In a music video I recently watched, Ralph Waldo Emerson was attributed to saying “The human race will eventually die of civilization.” I can find this quote and its variations on the web even before the 2000s, but can not find a reference. I have looked at his works but have not found it there as well. Does anyone know the origin of this quote?
I found “The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
according to this…
That quotation, as dolphinboy found it, appears in a number of books of quotations, all attributing it to Emerson. As usual, they are not sourced.
Trying to find a source for it is oddly difficult. Google Books gives many hits for it inside the works of Emerson, but when I search the actual pages I can’t find those exact words.
When I limit the search to the 19th century, I still get two hits. The method of nature: An oration, delivered before the Society of the Adelphi, 1841, and English Traits, 1866. But neither contain the word eventually, let alone the whole quote.
Wikipedia lists the quote as “unsourced” on its Emerson page, along with a long list of other supposed quotes.
OTOH, I can’t find anyone claiming a different source for it. That’s just the way it is for a lot of famous lines.
I find it strange that quotes are often attributed, as well as published in books, without sources. Could it be that it is something he said during an interview, or wrote in a personal journal? Searching his works, there are many mentions of civilization and the human race, but I can’t seem to find something along the lines of this quote, even in the works that Exapno Mapcase has mentioned.
Here is a recent article about why so many well known “quotations” were in fact never said (or written" by the people they are attributed to.
Thank you for the great read. It reminds me of this situation.