Arthur Schopenhauer

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Category: Note
The real problem of the metaphysics of the beautiful may be very simply expressed by our asking how satisfaction with and pleasure in an object are possible without any reference thereof to our willing. Thus everyone feels that pleasure and satisfaction in a thing can really spring only from its relation to our will or, as we are fond of expressing it, to our aims, so that pleasure without a stirring of the will seems to be a contradiction. Yet the beautiful, as such, quite obviously gives rise to our delight and pleasure, without its having any reference to our ...
Category: Philosophy
In a field of ripening corn I came to a place which had been trampled down by some ruthless foot; and as I glanced amongst the countless stalks, every one of them alike, standing there so erect and bearing the full weight of the ear, I saw a multitude of different flowers, red and blue and violet. How pretty they looked as they grew there so naturally with their little foliage! But, thought I, they are quite useless; they bear no fruit; they are mere weeds, suffered to remain only because there is no getting rid of them. And yet, ...
Category: Note
If in times past it was the guilty debt of the world which was lamented, now it is the financial debts of the world which arouse dismay. Formerly it was the Last Day which was prophesied; now it is the [Greek: seisachtheia] the great repudiation, the universal bankruptcy of the nations, which will one day happen; although the prophet, in this as in the other case, entertains a firm hope that he will not live to see it himself.
Category: Philosophy
Aristotle [1] divides the blessings of life into three classes—those which come to us from without, those of the soul, and those of the body. Keeping nothing of this division but the number, I observe that the fundamental differences in human lot may be reduced to three distinct classes: [Footnote 1: Eth. Nichom., I. 8.] (1) What a man is: that is to say, personality, in the widest sense of the word; under which are included health, strength, beauty, temperament, moral character, intelligence, and education. (2) What a man has: that is, property and possessions of every kind. (3) How ...
Category: Philosophy
We have already seen, in general, that what a man is contributes much more to his happiness than what he has, or how he is regarded by others. What a man is , and so what he has in his own person, is always the chief thing to consider; for his individuality accompanies him always and everywhere, and gives its color to all his experiences. In every kind of enjoyment, for instance, the pleasure depends principally upon the man himself. Every one admits this in regard to physical, and how much truer it is of intellectual, pleasure. When we use ...
Category: Philosophy
Epicurus divides the needs of mankind into three classes, and the division made by this great professor of happiness is a true and a fine one. First come natural and necessary needs, such as, when not satisfied, produce pain,—food and clothing, victus et amictus, needs which can easily be satisfied. Secondly, there are those needs which, though natural, are not necessary, such as the gratification of certain of the senses. I may add, however, that in the report given by Diogenes Laertius, Epicurus does not mention which of the senses he means; so that on this point my account of ...
Category: Philosophy
Section 1.— Reputation . By a peculiar weakness of human nature, people generally think too much about the opinion which others form of them; although the slightest reflection will show that this opinion, whatever it may be, is not in itself essential to happiness. Therefore it is hard to understand why everybody feels so very pleased when he sees that other people have a good opinion of him, or say anything flattering to his vanity. If you stroke a cat, it will purr; and, as inevitably, if you praise a man, a sweet expression of delight will appear on his ...
Category: Note
I have described character as theoretically an act of will lying beyond time, of which life in time, or character in action , is the development.
Category: Philosophy
Men who aspire to a happy, a brilliant and a long life, instead of to a virtuous one, are like foolish actors who want to be always having the great parts,—the parts that are marked by splendour and triumph. They fail to see that the important thing is not what or how much , but how they act. Since a man does not alter , and his moral character remains absolutely the same all through his life; since he must play out the part which he has received, without the least deviation from the character; since neither experience, nor philosophy, ...
Category: Note
For what is our civilised world but a big masquerade? where you meet knights, priests, soldiers, men of learning, barristers, clergymen, philosophers, and I don't know what all! But they are not what they pretend to be; they are only masks, and, as a rule, behind the masks you will find moneymakers. One man, I suppose, puts on the mask of law, which he has borrowed for the purpose from a barrister, only in order to be able to give another man a sound drubbing; a second has chosen the mask of patriotism and the public welfare with a similar ...
