Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | September 6, 2009

Cynicism or Realism?

TocquevilleDoes the following quote represent a cynical or simply realistic view of human nature?

“Consider any individual at any period of his life, and you will always find him preoccupied with fresh plans to increase his comfort.”

Alexis de Tocqueville  (1805 – 1859)


Responses

  1. Interpreting “comfort” in its broadest sense to mean “something that will make me happier than I am now” then yes, I’d say it’s realistic!

  2. It’s realistic in as much as we humans are wired to survive and the drive towards increasing comfort is a result of that wiring. It’s cynical if you think that’s the _only_ thing that humans are thinking of.

  3. I’m thankful our hunter/gatherer ancestors had the drive to make themselves more comfortable and developed agriculture, writing, medicine, and a thousand other advances that make our lives better and more secure.

    The problem occurs when we don’t have the good sense to realize enough is enough, and we slavishly pursue comfort to the exclusion of our spiritual well-being and the well-being of our neighbors and our planet.

  4. I think it is very cynical. It says that the only thing that matters in the world is my own personal comfort. What about others? It is incredibly solipsistic. I know that my personal comfort is dependent upon alot of other people. Although in a capitalistic, narcissistic society this quote would and does pass for realism, as if one person can do it all by him/herself. No, not all individuals in any particular did that. It is a gross generalization. There has always been those who helped the poor, who chose great personal sacrifice to remain true to principles of justice and equality. What about Martin Luther King junior? What about Gandhi? What about Bonhoeffer who stood up against the Nazis? What about the women in India who went out and hugged trees to save them from the mill? What about the mothers in Argentina who went to the square every day asking for their disappeared? What about those who volunteer or get little pay for helping others? All that makes my comfort extremely uncomfortable.

  5. What is you take “comfort” meaning “consolation”? Or am I talking nonsens?

  6. That “is” should have been “if”, of course.


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