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Erich Fromm - To Have or To Be

  1. Jun 9, 2005 #1


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    Erich Fromm - "To Have or To Be"

    I have been reading a rather interesting book referenced in the title of this thread.

    Paraphrasing from the book's back cover -

    "To Have or To Be" by Erich Fromm is considered one of the seminal books of the last century. Fromm expounds upon his thesis that people exist in one of two states - the "having mode" or the "being mode". In the "having mode", one concentrates on material possession, acquisitiveness, power and aggression. The having mode is the basis of such 'universal evils' as greed, envy (jealousy), and violence. In the "being mode', which is based in/on love, one concentrates on sharing and engages in meaningful, creative, and productive activity.

    Fromm explains why the 'having' mode is taking the world to the brink of psychological and ecological disaster. He thereby outlines a program for socioeconomic change.

    I probably exist mostly in the 'being' mode, but I certainly do acquire 'stuff', although I am trying to cut down. Most of my acquisitions tend to be books or pieces of information.

    I am planning to extract some passages from the book for interest and discussion.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 2, 2005 #2
    I think these are great starting points for introspection.
    I'd draw the line at constructing a whole philosophy that followed from any simple dichotomy.

    I'm looking forward to the excerpts.

    "To do is to Be" - Socrates
    "To Be is to Do" - Immanuel Kant
    "Do be do be do" - Frank Sinatra

  4. Aug 13, 2005 #3
    Fromm is very good reading. I read him when I was very young, and he changed my life for the better.

    However as I get older I notice that the "havers" are in a lot better financial shape than I am. By contrast I haven't driven my children crazy by putting them aside for my personal gain. I spent a lot of being time with them.

    Ah yes the havers, from the breast, right to the shopping mall, if they were lucky enough to get the breast. Otherwise, it is from the formula, nanny, and daycare to the shopping mall, and the job where you say "yes!" all day, so you can have, all that you can have.

    Our economic system is built on this, all the while beating up on working Moms for not staying home. We must have, havers in order to guarantee investors economic growth. Eeeeek!

    An example of this, I was sitting up on a high pass to watch the meteor shower. An owl was calling out, it was fragrant and dark. Cars were pulling up and leaving their lights and radios on while the drivers got out and did drug deals. Meanwhile I was fending off bat sized mosquitos and trying to hear the owl, and keep track of meteors, all at 8000 feet.

    It was a primal conflict between being and having. At some level however, it is all the same. I was looking to "have" an experience. I had the experience, it just wasn't as good of an experience as I wanted to "have". I was a semi "have", and I just needed more of less, noise, dust, and congestion.

    My conclusion is that We can't always get what we want, whether it is to "have" or to "be".
  5. Aug 14, 2005 #4


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    But if you try sometimes well you might find, you get what you need ... (As the Stones put it.)
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2005
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