Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:37 pm

APHORISMS ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE

Le bonheur n' est pas chose aisee: il est tres difficile
de le trouver en nous, et impossible de le trouver ailleurs.

-- Chamfort.

['Happiness is no easy matter; it is very difficult to find it in ourselves and impossible to find it elsewhere.']


Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life

Introduction


Here I take the idea of wisdom of life entirely in the immanent sense, namely that of the art of getting through life as pleasantly and successfully as possible, the instructions to which might also be called eudemonology. Accordingly, they would be instructions on how to have a happy existence. Such might perhaps be again defined as one that, considered purely objectively or rather with cool and mature reflection (for here it is a question of a subjective judgement), would be definitely preferable to non-existence. From this conception of it, it follows that we should be attached to it for its own sake and not merely from the fear of death; and again from this that we would like to see it last for ever. Now whether human life does or ever can correspond to the conception of such an existence, is a question that, as we know, is answered in the negative by my philosophy; whereas eudemonology presupposes an answer in the affirmative. Now this is based on the inborn error which is censured by me in the forty-ninth chapter of the second volume of my chief work. However, to be able to work out such an answer, I have therefore had to abandon entirely the higher metaphysical ethical standpoint to which my real philosophy leads. Consequently, the whole discussion here to be given rests to a certain extent on a compromise, in so far as it remains at the ordinary empirical standpoint and firmly maintains the error thereof. Accordingly, its value can be only conditioned, for even the word eudemonology is only a euphemism. Moreover, this discussion makes no claim to completeness partly because the theme is inexhaustible and also because I should otherwise have to repeat what has already been said by others.

The only book I can recall which is written with the same purpose as are the present aphorisms is De utilitate ex adversis capienda [1]by Cardanus which is well worth reading and can, therefore, supplement what is given here. It is true that Aristotle also introduced a brief eudemonology into the fifth chapter of the first book of his Rhetoric; yet it proved to be very stale and dry. As compilation is not my business, I have not made use of these predecessors, the less so as through it one loses coherence and continuity of view which are the spirit and soul of works of this kind. In general, of course, the sages of all times have always said the same thing and the fools, that is, the immense majority of all times, have always done the same thing, namely the opposite; and so will it always be. Therefore Voltaire says: Nous laisserons ce monde-ci aussi sot et aussi mechant que nous l'avons trouve en y arrivant. [2]

_______________

Notes:

1 ['On the Use of Adversity'.]

2 ['We shall quit this world as stupid and as bad as we found it when we came  into it'.]
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:39 pm

CHAPTER 1: Fundamental Division

ARISTOTLE (Nicomachean Ethics, I. 8) has divided the good things of human life into three classes, those outside, those of the soul, and those of the body. Now retaining nothing of this except the number three, I say that what establishes the difference in the lot of mortals may be reduced to three fundamental qualifications. They are:

(1) What a man is and therefore personality in the widest sense. Accordingly, under this are included health, strength, beauty, temperament, moral character, intelligence and its cultivation.

(2) What a man has and therefore property and possessions in every sense.

(3) What a man represents; we know that by this expression is understood what he is in the eyes of others and thus how he is represented by them. Accordingly, it consists in their opinion of him and is divisible into honour, rank, and reputation.

The differences to be considered under the first heading are those established by nature herself between one man and another. From this it may be inferred that their influence on the happiness or unhappiness of mankind will be much more fundamental and radical than what is produced by the differences that are mentioned under the two following headings and result merely from human decisions and resolutions. Compared with genuine personal advantages, such as a great mind or a great heart, all the privileges of rank, birth, even royal birth, wealth, and so on, are as kings on the stage to kings in real life. Metrodorus, the first disciple of Epicurus, gave the title to a chapter: [x]. (Majorem esse causam ad felicitatem eam, quae est ex nobis, ed, quae ex rebus oritur. [1] Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, lib. II, c. 21, p. 362 of the Wurzburg edition of the polemical works). And it is certain that for man's well-being, indeed for his whole mode of existence, the main thing is obviously what exists or occurs within himself. For here is to be found immediately his inner satisfaction or dissatisfaction which is primarily the result of his feeling, his willing, and his thinking. On the other hand, everything situated outside him has on him only an indirect influence; and so the same external events and circumstances affect each of us quite differently; and indeed with the same environment each lives in a world of his own. For a man is directly concerned only with his own conceptions, feelings, and voluntary movements; things outside influence him only in so far as they give rise to these. The world in which each lives depends first on his interpretation thereof and therefore proves to be different to different men. Accordingly, it will result in being poor, shallow, and superficial, or rich, interesting, and full of meaning. For example, while many envy another man the interesting events that have happened to him in his life, they should rather envy his gift of interpretation which endowed those events with the significance they have when he describes them. For the same event that appears to be so interesting in the mind of a man of intelligence would be only a dull and vapid scene from the commonplace world when conceived in the shallow mind of an ordinary man. This is seen in the highest degree in many of Goethe's and Byron's poems which are obviously based on real events. Here it is open to the foolish reader to envy the poet the most delightful event, instead of envying him the mighty imagination that was capable of making something so great and beautiful from a fairly commonplace occurrence. In the same way, a man of melancholy disposition sees a scene from a tragedy, where one of sanguine temperament sees only an interesting conflict and someone phlegmatic sees something trifling and unimportant. All this is due to the fact that every reality, in other words, every moment of actual experience, consists of two halves, the subject and the object, although in just as necessary and close a connection as are oxygen and hydrogen in water. Therefore when the objective half is exactly the same, but the subjective is different, the present reality is quite different, just as it is in the reverse case; thus the finest and best objective half with a dull and inferior subjective half furnishes only an inferior reality, like a beautiful landscape in bad weather or in the reflected light of a bad camera obscura. In plainer language, everyone is confined to his consciousness as he is within his own skin and only in this does he really live; thus he cannot be helped very much from without. On the stage one man is a prince, another a councillor, a third a servant, a soldier, or a general, and so on. These differences, however, exist only on the outer surface; in the interior, as the kernel of such a phenomenon, the same thing is to be found in all of them, namely a poor player with his wants and worries. In life it is also the same. Differences of rank and wealth give everyone his part to play, but there is certainly not an internal difference of happiness and satisfaction that corresponds to that role. On the contrary, here too there is in everyone the same poor wretch with his worries and wants. Materially these may be different in everyone, but in form and thus in their essential nature they are pretty much the same in all, although with differences of degree which do not by any means correspond to position and wealth, in other words, to the part a man plays. Thus since everything existing and happening for man directly exists always in his own consciousness and happens only for this, the nature thereof is obviously the first essential and in most cases this is more important than are the forms that present themselves therein. All the pomp and pleasure that are mirrored in the dull consciousness of a simpleton are very poor when compared with the consciousness of Cervantes writing Don Quixote in a miserable prison. The objective half of the present reality is in the hands off ate and is accordingly changeable; we ourselves are the subjective half that is, therefore, essentially unchangeable. Accordingly, the life of every man bears throughout the same character in spite of all change from without and is comparable to a series of variations on one theme. No one can get outside his own individuality. In all the circumstances in which the animal is placed, it remains confined to the narrow circle, irrevocably drawn for it by nature, so that, for instance, our endeavours to make a pet happy must always keep within narrow bounds precisely on account of those limits of its true nature and consciousness. It is the same with man; the measure of his possible happiness is determined beforehand by his individuality. In particular, the limits of his mental powers have fixed once for all his capacity for pleasures of a higher order. (Cf. World as Will and Representation, vol. ii, chap. 7.) If those powers are small, all the efforts from without, everything done for him by mankind or good fortune, will not enable him to rise above the ordinary half-animal human happiness and comfort. He is left to depend on the pleasures of the senses, on a cosy and cheerful family life, on low company and vulgar pastimes. Even education, on the whole, cannot do very much, if anything, to broaden his horizon. For the highest, most varied, and most permanent pleasures are those of the mind, however much we may deceive ourselves on this point when we are young; but these pleasures depend mainly on innate mental powers. Therefore it is clear from this how much our happiness depends on what we are, our individuality, whereas in most cases we take into account only our fate, only what we have or represent. Fate, however, can improve; moreover, if we are inwardly wealthy we shall not demand much from it. On the other hand, a fool remains a fool, a dull blockhead a dull blockhead, till the end of his life, even if he were surrounded by houris in paradise. Therefore Goethe says:

Mob, menial, and master
At all time admit,
The supreme fortune of mortals
Is their personality alone.

-- Westostlicher Diwan.


Everything confirms that the subjective is incomparably more essential to our happiness and pleasures than is the objective, namely from the fact that hunger is the best sauce, hoary old age regards the goddess of youth with indifference, up to the life of the genius and the saint. In particular, health so far outweighs all external blessings that a healthy beggar is indeed more fortunate than a monarch in poor health. A quiet and cheerful temperament, resulting from perfect health and a prosperous economy, an understanding that is clear, lively, penetrating, and sees things correctly, a moderate and gentle will and hence a good conscience-these are advantages that no rank or wealth can make good or replace. For what a man is by himself, what accompanies him into solitude, and what no one can give him or take from him is obviously more essential to him than everything he possesses, or even what he may be in the eyes of others. A man of intellect, when entirely alone, has excellent entertainment in his own thoughts and fancies, whereas the continuous diversity of parties, plays, excursions, and amusements cannot ward off from a dullard the tortures of boredom. A good, moderate, gentle character can be contented in needy circumstances, whereas one who is covetous, envious, and malicious is not so, in spite of all his wealth. Indeed for the man who constantly has the delight of an extraordinary and intellectually eminent individuality, most of the pleasures that are generally sought after are entirely superfluous; indeed they are only a bother and a burden. Therefore Horace says of himself:

Gemmas, marmor, ebur, Tyrrhena sigilla, tabellas,
Argentum, vestes Gaetulo murice tinctas,
Sunt qui non habeant, est qui non curat habere; [2]


and when Socrates saw luxury articles displayed for sale, he said: 'How many things there are I do not need!'

Accordingly, for our life's happiness, what we are, our personality, is absolutely primary and most essential, if only because it is operative at all times and in all circumstances. Moreover, unlike the blessings under the other two headings, it is not subject to fate and cannot be wrested from us. To this extent its value can be described as absolute in contrast to the merely relative value of the other two. Now it follows from this that it is much more difficult to get at a man from without than is generally supposed. Only the all-powerful agent, Time, here exercises its right; physical and mental advantages gradually succumb to it; moral character alone remains inaccessible to it. In this respect, it would naturally appear that the blessings which are enumerated under the second and third headings, of which time cannot directly deprive us, have an advantage over those of the first. A second advantage might be found in the fact, that, as such blessings lie in the objective, they are by their nature attainable and everyone has before him at least the possibility of coming into possession of them, whereas the subjective is certainly not given into our power, but has entered jure divino [3] and is unalterably fixed for the whole of life, so that here Goethe's words inexorably apply:

As on the day that lent you to the world
The sun received the planets' greetings,
At once and eternally you have thrived
According to the law whereby you stepped forth.
So must you be, from yourself you cannot flee,
So have the Sibyls and the Prophets said;
No time, no power breaks into little pieces
The form here stamped and in life developed.


The only thing that in this respect lies within our power is for us to take the greatest possible advantage of the given personality and accordingly to follow only those tendencies that are in keeping with it and to strive for the kind of development that is exactly suitable to it, while avoiding every other, and consequently to choose the position, occupation, and way of life that are suited to it.

A man of Herculean strength who is endowed with unusual muscular power and is compelled by external circumstances to follow a sedentary occupation, to carry out with his hands minute and intricate tasks, or to pursue studies and mental work that demand powers of quite a different order from those he possesses, and consequently to leave unused those powers in which he excels, will feel unhappy all his life. But even more unhappy will be the man whose intellectual powers are of a very high order, and who must leave them undeveloped and unused in order to pursue a common business that does not require them, or even some physical work to which his strength is not really adequate. Yet here, especially in youth, we have to avoid the precipice of presumption of attributing to ourselves an excess of powers which we do not possess.

From the decided superiority of the blessings of the first heading over those of the other two, it follows that it is wiser for us to aim at maintaining our health and at cultivating our faculties than at acquiring wealth. However, this must not be misinterpreted as meaning that we should neglect the acquisition of what is necessary and suitable. Wealth proper, that is, great superfluity, can do little for our happiness. Therefore many wealthy people feel unhappy because they are without any real mental culture, without any knowledge, and therefore without any objective interest that could qualify them for mental occupation. For what wealth can achieve, beyond the satisfaction of the real and natural needs, has little influence on our happiness proper; on the contrary, this is disturbed by the many inevitable worries that are entailed in the preservation of much property. Nevertheless, people are a thousand times more concerned to become wealthy than to acquire mental culture, whereas it is quite certain that what we are contributes much more to our happiness than what we have. Therefore we see very many work from morning to night as industriously as ants and in restless activity to increase the wealth they already have. Beyond the narrow horizon of the means to this end, they know nothing; their minds are a blank and are therefore not susceptible to anything else. The highest pleasures, those of the mind, are inaccessible to them and they try in vain to replace them by the fleeting pleasures of the senses in which they indulge at intervals and which cost little time but much money. If their luck has been good, then as a result they have at the end of their lives a really large amount of money, which they now leave to their heirs either to increase still further or to squander. Such a life, though pursued with a very serious air of importance, is therefore just as foolish as is many another that had for its symbol a fool's-cap.

Therefore what a man has in himself is most essential to his life's happiness. Merely because this is so very little as a rule, many of those, who are beyond the struggle with want, at bottom feel just as unhappy as those who are still engaged therein. The emptiness of their inner life, the dullness of their consciousness, the poorness of their minds drive them to the company of others which consists of men like themselves, for similis simili gaudel. [4] They then pursue pastime and entertainment in common which they seek first in sensual pleasures, in amusements of every kind, and finally in excess and dissipation. The source of the deplorable extravagance, whereby many a son of a wealthy family entering life with a large patrimony often gets through it in an incredibly short time, is really none other than the boredom that springs from the poorness and emptiness of his mind which I have just described. Such a young man was sent into the world outwardly rich but inwardly poor, and he then vainly endeavoured to make his external wealth compensate for his internal poverty by trying to obtain everything from without, somewhat like old men who try to strengthen themselves through the perspiration of young girls. And so in the end, inner poverty also produced a poverty in external things.

I need not stress the importance of those blessings of human life that are contained under the other two headings. For the value of possessions is nowadays so universally acknowledged that it is not in any need of a recommendation. Compared with the second heading, even the third has a very ethereal character, for it consists merely in other people's opinions. Yet everyone has to strive for reputation, in other words, a good name; rank is aspired to only by those serving the State, and fame by very few indeed. However, reputation is regarded as a priceless treasure and fame as the most precious of all the blessings that man can attain, the Golden Fleece of the elect; on the other hand, only fools will prefer rank to possessions. Moreover, the blessings under the second and third headings act and react on one another in so far as the maxim of Petronius habes, habeberis [5] is correct and, conversely, the favourable opinion of others in all its forms often helps us to obtain possessions.

_______________

Notes:

1 ['The cause of happiness which lies within us is greater than the cause that  comes from things.']
 
2 ['Ivory, marble, trinkets, Tyrrhenian statues, pictures, silver plate, clothes  dyed with Gaetulian purple, many do without such things, and some do not bother  about them.' Epistles, 11.2.180.]
 
3 ['By divine right'.]
 
4 ['Birds of a feather flock together.']
 
5 ['A man is worth what he has.']
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:41 pm

CHAPTER 2: What a Man is

WE have in general recognized that this contributes much more to a man's happiness than what he has or represents. It always depends on what a man is and accordingly has in himself; for his individuality always and everywhere accompanies him and everything experienced by him is tinged thereby. In everything and with everything he first of all enjoys only himself; this already applies to physical pleasures and how much truer is it of those of the mind! Therefore the English words 'to enjoy oneself" are a very apt expression; for example, we do not say 'he enjoys Paris', but 'he enjoys himself in Paris.' [2] Now if the individuality is ill-conditioned, all pleasures are like choice wines in a mouth that is made bitter with gall. Accordingly, if we leave out of account cases of grave misfortune, less depends, in the good things as well as in the bad, on what befalls and happens to us in life than on the way in which we feel it, and thus on the nature and degree of our susceptibility in every respect. What a man is and has in himself, that is to say, personality and its worth, is the sole immediate factor in his happiness and well-being. Everything else is mediate and indirect and so the effect thereof can be neutralized and frustrated; that of personality never. For this reason, the envy excited by personal qualities is the most implacable, as it is also the most carefully concealed. Further, the constitution of consciousness is that which is permanent and enduring and individuality is at work constantly and incessantly more or less at every moment. Everything else, on the other hand, acts only at times, occasionally, temporarily, and in addition is subject to variation and change. Therefore Aristotle says: [x] (nam natura perennis est, non opes). [3] Eudemian Ethics, vo. 2. To this is due the fact that we can bear with more composure a misfortune that has befallen us entirely from without than one that we have brought upon ourselves, for fate can change, but our own nature never. Therefore subjective blessings, such as a noble character, a gifted mind, a happy temperament, cheerful spirits, and a well-conditioned thoroughly sound body, and so generally mens sana in corpore sano [4] (Juvenal, Satires, x. 356), are for our happiness primary and the most important. We should, therefore, be much more concerned to promote and preserve such qualities than to possess external wealth and external honour.

Now of all those qualities the one that most immediately makes us happy is cheerfulness of disposition; for this good quality is its own instantaneous reward. Whoever is merry and cheerful has always a good reason for so being, namely the very fact that he is so. Nothing can so completely take the place of every other blessing as can this quality, whilst it itself cannot be replaced by anything. A man may be young, handsome, wealthy, and esteemed; if we wish to judge of his happiness, we ask whether he is cheerful. On the other hand, if he is cheerful, it matters not whether he is young or old, straight or humpbacked, rich or poor; he is happy. In my youth, I once opened an old book in which it said: 'Whoever laughs a lot is happy, and whoever weeps a lot is unhappy', a very simple remark, but because of its plain truth I have been unable to forget it, however much it may be the superlative of a truism. For this reason, we should open wide the doors to cheerfulness whenever it makes its appearance, for it never comes inopportunely. Instead of doing this, we often hesitate to let it enter, for we first want to know whether we have every reason to be contented; or because we are afraid of being disturbed by cheerfulness when we are involved in serious deliberations and heavy cares. But what we improve through these is very uncertain, whereas cheerfulness is an immediate gain. It alone is, so to speak, the very coin of happiness and not, like everything else, merely a cheque on a bank; for only it makes us immediately happy in the present moment. And so it is the greatest blessing for beings whose reality takes the form of an indivisible present moment between an infinite past and an infinite future. Accordingly, we should make the acquisition and encouragement of this blessing our first endeavour. Now it is certain that nothing contributes less to cheerfulness than wealth and nothing contributes more than health. The lower classes or the workers, especially those in the country, have the more cheerful and contented faces; peevishness and ill-humour are more at home among the wealthy upper classes. Consequently, we should endeavour above all to maintain a high degree of health, the very bloom of which appears as cheerfulness. The means to this end are, as we know, avoidance of all excesses and irregularities, of all violent and disagreeable emotions, and also of all mental strain that is too great and too prolonged, two hours' brisk exercise every day in the open air, many cold baths, and similar dietetic measures. Without proper daily exercise no one can remain healthy; all the vital processes demand exercise for their proper performance, exercise not only of the parts wherein they occur, but also of the whole. Therefore Aristotle rightly says: [x]. [5] Life consists in movement and has its very essence therein. Ceaseless and rapid motion occurs in every part of the organism; the heart in its complicated double systole and diastole beats strongly and untiringly; with its twenty-eight beats it drives the whole of the blood through all the arteries, veins, and capillaries; the lungs pump incessantly like a steam-engine; the intestines are always turning in motus peristalticus; [6] all the glands are constantly absorbing and secreting; even the brain has a double motion with every heart-beat and every breath. Now when there is an almost total lack of external movement, as is the case with numberless people who lead an entirely sedentary life, there arises a glaring and injurious disproportion between external inactivity and internal tumult. For the constant internal motion must be supported by something external. That want of proportion is analogous to the case where, in consequence of some emotion, something boils up within us which we are obliged to suppress. In order to thrive even trees require movement through wind. Here a rule applies which may be briefly expressed in Latin: omnis motus, quo celerior, eo magis motus. [7] How much our happiness depends on cheerfulness of disposition, and this on the state of our health, is seen when we compare the impression, made on us by external circumstances or events when we are hale and hearty, with that produced by them when ill-health has made us depressed and anxious. It is not what things are objectively and actually, but what they are for us and in our way of looking at them, that makes us happy or unhappy. This is just what Epictetus says: [x] (commovent homines non res sed de rebus opiniones). [8] In general, however, nine-tenths of our happiness depend on health alone. With it everything becomes a source of pleasure, whereas without it nothing, whatever it may be, can be enjoyed, and even the other subjective blessings, such as mental qualities, disposition, and temperament, are depressed and dwarfed by ill-health. Accordingly, it is not without reason that, when two people meet, they first ask about the state of each other's health and hope that it is good; for this really is for human happiness by far the most important thing. But from this it follows that the greatest of all follies is to sacrifice our health for whatever it may be, for gain, profit, promotion, learning, or fame, not to mention sensual and other fleeting pleasures; rather should we give first place to health.

Now however much health may contribute to the cheerfulness that is so essential to our happiness, this does not depend solely on health; for even with perfect health we may have a melancholy temperament and a predominantly gloomy frame of mind. The ultimate reason for this is undoubtedly to be found in the original and thus unalterable constitution of the organism and generally in the more or less normal relation of sensibility to irritability and power of reproduction. An abnormal excess of sensibility will produce inequality of spirits, periodical excess of cheerfulness and prevailing melancholy. Now since a genius is conditioned by an excess of nervous force and hence of sensibility, Aristotle quite rightly observed that all people of superior eminence are melancholy: [x] [9] (Problemata, 30, I, Berlin edn.). This is undoubtedly the passage that Cicero had in mind when he made the statement, often quoted: Aristoteles ait, omnes ingeniosos melancholicos esse [10] (Tusculanae disputationes, I. 33). Shakespeare has given a fine description of the great and innate diversity of fundamental temperament generally which we are considering:

Nature hath fram'd strange fellows in her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes,
And laugh, like parrots, at a bag-piper;
And others of such vinegar aspect,
That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile,
'Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.'

-- Merchant of Venice, Act I, Sc. I.


This is precisely the difference described by Plato with the expressions [x] and [x], [11] which is traceable to the very different susceptibility shown by different people to pleasant and unpleasant impressions, in consequence whereof one man laughs at what would drive another almost to despair. As a rule, the weaker the susceptibility is to pleasant impressions, the stronger is that to unpleasant ones, and vice versa. With the equal possibility of the fortunate or unfortunate end of an affair, the [x] will be annoyed or grieved if the issue is unfortunate, but not pleased if it proves to be fortunate. On the other hand, the [x] will not be annoyed or grieved if the affair goes wrong, but will be pleased if the outcome is fortunate. If the [x] succeeds in nine schemes out of ten, he is not satisfied, but is annoyed that one of the schemes was a failure. On the other hand, the [x] is able to find consolation and cheerfulness even in a single successful scheme. Now just as it is not easy to find an evil without some compensation, so even here we see that the [x] and hence those of gloomy and nervous character will have to endure misfortunes and sufferings on the whole more imaginary but less real than those endured by the gay and carefree. For the man who sees everything with dark glasses, always fears the worst, and accordingly takes precautions, will not be wrong in his reckoning as often as the man who always paints things in bright colours with prospects. However, when a morbid affection of the nervous system or of the organs of digestion plays into the hands of an innate [x], [12] this can reach such a pitch that permanent dissatisfaction engenders a weariness of life and accordingly a tendency to suicide arises. Even the most trivial annoyances and vexations can then bring it about; in fact, when the evil reaches the highest degree, there is no need even for such annoyances. On the contrary, a man decides to commit suicide merely in consequence of a permanent dissatisfaction; and he then commits it with such cool deliberation and firm resolve that, often as a patient under supervision, he uses the first unguarded moment to seize without hesitation, without a struggle or recoil, the now natural and welcome means of relief. Detailed descriptions of this state of mind are given by Esquirol in Des maladies mentales. But even the healthiest and perhaps also the most cheerful can of course, in certain circumstances, decide to commit suicide, for example, when the magnitude of their sufferings or of the misfortune that is sure to arrive overcomes the terrors of death. The difference lies solely in the varying magnitude of the requisite motive which is inversely proportional to the amount of the [x]. The greater this is, the less the motive need be, indeed in the end this may sink to zero. On the other hand, the greater the [x] and the health that sustains it, the more must there be in the suicide motive. Accordingly, there are innumerable cases between the two extremes of suicide, between that springing merely from a morbid intensification of the innate [x] and that of the healthy and cheerful man for purely objective reasons.

Beauty is partly akin to health. Although this subjective good quality does not really contribute directly to our happiness, but only indirectly by impressing others, it is nevertheless of great importance even to a man. Beauty is an open letter of recommendation that wins hearts for us in advance; and so Homer's verse is here specially applicable:

[x]
[x]. [14]

-- Iliad, III.65.


The most general survey shows that pain and boredom are the two foes of human happiness. In addition, it may be remarked that, in proportion as we succeed in getting away from the one, we come nearer to the other, and vice versa. And so our life actually presents a violent or feeble oscillation between the two. This springs from the fact that the two stand to each other in a double antagonism, an outer or objective and an inner or subjective. Thus externally, want and privation produce pain; on the other hand, security and affluence give rise to boredom. Accordingly, we see the lower classes constantly struggling against privation and thus against pain; on the other hand, the wealthy upper classes are engaged in a constant and often really desperate struggle against boredom.* But the inner or subjective antagonism between pain and boredom is due to the fact that in the individual a susceptibility to the one is inversely proportional to a susceptibility to the other since it is determined by the measure of his mental ability. Thus feebleness of mind is generally associated with dullness of sensation and a lack of sensitiveness, qualities that render a man less susceptible to pains and afflictions of every kind and intensity. On the other hand, the result of this mental dullness is that inner vacuity and emptiness that is stamped on innumerable faces and also betrays itself in a constant and lively attention to all the events in the external world, even the most trivial. This vacuity is the real source of boredom and always craves for external excitement in order to set the mind and spirits in motion through something. Therefore in the choice thereof it is not fastidious, as is testified by the miserable and wretched pastimes to which people have recourse and also by the nature of their sociability and conversation, and likewise by the many who gossip at the door or gape out of the window. The principal result of this inner vacuity is the craze for society, diversion, amusement, and luxury of every kind which lead many to extravagance and so to misery. Nothing protects us so surely from this wrong turning as inner wealth, the wealth of the mind, for the more eminent it becomes, the less room does it leave for boredom. The inexhaustible activity of ideas, their constantly renewed play with the manifold phenomena of the inner and outer worlds, the power and urge always to make different combinations with them, all these put the eminent mind, apart from moments of relaxation, quite beyond the reach of boredom. On the other hand, this enhanced intelligence is directly conditioned by a heightened sensibility and is rooted in a greater vehemence of will and hence of impulsiveness. From its union with these qualities, there now result a much greater intensity of all the emotions and an enhanced sensitiveness to mental and also physical pain, even greater impatience in the presence of obstacles, or greater resentment of mere disturbances. All this contributes much to an enhancement of the whole range of thoughts and conceptions, and so too of repulsive ideas the liveliness of which springs from a powerful imagination. This holds good relatively of all the intermediate stages between the two extremes of the dullest blockhead and the greatest genius. Accordingly, both objectively and subjectively, everyone is the nearer to the one source of suffering in human life, the more remote he is from the other. In keeping with this, his natural tendency will in this respect direct him to adapt as far as possible the objective to the subjective and thus to make greater provision against that source of suffering to which he is more susceptible. The clever and intelligent man will first of all look for painlessness, freedom from molestation, quietness, and leisure and consequently for a tranquil and modest life which is as undisturbed as possible. Accordingly, after some acquaintance with human beings so called, he will choose seclusion and, if of greater intellect, even solitude. For the more a man has within himself, the less does he need from without and also the less other people can be to him. Therefore eminence of intellect leads to unsociability. Indeed if the quality of society could be replaced by quantity, it would be worth while to live in the world at large; but unfortunately a hundred fools in a crowd still do not produce one intelligent man. On the other hand, as soon as want and privation give a man from the other extreme a breathing-space, he will look for pastime and society at any price and will readily put up with anything, wishing to escape from nothing so much as from himself. For in solitude, where everyone is referred back to himself, he then sees what he has in himself. For the fool in purple groans under the burden of his wretched individuality that cannot be thrown off, whereas the man of great gifts populates and animates with his ideas the most dreary and desolate environment. What Seneca says is, therefore, very true: omnis stultitia laborat fastidio sui [15] (Epistulae, 9), as also the statement of Jesus ben Sirach: 'The life of the fool is worse than death.' Accordingly, we shall find on the whole that everyone is sociable to the extent that he is intellectually poor and generally common.* For in this world we have little more than a choice between solitude and vulgarity. The most sociable of all human beings are said to be the Negroes who intellectually are decidedly inferior. According to accounts from North America in the French paper (Le Commerce, 19 October 1837), the blacks shut themselves up in large numbers in the smallest space, free men and slaves all together, because they cannot see enough of their black flat-nosed faces.

Accordingly, the brain appears as the parasite or pensioner of the entire organism and a man's hard-won leisure, by giving him the free enjoyment of his own consciousness and individuality, is the fruit and produce of his whole existence that is in other respects only toil and effort. But what does the leisure of most men yield? Boredom and dullness, except when there are sensual pleasures or follies for filling up the time. How utterly worthless this leisure is, is seen by the way in which such people spend it; it is precisely Ariosto's ozio lungo d'uomini ignoranti. [16] Ordinary men are intent merely on how to spend their time; a man with any talent is interested in how to use his time. Men of limited intelligence are so exposed to boredom and this is due to their intellect's being absolutely nothing but the medium of motives for their will. Now if at the moment there are no motives to be taken up, the will rests and the intellect takes a holiday since the one, like the other, does not become active of its own accord. The result is a terrible stagnation of all the powers of the entire man, in a word boredom. To ward off this, men now present the will with trivial motives that are merely temporary and are taken at random in order to rouse it and thus bring into action the intellect that has to interpret them. Accordingly, such motives are related to real and natural ones as paper-money to silver, for their value is arbitrarily assumed. Now such small motives are games, with cards and so on, which have been invented for this very purpose. And if these are wanting, the man of limited intelligence will resort to rattling and drumming with anything he can get hold of. For him even a cigar is a welcome substitute for ideas. And so in all countries the principal entertainment of all society has become card-playing; it is a measure of the worth of society and the declared bankruptcy of all ideas and thoughts. Thus since they are unable to exchange any ideas, they deal out cards and attempt to take one another's half-crowns. What a pitiful race! But not to be unjust here, I will not refrain from saying that, in defence of card-playing, it could at any rate be said that it is a preliminary training for life in the world of business in so far as in this way we learn to make clever use of the accidentally but unalterably given circumstances (cards in this case) in order to make therefrom what we can. For this purpose we become accustomed to showing a bold front by putting a good face on a bad game. But for this very reason, card-playing has a demoralizing effect since the spirit of the game is to win from another what is his and to do so in every possible way and by every trick and stratagem. But the habit, acquired in play, of acting in this way strikes root, encroaches on practical life, and we gradually come to act in the same way with respect to the affairs of mine and thine and to regard as justifiable every advantage we have in our hands whenever we are legally permitted to do so. Proofs of this are furnished by ordinary everyday life. And so, as I have said, free leisure is the flower, or rather the fruit, of everyone's existence, since it alone puts him in possession of himself. Therefore those are to be called happy who in themselves then preserve something of value; whereas for the majority leisure yields only a good-for-nothing fellow who is terribly bored and a burden to himself. Accordingly, we rejoice 'dear brethren that we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free'. (Galatians 4:31.)

Further, just as that country is the best off which requires few or no imports, so too is that man the most fortunate who has enough in his own inner wealth and for his amusement and diversion needs little or nothing from without. For imports are expensive, make us dependent, entail danger, occasion trouble and annoyance, and in the end are only an inferior substitute for the products of our own soil. For on no account should we expect much from others or generally from without. What one man can be to another is very strictly limited; in the end, everyone remains alone and then the question is who is now alone. Accordingly, Goethe's general remarks (Dichtung und Wahrheit, vol. iii, p. 474) here apply, namely that in all things everyone is ultimately referred back to himself, or as Oliver Goldsmith says:

Still to ourselves in ev'ry place consign'd,
Our own felicity we make or find.

-- The Traveller, II. 431f.


