The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Studies in Pessimism
Arthur Schopenhauer

Part 2 out of 2

of life, which spring from a false application of general ideas, have
afterwards to be corrected by long years of experience; and it is
seldom that they are wholly corrected. This is why so few men of
learning are possessed of common-sense, such as is often to be met
with in people who have had no instruction at all.

_To acquire a knowledge of the world_ might be defined as the aim
of all education; and it follows from what I have said that special
stress should be laid upon beginning to acquire this knowledge _at
the right end_. As I have shown, this means, in the main, that the
particular observation of a thing shall precede the general idea of
it; further, that narrow and circumscribed ideas shall come before
ideas of a wide range. It means, therefore, that the whole system of
education shall follow in the steps that must have been taken by the
ideas themselves in the course of their formation. But whenever any of
these steps are skipped or left out, the instruction is defective, and
the ideas obtained are false; and finally, a distorted view of the
world arises, peculiar to the individual himself--a view such as
almost everyone entertains for some time, and most men for as long as
they live. No one can look into his own mind without seeing that it
was only after reaching a very mature age, and in some cases when he
least expected it, that he came to a right understanding or a clear
view of many matters in his life, that, after all, were not very
difficult or complicated. Up till then, they were points in his
knowledge of the world which were still obscure, due to his having
skipped some particular lesson in those early days of his education,
whatever it may have been like--whether artificial and conventional,
or of that natural kind which is based upon individual experience.

It follows that an attempt should be made to find out the strictly
natural course of knowledge, so that education may proceed
methodically by keeping to it; and that children may become acquainted
with the ways of the world, without getting wrong ideas into their
heads, which very often cannot be got out again. If this plan were
adopted, special care would have to be taken to prevent children
from using words without clearly understanding their meaning and
application. The fatal tendency to be satisfied with words instead of
trying to understand things--to learn phrases by heart, so that
they may prove a refuge in time of need, exists, as a rule, even in
children; and the tendency lasts on into manhood, making the knowledge
of many learned persons to consist in mere verbiage.

However, the main endeavor must always be to let particular
observations precede general ideas, and not _vice versa_, as is
usually and unfortunately the case; as though a child should come
feet foremost into the world, or a verse be begun by writing down the
rhyme! The ordinary method is to imprint ideas and opinions, in the
strict sense of the word, _prejudices_, on the mind of the child,
before it has had any but a very few particular observations. It is
thus that he afterwards comes to view the world and gather experience
through the medium of those ready-made ideas, rather than to let his
ideas be formed for him out of his own experience of life, as they
ought to be.

A man sees a great many things when he looks at the world for himself,
and he sees them from many sides; but this method of learning is not
nearly so short or so quick as the method which employs abstract
ideas and makes hasty generalizations about everything. Experience,
therefore, will be a long time in correcting preconceived ideas, or
perhaps never bring its task to an end; for wherever a man finds that
the aspect of things seems to contradict the general ideas he has
formed, he will begin by rejecting the evidence it offers as partial
and one-sided; nay, he will shut his eyes to it altogether and deny
that it stands in any contradiction at all with his preconceived
notions, in order that he may thus preserve them uninjured. So it is
that many a man carries about a burden of wrong notions all his life
long--crotchets, whims, fancies, prejudices, which at last become
fixed ideas. The fact is that he has never tried to form his
fundamental ideas for himself out of his own experience of life, his
own way of looking at the world, because he has taken over his ideas
ready-made from other people; and this it is that makes him--as it
makes how many others!--so shallow and superficial.

Instead of that method of instruction, care should be taken to educate
children on the natural lines. No idea should ever be established in a
child's mind otherwise than by what the child can see for itself, or
at any rate it should be verified by the same means; and the result of
this would be that the child's ideas, if few, would be well-grounded
and accurate. It would learn how to measure things by its own standard
rather than by another's; and so it would escape a thousand strange
fancies and prejudices, and not need to have them eradicated by the
lessons it will subsequently be taught in the school of life. The
child would, in this way, have its mind once for all habituated
to clear views and thorough-going knowledge; it would use its own
judgment and take an unbiased estimate of things.

And, in general, children should not form their notions of what life
is like from the copy before they have learned it from the original,
to whatever aspect of it their attention may be directed. Instead,
therefore, of hastening to place _books_, and books alone, in their
hands, let them be made acquainted, step by step, with _things_--with
the actual circumstances of human life. And above all let care be
taken to bring them to a clear and objective view of the world as it
is, to educate them always to derive their ideas directly from real
life, and to shape them in conformity with it--not to fetch them from
other sources, such as books, fairy tales, or what people say--then
to apply them ready-made to real life. For this will mean that their
heads are full of wrong notions, and that they will either see things
in a false light or try in vain to _remodel the world_ to suit their
views, and so enter upon false paths; and that, too, whether they are
only constructing theories of life or engaged in the actual business
of it. It is incredible how much harm is done when the seeds of wrong
notions are laid in the mind in those early years, later on to bear a
crop of prejudice; for the subsequent lessons, which are learned from
real life in the world have to be devoted mainly to their extirpation.
_To unlearn the evil_ was the answer, according to Diogenes
Laertius,[1] Antisthenes gave, when he was asked what branch of
knowledge was most necessary; and we can see what he meant.

[Footnote 1: vi. 7.]

No child under the age of fifteen should receive instruction in
subjects which may possibly be the vehicle of serious error, such as
philosophy, religion, or any other branch of knowledge where it is
necessary to take large views; because wrong notions imbibed early can
seldom be rooted out, and of all the intellectual faculties, judgment
is the last to arrive at maturity. The child should give its attention
either to subjects where no error is possible at all, such as
mathematics, or to those in which there is no particular danger in
making a mistake, such as languages, natural science, history and so
on. And in general, the branches of knowledge which are to be studied
at any period of life should be such as the mind is equal to at that
period and can perfectly understand. Childhood and youth form the time
for collecting materials, for getting a special and thorough knowledge
of the individual and particular things. In those years it is too
early to form views on a large scale; and ultimate explanations must
be put off to a later date. The faculty of judgment, which cannot come
into play without mature experience, should be left to itself; and
care should be taken not to anticipate its action by inculcating
prejudice, which will paralyze it for ever.

