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Eric Hoffer

Birthdate: 25. July 1898
Date of death: 21. May 1983

Eric Hoffer was an American moral and social philosopher. He was the author of ten books and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983. His first book, The True Believer , was widely recognized as a classic, receiving critical acclaim from both scholars and laymen, although Hoffer believed that The Ordeal of Change was his finest work. Wikipedia

Works

„There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem.“

—  Eric Hoffer, book The True Believer

Section 10
The True Believer (1951), Part One: The Appeal of Mass Movements
Context: There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless.

„The best education will not immunize a person against corruption by power.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Source: Before the Sabbath (1979), p. 40-41
Context: The best education will not immunize a person against corruption by power. The best education does not automatically make people compassionate. We know this more clearly than any preceding generation. Our time has seen the best-educated society, situated in the heart of the most civilized part of the world, give birth to the most murderously vengeful government in history.
Forty years ago the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead thought it self-evident that you would get a good government if you took power out of the hands of the acquisitive and gave it to the learned and the cultivated. At present, a child in kindergarten knows better than that.

„One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solution of the world's problems will produce anything of lasting value.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Section 60
Reflections on the Human Condition (1973)
Context: One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solution of the world's problems will produce anything of lasting value. Such a generation, even when equipped with the most modern technology, will be essentially primitive — it will stand in awe of nature, and submit to the tutelage of medicine men.

„The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Israel's Peculiar Position (1968)
Context: The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it, Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchman. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese — and no one says a word about refugees.
But in the case of Israel the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab.
Arnold J. Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis. Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace.

„They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Section 77
Reflections on the Human Condition (1973)
Context: They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune, rather than to insufficient application. At the core of every true talent there is an awareness of the difficulties inherent in any achievement, and the confidence that by persistence and patience something worthwhile will be realized. Thus talent is a species of vigor.

„The sick in soul insist that it is humanity that is sick, and they are the surgeons to operate on it.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Section 124
The Passionate State Of Mind, and Other Aphorisms (1955)
Context: 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 sickroom. And once they get humanity strapped to the operating table, they operate on it with an ax.

„They who clamor loudest for freedom are often the ones least likely to be happy in a free society.“

—  Eric Hoffer, book The True Believer

Section 28
The True Believer (1951), Part Two: The Potential Converts
Context: Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: to be one thread of the many which make up a tunic; one thread not distinguishable from the others. No one can then point us out, measure us against others and expose our inferiority.
They 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.

„The desire for praise is more imperative than the desire for food and shelter.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Entry (1952)
Context: This food-and-shelter theory concerning man's efforts is without insight. Our most persistent and spectacular efforts are concerned not with the preservation of what we are but with the building up of an imaginary conception of ourselves in the opinion of others. The desire for praise is more imperative than the desire for food and shelter.

„How terribly hard and almost impossible it is to tell the truth.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Entry (1954)
Context: How terribly hard and almost impossible it is to tell the truth. More than anything else, the artist in us prevents us from telling aught as it really happened. We deal with the truth as the cook deals with meat and vegetables.

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„Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Journal entry (28 March 1959)
Working and Thinking on the Waterfront (1969)
Context: The significant point is that people unfit for freedom — who cannot do much with it — are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a "have" type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a "have-not" type of self. If Hitler had had the talents and the temperament of a genuine artist, if Stalin had had the capacity to become a first-rate theoretician, if Napoleon had had the makings of a great poet or philosopher they would hardly have developed the all-consuming lust for absolute power.
Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness. Absolute power can also bestow uniqueness: to have absolute power is to have the power to reduce all the people around us to puppets, robots, toys, or animals, and be the only man in sight. Absolute power achieves uniqueness by dehumanizing others.
To sum up: Those who lack the capacity to achieve much in an atmosphere of freedom will clamor for power.

