Ruth Benedict Quotes
“Japan likewise put her hopes of victory on a different basis from that prevalent in the United States. (...) Even when she was winning, her civilian statesmen, her High Command, and her soldiers repeated that this was no contest between armaments; it was pitting of our faith in things against their faith in spirit.”
“A culture, like an individual, is a more or less consistent pattern of thought and action. [...] Each people further and further consolidates its experience, and in proportion to the urgency of these drives the heterogenous items of behaviour take more and more congruous shape. [...]
Such patterning of culture cannot be ignored as if it were an unimportant detail. The whole, as modern science is insisting in many fields, is not merely the sum of all its parts, but the result of a unique arrangement and interrelation of the parts that has brought about a new entity. Gunpowder is not merely the sum of sulphur and charcoal and saltpeter, and no amount of knowledge even of all three of tis elements in all the forms they take in the natural world will demonstrate the nature of gunpowder.”
“Every culture, every era, exploits some few out of a great number of possibilities [of traditional institutions]. Changes may be very disquieting, and involve great losses, but this is due to the difficulty of change itself, not to the fact that our age and country has hit upon the one possible motivation under which human life can be conducted.”
“The distinction between any closed group and outside peoples, becomes in terms of religion that between the true believers and the heathen. Between these two categories for thousands of years there were no common meeting-points. [...]
[Today] we feel a justified superiority when we read a description such as this of the standard religious attitude. [...] But considering the scope of a similar attitude has had in our civilization in the form of race prejudices, for example, we are justified in a little scepticism as to whether our sophistication in the matter of religion is due to the fact that we have outgrown naive childishness, or simply to the fact that religion is no longer the area of life in which the important modern battles are staged.
In the really live issues of our civilization we seem to be far from having gained the detachment that we have so largely achieved in the field of religion.”
“[T]he institution that human cultures build up upon the hints presented by the environment or by man's physical necessities do not keep as close to the original impulse as we easily imagine. These hints are, in reality, mere rough sketches, a list of bare facts. [...] Warfare is not the expression of the instinct of pugnacity. Man's pugnacity is so small a hint in the human equipment that it may not be given any expression in inter-tribal relation. [...] Pugnacity is no more than the touch to the ball of custom, a touch also that may be withheld.”
- Date of birth: June 05, 1887
- Died: June 17, 1948
- Born: in New York City, The United States.
- Description: Ruth Fulton Benedict (June 5, 1887 – September 17, 1948) was an American anthropologist and folklorist.
She was born in New York City, attended Vassar College and graduated in 1909. She entered graduate studies at Columbia University in 1919, where she studied under Franz Boas. She received her Ph.D and joined the faculty in 1923. Margaret Mead, with whom she may have shared a romantic relationship, and Marvin Opler were among her students and colleagues.
Franz Boas, her teacher and mentor, has been called the father of American anthropology and his teachings and point of view are clearly evident in Benedict's work. Ruth Benedict was affected by the passionate humanism of Boas, her mentor, and continued it in her research and writing.
Benedict held the post of President of the American Anthropological Association and was also a prominent member of the American Folklore Society. She became the first woman to be recognized as a prominent leader of a learned profession. She can be viewed as a transitional figure in her field, redirecting both anthropology and folklore away from the limited confines of culture-trait diffusion studies and towards theories of performance as integral to the interpretation of culture. She studied the relationships between personality, art, language and culture, insisting that no trait existed in isolation or self-sufficiency, a theory which she championed in her 1934 Patterns of Culture.