On the other hand, the memory should be specially taxed in youth,
since it is then that it is strongest and most tenacious. But in
choosing the things that should be committed to memory the utmost care
and forethought must be exercised; as lessons well learnt in youth are
never forgotten. This precious soil must therefore be cultivated so as
to bear as much fruit as possible. If you think how deeply rooted in
your memory are those persons whom you knew in the first twelve years
of your life, how indelible the impression made upon you by the events
of those years, how clear your recollection of most of the things that
happened to you then, most of what was told or taught you, it will
seem a natural thing to take the susceptibility and tenacity of the
mind at that period as the ground-work of education. This may be done
by a strict observance of method, and a systematic regulation of the
impressions which the mind is to receive.

But the years of youth allotted to a man are short, and memory is, in
general, bound within narrow limits; still more so, the memory of any
one individual. Since this is the case, it is all-important to fill
the memory with what is essential and material in any branch of
knowledge, to the exclusion of everything else. The decision as to
what is essential and material should rest with the masterminds in
every department of thought; their choice should be made after the
most mature deliberation, and the outcome of it fixed and determined.
Such a choice would have to proceed by sifting the things which it
is necessary and important for a man to know in general, and then,
necessary and important for him to know in any particular business
or calling. Knowledge of the first kind would have to be classified,
after an encyclopaedic fashion, in graduated courses, adapted to the
degree of general culture which a man may be expected to have in the
circumstances in which he is placed; beginning with a course limited
to the necessary requirements of primary education, and extending
upwards to the subjects treated of in all the branches of
philosophical thought. The regulation of the second kind of knowledge
would be left to those who had shown genuine mastery in the several
departments into which it is divided; and the whole system would
provide an elaborate rule or canon for intellectual education, which
would, of course, have to be revised every ten years. Some such
arrangement as this would employ the youthful power of the memory to
best advantage, and supply excellent working material to the faculty
of judgment, when it made its appearance later on.

A man's knowledge may be said to be mature, in other words, it has
reached the most complete state of perfection to which he, as an
individual, is capable of bringing it, when an exact correspondence is
established between the whole of his abstract ideas and the things he
has actually perceived for himself. This will mean that each of
his abstract ideas rests, directly or indirectly, upon a basis of
observation, which alone endows it with any real value; and also
that he is able to place every observation he makes under the right
abstract idea which belongs to it. Maturity is the work of experience
alone; and therefore it requires time. The knowledge we derive from
our own observation is usually distinct from that which we acquire
through the medium of abstract ideas; the one coming to us in the
natural way, the other by what people tell us, and the course of
instruction we receive, whether it is good or bad. The result is, that
in youth there is generally very little agreement or correspondence
between our abstract ideas, which are merely phrases in the mind, and
that real knowledge which we have obtained by our own observation. It
is only later on that a gradual approach takes place between these two
kinds of knowledge, accompanied by a mutual correction of error; and
knowledge is not mature until this coalition is accomplished. This
maturity or perfection of knowledge is something quite independent of
another kind of perfection, which may be of a high or a low order--the
perfection, I mean, to which a man may bring his own individual
faculties; which is measured, not by any correspondence between the
two kinds of knowledge, but by the degree of intensity which each kind

For the practical man the most needful thing is to acquire an accurate
and profound knowledge of _the ways of the world_. But this, though
the most needful, is also the most wearisome of all studies, as a man
may reach a great age without coming to the end of his task; whereas,
in the domain of the sciences, he masters the more important facts
when he is still young. In acquiring that knowledge of the world, it
is while he is a novice, namely, in boyhood and in youth, that the
first and hardest lessons are put before him; but it often happens
that even in later years there is still a great deal to be learned.

The study is difficult enough in itself; but the difficulty is doubled
by _novels_, which represent a state of things in life and the world,
such as, in fact, does not exist. Youth is credulous, and accepts
these views of life, which then become part and parcel of the mind; so
that, instead of a merely negative condition of ignorance, you have
positive error--a whole tissue of false notions to start with; and at
a later date these actually spoil the schooling of experience, and put
a wrong construction on the lessons it teaches. If, before this,
the youth had no light at all to guide him, he is now misled by a
will-o'-the-wisp; still more often is this the case with a girl.
They have both had a false view of things foisted on them by reading
novels; and expectations have been aroused which can never be
fulfilled. This generally exercises a baneful influence on their whole
life. In this respect those whose youth has allowed them no time or
opportunity for reading novels--those who work with their hands and
the like--are in a position of decided advantage. There are a few
novels to which this reproach cannot be addressed--nay, which have an
effect the contrary of bad. First and foremost, to give an example,
_Gil Blas_, and the other works of Le Sage (or rather their Spanish
originals); further, _The Vicar of Wakefield_, and, to some extent Sir
Walter Scott's novels. _Don Quixote_ may be regarded as a satirical
exhibition of the error to which I am referring.


Schiller's poem in honor of women, _Wuerde der Frauen_, is the
result of much careful thought, and it appeals to the reader by its
antithetic style and its use of contrast; but as an expression of the
true praise which should be accorded to them, it is, I think, inferior
to these few words of Jouy's: _Without women, the beginning of our
life would be helpless; the middle, devoid of pleasure; and the end,
of consolation_. The same thing is more feelingly expressed by Byron
in _Sardanapalus_:

_The very first
Of human life must spring from woman's breast,
Your first small words are taught you from her lips,
Your first tears quench'd by her, and your last sighs
Too often breathed out in a woman's hearing,
When men have shrunk from the ignoble care
Of watching the last hour of him who led them_.

(Act I Scene 2.)

These two passages indicate the right standpoint for the appreciation
of women.

You need only look at the way in which she is formed, to see that
woman is not meant to undergo great labor, whether of the mind or of
the body. She pays the debt of life not by what she does, but by what
she suffers; by the pains of child-bearing and care for the child,
and by submission to her husband, to whom she should be a patient and
cheering companion. The keenest sorrows and joys are not for her, nor
is she called upon to display a great deal of strength. The current
of her life should be more gentle, peaceful and trivial than man's,
without being essentially happier or unhappier.

