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Quotations about Humankind




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I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.  ~Joseph Baretti, quoted by James Boswell, 1766, commonly misattributed to Samuel Johnson* (Thank you, Frank Lynch of SamuelJohnson.com)


Man is harder than rock and more fragile than an egg.  ~Yugoslav Proverb


That in man which cannot be domesticated is not his evil but his goodness.  ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin


Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.  ~Albert Camus


A human being:  an ingenious assembly of portable plumbing.  ~Christopher Morley, Human Being


The true man walks the earth as the stars walk the heavens, grandly obedient to those laws which are implanted in his nature.  ~Lemuel K. Washburn, Is The Bible Worth Reading And Other Essays, 1911


The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.  ~Bertrand Russell


Ocean:  A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.  ~Ambrose Bierce


Man is harder than iron, stronger than stone and more fragile than a rose.  ~Turkish Proverb


Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap, baits it, then steps in it.  ~John Steinbeck, Sweet Thursday


In nature a repulsive caterpillar turns into a lovely butterfly.  But with humans it is the other way around:  a lovely butterfly turns into a repulsive caterpillar.  ~Anton Chekhov


Man is an intelligence in servitude to his organs.  ~Aldous Huxley


We are perverse creatures and never satisfied.  ~Nan Fairbrother


Modern man is the missing link between apes and human beings.  ~Author Unknown


Human consciousness arose but a minute before midnight on the geological clock.  Yet we mayflies try to bend an ancient world to our purposes, ignorant perhaps of the messages buried in its long history.  Let us hope that we are still in the early morning of our April day.  ~Stephen Jay Gould, "Our Allotted Lifetimes," The Panda's Thumb, 1980


Such is the human race, often it seems a pity that Noah... didn't miss the boat.  ~Mark Twain


There are too many people, and too few human beings.  ~Robert Zend


It would indeed be a tragedy if the history of the human race proved to be nothing more than the story of an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump.  ~David Ormsby Gore


Only on paper has humanity yet achieved glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue, and abiding love.  ~George Bernard Shaw


The disastrous history of our species indicates the futility of all attempts at a diagnosis which do not take into account the possibility that homo sapiens is a victim of one of evolution's countless mistakes.  ~Arthur Koestler, Janus: A Summing Up


Men!  The only animal in the world to fear.  ~D.H. Lawrence


The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race.  ~Don Marquis


Man embraces in his makeup all the natural orders; he's a squid, a mollusk, a sucker and a buzzard; sometimes he's a cerebrate.  ~Martin H. Fischer


Men are cruel, but Man is kind.  ~Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds, 1916


Humanity is on the march, earth itself is left behind.  ~David Ehrenfeld, The Arrogance of Humanism, 1978


Human nature, if healthy, demands excitement; and if it does not obtain its thrilling excitement in the right way, it will seek it in the wrong.  God never makes bloodless stoics; He makes no passionless saints.  ~Oswald Chambers


Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head.  ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary


Monkeys are superior to men in this:  When a monkey looks into a mirror, he sees a monkey.  ~Malcolm de Chazal


It is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing.  ~Mariane Moore, "A Grave," Collected Poems, 1951


The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.  ~Mark Twain, "Reflections on Being the Delight of God."


Adam ate the apple, and our teeth still ache.  ~Hungarian Proverb


Why was man created on the last day?  So that he can be told, when pride possesses him:  God created the gnat before thee.  ~The Talmud


Man - a creature made at the end of the week's work when God was tired.  ~Mark Twain


I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated His ability.  ~Oscar Wilde


O poor mortals, how ye make this earth bitter for each other.  ~Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, vol. I, book II, chapter 1


God pulled an all-nighter on the sixth day.  ~Author Unknown


Zoo:  An excellent place to study the habits of human beings.  ~Evan Esar


The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant [is] alone enough to upset Darwin.  ~Henry Adams, Education, 1907


Man - a being in search of meaning.  ~Plato


Ultimately, aren't we all just talking monkeys with an attitude problem?  ~"Uncle" Ben, as seen on quotes‑r‑us.org


The more humanity advances, the more it is degraded.  ~Gustave Flaubert


Nothing feebler does earth nurture than man,
Of all things breathing and moving.
~Homer, Odyssey


Everyone is as God made him, and often a good deal worse.  ~Miguel de Cervantes


Man is a strange animal, he doesn't like to read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it.  ~Adlai Stevenson


It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.  ~Albert Einstein


God doesn't measure His bounty, but oh how we do!  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966


The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.  ~Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes, 1911


The human race is governed by its imagination.  ~Napoleon


Man uses his intelligence less in the care of his own species than he does in his care of anything else he owns or governs.  ~Abraham Meyerson


Human beings cling to their delicious tyrannies and to their exquisite nonsense, till death stares them in the face.  ~Sydney Smith


Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard by What is above him when he shows no mercy to what is under him?  ~Pierre Troubetzkoy


The small percentage of dogs that bite people is monumental proof that the dog is the most benign, forgiving creature on earth.  ~W.R. Koehler, The Koehler Method of Dog Training


Man was created a little lower than the angels, and has been getting lower ever since.  ~Josh Billings


We have no choice but to be guilty.
God is unthinkable if we are innocent.
~Archibald MacLeish, JB, 1958


Human beings invent just as many ways to sabotage their lives as to improve them.  ~Mark Goulston, Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior, 1996


As I know more of mankind I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man upon easier terms than I was formerly.  ~Samuel Johnson


What is man's greatest bane?  His brother man alone.  ~Bias of Priene, Maxims


Acedia is not in every dictionary; just in every heart.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966


