Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Erich Fromm, fully Erich Seligmann Fromm

German Social Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Humanistic Philosopher, and Democratic Socialist, associated with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory

"All genuine ideals have one thing in common: they express the desire for something which is not yet accomplished but which is desirable for the purposes of the growth and happiness of the individual."

"Exclusive love is a contradiction in itself."

"Every action of the enemy is judged by one standard – every action of oneself by another."

"In mysticism… the attempt is given up to know God by thought, and it is replaced by the experience of union with God in which there is no more room – and no need – for knowledge about God."

"Immature love says, "I love you because I need you." Mature love says, "I need you because I love you.""

"Freedom, the ability to preserve one’s integrity against power, is the basic condition for morality."

"It is the emancipation from the security of Paradise which is the basis for man’s truly human development."

"In our effort to escape from aloneness and powerlessness, we are ready to get rid of our individual self either by submission to new forms of authority or by a compulsive conforming to accepted patterns."

"Is there really as much difference as we think between the Aztec human sacrifices to their gods and the modern human sacrifices in war to the idols of nationalism and the sovereign state?"

"Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence."

"Love is union under the condition of preserving one’s intergrity."

"Love, the Answer to the Problem of Human Existence."

"Love never claims, it ever gives."

"Man is the only animal that can be bored."

"Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows what he wants, while he actually wants what he is supposed to want."

"Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality."

"Once a doctrine, however irrational, has gained power in a society, millions of people will believe in it rather than feel ostracized and isolated."

"Neurotic symptoms are not isolated phenomena which can be dealt with independently from moral problems."

"Power on the one side, fear on the other, are always the buttresses on which irrational authority is built."

"Religion: What at one time was a dynamic structure, mediating between man and his destiny and interpersonal responsibilities, has become mere mechanical ritual that dwarfs men rather than strengthens them."

"Responsibility could easily deteriorate into domination and possessiveness were it not for respect… respect means the concern that the other person should grow and unfold as he is."

"The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother's side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother and to become fully independent."

"The inability to act spontaneously, to express what one genuinely feels and thinks, and the resulting necessity to present a pseudo-self to others and oneself, are the root of the feeling of inferiority and weakness."

"The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel people to unfold their powers."

"The lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness."

"The pleasure in the complete domination over another person (or other animate objects) is the very essence of the sadistic drive."

"There is no meaning in life except the meaning man gives his life by the unfolding of his power, by living productively… Only constant vigilance, activity, and effort can keep us from failing in the one task that matters – the full development of our powers within the limitations set up by the laws of our existence."

"The respect due the authority carries with it the taboo on questioning it."

"The specific meaning of God depends on what is the most desirable good for a person."

"Words can become idols, and machines can become idols; leaders, the state, power, and political groups may also serve. Science and the opinion of one’s neighbors can become idols, and God has become an idol for many."

"Without faith man becomes sterile, hopeless and afraid to the very core of his being."

"There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as “moral indignation,” which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue. The “indignant” person has for once the satisfaction of despising and treating a creature as “inferior,” coupled with the feeling of his own superiority and rightness."

"Whatever complaints the neurotic patient may have, whatever symptoms he may present are rooted in his inability to love, if we mean by love a capacity for the experience of concern, responsibility, respect, and understanding of another person and the intense desire for that other person’s growth."

"All men are born equal, but they are also born different. "

"Giving is the highest expression of potency. "

"How many parents experience the child's reactions in terms of his being obedient, of giving them pleasure, of being a care to them, and so forth, instead of perceiving or even being interested in what the child feels for and by himself?"

"Human history begins with man's act of disobedience which is at the very same time the beginning of his freedom and development of his reason."

"In contrast to symbiotic union, mature love is union under the condition of preserving one's integrity, one's individuality. Love is an active power in man; a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men, which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the sense of isolation and separateness, yet it permits him to be himself, to retain his integrity. In love, the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two. "

"Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one "object" of love. "

"Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve. "

"Moral indignation permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue. "

"Respect is not fear and awe; it...is the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality. Respect, thus, implies the absence of exploitation. I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me."

"Love is the only way of knowledge, which in the act of union answers my quest. In the act of loving, of giving myself, in the act of penetrating the other person, I find myself, I discover myself, I discover us both, I discover man. "

"The average person's consciousness is mainly "false consciousness," consisting of fictions and illusion, while precisely what he is not aware of is reality."

"The complete satisfaction of all instinctual needs is not only not a basis for happiness, it does not even satisfy sanity."

"Mature love is union under the condition of preserving one's integrity, one's individuality... In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two."

"The realm of love, reason, and justice exists only because, and inasmuch as, man has been able to develop these powers in himself throughout the process of his evolution. In this view there is no meaning to life except the meaning man himself gives to it; man is utterly alone except inasmuch as he helps another. "

"The deepest need of man is the need to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness. "

"The paradoxical -- and tragic -- situation of man is that his conscience is weakest when he needs it most. "

"The unity in productive (creative) work is not interpersonal; the unity achieved in orgiastic fusion is transitory; the unity achieved by conformity is only pseudo-unity. Hence they are only partial answers to the problem of existence. The full answer lies in the achievement of interpersonal union, of fusion with another person, in love. "