Women are directly fitted for acting as the nurses and teachers of
our early childhood by the fact that they are themselves childish,
frivolous and short-sighted; in a word, they are big children all
their life long--a kind of intermediate stage between the child and
the full-grown man, who is man in the strict sense of the word. See
how a girl will fondle a child for days together, dance with it and
sing to it; and then think what a man, with the best will in the
world, could do if he were put in her place.

With young girls Nature seems to have had in view what, in the
language of the drama, is called _a striking effect_; as for a few
years she dowers them with a wealth of beauty and is lavish in her
gift of charm, at the expense of all the rest of their life; so that
during those years they may capture the fantasy of some man to such a
degree that he is hurried away into undertaking the honorable care of
them, in some form or other, as long as they live--a step for which
there would not appear to be any sufficient warranty if reason only
directed his thoughts. Accordingly, Nature has equipped woman, as she
does all her creatures, with the weapons and implements requisite
for the safeguarding of her existence, and for just as long as it is
necessary for her to have them. Here, as elsewhere, Nature proceeds
with her usual economy; for just as the female ant, after fecundation,
loses her wings, which are then superfluous, nay, actually a danger
to the business of breeding; so, after giving birth to one or two
children, a woman generally loses her beauty; probably, indeed, for
similar reasons.

And so we find that young girls, in their hearts, look upon domestic
affairs or work of any kind as of secondary importance, if not
actually as a mere jest. The only business that really claims their
earnest attention is love, making conquests, and everything connected
with this--dress, dancing, and so on.

The nobler and more perfect a thing is, the later and slower it is
in arriving at maturity. A man reaches the maturity of his reasoning
powers and mental faculties hardly before the age of twenty-eight; a
woman at eighteen. And then, too, in the case of woman, it is only
reason of a sort--very niggard in its dimensions. That is why women
remain children their whole life long; never seeing anything but
what is quite close to them, cleaving to the present moment, taking
appearance for reality, and preferring trifles to matters of the first
importance. For it is by virtue of his reasoning faculty that man does
not live in the present only, like the brute, but looks about him and
considers the past and the future; and this is the origin of prudence,
as well as of that care and anxiety which so many people exhibit. Both
the advantages and the disadvantages which this involves, are shared
in by the woman to a smaller extent because of her weaker power
of reasoning. She may, in fact, be described as intellectually
short-sighted, because, while she has an intuitive understanding of
what lies quite close to her, her field of vision is narrow and does
not reach to what is remote; so that things which are absent, or past,
or to come, have much less effect upon women than upon men. This is
the reason why women are more often inclined to be extravagant, and
sometimes carry their inclination to a length that borders upon
madness. In their hearts, women think that it is men's business
to earn money and theirs to spend it--- if possible during their
husband's life, but, at any rate, after his death. The very fact
that their husband hands them over his earnings for purposes of
housekeeping, strengthens them in this belief.

However many disadvantages all this may involve, there is at least
this to be said in its favor; that the woman lives more in the present
than the man, and that, if the present is at all tolerable, she enjoys
it more eagerly. This is the source of that cheerfulness which
is peculiar to women, fitting her to amuse man in his hours of
recreation, and, in case of need, to console him when he is borne down
by the weight of his cares.

It is by no means a bad plan to consult women in matters of
difficulty, as the Germans used to do in ancient times; for their way
of looking at things is quite different from ours, chiefly in the
fact that they like to take the shortest way to their goal, and, in
general, manage to fix their eyes upon what lies before them; while
we, as a rule, see far beyond it, just because it is in front of our
noses. In cases like this, we need to be brought back to the right
standpoint, so as to recover the near and simple view.

Then, again, women are decidedly more sober in their judgment than
we are, so that they do not see more in things than is really there;
whilst, if our passions are aroused, we are apt to see things in an
exaggerated way, or imagine what does not exist.

The weakness of their reasoning faculty also explains why it is that
women show more sympathy for the unfortunate than men do, and so treat
them with more kindness and interest; and why it is that, on the
contrary, they are inferior to men in point of justice, and less
honorable and conscientious. For it is just because their reasoning
power is weak that present circumstances have such a hold over them,
and those concrete things, which lie directly before their eyes,
exercise a power which is seldom counteracted to any extent by
abstract principles of thought, by fixed rules of conduct, firm
resolutions, or, in general, by consideration for the past and the
future, or regard for what is absent and remote. Accordingly, they
possess the first and main elements that go to make a virtuous
character, but they are deficient in those secondary qualities which
are often a necessary instrument in the formation of it.[1]

[Footnote 1: In this respect they may be compared to an animal
organism which contains a liver but no gall-bladder. Here let me refer
to what I have said in my treatise on _The Foundation of Morals_, sec.

Hence, it will be found that the fundamental fault of the female
character is that it has _no sense of justice_. This is mainly due to
the fact, already mentioned, that women are defective in the powers of
reasoning and deliberation; but it is also traceable to the position
which Nature has assigned to them as the weaker sex. They are
dependent, not upon strength, but upon craft; and hence their
instinctive capacity for cunning, and their ineradicable tendency to
say what is not true. For as lions are provided with claws and teeth,
and elephants and boars with tusks, bulls with horns, and cuttle fish
with its clouds of inky fluid, so Nature has equipped woman, for her
defence and protection, with the arts of dissimulation; and all the
power which Nature has conferred upon man in the shape of physical
strength and reason, has been bestowed upon women in this form. Hence,
dissimulation is innate in woman, and almost as much a quality of the
stupid as of the clever. It is as natural for them to make use of it
on every occasion as it is for those animals to employ their means of
defence when they are attacked; they have a feeling that in doing so
they are only within their rights. Therefore a woman who is perfectly
truthful and not given to dissimulation is perhaps an impossibility,
and for this very reason they are so quick at seeing through
dissimulation in others that it is not a wise thing to attempt it with
them. But this fundamental defect which I have stated, with all
that it entails, gives rise to falsity, faithlessness, treachery,
ingratitude, and so on. Perjury in a court of justice is more
often committed by women than by men. It may, indeed, be generally
questioned whether women ought to be sworn in at all. From time to
time one finds repeated cases everywhere of ladies, who want for
nothing, taking things from shop-counters when no one is looking, and
making off with them.

