Quotations about   materialism

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But beware you be not swallowed up in books: An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

John Wesley (1703-1791) English cleric, Christian theologian and evangelist, founder of Methodism
Letter to Joseph Benson (7 Nov 1768)
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Added on 4-Oct-18 | Last updated 4-Oct-18
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By fixing men’s minds, not upon the discharge of social obligations, which restricts their energy, because it defines the goal to which it should be directed, but upon the exercise of the right to pursue their own self-interest, it offers unlimited scope for the acquisition of riches, and therefore gives free play to one of the most powerful of human instincts. To the strong it promises unfettered freedom for the exercise of their strength; to the weak the hope that they too one day may be strong. Before the eyes of both it suspends a golden prize, which not all can attain, but for which each may strive, the enchanting vision of infinite expansion. It assures men that there are no ends other than their ends, no law other than their desires, no limit other than that which they think advisable. Thus it makes the individual the center of his own universe, and dissolves moral principles into a choice of expediences.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
The Acquisitive Century, ch. 3 “The Acquisitive Society” (1920)
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Added on 26-Jan-17 | Last updated 26-Jan-17
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We make ourselves miserable by first closing ourselves off from reality and then collecting this and that in an attempt to make ourselves happy by possessing happiness. But happiness is not something I have, it is something I myself want to be. Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over my body.

Corless - taping sandwiches - wist_info quote

Roger J. Corless (1938–2007) Anglo-American religious academic, Buddhist scholar, ecumenicist
Vision of Buddhism: the Space Under the Tree (1989)

The last sentence is frequently misattributed to George Carlin (with "your body").
Added on 11-Jul-16 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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The best things in life aren’t things.

Art Buchwald (1925-2007) American humorist, columnist
(Attributed)
Added on 11-Jul-16 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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In private life, no motive of action is at present so powerful and so persistent as acquisitiveness, which, unlike most other desires, knows no satiety.

Inge - acquisitiveness - wist_info quote

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Patriotism,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1915)
Added on 21-Dec-15 | Last updated 4-Jan-16
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If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Letter to Miss Vanhomrigh (12 Aug 1720)
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Added on 27-Aug-15 | Last updated 27-Aug-15
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A brave people will certainly prefer liberty, accompanied by virtuous poverty, to a depraved and wealthy servitude.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
Added on 22-Jul-15 | Last updated 22-Jul-15
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Step by step they were led to things which dispose to vice: the lounge, the bath, the elegant banquet. All this in their ignorance they called civilisation, when it was but a part of their servitude.

[Idque apud imperitos humanitas vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset.]

Tacitus (c.56-c.120) Roman historian, orator, politician [Publius or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus]
Agricola, Book 1, para. 21 (AD 98) [tr. Church and Brodribb]

Alt. trans.: "Because they didn't know better, they called it 'civilization,' when it was part of their slavery."
Added on 7-Jul-15 | Last updated 7-Jul-15
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I am stressing that it is the force of ideas rather than the impact of material things that made us a great nation. It is my conviction, too, that only the power of ideas, of enduring values, can keep us a great nation. For, where there is no vision the people perish.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
Added on 17-Jun-15 | Last updated 17-Jun-15
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Most of us have achieved levels of affluence and comfort un-thought of two generations ago. We’ve never had it so good, most of us. Nor have we ever complained so bitterly about our problems. The closed circle of materialism is clear to us now — aspirations become wants, wants become needs, and self-gratification becomes a bottomless pit. All around us we have seen success in the world’s terms become ultimate and desperate failure.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
Commencement Address, Iona College (3 Jun 1984)
Added on 15-Jun-15 | Last updated 15-Jun-15
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The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value.

Charles Dudley Warner (1829–1900) American essayist and novelist
Backlog Studies, ch. 11 (1872)
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Added on 18-Mar-15 | Last updated 18-Mar-15
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In our rich consumers’ civilization we spin cocoons around ourselves and get possessed by our possessions.

Maxwell "Max" Lerner (1902-1992) American journalist, columnist, educator
“What Shall I Save?” New York Post (10 Sep 1952)

Reprinted in The Unfinished Country, pt. 1 (1959).
Added on 17-Mar-15 | Last updated 17-Mar-15
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The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Strength to Love, 7.3 (1963)
Added on 25-Apr-14 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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Few rich men own their own property. The property owns them.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech, The McKinley League, New York (29 Oct 1896)
Added on 21-Dec-11 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Our life on earth is, and ought to be, material and carnal. But we have not yet learned to manage our materialism and carnality properly; they are still entangled with the desire for ownership.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
Abinger Harvest: A Miscellany, “My Wood” (1927)
Added on 23-Aug-11 | Last updated 9-May-14
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Most people imagine that the rich are in heaven, but, as a rule, it is only a gilded hell. There is not a man in the city of New York with genius enough, with brains enough, to own five millions of dollars. Why? The money will own him. He becomes the key to a safe. That money will get him up at daylight; that money will separate him from his friends; that money will fill his heart with fear; that money will rob his days of sunshine and his nights of pleasant dreams. He cannot own it. He becomes the property of that money. And he goes right on making more. What for? He does not know. It becomes a kind of insanity. No one is happier in a palace than in a cabin.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“A Lay Sermon” (1886)
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Added on 4-Sep-09 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.

Ivan Illich (1926-2002) Austrian philosopher, social critic, cleric
Tools for Conviviality, ch. 3 (1973)
Added on 28-Apr-09 | Last updated 6-Apr-16
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The miser is as much in want of that which he has, as of that which he has not.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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