The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; The Art of Controversy
Arthur Schopenhauer

Part 2 out of 2

genius are wholly understood and valued only by a man of genius, and
why it must necessarily be a long time before they indirectly attract
attention at the hands of the crowd, for whom they will never, in any
true sense, exist. This, too, is why one man will look another in the
face, with the impudent assurance that he will never see anything but
a miserable resemblance of himself; and this is just what he will see,
as he cannot grasp anything beyond it. Hence the bold way in which one
man will contradict another. Finally, it is for the same reason that
great superiority of mind isolates a man, and that those of high gifts
keep themselves aloof from the vulgar (and that means every one); for
if they mingle with the crowd, they can communicate only such parts of
them as they share with the crowd, and so make themselves _common_.
Nay, even though they possess some well-founded and authoritative
reputation amongst the crowd, they are not long in losing it, together
with any personal weight it may give them, since all are blind to the
qualities on which it is based, but have their eyes open to anything
that is vulgar and common to themselves. They soon discover the truth
of the Arabian proverb: _Joke with a slave, and he'll show you his

It also follows that a man of high gifts, in his intercourse with
others, must always reflect that the best part of him is out of sight
in the clouds; so that if he desires to know accurately how much he
can be to any one else, he has only to consider how much the man in
question is to him. This, as a rule, is precious little; and therefore
he is as uncongenial to the other, as the other to him.

* * * * *

Goethe says somewhere that man is not without a vein of veneration. To
satisfy this impulse to venerate, even in those who have no sense
for what is really worthy, substitutes are provided in the shape of
princes and princely families, nobles, titles, orders, and money-bags.

* * * * *

Vague longing and boredom are close akin.

* * * * *

When a man is dead, we envy him no more; and we only half envy him
when he is old.

* * * * *

Misanthropy and love of solitude are convertible ideas.

* * * * *

In chess, the object of the game, namely, to checkmate one's opponent,
is of arbitrary adoption; of the possible means of attaining it, there
is a great number; and according as we make a prudent use of them, we
arrive at our goal. We enter on the game of our own choice.

Nor is it otherwise with human life, only that here the entrance is
not of our choosing, but is forced on us; and the object, which is to
live and exist, seems, indeed, at times as though it were of arbitrary
adoption, and that we could, if necessary, relinquish it. Nevertheless
it is, in the strict sense of the word, a natural object; that is to
say, we cannot relinquish it without giving up existence itself. If we
regard our existence as the work of some arbitrary power outside us,
we must, indeed, admire the cunning by which that creative mind has
succeeded in making us place so much value on an object which is only
momentary and must of necessity be laid aside very soon, and which we
see, moreover, on reflection, to be altogether vanity--in making, I
say, this object so dear to us that we eagerly exert all our strength
in working at it; although we knew that as soon as the game is over,
the object will exist for us no longer, and that, on the whole, we
cannot say what it is that makes it so attractive. Nay, it seems to be
an object as arbitrarily adopted as that of checkmating our opponent's
king; and, nevertheless, we are always intent on the means of
attaining it, and think and brood over nothing else. It is clear that
the reason of it is that our intellect is only capable of looking
outside, and has no power at all of looking within; and, since this is
so, we have come to the conclusion that we must make the best of it.


The simple Philistine believes that life is something infinite and
unconditioned, and tries to look upon it and live it as though it left
nothing to be desired. By method and principle the learned Philistine
does the same: he believes that his methods and his principles are
unconditionally perfect and objectively valid; so that as soon as he
has found them, he has nothing to do but apply them to circumstances,
and then approve or condemn. But happiness and truth are not to be
seized in this fashion. It is phantoms of them alone that are sent to
us here, to stir us to action; the average man pursues the shadow of
happiness with unwearied labour; and the thinker, the shadow of truth;
and both, though phantoms are all they have, possess in them as much
as they can grasp. Life is a language in which certain truths are
conveyed to us; could we learn them in some other way, we should not
live. Thus it is that wise sayings and prudential maxims will never
make up for the lack of experience, or be a substitute for life
itself. Still they are not to be despised; for they, too, are a part
of life; nay, they should be highly esteemed and regarded as the
loose pages which others have copied from the book of truth as it is
imparted by the spirit of the world. But they are pages which must
needs be imperfect, and can never replace the real living voice. Still
less can this be so when we reflect that life, or the book of truth,
speaks differently to us all; like the apostles who preached at
Pentecost, and instructed the multitude, appearing to each man to
speak in his own tongue.

* * * * *

Recognise the truth in yourself, recognise yourself in the truth; and
in the same moment you will find, to your astonishment, that the home
which you have long been looking for in vain, which has filled your
most ardent dreams, is there in its entirety, with every detail of it
true, in the very place where you stand. It is there that your heaven
touches your earth.

* * * * *

What makes us almost inevitably ridiculous is our serious way of
treating the passing moment, as though it necessarily had all the
importance which it seems to have. It is only a few great minds that
are above this weakness, and, instead of being laughed at, have come
to laugh themselves.

* * * * *

The bright and good moments of our life ought to teach us how to act
aright when we are melancholy and dull and stupid, by preserving the
memory of their results; and the melancholy, dull, and stupid moments
should teach us to be modest when we are bright. For we generally
value ourselves according to our best and brightest moments; and those
in which we are weak and dull and miserable, we regard as no proper
part of us. To remember them will teach us to be modest, humble, and

Mark my words once for all, my dear friend, and be clever. Men are
entirely self-centred, and incapable of looking at things objectively.
If you had a dog and wanted to make him fond of you, and fancied that
of your hundred rare and excellent characteristics the mongrel would
be sure to perceive one, and that that would be sufficient to make him
devoted to you body and soul--if, I say, you fancied that, you would
be a fool. Pat him, give him something to eat; and for the rest, be
what you please: he will not in the least care, but will be your
faithful and devoted dog. Now, believe me, it is just the same with
men--exactly the same. As Goethe says, man or dog, it is a miserable

_Denn ein erbaermlicher Schuft, so wie der Mensch, ist der hund_.

