A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Compassion is the basis of morality.
Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.
The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.
Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.
For the more a man has in himself, the less he will want from other people, the less, indeed, other people can be to him. This is why a high degree of intellect tends to make a man unsocial. True.
Happiness consists in frequent repetition of pleasure.
The person who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience.
It is difficult to find happiness within oneself, but it is impossible to find it anywhere else.
They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice, that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in this world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.
One should use common words to say uncommon things.
Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.
When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. It is the same as the pupil, in learning to write, following with his pen the lines that have been penciled by the teacher. Accordingly, in reading, the work of thinking is, for the greater part, done for us. This is why we are consciously relieved when we turn to reading after being occupied with our own thoughts. But, in reading, our head is, however, really only the arena of someone else's thoughts. And so it happens that the person who reads a great deal – that is to say, almost the whole day, and recreates himself by spending the intervals in thoughtless diversion, gradually loses the ability to think for himself; just as a man who is always riding at last forgets how to walk. Such, however, is the case with many men of learning: they have read themselves stupid. For to read in every spare moment, and to read constantly, is more paralyzing to the mind than constant manual work.
Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.
... that when you're buying books, you're optimistically thinking you're buying the time to read them.
The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.
Life is a constant process of dying.
We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people.
A sense of humor is the only divine quality of man.
We will gradually become indifferent to what goes on in the minds of other people when we acquire a knowledge of the superficial nature of their thoughts, the narrowness of their views and of the number of their errors. Whoever attaches a lot of value to the opinions of others pays them too much honor.
It is a wise thing to be polite; consequently, it is a stupid thing to be rude. To make enemies by unnecessary and willful incivility, is just as insane a proceeding as to set your house on fire. For politeness is like a counter – an avowedly false coin, with which it is foolish to be stingy.
If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?
What disturbs and depresses young people is the hunt for happiness on the firm assumption that it must be met with in life. From this arises constantly deluded hope and so also dissatisfaction. Deceptive images of a vague happiness hover before us in our dreams, and we search in vain for their original. Much would have been gained if, through timely advice and instruction, young people could have had eradicated from their minds the erroneous notion that the world has a great deal to offer them.
It would be better if there were nothing. Since there is more pain than pleasure on earth, every satisfaction is only transitory, creating new desires and new distresses, and the agony of the devoured animal is always far greater than the pleasure of the devourer.
Treat a work of art like a prince: let it speak to you first.
Religion is the masterpiece of the art of animal training, for it trains people as to how they shall think.
Great men are like eagles, and build their nest on some lofty solitude.
So, the problem is not so much to see what nobody has yet seen, as to think what nobody has yet thought concerning that which everybody sees.
Without books the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are the engines of change, windows on the world, Lighthouses as the poet said erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind, Books are humanity in print.
The cheapest sort of pride is national pride; for if a man is proud of his own nation, it argues that he has no qualities of his own of which he can be proud; otherwise, he would not have recourse to those which he shares with so many millions of his fellowmen. The man who is endowed with important personal qualities will be only too ready to see clearly in what respects his own nation falls short, since their failings will be constantly before his eyes. But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.
Hope is the confusion of the desire for a thing with its probability.
Life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and boredom.
Philosophy is a science, and as such has no articles of faith; accordingly, in it nothing can be assumed as existing except what is either positively given empirically, or demonstrated through indubitable conclusions.
We can regard our life as a uselessly disturbing episode in the blissful repose of nothingness.
Marrying means to halve one's rights and double one's duties.
I have not yet spoken my last word about women. I believe that if a woman succeeds in withdrawing from the mass, or rather raising herself from above the mass, she grows ceaselessly and more than a man.
Human life must be some kind of mistake. The truth of this will be sufficiently obvious if we only remember that man is a compound of needs and necessities hard to satisfy; and that even when they are satisfied, all he obtains is a state of painlessness, where nothing remains to him but abandonment to boredom. This is direct proof that existence has no real value in itself; for what is boredom but the feeling of the emptiness of life? If life – the craving for which is the very essence of our being – were possessed of any positive intrinsic value, there would be no such thing as boredom at all: mere existence would satisfy us in itself, and we should want for nothing.
Reading is merely a surrogate for thinking for yourself; it means letting someone else direct your thoughts. Many books, moreover, serve merely to show how many ways there are of being wrong, and how far astray you yourself would go if you followed their guidance. You should read only when your own thoughts dry up, which will of course happen frequently enough even to the best heads; but to banish your own thoughts so as to take up a book is a sin against the holy ghost; it is like deserting untrammeled nature to look at a herbarium or engravings of landscapes.
The inexpressible depth of music, so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain. Music expresses only the quintessence of life and its events, never these themselves.
Every parting gives a foretaste of death, every reunion a hint of the resurrection.
The life of every individual, viewed as a whole and in general, and when only its most significant features are emphasized, is really a tragedy; but gone through in detail it has the character of a comedy.