Nature has appointed that the propagation of the species shall be the
business of men who are young, strong and handsome; so that the race
may not degenerate. This is the firm will and purpose of Nature in
regard to the species, and it finds its expression in the passions of
women. There is no law that is older or more powerful than this. Woe,
then, to the man who sets up claims and interests that will conflict
with it; whatever he may say and do, they will be unmercifully crushed
at the first serious encounter. For the innate rule that governs
women's conduct, though it is secret and unformulated, nay,
unconscious in its working, is this: _We are justified in deceiving
those who think they have acquired rights over the species by paying
little attention to the individual, that is, to us. The constitution
and, therefore, the welfare of the species have been placed in our
hands and committed to our care, through the control we obtain over
the next generation, which proceeds from us; let us discharge our
duties conscientiously_. But women have no abstract knowledge of this
leading principle; they are conscious of it only as a concrete fact;
and they have no other method of giving expression to it than the
way in which they act when the opportunity arrives. And then their
conscience does not trouble them so much as we fancy; for in the
darkest recesses of their heart, they are aware that in committing a
breach of their duty towards the individual, they have all the
better fulfilled their duty towards the species, which is infinitely

[Footnote 1: A more detailed discussion of the matter in question may
be found in my chief work, _Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung_, vol.
ii, ch. 44.]

And since women exist in the main solely for the propagation of the
species, and are not destined for anything else, they live, as a rule,
more for the species than for the individual, and in their hearts
take the affairs of the species more seriously than those of the
individual. This gives their whole life and being a certain levity;
the general bent of their character is in a direction fundamentally
different from that of man; and it is this to which produces that
discord in married life which is so frequent, and almost the normal

The natural feeling between men is mere indifference, but
between women it is actual enmity. The reason of this is that
trade-jealousy--_odium figulinum_--which, in the case of men does not
go beyond the confines of their own particular pursuit; but, with
women, embraces the whole sex; since they have only one kind of
business. Even when they meet in the street, women look at one another
like Guelphs and Ghibellines. And it is a patent fact that when two
women make first acquaintance with each other, they behave with more
constraint and dissimulation than two men would show in a like case;
and hence it is that an exchange of compliments between two women is a
much more ridiculous proceeding than between two men. Further, whilst
a man will, as a general rule, always preserve a certain amount of
consideration and humanity in speaking to others, even to those who
are in a very inferior position, it is intolerable to see how proudly
and disdainfully a fine lady will generally behave towards one who is
in a lower social rank (I do not mean a woman who is in her service),
whenever she speaks to her. The reason of this may be that, with
women, differences of rank are much more precarious than with us;
because, while a hundred considerations carry weight in our case,
in theirs there is only one, namely, with which man they have found
favor; as also that they stand in much nearer relations with one
another than men do, in consequence of the one-sided nature of their
calling. This makes them endeavor to lay stress upon differences of

It is only the man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual impulses
that could give the name of _the fair sex_ to that under-sized,
narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped, and short-legged race; for the whole
beauty of the sex is bound up with this impulse. Instead of calling
them beautiful, there would be more warrant for describing women as
the un-aesthetic sex. Neither for music, nor for poetry, nor for fine
art, have they really and truly any sense or susceptibility; it is a
mere mockery if they make a pretence of it in order to assist their
endeavor to please. Hence, as a result of this, they are incapable of
taking a _purely objective interest_ in anything; and the reason of it
seems to me to be as follows. A man tries to acquire _direct_ mastery
over things, either by understanding them, or by forcing them to do
his will. But a woman is always and everywhere reduced to obtaining
this mastery _indirectly_, namely, through a man; and whatever direct
mastery she may have is entirely confined to him. And so it lies in
woman's nature to look upon everything only as a means for conquering
man; and if she takes an interest in anything else, it is simulated--a
mere roundabout way of gaining her ends by coquetry, and feigning what
she does not feel. Hence, even Rousseau declared: _Women have, in
general, no love for any art; they have no proper knowledge of any;
and they have no genius_.[1]

[Footnote 1: Lettre a d'Alembert, Note xx.]

No one who sees at all below the surface can have failed to remark the
same thing. You need only observe the kind of attention women bestow
upon a concert, an opera, or a play--the childish simplicity, for
example, with which they keep on chattering during the finest passages
in the greatest masterpieces. If it is true that the Greeks excluded
women from their theatres they were quite right in what they did;
at any rate you would have been able to hear what was said upon the
stage. In our day, besides, or in lieu of saying, _Let a woman keep
silence in the church_, it would be much to the point to say _Let a
woman keep silence in the theatre_. This might, perhaps, be put up in
big letters on the curtain.

And you cannot expect anything else of women if you consider that the
most distinguished intellects among the whole sex have never managed
to produce a single achievement in the fine arts that is really great,
genuine, and original; or given to the world any work of permanent
value in any sphere. This is most strikingly shown in regard to
painting, where mastery of technique is at least as much within their
power as within ours--and hence they are diligent in cultivating it;
but still, they have not a single great painting to boast of, just
because they are deficient in that objectivity of mind which is so
directly indispensable in painting. They never get beyond a subjective
point of view. It is quite in keeping with this that ordinary women
have no real susceptibility for art at all; for Nature proceeds in
strict sequence--_non facit saltum_. And Huarte[1] in his _Examen de
ingenios para las scienzias_--a book which has been famous for
three hundred years--denies women the possession of all the higher
faculties. The case is not altered by particular and partial
exceptions; taken as a whole, women are, and remain, thorough-going
Philistines, and quite incurable. Hence, with that absurd arrangement
which allows them to share the rank and title of their husbands they
are a constant stimulus to his ignoble ambitions. And, further, it is
just because they are Philistines that modern society, where they
take the lead and set the tone, is in such a bad way. Napoleon's
saying--that _women have no rank_--should be adopted as the right
standpoint in determining their position in society; and as regards
their other qualities Chamfort[2] makes the very true remark: _They
are made to trade with our own weaknesses and our follies, but not
with our reason. The sympathies that exist between them and men are
skin-deep only, and do not touch the mind or the feelings or the
character_. They form the _sexus sequior_--the second sex, inferior in
every respect to the first; their infirmities should be treated
with consideration; but to show them great reverence is extremely
ridiculous, and lowers us in their eyes. When Nature made two
divisions of the human race, she did not draw the line exactly through
the middle. These divisions are polar and opposed to each other, it is
true; but the difference between them is not qualitative merely, it is
also quantitative.

