Thirteen Philosophical Quotes on Virtue (With References)

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This page contains a collection of philosophical quotes on virtue, arranged in roughly chronological order. These quotes are all genuine and details about the author, book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable. Without further ado, here are thirteen philosophical quotes on virtue:


Virtue is one but . . . The forms of vice are innumerable.

– Plato, The Republic, IV, 445B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


The man who does not rejoice in noble actions is not even good; since no one would call a man just who did not enjoy acting justly . . .

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1099a, trans. W. D. Ross


Men are good in but one way, but bad in many.

-Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1106b, trans. W. D. Ross


Virtue . . . is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect; and again it is a mean because the vices respectively fall short of or exceed what is right in both passions and actions, while virtue both finds and chooses that which is intermediate.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1106b36, trans. W. D. Ross


The perfection of moral character consists in this, in passing every day as the last, and in being neither violently excited nor torpid nor playing the hypocrite.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VII, 69, trans. George Long


Perfection of moral virtue does not wholly take away the passions, but regulates them.

– St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I, 95, 2, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Provence


A man who wishes to act entirely up to his professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among so much that is evil. Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity. . . . He need not make himself uneasy at incurring a reproach for those vices without which the state can only be saved with difficulty, for if everything is considered carefully, it will be found that something which looks like virtue, if followed, would be his ruin; whilst something else, which looks like vice, yet followed brings him security and prosperity.

– Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, XV, trans. W. K. Marriott


As if we had an infectious touch, we, by our manner of handling, corrupt things that in themselves are laudable and good: we may grasp virtue so that it becomes vicious, if we embrace it too stringently and with too violent a desire. Those who say, there is never any excess in virtue, forasmuch as it is not virtue when it once becomes excess, only play upon words.

– Michel de Montaigne, Essays, I, 29, Of Moderation, trans. Charles Cotton


Virtue is like precious odors, most fragrant when they are incensed, or crushed: for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.

– Francis Bacon, Of Adversity


The strength of a man’s virtue must not be measured by his efforts, but by his ordinary life.

– Blaise Pascal, Pensées, VI, 352, trans. W. F. Trotter


We do not sustain ourselves in virtue by our own strength, but by the balancing of two opposed vices, just as we remain upright amidst two contrary gales. Remove one of the vices, and we fall into the other.

– Blaise Pascal, Pensées, VI, 359, trans. W. F. Trotter


It is one thing to know virtue, and another to conform the will to it.

– David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Bk. III, I, 1


Virtue is attended with more peace of mind than vice, and meets with a more favourable reception from the world.

– David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, XI, 108


Know of a quote that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!

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