The safest way of not being very miserable is not to expect to be very happy.
Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them; but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.
Pleasure is never as pleasant as we expected it to be and pain is always more painful. The pain in the world always outweighs the pleasure. If you don't believe it, compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is eating the other.
If I maintain my silence about my secret, it is my prisoner. If I let it slip from my tongue, I am its prisoner.
The shortness of life, so often lamented, may be the best thing about it.
Just as one spoils the stomach by overfeeding and thereby impairs the whole body, so can one overload and choke the mind by giving it too much nourishment. For the more one reads the fewer are the traces left of what one has read; the mind is like a tablet that has been written over and over. Hence it is impossible to reflect; and it is only by reflection that one can assimilate what one has read. If one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later, what has been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost.
The world is my idea.
Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become; and the same is true of fame.
Almost all of our sorrows spring out of our relations with other people. There is no more mistaken path to happiness than worldliness.
Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.
If we were not all so interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.
One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind.
In order to read what is good one must make it a condition never to read what is bad; for life is short, and both time and strength limited.
To attain something desired is to discover how vain it is; and though we live all our lives in expectation of better things, we often at the same time long regretfully for what is past. The present, on the other hand, is regarded as something quite temporary and serving only as the road to our goal. That is why most men discover when they look back on their life that they have the whole time been living ad interim, and are surprised to see that which they let go by so unreguarded and unenjoyed was precisely their life, was precisely in expectation of which they lived.
Faith is like love: it does not let itself be forced.
To feel envy is human, to savor schadenfreude is devilish.
We seldom think of what we have, but always of what we lack.
I have long held the opinion that the amount of noise that anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity and therefore be regarded as a pretty fair measure of it.
A man finds himself, to his great astonishment, suddenly existing, after thousands and thousands of years of non-existence: he lives for a little while; and then, again, comes an equally long period when he must exist no more. The heart rebels against this, and feels that it cannot be true.
He who writes carelessly confesses thereby at the very outset that he does not attach much importance to his own thoughts.
It often happens that we blurt out things that may in some kind of way be harmful to us, but we are silent about things that may make us look ridiculous; because in this case effect follows very quickly on cause.
If we suspect that a man is lying, we should pretend to believe him; for then he becomes bold and assured, lies more vigorously, and is unmasked.
There are very few who can think, but every man wants to have an opinion; and what remains but to take it ready-made from others, instead of forming opinions for himself?
Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.
Reading is thinking with someone else's head instead of one’s own.
The business of the novelist is not to relate great events, but to make small ones interesting.
Men are the devils of the earth, and the animals are the tormented souls.
What a person is for himself, what abides with him in his loneliness and isolation, and what no one can give or take away from him, this is obviously more essential for him than everything that he possesses or what he may be in the eyes of others.
After your death, you will be what you were before your birth.
Ordinary people merely think how they shall 'spend' their time; a man of talent tries to 'use' it.
Rascals are always sociable, and the chief sign that a man has any nobility in his character is the little pleasure he takes in others company.
How very paltry and limited the normal human intellect is, and how little lucidity there is in the human consciousness, may be judged from the fact that, despite the ephemeral brevity of human life, the uncertainty of our existence and the countless enigmas which press upon us from all sides, everyone does not continually and ceaselessly philosophize, but that only the rarest of exceptions do.
There is some wisdom in taking a gloomy view, in looking upon the world as a kind of Hell, and in confining one's efforts to securing a little room that shall not be exposed to the fire.
Music is the melody whose text is the world.
Sleep is the interest we have to pay on the capital which is called in at death; and the higher the rate of interest and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed.
To be shocked at how deeply rejection hurts is to ignore what acceptance involves. We must never allow our suffering to be compounded by suggestions that there is something odd in suffering so deeply. There would be something amiss if we didn't.
The best consolation in misfortune or affliction of any kind will be the thought of other people who are in a still worse plight than yourself; and this is a form of consolation open to everyone. But what an awful fate this means for mankind as a whole! We are like lambs in a field, disporting themselves under the eye of the butcher, who chooses out first one and then another for his prey.
The scenes in our life resemble pictures in a rough mosaic; they are ineffective from close up, and have to be viewed from a distance if they are to seem beautiful. That is why to attain something desired is to discover how vain it is; and why, though we live all our lives in expectation of better things, we often at the same time long regretfully for what is past. The present, on the other hand, is regarded as something quite temporary and serving as the only road to our goal. That is why most men discover when they look back on their life that they have been living the whole time ad interim, and are surprised to see that which they let go by so unregarded and unenjoyed was precisely their life, was precisely that in expectation of which they lived.
To find out your real opinion of someone, judge the impression you have when you first see a letter from them.
