Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Richard Whately

English Anglican Archbishop of Dublin , Philosopher, Logician, Economist and Theologian

""Honesty is the best policy," but he who acts on that principle is not an honest man."

"A man is called selfish, not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor's."

"As one may bring himself to believe almost anything he is inclined to believe, it makes all the difference whether we begin or end with the inquiry, "What is truth?""

"Curiosity is as much the parent of attention, as attention is of memory."

"Do you want to know the man against whom you have most reason to guard yourself? Your looking-glass will give you a very fair likeness of his face."

"Every one wishes to have truth on his side, but it is not every one that sincerely wishes to be on the side of truth."

"He only is exempt from failures who makes no efforts."

"Neither human applause nor human censure is to be taken as the test of truth; but either should set us upon testing ourselves."

"Of all hostile feelings, envy is perhaps the hardest to be subdued, because hardly any one owns it even to himself, but looks out for one pretext after another to justify his hostility."

"Superstition is not, as has been defined, an excess of religious feeling, but a misdirection of it, an exhausting of it on vanities of man’s devising."

"Ten thousand of the greatest faults in our neighbors are of less consequence to us than one of the smallest in ourselves."

"The happiest lot for a an as far as birth is concerned, is that it should be such as to give him but little occasion to think much about it."

"The more secure we feel against our liability to any error to which, in fact, we are liable, the greater must be our danger of falling into it."

"The power of duly appreciating little things belongs to a great mind; a narrow-minded man has it not, for to him they are great things."

"The word knowledge, strictly employed, implies three things, vis., truth, proof, and conviction."

"Those who get through the world without enemies are commonly three classes: the supple, the adroit, the phlegmatic. The leaden rule surmounts obstacles by yielding to them; the oiled wheel escapes friction; the cotton sack escapes damage by its impenetrable elasticity."

"Though not always called upon to condemn ourselves, it is always safe to suspect ourselves."

"When any person of really eminent virtue becomes the object of envy, the clamor and abuse by which he is assailed is but the sign and accompaniment of his success in doing service to the public. And if he is truly a wise man, he will take no more notice of it than the moon does of the howling of the dogs. Her only answer to them is to shine on."

"A mother once asked a clergyman when she should begin the education of her child which she told him was then four years old. “madam,” was the reply, “you have lose three years already. From the very first smile that gleams over the infant’s cheek, your opportunity begins."

"Curiosity is as much the parent of attention as attention is of memory; therefore the first business of a teacher - first not only in point of time, but of importance - should be to excite not merely a general curiosity on the subject of the study, but a particular curiosity on particular points in that subject. To teach one who has no curiosity to learn is to sow a field without ploughing it."

"As the flower is before the fruit, so is faith before good works."

"Ethical maxims are bandied about as a sort of current coin of discourse, and, being never melted down for use, those that are of base metal are never detected."

"He that is not aware of his ignorance will be only misled by his knowledge."

"Falsehood, like poison, will generally be rejected when administered alone; but when blended with wholesome ingredients, may be swallowed unperceived."

"It is quite possible, and not uncommon, to read most laboriously, even so as to get by heart the words of a book, without really studying it at all - that is, without employing the thoughts on the subject."

"It is remarkable that great affectation and great absence of it (unconsciousness) are at first sight very similar; they are both apt to produce singularity."

"It is too generally true that all that is required to make men unmindful what they owe to God for any blessing is that they should receive that blessing often enough and regularly enough."

"Knowledge of our duties is the most useful part of philosophy."

"Many a meandering discourse one hears, in which the preacher aims at nothing, and - hits it."

"Nothing but the right can ever be expedient, since that can never be true expediency which would sacrifice a greater good to a less."

"Sophistry, like poison, is at once detected and nauseated, when presented to us in a concentrated form; but a fallacy which, when stated barely in a few sentences, would not deceive a child, may deceive half the world, if diluted in a quarto volume."

"Historians give us the extraordinary events, and omit just what we want, the every-day life of each particular time and country."

"If our religion is not true, we are bound to change it; if it is true, we are bound to change it; if it is true, we are bound to propagate it"

"Honesty is the best policy, but he who is governed by that maxim is not an honest man."

"True wisdom consists in the ready and accurate perception of analogies. Without the former quality, knowledge of the past is uninstructive; without the latter it is deceptive."

"A certain class of novels may with propriety be called fables."

"A confident expectation that no argument will be adduced that will change our opinions is very different from a resolution that none ever shall. We may print but not stereotype our opinions."

""A little learning is a dangerous thing," and yet it is what all must attain before they can arrive at great learning; it is the utmost acquisition of those who know the most in comparison of what they do not know."

"A fanatic, either, religious or political, is the subject of strong delusions."

"A man will never change his mind if he have no mind to change."

"A man who gives his children habits of industry provides for them better than by giving them a fortune."

"All frauds, like the wall daubed with untempered mortar ... always tend to the decay of what they are devised to support."

"All gaming, since it implies a desire to profit at the expense of others, involves a breach of the tenth commandment."

"An instinct is a blind tendency to some mode of action, independent of any consideration, on the part of the agent, of the end to which the action leads."

"All men wish to have truth on their side; but few to be on the side of truth."

"As the telescope is not a substitute for, but an aid to, our sight, so revelation is not designed to supersede the use of reason, but to supply its deficiencies."

"Anger requires that the offender should not only be made to grieve in his turn, but to grieve for that particular wrong which has been done by him."

"As hardly anything can accidentally touch the soft clay without stamping its mark on it, so hardly any reading can interest a child, without contributing in some degree, though the book itself be afterwards totally forgotten, to form the character."

"As an exercise of the reasoning faculties, pure mathematics is an admirable exercise, because it consists of reasoning alone and does not encumber the student with any exercise of judgment."

"As there are dim-sighted people who live in a sort of perpetual twilight, so there are some who, having neither much clearness of head nor a very elevated tone of morality, are perpetually haunted by suspicions of everybody and everything."