Sissela Bok

Swedish-American philosopher

Sissela Bok (born Myrdal; 2 December 1934) is a Swedish-born American philosopher and ethicist, the daughter of two Nobel Prize winners: Gunnar Myrdal who won the Economics prize with Friedrich Hayek in 1974, and Alva Myrdal who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. She is considered one of the premier American women moral philosophers of the latter part of the 20th century.


  • Evil means, he insisted, corrupt and degrade not only the purposes for which they are undertaken but also the persons who stoop to such means. Overcoming the urge to resort to such means is hardest when one aims to rectify past injustices. It is because ‘hate the sin and not the sinner’ is a precept so rarely practiced that the poison of hatred spreads in the world.
    • Forward, Gandhi: An Autobiography (1993)
  • Whatever matters to human beings, trust is the atmosphere in which it thrives.
  • When we undertake to deceive others intentionally, we communicate messages meant to mislead them, meant to make them believe what we ourselves do not believe. We can do so through gesture, through disguise, by means of action or inaction, even through silence.
  • Trust and integrity are precious resources, easily squandered, hard to regain. They can thrive only on a foundation of respect for veracity.
  • The role that one assigns to truthfulness will always remain central in considering what kind of person one wants to be—how one wishes to treat, not only other people, but oneself.
  • Any awareness of how lies spread must generate a real sensitivity to the fact that most lies believed to be white are unnecessary if not downright undesirable.
  • Act only on the maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
  • Honesty from health professionals matters more to patients than almost everything else that they experience when ill.
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