Notes

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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: Note
Thus, to pass from sensation to thought, the soul traverses a medium position, in which sensibility and reason are at the same time active, and thus they mutually destroy their determinant power, and by their antagonism produce a negation. This medium situation in which the soul is neither physically nor morally constrained, and yet is in both ways active, merits essentially the name of a free situation; and if we call the state of sensuous determination physical, and the state of rational determination logical or moral, that state of real and active determination should be called the aesthetic.
Category: Note
Accordingly, if the aesthetic disposition of the mind must be looked upon in one respect as nothing—that is, when we confine our view to separate and determined operations—it must be looked upon in another respect as a state of the highest reality, in as far as we attend to the absence of all limits and the sum of powers which are commonly active in it. Accordingly we cannot pronounce them, again, to be wrong who describe the aesthetic state to be the most productive in relation to knowledge and morality. They are perfectly right, for a state of mind which ...
Category: Note
The dynamic state can only make society simple possibly by subduing nature through nature; the moral (ethical) state can only make it morally necessary by submitting the will of the individual to the general will. The aesthetic state alone can make it real, because it carries out the will of all through the nature of the individual. If necessity alone forces man to enter into society, and if his reason engraves on his soul social principles, it is beauty only that can give him a social character; taste alone brings harmony into society, because it creates harmony in the individual. ...
Category: Note
But as soon as we remember that freedom is taken from man by the one-sided compulsion of nature in feeling, and by the exclusive legislation of the reason in thinking, we must consider the capacity restored to him by the aesthetical disposition, as the highest of all gifts, as the gift of humanity. It is therefore not only a poetical license, but also philosophically correct, when beauty is named our second creator. Nor is this inconsistent with the fact that she only makes it possible for us to attain and realize humanity, leaving this to our free will. For in ...
Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
An age that has no criticism is either an age in which art is immobile, hieratic, and confined to the reproduction of formal types, or an age that possesses no art at all
Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
At present machinery competes against man. Under proper conditions machinery will serve man. There is no doubt at all that this is the future of machinery, and just as trees grow while the country gentleman is asleep, so while Humanity will be amusing itself, or enjoying cultivated leisure—which, and not labour, is the aim of man—or making beautiful things, or reading beautiful things, or simply contemplating the world with admiration and delight, machinery will be doing all the necessary and unpleasant work.
Category: Note
We know that the reason makes itself known to man by the demand for the absolute—the self-dependent and necessary. But as this want of the reason cannot be satisfied in any separate or single state of his physical life, he is obliged to leave the physical entirely and to rise from a limited reality to ideas. But although the true meaning of that demand of the reason is to withdraw him from the limits of time and to lead him from the world of sense to an ideal world, yet this same demand of reason, by misapplication—scarcely to be avoided ...
Category: Note
True art fills man with joy. And true joy makes man good.
Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
They knew that Life gains from art not merely spirituality, depth of thought and feeling, soul-turmoil or soul-peace, but that she can form herself on the very lines and colours of art, and can reproduce the dignity of Pheidias as well as the grace of Praxiteles. Hence came their objection to realism. They disliked it on purely social grounds. They felt that it inevitably makes people ugly, and they were perfectly right. We try to improve the conditions of the race by means of good air, free sunlight, wholesome water, and hideous bare buildings for the better housing of the ...
Category: Note
The praiseworthy object of pursuing everywhere moral good as the supreme aim, which has already brought forth in art so much mediocrity, has caused also in theory a similar prejudice. To assign to the fine arts a really elevated position, to conciliate for them the favor of the State, the veneration of all men, they are pushed beyond their due domain, and a vocation is imposed upon them contrary to their nature. It is supposed that a great service is awarded to them by substituting for a frivolous aim—that of charming—a moral aim; and their influence upon morality, which is ...
Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
Bad artists always admire each other's work. They call it being large-minded and free from prejudice. But a truly great artist cannot conceive of life being shown, or beauty fashioned, under any conditions other than those that he has selected.
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: Note
It is difficult to obtain the friendship of a cat. It is a philosophical animal... one that does not place its affections thoughtlessly.
