Constitutional Morality Quotes

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What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious.
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Marcus Tullius Cicero
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The annual budget is a much better reflection of a country's morality than its constitution. You put more money into repression, police, military... and so little to taking care of human troubles
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Vijay Prashad
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As for myself, I can only exhort you to look on Friendship as the most valuable of all human possessions, no other being equally suited to the moral nature of man, or so applicable to every state and circumstance, whether of prosperity or adversity, in which he can possibly be placed. But at the same time I lay it down as a fundamental axiom that "true Friendship can only subsist between those who are animated by the strictest principles of honour and virtue." When I say this, I would not be thought to adopt the sentiments of those speculative moralists who pretend that no man can justly be deemed virtuous who is not arrived at that state of absolute perfection which constitutes, according to their ideas, the character of genuine wisdom. This opinion may appear true, perhaps, in theory, but is altogether inapplicable to any useful purpose of society, as it supposes a degree of virtue to which no mortal was ever capable of rising.
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Marcus Tullius Cicero
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What constitutes misuse of the universe? This question can be answered in one word: greed…. Greed constitutes the most grievous wrong. LAURENTI MAGESA, African Religion: The Moral Traditions of Abundant Life
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Christopher Ryan (Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships)
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I can think of no right more fundamental than the right to peacefully steward the contents of one’s own consciousness. The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time. (And the fact that we make room for them in our prisons by paroling murderers, rapists, and child molesters makes one wonder whether civilization isn’t simply doomed.)
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Sam Harris (Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion)
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. . . Neither ecological nor social engineering will lead us to a conflict-free, simple path . . . Utilitarians and others who simply advise us to be happy are unhelpful, because we almost always have to make a choice either between different kinds of happiness--different things to be happy _about_--or between these and other things we want, which nothing to do with happiness. . . . Do we find ourselves a species naturally free from conflict? We do not. There has not, apparently, been in our evolution a kind of rationalization which might seem a possible solution to problems of conflict--namely, a takeover by some major motive, such as the desire for future pleasure, which would automatically rule out all competing desires. Instead, what has developed is our intelligence. And this in some ways makes matters worse, since it shows us many desirable things that we would not otherwise have thought of, as well as the quite sufficient number we knew about for a start. In compensation, however, it does help us to arbitrate. Rules and principles, standards and ideals emerge as part of a priority system by which we guide ourselves through the jungle. They never make the job easy--desires that we put low on our priority system do not merely vanish--but they make it possible. And it is in working out these concepts more fully, in trying to extend their usefulness, that moral philosophy begins. Were there no conflict, it [moral philosophy] could never have arisen. The motivation of living creatures does got boil down to any single basic force, not even an 'instinct of self-preservation.' It is a complex pattern of separate elements, balanced roughly in the constitution of the species, but always liable to need adjusting. Creatures really have divergent and conflicting desires. Their distinct motives are not (usually) wishes for survival or for means to survival, but for various particular things to be done and obtained while surviving. And these can always conflict. Motivation is fundamentally plural. . . An obsessive creature dominated constantly by one kind of motive, would not survive. All moral doctrine, all practical suggestions about how we ought to live, depend on some belief about what human nature is like. The traditional business of moral philosophy is attempting to understand, clarify, relate, and harmonize so far as possible the claims arising from different sides of our nature. . . . One motive does not necessarily replace another smoothly and unremarked. There is _ambivalence_, conflict behavior.
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Mary Midgley (Beast and Man. Routledge. 2002.)