If the world were a paradise of luxury and ease, a land flowing with milk and honey, where every Jack obtained his Jill at once and without any difficulty, men would either die of boredom or hang themselves; or there would be wars, massacres, and murders; so that in the end mankind would inflict more suffering on itself than it has now to accept at the hands of Nature.
There is not much to be got anywhere in the world. It is filled with misery and pain; if a man escapes these, boredom lies in wait for him at every corner. Nay more; it is evil which generally has the upper hand, and folly that makes the most noise. Fate is cruel and mankind pitiable.
To free a man from error is to give, not to take away. Knowledge that a thing is false is a truth. Error always does harm; sooner or later it will bring mischief to the man who harbors it.
What a man is contributes much more to his happiness than what he has or how he is regarded by others.
Life is full of troubles and vexations, that one must either rise above it by means of corrected thoughts, or leave it.
However, for the man who studies to gain insight, books and studies are merely rungs of the ladder on which he climbs to the summit of knowledge. As soon as a rung has raised him up one step, he leaves it behind. On the other hand, the many who study in order to fill their memory do not use the rungs of the ladder for climbing, but take them off and load themselves with them to take away, rejoicing at the increasing weight of the burden. They remain below forever, because they bear what should have borne them.
The conviction that the world, and therefore man too, is something which really ought not to exist is in fact calculated to instill in us indulgence towards one another: for what can be expected of beings placed in such a situation as we are? From this point of view, one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not monsieur, sir, but fellow sufferer, compagnon de misères. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true light and reminds us of what are the most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forbearance, and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes.
Life is short, and truth works far and lives long: let us speak the truth.
There is only one inborn error, and that is the notion that we exist in order to be happy,. So long as we persist in this inborn error, the world seems to us full of contradictions. For at every step, in things great and small, we are bound to experience that the world and life are certainly not arranged for the purpose of maintaining a happy existence, hence, the countenances of almost all elderly persons wear the expression of what is called disappointment.
A poet or philosopher should have no fault to find with his age if it only permits him to do his work undisturbed in his own corner; nor with his fate if the corner granted him allows of his following his vocation without having to think about other people.
To be alone is the fate of all great minds – a fate deplored at times, but still always chosen as the less grievous of two evils.
Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.
The more unintelligent a man is, the less mysterious existence seems to him.
Our civilized world is nothing but a great masquerade. You encounter knights, parsons, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, priests, philosophers and a thousand more: but they are not what they appear, they are merely masks. Usually, as I say, there is nothing but industrialists, businessmen and speculators concealed behind all these masks.
The actual life of a thought lasts only until it reaches the point of speech. As soon as our thinking has found words it ceases to be sincere. When it begins to exist in others it ceases to live in us, just as the child severs itself from its mother when it enters into its own existence.
Whatever torch we kindle, and whatever space it may illuminate, our horizon will always remain encircled by the depth of night.
Truth is no harlot who throws her arms round the neck of him who does not desire her; on the contrary, she is so coy a beauty that even the man who sacrifices everything to her can still not be certain of her favors.
That I could clamber to the frozen moon. And draw the ladder after me.
Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.
For the world is Hell, and men are on the one hand the tormented souls and on the other the devils in it.
For where did Dante get the material for his Hell, if not from this actual world of ours?
There is no absurdity so palpable but that it may be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to inculcate it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity.
Writers can be divided into meteors, planets, and fixed stars. The meteors produce a loud momentary effect; we look up, shout 'see there!' and then they are gone forever. The planets and comets last for a much longer time. The fixed stars alone are constant and unalterable; their position in the firmament is fixed; they have their own light and are at all times active, because they do not alter their appearance through a change in our standpoint, for they have no parallax. Unlike the others, they do not belong to one system (nation) alone, but to the world. But just because they are situated so high, their light usually requires many years before it becomes visible to the inhabitants of earth.
What give all that is tragic, whatever its form, the characteristic of the sublime, is the first inkling of the knowledge that the world and life can give no satisfaction, and are not worth our investment in them. The tragic spirit consists in this. Accordingly, it leads to resignation.
Animals hear about death for the first time when they die.
Scholars are those who have read in books, but thinkers, men of genius, world-enlighteners, and reformers of the human race are those who have read directly in the book of the world.
It may sometimes happen that a truth, an insight, which you have slowly and laboriously puzzled out by thinking for yourself could have easily have been found already written in a book: but it is a hundred times more valuable if you have arrived at it by thinking for yourself. For only then will it enter your thought system as an integral part and living member, be perfectly and firmly consistent with it and in accord with all its other consequences and conclusions, bear the hue, color and stamp of your whole manner of thinking, and have arrived at just the moment it was needed; thus, it will stay firmly and forever lodged in your mind.
In our early youth we sit before the life that lies ahead of us like children sitting before the curtain in a theatre, in happy and tense anticipation of whatever is going to appear. Luckily, we do not know what really will appear.
Money is human happiness in the abstract; and so the man who is no longer capable of enjoying such happiness in the concrete, sets his whole heart on money.