Category: Note
In order to crush all opposing forces and to facilitate the perfecting of the totalitarian machinery, it became necessary to step up the process of centralization. This alone is able to foster uniformity and egalitarianism, and to ensure swift execution of governmental orders.
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: 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
Psychologically, rule stemming from a person considered superior is less oppressive than coercion exercised by equals—not to mention that exercised by those felt to be inferior.
Category: Note
There are in reality no great tasks for the individual, hence there is no room for genius. The theatre is the only place where those who are not of princely birth can gain any experience of all the manifold phases of human life, hence the stage mania of literature. Lacking any social field in which to work, all activity necessarily takes the form either of war with reality or flight from it.
Category: Note
The French use the word 'composition' inappropriately. The expression is degrading as applied to genuine productions of art and poetry. It is a thoroughly contemptible word, of which we should seek to get rid as soon as possible. "How can one say, Mozart has composed 'Don Juan'! Composition! As if it were a piece of cake or biscuit, which had been mixed together with eggs, flour, and sugar! It is a spiritual creation, in which the details as well as the whole are pervaded by one spirit. Consequently, the producer did not follow his own experimental impulse, but acted under ...
Category: Note
He is the happiest man who can set the end of his life in connection with the beginning.
Category: Note
But although my conscience has controlled my actions, my opinions have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached.
Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
This is that CONSOLATION DES ARTS which is the key-note of Gautier’s poetry, the secret of modern life foreshadowed - as indeed what in our century is not? - by Goethe. You remember what he said to the German people: ‘Only have the courage,’ he said, ‘to give yourselves up to your impressions, allow yourselves to be delighted, moved, elevated, nay instructed, inspired for something great.’ The courage to give yourselves up to your impressions: yes, that is the secret of the artistic life - for while art has been defined as an escape from the tyranny of the senses, ...
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: Note
The multitude has suddenly become visible, installing itself in the preferential positions in society. Before, if it existed, it passed unnoticed, occupying the background of the social stage; now it has advanced to the footlights and is the principal character. There are no longer protagonists; there is only the chorus.
Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
Goethe--you will not misunderstand what I say--was a German of the Germans. He loved his country--no man more so. Its people were dear to him; and he led them. Yet, when the iron hoof of Napoleon trampled upon vineyard and cornfield, his lips were silent. 'How can one write songs of hatred without hating?' he said to Eckermann, 'and how could I, to whom culture and barbarism are alone of importance, hate a nation which is among the most cultivated of the earth and to which I owe so great a part of my own cultivation?' This note, sounded in ...
Category: Note
Since the victory of Lucerne the dogma of popular sovereignty and the omnipotence of democracy has become the practical basis of our public institutions. I don’t doubt that this ideology is going to proceed to all, even its most extreme conclusions, if the conditions of Europe permit it and if great catastrophes do not lead the people back to the true foundations of a sound political life. Yet complete democracy is the end of everything good. Republics have the most to fear from it. I tremble at the thought of its expansion, not on account of property, but because democracy ...
Category: Note
But alas! the rising tide of democracy, which spreads everywhere and reduces everything to the same level, is daily carrying away these last champions of human pride, and submerging, in the waters of oblivion, the last traces of these remarkable myrmidons.
Category: Note
Democracy, indeed, has no enthusiasm for the exceptional, and where she cannot deny or remove it, she hates it from the bottom of her heart. Herself a monstrous product of mediocre brains and their envy, democracy can use as tools only mediocre men, and the pushing place-hunters give her all desired guarantees of sympathy. Yet it must be admitted that a new spirit, coming from below, gets hold of the masses so that they, driven by dark instincts, are looking again for the exceptional. But herein they may be surprisingly badly advised, and take a fancy to a Boulanger!
Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
Decorative art emphasises its material: imaginative art annihilates it.
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: Note
Author: Nietzsche
We, who hold a different belief--we, who regard the democratic movement, not only as a degenerating form of political organization, but as equivalent to a degenerating, a waning type of man, as involving his mediocrising and depreciation: where have WE to fix our hopes?