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--- Juan Huarte (1520?-1590)
practised as a physician at Madrid. The work cited by Schopenhauer is
known, and has been translated into many languages.]

[Footnote 2: _Translator's Note_.--See _Counsels and Maxims_, p. 12,

This is just the view which the ancients took of woman, and the view
which people in the East take now; and their judgment as to her proper
position is much more correct than ours, with our old French notions
of gallantry and our preposterous system of reverence--that highest
product of Teutonico-Christian stupidity. These notions have served
only to make women more arrogant and overbearing; so that one is
occasionally reminded of the holy apes in Benares, who in the
consciousness of their sanctity and inviolable position, think they
can do exactly as they please.

But in the West, the woman, and especially the _lady_, finds herself
in a false position; for woman, rightly called by the ancients,
_sexus sequior_, is by no means fit to be the object of our honor and
veneration, or to hold her head higher than man and be on equal terms
with him. The consequences of this false position are sufficiently
obvious. Accordingly, it would be a very desirable thing if this
Number-Two of the human race were in Europe also relegated to her
natural place, and an end put to that lady nuisance, which not only
moves all Asia to laughter, but would have been ridiculed by Greece
and Rome as well. It is impossible to calculate the good effects which
such a change would bring about in our social, civil and political
arrangements. There would be no necessity for the Salic law: it would
be a superfluous truism. In Europe the _lady_, strictly so-called, is
a being who should not exist at all; she should be either a housewife
or a girl who hopes to become one; and she should be brought up, not
to be arrogant, but to be thrifty and submissive. It is just because
there are such people as _ladies_ in Europe that the women of the
lower classes, that is to say, the great majority of the sex, are much
more unhappy than they are in the East. And even Lord Byron says:
_Thought of the state of women under the ancient Greeks--convenient
enough. Present state, a remnant of the barbarism of the chivalric
and the feudal ages--artificial and unnatural. They ought to mind
home--and be well fed and clothed--but not mixed in society. Well
educated, too, in religion--but to read neither poetry nor politics--
nothing but books of piety and cookery. Music--drawing--dancing--also
a little gardening and ploughing now and then. I have seen them
mending the roads in Epirus with good success. Why not, as well as
hay-making and milking_?

The laws of marriage prevailing in Europe consider the woman as the
equivalent of the man--start, that is to say, from a wrong position.
In our part of the world where monogamy is the rule, to marry means to
halve one's rights and double one's duties. Now, when the laws gave
women equal rights with man, they ought to have also endowed her with
a masculine intellect. But the fact is, that just in proportion as
the honors and privileges which the laws accord to women, exceed the
amount which nature gives, is there a diminution in the number
of women who really participate in these privileges; and all the
remainder are deprived of their natural rights by just so much as is
given to the others over and above their share. For the institution of
monogamy, and the laws of marriage which it entails, bestow upon
the woman an unnatural position of privilege, by considering her
throughout as the full equivalent of the man, which is by no means
the case; and seeing this, men who are shrewd and prudent very often
scruple to make so great a sacrifice and to acquiesce in so unfair an

Consequently, whilst among polygamous nations every woman is provided
for, where monogamy prevails the number of married women is limited;
and there remains over a large number of women without stay or
support, who, in the upper classes, vegetate as useless old maids, and
in the lower succumb to hard work for which they are not suited; or
else become _filles de joie_, whose life is as destitute of joy as it
is of honor. But under the circumstances they become a necessity; and
their position is openly recognized as serving the special end of
warding off temptation from those women favored by fate, who have
found, or may hope to find, husbands. In London alone there are 80,000
prostitutes. What are they but the women, who, under the institution
of monogamy have come off worse? Theirs is a dreadful fate: they are
human sacrifices offered up on the altar of monogamy. The women whose
wretched position is here described are the inevitable set-off to the
European lady with her arrogance and pretension. Polygamy is therefore
a real benefit to the female sex if it is taken as a whole. And, from
another point of view, there is no true reason why a man whose wife
suffers from chronic illness, or remains barren, or has gradually
become too old for him, should not take a second. The motives which
induce so many people to become converts to Mormonism[1] appear to
be just those which militate against the unnatural institution of

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--The Mormons have recently given up
polygamy, and received the American franchise in its stead.]

Moreover, the bestowal of unnatural rights upon women has imposed upon
them unnatural duties, and, nevertheless, a breach of these duties
makes them unhappy. Let me explain. A man may often think that his
social or financial position will suffer if he marries, unless he
makes some brilliant alliance. His desire will then be to win a woman
of his own choice under conditions other than those of marriage, such
as will secure her position and that of the children. However fair,
reasonable, fit and proper these conditions may be, and the woman
consents by foregoing that undue amount of privilege which marriage
alone can bestow, she to some extent loses her honor, because marriage
is the basis of civic society; and she will lead an unhappy life,
since human nature is so constituted that we pay an attention to the
opinion of other people which is out of all proportion to its value.
On the other hand, if she does not consent, she runs the risk either
of having to be given in marriage to a man whom she does not like, or
of being landed high and dry as an old maid; for the period during
which she has a chance of being settled for life is very short. And
in view of this aspect of the institution of monogamy, Thomasius'
profoundly learned treatise, _de Concubinatu_, is well worth reading;
for it shows that, amongst all nations and in all ages, down to the
Lutheran Reformation, concubinage was permitted; nay, that it was an
institution which was to a certain extent actually recognized by law,
and attended with no dishonor. It was only the Lutheran Reformation
that degraded it from this position. It was seen to be a further
justification for the marriage of the clergy; and then, after that,
the Catholic Church did not dare to remain behind-hand in the matter.

