No difference of rank, position, or birth, is so great as the gulf that separates the countless millions who use their head only in the service of their belly, in other words, look upon it as an instrument of the will, and those very few and rare persons who have the courage to say: No! my head is too good for that; it shall be active only in its own service; it shall try to comprehend the wondrous and varied spectacle of this world and then reproduce it in some form, whether as art or as literature, that may answer to my character as an individual. (On Genius, Parerga and Paralipomena, Chapter III)
The charlatan takes very different shapes according to circumstances; but at bottom he is a man who cares nothing about knowledge for its own sake, and only strives to gain the semblance of it that he may use it for his own personal ends, which are always selfish and material.
“Similes, Parables and Fables” Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. 2, § 394
A man’s body and the needs of his body are now everywhere treated with a tender indulgence. Is the thinking mind then, to be the only thing that is never to obtain the slightest measure of consideration or protection, to say nothing of respect?
For our improvement we need a mirror.
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 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. … 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 of them, all these put the eminent mind, apart from moments of relaxation, quite beyond the reach of boredom.
E. Payne, trans. (1974) Vol. 1, pp. 329–330
The purpose of his [the Philistine’s] 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.
E. Payne, trans. (1974) Vol. 1, p. 34
Dancing, the theatre, society, card-playing, games of chance, horses, women, drinking, traveling, and so on … are not enough to ward off boredom where intellectual pleasures are rendered impossible by lack of intellectual needs. Thus a peculiar characteristic of the Philistine is a dull, dry seriousness akin to that of animals.
E. Payne, trans. (1974) Vol. 1, p. 344
From the fundamental nature of the Philistine, 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 of 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.
E. Payne, trans. (1974) Vol. 1, pp. 344–345
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 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.
E. Payne, trans. (1974) Vol. 1, p. 348
Just as the largest library, badly arranged, is not so useful as a very moderate one that is well arranged, so the greatest amount of knowledge, if not elaborated by our own thoughts, is worth much less than a far smaller volume that has been abundantly and repeatedly thought over.
Truth that has been merely learned is like an artificial limb, a false tooth, a waxen nose; at best, like a nose made out of another’s flesh; it adheres to us only because it is put on. But truth acquired by thinking of our own is like a natural limb; it alone really belongs to us. This is the fundamental difference between the thinker and the mere man of learning. 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 harmonised; 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 colours, which at most are systematically arranged, but devoid of harmony, connection and meaning.
Writers may be classified as meteors, planets, and fixed stars…
The poet presents the imagination with images from life and human characters and situations, sets them all in motion and leaves it to the beholder to let these images take his thoughts as far as his mental powers will permit. This is why he is able to engage men of the most differing capabilities, indeed fools and sages together. The philosopher, on the other hand, presents not life itself but the finished thoughts which he has abstracted from it and then demands that the reader should think precisely as, and precisely as far as, he himself thinks. That is why his public is so small.
Vol. 2 “On Philosophy and the Intellect” as translated in Essays and Aphorisms (1970), as translated by R. J. Hollingdale
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 first kind have had thoughts or experiences which seem to them worth communicating, while the second kind need money and consequently write for money.
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