Category: Note
Constitutional kings are undoubtedly in much the same position as the gods of Epicurus, who sit upon high in undisturbed bliss and tranquillity, and do not meddle with human affairs.
Category: Note
Look on these two pictures—the life of the masses, one long, dull record of struggle and effort entirely devoted to the petty interests of personal welfare, to misery in all its forms, a life beset by intolerable boredom as soon as ever those aims are satisfied and the man is thrown back upon himself, whence he can be roused again to some sort of movement only by the wild fire of passion. On the other side you have a man endowed with a high degree of mental power, leading an existence rich in thought and full of life and meaning, ...
Category: Quotation
The conversation among ordinary people, when it does not relate to any special matter of fact, but takes a more general character, mostly consists in hackneyed commonplaces, which they alternately repeat to each other with the utmost complacency.
Category: Note
Not only a man's life, but his intellect too, may be possessed of a clear and definite character, so far as his intellect is applied to matters of theory. It is not every man, however, who has an intellect of this kind; for any such definite individuality as I mean is genius—an original view of the world, which presupposes an absolutely exceptional individuality, which is the essence of genius. A man's intellectual character is the theme on which all his works are variations. In an essay which I wrote in Weimar I called it the knack by which every genius ...
Category: Quotation
How shall a man be proud, when his conception is a crime, his birth a penalty, his life a labour, and death a necessity!
Category: Note
But the truth is that the dilettante treats his subject as an end, whereas the professional, pure and simple, treats it merely as a means. He alone will be really in earnest about a matter, who has a direct interest therein, takes to it because he likes it, and pursues it con amore. It is these, and not hirelings, that have always done the greatest work.
Category: Note
Least of all should a man be envious, when it is a question, not of the gifts of fortune, or chance, or another's favour, but of the gifts of nature; because everything that is innate in a man rests on a metaphysical basis, and possesses justification of a higher kind; it is, so to speak, given him by Divine grace.
Category: Philosophy
The philosophers of the ancient world united in a single conception a great many things that had no connection with one another. Of this every dialogue of Plato's furnishes abundant examples. The greatest and worst confusion of this kind is that between ethics and politics. The State and the Kingdom of God, or the Moral Law, are so entirely different in their character that the former is a parody of the latter, a bitter mockery at the absence of it. Compared with the Moral Law the State is a crutch instead of a limb, an automaton instead of a man. ...
Category: Philosophy
No thoughtful man can have any doubt, after the conclusions reached in my prize-essay on Moral Freedom , that such freedom is to be sought, not anywhere in nature, but outside of it. The only freedom that exists is of a metaphysical character. In the physical world freedom is an impossibility. Accordingly, while our several actions are in no wise free, every man's individual character is to be regarded as a free act. He is such and such a man, because once for all it is his will to be that man. For the will itself, and in itself, and ...
Category: Philosophy
There is an unconscious propriety in the way in which, in all European languages, the word person is commonly used to denote a human being. The real meaning of persona is a mask , such as actors were accustomed to wear on the ancient stage; and it is quite true that no one shows himself as he is, but wears his mask and plays his part. Indeed, the whole of our social arrangements may be likened to a perpetual comedy; and this is why a man who is worth anything finds society so insipid, while a blockhead is quite at ...
Category: Note
The difference between the genius and the ordinary man is, no doubt, a quantitative one, in so far as it is a difference of degree; but I am tempted to regard it also as qualitative , in view of the fact that ordinary minds, notwithstanding individual variation, have a certain tendency to think alike. Thus on similar occasions their thoughts at once all take a similar direction, and run on the same lines; and this explains why their judgments constantly agree—not, however, because they are based on truth. To such lengths does this go that certain fundamental views obtain amongst ...
Category: Philosophy
When I think, it is the spirit of the world which is striving to express its thought; it is nature which is trying to know and fathom itself. It is not the thoughts of some other mind, which I am endeavouring to trace; but it is I who transform that which exists into something which is known and thought, and would otherwise neither come into being nor continue in it. In the realm of physics it was held for thousands of years to be a fact beyond question that water was a simple and consequently an original element. In the ...
