query on quote

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Mon Jun 26 17:55:13 UTC 2006

On Sun, 25 Jun 2006, Laurence Horn wrote:

> Does Fred or anyone else have an attestation for the conditional
> statement variously attributed to Nietzsche or to Dostoyevsky, "If
> God is dead, everything is permitted"?

This is a favorite of mine, in that it's a good example of a very famous
literary quotation omitted by Bartlett's and the Oxford Dictionary of
Quotations.  Here is the entry from the forthcoming Yale Book of

If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love
but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be
dried up.  Moreover, nothing then would be immoral, everything would be
   Dostoyevski, The Brothers Karamazov bk. 2, ch. 6 (1879-1880)
(translation by Constance Garnett).  Famously paraphrased as "If God does
not exist, then everything is permitted."

[The first sentence of the quotation above is in Bartlett's and Oxford,
but the second sentence, which is the crucial one, is not.]

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS
   Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu               http://quotationdictionary.com

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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