A man is never happy, but spends his whole life in striving after something that he thinks will make him so; he seldom attains his goal, and when he does, it is only to be disappointed; he is mostly shipwrecked in the end, and comes into harbor with mast and rigging gone. And then, it is all one whether he is happy or miserable; for his life was never anything more than a present moment always vanishing; and now it is over.
Students and scholars of all kinds and of every age aim, as a rule, only at information, not insight. They make it a point of honor to have information about everything, every stone, plant, battle, or experiment and about all books, collectively and individually. It never occurs to them that information is merely a means to insight, but in itself is of little or no value.
Solitude will be welcomed or endured or avoided, according as a man's personal value is large or small.
Nature shows that with the growth of intelligence comes increased capacity for pain, and it is only with the highest degree of intelligence that suffering reaches its supreme point.
If God made this world, then I would not want to be the God. It is full of misery and distress that it breaks my heart.
No one writes anything worth writing, unless he writes entirely for the sake of his subject.
In order to elucidate especially and most clearly the origination of this error (...) let us imagine a man who, while standing on the street, would say to himself:
It is six o'clock in the evening, the working day is over. Now I can go for a walk, or I can go to the club; I can also climb up the tower to see the sunset; I can go to the theater; I can visit this friend or that one; indeed, I also can run out of the gate, into the wide world, and never return. All of this is strictly up to me, in this I have complete freedom. But still, I shall do none of these things now, but with just as free a will I shall go home to my wife.
This is exactly as if water spoke to itself: I can make high waves (yes! in the sea during a storm), I can rush downhill (yes! in the river bed), I can plunge down foaming and gushing (yes! in the waterfall), I can rise freely as a stream of water into the air (yes! in the fountain), I can, finally boil away and disappear (yes! at a certain temperature); but I am doing none of these things now, and am voluntarily remaining quiet and clear water in the reflecting pond.
Clio, the muse of history, is as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis.
Night gives a black look to everything, whatever it may be.
If human nature were not base, but thoroughly honorable, we should in every debate have no other aim than the discovery of truth; we should not in the least care whether the truth proved to be in favor of the opinion which we had begun by expressing, or of the opinion of our adversary. That we should regard as a matter of no moment, or, at any rate, of very secondary consequence; but, as things are, it is the main concern. Our innate vanity, which is particularly sensitive in reference to our intellectual powers, will not suffer us to allow that our first position was wrong and our adversary’s right. The way out of this difficulty would be simply to take the trouble always to form a correct judgment. For this a man would have to think before he spoke. But, with most men, innate vanity is accompanied by loquacity and innate dishonesty. They speak before they think; and even though they may afterwards perceive that they are wrong, and that what they assert is false, they want it to seem the contrary. The interest in truth, which may be presumed to have been their only motive when they stated the proposition alleged to be true, now gives way to the interests of vanity: and so, for the sake of vanity, what is true must seem false, and what is false must seem true.
Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on their guard. It is in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feelings of others and denies nothing to itself.
A genuine work of art, can never be false, nor can it be discredited through the lapse of time, for it does not present an opinion but the thing itself.
Marrying means, to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find out an eel out of an assembly of snakes.
And to this world, to this scene of tormented and agonized beings, who only continue to exist by devouring each other, in which, therefore, every ravenous beast is the living grave of thousands of others, and its self-maintenance is a chain of painful deaths; and in which the capacity for feeling pain increases with knowledge, and therefore reaches its highest degree in man, a degree which is the higher the more intelligent the man is; to this world it has been sought to apply the system of optimism, and demonstrate to us that it is the best of all possible worlds. The absurdity is glaring.
The life of an individual is a constant struggle, and not merely a metaphorical one against want or boredom, but also an actual struggle against other people. He discovers adversaries everywhere, lives in continual conflict and dies with sword in hand.
But it is common knowledge that religions don’t want conviction, on the basis of reasons, but faith, on the basis of revelation. And the capacity for faith is at its strongest in childhood: which is why religions apply themselves before all else to getting these tender years into their possession. It is in this way, even more than by threats and stories of miracles, that the doctrines of faith strike roots: for if, in earliest childhood, a man has certain principles and doctrines repeatedly recited to him with abnormal solemnity and with an air of supreme earnestness such as he has never before beheld, and at the same time the possibility of doubt is never so much as touched on, or if it is only in order to describe it as the first step towards eternal perdition, then the impression produced will be so profound that in almost every case the man will be almost incapable of doubting this doctrine as of doubting his own existence, so that hardly one in a thousand will then possess the firmness of mind seriously and honestly to ask himself: is this true?
Men need some kind of external activity, because they are inactive within.
He who can see truly in the midst of general infatuation is like a man whose watch keeps good time, when all clocks in the town in which he lives are wrong. He alone knows the right time; what use is that to him?