Therefore everyone must himself be the best and most that he can be and achieve. Now the more this is so and consequently the more he finds within himself the sources of his pleasures, the happier he will be. Therefore Aristotle is absolutely right when he says: [x] (Eudemian Ethics, VII. 2), which means that happiness belongs to those who are easily contented. For all the external sources of happiness and pleasure are by their nature exceedingly uncertain, precarious, fleeting, and subject to chance; therefore, even under the most favourable circumstances, they could easily come to an end; indeed this is inevitable in so far as they cannot always be close at hand. In old age almost all these sources necessarily dry up, for we are deserted by love, humour, desire to travel, delight in horses, aptitude for social intercourse, and even our friends and relations are taken from us by death. Then more than ever does it depend on what we have in ourselves, for this will last longest; but even at any age it is and remains the genuine and only permanent source of happiness. There is not much to be got anywhere in the world; it is full of privation and pain and for those who have escaped therefrom boredom lurks at every corner. In addition, baseness and wickedness have as a rule the upper hand and folly makes the most noise. Fate is cruel and mankind pitiable. In a world so constituted the man who has much within himself is like a bright, warm, cheerful room at Christmas amid the snow and ice of a December night. Accordingly, the happiest destiny on earth is undoubtedly to have a distinguished and rich individuality and in particular a good endowment of intellect, however differently such a destiny may turn out from the most brilliant. It was, therefore, a wise statement which the nineteen-year-old Queen Christina of Sweden made about Descartes with whom she had become acquainted merely through one essay and from verbal accounts and who at that time had for twenty years lived in Holland in the deepest seclusion. Mr. Descartes est le plus heureux de tous les hommes, et sa condition me semble digne d' envie. [17] (Vie de Descartes, par Baillet, Liv VII, chap. 10) Of course, as was the case with Descartes, external circumstances must be favourable to the extent of enabling a man to be master of his own life and to be satisfied therewith. Therefore Ecclesiastes 7: 11 says: 'Wisdom is good with an inheritance; and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.' Whoever has been granted this lot through the favour of nature and fate will be anxious and careful to see that the inner source of his happiness remains accessible to him and for this the conditions are independence and leisure. And so he will gladly purchase these at the price of moderation and thrift, the more so as he is not, like others, dependent on the external sources of pleasure. Thus he will not be led astray by the prospects of office, money, favour, and approbation of the world into surrendering himself in order to conform to the sordid designs or bad taste of people. * When the occasion occurs, he will do what Horace suggested in his epistle to Maecenas (lib. I, ep. 7). It is a great folly to lose the inner man in order to gain the outer, that is, to give up the whole or the greater part of one's quiet, leisure, and independence for splendour, rank, pomp, titles and honours. But this is what Goethe did; my genius has definitely drawn me in the other direction.

The truth, here discussed, that the chief source of human happiness springs from within ourselves, is also confirmed by the very correct observation of Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics (1.7; and VII. 13, 14), namely that every pleasure presupposes some activity and hence the application of some power, and without this it cannot exist. This teaching of Aristotle that a man's happiness consists in the unimpeded exercise of his outstanding ability, is also given again by Stobaeus in his description of the Peripatetic ethics (Eclogae ethicae, lib. II, c. 7, pp. 268-78), for example: [x] (the version in Heeren runs: felicitatem esse functionem secundum virtutem, per actiones successus compotes). [18] Generally in even briefer statements he explains that [x] is any supreme skill. Now the original purpose of the forces with which nature endowed man is the struggle against want and privation that beset him on all sides. When once this struggle is over, the unemployed forces then become a burden to him and so now he must play with them, that is, use them aimlessly, for otherwise he falls at once into the other source of human suffering, namely boredom. Thus the wealthy upper classes are primarily martyrs to this evil and Lucretius has given us a description of their pitiable condition. Even now in every great city we daily have instances of the aptness of this description:

Exit saepe foras magnis ex aedibus ille,
Esse domi quem pertaesum est, subitoque reventat;
Quippe foris nihilo melius qui sentiat esse.
Currit, agens mannos, ad villam praecipitanter,
Auxilium tectis quasi ferre ardentibus instans:
Oscitat extemplo, tetigit quum limina villae;
Aut abit in somnum gravis, atque oblivia quaerit;
Aut etiam properans urbem petit, atque revisit. [19]

-- III. 1060-7.


In youth these gentlemen must have muscular strength and procreative power. In later years, we are left with only mental powers; but these they lack or the development thereof and the accumulated material for their activity; and their plight is pitiable. Now since the will is the only inexhaustible force, it is roused by a stimulation of passions, for example, by games of chance for high stakes, this truly degrading vice. But generally speaking, every unoccupied individual will choose a game for the exercise of those powers wherein he excels; it may be skittles or chess, hunting or painting, horse-racing or music, cards or poetry, heraldry or philosophy, and so on. We can even investigate the matter methodically by going to the root of all the manifestations of human force and thus to the three physiological fundamental forces. Accordingly, we have here to consider them in their aimless play wherein they appear as the sources of three kinds of possible pleasures. From these every man will choose the ones that suit him according as he excels in one or other of those forces. First we have the pleasures of the power of reproduction which consist in eating, drinking, digesting, resting, and sleeping. There are even whole nations in whom these are regarded as national pleasures. Then we have the pleasures of irritability which consist in walking, jumping, wrestling, dancing, fencing, riding, and athletic games of every kind, also in hunting and even conflict and war. Finally, we have the pleasures of sensibility which consist in observing, thinking, feeling, writing poetry, improving the mind, playing music, learning, reading, meditating, inventing, philosophizing, and so on. On the value, degree, and duration of each of these kinds of pleasure remarks of many kinds can be made which are left to the reader himself to supply. But it will be clear to everyone that, the nobler the nature of the power that conditions our pleasure, the greater this will be; for it is conditioned by the use of our own powers and our happiness consists in the frequent recurrence of our pleasure. Again no one will deny that, in this respect, sensibility, whose decided preponderance is man's superiority to the other animal species, ranks before the other two fundamental physiological forces which in an equal and even greater degree are inherent in animals. Our cognitive powers are related to sensibility; and so a preponderance thereof qualifies us for the so-called intellectual pleasures that consist in knowledge; and indeed such pleasures will be the greater, the more decided that preponderance.* A thing can gain the normal ordinary man's lively concern only by stirring his will and hence having for him a personal interest. Now the constant excitement of the will is at any rate not an unmixed blessing, and thus entails pain. Card-playing, the usual occupation of 'good-society' everywhere, is an intentional device for producing such excitement and indeed by means of such trivial interests that they can give rise only to momentary and slight, not to permanent and serious, pain and are accordingly to be regarded as a mere tickling of the will. * On the other hand, the man of great intellectual powers is capable, in fact in need, of the liveliest interest on the path of mere knowledge, without any admixture of the will. But this interest then puts him in a region to which pain is essentially foreign; it places him so to speak, in the atmosphere where the gods live easily and serenely, [x]. [20] Accordingly the life of the masses is passed in dullness since all their thoughts and desires are directed entirely to the petty interests of personal welfare and thus to wretchedness and misery in all its forms. For this reason, intolerable boredom befalls them as soon as they are no longer occupied with those aims and they are now thrown back on themselves, for only the fierce fire of passion can stir into action the dull and indolent masses. On the other hand, the existence of the man who is endowed with outstanding intellectual powers is rich in ideas and full of life and meaning. Worthy and interesting objects occupy him as soon as he is permitted to devote himself to them, and he bears within himself a source of the noblest pleasures. Stimulation from without comes to him from the works of nature and the contemplation of human affairs and then from the many and varied achievements of the most highly gifted of all ages and lands; only such a man is really capable of thoroughly enjoying those things for he alone can fully understand and feel them. Accordingly, for him those highly gifted men have actually lived; to him they have really appealed; whereas the rest as casual hearers only half-understand something or other. But naturally through all this, the man of intelligence has one need more than the others, namely to learn, to see, to study, to meditate, to practise, and consequently the need for leisure. But because, as Voltaire rightly remarks, il n'est de vrais plaisirs qu'avec de vrais besoins, [21] so is this need the condition for the accessibility to him of pleasures that are denied to others. Indeed, even when they are surrounded by the beauties of nature and art and by intellectual works of all kinds, such things at bottom are to them only what courtesans are to a greybeard. As a result of this, a man so gifted leads two lives, a personal and an intellectual. For him the latter gradually becomes the real end to which the former is regarded merely as a means, whereas for the rest this shallow empty and troubled existence must be regarded as an end in itself. The man mentally gifted will, therefore, prefer to concern himself with that intellectual life. Through a constant extension of his insight and knowledge, such a life obtains cohesion, steady enhancement, totality, and perfection, becoming ever more complete like a slowly maturing work of art. Compared with it, the merely practical lives of others cut a sorry figure, devoted as they are merely to personal welfare and capable of an increase in length but not in depth. Yet, as I have said, to those others such a life must be regarded as an end in itself, whereas to the man of intellect it is only a means.

When our real practical life is not moved by passions, it is tedious and humdrum; but when it is so moved, it becomes painful. Therefore they alone are fortunate to whom there has been granted an excess of intellect over that required in the service of their will. For with this they lead, in addition to their actual life, an intellectual one that always occupies and entertains them painlessly yet vividly. Mere leisure, that is, intellect unoccupied in the service of the will, is not sufficient; but an actual excess of power is required, for this alone enables a man to undertake a purely mental occupation that does not serve the will. On the contrary, otium sine litteris mors est et hominis vivi sepultura [22] (Seneca, Epistulae, 82). Now according as this excess is small or great, there are innumerable degrees of that intellectual life from the mere collection and description of insects, birds, minerals, or coins to the highest achievements of poetry and philosophy. Such an intellectual life, however, is a protection not only against boredom, but also against the pernicious effects thereof. Thus it becomes a safeguard against bad company and the many dangers, misfortunes, losses, and extravagances in which we land when we seek our happiness entirely in the outside world. Thus, for example, my philosophy has never brought me in anything, but it has spared me many a loss.

The normal man, on the other hand, as regards the pleasures of his life, relies on things that are outside him and thus on possessions, rank, wife and children, friends, society, and so on; these are the props of his life's happiness. It therefore collapses when he loses such things or is disillusioned by them. We may express this relation by saying that his centre of gravity lies outside him. For this reason his wishes and whims are always changing; if he has the means, he will buy country-houses or horses, give parties, or travel; but generally speaking, he will indulge in great luxury, just because he seeks satisfactionjrom without in all kinds of things. He is like a man who is debilitated and hopes through soups and medicines to recover his health and strength whose true source is his own vital force. Before going at once to the other extreme, let us compare him with a man whose mental powers are not exactly outstanding, but yet exceed the normal narrow limit. We then see such a man as an amateur practising a fine art, or pursuing some branch of science such as botany, mineralogy, physics, astronomy, history, and so on, and immediately finding most of his pleasure and deriving recreation therefrom, when those outside sources dry up or no longer satisfy him. To this extent, we can say that his centre of gravity already lies partly within himself. Nevertheless, since mere dilettantism in art is still far removed from creative ability and mere scientific knowledge stops at the mutual relations of phenomena, the ordinary man is unable to become wholly absorbed therein; his whole nature cannot be thoroughly imbued with them and thus his existence cannot be so intimately associated with them that he would lose all interest in everything else. This is reserved only for supreme intellectual eminence which is usually described by the name of genius; for this alone takes existence and the nature of things entirely and absolutely as its theme. It will then endeavour to express its profound comprehension of these things in accordance with its particular tendency, either through art, poetry, or philosophy. And so only to such a man is the undisturbed preoccupation with himself, his ideas and works, an urgent necessity; solitude is welcome, leisure is the greatest blessing, and everything else is superfluous; in fact, when it exists it is often only a burden. Thus only of such a man can we say that his centre of gravity is entirely within himself. We can even explain from this why men of this nature, who are exceedingly rare, do not show, even with the best character, that intimate and immense interest in friends, family, and the community at large, of which many others are capable. For in the last resort, they can put up with the loss of everything else, if only they have themselves. Accordingly, there is in them an element of isolation which is the more effective, as others never really satisfy them completely. And so they cannot look on these as entirely their equals; in fact, as the difference of each and all is always making itself felt, they gradually grow accustomed to moving among men as if they were beings of a different order, and, in their thoughts about people, to making use of the word they instead of we. Our moral virtues benefit mainly other people; intellectual virtues, on the other hand, benefit primarily ourselves; therefore the former make us universally popular, the latter unpopular.

Now from this point of view, the man who is richly endowed by nature in an intellectual respect, appears to be the happiest, so surely does the subjective lie nearer to us than the objective; for the effect of the latter, whatever its nature, is invariably brought about by the former and is therefore only secondary. This is also testified by the fine verse:

[x]
[x]. [23]

-- Lucian, Epigrams, 12.


Such an inwardly wealthy man requires nothing from without except a negative gift, namely leisure to be able to cultivate and develop his intellectual faculties and to enjoy that inner wealth. Thus he wants permission simply to be entirely himself throughout his life, every day and every hour. If a man is destined to impress on the whole human race the mark of his mind, he has only one measure of happiness or unhappiness, namely to be able wholly to develop his abilities and to complete his works, or to be prevented from so doing. For him everything else is of no importance. Accordingly, we see eminent minds of all ages attaching the greatest value to leisure. For every man's leisure is as valuable as he is himself [x] [24] says Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics. x. 7), and Diogenes Laertius (II.5.31) reports that [x] (Socrates otium ut possessionum omnium pulcherrimam laudabat). [25] In keeping with this, Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, x. 7, 8, 9) declares the philosophical life to be the happiest. Even what he says in the Politics (IV. II) is relevant: [x], which properly translated states: 'To be able without hindrance to exercise his pre-eminent quality, whatever its nature, is real happiness' and thus agrees with Goethe's words in Wilhelm Meister: 'Whoever is born with a talent for a talent discovers therein his finest existence.' Now the possession of leisure is foreign not only to man's customary fate, but also to his usual nature, for his natural destiny is to spend his time providing what is necessary for his own and his family's existence. He is a son of want and privation, not a free intelligence. Accordingly, leisure soon becomes for him a burden and indeed ultimately a great affliction, if he is unable to employ his time by means of imaginary and fictitious aims of all kinds through every form of game, pastime, and hobby. For the same reason, it also brings him danger, since difficilis in otio quies [26] is a true saying. On the other hand, a measure of intellect that goes far beyond the normal is likewise abnormal and therefore unnatural. Nevertheless, when once it exists, then for the happiness of the man so gifted just that leisure is needed which others find either so burdensome or so pernicious, for without it he will be a Pegasus under the yoke and consequently unhappy. Now if these two unnatural circumstances, external and internal, coincide, then it is most fortunate, for the man so favoured will now lead a life of a higher order, that of one who is exempt from the two opposite sources of human suffering, want and boredom, from the anxious business of earning a living and the inability to endure leisure (i.e. free existence itself). A man escapes these two evils only by their being mutually neutralized and eliminated.

On the other hand, against all this, we must consider the fact that great intellectual gifts, in consequence of predominant nervous activity, produce a very much enhanced sensitiveness to pain in every form. Further, the passionate temperament that conditions such gifts, and at the same time the greater vividness and completeness of all images and conceptions inseparable therefrom, produce an incomparably greater intensity of the emotions that are thereby stirred, whilst in general there are more painful than pleasant emotions. Finally, great intellectual gifts estrange their possessor from the rest of mankind and its activities. For the more he has in himself, the less is he able to find in others, and the hundred things in which they take a great delight are to him shallow and insipid. Perhaps in this way, the law of compensation which everywhere asserts itself, remains in force even here. Indeed, it has been often enough maintained, and not without plausibility, that the man of the most limited intelligence is at bottom the happiest, although no one may envy him his luck. I do not wish to forestall the reader in a definite decision on the matter, the less so as even Sophocles has made two diametrically opposite statements on the subject:

[x]
(Sapere longe prima felicitatis pars est.) [27]

-- Antigone, 1328.


and again:

[x]
(Nihil cogitantium jucundissima vita est.) [28]

-- Ajax, 550.


The philosophers of the Old Testament are just as much at variance with one another. Thus: 'The life of a fool is worse than death!' [x], Jesus ben Sirach 12: 12); and: 'In much wisdom is much grief; And he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.' ([x], Ecclesiastes 1:18). However, I will not omit to mention here that the man who has no intellectual needs in consequence of the strictly normal and scanty measure of his intellectual powers, is really what is described as a Philistine. It is an expression exclusively peculiar to the German language and came from the universities; but it was afterwards used in a higher sense, although still always analogous to the original meaning as denoting the opposite of the son of the Muses. Thus a Philistine is and remains the [x]. [29] Now it is true that, from a higher point of view, I should state the definition of Philistine so as to cover those who are always most seriously concerned with a reality that is no reality. But such a definition would be transcendental and not appropriate to the popular point of view which I have adopted in this essay; and so perhaps it would not be thoroughly understood by every reader. On the other hand, the first definition more readily admits of a special elucidation and adequately indicates the essence of the matter, the root of all those qualities that characterize the Philistine. Accordingly, he is a man without intellectual needs. Now it follows from this that, as regards himself, he is left without any intellectual pleasures in accordance with the principle, already mentioned, il n' est de vrais plaisirs qu' avec de vrais besoins. [30] His existence is not animated by any keen desire for knowledge and insight for their own sake, or by any desire for really aesthetic pleasures which is so entirely akin to it. If, however, any pleasures of this kind are forced on him by fashion or authority, he will dispose of them as briefly as possible as a kind of compulsory labour. For him real pleasures are only those of the senses whereby he indemnifies himself. Accordingly, oysters and champagne are the acme of his existence, and the purpose of his life is to procure for himself everything that contributes to bodily welfare. He is happy enough when this causes him a lot of trouble. For if those good things are heaped on him in advance, he will inevitably lapse into boredom against which all possible means are tried, such as dancing, the theatre, society, card-playing, games of chance, horses, women, drinking, travelling, and so on. And yet all these are not enough to ward off boredom where intellectual pleasures are rendered impossible by a lack of intellectual needs. Thus a peculiar characteristic of the Philistine is a dull dry seriousness akin to that of animals. Nothing delights him, nothing excites him, nothing gains his interest; for sensual pleasures are soon exhausted and society consisting of such Philistines soon becomes boring; in the end card-playing becomes wearisome. At all events, he is still left with the pleasures of vanity to be enjoyed in his own way. These consist in his excelling in wealth, rank, or influence and power others by whom he is then honoured; or they consist in his going about at any rate with those who have a surplus of such things and thus in sunning himself in their reflected splendour (a snob). From the fundamental nature of the Philistine I have just mentioned, it follows that, in regard to others, as he has no intellectual but only physical needs, he will seek those who are capable of satisfying the latter not the former. And so of all the demands he makes on others the very smallest will be that of any outstanding intellectual abilities. On the contrary, when he comes across these they will excite his antipathy and even hatred. For here he has a hateful feeling of inferiority and also a dull secret envy which he most carefully attempts to conceal even from himself; but in this way, it grows sometimes into a feeling of secret rage and rancour. Therefore it will never occur to him to assess his own esteem and respect in accordance with such qualities, but they will remain exclusively reserved for rank and wealth, power and influence, as being in his eyes the only real advantages to excel in which is also his desire. But all this follows from his being a man without intellectual needs.

A great affliction of all Philistines is that idealities afford them no entertainment, but to escape from boredom they are always in need of realities. Thus the latter are soon exhausted where, instead of entertaining, they weary us; moreover they entail all kinds of evil and harm. Idealities, on the other hand, are inexhaustible and in themselves harmless and innocuous.

In all these remarks about personal qualities that contribute to our happiness, I have been concerned mainly with those that are physical and intellectual. Now the way in which moral excellence also contributes directly to our happiness has already been discussed by me in my prize-essay' On the Basis of Ethics', § 22, to which I therefore refer the reader.

_______________

Notes:

1 [Schopenhauer's own words.]

2 [Schopenhauer's own words.]

3 ['For we can depend on nature, not on money.']

4 ['A healthy mind in a healthy body'.]
 
5 ['Life consists in movement.']

6 ['Worm-like movement'.]

7 ['The more rapid a movement is, the more it is movement.']
  
8 ['It is not things that disturb men, but opinions about things.']

9 ['All who have distinguished themselves whether in philosophy, politics, poetry, or the arts, appear to be melancholy.')
  
10 [' Aristotle says that all men of genius are melancholy.')

11 [' Peevish and cheerful'.]

12 [' Peevish frame of mind'.]

13 ['Cheerful frame of mind'.]

14 ['Not to be despised are the divine gifts of the gods which they alone bestow and which none can obtain at will.']
 
* The nomadic life, indicating the lowest stage of civilization, is again found at the  highest in the tourist life which has become general. The first was produced by want,  the second by boredom.
 
* The very thing that makes people sociable is their inner poverty.

15 ['Stupidity suffers from its own weariness.']

16 ['The boredom of the ignorant'.]
 
* They achieve their welfare at the expense of their leisure; but of what use to me is welfare if for it I have to give up that which alone makes it desirable, namely my leisure?

17 ['M. Descartes is the happiest and most fortunate of men and his condition seems to me to be most enviable.']
 
18 ['Happiness is a virtuous activity in those affairs which have the desired result.']

19 ['Frequently he quits the large palace and hurries into the open, for the house disgusts him, until he suddenly returns because out of doors he feels no better off. Or else he gallops off to his country-house, as if it were on fire and he were hurrying to put it out. But as soon as he has crossed the threshold, he yawns with boredom or falls asleep and tries to forget himself, unless he prefers to return to the city.']
 
* Nature advances continuously first from the mechanical and chemical action  of the inorganic kingdom to the vegetable and its dull enjoyment of self, thence to  the animal kingdom with the dawning of intelligence and consciousness. From  feeble beginnings, she ascends by stages ever higher and in the final and greatest  step reaches man. In his intellect, therefore, nature attains the pinnacle and goal of  her productions and thus furnishes the most perfect and most difficult thing she is  capable of producing. But even within the human species the intellect presents us with many observable differences of degree and only extremely rarely does it reach the highest, really eminent intelligence. This, then, in the narrower and stricter sense is the most difficult and supreme product of nature and consequently the rarest and most precious thing whereof the world can boast. In such an intelligence the clearest consciousness occurs and accordingly the world presents itself more distinctly and completely than anywhere else. Therefore whoever is endowed with such intelligence, possesses the noblest and choicest thing on earth and accordingly has a source of pleasure compared with which all others are of little value. From without he requires nothing but the leisure to enjoy this possession in peace and to polish his diamond. For all other pleasures not of the intellect are of a lower order; they all lead to movements of the will and hence to desires, hopes, fears, and attainments, no matter in what direction. But here they cannot pass off without pain; moreover, with attainment, disappointment more or less as a rule occurs, whereas in the case of intellectual pleasures truth becomes ever clearer. No pain reigns in the realm of intelligence, but all is knowledge. Now all intellectual pleasures are accessible to everyone only by means, and thus to the extent, of his own intelligence; for tout l'esprit qui est au monde, est inutile a celui qui n'en a point. ['All the intelligence in the world is useless to him who has none.' La Bruyere.] But a real drawback which accompanies that advantage is that, in the whole of nature, the capacity for pain is enhanced with the degree of intelligence, and thus here reaches its highest.

* At bottom, vulgarity consists in the fact that in consciousness willing so completely outweighs knowing that knowledge appears only in the service of the will. Where such service does not demand knowledge and so when there are no motives great or small, knowledge ceases entirely and consequently the result is a complete absence of ideas. Now willing without knowledge is the commonest thing there is. Every blockhead has it and shows it at any rate when he falls down. This state, therefore, constitutes vulgarity in which are left only the organs of sense and the small intellectual activity required for apprehending their data. In consequence of this, the vulgar man is constantly open to every impression and thus instantly perceives all that goes on around him, so that the least sound and every circumstance, even the most trivial, at once rouses his attention, just as they do that of the animals. This entire state of mind reveals itself in his face and the whole of his appearance; and the result is that vulgar look whose impression is the more repulsive when, as is often the case, the will that here completely occupies consciousness is base, egoistical, and thoroughly bad.

20 ['Of the gods who live lightly'.]

21 ['There are no true pleasures without true needs.']

22 ['Leisure without literature is death; it is for man like being buried alive.']
 
23 ['True wealth is only the inner wealth of the soul; Everything else brings more trouble than advantage.']

24 ['Happiness appears to consist in leisure.']

25 ['Socrates prized leisure as the fairest of all possessions.']
 
26 ['It is difficult to keep quiet when one has nothing to do.'] 

27 ['To be intelligent is the main part of happiness.']

28 ['The most agreeable life consists in a lack of intelligence.']

29 ['A man forsaken of the Muses'.]

30 ['There are no true pleasures without true needs.']
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:42 pm

CHAPTER 3: What a Man has

EPICURUS, the great teacher of happiness, has correctly and finely divided human needs into three classes. First there are the natural and necessary needs which, if they are not satisfied, cause pain. Consequently, they are only victus et amictus [1] and are easy to satisfy. Then we have those that are natural yet not necessary, that is, the needs for sexual satisfaction, although in the account of Laertius Epicurus does not state this; (generally I here reproduce his teaching in a somewhat better and more finished form). These needs are more difficult to satisfy. Finally, there are those that are neither natural nor necessary, the needs for luxury, extravagance, pomp, and splendour, which are without end and very difficult to satisfy. (See Diogenes Laertius, lib. x, c. 27, § 149, also § 127, and Cicero, De finibus, lib. I, c. 14 and 16.)

It is difficult, if not impossible, to define the limit of our reasonable desires in respect of possessions. For a man's satisfaction in regard to this rests not on an absolute but a merely relative amount, namely the relation between his claims and his possessions. Therefore, to consider possessions alone is just as meaningless as to take the numerator of a fraction without the denominator. A man to whom it has never occurred to claim certain good things, does not miss them at all and is perfectly satisfied without them; whereas another, who possesses a hundred times more than he, feels unhappy because he lacks the very thing he is claiming. In this respect, every man also has his own horizon of what is possible and attainable for him and his claims extend as far as this. When any object lying within this horizon presents itself so that he can count on its attainment, he feels happy; on the other hand, he feels unhappy when difficulties appear and deprive him of the prospect. What lies beyond this horizon has no effect on him at all. Thus the great possessions of the rich do not worry the poor; on the other hand, if the wealthy man's plans fail, he is not consoled by the many things he already possesses. Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become; and the same is true of fame. After the loss of wealth or position, our habitual frame of mind proves to be not very different from what is was previously, when once the first grief and sorrow are overcome. The reason for this is that, after fate has reduced the amount of our possessions, we ourselves now diminish to an equal extent that of our claims. In the case of a misfortune, however, this operation is really painful; after it has been performed, the pain becomes less and less and in the end is no longer felt; the wound has healed up. Conversely, in the case of good fortune, our claims are pressed ever higher and are extended; here is to be found the delight. But it lasts only until this operation is entirely performed. We become accustomed to the increased measure of our claims and are indifferent to the possessions that correspond to it. The passage from Homer, Odyssey, XVIII. 130- 7, states this and the last two lines are:

[x]
[x]. [2]


The source of our dissatisfaction lies in our constantly renewed attempts to press the amount of our claims ever higher, whilst the other factor remains fixed and prevents this from happening.

With a race so destitute and full of needs as the human, it is not surprising that wealth is esteemed, indeed worshipped, more highly and sincerely than anything else, and even the power merely as a means to wealth. It should also not surprise us that, for the purpose of acquiring gain, everything else is pushed aside or thrown overboard, for example, as is philosophy by the professors of philosophy.

People are often reproached because their desires are directed mainly to money and they are fonder of it than of anything else. Yet it is natural and even inevitable for them to love that which, as an untiring Proteus, is ready at any moment to convert itself into the particular object of our fickle desires and manifold needs. Thus every other blessing can satisfy only one desire and one need; for instance, food is good only for the hungry, wine for the healthy, medicine for the sick, a fur coat for winter, women for youth, and so on. Consequently, all these are only [x], [3] that is to say, only relatively good. Money alone is the absolutely good thing because it meets not merely one need in concreto, but needs generally in abstracto.

Means at our disposal should be regarded as a bulwark against the many evils and misfortunes that can occur. We should not regard such wealth as a permission or even an obligation to procure for ourselves the pleasures of the world. People who originally have no means but are ultimately able to earn a great deal, through whatever talents they may possess, almost always come to think that these are permanent capital and that what they gain through them is interest. Accordingly, they do not put aside a part of their earnings to form a permanent capital, but spend their money as fast as they earn it. But they are then often reduced to poverty because their earnings decrease or come to an end after their talent, which was of a transitory nature, is exhausted, as happens, for example, in the case of almost all the fine arts; or because it could be brought to bear only under a particular set of circumstances that has ceased to exist. Workmen may always act in the way I have mentioned, because their capacity for output is not easily lost and is replaced by the energy of their comrades, and because the things they make are objects in demand and always find a market; hence the proverb 'a trade in hand finds gold in every land' is quite right. However, such is not the case with artists and virtuosi of every kind and this is precisely the reason why they are better paid. Therefore what they earn should become their capital, whereas they recklessly regard it as mere interest and thus end in ruin. On the other hand, those who possess inherited wealth at least know at once and quite correctly what is capital and what interest. And so most of them will endeavour to secure their capital and in no case will they encroach on it; in fact, where possible, they will put by at least an eighth of the interest to meet future contingencies; thus they usually remain well off. All these remarks do not apply to business men for whom money itself is the means to further gain, the tools and implements, so to speak. Therefore even when the money is earned entirely through their own efforts, they try to preserve and increase it by making the best use thereof. Accordingly. in no class is wealth so thoroughly at home as in the commercial.

Generally we shall find as a rule that those who have already experienced real want and privation are much less afraid thereof and so are more inclined to extravagance than those who know poverty only from hearsay. The former are those who have passed fairly rapidly from poverty to affluence through some piece of good fortune or special talents. no matter of what kind; the latter. on the other hand. are those who have been born well off and have remained so. and who are usually more concerned about the future and are thus more thrifty than the former. From this it might be inferred that. when viewed from a distance. poverty is not so bad as it seems. Yet perhaps the true reason might be that. to the man born in a position of wealth. this appears to be something indispensable. the element of the only possible existence. like air. He therefore guards it as he guards his life and so is usually orderly. tidy. prudent. and thrifty. On the other hand. to the man born in poverty. this seems to be the natural state; but wealth. that is subsequently inherited in some way. is regarded as something superfluous. as merely useful to be enjoyed and squandered. For when it has gone, he manages just as well without it as he did previously, and he is rid of an anxiety. Then things are as Shakespeare says in Henry VI. Pt. III. Act I. Sc. 4:

The adage must be verified
That beggars mounted run their horse to death.


Moreover, there is the fact that such people carry in their hearts rather than in their heads a firm and excessive confidence partly in fate and partly in their own resources that have already rescued them from need and poverty. Therefore. unlike those who are born wealthy. they do not regard the shallows of poverty as bottomless. but think that. by kicking against the bottom. they will be again lifted up. From this peculiar human trait we can also explain why women who were poor girls are very often more pretentious and extravagant than are those who have brought their husbands a rich dowry. For in most cases wealthy girls not only bring a dowry. but also show more keenness and indeed hereditary tendency to preserve it than do poor girls. If, however, anyone wishes to assert the contrary, he will find authority for his view in Ariosto's first satire. On the other hand, Dr. Johnson agrees with my opinion: 'A woman of fortune being used to the handling of money, spends it judiciously; but a woman who gets the command of money for the first time upon her marriage, has such a gusto in spending it, that she throws it away with great profusion.' (Boswell, Life of Johnson, ann. 1776, aetat. 67.) In any case, however, I would like to advise those marrying poor girls to allow them to inherit not the capital but only an annuity, and to take special care that the children's fortune does not fall into their hands.

I certainly do not think that I am doing anything unworthy of my pen in here recommending that one should be careful to preserve what has been earned and inherited. For to possess at the outset so much that we can live comfortably, even if only for our own person and without a family, and can live really independently, that is, without working, is a priceless advantage. For it means exemption and immunity from the poverty and trouble attaching to the life of man, and thus emancipation from universal drudgery, that natural lot of earthly mortals. Only under this favour and patronage of fate is a man born truly free; for only so is he really sui juris, [4] master of his own time and powers, and is able to say every morning 'The day is mine'. And for the very same reason, the difference between the man with a thousand a year and one with a hundred is infinitely less than that between the former and the man who has nothing. But inherited wealth attains its highest value when it has come to the man who is endowed with mental powers of a high order and who pursues activities that are hardly compatible with earning money. For then he is doubly endowed by fate and can now live for his genius; but in this way, he will pay a hundredfold his debt to mankind by achieving what no other could do and by producing something that contributes to the good of all and also redounds to their honour. Again, another in such a favourable position will deserve well of humanity through his philanthropic activities. On the other hand, the man with inherited wealth who achieves none of these things, even only partially or tentatively, and who does not even open up the possibility at least of advancing some branch of knowledge by thoroughly studying it, is a mere idler and a contemptible loafer. He will not be happy, for the exemption from want delivers him into the hands of boredom, that other pole of human misery, which torments him so much that he would have been much happier if poverty and privation had given him something to do. But this very boredom will soon lead him into extravagances which rob him of that advantage whereof he was unworthy. Very many actually find themselves in want simply because they spent money when they had it, merely to procure for themselves momentary relief from the boredom that oppressed them.

