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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index L > Gustave Le Bon Quotes

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Gustave Le Bon
(7 May 1841 - 13 Dec 1931)

French social psychologist.


Science Quotes by Gustave Le Bon (23 quotes)

A crowd is not merely impulsive and mobile. Like a savage, it is not prepared to admit that anything can come between its desire and the realisation of its desire.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 26. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap. 2, 19. Original French text: “La foule n’est pas seulement impulsive et mobile. Comme le sauvage, elle n’admet pas que quelque chose puisse s’interposer entre son désir et la réalisation de ce désir.”
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Are the worst enemies of society those who attack it or those who do not even give themselves the trouble of defending it?
— Gustave Le Bon
From original French, “Les pires ennemis de la société sont-ils ceux qui l'attaquent ou ceux qui ne se donnent même pas la peine de la défendre?” in Psychologie du Socialisme (1898), 61. English in The Psychology of Socialism (1899), 52.
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At the bidding of a Peter the Hermit many millions of men swarmed to the East; the words of an hallucinated person … have created the force necessary to triumph over the Graeco-Roman world; an obscure monk like Luther set Europe ablaze and bathed in blood. The voice of a Galileo or a Newton will never have the least echo among the masses. The inventors of genius transform a civilization. The fanatics and the hallucinated create history.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Les Premières Civilisations (1889), 171. English in The Psychology of Peoples (1898), Book 1, Chap. 1, 204, tweaked by Webmaster. Original French text: “A la voix d'un Pierre l'Ermite, plusieurs millions d'hommes se sont précipités sur l'Orient; les paroles d'un halluciné … ont créé la force nécessaire pour triompher du vieux monde gréco-romain; un moine obscur, comme Luther, a mis l'Europe à feu et à sang. Ce n’est pas parmi les foules que la voix d’un Galilée ou d’un Newton aura jamais le plus faible écho. Les inventeurs de génie transforment une civilisation. Les fanatiques et les hallucinés créent l’histoire.”
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Civilisations as yet have only been created and directed by a small intellectual aristocracy, never by crowds. Crowds are only powerful for destruction.
— Gustave Le Bon
From original French, “Les civilisations n’ont été créées et guidées jusqu’ici que par une petite aristocratie intellectuelle, jamais par les foules. Les foules n’ont de puissance que pour détruire,” in Psychologie des Foules (1895), Preface, 6. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Introduction, xviii. Also seen translated as, “All the civilizations we know have been created and directed by small intellectual aristocracies, never by people in the mass. The power of crowds is only to destroy.”
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Crowds are somewhat like the sphinx of ancient fable: It is necessary to arrive at a solution of the problems offered by their psychology or to resign ourselves to being devoured by them.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 90. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 2, Chap. 2, 95. Original French text: “Les foules sont un peu comme le sphinx de la fable antique: il faut savoir résoudre les problèmes que leur psychologie nous pose, ou se résigner à être dévoré par elles.”
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In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated.
— Gustave Le Bon
From original French: “Dans les foules, c’est la bêtise et non l’esprit, qui s’accumule,” in Psychologie des Foules (1895), 17. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap. 1, 9. [Note: The original French “esprit” (spirit or mind) could also be translated as “intelligence” or “sense” instead of “mother-wit.” —Webmaster]
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One of the most constant characteristics of beliefs is their intolerance. It is even more uncompromising as the belief is stronger. Men dominated by a certitude cannot tolerate those who do not accept it.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Les Opinions et les Croyances: Genèse—Évolution (1911), 235. As translated in review of that book by: Samuel N. Reep, The American Journal of Sociology (1913), 18, No. 6, 814 (first and last sentences). Original French text: “Un des caractères généraux les plus constants des croyances est leur intolérance. Elle est d’autant plus intransigeante que la croyance est plus forte. Les hommes dominés par une certitude ne peuvent tolérer ceux qui ne l’acceptent pas.” The second sentence as translated by Webmaster from the original French. Also seen translated as, “The stronger the belief, the greater its intolerance.”
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Science has promised us truth. … It has never promised us either peace or happiness.