There is no use arguing about polygamy; it must be taken as _de facto_
existing everywhere, and the only question is as to how it shall be
regulated. Where are there, then, any real monogamists? We all live,
at any rate, for a time, and most of us, always, in polygamy. And so,
since every man needs many women, there is nothing fairer than to
allow him, nay, to make it incumbent upon him, to provide for many
women. This will reduce woman to her true and natural position as
a subordinate being; and the _lady_--that monster of European
civilization and Teutonico-Christian stupidity--will disappear from
the world, leaving only _women_, but no more _unhappy women_, of whom
Europe is now full.

In India, no woman is ever independent, but in accordance with the law
of Mamu,[1] she stands under the control of her father, her husband,
her brother or her son. It is, to be sure, a revolting thing that a
widow should immolate herself upon her husband's funeral pyre; but it
is also revolting that she should spend her husband's money with her
paramours--the money for which he toiled his whole life long, in the
consoling belief that he was providing for his children. Happy are
those who have kept the middle course--_medium tenuere beati_.

[Footnote 1: Ch. V., v. 148.]

The first love of a mother for her child is, with the lower animals as
with men, of a purely _instinctive_ character, and so it ceases when
the child is no longer in a physically helpless condition. After that,
the first love should give way to one that is based on habit and
reason; but this often fails to make its appearance, especially where
the mother did not love the father. The love of a father for his child
is of a different order, and more likely to last; because it has its
foundation in the fact that in the child he recognizes his own inner
self; that is to say, his love for it is metaphysical in its origin.

In almost all nations, whether of the ancient or the modern world,
even amongst the Hottentots,[1] property is inherited by the male
descendants alone; it is only in Europe that a departure has taken
place; but not amongst the nobility, however. That the property which
has cost men long years of toil and effort, and been won with so much
difficulty, should afterwards come into the hands of women, who then,
in their lack of reason, squander it in a short time, or otherwise
fool it away, is a grievance and a wrong as serious as it is common,
which should be prevented by limiting the right of women to inherit.
In my opinion, the best arrangement would be that by which women,
whether widows or daughters, should never receive anything beyond the
interest for life on property secured by mortgage, and in no case the
property itself, or the capital, except where all male descendants
fail. The people who make money are men, not women; and it follows
from this that women are neither justified in having unconditional
possession of it, nor fit persons to be entrusted with its
administration. When wealth, in any true sense of the word, that is to
say, funds, houses or land, is to go to them as an inheritance they
should never be allowed the free disposition of it. In their case a
guardian should always be appointed; and hence they should never be
given the free control of their own children, wherever it can be
avoided. The vanity of women, even though it should not prove to be
greater than that of men, has this much danger in it, that it takes an
entirely material direction. They are vain, I mean, of their personal
beauty, and then of finery, show and magnificence. That is just why
they are so much in their element in society. It is this, too, which
makes them so inclined to be extravagant, all the more as their
reasoning power is low. Accordingly we find an ancient writer
describing woman as in general of an extravagant nature--[Greek: Gynae
to synolon esti dapanaeron Physei][2] But with men vanity often takes
the direction of non-material advantages, such as intellect, learning,

[Footnote 1: Leroy, _Lettres philosophiques sur l'intelligence et la
perfectibilite des animaux, avec quelques lettres sur l'homme_, p.
298, Paris, 1802.]

[Footnote 2: Brunck's _Gnomici poetae graeci_, v. 115.]

In the _Politics_[1] Aristotle explains the great disadvantage which
accrued to the Spartans from the fact that they conceded too much to
their women, by giving them the right of inheritance and dower, and a
great amount of independence; and he shows how much this contributed
to Sparta's fall. May it not be the case in France that the influence
of women, which went on increasing steadily from the time of Louis
XIII., was to blame for that gradual corruption of the Court and the
Government, which brought about the Revolution of 1789, of which all
subsequent disturbances have been the fruit? However that may be, the
false position which women occupy, demonstrated as it is, in the most
glaring way, by the institution of the _lady_, is a fundamental defect
in our social scheme, and this defect, proceeding from the very heart
of it, must spread its baneful influence in all directions.

[Footnote 1: Bk. I, ch. 9.]

* * * * *

That woman is by nature meant to obey may be seen by the fact that
every woman who is placed in the unnatural position of complete
independence, immediately attaches herself to some man, by whom she
allows herself to be guided and ruled. It is because she needs a lord
and master. If she is young, it will be a lover; if she is old, a


Kant wrote a treatise on _The Vital Powers_. I should prefer to write
a dirge for them. The superabundant display of vitality, which takes
the form of knocking, hammering, and tumbling things about, has proved
a daily torment to me all my life long. There are people, it is
true--nay, a great many people--who smile at such things, because they
are not sensitive to noise; but they are just the very people who are
also not sensitive to argument, or thought, or poetry, or art, in a
word, to any kind of intellectual influence. The reason of it is that
the tissue of their brains is of a very rough and coarse quality. On
the other hand, noise is a torture to intellectual people. In the
biographies of almost all great writers, or wherever else their
personal utterances are recorded, I find complaints about it; in the
case of Kant, for instance, Goethe, Lichtenberg, Jean Paul; and if it
should happen that any writer has omitted to express himself on the
matter, it is only for want of an opportunity.