Category: Philosophy
It is a characteristic failing of the Germans to look in the clouds for what lies at their feet. An excellent example of this is furnished by the treatment which the idea of Natural Right has received at the hands of professors of philosophy. When they are called upon to explain those simple relations of human life which make up the substance of this right, such as Right and Wrong, Property, State, Punishment and so on, they have recourse to the most extravagant, abstract, remote and meaningless conceptions, and out of them build a Tower of Babel reaching to the ...
Category: Note
Hence, if a man has any genius, let him guard himself from pain, keep care at a distance, and limit his desires; but those of them which he cannot suppress let him satisfy to the full.
Category: Note
If a man feels inclined to commit a bad action and refrains, he is kept back either (1) by fear of punishment or vengeance; or (2) by superstition in other words, fear of punishment in a future life; or (3) by the feeling of sympathy, including general charity; or (4) by the feeling of honour, in other words, the fear of shame; or (5) by the feeling of justice, that is, an objective attachment to fidelity and good-faith, coupled with a resolve to hold them sacred, because they are the foundation of all free intercourse between man and man, and ...
Category: Philosophy
Truths of the physical order may possess much external significance, but internal significance they have none. The latter is the privilege of intellectual and moral truths, which are concerned with the objectivation of the will in its highest stages, whereas physical truths are concerned with it in its lowest. For example, if we could establish the truth of what up till now is only a conjecture, namely, that it is the action of the sun which produces thermoelectricity at the equator; that this produces terrestrial magnetism; and that this magnetism, again, is the cause of the aurora borealis , these ...
Category: Philosophy
[Footnote 22 Translator's Note .—The word immortality— Unsterblichkeit —does not occur in the original; nor would it, in its usual application, find a place in Schopenhauer's vocabulary. The word he uses is Unzerstörbarkeit—indestructibility . But I have preferred immortality , because that word is commonly associated with the subject touched upon in this little debate. If any critic doubts the wisdom of this preference, let me ask him to try his hand at a short, concise, and, at the same time, popularly intelligible rendering of the German original, which runs thus: Zur Lehre von der Unzerstörbarkeit unseres wahren Wesens durch ...
Category: Philosophy
THE ESSAYS OF ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER: THE WISDOM OF LIFE TRANSLATED BY T. BAILEY SAUNDERS, M.A. In these pages I shall speak of The Wisdom of Life in the common meaning of the term, as the art, namely, of ordering our lives so as to obtain the greatest possible amount of pleasure and success; an art the theory of which may be called Eudaemonology, for it teaches us how to lead a happy existence. Such an existence might perhaps be defined as one which, looked at from a purely objective point of view, or, rather, after cool and mature reflection—for the ...
Category: Note
Every human perfection is allied to a defect into which it threatens to pass; but it is also true that every defect is allied to a perfection. Hence it is that if, as often happens, we make a mistake about a man, it is because at the beginning of our acquaintance with him we confound his defects with the kinds of perfection to which they are allied. The cautious man seems to us a coward; the economical man, a miser; the spendthrift seems liberal; the rude fellow, downright and sincere; the foolhardy person looks as if he were going to ...
Category: Quotation
Vulgar people take a huge delight in the faults and follies of great men; and great men are equally annoyed at being thus reminded of their kinship with them.
Category: Note
The Pythagorean principle that like is known only by like is in many respects a true one. It explains how it is that every man understands his fellow only in so far as he resembles him, or, at least, is of a similar character. What one man is quite sure of perceiving in another is that which is common to all, namely, the vulgar, petty or mean elements of our nature; here every man has a perfect understanding of his fellows; but the advantage which one man has over another does not exist for the other, who, be the talents ...
Category: Philosophy
By the ancients, Logic and Dialectic were used as synonymous terms; although [Greek: logizesthai], "to think over, to consider, to calculate," and [Greek: dialegesthai], "to converse," are two very different things. The name Dialectic was, as we are informed by Diogenes Laertius, first used by Plato; and in the Phaedrus, Sophist, Republic , bk. vii., and elsewhere, we find that by Dialectic he means the regular employment of the reason, and skill in the practice of it. Aristotle also uses the word in this sense; but, according to Laurentius Valla, he was the first to use Logic too in a ...
