Arnold J. Toynbee, fully Arnold Joseph Toynbee

Arnold J.
Toynbee, fully Arnold Joseph Toynbee

English Economic Historian

Author Quotes

Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, which takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.

Human dignity...can be achieved only in the field of ethics, and ethical achievement is measured by the degree in which our actions are governed by compassion and love, not by greed and aggressiveness.

Western Civilization stands not for technology, but the sacredness of the individual human personality.

We are in the first age since the dawn of civilization in which people have dared to think it practicable to make the benefits of civilization available to the whole human race.

To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization.

Thinking for oneself is always arduous and is sometimes painful. The temptation to stop thinking and to take dogma on faith is strong. Yet, since the intellect does possess the capacity to think for itself, it also has the impulse and feels the obligation. We may therefore feel sure that the intellect will always refuse, sooner or later, to take traditional doctrines on trust.

Theology is an incubus that a humanist can never shake off. He may seek refuge from theism in atheism or from animism in materialism. But after each desperate twist and turn he will find himself committed to some theological position or other. Theology is inescapable, and it is dynamite.

There is going to be a race between mass self-education and mass self-destruction.

The value of the goal lies in the goal itself; and therefore the goal cannot be attained unless it is pursued for its own sake.

The things that make good headlines attract our attention because they are on the surface of the stream of life and they distract our attention from the slower, impalpable, imponderable movements that work below the surface and penetrate to the depths. But, of course, it is really these deeper, slower movement that, in the end, make history, and it is they that stand out huge in retrospect, when the sensational passing events have dwindled, in perspective, to their true proportions.

The regular social progress though which a growing society advances from one stage in its growth to another is a compound movement in which a creative individual or minority first withdraws from the common life of the society, then works out, in seclusion, a solution for some problem with which the society as a whole is confronted, and finally re-enters into communion with the rest of society in order to help it forward on its road by imparting to it the results of the creative work which the temporarily secluded individual or minority has accomplished during the interval between withdrawal and return.

The missions of the higher religions are not competitive; they are complementary. We can believe in our own religion without having to feel that it is the sole repository of truth.

The human race’s prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenseless against tigers than they are today when we have become defenseless against ourselves.

The greater the power that we have to change the World into something nearer to our ideal, the greater becomes our distress at our failing to perform those beneficent and useful acts of creation which we know to be within our power.

The historian’s elemental question: “How has this come out of that?”

The emergence of a superman or a great mystic or a genius or a superior personality inevitably precipitates a social conflict. The conflict will be more or less acute, according to the degree in which the creative individual happens to rise above the average level of his former kin and kind. But some conflict is inevitable, since the social equilibrium which the genius has upset by the mere fact of his personal emergence has eventually to be restored either by his social triumph or by his social defeat.

The distinctive characteristics of human nature are the freedom of the human consciousness and the human will.

The brotherhood of Man presupposes the fatherhood of God.

The aim, and test, of progress under a truly Christian dispensation on Earth would not lie in the field of mundane social life; the field would be the spiritual life of individual souls in their passage through this earthly life from birth into this world to death out of it.

The aim of all education is, or should be, to teach people to educate themselves.

Suffering is the essence of life, because it is the inevitable product of an unresolved tension between a living creature’s essential impulse to try to make itself into the centre of the Universe and its essential dependence on the rest of Creation and on the Absolute Reality.

The action of the creative individual may be described as a twofold motion of withdrawal-and-return: withdrawal for the purpose of his personal enlightenment, return for the task of enlightening his fellow men.

So long as a church is proscribed, it can build up a new society at its own peril without being implicated in the old society’s weaknesses and sins.

So far there has been no known human society in which the distinction between right and wrong, and the obligation to do right, have been denied.

Science’s horizon is limited by the bounds of Nature, the ideologies by the bounds of social life, but the human soul’s range cannot be confined within either of these limits.

Author Picture
First Name
Arnold J.
Last Name
Toynbee, fully Arnold Joseph Toynbee
Birth Date
Death Date

English Economic Historian