When science, art, literature, and philosophy are simply the manifestation of personality they are on a level where glorious and dazzling achievements are possible, which can make a man's name live for thousands of years. But above this level, far above,
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Misfortunes leave wounds which bleed drop by drop even in sleep; thus little by little they train man by force and dispose him to wisdom in spite of himself. Man must learn to think of himself as a limited and dependent being; and only suffering teaches
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The needs of a human being are sacred. Their satisfaction cannot be subordinated either to reasons of state, or to any consideration of money, nationality, race, or color, or to the moral or other value attributed to the human being in question, or to any consideration whatsoever.
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It is an eternal obligation toward the human being not to let him suffer from hunger when one has a chance of coming to his assistance.
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Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct and to refrain from destruction.
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An atheist may be simply one whose faith and love are concentrated on the impersonal aspects of God.
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Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached.
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Beauty always promises, but never gives anything.
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To write the lives of the great in separating them from their works necessarily ends by above all stressing their pettiness, because it is in their work that they have put the best of themselves.
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Charity. To love human beings in so far as they are nothing. That is to love them as God does.
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I am not a Catholic; but I consider the Christian idea, which has its roots in Greek thought and in the course of the centuries has nourished all of our European civilization, as something that one cannot renounce without becoming degraded.
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In the Church, considered as a social organism, the mysteries inevitably degenerate into beliefs.
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If Germany, thanks to Hitler and his successors, were to enslave the European nations and destroy most of the treasures of their past, future historians would certainly pronounce that she had civilized Europe.
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Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.
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Culture is an instrument wielded by teachers to manufacture teachers, who, in their turn, will manufacture still more teachers.
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The payment of debts is necessary for social order. The non-payment is quite equally necessary for social order. For centuries humanity has oscillated, serenely unaware, between these two contradictory necessities.
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The real stumbling-block of totalitarian régimes is not the spiritual need of men for freedom of thought; it is men's inability to stand the physical and nervous strain of a permanent state of excitement, except during a few years of their youth.
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Nothing can have as its destination anything other than its origin. The contrary idea, the idea of progress, is poison.
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If we are suffering illness, poverty, or misfortune, we think we shall be satisfied on the day it ceases. But there too, we know it is false; so soon as one has got used to not suffering one wants something else.
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A doctrine serves no purpose in itself, but it is indispensable to have one if only to avoid being deceived by false doctrines.
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The most important part of teaching is to teach what it is to know.
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A man whose mind feels that it is captive would prefer to blind himself to the fact. But if he hates falsehood, he will not do so; and in that case he will have to suffer a lot. He will beat his head against the wall until he faints. He will come to again
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Equality is the public recognition, effectively expressed in institutions and manners, of the principle that an equal degree of attention is due to the needs of all human beings.
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Evil is neither suffering nor sin; it is both at the same time, it is something common to them both. For they are linked together; sin makes us suffer and suffering makes us evil, and this indissoluble complex of suffering and sin is the evil in which we are submerged against our will, and to our horror.
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I can, therefore I am.
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The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation.
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There is something else which has the power to awaken us to the truth. It is the works of writers of genius. They give us, in the guise of fiction, something equivalent to the actual density of the real, that density which life offers us every day but which we are unable to grasp because we are amusing ourselves with lies.
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Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates. The truth is, nobody really possesses it.
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Who were the fools who spread the story that brute force cannot kill ideas? Nothing is easier. And once they are dead they are no more than corpses.
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Learn to reject friendship, or rather the dream of friendship. To want friendship is a great fault. Friendship ought to be a gratuitous joy, like the joys afforded by art, or life (like aesthetic joys). I must refuse it in order to be worthy to receive it
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For when two beings who are not friends are near each other there is no meeting, and when friends are far apart there is no separation.
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The future is made of the same stuff as the present.
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Real genius is nothing else but the supernatural virtue of humility in the domain of thought.
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It is only the impossible that is possible for God. He has given over the possible to the mechanics of matter and the autonomy of his creatures.
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We can only know one thing about God -- that he is what we are not. Our wretchedness alone is an image of this. The more we contemplate it, the more we contemplate him.
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In relation to God, we are like a thief who has burgled the house of a kindly householder and been allowed to keep some of the gold. From the point of view of the lawful owner this gold is a gift; Form the point of view of the burglar it is a theft. He must go and give it back. It is the same with our existence. We have stolen a little of God's being to make it ours. God has made us a gift of it. But we have stolen it. We must return it.
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At the bottom of the heart of every human being, from earliest infancy until the tomb, there is something that goes on indomitably expecting, in the teeth of all experience of crimes committed, suffered, and witnessed, that good and not evil will be done
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In struggling against anguish one never produces serenity; the struggle against anguish only produces new forms of anguish.
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Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace.
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I would suggest that barbarism be considered as a permanent and universal human characteristic which becomes more or less pronounced according to the play of circumstances.
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Imagination is always the fabric of social life and the dynamic of history. The influence of real needs and compulsions, of real interests and materials, is indirect because the crowd is never conscious of it.
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Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our life.
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A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.
View quote | Quotes about Injustice