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Principles of Liberty 1. The only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is Natural Law. 2. A free people cannot survive under a republican constitution unless they remain virtuous and morally strong. 3. The most promising method of securing a virtuous and morally strong people is to elect virtuous leaders. 4. Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained. 5. All things were created by God, therefore upon him all mankind are equally dependent, and to Him they are equally responsible. 6. All men are created equal. 7. The proper role of government is to protect equal rights, not provide equal things. 8. Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. 9. To protect man's rights, God has revealed certain principles of divine law. 10. The God-given right to govern is vested in the sovereign authority of the whole people. 11. The majority of the people may alter or abolish a government which has become tyrannical. 12. The United States of America shall be a republic. 13. A constitution should be structured to permanently protect the people from the human frailties of their rulers. 14. Life and Liberty are secure only so long as the Igor of property is secure. 15. The highest level of securitiy occurs when there is a free market economy and a minimum of government regulations. 16. The government should be separated into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. 17. A system of checks and balances should be adopted to prevent the abuse of power. 18. The unalienable rights of the people are most likely to be preserved if the principles of government are set forth in a written constitution. 19. Only limited and carefully defined powers should be delegated to the government, all others being retained by the people. 20. Efficiency and dispatch require government to operate according to the will of the majority, but constitutional provisions must be made to protect the rights of the minority. 21. Strong human government is the keystone to preserving human freedom. 22. A free people should be governed by law and not by the whims of men. 23. A free society cannot survive a republic without a broad program of general education. 24. A free people will not survive unless they stay strong. 25. "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none." 26. The core unit which determines the strength of any society is the family; therefore, the government should foster and protect its integrity. 27. The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest. 28. The United States has a manifest destiny to be an example and a blessing to the entire human race.
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Founding Fathers
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Power, whether in the hands of a god or of a man, is always understood to consist in the ability to harm as well as to help. This is the case with the Arabs and with the Hebrews, in fact with all strong and well-constituted races. The dualistic separation of the two powers is fatal. ... In this way morality becomes the poisoner of life.
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Friedrich Nietzsche
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We greet 2020 as our constitutional moral center is being re-designed in an increasingly immoral way, governed by those professing to have a hold on Christian values yet sidestepping the core of Christianity – to love one another. Their necks turn from the suffering as they willingly follow one lacking an authentic responsiveness to a waning human condition. I had hoped for a more enlightened scenario for our new decade, imagining ceremonial panels opening, as the wings of great altarpieces on feast days, revealing 2020 as the year of perfect vision. Perhaps these expectations were naΓ―ve and yet were truly felt, just as the anguish of inequity is felt, a dark blot that will not go away.
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Patti Smith (Year of the Monkey)
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Each impulse has its constitutional ministry of thought and knowledge and reflection, through which possible conflicts of impulses are foreseen, and temporary impulses are controlled by the unifying impulse which may be called wisdom. In this way education destroys the crudity of instinct, and increases through knowledge the wealth and variety of the individual's contacts with the outside world, making him no longer an isolated fighting unit, but a citizen of the universe, embracing distant countries, remote regions of space, and vast stretches of past and future within the circle of his interests. It is this simultaneous softening in the insistence of desire and enlargement of its scope that is the chief moral end of education.
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Bertrand Russell (Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays)
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The child's world is alert and alive, governed by rules of response and command, not by physical laws: a portentous continuum of consciousness, endowed with purpose and intent, either resistant or responsive to the child itself. This infantile notion of a world governed by moral rather than physical laws, kept under control by a superordinated parental personality instead of impersonal physical forces, and oriented to the weal and woe of man, is an illusion that dominates men's thoughts all over the world. The sense then, of this world as an undifferentiated continuum of simultaneously subjective and objective experience (Participation), which is all alive (Animism), and which was created by a superior being (Artificialism), may be said to constitute the frame of reference of all childhood experience no matter where in the world. No small wonder then, that the above Three Principles are precisely those most represented in the mythologies and religious systems of the whole world.
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Joseph Campbell (The Masks of God, Volume 1: Primitive Mythology)
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The best institution of rulers belongs to a city or kingdom in which one person is chosen by reason of his virtue to rule over all, and other persons govern under him by reason of their virtue. And yet such a regime belongs to all citizens, both because its rulers are chosen from the citizens, and because all citizens choose its rulers. For this is the best constitution, a happy mixture of kingdom, since one person rules; and of aristocracy, since many govern by reason of their virtue; and of democracy (i.e., government by the people), since rulers can be chosen from the people, and since the choice of rulers belongs to the people.
