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SELECTED PASSAGES FROM SCHOPENHAUER'S “APH
ORISMS ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE.”
(From a translation by T. Bailey Saunders, M. A., published by
Messrs. Swan Sonnenschein & Co., in two parts, respectively entitled “The Wisdom of Life” and “ Counsels and Maxims.")
What a man has in himself is the chief element in his happiness.
What a man is, and so what he has in his own person, is always the chief thing to consider; for his individuality accompanies him always and everywhere, and gives its color to all his experiences.
The man who is cheerful and merry has always a good reason for being so, the fact, namely, that he is so. Nothing contributes so little to cheerfulness as riches, or so much as health.
The most general survey shows us that the two foes of happiness are pain and boredom. We may go further, and say that in the degree in which we are fortunate enough to get away from the one, we approach the other. Life presents, in fact, a more or less violent oscillation between the two. Needy surroundings and poverty produce pain ; while, if a man is more than well off he is bored. . . . Nothing is so good a protection ward wealth, the wealth of the mind, because the greater it grows
the less room it leaves for boredom. Ordinary people think merely how they shall spend their time; a man of intellect tries to use it.
The conclusion we come to is that the man whom nature has endowed with intellectual wealth is the happiest. The man of inner wealth wants nothing from outside but the negative gift of undisturbed leisure, to develop and mature his intellectual faculties, that is, to enjoy his wealth ; in short he wants permission to be himself, his whole life long, every day and every hour. ...
The value we set upon the opinion of others, and our constant endeavour in respect of it, are each quite out of proportion to any result we may reasonably hope to attain; so that this attention to other people's attitude may be regarded as a kind of universal mania which every one inherits. In all we do, almost the first thing we think about is, what will people say; and nearly half the troubles and bothers of life may be traced to our anxiety on this score.
Honour is, on its objective side, other people's opinion of what we are worth ; on its subjective side, it is the respect we pay to this opinion. From the latter point of view, to be a man of honour is to exercise what is often a very wholesome, but by no means a purely moral influ
The ultimate foundation of honour is the conviction that moral character is unalterable: a single bad action implies that future actions of the same kind will, under similar circumstances, also be bad.
Fame is something which must be won; honour, only something which must not be lost. The absence of fame is obscurity, which is only a negative; but loss of honour is shame, which is a positive quality.
The first and foremost rule for the wise conduct of life seems to me to be contained in a view to which Aristotle parenthetically refers in the Nichomachean Ethics: not pleasure, but freedom from pain, is what the wise man will aim at.
A man who desires to make up the book of his life and determine where the balance of happiness lies, must put down in his accounts, not the pleasures which he has enjoyed, but the evils which he has escaped. To live happily only means to live less unhappily — to live a tolerable life. There is no doubt that life is
given us, not to be enjoyed, but to be overcome — to be got over.
The fool rushes after the pleasures of life and finds himself their dupe; the wise man avoids its evils.
The safest way of not being very miserable is not to expect to be very happy. ...
To estimate a man's condition in regard to happiness, it is necessary to ask, not what things please him, but what things trouble him; and the more trivial these things are in themselves, the happier the man will be. .
Another important element in the wise conduct of life is to preserve a proper proportion between our thought for the present and our thought for the future; in order not to spoil the one by paying over-great attention to the other. Many live too much in the present — frivolous people, I mean; others too much in the future, ever anxious and full of care.
Peace of mind is impossible without a considerable amount of solitude.'. Let me advise you 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. Society is ... like a fire the wise man warming himself at a proper distance from it. ..
Envy is natural to man; and still it is at once a vice and a source of misery. We should treat it as the enemy of our happiness, and stifle it like an evil thought. This is the advice given by Seneca; as he well puts it, we shall be pleased with what we have if we avoid the self-torture of comparing our own lot with some other and happier one. We should
open our eyes wide to all [the] enormity [of our faults], in order that we may firmly resolve to avoid them in time to come.
We should sometimes try to look upon our possessions in the light in which they would appear if we had lost them. It is usually only when we have lost them that we begin to find out their value. Self-control
difficult if we consider that
every man has to submit to a great deal of very severe control on the part of his surroundings. little self-control at the right moment may prevent much subsequent compulsion at the hands of others. ...
Activity! — doing something, if possible creating something, at any rate learning something - how fortunate it is that men cannot exist without that! A man wants to use his strength, to see, if he can, what effect it will produce; and he will get the most complete satisfaction of this desire if he can make or construct something — be it a book or a basket.
If you have to live amongst men, you must allow every one the right to exist in accordance with the character he has, whatever it turns out to be; and all you should strive to do is to make use of this character in such a way as its kind and nature permit, rather than to hope for any alteration in it, or to condemn it offhand for what it is. This is the true sense of the maxim 66 Live and let live.”...
No man can see over his own height. You cannot see in another man any more than you have in yourself.
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; but what use is that to him? for every one goes by the clocks which speak false.
A man shows his character just in the way in which he deals with trifles, — for then he
for then he is off his guard. To observe and blame faults in another is a very suit
way of becoming conscious of one's own. We require a looking glass for the due dressing of our morals. ...
Politeness is like a counter — an avowedly false coin, with which it is foolish to be stingy.
Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to
If you want your judgment to be accepted, express it coolly and without passion.
Money is never spent to so much advantage as when you
have been cheated out of it; for at one stroke you have purchased prudence.