Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Max Otto, fully Max Carl Otto

German born American Professor of Philosophy and Author

"To save one’s soul is not an instantaneous deed, but a life-long adventure… The creation of a type of personality through loyalty to concrete values as these are at issue in everyday experience."

"Morality is a means for the satisfaction of human wants. In other words, morality must justify itself at the bar of life, not life at the bar of morality."

"The formulas and instruments of all our inherited religions were shaped in accordance with a world-outlook and a world-order which we have outgrown and to which we can never return."

"The standard device for getting around a logical contradiction by elevating it to the status of a truth beyond logic."

"Publication of the "Humanist Manifesto" will, in my opinion, serve no sufficient purpose. I cannot believe with you that it will clarify the public mind, or do constructive work for the cause. A set of fifteen principles, detached from the living experience which precipitated them and lacking the life and warmth of the interests they represent, can do little to inform the mind and nothing to stir the heart. Humanism—if I understand the philosophy of it—cannot be "sold" to people. If the "Manifesto" were a rallying cry issuing with glowing conviction from a group on the march together, or if it gave promise of gripping men and women of humanistic leanings, drawing them into closer, more understanding and more active unity, it would be a desirable signal. Unfortunately, I see no such service in it. And experience has taught me to beware of deceiving myself into thinking something has really been done when all that has been done is that something has been said. It would be easier for me to write, "Sure, go ahead, put me down." If I take the harder course and do not sign the document which I know will carry the names of men I greatly admire and respect, it is because of a deep conviction that the "Manifesto" will prove to be an ineffectual gesture, and a tactical error."

"I cannot believe that publishing the "Humanist Manifesto" will in the slightest degree "clarify the public mind" or "constitute a constructive work" in any significant sense. It will, on the contrary, I fear, be one of those theoretical gestures which leave with some persons a feeling that something has really been done when all that has been done is that something has been said. I am of the opinion that Humanism, as I understand the philosophy of it, cannot be "sold" to men and women; it must be attained by them, and that means slow, painstaking work. Much as I regret to say, No, to your request that I join you in a general announcement of ideas and aims, I do so with real conviction. Why must we, too, advertise?"