This aversion to noise I should explain as follows: If you cut up a
large diamond into little bits, it will entirely lose the value it
had as a whole; and an army divided up into small bodies of soldiers,
loses all its strength. So a great intellect sinks to the level of
an ordinary one, as soon as it is interrupted and disturbed, its
attention distracted and drawn off from the matter in hand; for its
superiority depends upon its power of concentration--of bringing all
its strength to bear upon one theme, in the same way as a concave
mirror collects into one point all the rays of light that strike upon
it. Noisy interruption is a hindrance to this concentration. That is
why distinguished minds have always shown such an extreme dislike
to disturbance in any form, as something that breaks in upon and
distracts their thoughts. Above all have they been averse to that
violent interruption that comes from noise. Ordinary people are
not much put out by anything of the sort. The most sensible and
intelligent of all nations in Europe lays down the rule, _Never
Interrupt_! as the eleventh commandment. Noise is the most impertinent
of all forms of interruption. It is not only an interruption, but
also a disruption of thought. Of course, where there is nothing to
interrupt, noise will not be so particularly painful. Occasionally it
happens that some slight but constant noise continues to bother and
distract me for a time before I become distinctly conscious of it. All
I feel is a steady increase in the labor of thinking--just as though I
were trying to walk with a weight on my foot. At last I find out what
it is. Let me now, however, pass from genus to species. The most
inexcusable and disgraceful of all noises is the cracking of whips--a
truly infernal thing when it is done in the narrow resounding streets
of a town. I denounce it as making a peaceful life impossible; it puts
an end to all quiet thought. That this cracking of whips should be
allowed at all seems to me to show in the clearest way how senseless
and thoughtless is the nature of mankind. No one with anything like an
idea in his head can avoid a feeling of actual pain at this sudden,
sharp crack, which paralyzes the brain, rends the thread of
reflection, and murders thought. Every time this noise is made, it
must disturb a hundred people who are applying their minds to business
of some sort, no matter how trivial it may be; while on the thinker
its effect is woeful and disastrous, cutting his thoughts asunder,
much as the executioner's axe severs the head from the body. No sound,
be it ever so shrill, cuts so sharply into the brain as this cursed
cracking of whips; you feel the sting of the lash right inside your
head; and it affects the brain in the same way as touch affects a
sensitive plant, and for the same length of time.

With all due respect for the most holy doctrine of utility, I really
cannot see why a fellow who is taking away a wagon-load of gravel or
dung should thereby obtain the right to kill in the bud the thoughts
which may happen to be springing up in ten thousand heads--the number
he will disturb one after another in half an hour's drive through the
town. Hammering, the barking of dogs, and the crying of children are
horrible to hear; but your only genuine assassin of thought is the
crack of a whip; it exists for the purpose of destroying every
pleasant moment of quiet thought that any one may now and then enjoy.
If the driver had no other way of urging on his horse than by making
this most abominable of all noises, it would be excusable; but quite
the contrary is the case. This cursed cracking of whips is not only
unnecessary, but even useless. Its aim is to produce an effect upon
the intelligence of the horse; but through the constant abuse of it,
the animal becomes habituated to the sound, which falls upon blunted
feelings and produces no effect at all. The horse does not go any
faster for it. You have a remarkable example of this in the ceaseless
cracking of his whip on the part of a cab-driver, while he is
proceeding at a slow pace on the lookout for a fare. If he were to
give his horse the slightest touch with the whip, it would have much
more effect. Supposing, however, that it were absolutely necessary to
crack the whip in order to keep the horse constantly in mind of its
presence, it would be enough to make the hundredth part of the noise.
For it is a well-known fact that, in regard to sight and hearing,
animals are sensitive to even the faintest indications; they are alive
to things that we can scarcely perceive. The most surprising instances
of this are furnished by trained dogs and canary birds.

It is obvious, therefore, that here we have to do with an act of pure
wantonness; nay, with an impudent defiance offered to those members of
the community who work with their heads by those who work with their
hands. That such infamy should be tolerated in a town is a piece of
barbarity and iniquity, all the more as it could easily be remedied by
a police-notice to the effect that every lash shall have a knot at the
end of it. There can be no harm in drawing the attention of the mob to
the fact that the classes above them work with their heads, for any
kind of headwork is mortal anguish to the man in the street. A fellow
who rides through the narrow alleys of a populous town with unemployed
post-horses or cart-horses, and keeps on cracking a whip several yards
long with all his might, deserves there and then to stand down and
receive five really good blows with a stick.

All the philanthropists in the world, and all the legislators, meeting
to advocate and decree the total abolition of corporal punishment,
will never persuade me to the contrary! There is something even more
disgraceful than what I have just mentioned. Often enough you may see
a carter walking along the street, quite alone, without any horses,
and still cracking away incessantly; so accustomed has the wretch
become to it in consequence of the unwarrantable toleration of this
practice. 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? Carters,
porters, messengers--these are the beasts of burden amongst mankind;
by all means let them be treated justly, fairly, indulgently, and with
forethought; but they must not be permitted to stand in the way of
the higher endeavors of humanity by wantonly making a noise. How many
great and splendid thoughts, I should like to know, have been lost to
the world by the crack of a whip? If I had the upper hand, I should
soon produce in the heads of these people an indissoluble association
of ideas between cracking a whip and getting a whipping.

Let us hope that the more intelligent and refined among the nations
will make a beginning in this matter, and then that the Germans may
take example by it and follow suit.[1] Meanwhile, I may quote what
Thomas Hood says of them[2]: _For a musical nation, they are the most
noisy I ever met with_. That they are so is due to the fact, not that
they are more fond of making a noise than other people--they would
deny it if you asked them--but that their senses are obtuse;
consequently, when they hear a noise, it does not affect them much. It
does not disturb them in reading or thinking, simply because they do
not think; they only smoke, which is their substitute for thought. The
general toleration of unnecessary noise--the slamming of doors, for
instance, a very unmannerly and ill-bred thing--is direct evidence
that the prevailing habit of mind is dullness and lack of thought. In
Germany it seems as though care were taken that no one should ever
think for mere noise--to mention one form of it, the way in which
drumming goes on for no purpose at all.

[Footnote 1: According to a notice issued by the Society for the
Protection of Animals in Munich, the superfluous whipping and the
cracking of whips were, in December, 1858, positively forbidden in

[Footnote 2: In _Up the Rhine_.]

Finally, as regards the literature of the subject treated of in this
chapter, I have only one work to recommend, but it is a good one. I
refer to a poetical epistle in _terzo rimo_ by the famous painter
Bronzino, entitled _De' Romori: a Messer Luca Martini_. It gives a
detailed description of the torture to which people are put by the
various noises of a small Italian town. Written in a tragicomic style,
it is very amusing. The epistle may be found in _Opere burlesche del
Berni, Aretino ed altri_, Vol. II., p. 258; apparently published in
Utrecht in 1771.


