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Quotations From RUTH BENEDICT


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  • The happiest excitement in life is to be convinced that one is fighting for all one is worth on behalf of some clearly seen and deeply felt good, and against some greatly scorned evil.
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. An Anthropologist at Work, part 2 (1959). Written c. the early 1920s.

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  • The arrogance of race prejudice is an arrogance which defies what is scientifically known of human races.
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. "Recognition of Cultural Diversities in the Postwar World." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (July 1943). An Anthropologist at Work, part 5 (1959).

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  • ... liberty is the one thing no man can have unless he grants it to others.
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. An Anthropologist at Work, part 4 (1959). From "Primitive Freedom," a paper written in 1942.
  • In a world that holds books and babies and canyon trails, why should one condemn oneself to live day-in, day-out with people one does not like, and sell oneself to chaperone and correct them?
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. An Anthropologist at Work, part 2 (1959). Written in her journal on May 20, 1913, during her brief career as a boarding-school teacher.

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  • The trouble with life isn't that there is no answer, it's that there are so many answers.
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. An Anthropologist at Work, part 2 (1959). Written in her journal on January 7, 1913.

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  • I haven't strength of mind not to need a career.
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. As quoted in An Anthropologist at Work, part 1, by Margaret Mead (1959). From a prefatory essay to this collection of Benedict's writings: "Search: 1920-1930." According to Mead, Benedict used to say this, "with a rueful smile," during her early years of studying and practicing anthropology—i.e., c. in her early thirties.

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  • Success and failure in our own national economy will hang upon the degree to which we are able to work with races and nations whose social order and whose behavior and attitudes are strange to us.
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. "Recognition of Cultural Diversities in the Postwar World." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (July 1943). An Anthropologist at Work, part 5 (1959).

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  • If we justify war, it is because all peoples always justify the traits of which they find themselves possessed, not because war will bear an objective examination of its merits.
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. Patterns of Culture, ch. 1 (1934).

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  • ... oh, I long to prove myself by writing! The best seems to die in me when I give it up. It is the self I love—not this efficient, philanthropic self.
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. An Anthropologist at Work, part 2 (1959). From a May 1917 entry in her journal. At the time, she was doing social work, struggling over a series of biographical sketches of famous women, and longing to be recognized for her verse. She would later become an important anthropologist, known for her scientific writing.

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  • Racism is an ism to which everyone in the world today is exposed; for or against, we must take sides. And the history of the future will differ according to the decision which we make.
    Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), U.S. anthropologist. Race: Science and Politics, ch. 1 (1940).

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