At the last gate, we ask, “Are they kind?”
Eknath Easwaran

It is told that Buddha, going out to look on life, was greatly daunted by death. “They all eat one another!” he cried, and called it evil. This process I examined, changed the verb and said, “They all feed one another,” and called it good.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman

If I can’t dance then I don’t want to be part of your revolution.
Emma Goldman

When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old I admire kind people.
Abraham Joshua Heschel

When you have a lot of things to do, get your nap out of the way first.
Jo Andersen

Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.”
The Talmud

Do not be a magician,
be magic.
Leonard Cohen

The trick is to have lots of ideas and throw away the bad ones.
Linus Pauling

 Advice from an old carpenter: measure twice; saw once.

 It’s difficult to work in groups when you’re omnipotent.
Q (John DeLancey) Star Trek: The Next Generation

He who knows much,
speaks with silence.
Amharic saying

It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true.
William James

 None learned the art of archery from me
Who did not make me
in the end, the target.
Saadi of Shiraz

2 Responses to Quotes about Ethics/Values/Morals

  1. Clare Nobbs says:

    Thanks for these wonderful quotes, chris. I remember many of them and I think of you. I am using them as part of my reading response/journal for one of my social work courses. The article I am writing about just now concerns social workers striking in Ontario in 2000 – what better than a collection of wonderful quotes about ethics and values from catalystcentre.ca. xoxox

  2. Yes i too found quotes a quite useful one. Though all of them are good but some are really worth appreciating. Thanks.

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