If you ask why these contemptible fellows are so lucky, it is just
because, in themselves and for themselves and to themselves, they are
nothing at all. The value which they possess is merely comparative;
they exist only for others; they are never more than means; they are
never an end and object in themselves; they are mere bait, set to
catch others.[1] I do not admit that this rule is susceptible of any
exception, that is to say, complete exceptions. There are, it is true,
men--though they are sufficiently rare--who enjoy some subjective
moments; nay, there are perhaps some who for every hundred subjective
moments enjoy a few that are objective; but a higher state of
perfection scarcely ever occurs. But do not take yourself for an
exception: examine your love, your friendship, and consider if your
objective judgments are not mostly subjective judgments in disguise;
consider if you duly recognise the good qualities of a man who is not
fond of you. Then be tolerant: confound it! it's your duty. As you are
all so self-centred, recognise your own weakness. You know that you
cannot like a man who does not show himself friendly to you; you know
that he cannot do so for any length of time unless he likes you, and
that he cannot like you unless you show that you are friendly to him;
then do it: your false friendliness will gradually become a true one.
Your own weakness and subjectivity must have some illusion.

[Footnote 1: All this is very euphemistically expressed in the
Sophoclean verse:

(Greek: _charis charin gar estin ha tiktous aei_)]

This is really an _a priori_ justification of politeness; but I could
give a still deeper reason for it.

* * * * *

Consider that chance, which, with error, its brother, and folly, its
aunt, and malice, its grandmother, rules in this world; which every
year and every day, by blows great and small, embitters the life of
every son of earth, and yours too; consider, I say, that it is to this
wicked power that you owe your prosperity and independence; for it
gave you what it refused to many thousands, just to be able to give it
to individuals like you. Remembering all this, you will not behave as
though you had a right to the possession of its gifts; but you will
perceive what a capricious mistress it is that gives you her favours;
and therefore when she takes it into her head to deprive you of some
or all of them, you will not make a great fuss about her injustice;
but you will recognise that what chance gave, chance has taken
away; if needs be, you will observe that this power is not quite so
favourable to you as she seemed to be hitherto. Why, she might have
disposed not only of what she gave you, but also of your honest and
hard-earned gains.

But if chance still remains so favourable to you as to give you more
than almost all others whose path in life you may care to examine, oh!
be happy; do not struggle for the possession of her presents; employ
them properly; look upon them as property held from a capricious lord;
use them wisely and well.

* * * * *

The Aristotelian principle of keeping the mean in all things is ill
suited to the moral law for which it was intended; but it may easily
be the best general rule of worldly wisdom, the best precept for a
happy life. For life is so full of uncertainty; there are on all sides
so many discomforts, burdens, sufferings, dangers, that a safe and
happy voyage can be accomplished only by steering carefully through
the rocks. As a rule, the fear of the ills we know drive us into the
contrary ills; the pain of solitude, for example, drives us into
society, and the first society that comes; the discomforts of society
drive us into solitude; we exchange a forbidding demeanour for
incautious confidence and so on. It is ever the mark of folly to avoid
one vice by rushing into its contrary:

_Stulti dum vitant vitia in contraria currunt_.

Or else we think that we shall find satisfaction in something, and
spend all our efforts on it; and thereby we omit to provide for the
satisfaction of a hundred other wishes which make themselves felt at
their own time. One loss and omission follows another, and there is no
end to the misery.

[Greek: Maeden agan] and _nil admirari_ are, therefore, excellent
rules of worldly wisdom.

* * * * *

We often find that people of great experience are the most frank and
cordial in their intercourse with complete strangers, in whom
they have no interest whatever. The reason of this is that men of
experience know that it is almost impossible for people who stand in
any sort of mutual relation to be sincere and open with one another;
but that there is always more or less of a strain between them, due
to the fact that they are looking after their own interests, whether
immediate or remote. They regret the fact, but they know that it
is so; hence they leave their own people, rush into the arms of a
complete stranger, and in happy confidence open their hearts to him.
Thus it is that monks and the like, who have given up the world and
are strangers to it, are such good people to turn to for advice.

* * * * *

It is only by practising mutual restraint and self-denial that we can
act and talk with other people; and, therefore, if we have to converse
at all, it can only be with a feeling of resignation. For if we seek
society, it is because we want fresh impressions: these come from
without, and are therefore foreign to ourselves. If a man fails to
perceive this, and, when he seeks the society of others, is unwilling
to practise resignation, and absolutely refuses to deny himself, nay,
demands that others, who are altogether different from himself,
shall nevertheless be just what he wants them to be for the moment,
according to the degree of education which he has reached, or
according to his intellectual powers or his mood--the man, I say, who
does this, is in contradiction with himself. For while he wants some
one who shall be different from himself, and wants him just because
he is different, for the sake of society and fresh influence, he
nevertheless demands that this other individual shall precisely
resemble the imaginary creature who accords with his mood, and have no
thoughts but those which he has himself.

Women are very liable to subjectivity of this kind; but men are not
free from it either.

I observed once to Goethe, in complaining of the illusion and vanity
of life, that when a friend is with us we do not think the same of him
as when he is away. He replied: "Yes! because the absent friend is
yourself, and he exists only in your head; whereas the friend who is
present has an individuality of his own, and moves according to laws
of his own, which cannot always be in accordance with those which you
form for yourself."

* * * * *

A good supply of resignation is of the first importance in providing
for the journey of life. It is a supply which we shall have to extract
from disappointed hopes; and the sooner we do it, the better for the
rest of the journey.

* * * * *

How should a man be content so long as he fails to obtain complete
unity in his inmost being? For as long as two voices alternately speak
in him, what is right for one must be wrong for the other. Thus he is
always complaining. But has any man ever been completely at one with
himself? Nay, is not the very thought a contradiction?