Whatever debases the intelligence degrades the entire human being.
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The role of the intelligence --that part of us which affirms and denies and formulates opinions is merely to submit.
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Every time that I think of the crucifixion of Christ, I commit the sin of envy.
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A mind enclosed in language is in prison.
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It would seem that man was born a slave, and that slavery is his natural condition. At the same time nothing on earth can stop man from feeling himself born for liberty. Never, whatever may happen, can he accept servitude; for he is a thinking creature.
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Every perfect life is a parable invented by God.
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Nothing is less instructive than a machine.
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Mathematics alone make us feel the limits of our intelligence. For we can always suppose in the case of an experiment that it is inexplicable because we don't happen to have all the data. In mathematics we have all the data and yet we don't understand. We always come back to the contemplation of our human wretchedness. What force is in relation to our will, the impenetrable opacity of mathematics is in relation to our intelligence.
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To set up as a standard of public morality a notion which can neither be defined nor conceived is to open the door to every kind of tyranny.
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When once a certain class of people has been placed by the temporal and spiritual authorities outside the ranks of those whose life has value, then nothing comes more naturally to men than murder.
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I suffer more from the humiliations inflicted by my country than from those inflicted on her.
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There can be a true grandeur in any degree of submissiveness, because it springs from loyalty to the laws and to an oath, and not from baseness of soul.
View quote | Quotes about Obedience

Oppression that is clearly inexorable and invincible does not give rise to revolt but to submission.
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Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.
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Evil being the root of mystery, pain is the root of knowledge.
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There is no detachment where there is no pain. And there is no pain endured without hatred or lying unless detachment is present too.
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We must prefer real hell to an imaginary paradise.
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The destruction of the past is perhaps the greatest of all crimes.
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The proper method of philosophy consists in clearly conceiving the insoluble problems in all their insolubility and then in simply contemplating them, fixedly and tirelessly, year after year, without any hope, patiently waiting.
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The appetite for power, even for universal power, is only insane when there is no possibility of indulging it; a man who sees the possibility opening before him and does not try to grasp it, even at the risk of destroying himself and his country, is either
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To get power over is to defile. To possess is to defile.
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When a contradiction is impossible to resolve except by a lie, then we know that it is really a door.
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Whenever a human being, through the commission of a crime, has become exiled from good, he needs to be reintegrated with it through suffering. The suffering should be inflicted with the aim of bringing the soul to recognize freely some day that its infliction was just.
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Purity is the power to contemplate defilement.
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Life does not need to mutilate itself in order to be pure.
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Why is it that reality, when set down untransposed in a book, sounds false?
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A test of what is real is that it is hard and rough. Joys are found in it, not pleasure. What is pleasant belongs to dreams.
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One cannot imagine St. Francis of Assisi talking about rights.
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To us, men of the West, a very strange thing happened at the turn of the century; without noticing it, we lost science, or at least the thing that had been called by that name for the last four centuries. What we now have in place of it is something different, radically different, and we don't know what it is. Nobody knows what it is.
View quote | Quotes about Science and Scientists

The poison of skepticism becomes, like alcoholism, tuberculosis, and some other diseases, much more virulent in a hitherto virgin soil.
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The only hope of socialism resides in those who have already brought about in themselves, as far as is possible in the society of today, that union between manual and intellectual labor which characterizes the society we are aiming at.
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In solitude we are in the presence of mere matter (even the sky, the stars, the moon, trees in blossom), things of less value (perhaps) than a human spirit. Its value lies in the greater possibility of attention.
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With no matter what human being, taken individually, I always find reasons for concluding that sorrow and misfortune do not suit him; either because he seems too mediocre for anything so great, or, on the contrary, too precious to be destroyed.
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To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.
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Every new development for the last three centuries has brought men closer to a state of affairs in which absolutely nothing would be recognized in the whole world as possessing a claim to obedience except the authority of the State. The majority of people in Europe obey nothing else.
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We are like horses who hurt themselves as soon as they pull on their bits -- and we bow our heads. We even lose consciousness of the situation, we just submit. Any re-awakening of thought is then painful.
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The afflicted are not listened to. They are like someone whose tongue has been cut out and who occasionally forgets the fact. When they move their lips no ear perceives any sound. And they themselves soon sink into impotence in the use of language, because of the certainty of not being heard.
View quote | Quotes about Suffering

The capacity to give one's attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity are not enough.
View quote | Quotes about Sympathy

In this world, only those people who have fallen to the lowest degree of humiliation, far below beggary, who are not just without any social consideration but are regarded by all as being deprived of that foremost human dignity, reason itself -- only those people, in fact, are capable of telling the truth. All the others lie.
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Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them their attention.
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When a man's life is destroyed or damaged by some wound or privation of soul or body, which is due to other men's actions or negligence, it is not only his sensibility that suffers but also his aspiration toward the good. Therefore there has been sacrilege towards that which is sacred in him.
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A self-respecting nation is ready for anything, including war, except for a renunciation of its option to make war.
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What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war. Petrol is more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict.
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The contemporary form of true greatness lies in a civilization founded on the spirituality of work.
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Weil, Simone

No biography at present.

87 quotations