„Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.“

Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St. Andrews, Feb. 1st 1867 (1867) p. 36. http://books.google.com/books?id=DFNAAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA36
Source: Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St Andrews, 2/1/1867
Context: What is called the Law of Nations is not properly law, but a part of ethics: a set of moral rules, accepted as authoritative by civilized states. It is true that these rules neither are nor ought to be of eternal obligation, but do and must vary more or less from age to age, as the consciences of nations become more enlightened, and the exigences of political society undergo change. But the rules mostly were at their origin, and still are, an application of the maxims of honesty and humanity to the intercourse of states. They were introduced by the moral sentiments of mankind, or by their sense of the general interest, to mitigate the crimes and sufferings of a state of war, and to restrain governments and nations from unjust or dishonest conduct towards one another in time of peace. Since every country stands in numerous and various relations with the other countries of the world, and many, our own among the number, exercise actual authority over some of these, a knowledge of the established rules of international morality is essential to the duty of every nation, and therefore of every person in it who helps to make up the nation, and whose voice and feeling form a part of what is called public opinion. Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject. It depends on the habit of attending to and looking into public transactions, and on the degree of information and solid judgment respecting them that exists in the community, whether the conduct of the nation as a nation, both within itself and towards others, shall be selfish, corrupt, and tyrannical, or rational and enlightened, just and noble.

Adopted from Wikiquote. Last update June 3, 2021. History
John Stuart Mill photo
John Stuart Mill175
British philosopher and political economist 1806 - 1873

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„But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living.“

—  Edmund Burke Anglo-Irish statesman 1729 - 1797

Speech to the Electors of Bristol (3 November 1774); reported in The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke (1899), vol. 2, p. 95
Context: Certainly, Gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasure, his satisfactions, to theirs,—and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.
But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure,—no, nor from the law and the Constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

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„Nothing limits intelligence more than ignorance; nothing fosters ignorance more than one's own opinions; nothing strengthens opinions more than refusing to look at reality.“

—  Sheri S. Tepper American fiction writer 1929 - 2016

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Source: The Visitor (2002)
Context: You asked for wisdom? Hear these words. Nothing limits intelligence more than ignorance; nothing fosters ignorance more than one's own opinions; nothing strengthens opinions more than refusing to look at reality.

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„Nothing more clearly shows how little God esteems his gift to men of wealth, money, position and other worldly goods, than the way he distributes these, and the sort of men who are most amply provided with them.“

—  Jean de La Bruyère, book Les Caractères

Rien ne fait mieux comprendre le peu de chose que Dieu croit donner aux hommes, en leur abandonnant les richesses, l'argent, les grands établissements et les autres biens, que la dispensation qu'il en fait, et le genre d'hommes qui en sont le mieux pourvus.
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„If you can think of nothing that wouldn't do harm, then do nothing.“

—  Noam Chomsky american linguist, philosopher and activist 1928

Panel with Edward Said at Columbia University, New York, April 1999 http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=03/04/07/042214
Quotes 1990s, 1995-1999
Context: Let me just put the whole thing in a kind of mundane level. Like, suppose you walk out in the street, this evening, and you see a crime being committed, you know, somebody is robbing someone else. Well, you have three choices. One choice is to try to stop it, maybe you call 911 or something. Another choice is to do nothing. A third choice is to pick up an assault rifle and kill 'em both, and kill a bystander at the same time. Well, suppose you do that, and somebody says, "Well, you know, why did you do that?" And you say, "Look, I couldn't stand by and do nothing." I mean, is that a response? If you can think of nothing that wouldn't do harm, then do nothing. And the same is true, magnified, in international affairs. Apart from the fact that there were things that could have been done.

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„I care nothing for creeds. I am not concerned with any one's religious belief. But I would have men think for themselves. If we do not, we can only abandon one superstition to take up another, and it may be a worse one. It is as bad for a man to think that he can know nothing as to think he knows all.“

—  Henry George American economist 1839 - 1897

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Context: I care nothing for creeds. I am not concerned with any one's religious belief. But I would have men think for themselves. If we do not, we can only abandon one superstition to take up another, and it may be a worse one. It is as bad for a man to think that he can know nothing as to think he knows all. There are things which it is given to all possessing reason to know, if they will but use that reason. And some things it may be there are, that — as was said by one whom the learning of the time sneered at, and the high priests persecuted, and polite society, speaking through the voice of those who knew not what they did, crucified — are hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes.

