Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Human nature

"It is when we detect our own weaknesses that we come to pity or despise mankind. The human nature from which we then turn away is the human nature we have discovered in the depths of our own being. The evil is so well screened, the secret so universally kept, that in this case each individual is the dupe of all: however severely we may profess to judge other men, at bottom we think them better than ourselves. On this happy illusion much of our social life is grounded." - Henri Bergson, aka Henri-Louis Bergson

"Perhaps the most important lesson the world has learned in the past fifty years is that it is not true that "human nature is unchangeable."" - Bruce Bliven

"Part of human nature resents change, loves equilibrium, while another part welcomes novelty, loves the excitement of disequilibrium. There is no formula for the resolution of this tug-of-war, but it is obvious that absolute surrender to either of them invites disaster." - Wernher von Braun, fully Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun

"The best answer to all objections urged against prayer is that fact that man cannot help praying; for we may be sure that which is so spontaneous and ineradicable in human nature has its fitting objects and methods in the arrangement of a boundless Providence." - Edwin Hubbell Chapin

"Moral principles that exalt themselves by degrading human nature are in effect committing suicide." - John Dewey

"People may change their minds as often as their coats, and new sets of rules of conduct may be written every week, but the fact remains that human nature has not changed and does not change, that inherent human beliefs stay the same; the fundamental rules of human conduct continue to hold." - Lammot du Pont

"There is a sort of knowledge beyond the power of learning to bestow, and this is to be had in conversation; so necessary is this to the understanding the characters of men, that none are more ignorant of them than those learned pedants whose lives have been entirely consumed in colleges and among books; for however exquisitely human nature may have been described by writers the true practical system can be learned only in the world." - Henry Fielding

"The center of human nature is rooted in ten thousand ordinary acts of kindness that define our days." - Stephan Jay Gould

"The business of philosophy is to circumnavigate human nature." - Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855) and his brother Augustus William Hare

"It is universally acknowledged that there is a great uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same, in its principles and operations. The same motives always produce the same actions: the same events follow the same causes. Ambition, avarice, self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit: these passions, mixed in various degrees, and distributed through society, have been from the beginning of the world, and still are, the source of all the actions and enterprises, which have ever been observed among mankind." - David Hume

"The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." - William James

"The highest flights of charity, devotion, trust, patience, bravery to which the wings of human nature have spread themselves have been flown for religious ideals." - William James

"Everything that looks to the future elevates human nature; for never is life so low or so little as when occupied with the present." - Walter Savage Landor

"The enemy of art is the enemy of nature; art is nothing but the highest sagacity and exertions of human nature; and what nature will be honor who honors not the human?" - Johann Kaspar Lavater

"Among the many strong servilities mistaken for piety, one of the least lovely is that which hopes to flatter God by despising the world and vilifying human nature." - George Henry Lewes

"Since man is endowed with intelligence and determines his own ends, it is up to him to put himself in tune with the ends necessarily demanded by his nature. This means that there is, by very virtue of human nature, an order or a disposition which human reason can discover and according to which the human will must act in order to attune itself to the necessary ends of the human being. The unwritten law, or natural law, is nothing more than that." - Jacques Maritain

"Man's conquest of nature has been astonishing. His failure to conquer human nature has been tragic." - Julius Mark

"The defects of human nature afford us opportunities of exercising our philosophy, the best employment of our virtues. If all men were righteous, all hearts true and frank and loyal, what use would our virtues be?" - Molière, pen name of Jean Baptiste Poquelin NULL

"Human beings are not born with human nature - they develop it." - Ashley Montagu, fully Montague Francis Ashley Montagu, born Israel Ehrenberg

"Through a fatality inseparable from human nature, moderation in great men is very rare: and as it is always much easier to push on force in the direction in which it moves than to stop its movement, so in the superior class of the people, it is less difficult, perhaps, to find men extremely virtuous, than extremely prudent." - Baron de Montesquieu, fully Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu

"You have not converted a man, because you have silenced him... The small reform may become the enemy of the great one... The most frightful idea that has ever corroded human nature-the idea of eternal punishment." -

"Exceptional abilities develop most fully in cultures that prize them... no aspect of human nature is immune to social influence." - Michael Murphy

"Human nature is so constructed that it gives affection most readily to those who seem least to demand it." -

"To attain excellence in society, an assemblage of qualification is requisite: disciplined intellect, to think clearly, and to clothe thought with propriety and elegance; knowledge of human nature, to suit subject to character; true politeness, to prevent giving pain; a deep sense of morality, to preserve the dignity of speech; and a spirit of benevolence, to neutralize its asperities, and sanctify its powers." - Lydia Sigourney, fully Lydia Huntley Sigourney, née Lydia Howard Huntley