Now it is quite another matter if our object is to reach a high position in the service of the State where favour, friends, and connections must be obtained so that we may thereby gain promotion step by step possibly even to the highest posts. Here at bottom it is better to be cast into the world without any money. If a man is an absolutely poor wretch, it will specially redound to his real advantage when he is not of noble birth, but is, on the other hand, endowed with some talent. For what everyone looks for and likes best is the inferiority of the other man, even in mere conversation, let alone in the service of the State. Now it is only a poor devil who is convinced of and impressed with his own complete, profound, positive, and general inferiority, and his utter insignificance and worthlessness to the extent that is here demanded. Accordingly, he alone keeps on bowing often enough and his bows reach a full ninety degrees; he alone puts up with and smiles at everything; he alone knows the entire worthlessness of merits; he alone in a loud voice or even in heavy type openly and publicly praises as masterpieces the literary amateurisms of those who are placed over him or are otherwise in a position of influence; he alone knows how to beg; consequently, he alone can become at times, and so in his youth, even an exponent of that hidden truth that is revealed to us by Goethe in these words:

Let none complain
Of what is base and mean;
For 'tis this that sways the world
Whatever may be said to you.
 
-- Westostlicher Diwan.


On the other hand, the man who originally has enough to live on will often have an independent turn of mind; he is accustomed to go about tete levee; [5] he has not learnt all those arts of the beggar. Perhaps he even boasts of a few talents, but he should realize how inadequate these are in face of the mediocre et rampant. [6] In the end, he is quite capable of observing the inferiority of those over him; and if in addition he now receives insults and indignities, he becomes refractory and shy. This is not the way to get on in the world. On the contrary, he may ultimately say with the bold Voltaire: Nous n' avons que deux jours a vivre: ce n' est pas la peine de les passer a ramper sous des coquins meprisables. [7] Incidentally, the term coquin meprisable is alas applicable to a devilish number of people in this world. We see, therefore, that Juvenal's words

Haud facile emergunt, quorum virtutibus obstat Res angusta domi, [8]


apply more to the career of art and literature than to that of worldlings.

I have not included wife and family in what a man has, for they have him rather than he has them. Friends could be more readily included in what he has, yet even here the possessor must be to the same extent the possession of the other man.

_______________

Notes:

1 ['Food and clothing'.]

2 ['For the feelings of earthly mortals are like the day that was granted by the  father of gods and men.']
 
3 ['Good things for a definite purpose'.]
 
4 ['His own master'.]

5 ['With head erect'.]

6 ['Mediocre and cringing'.]

7 ['We have only two days to live; it is not worth our while to spend them in grovelling before contemptible rogues.']

8 ['It is difficult to rise where the cramped conditions in the house prevent the development of one's powers.' (Satires, III.164.)]
 
 
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:58 am

Part 1 of 3

CHAPTER 4: What a Man represents

THIS, in other words, what we are in the opinion of others, is generally much overrated in consequence of a peculiar weakness of our nature; although the slightest reflection could tell us that, in itself, it is not essential to our happiness. Accordingly, it is difficult to explain why everyone is at heart very pleased whenever he sees in others signs of a favourable opinion and his vanity is in some way flattered. If a cat is stroked it purrs; and just as inevitably if a man is praised sweet rapture and delight are reflected in his face; and indeed in the sphere of his pretensions the praise may be a palpable lie. Signs of other people's approbation often console him for real misfortune or for the scantiness with which the other two sources of our happiness, previously discussed, flow for him. Conversely it is astonishing how infallibly he is annoyed and often deeply hurt by every injury to his ambition in any sense, degree, or circumstance, and by any disdain, disrespect, or slight. In so far as the feeling of honour rests on this peculiar characteristic, it may have salutary effects on the good conduct of many as a substitute for their morality; but on the man's own happiness and above all on the peace of mind and independence essential thereto, its effect is more disturbing and detrimental than beneficial. Therefore, from our point of view, it is advisable to set limits to this characteristic and to moderate as much as possible, through careful consideration and correct assessment of the value of good things, that great susceptibility to the opinions of other people, not only where it is flattered, but also where it is injured, for both hang by the same thread. Otherwise we remain the slave of what other people appear to think:

Sic Leve, sic parvum est, animum quod laudis avarum
Subruit ac reficit. [1]


Accordingly, a correct comparison of the value of what we are in and by ourselves with what we are in the eyes of others will greatly contribute to our happiness. Belonging to the former is everything that fills up the whole time of our existence, its inner content and consequently every blessing that was considered by us in the two chapters' what a man is' and 'what a man has' . For the place wherein all this has its sphere of activity is our own consciousness. On the other hand, the place of what we are for others is their consciousness; it is the kind of figure in which we appear in that consciousness together with the notions and concepts that are applied to it.* Now this is something that certainly does not directly exist for us but only indirectly, namely in so far as the behaviour of others towards us is thereby determined. And this is also taken into consideration only in so far as it influences anything whereby what we are in and by ourselves can be modified. Besides, what goes on in the consciousness of others is as such a matter of indifference to us; and to it we shall gradually become indifferent when we acquire an adequate knowledge of the superficial and futile nature of the thoughts in the heads of most people, of the narrowness of their views, of the paltriness of their sentiments, of the perversity of their opinions, and of the number of their errors. We shall also become indifferent to the opinions of others when from our own experience we learn with what disrespect one man occasionally speaks of another as soon as he no longer has to fear him or thinks that what he says will not come to the ears of the other man; but we shall become indifferent especially after we have once heard how half a dozen blockheads speak with disdain about the greatest man. We shall then see that whoever attaches much value to the opinions of others pays them too much honour.

In any case, that man is in a pretty poor way who does not find his happiness in the two classes of blessings already considered, but has to look for it in the third, thus in what he is not in reality but in the minds of others. For in general, the basis of our whole being, and therefore of our happiness, is our animal nature; and so health is the most essential factor for our welfare and after it come the means for maintaining ourselves and thus for having a livelihood that is free from care. Honour, pomp, rank, and reputation, however much value many of us may attach to them, cannot compete with or replace those essential blessings for which, in case of necessity, they would unquestionably be given up. For this reason, it will contribute to our happiness if at times we reach the simple view that everyone lives primarily and actually within his own skin, not in the opinion of others, and that accordingly our real and personal condition, as determined by health, temperament, abilities, income, wife, family, friends, dwelling-place, and so on, is a hundred times more important to our happiness than what others are pleased to make of us. The opposite notion will make us unhappy. If it is emphatically exclaimed that honour is dearer than life itself, this really means that existence and well-being are nothing and the real thing is what others think of us. At all events, the statement can be regarded as a hyperbole whose basis is the prosaic truth that honour, that is, other people's opinion of us, is often absolutely necessary for us to live and make our way in the world. I shall later return to this. On the other hand, when we see how almost everything, assiduously sought by people throughout their lives with restless energy and at the cost of a thousand dangers and hardships, has as its ultimate object the enhancement of themselves in the opinion of others; thus when we see how they strive not only for offices, titles, and decorations, but also for wealth, and even science* and art, basically and mainly for the same reason, and how the greater respect of others is the ultimate goal to which they work, then this alas merely shows us the magnitude of human folly. To set too high a value on the opinion of others is an erroneous idea that prevails everywhere. Now it may be rooted in our nature itself or may have arisen in consequence of society and civilization. In any case, it exerts on all our actions an influence that is wholly immoderate and inimical to our happiness. We can follow it from the anxious and slavish regard for the qu' en dira-t-on [2] to the case where Virginius plunges the dagger into his daughter's heart, or where, for posthumous fame, a man is induced to sacrifice peace, wealth, health, and even life itself. This erroneous idea certainly offers a convenient handle to the man who has to control or otherwise direct people; and so, in every scheme for training humanity, instructions for maintaining and strengthening the feeling of honour occupy a prominent place. But it is quite a different matter as regards a man's own happiness that we intend here to consider; on the contrary, one should be dissuaded from placing too high a value on the opinion of others. Daily experience, however, tells us that this is done and that most people attach the highest importance precisely to what others think of them. They are more concerned about this than about what immediately exists for them because it occurs in their own consciousness. Accordingly, they reverse the natural order of things and the opinion of others seems to them to be the real part of their existence, their own consciousness being merely the ideal part. They therefore make what is derived and secondary the main issue and the picture of their true nature in the minds of others is nearer to their hearts than is this true nature itself. Consequently, this direct regard for that which certainly does not exist directly for us is that folly which has been called vanity, vanitas, in order to indicate the empty and insubstantial nature of this striving. It is also easy to see from the above remarks that vanity, like avarice, causes us to forget the end in the means.

In fact, the value we attach to the opinion of others and our constant concern in respect thereof exceed almost every reasonable expectation, so that it can be regarded as a kind of mania that is widespread or rather inborn. In everything we do or omit to do, almost the first thing we consider is the opinion of other people and, if we examine the matter more closely, we shall see that almost half the worries and anxieties we have ever experienced have arisen from our concern about it. For it is at the root of all our self-esteem that is so often mortified because it is so morbidly sensitive, of all our vanities and pretensions, and also of our boasting and ostentation. Without this concern and craze, there would be hardly a tithe of the luxury that exists. Pride in every form, point d'honneur, and puntiglio, however varied their sphere and nature, are due to this opinion of others, and what sacrifices it often demands! It shows itself even in the child and then at every age, yet most strongly in old age because when the capacity for sensual pleasures fails, vanity and pride have only to share their dominion with avarice. It can be most clearly observed in the French in whom it is quite endemic and often becomes the absurdest ambition, the most ludicrous national vanity, and the most shameless boasting. But then in this way they defeat their own efforts, for they have been made fun of by other nations and nicknamed la grande nation. Now to furnish a special illustration of the perverse nature of that excessive concern about the opinion of others, a really superlative example may here be given of that folly that is rooted in human nature. Through the striking effect of the coincidence of the circumstances with the appropriate character, it is suitable to a rare degree, for in it we are able wholly to estimate the strength of this very strange motive. It is the following passage that comes from a detailed report of the execution of Thomas Wix which had just taken place, and it appeared in The Times of 31 March 1846. Wix, a journeyman, had out of revenge murdered his master. 'On the morning fixed for the execution, the rev. ordinary was early in attendance upon him, but Wix, beyond a quiet demeanour, betrayed no interest in his ministrations, appearing to feel anxious only to acquit himself bravely before the spectators of his ignominious end.- This he succeeded in doing. In the procession Wix fell into his proper place with alacrity, and, as he entered the chapel-yard, remarked, sufficiently loud to be heard by several persons near him, "Now, then, as Dr. Dodd said, I shall soon know the grand secret." On reaching the scaffold, the miserable wretch mounted the drop without the slightest assistance, and when he got to the centre, he bowed to the spectators twice, a proceeding which called forth a tremendous cheer from the degraded crowd beneath.' This is an excellent example of a man with death in its most terrible form before his eyes and eternity behind it, not caring about anything except the impression he would make on a crowd of gapers and the opinion that would remain in their minds! And indeed, in the same year, Lecomte in France was executed for an attempt on the king's life. At the trial he was annoyed mainly because he could not appear in decent attire before the Chamber of Peers; and even at his execution his main worry was that he had not been allowed to shave beforehand. Even in former times, it was just the same, as is seen from what Mateo Aleman says in the introduction (declaracion) to his famous novel, Guzman de Alfarache, that many infatuated criminals used their last hours that should have been devoted exclusively to the salvation of their souls, for the preparation and committing to memory of a short sermon that they intended to deliver on the steps of the gallows. Yet in such characteristics we can see a reflection of ourselves, for extreme cases always give us the clearest illustration. The anxieties of all of us, our worries, vexations, bothers, troubles, fears, exertions, and so on, are really concerned with someone else's opinion, perhaps in the majority of cases, and are just as absurd as is the behaviour of those miserable sinners. For the most part, our envy and hatred also spring from the same root.

Now it is obvious that our happiness, resting as it does mainly on peace of mind and contentment, could scarcely be better promoted than by limiting and moderating these motives to reasonable proportions that would possibly be a fiftieth of what they are at present, and thus by extracting from our flesh this thorn that is always causing us pain. Yet this is very difficult, for we are concerned with a natural and innate perversity. Tacitus says: Etiam sapientibus cupido gloriae novissima exuitur [3] (Historiae, IV. 6). The only way to be rid of this universal folly is clearly to recognize it as such and for this purpose to realize how utterly false, perverse, erroneous, and absurd most of the opinions usually are in men's minds, which are, therefore, in themselves not worth considering. Moreover, other people's opinions can in most cases and things have little real influence on us. Again, such opinions generally are so unfavourable that almost everyone would worry himself to death if he heard all that was said about him or the tone in which people spoke of him. Finally, even honour itself is only of indirect not direct value. If we succeeded in such a conversion from this universal folly, the result would be an incredibly great increase in our peace of mind and cheerfulness, likewise a firmer and more positive demeanour, and generally a more natural and unaffected attitude. The exceedingly beneficial influence a retired mode of life has on our peace of mind is due mainly to the fact that we thereby escape having to live constantly in the sight of others and consequently having always to take into consideration the opinions they happen to have; it restores to a man his true self. Similarly, we should avoid a great deal of real misfortune into which we are drawn simply by that purely ideal endeavour, or more correctly that incurable folly. We should also be able to devote much more attention to solid blessings and then enjoy them with less interruption. But as they say [x]. [4]

The folly of our nature, here described, puts forth three main offshoots, ambition, vanity, and pride. The difference between the last two is that pride is the already firm conviction of our own paramount worth in some respect; vanity, on the other hand, is the desire to awaken in others such a conviction, often accompanied by the secret hope of being able thereby to make it our own. Accordingly, pride is self-esteem that comes from within and so is direct; vanity, on the other hand, is the attempt to arrive at such esteem from without and thus indirectly. Accordingly, vanity makes us talkative, whereas pride makes us reserved and reticent. The vain man, however, should know that the high opinion of others which is coveted by him can be gained much more easily and certainly by persistent silence than by speech, even if he has the finest things to say. Anyone wishing to affect pride is not necessarily proud, but at most can be; yet he will soon drop this, as he will every assumed role. For only the firm, inner, unshakeable conviction of preeminent qualities and special worth makes us really proud. Now this conviction may be mistaken or rest on merely external and conventional advantages; that makes no difference to pride if only the conviction is present in real earnest. Therefore since pride is rooted in conviction, it is, like all knowledge, not within our arbitrary power. Its worst foe, I mean its greatest obstacle, is vanity which solicits the approval of others in order to base thereon our own high opinion of ourselves, wherein the assumption of pride is already quite firmly established.

Now however much pride is generally censured and decried, I suspect that this has come mainly from those who have nothing whereof they could be proud. In view of the effrontery and impudence of most men, anyone who has virtues and merits will do well to keep them in mind in order not to let them fall into oblivion. For whoever mildly ignores such merits and associates with most men, as if he were entirely on their level, will at once be frankly and openly regarded by them as such. But I would like to recommend this especially to those whose merits are of the highest order, that is to say, are real and therefore purely personal, for, unlike orders and titles, such merits are not brought to men's minds at every moment by an impression on their senses; otherwise they will see often enough exemplified the sus Minervam. [5] 'Joke with a slave, and he will soon show you his backside' is an admirable proverb of the Arabs, and the words of Horace should not be rejected: sume superbiam, quaesitam mentis. [6] But the virtue of modesty is, I suppose, a fine invention for fools and knaves; for according to it everyone has to speak of himself as if he were a fool; and this is a fine levelling down since it then looks as if there were in the world none but fools and knaves.

On the other hand, the cheapest form of pride is national pride; for the man affected therewith betrays a want of individual qualities of which he might be proud, since he would not otherwise resort to that which he shares with so many millions. The man who possesses outstanding personal qualities will rather see most clearly the faults of his own nation, for he has them constantly before his eyes. But every miserable fool, who has nothing in the world whereof he could be proud, resorts finally to being proud of the very nation to which he belongs. In this he finds compensation and is now ready and thankful to defend, [x], [7] all the faults and follies peculiar to it. For example, of fifty Englishmen hardly more than one will be found to agree with us when we speak of the stupid and degrading bigotry of his nation with the contempt it deserves; but this one exception will usually be a man of intelligence. The Germans are free from national pride and thus furnish a proof of the honesty that has been said to their credit; but those of them are not honest who feign and ludicrously affect such pride. This is often done by the 'German Brothers' and democrats who flatter the people in order to lead them astray. It is said that the Germans invented gunpowder, but I cannot subscribe to this view. Lichtenberg asks: 'Why is it that a man who is not a German does not readily pass himself off as one, but usually pretends to be a Frenchman or an Englishman when he wants to give himself out as something?' For the rest, individuality far outweighs nationality and in a given man merits a thousand times more· consideration than this. Since national character speaks of the crowd, not much good will ever be honestly said in its favour. On the contrary, we see in a different form in each country only human meanness, perversity, and depravity, and this is called national character. Having become disgusted with one of them, we praise another until we become just as disgusted with it. Every nation ridicules the rest and all are right.

The subject of this chapter, namely what we represent in the world, that is, what we are in the eyes of others, may now be divided, as already observed, into honour, rank, and fame.

For our purpose, rank may be dismissed in a few words, however important it may be in the eyes of the masses and of Philistines, and however great its use in the running of the State machine. Its value is conventional, that is to say, it is really a sham; its effect is a simulated esteem and the whole thing is a mere farce for the masses. Orders are bills of exchange drawn on public opinion; their value rests on the credit of the drawer. However, quite apart from the great deal of money they save the State as a substitute for financial rewards, they are a thoroughly suitable institution provided that they are distributed with discrimination and justice. Thus the masses have eyes and ears, but not much else, precious little judgement and even a short memory. Many merits lie entirely outside the sphere of their comprehension; others are understood and acclaimed when they make their appearance, but are afterwards soon forgotten. I find it quite proper through cross or star8 always and everywhere to exclaim to the crowd: 'This man is not like you; he has merits!' But orders lose such value when they are distributed without justice or judgement or in excessive numbers. And so a prince should be as cautious in conferring them as a businessman is in signing bills. The inscription pour le merite on a cross is a pleonasm; every order should be pour le merite, ca va sans dire. [9]

The discussion of honour is much more difficult and involved than that of rank. First we should have to define it. Now if for this purpose I said that honour is external conscience and conscience internal honour, this might perhaps satisfy a number of people; yet it would be an explanation that is more showy than clear and thorough. And so I say that objectively honour is other people's opinion of our worth and subjectively our fear of that opinion. In the latter capacity, it often has in the man of honour a very wholesome, though by no means a purely moral, effect.

The feeling of honour and shame, inherent in everyone who is not utterly depraved, and the great value attributed to the former, have their root and origin in the following. By himself alone man is capable of very little and is like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island; only in the society of others is he a person of consequence and capable of doing much. He becomes aware of this state of affairs as soon as his consciousness begins to develop in some way and there at once arises in him the desire to be looked upon as a useful member of society, as one capable of playing his part as a man, pro parte virili, and thus as one entitled to share in the advantages of human society. Now he is a useful member of society firstly by doing what all are everywhere expected to do and secondly by doing what is demanded and expected of him in the particular position he occupies. But he recognizes just as quickly that here it is not a question whether he is useful in his own opinion, but whether he is so in that of others. Accordingly, there spring from this his keen desire for the favourable opinion of others and the great value he attaches to this. Both appear with the original nature of an innate feeling, called a feeling of honour, and, according to circumstances, a feeling of shame (verecundia). It is this that makes a man blush at the thought of having suddenly to fall in the opinion of others even when he knows he is innocent, or where the fault that comes to light concerns only a relative obligation and thus one arbitrarily undertaken. On the other hand, nothing stirs his courage and spirits more than does the attained or renewed certainty of other people's favourable opinion because it promises him the protection and help of the united forces of all which are against the evils of life an infinitely greater bulwark than his own forces.

From the different relations in which a man may stand to others, and in respect of which they must show him confidence and therefore have a certain good opinion of him, there arise several kinds of honour. These relations are mainly mine and thine, then the fulfilment of pledges, and finally the sexual relation. Corresponding to them we have civic honour, official honour, and sexual honour, each of which again has subspecies.

Civic honour has the widest sphere; it consists in the assumption that we respect absolutely the rights of everyone and therefore shall never use for our own advantage unjust or unlawful means. It is the condition for our taking part in all amicable intercourse. It is lost through a single action that openly and violently runs counter thereto and so through every criminal punishment, yet only on the assumption that this was just. In the last resort, however, honour always rests on the conviction that moral character is unalterable by virtue whereof a single bad action is a sure indication of the same moral nature of all subsequent actions as soon as similar circumstances occur. This is also testified by the English expression character for fame, reputation, honour. For this reason, honour once lost cannot be recovered unless the loss had rested on a mistake, such as slander or a false view of things. Accordingly, there are laws against slander, libel, and also insults; for an insult, mere abuse, is a summary slander without any statement of the reasons. This might be well expressed in Greek: [x], [10] which, however, is nowhere to be found. The man who is abusive shows, of course, that he has no real and true complaint against the other man since he would otherwise give this as the premisses and confidently leave the conclusion to the hearers; instead of which he gives the conclusion and leaves the premisses unsaid. But he relies on the presumption that this is done merely for the sake of brevity. It is true that civic honour has its name from the middle classes, but it applies without distinction to all classes, even to the highest. No one can dispense with it and it is a very serious matter which everyone should guard against taking lightly. Whoever breaks trust and faith has for ever lost trust and faith, whatever he may do and whoever he may be, and the bitter fruits, entailed in this loss, will not fail to come.

In a certain sense, honour has a negative character in contrast to fame which has a positive. For honour is not the opinion of particular qualities that belong to this subject alone, but only of those which, as a rule, are to be assumed as qualities in which he should not be wanting. Therefore honour asserts merely that this subject is not an exception, whereas fame asserts that he is. Thus fame must first be acquired; honour, on the other hand, has simply not to be lost. According to this, want of fame is obscurity and something negative; want of honour is shame and something positive. This negativity, however, must not be confused with passivity; on the contrary, honour has quite an active character. Thus it proceeds solely from its subject; it rests on his actions, not on what others do and on what befalls him; it is therefore [x]. [11] This is, as we shall see in a moment, the mark of distinction between true honour and chivalry or sham honour. Only through slander is an attack on honour possible from without, and the only way to refute it is to give it proper publicity and unmask the slanderer.

The respect shown to old age appears to be due to the fact that the honour of young people is, of course, assumed but has not yet been put to the test; it therefore really exists on credit. But with older people it had to be shown in the course of their lives whether through their conduct they could maintain their honour. For neither years in themselves, which are also attained by animals and even greatly exceeded by some, nor even experience, as being merely a more detailed knowledge of the ways of the world, are a sufficient ground for the respect that the young are required everywhere to show to their elders. Mere feebleness of old age would entitle a man to indulgence and consideration rather than respect. But it is remarkable that a certain respect for white hair is inborn and therefore really instinctive in man. Wrinkles, an incomparably surer sign of old age, do not inspire this respect at all. One never speaks of venerable wrinkles, but always of venerable white hair.

The value of honour is only indirect; for, as already explained at the beginning of this chapter, other people's opinion of us can be of value only in so far as it determines or can at times determine their behaviour to us. Yet this is the case so long as we live with or among them. For, as in the civilized state we owe our safety and possessions simply to society and moreover we need others in all our undertakings and they must have confidence in us in order to have any dealings with us, their opinion of us is of great value, although this is always only indirect, and I cannot see how it can be direct. In agreement with this Cicero also says: De bona autem fama Chrysippus quidem et Diogenes, detracta utilitate, ne digitum quidem, ejus causa, porrigendum esse dicebant. Quibus ego vehementer assentior. [12] (De finibus, III. 17.) In the same way, Helvetius gives us a lengthy explanation of this truth in his masterpiece De l'esprit (Disc., Pt. III, chap. 13) the result of which is: Nous n' aimons pas l'estime pour l'estime, mais uniquement pour les avantages qu'elle procure. [13] Now as the means cannot be worth more than the end, the statement 'honour is dearer than life itself', of which so much is made, is, as I have said, an exaggeration.

So much for civic honour. Official honour is the general opinion of others that a man who holds an office actually has the requisite qualities and also in all cases strictly fulfils his official duties. The greater and more important a man's sphere of influence in the State and so the higher and more influential the post occupied by him, the greater must be the opinion of the intellectual abilities and moral qualities that render him fit for the post. Consequently, he has a correspondingly higher degree of honour, as expressed by his titles, orders, and so on, and also by the deferential behaviour of others to him. Now by the same standard, rank or status determines the particular degree of honour, although this is modified by the ability of the masses to judge of the importance of the rank. But greater honour is always paid to the man who has and fulfils special obligations than to the ordinary citizen whose honour rests mainly on negative qualities.

Official honour further demands that whoever holds an office will for the sake of his colleagues and successors maintain respect for it. This is done by the strict observance of his duties and also by the fact that he never allows to go unchallenged any attacks on himself or the office while he is holding it, in other words, that he does not allow statements to the effect that he is not strictly carrying out his duties or that the office itself does not contribute to the public welfare. On the contrary, he must prove by legal penalties that such attacks were unjust.

Under official honour we have also that of the man serving the State, the doctor, the lawyer, every public teacher or even graduate, in short, everyone who has been declared publicly qualified for a certain kind of mental proficiency and has, therefore, promised to carry it ou t; in a word, the honour of all who, as such, have publicly undertaken to do something. Here, then we have true military honour; it consists in the fact that whoever has undertaken to defend his country actually possesses the requisite qualities, above all, courage, bravery, and strength, and that he is in fact ready to defend his country to the death, and will not for anything in the world desert the flag to which he has once sworn allegiance. Here I have taken official honour in a wider sense than the usual one, namely where it indicates the citizens' respect that is due to the office itself.

It seems to me that sexual honour calls for a more detailed consideration and a reference of its principles to their root. At the same time, this will confirm that all honour ultimately rests on considerations of expediency.

By its nature sexual honour is divided into that of women and that of men, and from both angles it is a well understood esprit de corps. The former is by far the more important of the two because in a woman's life the sexual relation is the essential thing. Hence female honour is the general opinion in regard to a girl that she has never given herself to a man and in regard to a wife that she has devoted herself solely to her husband. The importance of this opinion depends on the following. The female sex demands and expects from the male everything, thus all that it desires and needs; the male demands from the female primarily and directly one thing only. Therefore the arrangement had to be made whereby the male sex could obtain from the female that one thing only by taking charge of everything and also of the children springing from the union. The welfare of the whole female sex rests on this arrangement. To carry it out, this sex must necessarily stick together and show esprit de corps. But in its entirety and in closed ranks it then faces the whole male sex as the common foe who is in possession of all the good things of the earth through a natural superiority in physical and mental powers. The male sex must be subdued and taken captive so that the female sex, by holding it, may come to possess those good things. Now to this end the maxim of honour of the whole female sex is that all illicit intercourse is absolutely denied to the male so that every man is forced into marriage as into a kind of capitulation, and the whole female sex is provided for. This end can be completely attained, however, only by the strict observance of the above maxim; and therefore the whole female sex sees with true esprit de corps that that maxim is upheld by all its members. Accordingly, every girl who through illicit intercourse has betrayed the whole female sex, since its welfare would be undermined if this kind of conduct were to become general, is expelled by her sex and is branded with shame; she has lost her honour. No woman may have anything more to do with her; she is avoided like the plague. The same fate befalls the woman who commits adultery since for the husband she has not maintained the capitulation into which he entered; but through such an example men are discouraged from entering it; yet on such a capitulation depends the salvation of the whole female sex. Moreover, because of her gross breach of faith and of the deception of her deed, the adulteress loses not only her sexual honour but also her civic. Thus we may well excuse a girl by saying that she has 'fallen', but we never speak of a 'fallen wife'. In the former case the seducer can restore the girl's honour by marrying her, but this the adulterer cannot do after the wife has been divorced. Now ifin consequence of this clear view, we recognize as the foundation of the principle of female honour an esprit de corps that is wholesome and indeed necessary but is also well calculated and based on interests, it will be possible for us to attribute to such honour the greatest importance for woman's existence and hence a value which is great and relative yet not absolute, not one that lies beyond life and its aims and is accordingly to be purchased at the price of this. And so there will be nothing to applaud in the extravagant deeds of Lucretia and Virginius which degenerate into tragic farces. Thus there is something so shocking at the end of Emilia Gaiotti that we leave the theatre in a wholly dejected mood. On the other hand, in spite of sexual honour, we cannot help sympathizing with Clara in Egmont. To push the principle of female honour too far is, like so many things, equivalent to forgetting the end for the means. For such exaggeration attributes to sexual honour an absolute value, whereas even more than any other it has a merely relative value. In fact it might be said that it has only a conventional value, when we see from Thomasius' De concubinatu how in almost all countries and at all times down to the Lutheran Reformation concubinage was a relation permitted and recognized by law in which the concubine retained her honour; not to mention the temple of Mylitta at Babylon (Herodotus, lib. I, c. 199) and other instances. Of course, there are also civil circumstances that render impossible the external form of marriage, especially in Catholic countries where no divorce occurs. In my opinion ruling sovereigns always act more morally when they have a mistress than when they contract a morganatic marriage whose descendants might one day raise claims if the legitimate descendants happen to die out. Thus however remote it may be, the possibility of civil war is brought about by such a marriage. Moreover, a morganatic marriage, that is, one contracted actually in defiance of all external circumstances, is at bottom a concession made to women and priests, two classes to whom we should be careful to concede as little as possible. Further, it should be borne in mind that everyone in the land may marry the woman of his choice except one to whom this natural right is denied; this poor man is the prince. His hand belongs to his country and is given in marriage for reasons of State, that is, for the good of the country. But yet he is human and wants one day to follow the inclinations of his heart. It is, therefore, as unjust and ungrateful as it is narrow-minded to prevent him from having a mistress, or to want to reproach him with this; it must always be understood, of course, that she is not permitted to have any influence on the government. As regards sexual honour, such a mistress is from her point of view to a certain extent an exception, as being exempt from the universal rule. For she has given herself merely to a man who loves her and whom she loves but could never marry. In general, however, the many bloody sacrifices which are made to the principle of female honour, such as the murder of children and the suicide of mothers, are evidence that this principle has not a purely natural origin. Of course a girl who surrenders illicitly thereby commits against her whole sex a breach of faith which is nevertheless only tacitly assumed and not affirmed on oath. And since in the usual case her own advantage suffers directly from this, her folly is here infinitely greater than her depravity.

The sexual honour of men is brought about by that of women as the opposite esprit de corps. This demands that everyone who has entered marriage, that capitulation so favourable to the opposite party, must now see that it is upheld so that not even this pact may lose its strength through any laxity in its observance and that men, by giving up everything, may be assured of the one thing for which they bargain, namely the sole possession of the woman. Accordingly, man's honour demands that he shall resent his wife's breach of the marriage tie and shall punish it at any rate by separating from her. If he tolerates it with his eyes open, he is discredited and disgraced by the entire community of men. Nevertheless, this shame is not nearly so grave as that of the woman who has lost her sexual honour; on the contrary, it is only a levions notae macula [14] since with man the sexual relation is subordinate and he has many others that are more important. The two great dramatic poets of modern times have each twice taken as their theme man's honour in this sense; Shakespeare in Othello and The Winter's Tale, and Calderon in El medico de su honra (the Physician of his Honour) and A secreto agravio secreta venganza (for Secret Insult Secret Vengeance). For the rest, this honour demands only the woman's punishment not her lover's which is merely an opus supererogation is. [15] In this way is confirmed the statement that such honour originates from men's esprit de corps.

The honour, so far considered in its different forms and principles, is found to be universally accepted by all nations and at all times, although that of women may be shown to have undergone in its principles some local and temporary modifications. On the other hand, there is a species of honour entirely different from that which is universally and everywhere valid and of which neither Greeks nor Romans had any knowledge and even today the Chinese, Hindus, and Mohammedans know just as little. For it first arose in the Middle Ages and became indigenous merely in Christian Europe; and even here only with a very small section of the population, the upper classes and those emulating them. It is knightly honour or point d' honneur. As its fundamental principles are quite different from those of the honour hitherto considered and, in some respects, are even opposed thereto, since the former produces the honourable man whereas the latter makes the man of honour, I will here specially lay down its principles as a code or mirror of knightly honour.