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„Among the strange things of this world, nothing seems more strange than that men pursuing happiness should knowingly quit the right and take a wrong road, and frequently do what their judgments neither approve nor prefer.“

—  John Jay American politician and a founding father of the United States 1745 - 1829

Letter to (22 August 1774), as published in The Life of John Jay (1833) by William Jay, Vol. 2, p. 345.
1770s, Letter to Lindley Murray (1774)
Context: Among the strange things of this world, nothing seems more strange than that men pursuing happiness should knowingly quit the right and take a wrong road, and frequently do what their judgments neither approve nor prefer. Yet so is the fact; and this fact points strongly to the necessity of our being healed, or restored, or regenerated by a power more energetic than any of those which properly belong to the human mind.
We perceive that a great breach has been made in the moral and physical systems by the introduction of moral and physical evil; how or why, we know not; so, however, it is, and it certainly seems proper that this breach should be closed and order restored. For this purpose only one adequate plan has ever appeared in the world, and that is the Christian dispensation. In this plan I have full faith. Man, in his present state, appears to be a degraded creature; his best gold is mixed with dross, and his best motives are very far from being pure and free from earth and impurity.

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„Do not elicit your child's political opinions. He doesn't know any more than you do.“

—  Fran Lebowitz, book Social Studies

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Edmund Burke photo

„All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.“

—  Edmund Burke Anglo-Irish statesman 1729 - 1797

This is probably the most quoted statement attributed to Burke, and an extraordinary number of variants of it exist, but all without any definite original source. They closely resemble remarks known to have been made by the Utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill, in an address at the University of St. Andrew (1 February 1867) http://books.google.com/books?id=DFNAAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA36&dq=%22Bad+men+need+nothing+more+to+compass+their+ends,+than+that+good+men+should+look+on+and+do+nothing%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=RUh5U6qWBLSysQT0vYGAAw&ved=0CEEQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=%22Bad%20men%20need%20nothing%20more%20to%20compass%20their%20ends%2C%20than%20that%20good%20men%20should%20look%20on%20and%20do%20nothing%22&f=false : Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. The very extensively used remarks attributed to Burke might be based on a paraphrase of some of his ideas, but he is not known to have ever declared them in so succinct a manner in any of his writings. It has been suggested that they may have been adapted from these lines of Burke's in his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents http://oll.libertyfund.org/Texts/LFBooks/Burke0061/SelectWorks/HTMLs/0005-01_Pt02_Thoughts.html (1770): "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." (see above)
:This purported quote bears a resemblance to the narrated theme of Sergei Bondarchuk's Soviet film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, produced in 1966. In it the narrator declares "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing", although since the original is in Russian various translations to English are possible. This purported quote also bears resemblance to a quote widely attributed to Plato, that said "The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." It also bears resemblance to what Albert Einstein wrote as part of his tribute to Pablo Casals: "The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it."
: More research done on this matter is available at these two links: Burkequote http://www.tartarus.org/~martin/essays/burkequote.html & Burkequote2 http://www.tartarus.org/~martin/essays/burkequote2.html — as the information at these links indicate, there are many variants of this statement, probably because there is no known original by Burke. In addition, an exhaustive examination of this quote has been done at the following link: QuoteInvestigator http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/.
Disputed
Variant: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

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„A good guide will take you through the more important streets more often than he takes you down side streets; a bad guide will do the opposite. In philosophy I'm a rather bad guide.“

—  Ludwig Wittgenstein Austrian-British philosopher 1889 - 1951

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„A man contains all that is needful to his government within himself. He is made a law unto himself. All real good or evil that can befal [sic] him must be from himself. He only can do himself any good or any harm. Nothing can be given to him or can taken from him but always there is a compensation..“

—  Ralph Waldo Emerson American philosopher, essayist, and poet 1803 - 1882

8 September 1833. As quoted in: Maurice York and Rick Spaulding (2008): Ralph Waldo Emerson – The the Infinitude of the Private Man: A Biography. https://books.google.de/books?id=_pRMlDQavQwC&pg=PA240&dq=A+man+contains+all+that+is+needful+to+his+government+within+himself&hl=de&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiahO73qqfeAhUwpIsKHRqzDswQ6AEIQDAD#v=onepage&q=A%20man%20contains%20all%20that%20is%20needful%20to%20his%20government%20within%20himself&f=false Chicago and Raleigh: Wrighwood Press, pages 240 – 241. Derived from: Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes (1909): Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, with annotations, III, pages 200-201.
1820s, Journals (1822–1863)
Context: A man contains all that is needful to his government within himself. He is made a law unto himself. All real good or evil that can befal [sic] him must be from himself. He only can do himself any good or any harm. Nothing can be given to him or can taken from him but always there is a compensation.. There is a correspondence between the human soul and everything that exists in the world; more properly, everything that is known to man. Instead of studying things without the principles of them, all may be penetrated unto with him. Every act puts the agent in a new position. The purpose of life seems to be to acquaint a man with himself. He is not to live the future as described to him but to live the real future to the real present. The highest revelation is that God is in every man.

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