„There is fear and intolerance in pride; it is sensitive and uncompromising. The less promise and potency in the self, the more imperative is the need for pride. The core of pride is self-rejection.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Section 35
The Passionate State Of Mind, and Other Aphorisms (1955)
Context: Pride is a sense of worth derived from something that is not organically part of us, while self-esteem derives from the potentialities and achievements of the self. We are proud when we identify ourselves with an imaginary self, a leader, a holy cause, a collective body or possessions. There is fear and intolerance in pride; it is sensitive and uncompromising. The less promise and potency in the self, the more imperative is the need for pride. The core of pride is self-rejection.
It is true that when pride releases energies and serves as a spur to achievement, it can lead to a reconciliation with the self and the attainment of genuine self-esteem.

„Those who lack the capacity to achieve much in an atmosphere of freedom will clamor for power.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Journal entry (28 March 1959)
Working and Thinking on the Waterfront (1969)
Context: The significant point is that people unfit for freedom — who cannot do much with it — are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a "have" type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a "have-not" type of self. If Hitler had had the talents and the temperament of a genuine artist, if Stalin had had the capacity to become a first-rate theoretician, if Napoleon had had the makings of a great poet or philosopher they would hardly have developed the all-consuming lust for absolute power.
Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness. Absolute power can also bestow uniqueness: to have absolute power is to have the power to reduce all the people around us to puppets, robots, toys, or animals, and be the only man in sight. Absolute power achieves uniqueness by dehumanizing others.
To sum up: Those who lack the capacity to achieve much in an atmosphere of freedom will clamor for power.

„Too many words dilute and blur ideas.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Letter to Mrs. Blumberg (27 September 1977)
Context: Wordiness is a sickness of American writing. Too many words dilute and blur ideas.

„The urge to escape our real self is also an urge to escape the rational and the obvious.“

—  Eric Hoffer, book The True Believer

Section 59
The True Believer (1951), Part Three: United Action and Self-Sacrifice
Context: The urge to escape our real self is also an urge to escape the rational and the obvious. The refusal to see ourselves as we are develops a distaste for facts and cold logic. There is no hope for the frustrated in the actual and the possible. Salvation can come to them only from the miraculous, which seeps through a crack in the iron wall of inexorable reality. They ask to be deceived. What Stresemann said of the Germans is true of the frustrated in general: "[They] pray not only for [their] daily bread, but also for [their] daily illusion." The rule seems to be that those who find difficulty in deceiving themselves are easily deceived by others. They are easily persuaded and led.

„The momentous statements I come across are at best a storm in a teacup. There are quite a number of people who have a vested interest in the stuff, make a noble living out of it, and they conspire with one another to keep it alive.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Entry (1977)
Context: I could never figure out — or probably did not take the trouble to figure out — what the great philosophical problems are about. The momentous statements I come across are at best a storm in a teacup. There are quite a number of people who have a vested interest in the stuff, make a noble living out of it, and they conspire with one another to keep it alive.

„Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity.“

—  Eric Hoffer, book The True Believer

Section 28
The True Believer (1951), Part Two: The Potential Converts
Context: Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: to be one thread of the many which make up a tunic; one thread not distinguishable from the others. No one can then point us out, measure us against others and expose our inferiority.
They 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.

„To dispose a soul to action we must upset its equilibrium.“

—  Eric Hoffer

The Ordeal of Change (1963)
Context: To dispose a soul to action we must upset its equilibrium. page 27, Buccaneer Books edition (1990) pages total

„There is hardly a single instance of cultural vigor marked by moderation in expression.“

—  Eric Hoffer

Entry (1954)
Context: It is the Frenchman's readiness to exaggerate that is at the root of his intellectual lucidity and also of his capacity for acknowledging merit. The English were not afraid to exaggerate in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and they were then not far behind the French in the lucidity of their thinking.... There is hardly a single instance of cultural vigor marked by moderation in expression.

„We are ready to sacrifice our true, transitory self for the imaginary eternal self we are building“

—  Eric Hoffer, book The True Believer

Section 47
The True Believer (1951), Part Three: United Action and Self-Sacrifice
Context: Glory is largely a theatrical concept. There is no striving for glory without a vivid awareness of an audience—the knowledge that our mighty deeds will come to the ears of our contemporaries or "of those that are to be." We are ready to sacrifice our true, transitory self for the imaginary eternal self we are building up, by our heroic deeds, in the opinion and imagination of others.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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