Here are some general statements suggesting to humans how they should conduct their lives, with comments on possible limitations:
Immanuel Kant — Categorical Imperative – “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” This is too generalized and how can one possibly know what every person’s situations are going to be?
Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin — Declaration of Independence – “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It’s a good idea for everyone to grant those three options to every person they ever meet, except when that person makes it clear that if you do follow those suggestions they will use your good intentions to take those freedoms away from you and others.
Yogi Berra – “When you come to a fork in the road take it.” – When you must make a decision don’t vacillate needlessly.
Karl Marx – “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The problem with this idea is that people feel their needs to consume goods more strongly than their desire to create them.
Jeremy Bentham — “The greatest good for the greatest number.” With that theory in practice, the living population drops by half with every application.
Bhagavad Gita — “Act without attachment to the result.” Interest in your actions and its results may bring pain, or it may bring pleasure, but attachment makes life interesting and worth living. You will gain freedom from these soon enough, that is, when you die, so why torture yourself with unnecessary restrictions?
Adam Smith — “He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.” If everyone is free to choose what is in their self-interest with no limitations it will profit everyone, because prices of goods will be driven to their cost of getting them to the buyer. Unfortunately, everyone in the chain from to creator to buyer seeks a quick profit for his temporary possession of the goods.
Adam Smith, Patrick Mathew, Alfred Wallace, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer — “Survival of the fittest.” It took a century for this simple idea to move from Smith’s application to business to its application by Spencer into a good quote about living species.
Socrates – “Examine your life for the unexamined life is not worth living.” I would respond that an unlived life is not worth examining. If you have the time, do it all.
The Eloquent Peasant – 2040 BC – “Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you.” This ancient Golden Rule preceded the statement commonly attributed to Jesus by two thousand years.
Jesus – “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” This is the original English, King James Version, (KJV) of Matthew 7-12 and it is far more meaningful than the word “would” because that word limits a person to the level of their current state of maturity. Should in the context of the statement beckons a person to a higher level of maturity.
All 147 Delphic maxims – Some examples from the middle. – With comment.
31. “Shun every form of evil.” When you see something you shouldn’t do, don’t do it.
32. “Participate in events.” Life is made meaningful by participation in what’s available.
33. “Protect what’s valuable.” If something is worth having it’s worth protecting.
34. “Respect people’s stuff.” That rule applies to others’ stuff too.
35. “Respect people’s thoughts.” People have come to their own thoughts as you did.
36. “Keep religion personal.” Everyone has their own reasons for being.
37. “Do many kindnesses for friends.” Kindness improves everyone and everything.
38. “Prevent excess.” Any more than just right is too much, and more is even worse.