Eric Hoffer Quotes

Eric Hoffer

(1902 - 1983)

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That which corrodes the souls of the persecuted is the monstrous inner agreement with the prevailing prejudice against them.

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It is the malady of our age that the young are so busy teaching us that they have no time left to learn.

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You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.

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The only way to predict the future is to have power to shape the future. Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesy and make their prophesies come true, but they can also lie and make their lies come true.

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It is a sign of a creeping inner death when we no longer can praise the living.

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When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.

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You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.

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Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us, but our emptiness. The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there.

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Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.

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When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.

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The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.

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The poor on the borderline of starvation live purposeful lives. To be engaged in a desperate struggle for food and shelter is to be wholly free from a sense of futility.

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We cannot be sure that we have something to live for unless we are ready to die for it.

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Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.

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We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential. Hence the fact that many inventions had their birth as toys.

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We often use strong language not to express a powerful emotion but to evoke it in us.

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The Greeks invented logic but were not fooled by it.

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We have rudiments of reverence for the human body, but we consider as nothing the rape of the human mind.

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The most gifted members of the human species are at their creative best when they cannot have their way, and must compensate for what they miss by realizing and cultivating their capacities and talents.

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All leaders strive to turn their followers into children.

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Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.

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The wise learn from the experience of others, and the creative know how to make a crumb of experience go a long way.

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People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.

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To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Though it is held before our eyes, pushed under our noses, rammed down our throats- we know it not.

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No one is truly literate who cannot read his own heart.

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The uncompromising attitude is more indicative of an inner uncertainty than a deep conviction. The implacable stand is directed more against the doubt within than the assailant without.

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The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbors as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant of others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves.

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Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.

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The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.

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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.

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The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do.

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It is when power is wedded to chronic fear that it becomes formidable.

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A preoccupation with the future not only prevents us from seeing the present as it is but often prompts us to rearrange the past.

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He who has nothing and wants something is less frustrated than he who has something and wants more.

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The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.

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You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.

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We feel free when we escape -- even if it be but from the frying pan to the fire.

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In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

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Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end results of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.

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The link between ideas and action is rarely direct. There is almost always an intermediate step in which the idea is overcome. De Tocqueville points out that it is at times when passions start to govern human affairs that ideas are most obviously translated into political action. The translation of ideas into action is usually in the hands of people least likely to follow rational motives. Hence, it is that action is often the nemesis of ideas, and sometimes of the men who formulate them. One of the marks of the truly vigorous society is the ability to dispense with passion as a midwife of action - the ability to pass directly from thought to action.

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To grow old is to grow common. Old age equalizes - we are aware that what is happening to us has happened to untold numbers from the beginning of time. When we are young we act as if we were the first young people in the world.

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The Paleolithic hunters who painted the unsurpassed animal murals on the ceiling of the cave at Altamira had only rudimentary tools. Art is older than production for use, and play older than work. Man was shaped less by what he had to do than by what he did in playful moments. It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness, and the playground is the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his capacities.

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We have perhaps a natural fear of ends. We would rather be always on the way than arrive. Given the means, we hang on to them and often forget the ends.

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We find it hard to apply the knowledge of ourselves to our judgment of others. The fact that we are never of one kind, that we never love without reservations and never hate with all our being cannot prevent us from seeing others as wholly black or white.

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We can remember minutely and precisely only the things which never really happened to us.

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There are no chaste minds. Minds copulate wherever they meet.

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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.

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However much we talk of the inexorable laws governing the life of individuals and of societies, we remain at the bottom convinced that in human affairs everything in more or less fortuitous. We do not even believe in the inevitability of our own death. Hence the difficulty of deciphering the present, of detecting the seeds of things to come as they germinate before our eyes. We are not attuned to seeing the inevitable.

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The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.

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One might equate growing up with a mistrust of words. A mature person trusts his eyes more than his ears. Irrationality often manifests itself in upholding the word against the evidence of the eyes. Children, savages and true believers remember far less what they have seen than what they have heard.

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Nonconformists travel as a rule in bunches. You rarely find a nonconformist who goes it alone. And woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity

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You dehumanize a man as much by returning him to nature - by making him one with rocks, vegetation, and animals - as by turning him into a machine. Both the natural and the mechanical are the opposite of that which is uniquely human. Nature is a self-made machine, more perfectly automated than any automated machine. To create something in the image of nature is to create a machine, and it was by learning the inner working of nature that man became a builder of machines. It is also obvious that when man domesticated animals and plants he acquired self-made machines for the production of food, power, and beauty.

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