That a man shall attain this inner unity is the impossible and
inconsistent pretension put forward by almost all philosophers.[1] For
as a man it is natural to him to be at war with himself as long as
he lives. While he can be only one thing thoroughly, he has the
disposition to be everything else, and the inalienable possibility
of being it. If he has made his choice of one thing, all the other
possibilities are always open to him, and are constantly claiming to
be realised; and he has therefore to be continuously keeping them
back, and to be overpowering and killing them as long as he wants to
be that one thing. For example, if he wants to think only, and not
act and do business, the disposition to the latter is not thereby
destroyed all at once; but as long as the thinker lives, he has every
hour to keep on killing the acting and pushing man that is within him;
always battling with himself, as though he were a monster whose head
is no sooner struck off than it grows again. In the same way, if he is
resolved to be a saint, he must kill himself so far as he is a being
that enjoys and is given over to pleasure; for such he remains as long
as he lives. It is not once for all that he must kill himself: he
must keep on doing it all his life. If he has resolved upon pleasure,
whatever be the way in which it is to be obtained, his lifelong
struggle is with a being that desires to be pure and free and holy;
for the disposition remains, and he has to kill it every hour. And so
on in everything, with infinite modifications; it is now one side of
him, and now the other, that conquers; he himself is the battlefield.
If one side of him is continually conquering, the other is continually
struggling; for its life is bound up with his own, and, as a man, he
is the possibility of many contradictions.

[Footnote 1: _Audacter licet profitearis, summum bonum esse animi

How is inner unity even possible under such circumstances? It exists
neither in the saint nor in the sinner; or rather, the truth is that
no man is wholly one or the other. For it is _men_ they have to be;
that is, luckless beings, fighters and gladiators in the arena of

To be sure, the best thing he can do is to recognise which part of him
smarts the most under defeat, and let it always gain the victory. This
he will always be able to do by the use of his reason, which is an
ever-present fund of ideas. Let him resolve of his own free will to
undergo the pain which the defeat of the other part involves. This
is _character_. For the battle of life cannot be waged free from all
pain; it cannot come to an end without bloodshed; and in any case
a man must suffer pain, for he is the conquered as well as the
conqueror. _Haec est vivendi conditio_.

* * * * *

The clever man, when he converses, will think less of what he is
saying that of the person with whom he is speaking; for then he is
sure to say nothing which he will afterwards regret; he is sure not to
lay himself open, nor to commit an indiscretion. But his conversation
will never be particularly interesting.

An intellectual man readily does the opposite, and with him the person
with whom he converses is often no more than the mere occasion of a
monologue; and it often happens that the other then makes up for his
subordinate _role_ by lying in wait for the man of intellect, and
drawing his secrets out of him.

* * * * *

Nothing betrays less knowledge of humanity than to suppose that, if
a man has a great many friends, it is a proof of merit and intrinsic
value: as though men gave their friendship according to value and
merit! as though they were not, rather, just like dogs, which love the
person that pats them and gives them bits of meat, and never trouble
themselves about anything else! The man who understands how to pat his
fellows best, though they be the nastiest brutes,--that's the man who
has many friends.

It is the converse that is true. Men of great intellectual worth, or,
still more, men of genius, can have only very few friends; for their
clear eye soon discovers all defects, and their sense of rectitude is
always being outraged afresh by the extent and the horror of them. It
is only extreme necessity that can compel such men not to betray their
feelings, or even to stroke the defects as if they were beautiful
additions. Personal love (for we are not speaking of the reverence
which is gained by authority) cannot be won by a man of genius, unless
the gods have endowed him with an indestructible cheerfulness of
temper, a glance that makes the world look beautiful, or unless he has
succeeded by degrees in taking men exactly as they are; that is to
say, in making a fool of the fools, as is right and proper. On the
heights we must expect to be solitary.

* * * * *

Our constant discontent is for the most part rooted in the impulse of
self-preservation. This passes into a kind of selfishness, and makes a
duty out of the maxim that we should always fix our minds upon what we
lack, so that we may endeavour to procure it. Thus it is that we are
always intent on finding out what we want, and on thinking of it;
but that maxim allows us to overlook undisturbed the things which we
already possess; and so, as soon as we have obtained anything, we give
it much less attention than before. We seldom think of what we have,
but always of what we lack.

This maxim of egoism, which has, indeed, its advantages in procuring
the means to the end in view, itself concurrently destroys the
ultimate end, namely, contentment; like the bear in the fable that
throws a stone at the hermit to kill the fly on his nose. We ought to
wait until need and privation announce themselves, instead of
looking for them. Minds that are naturally content do this, while
hypochondrists do the reverse.

* * * * *

A man's nature is in harmony with itself when he desires to be nothing
but what he is; that is to say, when he has attained by experience a
knowledge of his strength and of his weakness, and makes use of the
one and conceals the other, instead of playing with false coin, and
trying to show a strength which he does not possess. It is a harmony
which produces an agreeable and rational character; and for the simple
reason that everything which makes the man and gives him his mental
and physical qualities is nothing but the manifestation of his will;
is, in fact, what he _wills_. Therefore it is the greatest of all
inconsistencies to wish to be other than we are.

* * * * *

People of a strange and curious temperament can be happy only under
strange circumstances, such as suit their nature, in the same way as
ordinary circumstances suit the ordinary man; and such circumstances
can arise only if, in some extraordinary way, they happen to meet with
strange people of a character different indeed, but still exactly
suited to their own. That is why men of rare or strange qualities are
seldom happy.

* * * * *

All this pleasure is derived from the use and consciousness of power;
and the greatest of pains that a man can feel is to perceive that
his powers fail just when he wants to use them. Therefore it will be
advantageous for every man to discover what powers he possesses, and
what powers he lacks. Let him, then, develop the powers in which he is
pre-eminent, and make a strong use of them; let him pursue the path
where they will avail him; and even though he has to conquer his
inclinations, let him avoid the path where such powers are requisite
as he possesses only in a low degree. In this way he will often have a
pleasant consciousness of strength, and seldom a painful consciousness
of weakness; and it will go well with him. But if he lets himself be
drawn into efforts demanding a kind of strength quite different from
that in which he is pre-eminent, he will experience humiliation; and
this is perhaps the most painful feeling with which a man can be

Yet there are two sides to everything. The man who has insufficient
self-confidence in a sphere where he has little power, and is never
ready to make a venture, will on the one hand not even learn how to
use the little power that he has; and on the other, in a sphere in
which he would at least be able to achieve something, there will be
a complete absence of effort, and consequently of pleasure. This is
always hard to bear; for a man can never draw a complete blank in any
department of human welfare without feeling some pain.