(1) Honour does not consist in other people's opinion of our worth, but simply and solely in the expressions of such an opinion, no matter whether the expressed opinion actually exists or not, let alone whether it has any grounds or reasons. Accordingly, in consequence of our way of life, others may entertain the worst opinion and may despise us as much as they please; but so long as no one ventures to express this aloud, no harm at all is done to our honour. But conversely, if through our qualities and actions we compel all others to think very highly of us (for this does not depend on their option or discretion), then as soon as anyone expresses his contempt for us, he might be utterly worthless and stupid, our honour is at once violated and indeed is lost for ever unless it is restored. Abundant proof of what I say, namely that it is certainly not what other people think but merely what they say that matters, is the fact that slanders and insults can be withdrawn or, if necessary, made the subject of an apology whereby the position is then as if they had never been made. Here it is quite immaterial whether the opinion that gave rise to the insults has also been altered and why this should have been done; only the expression is annulled and then everything is all right. Accordingly, here the object is not to merit respect, but to get it by threats.

(2) A man's honour depends not on what he does, but on what he suffers, on what happens to him. According to the principles of the honour first discussed which is everywhere applicable, this depends solely on what he himself says or does. Knightly honour, on the other hand, depends on what someone else says or does. Accordingly, it lies in the hands, indeed on the tip of the tongue, of everyone, and if such a man chooses to seize the opportunity, it can be lost for ever at any moment, unless the man who is attacked wrests it back again by a method to be mentioned in a moment. Yet he can do this only at the risk of losing his life, health, freedom, property, and peace of mind. In consequence of this, a man's actions may be the noblest and most righteous, his heart the purest, and his mind the most eminent, and yet it is possible for his honour to be lost at any moment, whenever anyone is pleased to insult him. Such a reviler may not yet have violated these laws of honour, but in other respects he may be the most worthless scoundrel, the stupidest jackass, an idler, a gambler, a spendthrift, in short, a person who is not worth the other man's consideration. In most cases it will be just such a fellow who likes insulting people because, as Seneca rightly remarks, ut quisque contemtissimus et ludibrio est, ita solutissimae linguae est [16] (De constantia, II). Such a fellow will also be most easily irritated by the man who was first described, because men of opposite tastes hate each other and the sight of outstanding qualities usually breeds the silent rage of worthlessness. Therefore Goethe says:

Why do you complain of foes?
Shall they ever become your friends,
To whom your very nature is
Secretly an eternal reproach?

-- Westostlicher Diwan.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:59 am

Part 2 of 3

We see to what extent such worthless men are indebted to the principle of honour, for it puts them on a level with those who would otherwise be in every respect beyond their reach. Now if such a fellow insults another, that is to say, attributes to him some bad quality, this is considered for the time being to be a well-founded and objectively true judgement, a decree with all the force of law; indeed it remains true and valid for all time, unless it is at once wiped out in blood. Thus the man who is insulted remains (in the eyes of all 'men of honour') what the reviler (who might be the most depraved of all mortals) has called him; for he has 'swallowed the affront' (this is the terminus technicus). Accordingly, 'men of honour' will then utterly, despise him and avoid him like the plague; for example, they will publicly and vociferously refuse to go into any company where he is welcomed, and so on. I think I am able to trace with certainty the origin of this shrewd view to the fact that in the Middle Ages up to the fifteenth century (according to C. G. von Wachter's Beitrage zur deutschen Geschichte, besonders des deutsehen Strafrechts, 1845), in criminal cases it was not the accuser who had to prove the guilt of the accused, but the accused who had to prove his innocence. This could be done through a compurgatorial oath which nevertheless still required compurgators (consacramentales). These swore they were convinced that the accused was incapable of any perjury. If the accused had no compurgators, or if the accuser did not admit them, then judgement by God was introduced which usually consisted in the duel. For the accused was now in disgrace [bescholten] and had to clear himself. Here we see the origin of the notion of being in disgrace and of the whole course of events that even today takes place among' men of honour', only with the omission of the oath. Here too we have an explanation of the usual deep indignation with which 'men of honour' accept the reproach of the lie and in return for this demand vengeance in blood. This seems to be very strange in view of the fact that lies are of daily occurrence, but it has grown into a deep-rooted superstition especially in England. (Actually everyone who threatens to punish with death the reproach of the lie should not have told a lie in his own life.) Thus in those criminal cases of the Middle Ages, the form was shorter, namely the accused retorted that the accuser was a liar, whereupon it was at once left to the judgement of God. It is, therefore, written in the code of knightly honour that the reproach of the lie must be at once followed by an appeal to arms. So much as regards insult. But now there is something even worse than the insult, so dreadful that I must beg the pardon of all 'men of honour' for the very mention of it in this code of knightly honour. For I know that the mere thought of it makes their flesh creep and their hair stand on end, since it is the summum malum, the greatest evil on earth, and worse than death and damnation. Thus, horribile dictu, one man may give another a slap or a blow. This is such a dreadful incident and produces so complete an extinction of honour that, although all other outrages on honour can be healed by blood-letting, this demands for its thorough healing the complete death-blow.

(3) Honour has nothing whatever to do with what a man may be in and by himself, or with the question whether his moral nature can ever be altered and with all such pedantic inquiries. On the contrary, when it is violated or lost for the time being, it can be quickly and completely restored, if one acts speedily, by the one universal remedy, the duel. If, however, the aggressor is not from the classes that follow the code of knightly honour; or if he has once offended against it, we can engage in a safe operation, especially if the violation of our honour was a blow, but even if it should have been a mere matter of words, by striking him down, if we are armed, on the spot or at all events an hour later; whereby our honour is restored. But if we wish to avoid this step out of fear of any unpleasant consequences that may arise, or if we are merely uncertain whether the offender is or is not subject to the laws of knightly honour, we have a palliative in the avantage. This consists in our returning his rudeness with decidedly greater rudeness; if mere abuse is no longer practicable, we resort to blows and here indeed is a climax to the saving of our honour. Thus a box on the ears may be cured by blows with a stick and these by a thrashing with a dog-whip; even against this some recommend as a sovereign remedy that we should spit in the opponent's face. Only when these methods are no longer of any avail, do we have to resort at once to the operation of drawing blood. The reason for this palliative is really to be found in the following maxim.

(4) Just as to be insulted is a disgrace, so to insult is an honour. For example, my opponent has on his side truth, right, and reason; but I insult him and so these must yield and be off, and right and honour are on my side. For the time being, however, he has lost his honour, until he recovers it not by the exercise of right and reason, but by shots and stabs. Accordingly, rudeness is a quality which, in point of honour, is a substitute for every other, or outweighs them all. The rudest man is always right; quid multa? [17] However stupid, ill-bred, or bad a man may have been, all this as such is effaced by rudeness and made legitimate. If in some discussion, or otherwise in conversation, another man shows us that he has a more accurate knowledge of the subject, a stricter love of truth, a sounder judgement, and a better understanding than we have, or generally exhibits intellectual qualities that put ours in the shade, then we can at once eliminate all such superior qualities and also our own inferiority that is thereby revealed and can now in our turn be even superior by becoming offensive and rude. For rudeness defeats every argument and eclipses all intelligence. If, therefore, our opponent does not enter into the argument and retort with greater rudeness, thereby putting us into the noble contest of the avantage, we remain the victors and honour is on our side. Truth, knowledge, understanding, intellect, and wit must beat a retreat and are driven from the field by almighty rudeness. Therefore as soon as a man expresses an opinion that differs from theirs or shows more intelligence than they can muster, the 'men of honour' prepare to mount their chargers; and if in any controversy they lack a counter-argument, they search for some rudeness that serves the same purpose and is easier to find, and then quit the scene in triumph. Here we already see how right people are in crediting the principle of honour with ennobling the tone of society. This maxim again rests on the following that is the real and fundamental one and the soul of the entire code.

(5) The highest court to which we can appeal in all differences with others so far as honour is concerned, is that of physical force, in other words, brutality. For every case of rudeness is really an appeal to brutality since it declares as incompetent the contest of intellectual powers or moral right. In their place it puts that of physical force and in the case of the human species, defined by Franklin as a tool-making animal, this contest is fought with weapons that are peculiar to the species, namely in the duel, and produces an irrevocable decision. This fundamental maxim, as we know, is expressed by the words right of might, an expression analogous to that of mock reasoning and therefore, like this, ironical. Accordingly, the honour of the knight should be called the honour of might.

(6) If at the beginning we had found that civic honour was very scrupulous in the matter of mine and thine, of obligations entered into, and of the promise once made, the code we are now considering, on the other hand, displays in such matters the noblest liberality. Thus only one word must not be broken, the word of honour, that is, the one on which we have said 'on my honour!' - the presumption being that every other may be broken. Even if the worst comes to the worst, we can break this word of honour and still save our honour by that universal remedy, the duel, that is by fighting those who maintain that we had given our word of honour. Further, there is only one debt that must be paid without question, that of gambling which is also called 'the debt of honour'. In all other debts we may cheat Jews and Gentiles alike, for this does not at all damage our knightly honour. *

At the first glance, the unprejudiced reader now sees that this strange, barbarous, and ridiculous code of honour has not sprung from the essence of human nature or from a healthy view of human relations. Moreover, this is confirmed by the exceedingly narrow sphere of its operation which is exclusively Europe, and indeed only since the Middle Ages, and even here only among the nobility, the army, and those who emulate them. For neither Greeks nor Romans, nor the highly civilized Asiatic peoples of ancient or modern times, know anything of this honour and its principles. The only honour they all know is the one first analysed by me. With all of them, therefore, a man is looked upon as what his actions proclaim him to be, not what any wagging tongue is pleased to say about him. With all of them what a man says or does may well ruin his own honour, but never that of another. With all of them a blow is just a blow and any horse or ass can deal out one more dangerous; according to circumstances, a blow will provoke anger and may well be avenged on the spot, but it has nothing to do with honour. Accounts were certainly not kept of blows or insulting words and of the 'satisfaction' for them that was demanded or left undemanded. In bravery and contempt of death they are certainly in no way inferior to the races of Christian Europe. The Greeks and Romans were indeed thorough heroes; but they knew nothing of point d'honneur. With them the duel was the business not of noblemen but of mercenary gladiators, abandoned slaves, and condemned criminals who, alternately with wild animals, were set to butcher one another for the people's amusement. With the introduction of Christianity, gladiatorial shows were abolished, but their place in Christian times was taken by the duel under the intervention of divine judgement. If gladiatorial shows were a cruel sacrifice made to the general desire for spectacles, the duel is a cruel sacrifice which is made to universal prejudice, yet not of criminals, slaves, and prisoners, but of the free and noble.

Many features that have been preserved for us are evidence that this prejudice was utterly foreign to the ancients. For instance, when a Teutonic chieftain had challenged Marius to a duel, this hero had a reply sent to the effect that if he were weary of life, he could go and hang himself; nevertheless he offered him a veteran gladiator with whom he could have a set-to (Freinsh. suppl., Livy, bk. LXVIII, chap. 12). In Plutarch (Themistocles, II) we read that Eurybiades, commander-in-chief of the fleet, while arguing with Themistocles, raised his stick to strike him. Yet the latter did not then draw his sword, but said: [x]: 'strike, but hear me.' How shocked the reader 'of honour' must be at our having no information that the Athenian corps of officers at once declared their unwillingness to continue to serve under such a Themistocles! Accordingly, a modern French writer quite rightly says: Si quelqu'un s'avisait de dire que Dimosthene fut un homme d'honneur, on sourirait de pitie:-Cidron n'etait pas un homme d'honneur non plus. [18] (Soirees litteraires, by C. Durand, Rouen, 1828, vol. ii, p. 300.) Further, the passage in Plato (Laws, IX, the last six pages, likewise Xl, p. 131, ed. Bip.) concerning aLKta, that is, assault and battery, shows clearly enough that in such matters the ancients had no notion of a feeling of knightly honour. In consequence of his frequent disputations, Socrates was often roughly treated and bore this quite calmly. For instance when somebody once kicked him, he patiently put up with it and said to the man who showed surprise: 'Do you think I should resent it if an ass had kicked me?' (Diogenes Laertius, II. 21). When, on another occasion, someone asked him: 'Does not that fellow abuse and insult you?' his reply was 'No; for what he says does not apply to me' (ibid. 36). Stobaeus, (Florilegium, ed. Gaisford, vol. i, pp. 327-30) has preserved for us a long passage of Musonius from which we see what the ancients thought of insults. They knew of no other satisfaction than that of the law, and prudent men disdained even this. For a box on the ears the ancients knew of no other satisfaction than that of the law, as is clearly seen from Plato's Gorgias (p. 86, ed. Bip.), where Socrates' opinion is also to be found (p. 133). The same thing is clear from the account of Gellius (xx. I) in respect of a certain Lucius Veratius who, without any provocation, had the temerity to box the ears of Roman citizens whom he met on the road. But to avoid all complications, he arranged to be accompanied by a slave carrying a bag of money who at once paid out to the astonished Romans the legal smart-money of twentyfive pence. Crates, the famous Cynic, had received such a severe box on the ears from the musician Nicodromus that his face had swollen up and was covered with blood; whereupon he put on his forehead a label with the inscription [x] (Nicodromus fecit). [19] This brought much disgrace on the flautist (Apul. Flor., p. 126, ed. Bip.) who had committed such brutality on a man who was worshipped as a household god by the whole of Athens. (Diogenes Laertius, VI. 89.) In a letter to Melesippus, Diogenes of Sinope says that he had been thrashed by drunken sons of Athenians; but he pointed out that to him it meant nothing. (Note by Isaac Casaubon on Diogenes Laertius, VI. 33.) In his book De constantia sapientis, from chapter 10 to the end, Seneca considered in detail contumelia, insult or abuse, in order to show that a wise man pays no attention to it. In chapter 14 he says: 'At sapiens colaphis percussus, quid faciet?' quod Cato, cum illi os percussum esset: non excanduit, non vindicavit injuriam: nec remisit quidem, sed factam negavit. [20]

'Yes', you say, 'these were wise men!' And you are fools, I suppose? Quite so.

We see, therefore, that the whole principle of knightly honour was utterly unknown to the ancients just because in every respect they remained true to a natural and unprejudiced view of things and so did not allow themselves to be influenced by such sinister and arrant tomfoolery. Accordingly, the ancients were unable to regard a blow in the face as anything but a blow in the face, a trivial physical injury; whereas to the moderns it has become a catastrophe and a theme for tragedies, for example in the Cid of Corneille, or in a recent German tragedy of ordinary civil life which is called Die Macht der Verhaltnisse, [21] but which ought to be called Die Macht des Vorurtheils. [22] But if someone in the Paris National Assembly were to receive a box on the ears, it would resound from one end of Europe to the other. Now the classic instances and the above-mentioned examples from antiquity are sure to upset men 'of honour'; I therefore recommend that they read, as an antidote, the story of M. Desglands in Diderot's masterpiece, Jacques le fataliste. It is an exquisite specimen of modern knightly honour which they may find enjoyable and edifying. [23]

From what has been said, it is clear enough that the principle of knightly honour cannot possibly be original and grounded in human nature itself. It is, therefore, artificial and its origin is not difficult to discover. It is obviously an offspring of that age when fists were more in use than heads, and priests held in chains the power of reason; it is thus a child of the lauded Middle Ages and their system of chivalry. In those days, people allowed the Almighty not only to care but also to judge for them. Accordingly, difficult cases were decided by ordeals or judgements of God and, with few exceptions, these consisted of duels, certainly not merely between knights, but also between ordinary citizens. There is a good example of this in Shakespeare's Henry VI (Part II, Act II, Sc. 3). From every judicial sentence an appeal could still always be made to the duel as a court of higher instance, namely the judgement of God. In this way, physical force and agility, and thus animal nature instead of the force of reason, were really on the seat of judgement and decided on matters of right and wrong not by what a man had done, but by what had happened to him, wholly in accordance with the principle of knightly honour that prevails even at the present day. Whoever still doubts this origin of duelling, should read that excellent work, The History of Duelling, by J. G. Mellingen, 1849. In fact even today, we find among those who conform to the principle of knightly honour and who, as we know, are not usually the best educated and the most thoughtful, some who actually regard the result of a duel as a divine decision of the dispute underlying it; this is certainly in accordance with a traditional and hereditary opinion.

Apart from this origin of the principle of knightly honour, its tendency is primarily that, through the threat of physical force, a man wants to extort the outward marks of that respect which he considers to be either too onerous or too superfluous actually to gain. This is something like the man who warms in his hand the bulb of a thermometer and from the rising of the mercury attempts to show that his room is well heated. More closely considered, the heart of the matter is that, whereas civic honour, as aiming at amicable association with others, consists in their opinion of us that we merit perfect confidence, since we respect absolutely the rights of everyone, knightly honour, on the other hand, consists in the opinion that we are to be feared, since we mean to defend absolutely our own rights. The principle that it is more essential to be feared than to enjoy confidence would not be such a very false one, since little reliance can be placed on human justice, if we lived in a state of nature where everyone had to protect himself and directly defend his rights. But in civilization, where the State has undertaken the protection of our person and property, the principle is no longer applicable. It stands like the citadels and watch-towers from the times when might was right, useless and deserted between well-cultivated fields and frequented roads or even railways. Accordingly, knightly honour that sticks to that principle has seized on those infringements of the person which the State punishes only lightly or not at all in accordance with the principle de minimis lex non curat; [24] for they are slight vexations and sometimes mere pranks. But in regard to these, it has risen to an over-estimation of the value of the person which is quite inappropriate to the nature, constitution, and destiny of man.* It enhances this value to a kind of sanctity and accordingly regards as utterly inadequate the punishment the State gives for trivial vexations. It therefore undertakes to punish these itself, and always of course the life and limb of the offender. All this obviously rests on the most excessive arrogance and shocking insolence which entirely forget what man really is and claim for him absolute inviolability and blamelessness.** But whoever intends to carry this out by force, and consequently proclaims the maxim: 'the man who insults me or strikes me shall die', really deserves to be banished from the country. For to palliate that rash arrogance, all sorts of excuses and pretences are made. If two intrepid individuals meet and neither will give way, a slight push may lead to insulting remarks, then to fisticuffs, and finally to a fatal blow. Accordingly, it would be better for the sake of decency to omit the intermediate steps and at once resort to arms. The more specific procedure has been developed into a rigid and pedantic system, with laws and rules, which is the most solemn farce in the world and stands as a true temple of honour to folly. But the principle itself is false; for in matters of small importance (those of greater are always dealt with by the courts), one of two intrepid individuals, of course, gives way, namely the more prudent, and they agree to differ. The proof of this is furnished by ordinary men or rather all the numerous classes who do not subscribe to the principle of knightly honour and who thus let disputes run their natural course. Among these a fatal blow is a hundred times rarer than with the class, amounting perhaps to only one in a thousand of the whole community, who pays homage to that principle; and even a thrashing is a rare event. Then it is asserted that the manners and customs of good society were ultimately based on that principle of honour which with its duels was the bulwark against outbursts of bad behaviour and brutality. But in Athens, Corinth, and Rome it was certainly possible to find good, indeed excellent, society and fine manners and customs without the backing of that bugbear of knightly honour. But in ancient society, of course, women did not occupy a prominent position as they do with us. Such a situation imparts to a conversation a frivolous and puerile character and excludes all solid and serious discussion. It has certainly contributed a great deal to the preference, shown by the good society of our times, to personal courage over every other quality. Personal courage is, in fact, a very subordinate quality, a mere virtue of the rank and file wherein even the animals surpass us, and so we say, for example, 'as brave as a lion'. Contrary to the above assertion, the principle of knightly honour is often the sure asylum of dishonesty and wickedness in large matters as well as of rudeness, inconsiderateness, and incivility in small. For many cases of rudeness are suffered in silence just because no one feels inclined to risk his neck in censuring them. In keeping with all this, we see the duel carried to the highest pitch of bloodthirsty zeal in the very nation that has shown a want of real honesty in political and financial affairs. What it is like in its private and domestic intercourse can be ascertained from those who are experienced in such matters. But as regards its urbanity and social culture, these are conspicuous by their absence.

All those pretexts are, therefore, untenable. It can be urged with more reason that, when a dog is snarled at he snarls in return and when he is flattered he fawns, it also lies in man's nature to return hostility with hostility and to be embittered and irritated by signs of disdain or hatred. Therefore Cicero says: habet quendam aculeum contumelia, quem pati pudentes ac viri boni difficillime possunt; [25] for nowhere in the world (apart from a few pious sects) are insulting remarks or even blows taken calmly and with composure. Nevertheless, in no case does nature lead to anything more than a retaliation appropriate to the offence, certainly not to the death-penalty for the reproach of lying, being stupid, or being a coward. The old German principle of 'blood for a blow' is a revolting superstition of chivalry. In any case, the return or retaliation of insults is a matter of anger, certainly not of honour and duty, as the principle of knightly honour would have us believe. On the contrary, it is quite certain that every reproach can hurt only to the extent that it hits the mark, as can be seen also from the fact that the slightest hint that hits home wounds much more deeply than does the most serious accusation that is entirely without foundation. Therefore whoever actually knows that he does not deserve a reproach, can and will confidently treat it with contempt. On the other hand, the principle of honour demands that he shall show a susceptibility that he does not possess at all and shall take bloody vengeance for insults that do not harm him. But a man must have a poor opinion of his own worth if he hurries to suppress every offensive remark so that it may not be heard. Accordingly, in the case of insults, genuine self-esteem will make a man indifferent to them; but if he cannot remain indifferent, shrewdness and culture will help him to save appearances and conceal his anger. And so if only we could get rid of the superstition of the principle of knightly honour so that no one would any longer dare to imagine that he could, by being abusive, detract from the honour of another or restore his own; if only it were no longer- possible for every wrong, every brutality, or every rudeness to be made legitimate at once by the readiness to give satisfaction, in other words, to fight for it, the view would soon become general that, in a case of rudeness and abuse, the vanquished in this contest is the victor, and that, as Vincenzo Monti says, insults are like church processions that always return to their starting-point. It would then no longer be enough, as at present, for a man to be rude in return in order to carry his point. Consequently, insight and understanding would have quite a different hearing from the one they obtain at present when they have always to consider first whether they are in some way offending the opinions of narrow-minded dullards who are alarmed and embittered even by their mere presence. For it is possible that the mind which contains insight and understanding may have to be gambled against the shallow pate wherein narrow-minded stupidity resides. In society intellectual superiority would then obtain its due precedence which is at present given to physical superiority and cavalier courage, although this fact is carefully concealed. The result of this would be that the most outstanding men would then have one reason less for withdrawing from society. A change of this sort would accordingly pave the way to genuine good manners and really good society, such as undoubtedly existed in Athens, Corinth, and Rome. Whoever wants to see a proof of this, is recommended to read Xenophon's Banquet.

But the last defence of the knightly code will undoubtedly say: 'Why, good gracious me, one man might pitch into another!' -to which I might briefly reply that this has been the case often enough with nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand who do not recognize that code without one of them ever being killed, whereas with the followers of the code every blow as a rule becomes fatal. But I will go more closely into the matter. I have tried often enough, yet without success, to find some tenable, or at least plausible, reason, not merely consisting of fine phrases but reducible to clear conceptions, for the rooted conviction which is entertained by a section of human society that a blow is such a dreadful thing. I have looked for such in the animal as well as in the rational nature of man. A blow is and remains a minor physical evil that any man can inflict on another, showing thereby merely that he was stronger or more cunning, or that the other man was off his guard. An analysis of the problem does not give us any more than this. I then see the same knight, who regards a blow from the human hand as the greatest of evils, receive from his horse a blow ten times more severe, limp away in suppressed pain, and assure everyone that it is a matter of no consequence. And so I thought that the human hand must be to blame; but then I see our knight receive sword-thrusts and sabre-cuts in battle from this same hand and assure us that it is a trifling affair not worth mentioning. Then I hear that even blows with the flat of the sword are not nearly so bad as those with a stick; and hence that, a short time ago, cadets were liable to the former but not to the latter; and now indeed to be knighted with the blade of a sword is the greatest honour. Now I have come to the end of my psychological and moral reasons and there is nothing left for me but to regard the thing as an old, deep-rooted superstition, as one more of so many examples that show how men can be talked into anything. This is also confirmed by the well-known fact that in China blows with a bamboo are a very frequent form of punishment for ordinary citizens and even for officials of all classes since it shows us that human nature, and a highly civilized human nature at that, does not affirm the same thing in China. [26] But if we take an unprejudiced view of human nature, we even see that beating and flogging are as natural to man as is biting to beasts of prey and butting to horned animals. Man is simply a flogging animal. We are, therefore, shocked when in rare cases we hear that one man has bitten another, whereas it is a perfectly natural event of daily occurrence for him to give and receive blows. It is evident that, with more enlightenment and intelligence, we are glad to dispense with blows by the exercise of mutual self-restraint. But it is a cruel thing to make a nation, or even only a class, believe tllat a given blow is a terrible misfortune which must have death and murder as its consequence. In the world there are too many real evils to allow of our increasing them by imaginary evils that bring real ones in their train; but this is done by that stupid and iniquitous superstition. I am, therefore, bound to condemn governments and legislative bodies when they promote such a superstition by eagerly pressing for the abolition of all corporal punishment both civil and military. In this respect, they think they are acting in the interests of humanity, whereas the very opposite is the case since they are in this way helping to strengthen that unnatural and vicious folly to which so many have already been sacrificed. For all offences except the worst, caning or beating, is the punishment that first occurs to man and is therefore natural; whoever is not susceptible to reasons will be to floggings. It is as reasonable as it is natural for a man to receive moderate corporal punishment who cannot be fined because he has no possessions and cannot be profitably deprived of his freedom because his services are required. Against it there are no arguments at all except mere talk about the' dignity of man'; and such is based not on clear conceptions, but simply on that pernicious superstition which was previously mentioned and lies at the root of the matter, as is confirmed by an almost ludicrous example. In the armies of many countries, flogging had recently been replaced by condemnation to a bed of laths which, just like flogging, causes bodily pain but is not supposed to be derogatory to honour and dignity.

By encouraging this superstition, however, one is playing into the hands of the principle of knightly honour and therefore of the duel; whereas attempts are made, or are supposed to be made, to abolish this.* As a result, we find that fragment of the right of might, which has drifted down from the crudest medieval times, still floating about as a public scandal in the nineteenth century. It is high time it was ignominiously cast out. Nowadays it is not permitted to set dogs or cocks at each other (at any rate in England such pastimes are punished); but men are set at each other in deadly conflict against their will through the ridiculous superstition of the absurd principle of knightly honour and its narrow-minded advocates and exponents who impose on them the obligation to fight like gladiators for the sake of any trifling thing. I therefore suggest to our German purists the word 'baiting' for the word 'duel' which probably comes not from the Latin duel/urn, but from the Spanish duelo, meaning suffering, nuisance, annoyance. The pedantic way in which this folly is carried on certainly affords material for laughter. It is, however, revolting that this principle and its absurd code establish a state within the State which acknowledges no other right than that of might. It tyrannizes the classes that come under its authority by keeping open a holy Vehmgericht [27] before which anyone can be charged on the flimsiest of pretexts as a myrmidon, to be tried on an issue of life and death. Now this naturally becomes the hiding-place whence any villain, if only he belongs to those classes, can menace and even exterminate the noblest and best of men who, as such, must inevitably be odious to him. Nowadays justice and the police have made it fairly difficult for any scoundrel in the street any longer to shout at us: 'Your money or your life'; and at last sound reason should be able to prevent any rogue from disturbing the peace by shouting: 'Your honour or your life'. The upper classes should be relieved of the burden that arises from the fact that anyone at any moment may become responsible, with his life and limb, for the rudeness, roughness, stupidity, and malice of anyone else who is pleased to visit these on him. It is outrageous and scandalous that, when two young hot-heads have words, they should atone for this with blood, their health, or their lives. The evil of the tyranny of that state within the State and the magnitude of the force of that superstition can be gauged from the fact that those who found it impossible to restore their wounded knightly honour because of the superior or inferior rank or of any other inappropriate peculiarity of the offender, took their lives in utter despair and thus came to a tragi-comic end. The false and absurd are in the end often disclosed by the fact that, at their culminating point, they blossom into a contradiction. Here too they ultimately appear in the form of the most glaring antinomy; thus an officer is forbidden to take part in a duel, but is punished with dismissal if, when challenged, he declines to take part.

While I am on the subject, I will be even more frank. Considered in the proper light and without prejudice, the important distinction, often insisted on, between our killing our enemy in fair fight with equal weapons and our lying in ambush for him rests merely on the fact, as I have said, that this state within the State recognized no other right than that of the stronger and thus of might, raised this to a judgement of God, and made it the basis of its code. For by killing our enemy in a fair fight, we have simply proved that we were the stronger or more skilful. Therefore the justification we seek when engaged in a fair fight, presupposes that the right of the stronger really is a right. But the truth is that, if the other man is unable to defend himself, this circumstance gives me the possibility, yet by no means the right, to kill him. On the contrary, this right and thus my moral justification can rest only on motives that I have for taking his life. Now if we assume that these actually existed and were sufficient, there is absolutely no reason for making this depend on whether I can shoot or fence better than he, but it is then immaterial how I kill him, whether I attack him from the front or from behind. For morally, the right of the stronger has no more weight than has that of the more skilful, which is employed by the treacherous murderer. Therefore right of might and right of skill here have equal weight; further, it should be observed that, even in the duel, both are brought to bear since every feint in fencing is treachery or deception. If I consider myself morally justified in taking a man's life, then it is stupid to let this depend on whether he can shoot or fence better than I; for in that case he will not only have wronged me, but will have taken my life into the bargain. It is Rousseau's opinion that insults should be avenged not by a duel, but by assassination. He cautiously hints at this in the very mysterious twenty-first note to the fourth book of Emile (p. 173, ed. Rip.). But he is here so much under the influence of knightly superstition that he thinks he is justified in assassinating a man who has reproached him with lying; whereas he must have known that everyone, and he himself most of all, merited this reproach times without number. The prejudice that justifies the killing of the offender, on condition that this is done in an open contest with equal weapons, evidently regards the right of might as real and the duel as a judgement of God. On the other hand, the Italian who, in a fit of rage, falls on his opponent wherever he finds him, and stabs him without ceremony, at any rate acts consistently and naturally; he is more cunning, but not worse than the duellist. If it should be said that, in killing my opponent in the duel, I am justified by the fact that he is likewise endeavouring to kill me, the retort is that, by challenging him, I put him under the necessity of having to defend himself. By intentionally putting themselves under such necessity, the two duellists are in effect seeking a plausible excuse for murder. Justification through the principle volenti non fit injuria [28] would be more plausible in so far as both have mutually agreed to stake their lives on this. But against this it can be said that the volens is not necessarily in the right, for the myrmidon is the tyranny of the principle of knightly honour and its absurd code which drags both, or at any rate one of the two combatants, before this bloody Vehmgericht.

On the question of knightly honour, I have gone into detail; but I have done so with good intention, because philosophy is the only Hercules against the moral and intellectual enormity in the world. In the main there are two things that distinguish the social conditions of modern times from those of antiquity to the detriment of the former, since they have given these a grave, dark, and sinister aspect, from which antiquity, bright and ingenuous like the morning of life, is free. I refer to the principle of knightly honour and venereal disease, par nobile fratrum! [29] Together they have poisoned the [x] [30] of life. Venereal disease extends its influence much farther than might appear at first glance since this is by no means merely physical but moral as well. Since Cupid's quiver also contains poisoned arrows, the relations between the sexes have assumed a strange, hostile, and even diabolical element. In consequence thereof, a sombre and fearful mistrust permeates such relations; and the indirect influence of such a change in the foundation of all human society even extends, more or less, to all other social relations. But to enter into this would take me too far from my subject. Analogous to this, although of quite a different nature, is the influence of the principle of knightly honour, this solemn farce which was foreign to the ancients but makes modern society stiff, serious, and nervous because people scrutinize and ruminate on every fleeting expression. But this is not all! This principle is a universal Minotaur to which a good number of the sons of noble houses must be brought as tribute every year, not from one country, as of old, but from every country in Europe. It is, therefore, time boldly to attack this bugbear, as is being done here. May these two monsters of modern times come to an end in the nineteenth century! We will not give up hope that doctors will finally succeed in dealing with the first by means of prophylactics. But to abolish the bugbear is the business of philosophers by correcting conceptions, since governments by means of legislation have hitherto failed; moreover, only on the first path is the evil attacked at the roots. If, however, governments should really be in earnest about suppressing the duel and the small success of their efforts is really due merely to their inability to cope with the evil, then I will suggest to them a law whose success I guarantee; moreover, they can resort to it without any sanguinary operations, scaffold, gallows, or life imprisonment. On the contrary, it is quite a small, easy, homoeopathic expedient; thus the man who challenges another or adopts towards him a hostile attitude, should receive a la chinoise in broad daylight before the main guard twelve strokes from the corporal, whilst seconds and witnesses should each receive six. The ultimate consequences of a duel that has actually taken place should form the subject of ordinary criminal proceedings. Perhaps a man of knightly notions might object that, after the carrying out of such a punishment, many a 'man of honour' might possibly shoot himself. My answer is that it is better for such a fool to shoot himself than shoot others. At bottom, however, I know quite well that governments are not really in earnest about abolishing the duel. The salaries of civil officials and even more so those of officers (apart from the highest posts) are far less than the value of their services. The other half of their emoluments is, therefore, paid in honours that are represented primarily by titles and orders and generally in the wider sense by the honours of rank and position. Now for this honour of rank, the duel is a useful side-horse and so preliminary training in it is already given at the universities. Accordingly, its victims pay with their blood for the deficiency in their salaries.

