Jordan Bates 13 min read

150 Philosophical Quotes About Life, Death, & Everything In-Between

Philosophy books Brill

150 Philosophical Quotes About Life, Death, & Everything In-Between

Quotes, man. I freaking love quotes.

Proverbs, quips, riddles, excerpts, aphorisms, koans, snippets, lyrics, and limericks — I don’t discriminate. I adore them all.

Quotes often catch a bad rep on the Internet, due to the tendency of certain popular quotes to be shared ad infinitum.

But this is a shame. Because if you really scour the caverns of the Internet, you find a nearly infinite wellspring of mind-liberating, soul-vitalizing gems of language.

Don’t get me wrong. Quotes are not a replacement for reading entire books, elaborate novels, and longform essays. No way.

But methinks they can nonetheless deliver potent, pithy shots of insight, clarity, and/or invigoration.

So, as a gift to you, awesome Internet-person, I assembled this list of 150 jewels of thought, on everything from love and suffering, to mystery and happiness, to death and morality.

Marinate, contemplate, salivate, and above all, savor these, as if they were intimate notes left to you by some of the greatest minds in history.

Because in fact, that’s precisely what they are.

Quotes About Happiness

“What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.”
― Carl Jung


Carl Jung

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”
― Lao Tzu

“Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.”
― Socrates

“Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn’t calculate his happiness.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream.”
― Jack Kerouac

“I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy.”
― Franz Kafka

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
― Leo Tolstoy

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ”
― William James

“The notion that a human being should be constantly happy is a uniquely modern, uniquely American, uniquely destructive idea”
― Andrew Weil

Quotes About Love

Anaïs Nin

“The truly faithless one is the one who makes love to only a fraction of you. And denies the rest.”

― Anaïs Nin

“Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”
― Kahlil Gibran

“When you love someone, you love the person as they are, and not as you’d like them to be.”
— Leo Tolstoy

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

“We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu

“We were together. I forget the rest.”
― Walt Whitman

“Love is friendship set to music.”
― Jackson Pollock

“intelligence is intuitive
you needn’t learn to love
unless you’ve been taught
to fear and hate”
― Saul Williams

Quotes About Identity & Self-Actualization

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
― Kurt Vonnegut


Kurt Vonnegut

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
― C.G. Jung

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
― Joseph Campbell

“Become what you are.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“What labels me, negates me.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

Quotes About Art

“What is important is to spread confusion, not eliminate it.”
― Salvador Dalí


Salvador Dalí

“Irresponsibility is part of the pleasure of all art; it is the part the schools cannot recognize.”
— James Joyce

“Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.”
― Chuck Klosterman

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”
― Pablo Picasso

“Art is anything you can get away with.”
― Marshall McLuhan

“I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists.”
― Marcel Duchamp

Quotes Abou Writing & Language

“I’d tell you all you want and more, if the sounds I made could be what you hear.”
― David Foster Wallace


David Foster Wallace

“If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.”
― Jim Morrison

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
― Ernest Hemingway

“Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private.”
― Allen Ginsberg

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.”
― Franz Kafka

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly ― they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”
― Aldous Huxley

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”
― Robert Frost

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

“What I really wanted was every kind of life, and the writer’s life seemed the most inclusive.”
― Susan Sontag

“Words are never ‘only words’; they matter because they define the contours of what we can do.”
― Slavoj Žižek

Quotes About Reading & Education


“Read a lot. Expect something big, something exalting or deepening from a book. No book is worth reading that isn’t worth re-reading.”
― Susan Sontag

“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”
― Richard P. Feynman

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
― Oscar Wilde

“… we should read for power. Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand.”
— Ezra Pound

Quotes About Truth & Wisdom

“Nobody is smarter than you are. And what if they are? What good is their understanding doing you?”
― Terence McKenna


Terence McKenna

“I must find a truth that is true for me.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

“Learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest.”
― Hermann Hesse

“The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool — a faculty unheard of nowadays.”
— Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Truth, she thought. As terrible as death. But harder to find.”
― Philip K. Dick

“I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.”
― Robert Anton Wilson

“The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’ is the mind’s worst disease.”
— Sent ts’an, c. 700 C. E.

“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.”
― Yasutani Roshi

Quotes About Music & Silence

“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.”
― Rumi



“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”
― Victor Hugo

“The only truth is music.”
— Jack Kerouac

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
― Aldous Huxley

“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.”
― William S. Burroughs

“When you are Angry, Be Silent.”
— Bukhari

Quotes About Suffering


“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”
― Alan W. Watts

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
― Kahlil Gibran

“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Quotes About Dreams & Possibility

“Because you are alive, everything is possible.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh


Thích Nhất Hạnh

“I love those who yearn for the impossible.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!”
― Søren Kierkegaard

“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.”
― Haruki Murakami

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes

Quotes About Change

“You could not step twice into the same river.”
― Heraclitus



“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality.”
― Lao Tzu

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
― Alan W. Watts

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
― Lao Tzu

“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”
― Margaret Mitchell

Quotes About Zen & Taoism


“Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.”
― Chuang Tzu

“You can feel an emotion; just don’t think that it’s so important.”
— John Cage

“No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.”
― Zen Proverb

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes and grass grows by itself.”
― Zenrin Kushû