* * * * *

As a child, one has no conception of the inexorable character of the
laws of nature, and of the stubborn way in which everything persists
in remaining what it is. The child believes that even lifeless things
are disposed to yield to it; perhaps because it feels itself one with
nature, or, from mere unacquaintance with the world, believes that
nature is disposed to be friendly. Thus it was that when I was a
child, and had thrown my shoe into a large vessel full of milk, I was
discovered entreating the shoe to jump out. Nor is a child on its
guard against animals until it learns that they are ill-natured and
spiteful. But not before we have gained mature experience do we
recognise that human character is unalterable; that no entreaty, or
representation, or example, or benefit, will bring a man to give up
his ways; but that, on the contrary, every man is compelled to follow
his own mode of acting and thinking, with the necessity of a law of
nature; and that, however we take him, he always remains the same. It
is only after we have obtained a clear and profound knowledge of this
fact that we give up trying to persuade people, or to alter them
and bring them round to our way of thinking. We try to accommodate
ourselves to theirs instead, so far as they are indispensable to us,
and to keep away from them so far as we cannot possibly agree.

Ultimately we come to perceive that even in matters of mere
intellect--although its laws are the same for all, and the subject
as opposed to the object of thought does not really enter into
individuality--there is, nevertheless, no certainty that the whole
truth of any matter can be communicated to any one, or that any one
can be persuaded or compelled to assent to it; because, as Bacon says,
_intellectus humanus luminis sicci non est_: the light of the human
intellect is coloured by interest and passion.

* * * * *

It is just because _all happiness is of a negative character_ that,
when we succeed in being perfectly at our ease, we are not properly
conscious of it. Everything seems to pass us softly and gently, and
hardly to touch us until the moment is over; and then it is the
positive feeling of something lacking that tells us of the happiness
which has vanished; it is then that we observe that we have failed to
hold it fast, and we suffer the pangs of self-reproach as well as of

* * * * *

Every happiness that a man enjoys, and almost every friendship that
he cherishes, rest upon illusion; for, as a rule, with increase of
knowledge they are bound to vanish. Nevertheless, here as elsewhere, a
man should courageously pursue truth, and never weary of striving to
settle accounts with himself and the world. No matter what happens to
the right or to the left of him,--be it a chimaera or fancy that makes
him happy, let him take heart and go on, with no fear of the desert
which widens to his view. Of one thing only must he be quite certain:
that under no circumstances will he discover any lack of worth in
himself when the veil is raised; the sight of it would be the Gorgon
that would kill him. Therefore, if he wants to remain undeceived, let
him in his inmost being feel his own worth. For to feel the lack of
it is not merely the greatest, but also the only true affliction;
all other sufferings of the mind may not only be healed, but may be
immediately relieved, by the secure consciousness of worth. The man
who is assured of it can sit down quietly under sufferings that would
otherwise bring him to despair; and though he has no pleasures, no
joys and no friends, he can rest in and on himself; so powerful is the
comfort to be derived from a vivid consciousness of this advantage; a
comfort to be preferred to every other earthly blessing. Contrarily,
nothing in the world can relieve a man who knows his own
worthlessness; all that he can do is to conceal it by deceiving people
or deafening them with his noise; but neither expedient will serve him
very long.

* * * * *

We must always try to preserve large views. If we are arrested by
details we shall get confused, and see things awry. The success or the
failure of the moment, and the impression that they make, should count
for nothing.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--Schopenhauer, for some reason that
is not apparent, wrote this remark in French.]

* * * * *

How difficult it is to learn to understand oneself, and clearly to
recognise what it is that one wants before anything else; what it is,
therefore, that is most immediately necessary to our happiness; then
what comes next; and what takes the third and the fourth place, and so

Yet, without this knowledge, our life is planless, like a captain
without a compass.

* * * * *

The sublime melancholy which leads us to cherish a lively conviction
of the worthlessness of everything of all pleasures and of all
mankind, and therefore to long for nothing, but to feel that life is
merely a burden which must be borne to an end that cannot be very
distant, is a much happier state of mind than any condition of desire,
which, be it never so cheerful, would have us place a value on the
illusions of the world, and strive to attain them.

This is a fact which we learn from experience; and it is clear, _a
priori_, that one of these is a condition of illusion, and the other
of knowledge.

Whether it is better to marry or not to marry is a question which in
very many cases amounts to this: Are the cares of love more endurable
than the anxieties of a livelihood?

* * * * *

Marriage is a trap which nature sets for us. [1]

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--Also in French.]

* * * * *

Poets and philosophers who are married men incur by that very fact the
suspicion that they are looking to their own welfare, and not to the
interests of science and art.

* * * * *

Habit is everything. Hence to be calm and unruffled is merely to
anticipate a habit; and it is a great advantage not to need to form

* * * * *

"Personality is the element of the greatest happiness." Since _pain_
and _boredom_ are the two chief enemies of human happiness, nature has
provided our personality with a protection against both. We can
ward off pain, which is more often of the mind than of the body, by
_cheerfulness_; and boredom by _intelligence_. But neither of these
is akin to the other; nay, in any high degree they are perhaps
incompatible. As Aristotle remarks, genius is allied to melancholy;
and people of very cheerful disposition are only intelligent on the
surface. The better, therefore, anyone is by nature armed against one
of these evils, the worse, as a rule, is he armed against the other.

There is no human life that is free from pain and boredom; and it is a
special favour on the part of fate if a man is chiefly exposed to the
evil against which nature has armed him the better; if fate, that is,
sends a great deal of pain where there is a very cheerful temper in
which to bear it, and much leisure where there is much intelligence,
but not _vice versa_. For if a man is intelligent, he feels pain
doubly or trebly; and a cheerful but unintellectual temper finds
solitude and unoccupied leisure altogether unendurable.