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Thomas Aquinas (On Law, Morality and Politics, 2nd Edition (Hackett Classics))
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The most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom among us-Is the compact majority. Yes, the damned, compact, liberal majority . . . The majority has might-unfortunately-but right it is not. Right-are I and a few others. The minority is always right. . . I have a mind to make a revolution against the lie that the majority is in the possession of truth. What kind of truths are those around which the majority usually gathers? They are truths that have become so old that they are on the way toward becoming shaky. But once a truth has become that old, it is also on the way toward becoming a lie . . . A normally constituted truth lives, let us say, as a rule seventeen or eighteen years; at most twenty, rarely more. But such aged truths are always exceedingly thin. Nevertheless it is only at that stage that the majority makes their acquaintance . . . All these majority truths . . . are rather like rancid, spoiled . . . hams. And that is the source of the moral scurvy that rages all around us...
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Henrik Ibsen (An Enemy of the People)
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The most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom among us-Is the compact majority. Yes, the damned, compact, liberal majority . . . The majority has might-unfortunately-but right it is not. Right-are I and a few others. The minority is always right. . . I have a mind to make a revolution against the lie that the majority is in the possession of truth. What kind of truths are those around which the majority usually gathers? They are truths that have become so old that they are on the way toward becoming shaky. But once a truth has become that old, it is also on the way toward becoming a lie . . . A normally constituted truth lives, let us say, as a rule seventeen or eighteen years; at most twenty, rarely more. But such aged truths are always exceedingly thin. Nevertheless it is only at that stage that the majority makes their acquaintance . . . All these majority truths . . . are rather like rancid, spoiled . . . hams. And that is the source of the moral scurvy that rages all around us... (Qtd. by Walter Kaufmann)
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Henrik Ibsen (An Enemy of the People)
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an evolutionary theory of morality is indeed emerging, and its essential insight is that our morals are neither instinctual nor a creation of reason, but constitute a separate tradition – β€˜between instinct and reason’, as the title of the first chapter indicates – a tradition of staggering importance in enabling us to adapt to problems and circumstances far exceeding our rational capacities.
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Friedrich A. Hayek (The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek Book 1))
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The Pagan Characteristic. β€” Perhaps there is nothing more astonishing to the observer of the Greek world than to discover that the Greeks from time to time held festivals, as it were, for all their passions and evil tendencies alike, and in fact even established a kind of series of festivals, by order of the State, for their β€œall-too-human.” This is the pagan characteristic of their world, which Christianity has never understood and never can understand, and has always combated and despised. β€” They accepted this all-too-human as unavoidable, and preferred, instead of railing at it, to give it a kind of secondary right by grafting it on to the usages of society and religion. All in man that has power they called divine, and wrote it on the walls of their heaven. They do not deny this natural instinct that expresses itself in evil characteristics, but regulate and limit it to definite cults and days, so as to turn those turbulent streams into as harmless a course as possible, after devising sufficient precautionary measures. That is the root of all the moral broad-mindedness of antiquity. To the wicked, the dubious, the backward, the animal element, as to the barbaric, pre-Hellenic and Asiatic, which still lived in the depths of Greek nature, they allowed a moderate outflow, and did not strive to destroy it utterly. The whole system was under the domain of the State, which was built up not on individuals or castes, but on common human qualities. In the structure of the State the Greeks show that wonderful sense for typical facts which later on enabled them to become investigators of Nature, historians, geographers, and philosophers. It was not a limited moral law of priests or castes, which had to decide about the constitution of the State and State worship, but the most comprehensive view of the reality of all that is human. Whence do the Greeks derive this freedom, this sense of reality? Perhaps from Homer and the poets who preceded him. For just those poets whose nature is generally not the most wise or just possess, in compensation, that delight in reality and activity of every kind, and prefer not to deny even evil. It suffices for them if evil moderates itself, does not kill or inwardly poison everything β€” in other words, they have similar ideas to those of the founders of Greek constitutions, and were their teachers and forerunners.
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Friedrich Nietzsche
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Mankind achieved civilisation by developing and learning to follow rules (first in territorial tribes and then over broader reaches) that often forbade him to do what his instincts demanded, and no longer depended on a common perception of events. These rules, in effect constituting a new and different morality, and to which I would indeed prefer to confine the term β€˜morality’, suppress or restrain the β€˜natural morality’, i.e., those instincts that welded together the small group and secured cooperation within it at the cost of hindering or blocking its expansion.
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Friedrich A. Hayek (The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek Book 1))