Blog Post: Excerpt from The Art of Being by Erich Fromm

Linda Elder
Aug 05, 2019 • 4y ago
Excerpt from The Art of Being by Erich Fromm

One distinguished thinker I often turn to for rational words of wisdom is Erich Fromm. In his book, The Art of Being (written between 1974 and 1976), Fromm says

“...[one] reason for our difficulty to discern the difference between the authentic and the sham lies in the hypnotic attraction of power and fame. If the name of a man or the title of a book is made famous by clever publicity, the average person is willing to believe the work’s claims. This process is greatly helped by another factor: in a completely commercialized society in which salability and optimal profit constitute the core values, and in which every person experiences himself as ”capital” that he has to invest on the market with the aim of optimal profit (success), his inner value counts as little as that is a dental cream or a patent medicine. Whether he is kind, intelligent, productive, courageous matters little if these qualities have not been used to make him successful…(p. 12)”

“there are almost no words left in this field that have not been commercialized, corrupted and otherwise misused. Words such as “human growth,” or “growth potential,” “self-actualization,” “experiencing versus thinking,” ”The here and now,” and many others have been cheapened by various writers and groups and even used in advertising copy (p. 13). “

How much more have human societies become commercialized since Fromm wrote these words?

What words (adding to Fromm’s short list) have lost their meaning in our commercialized society today? What about the term “critical thinking” itself?

To what degree do you think of your inner value when you consider whether and to what degree you are successful?

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Posted by: Joseph Halter

The response to this post will require some deep thinking and I hope we can repost as we share ideas. I want to share the following but do not want to distract from the questions above.

Today, we learned that Nobel laurate in literature Toni Morrison passed away, August 5.

A quote that is reflective of her for this post to start: "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives." Simply, for her, life was language. What is yours?

Posted by: Behnam Jafari

Thank you Joseph for sharing your update on Toni Morrison and her quote. It is so sad when we are hearing the loss of distinduished and influential writers. I did really enjoy the quote. For me, my desire is humanitary and tools for reaching it could be both Language and Music. I am just in start point in both tools but I will try as much as I can. Recently, I have been interested to know more about Linguistic and its impacts on mind development. Looking the 19th, 20th centuries distinguished German thinkers leads me to think What is German Language? What are its linguistic elements? And, is it possible that German language plays a key role in cultivating and producing minds such as Carl Marx, Freud, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Einstein, and others. And also the impacts of World War I, II in producing these minds?
Wondering to know your thoughts as well

Posted by: Joseph Halter

Good morning Behnam, good to hear from you.

You present some interesting questions. Language is the fundamental way to express our thinking. You may want to read Richard Paul's Anthology, especially on chapter 5 (It is on the Foundation website, under Library). Dr. Paul provides his analysis of language and how it helps us with rational thinking and the pitfalls of language games.

Posted by: Behnam Jafari

I think these two excerpts need 4 levels of close reading. It is very deep. My quick thought on these excerpts might be:
First of all, we can deeply delve into the concepts of fame and power and why these concepts are attractive to human being. In my view, the reason we consider ourselves as a captial and success as our profit, caring little of our inner values greatly bears upon as our own inner weaknesses experiencing in childhood. Alfred Adler, known for Inferiority and Superiority Complexity says: To be a human being means to possess a feeling of inferiority which constantly presses towards its own conquest. The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge for conquest and the more violent the emotional agitation.
I am trying to make this quick conclusion that because of our childhood experiences of inferiority and our desire for superiority in any aspects of our lives and attaching these desires and beliefs to our identities leads to considering ourselves as capital and success as its fruitful.
Not only did we create the concept of God, but also the concepts of Media and Commercialized society. Now we are watching the infinitive implications of these creatures.

On asked very deep questions:
1. To the extent that our lifestyle specifically our health is affected by the commercialized societies. For instance, we start going to the gym for the sake of healthy body (hopefully not only for so-called attractive body), we are registering for the gym classes, using introduced products and facilities by gym, maybe some other so-called health devices, buying Adidas, Nike, ..., consuming some supplements such as daily multi-vitamins which most of the its vitamins are not absorbed in our body are examples of results of commercialized society in our daily lives.
2. Words such as Time Management, the art of making a decision, being a mother, Critical thinking, creative thinking, Making money, psychology books such as personality types, even philosophy titles
3. This is very deep question and I am still striving to recognize and understand my inner values. Because I what I perceive as my inner values might not exist in the reality and just a misunderstanding. I am in the state of double-checking. I also need to deepen and broaden the concept of Success for myself.
Thank you Linda, for these excerpts and your deeper questions in order to help me internalize its significance.

Posted by: James Brent

Commercialization is not (yet) the end-all-and-be-all of everything in our society. But some commercial aspect is attached to just about everything, which ironically I think helps to devalue what should be the most fulfilling aspects of our lives. The concept of the "student" as someone engaged in the art of becoming, has evolved by its close identification with "educational customer" into that of someone who demands practical results merely by entering into a commercial transaction. A transaction, moreover, which may allow the "student" as "customer" to set his or her expectations as the standard for how well teachers do their job.

Posted by: Joseph Halter

Very interesting and challenging purpose and questions. I plan to respond in stages for this blog.

I understand the purpose to be in several areas based on my interpretation of the quote. The first purpose is to understand the difference between authentic and fake from the Fromm quote. The truth is not always discernible and easy to find with all the distortions, misinformation, and false claims. Stephen R. Covey with his book on the Seven Habits on Highly Effective People based on 200 year American history research found a pattern of Character and Personality traits. The Character traits were relevant and significant by many during the early to mid stages of our country. The Character traits Covey identified were: Integrity, Fidelity, Courage, Compassion, Contribution, Responsibility, and Justice. Many of these are similar to the Intellectual Traits by the Foundation. The Personality traits are considered techniques and show the appearance of how we want to look in front of other people, Our appearance, communications, public relations, management, etc. are considered a "cover" to who we really are. I would suggest that you watch the video for further info on character and personality at:

Today the emphasis appears to be more on personality than character traits.

Posted by: Joseph Halter

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