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Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,013 ratings  ·  83 reviews
In Man for Himself, Erich Fromm examines the confusion of modern women and men who, because they lack faith in any principle by which life ought to be guided, become the helpless prey forces both within and without. From the broad, interdisciplinary perspective that marks Fromm's distinguished oeuvre, he shows that psychology cannot divorce itself from the problems of phil ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 15th 1990 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1947)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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Interesting but defective. Fromm tries to sketch an ethical system that is both objective and humanistic. That is, he believes that morality should derive from mankind's true nature and objective needs, but that we should get it from ourselves rather than from some transcendent authority. This project is self-defeating.

In the first place, Fromm's quest for objectivity devolves into a new kind of authoritarianism. Fromm believes that social scientists, especially psychologists (such as Fromm hims
Emad Attili

“If faith cannot be reconciled with rational thinking, it has to be eliminated as an anachronistic remnant of earlier stages of culture and replaced by science dealing with facts and theories which are intelligible and can be validated.”.



This book is a continuation of Fromm’s other book Escape from Freedom, and here he moves from discussing freedom, to discussing ethics. What is the nature of the Humanist
“There is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives his life by the unfolding of his powers.”

“...Today the lack of faith is an expression of profound confusion and despair. Once skepticism and rationalism were progressive forces for the development of thought; now they have become rationalizations for relativism and uncertainty.”

“The failure of modern culture lies not in its principle of individualism, not in the idea that moral virtue is the same as the pursuit of self-interest, bu
Harry Z
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eric Fromm's works are some of the best books I have ever read on the human condition. I remember reading "the Art of Loving" back in catholic high school and how strongly it impressed upon me the importance of loving over being in love. This book is just as strong in every regard. There's nothing I can tell to do it justice--it's a short book, so just get it and read it. His discussions of such subjects as instincts, drives, fulfillment and ethics are models of conciseness and clarity. Perhaps ...more
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book in order to understand the illusions that modern society creates and to understand one's self. A good base for doing self analysis (different character types and temperaments are explained). After reading the book I had better vision for the world and myself. It causes me to reconsider all my relationships, which is good, but this has made me somehow confused. After reading this one and other works of Erich Fromm I' ve noticed postive changes in me, but it bothers me th ...more
John Ediger
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book! This book speaks to me! Erich Fromm is so Profound and Insightful!!!!
Fernando Escobar
This is my favorite book by Fromm so far. With depth and surprise. I think what I enjoy most is how neutral he can be within his own framework. One gets the feeling that you could debate him (probably not win), but he would hear you. He writes like someone who is truly listening.
Bob Nichols
May 24, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Toward the end of this book Fromm poses a central question: "Man, Good or Evil?" Here he takes on the "dogma" (you know which side he's on) of "man's innate natural evilness" and argues against those opponents of "humanistic ethics" which sees "man" as "inherently good."

There are three problems with Fromm's argument. First, the good versus evil dichotomy is simplistically stated. "Is man good or man bad?" assumes that there's one universal and common human nature. If we vary by physical structu
Jul 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Worth reading, and realitivly easy to grasp (compared to, say, Lacan). He calls himself a 'humanist' meaning (to him, it seems)that he is very individual centered, positive on the potentials of the individual against a potentially corrupting society (as you could glean from the title). One of the greatest annoyances was that you get no clear definition of such abstrations as "living up to one's potentials" or "productiveness." Also, he gets kind of obsessed with breaking down different types of ...more
Aug 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: post-college
An okay book, but nothing particularly new if you're familiar with Erich Fromm's other works. I did like his comments, though, on how 'anti-social' behavior ('crime', depression, etc.) is in many ways a response to profoundly unfulfilling--negating--social environments. In this sense and many others, Fromm's analysis (here as elsewhere) is much-needed as a perspective that calls for structural change, towards a society in which individuals can be affirmed and, in a sense, truly happy.
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
Teetering somewhere between analytic psychology and existential philosophy, Fromm explores the existential dilemma and its ethical corollaries, proposing a humanistic solution: man achieves his greatest happiness in productivity, in maximizing our innate potentials and being the best versions of ourselves that we can be.
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly clear and concise book that focuses on 'humanistic ethics.' I give it 4 instea of 5 stars because of Fromm's tendency to repeat himself and go on slightly irrelevant tangents, especially in the second half of the book. Relevant to all Thelemtes interested in the problems of ethics, individually and socio-politically.
Shane Avery
Sep 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thought
currently re-reading...
Sankar Raj
Dec 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Erich Fromm in this book develops ethical principles for the modern man based on humanist and existential philosophers.
Christopher D Brown
Amazingly shines a light on Washington, D.C. todday