* * * * *

In the sphere of thought, absurdity and perversity remain the masters
of this world, and their dominion is suspended only for brief periods.
Nor is it otherwise in art; for there genuine work, seldom found
and still more seldom appreciated, is again and again driven out by
dullness, insipidity, and affectation.

It is just the same in the sphere of action. Most men, says Bias, are
bad. Virtue is a stranger in this world; and boundless egoism, cunning
and malice, are always the order of the day. It is wrong to deceive
the young on this point, for it will only make them feel later on that
their teachers were the first to deceive them. If the object is
to render the pupil a better man by telling him that others are
excellent, it fails; and it would be more to the purpose to say: Most
men are bad, it is for you to be better. In this way he would, at
least, be sent out into the world armed with a shrewd foresight,
instead of having to be convinced by bitter experience that his
teachers were wrong.

All ignorance is dangerous, and most errors must be dearly paid. And
good luck must he have that carries unchastised an error in his head
unto his death.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--This, again, is Schopenhauer's own

* * * * *

Every piece of success has a doubly beneficial effect upon us when,
apart from the special and material advantage which it brings it is
accompanied by the enlivening assurance that the world, fate, or the
daemon within, does not mean so badly with us, nor is so opposed to
our prosperity as we had fancied; when, in fine, it restores our
courage to live.

Similarly, every misfortune or defeat has, in the contrary sense, an
effect that is doubly depressing.

* * * * *

If we were not all of us exaggeratedly interested in ourselves, life
would be so uninteresting that no one could endure it.

* * * * *

Everywhere in the world, and under all circumstances, it is only by
force that anything can be done; but power is mostly in bad hands,
because baseness is everywhere in a fearful majority.

* * * * *

Why should it be folly to be always intent on getting the greatest
possible enjoyment out of the moment, which is our only sure
possession? Our whole life is no more than a magnified present, and in
itself as fleeting.

* * * * *

As a consequence of his individuality and the position in which he
is placed, everyone without exception lives in a certain state of
limitation, both as regards his ideas and the opinions which he forms.
Another man is also limited, though not in the same way; but should
he succeed in comprehending the other's limitation he can confuse
and abash him, and put him to shame, by making him feel what his
limitation is, even though the other be far and away his superior.
Shrewd people often employ this circumstance to obtain a false and
momentary advantage.

* * * * *

The only genuine superiority is that of the mind and character; all
other kinds are fictitious, affected, false; and it is good to
make them feel that it is so when they try to show off before the
superiority that is true.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--In the original this also is in

* * * * *

_All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players_.

Exactly! Independently of what a man really is in himself, he has
a part to play, which fate has imposed upon him from without, by
determining his rank, education, and circumstances. The most immediate
application of this truth appears to me to be that in life, as on
the stage, we must distinguish between the actor and his part;
distinguish, that is, the man in himself from his position and
reputation--- from the part which rank and circumstances have imposed
upon him. How often it is that the worst actor plays the king, and the
best the beggar! This may happen in life, too; and a man must be very
_crude_ to confuse the actor with his part.

* * * * *

Our life is so poor that none of the treasures of the world can make
it rich; for the sources of enjoyment are soon found to be all very
scanty, and it is in vain that we look for one that will always flow.
Therefore, as regards our own welfare, there are only two ways in
which we can use wealth. We can either spend it in ostentatious pomp,
and feed on the cheap respect which our imaginary glory will bring us
from the infatuated crowd; or, by avoiding all expenditure that will
do us no good, we can let our wealth grow, so that we may have a
bulwark against misfortune and want that shall be stronger and better
every day; in view of the fact that life, though it has few delights,
is rich in evils.

* * * * *

It is just because our real and inmost being is _will_ that it is only
by its exercise that we can attain a vivid consciousness of existence,
although this is almost always attended by pain. Hence it is that
existence is essentially painful, and that many persons for whose
wants full provision is made arrange their day in accordance with
extremely regular, monotonous, and definite habits. By this means they
avoid all the pain which the movement of the will produces; but, on
the other hand, their whole existence becomes a series of scenes and
pictures that mean nothing. They are hardly aware that they exist.
Nevertheless, it is the best way of settling accounts with life, so
long as there is sufficient change to prevent an excessive feeling of
boredom. It is much better still if the Muses give a man some worthy
occupation, so that the pictures which fill his consciousness have
some meaning, and yet not a meaning that can be brought into any
relation with his will.

* * * * *

A man is _wise_ only on condition of living in a world full of fools.


When I think, it is the spirit of the world which is striving to
express its thought; it is nature which is trying to know and fathom
itself. It is not the thoughts of some other mind, which I am
endeavouring to trace; but it is I who transform that which exists
into something which is known and thought, and would otherwise neither
come into being nor continue in it.

In the realm of physics it was held for thousands of years to be a
fact beyond question that water was a simple and consequently an
original element. In the same way in the realm of metaphysics it
was held for a still longer period that the _ego_ was a simple and
consequently an indestructible entity. I have shown, however, that it
is composed of two heterogeneous parts, namely, the _Will_, which is
metaphysical in its character, a thing in itself, and the _knowing
subject_, which is physical and a mere phenomenon.

Let me illustrate what I mean. Take any large, massive, heavy
building: this hard, ponderous body that fills so much space exists,
I tell you, only in the soft pulp of the brain. There alone, in the
human brain, has it any being. Unless you understand this, you can go
no further.

Truly it is the world itself that is a miracle; the world of material
bodies. I looked at two of them. Both were heavy, symmetrical, and
beautiful. One was a jasper vase with golden rim and golden handles;
the other was an organism, an animal, a man. When I had sufficiently
admired their exterior, I asked my attendant genius to allow me to
examine the inside of them; and I did so. In the vase I found nothing
but the force of gravity and a certain obscure desire, which took the
form of chemical affinity. But when I entered into the other--how
shall I express my astonishment at what I saw? It is more incredible
than all the fairy tales and fables that were ever conceived.
Nevertheless, I shall try to describe it, even at the risk of finding
no credence for my tale.

In this second thing, or rather in the upper end of it, called the
head, which on its exterior side looks like anything else--a body in
space, heavy, and so on--I found no less an object than the whole
world itself, together with the whole of the space in which all of
it exists, and the whole of the time in which all of it moves,
and finally everything that fills both time and space in all its
variegated and infinite character; nay, strangest sight of all, I
found myself walking about in it! It was no picture that I saw; it was
no peep-show, but reality itself. This it is that is really and truly
to be found in a thing which is no bigger than a cabbage, and which,
on occasion, an executioner might strike off at a blow, and suddenly
smother that world in darkness and night. The world, I say, would
vanish, did not heads grow like mushrooms, and were there not always
plenty of them ready to snatch it up as it is sinking down into
nothing, and keep it going like a ball. This world is an idea which
they all have in common, and they express the community of their
thought by the word "objectivity."

In the face of this vision I felt as if I were Ardschuna when Krishna
appeared to him in his true majesty, with his hundred thousand arms
and eyes and mouths.

When I see a wide landscape, and realise that it arises by the
operation of the functions of my brain, that is to say, of time,
space, and casuality, on certain spots which have gathered on my
retina, I feel that I carry it within me. I have an extraordinarily
clear consciousness of the identity of my own being with that of the
external world.

Nothing provides so vivid an illustration of this identity as a
_dream_. For in a dream other people appear to be totally distinct
from us, and to possess the most perfect objectivity, and a nature
which is quite different from ours, and which often puzzles,
surprises, astonishes, or terrifies us; and yet it is all our own
self. It is even so with the will, which sustains the whole of the
external world and gives it life; it is the same will that is in
ourselves, and it is there alone that we are immediately conscious of
it. But it is the intellect, in ourselves and in others, which makes
all these miracles possible; for it is the intellect which everywhere
divides actual being into subject and object; it is a hall of
phantasmagorical mystery, inexpressibly marvellous, incomparably

The difference in degree of mental power which sets so wide a gulf
between the genius and the ordinary mortal rests, it is true, upon
nothing else than a more or less perfect development of the cerebral
system. But it is this very difference which is so important, because
the whole of the real world in which we live and move possesses an
existence only in relation to this cerebral system. Accordingly, the
difference between a genius and an ordinary man is a total diversity
of world and existence. The difference between man and the lower
animals may be similarly explained.

When Momus was said to ask for a window in the breast, it was an
allegorical joke, and we cannot even imagine such a contrivance to
be a possibility; but it would be quite possible to imagine that the
skull and its integuments were transparent, and then, good heavens!
what differences should we see in the size, the form, the quality,
the movement of the brain! what degrees of value! A great mind would
inspire as much respect at first sight as three stars on a man's
breast, and what a miserable figure would be cut by many a one who
wore them!

Men of genius and intellect, and all those whose mental and
theoretical qualities are far more developed than their moral
and practical qualities--men, in a word, who have more mind than
character--are often not only awkward and ridiculous in matters of
daily life, as has been observed by Plato in the seventh book of the
_Republic_, and portrayed by Goethe in his _Tasso_; but they are
often, from a moral point of view, weak and contemptible creatures as
well; nay, they might almost be called bad men. Of this Rousseau has
given us genuine examples. Nevertheless, that better consciousness
which is the source of all virtue is often stronger in them than in
many of those whose actions are nobler than their thoughts; nay, it
may be said that those who think nobly have a better acquaintance with
virtue, while the others make a better practice of it. Full of zeal
for the good and for the beautiful, they would fain fly up to heaven
in a straight line; but the grosser elements of this earth oppose
their flight, and they sink back again. They are like born artists,
who have no knowledge of technique, or find that the marble is too
hard for their fingers. Many a man who has much less enthusiasm for
the good, and a far shallower acquaintance with its depths, makes a
better thing of it in practice; he looks down upon the noble thinkers
with contempt, and he has a right to do it; nevertheless, he does not
understand them, and they despise him in their turn, and not unjustly.
They are to blame; for every living man has, by the fact of his
living, signed the conditions of life; but they are still more to be
pitied. They achieve their redemption, not on the way of virtue, but
on a path of their own; and they are saved, not by works, but by

Men of no genius whatever cannot bear solitude: they take no pleasure
in the contemplation of nature and the world. This arises from the
fact that they never lose sight of their own will, and therefore
they see nothing of the objects of the world but the bearing of such
objects upon their will and person. With objects which have no such
bearing there sounds within them a constant note: _It is nothing to
me_, which is the fundamental base in all their music. Thus all things
seem to them to wear a bleak, gloomy, strange, hostile aspect. It is
only for their will that they seem to have any perceptive faculties at
all; and it is, in fact, only a moral and not a theoretical tendency,
only a moral and not an intellectual value, that their life possesses.
The lower animals bend their heads to the ground, because all that
they want to see is what touches their welfare, and they can never
come to contemplate things from a really objective point of view. It
is very seldom that unintellectual men make a true use of their erect
position, and then it is only when they are moved by some intellectual
influence outside them.

The man of intellect or genius, on the other hand, has more of the
character of the eternal subject that knows, than of the finite
subject that wills; his knowledge is not quite engrossed and
captivated by his will, but passes beyond it; he is the son, _not of
the bondwoman, but of the free_. It is not only a moral but also
a theoretical tendency that is evinced in his life; nay, it might
perhaps be said that to a certain extent he is beyond morality. Of
great villainy he is totally incapable; and his conscience is less
oppressed by ordinary sin than the conscience of the ordinary man,
because life, as it were, is a game, and he sees through it.

The relation between _genius_ and _virtue_ is determined by the
following considerations. Vice is an impulse of the will so violent
in its demands that it affirms its own life by denying the life of
others. The only kind of knowledge that is useful to the will is the
knowledge that a given effect is produced by a certain cause. Genius
itself is a kind of knowledge, namely, of ideas; and it is a knowledge
which is unconcerned with any principle of causation. The man who is
devoted to knowledge of this character is not employed in the business
of the will. Nay, every man who is devoted to the purely objective
contemplation of the world (and it is this that is meant by the
knowledge of ideas) completely loses sight of his will and its
objects, and pays no further regard to the interests of his own
person, but becomes a pure intelligence free of any admixture of will.