"With the gain of knowledge, connect the habit of imparting it. This increases mental wealth by putting it in circulation; and it enhances the value of our knowledge to ourselves, not only in its depth, confirmation and readiness for use, but in that acquaintance with human nature, that self-command, and that reaction of moral training upon ourselves, which are above all price." - Lydia Sigourney, fully Lydia Huntley Sigourney, née Lydia Howard Huntley

"Good character is human nature in its best form. It is moral order embodied in the individual. Men of character are not only the conscience of society, but in every well governed state they are its best motive power; for it is moral qualities which, in the main, rule the world." - Samuel Smiles

"Prejudices may be intense, but their lives are limited. To discover when they are dead and to bury them, is an important matter, and no unseemly tears should be shed at their funerals... Human nature is so constituted, that all see, and judge better, in the affairs of other men, than in their own." -

"Even granting the author [Rutherford]... his main principle, ‘That every man’s own happiness is the ultimate end, which nature and reason teach him to pursue’, why may not nature and reason teach him, too, to have some desire to see others happy as well as himself, or give him some delight in doing what seems fit and right, if these things do not interfere with his own happiness?... Why may he not, with the pursuit of that end, join some other pursuits not inconsistent with it, instead of transforming every benevolent affection, every moral view, into self-interest? This surely neither does honour to religion, nor justice to human nature." - Catharine Trotter Cockburn

"One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea." - Walter Bagehot

"One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea." -

"Man have long begun to suspect that civilization's repression of our primitive impulses has somehow warped what are potentially the most productive forces in human nature. We are increasingly disturbed by the thought that society's passion for obedience and conformity may have overreached itself, causing us to lose in individual happiness perhaps as much as we have gained in group activity." -

"There is no problem of human nature which is insoluble." - Ralph Bunche, fully Ralph Johnson Bunche

"There do remain dispersed in the soil of human nature divers seeds of goodness, of benignity, of ingenuity, which being cherished, excited, and quickened by good culture, do by common experience thrust out flowers very lovely, and yield fruits very pleasant of virtue and goodness." -

"In so complex a thing as human nature, we must consider it is hard to find rules without exception." - George Eliot, pen name of Mary Ann or Marian Evans

"He who knows no hardships will know no hardihood. He who faces no calamity will need no courage. Mysterious though it is, the characteristics in human nature which we love best grow in the soil with strong mixture of troubles." - Harry Emerson Fosdick

"It is human nature to think wisely and act foolishly." - Anatole France, pen name of Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault

"It is part of human nature to think wise things and do ridiculous ones." - Anatole France, pen name of Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault

"Slavery is an atrocious debasement of human nature." - Benjamin Franklin

"The most beautiful as well as the most ugly inclinations of man are not part of a fixed and biologically given human nature, but result from the social process which creates man." -

"To ask for overt renunciation of a cherished doctrine is to expect too much of human nature. Men do not repudiate the doctrines and dogma to which they have sworn their loyalty. Instead they rationalize, revise, and reinterpret them to meet new needs and new circumstances, all the while protesting that their heresy is the purest orthodoxy." - J. William Galbraith

"Negative thinking is depriving people of their natural birthright of health. It is the prime cause in shortening the lives of so many of us. And yet it is so simple to live a healthier, longer and so much happier life. We have only to recognize how God works His wonders through laws governing nature and "human nature."" - Walter M. Germain

"Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature, by showing men in all varieties of circumstances and situations, and furnishing us with materials from which we may form our observations and become acquainted with the regular springs of human action and behavior." - David Hume

"The fountain of content must spring up in the mind; and he who has so little knowledge of human nature as to see happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he proposes to remove." -

"There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny, that will keep us safe under every form of government." -

"Nature has given women two painful but heavenly gifts, which distinguish them, and often raise them above human nature - compassion and enthusiasm. By compassion, they devote themselves; by enthusiasm they exalt themselves." - Alphonse de Lamartine, fully Alphonse Marie Louis de Lamartine

"War is no more inevitable than the plague is inevitable. War is no more a part of human nature than the burning of witches is a human act." - Nancy Gentile Ford

"As ages roll on there is doubtless a progression in human nature. The intellectual comes to rule the physical, and the moral claims to subordinate both. It is no longer strength of body that prevails, but strength of mind; while the law of God proclaims itself superior to both." - James McCosh

"The most frightful idea that has ever corroded human nature - the idea of eternal punishment." -

"Human nature is not of itself vicious." - Thomas Paine