In a field of ripening corn I came to a place which had been trampled
down by some ruthless foot; and as I glanced amongst the countless
stalks, every one of them alike, standing there so erect and bearing
the full weight of the ear, I saw a multitude of different flowers,
red and blue and violet. How pretty they looked as they grew there so
naturally with their little foliage! But, thought I, they are quite
useless; they bear no fruit; they are mere weeds, suffered to remain
only because there is no getting rid of them. And yet, but for these
flowers, there would be nothing to charm the eye in that wilderness
of stalks. They are emblematic of poetry and art, which, in civic
life--so severe, but still useful and not without its fruit--play the
same part as flowers in the corn.

* * * * *

There are some really beautifully landscapes in the world, but the
human figures in them are poor, and you had not better look at them.

* * * * *

The fly should be used as the symbol of impertinence and audacity; for
whilst all other animals shun man more than anything else, and run
away even before he comes near them, the fly lights upon his very

* * * * *

Two Chinamen traveling in Europe went to the theatre for the first
time. One of them did nothing but study the machinery, and he
succeeded in finding out how it was worked. The other tried to get at
the meaning of the piece in spite of his ignorance of the language.
Here you have the Astronomer and the Philosopher.

* * * * *

Wisdom which is only theoretical and never put into practice, is like
a double rose; its color and perfume are delightful, but it withers
away and leaves no seed.

No rose without a thorn. Yes, but many a thorn without a rose.

* * * * *

A wide-spreading apple-tree stood in full bloom, and behind it a
straight fir raised its dark and tapering head. _Look at the thousands
of gay blossoms which cover me everywhere_, said the apple-tree; _what
have you to show in comparison? Dark-green needles! That is true_,
replied the fir, _but when winter comes, you will be bared of your
glory; and I shall be as I am now_.

* * * * *

Once, as I was botanizing under an oak, I found amongst a number
of other plants of similar height one that was dark in color, with
tightly closed leaves and a stalk that was very straight and stiff.
When I touched it, it said to me in firm tones: _Let me alone; I am
not for your collection, like these plants to which Nature has given
only a single year of life. I am a little oak_.

So it is with a man whose influence is to last for hundreds of years.
As a child, as a youth, often even as a full-grown man, nay, his whole
life long, he goes about among his fellows, looking like them and
seemingly as unimportant. But let him alone; he will not die. Time
will come and bring those who know how to value him.

* * * * *

The man who goes up in a balloon does not feel as though he were
ascending; he only sees the earth sinking deeper under him.

There is a mystery which only those will understand who feel the truth
of it.

* * * * *

Your estimation of a man's size will be affected by the distance at
which you stand from him, but in two entirely opposite ways according
as it is his physical or his mental stature that you are considering.
The one will seem smaller, the farther off you move; the other,

* * * * *

Nature covers all her works with a varnish of beauty, like the tender
bloom that is breathed, as it were, on the surface of a peach or a
plum. Painters and poets lay themselves out to take off this varnish,
to store it up, and give it us to be enjoyed at our leisure. We drink
deep of this beauty long before we enter upon life itself; and when
afterwards we come to see the works of Nature for ourselves, the
varnish is gone: the artists have used it up and we have enjoyed it in
advance. Thus it is that the world so often appears harsh and devoid
of charm, nay, actually repulsive. It were better to leave us to
discover the varnish for ourselves. This would mean that we should
not enjoy it all at once and in large quantities; we should have no
finished pictures, no perfect poems; but we should look at all things
in that genial and pleasing light in which even now a child of Nature
sometimes sees them--some one who has not anticipated his aesthetic
pleasures by the help of art, or taken the charms of life too early.

* * * * *

The Cathedral in Mayence is so shut in by the houses that are built
round about it, that there is no one spot from which you can see it
as a whole. This is symbolic of everything great or beautiful in the
world. It ought to exist for its own sake alone, but before very long
it is misused to serve alien ends. People come from all directions
wanting to find in it support and maintenance for themselves; they
stand in the way and spoil its effect. To be sure, there is nothing
surprising in this, for in a world of need and imperfection everything
is seized upon which can be used to satisfy want. Nothing is exempt
from this service, no, not even those very things which arise only
when need and want are for a moment lost sight of--the beautiful and
the true, sought for their own sakes.

This is especially illustrated and corroborated in the case of
institutions--whether great or small, wealthy or poor, founded, no
matter in what century or in what land, to maintain and advance human
knowledge, and generally to afford help to those intellectual efforts
which ennoble the race. Wherever these institutions may be, it is not
long before people sneak up to them under the pretence of wishing to
further those special ends, while they are really led on by the desire
to secure the emoluments which have been left for their furtherance,
and thus to satisfy certain coarse and brutal instincts of their own.
Thus it is that we come to have so many charlatans in every branch
of knowledge. 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.

* * * * *

Every hero is a Samson. The strong man succumbs to the intrigues of
the weak and the many; and if in the end he loses all patience he
crushes both them and himself. Or he is like Gulliver at Lilliput,
overwhelmed by an enormous number of little men.

* * * * *

A mother gave her children Aesop's fables to read, in the hope of
educating and improving their minds; but they very soon brought the
book back, and the eldest, wise beyond his years, delivered himself as
follows: _This is no book for us; it's much too childish and stupid.
You can't make us believe that foxes and wolves and ravens are able to
talk; we've got beyond stories of that kind_!

In these young hopefuls you have the enlightened Rationalists of the

* * * * *

A number of porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day in
winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills,
they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together
again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of
huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off
by remaining at a little distance from one another. In the same way
the need of society drives the human porcupines together, only to be
mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of
their nature. The moderate distance which they at last discover to be
the only tolerable condition of intercourse, is the code of politeness
and fine manners; and those who transgress it are roughly told--in
the English phrase--_to keep their distance_. By this arrangement the
mutual need of warmth is only very moderately satisfied; but then
people do not get pricked. A man who has some heat in himself prefers
to remain outside, where he will neither prick other people nor get
pricked himself.


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