— Gustave Le Bon
From the original French, “La science … nous a promis la vérité … ; elle ne nous a jamais promis ni la paix ni le bonheur,” in La Psychologie des Foules, 5. Translated in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), xvii.
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The art of those who govern…, consists above all in the science of employing words.
— Gustave Le Bon
From the original French, “L’art des gouvernants…, consiste surtout a savoir manier les mots,” in Psychologie des Foules (1895), 95. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 2. Chap. 2, 101.
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The beginning of a revolution is in reality the end of a belief.
— Gustave Le Bon
From the original French, “Les revolutions qui commencent sont en réalité des croyances qui finissent.” in Psychologie des Foules (1895), 130. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 2, Chap. 4, 143. [Note: The original French uses plurals, and could be translated: “Revolutions that begin are actually beliefs that end.” —Webmaster]
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The conscious life of the mind is of small importance in comparison with its unconscious life.
— Gustave Le Bon
From original French, “La vie consciente de l’esprit ne représente qu’une bien faible part auprès de sa vie inconsciente,” in Psychologie des Foules (1895), 16. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap. 1, 7. [A closer translation could be: “The conscious life of the mind represents only a very small part of of his unconscious life.” —Webmaster]
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The great upheavals which precede changes of civilisation, such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the founding of the Arabian Empire, for example, seem to have been determined mainly by considerable political transformations, invasions, or the overthrow of dynasties. But … most often, the real cause is … a profound modification in the ideas of the peoples. … The memorable events of history are the visible effects of the invisible changes of human thought. … The present epoch is one of these critical moments in which the thought of mankind is undergoing a process of transformation.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), Introduction, 1-2. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Introduction, xiii-xiv, tweaked by Webmaster. Original French text: “Les grands bouleversements qui précèdent les changements de civilisations, tels que la chute de l’Empire romain et la fondation de l’Empire arabe par exemple semblent … déterminés surtout par des transformations politiques considérables: invasions de peuples ou renversements de dynasties. Mais … se trouve le plus souvent, comme cause réelle, une modification profonde dans les peuples. … Les événements mémorables de l’histoire sont les effets visibles des invisibles changements de la pensée des hommes. … L’époque actuelle constitue un de ces moments critiques où la pensée des hommes est en voie de se transformer.”
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The greater part of our daily actions are the result of hidden motives which escape our observation.
— Gustave Le Bon
From original French, “La plupart de nos actions journalières ne sont que l’effet de mobiles cachés qui nous échappent,” in Psychologie des Foules (1895), 16. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap. 1, 7. [A closer translation could be: “Most of our daily actions are just the effect of hidden motives that we don’t notice.” —Webmaster]
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The images evoked by words being independent of their sense, they vary from age to age and from people to people, the formulas remaining identical. Certain transitory images are attached to certain words: the word is merely as it were the button of an electric bell that calls them up.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 91. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 2, Chap. 2, 97. The original French text is, “Les images évoquées par les mots étant indépendantes de leur sens, varient d’âge en âge, de peuple à peuple, sous l’identité des formules. A certains mots s’attachent transitoirement certaines images: le mot n’est que le bouton d’appel qui les fait apparaître.” Notice the original French, “le bouton d’appel” translates more directly as “call button” and “of an electric bell” is added in translation for clarity, but is not in the French text. The ending could also be translated as “that makes them appear.”
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The imagination of the crowds … is impressed above all by images. … It is possible to evoke them through the judicious use of words and formulas.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 90. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 2, Chap. 2, 95. Original French text: “L’imagination des foules … est impressionnée surtout par des images. … Il est possible de les évoquer par l’emploi judicieux des mots et des formules.” A paraphrase is also seen, without the ellipses, as “Crowds are influenced mainly by images produced by the judicious employment of words and formulas.”
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The influence of the leaders is due in very small measure to the arguments they employ, but in a large degree to their prestige. The best proof of this is that, should they by any circumstance lose their prestige, their influence disappears.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 175. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 2, Chap. 5, 197-198. Original French text: “Les meneurs agissent très peu par leurs raisonnements, beaucoup par leur prestige. Et la meilleure preuve, c'est que si une circonstance quelconque les en dépouille, ils n’ont plus d’influence.”
