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quotations about evil

Evil quote

All concerns of men go wrong when they wish to cure evil with evil.

SOPHOCLES, The Sons of Aleus [fragment]

The soul that has conceived one wickedness can nurse no good thereafter.

SOPHOCLES, Philoctetes

Evil is unspectacular and always human
And shares our bed and eats at our own table.

W.H. AUDEN, Herman Melville

The whole gamut of good and evil is in every human being, certain notes, from stronger original quality or most frequent use, appearing to form the whole character; but they are only the tones most often heard. The whole scale is in every soul, and the notes most seldom heard will on rare occasions make themselves audible.

FANNY KEMBLE, Further Records, Feb. 12, 1875

Evil is a point of view.

ANNE RICE, Interview with the Vampire

The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.


Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay.

J. R. R. TOLKIEN, The Fellowship of the Ring

Evil is done without effort, naturally, it is the working of fate; good is always the product of an art.


There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.

KURT VONNEGUT, JR., The Sirens of Titan

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.


No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed.

SIGMUND FREUD, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria

The creed of evil has been, since the beginnings of highly industrialized society, not only a precursor of barbarism but a mask of good. The worth of the latter was transferred to the evil that drew to itself all the hatred and resentment of an order which drummed good into its adherents so that it could with impunity be evil.


The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.

AYN RAND, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.

ANNE RICE, Interview with the Vampire

I happen to think that the singular evil of our time is prejudice. It is from this evil that all other evils grow and multiply. In almost everything I've written there is a thread of this: a man's seemingly palpable need to dislike someone other than himself.

ROD SERLING, Los Angeles Times, 1967

No one becomes depraved all at once.

JUVENAL, Satires

Apathy and evil. The two work hand in hand. They are the same, really.... Evil wills it. Apathy allows it. Evil hates the innocent and the defenseless most of all. Apathy doesn't care as long as it's not personally inconvenienced.

JAKE THOENE, Shaiton's Fire

Apathy is the glove in which evil slips its hand.


All things truly wicked start from an innocence.


The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it seems to me the deepest root of all evil that is in the world.

MAX BORN, as quoted in Judith Sherven's The New Intimacy

In every man's heart there is a devil, but we do not know the man as bad until the devil is roused.

JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD, "The Case of Beauvais," Back to God's Country and Other Stories

A resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.

THOMAS HARDY, Far from the Madding Crowd

What we call evil, it seems to me, is simply ignorance bumping its head in the dark.

HENRY FORD, Theosophist Magazine, Feb. 1930

Nature, in her indifference, makes no distinction between good and evil.

ANATOLE FRANCE, The Revolt of the Angels

It is much easier at all times to prevent an evil than to rectify mistakes.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to James McHenry, Aug. 10, 1798

Don't let us make imaginary evils, when you know we have so many real ones to encounter.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH, The Good-Natured Man

Now I know the full power of evil. It makes ugliness seem beautiful and goodness seem ugly and weak.


The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.


The small man thinks that small acts of goodness are of no benefit, and does not do them; and that small deeds of evil do no harm, and does not refrain from them. Hence, his wickedness becomes so great that it cannot be concealed, and his guilt so great that it cannot be pardoned.

CONFUCIUS, The Wisdom of Confucius

All evils are equal when they are extreme.


I've got evil in me as much as anyone, some desires that scare me. Even if I don't give in to them, just having them scares the living bejesus out of me sometimes. I'm no saint, the way you kid about. But I've always walked the line, walked that goddamned line. It's a mean mother of a line, straight and narrow, sharp as a razor, cuts right into you when you walk it long enough. You're always bleeding on that line, and sometimes you wonder why you don't just step off and walk in the cool grass.

DEAN KOONTZ, Dark Rivers of the Heart

Fairly examined, truly understood,
No man is wholly bad, nor wholly good.


As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that it also is dreadful? How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can't eat, and home the very place you can't live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable? Then, indeed, there is no rescue possible: the last card has been played.

C.S. LEWIS, Perelandra

Why was so much evil pleasant, pretty on the outside, like poisoned candy?

LAURELL K. HAMILTON, "Here Be Dragons"

Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters, for without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves we collude with it through our apathy.

J. K. ROWLING, speech, Jun. 5, 2008

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.

BLAISE PASCAL, quoted in The International Thesaurus of Quotations

People aren't evil and people aren't good. They live how they can one day at a time. They come out of dust they go back to dust, dusty feet, no wings, and whose fault is that?


Love is the medicine of all moral evil. By it the world is to be cured of sin.

HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

Evil lurks in the heart of man, and anonymity tends to bring it out. Internet flamers would never say the jagged things they do if they had to sign their names.

GARRISON KEILLOR, "Renouncing Evil Powers and Anonymity," A Prairie Home Companion, Jan. 12, 2010

There are evils, as someone has pointed out, that have the ability to survive identification and go on for ever — money, for instance, or war.

SAUL BELLOW, The Dean's December

We try to bring up our children so that they are protected from the world's evils, only to find we've raised a pack of innocents who seem to be about to stumble into them at every turn just from sheer stupidity!


In many cases, it is very hard to fix the bounds of Good and Evil, because these part, as Day and Night, which are separated by Twilight.

BENJAMIN WHICHCOTE, Moral and Religious Aphorisms

Evil is a hydra with many heads, and the more of them you cut off, the more it grows! Hydras have to be starved to death, do you understand that? Kill a hundred Dark Ones, and a thousand more will take their place.


Conquer thy own evils before you judge others.


The truth is that most of us see what we are looking for in this world. If we are looking for evil we find it. The reason is not merely that evil exists all around us. There is another reason, far more potent. By looking for evil in our fellow creatures we bring out evil either from them or from ourselves, perhaps from both.

JOHN DANIEL BARRY, "The Imaginary People," Reactions and Other Essays

How many things are now called the worst evil, which are only twelve feet wide and three months long! But some day greater dragons will come into the world.

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.

J. R. R. TOLKIEN, The Return of the King

I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?


Whoever has the power to label others as evil is automatically, or reflexively, the good person. Good people label bad people as evil. And once you do that, then it demonizes them. You don't negotiate with evil. You don't sit down at the table with the devil and say, "Okay, let's work this out." What you want to do is destroy evil. Every Catholic kid every night says, or should say, "Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil." And so you've got to go to God to help you deal with evil rather than your State Department or your negotiators.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, interview, American Scientist, Apr. 2007

Even an evil man can have principles—he can be true to his own evil, which is not always so easy.

NORMAN MAILER, The Paris Review, winter-spring 1964

Good and Evil are names that signify our appetites and aversions, which in different tempers, customs, and doctrines of men, are different: And diverse men differ not only in their judgment, on the senses of what is pleasant and unpleasant to the taste, smell, hearing, touch, and sight, but also of what is conformable, or disagreeable to Reason, in the actions of the common life. Nay, the same man, in diverse times, differs from himself, and one time praiseth, that is, calleth Good, what another time he dispraiseth, and calleth Evil.


It is some compensation for great evils that they enforce great lessons.

CHRISTIAN NESTELL BOVEE, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.

HANNAH ARENDT, "Thinking", The Life of the Mind

For neither good nor evil can last for ever; and so it follows that as evil has lasted a long time, good must now be close at hand.


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Evil - Wikipedia article.

Browse Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil

Evil - Catholic Encyclopedia article.


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