5 Famous Thinkers Who Would Hate the People Who Quote Them

5 Famous Thinkers Who Would Hate the People Who Quote Them

Humans love nothing more than a good quote. A nice, compact statement of some belief, especially one that makes an extremely obvious or common thought seem smarter than it is, is practically singlehandedly keeping Etsy afloat. And hey, we can’t dismiss them outright. If a quote resonated enough to stick around for the long run, it’s probably because it does hit on some universal human truth

The problem with some quotes, though, is the very same reason that they make good tattoos: They’ve had all their context removed. Nobody’s going through the extra pain or cash to get the rest of the paragraph etched into their forearm. That said, now that I think about it, getting an asterisk tacked on the end and the rest tatted on one of your tootsies as a literal footnote would be pretty cool, though. 

Anyways, what this turns into is people tossing out a favorite turn of phrase that not only doesn’t mean what they think, but goes directly against what the person who came up with it was trying to say.

Here are five famous thinkers who would hate the people who quote them…

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Public Domain

Having a blast in Athens, heart-eyes emoji!

The quote in question here is a dating app classic: someone referring to themselves as a “citizen of the world.” Usually, it means somebody who’s nipping off to Tulum on a whim, and whose Instagram is filled with food arranged by tweezers. They’re also likely the type to travel first class and flaunt their heavily-stamped passports.

The actual quote, by Diogenes, first of all, has jack shit to do with travel. The man literally lived in a barrel, and the only time he traveled was after being exiled from his hometown. A bigger problem for most people who like to claim this status is that Diogenes was an ascetic who would more likely urinate on the side of a fancy hotel than ever stay in one. He absolutely hated the rich, giving us a much cooler, but unfortunately, much less-used quote: “In a rich man’s house there is no place to spit but his face.” 

In fact, quoting him in general isn’t a great idea, given his other quote, “One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings.”

Jean-Paul Sartre

Moshe Milner

Hey man, youre kind of being an asshole.

Playwright and existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre is responsible for one quote you’ve probably heard venomously spit by the grumpiest person you know: “Hell is other people.” It’s mostly used by people with clinical depression to try to convince themselves they don’t need therapy or medication. I get it! It’s a fun thing to say to explain why you don’t want to go to someone’s birthday party, and make sure you won’t get invited to the next one, in four neat little words.

Unfortunately, the actual quote, in the play it’s from, No Exit, has a much more complex meaning than “Bleh, everybody sucks, and I’m the only person who understands me!” He’s actually talking about the stress of seeing the worst part of ourselves reflected in other people’s perception of us. Still not sunny, but he’s even on record himself as being upset with how it’s misinterpreted, and said of the quote: “If my relations are bad, I am situating myself in a total dependence on someone else. And then I am indeed in hell. And there are a vast number of people in the world who are in hell because they are too dependent on the judgment of other people. But that does not at all mean that one cannot have relations with other people. It simply brings out the capital importance of all other people for each one of us.

So if you’re sitting alone in a corner and pouting, pissing everybody at a party off, Sartre might be the first one to tell you to get off your ass and make an attempt to maintain your relationships.

Friedrich Nietzche

Public Domain

Super edgy, bro.

Ooh, a goth classic. Look, Nietzche definitely wasn’t any kind of optimist, but he also wouldn’t be a fan of how one of his most famous quotes, “God is dead” is thrown around. He certainly wouldn’t be hooting and hollering in a car full of metalheads driving by a church and screaming it out the window. Maybe the thing he’d like the least is that it’s almost always used as a provocative, sneering statement of condescension for religion.

Now, he was an atheist, so it’s not like he personally had a lot invested in God’s existence. But when he said “God is dead,” it wasn’t with any bit of triumph, but instead fear. Read a little further, and it becomes more clear: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: Who will wipe this blood off us?”

Though he himself didn’t believe in religion, he saw the value of it in giving meaning to a lot of people’s lives, and worried that the loss of it would leave people with nothing to believe in. He might be a central figure in nihilistic philosophy; he saw it as a challenge to be worked through, not an excuse for despair.

William Shakespeare

Public Domain

“Did ANYBODY finish Romeo & Juliet?”

Even without focusing on a single quote, Shakespeare would probably be hot under his ruffles just based on how constantly he’s misquoted these days. One in particular would probably have him not only confused, but maybe even amused by how it’s being used: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” Commonly used today, it’s a statement of self-affirmation and independence, about “being yourself” or “not giving in to peer pressure” or whatever else you told your tattoo artist.

The problem here is that, well, Shakespeare wrote plays. So to evaluate a quote, you should also evaluate who said it. This line, from Hamlet, is proclaimed by Polonius, who is a massive idiot blowhard. It’s met by everyone else with the energy of “yeah, sure, buddy.” It’s practically the Shakespearean equivalent of yelling “O’Doyle rules!”

Seann William Scott

Eva Rinaldi

“Hey, man, I'm with my kids.”

You guys realize Stifler was supposed to be an asshole, right?

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