Philosophy

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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: Philosophy
[ Originally published in The Nineteenth Century for January 1890. The writing of this essay was consequent on a controversy carried on in The Times between Nov. 7 and Nov. 27, 1889, and was made needful by the misapprehensions and mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions embodied in that controversy. Hence the allusions which the essay contains. The last few paragraphs of it in its original form were mainly personal in their character; and, not wishing to perpetuate personalities, I have omitted them .] Life in Fiji, at the time when Thomas Williams settled there, must have been something worse than uncomfortable. One of the ...
Category: Quotation
Author: Oscar Wilde
All bad art comes from returning to Life and Nature, and elevating them into ideals.
Category: Philosophy
Author: Oscar Wilde
HISTORICAL criticism nowhere occurs as an isolated fact in the civilisation or literature of any people. It is part of that complex working towards freedom which may be described as the revolt against authority. It is merely one facet of that speculative spirit of an innovation, which in the sphere of action produces democracy and revolution, and in that of thought is the parent of philosophy and physical science; and its importance as a factor of progress is based not so much on the results it attains, as on the tone of thought which it represents, and the method by ...
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
Author: Oscar Wilde
AT an early period in their intellectual development the Greeks reached that critical point in the history of every civilised nation, when speculative invades the domain of revealed truth, when the spiritual ideas of the people can no longer be satisfied by the lower, material conceptions of their inspired writers, and when men find it impossible to pour the new wine of free thought into the old bottles of a narrow and a trammelling creed. From their Aryan ancestors they had received the fatal legacy of a mythology stained with immoral and monstrous stories which strove to hide the rational ...
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
Author: Oscar Wilde
The investigation into the two great problems of the origin of society and the philosophy of history occupies such an important position in the evolution of Greek thought that, to obtain any clear view of the workings of the critical spirit, it will be necessary to trace at some length their rise and scientific development as evinced not merely in the works of historians proper, but also in the philosophical treatises of Plato and Aristotle. The important position which these two great thinkers occupy in the progress of historical criticism can hardly be over- estimated. I do not mean merely ...
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
Author: Oscar Wilde
It is evident that here Thucydides is ready to admit the variety of manifestations which external causes bring about in their workings on the uniform character of the nature of man. Yet, after all is said, these are perhaps but very general statements: the ordinary effects of peace and war are dwelt on, but there is no real analysis of the immediate causes and general laws of the phenomena of life, nor does Thucydides seem to recognise the truth that if humanity proceeds in circles, the circles are always widening. Perhaps we may say that with him the philosophy 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: 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: Philosophy
Author: Jan Auteur
Hyphen-test
Category: Philosophy
All the properties by which an object can become aesthetic, can be referred to four classes, which, as well according to their objective differences as according to their different relation with the subject, produce on our passive and active faculties pleasures unequal not only in intensity but also in worth; classes which also are of an unequal use for the end of the fine arts: they are the agreeable, the good, the sublime, and the beautiful. Of these four categories, the sublime and the beautiful only belong properly to art. The agreeable is not worthy of art, and the good ...
Category: Philosophy
When the poet opposes nature to art, and the ideal to the real, so that nature and the ideal form the principal object of his pictures, and that the pleasure we take in them is the dominant impression, I call him an elegiac poet. In this kind, as well as in satire, I distinguish two classes. Either nature and the ideal are objects of sadness, when one is represented as lost to man and the other as unattained; or both are objects of joy, being represented to us as reality. In the first case it is elegy in the narrower ...
Category: Philosophy
From the 1880 edition of The Works of Shelley in Verse and Prose , edited by H. Buxton Forman. The Being who has influenced in the most memorable manner the opinions and the fortunes of the human species, is Jesus Christ. At this day, his name is connected with the devotional feelings of two hundred millions of the race of man. The institutions of the most civilized portions of the globe derive their authority from the sanction of his doctrines; he is the hero, the God, of our popular religion. His extraordinary genius, the wide and rapid effect of his ...
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
HALDEMAN-JULIUS COMPANY GIRARD, KANSAS FOREWORD BY HENRY S. SALT As a brief summary of Shelley's attitude toward the Christian religion, I may be allowed to quote from what I have written elsewhere. [Percy Bysshe shelley, Poet and Pioneer (Watts & Co., 1913] "I regard Shelley's early 'atheism' and later Pantheism, as simply the negative and the affirmative side of the same progressive but harmonious life-creed. In his earlier years his disposition was towards a vehement denial of a theology which he never ceased to detest; in his maturer years he made more frequent reference to the great World Spirit in ...
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
[ First published as the Introduction to a volume entitled A Plea for Liberty, &c.: a series of anti-socialistic essays, issued at the beginning of 1891 .] Of the many ways in which common-sense inferences about social affairs are flatly contradicted by events (as when measures taken to suppress a book cause increased circulation of it, or as when attempts to prevent usurious rates of interest make the terms harder for the borrower, or as when there is greater difficulty in getting things at the places of production than elsewhere) one of the most curious is the way in which ...
