If we would indicate an idea which, throughout the whole course of history, has ever more and more widely extended its empire, or which, more than any other, testifies to the much-contested and still more decidedly misunderstood perfectibility of the whole human race, it is that of establishing our common humanity -- of striving to remove the barriers which prejudice and limited views of every kind have erected among men, and to treat all mankind, without reference to religion, nation, or color, as one fraternity, one great community, fitted for the attainment of one object, the unrestrained development of the physical powers. This is the ultimate and highest aim of society.
WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT, Alexander von Humboldt's Kosmos
There is a pride which belongs to every rightly-constituted mind, though it is scarcely to be called pride, but rather a proper estimate of self; it is, properly speaking, the elevation of mind which arises when we feel that we have mastered some noble idea and made it our own; man is proud of the idea only so far as he feels that it has become part of himself.
WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT, attributed, Beautiful Thoughts from German and Spanish Authors
All merit ceases the moment we perform an act for the sake of its consequences.
WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT, Letters to a Female Friend
The historian's task is to present what actually happened. The more purely and completely he achieves this, the more perfectly has he solved this problem. A simple presentation is at the same time the primary indispensable condition of his work and the highest achievement he will be able to attain. Regarded in this way, he seems to be merely receptive and productive, not active and creative.
WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT, "The Historian's Task"