Where, then, devotion to the intellect predominates over concern for
the will and its objects, it shows that the man's will is not the
principal element in his being, but that in proportion to his
intelligence it is weak. Violent desire, which is the root of all
vice, never allows a man to arrive at the pure and disinterested
contemplation of the world, free from any relation to the will, such
as constitutes the quality of genius; but here the intelligence
remains the constant slave of the will.

Since genius consists in the perception of ideas, and men of genius
_contemplate_ their object, it may be said that it is only the eye
which is any real evidence of genius. For the contemplative gaze has
something steady and vivid about it; and with the eye of genius it is
often the case, as with Goethe, that the white membrane over the pupil
is visible. With violent, passionate men the same thing may also
happen, but it arises from a different cause, and may be easily
distinguished by the fact that the eyes roll. Men of no genius at all
have no interest in the idea expressed by an object, but only in the
relations in which that object stands to others, and finally to their
own person. Thus it is that they never indulge in contemplation, or
are soon done with it, and rarely fix their eyes long upon any
object; and so their eyes do not wear the mark of genius which I have
described. Nay, the regular Philistine does the direct opposite of
contemplating--he spies. If he looks at anything it is to pry into
it; as may be specially observed when he screws up his eyes, which he
frequently does, in order to see the clearer. Certainly, no real man
of genius ever does this, at least habitually, even though he is

What I have said will sufficiently illustrate the conflict between
genius and vice. It may be, however, nay, it is often the case, that
genius is attended by a strong will; and as little as men of genius
were ever consummate rascals, were they ever perhaps perfect saints

Let me explain. Virtue is not exactly a positive weakness of the will;
it is, rather, an intentional restraint imposed upon its violence
through a knowledge of it in its inmost being as manifested in the
world. This knowledge of the world, the inmost being of which is
communicable only in _ideas_, is common both to the genius and to the
saint. The distinction between the two is that the genius reveals his
knowledge by rendering it in some form of his own choice, and the
product is Art. For this the saint, as such, possesses no direct
faculty; he makes an immediate application of his knowledge to his own
will, which is thus led into a denial of the world. With the saint
knowledge is only a means to an end, whereas the genius remains at
the stage of knowledge, and has his pleasure in it, and reveals it by
rendering what he knows in his art.

In the hierarchy of physical organisation, strength of will is
attended by a corresponding growth in the intelligent faculties. A
high degree of knowledge, such as exists in the genius, presupposes a
powerful will, though, at the same time, a will that is subordinate
to the intellect. In other words, both the intellect and the will
are strong, but the intellect is the stronger of the two. Unless, as
happens in the case of the saint, the intellect is at once applied to
the will, or, as in the case of the artist, it finds its pleasures in
a reproduction of itself, the will remains untamed. Any strength that
it may lose is due to the predominance of pure objective intelligence
which is concerned with the contemplation of ideas, and is not, as
in the case of the common or the bad man, wholly occupied with the
objects of the will. In the interval, when the genius is no longer
engaged in the contemplation of ideas, and his intelligence is again
applied to the will and its objects, the will is re-awakened in all
its strength. Thus it is that men of genius often have very violent
desires, and are addicted to sensual pleasure and to anger. Great
crimes, however, they do not commit; because, when the opportunity of
them offers, they recognise their idea, and see it very vividly and
clearly. Their intelligence is thus directed to the idea, and so gains
the predominance over the will, and turns its course, as with the
saint; and the crime is uncommitted.

The genius, then, always participates to some degree in the
characteristics of the saint, as he is a man of the same
qualification; and, contrarily, the saint always participates to some
degree in the characteristics of the genius.

The good-natured character, which is common, is to be distinguished
from the saintly by the fact that it consists in a weakness of will,
with a somewhat less marked weakness of intellect. A lower degree of
the knowledge of the world as revealed in ideas here suffices to check
and control a will that is weak in itself. Genius and sanctity are
far removed from good-nature, which is essentially weak in all its

Apart from all that I have said, so much at least is clear. What
appears under the forms of time, space, and casuality, and vanishes
again, and in reality is nothing, and reveals its nothingness by
death--this vicious and fatal appearance is the will. But what does
not appear, and is no phenomenon, but rather the noumenon; what
makes appearance possible; what is not subject to the principle of
causation, and therefore has no vain or vanishing existence, but
abides for ever unchanged in the midst of a world full of suffering,
like a ray of light in a storm,--free, therefore, from all pain and
fatality,--this, I say, is the intelligence. The man who is more
intelligence than will, is thereby delivered, in respect of the
greatest part of him, from nothingness and death; and such a man is in
his nature a genius.

By the very fact that he lives and works, the man who is endowed
with genius makes an entire sacrifice of himself in the interests
of everyone. Accordingly, he is free from the obligation to make a
particular sacrifice for individuals; and thus he can refuse many
demands which others are rightly required to meet. He suffers and
achieves more than all the others.

The spring which moves the genius to elaborate his works is not fame,
for that is too uncertain a quality, and when it is seen at close
quarters, of little worth. No amount of fame will make up for the
labour of attaining it:

_Nulla est fama tuum par oequiparare laborem_.

Nor is it the delight that a man has in his work; for that too is
outweighed by the effort which he has to make. It is, rather, an
instinct _sui generis_; in virtue of which the genius is driven to
express what he sees and feels in some permanent shape, without being
conscious of any further motive.

It is manifest that in so far as it leads an individual to sacrifice
himself for his species, and to live more in the species than in
himself, this impulse is possessed of a certain resemblance with
such modifications of the sexual impulse as are peculiar to man. The
modifications to which I refer are those that confine this impulse to
certain individuals of the other sex, whereby the interests of the
species are attained. The individuals who are actively affected by
this impulse may be said to sacrifice themselves for the species,
by their passion for each other, and the disadvantageous conditions
thereby imposed upon them,--in a word, by the institution of marriage.
They may be said to be serving the interests of the species rather
than the interests of the individual.