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: 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
Preliminary note The outstanding feature of the remarkable "Conversations with Eckermann" is this, that the compilation furnishes an altogether unique record of the working of Goethe's mature mind. For Goethe's age at the period when the "Conversations" begin is seventy-three, and eighty-two when they end. John Peter Eckermann published his work in 1836. In 1848 appeared an additional portion. Eckermann, born at Winsen, in Hanover, was the son of a woollen draper. He received an excellent education, and studied art, under Ramber, in Hanover, but soon became enamoured of poetry through the influence of Körner and of Goethe. He became ...
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: Philosophy
[ First published in The Leader for December 25, 1852. ] We do not ascribe gracefulness to cart-horses, tortoises, and hippopotami, in all of which the powers of movement are relatively inferior; but we ascribe it to greyhounds, antelopes, race-horses, all of which have highly efficient locomotive organs. What, then, is this distinctive peculiarity of structure and action which we call Grace? One night while watching a dancer, and inwardly condemning her tours de force as barbarisms which would be hissed, were not people such cowards as always to applaud what they think it the fashion to applaud, I remarked ...
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
It remains for me to say a few words about this third kind of sentimental poetry—some few words and no more, for I propose to speak of it at another time with the developments particularly demanded by the theme. This kind of poetry generally presents the idea and description of an innocent and happy humanity. This innocence and bliss seeming remote from the artificial refinements of fashionable society, poets have removed the scene of the idyl from crowds of worldly life to the simple shepherd's cot, and have given it a place in the infancy of humanity before the beginning ...
Category: Philosophy
That proclivity to generalization which is possessed in greater or less degree by all minds, and without which, indeed, intelligence cannot exist, has unavoidable inconveniences. Through it alone can truth be reached; and yet it almost inevitably betrays into error. But for the tendency to predicate of every other case, that which has been found in the observed cases, there could be no rational thinking; and yet by this indispensable tendency, men are perpetually led to found, on limited experience, propositions which they wrongly assume to be universal or absolute. In one sense, however, this can scarcely be regarded as ...
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
Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying: 'Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do.' Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told, and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment. 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 ...
Category: Philosophy
There cannot fail to be a relationship between the successive systems of education, and the successive social states with which they have co-existed. Having a common origin in the national mind, the institutions of each epoch, whatever be their special functions, must have a family likeness. When men received their creed and its interpretations from an infallible authority deigning no explanations, it was natural that the teaching of children should be purely dogmatic. While "believe and ask no questions" was the maxim of the Church, it was fitly the maxim of the school. Conversely, now that Protestantism has gained for ...
Category: Quotation
Intolerance is a distinctive trait of all fictionalism. It bears witness to a feeling of insecurity.
Category: Philosophy
The special subject of the greater part of the letters and essays of Schiller contained in this volume is Aesthetics; and before passing to any remarks on his treatment of the subject it will be useful to offer a few observations on the nature of this topic, and on its treatment by the philosophical spirit of different ages. First, then, aesthetics has for its object the vast realm of the beautiful, and it may be most adequately defined as the philosophy of art or of the fine arts. To some the definition may seem arbitrary, as excluding the beautiful in ...
Category: Philosophy
The four essays on education which Herbert Spencer published in a single volume in 1861 were all written and separately published between 1854 and 1859. Their tone was aggressive and their proposals revolutionary; although all the doctrines—with one important exception—had already been vigorously preached by earlier writers on education, as Spencer himself was at pains to point out. The doctrine which was comparatively new ran through all four essays; but was most amply stated in the essay first published in 1859 under the title "What Knowledge is of Most Worth?" In this essay Spencer divided the leading kinds of human ...
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: Philosophy
Julius to Raphael. October. You are gone, Raphael—and the beauty of nature departs: the sere and yellow leaves fall from the trees, while a thick autumn fog hangs suspended like a bier over the lifeless fields. Solitary, I wander through the melancholy country. I call aloud your name, and am irritated that my Raphael does not answer me. I had received your last embrace. The mournful sound of the carriage wheels that bore you away had at length died upon my ear. In happier moments I had just succeeded in raising a tumulus over the joys of the past, but ...
Category: Philosophy
Julius to Raphael. Your doctrine has flattered my pride. I was a prisoner: you have led me out into the daylight; the golden shimmer and the measureless vault have enraptured my eye. Formerly, I was satisfied with the modest reputation of being a good son of my father's house, a friend of my friends, a useful member of society. You have changed me into a citizen of the universe. At that time my wishes had not aspired to infringe on the rights of the great: I tolerated these fortunate people because beggars tolerated me. I did not blush to envy ...
