practice of honesty and sincerity in expression

Candor refers to the practice of honesty and sincerity in expression, and often implies a stance of fairness and impartiality in regard to fundamental assessments of people, their beliefs, and general issues of concern. It is often contrasted with practices of hypocrisy and deliberate deceitfulness.


  • Candor is a proof of both a just frame of mind, and of a good tone of breeding. It is a quality that belongs, equally to the honest man and to the gentleman: to the first, as doing to others as we would ourselves be done by; to the last, as indispensable to the liberality of the character.
    By candor we are not to understand trifling and uncalled for expositions of truth; but a sentiment that proves a conviction of the necessity of speaking truth, when speaking at all; a contempt for all designing evasions of our real opinions; and a deep conviction that he who deceives by necessary implication, deceives willfully.
    In all the general concerns, the publick has a right to be treated with candor. Without this manly and truly republican quality, republican because no power exists in the country to intimidate any from its exhibition, the institutions are converted into a stupendous fraud.
    • James Fenimore Cooper, "On Candor" in The American Democrat: or, Hints on the Social and Civic Relations of the United States of America (1838), p. 115
  • The one who uses parrhesia, the parrhesiastes, is someone who says everything he has in mind: he does not hide anything, but opens his heart and mind completely to other people through his discourse. In parrhesia, the speaker is supposed to give a complete and exact account of what he has in mind so that the audience is able to comprehend exactly what the speaker thinks. The word "parrhesia" then, refers to a type of relationship between the speaker and what he says. For in parrhesia, the speaker makes it manifestly clear and obvious that what he says is his own opinion. And he does this by avoiding any kind of rhetorical form which would veil what he thinks. Instead, the parrhesiastes uses the most direct words and forms of expression he can find. Whereas rhetoric provides the speaker with technical devices to help him prevail upon the minds of his audience (regardless of the rhetorician's own opinion concerning what he says), in parrhesia, the parrhesiastes acts on other people's mind by showing them as directly as possible what he actually believes.
    • Michel Foucault, "The Meaning and Evolution of the Word Parrhesia," Discourse and Truth: the Problematization of Parrhesia
  • It seems to me that even the bluntest word, the bluntest letter is still more good-natured, still more honest, than silence. . . . All who remain silent are dyspeptic. Clearly I would not have bluntness underestimated: it is by far the most humane form of contradiction and, amid modern pampering, one of our foremost virtues.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, in Ecce Homo
  • Candor is a compliment; it implies equality. It's how true friends talk.
    • Peggy Noonan, in What I Saw at the Revolution : A Political Life in the Reagan Era (1990), p. 321
  • Noble souls, whose brightness the greed of fortune cannot dim, have a kingly something, which urges them to contend on equal footing with persons of the most massive dignity and pits freedom of speech against arrogance.
    • Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 126
  • Innocence in genius, and candor in power, are both noble qualities.
  • Candor is always a double-edged sword; it may heal or it may separate.
  • Candor and generosity, unless tempered by due moderation, leads to ruin.
    • Tacitus, as quoted in Quote Junkie: Greek and Roman : An Interesting Collection of Quotes from the Greatest Greek and Roman Philosophers and Leaders (2008), edited by the Hagopian Institute, p. 62
  • How beautiful is candor! All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor.

See also

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