Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Action

"Good will, solidarity and wretchedness, and the struggle for a better world have now thrown off their religious garb. The attitude of today’s martyrs is no longer patience but action; their goal is no longer their own immortality in the after-life but the happiness of men who come after them for whom they know how to die." - Max Horkheimer

"I lay very little stress either upon asking or giving advice. Generally speaking, they who ask advice know what they wish to do, and remain firm to their intentions. A man may allow himself to be enlightened on various points, even upon matters of expediency and duty; but, after all, he must determine his course of action for himself." -

"Custom is the great guide of human life. It is that principle alone which renders our experience useful to us, and makes us expect, for the future, a similar train of events with those which have appeared I the past. Without the influence of custom, we should be entirely ignorant of every matter of fact beyond what is immediately present to the memory and senses. We should never know how to adjust means to ends, or to employ our natural powers in the production of any effect. There would be an end at once of all action, as well as of the chief part of speculation." - David Hume

"Human happiness seems to consists in three ingredients: action, pleasure and indolence. And though these ingredients ought to be mixed in different proportions, according to the disposition of the person, yet no one ingredient can be entirely wanting without destroying in some measure the relish of the whole composition." - David Hume

"Morality is determined by sentiment. It defines virtue to be whatever mental action or quality gives to a spectator the pleasing sentiment of approbation; and vice the contrary." - David Hume

"The greater part of mankind are naturally apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in their opinions; and while they see objects only on one side, and have no idea of any counterpoising argument, they throw themselves precipitately into the principles, to which they are inclined; nor have they any indulgence for those who entertain opposite sentiments. To hesitate or balance perplexes their understanding, checks their passion, and suspends their action." - David Hume

"The only difference betwixt the natural vices and justice lies in this, that the good, which results from the former, arises from every single act, and is the object of some natural passion: whereas a single act of justice, consider’d in itself, may often be contrary to the public good; and ‘tis only the concurrence of mankind, in a general scheme or system of action, which is advantageous." - David Hume

"There’ll be no night in Heav’n, In that blest world above; No anxious toil, no weary hours; For labor there is love. There’ll be no sorrow there, There’ll be no sorrow there, In Heav’n above, where all is love, There’ll be no sorrow there. There’ll be no grief in Heav’n, For life is one glad day, And tears are those of former things Which all have passed way. There’ll be no sin in Heav’n; Behold that blessèd throng, All holy in their spotless robes, All holy in their song." - Frederick Dan Huntington

"Mortifications have their reward in a state of consciousness that corresponds, on a lower level, to spiritual beatitude. The artist - and the philosopher and the man of science are also artists - knows the bliss of aesthetic contemplation, discovery and non-attached possession. The goods of the intellect, the emotions and the imagination are real goods; but they are not the final good, and when we treat them as ends in themselves, we fall into idolatry. Mortification of will, desire and action is not enough; there must also be mortification in the fields of knowing, thinking feeling and fancying." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"The relationship between moral action and spiritual knowledge is circular, as it were, and reciprocal. Selfless behavior makes possible an accession of knowledge, and the accession of knowledge makes possible the performance of further and more genuinely selfless actions, which in their turn enhance the agent’s capacity for knowing... A man undertakes right action (which includes, of course, right consciousness and right meditation), and this enables him to catch a glimpse of the Self that underlies his separate individuality. Having seen his own self as the Self, he becomes selfless (and therefore acts selflessly) and in virtue of selflessness he is to be conceived as unconditioned." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"Every thought, feeling, word, and action, whether large or small is a cause which sets into motion an eventual corresponding effect. You don’t always sow where you sow, but you always reap what you sow. You can always, at any moment, put a new cause into motion." - Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla

"Though a good motive cannot sanctify a bad action, a bad motive will always vitiate a good action." - William Jay

"The inlet of a man's mind is what he learns; the outlet is what he accomplishes. If his mind is not fed by a continued supply of new ideas which he puts to work with purpose, and if there is no outlet in action, his mind becomes stagnant. Such a mind is a danger to the individual who owns it and is useless to the community." - Jeremiah Whipple Jenks

"Love is the purification of the heart from self; it strengthens and ennobles the character; gives higher motive and nobler aim to every action of life, and makes both man and woman strong, noble, and courageous. The power to love truly and devotedly is the nobles gift with which a human being can be endowed; but it is a sacred fire that must not be burned to idols." - Maria Jane Jewsbury

"The morality of an action depends upon the motive from which we act." -

"We frequently fall into error and folly, not because the true principles of action are not known, but because for a time they are not remembered; he may, therefore, justly be numbered among the benefactors of mankind who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences that may early be impressed on the memory, and taught by frequent recollection to occur habitually to the mind." -