Category: Philosophy
Raphael to Julius. Julius, happiness such as ours, if unbroken, would be too much for human lot. This thought often haunted me even in the full enjoyment of our friendship. This thought, then darkening our happiness, was a salutary foretaste, intended to mitigate the pain of my present position. Hardened in the stern school of resignation, I am still more susceptible of the comfort of seeing in our separation a slight sacrifice whose merit may win from fate the reward of our future reunion. You did not yet know what privation was. You suffer for the first time. And yet ...
Category: Philosophy
Julius to Raphael. I have been looking over my papers this morning. Among them I have found a lost memorandum written down in those happy hours when I was inspired with a proud enthusiasm. But on looking over it how different seem all the things treated of! My former views look like the gloomy boarding of a playhouse when the lights have been removed. My heart sought a philosophy, and imagination substituted her dreams. I took the warmest for the truest coloring. I seek for the laws of spirits—I soar up to the infinite, but I forget to prove that ...
Category: Philosophy
Raphael to Julius. It would be very unfortunate, my dear Julius, if there were no other way of quieting you than by restoring the first-fruits of your belief in you. I found with delight these ideas, which I saw gaining in you, written down in your papers. They are worthy of a soul like yours, but you could not remain stationary in them. There are joys for every age and enjoyments for each degree of spirits. It must have been a difficult thing for you to sever yourself from a system that was entirely made to meet the wants of ...
Category: Arts & Literature
Preliminary note The correspondence of Goethe with his friends, especially his voluminous letters to his friend Zelter, will always be resorted to by readers who wish for intimate knowledge of the innermost processes of the great poet's mind. Zelter was himself an extraordinary man. By trade he was a stonemason, but he became a skilled musical amateur, and a most versatile and entertaining critic. To him fell the remarkable distinction of becoming the tutor of that musical genius, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, while he also acquired the glory of being "the restorer of Bach to the Germans." Like Eckermann, the other ...
Category: Philosophy
By your permission I lay before you, in a series of letters, the results of my researches upon beauty and art. I am keenly sensible of the importance as well as of the charm and dignity of this undertaking. I shall treat a subject which is closely connected with the better portion of our happiness and not far removed from the moral nobility of human nature. I shall plead this cause of the beautiful before a heart by which her whole power is felt and exercised, and which will take upon itself the most difficult part of my task in ...
Category: Philosophy
But I might perhaps make a better use of the opening you afford me if I were to direct your mind to a loftier theme than that of art. It would appear to be unseasonable to go in search of a code for the aesthetic world, when the moral world offers matter of so much higher interest, and when the spirit of philosophical inquiry is so stringently challenged by the circumstances of our times to occupy itself with the most perfect of all works of art—the establishment and structure of a true political freedom. It is unsatisfactory to live out ...
Category: Philosophy
Man is not better treated by nature in his first start than her other works are; so long as he is unable to act for himself as an independent intelligence she acts for him. But the very fact that constitutes him a man is that he does not remain stationary, where nature has placed him, that he can pass with his reason, retracing the steps nature had made him anticipate, that he can convert the work of necessity into one of free solution, and elevate physical necessity into a moral law. When man is raised from his slumber in the ...
Category: Philosophy
Thus much is certain. It is only when a third character, as previously suggested, has preponderance that a revolution in a state according to moral principles can be free from injurious consequences; nor can anything else secure its endurance. In proposing or setting up a moral state, the moral law is relied upon as a real power, and free-will is drawn into the realm of causes, where all hangs together mutually with stringent necessity and rigidity. But we know that the condition of the human will always remains contingent, and that only in the Absolute Being physical coexists with moral ...
Category: Philosophy
But perhaps there is a vicious circle in our previous reasoning! Theoretical culture must it seems bring along with it practical culture, and yet the latter must be the condition of the former. All improvement in the political sphere must proceed from the ennobling of the character. But, subject to the influence of a social constitution still barbarous, how can character become ennobled? It would then be necessary to seek for this end an instrument that the state does not furnish, and to open sources that would have preserved themselves pure in the midst of political corruption. I have now ...
Category: Philosophy
Does the present age, do passing events, present this character? I direct my attention at once to the most prominent object in this vast structure. It is true that the consideration of opinion is fallen; caprice is unnerved, and, although still armed with power, receives no longer any respect. Man has awakened from his long lethargy and self-deception, and he demands with impressive unanimity to be restored to his imperishable rights. But he does not only demand them; he rises on all sides to seize by force what, in his opinion, has been unjustly wrested from him. The edifice of ...
Category: Philosophy
Have I gone too far in this portraiture of our times? I do not anticipate this stricture, but rather another—that I have proved too much by it. You will tell me that the picture I have presented resembles the humanity of our day, but it also bodies forth all nations engaged in the same degree of culture, because all, without exception, have fallen off from nature by the abuse of reason, before they can return to it through reason. But if we bestow some serious attention to the character of our times, we shall be astonished at the contrast between ...