“Man is a money-making animal, which propensity too often interferes with his benevolence” — Herman Melville
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In this quote, Herman Melville seems to be making an observation about human nature and priorities. Specifically:
- Melville describes man as a “money-making animal” – implying the drive to generate wealth is a basic instinct or motivation for many people.
- However, he notes that this “propensity” or natural inclination toward accumulating riches “too often interferes with” acting with genuine kindness, goodwill or charity toward others (“benevolence”).
- Melville appears to believe the preoccupation with maximizing income can undermine more altruistic impulses if allowed to dominate one’s mindset and choices.
The best interpretation is that Melville believed the human tendency to prioritize profit-seeking is a common trait, but one that risks crowding out consideration for others’ well-being if unchecked.
His quote conveys a perspective that financial gain should not displace compassion as the overriding motivator, even if money-making comes naturally to people according to their basic nature in Melville’s view.