"The tragedy of all political action is that some problems have no solution; none of the alternatives are intellectually consistent or morally uncompromising; and whatever decision is taken will harm somebody." - James Joll

"Nonresistance isn’t passive. Passivity suggests powerlessness. But non-resistance is extremely powerful. It means we’re consciously choosing what we wish to empower. Nonresistance is the action of wisdom that assesses a situation and realizes there is nothing to be gained from fighting it." - Gloria D. Karpinski

"Convictions are the mainsprings of action, the driving powers of life. What a man lives are his convictions." - Francis C. Kelley

"Political action is the highest responsibility of a citizen." - John F. Kennedy, fully John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy

"What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as to a certain understanding must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"Let the motive be in the deed and not in the event. Be not one whose motive for action is the hope of reward." - Krishna, also Kreeshna, Krsna, Lord Krishna NULL

"Freedom is in the moment of action, which is behavior. It is not related to yesterday or tomorrow." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"Love comes into being only when there is total harmony in oneself, in whatever action one is doing, and so there is no conflict between the outer and the inner." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"With intellectuals, moral thought is often less a tonic that quickens ethical action than a narcotic that deadens it." - Louis Kronenberger

"Action overcomes cold; inaction overcomes heat." -

"To teach without words and to be useful without action, few among men are capable of this." -

"He is incapable of truly good action who finds not a pleasure in contemplating the good actions of others." - Johann Kaspar Lavater

"The mingled incentives which lead to action are often too subtle and lie too deep for us to analyze." - Johann Kaspar Lavater

"When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep." - Ursula Le Guin, fully Ursula Kroeber Le Guin

"The only cure for grief is action." - George Henry Lewes

"The life of man is made up of action and endurance; and life is fruitful in the ration in which it is laid out in noble action or in patient perseverance." - Henry Parry Liddon

"All the Actions, that we have any Idea of, reducing themselves, as has been said, to these two, viz. Thinking and Motion, so far as a Man has a power to think, or not to think; to move or not to move, according to the preference or direction of his own mind, so far is a Man Free. Wherever any performance or forbearance are not equally in a Man’s power; wherever doing or not doing, will not equally follow upon the preference of his mind directing it, there he is not Free, though perhaps the Action may be voluntary." - John Locke

"What is it that determines the Will in regard to our Actions?... we shall find, that we being capable but of one determination of the will to one action at once, the present uneasiness, that we are under, does naturally determine the will, in order to that happiness which we all aim at in all our actions: For as much as whilst we are under any uneasiness, we cannot apprehend ourselves happy, or in the way to it... And therefore that, which of course determines the choice of our will to the next action, will always be the removing of pain, as long as we have any left, as the first and necessary step towards happiness." - John Locke

"All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action." - James Russell Lowell

"Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weight less than a single lovely action." - James Russell Lowell

"Existence was given us for action. Our worth is determined by the good deeds we do, rather than by the fine emotions we feel." - Elias L. Magoon

"God has so framed us as to make freedom of choice and action the very basis of all moral improvement, and all our faculties, mental and moral, resent and revolt against the idea of coercion." -

"The assertion ‘I am morally bound to perform this action’ is identical with the assertion ‘This action will produce the greatest amount of good in the Universe’." -

"Remorse is surgical in action; it cuts away foul tissues of the mind." - Christopher Morley, fully Christopher Darlington Morley

"Proverbs are but rules, and rules do not create character. They prescribe conduct, but do not furnish a full and proper motive. They are usually but half truths, and seldom contain the principle of the action they teach." - Theodore T. Munger

"When a person has a major problem, worrying prevents him from thinking of practical ways to solve the problem. The calmer you are, the better you will be able to think of the wisest course of action." - Yehuda Lave

"Knowledge, if it does not determine action, is dead to us." - Plotinus NULL

"To put Happiness in actions is to put it in things that are outside virtue and outside the Soul; for the Soul’s expression is not in action but in wisdom, in a contemplative operation within itself; and this, this alone, is Happiness." - Plotinus NULL

"The measure of a man is not determined by his show of outward strength or the volume of his voice or the thunder of his action. It is to be seen rather in terms of the strength of his inner self in terms of the nature and depth of his commitments the sincerity of his purpose and his willingness to continue "growing up."" - Grady Poulard

"I saw that all beings are fated to happiness: action is not life, but a way of wasting some force, an enervation. Morality is the weakness of the brain.”" - Arthur Rimbaud, fully Jean-Nicolas-Arthur Rimbaud

"Responsibility is measured, not by the amount of injury resulting from wrong action, but by the distinctness with which conscience has the opportunity of distinguishing between the right and the wrong." -

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, the farm or office where he works. such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." -

"Moral action is the meeting-place between the human and divine." - Leon Roth