What is meant by the phrase values of the wise? I admit, it isn’t as intuitive as a phrase such as the values held by wise people or even that which those who are wise find valuable. But that is what it is meant to convey. When I see a person who is careful, open, clever, developed, self-controlled, passionate, lighthearted, loving, and perceptive, I think: wise. Wisdom. This blog features twenty unique and incisive quotations which illustrate values. Not just any values: values of the wise.
Nothing is synonymous with wisdom, and it is even difficult to define. It is harder still to research (i.e., psychological research). However, one method of understanding those values which wise persons are attracted to and seek to cultivate within themselves is to find quotations that are not necessarily said or written by “a wise person” but those values which, on the whole, in the aggregate, appear to point to what wisdom is really about.
The study of these values has been an abiding passion of mine for years. Every week I find 10, 20, 100, 150 quotations which illustrate values – quotes which are elucidating, indicative, descriptive of, and enlightening about wisdom.
Are some persons wiser than others? Yes, it appears. Are they older than most others? Age tends to offer opportunities to increase wisdom, but every time I see an old fool with a Make America Great Again bumper sticker here in South Carolina where I live, I doubt that age necessarily engenders wisdom like it does, say, a wrinkling of the skin or a diminution of one or more organ’s functioning.
Are all the authors of these quotations which illustrate values white, Christian men? No, absolutely not. Do we have more literature and writings by persons who are European in origin or ancestry? Yes. It is for the same reason that English is spoken around the world and America is known by all. Western Europe (and Western Civilization generally) has had a remarkable ascendancy, but that is not necessarily because of some inherent, true superiority or merit. Rather, it appears to be because the values, decisions, fate, and luck of those peoples and civilizations has meant that Rome, England, Germany, and America have played an outsized role in intellectual and literary heritage.
That may be true, but Values of the Wise is proud of all the female, non-white, non-Christian, and non-traditional authors of quotes included in the awesome and hard-won Wisdom Archive. This is a free, 30,000-quote search engine (i.e., searchable quotations database) par excellence. I am so proud of how deep, wide, accessible, searchable, and diverse the quotations which illustrate values such as wisdom and other values are in this online collection.
So, what is the point of this blog? It is an example of the quotations about wisdom and other values, such as truth and progressivism, that I was working with this week. When I write working with, I mean that I have to a) find said quote, b) like it, c) write it down or hi-light it, d) type it or copy and paste it into the Wisdom Archive, e) which I have been working on for decades, and f) which I paid quite a bit of money for (web design). Most things I read don’t “make the cut,” but some things I read and I think, “Wow, that is a good example of [ insert a value or virtue here ].
Which values do these twenty quotations about wisdom illustrate, represent, and help to define? Truth & Justice, Development/Progressivism/Integration, and Honor/Integrity/Morality. These are three separate and mostly-non-overlapping “Value Sets” of allied values. You have heard of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” or perhaps “life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?” Those are basically Value Sets, too. Values of the Wise features 28 values in 15 Value Sets. There are dozens of values which could be considered to be values which wise persons favor. Some values, such as greed, selfishness, and financial dominance are not what I would consider to be values that wise persons appreciate and cultivate within themselves.
Note that any one person does not adequately personify a value or virtue. We are human beings, and that makes us fallible. The men who wrote the Constitution of the United States? Some were slaveholders, all were men, and most were well-to-do. Barack Obama? He can be criticized in ten different ways, even with the virtue and significance and merit he did demonstrate as President. We all have faults, skeletons in our closets, and inconsistencies. Consider this by one who many would consider to be a great poet and a great American, Walt Whitman. It shows this nuance I am trying to describe: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large; I contain multitudes.”
To put a finer point on it, don’t consider everything Abraham Lincoln wrote and said to be the province of a wise man. He was depressed; he lost most of the elections in his life; he was not initially or uniformly against slavery. But he did have much to say that represents wisdom. Many of the things he wrote or spoke can be considered quotations which illustrate values.
So it is with Hitler. Don’t believe me? It is true. Yes, he was a diabolical dictator and a murderous man-child, but still, consider this quote; is it not about a value? Could not a wise person have said it? We must keep an open mind and judge the quote, not the person. Wisdom comes from the mouths of babes sometimes…..
“What good fortune it is for those in power that people do not think” (Adolf Hitler).
So, without further ado, here are three Value Sets of quotations which illustrate values such as Honor, Justice, and Integration. I know that when you are done reading these, and thinking about them, you will, like I, feel that you understand these precious and vaunted values just a little bit better! Enjoy.
