Human Nature & Human Folly

“In nature a repulsive caterpillar turns into a lovely butterfly. But with human beings it is the other way round: a lovely butterfly turns into a repulsive caterpillar.” — Anton Chekhov, 19th-century Russian dramatist

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” — Anne Frank, victim of the mid-20th-century Nazi Holocaust in Europe (from her Diaries)

“There are two levers for moving men — interest and fear.” — Napoleon Bonaparte, 19th- century French general and emperor

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” — James Madison, 18th-century American Founding Father, 19th-century U.S. president

“Somebody does somethin’ stupid, that’s human. They don’t stop when they see it’s wrong, that’s a fool.” — Elvis Presley, 20th-century American celebrity singer

“The tendency of man’s nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow downward.” — Meng-Tse

“People, like water, will run downhill, seeking their lowest level unless something interdicts them.” — Cal Thomas, 20th-century American journalist

“In general, men are ungrateful and fickle, dissemblers, avoiders of danger and greedy of gain.” — Niccolo Machiavelli, Florentine Renaissance writer and political adviser

“It is silly to go on pretending that under the skin we are brothers. The truth is more likely that under the skin we are all cannibals, assassins, traitors, liars and hypocrites.” — Henry Miller, 20th-century American novelist

Cicero’s Six Mistakes of Man (according to Arthur F. Lenehan)

  1. The delusion that individual advancement is made by crushing others
  2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected
  3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it
  4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences
  5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind and not acquiring the habit of reading and studying
  6. Attempting to compel other persons to believe and live as we do.
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