The study of crime begins with the knowledge of oneself.  ~Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, 1945


Is man a savage at heart, skinned o'er with fragile Manners?  Or is savagery but a faint taint in the natural man's gentility, which erupts now and again like pimples on an angel's arse?  ~John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor, 1960


God has given a great deal to man, but man would like something from man.  ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin


I was surprised just now at seeing a cobweb around a knocker; for it was not on the door of heaven.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


I sometimes think of what future historians will say of us.  A single sentence will suffice for modern man:  He fornicated and read the papers.  ~Albert Camus


Man, when he is merely what he seems to be, is almost nothing.  ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin


Give a man secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him nine years' lease of a garden, and he will convert it into a desert.  ~Arthur Young, Travels in France, 1792


Our behavior is human with a sliver of animal, our souls animal with a sliver of human.  ~Carrie Latet


Occident: The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient.  It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful subtribe of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder and cheating, which they are pleased to call "war" and "commerce." These, also, are the principal industries of the Orient.  ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary


Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.  ~William Hazlitt, The English Comic Writers, 1819


Nature is neutral.  Man has wrested from nature the power to make the world a desert or to make the deserts bloom.  There is no evil in the atom; only in men's souls.  ~Adlai Stevenson


A simple and irrefutable argument to knock creationism on its ass:  (1) Humans are a mistake - subproof: opposable thumbs and enlarged brain capacity are the combined number one factor in the increasingly speedy destruction of planet Earth.  (2) God doesn't make mistakes.  (3) Therefore, God couldn't have created people.  ~Cassus Garrulitas


Man talks about everything, and he talks about everything as though the understanding of everything were all inside him.  ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin


My dog is usually pleased with what I do, because she is not infected with the concept of what I "should" be doing.  ~Lonzo Idolswine


Man will do many things to get himself loved; he will do all things to get himself envied.  ~Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897


We are all parasites; we humans, the greatest.  ~Martin H. Fischer


Suppose some mathematical creature from the moon were to reckon up the human body; he would at once see that the essential thing about it was that it was duplicate.  A man is two men, he on the right exactly resembling him on the left.  Having noted that there was an arm on the right and one on the left, a leg on the right and one on the left, he might go further and still find on each side the same number of fingers, the same number of toes, twin eyes, twin ears, twin nostrils, and even twin lobes of the brain.  At last he would take it as a law; and then, where he found a heart on one side, would deduce that there was another heart on the other.  And just then, where he most felt he was right, he would be wrong.  ~Gilbert Keith Chesterton, "The Paradoxes of Christianity," Orthodoxy


It is the nature of mortals to kick a fallen man.  ~Aeschylus, Agamemnon


God is less careful than General Motors, for He floods the world with factory rejects.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960


Man's highest merit always is, as much as possible, to rule external circumstances and as little as possible to let himself be ruled by them.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


So there he is at last.  Man on the moon.  The poor magnificent bungler!  He can't even get to the office without undergoing the agonies of the damned, but give him a little metal, a few chemicals, some wire and twenty or thirty billion dollars and vroom! there he is, up on a rock a quarter of a million miles up in the sky.  ~Russell Baker, New York Times, 21 July 1969


Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.  ~Erich Fromm, Man for Himself, 1947


When freedom from want and freedom from fear are achieved, man's remains will be in rigor mortis.  ~Martin H. Fischer


Man is nature's sole mistake.  ~W.S. Gilbert


The average man's judgment is so poor, he runs a risk every time he uses it.  ~E.W. Howe


Man - a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal.  ~Alexander Hamilton


We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.  ~Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, 1871


We're animals.  We're born like every other mammal and we live our whole lives around disguised animal thoughts.  ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams


Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us.  We are not the only experiment.  ~R. Buckminister Fuller


Be a good animal, true to your animal instincts.  ~David Herbert Lawrence, White Peacock, 1911


The question is this:  Is man an ape or an angel?  I am on the side of the angels.  ~Benjamin Disraeli


I viewed my fellow man not as a fallen angel, but as a risen ape.  ~Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape


Man desired concord; but nature knows better what is good for his species; she desires discord.  Man wants to live easy and content; but nature compels him to leave ease... and throw himself into roils and labors.  ~Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose, 1787


The thief and the murderer follow nature just as much as the philanthropist.  ~T.H. Huxley, "Evolution and Ethics," 1893


Many people believe that they are attracted by God, or by Nature, when they are only repelled by man.  ~William Ralph Inge


People are like birds:  on the wing, all beautiful; up close, all beady little eyes.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966


Evolution is individual - devolution is collective.  ~Martin H. Fischer


I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain'd.  I stand and look at them long and long.  They do not sweat and whine about their condition.... Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things, not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago, not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.  ~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.  ~Voltaire


I demand of you, and of the whole world, that you show me a generic character... by which to distinguish between Man and Ape.  I myself most assuredly know of none.  ~Carl Linnaeus, 1788


In creating the human brain, evolution has wildly overshot the mark.  ~Arthur Koestler


Evolution:  that last step was a doozy!  ~Astrid Alauda


We have a world for each one, but we do not have a world for all.  ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin


I do not value any view of the universe into which man and the institutions of man enter very largely and absorb much of the attention.  Man is but the place where I stand, and the prospect hence is infinite.  ~Henry David Thoreau, journal, 2 April 1852


Nature does not deceive us; it is we who deceive ourselves.  ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762


It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.  ~Niccolo Machiavelli


Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everybody agrees that it is old enough to know better.  ~Author Unknown


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