Robert Ardrey

American screenwriter and author of several books on anthropology (1908-1980)

Robert Ardrey (b. 16 October 1908 in Chicago, Illinois; d. 14 January 1980 in Kalk Bay, South Africa) was a writer, anthropologist, playwright and screenwriter.

Robert Ardrey, c. 1960


  • We were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted to battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.
    • African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man (1961)
  • Intelligence is no human sideshow but an evolutionary main event. The power to foresee, to call upon the past in terms of the future, to evaluate, to imagine solutions, is a power flowing from old time springs. The human mind may be denied the policeman's privilege of arresting this instinct or that. It may sit as no more than a moderator in the eternal instinctual debate. But it is a moderator with unlimited investigative powers.
    • African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man (1961)
  • Man is neither unique nor central nor necessarily here to stay. But he is a product of circumstances special to the point of disbelief. And if man in his current predicament seeks a fair mystique to see him through, then I can only suggest that he consider his genes. For they are marked. They are graven by luck beyond explanation. They are stamped by forces that we shall never know. But even so, in the hieroglyph of the human emergence certain symbols must stand for all to read: Change is the elixir of the human circumstance, and acceptance of challenge the way of our kind. We are bad-weather animals, disaster’s fairest children. For the soundest of evolutionary reasons man appears at his best when times are worst.
    • African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man (1961)
  • There is nothing so moving - not even acts of love or hate - as the discovery that one is not alone.
    • The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations (1966)
  • Human war ... has been the most successful of all our cultural traditions.
    • "Territorialism and War" (from The Territorial Imperative) (1967)
  • A skepticism concerning what one beholds - whether in the arts, in the sciences, or in the deeply etched channels of fashionable response - contains a force essential to the survival of civilized man.
    • Plays of Three Decades: Thunder Rock / Jeb / Shadow of Heroes (1968)
  • I find myself frequently maintaining to any young passer-by upon whose attention I can force myself that a genuinely creative career must like a milking stool stand on three legs. There must be accident, there must be sweat, there must be dissatisfaction. That one must work hard is too obvious for comment here. That one must be endowed with native dissatisfaction is very nearly as obvious, for it is the engine that drives you: dissatisfaction with the world and the arts as you find them, dissatisfaction with your own best efforts to capture the uncapturable. What is not so obvious is the support which one must gain from accident, from those dispositions of wind and stars over which one has no control.
    • Plays of Three Decades: Thunder Rock / Jeb / Shadow of Heroes (1968)
  • The philosophy of the impossible has been the dominant motive in human affairs for the past two centuries. We have pursued the mastery of nature as if we ourselves were not a portion of that nature. We have boasted of our command over our physical environment while we ourselves have done our urgent best to destroy it.
    • The Social Contract: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins of Order and Disorder (1970)
  • Art is an adventure. When it ceases to be an adventure, it ceases to be art. Not all of us pursue the inaccessible landscapes of the twelve-tone scale, just as not all of us strive for inaccessible mountain-tops, or glory in storms at sea. But the human incidence is there. Could it be that these two impractical pursuits - of beauty and of adventure’s embrace - are simply two differing profiles of the same uniquely human reality?
    • The Hunting Hypothesis: A Personal Conclusion Concerning the Evolutionary Nature of Man (1976)
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