The instinct of the genius does, in a higher fashion, for the idea,
what passionate love does for the will. In both cases there are
peculiar pleasures and peculiar pains reserved for the individuals who
in this way serve the interests of the species; and they live in a
state of enhanced power.

The genius who decides once for all to live for the interests of the
species in the way which he chooses is neither fitted nor called upon
to do it in the other. It is a curious fact that the perpetuation of a
man's name is effected in both ways.

In music the finest compositions are the most difficult to understand.
They are only for the trained intelligence. They consist of long
movements, where it is only after a labyrinthine maze that the
fundamental note is recovered. It is just so with genius; it is only
after a course of struggle, and doubt, and error, and much reflection
and vacillation, that great minds attain their equilibrium. It is the
longest pendulum that makes the greatest swing. Little minds soon come
to terms with themselves and the world, and then fossilise; but the
others flourish, and are always alive and in motion.

The essence of genius is a measure of intellectual power far beyond
that which is required to serve the individual's will. But it is a
measure of a merely relative character, and it may be reached by
lowering the degree of the will, as well as by raising that of the
intellect. There are men whose intellect predominates over their
will, and are yet not possessed of genius in any proper sense. Their
intellectual powers do, indeed, exceed the ordinary, though not to any
great extent, but their will is weak. They have no violent desires;
and therefore they are more concerned with mere knowledge than with
the satisfaction of any aims. Such men possess talent; they are
intelligent, and at the same time very contented and cheerful.

A clear, cheerful and reasonable mind, such as brings a man happiness,
is dependent on the relation established between his intellect and his
will--a relation in which the intellect is predominant. But genius and
a great mind depend on the relation between a man's intellect and that
of other people--a relation in which his intellect must exceed theirs,
and at the same time his will may also be proportionately stronger.
That is the reason why genius and happiness need not necessarily exist

When the individual is distraught by cares or pleasantry, or tortured
by the violence of his wishes and desires, the genius in him is
enchained and cannot move. It is only when care and desire are silent
that the air is free enough for genius to live in it. It is then that
the bonds of matter are cast aside, and the pure spirit--the pure,
knowing subject--remains. Hence, if a man has any genius, let him
guard himself from pain, keep care at a distance, and limit his
desires; but those of them which he cannot suppress let him satisfy to
the full. This is the only way in which he will make the best use of
his rare existence, to his own pleasure and the world's profit.

To fight with need and care or desires, the satisfaction of which is
refused and forbidden, is good enough work for those who, were
they free of would have to fight with boredom, and so take to bad
practices; but not for the man whose time, if well used, will bear
fruit for centuries to come. As Diderot says, he is not merely a moral

Mechanical laws do not apply in the sphere of chemistry, nor do
chemical laws in the sphere in which organic life is kindled. In the
same way, the rules which avail for ordinary men will not do for the
exceptions, nor will their pleasures either.

It is a persistent, uninterrupted activity that constitutes the
superior mind. The object to which this activity is directed is a
matter of subordinate importance; it has no essential bearing on the
superiority in question, but only on the individual who possesses it.
All that education can do is to determine the direction which this
activity shall take; and that is the reason why a man's nature is so
much more important than his education. For education is to natural
faculty what a wax nose is to a real one; or what the moon and the
planets are to the sun. In virtue of his education a man says, not
what he thinks himself, but what others have thought and he has
learned as a matter of training; and what he does is not what he
wants, but what he has been accustomed to do.

The lower animals perform many intelligent functions much better than
man; for instance, the finding of their way back to the place from
which they came, the recognition of individuals, and so on. In the
same way, there are many occasions in real life to which the genius is
incomparably less equal and fitted than the ordinary man. Nay more:
just as animals never commit a folly in the strict sense of the word,
so the average man is not exposed to folly in the same degree as the

The average man is wholly relegated to the sphere of _being_; the
genius, on the other hand, lives and moves chiefly in the sphere of
_knowledge_. This gives rise to a twofold distinction. In the first
place, a man can be one thing only, but he may _know_ countless
things, and thereby, to some extent, identify himself with them, by
participating in what Spinoza calls their _esse objectivum_. In the
second place, the world, as I have elsewhere observed, is fine enough
in appearance, but in reality dreadful; for torment is the condition
of all life.

It follows from the first of these distinctions that the life of the
average man is essentially one of the greatest boredom; and thus we
see the rich warring against boredom with as much effort and as little
respite as fall to the poor in their struggle with need and adversity.
And from the second of them it follows that the life of the average
man is overspread with a dull, turbid, uniform gravity; whilst the
brow of genius glows with mirth of a unique character, which, although
he has sorrows of his own more poignant than those of the average man,
nevertheless breaks out afresh, like the sun through clouds. It is
when the genius is overtaken by an affliction which affects others as
well as himself, that this quality in him is most in evidence; for
then he is seen to be like man, who alone can laugh, in comparison
with the beast of the field, which lives out its life grave and dull.

It is the curse of the genius that in the same measure in which others
think him great and worthy of admiration, he thinks them small and
miserable creatures. His whole life long he has to suppress this
opinion; and, as a rule, they suppress theirs as well. Meanwhile, he
is condemned to live in a bleak world, where he meets no equal, as it
were an island where there are no inhabitants but monkeys and parrots.
Moreover, he is always troubled by the illusion that from a distance a
monkey looks like a man.

Vulgar people take a huge delight in the faults and follies of great
men; and great men are equally annoyed at being thus reminded of their
kinship with them.

The real dignity of a man of genius or great intellect, the trait
which raises him over others and makes him worthy of respect, is at
bottom the fact, that the only unsullied and innocent part of human
nature, namely, the intellect, has the upper hand in him? and
prevails; whereas, in the other there is nothing but sinful will,
and just as much intellect as is requisite for guiding his steps,---
rarely any more, very often somewhat less,--and of what use is it?

It seems to me that genius might have its root in a certain perfection
and vividness of the memory as it stretches back over the events of
past life. For it is only by dint of memory, which makes our life in
the strict sense a complete whole, that we attain a more profound and
comprehensive understanding of it.


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