The intellectual attainments of a man who thinks for himself resemble a fine painting, where the light and shade are correct, the tone sustained, the color perfectly harmonized; it is true to life. On the other hand, the intellectual attainments of the mere man of learning are like a large palette, full of all sorts of colors, which at most are systematically arranged, but devoid of harmony, connection and meaning.
Many undoubtedly owe their good fortune to the circumstance that they possess a pleasing smile with which they win hearts. Yet these hearts would do better to beware and to learn from Hamlet's tables that one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
Truth is most beautiful undraped.
Consider the Koran, for example; this wretched book was sufficient to start a world-religion, to satisfy the metaphysical needs of countless millions for twelve hundred years, to become the basis of their morality and of a remarkable contempt for death, and also to inspire them to bloody wars and the most extensive conquests. Much may be lost in translation, but I have not been able to discover in it one single idea of value.
Genius is the ability to leave entirely out of sight our own interest, our willing, and our aims, and consequently to discard entirely our own personality for a time, in order to remain pure knowing subject, the clear eye of the world; and this not merely for moments, but with the necessary continuity and conscious thought to enable us to repeat by deliberate art what has been apprehended and what in wavering apparition gleams fix in its place with thoughts that stand forever!
If the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most ill-adapted to its purpose in the world: for it is absurd to suppose that the endless affliction of which the world is everywhere full, and which arises out of the need and distress pertaining essentially to life, should be purposeless and purely accidental. Each individual misfortune, to be sure, seems an exceptional occurrence; but misfortune in general is the rule.
And yet, just as our body would burst asunder if the pressure of the atmosphere were removed from it, so would the arrogance of men expand, if not to the point of bursting, then to that of the most unbridled folly, indeed madness, if the pressure of want, toil, calamity and frustration were removed from their life. One can even say that we require at all times a certain quantity of care or sorrow or want, as a ship requires ballast, in order to keep on a straight course.
In the end every one stands alone, and the important thing is who it is that stands alone.
Any foolish boy can stamp on a beetle, but all the professors in the world cannot make a beetle.
A last trick is to become personal, insulting and rude as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand. In becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack on the person by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. This is a very popular trick, because everyone is able to carry it into effect.
Sociability belongs to the most dangerous, even destructive inclinations, since it brings us into contact with beings the great majority of whom are morally bad and intellectually dull or perverted.
When we see that almost everything men devote their lives to attain, sparing no effort and encountering a thousand toils and dangers in the process, has, in the end, no further object than to raise themselves in the estimation of others; when we see that not only offices, titles, decorations, but also wealth, nay, even knowledge and art, are striven for only to obtain, as the ultimate goal of all effort, greater respect from one's fellow men, is not this a lamentable proof of the extent to which human folly can go?
The fundamental defect of the female character is a lack of a sense of justice. This originates first and foremost in their want of rationality and capacity for reflection but it is strengthened by the fact that, as the weaker sex, they are driven to rely not on force but on cunning: hence their instinctive subtlety and their ineradicable tendency to tell lies: for, as nature has equipped the lion with claws and teeth, the elephant with tusks, the wild boar with fangs, the bull with horns and the cuttlefish with ink, so it has equipped woman with the power of dissimulation as her means of attack and defense, and has transformed into this gift all the strength it has bestowed on man in the form of physical strength and the power of reasoning. Dissimulation is thus inborn in her and consequently to be found in the stupid woman almost as often as in the clever one. To make use of it at every opportunity is as natural to her as it is for an animal to employ its means of defense whenever it is attacked, and when she does so she feels that to some extent she is only exercising her rights. A completely truthful woman who does not practice dissimulation is perhaps an impossibility, which is why women see through the dissimulation of others so easily it is inadvisable to attempt it with them. But this fundamental defect which I have said they possess, together with all that is associated with it, gives rise to falsity, unfaithfulness, treachery, ingratitude, etc. Women are guilty of perjury far more often than men. It is questionable whether they ought to be allowed to take an oath at all.
Honor has not to be won; it must only not be lost.
What keeps all living things busy and in motion is the striving to exist. But when existence is secured, they do not know what to do: that is why the second thing that sets them in motion is a striving to get rid of the burden of existence, not to feel it any longer, 'to kill time', i.e. to escape boredom.
As the biggest library if it is in disorder is not as useful as a small but well-arranged one, so you may accumulate a vast amount of knowledge but it will be of far less value to you than a much smaller amount if you have not thought it over for yourself; because only through ordering what you know by comparing every truth with every other truth can you take complete possession of your knowledge and get it into your power.
In early youth, as we contemplate our coming life, we are like children in a theatre before the curtain is raised, sitting there in high spirits and eagerly waiting for the play to begin. It is a blessing that we do not know what is really going to happen. Could we foresee it, there are times when children might seem like innocent prisoners, condemned, not to death, but to life, and as yet all unconscious of what their sentence means. Nevertheless, every man desires to reach old age; in other words, a state of life of which it may be said: “It is bad to-day, and it will be worse to-morrow; and so on till the worst of all.
Why is it that, in spite of all the mirrors in the world, no one really knows what he looks like?
There is one thing that, more than any other, throws people absolutely off their balance – the thought that you are dependent upon them. This is sure to produce an insolent and domineering manner towards you. There are some people, indeed, who become rude if you enter into any kind of relation with them; for instance, if you have occasion to converse with them frequently upon confidential matters, they soon come to fancy that they can take liberties with you, and so they try and transgress the laws of politeness. This is why there are so few with whom you care to become more intimate, and why you should avoid familiarity with vulgar people. If a man comes to think that I am more dependent upon him than he is upon me, he at once feels as though I had stolen something from him; and his endeavor will be to have his vengeance and get it back. The only way to attain superiority in dealing with men, is to let it be seen that you are independent of them.
Education stuffs you full of ideas without the coinciding experience that gave rise to those ideas in the first place, giving you incorrect perspective and notions.
No rose without a thorn. Yes, but many a thorn without a rose.
The vanity of existence is revealed in the whole form existence assumes: in the infiniteness of time and space contrasted with the finiteness of the individual in both; in the fleeting present as the sole form in which actuality exists; in the contingency and relativity of all things; in continual becoming without being; in continual desire without satisfaction; in the continual frustration of striving of which life consists. . . Time is that by virtue of which everything becomes nothingness in our hands and loses all real value.
That human life must be some kind of mistake is sufficiently proved by the simple observation that man is a compound of needs which are hard to satisfy; that their satisfaction achieves nothing but a painless condition in which he is only given over to boredom; and that boredom is a direct proof that existence is in itself valueless, for boredom is nothing other than the sensation of the emptiness of existence.
Therefore, the man of genius requires imagination, in order to see in things not what nature has actually formed, but what she endeavored to form, yet did not bring about, because of the conflict of her forms with one another.
Optimism is not only a false but also a pernicious doctrine, for it presents life as a desirable state and man's happiness as its aim and object. Starting from this, everyone then believes he has the most legitimate claim to happiness and enjoyment. If, as usually happens, these do not fall to his lot, he believes that he suffers an injustice, in fact that he misses the whole point of his existence.
The fourfold root of the principle of sufficient reason is “Anything perceived has a cause. All conclusions have premises. All effects have causes. All actions have motives.”
In our monogamous part of the world, to marry means to halve one's rights and double one's duties.
The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.
Sometimes I speak to men and women just as a little girl speaks to her doll. She knows, of course, that the doll does not understand her, but she creates for herself the joy of communication through a pleasant and conscious self-deception.
The ingenious person will above all strive for freedom from pain and annoyance, for tranquility and leisure, and consequently seek a quiet, modest life, as undisturbed as possible, and accordingly, after some acquaintance with so-called human beings, choose seclusion and, if in possession of a great mind, even solitude. For the more somebody has in himself, the less he needs from the outside and the less others can be to him. Therefore, intellectual distinction leads to unsociability.
Today it is bad, and day by day it will get worse, until at last, the worst of all arrives.
Life presents itself first and foremost as a task: the task of maintaining itself, the task of earning one's living. If this task is accomplished, what has been gained is a burden, and there then appears a second task: that of doing something with it so as to ward off boredom, which hovers over every secure life like a bird of prey. Thus, the first task is to gain something and the second to become unconscious of what has been gained, which is otherwise a burden.
The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.
All striving comes from lack, from a dissatisfaction with one's condition, and is thus suffering as long as it is not satisfied; but no satisfaction is lasting; instead, it is only the beginning of a new striving. We see striving everywhere inhibited in many ways, struggling everywhere; and thus always suffering; there is no final goal of striving, and therefore no bounds or end to suffering.
Any beautiful mind, full of ideas, would always express itself in the most natural, simple and straightforward way, anxious to communicate its thoughts to others (if this is at all possible) and thus relieve the solitude that he must experience in a world such as this: but conversely, intellectual poverty, confusion and wrong-headedness, clothe themselves in the most labored expressions and obscure turns of phrase in order to conceal petty, trivial, bland or trite thoughts in difficult and pompous expressions.
I cannot here withhold the statement that optimism, where it is not merely the thoughtless talk of those who harbor nothing but words under their shallow foreheads, seems to me to be not merely an absurd, but also a really wicked, way of thinking, a bitter mockery of the most unspeakable sufferings of mankind.
Other people's heads are too wretched a place for true happiness to have its seat.
If at any moment Time stays his hand, it is only when we are delivered over to the miseries of boredom.
To become reconciled to a friend with whom you have broken, is a form of weakness; and you pay the penalty of it when he takes the first opportunity of doing precisely the very thing which brought about the breach.
But he will fear least to become nothing in death who has recognized that he is already nothing now, and who consequently no longer takes any share in his individual phenomenon, because in him knowledge has, as it were, burnt up and consumed the will, so that no will, thus no desire for individual existence, remains in him anymore.
All happiness is of a negative rather than positive nature, and for this reason cannot give lasting satisfaction and gratification, but rather only ever a release from a pain or lack, which must be followed either by a new pain or by languor, empty yearning and boredom.
Men need some kind of external activity, because they are inactive within. Contrarily, if they are active within, they do not care to be dragged out of themselves; it disturbs and impedes their thoughts in a way that is often most ruinous to them.
When you consider how great and immediate is the problem of existence, this ambiguous, tormented, fleeting, dream-like existence – so great and so immediate that as soon as you are aware of it, it overshadows and obscures all other problems and aims; and when you then see how men, with a few rare exceptions, have no clear awareness of this problem, indeed seem not to be conscious of it at all, but concern themselves with anything rather than this problem, and live on taking thought only for the day and for the hardly longer span of their own individual future, either expressly refusing to consider this problem, or contenting themselves with some system of popular metaphysics.
Truth is no prostitute, that throws herself away upon those who do not desire her; she is rather so coy a beauty that he who sacrifices everything to her cannot even then be sure of her favor.
Music is the occult metaphysical exercise of a soul not knowing that it philosophizes.
Genius lives only one story above madness.
A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.
A man who has not enough originality to think out a new title for his book will be much less capable of giving it new contents.
There are, first of all, two kinds of authors: those who write for the subject's sake, and those who write for writing's sake. [...] The truth is that when an author begins to write for the sake of covering paper, he is cheating the reader; because he writes under the pretext that he has something to say.
You can do what you will, but in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing.
For an author to write as he speaks is just as reprehensible as the opposite fault, to speak as he writes; for this gives a pedantic effect to what he says, and at the same time makes him hardly intelligible.
Death is the true inspiring genius, or the muse of philosophy, wherefore Socrates has defined the latter as θανάτου μελέτη (of death study). Indeed, without death men would scarcely philosophize.
I believe that when death closes our eyes we shall awaken to a light, of which our sunlight is but the shadow.
Every man mistakes the limits of his vision for the limits of the world.
To free a man from error is not to deprive him of anything, but to give him something: for the knowledge that a thing is false is a piece of truth. No error is harmless: sooner or later it will bring misfortune to him who harbors it. Therefore deceive no one, but rather confess ignorance of what you do not know, and leave each man to devise his own articles of faith for himself.
No little part of the torment of existence lies in this, that Time is continually pressing upon us, never letting us take breath, but always coming after us, like a taskmaster with a whip. If at any moment Time stays his hand, it is only when we are delivered over to the misery of boredom.
Men are like children, in that, if you spoil them, they become naughty. Therefore, it is well not to be too indulgent or charitable with anyone. You may take it as a general rule that you will not lose a friend by refusing him a loan, but that you are very likely to do so by granting it; and, for similar reasons, you will not readily alienate people by being somewhat proud and careless in your behavior; but if you are very kind and complaisant towards them, you will often make them arrogant and intolerable, and so a breach will ensue.
Do not shorten the morning by getting up late, or waste it in unworthy occupations or in talk; look upon it as the quintessence of life, as to a certain extent sacred. Evening is like old age: we are languid, talkative, silly. Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.
A man shows his character just in the way in which he deals with trifles – for then he is off his guard.
For it is a matter of daily observation that people take the greatest pleasure in that which satisfies their vanity; and vanity cannot be satisfied without comparison with others.
If you want a safe compass to guide you through life, and to banish all doubt as to the right way of looking at it, you cannot do better than accustom yourself to regard this world as a penitentiary. If you accustom yourself to this view of life you will regulate your expectations accordingly, and cease to look upon all its disagreeable incidents, great and small, its sufferings, its worries, its misery, as anything unusual or irregular; nay, you will find that everything is as it should be, in a world where each of us pays the penalty of existence in his own peculiar way.
Every light can be extinguished. The intellect is a light. Therefore, it can, be extinguished.
It is really incredible how meaningless and insignificant when seen from without, and how dull and senseless when felt from within, is the course of life of the great majority of men. It is weary longing and worrying, a dreamlike staggering through the four ages of life to death, accompanied by a series of trivial thoughts. They are like clockwork that is wound up and goes without knowing why. Every time a man is begotten and born the clock of human life is wound up anew, to repeat once more its same old tune that has already been played innumerable times, movement by movement and measure by measure, with insignificant variations. Every individual, every human apparition and its course of life, is only one more short dream of the endless spirit of nature, of the persistent will-to-live, is only one more fleeting form, playfully sketched by it on its infinite page, space and time; it is allowed to exist for a short while that is infinitesimal compared with these, and is then effaced, to make new room. Yet, and here is to be found the serious side of life, each of these fleeting forms, these empty fancies, must be paid for by the whole will-to-live in all its intensity with many deep sorrows, and finally with a bitter death, long feared and finally made manifest. It is for this reason that the sight of a corpse suddenly makes us serious.
Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.
Knowledge is power. The devil it is! One man can have a great deal of knowledge without its giving him the least power, while another possesses supreme authority but next to no knowledge.
Thus also, every keen pleasure is an error and an illusion, for no attained wish can give lasting satisfaction.
However, the struggle with that sentinel is, as a rule, not so hard as it may seem from a long way off, mainly in consequence of the antagonism between the ills of the body and the ills of the mind. If we are in great bodily pain, or the pain lasts a long time, we become indifferent to other troubles; all we think about is to get well. In the same way great mental suffering makes us insensible to bodily pain; we despise it; nay, if it should outweigh the other, it distracts our thoughts, and we welcome it as a pause in mental suffering. It is this feeling that makes suicide easy; for the bodily pain that accompanies it loses all significance in the eyes of one who is tortured by an excess of mental suffering. This is especially evident in the case of those who are driven to suicide by some purely morbid and exaggerated ill-humor. No special effort to overcome their feelings is necessary, nor do such people require to be worked up in order to take the step; but as soon as the keeper into whose charge they are given leaves them for a couple of minutes, they quickly bring their life to an end. When, in some dreadful and ghastly dream, we reach the moment of greatest horror, it awakes us; thereby banishing all the hideous shapes that were born of the night. And life is a dream: when the moment of greatest horror compels us to break it off, the same thing happens.
Directly after copulation, the devil's laughter is heard.
Fate shuffles the cards and we play.
The real meaning of persona is a mask, such as actors were accustomed to wear on the ancient stage; and it is quite true that no one shows himself as he is, but wears his mask and plays his part. Indeed, the whole of our social arrangements may be likened to a perpetual comedy; and this is why a man who is worth anything finds society so insipid, while a blockhead is quite at home in it.
As a reliable compass for orientating yourself in life nothing is more useful than to accustom yourself to regarding this world as a place of atonement, a sort of penal colony. When you have done this, you will order your expectations of life according to the nature of things and no longer regard the calamities, sufferings, torments and miseries of life as something irregular and not to be expected but will find them entirely in order, well knowing that each of us is here being punished for his existence and each in his own particular way. This outlook will enable us to view the so-called imperfections of the majority of men, i.e., their moral and intellectual shortcomings and the facial appearance resulting therefrom, without surprise and certainly without indignation: for we shall always bear in mind where we are and consequently regard every man first and foremost as a being who exists only as a consequence of his culpability and whose life is an expiation of the crime of being born.
In savage countries they eat one another, in civilized they deceive one another; and that is what people call the way of the world!
People who pass their lives in reading and acquire their wisdom from books are like those who learn about a country from travel descriptions: they can impart information about a great number of things, but at bottom they possess no connected, clear, thorough knowledge of what the country is like. On the other hand, people who pass their lives in thinking are like those who have visited the country themselves: they alone are really familiar with it, possess connected knowledge of it and are truly at home in it.
Sometimes we credit ourselves with a longing to be in some distant spot, whereas, in truth, we are only longing to have the time back again which we spent there – days when we were younger and fresher than we are now.
Let me advise you, then, to form the habit of taking some of your solitude with you into society, to learn to be to some extent alone even though you are in company; not to say at once what you think, and, on the other hand, not to attach too precise a meaning to what others say; rather, not to expect much of them, either morally or intellectually, and to strengthen yourself in the feeling of indifference to their opinion, which is the surest way of always practicing a praiseworthy toleration. If you do that, you will not live so much with other people, though you may appear to move amongst them: your relation to them will be of a purely objective character. This precaution will keep you from too close contact with society, and therefore secure you against being contaminated or even outraged by it. Society is in this respect like a fire – the wise man warming himself at a proper distance from it; not coming too close, like the fool, who, on getting scorched, runs away and shivers in solitude, loud in his complaint that the fire burns.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that it is sufficient not to become personal yourself. For by showing a man quite quietly that he is wrong, and that what he says and thinks is incorrect – a process which occurs in every dialectical victory – you embitter him more than if you used some rude or insulting expression. Why is this? Because, as Hobbes observes, all mental pleasure consists in being able to compare oneself with others to one’s own advantage. Nothing is of greater moment to a man than the gratification of his vanity, and no wound is more painful than that which is inflicted on it. Hence such phrases as Death before dishonor, and so on.
Not to my contemporaries, not to my compatriots, but to mankind, I commit my now completed work in the confidence that it will not be without value for them, even if this should be late recognized, as is commonly the lot of what is good. For it cannot have been for the passing generation, engrossed with the delusion of the moment, that my mind, almost against my will, has uninterruptedly stuck to its work through the course of a long life.