Fromm's ideas are timeless. His psychological, philosophical and political insights are more valuable today as our society faces the problems of growing inequality. He shows that the superficial self-help industry and the corporate advertising complex see us as easy prey for the quick fixes they offer as solutions for the deep struggles we face as a society and as individuals.
This book demonstrates that we all have the ability to understand our
Jim Manis
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Does not hold up as well over the years since it was published. Fromm's arguments are too heavily based on deductive reasoning and an agreement with his audience that he is telling them what they want to hear. The productive life, Fromm argues, is the most desirable.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Fromm may have been attempting an enterprise to derive an ethical system from human psychology. I agree with one librarian Jonathan who wrote an excellent review on this book .
Benjamin Hager
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing analysis of the human condition, truly an important work.
Иван Рыбалко
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: doc
Most adequate and concise evaluation of human purpose and neurosis in modern world so far, containing vast number of clear evidences from historical and general perspective.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good start, interesting. But for me it got boring and dull in the middle of the book
Eric Susak
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Erich Fromm makes a salient argument for the importance of realizing one's potential. He states that answers to our ethical challenges can be solved by reflecting on how well we are practicing or achieving that which is essential to our humanity. That is, humans have the capacity to create (to create love, art, objects to better our standard of living, etc.), and if we are not actively pursuing those potentials, we are not living morally.

Of course, this begs the question of humans' potential to
Michael Holm
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Fromm tries to counter the idea that humanistic ethics are relative and therefore useless. He grounds his ethics upon universal human needs. I think consensus about human physical needs may be possible but probably not about psychological needs, such as socialization, religion, freedom, education, leisure and love. Cultural diversity makes consensus about psychological needs difficult. Fromm argues that all humans need to be able to develop and exercise their abilities (powers) to be truly happy ...more
Vikram X
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book has been one my least favourite of Erich Fromm's works : Fromm tries to come up with a humanist approach of ethics in which man taps into his "inner self" , something that is profoundly altruist . In the books he distinguishes different psyches of "hoarding","exploitative","marketing" each replete deep mental neurosis caused by current day hollow lifestyles and the need to move to a rational form inorder to reach ones true potential .

Fromm falls back on his psychoanalytical background
May 17, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
What a major disappointment! Having read (and enjoyed) "The Art of Loving" and "Escape From Freedom," I was really looking forward to "Man for Himself" but Fromm's defense of humanist ethics boils down to nothing more than if people could evolve in a perfect world than they could just listen to their inner voice. The book abounds with false polarities, weird interpretations of language, and oversimplifications of God, religion, character types, and even animal consciousness. The most interesting ...more
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fromm has so many ideas that I have thought about but have never been able to put into words or understand. His explanations and thoughts amaze me. I highlighted a lot of the book, I especially loved the part on behavior vs character.

"But not only medicine, engineering, and painting are arts; living itself is an art- in fact, the most important and at the same time the most difficult and complex art to be practiced by man. Its object is not this or that specialized performance, but the performa
Leon M
Fromm's "Man For Himself" discusses (and proposes) the possibility of an objective and humanistic approach to ethics.

After explaining why it is possible - according to him - to approach ethics from a scientific standpoint, he identifies several characters that are present in today's society: receptive, exploitative, hoarding and marketing as the bad ones, and the 'productive character' as the good one.
Toby Newton
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent achievement. Fromm sets as his goal an explication of why and how we should seek to orientate our endeavours in the shadow of the death of God. His formulation of the "productive" man, the man who lives precisely for himself in the shared reality of a social world, is more or less diametrically opposed to the crass and venal version of "productivity" propagated and promoted by capitalism; and should inform the efforts of schools and colleges everywhere.
Shirish Bhagwat
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book one of the best books one must read to understand human situation.
Fromm's idea of Productive life is very close to Bhagwad geeta . This also helps
In understanding both. Geeta and Man for Himself.
Very thought provoking, at times great, but Fromm failed to convince me on a lot of his main points. Plus I felt like he was just jumping to conclusions with his loveydovey & productivity shit. He raises good questions but fails with his answers. Still, was worth a read.
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The antodote to postmodern relativism

We have forgotten our humanist predecessors, but they have an important perspective and warning against our relativistic, post-modern views. Fromm expresses them clearly, in a very accessible way. An important read.
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Erich Fromm, Ph.D. (Sociology, University of Heidelberg, 1922), was a psychoanalyst and social philosopher who explored the interaction between psychology and society, and held various professorships in psychology in the U.S. and Mexico in the mid-20th century.

Fromm's theory is a rather unique blend of Freud and Marx. Freud, of course, emphasized the unconscious, biological drives, repression, and
“There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as 'moral indignation,' which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue.” 255 likes
“One is not loved accidentally; one’s own power to love produces love - just as being interested makes one interesting. People are concerned with the question of whether they are attractive while they forget that the essence of attractiveness is their own capacity to love. To love a person productively implies to care and to feel responsible for his life, not only for his physical existence but for the growth and development of all his human powers. To love productively is incompatible with being passive, with being an onlooker at the loved person’s life; it implies labor and care and the responsibility for his growth.” 43 likes
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