This page contains a collection of quotes on honor and reputation, arranged in roughly chronological order. These quotes are all genuine and details about the author, book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable. Quotes that begin with a section of bold text are my personal favourites. Without further ado, here are fourteen (real) quotes by philosophers on honor and reputation:
Pausanias: There is a dishonour in being overcome by the love of money, or of wealth, or of political power, whether a man is frightened into surrender by the loss of them, or, having experienced the benefits of money and political corruption, is unable to rise above the seductions of them. For none of these things are of a permanent or lasting nature; not to mention that no generous friendship ever sprang from them.
– Plato, Symposium, 178B, trans. Benjamin Jowett
With regard to honour and dishonour the mean is proper pride, the excess is known as a sort of ’empty vanity’, and the deficiency is undue humility.
– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1107b21, trans. W. D. Ross
Consider . . . the life lived by others in olden time, and the life of those who will live after thee, and the life now lived among barbarous nations, and how many know not even thy name, and how many will soon forget it, and how they who perhaps now are praising thee will very soon blame thee, and that neither a posthumous name is of any value, nor reputation, nor anything else.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, #, #, trans. George Long
Many men have got a great name from the false opinions of the crowd. And what could be baser than such a thing? For those who are falsely praised, must blush to hear their praises. And if they are justly won by merits, what can they add to the pleasure of a wise man’s conscience? For he measures his happiness not by popular talk, but by the truth of his conscience.
– Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, III, trans. W. V. Cooper
Honor is not that reward of virtue, for which the virtuous work: but they receive honor from men by way of reward, “as from those who have nothing greater to offer.” But virtue’s true reward is happiness itself, for which the virtuous work: whereas if they worked for honor, it would no longer be a virtue, but ambition.
– St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, 2, 2, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province
Of all the illusions in the world, the most universally received is the concern for reputation and glory, which we espouse even to the point of giving up riches, rest, life, and health, which are effectual and substantial goods, to follow that vain phantom and mere sound that has neither body nor substance. . . . And of the irrational humors of men, it seems that even the philosophers get rid of this one later and more reluctantly than any other.
– Michel de Montaigne, Essays, I, 41, Of Not Communicating One’s Glory, trans. Donald Frame
Whatever it is, whether art or nature, that imprints in us this disposition to live with reference to others, it does us much more harm than good. We defraud ourselves of our own advantages to make appearance to conform with public opinion. We do not care so much what we are in ourselves and in reality as what we are in the public mind. Even the joys of the mind, and wisdom, appear fruitless to us, if they are enjoyed by ourselves alone, if they do not shine forth to the sight of others.
– Michel de Montaigne, Essays, III, 2, Of Repentance, trans. Donald Frame
Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swoln, and drowns things weighty and solid.
– Francis Bacon, Of Praise
We do not content ourselves with the life we have in ourselves and in our own being; we desire to live an imaginary life in the mind of others, and for this purpose we endeavour to shine. We labour unceasingly to adorn and preserve this imaginary existence, and neglect the real. And if we possess calmness, or generosity, or truthfulness, we are eager to make it known, so as to attach these virtues to that imaginary existence. We would rather separate them from ourselves to join them to it; and we would willingly be cowards in order to acquire the reputation of being brave. . . . We are so presumptuous that we would wish to be known by all the world, even by people who shall come after, when we shall be no more; and we are so vain that the esteem of five or six neighbours delights and contents us.
– Blaise Pascal, Pensées, II, 147-148, trans. W. F. Trotter
Have you never seen people who, in order to complain of the little fuss you make about them, parade before you the example of great men who esteem them? In answer I reply to them, “Show me the merit whereby you have charmed these persons, and I also will esteem you.”
– Blaise Pascal, Pensées, V, 333, trans. W. F. Trotter
The savage lives within himself, while social man lives constantly outside himself, and only knows how to live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the consciousness of his own existence merely from the judgment of others concerning him.
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, II, trans. G. D. H. Cole
The road to eminence and power, from obscure condition, ought not to be made too easy, nor a thing too much of course. If rare merit be the rarest of all rare things, it ought to pass through some sort of probation. The temple of honor ought to be seated on an eminence. If it be opened through virtue, let it be remembered, too, that virtue is never tried but by some difficulty and some struggle.
– Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Nothing in life gives a man so much courage as the attainment or renewal of the conviction that other people regard him with favor; because it means that everyone joins to give him help and protection, which is an infinitely stronger bulwark against the ills of life than anything he can do himself.
– Arthur Schopenhauer, Position, IV, trans. T. Bailey Sauders
Examine the man who lives in misery because he does not shine above other men; who goes about producing himself, pruriently anxious about his gifts and claims; struggling to force everybody, as it were begging everybody for God’s sake, to acknowledge him a great man, and set him over the heads of men! Such a creature is among the wretchedest sights seen under this sun. A great man? A poor morbid prurient empty man; fitter for the ward of a hospital, than for a throne among men. I advise you to keep out of his way. He cannot walk on quiet paths; unless you will look at him, wonder at him, write paragraphs about him, he cannot live. It is the emptiness of the man, not his greatness. Because there is nothing in himself, he hungers and thirsts that you would find something in him. In good truth, I believe no great man, not so much as a genuine man who had health and real substance in him of whatever magnitude, was ever much tormented in this way.
– Thomas Carlyle, The Hero as King
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