A) Quotations which illustrate values: Honor, Integrity, and Morality
There is a theme that threads through and ties together all the strands: many of the most talented, driven Americans used what makes America great – the First Amendment, due process, financial and legal ingenuity, free markets and free trade, meritocracy, even democracy itself – to chase the American Dream. And they won it, for themselves. Then, in a way unprecedented in history, they were able to consolidate their winnings, outsmart and co-opt the forces that might have reined them in, and pull up the ladder so more could not share in their success or challenge their primacy. ~ Steven Brill
During [CIA Director Gina] Haspel’s testimony, one of the most significant lines of questioning focused on what informed her moral and ethical judgment, particularly with respect to the matter of torture. Multiple senators pressed Haspel again and again to revisit the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques during her time in the agency. What governed her decision-making at the time? How does she weigh the morality of those techniques now that they are forbidden? Would she permit her staff to use such techniques if she were directing the CIA? Haspel repeatedly sidestepped the hypotheticals, avoided clear statements about the morality of the methods used in the past, and trained her answers instead on the matter of her judgment itself—the moral foundation that underpinned her actions and those of other CIA officials. “My moral compass is strong,” she said. ~ Abdallah Fayyad
I hated the brutality, the sadism, and the insanity of Nazism. I just couldn’t stand by and see people destroyed. I did what I could, what I had to do, what my conscience told me I must do. That’s all there is to it. Really, nothing more. ~ Oskar Schindler
Although the U.S. remains the world’s richest country, it has the third-highest poverty rate among the 35 nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), behind only Turkey and Israel. Nearly 1 in 5 American children lives in a household that the government classifies as “food insecure,” meaning they are without “access to enough food for active, healthy living. ~ Steven Brill
I often feel a great fire burning within me to share what I have so laboriously learned on my journey so far. Not out of benevolence but for the reward of hope; hope that another’s life journey may benefit. My problem is that no one stops to warm themselves by this fire and when I fan the flames and try to share, most only see a wisp of smoke. I will, although, persevere in my search for the reward of hope that if I share my wisdom, someone somewhere may notice a new path or better appreciate the joy of the path they are on. ~ Robert L. Lloyd
B) Quotations which illustrate values: Development, Progressivism, and Integration
A hundred years ago, any soapbox orator who called for women’s suffrage, laws protecting the environment, an end to lynching, workers’ right to form unions, a progressive income tax, a federal minimum wage, old-age insurance, the eight-hour workday and government-subsidized health care would be considered an impractical utopian dreamer or a dangerous socialist. Now we take these ideas for granted. The radical ideas of one generation are often the common sense of the next. ~ Peter Dreier
Everything in the world is moved by an inner urge to become something greater than it is. ~ Will Durant
One of the hallmarks of liberal political philosophy is exemplified by the quote by Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” It is a wonderful characterization of how we can either spend our money now on preschool programs, nutrition programs, job-training programs, and health care (in alignment with ethics, compassion, and wisdom) or we can spend it later on welfare, prisons, and emergency room visits for opioid overdoses. ~ Jason Merchey
If only 37 percent of white high school graduates test as college-ready, how come colleges are admitting 70 percent of them? And if roughly 17 percent of black high school graduates test as college-ready, how come colleges are admitting 58 percent of them? ~ Walter Williams
The chase for more, and the need to be recognized through our achievements and belongings, can hinder us from the real things, like time with those we love, time doing things we love ourselves, and balance. It’s probably all about balance really, isn’t it? ~ Bronnie Ware
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. … 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. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
The difficulties and struggles of today are but the price we must pay for the accomplishments and victories of tomorrow. ~ William J. H. Boetcker
C) Quotations which illustrate values: Truth and Justice
Absolute truth, which would be the same for all men and therefore unrelated, independent of each man’s existence, cannot exist for mortals. For mortals, the important thing is to make doxa truthful, to see in every doxa truth and to speak in such a way that the truth of one’s opinion reveals itself to oneself and to others. ~ Hannah Arendt
Many of the statistics cited in the speech were false, a slander on some of the most vulnerable people in the country, and Bill Cosby seemed less concerned with black prosperity than with black respectability. It wasn’t simply that the black poor were not thriving in America; they were also embarrassing Cliff Huxtable, the dear sitcom doctor dad living in an expensive Brooklyn brownstone. They were not worthy of him. It was not yet clear that the man known as Bill Cosby was as much of a fictional character as the good doctor. ~ Adam Sewer
The most savage controversies are those about matters to which there is no good evidence either way. ~ Bertrand Russell
‘If only they understood how much we care, how open we are, and how our ideas would help, they would see things our way.’ But here’s the rub: While it’s true that your opponents don’t understand the problem in all its subtlety and complexity, neither do you. ~ Steven Sloman and Phillip Fernbach
There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. ~ Elie Wiesel
Spirited discourse about opposing viewpoints is how we learn more than we already know, and how we find out that our friends are truly friends, not merely political allies. ~ Robert L. Lloyd
Forever I shall be a stranger to myself. In psychology as in logic, there are truths but no truth. ~ Albert Camus