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The masses have never thirsted after truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 98. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 2, Chap. 2, 105. The original French text is, “Les foules n’ont jamais eu soif de vérités. Devant les évidences qui leur déplaisent, elles se detournent, preferant déifier l’erreur, si l’erreur les séduit. Qui sait les illusionner est aisément leur maître; qui tente de les désillusionner est toujours leur victime.”
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The precise moment at which a great belief is doomed is easily recognizable; it is the moment when its value begins to be called into question.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 130. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 2, Chap. 4, 143. Original French text: “Le jour précis où une grande croyance est marquée pour mourir est facile à reconnaître; c’est celui où sa valeur commence à être discutée.”
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Under certain given circumstances, and only under those circumstances, an agglomeration of men presents new characteristics very different from those of the individuals composing it. The sentiments and ideas of all the persons in the gathering take one and the same direction, and their conscious personality vanishes. A collective mind is formed, doubtless transitory, but presenting very clearly defined characteristics. The gathering has thus become what, in the absence of a better expression, I will call an organized crowd, or, if the term is considered preferable, a psychological crowd. It forms a single being and is subject to the law of the mental unity of crowds.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 12. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap. 1, 1-2. The original French text is, “Dans certaines circonstances données, et seulement dans ces circonstances, une agglomération d’hommes possède des caractères nouveaux fort différents de ceux des individus composant cette agglomération. La personnalité consciente s’évanouit, les sentiments et les idées de toutes les unités sont orientés dans une même direction. Il se forme une âme collective, transitoire sans doute, mais présentant des caractères très nets. La collectivité est alors devenue ce que, faute d’une expression meilleure, j’appellerai une foule organisée, ou, si l’on préfère, une foule psychologique. Elle forme un seul être et se trouve soumise à la loi de l'unité mentale des foules.”
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We see, then, that the disappearance of the conscious personality, the predominance of the unconscious personality, the turning by means of suggestion and contagion of feelings and ideas in an identical direction, the tendency to immediately transform the suggested ideas into acts; these, we see, are the principal characteristics of the individual forming part of a crowd. He is no longer himself, but has become an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his will.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 20. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap. 1, 12. Original French text: “Donc, évanouissement de la personnalité consciente, prédominance de la personnalité inconsciente, orientation par voie de suggestion et de contagion des sentiments et des idées dans un même sens, tendance a transformer immédiatement en actes les idée suggérées, tels sont les principaux caractères de l’individu en foule. II n’est plus lui-même, il est devenu un automate que sa volonté ne guide plus.”
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[A crowd] thinks in images, and the image itself calls up a series of other images, having no logical connection with the first … A crowd scarcely distinguishes between the subjective and the objective. It accepts as real the images invoked in its mind, though they most often have only a very distant relation with the observed facts. * * * Crowds being only capable of thinking in images are only to be impressed by images. It is only images that terrify or attract them and become motives of action.
— Gustave Le Bon
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 29 & 56. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap 2, 22 & last sentence, 55. Original French text: “[La foule] pense par images, et l’image évoquée en évoque elle-même une série d’autres n’ayant aucun lien logique avec la première. … La foule ne sépare guère le subjectif de l’objectif. Elle admet comme réelles les images évoquées dans son esprit, et qui le plus souvent n’ont qu’une parenté lointaine avec le fait observé. * * * Les foules, ne pouvant penser que par images,ne se laissent impressionner que par des images. Seules les images les terrifient ou les séduisent, et deviennent des mobiles d’action.”
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~~[No Known Source]~~ If atheism spread, it would become a religion as intolerable as the ancient ones.
— Gustave Le Bon
Found circulating on the web, this might be a paraphrase of the ideas of Le Bon. However, for the wording as given in the subject quote, Webmaster has looked for a primary source, and cannot yet find one. Can you help? Meanwhile it may be better to attribute to Anonymous.
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~~[No Known Source]~~ The role of the scholar is to destroy chimeras, that of the statesman is to make use of them.
— Gustave Le Bon
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See also:
  • 7 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Bon's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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