The 25 Greatest Quotes from Eric Hoffer About Human Nature
Understanding human nature in just 25 quotes
Eric Hoffer was known as the “Longshoreman Philosopher,” and he died back in 1983. Regrettably, although Hoffer achieved a certain level of fame, it did not correspond to his level of brilliance. You can learn an incredible amount about human beings in general and mass movements in particular from reading Eric Hoffer’s books and the next best thing to reading his books is reading his quotes. Enjoy – and I hope you learn something valuable!
25) "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business."
24) "Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength."
23) "You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."
22) "To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Though it is held before our eyes, pushed under our noses, rammed down our throats — we know it not."
21) "We clamor for equality chiefly in matters in which we ourselves cannot hope to attain excellence. To discover what a man truly craves but knows he cannot have we must find the field in which he advocates absolute equality."
20) "The attempt to justify an evil deed has perhaps more pernicious consequences than the evil deed itself. The justification of a past crime is the planting and cultivation of future crimes. Indeed, the repetition of a crime is sometimes part of a device of justification: we do it again and again to convince ourselves and others that it is a common thing and not an enormity."
19) "To find the cause of our ills in something outside ourselves, something specific that can be spotted and eliminated, is a diagnosis that cannot fail to appeal."
18) "The sick in soul insist that it is humanity that is sick, and they are the surgeons to operate on it. They want to turn the world into a sick room. And once they get humanity strapped to the operating table, they operate on it with an ax."
17) "Freedom aggravates at least as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual."
16) "The danger of the fanatic to the development of a movement is that he cannot settle down. Once victory has been won and the new order begins to crystalize, the fanatic becomes an element of strain and disruption. The taste for strong feeling drives him on to search for mysteries yet to be revealed and secret doors yet to be opened. He keeps groping for extremes. This on the morrow of victory most mass movements find themselves in the grip of dissension. The ardor which yesterday found an outlet in a life-and-death struggle with external enemies now vents itself in violent disputes and clash of factions."
15) "The truth seems to be that propaganda on its own cannot force its way into unwilling minds; neither can it inculcate something wholly new; nor can it keep people persuaded once they have ceased to believe. It penetrates only into minds already open, and rather than instill opinion it articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of its recipients. The gifted propagandist brings to a boil ideas and passions already simmering in the minds of its hearers. He echoes their innermost feelings. Where opinion is coerced, people can be made to believe only in what they already 'know.'"
14) "A nation is 'tired' when it ceases to want things fervently. It makes no difference whether this blunting of desire is due to satiety, reasonableness, or disillusion. To a tired nation, the future seems barren, offering nothing which would surpass that which is or has been. The main effect of a real revolution is perhaps that it sweeps away those who do not know how to wish and brings to the front men with insatiable appetites for action, power, and all that the world has to offer."
13) "How frighteningly few are the persons whose death would spoil our appetite and make the world seem empty."
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12) "There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day; we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life."
11) "The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves."
10) "The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."
9) "Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually, the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil."
8) "We are likely to have a regard for the opinion of others only when there is a chance that the opinion might be now and then in our favor."
7) "Those who clamor loudest for freedom are often the ones least likely to be happy in a free society. The frustrated, oppressed by their shortcomings, blame their failure on existing restraints. Actually, their innermost desire is for an end to the “free for all.” They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is continually subjected in a free society."
6) "In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists."
5) "Discontent is likely to be highest when misery is bearable; when conditions have so improved that an ideal state seems almost within reach. A grievance is most poignant when almost redressed."
4) "The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world."
3) "An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head."
2) "One does not really love mankind when one expects too much from them."
1) "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."