For the sake of completeness, we have still to mention national honour. It is the honour of a whole nation that is a part of the community of nations. Now as there is in this no other forum than that of force and as therefore every member of that community has to protect its own rights, a nation's honour consists not only in the established opinion that it is to be trusted (credit), but also in the opinion that it is to be feared. Therefore it must never allow to go unpunished attacks on its rights; and thus it combines civic with knightly honour.

Reputation was the last thing previously mentioned under what a man represents, in other words, what he is in the eyes of the world; and so we have still to consider it. Reputation and honour are twins; yet they are like the Dioscuri of which Pollux was immortal whereas Castor was mortal; reputation is the immortal brother of mortal honour. This, of course, is to be understood only of reputation or fame of the highest order which is real and genuine; for there are certainly many kinds of ephemeral fame. Now honour concerns only those qualities that are demanded of all who are in the same circumstances; fame concerns those that cannot be demanded of anyone. Honour has to do with those qualities that everyone may publicly attribute to himself; fame with those that no one may so attribute. Whereas our honour reaches as far as the information about us, fame conversely hurries in advance of that information and carries this as far as it itself goes. Everyone has a claim to honour; only the exceptions have one to fame which is won only by extraordinary achievements. Again, these are either actions or works; and accordingly two paths are open to fame. A great heart is a special qualification for the path of actions and a great mind for that of works. Each of the two paths has its own advantages and drawbacks, and the main difference is that actions pass whereas works remain. Of actions there remains only the memory that becomes ever more feeble, distorted, and insignificant, and must gradually cease to exist, unless history takes it up and then hands it on to posterity in a petrified state. Works, on the other hand, are themselves immortal and, especially if they are in writing, can live throughout the ages. The noblest deed has only a temporary influence, whereas the work of genius lives and has a beneficial and ennobling effect for all time. Of Alexander the Great only the name and memory live; whereas Plato and Aristotle, Homer and Horace themselves still exist, live, and have an immediate effect. The Vedas and their Upanishads exist, but of all the actions that took place in their age no information whatever has come down to us.* Another disadvantage of actions is their dependence on the opportunity that must first afford the possibility of their occurrence. Connected with this is the fact that their fame is not directed solely to their intrinsic worth, but to the circumstances that impart to them lustre and importance. Moreover, if as in war the actions are purely personal, their fame depends on the statements of a few eyewitnesses who, however, are not always present and, even if they are, are not always just and impartial. On the other hand, actions have the advantage, as something practical, of lying within the sphere of the general ability to judge; and so if only the data are correctly transmitted to it, justice is at once done to them, unless their motives are correctly known and properly appreciated only later; for to understand any action, knowledge of its motive is required. With works it is just the opposite; their origin does not depend on chance but simply on their author, and as long as they last they remain what they are in and by themselves. In their case, on the other hand, there is difficulty in judging, and the higher their character, the greater is this difficulty; frequently there is a lack of competent critics and often there are no impartial and honest judges. However, their fame is not decided by one instance, but an appeal is made. For whereas, as I have said, only the memory of actions comes down to posterity and indeed only in the form furnished by contemporaries, works come down to us as they are, apart from a few missing fragments. Here, then, we have no distortion of . the data, and also any unfavourable influence of environment at their origin later disappears. In fact it is often only after the lapse of time that the few really competent judges gradually appear who are already themselves exceptions and sit in judgement on even greater exceptions. Successively they give their weighty verdicts and then, sometimes of course only after centuries, we have a perfectly just appreciation that can no longer be set aside by future ages; so secure and inevitable is the fame of works. On the other hand, it depends on external circumstances and chance whether their author lives to enjoy fame; the loftier and more difficult they have been, the more rarely will this be the case. In keeping with this, Seneca says with incomparable beauty (Epistulae, 79) that merit is followed by fame as infallibly as a body by its shadow; but like this, of course, it is sometimes in front of and sometimes behind it, and after making this clear, he adds: etiamsi omnibus tecum viventibus SILENTIUM LIVOR INDIXERIT, venient qui sine offensa, sine gratia judicent. [31] Incidentally, from this we see that the art of suppressing merit by malicious silence and by ignoring it in order to conceal from the public the good in favour of the bad, was practised even by the bunglers of Seneca's time as it is by our own, and that in both cases envy tightened their lips. As a rule, the longer fame has to endure, the later will it be in appearing, for everything that is excellent matures slowly. The fame that will become posthumous and permanent is like an oak that grows very slowly from its seed; easy ephemeral fame resembles the rapid-growing plant of one year, and false fame can be compared to the quick-sprouting weed that can be most readily uprooted. This state of affairs is really due to the fact that, the more a man belongs to posterity, i.e. actually to mankind generally, the more of a stranger he is to his age, since what he produces is not specially devoted to this as such, but only in so far as it is a part of mankind. And so his works are not tinged with the local colour of his times; but, in consequence of this, it may easily happen that he is allowed to pass away as a stranger. On the contrary, his age appreciates those who minister to the affairs of its own brief day, or who serve the mood of the moment and therefore belong entirely thereto, living and dying with it. Accordingly, the history of art and literature shows generally that the highest achievements of the human mind were, as a rule, not favourably received and remained out of favour until minds of a higher order came who were impressed by them and brought them into vogue. They then subsequently maintained themselves therein through the authority that was obtained in this way. But all this is due ultimately to the fact that everyone can really understand and appreciate only what appeals to his nature. Now the dullard will like what is dull, the common man what is common, the vague person what is confused and indistinct, the brainless fool what is nonsense, and everyone is pleased most of all with his own works, as being thoroughly in keeping with his nature. Therefore the ancient and legendary Epicharmus sang:

[x]
[x]
[x]
[x]
[x]


which I will translate so that it will not be lost:

It is no wonder that I speak according to my views,
And they are pleased with themselves, and vainly imagine
They are worthy of praise. For to the dog a dog
Seems to be the finest thing, to the ox an ox,
To the ass an ass, and to the pig a pig.


When even the strongest arm flings away a light body, it is still unable to impart thereto any motion with which it might fly far and violently hit the mark. On the contrary, such a body soon falls to the ground because it lacked material substance of its own for absorbing the outside force. It is the same with fine and great ideas, in fact with the masterpiece of genius, when for their reception there exist only puny, feeble, or queer minds. The voices of the wise men of all ages have joined in the chorus of deploring this. For instance, Jesus ben Sirach says: 'He that telleth a tale to a fool, speaketh to one in slumber; when he hath told his tale, he will say, What is the matter?' And Hamlet says: 'A knavish speech sleeps in a fool's ear.' Goethe says:

The most felicitous word is mocked,
When it is heard by the dullard's ear.


Again:

Your effect is nought, all is still so dull.
Be of good cheer! No rings are formed,
When a pebble is cast in the mire.


Lichtenberg says: 'If a head and a book collide and there is a hollow sound, is it always the book?' Again: 'Such works are mirrors; if an ape looks in, no apostle can look out: Indeed, Father Gellert's fine and touching lament is worth recalling once more:

The best of all gifts are often the least admired.
Most of the world regards the worst as the best.
Daily is this evil seen, yet how to prevent this scourge?
I doubt if it can be removed from our world.
The sole remedy on earth is extremely hard.
Thus fools must be wise, but this they will never be.
They never know the worth of things. With their eyes they
Judge, but not with their minds. The trivial is
Eternally praised because they have never known the good.


To this intellectual incapacity of men in consequence whereof the excellent, as Goethe says, is rarely found and still more rarely perceived and appreciated, is now added the moral depravity of mankind which here appears as envy. Thus the fame that is won by a man again raises him above all those of his class who are, therefore, to that extent degraded; and so every outstanding merit acquires its fame at the expense of those who have none.

When we pay honour to others,
We must degrade ourselves.

-- Goethe, Westostlicher Diwan.


This explains why excellence, in whatever form it may appear, is at once confronted with the united mediocrity of the vast majority who are in league against it and are sworn to prevent it from appearing and, if possible, to suppress it. Their secret pass-word is: A bas il merite. [32] But even those who themselves possess merit and have thus acquired fame, will not want to see the appearance of a new fame whose radiance will make theirs the less brilliant; and so even Goethe says:

Had I lingered at my birth
Till I were granted life,
I should still not be on earth.
As you may know, when you see
How they fain would ignore me
Who give themselves such airs,
To parade and show their wares.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:59 am

Part 3 of 3

Therefore, whereas honour as a rule meets with fair judges and is not attacked by envy, in fact everyone is even credited in advance with it, fame must be won after a struggle with envy and the laurel is awarded by a tribunal of decidedly unfair judges. For honour we can and will share with everyone; fame is curtailed and made more difficult by everyone who acquires it. Further, the difficulty of acquiring fame through works is inversely proportional to the number of those who form their public; and the reasons for this are easy to see. Therefore it is much greater with works that promise instruction than with those that promise entertainment; it is greatest of all with philosophical works because the instruction promised by them is doubtful and uncertain, on the one hand, and useless from a material point of view, on the other. Accordingly, such works make their appearance primarily before a public that consists of none but rivals and competitors. From the above-mentioned difficulties that oppose the attainment of fame, it is clear that if those who produce works of merit did not do so out of love for them and for their own enjoyment but needed to be encouraged by fame, mankind would have received few, if any, immortal works. In fact, the man who is to produce what is good and right and to avoid what is bad, must defy and thus disdain the judgement of the masses and their spokesmen. On this rests the correctness of the remark that is in particular stressed by Osorius (De gloria) that fame eschews those who seek it and follows those who pay it no heed; for the former adapt themselves to the tastes of their contemporaries whereas the latter defy them.

Accordingly, difficult as it is to acquire fame, it is easy to retain it. Here too it stands in contrast to honour with which everyone is even credited; for he has merely to defend it. But this is the problem, for by a single unworthy act honour is irretrievably lost. Fame, on the other hand, can never really be lost; for the deed or work whereby it was acquired is established for all time and its author retains his fame, even if he does nothing more. If, however, the fame actually dies away and has had its day, it was not genuine, that is, it was unmerited and arose from a temporary over-estimation; or it was even a fame such as Hegel enjoyed, and is described by Lichtenberg as 'trumpeted abroad by a clique of friendly candidates and resounding with the echo of empty heads;-but how posterity will smile when it one day knocks on the doors of brightly coloured word-edifices, of the nests of departed fashions, and of the dwellings of dead and defunct conventions, and finds everything empty, not even the smallest thought that could confidently say: come in!'

Fame really rests on what a man is in comparison with others. Accordingly, it is something essentially relative and so can have only a relative value. It would disappear entirely if others were to become what the famous man is. Absolute value can belong only to that which retains it under all circumstances and thus to what a man is directly and by himself. Consequently, the value and good fortune of a great heart and great mind must be found here. Therefore not fame but that whereby we merit it is the thing of value. For it is, so to speak, the substance, fame being only the accident; indeed, this affects the famous man mainly as an external symptom whereby he obtains confirmation of his own high opinion of himself. Accordingly, it might be said that, just as light is not visible at all unless it is reflected by a body, so every excellent quality becomes certain and positive only through its own reputation. But it is not even an infallible symptom, for we also have fame without merit and merit without fame; hence Lessing's clever remark: 'Some men are famous and others deserve to be.' Moreover, it would be a miserable existence whose worth or worthlessness depended on how it appeared in the eyes of others. But such would be the life of the hero and the genius if his worth consisted in fame, that is to say, in the approbation of others. On the contrary, every man lives and exists on his own account and, therefore, primarily in and by himself. What a man is, whatever his mode of existence, is first and foremost a matter for himself; and if in this respect he is not worth much, then he is not worth much in general. On the other hand, the image of his nature in the minds of others is something secondary, derived, and subject to chance, and refers only very indirectly to that nature. Moreover, other people's heads are too wretched a place for true happiness to have its seat; rather do we find there only an imaginary happiness. What a mixed company we meet in that temple of universal fame: generals, ministers, quacks, jugglers, dancers, singers, millionaires, and Jews! In fact, the excellent qualities of all these are much more sincerely appreciated in this temple, meet with much more estime sentie, [33] than do intellectual qualities, especially those of a higher order which with the great majority obtain only an estime sur parole. [33] Thus from the point of view of eudemonology, fame is nothing but the rarest and daintiest morsel for our pride and vanity. But in most men these exist to excess, though they are concealed; perhaps they are strongest in those who are in some way qualified to acquire fame. Such men, therefore, have to wait a long time in uncertainty regarding their outstanding worth before the opportunity comes for them to put this to the test and then experience its acknowledgement. Till then, they felt as though they had suffered a secret injustice.* But generally speaking, as was discussed at the beginning of this chapter, the value a man attaches to other people's opinion of him is unreasonable and out of all proportion. Hobbes expressed the matter very forcibly, it is true, but perhaps quite correctly when he said: omnis animi voluptas, ommsque alacritas in eo sita est, quod quis haheat quibuscum conferens se, possit magnifice sentire de se ipso [34] (De cive, lib. I, c. 5). From this one can easily appreciate the great value that is usually attached to fame and the sacrifices that are made in the mere hope of one day attaining it:

Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
(That last infirmity of noble mind)
To scorn delights and live laborious days.

-- Milton, Lycidas.


And again:

How hard it is to climb
The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar!

-- Beattie, The Minstrel.


Finally, we can also see why the vainest of all nations constantly talks about la gloire and regards this unquestionably as the main incentive to great deeds and works. But there is no doubt that fame is only something secondary, the mere echo, reflection, shadow, or symptom of merit, and that in any case the thing admired must be worth more than the admiration. Therefore what makes a man really happy cannot be found in fame, but in that which enables him to acquire this and hence in merit itself, or to speak more precisely, in the disposition and abilities whence such merit has come, whether it be of a moral or intellectual order. For everyone must necessarily be for himself the best that he is; the reflection of this in the minds of others and their opinion of him is a secondary matter and for him can be only of subordinate interest. Accordingly, the man who merits fame without obtaining it possesses by far the greater thing, and what he forgoes is something about which he can console himsef with what he possesses. For it is not the fact that he is considered a great man by a crowd of deluded people without judgement, but the fact that he is so which makes him envied. His great happiness is not that posterity will know something about him, but that in him thoughts are engendered which merit preservation and consideration for hundreds of years. Moreover, this happiness cannot be wrested from him; it is '[x], whereas fame is [x]. [35] If, on the other hand, admiration itself were the principal matter, the thing admired would not be worth it; this is actually the case with false, i.e. unmerited, fame. The possessor of such must live on it without actually having that whereof the fame should be the symptom or mere reflection. But even that fame itself must often become distasteful to him when at times, in spite of all the deception, born of self-interest, he feels giddy at heights he was never fit to climb, or feels as if he were a copper coin. The fear of being unmasked and rightly humiliated then seizes him, especially when he already reads the verdict of posterity on the brows of the more prudent. Accordingly, he is like a man who possesses property through a forged will. The most genuine fame, namely posthumous, is never heard of by the man who has acquired it, and yet he is considered fortunate. His good fortune, therefore, consisted in the great qualities themselves whereby he acquired fame and in the fact that he found the opportunity to develop them, and was granted to act in a way best suited to him or to do what he liked and enjoyed doing; for only works born of this acquire posthumous fame. Thus his happiness consisted in his great heart or even in the wealth of a mind whose stamp receives in his works the admiration of the centuries to come. It consisted in the ideas themselves whose consideration became the business and pleasure of the noblest minds of an immeasurable future. Hence the value of posthumous fame is to be found in meriting it; and this is its own reward. Now whether works that acquired fame also enjoyed the praise of their author's contemporaries depended on chance circumstances and was not of great importance. For as people generally are unable to judge for themselves and are also absolutely incapable of appreciating noble and difficult achievements, they always follow here the authority of someone else; and reputation of a higher order rests on mere faith in the case of ninety-nine out of a hundred of those who praise. And so for those who think, the vociferous approbation of contemporaries can be only of little value since in it they always hear merely the echo of a few voices that are themselves only the product of a day. Would a musician feel flattered by the loud applause of his audience if it were known to him that, with the exception of one or two, it consisted entirely of deaf people who, to conceal from one another their infirmity, eagerly clapped as soon as they saw the one or two exceptions move their hands? And supposing that in addition he knew that those exceptions could often be bribed to obtain the loudest applause for the poorest violinist! From this it is easy to see why the praise of contemporaries is so rarely transformed into posthumous fame. Therefore in his exceedingly fine description of the temple of literary fame, D'Alembert says: 'The interior of the temple is inhabited by none but the dead who during their lifetime were not there, and by a few still living almost all of whom will be thrown out when they die.' Incidentally, it may be observed here that to erect a monument to a man during his lifetime is tantamount to declaring that, with regard to him, posterity is not to be trusted. If, however, a man lives to see his fame that is to become posthumous, this will rarely occur before he is old. Possibly among artists and poets there are a few exceptions to this rule; they are fewest among philosophers. A confirmation of this is furnished by the portraits of men who have become famous through their works, for in most cases they were taken only after their subjects had become celebrated. As a rule, they are depicted as old and grey, especially if they are philosophers. From the point of view of eudemonology, this is absolutely as it should be; since fame and youth at the same time are too much for a mortal. Our life is so poor that its good things must be sparingly allotted. Youth has enough and to spare in its own wealth and should rest content therewith. But when in old age joys and pleasures wither like trees in winter, the tree of fame most opportunely bursts forth as a genuine wintergreen. It can also be compared to winter pears that grow in summer but are eaten in winter. There is no finer consolation in old age than the feeling of our having embodied the whole force of our youth in works that will not grow old.

Now if we wish to consider somewhat more closely the paths by which we attain fame in those branches of knowledge with which we are immediately concerned, the following rule can be laid down. The intellectual superiority that is indicated by such fame is always brought to light by a new combination of some data. Now these can be of a very varied nature, yet the fame to be acquired through their combination will be the greater and more widespread, the more the data themselves are universally known and are accessible to everyone. For example, if they consist in numbers or curves, in some special fact of physics, zoology, botany, or anatomy, or else in some mutilated passages of ancient authors, in half-obliterated inscriptions, or in inscriptions whose alphabet is missing, or even in obscure points of history, the fame to be gained from their correct combination will not go much further than a knowledge of the data themselves; thus it will extend to a small number of those who often live retired lives and are jealous of their reputation in their particular branch of knowledge. If, on the other hand, the data are known to the whole of the human race; if, for example, they are the essential characteristics of the human mind or human heart common to everyone, or natural forces whose whole manner of operation is constantly before our eyes, or the universally known course of nature in general, then the fame of having shed more light on them by a new, important, and evident combination will extend in time to almost the whole of the civilized world. For if the data are accessible to everyone, so too will be their combination in most cases. Nevertheless, the fame here will always be in keeping only with the difficulties overcome; for the more generally known the data are, the more difficult will it be to combine them in a new and yet correct way since an exceedingly great number of minds have already tried their strength on them and have exhausted their possible combinations. On the other hand, data that are not accessible to the public at large, and are reached only in difficult and arduous ways, always admit of new combinations. If, therefore, a man approaches them with a clear understanding and sound judgement and thus with a moderate amount of intellectual superiority, it is quite possible for him to be fortunate enough to form a new and correct combination of them. But fame thus gained will be limited more or less in the same way as is a knowledge of the data. For the solution of such problems, no doubt, calls for much study and labour, merely in order to acquire a knowledge of the data; whereas with problems of the other kind wherein the greatest and most widespread fame is to be won, the data are given gratuitously without any study or labour. But in proportion as this type of problem calls for less labour, it requires more talent and even genius; and with these, as regards merit and value, no labour or study bears any comparison.

Now it follows from this that those who feel they have good understanding and sound judgement, without presuming to have the highest mental gifts, should not be afraid of much study and laborious work. For by means thereof they work themselves above the great mass of humanity who have the well-known data before their eyes; and they reach the remoter places that are accessible only to the activity and industry of scholars. For here the number of competitors is infinitely smaller, and a man of even only moderate intelligence will soon find an opportunity for a new and correct combination of the data. Indeed the merit of his discovery will even be based on the difficulty of arriving at them. But the applause of his colleagues which has been won in this way-for they are the only ones who are familiar with the subject-will be heard by the crowd only from a great distance. Now if we wish to pursue to the very end the path here indicated, a point will be reached where the data alone, without the necessity of their combination, suffice to establish fame because they are very difficult to obtain. This is the case as regards journeys to remote and rarely visited countries, where a man is famous for what he has seen and not for what he has thought. This way also has a great advantage in the fact that it is very much easier to communicate to others what we have seen than what we have thought, and it is just the same as regards people's comprehension. Accordingly, we shall find many more readers for the former than for the latter; for as Asmus says:

When someone makes a journey,
He has a tale to tell. [36]


But in keeping with all this, a personal acquaintance with famous travellers frequently reminds us of an observation by Horace:

Coelum, non animum, mutant qui trans mare currunt.

-- Epistles, I. II. 27. [37]


But as regards the man endowed with great intellectual ability who alone should venture to solve the most difficult problems, namely those dealing with the universal and total aspect of things, he will do well to extend his horizon as far as possible, yet always equally in all directions without ever going too far astray in some particular region that is known to only a few, in other words, without going too deeply into the intricacies of some special branch of knowledge, to say nothing of getting involved in minute details. It is not necessary for him to apply himself to subjects that are difficult of access in order to avoid a crowd of competitors. On the contrary, the very thing that everyone can see will supply him with material for new, important, and true combinations. Now according to this, it will be possible for his merit to be appreciated by all to whom the data are known and so by a great part of the human race. On this rests the immense difference between the fame that is won by poets and philosophers and that attainable by physicists, chemists, anatomists, mineralogists, zoologists, philologists, historians, and others.

_______________

Notes:
 
1 ['How trifling and insignificant is that which depresses or elates the man who thirsts for praise!' (Horace, Epistles, n. t. 179.)]

* In their brilliance, their pomp and splendour, their show and magnificence of every kind, the highest in the land can say: 'Our happiness lies entirely outside ourselves; its place is in the heads of others.'

* Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter. ['What you know is worthless, unless others also know that you know it.']

2 ['What will people say?']

3 ['The thirst for fame is the last thing of all to be laid aside by wise men.']

4 ['What is noble is difficult.']

5 ['The swine (instructs) Minerva.' (Cicero.)]

6 ['Arrogate to yourself the pride you earned through merit.' (Od. III. 30. 14.)]

7 ['Tooth and nail'.]

8 [i.e. decorations.]

9 ['That goes without saying.']

10 ['The insult is a summary slander.']

11 ['Part of what depends on us' (Term used by the Stoics).]

12 ['But Chrysippus and Diogenes said of a good reputation that, apart from its being useful, one should not even raise a finger for its sake. I entirely agree with them.']

13 ['We do not like esteem for its own sake, but simply for the advantage that it brings us.']

14 ['A blemish of less importance'.]

15 ['A piece of work going beyond what was required'.]

16 ['The more contemptible and ridiculous a man is, the readier he is with his  tongue.']
 
17 ['What more does one want?']
 
* This then is the code. When reduced to clear concepts and expressions, those principles cut so strange and grotesque a figure. Even at the present time in Christian Europe, all as a rule pay homage to them who belong to so-called good society with its so-called good manners. Indeed many of these in whom those principles have been instilled by word and example since early youth, more firmly believe in them than in any catechism. For them they cherish the profoundest and most genuine veneration, and are ready at any moment quite seriously to sacrifice to them their happiness, peace of mind, health, and life. They consider that those principles have their roots in the very nature of man and thus are innate, established a priori, and therefore above and beyond all investigation. However, I do not want to hurt their feelings, but it does little credit to their intelligence. These principles are, therefore, the least suited to that class which is destined to represent intelligence in the world and to become the salt of the earth; to the class that should prepare itself for that great mission and hence to the body of young students who, unfortunately in Germany more than any other class, pay homage to these principles. Now instead of impressing on this youth the drawbacks or immorality that attach to the consequences of such principles -- this youth that was schooled in the works of Greece and Rome (as was done once, when I was still a member of it, by that worthless philosophaster J. G. Fichte in a declamatio ex cathedra, a man still regarded quite honestly by the German learned world as a philosopher), I have merely to say to them the following. You whose youth received the language and wisdom of Greece and Rome as a patroness and on whose minds such great trouble was taken to let fall at an early age the shafts of wisdom and nobleness of glorious antiquity, do you wish to begin by making this code of stupidity and brutality the standard of your conduct? Just consider it, as here seen before you in the clearest manner and in all its pitiable narrowness, and let it be the touchstone not of your heart but of your head. Now if your head does not reject it, then it is not capable of working in the field where the necessary requirements are an energetic power of judgement that breaks the bonds of prejudice, a thorough understanding that is capable of clearly separating the true from the false, even where the difference lies deeply concealed and is not palpably evident, as it is here. Therefore, my good men, try in this case to make a name for yourselves on a different path of honour; become soldiers or learn a trade that thrives in any soil.

18 ['If anyone took it into his head to say that Demosthenes was a man of honour, one would smile indulgently; - nor was Cicero a man of honour.']

19 ['Nicodromus did this.']

20 ['What is the wise man to do when he is struck?" What Cato did when he had been struck in the face; he did not become angry or avenge the insult or even condone it, but declared that it did not occur at all.')

21 [The Force of Circumstances.]

22 [The Power of Prejudice.]

23 [The story of M. Desglands is given by Schopenhauer in the Draft for a Short Essay on Honour as follows:

'Two men of honour, one of whom was named Desglands, were courting the same woman. As they sat at table next to each other and opposite her, Desglands tried to attract her attention by the liveliest conversation, whereas she was absent-minded and did not appear to hear him but kept glancing at his rival. In his hand Desglands was holding a fresh egg and a feeling of morbid jealousy caused him to  crush the egg, whereupon it burst and its contents bespattered his rival's face. The  rival made a movement with his hand, but Desglands seized it and whispered in  his ear: "Sir, I take it as given." A profound silence then descended on the  company. The next day, Desglands appeared with a large round piece of black  plaster on his right cheek. The duel ensued and Desgland's opponent was severely,  but not fatally, wounded. Desglands reduced somewhat the size of the piece of  plaster. After the opponent's recovery, there was a second duel and once more  Desglands drew blood and he again reduced the size of the plaster. This went on  five or six times; after each duel, Desglands reduced the size of his plaster, until in  the end the opponent was killed. O noble spirit of the old age of chivalry! But  seriously speaking, whoever compares this characteristic story with the previous  ones is bound to say here, as on so many occasions, how great the ancients were and  how small the moderns are! ']
 
24 "The law is not concerned with trifles."

* What does it mean when we say to offend someone? It means to cause him to doubt the high opinion he has of himself.

** Knightly honour is an offspring of arrogance and folly. (Most sharply opposed to it is the truth expressed by Calderon's Principe constante with the words 'esa es la herencia de Adan' -- the lot of Adam is poverty.) It is striking that this superlative of  all arrogance is found solely and exclusively among the followers of that religion  which enjoins on them the deepest humility; for neither previous ages nor other  continents are acquainted with this principle of knightly honour. However, we  must not attribute it to religion, but rather to the feudal system under which every  nobleman regarded himself as a petty sovereign who acknowledged no human  judge. He therefore came to attribute complete inviolability and sanctity to his  person; and so every attack thereof, every blow and every word of abuse, seemed to  him to be a heinous crime. Accordingly, the principle of honour and duels  originally were only the business of the nobles and consequently in later times of  officers who associated, now and again though not entirely, with the other upper  classes in order not to be of less account. Although duels were a product of the old  ordeals, these are not the reason, but rather the consequence and application, of the  principle of honour. The man who acknowledges no human judge appeals to the  divine. The ordeals themselves, however, are not peculiar to Christianity, but are  found also in great force in Hinduism, especially in ancient times; yet even now  there are still traces of them.
 
25 ['Insult and abuse leave behind a sting that even sensitive and tenderhearted  men find most hard to bear.']
 
26 Vingt ou trente coups de canne sur le derriere, c'est, pour ainsi dire, le pain quotidien des  Chinois. C'est une correction paternelle du mandarin, laquelle n'a rien d'infamant, et qu'ils  recoivent avec action de graces. -- Lettres edifiantes curieuses, 1819 edn. vol. ii, p. 454-  ['Twenty or thirty strokes with the cane on the backside are, so to speak, the daily  bread of the Chinese. It is a paternal correction of the mandarin which has nothing  ignominious in it and which they receive with thanksgiving.']

* The real reason why governments apparently strive to suppress the duel and, whilst this would obviously be a very easy matter especially at the universities, give one the impression of not wanting to succeed, seems to me to be this. The State is not in a position to pay cash in full for the services of its officers and civil officials and therefore arranges for the other half of their emoluments to consist in honour that takes the form of titles, uniforms, and orders. Now to maintain at a high level this ideal indemnification of their services, the feeling of honour must be fostered and intensified in every possible way; at all events it must become something fantastic and extravagant. As civic honour is not enough for the attainment of this end simply because it is shared by all alike, knightly honour is resorted to and upheld in the way I have described. In England where the emoluments for civil and military service are very much higher than on the Continent, this expedient is not necessary. Therefore the duel has been almost entirely eradicated in that country, especially during the last twenty years, and now occurs very rarely indeed. When it does occur, it is laughed at as a piece of folly. It is certain that the great Anti-Duelling Society, numbering many peers, admirals, and generals among its members, has largely contributed to this result. The Moloch must do without its victims.

27 [A secret tribunal in late medieval Westphalia.]

28 ['No wrong is done to him who wishes to have it thus.' (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, lib. v. c. 15.)]

29 ['A noble pair of brothers' (Horace, Satires, II. 3. 243).]

30 ['Quarrel and love' (Empedocles).]

* Accordingly, it is a poor compliment when anyone, as is the fashion nowadays,  imagines he is honouring works by calling them actions; for works are essentially  of a higher order. An action is always something based on motive and consequently  fragmentary and fleeting; and it appertains to the universal and original element  of the world and hence to the will. A great or fine work, on the other hand, is  something permanent because it is of universal significance. It has sprung from the  intelligence, pure, spotless, and rising like a perfume from this world of the will.
 
 An advantage of the fame of actions is that it appears as a rule at once with a  loud explosion, often so loud that it is heard all over Europe; whereas the fame of  works appears slowly and gradually; at first it is slight; then it grows ever louder  and often only after a hundred years does it reach its full force. But then it lasts  because works remain, sometimes for thousands of years. On the other hand, after  the first explosion is over, the fame of actions gradually becomes weaker and is  known to fewer and fewer people until in the end it has only a ghostlike existence in  history.

31 ['Although envy imposed silence on all who lived with you, those men will come who will judge without ill-will and without favour.']

32 ['Down with merit!']
 
* Our greatest pleasure consists in being admired; but the admirers, even if there is every cause, are not very keen to express their admiration. And so the happiest man is he who has managed sincerely to admire himself, no matter how. Only others must not cause him to doubt this.

33 ['Felt esteem'; 'esteem on the strength of a remark'.]

34 ['All the delights of the heart and every cheerful frame of mind depend on our having someone with whom we can compare ourselves and think highly of ourselves.']

35 ['Is in our power ... is not in our power'.]
 
36 [Matthias Claudius.]

37 ['Whoever travels overseas has a change of climate, not a change of tastes and ideas.']
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:10 am

Part 1 of 4

CHAPTER 5: Counsels and Maxims

My object here is anything but an attempt to be complete; for otherwise I should have to repeat the many maxims, some excellent, which have been laid down by the thinkers of all ages from Theognis and Solomon to La Rochefoucauld; and in so doing it would be impossible to avoid many a well-worn commonplace. Moreover, an attempt at completeness entails for the most part the abandonment of any systematic arrangement. We may console ourselves for the loss of these two with the thought that, in things of this kind, they are almost inevitably attended with tediousness. I have given just what occurred to me, what seemed to be worth communicating, and, as far as I know, what has not yet been said, at any rate not entirely and in just this form. And so I have written only a supplement to what others have achieved in this immense field.

Yet to introduce some order into the great variety of opinions and advice that are relevant here, I intend to divide them into those that are general, those that concern our attitude to ourselves, to others, and finally to fate and the course of the world.

