Human Nature Quotes: Explaining Human Nature & Behavior

Human nature is a subject of intense debate, however few disagree that such a thing exists. Understanding human nature helps us to understand human history, ourselves and others we interact with far better. 

Are human beings good or not? And does this question even make sense? These are the main questions ultimately explored when one tackles the sticky and difficult topic of human nature. 

Indeed, human nature is a tricky thing. We are, after all, the only species who can reflect on our own nature, thus providing both the capacity to transcend it in the individual sense and change it in the collective sense. Viewing human nature as something in constant flux provides another layer to human nature — part of our nature is the ability to change that nature. 

Perhaps the competing viewpoints of human nature are each true in their own way, providing an overlapping picture of the lot the human race is consigned to. That is why we have dug up so many quotes about human nature that seem to contradict one another: Because we believe that each provides a shard of the truth about the broader picture of human nature. 

Read these quotes and attempt to see the overlapping wisdom contained in each. It will provide you with a multi-faceted insight into what human nature truly is.

Quotes About Human Flaws and Humanity’s Errors

“We mute the realization of malevolence – which is too threatening to bear – by turning offenders into victims themselves and by describing their behavior as the result of forces beyond their control.”

Anna C. Salter

When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama answered,

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Dalai Lama

“You can take away a man’s gods, but only to give him others in return.

Carl Jung

“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of its parents.”

Carl Jung

“We all are men, in our own natures frail, and capable of our flesh; few are angels.”

William Shakespeare, Henry VIII

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”

Sigmund Freud

“Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.”

Albert Camus

“There runs a strange law through the length of human history – that men are continually tending to undervalue their environment, to undervalue their happiness, to undervalue themselves. The great sin of mankind, the sin typified by the fall of Adam, is the tendency, not towards pride, but towards this weird and horrible humility.”

G. K. Chesterton

“I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active – not more happy – nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.”

Edgar Allen Poe

“The optimist was the man who did not mind what happened so long as it did not happen to him. The pessimist was the man who lived with the optimist.”

Winston Churchill

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (1918-1956)

“Certainly paradise, whatever, wherever it be, contains flaws. (Paradisical flaws, if you like.) If it did not, it would be incapable of drawing the hearts of men or angels.”

Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

“On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”

George Orwell, All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

Albert Einstein

“Eastward and westward storms are breaking, great, ugly whirlwinds of hatred and blood and cruelty. I will not believe them inevitable.”

W.E.B. Du Bois

Quotes About the Goodness of Human Beings and Humanism

“Life has no meaning a priori…It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.”

Jean-Paul Sartre

“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, February 23, 1775

“Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.”

Kurt Vonnegut

“Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

Bertrand Russell

“There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.”

Alexander Hamilton

“We are intelligent beings: intelligent beings cannot have been formed by a crude, blind, insensible being: there is certainly some difference between the ideas of Newton and the dung of a mule. Newton’s intelligence, therefore, came from another intelligence”

Voltaire

“Humanists recognize that it is only when people feel free to think for themselves, using reason as their guide, that they are best capable of developing values that succeed in satisfying human needs and serving human interests.”

Isaac Asimov

“There is good in everything, if only we look for it.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder