Go to the Index of 120 Philosophers Squared
Arthur Schopenhauer quotes
Truth that is naked is the most beautiful, and the simpler its expression the deeper is the impression it makes.
Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.
Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.
Intellect is invisible to the man who has none.
Indeed, a man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants.
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. With people with only modest ability, modesty is mere honesty; but with those who possess great talent, it is hypocrisy. [Genius isn’t know until after easily seen demonstrations of conception to the intelligent.]
One should use common words to say uncommon things
All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident. [When truth is known to the average man it is accepted as obvious.]
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.
Compassion is the basis of all morality.
Every human being, even every animal, after the motive has appeared, must carry out the associated action which alone is in accordance with his inborn and immutable character.
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 in the only guarantee of morality.
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.
Happiness consists in frequent repetition of pleasure. [Happiness is when things work as expected.]
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, colour 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.
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 colour 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.
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.
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 honour 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.
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.
If anyone spends almost the whole day in reading…he gradually loses the capacity for thinking…This is the case with many learned persons; they have read themselves stupid.
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.
To banish your own thoughts so as to take up a book is a sin against the holy ghost.
Reading is thinking with someone else’s head instead of ones own.
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.
One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind. [This, of course, applies to all media.]
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.
No one writes anything worth writing, unless he writes entirely for the sake of his subject.
A high degree of intellect tends to make a man unsocial.
He who writes carelessly confesses thereby at the very outset that he does not attach much importance to his own thoughts.
The person who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience. [Writing for fools is proof that the writer is a fool himself.]
A sense of humour is the only divine quality of man. [It’s not strange that the Bible has been stripped of humor, but it probably never had any, because God and Mother Nature are at every instant deadly serious. Fortunately for us, God was kind to man in one respect, He left all the humorous material for human pleasure, and kept none for his own.]
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. [This weakness of the mind relative to the heart make man an easy prey for the purveyors of life after death lies.]
It is the courage to make a clean breast of it in the face of every question that makes the philosopher.
When the Church says that, in the dogmas of religion, reason is totally incompetent and blind, and its use to be reprehended, this really attests the fact that these dogmas are allegorical in their nature, and are not to be judged by the standard which reason, taking all things sensu proprio, can alone apply. Now the absurdities of a dogma are just the mark and sign of what is allegorical and mythical in it. … The allegory was finally completed by Augustine, who penetrated deepest into its meaning, and so was able to conceive it as a systematic whole and supply its defects. [It was Augustine’s subtle presentation of friendly stories that everyone could identify with, but were groundless, that brought on the Dark Ages.]
Hope is the confusion of the desire for a thing with its probability. [For many people, the hope for a life of bliss after their life of woe, is a happy gamble no matter how low the probability of its being true.]
This actual world of what is knowable, in which we are and which is in us, remains both the material and the limit of our consideration.
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.
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. [This is a great problem for religion, as so much of it is based on faith based on untestable wishful thinking. One must find and balance the value of believing unlikely things such as, life in Heaven after death, being an improvement in their condition here on Earth during this life.]
An unbiased reader, on opening one of their [Fichte’s, Schelling’s or Hegel’s] books and then asking himself whether this is the tone of a thinker wanting to instruct or that of a charlatan wanting to impress, cannot be five minutes in any doubt. … The tone of calm investigation, which had characterized all previous philosophy, is exchanged for that of unshakeable certainty, such as is peculiar to charlatanry of every kind and at all times. … From every page and every line, there speaks an endeavor to beguile and deceive the reader, first by producing an effect to dumbfound him, then by incomprehensible phrases and even sheer nonsense to stun and stupefy him, and again by audacity of assertion to puzzle him, in short, to throw dust in his eyes and mystify him as much as possible.
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.
The safest way of not being very miserable is not to expect to be very happy.
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.
Great men are like eagles, and build their nest on some lofty solitude.
It is difficult to find happiness within oneself, but it is impossible to find it anywhere else.
Talent works for money and fame; the motive which moves genius to productivity is, on the other hand, less easy to determine. It isn’t money, for genius seldom gets any. It isn’t fame: fame is too uncertain and, more closely considered, of too little worth. Nor is it strictly for its own pleasure, for the great exertion involved almost outweighs the pleasure. It is rather an instinct of a unique sort by virtue of which the individual possessed of genius is impelled to express what he has seen and felt in enduring works without being conscious of any further motivation. It takes place, by and large, with the same sort of necessity as a tree brings forth fruit, and demands of the world no more than a soil on which the individual can flourish.
It has been one of the rarest events for a genuine philosopher to be at the same time a lecturer in philosophy.
No greater mistake can be made than to imagine that what has been written latest is always the more correct; that what is written later on is an improvement on what was written previously; and that every change means progress.
Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.
COMMENTS on Arthur Schopenhauer
Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees. This is an admirable thought, and my suspicion is that it only scratches the surface of what everyone has seen and not perceived. Schopenhauer writes of a similar thought, It is rather an instinct of a unique sort by virtue of which the individual possessed of genius is impelled to express what he has seen and felt in enduring works without being conscious of any further motivation. It is not only seeing what is visible and then perceiving it with the mind which is so rare, but the persistence to collect observations from a new perspective which is difficult, and then to publish the ideas in a form which is accessible to other people. Then perhaps the most difficult part of all is to endure the usual onslaught of doubt, disbelief, and destruction by the intelligentsia as well as the mob.
In doing the research for this series called Philosophers Squared I became amazed at how advanced the ancient Greeks and Romans were in their philosophy of life. It was a horrid tragedy that their thoughts were crushed nearly to oblivion by the spread of the well-meaning church. Attempting to save people’s souls by centuries of suppressing their evil thoughts reduced their ability to think about anything, and thus we had a population of people for a millennium that were less human than they could have been. No greater mistake can be made than to imagine that what has been written latest is always the more correct; that what is written later on is an improvement on what was written previously; and that every change means progress. Unfortunately, these same forces are still very much in our world today, and will probably win power again, because they can promise Heaven, even if they can’t deliver on their promise.