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Category: Arthur Schopenhauer

Rutting of a sort

“The experiences and illuminations of childhood and early youth become in later life the types, standards and patterns of all subsequent knowledge and experience, or as it were, the categories according to which all later things are classified—not always consciously, however. And so it is that in our childhood years the foundation is laid of our later view of the world, and therewith as well of its superficiality or depth: it will be in later years unfolded and fulfilled, not essentially changed.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit

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Therein lies a difficulty

“The great misfortune for intellectual merit is that it has to wait until the good is praised by those who produce only the bad; indeed, the misfortune already lies in the general fact that it has to receive its crown from the hands of human judgement, a quality of which most people possess about as much as a castrate possesses of the power to beget children.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms (trans. Hollingdale)

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Full of sound and fury

“Exaggeration in every sense is as essential to newspaper writing as it is to the writing of plays: for the point is to make as much as possible of every occurrence.  So that all newspaper writers are, for the sake of their trade, alarmists: this is their way of making themselves interesting.  What they really do, however, is resemble little dogs who, as soon as anything whatever moves, start up a loud barking.  It is necessary, therefore, not to pay too much attention to their alarms, and to realize in general that the newspaper is a magnifying glass, and this only at best: for very often it is no more than a shadow-play on the wall.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms (trans. Hollingdale)


Just how much time do you think you have?

“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.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Books and Writing” (emphasis in original, trans. Hollingdale)

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The dinosaurs of lit

“As the strata of the earth preserve in succession the living creatures of past epochs, so the shelves of libraries preserve in succession the errors of the past and their expositions, which like the former were very lively and made a great commotion in their own age but now stand petrified and stiff in a place where only the literary palaeontologist regards them.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Books and Writing” (trans. Hollingdale)

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What about the comets!

“Writers can be divided into meteors, planets, and fixed stars.  The first produce a momentary effect: you gaze up, cry: ‘Look!’—and then they vanish forever.  The second, the moving stars, endure for much longer.  By virtue of their proximity they often shine more brightly than the fixed stars, which the ignorant mistake them for.  But they too must soon vacate their place, they shine moreover only with a borrowed light, and their sphere of influence is limited to their own fellow travelers (their contemporaries).  The third alone are unchanging, stand firm in the firmament, shine by their own light and influence all ages equally.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Books and Writing” (trans. Hollingdale)

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Forgive me, Father…

“The weak point in all religions remains that they can never dare to confess to being allegorical, so that they have to present their doctrines in all seriousness as true sensu proprio; which, because of the absurdities essential to allegory, leads to perpetual deception and a great disadvantage for religion.  What is even worse, indeed, is that in time it comes to light that they are not true sensu proprio, and then they perish.  To this extent it would be better to admit their allegorical nature straightway: only the difficulty here is to make the people understand that a thing can be true and not true at the same time.  But since we find that all religions are constituted to a greater or less degree in this way, we have to recognize that the absurd is to a certain extent appropriate to the human race, indeed an element of its life, and that deception is indispensable to it.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Religion” (emphasis in original, trans. Hollingdale)

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You would think this would be obvious

“Freedom of the press is to the machinery of the state what the safety-valve is to the steam engine: every discontent is by means of it immediately relieved in words—indeed, unless this discontent is very considerable, it exhausts itself in this way.  If, however, it is very considerable, it is as well to know of it in time, so as to redress it.”– Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Law and Politics” (trans. Hollingdale)

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We’re shocked, just shocked

“Man is at bottom a dreadful wild animal.  We know this wild animal only in the tamed state called civilization and we are therefore shocked by occasional outbreaks of its true nature: but if and when the bolts and bars of the legal order once fall apart and anarchy supervenes it reveals itself for what it is.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Ethics” (trans. Hollingdale)

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Good luck with all that

“If you want to earn the gratitude of your own age you must keep in step with it.  But if you do that you will produce nothing great.  If you have something great in view you must address yourself to posterity: only then, to be sure, you will probably remain unknown to your contemporaries; you will be like a man compelled to spend his life on a desert island and there toiling to erect a memorial so that future seafarers shall know he once existed.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Philosophy and the Intellect” (trans. Hollingdale)

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Truncation for the profit of others

“The capitalist world, and in particular the heart of it, the world of buying and selling, offers almost nothing a young man wants: the instincts of youth are at variance with the demands of business, and especially with those of clerking.  What young man is by nature diligent, sober, and regular in his habits?  Respectful to ‘superiors’ and humble before wealth?  Sincerely able to devote himself to what he finds boring?  One in ten thousand, perhaps.  Bur for the great majority a ‘job’ is, depending on temperament, a torment or a tedious irrelevance which has to be endured day after day in order that, during one’s so-called ‘free time,’ one will be allowed to get on with living.  The situation is the most commonplace in the world.  I believe it is the cause of that settled cynicism with which nine out of ten regard the ‘social order’: they know that, short of a total revolution in the conduct of human affairs, any conceivable social order will for the great majority mean the boredom of routine, the damming up of their natural energies and the frustration of their natural desires.” – R. J. Hollingdale, Arthur Schopenhauer: Essays and Aphorisms

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