“The instant you speak about a thing, you miss the mark.”
― Zen Proverb

“You must let what happens happen. Everything must be equal in your eyes, good and evil, beautiful and ugly, foolish and wise.”
― Michael Ende

“Worry is preposterous; we don’t know enough to worry.”
— Wei Boyang

“If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.”
― Zen Proverb

Quotes About Mystery

“The longer I live, the more uninformed I feel. Only the young have an explanation for everything.”
― Isabel Allende


Isabel Allende

“Mysteries abound where most we seek for answers.”
― Ray Bradbury

“He who does not answer the questions has passed the test.”
— Franz Kafka

“Talk of mysteries! — Think of our life in nature, — daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, — rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! The actual world! The common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? Where are we?
― Henry David Thoreau

“The frog in the pond knows little of the great ocean.”
― Zen Proverb

“Astonishment is the proper response to reality.”
— Terence McKenna

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

Quotes about Death

“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”
― Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes

“As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die.”
― Federico García Lorca

“Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.”
― William S. Burroughs

Quotes About Freedom


“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

“Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.”
— Alexis de Tocqueville

“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”
— Jack Kerouac

Quotes About Nature

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir


John Muir, 1907

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.”
― Hermann Hesse

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.”
― Kahlil Gibran

“The wise man knows that it is better to sit on the banks of a remote mountain stream than to be emperor of the whole world.”
― Zhuangzi

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
― Lao Tzu

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
― G.K. Chesterton

“We can never sneer at the stars, mock the dawn, or scoff at the totality of being.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.”
― Aldous Huxley

“A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”
― Walt Whitman

“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.”
― Frank Lloyd Wright

“The earth has music for those who listen.”
― George Santayana

Quotes About Genius & Insanity

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche


Friedrich Nietzsche

“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Genius is the recovery of childhood at will.”
― Arthur Rimbaud

“We are all geniuses up to the age of ten.”
― Aldous Huxley

Quotes About Meditation

“Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.”
― William S. Burroughs

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.”
― Alan W. Watts

Quotes About Religion & Morality

“In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals.”
― Mahatma Gandhi


Mahatma Gandhi

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”
― Isaac Asimov

“It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”
― Aristotle

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
― Oscar Wilde

“Right or wrong, it’s very pleasant to break something from time to time.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”
― Marshall McLuhan

“Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

“Immorality, no less than morality, has at all times found support in religion.”
― Sigmund Freud

Quotes About Relationships & Friendships

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.”
― Walt Whitman


Walt Whitman

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”
― Herman Hesse

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
― C.G. Jung

Quotes About Justice & Politics

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
― Cornel West


Cornel West

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire.”
— Lao Tzu

“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”
― Howard Zinn

Quotes About Modern Life

“We need way more intimacy than nearly anyone considers normal. Always hungry for it, we seek solace and sustenance in the closest available substitutes: television, shopping, pornography, conspicuous consumption — anything to ease the hurt, to feel connected, or to project an image by which we might be seen and known, or at least see and know ourselves.”
― Charles Eisenstein

“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.”
― Jean Baudrillard

“Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”
― Noam Chomsky

“If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy. ”
― Alvin Toffler

“Americans may have no identity, but they do have wonderful teeth.”
― Jean Baudrillard

“We in the richest societies have too many calories even as we starve for beautiful, fresh food; we have overlarge houses but lack spaces that truly embody our individuality and connectedness; media surround us everywhere while we starve for authentic communication. We are offered entertainment every second of the day but lack the chance to play. In the ubiquitous realm of money, we hunger for all that is intimate, personal, and unique.”
― Charles Eisenstein

Quotes About Compassion & Generosity

“That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”
― Simone de Beauvoir


Simone de Beauvoir

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”
― Anne Frank

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, and compassion.”
― Simone de Beauvoir

Quotes About Everything & Nothing

“Disillusionment in living is finding that no one can really ever be agreeing with you completely in anything.”
― Gertrude Stein


Gertrude Stein

“Most of our ancestors were not perfect ladies and gentlemen. The majority of them weren’t even mammals.”
― Robert Anton Wilson

“I don’t necessarily agree with everything that I say.”
― Marshall McLuhan

“A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”
― The Bhagavad Gita

“People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

“I know there is no straight road
No straight road in this world
Only a giant labyrinth
Of intersecting crossroads”
― Federico Garcia Lorca

“I’ve often lost myself, in order to find the burn that keeps everything awake”
― Federico García Lorca

“The menu is not the meal.”
― Alan W. Watts

“you are not too old
and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out
it’s own secret”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

“Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.”
― Marshall McLuhan

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

For an endless stream of wonderful quotes, be sure to follow High Existence on Facebook and Twitter.

Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates is a lover of God, father, leadership coach, heart healer, writer, artist, and long-time co-creator of HighExistence. —

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