A. General Views

(1) I regard as the first rule of all wisdom of life a sentence, incidentally expressed by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics (VII. 12): [x] (quod dolore vacat, non quod suave est, persequitur vir prudens. The Latin version is feeble; a better one might be somewhat as follows: 'The prudent man aims at painlessness not pleasure.') The truth of this rests on the fact that the nature of all pleasure and happiness is negative, whereas that of pain is positive. A detailed discussion of this will be found in my chief work, vol. i, § 58; however, I will here illustrate it by another fact that can be daily observed. If our whole body is healthy and sound except for some sore or painful spot, we are no longer conscious of the health of the whole, but our attention is constantly directed to the pain of the injured spot and all the comfort and enjoyment of life vanish. In the same way, when all our affairs turn out the way we want them to go with the exception of one that runs counter to our intentions, this one affair constantly recurs even when it is of little importance. We often think about it and pay little attention to all the other more important things that are turning out in accordance with our wishes. Now in both cases, what is injuriously affected is the will, in the one case as it objectifies itself in the organism, in the other, as it is objectified in man's efforts and aspirations. In both we see that the satisfaction of the will always operates only negatively and therefore is not directly felt at all; but at most we become conscious of it when we reflect on the matter. On the other hand, what checks and obstructs the will is something positive which therefore makes its presence known. Every pleasure consists merely in the removal of this hindrance, on our liberation therefrom, and is in consequence of short duration.

This, then, is the basis of the above-mentioned rule of Aristotle which tells us to direct our aim not to what is pleasant and agreeable in life, but to the avoidance, as far as possible, of its numberless evils. If this were not the right way, then Voltaire's remark: Le bonheur n'est qu'un reve, et La douleur est reelle [1] would of necessity be as false as it is in fact true. Accordingly, whoever wants to assess the result of his life in terms of eudemonology, should draw up the account to show Dot the pleasures he has enjoyed, but the evils he has escaped. Indeed, eudemonology must begin by informing us that its very name is a euphemism and that, when we say 'to live happily', we are to understand by this merely 'to live less unhappily' and hence to live a tolerable life. It is quite certain that life is not really given to us to be enjoyed, but to be overcome, to be got over. This is also seen in many expressions, such as degere vitam, vita defungi, [2] the Italian si scampa cosi, [3] the German man muss suchen, durchzukommen, [4] er wird schon durch die Welt kommen, [5] and others. In old age it is indeed a consolation to know that the business of life is behind us. Accordingly, the happiest lot is that of the man who has got through life without any very great pain, bodily or mental, not that of the man who has experienced the keenest delights or greatest pleasures. Whoever tries to measure the happiness of life according to pleasures and delights, has taken a false standard. For pleasures are and remain negative; that they make us happy is an erroneous idea which is cherished by the envious to their own punishment. Pain, on the other hand, is felt positively; and so its absence is the standard of happiness. If in addition to a state of painlessness we have absence of boredom, we have really attained earthly happiness; for all else is a chimera. Now it follows from this that we should never purchase pleasures at the price, or even the risk, of pain, since we then pay what is positive and real for something that is negative and thus illusory. On the other hand, we are left with a gain when we sacrifice pleasures in order to avoid pain. In both cases, it is immaterial whether the pain follows or precedes the pleasure. It is really the greatest absurdity to try to turn this scene of woe and lamentation into a pleasure-resort and to aim at joys and pleasures, as do so many, rather than at the greatest possible freedom from pain. Whoever takes a gloomy view regards this world as a kind of hell and is accordingly concerned only with procuring for himself a small fireproof room; such a man is much less mistaken. The fool runs after the pleasures of life and sees himself cheated; the wise man avoids its evils. Yet even if he should fail to avoid them, this is the fault of fate not of his folly; but in so far as he succeeds, he is not duped, for the evils he avoided are indeed very real. Even if he should have gone too far in avoiding them and have unnecessarily sacrificed pleasures, nothing has really been lost; for all pleasures are illusory, and to grieve about having missed them would be frivolous and even ridiculous.

The failure to recognize this truth-a failure encouraged by optimism-is the source of much unhappiness. Thus while we are free from pain, restless desires show us in bright colours the chimera of a happiness that does not exist at all and we are seduced into pursuing them; but in this way we bring down on ourselves pain that is undeniably real. We then regret the loss of that painless state which, like a paradise thrown away, lies behind us and in vain do we desire to be able to undo what has been done. It seems as if an evil spirit with visions of desires always enticed us away from the painless state, from the greatest genuine happiness. The careless and thoughtless youth imagines that the world exists in order to be enjoyed; that it is the abode of a positive happiness; and that men miss this because they are not clever enough to take possession of it. He is strengthened in this view by novels and poems and also by hypocrisy which the world always and everywhere practises for the sake of appearance and to which I shall later return. Henceforth his life is a more or less deliberate pursuit of positive happiness and this, as such, is said to consist of positive pleasures. The dangers to which he is exposed in his hunt for happiness must be risked. This hunt for game that does not exist at all leads, as a rule, to very real and positive unhappiness that appears as pain, suffering, sickness, loss, care, poverty, disgrace, and a thousand other miseries. The undeceiving comes too late. On the other hand, if, by following the rule we are here considering, the plan oflife is directed to the avoidance of suffering and hence to keeping clear of want, illness, and every kind of distress, the aim is a real one. Something may then be achieved which will be the greater, the less the plan is disturbed by striving after the chimera of positive happiness. This agrees also with the passage of Goethe's Wahlverwandtschaften where Mittler, who is always trying to make others happy, is represented as saying: 'Whoever tries to get rid of an evil always knows what he wants; but whoever desires something that is better than what he has, is quite blind.' This also reminds us of the fine French saying: le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. [6] In fact, even the fundamental idea of the Cynics can be deduced from this, as I have shown in my chief work, volume ii, chapter 16. For what was it that induced them to spurn all pleasures if not the thought that pain was more or less bound up with them? To avoid pain seemed to them to be much more important than to obtain pleasure. They were deeply imbued with the knowledge of the negative nature of pleasure and of the positive nature of pain. And so they consistently did everything to avoid evils; but for this purpose they considered it necessary to reject pleasures wholly and deliberately because in them they saw only snares that deliver us over to pain.

Of course, as Schiller says, we are all born in Arcadia; in other words, we come into the world full of claims to happiness and pleasure and cherish the foolish hope of making them good. As a rule, however, fate soon comes along, seizes us harshly and roughly, and teaches us that nothing belongs to us but everything to it, since it has the undisputed right not only to all our possessions and acquisitions, to wife and family, but even to our arms and legs, our eyes and ears, and to the very nose in the middle of our face. In any case, experience after a time teaches us that happiness and pleasure are a fata Morgana which is visible only from a distance and vanishes when we approach it. On the other hand, we are taught that suffering and pain are real which immediately make themselves felt and need no illusion or expectation. Now if this teaching bears fruit, we cease to run after happiness and pleasure, but rather are we more concerned to bar as much as possible the way to pain and suffering. We then recognize that the best the world has to offer is a painless, quiet, and tolerable existence to which we restrict our claims in order to be the more certain of making them good. For the surest way not to become very unhappy is for us not to expect to be very happy. Merck, the friend of Goethe's youth, recognized this truth for he wrote: 'Everything in this world is ruined by the excessive pretension to happiness and indeed in a measure that corresponds to our dreams. Whoever is able to get rid of this and desires nothing but what he has in hand can get along in the world' (Briefe an und von Merck, p. 100). Accordingly, it is advisable to reduce to very moderate proportions our claims to pleasures, possessions, rank, honour, and so on, just because it is this striving and struggling for happiness, brilliance, and pleasure that entail great misfortunes. Therefore reducing our claims is prudent and advisable simply because it is quite easy to be very unhappy, whereas to be very happy is not exactly difficult but absolutely impossible. Therefore the poet of the wisdom of life quite rightly sings:

Auream quisquis mediocritatem
Diligit, tutus caret obsoleti
Sordibus tecti, caret invidenda
Sobrius aula.  
Saevius ventis agitatur ingens
Pinus: et celsae graviore casu
Decidunt turres: feriuntque summos
Fulgura montes. [7]


Whoever has fully accepted the teaching of my philosophy and thus knows that our whole existence is something which had better not have been, and to deny and reject which is the highest wisdom, will not cherish great expectations of anything or any condition; he will not ardently aspire to anything in the world, nor will he complain very much if he fails in any undertaking. On the contrary, he will be imbued with Plato's words: [x] (Republic, x. 604). [8] See the motto to Sadi's Gulistan, translated by Graf:

If you have lost possession of a world,
Be not distressed, for it is nought;
And have you gained possession of a world,
Be not o'erjoyed, for it is nought.
Our pains, our gains, all pass away;
Get beyond the world, for it is nought.

-- Anwari Soheili


What makes it specially difficult for us to arrive at these wholesome views is the hypocrisy of the world which I have already mentioned and which should be made known to one at an early age. Most of the pomp and splendours are, like theatre decorations, mere show, and the very essence of the thing is missing. Ships festooned and dressed with pennants, salutes with cannon, illuminations, beating of drums and blowing of trumpets, shouting, applauding, and so on, all are the outward sign, the hint, the suggestion, the hieroglyphic of gaiety or joy. But this is just where joy is rarely found; it alone has declined to be present at the festival. Where it actually makes its appearance, it as a rule comes uninvited and unannounced, by itself and sans facon. [9] Indeed, it quietly slips in often on the most unimportant and trivial occasions, in the most ordinary everyday circumstances; in fact, anywhere but where the company is brilliant or distinguished. It is scattered here and there, like the gold in Australia, by the whim of pure chance according to no rule or law, often only in tiny grains, and exceedingly rarely in large quantities. But the object of all the things just mentioned is to make others believe that joy had here put in an appearance; to produce this illusion in the minds of others is the intention. It is the same with mourning as with joy. How sad and melancholy is that long and slowly moving funeral procession! There is no end to the number of carriages. But look inside them; they are all empty and the deceased is escorted to the grave merely by the coachmen of the whole town. An eloquent picture of the friendship and esteem of this world! This, then, is the falsehood, hollowness, and hypocrisy of human affairs. Again, many guests in ceremonial dress and welcomed with much pomp and festivity afford another example; they are the signs of noble and exalted fellowship. But instead, the real guests, as a rule, are only compulsion, pain, and boredom; for where there are so many guests, it is already a rabble, even though they wear on their breasts all the stars. Thus genuinely good society is everywhere of necessity very small. Generally speaking, however, brilliant parties and noisy entertainments at bottom always have emptiness and even a jarring note because they flagrantly contradict the misery and barrenness of our existence and the contrast enhances the truth. Looked at from without, however, all this has its effect and this is precisely its purpose. Therefore Chamfort makes the excellent remark: la societe, les cercles, les salons, ce qu' on appelle le monde, est une piece miserable, un mauvais opera, sans interet, qui se soutient un peu par les machines, les costumes et les decorations. [10] Now it is the same as regards academies and chairs of philosophy; these are the signs, the outward show, of wisdom; but she too has often declined to come and is to be found in quite a different place. The continual ringing of bells, the costumes of priests, pious attitudes, and grotesque antics are the outward sign, the false appearance, of devotional feeling, and so on. Thus almost everything in the world can be called a hollow nut; the kernel is in itself rare and even more rarely is it to be found in the shell. It must be sought in quite a different place; and frequently it is found only by accident.

(2) If we want to appraise a man's state as regards his happiness, we should ask not about the things that please him, but about those that trouble him; for the more trivial these are in themselves, the more fortunate he is. To be sensitive to trifles implies a state of well-being, since in misfortune we never feel them at all.

(3) We should guard against building the happiness of our life on a broad foundation by making many demands. For on such a basis happiness is very easily overthrown, since it offers many more opportunities for accidents, and these are always happening. Therefore, in this respect, the structure of our happiness is the very opposite of all those others that most securely rest on a broad foundation. Accordingly, the surest way to avoid great misfortune is to reduce as much as possible our claims in relation to our means of every kind.

Generally speaking, it is one of the greatest and commonest of follies to make extensive preparations for life, in whatever way this may be done. In the first place, such depend on a complete and full life that is attained by very few indeed. Even when men live long enough, the time proves to be too short for the plans that have been made, since to carry them out always requires very much more time than was at first assumed. Moreover, like all things human, such plans are exposed to so many failures and obstacles that they very rarely reach their goal. Finally, even when everything is ultimately attained, the changes that time produces in ourselves were ignored and left out of account. Thus we forgot that our capacities either to achieve or enjoy do not last a whole lifetime. The result is that we often work at things which, when finally achieved, are no longer suitable; and also that the years we spend on the preparations of a work imperceptibly rob us of the strength to carry it out. Thus it often happens that we are no longer able to enjoy the wealth we have acquired at so much effort and risk, and that we have laboured for others. Or again, we are no longer able to fill a post that has been finally obtained after many years of aspirations and exertions; for us things have come too late. Or, in the opposite case, we come too late with things; thus in the case of achievements or productions, the taste of the times has changed; a new generation has grown up which takes no interest in such things; others have taken short cuts and have got in front of us, and so on. Horace has all this in mind when he says:

quid aeternis minorem
Consiliis animum fatigas? [11]


The cause of this frequent mistake is the inevitable optical illusion of the mind's eye by virtue whereof life, when seen from the beginning, appears to be endless, but when reviewed from the end of the journey, seems to be very short. This illusion, of course, has its good point, for without it hardly anything great would ever be produced.

In life we are generally like the traveller for whom objects assume, as he progresses, forms that are different from those they exhibited at a distance; they are transformed, so to speak, by his approaching them. This is especially the case as regards our desires. We often find something quite different from, and even better than, what we were looking for. Also we often find the thing sought on a path quite different from the one we had first taken in our vain search for it. Moreover, where we were looking for pleasure, happiness, and joy, we often find instead instruction, insight, and knowledge, a lasting and real benefit in place of one that is fleeting and illusory. This is the idea that runs like a bass-note through Goethe's Wilhelm Meister; for this is an intellectual novel and is, therefore, of a higher order than all the rest, even Sir Walter Scott's, which are all ethical, that is to say, treat human nature merely from the side of the will. So too in the Magic Flute, this grotesque but significant and ambiguous hieroglyphic, the same fundamental idea is symbolized in large coarse lines as are those of theatre decorations. It would even be complete if, at the end, Tamino were cured of his desire to possess Tamina [12] and received, instead of her, only initiation into the temple of wisdom. On the other hand, it would be quite right for Papageno, his necessary counterpart, to get his Papagena. Noble and distinguished people soon become aware of that teaching of fate and gratefully submit to be moulded thereby. They see that possibly instruction but not happiness is to be found in the world; and so they become accustomed and content to exchange hope for insight, and in the end say with Petrarch:

Altro diletto, che 'mparar, non provo. [13]

-- Trionfo d'Amore, 1.21.


It may even be that they still follow to a certain extent their desires and aspirations merely as a trifle and for the sake of appearance, but that really, in their heart of hearts, they expect only instruction; an attitude which then gives them a sublime, contemplative touch of genius. In this sense, it can also be said that we are like the alchemists who, while looking only for gold, discovered gunpowder, china, medicines, and even the laws of nature.

B. Our Attitude to Ourselves

(4) The workman, assisting in the erection of a building, is either unacquainted with the plan of the whole or does not always have it in mind. Similarly, while a man is spinning away the separate days and hours of his life, his attitude to the whole of its course and character is the same. The worthier, more important, systematic, and individual this is, the more necessary and salutary it is for him occasionally to have in mind a reduced sketch thereof, namely the plan. For this purpose, of course, he should have made a start in [x]; [14] he should, therefore, know what he really wants principally and primarily, what is the most essential thing for his happiness, and thereafter what occupies second and third place. He should also know generally what is his vocation, his role, and his relation to the world. Now if this is on important and grandiose lines, a glance at his life's plan on a small scale will, more than anything else, strengthen, uplift, and exalt him; it will encourage him to be active and keep him from going astray.

Just as the traveller gets a connected survey of the road he has taken with all its turns and bends only when he has arrived at the top of the hill, so it is only at the end of a period of our life or even at the very end thereof that we recognize the true connection between our actions, achievements, and works, their precise consistency and sequence, and even their value. For as long as we are preoccupied with all this, we always act only in accordance with the fixed qualities of our character, under the influence of motives, and within the limits of our abilities and hence throughout with necessity, since at any particular moment we do simply what we deem to be right and proper at the time. Only the sequel shows us what has transpired; and only when we look back at the connected course of life do we see the how and why thereof. And so while we are performing the greatest deeds or creating immortal works, we are just not conscious of them as such. On the contrary, we regard them as something appropriate to our present aims, something in keeping with our intentions of the moment, which is, therefore, just the very thing to be done. But only from our life as a connected whole do our character and abilities subsequently emerge in their true light. We then see in the particular case how, guided by our genius, we took, as though by inspiration, the only right path out of a thousand devious tracks. All this applies to the theoretical as well as the practical and in the opposite sense to the worthless and unsuccessful. The importance of the present moment is seldom recognized at the time, but only much later.

(5) An important point in the wisdom of life consists in a correct balance between the attention we give to the present and to the future so that for us the one will not impair the other. Many live too much in the present, namely the frivolous and light-hearted; others live too much in the future, that is to say, the nervous and faint-hearted. Rarely will a man hold the right balance between the two. Those who by aspiring and hoping live only in the future and always look ahead and impatiently anticipate the things to come-things that are first to bring them true happiness-while they let the present slip by unheeded and unenjoyed, are, in spite of their clever airs, comparable to those donkeys in Italy whose pace is quickened by their having a stick with a truss of hay fastened to their heads. They see this just in front of them and hope they will be able to reach it. They defraud themselves of their whole existence since they are always living only ad interim-until they are dead. Therefore instead of being always and exclusively preoccupied with plans and troubles for the future or of indulging in hankering over the past, we should never forget that the present alone is real and certain, that the future, on the other hand, almost invariably turns out differently from what we think and that even the past was also different. In fact, on the whole, both are of less account than they appear to us. For distance that makes objects look small to the eye, causes them to appear large to the mind. The present alone is true and actual; it is the really filled time wherein our existence exclusively lies. And so we should always consider it worthy of a cheerful reception and thus consciously enjoy as such every hour that is bearable and free from immediate annoyance or pain. In other words, we should not cast a gloom over the present by looking peevish over the vain hopes of the past or over our anxiety for the future. For it is extremely foolish to reject the present hour that is good or wantonly to ruin it through annoyance at what is past or anxiety over what is to come. A definite time should, of course, be devoted to solicitude and even to regret; but after this we should think of what has happened:

] [x]
[x] [15]


and of the future:

[x], [16]


but of the present: singulos dies singulas vilas pula, [17] and make this as agreeable as possible, for it is the only real time we have.

Only those future evils are entitled to disturb us which are certain to come, the time of their appearance being just as certain. But of these there will be very few; for evils are either merely possible, at all events probable, or they are indeed certain; the time of their occurrence, however, is wholly uncertain. Now if we yield to these two kinds of evil, we shall no longer have a moment's peace. And so if we are not to be deprived of all our peace through uncertain and indefinite evils, we must accustom ourselves to regard the former as never likely to happen and the latter as likely to happen though certainly not very soon.

Now the less our peace is disturbed by fear, the more we are agitated by wishes, desires, and aspirations. Goethe's song that is such a favourite, 'Ich hab' mein' Sach auf nichts gestellt', 18 says in effect that only after a man has shaken off all possible pretensions, and has returned to bare existence, does he obtain that peace of mind which constitutes the basis of human happiness. For such peace is necessary if he is to find bearable the present moment and thus the whole of life. For this purpose, we should always bear in mind that today comes but once and never again. We imagine, however, that it comes again tomorrow; but tomorrow is another day that also comes only once. But we forget that every day is an integral and thus irreplaceable part of life and regard it rather as included under life just as are individual things under a common concept. We should also better appreciate and enjoy the present if in the good days when we are well we were always conscious of how in sickness or depression of spirits, our memory conjures up every hour that was free from pain and privation as something infinitely to be envied, as a lost paradise, as a friend we neglected and undervalued. But we live through the fine days without noticing them; only when we fall on evil ones do we wish to have back the former. With sour faces we let a thousand bright and pleasant hours slip by unenjoyed and afterwards vainly sigh for their return when times are trying and depressing. Instead of this, we should cherish every present moment that is bearable, even the most ordinary, which with such indifference we now let slip by, and even with impatience push on. We should always bear in mind that such moments are just now ebbing into the apotheosis of the past where, irradiated by the light of imperishableness, they are then preserved in the memory so that, when this lifts the curtain especially in bad times, they will present themselves as an object of our deepest longing.

(6) All limitation makes us happy. The narrower our range of vision, our sphere of action, and our points of contact, the happier we are; the wider these are, the more often do we feel anxious and worried. For with them our cares, desires, and terrors are increased and intensified. Therefore even the blind are not so unhappy as they must a priori appear to be; and this is testified by that gentle and almost serene calm on their faces. This is due partly to the rule that the second half of life proves to be more melancholy than the first. For in the course of life, the horizon of our aims and connections becomes ever wider. In childhood it is restricted to the most immediate environment and the narrowest relations; in youth there is already a considerable widening of these; in manhood the horizon embraces the whole course of our lives and often extends to the most distant relations, to states and nations; in old age it embraces posterity. On the other hand, every limitation, even that of the mind, is conducive to our happiness; for the less the will is excited, the less we suffer; and we know that suffering is positive whereas happiness is merely negative. Limitation of the sphere of action removes from the will the external motives for excitation; limitation of the mind takes away the internal. But the latter has the disadvantage of opening the door to boredom that becomes indirectly the source of countless sufferings; for to banish it, men resort to everything, to dissipation, society, luxury, gambling, drinking, and so on which, however, entail all kinds of mischief, ruin, and unhappiness. Difficilis in otio quies. [19] On the other hand, external limitation is conducive, and even necessary, to human happiness in so far as it is possible for us to have this. We see this in the fact that the only kind of poetry, namely the idyll which undertakes to give a description of happy people, presents them invariably and essentially in an extremely restricted position and environment. This feeling in the matter underlies the pleasure we experience when looking at so-called genre-pictures. Accordingly, the greatest possible simplicity in our relations and even monotony in our way of living will make us happy, as long as they do not produce boredom. For they enable us to feel life itself as little as possible and consequently the burden that is essential thereto. It flows by like a stream without waves and whirlpools.

(7) With regard to our weal and woe, the question ultimately turns on what fills and engrosses our consciousness. Now here every purely intellectual occupation for the mind capable thereof will achieve, on the whole, far more than will practical life with its constant alternations of success and failure together with its shocks and vexations. But, of course, for such occupation pre-eminent intellectual abilities are required. Then in this connection it must be noted that, just as an outwardly directed active life distracts and diverts us from study and deprives the mind of the requisite quiet concentration, so, on the other hand, constant mental preoccupation renders us more or less unfit for the noisy pursuits of real life. It is, therefore, advisable to suspend mental work entirely for a while when circumstances arise which in some way demand energetic and practical activity.

(8) To live quite prudently and Judiciously and draw from our own experience all the instruction it contains, it is often necessary to think back and recapitulate what we have done and experienced and what our feelings were, and to compare our former with our present judgement, our plans and aspirations with the success and satisfaction they have produced. This is a repetition of the private tuition that is given to everyone by experience. Our own experience may be regarded as the text, and reflection and knowledge as the commentary thereto. Much reflection and knowledge with little experience resemble those editions whose pages present us with two lines of text and forty lines of commentary. Much experience with little reflection and scanty knowledge is like the editiones Bipontinae which are without notes and contain much that is unintelligible.

The advice here given is also alluded to by the rule of Pythagoras that, every evening before going to sleep, we should review what we have done in the course of the day. The man who in the toil and moil of business or pleasure has no thought for the morrow, never ruminates on the past, but rather reels his life off like cotton, is devoid of prudence and reflectiveness. His feelings become a chaos and a certain confusion comes over his ideas, as is at once testified by the abrupt and fragmentary nature of his conversation that is like mincemeat. This will be all the more the case, the greater the excitement from without, the greater the mass of impressions, and the smaller the inner activity of his own mind.

Here it may be observed that, after the circumstances and environment that influenced us have in the course of some time passed away, we are unable to recall and renew the mood and feeling they stirred in us at the time. However, we are able to call to mind our own observations which they suggested at that time and which are now the result, expression, and measure of those circumstances. We should, therefore, carefully preserve the memory or record of such observations from important moments of our lives. For this purpose diaries are very useful.

(9) To be self-sufficient and all in all to oneself and to be able to say omnia mecum porto mea, [20] is certainly the most useful qualification for our happiness. Hence Aristotle's saying: [x] (felicitas sibi sufficientium est, [21] Eudemian Ethics, VII. 2) cannot be too often repeated. (It is also essentially the same idea that is expressed in that exceedingly well-turned sentence of Chamfort. I have prefixed it as a motto to this essay.) For we cannot with any certainty count on anyone else except ourselves; moreover, the difficulties and disadvantages, the dangers and annoyances, that society entails are countless and inevitable.

There is no more mistaken path to happiness than social life, high life; for its object is to transform our miserable existence into a succession of joys, delights, and pleasures, a process in which disillusionment cannot fail to appear and which is on a par with its obligato accompaniment, the habit people have of lying to one another.*

In the first place, all society necessarily demands mutual accommodation and temperament; and so the greater it is, the more insipid it will be. Everyone can be entirely himself only so long as he is alone; and therefore whoever does not like loneliness, does not like freedom; for only when a man is alone is he free. Restraint and want of freedom are the inseparable companions of all society; and the sacrifices demanded by it will prove to be the heavier, the more eminent the man's own individuality. Accordingly, everyone will shun, endure, or like solitude exactly in proportion to this own worth. For in solitude the wretch feels the whole of his wretchedness, the great mind the full extent of his greatness; in short, everyone feels himself to be what he is. Further, the higher a man stands in nature's order of precedence, the more lonely he is; and this is essential and inevitable. But it is beneficial to him if the physical solitude is in keeping with the mental, otherwise frequent association with others of a different nature has a disturbing and even adverse effect on him, robs him of himself, and, as compensation, has nothing to offer him. Then, whereas nature has established the widest difference, both morally and intellectually, between one man and another, society, regardless of all this, treats them all alike or rather sets up instead artificial differences and degrees of position and rank which are often the very opposite of nature's list of precedence. With this arrangement, those whom nature has placed low are in a very good position, but the few who are rated high by her come off badly. The latter, therefore usually withdraw from society where, as soon as it is numerous, vulgarity prevails. What in society offends great minds is an equality of rights that leads to one of claims and pretensions, in spite of the inequality of abilities, and consequently to an equality of (social) achievements. So-called good society admits merits of all kinds except those of the mind, which are even contraband. It puts us under the obligation of showing boundless patience with every kind off oily, stupidity, perversity, and dullness. Excellent personal qualities, on the other hand, should beg to be excused or conceal themselves; for intellectual superiority offends by its mere existence without any desire so to do. Accordingly, society that is called good not only has the drawback of offering us men whom we cannot praise and like, but also it will not allow us to be ourselves in harmony with our nature. On the contrary, it compels us, for the sake of agreeing with others, to shrivel up and even alter our shape. Intellectual talking and ideas are fit only for intellectual society; in ordinary society they are positively loathed, for here in order to go down well it is absolutely necessary to be dull and narrow-minded. In such society, therefore, we must practise great self-denial and give up three-quarters of our own individuality in order to become like other people. In return, we naturally have the others, but the more merit a man has, the more he will find that here the gain does not cover the loss and the business turns out to his disadvantage. For, as a rule, men are insolvent; in other words, when we associate with them, they have nothing that would compensate us for the boredom, annoyance, and disagreeableness of their company and for the self-denial it imposes on us. Accordingly, most society is so constituted that whoever exchanges it for loneliness makes a good bargain. Moreover, there is the fact that, in order to provide a substitute for genuine, i.e. intellectual, superiority that is intolerable and also hard to find, society has arbitrarily assumed a false conventional superiority. This rests on arbitrary principles, is traditionally handed down to the higher circles, and, like the password, can be altered. It is called bon ton, [22] fashionableness. When, however, it comes into collision with genuine superiority, it shows its weakness. Moreover, quand le bon ton arrive, le bon sens se retire. [23]
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:11 am

Part 2 of 4

Generally speaking, every man can be in the most perfect harmony only with himself, not with his friend or even with his betrothed. For differences of individuality and temperament always produce a discord, although only slight. Therefore genuine tranquillity of the heart and perfect peace of mind, the highest blessings on earth after health, are to be found only in solitude and, as a permanent disposition, only in the deepest seclusion. If, then, a man's own self is great and rich, he enjoys the happiest state that can be found in this miserable world. Indeed, let us be frank; however intimately anyone may be tied by friendship, love, and marriage, in the end he quite honestly looks only to himself and at most to his child. The less a man is compelled, in consequence of objective or subjective conditions, to come in contact with others, the better off he is. Loneliness and solitude enable us, if not to feel all their evils at once, at any rate to survey them. Society, on the other hand, is insidious; it conceals great and often irreparable mischief behind the pretence of pastime, communication, social pleasure, and so on. A principal study for youth should be learning how to put up with loneliness, since it is a source of happiness and peace of mind. Now it follows from all this that he is best off who has depended on himself and can be all in all to himself. Even Cicero says: Nemo potest non beatissimus esse qui est totus aptus ex sese, quique in se uno ponit omnia [24] (Paradoxa, II). Again, the more a man has in himself, the less can others be to him. It is a certain feeling of self-sufficiency which restrains those of intrinsic merit and wealth from making the considerable sacrifices that are demanded by intercourse with others, let alone from seeking such associations by obviously denying themselves. The opposite of this makes ordinary people so sociable and accommodating; since it is easier for them to put up with others than to tolerate themselves. In addition, it should be remembered that in this world what has real value is not esteemed and what is esteemed has no value. The proof and consequence of this is that seclusion of every man of eminence and distinction. In accordance with all this, it will be genuine wisdom of life in the man who in himself is worth anything if, in case of need, he limits his requirements in order to preserve or extend his freedom and, in consequence, he has as few dealings as possible with his fellow-men, for relations with them are unavoidable.

On the other hand, what makes people sociable is their inability to endure loneliness and their own company. It is inner vacuity, weariness, and boredom that drive them into society and into going abroad. Their minds lack resilience for imparting any movement of their own. They try to enhance this through wine and in this way many become drunkards. For this reason, they are always in need of excitement from without and indeed the strongest, i.e. that from creatures like themselves, without which their minds sink under their own weight and lapse into a grievous lethargy.* It might also be said that each of them is only a small fraction of the Idea of humanity and, therefore, needs to be greatly supplemented by others so that, to some extent, a whole human consciousness emerges. On the other hand, whoever is a complete human being, a human being par excellence, represents a whole number, not a fraction, and therefore has enough in himself. In this sense ordinary society can be compared to that Russian horn music wherein each horn has only one note and the music is produced merely by all the horns coming together at the right moment. For the temperament and mentality of most people are as monotonous as is such a horn with its one note. Indeed, many of them look as if they always had only one and the same idea and were incapable of any other. It is easy to see from this not only why they are so bored, but also why they are so sociable and prefer most of all to go about in crowds: the gregariousness of mankind. It is the monotony of his own nature that becomes intolerable to everyone of them: omnis stultitia laborat jastidio sui: [25] only together and united are they anything at all; just like those horn players. The man of intelligence, on the other hand, is comparable to a virtuoso who performs his concert alone; or he is comparable to a piano. Just as such an instrument by itself alone is a small orchestra, so is the man of intelligence a small world; and what all those others are only by co-operation he presents in the unity of a single consciousness. Like the piano, he is no part of the symphony, but is suitable for the solo and for solitude. If he is to co-operate with them, he can do so only as the principal voice with accompaniment, like the piano; or for setting the tone in vocal music, like the piano. However, those who are fond of society may draw from this simile the rule that what their acquaintances lack in quality must to some extent be made up in quantity. One man of intelligence can be company enough; but if there are none to be found except the ordinary sort, it is a good thing to have quite a number of them so that something may result from their variety and co-operation-on the analogy of the aforesaid horn music; and for this may heaven grant you the patience!

But to that inner vacuity and barrenness of men is also attributable the fact that, when men of a better nature form a society for some noble and ideal purpose, the result is almost always that, of the crowds of people who like vermin cover all things and are always ready indiscriminately to seize on everything with the object of defeating their boredom or their defects in other circumstances, there are some who intrude or thrust themselves into that society. In a short time they either ruin the whole business, or so alter it that it becomes practically the opposite of the original intention.

Moreover, gregariousness can also be regarded as a kind of mutual mental warming of men similar to the bodily warmth which they produce by crowding together when it is very cold. But whoever has great mental warmth needs no such crowding. In the last chapter of the second volume of this work, the reader will find a fable devised in this sense by me. The result of all this is that a man's sociability is roughly in inverse ratio to his intellectual worth; and 'he is very unsociable' is tantamount to saying' he is a man of great qualities.'

