Morality Quotes

“A man must live by his principle. In fact, isn’t that why anybody remembers anybody? Not by what he owns or what he is, but how they feel about him. Our desires are less important than the principle in which we live by.”

“The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life.” — Charles Dickens

“Morality is of the highest importance.” — Albert Einstein

“Morality is not really the doctrine of how to make ourselves happy but of how we are to be worthy of happiness.” — Immanuel Kant

“The important thing is: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” — Charles Dubois

“Is it less dishonest to do what is wrong because it is not expressly prohibited by written law? Let us hope our moral principles are not yet in that stage of degeneracy.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Science drew the conclusion, not that the spiritual world had been misconceived, but that there was no such thing: nothing was real except tangible body composed of atoms. The result was a doctrine that philosophers call materialism, and religious people call atheism. The Socratic philosophy is a reaction against this materialistic drift of physical science. In order to rediscover the spiritual world, philosophy had to give up, for the moment, the search after material substance in external Nature, and turn its eyes inwards to the nature of the human soul. This was the revolution accomplished by Socrates, with his Delphic injunction ‘Know thyself’. Socrates himself, says Xenophon, only discussed human concerns–what makes men good as individuals or as citizens. Knowledge in this field was the condition of a free and noble character; ignorance left a man no better than a slave.” — F. M. Cornford Before and After Socrates

“Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.” — Einstein

“All men’s souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine.” “The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death.” — Socrates

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.” — Neil DeGrasse Tyson

See More: Purpose, Morality

Purpose Quotes

“My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all. What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science, not by God. We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.” — Stephen Hawking

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” — Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Kohlberg’s Moral Stages

Research in our moral development suggests that it is not a product of merely maturing or socializing, but of thinking about moral problems. Thinking about moral problems can be excited by discussions and debates with others, as we find our views challenged and are therefore motivated to come up with new, more comprehensive positions. These equate to higher level moral stages. In his studies, those who were most interested/active in the discussions made the greatest amount of change, possibly those demonstrating independent thinking. These stages, Kohlberg explains, are universal because they are underlying modes of reasoning, not specific beliefs.

The Stages
At stage 1 (Pre-Conventional), children think doing the right thing is obeying authority and avoiding punishment. At stage 2, children are no longer impressed by any single authority; they see that people have different interests and viewpoints. Since everything is relative, one is free to pursue one’s own interests, although it is often useful to make deals and exchange favors with others. They seem to be overcoming egocentrism.
At stages 3 and 4 (Conventional), young people think as members of conventional society with its values, norms, and expectations. At stage 3, they emphasize being a good person: having helpful motives toward people close to oneself and being concerned with others’ feelings. At stage 4 (ages 20-30), the concern shifts toward obeying laws to maintain society as a whole.
Stages 5 and 6 (Post-Conventional) are both rare. The people become less concerned with maintaining society for its own sake, and more concerned with the principles and values that make for a good society. At stage 5, they emphasize basic rights and the democratic processes that give everyone a say, and at stage 6, they define the principles by which agreement will be most just.

Moral Thought and Moral Behavior
Kohlberg’s scale has to do with moral thinking, not moral action. People who can talk at a high moral level may not behave accordingly, thus, we would not expect perfect correlations between moral judgment and moral action. Still, Kohlberg thinks that there should be some relationship: that moral behavior is more consistent, predictable, and responsible at the higher stages, because the stages themselves increasingly employ more stable and general standards. For example, whereas stage 3 bases decisions on others’ feelings, which can vary, stage 4 refers to set rules and laws. Thus, we can expect that moral behavior, too, will become more consistent as people move up the sequence.

Kohlberg has suggested that people, with enough independent thinking, may reach a post-conventional level of moral thinking where they no longer accept their own society as given but think reflectively and autonomously about what a good society should be: its rights, values, and principles. Perhaps some will even advance to the kinds of thinking that characterize some of the great moral leaders and philosophers who have at times advocated civil disobedience in the name of universal ethical principles.