Category: Note
For to win a crowd is not so great a trick; one only needs some talent, a certain dose of untruth and a little acquaintance with the human passions.
Category: Note
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what they are going to have for lunch.
Category: Note
The Emperors possessed, it is true, an immense and unchecked power which allowed them to gratify all their whimsical tastes and to employ for that purpose the whole strength of the state. They frequently abused that power arbitrarily to deprive their subjects of property or life; their tyranny was extremely onerous to the few, but it did not reach the greater number; it was fixed to some few main objects and neglected the rest; it was violent but its range was limited. But it would seem that, if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, ...
Category: Note
After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it ...
Category: Note
Those who are called elites are not members of noble families, dwelling in castles isolated on hills above the peasantry, and living apart from the society over which they domineer. Rather, they and their institutions are the fetid carbuncles sprung from the carcass of modern populist society. They are the green crud which has formed along the top of the stagnant swamp of the hyper-democratic state.
Category: Note
Author: Plato
When a democracy which is thirsting for freedom has evil cupbearers presiding over the feast, and has drunk too deeply of the strong wine of freedom, then, unless her rulers are very amenable and give a plentiful draught, she calls them to account and punishes them, and says that they are cursed oligarchs.
Category: Note
Author: Nietzsche
The democratic idea favours the nurturing of a human type prepared for slavery in the most subtle sense of the term. Every democracy is at one and the same time an involuntary establishment for the breeding of tyrants, taking the word in all its connotations, including those of a spiritual nature.
Category: Note
Author: Edmund Burk
Of this I am certain, that in a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority, whenever strong divisions prevail in that kind of polity, as they often must; and that oppression of the minority will extend to far greater numbers, and will be carried on with much greater fury, than can almost ever be apprehended from the dominion of a single sceptre. In such a popular persecution, individual sufferers are in a much more deplorable condition than in any other. Under a cruel prince they have the balmy compassion of ...
Category: Note
The public, which has been wrong before and is wrong now, can accept only demons and angels on the stage
Category: Note
Whatever may be his [man's] true and final destination, there is a spirit within him at enmity with nothingness and dissolution.
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
Author: Oscar Wilde
For to disagree with four-fifths of the British public on all points is one of the first elements of sanity, one of the deepest consolations in all moments of spiritual doubt.
Category: Note
Duty and stern necessity must change their forbidding tone, only excused by resistance, and do homage to nature by a nobler trust in her. Taste leads our knowledge from the mysteries of science into the open expanse of common sense, and changes a narrow scholasticism into the common property of the human race. Here the highest genius must leave its particular elevation, and make itself familiar to the comprehension even of a child. Strength must let the Graces bind it, and the arbitrary lion must yield to the reins of love. For this purpose taste throws a veil over physical ...
Category: Note
Yet since democracy cannot relinquish its egalitarian heritage, the jealousy, envy and insecurity of the voting masses tend to give new impetus to the egalitarian mania as well as to ever increasing demands for “social security” and other forms of “economic democracy.” These cravings and desires result in specific measures, and thus we see finally a bureaucratic totalitarianism restricting personal liberties.
Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
But perhaps you think that in beholding for the mere joy of beholding, and contemplating for the sake of contemplation, there is something that is egotistic. If you think so, do not say so. It takes a thoroughly selfish age, like our own, to deify self-sacrifice. It takes a thoroughly grasping age, such as that in which we live, to set above the fine intellectual virtues, those shallow and emotional virtues that are an immediate practical benefit to itself. They miss their aim, too, these philanthropists and sentimentalists of our day, who are always chattering to one about one’s duty ...
Category: Note
Author: Oscar Wilde
Enjoy Nature! I am glad to say that I have entirely lost that faculty. People tell us that Art makes us love Nature more than we loved her before; that it reveals her secrets to us; and that after a careful study of Corot and Constable we see things in her that had escaped our observation. My own experience is that the more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art really reveals to us is Nature’s lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition. Nature has good intentions, of course, but, ...
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.