Category: Note
The lower animals are not endowed with moral freedom. Probably this is not because they show no trace of the better consciousness which in us is manifested as morality, or nothing analogous to it; for, if that were so, the lower animals, which are in so many respects like ourselves in outward appearance that we regard man as a species of animal, would possess some raison d'être entirely different from our own, and actually be, in their essential and inmost nature, something quite other than ourselves. This is a contention which is obviously refuted by the thoroughly malignant and inherently ...
Category: Note
As long therefore as luxury exists, there must be a corresponding amount of over-work and misery, whether it takes the name of poverty or of slavery. The fundamental difference between the two is that slavery originates in violence, and poverty in craft. The whole unnatural condition of society—the universal struggle to escape from misery, the sea-trade attended with so much loss of life, the complicated interests of commerce, and finally the wars to which it all gives rise—is due, only and alone, to luxury, which gives no happiness even to those who enjoy it, nay, makes them ill and bad-tempered. ...
Category: Note
Finally, it is for the same reason that great superiority of mind isolates a man, and that those of high gifts keep themselves aloof from the vulgar (and that means every one); for if they mingle with the crowd, they can communicate only such parts of them as they share with the crowd, and so make themselves common.
Category: Note
It is very necessary that a man should be apprised early in life that it is a masquerade in which he finds himself. For otherwise there are many things which he will fail to understand and put up with, nay, at which he will be completely puzzled, and that man longest of all whose heart is made of better clay. Such for instance is the favour that villainy finds; the neglect that merit, even the rarest and the greatest, suffers at the hands of those of the same profession; the hatred of truth and great capacity; the ignorance of scholars ...
Category: Note
Men of genius and intellect, and all those whose mental and theoretical qualities are far more developed than their moral and practical qualities—men, in a word, who have more mind than character—are often not only awkward and ridiculous in matters of daily life, as has been observed by Plato in the seventh book of the Republic, and portrayed by Goethe in his Tasso; but they are often, from a moral point of view, weak and contemptible creatures as well; nay, they might almost be called bad men. Of this Rousseau has given us genuine examples. Nevertheless, that better consciousness which ...
Category: Note
In general, the monarchical form of government is that which is natural to man; just as it is natural to bees and ants, to a flight of cranes, a herd of wandering elephants, a pack of wolves seeking prey in common, and many other animals, all of which place one of their number at the head of the business in hand. Every business in which men engage, if it is attended with danger—every campaign, every ship at sea—must also be subject to the authority of one commander; everywhere it is one will that must lead. Even the animal organism is ...
Category: Philosophy
An act done by instinct differs from every other kind of act in that an understanding of its object does not precede it but follows upon it. Instinct is therefore a rule of action given à priori . We may be unaware of the object to which it is directed, as no understanding of it is necessary to its attainment. On the other hand, if an act is done by an exercise of reason or intelligence, it proceeds according to a rule which the understanding has itself devised for the purpose of carrying out a preconceived aim. Hence it is ...
Category: Note
The newspapers are the seconds-hand of history; yet this is often not only of baser metal, but is seldom right. The so-called ‘leading articles’ in the papers are the chorus to the drama of contemporary events. Exaggeration of every kind is as essential to journalism as it is to dramatic art; for as much as possible must be made of every event; and so by virtue of their profession all journalists are alarmists; this is their way of making themselves interesting, whereby they resemble small dogs who at once start barking loudly at everything that stirs. We accordingly have to ...
Category: Philosophy
Schiller's poem in honor of women, Würde der Frauen , is the result of much careful thought, and it appeals to the reader by its antithetic style and its use of contrast; but as an expression of the true praise which should be accorded to them, it is, I think, inferior to these few words of Jouy's: Without women, the beginning of our life would be helpless; the middle, devoid of pleasure; and the end, of consolation . The same thing is more feelingly expressed by Byron in Sardanapalus : The very first Of human life must spring from woman's ...
Category: Philosophy
The following brief remarks on the critical faculty are chiefly intended to show that, for the most part, there is no such thing. It is a rara avis ; almost as rare, indeed, as the phoenix, which appears only once in five hundred years. When we speak of taste —an expression not chosen with any regard for it—we mean the discovery, or, it may be only the recognition, of what is right aesthetically , apart from the guidance of any rule; and this, either because no rule has as yet been extended to the matter in question, or else because, ...
Category: Philosophy
The human intellect is said to be so constituted that general ideas arise by abstraction from particular observations , and therefore come after them in point of time. If this is what actually occurs, as happens in the case of a man who has to depend solely upon his own experience for what he learns—who has no teacher and no book,—such a man knows quite well which of his particular observations belong to and are represented by each of his general ideas. He has a perfect acquaintance with both sides of his experience, and accordingly, he treats everything that comes ...
Category: Philosophy
No difference of rank, position, or birth, is so great as the gulf that separates the countless millions who use their head only in the service of their belly, in other words, look upon it as an instrument of the will, and those very few and rare persons who have the courage to say: No! it is too good for that; my head shall be active only in its own service; it shall try to comprehend the wondrous and varied spectacle of this world, and then reproduce it in some form, whether as art or as literature, that may answer ...
Category: Philosophy
When one sees the number and variety of institutions which exist for the purposes of education, and the vast throng of scholars and masters, one might fancy the human race to be very much concerned about truth and wisdom. But here, too, appearances are deceptive. The masters teach in order to gain money, and strive, not after wisdom, but the outward show and reputation of it; and the scholars learn, not for the sake of knowledge and insight, but to be able to chatter and give themselves airs. Every thirty years a new race comes into the world—a youngster that ...
Category: Philosophy
Kant wrote a treatise on The Vital Powers . I should prefer to write a dirge for them. The superabundant display of vitality, which takes the form of knocking, hammering, and tumbling things about, has proved a daily torment to me all my life long. There are people, it is true—nay, a great many people—who smile at such things, because they are not sensitive to noise; but they are just the very people who are also not sensitive to argument, or thought, or poetry, or art, in a word, to any kind of intellectual influence. The reason of it is ...
Category: Philosophy
Writers may be classified as meteors, planets and fixed stars. A meteor makes a striking effect for a moment. You look up and cry There! and it is gone for ever. Planets and wandering stars last a much longer time. They often outshine the fixed stars and are confounded with them by the inexperienced; but this only because they are near. It is not long before they must yield their place; nay, the light they give is reflected only, and the sphere of their influence is confined to their own orbit—their contemporaries. Their path is one of change and movement, ...
Category: Philosophy
Style is the physiognomy of the mind, and a safer index to character than the face. To imitate another man's style is like wearing a mask, which, be it never so fine, is not long in arousing disgust and abhorrence, because it is lifeless; so that even the ugliest living face is better. Hence those who write in Latin and copy the manner of ancient authors, may be said to speak through a mask; the reader, it is true, hears what they say, but he cannot observe their physiognomy too; he cannot see their style . With the Latin works ...
Category: Philosophy
As far as I know, none but the votaries of monotheistic, that is to say, Jewish religions, look upon suicide as a crime. This is all the more striking, inasmuch as neither in the Old nor in the New Testament is there to be found any prohibition or positive disapproval of it; so that religious teachers are forced to base their condemnation of suicide on philosophical grounds of their own invention. These are so very bad that writers of this kind endeavor to make up for the weakness of their arguments by the strong terms in which they express their ...
Category: Philosophy
In the productions of poetic genius, especially of the epic and dramatic kind, there is, apart from Beauty, another quality which is attractive: I mean Interest. The beauty of a work of art consists in the fact that it holds up a clear mirror to certain ideas inherent in the world in general; the beauty of a work of poetic art in particular is that it renders the ideas inherent in mankind, and thereby leads it to a knowledge of these ideas. The means which poetry uses for this end are the exhibition of significant characters and the invention of ...