Solitude confers a twofold advantage on the man of intellectual eminence; first that of being by himself and secondly that of not being with others. The latter will be highly valued if we bear in mind how much want of freedom, annoyance, and even danger are entailed in all social intercourse. La Bruyere says: tout notre mal vient de ne pouvoir etre seuls. [26] Gregariousness or sociability is one of the dangerous and even fatal tendencies, for it brings us into contact with people the great majority of whom are morally bad and intellectually dull or perverse. The unsociable man is one who does not need them; to have enough in oneself so that one does not need society is, therefore, a great piece of good fortune. For almost all our sufferings spring from society, and peace of mind, constituting next to health the most essential element of our happiness, is endangered by all society and therefore cannot really exist without a significant amount of solitude. The Cynics renounced all possessions in order to partake of the bliss of peace of mind; whoever with the same intention renounces society, has chosen the most prudent course. What Bernardin de St. Pierre says is fine and to the point: La diete des alimens nous rend la sante du corps, et celle des hommes la tranquillite de l'ame. [27] Accordingly, whoever at an early age is on friendly or even affectionate terms with solitude, has gained a gold-mine; but certainly not everyone is able to do this. For just as men are driven together originally by need and privation, so too are they by boredom, when these are removed. Without privation and boredom, everyone would probably remain alone if only because in solitude the environment is in keeping with the exclusive importance and even uniqueness which everyone has in his own eyes and which is reduced to nought by the crowded events of the world, where at every step it receives a painful dementi. In this sense, loneliness is even the natural state of everyone; it reinstates him as Adam in the original happiness that is appropriate to his nature.

But, of course, Adam had no father or mother! And so again in a different sense, loneliness is not natural to man, in so far as he did not find himself alone when he came into the world, but had parents, brothers, and sisters, and was, therefore, in a community. Accordingly, love of solitude cannot exist as an original tendency, but arises only in consequence of experience and reflection; and this will occur to the extent that our own mental powers are developed, but at the same time with an increase in our age; and so, generally speaking, a man's urge to be sociable will be inversely proportional to his age. The small child utters a cry of fear and distress as soon as it is left alone for a few moments. For a boy to be alone is a great penitence. Young people readily herd together; only the more noble-minded among them occasionally seek solitude; yet it will still be difficult for them to spend a whole day by themselves. A man, on the other hand, can easily do so; and he is able to be alone for a longer period, the older he becomes. The old man who is the sole survivor of vanished generations and is too old or dead to the pleasures of life, finds his proper element in loneliness. But here in individuals an increase in the tendency to seclusion and solitude will always occur in proportion to their intellectual worth. For, as I have said, this tendency is not a purely natural one directly brought about by needs; it is rather only an effect of the experience we have had and of the reflection thereon, particularly of the insight gained into the miserable nature, morally and intellectually, of the great majority of men. The worst thing here is that in the individual moral and intellectual shortcomings conspire and work hand in hand, the result being extremely disagreeable phenomena of all kinds that make association with most people unpleasant and even intolerable. And so although there is in this world very much that is really bad, the worst thing in it is society, so that even Voltaire, the sociable Frenchman, had to say: La terre est couverte de gens qui ne meritent pas qu'on leur parle. [28] That gentle spirit Petrarch, so strong and constant in his love of solitude, also gives the same reason for this tendency:

Cercato ho sempre solitaria vita
(Le rive il sanno, e le compagne e i boschi),
Per fuggir quest' ingegni sordi e loschi,
Che la strada del ciel' hanno smarrita. [29]


In the same sense, he amplifies the matter in his fine book, De vita solitaria, which seems to have been Zimmermann's model for his noted work on solitude. It is this merely secondary and indirect origin of unsociability that is expressed in his sarcastic vein by Chamfort when he says: On dit quelquefois d'un homme qui vit seul, il n' aime pas la societe. C'est souvent comme si on disait d'un homme qu'il n'aime pas la promenade sous le pretexte qu'il ne se promene pas volontiers le soir dans la foret de Bondy, [30]* But even the gentle Christian Angelus Silesius says in his own mythical language exactly the same thing:

Herod is a foe; Joseph is the mind
In whose dream God makes known the peril.
Bethlehem's the world, Egypt is solitude.
Flee, my soul! else suffering and death are yours.


In the same sense, Giordano Bruno gives his opinion that tanti uomini che in terra hanno voluto gustare vita celeste, dissero con una voce: 'ecee elongavi fugiens et mansi in solitudine.' [31] In this sense, Sadi the Persian says of himself in the Gulistan: 'Disgusted with my friends in Damascus, I withdrew into the desert near Jerusalem to look for the companionship of animals: In short, the same idea has been expressed by all whom Prometheus had formed of better clay. What pleasure can they derive from associating with those to whom they are related only through what is lowest and most ignoble in their own nature and thus what is commonplace, trivial, and vulgar? What can they find in those who form a community and for whom, because they cannot rise to a higher level, there is nothing left but to drag others down to theirs, which then becomes their aspiration? It is therefore, an aristocratic feeling that fosters the inclination to seclusion and solitude. All knaves are sociable; how pitiful. On the other hand, we see that a man is of a nobler nature primarily in his finding no pleasure in others; on the contrary, he ever more prefers solitude to their company. With the passing of the years, he gradually comes to see that, apart from rare exceptions, there is in the world only the choice between loneliness and vulgarity. However hard this may sound, even Angelus Silesius, notwithstanding his Christian gentleness and love, could not leave unsaid:

Solitude is necessary; yet be not vulgar,
For you can everywhere a desert find.


Now with regard to great minds, it is quite natural for these real teachers of the entire human race to feel as little inclined to frequent association with others as for schoolmasters to join in the games of the boisterous and noisy crowds of children who surround them. They have come into the world to lead mankind across the sea of error into the haven of truth and to draw it from the dark abyss of its coarseness and vulgarity up into the light of culture and refinement. It is true that they must live among men and women without, however, really belonging to them. From their early years they therefore feel that they are noticeably different from others, but only gradually and with the lapse of time do they come to a clear knowledge of the position. They then take care that their mental isolation from others is reinforced also by one that is physical, and no one is allowed to approach them, unless he himself is more or less exempt from the prevailing vulgarity.

And so from all this it follows that love of solitude does not appear directly and as an original impulse, but develops indirectly, preferably in nobler minds, and only gradually. This development is not achieved without our overcoming the natural social urge and occasionally opposing the whispered suggestion of Mephistopheles:

This nursing of the pain forgo thee,
That, like a vulture, feeds upon thy breast!
The worst society thou find'st will show thee
Thou art a man among the rest. [32]


Solitude is the lot of all pre-eminent minds and this at times they will bemoan; but they always choose it as the lesser of two evils. In this respect, however, sapere aude [33] becomes ever easier and more natural; and when a man is past sixty the urge to be alone has become really natural and even instinctive, for everything now combines to favour it. The strongest inclination to be sociable, namely love of women and the sexual impulse, no longer has any effect; in fact, the sexless condition of old age lays the foundation to a certain self-sufficiency that gradually absorbs the urge to sociability. A thousand illusions and follies have been given up; active life is for the most part over. A man has nothing more to expect, no more plans and designs. The generation to which he really belongs exists no longer; surrounded by a strange new one, he already stands objectively and essentially alone. The flight of time has then become more rapid and he would like to use it intellectually. For if only the mind has retained its strength, the great amount of knowledge and experience we have acquired, the gradually perfected elaboration of all ideas, and the great skill in the use of our powers render study of all kinds more than ever easy and interesting. We clearly see a thousand things that were previously in a cloud of uncertainty; we reach results and feel a sense of complete superiority. From long experience we have ceased to expect much from men; for, on the whole, they do not belong to those who gain on closer acquaintance. On the contrary, we know that, apart from rare and fortunate exceptions, we shall come across nothing but very defective specimens of human nature which it is better to leave alone. We are, therefore, no longer exposed to the ordinary illusions of life, and from a man's appearance we judge what he is; rarely shall we feel any desire to enter into closer relations with him. Finally, the habit of isolation and our own company has supervened and become second nature, especially if solitude has been the friend of our youth. Accordingly, the love of solitude, which formerly had first to be wrested from the social impulse, is now quite natural and simple; in solitude we are like a fish in water. Therefore every individual of eminence who is thus unlike the rest and stands alone feels, through this isolation that is essential to his nature, oppressed when he is young, but relieved when he is old.

Of course, everyone always enjoys this real privilege of old age only to the extent that he has intellectual powers; and so the eminent mind enjoys it most of all, although everyone does so to a lesser extent. Only exceedingly inferior and common natures will still be as sociable in their old age as in their youth. To a society to which they are no longer suited they are tedious and at best succeed in being tolerated, whereas formerly they were in demand.

We can also discover a teleological side to this inverse proportion between our age and the degree of our sociability. The younger a man is, the more in every respect he has to learn. Now nature has relegated him to a system of mutual instruction which he receives when associating with people like himself and in respect of which human society may be called a large Bell- Lancaster educational establishment. For books and schools are artificial institutions because they are remote from nature's plan. It is, therefore, quite proper that he visits nature's educational institution with the greater keenness, the younger he is.

Nihil est ab omni parte beatum, [34] as Horace says; and 'No lotus without a stem' is an Indian proverb. So even solitude with its many advantages has its minor drawbacks and difficulties which are, however, small in comparison with those of society. And so whoever is in himself worth anything, will always find it easier to get on without rather than with people. Yet of those disadvantages, there is one that does not as readily come to our notice as do the others. Thus through our always remaining at home, our body becomes so sensitive to external influences that every little cool breeze morbidly affects it. In the same way, through continual seclusion and solitude our mood becomes so sensitive that we feel disturbed, mortified, or ruffled by the most insignificant events, words, or even mere looks, whereas such things are entirely overlooked by those who remain always in the hurly-burly of life.

Now whenever a well-founded dislike of people has scared a man into solitude, he may not be able to endure for any length of time its bleakness, especially if he is young. I advise him to form the habit of taking into society some of his solitude, and thus learn to be alone to some extent even in company. Accordingly, he should not at once communicate to others what he is thinking; on the other hand, he should not take too literally what they say. On the contrary, he should not expect much from them, either morally or intellectually, and therefore, as regards their opinions, should strengthen in himself that indifference that is the surest way of always practising a praiseworthy tolerance. Although moving among them, he will then not be so entirely in their company, but his relations with them will be of a more purely objective character. This will protect him from too close a contact with society and thus from every contamination or even outrage. We possess even a very readable dramatic description of this restricted or entrenched sociability in the comedy El Cafe o sea la comedia nueva [35] by Moratin, especially in the character of D. Pedro in the second and third scenes of the first act. In this respect, society can also be compared to a fire where a prudent man warms himself at a proper distance, whereas the fool comes too close and then, after scorching himself, rushes out into the cold of solitude, loudly complaining that the fire burns.

(10) Envy is natural to man; yet it is simultaneously a vice and a misfortune.* We should, therefore, regard it as the enemy of our happiness and should try to stifle it as an evil demon. Seneca in fine words directs us to do this: nostra nos sine comparatione delectent; nunquam erit felix quem torquebit felicior (De ira, 1II. 30); and again: quum adspexeris quot te antecedant, cogita quot sequantur [36] (Epistulae, 15). We should, therefore, more often consider those who are worse off than we, for those who are better off only appear to be. Even when actual evils have befallen us, the most effective consolation, although flowing from the same source as envy, is afforded by the thought of greater sufferings than ours and then by association with those who are in the same situation, thus the socii malorum. [37]

So much for the active side of envy. As regards the passive, it should be remembered that no hatred is so implacable as that of envy. We should, therefore, not incessantly and assiduously endeavour to excite it; on the contrary, it would be better for us to renounce this pleasure, like many another, because of its dangerous consequences.

There are three kinds of aristocracy: (1) of birth and rank, (2) of money, and (3) of the mind or intellect. The last is really the most distinguished and is acknowledged as such if only it is given time. Even Frederick the Great said: les ames privitegiees rangent a l'egal des souverains, [38] and this to his chamberlain who took umbrage at the fact that, whereas ministers and generals dined at the chamberlain's table, Voltaire should be given a place at the table where only monarchs and their princes sat. Each of these aristocracies is surrounded by a host of envious people who are secretly embittered towards any member thereof. If they are not under any obligation to fear him, they are at pains to let him know in a variety of ways that he is no better than they. But it is these very efforts on their part that show how convinced they are of the opposite. The method to be adopted by those who are exposed to envy consists in keeping at a distance the whole host of the envious and avoiding as much as possible all contact with them so that they remain separated by a wide gulf. If this is not possible, the best method is to bear their attacks with the greatest composure, for their very source neutralizes them. We see also the general application of this method. On the other hand, the members of one aristocracy will for the most part get on well with those of the other two without being envious, because each will match his advantages and privileges with those of the others.

(11) A plan should be given mature and repeated consideration before it is carried out; and even after everything has been thoroughly thought out, we should still make some concession to the inadequacy of all human knowledge. For there may always be circumstances which we cannot possibly investigate or foresee and which might upset the whole calculation. This reflection will always affect the negative side of the balance and counsel us not to move unnecessarily in important matters: quieta non movere. [39] But when once we have come to a decision and have set to work so that everything has now to take its course and only the result is awaited, we should not worry ourselves by constant reflection on what has already been carried out and by repeated doubts about possible danger. On the contrary, we should now dismiss the matter entirely from our minds and regard as closed all thought of it, confidently convinced that at the proper time we gave everything mature consideration. This advice is also given by the Italian proverb: legala bene, e poi lascia la andare, [40] which Goethe translates: 'Saddle well and confidently ride.' Incidentally, many of his aphorisms that are given under the heading of' proverbial' are proverbs from the Italian. If, however, the result is bad, this is because all human affairs are the sport of chance and error. Socrates, the wisest of mankind, needed a warning genius or [x] to do the right thing in his own personal affairs, or at any rate to avoid false steps; and this proves that no human intellect is adequate for this purpose. Therefore the saying, originating ostensibly from one of the Popes, that we are to blame, at any rate to some extent, for every misfortune that befalls us, is not absolutely true in all cases, although it is so in the great majority. Even a feeling of this truth seems to be largely responsible for the fact that men try to conceal their misfortunes as much as possible and to put on them the best face they can. They are afraid that their guilt may be inferred from their suffering.

(12) In the case of a misfortune that has already occurred and therefore cannot be altered, we should not even permit ourselves to think that it might have been different; still less that it could have been prevented. For this simply intensifies the pain to the point of its becoming intolerable and we thus become [x]. [41] On the contrary, we should follow the example of King David who, so long as his son lay on a bed of sickness, incessantly assailed Jehovah with supplications and entreaties, but who snapped his fingers and thought no more of it after the son had died. But whoever is not light-hearted enough for this should take refuge in fatalism since there is revealed to him the great truth that all that happens occurs necessarily and is therefore inevitable.

In spite of everything, this rule is one-sided. It is, of course, useful in misfortunes for our immediate relief and consolation; but if, as is often the case, our own negligence or rashness is at any rate partially responsible for them, the repeated and painful deliberation on how they could have been prevented is a wholesome and salutary self-discipline for our experience and improvement and so for the future. We should not try, as we usually do, to extenuate, palliate, or lessen faults that are obviously committed by us, but should confess them and bring them in all their enormity clearly before our eyes so that we may firmly make up our minds to avoid them in future. Here, of course, we have to undergo the self-inflicted pain of dissatisfaction with ourselves; but [x]. [42]

(13) In all that concerns our weal and woe, we should keep a tight rein on our imagination. Above all, we should not build castles in the air since they are too expensive; for with a sigh we have to pull them down again immediately afterwards. But we should be still more on our guard against tormenting and distressing ourselves by depicting merely possible misfortunes. Thus if these were purely unfounded or indeed very far-fetched, we should know at once on waking up from such a dream that the whole thing had been only an illusion and should, therefore, be the more pleased with the better reality, and in any case see here a warning against quite remote, though possible, misfortunes. But our imagination does not readily play with such things; at best, it builds bright castles in the air in quite a leisurely fashion. The material for its sombre dreams are misfortunes that to some extent actually threaten us, although remotely. It magnifies them, brings their possibility much nearer than is actually the case, and paints them in the most terrible colours. On waking up, we cannot at once shake off such a dream as we can a pleasant one; for reality instantly refutes and disproves this and at best leaves behind in the lap of possibility a faint hope. But if we have yielded to a fit of the blues,43 images and figures are brought close to us which do not so readily vanish again; for the possibility of the thing generally is unshaken and we are not always able to estimate this. Possibility then easily becomes probability and so we have delivered ourselves into the hands of anguish and uneasiness. Therefore things that affect our weal and woe should be considered by us with reason and judgement and consequently with cool and dispassionate deliberation; thus we should operate with mere concepts in the abstract. Imagination should here be left out of the question, for it is not competent to judge. On the contrary, it conjures up mere images or pictures that agitate our feelings unprofitably and often very painfully. This rule should be most strictly observed in the evening; for just as darkness makes us timid and causes us to see everywhere terrifying shapes, so does obscurity or confusion of ideas have an analogous effect since every uncertainty gives rise to a feeling of insecurity. And so in the evening, when relaxation has enveloped our understanding and power of judgement in a shroud of subjective obscurity, the intellect is tired and [x], [44] and is incapable of going to the root of things. If the objects of our meditation concern our personal affairs, they can then easily assume a dangerous aspect and become terrifying pictures. This is often the case at night when we are in bed; for then the mind is wholly relaxed and therefore the power of judgement is no longer equal to its task, but the imagination is still active. For night imparts to everything its black colour. Therefore when we go to sleep or even wake up in the night, our thoughts are frequently almost as bad distortions and perversions of things as are dreams; moreover, if they concern our personal affairs, they are usually as black as possible and even frightful. In the morning all such terrible apparitions have like dreams vanished, as is expressed by the Spanish proverb: noche tinta, blanco el dia (the night is coloured, the day is white). But also in the evening when the candles are burning, the understanding, like the eye, does not see things so clearly as it does during the day; therefore this time is not suited for meditating on serious and especially unpleasant affairs for which the morning is the right time, as it also is generally without exception for all work, whether mental or physical. For the morning is the youth of the day; everything is bright, fresh, and easy; we feel strong and have at our complete disposal all our faculties. We should not shorten it by getting up late, or even waste it in unworthy occupations or gossip; on the contrary, we should regard it as the quintessence of life and to a certain extent treat it as sacred. Evening, on the other hand, is the day's old age; at such a time we are dull, garrulous, and frivolous. Each day is a little life for which our waking up is the birth and which is brought to an end by sleep as death. Thus going to sleep is a daily death and every waking up a new birth. In fact to complete the simile, we could regard the discomfort and difficulty of getting up as labour pains.

But generally speaking, the state of our health, sleep, nourishment, temperature, weather, environment, and many other external circumstances powerfully influence our mood and hence our thoughts. Thus both our view of an affair and our capacity for any work are subject so much to time and even to place. Hence

To the serious mood pay heed,
For seldom does it come.

-- Goethe, Generalbeichte.


Not only must we await objective conceptions and original ideas as to whether they choose to come and when; but even a thorough deliberation of a personal matter does not always succeed at the time we have fixed for it in advance and when we have prepared ourselves to deal with it. On the contrary, it too chooses its own time and then the train of thought appropriate to it becomes active of its own accord; we then follow it up with all our interest.

The reining in of the imagination, which I have recommended, means also that we do not let it conjure up and depict for us injustices previously suffered, injuries, losses, insults, slights, humiliations, and so on; for in this way we again excite long-slumbering anger and resentment and all the hateful passions whereby our nature is polluted. According to a fine parable by Proclus the Neoplatonist) there dwells in every town the mob ([x]) as well as those who are noble and distinguished; so too in every man) even the noblest and most exalted, there exist, according to his disposition) the meanest and commonest elements of human and even of animal nature. This mob must not be allowed to revolt or peep out of the window, for it has an ugly appearance and its demagogues are the flights of imagination I have described. Here we might also mention that the smallest vexation, whether coming from people or things) can swell up into a hideous monster and put us at our wit's end through our constantly brooding over it ·and painting it in glaring colours on an enlarged scale. We should rather take an extremely prosaic and matter-of-fact view of everything unpleasant, so that we are able to accept it as easily as possible.

Just as small objects held close to the eyes restrict our field of vision and conceal the world) so the people and things of our immediate environment) however insignificant and unimportant) will often engross our attention and thoughts to excess and even unpleasantly) thus leaving no room for thoughts and matters of importance. We should work against such a tendency.

(14) When we look at something we do not possess) the thought readily occurs: 'Ah, if that were mine', and we are made sensible of our privation. Instead of this, we should say more often: 'Ah, if that were not mine'. I mean that we should endeavour sometimes to regard what we possess as it would appear to us after we had lost it. Indeed) we should do this with everything) whatever it may be; property, health, friends) those we love) wife) children) horse) and dog. For in most cases) the loss of things first tells us of their value. On the other hand) if we consider things in the way recommended by me) the result will be first that their possession will at once give us more pleasure than formerly) and secondly that we shall do everything to prevent their loss. Thus we shall not endanger our property) exasperate friends) expose a wife's faithfulness to temptation) fail to look after the health of children) and so on. We often try to brighten the gloom of the present by speculating on favourable possibilities and invent many different kinds of fanciful hopes. Every one of these is pregnant with a disappointment that never fails to appear when it is dashed by the hard facts of life. I t would be better for us to make the many unpleasant possibilities the theme of our speculation. For this would cause us to take steps to prevent their happening and also give us pleasant surprises in the event of their not being realized. Are we not always noticeably more cheerful after we have passed through some anxiety? In fact, it is even a good thing sometimes to picture to ourselves great misfortunes that might possibly befall us so that we can more easily endure the many minor actual ones that subsequently happen to us. For we then console ourselves by looking back at the great misfortunes that did not befall us. When, however, we consider this rule, we must not neglect the one that preceded it.

(15) The affairs and events that concern us turn up quite separately with no order or reference to one another, in the most glaring contrast, and with nothing in common except that they are simply our affairs. Therefore, to be in keeping with them, our thoughts and cares concerning them are bound to be just as abrupt. Accordingly, when we undertake anything, we must leave out of consideration everything else and dismiss the matter from our minds, in order to attend to each thing in its own time, to enjoy or endure it, and be wholly unconcerned about everything else. We must, therefore, have our thoughts in a chest of drawers, so to speak, one of which we open while all the others remain shut. In this way we prevent the heavy burden of an anxiety from spoiling every little pleasure of the present and depriving us of all peace; we see to it that the consideration of one thing will not supplant that of another, that the attention to an important matter will not result in the neglect of many affairs of small importance, and so on. But, in particular, whoever is capable of lofty and noble thoughts should never allow his mind to be so completely filled and engrossed with personal affairs and trivial worries that they bar the way to such thoughts; for this would really be propter vitam vivendi perdere causas. [45] Of course, self-restraint is necessary for this proper management of ourselves, as it is for so many other things. For this, however, we should be strengthened by the thought that everyone has to endure a great deal of severe outside control without which life would be impossible. Nevertheless, a little self-restraint applied at the right place afterwards prevents much restraint from without, just as a small section of a circle close to the centre corresponds to one at the periphery that is often a hundred times greater. By our self-restraint, more than by anything else, we avoid that restraint from without; this is what Seneca says: Si vis tibi omnia subjicere, te subjice rationi [46] (Epistulae, 37). We also have self-restraint always in our power; and if the worst comes to the worst, or where it touches our tenderest spot, we can discontinue it. Restraint from without, on the other hand, is harsh, inconsiderate, unsparing, and merciless. It is, therefore, prudent to anticipate this through self-restraint.

(16) We should set a limit to our wishes, curb our desires, and subdue our anger, always mindful of the fact that the individual can attain only an infinitely small share of the things that are worth having whereas many evils must necessarily befall everyone. In other words, [x], abstinere et sustinere,  [47] is a rule that must be observed, otherwise neither wealth nor power can prevent us from feeling wretched. This is the object of Horace's words:

Inter cuncta leges, et percontabere doctos
Qua ratione queas traducere leniter aevum;
Ne te semper inops agitet vexetque cupido,
Ne pavor, et rerum mediocriter utilium spes. [48]


(I7) '[x] (vita motu constat) [49] says Aristotle, who is obviously right. Accordingly, our physical life consists in ceaseless motion; and also our inner mental life constantly demands occupation, occupation with something through thought or action. A proof of this is given by that tapping with the fingers or with anything that comes to hand, to which those men at once resort who have nothing to do or to think about. In other words, our existence is essentially restless and fidgety; and therefore complete inactivity soon becomes intolerable, since it gives rise to terrible boredom. Now this impulse should be regulated so that it may be methodically and thus better satisfied. Activity to do something, if possible to make something, at any rate to learn something, is therefore absolutely essential to a man's happiness. He longs to make use of his powers and would like somehow to perceive the result thereof. The greatest satisfaction in this respect, however, is given when we make or manufacture something, whether it be a book or a basket; but we are at once pleased when we see a work every day grow in our hands and finally reach completion. This pleasure is afforded by a work of art, a manuscript, or even manual labour; and of course the nobler the work, the greater the pleasure. In this respect, the happiest are those highly gifted men who are aware of their ability to produce great works of significance and coherence. This gives their whole life an interest of a higher order and imparts to it a flavour that is lacking in the lives of others, which by comparison are, therefore, very dull and insipid. For such highly gifted men life and the world, together with everything common and material, have a second and higher interest, a formal interest, since these contain the theme of their works. As soon as the pressure of personal needs allows them time to breathe, they are assiduously engaged throughout their lives in the collection of material. To a certain extent, they have a double intellect; one for ordinary affairs (matters of the will) similar to that of everyone else; and one for the purely objective conception of things. Thus their lives are twofold, for they are simultaneously spectators and actors, whereas all the rest are merely actors. Nevertheless, everyone should do something according to the measure of his abilities. For on long pleasure-trips we see how pernicious is the effect on us of not having any systematic activity or work. On such trips we feel positively unhappy because we are without any proper occupation and are, so to speak, torn from our natural element. Effort, trouble, and struggle with opposition are as necessary to man as grubbing in the ground is to a mole. The stagnation that results from being wholly contented with a lasting pleasure would be for him intolerable. The full pleasure of his existence is in overcoming obstacles which may be of a material nature as in business and the affairs of life, or of an intellectual, as in learning and investigating. The struggle with them and the triumph make him happy. If he lacks the opportunity for this, he creates it as best he can; according to the nature of his individuality, he will hunt or play cup and ball; or, guided by the unconscious urge of his nature, he will pick a quarrel, hatch a plot, or be involved in fraud and all kinds of wickedness, merely in order to put an end to an intolerable state of repose. Difficilis in otio quies. [50]
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

Postby admin » Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:12 am

Part 3 of 4

(18) For the guiding star of our efforts we should take not the pictures of our imagination, but clearly thought-out concepts. But in most cases the opposite happens. Thus on closer examination, we shall find that what ultimately turns the scale in our resolves are often not concepts and judgements, but a picture of the imagination which represents one of the alternatives. In a novel by Voltaire or Diderot, I do not know which, to the hero standing as a young Hercules at the parting of the ways virtue always appeared in the form of his old tutor holding a snuffbox in his left hand and a pinch of snuff in his right and thus moralizing; vice, on the other hand, always appeared in the form of his mother's chambermaid. Especially in youth, the goal of our happiness is fixed in the form of a few pictures that hover before us and often persist for half our lives and sometimes till the very end. They are really taunting ghosts; for when we have acquired them, they fade away into nothing since we learn from experience that they achieve absolutely nothing of what they promised. Of the same nature are the individual scenes of domestic, private, and social life, pictures of our residence, environment, marks of honour, evidence of respect, and so on; chaque fou a sa marotte. [51] The picture of those we love is much the same. It is natural, of course, that for us things should go like this; for being something immediate, the thing intuitively perceived has a more direct effect on our will than has the concept or abstract thought. But this gives us merely the universal without the particular, and yet it isjust the particular that contains reality. Therefore the concept can affect our will only indirectly; and yet it is only the concept that keeps its promise; and so it is education and culture to rely on it alone. Of course, it will sometimes need elucidation and paraphrase through some pictures, yet only cum grano salis. [52]

(19) The foregoing rule may be subsumed under the more universal that we should always be masters of the impression generally of what is present and intuitively perceived by us. Compared with what is merely thought and known, this impression is exceedingly strong by virtue not of its matter and substance which are often very limited, but of its form, perceptibility, and immediacy which forcibly invade the mind, disturb its peace, or shatter its resolutions. For what is present and intuitively perceived can be readily surveyed and always acts at once with all its force. On the other hand, ideas and reasons require time and leisure so that we can think them out one at a time; and so we cannot have them at every moment wholly before us. Consequently, the sight of something pleasant attracts us even though we have given it up as a result of careful thought. In the same way, we are annoyed by an opinion that we know to be wholly incompetent; we are angered by an offence whose contemptible nature is clear; and likewise ten reasons for thinking that there is no danger are outweighed by the false illusion of its actual presence. In all this we clearly see the fundamental and original irrationality of our true nature. Women will often succumb to a similar impression, and few men have such an excess of reasoning faculty that they would not have to suffer from its effects. Now where we are unable entirely to overcome that impression by means of mere ideas, the best thing to do is to neutralize it by the opposite impression; for example, to neutralize the impression of an insult by looking for those who hold us in high esteem and the impression of a threatening danger by considering what counteracts it. In the Nouveaux essais, Livre I, c. 2, § 11, Leibniz mentions an Italian who was able to withstand even the tortures of the rack. This he did by never for one moment allowing the picture of the gallows to vanish from his imagination, for this would have been his fate had he confessed. And so from time to time he called out: io ti vedo,s3 words that he afterwards explained in this sense. For the very same reason we are here considering, it is difficult for us not to be made irresolute when all around us are of a different opinion and behave accordingly, even when we are convinced of their error. For a fugitive king who is being pursued and is travelling strictly incognito, the secretly observed ceremonious and submissive attitude of his trusted attendant must be an almost necessary encouragement lest in the end he should have doubts about himself.

(20) After stressing in the second chapter the great value of health as the first and most important element of our happiness, I will here state one or two quite general instructions for strengthening and maintaining it.

We may harden ourselves by imposing on the body, as a whole as well as on each of its parts, many strains and burdens while we are healthy and by accustoming ourselves to withstand adverse influences of all kinds. On the other hand, as soon as an unhealthy state appears either in the whole body or one of its parts, the opposite course should be taken and the diseased body or part should be spared and nursed in every possible way; for that which is ailing and debilitated is incapable of being hardened.

The muscle is strengthened by vigorous use, whereas the nerves are weakened thereby. Thus we may exercise our muscles by every suitable exertion but should protect our nerves therefrom; and so the eyes should be protected from too bright a light, especially reflected light, from all straining in the dark, and also from the prolonged examination of exceedingly small objects. In the same way, the ears should be protected from too loud a noise. Above all the brain should not be exposed to exertions that are forced, incessant, or ill-timed. Accordingly, we should let it rest during digestion; for the very same vital force that forms ideas in the brain is hard at work in the stomach and intestines for the purpose of preparing chyme and chyle. For similar reasons, the brain should be protected from exertion during, or even after, strenuous muscular exercise. It is much the same with the motor nerves as with the sensory; and just as the pain felt by us in injured limbs has its real seat in the brain, so it is not actually the legs and arms that walk and work, but the brain, namely that part of it which, by means of the oblong cord and the spine, stimulates the nerves of those limbs and thereby sets them in motion. Accordingly, the fatigue felt in our legs or arms has its true seat in the brain; and for this reason only those muscles become fatigued whose movement is arbitrary and voluntary, in other words, comes from the brain, not those that work involuntarily, like the heart. Therefore the brain is obviously impaired if we force on it, simultaneously or even at short intervals, strenuous muscular activity and intellectual exertion. This is not at variance with the fact that, at the beginning of a walk; or generally during short strolls, we often feel enhanced mental activity; for no fatigue of the aforesaid parts of the brain has yet occurred. On the other hand, such light muscular activity and the respiration increased thereby assist the flow to the brain of blood that is arterial and now better oxygenated. But we should especially give the brain the full measure of sleep necessary to restore it; for sleep is to the whole man what winding up is to a clock. (Cf. World as Will and Representation, vol. ii, chap. 19.) This measure will vary according to the development and activity of the brain; yet to go beyond this would be a mere waste of time, since the sleep then loses in depth what it gains in length. (Cf. World as Will and Representation, vol. ii, chap. 19 at the end.)* In general, we should clearly understand that our thinking is nothing but the organic function of the brain and is accordingly, as regards exertion and rest, in a position analogous to every other organic activity. Just as excessive strain ruins the eyes, so does it damage the brain. It has been rightly said that just as the stomach digests, so does the brain think. The erroneous notion of a soul which is immaterial, simple, essentially and always thinking, consequently untiring and which is merely lodged in the brain and requires nothing in the world, has certainly misled many into senseless practices and a blunting of their mental powers. For example, Frederick the Great once tried to break himself entirely of the habit of sleeping. The professors of philosophy would do well not to encourage, through their old women's philosophy that tries to be so accommodating to the catechism, such an erroneous notion that is pernicious even from a practical point of view. We should accustom ourselves to regard our mental powers absolutely as physiological functions in order to treat them accordingly, to spare or apply them, and to remember that all physical suffering, malady, or disorder, in whatever part of the body it may be, affects the mind. We are enabled best to do this by Cabanis in his work Des rapports du physique et du moral de l'homme.

Neglect of the advice here given is the reason why many great minds and also great scholars have in their old age become feeble-minded, childish, and even mad. For example, the famous English poets of the nineteenth century, such as Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth, Southey, and others, became in their old age and even in their sixties mentally dull and incapable and lapsed into imbecility. The explanation of this is undoubtedly the fact that all were tempted by high pay to treat literature as a trade and thus to write for money. This seduced them into unnatural exertions; and whoever puts, his Pegasus to the yoke and drives his Muse with a whip will have to pay the penalty in the same way as the man who has abused his sexual powers. I suspect that even Kant overworked in the last years of his life, after he had finally become famous, and thus brought on the second childhood of his last four years. On the other hand, the gentlemen of the Weimar Court, Goethe, Wieland, Knebel, retained their mental powers and activity until they were very old because they were not hack-writers. It was precisely the same with Voltaire.

Every month of the year has a peculiar influence on our health, the state of our body generally, and even of our mind, an influence which is direct, that is to say, independent of the weather.

C. Our Attitude to Others

(21) To get through life, we shall find it expedient to have a great deal of foresight and forbearance; the former will protect us from injury and loss, and the latter from disputes and quarrels.

Whoever has to live with men and women should not absolutely condemn any individual, not even the worst, the most contemptible, or the most ridiculous, in so far as he is once produced and given by nature. On the contrary, such an individual has to be taken as something unalterable who, in consequence of an eternal and metaphysical principle, is bound to be as he is. In bad cases we should remember Goethe's words: 'there must be such queer birds, however.' [54] If we act otherwise, we commit an injustice and challenge the other man to a contest of life and death. For no one can alter his real individuality, that is, his moral character, intellectual powers, temperament, physiognomy, and so on. If we now condemn him absolutely, there is nothing for him but to treat us as a mortal enemy; for we are willing to grant him the right to exist only on condition that he becomes different from what he invariably is. To be able to live among men and women, we must, therefore, allow everyone to exist with his given individuality, whatever this may prove to be; and our only concern should be to use it in the way permitted by its nature and character. But we should not hope to change it or condemn it out of hand for what it is. This is the true meaning of the maxim 'live and let live'; the task, however, is not so easy as it is reasonable, and fortunate is the man who is able to avoid for good and all very many individuals. To learn to put up with people, we should exercise our patience on inanimate objects that, by virtue of mechanical or other physical necessity, stubbornly resist our actions; every day there is occasion for this. Afterwards we learn to apply to people the patience gained in this way in that we accustom ourselves to think that, whenever they thwart us, they inevitably do so by virtue of a necessity which arises from their nature and is just as strict as is that with which inanimate objects operate. It is, therefore, as foolish to be indignant over their actions as to be angry with a stone that rolls on to our path. With many people our wisest thought is: 'I shall not change them, and so I will make use of them.'

(22) It is astonishing how easily and quickly homogeneity or heterogeneity of mind and disposition between men shows itself in conversation; it is noticeable in every trifle. Even if the conversation is about the strangest and most insignificant things, one of two essentially different natures will be more or less displeased by almost every sentence that is uttered by the other; and in many cases he will be really annoyed. People of similar temperament, on the other hand, at once feel a certain agreement in everything; and in the case of great similarity, such agreement soon flows into perfect harmony and even unison. From this is first explained why quite ordinary people are so sociable and always so readily find really good company-those dear, amiable, honest folk. With unusual people the reverse is the case; and this is the more so, the more outstanding they are; so that in their seclusion they may be at times really delighted at having discovered in someone else a cord, however slender, which is in tune with themselves. For each can be to another only as much as that other is to him. Really great minds, like eagles, build their nests in lofty solitude. In the second place, it is easy to see how men of similar disposition find one another so quickly just as if they were drawn together by magnetic force; kindred souls greet each other from afar. Of course, we shall have occasion to observe this most frequently in those with vulgar natures or inferior gifts, but only because their name is legion; whereas better and more distinguished natures are rare and this is their name. Accordingly, in a large company, for example, devoted to practical purposes, two downright scoundrels will recognize each other as quickly as if they wore a badge and will come together to plot some abuse or treachery. In the same way, per impossibile, [55] if we picture to ourselves a large company of very intelligent and clever men except for two blockheads who happen to be there, these two will feel drawn to each other by sympathy and each will soon be heartily pleased at having come across at least one sensible and rational man. It is really remarkable to witness how two such men, especially if they are morally and intellectually inferior, recognize each other at first sight, how keenly desirous they are of coming near to each other, how affably and gladly they hasten to greet each other, just as if they were old friends. It is so striking that we are tempted to assume, in accordance with the Buddhist doctrine of metempsychosis, that they had been friends in a former life.

Nevertheless, even in the case of great agreement and accord, what keeps people apart and also produces between them a temporary discord, is the diversity of the mood they have at the moment. For everyone this is almost invariably different, according to his present circumstances, occupation, environment, physical state, passing train of thought, and so on. From all this discords occur even between the most harmonious personalities. To be able always to make the necessary correction for the removal of this disturbance and to introduce a uniform temperature, would be an achievement of the highest culture. What uniformity of mood can do for a social gathering may be seen from the fact that even a large company is roused to lively communicativeness and sincere interest with a general feeling of pleasure as soon as something objective influences them all at the same time and in the same way, whether this be a danger, hope, piece of news, a rare spectacle, a play, some music, or anything else. For by overcoming all private interests, such things produce a general unity of mood. In the absence of such an objective influence, a subjective one is as a rule seized; accordingly, bottles of wine are the usual means for introducing into a party a communal spirit. Even tea and coffee serve the same purpose.

But that discord, so readily introduced into all society by the diversity of moods at the moment, also partly explains why everyone is idealized and sometimes appears almost transfigured in the memory that is released from this and all similar disturbing, though fleeting, influences. Memory acts like the convex lens of a camera obscura; it contracts everything and thus produces a much finer picture than the original. Through every absence we secure, to some extent, the advantage of being seen in this way. For although the idealizing memory requires plenty of time for the completion of its work, a beginning of this is at once made. It is, therefore, even prudent for us to see our friends and acquaintances only after considerable intervals of time; for then, on seeing them again, we shall note that memory has already been at work.

(23) No one can see above himself; by this I mean that everyone sees in someone else only as much as he himself is; for he can grasp and understand him only to the extent of his own intelligence. Now if this is of the lowest order, no intellectual gifts, not even the greatest, will have any effect on him; and he will see nothing in their possessor except the lowest elements in his individual nature, and thus only all his weaknesses and defects of temperament and character. That other man will, therefore, be to him of a composite nature; his higher intellectual abilities are just as non-existent as are colours to the blind. For all minds are invisible to him who has none; and any value attaching to a work is a product of the value of the work itself and of the range of knowledge of the man who is giving his opinion. It follows from this that we are reduced to the level of everyone with whom we speak, since all the advantages we may have over him disappear and even the self-denial necessary for this remains wholly unacknowledged. Now when we consider how utterly vulgar and inferior and so how thoroughly common most people are, we shall see that it is not possible to talk to them without ourselves becoming common for the time being (on the analogy of electrical distribution). We shall then thoroughly understand the real meaning and point of the expression 'to demean ourselves'; yet we shall also be glad to avoid the society of all with whom we can communicate only by means of the partie honteuse [56] of our nature. We shall see also that with fools and blockheads there is only one way of showing our intelligence and that is by not talking to them. But then, of course, many in society will sometimes feel like a dancer who went to a ball where he met only lame people; with whom should he dance?

(24) That man gains my respect (and he is one in a hundred) who, when he has to wait for anything and is therefore sitting with nothing to do, does not at once rattle or beat time with the first thing that comes into his hands, whether it be his stick, a knife and fork, or anything else. He is probably thinking of something. On the other hand, it is evident that with many people seeing has completely taken the place of thinking. They try to become aware of their existence by making a noise, that is, when no cigar is handy which serves this very purpose. For the same reason, they are incessantly all eyes and ears for everything that is going on around them.

(25) La Rochefoucauld has made the pertinent remark that it is difficult to feel simultaneously for anyone veneration and great affection, Accordingly, we should have to choose whether we wanted to gain men's affection or their respect. Their affection is always selfish although in very different ways; moreover, the means whereby we earn it are not always calculated to make us feel proud. In the main, a man will be popular to the extent that he moderates his claims on the heads and hearts of others and indeed does so in earnest and without dissimulation not merely out of forbearance for them, which is rooted in contempt. If we recall here the very true saying of Helvetius: le degre d'esprit necessaire pour nous plaire, est une mesure assez exacte du degre d'esprit que nous avons; [57] the conclusion follows from these premisses. With men's veneration, on the other hand, the case is the very opposite; for it is extorted from them only against their will and is for that reason often concealed. Therefore, at heart, it gives us a much greater satisfaction; it is connected with our worth, a fact that is not directly true of men's affection; for this is subjective, whereas veneration is objective. Affection, of course, is more useful to us.

(26) Most men are so subjective that at bottom nothing whatever but they themselves interests them. The result is that, with everything that is said, they at once think of themselves and every chance reference to anything personal, however remote, monopolizes and engrosses their whole attention. Thus they have no power left over for grasping the objective side of a discussion and with them no arguments are of any effect when once these are opposed to their interests or vanity. Thus they are so readily distracted, so easily insulted, offended, or annoyed, that in discussing with them anything objectively, we cannot be too careful to avoid any possible and perhaps derogatory reference of our remarks to the worthy and sensitive souls whom we have before us. This alone, and nothing else, worries them; and whereas they cannot feel or understand what is true and striking, or fine, beautiful, and witty in the words of someone else, they are most sensitive to everything that could hurt, even most remotely and indirectly, their petty vanity, or could in any way reflect prejudicially on their exceedingly precious selves. Thus in their touchiness, they are like the little dog on whose paws we inadvertently tread and whose yapping has then to be endured; or they resemble a patient covered with sores and boils with whom we must very carefully avoid all possible contact. Now with many men matters go so far that if intellect and understanding are brought to light, or in conversation with them are not sufficiently concealed, they feel these to be a positive insult; although for the time being they hide their feelings. But afterwards, the man who lacks experience of life reflects and ruminates in vain on these matters and asks how on earth he could have incurred their rancour and hatred. By virtue of the same subjectivity, they are also just as easily flattered and won. And so their judgement is in most cases corrupt and merely a statement in favour of their party or class, not something objective and impartial. All this is due to the fact that in them the will far outweighs knowledge and their meagre intellect is wholly in the service of the will from which, even for one moment, it cannot free itself.

Astrology furnishes a splendid proof of the contemptible subjectivity of men in consequence whereof they refer everything to themselves and from every idea at once go straight back to themselves. Astrology refers the course of celestial bodies to the miserable ego; it also establishes a connection between the comets in heaven and the squabbles and rascalities on earth. But this has always been done even in the most ancient times. (See, for example, Stobaeus, Eclogae, lib. I, c. 22, § 9, p. 478.)

(27) When any absurdity is uttered in public or company, or is written in literature and well received, or at any rate is not refuted, we should not despair and think that that is the end of the matter. On the contrary, we should know and take comfort in the thought that afterwards the matter will gradually be scrutinized, elucidated, thought over, considered, discussed, and, in most cases, ultimately judged correctly. Thus after a time, the length of which will depend on the difficulty of the subject, almost everyone understands what a clear mind saw at once. Meanwhile, of course, we must be patient. For a man of correct insight among those who are duped and deluded resembles one whose watch is right while all the clocks in the town give the wrong time. He alone knows the correct time, but of what use is this to him? The whole world is guided by the clocks that show the wrong time; even those are so guided who know that his watch alone states the correct time.

(28) People resemble children in that they become naughty if we spoil them; and so we should not be too indulgent and ingratiating to anyone. As a rule, we shall not lose a friend by refusing him a loan, but may very easily do so if we grant him one. In the same way, we shall not readily lose a friend by proud and somewhat careless behaviour, but this is often possible if we show too much friendliness and courtesy, for these make him arrogant and unbearable, and thus a breach ensues. But in particular, the thought that we stand in need of men is positively too much for them; the inevitable consequences of this are arrogance and insolence. With some people rudeness to a certain extent occurs when we deal with them frequently or speak to them confidentially. Soon they will think that we ought to put up with anything from them and they will try to transgress the limits of good manners. This is why so few are fit to become more intimately acquainted with us and why we should specially guard against becoming familiar with vulgar natures. Now if a man gets the idea that he is much more necessary to me than I am to him, he at once feels as if I had stolen something from him; he will try to have his revenge and get it back. Superiority in our dealings with men results solely from our not needing them at all and our letting them see this. For this reason, it is advisable from time to time to let everyone feel, whether man or woman, that we can very well manage without them. This strengthens friendship; in fact with most men it can do no harm if, now and then, in our attitude to them we insert a grain of disdain. They attach all the more value to our friendship: chi non istima vien stimato (who esteems not is esteemed) says a fine Italian proverb. If, however, a man is really of very great value to us, we must conceal this from him as if it were a crime. Yet this is not very gratifying, but for all that it is true. Indeed dogs can hardly stand too much kindness, let alone human beings.

(29) It is often the case that those who are of a nobler nature and more highly gifted betray, especially when they are young, a surprising lack of knowledge of men and of worldly wisdom and are, therefore, easily deceived or otherwise led astray. Vulgar natures, on the other hand, are able to get on in the world much better and more rapidly. The reason for this is that, with lack of experience, we have to judge a priori and that in general no experience comes up to what is a priori. Thus this a priori suggests to common people just their own selfish point of view; but it does not do this to those who are noble and eminent. For precisely as such are they so very different from the rest; and as they appraise the thoughts and actions of others in accordance with their own, their calculation does not prove to be correct.

Now even if such a noble character· has finally learnt a posteriori, namely from the advice of others and from his own experience, what is to be expected generally from men, thus that five-sixths of them are so constituted morally or intellectually that whoever is not through circumstances brought into relation with them, had better avoid them in advance and remain as far as possible from all contact with them-still he will hardly ever obtain an adequate notion of their paltry and contemptible nature. On the contrary, as long as he lives, he will always have to extend and add to his notion of them, but in the meantime he is bound to make many miscalculations to his own detriment. Then again, after he has actually taken to heart the advice he has obtained, it will occasionally happen that, when he is in the company of those still unknown to him, he will be surprised to discover how thoroughly reasonable they all seem to be in their conversation and demeanour, how honest, sincere, virtuous, and trustworthy they are, as well as shrewd and clever. Yet this should not disturb him, for the reason is merely that nature is not like inferior poets who, when they present knaves or fools, go to work so clumsily and deliberately that we see the poet standing, as it were, behind all such characters, continually disavowing their sentiments and their words, and exclaiming in a tone of warning: 'This is a knave; that is a fool; do not attach any value to what he says.' Nature, on the other hand, goes to work as do Shakespeare and Goethe in whose dramas every character, even though he be the devil himself, carries his point while he stands before us and speaks. He is interpreted so objectively that we are drawn towards his interests and are forced to sympathize with him. For such a character, like the works of nature, is developed from an inner principle by virtue whereof what is said and done appears to be natural and thus necessary. Therefore whoever expects to see devils go through the world with horns and fools with jingling bells will always be their prey or plaything. Moreover, there is the fact that in intercourse with others people are like the moon and hunchbacks in that they always show only one side. Indeed everyone has an inborn talent for working his physiognomy up into a mask by way of mimicry. This portrays him exactly as he is really supposed to be, and since it is calculated exclusively for his own individual nature, it fits and suits him to perfection and the effect proves to be extremely deceptive. He puts on the mask whenever it is a case of ingratiating himself. We should attach as much value to it as if it were made of oilcloth, bearing in mind that admirable Italian proverb: non e si tristo cane che non meni la coda (no dog is so bad that he does not wag his tail).

In any case, we should carefully guard against forming a very favourable opinion of anyone with whom we have recently become acquainted, otherwise in the great majority of cases we shall be deceived to our shame or even our cost. Here the words of Seneca are also worth mentioning: argumenta morum ex minimis quoque licet capere [58] (Epistulae, 52). Precisely in trifles, wherein a man is off his guard, does he show his character; and then we are often able at our leisure to observe in small actions or mere mannerisms the boundless egoism which has not the slightest regard for others and in matters of importance does not afterwards deny itself, although it is disguised. We should never miss such an opportunity. If in the petty affairs and circumstances of everyday life, in the things to which the de minimis lex non curat [59]9 applies, a man acts inconsiderately, seeking merely his own advantage or convenience to the disadvantage of others; if he appropriates that which exists for everybody; then we may be sure that there is no justice in his heart, but that he would be a scoundrel even on a large scale if his hands were not tied by law and authority; we should not trust him across our threshold. Indeed, whoever boldly breaks the laws of his own circle will also break those of the State whenever he can do so without risk.*

To forgive and forget is equivalent to throwing away dearly bought experience. Now if anyone with whom we are connected or associated reveals an annoying or unpleasant trait, we have only to ask ourselves whether he is of so much value to us that we are willing to put up with the same thing from him repeatedly and frequently and in an even more aggravated form. If he is of value, there will not be much to say about it because talking is of little use. We must, therefore, let the matter pass with or without a reprimand; yet we should realize that we have in this way laid ourselves open to a repetition of the trouble. If, on the other hand, he is not of value, we have to break at once and for ever with our worthy friend, or if he is a servant, to dismiss him. For when the case occurs again, he will inevitably do exactly the same thing or something wholly analogous, even when he is now deep and sincere in his assurances of the contrary. A man can forget everything, absolutely everything, but not himself, his own true nature. For character is positively incorrigible because all man's actions flow from an inner principle by virtue whereof, under similar circumstances, he must always do the same thing and cannot do otherwise. The reader should peruse my prize-essay on the so-called freedom of the will and free himself from the erroneous idea. Therefore to make our peace with a friend, with whom we had broken, is a weakness for which we shall have to atone when at the first opportunity he again does the very same thing that had brought about the breach; indeed he does it again with more audacity and assurance because he is secretly aware of his being indispensable. The same thing holds good of servants whom we have dismissed and taken back into our service. For the same reason, we ought not to expect a man under altered circumstances to do the same thing as previously. On the contrary, people change their demeanour and sentiments just as rapidly as their interest changes; in fact their premeditated action draws a bill at so short a sight that one must be even more short-sighted not to let it go to protest.

Suppose, therefore, that we want to know how a man will act in a situation into which we are thinking of placing him; we should not build on his promises and assurances. For assuming that he were speaking sincerely, he is talking about a matter whereof he has no knowledge. Therefore we must estimate how he will act solely from a consideration of the circumstances in which he has to appear and of their conflict with his character.

To obtain generally a really necessary, clear, and thorough comprehension of the true and very melancholy nature of most people, it is very instructive to use their conduct and actions in literature as the commentary of their conduct and actions in practical life, and vice versa. This is very useful for avoiding mistaken ideas either about ourselves or about others. But no special trait of meanness or stupidity which we come across in life or literature should ever be the subject of anger and annoyance, but merely of knowledge, in that we see in it a new contribution to the characteristic qualities of the human race and accordingly bear it in mind. We shall then regard it in much the same way as the mineralogist who comes across a very characteristic specimen of a mineral. There are exceptions of course, inconceivably great exceptions, and the differences in individuals are enormous; and generally speaking, the whole world lieth in wickedness, as was said long ago. Savages eat one another and civilized folk deceive one another; and this is what is called the way of the world. What are states with all their elaborate machinery in home and foreign affairs and their measures of force-what are they but precautions for setting up barriers against the boundless iniquity of mankind? Do we not see in the whole of history how every king, as soon as he is firmly established and his country enjoys some degree of prosperity, uses these to lead his army, like a band of robbers, for the purpose of attacking neighbouring states? Are not almost all wars ultimately expeditions of plunder? In ancient times and to some extent in the Middle Ages, the conquered became the slaves of the conquerors, that is, ultimately they had to work for the latter. But the same thing has to be done by those who pay war contributions; they sacrifice the income from previous work. Dans toutes les guerres il ne s'agit que de voler, [60] says Voltaire and the Germans should be reminded of this.

(30) No man has such a character that he should be left to his own devices and be allowed entirely to go his own way; but everyone needs guidance through opinions and maxims. Now if we try to go too far in this direction and take on a character that has not sprung from our own inborn nature but merely from rational deliberation, a character that is really acquired and artificial, we shall very soon find a confirmation of the words of Horace:

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret. [61]


Thus we can very easily understand, and even discover and aptly express, a rule for our conduct towards others; and yet in real life we shall shortly afterwards violate it. Nevertheless, we should not be discouraged by this and think that it is impossible to guide our conduct in life in accordance with abstract rules and maxims, and that it is, therefore, best for us to indulge our own inclinations. On the contrary, here it is the same as with all theoretical rules and instructions for something practical; to understand the rule is the first thing, and to learn to practise it is the second. The former is gained at once by our faculty of reason, the latter gradually through practice. The pupil is shown the notes on the instrument or the parades and thrusts with the rapier; yet even with the best intentions, he at once makes a mistake and now imagines that it is absolutely impossible to observe them in the speed of reading the notes or in the heat of the duel. Nevertheless, he gradually learns through practice by stumbling, falling, and getting up again. It is the same with the rules of grammar in writing and speaking Latin. And so in no other way does a lout become a courtier, a hothead a subtle man of the world, a frank person reticent, or a man of noble birth ironical. Such self-training, however, the result of long habit, will operate as a restraint coming from without which nature never entirely ceases to resist and sometimes breaks through unexpectedly. For actions in accordance with abstract maxims are related to those that spring from an original innate tendency as a human work of art, such as a watch where form and movement are forced on to a substance foreign to them, is to a living organism wherein form and substance pervade each other and are one. A statement of the Emperor Napoleon is, therefore, confirmed by this relation between the acquired and inborn characters. He says: tout ce qui n'est pas naturel est imparfait. [62] In general, this is a rule that is applicable to everything whether in the physical or moral sphere; the sole exception that occurs to me is natural aventurine which is known to mineralogists but cannot compare with the artificial product.

Here is the place to utter a warning against any and every form of affectation. It always arouses contempt; firstly as deception which as such is cowardly because it is based on fear; and secondly as self-condemnation that is brought about by ourselves, since we try to appear to be what we are not and thus what we regard as better than what we are. To affect some quality, to plume oneself thereon, is a confession that one does not possess it. Whether it is courage, learning, intellect, wit, success with women, wealth, social position, or anything else of which a man boasts, we can conclude from this that it is precisely in this respect that he is rather weak. For it never occurs to anyone, actually in full possession of an aptitude, to parade and affect it since he is quite content with the thought of having it. This is also the meaning of the Spanish proverb: herradura que chacolotea clavo le falta (the clattering horseshoe lacks a nail). As I said at the beginning, naturally no one should unconditionally have his fling and show himself entirely as he is since the many bad and bestial elements of our nature need to be concealed. But this justifies merely something negative, dissimulation, not something positive or simulation. We should know also that affectation is recognized even before it is clear what a man really affects. Finally, it does not last for any length of time, but one day the mask falls off. Nemo potest personam diu ferre fictam: ficta cito in naturam suam recidunt. [63] (Seneca, De clementia, lib. I, c. I.)

(31) A man bears the weight of his own body without feeling it, yet he feels that of every other which he tries to move. In the same way, he does not notice his own shortcomings and vices, but only those of others. Instead of this, everyone has in others a mirror wherein he clearly sees his own vices, faults, bad manners, and offensive traits of all kinds. But in most cases, he is like the dog who barks at his own image because he does not know that he is looking at himself, but thinks he sees another dog. Whoever finds fault with others is working at his own reformation. And so those who have the inclination and are secretly in the habit of subjecting to a searching and sharp criticism other people's conduct in general, their commissions and omissions, are thus working at their own improvement and perfection. For they will possess enough justice or pride and vanity to avoid doing what they so often severely censure. The opposite holds good of those who are tolerant; thus hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim. [64] The Gospel moralizes prettily on the mote in the eye of one's neighbour and on the beam in one's own; but the nature of the eye consists in looking outwards and not at itself. Therefore to note and censure faults in others is a very suitable way of becoming conscious of our own. We need a mirror to improve ourselves.

The same rule also applies as regards style and the way to write. Whoever in these admires a new folly, instead of censuring it, will imitate it. Thus every piece of folly rapidly gains ground in Germany; the Germans are very tolerant; everybody can see this. Their motto is: hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim.

(32) In his youth the man of nobler nature thinks that the essential and decisive relations, and the associations arising therefrom, between men are ideal, in other words, are based on similarity of disposition, way of thinking, taste, intellectual powers, and so on. Later on, however, he discovers that they are real, that is to say, are based on some material interest. This is the foundation of almost all associations; indeed most people have no notion of any other relations. Consequently, everyone is considered from the point of view of his office, business, nation, family or generally of the position and role assigned to him by convention. In accordance with this, he is ticketed and treated like a factory article. On the other hand, what he is in and by himself and thus as a human being in virtue of his personal qualities, is mentioned only at random and therefore only by way of exception. It is set aside and ignored by anyone whenever it suits him, and thus in most cases. The more worth a man has in this respect, the less he will be pleased with the arrangements of convention and the more he will try to withdraw from their sphere. Such arrangements, however, are due to the fact that, in this world of want and need, the means for preventing these are everywhere what is essential and therefore paramount.

(33) Just as we have paper money instead of silver, so in the world, instead of true esteem and genuine friendship, there circulate outward demonstrations and mimic gestures thereof which are made to look as natural as possible. On the other hand, it may also be asked whether there are men who really deserve the true coin. In any case, I attach more value to an honest dog wagging his tail than to a hundred such gestures and demonstrations.

True genuine friendship presupposes a strong, purely objective, and wholly disinterested sympathy with another's weal and woe, and this again means our really identifying ourselves with our friend. The egoism of human nature is so much opposed to this that true friendship is one of those things which, like colossal sea-serpents, are either legendary or exist somewhere, we know not which. There are, however, many associations between men which, of course, rest mainly on concealed egoistical motives of different kinds, but nevertheless have a grain of that true and genuine friendship. In this way, they are ennobled to such an extent that, in this world of imperfections, they may with some justification be given the name of friendship. They stand far above the everyday liaisons whose nature is such that, if we heard what most of our good acquaintances said about us in our absence, we would never say another word to them.

Apart from the cases where we need serious assistance and considerable sacrifice, our best opportunity for testing the genuineness of a friend is at the moment when we tell him of a misfortune that has just befallen us. The expression of his features then reflects either true, sincere, and unalloyed grief, or confirms by its absolute composure or some other fleeting feature, the well-known maxim of La Rochefoucauld: Dans l'adversite de nos meilleurs amis, nous trouvons toujours quelque chose qui ne nous deplait pas. [65] On such occasions, the ordinary so-called friends are barely able to suppress the trace of a slight smile of satisfaction. There are few things that so certainly put people in a good humour as when we tell them of a serious misfortune that has recently befallen us, or unreservedly reveal to them some personal weakness. How characteristic!

Distance and long absence are detrimental to every friendship, however unwilling we are to admit it. For those whom we do not see, even if they were our dearest friends, gradually in the course of years dry up into abstract notions and in this way our interest in them becomes more and more rational and even traditional. On the other hand, we retain a lively and deep interest in those who are before our eyes, even if they are only pet animals. Thus is human nature tied to the senses; and so Goethe's words here hold good:

The present moment is a powerful goddess.

-- Tasso, Act IV, Sc. 4.


House friends are often rightly so called, since they are more friends of the house than of the master, and so are more like cats than dogs.

Friends say they are sincere; enemies are so. We should, therefore, use their censure as a bitter medicine for getting to know ourselves.

Are friends in need so rare? On the contrary; no sooner have we become friendly with a man than he too is in need and wants us to lend him money.

(34) What a novice indeed is the man who imagines that to show intellect and understanding is a way to make himself popular in society! On the contrary, with the immense majority of men such qualities excite hatred and resentment; and such rancour is the more bitter, as the man who feels it has no right to complain of its cause; in fact he conceals this from himself. What precisely happens is that one man observes and feels great intellectual superiority in another with whom he is speaking and concludes, secretly and without being clearly aware of so doing, that the other man observes and feels to the same extent his inferiority and limitations. This enthymeme excites his bitterest hatred, resentment and wrath. (Cf. World as Will and Representation, vol. ii, chap. 19, where I quote from Dr. Johnson and from Merck, the friend of Goethe's youth.) Therefore Gracian is quite right when he says: para ser bien quisto, el unico medio vestirse la piel del mas simple de los brutos. [66] (See Oraculo manual, y arte de prudencia, 240. Obras, Amberes, 1702, Pt. II, p. 287) To display intellect and understanding is only an indirect way of reproaching others with their incapacity and stupidity. Moreover, the vulgar man is driven to revolt when he catches sight of his opposite nature, and the secret provoker of such revolt is envy. For, as we can daily see, the satisfaction of their vanity is for men a pleasure that exceeds all others; yet this is possible only by their comparing themselves with others. But there are no qualities whereof a man is so proud as those of the mind; for on these alone rests his superiority over the animals.* To show anyone decided superiority in this respect, and moreover in the presence of witnesses, is therefore exceedingly rash. In this way, he feels provoked to take revenge and will often seek an opportunity for so doing by means of insult, whereby he steps from the sphere of intelligence to that of the will where we are all alike in this respect. Therefore, whereas in society rank and riches may always count on respect and esteem, intellectual ability can never expect such treatment. In the most favourable case such ability is ignored; otherwise it is regarded as a kind of impertinence, or as something which its possessor got illegally and with which he now dares to give himself airs. For this everyone secretly tries to humiliate him in some other way and merely watches for the opportunity so to do. Even the most humble demeanour will barely succeed in obtaining forgiveness for intellectual superiority. Sadi says in the Gulistan (p. 146 of Graf's translation): 'We should realize that with the foolish man a hundred times more aversion to the wise will be found than the dislike the latter feels of the former.' On the other hand, intellectual inferiority proves to be a real recommendation. For just as warmth is beneficial to the body, so is a feeling of superiority to the mind; and thus everyone approaches the object that promises him this feeling as instinctively as he comes near a stove or into the sunshine. Now such an object is only one who is decidedly inferior in intellectual qualities in the case of men, and in beauty in the case of women. Of course, it takes a lot to give proof of real and unfeigned inferiority to many people whom we meet. On the other hand, see with what cordial friendliness a fairly good looking girl will welcome one who is positively ugly! With men physical advantages do not enter into the question very much, although we feel more comfortable next to a shorter man than next to one who is taller. Accordingly among men the stupid and ignorant and among women the ugly are generally popular and in demand. They easily acquire the reputation of an exceedingly good heart because everyone needs an excuse or pretext for his affection in order to blind both himself and others. For this reason, mental superiority of every sort is a quality that isolates men; it is shunned and hated and, as an excuse for this attitude, all kinds of faults and vices are attributed to its possessor.* Beauty among women has precisely the same effect; very pretty girls never find friends or even companions of their own sex. It is better for them never to apply for positions as lady-companions; for when they make their appearance, their prospective mistresses will scowl at them and will certainly not require such a foil either for themselves or their daughters. On the other hand, matters are quite different with the advantages of rank; for these do not, like personal qualities, work through contrast and difference, but through reflection, like the reflected light on our faces from the colours of our environment.

(35) Our trust in others is often very largely made up of laziness, selfishness, and vanity; laziness when we prefer to trust someone else instead of making inquiries ourselves and of being vigilant and active; selfishness when the need to talk about our own affairs leads us to confide a secret to someone; vanity when it is one of those things of which we are rather proud. Nevertheless, we expect our trust to be honoured.

On the other hand, we should not get angry at the distrust and suspicion of others; for here is to be found a compliment for honesty, namely the sincere admission that it is very rare, so rare, in fact, that it is one of those things whose existence is doubted.

(36) Politeness, this cardinal virtue of the Chinese, is based on two considerations, one of which I have stated in my Basis of Ethics, para. 14, and the other is as follows. Politeness is a tacit agreement that we shall mutually ignore and refrain from reproaching one another's miserable defects, both moral and intellectual. In this way, they do not so readily come to light, to the advantage of both sides.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30832
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

PreviousNext

Return to Ancien Regime

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests