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Title: Essays of Schopenhauer
Author: Schopenhauer, Arthur, 1788-1860
Language: English
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When Schopenhauer was asked where he wished to be buried, he answered,
"Anywhere; they will find me;" and the stone that marks his grave at
Frankfort bears merely the inscription "Arthur Schopenhauer," without
even the date of his birth or death. Schopenhauer, the pessimist, had a
sufficiently optimistic conviction that his message to the world would
ultimately be listened to--a conviction that never failed him during a
lifetime of disappointments, of neglect in quarters where perhaps he
would have most cherished appreciation; a conviction that only showed
some signs of being justified a few years before his death. Schopenhauer
was no opportunist; he was not even conciliatory; he never hesitated to
declare his own faith in himself, in his principles, in his philosophy;
he did not ask to be listened to as a matter of courtesy but as a
right--a right for which he would struggle, for which he fought, and
which has in the course of time, it may be admitted, been conceded to

Although everything that Schopenhauer wrote was written more or less as
evidence to support his main philosophical thesis, his unifying
philosophical principle, the essays in this volume have an interest, if
not altogether apart, at least of a sufficiently independent interest to
enable them to be considered on their own merits, without relation to
his main idea. And in dissociating them, if one may do so for a moment
(their author would have scarcely permitted it!), one feels that one
enters a field of criticism in which opinions can scarcely vary. So far
as his philosophy is concerned, this unanimity does not exist; he is one
of the best abused amongst philosophers; he has many times been
explained and condemned exhaustively, and no doubt this will be as many
times repeated. What the trend of his underlying philosophical principal
was, his metaphysical explanation of the world, is indicated in almost
all the following essays, but chiefly in the "Metaphysics of Love," to
which the reader may be referred.

These essays are a valuable criticism of life by a man who had a wide
experience of life, a man of the world, who possessed an almost inspired
faculty of observation. Schopenhauer, of all men, unmistakably observed
life at first hand. There is no academic echo in his utterances; he is
not one of a school; his voice has no formal intonation; it is deep,
full-chested, and rings out its words with all the poignancy of
individual emphasis, without bluster, but with unfailing conviction. He
was for his time, and for his country, an adept at literary form; but he
used it only as a means. Complicated as his sentences occasionally are,
he says many sharp, many brilliant, many epigrammatic things, he has the
manner of the famous essayists, he is paradoxical (how many of his
paradoxes are now truisms!); one fancies at times that one is almost
listening to a creation of Moli�re, but these fireworks are not merely a
literary display, they are used to illumine what he considers to be the
truth. _Rien n'est beau que le vrai; le vrai seul est aimable_, he
quotes; he was a deliberate and diligent searcher after truth, always
striving to attain the heart of things, to arrive at a knowledge of
first principles. It is, too, not without a sort of grim humour that
this psychological vivisectionist attempts to lay bare the skeleton of
the human mind, to tear away all the charming little sentiments and
hypocrisies which in the course of time become a part and parcel of
human life. A man influenced by such motives, and possessing a frank and
caustic tongue, was not likely to attain any very large share of popular
favour or to be esteemed a companionable sort of person. The fabric of
social life is interwoven with a multitude of delicate evasions, of
small hypocrisies, of matters of tinsel sentiment; social intercourse
would be impossible, if it were not so. There is no sort of social
existence possible for a person who is ingenuous enough to say always
what he thinks, and, on the whole, one may be thankful that there is
not. One naturally enough objects to form the subject of a critical
diagnosis and exposure; one chooses for one's friends the agreeable
hypocrites of life who sustain for one the illusions in which one wishes
to live. The mere conception of a plain-speaking world is calculated to
reduce one to the last degree of despair; it is the conception of the
intolerable. Nevertheless it is good for mankind now and again to have a
plain speaker, a "mar feast," on the scene; a wizard who devises for us
a spectacle of disillusionment, and lets us for a moment see things as
he honestly conceives them to be, and not as we would have them to be.
But in estimating the value of a lesson of this sort, we must not be
carried too far, not be altogether convinced. We may first take into
account the temperament of the teacher; we may ask, is his vision
perfect? We may indulge in a trifling diagnosis on our own account. And
in an examination of this sort we find that Schopenhauer stands the test
pretty well, if not with complete success. It strikes us that he suffers
perhaps a little from a hereditary taint, for we know that there is an
unmistakable predisposition to hypochondria in his family; we know, for
instance, that his paternal grandmother became practically insane
towards the end of her life, that two of her children suffered from some
sort of mental incapacity, and that a third, Schopenhauer's father, was
a man of curious temper and that he probably ended his own life. He
himself would also have attached some importance, in a consideration of
this sort, to the fact, as he might have put it, that his mother, when
she married, acted in the interests of the individual instead of
unconsciously fulfilling the will of the species, and that the offspring
of the union suffered in consequence. Still, taking all these things
into account, and attaching to them what importance they may be worth,
one is amazed at the clearness of his vision, by his vigorous and at
moments subtle perception. If he did not see life whole, what he did see
he saw with his own eyes, and then told us all about it with
unmistakable veracity, and for the most part simply, brilliantly. Too
much importance cannot be attached to this quality of seeing things for
oneself; it is the stamp of a great and original mind; it is the
principal quality of what one calls genius.

In possessing Schopenhauer the world possesses a personality the richer;
a somewhat garrulous personality it may be; a curiously whimsical and
sensitive personality, full of quite ordinary superstitions, of
extravagant vanities, selfish, at times violent, rarely generous; a man
whom during his lifetime nobody quite knew, an isolated creature,
self-absorbed, solely concerned in his elaboration of the explanation of
the world, and possessing subtleties which for the most part escaped the
perception of his fellows; at once a hermit and a boulevardier. His was
essentially a great temperament; his whole life was a life of ideas, an
intellectual life. And his work, the fruit of his life, would seem to be
standing the test of all great work--the test of time. It is not a
little curious that one so little realised in his own day, one so little
lovable and so little loved, should now speak to us from his pages with
something of the force of personal utterance, as if he were actually
with us and as if we knew him, even as we know Charles Lamb and Izaak
Walton, personalities of such a different calibre. And this man whom we
realise does not impress us unfavourably; if he is without charm, he is
surely immensely interesting and attractive; he is so strong in his
intellectual convictions, he is so free from intellectual affectations,
he is such an ingenuous egotist, so na�vely human; he is so mercilessly
honest and independent, and, at times (one may be permitted to think),
so mistaken.



Arthur Schopenhauer was born at No. 117 of the Heiligengeist Strasse, at
Dantzic, on February 22, 1788. His parents on both sides traced their
descent from Dutch ancestry, the great-grandfather of his mother having
occupied some ecclesiastical position at Gorcum. Dr. Gwinner in his
_Life_ does not follow the Dutch ancestry on the father's side, but
merely states that the great-grandfather of Schopenhauer at the
beginning of the eighteenth century rented a farm, the Stuthof, in the
neighbourhood of Dantzic. This ancestor, Andreas Schopenhauer, received
here on one occasion an unexpected visit from Peter the Great and
Catherine, and it is related that there being no stove in the chamber
which the royal pair selected for the night, their host, for the purpose
of heating it, set fire to several small bottles of brandy which had
been emptied on the stone floor. His son Andreas followed in the
footsteps of his father, combining a commercial career with country
pursuits. He died in 1794 at Ohra, where he had purchased an estate, and
to which he had retired to spend his closing years. His wife (the
grandmother of Arthur) survived him for some years, although shortly
after his death she was declared insane and incapable of managing her
affairs. This couple had four sons: the eldest, Michael Andreas, was
weak-minded; the second, Karl Gottfried, was also mentally weak and had
deserted his people for evil companions; the youngest son, Heinrich
Floris, possessed, however, in a considerable degree the qualities which
his brothers lacked. He possessed intelligence, a strong character, and
had great commercial sagacity; at the same time, he took a definite
interest in intellectual pursuits, reading Voltaire, of whom he was more
or less a disciple, and other French authors, possessing a keen
admiration for English political and family life, and furnishing his
house after an English fashion. He was a man of fiery temperament and
his appearance was scarcely prepossessing; he was short and stout; he
had a broad face and turned-up nose, and a large mouth. This was the
father of our philosopher.

When he was thirty-eight, Heinrich Schopenhauer married, on May 16,
1785, Johanna Henriette Trosiener, a young lady of eighteen, and
daughter of a member of the City Council of Dantzic. She was at this
time an attractive, cultivated young person, of a placid disposition,
who seems to have married more because marriage offered her a
comfortable settlement and assured position in life, than from any
passionate affection for her wooer, which, it is just to her to say, she
did not profess. Heinrich Schopenhauer was so much influenced by English
ideas that he desired that his first child should be born in England;
and thither, some two years after their marriage, the pair, after making
a _d�tour_ on the Continent, arrived. But after spending some weeks in
London Mrs. Schopenhauer was seized with home-sickness, and her husband
acceded to her entreaties to return to Dantzic, where a child, the
future philosopher, was shortly afterwards born. The first five years of
the child's life were spent in the country, partly at the Stuthof which
had formerly belonged to Andreas Schopenhauer, but had recently come
into the possession of his maternal grandfather.

Five years after the birth of his son, Heinrich Schopenhauer, in
consequence of the political crisis, which he seems to have taken keenly
to heart, in the affairs of the Hanseatic town of Dantzic, transferred
his business and his home to Hamburg, where in 1795 a second child,
Adele, was born. Two years later, Heinrich, who intended to train his
son for a business life, took him, with this idea, to Havre, by way of
Paris, where they spent a little time, and left him there with M.
Gr�goire, a commercial connection. Arthur remained at Havre for two
years, receiving private instruction with this man's son Anthime, with
whom he struck up a strong friendship, and when he returned to Hamburg
it was found that he remembered but few words of his mother-tongue. Here
he was placed in one of the principal private schools, where he remained
for three years. Both his parents, but especially his mother, cultivated
at this time the society of literary people, and entertained at their
house Klopstock and other notable persons. In the summer following his
return home from Havre he accompanied his parents on a continental tour,
stopping amongst other places at Weimar, where he saw Schiller. His
mother, too, had considerable literary tastes, and a distinct literary
gift which, later, she cultivated to some advantage, and which brought
her in the production of accounts of travel and fiction a not
inconsiderable reputation. It is, therefore, not surprising that
literary tendencies began to show themselves in her son, accompanied by
a growing distaste for the career of commerce which his father wished
him to follow. Heinrich Schopenhauer, although deprecating these
tendencies, considered the question of purchasing a canonry for his son,
but ultimately gave up the idea on the score of expense. He then
proposed to take him on an extended trip to France, where he might meet
his young friend Anthime, and then to England, if he would give up the
idea of a literary calling, and the proposal was accepted.

In the spring of 1803, then, he accompanied his parents to London,
where, after spending some time in sight-seeing, he was placed in the
school of Mr. Lancaster at Wimbledon. Here he remained for three months,
from July to September, laying the foundation of his knowledge of the
English language, while his parents proceeded to Scotland. English
formality, and what he conceived to be English hypocrisy, did not
contrast favourably with his earlier and gayer experiences in France,
and made an extremely unfavourable impression upon his mind; which found
expression in letters to his friends and to his mother.

On returning to Hamburg after this extended excursion abroad,
Schopenhauer was placed in the office of a Hamburg senator called
Jenisch, but he was as little inclined as ever to follow a commercial
career, and secretly shirked his work so that he might pursue his
studies. A little later a somewhat unexplainable calamity occurred. When
Dantzic ceased to be a free city, and Heinrich Schopenhauer at a
considerable cost and monetary sacrifice transferred his business to
Hamburg, the event caused him much bitterness of spirit. At Hamburg his
business seems to have undergone fluctuations. Whether these further
affected his spirit is not sufficiently established, but it is certain,
however, that he developed peculiarities of manner, and that his temper
became more violent. At any rate, one day in April 1805 it was found
that he had either fallen or thrown himself into the canal from an upper
storey of a granary; it was generally concluded that it was a case of

Schopenhauer was seventeen at the time of this catastrophe, by which he
was naturally greatly affected. Although by the death of his father the
influence which impelled him to a commercial career was removed, his
veneration for the dead man remained with him through life, and on one
occasion found expression in a curious tribute to his memory in a
dedication (which was not, however, printed) to the second edition of
_Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung._ "That I could make use of and
cultivate in a right direction the powers which nature gave me," he
concludes, "that I could follow my natural impulse and think and work
for countless others without the help of any one; for that I thank thee,
my father, thank thy activity, thy cleverness, thy thrift and care for
the future. Therefore I praise thee, my noble father. And every one who
from my work derives any pleasure, consolation, or instruction shall
hear thy name and know that if Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer had not been
the man he was, Arthur Schopenhauer would have been a hundred times

The year succeeding her husband's death, Johanna Schopenhauer removed
with her daughter to Weimar, after having attended to the settlement of
her husband's affairs, which left her in possession of a considerable
income. At Weimar she devoted herself to the pursuit of literature, and
held twice a week a sort of salon, which was attended by Goethe, the two
Schlegels, Wieland, Heinrich Meyer, Grimm, and other literary persons of
note. Her son meanwhile continued for another year at the "dead timber
of the desk," when his mother, acting under the advice of her friend
Fernow, consented, to his great joy, to his following his literary bent.

During the next few years we find Schopenhauer devoting himself
assiduously to acquiring the equipment for a learned career; at first at
the Gymnasium at Gotha, where he penned some satirical verses on one of
the masters, which brought him into some trouble. He removed in
consequence to Weimar, where he pursued his classical studies under the
direction of Franz Passow, at whose house he lodged. Unhappily, during
his sojourn at Weimar his relations with his mother became strained. One
feels that there is a sort of autobiographical interest in his essay on
women, that his view was largely influenced by his relations with his
mother, just as one feels that his particular argument in his essay on
education is largely influenced by the course of his own training.

On his coming of age Schopenhauer was entitled to a share of the
paternal estate, a share which yielded him a yearly income of about
�150. He now entered himself at the University of G�ttingen (October
1809), enrolling himself as a student of medicine, and devoting himself
to the study of the natural sciences, mineralogy, anatomy, mathematics,
and history; later, he included logic, physiology, and ethnography. He
had always been passionately devoted to music and found relaxation in
learning to play the flute and guitar. His studies at this time did not
preoccupy him to the extent of isolation; he mixed freely with his
fellows, and reckoned amongst his friends or acquaintances, F.W. Kreise,
Bunsen, and Ernst Schulze. During one vacation he went on an expedition
to Cassel and to the Hartz Mountains. It was about this time, and partly
owing to the influence of Schulze, the author of _Aenesidemus_, and then
a professor at the University of G�ttingen, that Schopenhauer came to
realise his vocation as that of a philosopher.

During his holiday at Weimar he called upon Wieland, then seventy-eight
years old, who, probably prompted by Mrs. Schopenhauer, tried to
dissuade him from the vocation which he had chosen. Schopenhauer in
reply said, "Life is a difficult question; I have decided to spend my
life in thinking about it." Then, after the conversation had continued
for some little time, Wieland declared warmly that he thought that he
had chosen rightly. "I understand your nature," he said; "keep to
philosophy." And, later, he told Johanna Schopenhauer that he thought
her son would be a great man some day.

Towards the close of the summer of 1811 Schopenhauer removed to Berlin
and entered the University. He here continued his study of the natural
sciences; he also attended the lectures on the History of Philosophy by
Schleiermacher, and on Greek Literature and Antiquities by F.A. Wolf,
and the lectures on "Facts of Consciousness" and "Theory of Science" by
Fichte, for the last of whom, as we know indeed from frequent references
in his books, he had no little contempt. A year or so later, when the
news of Napoleon's disaster in Russia arrived, the Germans were thrown
into a state of great excitement, and made speedy preparations for war.
Schopenhauer contributed towards equipping volunteers for the army, but
he did not enter active service; indeed, when the result of the battle
of L�tzen was known and Berlin seemed to be in danger, he fled for
safety to Dresden and thence to Weimar. A little later we find him at
Rudolstadt, whither he had proceeded in consequence of the recurrence of
differences with his mother, and remained there from June to November
1813, principally engaged in the composition of an essay, "A
Philosophical Treatise on the Fourfold Root of the Principle of
Sufficient Reason," which he offered to the University of Jena as an
exercise to qualify for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and for
which a diploma was granted. He published this essay at his own cost
towards the end of the year, but it seems to have fallen flatly from the
press, although its arguments attracted the attention and the sympathy
of Goethe, who, meeting him on his return to Weimar in November,
discussed with him his own theory of colour. A couple of years before,
Goethe, who was opposed to the Newtonian theory of light, had brought
out his _Farbenlehre_ (colour theory). In Goethe's diary Schopenhauer's
name frequently occurs, and on the 24th November 1813 he wrote to
Knebel: "Young Schopenhauer is a remarkable and interesting man.... I
find him intellectual, but I am undecided about him as far as other
things go." The result of this association with Goethe was his _Ueber
das Sehn und die Farben_ ("On Vision and Colour"), published at Leipzig
in 1816, a copy of which he forwarded to Goethe (who had already seen
the MS.) on the 4th May of that year. A few days later Goethe wrote to
the distinguished scientist, Dr. Seebeck, asking him to read the work.
In Gwinner's _Life_ we find the copy of a letter written in English to
Sir C.L. Eastlake: "In the year 1830, as I was going to publish in Latin
the same treatise which in German accompanies this letter, I went to Dr.
Seebeck of the Berlin Academy, who is universally admitted to be the
first natural philosopher (in the English sense of the word meaning
physiker) of Germany; he is the discoverer of thermo-electricity and of
several physical truths. I questioned him on his opinion on the
controversy between Goethe and Newton; he was extremely cautious and
made me promise that I should not print and publish anything of what he
might say, and at last, being hard pressed by me, he confessed that
indeed Goethe was perfectly right and Newton wrong, but that he had no
business to tell the world so. He has died since, the old coward!"

In May 1814 Schopenhauer removed from Weimar to Dresden, in consequence
of the recurrence of domestic differences with his mother. This was the
final break between the pair, and he did not see her again during the
remaining twenty-four years of her life, although they resumed
correspondence some years before her death. It were futile to attempt to
revive the dead bones of the cause of these unfortunate differences
between Johanna Schopenhauer and her son. It was a question of opposing
temperaments; both and neither were at once to blame. There is no reason
to suppose that Schopenhauer was ever a conciliatory son, or a
companionable person to live with; in fact, there is plenty to show that
he possessed trying and irritating qualities, and that he assumed an
attitude of criticism towards his mother that could not in any
circumstances be agreeable. On the other hand, Anselm Feuerbach in his
_Memoirs_ furnishes us with a scarcely prepossessing picture of Mrs.
Schopenhauer: "Madame Schopenhauer," he writes, "a rich widow. Makes
profession of erudition. Authoress. Prattles much and well,
intelligently; without heart and soul. Self-complacent, eager after
approbation, and constantly smiling to herself. God preserve us from
women whose mind has shot up into mere intellect."

Schopenhauer meanwhile was working out his philosophical system, the
idea of his principal philosophical work. "Under my hands," he wrote in
1813, "and still more in my mind grows a work, a philosophy which will
be an ethics and a metaphysics in one:--two branches which hitherto have
been separated as falsely as man has been divided into soul and body.
The work grows, slowly and gradually aggregating its parts like the
child in the womb. I became aware of one member, one vessel, one part
after another. In other words, I set each sentence down without anxiety
as to how it will fit into the whole; for I know it has all sprung from
a single foundation. It is thus that an organic whole originates, and
that alone will live.... Chance, thou ruler of this sense-world! Let me
live and find peace for yet a few years, for I love my work as the
mother her child. When it is matured and has come to birth, then exact
from me thy duties, taking interest for the postponement. But, if I sink
before the time in this iron age, then grant that these miniature
beginnings, these studies of mine, be given to the world as they are and
for what they are: some day perchance will arise a kindred spirit, who
can frame the members together and 'restore' the fragment of

By March 1817 he had completed the preparatory work of his system, and
began to put the whole thing together; a year later _Die Welt als Wille
und Vorstellung: vier B�cher, nebst einem Anhange, der die Kritik der
Kantischen Philosophie enth�lt_ ("The World as Will and Idea; four
books, with an appendix containing a criticism on the philosophy of
Kant"). Some delay occurring in the publication, Schopenhauer wrote one
of his characteristically abusive letters to Brockhaus, his publisher,
who retorted "that he must decline all further correspondence with one
whose letters, in their divine coarseness and rusticity, savoured more
of the cabman than of the philosopher," and concluded with a hope that
his fears that the work he was printing would be good for nothing but
waste paper, might not be realised.[2] The work appeared about the end
of December 1818 with 1819 on the title-page. Schopenhauer had meanwhile
proceeded in September to Italy, where he revised the final proofs. So
far as the reception of the work was concerned there was reason to
believe that the fears of Brockhaus would be realised, as, in fact, they
came practically to be. But in the face of this general want of
appreciation, Schopenhauer had some crumbs of consolation. His sister
wrote to him in March (he was then staying at Naples) that Goethe "had
received it with great joy, immediately cut the thick book, and began
_instantly_ to read it. An hour later he sent me a note to say that he
thanked you very much and thought that the whole book was good. He
pointed out the most important passages, read them to us, and was
greatly delighted.... You are the only author whom Goethe has ever read
seriously, it seems to me, and I rejoice." Nevertheless the book did not
sell. Sixteen years later Brockhaus informed Schopenhauer that a large
number of copies had been sold at waste paper price, and that he had
even then a few in stock. Still, during the years 1842-43, Schopenhauer
was contemplating the issue of a second edition and making revisions for
that purpose; when he had completed the work he took it to Brockhaus,
and agreed to leave the question of remuneration open. In the following
year the second edition was issued (500 copies of the first volume, and
750 of the second), and for this the author was to receive no
remuneration. "Not to my contemporaries," says Schopenhauer with fine
conviction in his preface to this edition, "not to my compatriots--to
mankind I commit my now completed work, in the confidence that it will
not be without value for them, even if this should be late recognised,
as is commonly the lot of what is good. For it cannot have been for the
passing generation, engrossed with the delusion of the moment, that my
mind, almost against my will, has uninterruptedly stuck to its work
through the course of a long life. And while the lapse of time has not
been able to make me doubt the worth of my work, neither has the lack of
sympathy; for I constantly saw the false and the bad, and finally the
absurd and senseless, stand in universal admiration and honour, and I
bethought myself that if it were not the case, those who are capable of
recognising the genuine and right are so rare that we may look for them
in vain for some twenty years, then those who are capable of producing
it could not be so few that their works afterwards form an exception to
the perishableness of earthly things; and thus would be lost the
reviving prospect of posterity which every one who sets before himself a
high aim requires to strengthen him."[3]

When Schopenhauer started for Italy Goethe had provided him with a
letter of introduction to Lord Byron, who was then staying at Venice,
but Schopenhauer never made use of the letter; he said that he hadn't
the courage to present himself. "Do you know," he says in a letter,
"three great pessimists were in Italy at the same time--Byron, Leopardi,
and myself! And yet not one of us has made the acquaintance of the
other." He remained in Italy until June 1819, when he proceeded to
Milan, where he received distressing news from his sister to the effect
that a Dantzic firm, in which she and her mother had invested all their
capital, and in which he himself had invested a little, had become
bankrupt. Schopenhauer immediately proposed to share his own income with
them. But later, when the defaulting firm offered to its creditors a
composition of thirty per cent, Schopenhauer would accept nothing less
than seventy per cent in the case of immediate payment, or the whole if
the payment were deferred; and he was so indignant at his mother and
sister falling in with the arrangement of the debtors, that he did not
correspond with them again for eleven years. With reference to this
affair he wrote: "I can imagine that from your point of view my
behaviour may seem hard and unfair. That is a mere illusion which
disappears as soon as you reflect that all I want is merely not to have
taken from me what is most rightly and incontestably mine, what,
moreover, my whole happiness, my freedom, my learned leisure depend
upon;--a blessing which in this world people like me enjoy so rarely
that it would be almost as unconscientious as cowardly not to defend it
to the uttermost and maintain it by every exertion. You say, perhaps,
that if all your creditors were of this way of thinking, I too should
come badly off. But if all men thought as I do, there would be much more
thinking done, and in that case probably there would be neither
bankruptcies, nor wars, nor gaming tables."[4]

In July 1819, when he was at Heidelberg, the idea occurred to him of
turning university lecturer, and took practical shape the following
summer, when he delivered a course of lectures on philosophy at the
Berlin University. But the experiment was not a success; the course was
not completed through the want of attendance, while Hegel at the same
time and place was lecturing to a crowded and enthusiastic audience.
This failure embittered him, and during the next few years there is
little of any moment in his life to record. There was one incident,
however, to which his detractors would seem to have attached more
importance than it was worth, but which must have been sufficiently
disturbing to Schopenhauer--we refer to the Marquet affair. It appears
on his returning home one day he found three women gossiping outside his
door, one of whom was a seamstress who occupied another room in the
house. Their presence irritated Schopenhauer (whose sensitiveness in
such matters may be estimated from his essay "On Noise"), who, finding
them occupying the same position on another occasion, requested them to
go away, but the seamstress replied that she was an honest person and
refused to move. Schopenhauer disappeared into his apartments and
returned with a stick. According to his own account, he offered his arm
to the woman in order to take her out; but she would not accept it, and
remained where she was. He then threatened to put her out, and carried
his threat into execution by seizing her round the waist and putting her
out. She screamed, and attempted to return. Schopenhauer now pushed her
out; the woman fell, and raised the whole house. This woman, Caroline
Luise Marquet, brought an action against him for damages, alleging that
he had kicked and beaten her. Schopenhauer defended his own case, with
the result that the action was dismissed. The woman appealed, and
Schopenhauer, who was contemplating going to Switzerland, did not alter
his plans, so that the appeal was heard during his absence, the judgment
reversed, and he was mulcted in a fine of twenty thalers. But the
unfortunate business did not end here. Schopenhauer proceeded from
Switzerland to Italy, and did not return to Berlin until May 1825.
Caroline Marquet renewed her complaints before the courts, stating that
his ill-usage had occasioned a fever through which she had lost the
power of one of her arms, that her whole system was entirely shaken, and
demanding a monthly allowance as compensation. She won her case; the
defendant had to pay three hundred thalers in costs and contribute sixty
thalers a year to her maintenance while she lived. Schopenhauer on
returning to Berlin did what he could to get the judgment reversed, but
unsuccessfully. The woman lived for twenty years; he inscribed on her
death certificate, "_Obit anus, obit onus"_

The idea of marriage seems to have more or less possessed Schopenhauer
about this time, but he could not finally determine to take the step.
There is sufficient to show in the following essays in what light he
regarded women. Marriage was a debt, he said, contracted in youth and
paid off in old age. Married people have the whole burden of life to
bear, while the unmarried have only half, was a characteristically
selfish apothegm. Had not all the true philosophers been
celibates--Descartes, Leibnitz, Malebranche, Spinoza, and Kant? The
classic writers were of course not to be considered, because with them
woman occupied a subordinate position. Had not all the great poets
married, and with disastrous consequences? Plainly, Schopenhauer was not
the person to sacrifice the individual to the will of the species.

In August 1831 he made a fortuitous expedition to
Frankfort-on-the-Main--an expedition partly prompted by the outbreak of
cholera at Berlin at the time, and partly by the portent of a dream (he
was credulous in such matters) which at the beginning of the year had
intimated his death. Here, however, he practically remained until his
death, leading a quiet, mechanically regular life and devoting his
thoughts to the development of his philosophic ideas, isolated at first,
but as time went on enjoying somewhat greedily the success which had
been denied him in his earlier days. In February 1839 he had a moment of
elation when he heard from the Scientific Society of Drontheim that he
had won the prize for the best essay on the question, "Whether free will
could be proved from the evidence of consciousness," and that he had
been elected a member of the Society; and a corresponding moment of
despondency when he was informed by the Royal Danish Academy of the
Sciences at Copenhagen, in a similar competition, that his essay on
"Whether the source and foundation of ethics was to be sought in an
intuitive moral idea, and in the analysis of other derivative moral
conceptions, or in some other principle of knowledge," had failed,
partly on the ground of the want of respect which it showed to the
opinions of the chief philosophers. He published these essays in 1841
under the title of "The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics," and ten
years later _Parerga und Paralipomena_ the composition of which had
engaged his attention for five or six years. The latter work, which
proved to be his most popular, was refused by three publishers, and when
eventually it was accepted by Hayn of Berlin, the author only received
ten free copies of his work as payment. It is from this book that all
except one of the following essays have been selected; the exception is
"The Metaphysics of Love," which appears in the supplement of the third
book of his principal work. The second edition of _Die Welt als Wille
und Vorstellung_ appeared in 1844, and was received with growing
appreciation. Hitherto he had been chiefly known in Frankfort as the son
of the celebrated Johanna Schopenhauer; now he came to have a following
which, if at first small in numbers, were sufficiently enthusiastic, and
proved, indeed, so far as his reputation was concerned, helpful. Artists
painted his portrait; a bust of him was made by Elizabeth Ney. In the
April number of the _Westminster Review_ for 1853 John Oxenford, in an
article entitled "Iconoclasm in German Philosophy," heralded in England
his recognition as a writer and thinker; three years later Saint-Ren�
Taillandier, in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, did a similar service for
him in France. One of his most enthusiastic admirers was Richard Wagner,
who in 1854 sent him a copy of his _Der Ring der Nibelungen_, with the
inscription "In admiration and gratitude." The Philosophical Faculty of
the University of Leipzic offered a prize for an exposition and
criticism of his philosophical system. Two Frenchmen, M. Foucher de
Careil and M. Challemel Lacour, who visited Schopenhauer during his last
days, have given an account of their impressions of the interview, the
latter in an article entitled, "Un Bouddhiste Contemporain en
Allemagne," which appeared in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ for March
15th, 1870. M. Foucher de Careil gives a charming picture of him:--

  "Quand je le vis, pour la premi�re fois, en 1859, � la table de
  l'h�tel d'Angleterre, � Francfort, c'�tait d�j� un vieillard, � l'oeil
  d'un bleu vif et limpide, � la l�vre mince et l�g�rement sarcastique,
  autour de laquelle errait un fin sourire, et dont le vaste front,
  estomp� de deux touffes de cheveux blancs sur les c�t�s, relevait d'un
  cachet de noblesse et de distinction la physionomie petillante
  d'esprit et de malice. Les habits, son jabot de dentelle, sa cravate
  blanche rappelaient un vieillard de la fin du r�gne de Louis XV; ses
  mani�res �taient celles d'un homme de bonne compagnie. Habituellement
  r�serv� et d'un naturel craintif jusqu'� la m�fiance, il ne se livrait
  qu'avec ses intimes ou les �trangers de passage � Francfort. Ses
  mouvements �taient vifs et devenaient d'une p�tulance extraordinaire
  dans la conversation; il fuyait les discussions et les vains combats
  de paroles, mais c'�tait pour mieux jouir du charme d'une causerie
  intime. Il poss�dait et parlait avec une �gale perfection quatre
  langues: le fran�ais, l'anglais, l'allemand, l'italien et passablement
  l'espagnol. Quand il causait, la verve du vieillard brodait sur le
  canevas un peu lourd de l'allemand ses brilliantes arabesques latines,
  grecques, fran�aises, anglaises, italiennes. C'�tait un entrain, une
  pr�cision et des sailles, une richesse de citations, une exactitude de
  d�tails qui faisait couler les heures; et quelquefois le petit cercle
  de ses intimes l'�coutait jusqu'� minuit, sans qu'un moment de fatigue
  se f�t peint sur ses traits ou que le feu de son regard se f�t un
  instant amorti. Sa parole nette et accentu�e captivait l'auditoire:
  elle peignait et analysait tout ensemble; une sensibilit� d�licate en
  augmentait le feu; elle �tait exacte et pr�cise sur toutes sortes de

Schopenhauer died on the 20th September 1860, in his seventy-third year,
peacefully, alone as he had lived, but not without warning. One day in
April, taking his usual brisk walk after dinner, he suffered from
palpitation of the heart, he could scarcely breathe. These symptoms
developed during the next few months, and Dr. Gwinner advised him to
discontinue his cold baths and to breakfast in bed; but Schopenhauer,
notwithstanding his early medical training, was little inclined to
follow medical advice. To Dr. Gwinner, on the evening of the 18th
September, when he expressed a hope that he might be able to go to
Italy, he said that it would be a pity if he died now, as he wished to
make several important additions to his _Parerga_; he spoke about his
works and of the warm recognition with which they had been welcomed in
the most remote places. Dr. Gwinner had never before found him so eager
and gentle, and left him reluctantly, without, however, the least
premonition that he had seen him for the last time. On the second
morning after this interview Schopenhauer got up as usual, and had his
cold bath and breakfast. His servant had opened the window to let in the
morning air and had then left him. A little later Dr. Gwinner arrived
and found him reclining in a corner of the sofa; his face wore its
customary expression; there was no sign of there having been any
struggle with death. There had been no struggle with death; he had died,
as he had hoped he would die, painlessly, easily.

In preparing the above notice the writer has to acknowledge her
indebtedness to Dr. Gwinner's _Life_ and Professor Wallace's little work
on the same subject, as well as to the few other authorities that have
been available.--THE TRANSLATOR.


[1] Wallace's _Life_, pp. 95, 96.

[2] Wallace, p. 108.

[3] Haldane and Kemp's _The World as Will and Idea_.

[4] Wallace, p. 145.



There are, first of all, two kinds of authors: those who write for the
subject's sake, and those who write for writing's sake. The first kind
have had thoughts or experiences which seem to them worth communicating,
while the second kind need money and consequently write for money. They
think in order to write, and they may be recognised by their spinning
out their thoughts to the greatest possible length, and also by the way
they work out their thoughts, which are half-true, perverse, forced, and
vacillating; then also by their love of evasion, so that they may seem
what they are not; and this is why their writing is lacking in
definiteness and clearness.

Consequently, it is soon recognised that they write for the sake of
filling up the paper, and this is the case sometimes with the best
authors; for example, in parts of Lessing's _Dramaturgie_, and even in
many of Jean Paul's romances. As soon as this is perceived the book
should be thrown away, for time is precious. As a matter of fact, the
author is cheating the reader as soon as he writes for the sake of
filling up paper; because his pretext for writing is that he has
something to impart. Writing for money and preservation of copyright
are, at bottom, the ruin of literature. It is only the man who writes
absolutely for the sake of the subject that writes anything worth
writing. What an inestimable advantage it would be, if, in every branch
of literature, there existed only a few but excellent books! This can
never come to pass so long as money is to be made by writing. It seems
as if money lay under a curse, for every author deteriorates directly he
writes in any way for the sake of money. The best works of great men all
come from the time when they had to write either for nothing or for very
little pay. This is confirmed by the Spanish proverb: _honra y provecho
no caben en un saco_ (Honour and money are not to be found in the same
purse). The deplorable condition of the literature of to-day, both in
Germany and other countries, is due to the fact that books are written
for the sake of earning money. Every one who is in want of money sits
down and writes a book, and the public is stupid enough to buy it. The
secondary effect of this is the ruin of language.

A great number of bad authors eke out their existence entirely by the
foolishness of the public, which only will read what has just been
printed. I refer to journalists, who have been appropriately so-called.
In other words, it would be "day labourer."

       *       *       *       *       *

Again, it may be said that there are three kinds of authors. In the
first place, there are those who write without thinking. They write from
memory, from reminiscences, or even direct from other people's books.
This class is the most numerous. In the second, those who think whilst
they are writing. They think in order to write; and they are numerous.
In the third place, there are those who have thought before they begin
to write. They write solely because they have thought; and they are

Authors of the second class, who postpone their thinking until they
begin to write, are like a sportsman who goes out at random--he is not
likely to bring home very much. While the writing of an author of the
third, the rare class, is like a chase where the game has been captured
beforehand and cooped up in some enclosure from which it is afterwards
set free, so many at a time, into another enclosure, where it is not
possible for it to escape, and the sportsman has now nothing to do but
to aim and fire--that is to say, put his thoughts on paper. This is the
kind of sport which yields something.

But although the number of those authors who really and seriously think
before they write is small, only extremely few of them think about _the
subject itself_; the rest think only about the books written on this
subject, and what has been said by others upon it, I mean. In order to
think, they must have the more direct and powerful incentive of other
people's thoughts. These become their next theme, and therefore they
always remain under their influence and are never, strictly speaking,
original. On the contrary, the former are roused to thought through the
_subject itself_, hence their thinking is directed immediately to it. It
is only among them that we find the authors whose names become immortal.
Let it be understood that I am speaking here of writers of the higher
branches of literature, and not of writers on the method of distilling

It is only the writer who takes the material on which he writes direct
out of his own head that is worth reading. Book manufacturers,
compilers, and the ordinary history writers, and others like them, take
their material straight out of books; it passes into their fingers
without its having paid transit duty or undergone inspection when it was
in their heads, to say nothing of elaboration. (How learned many a man
would be if he knew everything that was in his own books!) Hence their
talk is often of such a vague nature that one racks one's brains in vain
to understand of _what_ they are really thinking. They are not thinking
at all. The book from which they copy is sometimes composed in the same
way: so that writing of this kind is like a plaster cast of a cast of a
cast, and so on, until finally all that is left is a scarcely
recognisable outline of the face of Antinous. Therefore, compilations
should be read as seldom as possible: it is difficult to avoid them
entirely, since compendia, which contain in a small space knowledge that
has been collected in the course of several centuries, are included in

No greater mistake can be made than to imagine that what has been
written latest is always the more correct; that what is written later on
is an improvement on what was written previously; and that every change
means progress. Men who think and have correct judgment, and people who
treat their subject earnestly, are all exceptions only. Vermin is the
rule everywhere in the world: it is always at hand and busily engaged in
trying to improve in its own way upon the mature deliberations of the
thinkers. So that if a man wishes to improve himself in any subject he
must guard against immediately seizing the newest books written upon it,
in the assumption that science is always advancing and that the older
books have been made use of in the compiling of the new. They have, it
is true, been used; but how? The writer often does not thoroughly
understand the old books; he will, at the same time, not use their exact
words, so that the result is he spoils and bungles what has been said in
a much better and clearer way by the old writers; since they wrote from
their own lively knowledge of the subject. He often leaves out the best
things they have written, their most striking elucidations of the
matter, their happiest remarks, because he does not recognise their
value or feel how pregnant they are. It is only what is stupid and
shallow that appeals to him. An old and excellent book is frequently
shelved for new and bad ones; which, written for the sake of money, wear
a pretentious air and are much eulogised by the authors' friends. In
science, a man who wishes to distinguish himself brings something new to
market; this frequently consists in his denouncing some principle that
has been previously held as correct, so that he may establish a wrong
one of his own. Sometimes his attempt is successful for a short time,
when a return is made to the old and correct doctrine. These innovators
are serious about nothing else in the world than their own priceless
person, and it is this that they wish to make its mark. They bring this
quickly about by beginning a paradox; the sterility of their own heads
suggests their taking the path of negation; and truths that have long
been recognised are now denied--for instance, the vital power, the
sympathetic nervous system, _generatio equivoca_, Bichat's distinction
between the working of the passions and the working of intelligence, or
they return to crass atomism, etc., etc. Hence _the course of science is
often retrogressive_.

To this class of writers belong also those translators who, besides
translating their author, at the same time correct and alter him, a
thing that always seems to me impertinent. Write books yourself which
are worth translating and leave the books of other people as they are.
One should read, if it is possible, the real authors, the founders and
discoverers of things, or at any rate the recognised great masters in
every branch of learning, and buy second-hand _books_ rather than read
their _contents_ in new ones.

It is true that _inventis aliquid addere facile est_, therefore a man,
after having studied the principles of his subject, will have to make
himself acquainted with the more recent information written upon it. In
general, the following rule holds good here as elsewhere, namely: what
is new is seldom good; because a good thing is only new for a short

What the address is to a letter the _title_ should be to a book--that
is, its immediate aim should be to bring the book to that part of the
public that will be interested in its contents. Therefore, the title
should be effective, and since it is essentially short, it should be
concise, laconic, pregnant, and if possible express the contents in a
word. Therefore a title that is prolix, or means nothing at all, or that
is indirect or ambiguous, is bad; so is one that is false and
misleading: this last may prepare for the book the same fate as that
which awaits a wrongly addressed letter. The worst titles are those that
are stolen, such titles that is to say that other books already bear;
for in the first place they are a plagiarism, and in the second a most
convincing proof of an absolute want of originality. A man who has not
enough originality to think out a new title for his book will be much
less capable of giving it new contents. Akin to these are those titles
which have been imitated, in other words, half stolen; for instance, a
long time after I had written "On Will in Nature," Oersted wrote "On
Mind in Nature."

       *       *       *       *       *

A book can never be anything more than the impression of its author's
thoughts. The value of these thoughts lies either in the _matter about
which_ he has thought, or in the _form_ in which he develops his
matter--that is to say, _what_ he has thought about it.

The matter of books is very various, as also are the merits conferred on
books on account of their matter. All matter that is the outcome of
experience, in other words everything that is founded on fact, whether
it be historical or physical, taken by itself and in its widest sense,
is included in the term matter. It is the _motif_ that gives its
peculiar character to the book, so that a book can be important whoever
the author may have been; while with form the peculiar character of a
book rests with the author of it. The subjects may be of such a nature
as to be accessible and well known to everybody; but the form in which
they are expounded, _what_ has been thought about them, gives the book
its value, and this depends upon the author. Therefore if a book, from
this point of view, is excellent and without a rival, so also is its
author. From this it follows that the merit of a writer worth reading is
all the greater the less he is dependent on matter--and the better known
and worn out this matter, the greater will be his merit. The three great
Grecian tragedians, for instance, all worked at the same subject.

So that when a book becomes famous one should carefully distinguish
whether it is so on account of its matter or its form.

Quite ordinary and shallow men are able to produce books of very great
importance because of their _matter_, which was accessible to them
alone. Take, for instance, books which give descriptions of foreign
countries, rare natural phenomena, experiments that have been made,
historical events of which they were witnesses, or have spent both time
and trouble in inquiring into and specially studying the authorities for

On the other hand, it is on _form_ that we are dependent, where the
matter is accessible to every one or very well known; and it is what has
been thought about the matter that will give any value to the
achievement; it will only be an eminent man who will be able to write
anything that is worth reading. For the others will only think what is
possible for every other man to think. They give the impress of their
own mind; but every one already possesses the original of this

However, the public is very much more interested in matter than in form,
and it is for this very reason that it is behindhand in any high degree
of culture. It is most laughable the way the public reveals its liking
for matter in poetic works; it carefully investigates the real events or
personal circumstances of the poet's life which served to give the
_motif_ of his works; nay, finally, it finds these more interesting than
the works themselves; it reads more about Goethe than what has been
written by Goethe, and industriously studies the legend of Faust in
preference to Goethe's _Faust_ itself. And when B�rger said that "people
would make learned expositions as to who Leonora really was," we see
this literally fulfilled in Goethe's case, for we now have many learned
expositions on Faust and the Faust legend. They are and will remain of a
purely material character. This preference for matter to form is the
same as a man ignoring the shape and painting of a fine Etruscan vase in
order to make a chemical examination of the clay and colours of which it
is made. The attempt to be effective by means of the matter used,
thereby ministering to this evil propensity of the public, is absolutely
to be censured in branches of writing where the merit must lie expressly
in the form; as, for instance, in poetical writing. However, there are
numerous bad dramatic authors striving to fill the theatre by means of
the matter they are treating. For instance, they place on the stage any
kind of celebrated man, however stripped of dramatic incidents his life
may have been, nay, sometimes without waiting until the persons who
appear with him are dead.

The distinction between matter and form, of which I am here speaking, is
true also in regard to conversation. It is chiefly intelligence,
judgment, wit, and vivacity that enable a man to converse; they give
form to the conversation. However, the _matter_ of the conversation must
soon come into notice--in other words, _that_ about which one can talk
to the man, namely, his knowledge. If this is very small, it will only
be his possessing the above-named formal qualities in a quite
exceptionally high degree that will make his conversation of any value,
for his matter will be restricted to things concerning humanity and
nature, which are known generally. It is just the reverse if a man is
wanting in these formal qualities, but has, on the other hand, knowledge
of such a kind that it lends value to his conversation; this value,
however, will then entirely rest on the matter of his conversation, for,
according to the Spanish proverb, _mas sabe el necio en su casa, que el
sabio en la agena_.

A thought only really lives until it has reached the boundary line of
words; it then becomes petrified and dies immediately; yet it is as
everlasting as the fossilised animals and plants of former ages. Its
existence, which is really momentary, may be compared to a crystal the
instant it becomes crystallised.

As soon as a thought has found words it no longer exists in us or is
serious in its deepest sense.

When it begins to exist for others it ceases to live in us; just as a
child frees itself from its mother when it comes into existence. The
poet has also said:

  "Ihr m�sst mich nicht durch Widerspruch verwirren!
  _Sobald man spricht, beginnt man schon zu irren_."

The pen is to thought what the stick is to walking, but one walks most
easily without a stick, and thinks most perfectly when no pen is at
hand. It is only when a man begins to get old that he likes to make use
of a stick and his pen.

A hypothesis that has once gained a position in the mind, or been born
in it, leads a life resembling that of an organism, in so far as it
receives from the outer world matter only that is advantageous and
homogeneous to it; on the other hand, matter that is harmful and
heterogeneous to it is either rejected, or if it must be received, cast
off again entirely.

Abstract and indefinite terms should be employed in satire only as they
are in algebra, in place of concrete and specified quantities. Moreover,
it should be used as sparingly as the dissecting knife on the body of a
living man. At the risk of forfeiting his life it is an unsafe

For a work to become _immortal_ it must possess so many excellences that
it will not be easy to find a man who understands and values them _all_;
so that there will be in all ages men who recognise and appreciate some
of these excellences; by this means the credit of the work will be
retained throughout the long course of centuries and ever-changing
interests, for, as it is appreciated first in this sense, then in that,
the interest is never exhausted.

An author like this, in other words, an author who has a claim to live
on in posterity, can only be a man who seeks in vain his like among his
contemporaries over the wide world, his marked distinction making him a
striking contrast to every one else. Even if he existed through several
generations, like the wandering Jew, he would still occupy the same
position; in short, he would be, as Ariosto has put it, _lo fece natura,
e poi ruppe lo stampo_. If this were not so, one would not be able to
understand why his thoughts should not perish like those of other men.

In almost every age, whether it be in literature or art, we find that if
a thoroughly wrong idea, or a fashion, or a manner is in vogue, it is
admired. Those of ordinary intelligence trouble themselves inordinately
to acquire it and put it in practice. An intelligent man sees through it
and despises it, consequently he remains out of the fashion. Some years
later the public sees through it and takes the sham for what it is
worth; it now laughs at it, and the much-admired colour of all these
works of fashion falls off like the plaster from a badly-built wall: and
they are in the same dilapidated condition. We should be glad and not
sorry when a fundamentally wrong notion of which we have been secretly
conscious for a long time finally gains a footing and is proclaimed both
loudly and openly. The falseness of it will soon be felt and eventually
proclaimed equally loudly and openly. It is as if an abscess had burst.

The man who publishes and edits an article written by an anonymous
critic should be held as immediately responsible for it as if he had
written it himself; just as one holds a manager responsible for bad work
done by his workmen. In this way the fellow would be treated as he
deserves to be--namely, without any ceremony.

An anonymous writer is a literary fraud against whom one should
immediately cry out, "Wretch, if you do not wish to admit what it is you
say against other people, hold your slanderous tongue."

An anonymous criticism carries no more weight than an anonymous letter,
and should therefore be looked upon with equal mistrust. Or do we wish
to accept the assumed name of a man, who in reality represents a
_soci�t� anonyme_, as a guarantee for the veracity of his friends?

The little honesty that exists among authors is discernible in the
unconscionable way they misquote from the writings of others. I find
whole passages in my works wrongly quoted, and it is only in my
appendix, which is absolutely lucid, that an exception is made. The
misquotation is frequently due to carelessness, the pen of such people
has been used to write down such trivial and banal phrases that it goes
on writing them out of force of habit. Sometimes the misquotation is due
to impertinence on the part of some one who wants to improve upon my
work; but a bad motive only too often prompts the misquotation--it is
then horrid baseness and roguery, and, like a man who commits forgery,
he loses the character for being an honest man for ever.

Style is the physiognomy of the mind. It is a more reliable key to
character than the physiognomy of the body. To imitate another person's
style is like wearing a mask. However fine the mask, it soon becomes
insipid and intolerable because it is without life; so that even the
ugliest living face is better. Therefore authors who write in Latin and
imitate the style of the old writers essentially wear a mask; one
certainly hears what they say, but one cannot watch their
physiognomy--that is to say their style. One observes, however, the
style in the Latin writings of men _who think for themselves_, those who
have not deigned to imitate, as, for instance, Scotus Erigena, Petrarch,
Bacon, Descartes, Spinoza, etc.

Affectation in style is like making grimaces. The language in which a
man writes is the physiognomy of his nation; it establishes a great many
differences, beginning from the language of the Greeks down to that of
the Caribbean islanders.

We should seek for the faults in the style of another author's works, so
that we may avoid committing the same in our own.

In order to get a provisional estimate of the value of an author's
productions it is not exactly necessary to know the matter on which he
has thought or what it is he has thought about it,--this would compel
one to read the whole of his works,--but it will be sufficient to know
_how_ he has thought. His _style_ is an exact expression of _how_ he has
thought, of the essential state and general _quality_ of his thoughts.
It shows the _formal_ nature--which must always remain the same--of all
the thoughts of a man, whatever the subject on which he has thought or
what it is he has said about it. It is the dough out of which all his
ideas are kneaded, however various they may be. When Eulenspiegel was
asked by a man how long he would have to walk before reaching the next
place, and gave the apparently absurd answer _Walk_, his intention was
to judge from the man's walking how far he would go in a given time. And
so it is when I have read a few pages of an author, I know about how far
he can help me.

In the secret consciousness that this is the condition of things, every
mediocre writer tries to mask his own natural style. This instantly
necessitates his giving up all idea of being _na�ve_, a privilege which
belongs to superior minds sensible of their superiority, and therefore
sure of themselves. For instance, it is absolutely impossible for men of
ordinary intelligence to make up their minds to write as they think;
they resent the idea of their work looking too simple. It would always
be of some value, however. If they would only go honestly to work and in
a simple way express the few and ordinary ideas they have really
thought, they would be readable and even instructive in their own
sphere. But instead of that they try to appear to have thought much more
deeply than is the case. The result is, they put what they have to say
into forced and involved language, create new words and prolix periods
which go round the thought and cover it up. They hesitate between the
two attempts of communicating the thought and of concealing it. They
want to make it look grand so that it has the appearance of being
learned and profound, thereby giving one the idea that there is much
more in it than one perceives at the moment. Accordingly, they sometimes
put down their thoughts in bits, in short, equivocal, and paradoxical
sentences which appear to mean much more than they say (a splendid
example of this kind of writing is furnished by Schelling's treatises on
Natural Philosophy); sometimes they express their thoughts in a crowd of
words and the most intolerable diffuseness, as if it were necessary to
make a sensation in order to make the profound meaning of their phrases
intelligible--while it is quite a simple idea if not a trivial one
(examples without number are supplied in Fichte's popular works and in
the philosophical pamphlets of a hundred other miserable blockheads that
are not worth mentioning), or else they endeavour to use a certain style
in writing which it has pleased them to adopt--for example, a style that
is so thoroughly _Kat' e'xochae'u_ profound and scientific, where one is
tortured to death by the narcotic effect of long-spun periods that are
void of all thought (examples of this are specially supplied by those
most impertinent of all mortals, the Hegelians in their Hegel newspaper
commonly known as _Jahrb�cher der wissenschaftlichen Literatur)_; or
again, they aim at an intellectual style where it seems then as if they
wish to go crazy, and so on. All such efforts whereby they try to
postpone the _nascetur ridiculus mus_ make it frequently difficult to
understand what they really mean. Moreover, they write down words, nay,
whole periods, which mean nothing in themselves, in the hope, however,
that some one else will understand something from them. Nothing else is
at the bottom of all such endeavours but the inexhaustible attempt which
is always venturing on new paths, to sell words for thoughts, and by
means of new expressions, or expressions used in a new sense, turns of
phrases and combinations of all kinds, to produce the appearance of
intellect in order to compensate for the want of it which is so
painfully felt. It is amusing to see how, with this aim in view, first
this mannerism and then that is tried; these they intend to represent
the mask of intellect: this mask may possibly deceive the inexperienced
for a while, until it is recognised as being nothing but a dead mask,
when it is laughed at and exchanged for another.

We find a writer of this kind sometimes writing in a dithyrambic style,
as if he were intoxicated; at other times, nay, on the very next page,
he will be high-sounding, severe, and deeply learned, prolix to the last
degree of dulness, and cutting everything very small, like the late
Christian Wolf, only in a modern garment. The mask of unintelligibility
holds out the longest; this is only in Germany, however, where it was
introduced by Fichte, perfected by Schelling, and attained its highest
climax finally in Hegel, always with the happiest results. And yet
nothing is easier than to write so that no one can understand; on the
other hand, nothing is more difficult than to express learned ideas so
that every one must understand them. All the arts I have cited above are
superfluous if the writer really possesses any intellect, for it allows
a man to show himself as he is and verifies for all time what Horace
said: _Scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons_.

But this class of authors is like certain workers in metal, who try a
hundred different compositions to take the place of gold, which is the
only metal that can never have a substitute. On the contrary, there is
nothing an author should guard against more than the apparent endeavour
to show more intellect than he has; because this rouses the suspicion in
the reader that he has very little, since a man always affects
something, be its nature what it may, that he does not really possess.
And this is why it is praise to an author to call him na�ve, for it
signifies that he may show himself as he is. In general, na�vet�
attracts, while anything that is unnatural everywhere repels. We also
find that every true thinker endeavours to express his thoughts as
purely, clearly, definitely, and concisely as ever possible. This is why
simplicity has always been looked upon as a token, not only of truth,
but also of genius. Style receives its beauty from the thought
expressed, while with those writers who only pretend to think it is
their thoughts that are said to be fine because of their style. Style is
merely the silhouette of thought; and to write in a vague or bad style
means a stupid or confused mind.

Hence, the first rule--nay, this in itself is almost sufficient for a
good style--is this, _that the author should have something to say_. Ah!
this implies a great deal. The neglect of this rule is a fundamental
characteristic of the philosophical, and generally speaking of all the
reflective authors in Germany, especially since the time of Fichte. It
is obvious that all these writers wish _to appear_ to have something to
say, while they have nothing to say. This mannerism was introduced by
the pseudo-philosophers of the Universities and may be discerned
everywhere, even among the first literary notabilities of the age. It is
the mother of that forced and vague style which seems to have two, nay,
many meanings, as well as of that prolix and ponderous style, _le stile
empes�_; and of that no less useless bombastic style, and finally of
that mode of concealing the most awful poverty of thought under a babble
of inexhaustible chatter that resembles a clacking mill and is just as
stupefying: one may read for hours together without getting hold of a
single clearly defined and definite idea. The _Halleschen_, afterwards
called the _Deutschen Jahrb�cher_, furnishes almost throughout excellent
examples of this style of writing. The Germans, by the way, from force
of habit read page after page of all kinds of such verbiage without
getting any definite idea of what the author really means: they think it
all very proper and do not discover that he is writing merely for the
sake of writing. On the other hand, a good author who is rich in ideas
soon gains the reader's credit of having really and truly _something to
say_; and this gives the intelligent reader patience to follow him
attentively. An author of this kind will always express himself in the
simplest and most direct manner, for the very reason that he really has
something to say; because he wishes to awaken in the reader the same
idea he has in his own mind and no other. Accordingly he will be able to
say with Boileau--

  "Ma pens�e au grand jour partout s'offre et s'expose,
  Et mon vers, bien ou mal, dit toujours quelque chose;"

while of those previously described writers it may be said, in the words
of the same poet, _et qui parlant beaucoup ne disent jamais rien_. It is
also a characteristic of such writers to avoid, if it is possible,
expressing themselves _definitely_, so that they may be always able in
case of need to get out of a difficulty; this is why they always choose
the more _abstract_ expressions: while people of intellect choose the
more _concrete_; because the latter bring the matter closer to view,
which is the source of all evidence. This preference for abstract
expressions may be confirmed by numerous examples: a specially
ridiculous example is the following. Throughout German literature of the
last ten years we find "to condition" almost everywhere used in place of
"to cause" or "to effect." Since it is more abstract and indefinite it
says less than it implies, and consequently leaves a little back door
open to please those whose secret consciousness of their own incapacity
inspires them with a continual fear of all _definite_ expressions. While
with other people it is merely the effect of that national tendency to
immediately imitate everything that is stupid in literature and wicked
in life; this is shown in either case by the quick way in which it
spreads. The Englishman depends on his own judgment both in what he
writes and what he does, but this applies less to the German than to any
other nation. In consequence of the state of things referred to, the
words "to cause" and "to effect" have almost entirely disappeared from
the literature of the last ten years, and people everywhere talk of "to
condition." The fact is worth mentioning because it is
characteristically ridiculous. Everyday authors are only half conscious
when they write, a fact which accounts for their want of intellect and
the tediousness of their writings; they do not really themselves
understand the meaning of their own words, because they take ready-made
words and learn them. Hence they combine whole phrases more than
words--_phrases banales_. This accounts for that obviously
characteristic want of clearly defined thought; in fact, they lack the
die that stamps their thoughts, they have no clear thought of their own;
in place of it we find an indefinite, obscure interweaving of words,
current phrases, worn-out terms of speech, and fashionable expressions.
The result is that their foggy kind of writing is like print that has
been done with old type. On the other hand, intelligent people _really_
speak to us in their writings, and this is why they are able to both
move and entertain us. It is only intelligent writers who place
individual words together with a full consciousness of their use and
select them with deliberation. Hence their style of writing bears the
same relation to that of those authors described above, as a picture
that is really painted does to one that has been executed with stencil.
In the first instance every word, just as every stroke of the brush, has
some special significance, while in the other everything is done
mechanically. The same distinction may be observed in music. For it is
the omnipresence of intellect that always and everywhere characterises
the works of the genius; and analogous to this is Lichtenberg's
observation, namely, that Garrick's soul was omnipresent in all the
muscles of his body. With regard to the tediousness of the writings
referred to above, it is to be observed in general that there are two
kinds of tediousness--an objective and a subjective. The _objective_
form of tediousness springs from the deficiency of which we have been
speaking--that is to say, where the author has no perfectly clear
thought or knowledge to communicate. For if a writer possesses any clear
thought or knowledge it will be his aim to communicate it, and he will
work with this end in view; consequently the ideas he furnishes are
everywhere clearly defined, so that he is neither diffuse, unmeaning,
nor confused, and consequently not tedious. Even if his fundamental idea
is wrong, yet in such a case it will be clearly thought out and well
pondered; in other words, it is at least formally correct, and the
writing is always of some value. While, for the same reason, a work that
is objectively _tedious_ is at all times without value. Again,
_subjective_ tediousness is merely relative: this is because the reader
is not interested in the subject of the work, and that what he takes an
interest in is of a very limited nature. The most excellent work may
therefore be tedious subjectively to this or that person, just as, _vice
vers�_, the worst work may be subjectively diverting to this or that
person: because he is interested in either the subject or the writer of
the book.

It would be of general service to German authors if they discerned that
while a man should, if possible, think like a great mind, he should
speak the same language as every other person. Men should use common
words to say uncommon things, but they do the reverse. We find them
trying to envelop trivial ideas in grand words and to dress their very
ordinary thoughts in the most extraordinary expressions and the most
outlandish, artificial, and rarest phrases. Their sentences perpetually
stalk about on stilts. With regard to their delight in bombast, and to
their writing generally in a grand, puffed-up, unreal, hyperbolical, and
acrobatic style, their prototype is Pistol, who was once impatiently
requested by Falstaff, his friend, to "say what you have to say, _like a
man of this world_!"[5]

There is no expression in the German language exactly corresponding to
_stile empes�_; but the thing itself is all the more prevalent. When
combined with unnaturalness it is in works what affected gravity,
grandness, and unnaturalness are in social intercourse; and it is just
as intolerable. Poverty of intellect is fond of wearing this dress; just
as stupid people in everyday life are fond of assuming gravity and

A man who writes in this _prezi�s_ style is like a person who dresses
himself up to avoid being mistaken for or confounded with the mob; a
danger which a _gentleman_, even in his worst clothes, does not run.
Hence just as a plebeian is recognised by a certain display in his dress
and his _tir� � quatre �pingles_, so is an ordinary writer recognised by
his style.

If a man has something to say that is worth saying, he need not envelop
it in affected expressions, involved phrases, and enigmatical
innuendoes; but he may rest assured that by expressing himself in a
simple, clear, and na�ve manner he will not fail to produce the right
effect. A man who makes use of such artifices as have been alluded to
betrays his poverty of ideas, mind, and knowledge.

Nevertheless, it is a mistake to attempt to write exactly as one speaks.
Every style of writing should bear a certain trace of relationship with
the monumental style, which is, indeed, the ancestor of all styles; so
that to write as one speaks is just as faulty as to do the reverse, that
is to say, to try and speak as one writes. This makes the author
pedantic, and at the same time difficult to understand.

Obscurity and vagueness of expression are at all times and everywhere a
very bad sign. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred they arise from
vagueness of thought, which, in its turn, is almost always fundamentally
discordant, inconsistent, and therefore wrong. When a right thought
springs up in the mind it strives after clearness of expression, and it
soon attains it, for clear thought easily finds its appropriate
expression. A man who is capable of thinking can express himself at all
times in clear, comprehensible, and unambiguous words. Those writers who
construct difficult, obscure, involved, and ambiguous phrases most
certainly do not rightly know what it is they wish to say: they have
only a dull consciousness of it, which is still struggling to put itself
into thought; they also often wish to conceal from themselves and other
people that in reality they have nothing to say. Like Fichte, Schelling,
and Hegel, they wish to appear to know what they do not know, to think
what they do not think, and to say what they do not say.

Will a man, then, who has something real to impart endeavour to say it
in a clear or an indistinct way? Quintilian has already said, _plerumque
accidit ut faciliora sint ad intelligendum et lucidiora multo, quae a
doctissimo quoque dicuntur.... Erit ergo etiam obscurior, quo quisque

A man's way of expressing himself should not be _enigmatical_, but he
should know whether he has something to say or whether he has not. It is
an uncertainty of expression which makes German writers so dull. The
only exceptional cases are those where a man wishes to express something
that is in some respect of an illicit nature. As anything that is
far-fetched generally produces the reverse of what the writer has aimed
at, so do words serve to make thought comprehensible; but only up to a
certain point. If words are piled up beyond this point they make the
thought that is being communicated more and more obscure. To hit that
point is the problem of style and a matter of discernment; for every
superfluous word prevents its purpose being carried out. Voltaire means
this when he says: _l'adjectif est l'ennemi du substantif_. (But, truly,
many authors try to hide their poverty of thought under a superfluity of

Accordingly, all prolixity and all binding together of unmeaning
observations that are not worth reading should be avoided. A writer must
be sparing with the reader's time, concentration, and patience; in this
way he makes him believe that what he has before him is worth his
careful reading, and will repay the trouble he has spent upon it. It is
always better to leave out something that is good than to write down
something that is not worth saying. Hesiod's πλέον ἡμισυ πάντος[6]
finds its right application. In fact, not to say everything! _Le secret
pour �tre ennuyeux, c'est de tout dire_. Therefore, if possible, the
quintessence only! the chief matter only! nothing that the reader would
think for himself. The use of many words in order to express little
thought is everywhere the infallible sign of mediocrity; while to clothe
much thought in a few words is the infallible sign of distinguished

Truth that is naked is the most beautiful, and the simpler its
expression the deeper is the impression it makes; this is partly because
it gets unobstructed hold of the hearer's mind without his being
distracted by secondary thoughts, and partly because he feels that here
he is not being corrupted or deceived by the arts of rhetoric, but that
the whole effect is got from the thing itself. For instance, what
declamation on the emptiness of human existence could be more impressive
than Job's: _Homo, natus de muliere, brevi vivit tempore, repletus
multis miseriis, qui, tanquam flos, egreditur et conteritur, et fugit
velut umbra_. It is for this very reason that the na�ve poetry of Goethe
is so incomparably greater than the rhetorical of Schiller. This is also
why many folk-songs have so great an effect upon us. An author should
guard against using all unnecessary rhetorical adornment, all useless
amplification, and in general, just as in architecture he should guard
against an excess of decoration, all superfluity of expression--in other
words, he must aim at _chastity_ of style. Everything that is redundant
has a harmful effect. The law of simplicity and na�vet� applies to all
fine art, for it is compatible with what is most sublime.

True brevity of expression consists in a man only saying what is worth
saying, while avoiding all diffuse explanations of things which every
one can think out for himself; that is, it consists in his correctly
distinguishing between what is necessary and what is superfluous. On the
other hand, one should never sacrifice clearness, to say nothing of
grammar, for the sake of being brief. To impoverish the expression of a
thought, or to obscure or spoil the meaning of a period for the sake of
using fewer words shows a lamentable want of judgment. And this is
precisely what that false brevity nowadays in vogue is trying to do, for
writers not only leave out words that are to the purpose, but even
grammatical and logical essentials.[7]

_Subjectivity_, which is an error of style in German literature, is,
through the deteriorated condition of literature and neglect of old
languages, becoming more common. By _subjectivity_ I mean when a writer
thinks it sufficient for himself to know what he means and wants to say,
and it is left to the reader to discover what is meant. Without
troubling himself about his reader, he writes as if he were holding a
monologue; whereas it should be a dialogue, and, moreover, a dialogue in
which he must express himself all the more clearly as the questions of
the reader cannot be heard. And it is for this very reason that style
should not be subjective but objective, and for it to be objective the
words must be written in such a way as to directly compel the reader to
think precisely the same as the author thought. This will only be the
case when the author has borne in mind that thoughts, inasmuch as they
follow the law of gravity, pass more easily from head to paper than from
paper to head. Therefore the journey from paper to head must be helped
by every means at his command. When he does this his words have a purely
objective effect, like that of a completed oil painting; while the
subjective style is not much more certain in its effect than spots on
the wall, and it is only the man whose fantasy is accidentally aroused
by them that sees figures; other people only see blurs. The difference
referred to applies to every style of writing as a whole, and it is also
often met with in particular instances; for example, I read in a book
that has just been published: _I have not written to increase the number
of existing books_. This means exactly the opposite of what the writer
had in view, and is nonsense into the bargain.

A man who writes carelessly at once proves that he himself puts no great
value on his own thoughts. For it is only by being convinced of the
truth and importance of our thoughts that there arises in us the
inspiration necessary for the inexhaustible patience to discover the
clearest, finest, and most powerful expression for them; just as one
puts holy relics or priceless works of art in silvern or golden
receptacles. It was for this reason that the old writers--whose
thoughts, expressed in their own words, have lasted for thousands of
years and hence bear the honoured title of classics--wrote with
universal care. Plato, indeed, is said to have written the introduction
to his _Republic_ seven times with different modifications. On the other
hand, the Germans are conspicuous above all other nations for neglect of
style in writing, as they are for neglect of dress, both kinds of
slovenliness which have their source in the German national character.
Just as neglect of dress betrays contempt for the society in which a man
moves, so does a hasty, careless, and bad style show shocking disrespect
for the reader, who then rightly punishes it by not reading the book.


[5] Schopenhauer here gives an example of this bombastic style which
would be of little interest to English readers.--TRANSLATOR.

[6] _Opera et dies_, v. 40.

[7] Schopenhauer here at length points out various common errors in the
writing and speaking of German which would lose significance in a


Kant has written a treatise on _The Vital Powers_; but I should like to
write a dirge on them, since their lavish use in the form of knocking,
hammering, and tumbling things about has made the whole of my life a
daily torment. Certainly there are people, nay, very many, who will
smile at this, because they are not sensitive to noise; it is precisely
these people, however, who are not sensitive to argument, thought,
poetry or art, in short, to any kind of intellectual impression: a fact
to be assigned to the coarse quality and strong texture of their brain
tissues. On the other hand, in the biographies or in other records of
the personal utterances of almost all great writers, I find complaints
of the pain that noise has occasioned to intellectual men. For example,
in the case of Kant, Goethe, Lichtenberg, Jean Paul; and indeed when no
mention is made of the matter it is merely because the context did not
lead up to it. I should explain the subject we are treating in this way:
If a big diamond is cut up into pieces, it immediately loses its value
as a whole; or if an army is scattered or divided into small bodies, it
loses all its power; and in the same way a great intellect has no more
power than an ordinary one as soon as it is interrupted, disturbed,
distracted, or diverted; for its superiority entails that it
concentrates all its strength on one point and object, just as a concave
mirror concentrates all the rays of light thrown upon it. Noisy
interruption prevents this concentration. This is why the most eminent
intellects have always been strongly averse to any kind of disturbance,
interruption and distraction, and above everything to that violent
interruption which is caused by noise; other people do not take any
particular notice of this sort of thing. The most intelligent of all the
European nations has called "Never interrupt" the eleventh commandment.
But noise is the most impertinent of all interruptions, for it not only
interrupts our own thoughts but disperses them. Where, however, there is
nothing to interrupt, noise naturally will not be felt particularly.
Sometimes a trifling but incessant noise torments and disturbs me for a
time, and before I become distinctly conscious of it I feel it merely as
the effort of thinking becomes more difficult, just as I should feel a
weight on my foot; then I realise what it is.

But to pass from _genus_ to _species_, the truly infernal cracking of
whips in the narrow resounding streets of a town must be denounced as
the most unwarrantable and disgraceful of all noises. It deprives life
of all peace and sensibility. Nothing gives me so clear a grasp of the
stupidity and thoughtlessness of mankind as the tolerance of the
cracking of whips. This sudden, sharp crack which paralyses the brain,
destroys all meditation, and murders thought, must cause pain to any one
who has anything like an idea in his head. Hence every crack must
disturb a hundred people applying their minds to some activity, however
trivial it may be; while it disjoints and renders painful the
meditations of the thinker; just like the executioner's axe when it
severs the head from the body. No sound cuts so sharply into the brain
as this cursed cracking of whips; one feels the prick of the whip-cord
in one's brain, which is affected in the same way as the _mimosa pudica_
is by touch, and which lasts the same length of time. With all respect
for the most holy doctrine of utility, I do not see why a fellow who is
removing a load of sand or manure should obtain the privilege of killing
in the bud the thoughts that are springing up in the heads of about ten
thousand people successively. (He is only half-an-hour on the road.)

Hammering, the barking of dogs, and the screaming of children are
abominable; but it is _only_ the cracking of a whip that is the true
murderer of thought. Its object is to destroy every favourable moment
that one now and then may have for reflection. If there were no other
means of urging on an animal than by making this most disgraceful of all
noises, one would forgive its existence. But it is quite the contrary:
this cursed cracking of whips is not only unnecessary but even useless.
The effect that it is intended to have on the horse mentally becomes
quite blunted and ineffective; since the constant abuse of it has
accustomed the horse to the crack, he does not quicken his pace for it.
This is especially noticeable in the unceasing crack of the whip which
comes from an empty vehicle as it is being driven at its slowest rate to
pick up a fare. The slightest touch with the whip would be more
effective. Allowing, however, that it were absolutely necessary to
remind the horse of the presence of the whip by continually cracking it,
a crack that made one hundredth part of the noise would be sufficient.
It is well known that animals in regard to hearing and seeing notice the
slightest indications, even indications that are scarcely perceptible to
ourselves. Trained dogs and canary birds furnish astonishing examples of
this. Accordingly, this cracking of whips must be regarded as something
purely wanton; nay, as an impudent defiance, on the part of those who
work with their hands, offered to those who work with their heads. That
such infamy is endured in a town is a piece of barbarity and injustice,
the more so as it could be easily removed by a police notice requiring
every whip cord to have a knot at the end of it. It would do no harm to
draw the proletariat's attention to the classes above him who work with
their heads; for he has unbounded fear of any kind of head work. A
fellow who rides through the narrow streets of a populous town with
unemployed post-horses or cart-horses, unceasingly cracking with all his
strength a whip several yards long, instantly deserves to dismount and
receive five really good blows with a stick. If all the philanthropists
in the world, together with all the legislators, met in order to bring
forward their reasons for the total abolition of corporal punishment, I
would not be persuaded to the contrary.

But we can see often enough something that is even still worse. I mean a
carter walking alone, and without any horses, through the streets
incessantly cracking his whip. He has become so accustomed to the crack
in consequence of its unwarrantable toleration. Since one looks after
one's body and all its needs in a most tender fashion, is the thinking
mind to be the only thing that never experiences the slightest
consideration or protection, to say nothing of respect? Carters,
sack-bearers (porters), messengers, and such-like, are the beasts of
burden of humanity; they should be treated absolutely with justice,
fairness, forbearance and care, but they ought not to be allowed to
thwart the higher exertions of the human race by wantonly making a
noise. I should like to know how many great and splendid thoughts these
whips have cracked out of the world. If I had any authority, I should
soon produce in the heads of these carters an inseparable _nexus
idearum_ between cracking a whip and receiving a whipping.

Let us hope that those nations with more intelligence and refined
feelings will make a beginning, and then by force of example induce the
Germans to do the same.[8] Meanwhile, hear what Thomas Hood says of them
(_Up the Rhine)_: "_For a musical people they are the most noisy I ever
met with_" That they are so is not due to their being more prone to
making a noise than other people, but to their insensibility, which
springs from obtuseness; they are not disturbed by it in reading or
thinking, because they do not think; they only smoke, which is their
substitute for thought. The general toleration of unnecessary noise, for
instance, of the clashing of doors, which is so extremely ill-mannered
and vulgar, is a direct proof of the dulness and poverty of thought that
one meets with everywhere. In Germany it seems as though it were planned
that no one should think for noise; take the inane drumming that goes on
as an instance. Finally, as far as the literature treated of in this
chapter is concerned, I have only one work to recommend, but it is an
excellent one: I mean a poetical epistle in _terzo rimo_ by the famous
painter Bronzino, entitled "_De' Romori: a Messer Luca Martini_" It
describes fully and amusingly the torture to which one is put by the
many kinds of noises of a small Italian town. It is written in
tragicomic style. This epistle is to be found in _Opere burlesche del
Berni, Aretino ed altri,_ vol. ii. p. 258, apparently published in
Utrecht in 1771.

The nature of our intellect is such that _ideas_ are said to spring by
abstraction from _observations_, so that the latter are in existence
before the former. If this is really what takes place, as is the case
with a man who has merely his own experience as his teacher and book, he
knows quite well which of his observations belong to and are represented
by each of his ideas; he is perfectly acquainted with both, and
accordingly he treats everything correctly that comes before his notice.
We might call this the natural mode of education.

On the other hand, an artificial education is having one's head crammed
full of ideas, derived from hearing others talk, from learning and
reading, before one has anything like an extensive knowledge of the
world as it is and as one sees it. The observations which produce all
these ideas are said to come later on with experience; but until then
these ideas are applied wrongly, and accordingly both things and men are
judged wrongly, seen wrongly, and treated wrongly. And so it is that
education perverts the mind; and this is why, after a long spell of
learning and reading, we enter the world, in our youth, with views that
are partly simple, partly perverted; consequently we comport ourselves
with an air of anxiety at one time, at another of presumption. This is
because our head is full of ideas which we are now trying to make use
of, but almost always apply wrongly. This is the result of ὑστερον
προτερον (putting the cart before the horse), since we are directly
opposing the natural development of our mind by obtaining ideas first
and observations last; for teachers, instead of developing in a boy his
faculties of discernment and judgment, and of thinking for himself,
merely strive to stuff his head full of other people's thoughts.
Subsequently, all the opinions that have sprung from misapplied ideas
have to be rectified by a lengthy experience; and it is seldom that they
are completely rectified. This is why so few men of learning have such
sound common sense as is quite common among the illiterate.

       *       *       *       *       *

From what has been said, the principal point in education is that _one's
knowledge of the world begins at the right end;_ and the attainment of
which might be designated as the aim of all education. But, as has been
pointed out, this depends principally on the observation of each thing
preceding the idea one forms of it; further, that narrow ideas precede
broader; so that the whole of one's instruction is given in the order
that the ideas themselves during formation must have followed. But
directly this order is not strictly adhered to, imperfect and
subsequently wrong ideas spring up; and finally there arises a perverted
view of the world in keeping with the nature of the individual--a view
such as almost every one holds for a long time, and most people to the
end of their lives. If a man analyses his own character, he will find
that it was not until he reached a very ripe age, and in some cases
quite unexpectedly, that he was able to rightly and clearly understand
many matters of a quite simple nature.

Previously, there had been an obscure point in his knowledge of the
world which had arisen through his omitting something in his early
education, whether he had been either artificially educated by men or
just naturally by his own experience. Therefore one should try to find
out the strictly natural course of knowledge, so that by keeping
methodically to it children may become acquainted with the affairs of
the world, without getting false ideas into their heads, which
frequently cannot be driven out again. In carrying this out, one must
next take care that children do not use words with which they connect no
clear meaning. Even children have, as a rule, that unhappy tendency of
being satisfied with words instead of wishing to understand things, and
of learning words by heart, so that they may make use of them when they
are in a difficulty. This tendency clings to them afterwards, so that
the knowledge of many learned men becomes mere verbosity.

However, the principal thing must always be to let one's observations
precede one's ideas, and not the reverse as is usually and unfortunately
the case; which may be likened to a child coming into the world with its
feet foremost, or a rhyme begun before thinking of its reason. While the
child's mind has made a very few observations one inculcates it with
ideas and opinions, which are, strictly speaking, prejudices. His
observations and experience are developed through this ready-made
apparatus instead of his ideas being developed out of his own
observations. In viewing the world one sees many things from many sides,
consequently this is not such a short or quick way of learning as that
which makes use of abstract ideas, and quickly comes to a decision about
everything; therefore preconceived ideas will not be rectified until
late, or it may be they are never rectified. For, when a man's view
contradicts his ideas, he will reject at the outset what it renders
evident as one-sided, nay, he will deny it and shut his eyes to it, so
that his preconceived ideas may remain unaffected. And so it happens
that many men go through life full of oddities, caprices, fancies, and
prejudices, until they finally become fixed ideas. He has never
attempted to abstract fundamental ideas from his own observations and
experience, because he has got everything ready-made from other people;
and it is for this very reason that he and countless others are so
insipid and shallow. Instead of such a system, the natural system of
education should be employed in educating children. No idea should be
impregnated but what has come through the medium of observations, or at
any rate been verified by them. A child would have fewer ideas, but they
would be well-grounded and correct. It would learn to measure things
according to its own standard and not according to another's. It would
then never acquire a thousand whims and prejudices which must be
eradicated by the greater part of subsequent experience and education.
Its mind would henceforth be accustomed to thoroughness and clearness;
the child would rely on its own judgment, and be free from prejudices.
And, in general, children should not get to know life, in any aspect
whatever, from the copy before they have learnt it from the original.
Instead, therefore, of hastening to place mere books in their hands, one
should make them gradually acquainted with things and the circumstances
of human life, and above everything one should take care to guide them
to a clear grasp of reality, and to teach them to obtain their ideas
directly from the real world, and to form them in keeping with it--but
not to get them from elsewhere, as from books, fables, or what others
have said--and then later to make use of such ready-made ideas in real
life. The result will be that their heads are full of chimeras and that
some will have a wrong comprehension of things, and others will
fruitlessly endeavour to remodel the world according to those chimeras,
and so get on to wrong paths both in theory and practice. For it is
incredible how much harm is done by false notions which have been
implanted early in life, only to develop later on into prejudices; the
later education which we get from the world and real life must be
employed in eradicating these early ideas. And this is why, as is
related by Diogenes Laertius, Antisthenes gave the following answer:
έρωτηθεις τι των μαθηματων ἀναγκαιοτατον, έφη, "το κακα ἀπομαθειν."
(_Interrogatus quaenam esset disciplina maxime necessaria, Mala, inquit,

       *       *       *       *       *

Children should be kept from all kinds of instruction that may make
errors possible until their sixteenth year, that is to say, from
philosophy, religion, and general views of every description; because it
is the errors that are acquired in early days that remain, as a rule,
ineradicable, and because the faculty of judgment is the last to arrive
at maturity. They should only be interested in such things that make
errors impossible, such as mathematics, in things which are not very
dangerous, such as languages, natural science, history, and so forth; in
general, the branches of knowledge which are to be taken up at any age
must be within reach of the intellect at that age and perfectly
comprehensible to it. Childhood and youth are the time for collecting
data and getting to know specially and thoroughly individual and
particular things. On the other hand, all judgment of a general nature
must at that time be suspended, and final explanations left alone. One
should leave the faculty of judgment alone, as it only comes with
maturity and experience, and also take care that one does not anticipate
it by inculcating prejudice, when it will be crippled for ever.

On the contrary, the memory is to be specially exercised, as it has its
greatest strength and tenacity in youth; however, what has to be
retained must be chosen with the most careful and scrupulous
consideration. For as it is what we have learnt well in our youth that
lasts, we should take the greatest possible advantage of this precious
gift. If we picture to ourselves how deeply engraven on our memory the
people are whom we knew during the first twelve years of our life, and
how indelibly imprinted are also the events of that time, and most of
the things that we then experienced, heard, or learnt, the idea of
basing education on this susceptibility and tenacity of the youthful
mind will seem natural; in that the mind receives its impressions
according to a strict method and a regular system. But because the years
of youth that are assigned to man are only few, and the capacity for
remembering, in general, is always limited (and still more so the
capacity for remembering of the individual), everything depends on the
memory being filled with what is most essential and important in any
department of knowledge, to the exclusion of everything else. This
selection should be made by the most capable minds and masters in every
branch of knowledge after the most mature consideration, and the result
of it established. Such a selection must be based on a sifting of
matters which are necessary and important for a man to know in general,
and also for him to know in a particular profession or calling.
Knowledge of the first kind would have to be divided into graduated
courses, like an encyclop�dia, corresponding to the degree of general
culture which each man has attained in his external circumstances; from
a course restricted to what is necessary for primary instruction up to
the matter contained in every branch of the philosophical faculty.
Knowledge of the second kind would, however, be reserved for him who had
really mastered the selection in all its branches. The whole would give
a canon specially devised for intellectual education, which naturally
would require revision every ten years. By such an arrangement the
youthful power of the memory would be put to the best advantage, and it
would furnish the faculty of judgment with excellent material when it
appeared later on.

       *       *       *       *       *

What is meant by maturity of knowledge is that state of perfection to
which any one individual is able to bring it, when an exact
correspondence has been effected between the whole of his abstract ideas
and his own personal observations: whereby each of his ideas rests
directly or indirectly on a basis of observation, which alone gives it
any real value; and likewise he is able to place every observation that
he makes under the right idea corresponding to it.

_Maturity_ of knowledge is the work of experience alone, and
consequently of time. For the knowledge we acquire from our own
observation is, as a rule, distinct from that we get through abstract
ideas; the former is acquired in the natural way, while the latter comes
through good and bad instruction and what other people have told to us.
Consequently, in youth there is generally little harmony and connection
between our ideas, which mere expressions have fixed, and our real
knowledge, which has been acquired by observation. Later they both
gradually approach and correct each other; but maturity of knowledge
does not exist until they have become quite incorporated. This maturity
is quite independent of that other kind of perfection, the standard of
which may be high or low, I mean the perfection to which the capacities
of an individual may be brought; it is not based on a correspondence
between the abstract and intuitive knowledge, but on the degree of
intensity of each.

The most necessary thing for the practical man is the attainment of an
exact and thorough knowledge of _what is really going on in the world;_
but it is also the most irksome, for a man may continue studying until
old age without having learnt all that is to be learnt; while one can
master the most important things in the sciences in one's youth. In
getting such a knowledge of the world, it is as a novice that the boy
and youth have the first and most difficult lessons to learn; but
frequently even the matured man has still much to learn. The study is of
considerable difficulty in itself, but it is made doubly difficult by
_novels_, which depict the ways of the world and of men who do not exist
in real life. But these are accepted with the credulity of youth, and
become incorporated with the mind; so that now, in the place of purely
negative ignorance, a whole framework of wrong ideas, which are
positively wrong, crops up, subsequently confusing the schooling of
experience and representing the lesson it teaches in a false light. If
the youth was previously in the dark, he will now be led astray by a
will-o'-the-wisp: and with a girl this is still more frequently the
case. They have been deluded into an absolutely false view of life by
reading novels, and expectations have been raised that can never be
fulfilled. This generally has the most harmful effect on their whole
lives. Those men who had neither time nor opportunity to read novels in
their youth, such as those who work with their hands, have decided
advantage over them. Few of these novels are exempt from reproach--nay,
whose effect is contrary to bad. Before all others, for instance, _Gil
Blas_ and the other works of Le Sage (or rather their Spanish
originals); further, _The Vicar of Wakefield_, and to some extent the
novels of Walter Scott. _Don Quixote_ may be regarded as a satirical
presentation of the error in question.


[8] According to a notice from the Munich Society for the Protection of
Animals, the superfluous whipping and cracking were strictly forbidden
in Nuremberg in December 1858.


Ignorance is degrading only when it is found in company with riches.
Want and penury restrain the poor man; his employment takes the place of
knowledge and occupies his thoughts: while rich men who are ignorant
live for their pleasure only, and resemble a beast; as may be seen
daily. They are to be reproached also for not having used wealth and
leisure for that which lends them their greatest value.

When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental
process. It is the same as the pupil, in learning to write, following
with his pen the lines that have been pencilled by the teacher.
Accordingly, in reading, the work of thinking is, for the greater part,
done for us. This is why we are consciously relieved when we turn to
reading after being occupied with our own thoughts. But, in reading, our
head is, however, really only the arena of some one else's thoughts. And
so it happens that the person who reads a great deal--that is to say,
almost the whole day, and recreates himself by spending the intervals in
thoughtless diversion, gradually loses the ability to think for himself;
just as a man who is always riding at last forgets how to walk. Such,
however, is the case with many men of learning: they have read
themselves stupid. For to read in every spare moment, and to read
constantly, is more paralysing to the mind than constant manual work,
which, at any rate, allows one to follow one's own thoughts. Just as a
spring, through the continual pressure of a foreign body, at last loses
its elasticity, so does the mind if it has another person's thoughts
continually forced upon it. And just as one spoils the stomach by
overfeeding and thereby impairs the whole body, so can one overload and
choke the mind by giving it too much nourishment. For the more one reads
the fewer are the traces left of what one has read; the mind is like a
tablet that has been written over and over. Hence it is impossible to
reflect; and it is only by reflection that one can assimilate what one
has read if one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later,
what has been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost.
Indeed, it is the same with mental as with bodily food: scarcely the
fifth part of what a man takes is assimilated; the remainder passes off
in evaporation, respiration, and the like.

From all this it may be concluded that thoughts put down on paper are
nothing more than footprints in the sand: one sees the road the man has
taken, but in order to know what he saw on the way, one requires his

       *       *       *       *       *

No literary quality can be attained by reading writers who possess it:
be it, for example, persuasiveness, imagination, the gift of drawing
comparisons, boldness or bitterness, brevity or grace, facility of
expression or wit, unexpected contrasts, a laconic manner, na�vet�, and
the like. But if we are already gifted with these qualities--that is to
say, if we possess them _potentia_--we can call them forth and bring
them to consciousness; we can discern to what uses they are to be put;
we can be strengthened in our inclination, nay, may have courage, to use
them; we can judge by examples the effect of their application and so
learn the correct use of them; and it is only after we have accomplished
all this that we _actu_ possess these qualities. This is the only way in
which reading can form writing, since it teaches us the use to which we
can put our own natural gifts; and in order to do this it must be taken
for granted that these qualities are in us. Without them we learn
nothing from reading but cold, dead mannerisms, and we become mere

       *       *       *       *       *

The health officer should, in the interest of one's eyes, see that the
smallness of print has a fixed minimum, which must not be exceeded. When
I was in Venice in 1818, at which time the genuine Venetian chain was
still being made, a goldsmith told me that those who made the _catena
fina_ turned blind at thirty.

       *       *       *       *       *

As the strata of the earth preserve in rows the beings which lived in
former times, so do the shelves of a library preserve in a like manner
the errors of the past and expositions concerning them. Like those
creatures, they too were full of life in their time and made a great
deal of noise; but now they are stiff and fossilised, and only of
interest to the literary palaeontologist.

       *       *       *       *       *

According to Herodotus, Xerxes wept at the sight of his army, which was
too extensive for him to scan, at the thought that a hundred years hence
not one of all these would be alive. Who would not weep at the thought
in looking over a big catalogue that of all these books not one will be
in existence in ten years' time?

It is the same in literature as in life. Wherever one goes one
immediately comes upon the incorrigible mob of humanity. It exists
everywhere in legions; crowding, soiling everything, like flies in
summer. Hence the numberless bad books, those rank weeds of literature
which extract nourishment from the corn and choke it.

They monopolise the time, money, and attention which really belong to
good books and their noble aims; they are written merely with a view to
making money or procuring places. They are not only useless, but they do
positive harm. Nine-tenths of the whole of our present literature aims
solely at taking a few shillings out of the public's pocket, and to
accomplish this, author, publisher, and reviewer have joined forces.

There is a more cunning and worse trick, albeit a profitable one.
_Litt�rateurs_, hack-writers, and productive authors have succeeded,
contrary to good taste and the true culture of the age, in bringing the
world _elegante_ into leading-strings, so that they have been taught to
read _a tempo_ and all the same thing--namely, _the newest books_ order
that they may have material for conversation in their social circles.
Bad novels and similar productions from the pen of writers who were once
famous, such as Spindler, Bulwer, Eug�ne Sue, and so on, serve this
purpose. But what can be more miserable than the fate of a reading
public of this kind, that feels always impelled to read the latest
writings of extremely commonplace authors who write for money only, and
therefore exist in numbers? And for the sake of this they merely know by
name the works of the rare and superior writers, of all ages and

Literary newspapers, since they print the daily smatterings of
commonplace people, are especially a cunning means for robbing from the
aesthetic public the time which should be devoted to the genuine
productions of art for the furtherance of culture.

Hence, in regard to our subject, the art of _not_ reading is highly
important. This consists in not taking a book into one's hand merely
because it is interesting the great public at the time--such as
political or religious pamphlets, novels, poetry, and the like, which
make a noise and reach perhaps several editions in their first and last
years of existence. Remember rather that the man who writes for fools
always finds a large public: and only read for a limited and definite
time exclusively the works of great minds, those who surpass other men
of all times and countries, and whom the voice of fame points to as
such. These alone really educate and instruct.

One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad
books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind.

In order to read what is good one must make it a condition never to read
what is bad; for life is short, and both time and strength limited.

       *       *       *       *       *

Books are written sometimes about this, sometimes about that great
thinker of former times, and the public reads these books, but not the
works of the man himself. This is because it wants to read only what has
just been printed, and because _similis simili gaudet_, and it finds the
shallow, insipid gossip of some stupid head of to-day more homogeneous
and agreeable than the thoughts of great minds. I have to thank fate,
however, that a fine epigram of A.B. Schlegel, which has since been my
guiding star, came before my notice as a youth:

  "Leset fleizig die Alten, die wahren eigentlich Alten
  Was die Neuen davon sagen bedeutet nicht viel."

Oh, how like one commonplace mind is to another! How they are all
fashioned in one form! How they all think alike under similar
circumstances, and never differ! This is why their views are so personal
and petty. And a stupid public reads the worthless trash written by
these fellows for no other reason than that it has been printed to-day,
while it leaves the works of great thinkers undisturbed on the

Incredible are the folly and perversity of a public that will leave
unread writings of the noblest and rarest of minds, of all times and all
countries, for the sake of reading the writings of commonplace persons
which appear daily, and breed every year in countless numbers like
flies; merely because these writings have been printed to-day and are
still wet from the press. It would be better if they were thrown on one
side and rejected the day they appeared, as they must be after the lapse
of a few years. They will then afford material for laughter as
illustrating the follies of a former time.

It is because people will only read what is _the newest_ instead of what
is the best of all ages, that writers remain in the narrow circle of
prevailing ideas, and that the age sinks deeper and deeper in its own

       *       *       *       *       *

There are at all times two literatures which, although scarcely known to
each other, progress side by side--the one real, the other merely
apparent. The former grows into literature that _lasts_. Pursued by
people who live _for_ science or poetry, it goes its way earnestly and
quietly, but extremely slowly; and it produces in Europe scarcely a
dozen works in a century, which, however, are _permanent_. The other
literature is pursued by people who live _on_ science or poetry; it goes
at a gallop amid a great noise and shouting of those taking part, and
brings yearly many thousand works into the market. But after a few years
one asks, Where are they? where is their fame, which was so great
formerly? This class of literature may be distinguished as fleeting, the
other as permanent.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time to
read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the
acquisition of their contents. To desire that a man should retain
everything he has ever read, is the same as wishing him to retain in his
stomach all that he has ever eaten. He has been bodily nourished on what
he has eaten, and mentally on what he has read, and through them become
what he is. As the body assimilates what is homogeneous to it, so will a
man _retain_ what _interests_ him; in other words, what coincides with
his system of thought or suits his ends. Every one has aims, but very
few have anything approaching a system of thought. This is why such
people do not take an objective interest in anything, and why they learn
nothing from what they read: they remember nothing about it.

_Repetitio est mater studiorum_. Any kind of important book should
immediately be read twice, partly because one grasps the matter in its
entirety the second time, and only really understands the beginning when
the end is known; and partly because in reading it the second time one's
temper and mood are different, so that one gets another impression; it
may be that one sees the matter in another light.

Works are the quintessence of a mind, and are therefore always of by far
greater value than conversation, even if it be the conversation of the
greatest mind. In every essential a man's works surpass his conversation
and leave it far behind. Even the writings of an ordinary man may be
instructive, worth reading, and entertaining, for the simple reason that
they are the quintessence of that man's mind--that is to say, the
writings are the result and fruit of his whole thought and study; while
we should be dissatisfied with his conversation. Accordingly, it is
possible to read books written by people whose conversation would give
us no satisfaction; so that the mind will only by degrees attain high
culture by finding entertainment almost entirely in books, and not in

There is nothing that so greatly recreates the mind as the works of the
old classic writers. Directly one has been taken up, even if it is only
for half-an-hour, one feels as quickly refreshed, relieved, purified,
elevated, and strengthened as if one had refreshed oneself at a mountain
stream. Is this due to the perfections of the old languages, or to the
greatness of the minds whose works have remained unharmed and untouched
for centuries? Perhaps to both combined. This I know, directly we stop
learning the old languages (as is at present threatening) a new class of
literature will spring up, consisting of writing that is more barbaric,
stupid, and worthless than has ever yet existed; that, in particular,
the German language, which possesses some of the beauties of the old
languages, will be systematically spoilt and stripped by these worthless
contemporary scribblers, until, little by little, it becomes
impoverished, crippled, and reduced to a miserable jargon.

Half a century is always a considerable time in the history of the
universe, for the matter which forms it is always shifting; something is
always taking place. But the same length of time in literature often
goes for nothing, because nothing has happened; unskilful attempts don't
count; so that we are exactly where we were fifty years previously.

To illustrate this: imagine the progress of knowledge among mankind in
the form of a planet's course. The false paths the human race soon
follows after any important progress has been made represent the
epicycles in the Ptolemaic system; after passing through any one of them
the planet is just where it was before it entered it. The great minds,
however, which really bring the race further on its course, do not
accompany it on the epicycles which it makes every time. This explains
why posthumous fame is got at the expense of contemporary fame, and
_vice vers�_. We have an instance of such an epicycle in the philosophy
of Fichte and Schelling, crowned by Hegel's caricature of it. This
epicycle issued from the limit to which philosophy had been finally
brought by Kant, where I myself took it up again later to carry it
further. In the interim the false philosophers I have mentioned, and
some others, passed through their epicycle, which has just been
terminated; hence the people who accompanied them are conscious of being
exactly at the point from which they started.

This condition of things shows why the scientific, literary, and
artistic spirit of the age is declared bankrupt about every thirty
years. During that period the errors have increased to such an extent
that they fall under the weight of their absurdity; while at the same
time the opposition to them has become stronger. At this point there is
a crash, which is followed by an error in the opposite direction. To
show the course that is taken in its periodical return would be the true
practical subject of the history of literature; little notice is taken
of it, however. Moreover, through the comparative shortness of such
periods, the data of remote times are with difficulty collected; hence
the matter can be most conveniently observed in one's own age. An
example of this taken from physical science is found in Werter's
Neptunian geology. But let me keep to the example already quoted above,
for it is nearest to us. In German philosophy Kant's brilliant period
was immediately followed by another period, which aimed at being
imposing rather than convincing. Instead of being solid and clear, it
aimed at being brilliant and hyperbolical, and, in particular,
unintelligible; instead of seeking truth, it intrigued. Under these
circumstances philosophy could make no progress. Ultimately the whole
school and its method became bankrupt. For the audacious, sophisticated
nonsense on the one hand, and the unconscionable praise on the other of
Hegel and his fellows, as well as the apparent object of the whole
affair, rose to such a pitch that in the end the charlatanry of the
thing was obvious to everybody; and when, in consequence of certain
revelations, the protection that had been given it by the upper classes
was withdrawn, it was talked about by everybody. This most miserable of
all the philosophies that have ever existed dragged down with it into
the abyss of discredit the systems of Fichte and Schelling, which had
preceded it. So that the absolute philosophical futility of the first
half of the century following upon Kant in Germany is obvious; and yet
the Germans boast of their gift for philosophy compared with foreigners,
especially since an English writer, with malicious irony, called them _a
nation of thinkers_.

Those who want an example of the general scheme of epicycles taken from
the history of art need only look at the School of Sculpture which
flourished in the last century under Bernini, and especially at its
further cultivation in France. This school represented commonplace
nature instead of antique beauty, and the manners of a French minuet
instead of antique simplicity and grace. It became bankrupt when, under
Winckelmann's direction, a return was made to the antique school.
Another example is supplied in the painting belonging to the first
quarter of this century. Art was regarded merely as a means and
instrument of mediaeval religious feeling, and consequently
ecclesiastical subjects alone were chosen for its themes. These,
however, were treated by painters who were wanting in earnestness of
faith, and in their delusion they took for examples Francesco Francia,
Pietro Perugino, Angelico da Fiesole, and others like them, even holding
them in greater esteem than the truly great masters who followed. In
view of this error, and because in poetry an analogous effort had at the
same time met with favour, Goethe wrote his parable _Pfaffenspiel_. This
school, reputedly capricious, became bankrupt, and was followed by a
return to nature, which made itself known in _genre_ pictures and scenes
of life of every description, even though it strayed sometimes into

It is the same with the progress of the human mind in the _history of
literature_, which is for the most part like the catalogue of a cabinet
of deformities; the spirit in which they keep the longest is pigskin. We
do not need to look there for the few who have been born shapely; they
are still alive, and we come across them in every part of the world,
like immortals whose youth is ever fresh. They alone form what I have
distinguished as _real_ literature, the history of which, although poor
in persons, we learn from our youth up out of the mouths of educated
people, and not first of all from compilations. As a specific against
the present prevailing monomania for reading literary histories, so that
one may be able to chatter about everything without really knowing
anything, let me refer you to a passage from Lichtenberg which is well
worth reading (vol. ii. p. 302 of the old edition).

But I wish some one would attempt a _tragical history of literature_,
showing how the greatest writers and artists have been treated during
their lives by the various nations which have produced them and whose
proudest possessions they are. It would show us the endless fight which
the good and genuine works of all periods and countries have had to
carry on against the perverse and bad. It would depict the martyrdom of
almost all those who truly enlightened humanity, of almost all the great
masters in every kind of art; it would show us how they, with few
exceptions, were tormented without recognition, without any to share
their misery, without followers; how they existed in poverty and misery
whilst fame, honour, and riches fell to the lot of the worthless; it
would reveal that what happened to them happened to Esau, who, while
hunting the deer for his father, was robbed of the blessing by Jacob
disguised in his brother's coat; and how through it all the love of
their subject kept them up, until at last the trying fight of such a
teacher of the human race is ended, the immortal laurel offered to him,
and the time come when it can be said of him

  "Der schwere Panzer wird zum Fl�gelkleide
  Kurz ist der Schmerz, unendlich ist die Freude."


This emptiness finds its expression in the whole form of existence, in
the infiniteness of Time and Space as opposed to the finiteness of the
individual in both; in the flitting present as the only manner of real
existence; in the dependence and relativity of all things; in constantly
Becoming without Being; in continually wishing without being satisfied;
in an incessant thwarting of one's efforts, which go to make up life,
until victory is won. _Time_, and the _transitoriness_ of all things,
are merely the form under which the will to live, which as the
thing-in-itself is imperishable, has revealed to Time the futility of
its efforts. Time is that by which at every moment all things become as
nothing in our hands, and thereby lose all their true value.

       *       *       *       *       *

What _has been_ exists no more; and exists just as little as that which
has _never_ been. But everything that exists _has been_ in the next
moment. Hence something belonging to the present, however unimportant it
may be, is superior to something important belonging to the past; this
is because the former is a _reality_ and related to the latter as
something is to nothing.

A man to his astonishment all at once becomes conscious of existing
after having been in a state of non-existence for many thousands of
years, when, presently again, he returns to a state of non-existence for
an equally long time. This cannot possibly be true, says the heart; and
even the crude mind, after giving the matter its consideration, must
have some sort of presentiment of the ideality of time. This ideality of
time, together with that of space, is the key to every true system of
metaphysics, because it finds room for quite another order of things
than is to be found in nature. This is why Kant is so great.

Of every event in our life it is only for a moment that we can say that
it _is_; after that we must say for ever that it _was_. Every evening
makes us poorer by a day. It would probably make us angry to see this
short space of time slipping away, if we were not secretly conscious in
the furthest depths of our being that the spring of eternity belongs to
us, and that in it we are always able to have life renewed.

Reflections of the nature of those above may, indeed, establish the
belief that to enjoy the present, and to make this the purpose of one's
life, is the greatest _wisdom_; since it is the present alone that is
real, everything else being only the play of thought. But such a purpose
might just as well be called the greatest _folly_, for that which in the
next moment exists no more, and vanishes as completely as a dream, can
never be worth a serious effort.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our existence is based solely on the ever-fleeting present. Essentially,
therefore, it has to take the form of continual motion without there
ever being any possibility of our finding the rest after which we are
always striving. It is the same as a man running downhill, who falls if
he tries to stop, and it is only by his continuing to run on that he
keeps on his legs; it is like a pole balanced on one's finger-tips, or
like a planet that would fall into its sun as soon as it stopped
hurrying onwards. Hence unrest is the type of existence.

In a world like this, where there is no kind of stability, no
possibility of anything lasting, but where everything is thrown into a
restless whirlpool of change, where everything hurries on, flies, and is
maintained in the balance by a continual advancing and moving, it is
impossible to imagine happiness. It cannot dwell where, as Plato says,
_continual Becoming and never Being_ is all that takes place. First of
all, no man is happy; he strives his whole life long after imaginary
happiness, which he seldom attains, and if he does, then it is only to
be disillusioned; and as a rule he is shipwrecked in the end and enters
the harbour dismasted. Then it is all the same whether he has been happy
or unhappy in a life which was made up of a merely ever-changing present
and is now at an end.

Meanwhile it surprises one to find, both in the world of human beings
and in that of animals, that this great, manifold, and restless motion
is sustained and kept going by the medium of two simple impulses--hunger
and the instinct of sex, helped perhaps a little by boredom--and that
these have the power to form the _primum mobile_ of so complex a
machinery, setting in motion the variegated show!

Looking at the matter a little closer, we see at the very outset that
the existence of inorganic matter is being constantly attacked by
chemical forces which eventually annihilates it. While organic existence
is only made possible by continual change of matter, to keep up a
perpetual supply of which it must consequently have help from without.
Therefore organic life is like balancing a pole on one's hand; it must
be kept in continual motion, and have a constant supply of matter of
which it is continually and endlessly in need. Nevertheless it is only
by means of this organic life that consciousness is possible.

Accordingly this is a _finite existence_, and its antithesis would be an
_infinite_, neither exposed to any attack from without nor in want of
help from without, and hence ἀεί ὡσαύτως ὄν, in eternal rest; οὔτε
γιγνόμενον, οὔτε ἀπολλύμενον, without change, without time, and without
diversity; the negative knowledge of which is the fundamental note of
Plato's philosophy. The denial of the will to live reveals the way to
such a state as this.

       *       *       *       *       *

The scenes of our life are like pictures in rough mosaic, which have no
effect at close quarters, but must be looked at from a distance in order
to discern their beauty. So that to obtain something we have desired is
to find out that it is worthless; we are always living in expectation of
better things, while, at the same time, we often repent and long for
things that belong to the past. We accept the present as something that
is only temporary, and regard it only as a means to accomplish our aim.
So that most people will find if they look back when their life is at an
end, that they have lived their lifelong _ad interim_, and they will be
surprised to find that something they allowed to pass by unnoticed and
unenjoyed was just their life--that is to say, it was the very thing in
the expectation of which they lived. And so it may be said of man in
general that, befooled by hope, he dances into the arms of death.

Then again, there is the insatiability of each individual will; every
time it is satisfied a new wish is engendered, and there is no end to
its eternally insatiable desires.

This is because the Will, taken in itself, is the lord of worlds; since
everything belongs to it, it is not satisfied with a portion of
anything, but only with the whole, which, however, is endless. Meanwhile
it must excite our pity when we consider how extremely little this lord
of the world receives, when it makes its appearance as an individual;
for the most part only just enough to maintain the body. This is why man
is so very unhappy.

In the present age, which is intellectually impotent and remarkable for
its veneration of what is bad in every form--a condition of things which
is quite in keeping with the coined word "Jetztzeit" (present time), as
pretentious as it is cacophonic--the pantheists make bold to say that
life is, as they call it, "an end-in itself." If our existence in this
world were an end-in-itself, it would be the most absurd end that was
ever determined; even we ourselves or any one else might have imagined

Life presents itself next as a task, the task, that is, of subsisting
_de gagner sa vie_. If this is solved, then that which has been won
becomes a burden, and involves the second task of its being got rid of
in order to ward off boredom, which, like a bird of prey, is ready to
fall upon any life that is secure from want.

So that the first task is to win something, and the second, after the
something has been won, to forget about it, otherwise it becomes a

That human life must be a kind of mistake is sufficiently clear from the
fact that man is a compound of needs, which are difficult to satisfy;
moreover, if they are satisfied, all he is granted is a state of
painlessness, in which he can only give himself up to boredom. This is a
precise proof that existence in itself has no value, since boredom is
merely the feeling of the emptiness of life. If, for instance, life, the
longing for which constitutes our very being, had in itself any positive
and real value, boredom could not exist; mere existence in itself would
supply us with everything, and therefore satisfy us. But our existence
would not be a joyous thing unless we were striving after something;
distance and obstacles to be overcome then represent our aim as
something that would satisfy us--an illusion which vanishes when our aim
has been attained; or when we are engaged in something that is of a
purely intellectual nature, when, in reality, we have retired from the
world, so that we may observe it from the outside, like spectators at a
theatre. Even sensual pleasure itself is nothing but a continual
striving, which ceases directly its aim is attained. As soon as we are
not engaged in one of these two ways, but thrown back on existence
itself, we are convinced of the emptiness and worthlessness of it; and
this it is we call boredom. That innate and ineradicable craving for
what is out of the common proves how glad we are to have the natural and
tedious course of things interrupted. Even the pomp and splendour of the
rich in their stately castles is at bottom nothing but a futile attempt
to escape the very essence of existence, _misery_.

       *       *       *       *       *

That the most perfect manifestation of the _will to live_, which
presents itself in the extremely subtle and complicated machinery of the
human organism, must fall to dust and finally deliver up its whole being
to dissolution, is the na�ve way in which Nature, invariably true and
genuine, declares the whole striving of the will in its very essence to
be of no avail. If it were of any value in itself, something
unconditioned, its end would not be non-existence. This is the dominant
note of Goethe's beautiful song:

  "Hoch auf dem alten Thurme steht
  Des Helden edler Geist."

That man is nothing but a phenomenon, that he is
not-the-thing-in-itself--I mean that he is not ὄντως ὄν--is proved by
the fact that _death is a necessity_.

And how different the beginning of our life is to the end! The former is
made up of deluded hopes, sensual enjoyment, while the latter is pursued
by bodily decay and the odour of death.

The road dividing the two, as far as our well-being and enjoyment of
life are concerned, is downhill; the dreaminess of childhood, the
joyousness of youth, the troubles of middle age, the infirmity and
frequent misery of old age, the agonies of our last illness, and finally
the struggle with death--do all these not make one feel that existence
is nothing but a mistake, the consequences of which are becoming
gradually more and more obvious?

It would be wisest to regard life as a _desenga�o_, a delusion; that
everything is intended to be so is sufficiently clear.

Our life is of a microscopical nature; it is an indivisible point which,
drawn out by the powerful lenses of Time and Space, becomes considerably

Time is an element in our brain which by the means of duration gives a
semblance of reality to the _absolutely empty existence_ of things and

How foolish it is for a man to regret and deplore his having made no use
of past opportunities, which might have secured him this or that
happiness or enjoyment! What is there left of them now? Only the ghost
of a remembrance! And it is the same with everything that really falls
to our lot. So that the _form of time_ itself, and how much is reckoned
on it, is a definite way of proving to us the vanity of all earthly

Our existence, as well as that of all animals, is not one that lasts, it
is only temporary, merely an _existentia fluxa_, which may be compared
to a water-mill in that it is constantly changing.

It is true that the _form_ of the body lasts for a time, but only on
condition that the matter is constantly changing, that the old matter is
thrown off and new added. And it is the chief work of all living
creatures to secure a constant supply of suitable matter. At the same
time, they are conscious that their existence is so fashioned as to last
only for a certain time, as has been said. This is why they attempt,
when they are taking leave of life, to hand it over to some one else who
will take their place. This attempt takes the form of the sexual
instinct in self-consciousness, and in the consciousness of other things
presents itself objectively--that is, in the form of genital instinct.
This instinct may be compared to the threading of a string of pearls;
one individual succeeding another as rapidly as the pearls on the
thread. If we, in imagination, hasten on this succession, we shall see
that the matter is constantly changing in the whole row just as it is
changing in each pearl, while it retains the same form: we will then
realise that we have only a quasi-existence. That it is only Ideas which
exist, and the shadow-like nature of the thing corresponding to them, is
the basis of Plato's teachings.

That we are nothing but _phenomena_ as opposed to the thing-in-itself is
confirmed, exemplified, and made clear by the fact that the _conditio
sine qua non_ of our existence is a continual flowing off and flowing to
of matter which, as nourishment, is a constant need. So that we resemble
such phenomena as smoke, fire, or a jet of water, all of which die out
or stop directly there is no supply of matter. It may be said then that
the _will to live_ presents itself in the form of _pure phenomena_ which
end _in nothing_. This nothingness, however, together with the
phenomena, remain within the boundary of the _will to live_ and are
based on it. I admit that this is somewhat obscure.

If we try to get a general view of humanity at a glance, we shall see
everywhere a constant fighting and mighty struggling for life and
existence; that mental and bodily strength is taxed to the utmost, and
opposed by threatening and actual dangers and woes of every kind.

And if we consider the price that is paid for all this, existence, and
life itself, it will be found that there has been an interval when
existence was free from pain, an interval, however, which was
immediately followed by boredom, and which in its turn was quickly
terminated by fresh cravings.

That boredom is immediately followed by fresh needs is a fact which is
also true of the cleverer order of animals, because life has _no true
and genuine value_ in itself, but is kept _in motion_ merely through the
medium of needs and illusion. As soon as there are no needs and illusion
we become conscious of the absolute barrenness and emptiness of

If one turns from contemplating the course of the world at large, and in
particular from the ephemeral and mock existence of men as they follow
each other in rapid succession, to the _detail_ of _life_, how like a
comedy it seems!

It impresses us in the same way as a drop of water, crowded with
_infusoria_, seen through a microscope, or a little heap of cheese-mites
that would otherwise be invisible. Their activity and struggling with
each other in such little space amuse us greatly. And it is the same in
the little span of life--great and earnest activity produces a comic

No man has ever felt perfectly happy in the present; if he had it would
have intoxicated him.


These few words of Jouy, _Sans les femmes le commencement de notre vie
seroit priv� de secours, le milieu de plaisirs et la fin de
consolation_, more exactly express, in my opinion, the true praise of
woman than Schiller's poem, _W�rde der Frauen_, which is the fruit of
much careful thought and impressive because of its antithesis and use of
contrast. The same thing is more pathetically expressed by Byron in
_Sardanapalus_, Act i, Sc. 2:--

                                "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."

Both passages show the right point of view for the appreciation of

One need only look at a woman's shape to discover that she is not
intended for either too much mental or too much physical work. She pays
the debt of life not by what she does but by what she suffers--by the
pains of child-bearing, care for the child, and by subjection to man, to
whom she should be a patient and cheerful companion. The greatest
sorrows and joys or great exhibition of strength are not assigned to
her; her life should flow more quietly, more gently, and less
obtrusively than man's, without her being essentially happier or

       *       *       *       *       *

Women are directly adapted to act as the nurses and educators of our
early childhood, for the simple reason that they themselves are
childish, foolish, and short-sighted--in a word, are big children all
their lives, something intermediate between the child and the man, who
is a man in the strict sense of the word. Consider how a young girl will
toy day after day with a child, dance with it and sing to it; and then
consider what a man, with the very best intentions in the world, could
do in her place.

       *       *       *       *       *

With girls, Nature has had in view what is called in a dramatic sense a
"striking effect," for she endows them for a few years with a richness
of beauty and a, fulness of charm at the expense of the rest of their
lives; so that they may during these years ensnare the fantasy of a man
to such a degree as to make him rush into taking the honourable care of
them, in some kind of form, for a lifetime--a step which would not
seem sufficiently justified if he only considered the matter.
Accordingly, Nature has furnished woman, as she has the rest of her
creatures, with the weapons and implements necessary for the protection
of her existence and for just the length of time that they will be of
service to her; so that Nature has proceeded here with her usual
economy. Just as the female ant after coition loses her wings, which
then become superfluous, nay, dangerous for breeding purposes, so for
the most part does a woman lose her beauty after giving birth to one or
two children; and probably for the same reasons.

Then again we find that young girls in their hearts regard their
domestic or other affairs as secondary things, if not as a mere jest.
Love, conquests, and all that these include, such as dressing, dancing,
and so on, they give their serious attention.

       *       *       *       *       *

The nobler and more perfect a thing is, the later and slower is it in
reaching maturity. Man reaches the maturity of his reasoning and mental
faculties scarcely before he is eight-and-twenty; woman when she is
eighteen; but hers is reason of very narrow limitations. This is why
women remain children all their lives, for they always see only what is
near at hand, cling to the present, take the appearance of a thing for
reality, and prefer trifling matters to the most important. It is by
virtue of man's reasoning powers that he does not live in the present
only, like the brute, but observes and ponders over the past and future;
and from this spring discretion, care, and that anxiety which we so
frequently notice in people. The advantages, as well as the
disadvantages, that this entails, make woman, in consequence of her
weaker reasoning powers, less of a partaker in them. Moreover, she is
intellectually short-sighted, for although her intuitive understanding
quickly perceives what is near to her, on the other hand her circle of
vision is limited and does not embrace anything that is remote; hence
everything that is absent or past, or in the future, affects women in a
less degree than men. This is why they have greater inclination for
extravagance, which sometimes borders on madness. Women in their hearts
think that men are intended to earn money so that they may spend it, if
possible during their husband's lifetime, but at any rate after his

As soon as he has given them his earnings on which to keep house they
are strengthened in this belief. Although all this entails many
disadvantages, yet it has this advantage--that a woman lives more in the
present than a man, and that she enjoys it more keenly if it is at all
bearable. This is the origin of that cheerfulness which is peculiar to
woman and makes her fit to divert man, and in case of need, to console
him when he is weighed down by cares. To consult women in matters of
difficulty, as the Germans used to do in old times, is by no means a
matter to be overlooked; for their way of grasping a thing is quite
different from ours, chiefly because they like the shortest way to the
point, and usually keep their attention fixed upon what lies nearest;
while we, as a rule, see beyond it, for the simple reason that it lies
under our nose; it then becomes necessary for us to be brought back to
the thing in order to obtain a near and simple view. This is why women
are more sober in their judgment than we, and why they see nothing more
in things than is really there; while we, if our passions are roused,
slightly exaggerate or add to our imagination.

It is because women's reasoning powers are weaker that they show more
sympathy for the unfortunate than men, and consequently take a kindlier
interest in them. On the other hand, women are inferior to men in
matters of justice, honesty, and conscientiousness. Again, because their
reasoning faculty is weak, things clearly visible and real, and
belonging to the present, exercise a power over them which is rarely
counteracted by abstract thoughts, fixed maxims, or firm resolutions, in
general, by regard for the past and future or by consideration for what
is absent and remote. Accordingly they have the first and principal
qualities of virtue, but they lack the secondary qualities which are
often a necessary instrument in developing it. Women may be compared in
this respect to an organism that has a liver but no gall-bladder.[9] So
that it will be found that the fundamental fault in the character of
women is that they have no "_sense of justice_." This arises from their
deficiency in the power of reasoning already referred to, and
reflection, but is also partly due to the fact that Nature has not
destined them, as the weaker sex, to be dependent on strength but on
cunning; this is why they are instinctively crafty, and have an
ineradicable tendency to lie. For as lions are furnished with claws and
teeth, elephants with tusks, boars with fangs, bulls with horns, and the
cuttlefish with its dark, inky fluid, so Nature has provided woman for
her protection and defence with the faculty of dissimulation, and all
the power which Nature has given to man in the form of bodily strength
and reason has been conferred on woman in this form. Hence,
dissimulation is innate in woman and almost as characteristic of the
very stupid as of the clever. Accordingly, it is as natural for women to
dissemble at every opportunity as it is for those animals to turn to
their weapons when they are attacked; and they feel in doing so that in
a certain measure they are only making use of their rights. Therefore a
woman who is perfectly truthful and does not dissemble is perhaps an
impossibility. This is why they see through dissimulation in others so
easily; therefore it is not advisable to attempt it with them. From the
fundamental defect that has been stated, and all that it involves,
spring falseness, faithlessness, treachery, ungratefulness, and so on.
In a court of justice women are more often found guilty of perjury than
men. It is indeed to be generally questioned whether they should be
allowed to take an oath at all. From time to time there are repeated
cases everywhere of ladies, who want for nothing, secretly pocketing and
taking away things from shop counters.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nature has made it the calling of the young, strong, and handsome men to
look after the propagation of the human race; so that the species may
not degenerate. This is the firm will of Nature, and it finds its
expression in the passions of women. This law surpasses all others in
both age and power. Woe then to the man who sets up rights and interests
in such a way as to make them stand in the way of it; for whatever he
may do or say, they will, at the first significant onset, be
unmercifully annihilated. For the secret, unformulated, nay, unconscious
but innate moral of woman is: _We are justified in deceiving those who,
because they care a little for us_,--_that is to say for the
individual_,--_imagine they have obtained rights over the species. The
constitution, and consequently the welfare of the species, have been put
into our hands and entrusted to our care through the medium of the next
generation which proceeds from us; let us fulfil our duties

But women are by no means conscious of this leading principle _in
abstracto_, they are only conscious of it _in concreto_, and have no
other way of expressing it than in the manner in which they act when the
opportunity arrives. So that their conscience does not trouble them so
much as we imagine, for in the darkest depths of their hearts they are
conscious that in violating their duty towards the individual they have
all the better fulfilled it towards the species, whose claim upon them
is infinitely greater. (A fuller explanation of this matter may be found
in vol. ii., ch. 44, in my chief work, _Die Welt als Wille und

Because women in truth exist entirely for the propagation of the race,
and their destiny ends here, they live 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 to their whole being
and character a certain frivolousness, and altogether a certain tendency
which is fundamentally different from that of man; and this it is which
develops that discord in married life which is so prevalent and almost
the normal state.

It is natural for a feeling of mere indifference to exist between men,
but between women it is actual enmity. This is due perhaps to the fact
that _odium figulinum_ in the case of men, is limited to their everyday
affairs, but with women embraces the whole sex; since they have only one
kind of business. Even when they meet in the street, they look at each
other like Guelphs and Ghibellines. And it is quite evident when two
women first make each other's acquaintance that they exhibit more
constraint and dissimulation than two men placed in similar
circumstances. This is why an exchange of compliments between two women
is much more ridiculous than between two men. Further, while a man will,
as a rule, address others, even those inferior to himself, with a
certain feeling of consideration and humanity, it is unbearable to see
how proudly and disdainfully a lady of rank will, for the most part,
behave towards one who is in a lower rank (not employed in her service)
when she speaks to her. This may be because differences of rank are much
more precarious with women than with us, and consequently more quickly
change their line of conduct and elevate them, or because while a
hundred things must be weighed in our case, there is only one to be
weighed in theirs, namely, with which man they have found favour; and
again, because of the one-sided nature of their vocation they stand in
closer relationship to each other than men do; and so it is they try to
render prominent the differences of rank.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is only the man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual instinct
that could give that stunted, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped, and
short-legged race the name of _the fair sex_; for the entire beauty of
the sex is based on this instinct. One would be more justified in
calling them the _unaesthetic sex_ than the beautiful. Neither for
music, nor for poetry, nor for fine art have they any real or true sense
and susceptibility, and it is mere mockery on their part, in their
desire to please, if they affect any such thing.

This makes them incapable of taking a purely objective interest in
anything, and the reason for it is, I fancy, as follows. A man strives
to get _direct_ mastery over things either by understanding them or by
compulsion. But a woman is always and everywhere driven to _indirect_
mastery, namely through a man; all her _direct_ mastery being limited to
him alone. Therefore it lies in woman's nature to look upon everything
only as a means for winning man, and her interest in anything else is
always a simulated one, a mere roundabout way to gain her ends,
consisting of coquetry and pretence. Hence Rousseau said, _Les femmes,
en g�n�ral, n'aiment aucun art, ne se connoissent � aucun et n'ont aucun
g�nie_ (Lettre � d'Alembert, note xx.). Every one who can see through a
sham must have found this to be the case. One need only watch the way
they behave at a concert, the opera, or the play; the childish
simplicity, for instance, with which they keep on chattering during the
finest passages in the greatest masterpieces. If it is true that the
Greeks forbade women to go to the play, they acted in a right way; for
they would at any rate be able to hear something. In our day it would be
more appropriate to substitute _taceat mulier in theatro_ for _taceat
mulier in ecclesia_; and this might perhaps be put up in big letters on
the curtain.

Nothing different can be expected of women if it is borne in mind that
the most eminent of the whole sex have never accomplished anything in
the fine arts that is really great, genuine, and original, or given to
the world any kind of work of permanent value. This is most striking in
regard to painting, the technique of which is as much within their reach
as within ours; this is why they pursue it so industriously. Still, they
have not a single great painting to show, for the simple reason that
they lack that objectivity of mind which is precisely what is so
directly necessary in painting. They always stick to what is subjective.
For this reason, ordinary women have no susceptibility for painting at
all: for _natura non facet saltum_. And Huarte, in his book which has
been famous for three hundred years, _Examen de ingenios para las
scienzias_, contends that women do not possess the higher capacities.
Individual and partial exceptions do not alter the matter; women are and
remain, taken altogether, the most thorough and incurable philistines;
and because of the extremely absurd arrangement which allows them to
share the position and title of their husbands they are a constant
stimulus to his _ignoble_ ambitions. And further, it is because they are
philistines that modern society, to which they give the tone and where
they have sway, has become corrupted. As regards their position, one
should be guided by Napoleon's maxim, _Les femmes n'ont pas de rang_;
and regarding them in other things, Chamfort says very truly: _Elles
sont faites pour commercer avec nos faiblesses avec notre folie, mais
non avec notre raison. Il existe entre elles et les hommes des
sympathies d'�piderme et tr�s-peu de sympathies d'esprit d'�me et de
caract�re_. They are the _sexus sequior_, the second sex in every
respect, therefore their weaknesses should be spared, but to treat women
with extreme reverence is ridiculous, and lowers us in their own eyes.
When nature divided the human race into two parts, she did not cut it
exactly through the middle! The difference between the positive and
negative poles, according to polarity, is not merely qualitative but
also quantitative. And it was in this light that the ancients and people
of the East regarded woman; they recognised her true position better
than we, with our old French ideas of gallantry and absurd veneration,
that highest product of Christian-Teutonic stupidity. These ideas have
only served to make them arrogant and imperious, to such an extent as to
remind one at times of the holy apes in Benares, who, in the
consciousness of their holiness and inviolability, think they can do
anything and everything they please.

In the West, the woman, that is to say the "lady," finds herself in a
_fausse position_; for woman, rightly named by the ancients _sexus
sequior_, is by no means fit to be the object of our honour and
veneration, or to hold her head higher than man and to have the same
rights as he. The consequences of this _fausse position_ are
sufficiently clear. Accordingly, it would be a very desirable thing if
this Number Two of the human race in Europe were assigned her natural
position, and the lady-grievance got rid of, which is not only ridiculed
by the whole of Asia, but would have been equally ridiculed by Greece
and Rome. The result of this would be that the condition of our social,
civil, and political affairs would be incalculably improved. The Salic
law would be unnecessary; it would be a superfluous truism. The European
lady, strictly speaking, is a creature who should not exist at all; but
there ought to be housekeepers, and young girls who hope to become such;
and they should be brought up not to be arrogant, but to be domesticated
and submissive. It is exactly because there are _ladies_ in Europe that
women of a lower standing, that is to say, the greater majority of the
sex, are much more unhappy than they are in the East. Even Lord Byron
says (_Letters and Papers_, by Thomas Moore, vol. ii. p. 399), _Thought
of the state of women under the ancient Greeks--convenient enough.
Present state, a remnant of the barbarism of the chivalric and 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_?

       *       *       *       *       *

In our part of the world, where monogamy is in force, to marry means to
halve one's rights and to double one's duties. When the laws granted
woman the same rights as man, they should also have given her a
masculine power of reason. On the contrary, just as the privileges and
honours which the laws decree to women surpass what Nature has meted out
to them, so is there a proportional decrease in the number of women who
really share these privileges; therefore the remainder are deprived of
their natural rights in so far as the others have been given more than
Nature accords.

For the unnatural position of privilege which the institution of
monogamy, and the laws of marriage which accompany it, assign to the
woman, whereby she is regarded throughout as a full equivalent of the
man, which she is not by any means, cause intelligent and prudent men to
reflect a great deal before they make so great a sacrifice and consent
to so unfair an arrangement. Therefore, whilst among polygamous nations
every woman finds maintenance, where monogamy exists the number of
married women is limited, and a countless number of women who are
without support remain over; those in the upper classes vegetate as
useless old maids, those in the lower are reduced to very hard work of a
distasteful nature, or become prostitutes, and lead a life which is as
joyless as it is void of honour. But under such circumstances they
become a necessity to the masculine sex; so that their position is
openly recognised as a special means for protecting from seduction those
other women favoured by fate either to have found husbands, or who hope
to find them. In London alone there are 80,000 prostitutes. Then what
are these women who have come too quickly to this most terrible end but
human sacrifices on the altar of monogamy? The women here referred to
and who are placed in this wretched position are the inevitable
counterbalance to the European lady, with her pretensions and arrogance.
Hence polygamy is a real benefit to the female sex, taking it _as a
whole_. And, on the other hand, there is no 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. Many people become converts
to Mormonism for the precise reasons that they condemn the unnatural
institution of monogamy. The conferring of unnatural rights upon women
has imposed unnatural duties upon them, the violation of which, however,
makes them unhappy. For example, many a man thinks marriage unadvisable
as far as his social standing and monetary position are concerned,
unless he contracts a brilliant match. He will then wish to win a woman
of his own choice under different conditions, namely, under those which
will render safe her future and that of her children. Be the conditions
ever so just, reasonable, and adequate, and she consents by giving up
those undue privileges which marriage, as the basis of civil society,
alone can bestow, she must to a certain extent lose her honour and lead
a life of loneliness; since human nature makes us dependent on the
opinion of others in a way that is completely out of proportion to its
value. While, if the woman does not consent, she runs the risk of being
compelled to marry a man she dislikes, or of shrivelling up into an old
maid; for the time allotted to her to find a home is very short. In view
of this side of the institution of monogamy, Thomasius's profoundly
learned treatise, _de Concubinatu_, is well worth reading, for it shows
that, among all nations, and in all ages, down to the Lutheran
Reformation, concubinage was allowed, nay, that it was an institution,
in a certain measure even recognised by law and associated with no
dishonour. And it held this position until the Lutheran Reformation,
when it was recognised as another means for justifying the marriage of
the clergy; whereupon the Catholic party did not dare to remain
behindhand in the matter.

It is useless to argue about polygamy, it must be taken as a fact
existing everywhere, the _mere regulation_ of which is the problem to be
solved. Where are there, then, any real monogamists? We all live, at any
rate for a time, and the majority of us always, in polygamy.
Consequently, as each man needs many women, nothing is more just than to
let him, nay, make it incumbent upon him to provide for many women. By
this means woman will be brought back to her proper and natural place as
a subordinate being, and _the lady_, that monster of European
civilisation and Christian-Teutonic stupidity, with her ridiculous claim
to respect and veneration, will no longer exist; there will still be
_women_, but no _unhappy women_, of whom Europe is at present full. The
Mormons' standpoint is right.

       *       *       *       *       *

In India no woman is ever independent, but each one stands under the
control of her father or her husband, or brother or son, in accordance
with the law of Manu.

It is certainly a revolting idea that widows should sacrifice themselves
on their husband's dead body; but it is also revolting that the money
which the husband has earned by working diligently for all his life, in
the hope that he was working for his children, should be wasted on her
paramours. _Medium tenuere beati_. The first love of a mother, as that
of animals and men, is purely _instinctive_, and consequently ceases
when the child is no longer physically helpless. After that, the first
love should be reinstated by a love based on habit and reason; but this
often does not appear, especially where the mother has not loved the
father. The love of a father for his children is of a different nature
and more sincere; it is founded on a recognition of his own inner self
in the child, and is therefore metaphysical in its origin.

In almost every nation, both of the new and old world, and even among
the Hottentots, property is inherited by the male descendants alone; it
is only in Europe that one has departed from this. That the property
which men have with difficulty acquired by long-continued struggling and
hard work should afterwards come into the hands of women, who, in their
want of reason, either squander it within a short time or otherwise
waste it, is an injustice as great as it is common, and it should be
prevented by limiting the right of women to inherit. It seems to me that
it would be a better arrangement if women, be they widows or daughters,
only inherited the money for life secured by mortgage, but not the
property itself or the capital, unless there lacked male descendants. It
is men who make the money, and not women; therefore women are neither
justified in having unconditional possession of it nor capable of
administrating it. Women should never have the free disposition of
wealth, strictly so-called, which they may inherit, such as capital,
houses, and estates. They need a guardian always; therefore they should
not have the guardianship of their children under any circumstances
whatever. The vanity of women, even if it should not be greater than
that of men, has this evil in it, that it is directed on material
things--that is to say, on their personal beauty and then on tinsel,
pomp, and show. This is why they are in their right element in society.
This it is which makes them inclined to be _extravagant_, especially
since they possess little reasoning power. Accordingly, an ancient
writer says, Γυνη το συνολον ἐστι δαπανηρον φυσει.[10] Men's vanity, on
the other hand, is often directed on non-material advantages, such as
intellect, learning, courage, and the like. Aristotle explains in the
_Politics_[11] the great disadvantages which the Spartans brought upon
themselves by granting too much to their women, by allowing them the
right of inheritance and dowry, and a great amount of freedom; and how
this contributed greatly to the fall of Sparta. May it not be that the
influence of women in France, which has been increasing since Louis
XIII.'s time, was to blame for that gradual corruption of the court and
government which led to the first Revolution, of which all subsequent
disturbances have been the result? In any case, the false position of
the female sex, so conspicuously exposed by the existence of the "lady,"
is a fundamental defect in our social condition, and this defect,
proceeding from the very heart of it, must extend its harmful influence
in every direction. That woman is by nature intended to obey is shown by
the fact that every woman who is placed in the unnatural position of
absolute independence at once attaches herself to some kind of man, by
whom she is controlled and governed; this is because she requires a
master. If she, is young, the man is a lover; if she is old, a priest.


[9] Let me refer to what I have said in my treatise on _The Foundation
of Morals_, �71.

[10] Brunck's _Gnomici poetae graeci_ v. 115.

[11] Bk. I., ch. 9.


The largest library in disorder is not so useful as a smaller but
orderly one; in the same way the greatest amount of knowledge, if it has
not been worked out in one's own mind, is of less value than a much
smaller amount that has been fully considered. For it is only when a man
combines what he knows from all sides, and compares one truth with
another, that he completely realises his own knowledge and gets it into
his power. A man can only think over what he knows, therefore he should
learn something; but a man only knows what he has pondered.

A man can apply himself of his own free will to reading and learning,
while he cannot to thinking. Thinking must be kindled like a fire by a
draught and sustained by some kind of interest in the subject. This
interest may be either of a purely objective nature or it may be merely
subjective. The latter exists in matters concerning us personally, but
objective interest is only to be found in heads that think by nature,
and to whom thinking is as natural as breathing; but they are very rare.
This is why there is so little of it in most men of learning.

The difference between the effect that thinking for oneself and that
reading has on the mind is incredibly great; hence it is continually
developing that original difference in minds which induces one man to
think and another to read. Reading forces thoughts upon the mind which
are as foreign and heterogeneous to the bent and mood in which it may be
for the moment, as the seal is to the wax on which it stamps its
imprint. The mind thus suffers total compulsion from without; it has
first this and first that to think about, for which it has at the time
neither instinct nor liking.

On the other hand, when a man thinks for himself he follows his own
impulse, which either his external surroundings or some kind of
recollection has determined at the moment. His visible surroundings do
not leave upon his mind _one_ single definite thought as reading does,
but merely supply him with material and occasion to think over what is
in keeping with his nature and present mood. This is why _much_ reading
robs the mind of all elasticity; it is like keeping a spring under a
continuous, heavy weight. If a man does not want to think, the safest
plan is to take up a book directly he has a spare moment.

This practice accounts for the fact that learning makes most men more
stupid and foolish than they are by nature, and prevents their writings
from being a success; they remain, as Pope has said,

  "For ever reading, never to be read."--_Dunciad_ iii. 194.

Men of learning are those who have read the contents of books. Thinkers,
geniuses, and those who have enlightened the world and furthered the
race of men, are those who have made direct use of the book of the

       *       *       *       *       *

Indeed, it is only a man's own fundamental thoughts that have truth and
life in them. For it is these that he really and completely understands.
To read the thoughts of others is like taking the remains of some one
else's meal, like putting on the discarded clothes of a stranger.

The thought we read is related to the thought which rises in us, as the
fossilised impress of a prehistoric plant is to a plant budding out in

       *       *       *       *       *

Reading is merely a substitute for one's own thoughts. A man allows his
thoughts to be put into leading-strings.

Further, many books serve only to show how many wrong paths there are,
and how widely a man may stray if he allows himself to be led by them.
But he who is guided by his genius, that is to say, he who thinks for
himself, who thinks voluntarily and rightly, possesses the compass
wherewith to find the right course. A man, therefore, should only read
when the source of his own thoughts stagnates; which is often the case
with the best of minds.

It is sin against the Holy Spirit to frighten away one's own original
thoughts by taking up a book. It is the same as a man flying from Nature
to look at a museum of dried plants, or to study a beautiful landscape
in copperplate. A man at times arrives at a truth or an idea after
spending much time in thinking it out for himself, linking together his
various thoughts, when he might have found the same thing in a book; it
is a hundred times more valuable if he has acquired it by thinking it
out for himself. For it is only by his thinking it out for himself that
it enters as an integral part, as a living member into the whole system
of his thought, and stands in complete and firm relation with it; that
it is fundamentally understood with all its consequences, and carries
the colour, the shade, the impress of his own way of thinking; and comes
at the very moment, just as the necessity for it is felt, and stands
fast and cannot be forgotten. This is the perfect application, nay,
interpretation of Goethe's

  "Was du ererbt von deinen V�tern hast
   Erwirb es um es zu besitzen."

The man who thinks for himself learns the authorities for his opinions
only later on, when they serve merely to strengthen both them and
himself; while the book-philosopher starts from the authorities and
other people's opinions, therefrom constructing a whole for himself; so
that he resembles an automaton, whose composition we do not understand.
The other man, the man who thinks for himself, on the other hand, is
like a living man as made by nature. His mind is impregnated from
without, which then bears and brings forth its child. Truth that has
been merely learned adheres to us like an artificial limb, a false
tooth, a waxen nose, or at best like one made out of another's flesh;
truth which is acquired by thinking for oneself is like a natural
member: it alone really belongs to us. Here we touch upon the difference
between the thinking man and the mere man of learning. Therefore the
intellectual acquirements of the man who thinks for himself are like a
fine painting that stands out full of life, that has its light and shade
correct, the tone sustained, and perfect harmony of colour. The
intellectual attainments of the merely learned man, on the contrary,
resemble a big palette covered with every colour, at most systematically
arranged, but without harmony, relation, and meaning.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Reading_ is thinking with some one else's head instead of one's own.
But to think for oneself is to endeavour to develop a coherent whole, a
system, even if it is not a strictly complete one. Nothing is more
harmful than, by dint of continual reading, to strengthen the current of
other people's thoughts. These thoughts, springing from different minds,
belonging to different systems, bearing different colours, never flow
together of themselves into a unity of thought, knowledge, insight, or
conviction, but rather cram the head with a Babylonian confusion of
tongues; consequently the mind becomes overcharged with them and is
deprived of all clear insight and almost disorganised. This condition of
things may often be discerned in many men of learning, and it makes them
inferior in sound understanding, correct judgment, and practical tact to
many illiterate men, who, by the aid of experience, conversation, and a
little reading, have acquired a little knowledge from without, and made
it always subordinate to and incorporated it with their own thoughts.

The scientific _thinker_ also does this to a much greater extent.
Although he requires much knowledge and must read a great deal, his mind
is nevertheless strong enough to overcome it all, to assimilate it, to
incorporate it with the system of his thoughts, and to subordinate it to
the organic relative unity of his insight, which is vast and
ever-growing. By this means his own thought, like the bass in an organ,
always takes the lead in everything, and is never deadened by other
sounds, as is the case with purely antiquarian minds; where all sorts of
musical passages, as it were, run into each other, and the fundamental
tone is entirely lost.

       *       *       *       *       *

The people who have spent their lives in reading and acquired their
wisdom out of books resemble those who have acquired exact information
of a country from the descriptions of many travellers. These people can
relate a great deal about many things; but at heart they have no
connected, clear, sound knowledge of the condition of the country. While
those who have spent their life in thinking are like the people who have
been to that country themselves; they alone really know what it is they
are saying, know the subject in its entirety, and are quite at home in

       *       *       *       *       *

The ordinary book-philosopher stands in the same relation to a man who
thinks for himself as an eye-witness does to the historian; he speaks
from his own direct comprehension of the subject.

Therefore all who think for themselves hold at bottom much the same
views; when they differ it is because they hold different points of
view, but when these do not alter the matter they all say the same
thing. They merely express what they have grasped from an objective
point of view. I have frequently hesitated to give passages to the
public because of their paradoxical nature, and afterwards to my joyful
surprise have found the same thoughts expressed in the works of great
men of long ago.

The book-philosopher, on the other hand, relates what one man has said
and another man meant, and what a third has objected to, and so on. He
compares, weighs, criticises, and endeavours to get at the truth of the
thing, and in this way resembles the critical historian. For instance,
he will try to find out whether Leibnitz was not for some time in his
life a follower of Spinoza, etc. The curious student will find striking
examples of what I mean in Herbart's _Analytical Elucidation of Morality
and Natural Right_, and in his _Letters on Freedom_. It surprises us
that such a man should give himself so much trouble; for it is evident
that if he had fixed his attention on the matter he would soon have
attained his object by thinking a little for himself.

But there is a small difficulty to overcome; a thing of this kind does
not depend upon our own will. One can sit down at any time and read, but
not--think. It is with thoughts as with men: we cannot always summon
them at pleasure, but must wait until they come. Thought about a subject
must come of its own accord by a happy and harmonious union of external
motive with mental temper and application; and it is precisely that
which never seems to come to these people.

One has an illustration of this in matters that concern our personal
interest. If we have to come to a decision on a thing of this kind we
cannot sit down at any particular moment and thrash out the reasons and
arrive at a decision; for often at such a time our thoughts cannot be
fixed, but will wander off to other things; a dislike to the subject is
sometimes responsible for this. We should not use force, but wait until
the mood appears of itself; it frequently comes unexpectedly and even
repeats itself; the different moods which possess us at the different
times throwing another light on the matter. It is this long process
which is understood by _a ripe resolution_. For the task of making up
our mind must be distributed; much that has been previously overlooked
occurs to us; the aversion also disappears, for, after examining the
matter closer, it seems much more tolerable than it was at first sight.

And in theory it is just the same: a man must wait for the right moment;
even the greatest mind is not always able to think for itself at all
times. Therefore it is advisable for it to use its spare moments in
reading, which, as has been said, is a substitute for one's own thought;
in this way material is imported to the mind by letting another think
for us, although it is always in a way which is different from our own.
For this reason a man should not read too much, in order that his mind
does not become accustomed to the substitute, and consequently even
forget the matter in question; that it may not get used to walking in
paths that have already been trodden, and by following a foreign course
of thought forget its own. Least of all should a man for the sake of
reading entirely withdraw his attention from the real world: as the
impulse and temper which lead one to think for oneself proceed oftener
from it than from reading; for it is the visible and real world in its
primitiveness and strength that is the natural subject of the thinking
mind, and is able more easily than anything else to rouse it. After
these considerations it will not surprise us to find that the thinking
man can easily be distinguished from the book-philosopher by his marked
earnestness, directness, and originality, the personal conviction of all
his thoughts and expressions: the book-philosopher, on the other hand,
has everything second-hand; his ideas are like a collection of old rags
obtained anyhow; he is dull and pointless, resembling a copy of a copy.
His style, which is full of conventional, nay, vulgar phrases and
current terms, resembles a small state where there is a circulation of
foreign money because it coins none of its own.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mere experience can as little as reading take the place of thought. Mere
empiricism bears the same relation to thinking as eating to digestion
and assimilation. When experience boasts that it alone, by its
discoveries, has advanced human knowledge, it is as though the mouth
boasted that it was its work alone to maintain the body.

The works of all really capable minds are distinguished from all other
works by a character of decision and definiteness, and, in consequence,
of lucidity and clearness. This is because minds like these know
definitely and clearly what they wish to express--whether it be in
prose, in verse, or in music. Other minds are wanting in this decision
and clearness, and therefore may be instantly recognised.

The characteristic sign of a mind of the highest standard is the
directness of its judgment. Everything it utters is the result of
thinking for itself; this is shown everywhere in the way it gives
expression to its thoughts. Therefore it is, like a prince, an imperial
director in the realm of intellect. All other minds are mere delegates,
as may be seen by their style, which has no stamp of its own.

Hence every true thinker for himself is so far like a monarch; he is
absolute, and recognises nobody above him. His judgments, like the
decrees of a monarch, spring from his own sovereign power and proceed
directly from himself. He takes as little notice of authority as a
monarch does of a command; nothing is valid unless he has himself
authorised it. On the other hand, those of vulgar minds, who are swayed
by all kinds of current opinions, authorities, and prejudices, are like
the people which in silence obey the law and commands.

       *       *       *       *       *

The people who are so eager and impatient to settle disputed questions,
by bringing forward authorities, are really glad when they can place the
understanding and insight of some one else in the field in place of
their own, which are deficient. Their number is legion. For, as Seneca
says, "_Unusquisque mavult credere, quam judicare._"

The weapon they commonly use in their controversies is that of
authorities: they strike each other with it, and whoever is drawn into
the fray will do well not to defend himself with reason and arguments;
for against a weapon of this kind they are like horned Siegfrieds,
immersed in a flood of incapacity for thinking and judging. They will
bring forward their authorities as an _argumentum ad verecundiam_ and
then cry _victoria_.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the realm of reality, however fair, happy, and pleasant it may prove
to be, we always move controlled by the law of gravity, which we must be
unceasingly overcoming. While in the realm of thought we are disembodied
spirits, uncontrolled by the law of gravity and free from penury.

This is why there is no happiness on earth like that which at the
propitious moment a fine and fruitful mind finds in itself.

       *       *       *       *       *

The presence of a thought is like the presence of our beloved. We
imagine we shall never forget this thought, and that this loved one
could never be indifferent to us. But out of sight out of mind! The
finest thought runs the risk of being irrevocably forgotten if it is not
written down, and the dear one of being forsaken if we do not marry her.

       *       *       *       *       *

There are many thoughts which are valuable to the man who thinks them;
but out of them only a few which possess strength to produce either
repercussion or reflex action, that is, to win the reader's sympathy
after they have been written down. It is what a man has thought out
directly _for himself_ that alone has true value. Thinkers may be
classed as follows: those who, in the first place, think for themselves,
and those who think directly for others. The former thinkers are the
genuine, _they think for themselves_ in both senses of the word; they
are the true _philosophers_; they alone are in earnest. Moreover, the
enjoyment and happiness of their existence consist in thinking. The
others are the _sophists_; they wish to _seem_, and seek their happiness
in what they hope to get from other people; their earnestness consists
in this. To which of these two classes a man belongs is soon seen by his
whole method and manner. Lichtenberg is an example of the first class,
while Herder obviously belongs to the second.

       *       *       *       *       *

When one considers how great and how close to us the _problem of
existence_ is,--this equivocal, tormented, fleeting, dream-like
existence--so great and so close that as soon as one perceives it, it
overshadows and conceals all other problems and aims;--and when one sees
how all men--with a few and rare exceptions--are not clearly conscious
of the problem, nay, do not even seem to see it, but trouble themselves
about everything else rather than this, and live on taking thought only
for the present day and the scarcely longer span of their own personal
future, while they either expressly give the problem up or are ready to
agree with it, by the aid of some system of popular metaphysics, and are
satisfied with this;--when one, I say, reflects upon this, so may one be
of the opinion that man is a _thinking being_ only in a very remote
sense, and not feel any special surprise at any trait of thoughtlessness
or folly; but know, rather, that the intellectual outlook of the normal
man indeed surpasses that of the brute,--whose whole existence resembles
a continual present without any consciousness of the future or the
past--but, however, not to such an extent as one is wont to suppose.

And corresponding to this, we find in the conversation of most men that
their thoughts are cut up as small as chaff, making it impossible for
them to spin out the thread of their discourse to any length. If this
world were peopled by really thinking beings, noise of every kind would
not be so universally tolerated, as indeed the most horrible and aimless
form of it is.[12] If Nature had intended man to think she would not
have given him ears, or, at any rate, she would have furnished them with
air-tight flaps like the bat, which for this reason is to be envied.
But, in truth, man is like the rest, a poor animal, whose powers are
calculated only to maintain him during his existence; therefore he
requires to have his ears always open to announce of themselves, by
night as by day, the approach of the pursuer.


[12] See Essay on Noise, p. 28.



_Thrasymachos._ Tell me briefly, what shall I be after my death? Be
clear and precise.

_Philalethes._ Everything and nothing.

_Thras._ That is what I expected. You solve the problem by a
contradiction. That trick is played out.

_Phil._ To answer transcendental questions in language that is made for
immanent knowledge must assuredly lead to a contradiction.

_Thras._ What do you call transcendental knowledge, and what immanent?
It is true these expressions are known to me, for my professor used
them, but only as predicates of God, and as his philosophy had
exclusively to do with God, their use was quite appropriate. For
instance, if God was in the world, He was immanent; if He was somewhere
outside it, He was transcendent. That is clear and comprehensible. One
knows how things stand. But your old-fashioned Kantian doctrine is no
longer understood. There has been quite a succession of great men in the
metropolis of German learning----

_Phil. (aside)._ German philosophical nonsense!

_Thras._----such as the eminent Schleiermacher and that gigantic mind
Hegel; and to-day we have left all that sort of thing behind, or rather
we are so far ahead of it that it is out of date and known no more.
Therefore, what good is it?

_Phil._ Transcendental knowledge is that which, going beyond the
boundary of possible experience, endeavours to determine the nature of
things as they are in themselves; while immanent knowledge keeps itself
within the boundary of possible experience, therefore it can only apply
to phenomena. As an individual, with your death there will be an end of
you. But your individuality is not your true and final being, indeed it
is rather the mere expression of it; it is not the thing-in-itself but
only the phenomenon presented in the form of time, and accordingly has
both a beginning and an end. Your being in itself, on the contrary,
knows neither time, nor beginning, nor end, nor the limits of a given
individuality; hence no individuality can be without it, but it is there
in each and all. So that, in the first sense, after death you become
nothing; in the second, you are and remain everything. That is why I
said that after death you would be all and nothing. It is difficult to
give you a more exact answer to your question than this and to be brief
at the same time; but here we have undoubtedly another contradiction;
this is because your life is in time and your immortality in eternity.
Hence your immortality may be said to be something that is
indestructible and yet has no endurance--which is again contradictory,
you see. This is what happens when transcendental knowledge is brought
within the boundary of immanent knowledge; in doing this some sort of
violence is done to the latter, since it is used for things for which it
was not intended.

_Thras._ Listen; without I retain my individuality I shall not give a
_sou_ for your immortality.

_Phil._ Perhaps you will allow me to explain further. Suppose I
guarantee that you will retain your individuality, on condition,
however, that you spend three months in absolute unconsciousness before
you awaken.

_Thras._ I consent to that.

_Phil._ Well then, as we have no idea of time when in a perfectly
unconscious state, it is all the same to us when we are dead whether
three months or ten thousand years pass away in the world of
consciousness. For in the one case, as in the other, we must accept on
faith and trust what we are told when we awake. Accordingly it will be
all the same to you whether your individuality is restored to you after
the lapse of three months or ten thousand years.

_Thras._ At bottom, that cannot very well be denied.

_Phil._ But if, at the end of those ten thousand years, some one has
quite forgotten to waken you, I imagine that you would have become
accustomed to that long state of non-existence, following such a very
short existence, and that the misfortune would not be very great.
However, it is quite certain that you would know nothing about it. And
again, it would fully console you to know that the mysterious power
which gives life to your present phenomenon had never ceased for one
moment during the ten thousand years to produce other phenomena of a
like nature and to give them life.

_Thras._ Indeed! And so it is in this way that you fancy you can
quietly, and without my knowing, cheat me of my individuality? But you
cannot cozen me in this way. I have stipulated for the retaining of my
individuality, and neither mysterious forces nor phenomena can console
me for the loss of it. It is dear to me, and I shall not let it go.

_Phil._ That is to say, you regard your individuality as something so
very delightful, excellent, perfect, and incomparable that there is
nothing better than it; would you not exchange it for another, according
to what is told us, that is better and more lasting?

_Thras._ Look here, be my individuality what it may, it is myself,

  "For God is God, and I am I."

I--I--I want to exist! That is what I care about, and not an existence
which has to be reasoned out first in order to show that it is mine.

_Phil._ Look what you are doing! When you say, _I--I--I want to exist_
you alone do not say this, but everything, absolutely everything, that
has only a vestige of consciousness. Consequently this desire of yours
is just that which is _not_ individual but which is common to all
without distinction. It does not proceed from individuality, but from
_existence_ in general; it is the essential in everything that exists,
nay, it is _that_ whereby anything has existence at all; accordingly it
is concerned and satisfied only with existence _in general_ and not with
any definite individual existence; this is not its aim. It has the
appearance of being so because it can attain consciousness only in an
individual existence, and consequently looks as if it were entirely
concerned with that. This is nothing but an illusion which has entangled
the individual; but by reflection, it can be dissipated and we ourselves
set free. It is only _indirectly_ that the individual has this great
longing for existence; it is the will to live in general that has this
longing directly and really, a longing that is one and the same in
everything. Since, then, existence itself is the free work of the will,
nay, the mere reflection of it, existence cannot be apart from will, and
the latter will be provisionally satisfied with existence in general, in
so far, namely, as that which is eternally dissatisfied can be
satisfied. The will is indifferent to individuality; it has nothing to
do with it, although it appears to, because the individual is _only_
directly conscious of will in himself. From this it is to be gathered
that the individual carefully guards his own existence; moreover, if
this were not so, the preservation of the species would not be assured.
From all this it follows that individuality is not a state of perfection
but of limitation; so that to be freed from it is not loss but rather
gain. Don't let this trouble you any further, it will, forsooth, appear
to you both childish and extremely ridiculous when you completely and
thoroughly recognise what you are, namely, that your own existence is
the universal will to live.

_Thras._ You are childish yourself and extremely ridiculous, and so are
all philosophers; and when a sedate man like myself lets himself in for
a quarter of an hour's talk with such fools, it is merely for the sake
of amusement and to while away the time. I have more important matters
to look to now; so, adieu!



_Demopheles._ Between ourselves, dear old friend, I am sometimes
dissatisfied with you in your capacity as philosopher; you talk
sarcastically about religion, nay, openly ridicule it. The religion of
every one is sacred to him, and so it should be to you.

_Philalethes. Nego consequentiam!_ I don't see at all why I should have
respect for lies and frauds because other people are stupid. I respect
truth everywhere, and it is precisely for that reason that I cannot
respect anything that is opposed to it. My maxim is, _Vigeat veritas, et
pereat mundus_, the same as the lawyer's _Fiat justitia, et pereat
mundus._ Every profession ought to have an analogous device.

_Demop._ Then that of the medical profession would be, _Fiant pilulae,
et pereat mundus_, which would be the easiest to carry out.

_Phil._ Heaven forbid! Everything must be taken _cum grano salis_.

_Demop._ Exactly; and it is just for that reason that I want you to
accept religion _cum grano salis_, and to see that the needs of the
people must be met according to their powers of comprehension. Religion
affords the only means of proclaiming and making the masses of crude
minds and awkward intelligences, sunk in petty pursuits and material
work, feel the high import of life. For the ordinary type of man,
primarily, has no thought for anything else but what satisfies his
physical needs and longings, and accordingly affords him a little
amusement and pastime. Founders of religion and philosophers come into
the world to shake him out of his torpidity and show him the high
significance of existence: philosophers for the few, the emancipated;
founders of religion for the many, humanity at large. For φιλοσοφον
πληθος ἀδυνατον εἰναι, as your friend Plato has said, and you should not
forget it. Religion is the metaphysics of the people, which by all means
they must keep; and hence it must be eternally respected, for to
discredit it means taking it away. Just as there is popular poetry,
popular wisdom in proverbs, so too there must be popular metaphysics;
for mankind requires most certainly _an interpretation of life_, and it
must be in keeping with its power of comprehension. So that this
interpretation is at all times an allegorical investiture of the truth,
and it fulfils, as far as practical life and our feelings are
concerned--that is to say, as a guidance in our affairs, and as a
comfort and consolation in suffering and death--perhaps just as much as
truth itself could, if we possessed it. Don't be hurt at its unpolished,
baroque, and apparently absurd form, for you, with your education and
learning, cannot imagine the roundabout ways that must be used in order
to make people in their crude state understand deep truths. The various
religions are only various forms in which the people grasp and
understand the truth, which in itself they could not grasp, and which is
inseparable from these forms. Therefore, my dear fellow, don't be
displeased if I tell you that to ridicule these forms is both
narrow-minded and unjust.

_Phil._ But is it not equally narrow-minded and unjust to require that
there shall be no other metaphysics but this one cut out to meet the
needs and comprehension of the people? that its teachings shall be the
boundary of human researches and the standard of all thought, so that
the metaphysics of the few, the emancipated, as you call them, must aim
at confirming, strengthening, and interpreting the metaphysics of the
people? That is, that the highest faculties of the human mind must
remain unused and undeveloped, nay, be nipped in the bud, so that their
activity may not thwart the popular metaphysics? And at bottom are not
the claims that religion makes just the same? Is it right to have
tolerance, nay, gentle forbearance, preached by what is intolerance and
cruelty itself? Let me remind you of the heretical tribunals,
inquisitions, religious wars and crusades, of Socrates' cup of poison,
of Bruno's and Vanini's death in the flames. And is all this to-day
something belonging to the past? What can stand more in the way of
genuine philosophical effort, honest inquiry after truth, the noblest
calling of the noblest of mankind, than this conventional system of
metaphysics invested with a monopoly from the State, whose principles
are inculcated so earnestly, deeply, and firmly into every head in
earliest youth as to make them, unless the mind is of miraculous
elasticity, become ineradicable? The result is that the basis of healthy
reasoning is once and for all deranged--in other words, its feeble
capacity for thinking for itself, and for unbiassed judgment in regard
to everything to which it might be applied, is for ever paralysed and

_Demop,_ Which really means that the people have gained a conviction
which they will not give up in order to accept yours in its place.

_Phil._ Ah! if it were only conviction based on insight, one would then
be able to bring forward arguments and fight the battle with equal
weapons. But religions admittedly do not lend themselves to conviction
after argument has been brought to bear, but to belief as brought about
by revelation. The capacity for belief is strongest in childhood;
therefore one is most careful to take possession of this tender age. It
is much more through this than through threats and reports of miracles
that the doctrines of belief take root. If in early childhood certain
fundamental views and doctrines are preached with unusual solemnity and
in a manner of great earnestness, the like of which has never been seen
before, and if, too, the possibility of a doubt about them is either
completely ignored or only touched upon in order to show that doubt is
the first step to everlasting perdition; the result is that the
impression will be so profound that, as a rule, that is to say in almost
every case, a man will be almost as incapable of doubting the truth of
those doctrines as he is of doubting his own existence. Hence it is
scarcely one in many thousands that has the strength of mind to honestly
and seriously ask himself--is that true? Those who are able to do this
have been more appropriately styled strong minds, _esprits forts_, than
is imagined. For the commonplace mind, however, there is nothing so
absurd or revolting but what, if inoculated in this way, the firmest
belief in it will take root. If, for example, the killing of a heretic
or an infidel were an essential matter for the future salvation of the
soul, almost every one would make it the principal object of his life,
and in dying get consolation and strength from the remembrance of his
having succeeded; just as, in truth, in former times almost every
Spaniard looked upon an _auto da f�_ as the most pious of acts and one
most pleasing to God.

We have an analogy to this in India in the _Thugs_, a religious body
quite recently suppressed by the English, who executed numbers of them.
They showed their regard for religion and veneration for the goddess
Kali by assassinating at every opportunity their own friends and
fellow-travellers, so that they might obtain their possessions, and they
were seriously convinced that thereby they had accomplished something
that was praiseworthy and would contribute to their eternal welfare. The
power of religious dogma, that has been inculcated early, is so great
that it destroys conscience, and finally all compassion and sense of
humanity. But if you wish to see with your own eyes, and close at hand,
what early inoculation of belief does, look at the English. Look at this
nation, favoured by nature before all others, endowed before all others
with reason, intelligence, power of judgment, and firmness of character;
look at these people degraded, nay, made despicable among all others by
their stupid ecclesiastical superstition, which among their other
capacities appears like a fixed idea, a monomania. For this they have to
thank the clergy in whose hands education is, and who take care to
inculcate all the articles, of belief at the earliest age in such a way
as to result in a kind of partial paralysis of the brain; this then
shows itself throughout their whole life in a silly bigotry, making even
extremely intelligent and capable people among them degrade themselves
so that they become quite an enigma to us. If we consider how essential
to such a masterpiece is inoculation of belief in the tender age of
childhood, the system of missions appears no longer merely as the height
of human importunity, arrogance, and impertinence, but also of
absurdity; in so far as it does not confine itself to people who are
still in the stage of _childhood_, such as the Hottentots, Kaffirs,
South Sea Islanders, and others like them, among whom it has been really
successful. While, on the other hand, in India the Brahmans receive the
doctrines of missionaries either with a smile of condescending approval
or refuse them with a shrug of their shoulders; and among these people
in general, notwithstanding the most favourable circumstances, the
missionaries' attempts at conversion are usually wrecked. An authentic
report in vol. xxi. of the _Asiatic Journal_ of 1826 shows that after so
many years of missionary activity in the whole of India (of which the
English possessions alone amount to one hundred and fifteen million
inhabitants) there are not more than three hundred living converts to be
found; and at the same time it is admitted that the Christian converts
are distinguished for their extreme immorality. There are only three
hundred venal and bribed souls out of so many millions. I cannot see
that it has gone better with Christianity in India since then, although
the missionaries are now trying, contrary to agreement, to work on the
children's minds in schools exclusively devoted to secular English
instruction, in order to smuggle in Christianity, against which,
however, the Hindoos are most jealously on their guard. For, as has been
said, childhood is the time, and not manhood, to sow the seeds of
belief, especially where an earlier belief has taken root. An acquired
conviction, however, that is assumed by matured converts serves,
generally, as only the mask for some kind of personal interest. And it
is the feeling that this could hardly be otherwise that makes a man, who
changes his religion at maturity, despised by most people everywhere; a
fact which reveals that they do not regard religion as a matter of
reasoned conviction but merely as a belief inoculated in early
childhood, before it has been put to any test. That they are right in
looking at religion in this way is to be gathered from the fact that it
is not only the blind, credulous masses, but also the clergy of every
religion, who, as such, have studied its sources, arguments, dogmas and
differences, who cling faithfully and zealously as a body to the
religion of their fatherland; consequently it is the rarest thing in the
world for a priest to change from one religion or creed to another. For
instance, we see that the Catholic clergy are absolutely convinced of
the truth of all the principles of their Church, and that the
Protestants are also of theirs, and that both defend the principles of
their confession with like zeal. And yet the conviction is the outcome
merely of the country in which each is born: the truth of the Catholic
dogma is perfectly clear to the clergy of South Germany, the Protestant
to the clergy of North Germany. If, therefore, these convictions rest on
objective reasons, these reasons must be climatic and thrive like
plants, some only here, some only there. The masses everywhere, however,
accept on trust and faith the convictions of those who are _locally

_Demop._ That doesn't matter, for essentially it makes no difference.
For instance, Protestantism in reality is more suited to the north,
Catholicism to the south.

_Phil._ So it appears. Still, I take a higher point of view, and have
before me a more important object, namely, the progress of the knowledge
of truth among the human race. It is a frightful condition of things
that, wherever a man is born, certain propositions are inculcated in his
earliest youth, and he is assured that under penalty of forfeiting
eternal salvation he may never entertain any doubt about them; in so
far, that is, as they are propositions which influence the foundation of
all our other knowledge and accordingly decide for ever our point of
view, and if they are false, upset it for ever. Further, as the
influences drawn from these propositions make inroads everywhere into
the entire system of our knowledge, the whole of human knowledge is
through and through affected by them. This is proved by every
literature, and most conspicuously by that of the Middle Age, but also,
in too great an extent, by that of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries. We see how paralysed even the minds of the first rank of all
those epochs were by such false fundamental conceptions; and how
especially all insight into the true substance and working of Nature was
hemmed in on every side. During the whole of the Christian period Theism
lay like a kind of oppressive nightmare on all intellectual effort, and
on philosophical effort in particular, hindering and arresting all
progress. For the men of learning of those epochs, God, devil, angels,
demons, hid the whole of Nature; no investigation was carried out to the
end, no matter sifted to the bottom; everything that was beyond the most
obvious _causal nexus_ was immediately attributed to these; so that, as
Pomponatius expressed himself at the time, _Certe philosophi nihil
verisimile habent ad haec, quare necesse est, ad Deum, ad angelos et
daemones recurrere._ It is true that there is a suspicion of irony in
what this man says, as his malice in other ways is known, nevertheless
he has expressed the general way of thinking of his age. If any one, on
the other hand, possessed that rare elasticity of mind which alone
enabled him to free himself from the fetters, his writings, and he
himself with them, were burnt; as happened to Bruno and Vanini. But how
absolutely paralysed the ordinary mind is by that early metaphysical
preparation may be seen most strikingly, and from its most ridiculous
side, when it undertakes to criticise the doctrines of a foreign belief.
One finds the ordinary man, as a rule, merely trying to carefully prove
that the dogmas of the foreign belief do not agree with those of his
own; he labours to explain that not only do they not say the same, but
certainly do not mean the same thing as his. With that he fancies in his
simplicity that he has proved the falsity of the doctrines of the alien
belief. It really never occurs to him to ask the question which of the
two is right; but his own articles of belief are to him as _� priori_
certain principles. The Rev. Mr. Morrison has furnished an amusing
example of this kind in vol. xx. of the _Asiatic Journal_ wherein he
criticises the religion and philosophy of the Chinese.

_Demop._ So that's your higher point of view. But I assure you that
there is a higher still. _Primum vivere, deinde philosophari_ is of more
comprehensive significance than one supposes at first sight. Before
everything else, the raw and wicked tendencies of the masses ought to be
restrained, in order to protect them from doing anything that is
extremely unjust, or committing cruel, violent, and disgraceful deeds.
If one waited until they recognised and grasped the truth one would
assuredly come too late. And supposing they had already found truth, it
would surpass their powers of comprehension. In any case it would be a
mere allegorical investiture of truth, a parable, or a myth that would
be of any good to them. There must be, as Kant has said, a public
standard of right and virtue, nay, this must at all times flutter high.
It is all the same in the end what kind of heraldic figures are
represented on it, if they only indicate what is meant. Such an
allegorical truth is at all times and everywhere, for mankind at large,
a beneficial substitute for an eternally unattainable truth, and in
general, for a philosophy which it can never grasp; to say nothing of
its changing its form daily, and not having as yet attained any kind of
general recognition. Therefore practical aims, my good Philalethes, have
in every way the advantage of theoretical.

_Phil._ This closely resembles the ancient advice of Timaeus of Locrus,
the Pythagorean: τας ψυχας ἀπειργομες ψευδεσι λογοις, εἰ κα μη ἀγηται
ἀλαθεσι.[13] And I almost suspect that it is your wish, according to the
fashion of to-day, to remind me--

  "Good friend, the time is near
  When we may feast off what is good in peace."

And your recommendation means that we should take care in time, so that
the waves of the dissatisfied, raging masses may not disturb us at
table. But the whole of this point of view is as false as it is nowadays
universally liked and praised; this is why I make haste to put in a
protest against it. It is _false_ that state, justice, and law cannot be
maintained without the aid of religion and its articles of belief, and
that justice and police regulations need religion as a complement in
order to carry out legislative arrangements. It is _false_ if it were
repeated a hundred times. For the ancients, and especially the Greeks,
furnish us with striking _instantia in contrarium_ founded on fact. They
had absolutely nothing of what we understand by religion. They had no
sacred documents, no dogma to be learnt, and its acceptance advanced by
every one, and its principles inculcated early in youth. The servants of
religion preached just as little about morals, and the ministers
concerned themselves very little about any kind of morality or in
general about what the people either did or left undone. No such thing.
But the duty of the priests was confined merely to temple ceremonies,
prayers, songs, sacrifices, processions, lustrations, and the like, all
of which aimed at anything but the moral improvement of the individual.
The whole of their so-called religion consisted, and particularly in the
towns, in some of the _deorum majorum gentium_ having temples here and
there, in which the aforesaid worship was conducted as an affair of
state, when in reality it was an affair of police. No one, except the
functionaries engaged, was obliged in any way to be present, or even to
believe in it. In the whole of antiquity there is no trace of any
obligation to believe in any kind of dogma. It was merely any one who
openly denied the existence of the gods or calumniated them that was
punished; because by so doing he insulted the state which served these
gods; beyond this every one was allowed to think what he chose of them.
If any one wished to win the favour of these gods privately by prayer or
sacrifice he was free to do so at his own cost and risk; if he did not
do it, no one had anything to say against it, and least of all the
State. Every Roman had his own Lares and Penates at home, which were,
however, at bottom nothing more than the revered portraits of his
ancestors. The ancients had no kind of decisive, clear, and least of all
dogmatically fixed ideas about the immortality of the soul and a life
hereafter, but every one in his own way had lax, vacillating, and
problematical ideas; and their ideas about the gods were just as
various, individual, and vague. So that the ancients had really no
_religion_ in our sense of the word. Was it for this reason that anarchy
and lawlessness reigned among them? Is not law and civil order rather so
much their work, that it still constitutes the foundation of ours? Was
not property perfectly secure, although it consisted of slaves for the
greater part? And did not this condition of things last longer than a
thousand years?

So I cannot perceive, and must protest against the practical aims and
necessity of religion in the sense which you have indicated, and in such
general favour to-day, namely, as an indispensable foundation of all
legislative regulations. For from such a standpoint the pure and sacred
striving after light and truth, to say the least, would seem quixotic
and criminal if it should venture in its feeling of justice to denounce
the authoritative belief as a usurper who has taken possession of the
throne of truth and maintained it by continuing the deception.

_Demop._ But religion is not opposed to truth; for it itself teaches
truth. Only it must not allow truth to appear in its naked form, because
its sphere of activity is not a narrow auditory, but the world and
humanity at large, and therefore it must conform to the requirements and
comprehension of so great and mixed a public; or, to use a medical
simile, it must not present it pure, but must as a medium make use of a
mythical vehicle. Truth may also be compared in this respect to certain
chemical stuffs which in themselves are gaseous, but which for official
uses, as also for preservation or transmission, must be bound to a firm,
palpable base, because they would otherwise volatilise. For example,
chlorine is for all such purposes applied only in the form of chlorides.
But if truth, pure, abstract, and free from anything of a mythical
nature, is always to remain unattainable by us all, philosophers
included, it might be compared to fluorine, which cannot be presented by
itself alone, but only when combined with other stuffs. Or, to take a
simpler simile, truth, which cannot be expressed in any other way than
by myth and allegory, is like water that cannot be transported without a
vessel; but philosophers, who insist upon possessing it pure, are like a
person who breaks the vessel in order to get the water by itself. This
is perhaps a true analogy. At any rate, religion is truth allegorically
and mythically expressed, and thereby made possible and digestible to
mankind at large. For mankind could by no means digest it pure and
unadulterated, just as we cannot live in pure oxygen but require an
addition of four-fifths of nitrogen. And without speaking figuratively,
the profound significance and high aim of life can only be revealed and
shown to the masses symbolically, because they are not capable of
grasping life in its real sense; while philosophy should be like the
Eleusinian mysteries, for the few, the elect.

_Phil._ I understand. The matter resolves itself into truth putting on
the dress of falsehood. But in doing so it enters into a fatal alliance.
What a dangerous weapon is given into the hands of those who have the
authority to make use of falsehood as the vehicle of truth! If such is
the case, I fear there will be more harm caused by the falsehood than
good derived from the truth. If the allegory were admitted to be such, I
should say nothing against it; but in that case it would be deprived of
all respect, and consequently of all efficacy. Therefore the allegory
must assert a claim, which it must maintain, to be true in _sensu
proprio_ while at the most it is true in _sensu allegorico_. Here lies
the incurable mischief, the permanent evil; and therefore religion is
always in conflict, and always will be with the free and noble striving
after pure truth.

_Demop_. Indeed, no. Care has been taken to prevent that. If religion
may not exactly admit its allegorical nature, it indicates it at any
rate sufficiently.

_Phil_. And in what way does it do that?

_Demop_. In its mysteries. _Mystery_ is at bottom only the theological
_terminus technicus_ for religious allegory. All religions have their
mysteries. In reality, a mystery is a palpably absurd dogma which
conceals in itself a lofty truth, which by itself would be absolutely
incomprehensible to the ordinary intelligence of the raw masses. The
masses accept it in this disguise on trust and faith, without allowing
themselves to be led astray by its absurdity, which is palpable to them;
and thereby they participate in the kernel of the matter so far as they
are able. I may add as an explanation that the use of mystery has been
attempted even in philosophy; for example, when Pascal, who was pietest,
mathematician, and philosopher in one, says in this threefold character:
_God is everywhere centre and nowhere periphery_. Malebranche has also
truly remarked, _La libert� est un myst�re_. One might go further, and
maintain that in religions everything is really mystery. For it is
utterly impossible to impart truth in _sensu proprio_ to the multitude
in its crudity; it is only a mythical and allegorical reflection of it
that can fall to its share and enlighten it. Naked truth must not appear
before the eyes of the profane vulgar; it can only appear before them
closely veiled. And it is for this reason that it is unfair to demand of
a religion that it should be true in _sensu proprio_, and that, _en
passant_. Rationalists and Supernaturalists of to-day are so absurd.
They both start with the supposition that religion must be the truth;
and while the former prove that it is not, the latter obstinately
maintain that it is; or rather the former cut up and dress the allegory
in such a way that it could be true in _sensu proprio_ but would in that
case become a platitude. The latter wish to maintain, without further
dressing, that it is true in _sensu proprio_, which, as they should
know, can only be carried into execution by inquisitions and the stake.
While in reality, myth and allegory are the essential elements of
religion, but under the indispensable condition (because of the
intellectual limitations of the great masses) that it supplies enough
satisfaction to meet those metaphysical needs of mankind which are
ineradicable, and that it takes the place of pure philosophical truth,
which is infinitely difficult, and perhaps never attainable.

_Phil._ Yes, pretty much in the same way as a wooden leg takes the place
of a natural one. It supplies what is wanting, does very poor service
for it, and claims to be regarded as a natural leg, and is more or less
cleverly put together. There is a difference, however, for, as a rule,
the natural leg was in existence before the wooden one, while religion
everywhere has gained the start of philosophy.

_Demop._ That may be; but a wooden leg is of great value to those who
have no natural leg. You must keep in view that the metaphysical
requirements of man absolutely demand satisfaction; because the horizon
of his thoughts must be defined and not remain unlimited. A man, as a
rule, has no faculty of judgment for weighing reasons, and
distinguishing between what is true and what is false. Moreover, the
work imposed upon him by nature and her requirements leaves him no time
for investigations of that kind, or for the education which they
presuppose. Therefore it is entirely out of the question to imagine he
will be convinced by reasons; there is nothing left for him but belief
and authority. Even if a really true philosophy took the place of
religion, at least nine-tenths of mankind would only accept it on
authority, so that it would be again a matter of belief; for Plato's
φιλοσοφον πληθος ἀδυνατον εἰναι will always hold good. Authority,
however, is only established by time and circumstances, so that we
cannot bestow it on that which has only reason to commend it;
accordingly, we must grant it only to that which has attained it in the
course of history, even if it is only truth represented allegorically.
This kind of truth, supported by authority, appeals directly to the
essentially metaphysical temperament of man--that is, to his need of a
theory concerning the riddle of existence, which thrusts itself upon
him, and arises from the consciousness that behind the physical in the
world there must be a metaphysical, an unchangeable something, which
serves as the foundation of constant change. It also appeals to the
will, fears, and hopes of mortals living in constant need; religion
provides them with gods, demons, to whom they call, appease, and
conciliate. Finally, it appeals to their moral consciousness, which is
undeniably present, and lends to it that authenticity and support from
without--a support without which it would not easily maintain itself in
the struggle against so many temptations. It is exactly from this side
that religion provides an inexhaustible source of consolation and
comfort in the countless and great sorrows of life, a comfort which does
not leave men in death, but rather then unfolds its full efficacy. So
that religion is like some one taking hold of the hand of a blind person
and leading him, since he cannot see for himself; all that the blind
person wants is to attain his end, not to see everything as he walks

_Phil._ This side is certainly the brilliant side of religion. If it is
a _fraus_ it is indeed a _pia fraus_; that cannot be denied. Then
priests become something between deceivers and moralists. For they dare
not teach the real truth, as you yourself have quite correctly
explained, even if it were known to them; which it is not. There can, at
any rate, be a true philosophy, but there can be no true religion: I
mean true in the real and proper understanding of the word, not merely
in that flowery and allegorical sense which you have described, a sense
in which every religion would be true only in different degrees. It is
certainly quite in harmony with the inextricable admixture of good and
evil, honesty and dishonesty, goodness and wickedness, magnanimity and
baseness, which the world presents everywhere, that the most important,
the most lofty, and the most sacred truths can make their appearance
only in combination with a lie, nay, can borrow strength from a lie as
something that affects mankind more powerfully; and as revelation must
be introduced by a lie. One might regard this fact as the _monogram_ of
the moral world. Meanwhile let us not give up the hope that mankind will
some day attain that point of maturity and education at which it is able
to produce a true philosophy on the one hand, and accept it on the
other. _Simplex sigillum veri_: the naked truth must be so simple and
comprehensible that one can impart it to all in its true form without
any admixture of myth and fable (a pack of lies)--in other words,
without masking it as _religion_.

_Demop._ You have not a sufficient idea of the wretched capacities of
the masses.

_Phil._ I express it only as a hope; but to give it up is impossible. In
that case, if truth were in a simpler and more comprehensible form, it
would surely soon drive religion from the position of vicegerent which
it has so long held. Then religion will have fulfilled her mission and
finished her course; she might then dismiss the race which she has
guided to maturity and herself retire in peace. This will be the
_euthanasia_ of religion. However, as long as she lives she has two
faces, one of truth and one of deceit. According as one looks
attentively at one or the other one will like or dislike her. Hence
religion must be regarded as a necessary evil, its necessity resting on
the pitiful weak-mindedness of the great majority of mankind, incapable
of grasping the truth, and consequently when in extremity requires a
substitute for truth.

_Demop._ Really, one would think that you philosophers had truth lying
in readiness, and all that one had to do was to lay hold of it.

_Phil._ If we have not got it, it is principally to be ascribed to the
pressure under which philosophy, at all periods and in all countries,
has been held by religion. We have tried to make not only the expression
and communication of truth impossible, but even the contemplation and
discovery of it, by giving the minds of children in earliest childhood
into the hands of priests to be worked upon; to have the groove in which
their fundamental thoughts are henceforth to run so firmly imprinted, as
in principal matters, to become fixed and determined for a lifetime. I
am sometimes shocked to see when I take into my hand the writings of
even the most intelligent minds of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, and especially if I have just left my oriental studies, how
paralysed and hemmed in on all sides they are by Jewish notions.
Prepared in this way, one cannot form any idea of the true philosophy!

_Demop._ And if, moreover, this true philosophy were discovered,
religion would not cease to exist, as you imagine. There cannot be one
system of metaphysics for everybody; the natural differences of
intellectual power in addition to those of education make this
impossible. The great majority of mankind must necessarily be engaged in
that arduous bodily labour which is requisite in order to furnish the
endless needs of the whole race. Not only does this leave the majority
no time for education, for learning, or for reflection; but by virtue of
the strong antagonism between merely physical and intellectual
qualities, much excessive bodily labour blunts the understanding and
makes it heavy, clumsy, and awkward, and consequently incapable of
grasping any other than perfectly simple and palpable matters. At least
nine-tenths of the human race comes under this category. People require
a system of metaphysics, that is, an account of the world and our
existence, because such an account belongs to the most natural
requirements of mankind. They require also a popular system of
metaphysics, which, in order for it to be this, must combine many rare
qualities; for instance, it must be exceedingly lucid, and yet in the
right places be obscure, nay, to a certain extent, impenetrable; then a
correct and satisfying moral system must be combined with its dogmas;
above everything, it must bring inexhaustible consolation in suffering
and death. It follows from this that it can only be true in _sensu
allegorico_ and not in _sensu proprio_. Further, it must have the
support of an authority which is imposing by its great age, by its
general recognition, by its documents, together with their tone and
statements--qualities which are so infinitely difficult to combine that
many a man, if he stopped to reflect, would not be so ready to help to
undermine a religion, but would consider it the most sacred treasure of
the people. If any one wants to criticise religion he should always bear
in mind the nature of the great masses for which it is destined, and
picture to himself their complete moral and intellectual inferiority. It
is incredible how far this inferiority goes and how steadily a spark of
truth will continue to glimmer even under the crudest veiling of
monstrous fables and grotesque ceremonies, adhering indelibly, like the
perfume of musk, to everything which has come in contact with it. As an
illustration of this, look at the profound wisdom which is revealed in
the Upanishads, and then look at the mad idolatry in the India of
to-day, as is revealed in its pilgrimages, processions, and festivities,
or at the mad and ludicrous doings of the Saniassi of the present time.
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that in all this madness and absurdity
there yet lies something that is hidden from view, something that is in
accordance with, or a reflection of the profound wisdom that has been
mentioned. It requires this kind of dressing-up for the great brute
masses. In this antithesis we have before us the two poles of
humanity:--the wisdom of the individual and the bestiality of the
masses, both of which, however, find their point of harmony in the moral
kingdom. Who has not thought of the saying from the Kurral--"Vulgar
people look like men; but I have never seen anything like them." The
more highly cultured man may always explain religion to himself _cum
grano salis_; the man of learning, the thoughtful mind, may, in secret,
exchange it for a philosophy. And yet _one_ philosophy would not do for
everybody; each philosophy by the laws of affinity attracts a public to
whose education and mental capacities it is fitted. So there is always
an inferior metaphysical system of the schools for the educated
plebeians, and a higher system for the _�lite_. Kant's lofty doctrine,
for example, was degraded to meet the requirements of the schools, and
ruined by Fries, Krug, Salat, and similar people. In short, Goethe's
dictum is as applicable here as anywhere: _One does not suit all_. Pure
belief in revelation and pure metaphysics are for the two extremes; and
for the intermediate steps mutual modifications of both in countless
combinations and gradations. The immeasurable differences which nature
and education place between men have made this necessary.

_Phil._ This point of view reminds me seriously of the mysteries of the
ancients which you have already mentioned; their aim at bottom seems to
have lain in remedying the evil arising out of the differences of mental
capacities and education. Their plan was to single out of the great
multitude a few people, to whom the unveiled truth was absolutely
incomprehensible, and to reveal the truth to them up to a certain point;
then out of these they singled out others to whom they revealed more, as
they were able to grasp more; and so on up to the Epopts. And so we got
μικρα, και μειζονα, και μεγιστα μυστηρια. The plan was based on a
correct knowledge of the intellectual inequality of mankind.

_Demop_. To a certain extent the education in our lower, middle, and
high schools represents the different forms of initiation into the

_Phil_. Only in a very approximate way, and this only in so far as
subjects of higher knowledge were written about exclusively in Latin.
But since that has ceased to be so all the mysteries are profaned.

_Demop_. However that may be, I wish to remind you, in speaking of
religion, that you should grasp it more from the practical and less from
the theoretical side. Personified metaphysics may be religion's enemy,
yet personified morality will be its friend. Perhaps the metaphysics in
all religions is false; but the morality in all is true. This is to be
surmised from the fact that in their metaphysics they contradict each
other, while in their morality they agree.

_Phil_. Which furnishes us with a proof of the rule of logic, that a
true conclusion may follow from false premises.

_Demop_. Well, stick to your conclusion, and be always mindful that
religion has two sides. If it can't stand when looked at merely from the
theoretical--in other words, from its intellectual side, it appears, on
the other hand, from the moral side as the only means of directing,
training, and pacifying those races of animals gifted with reason, whose
kinship with the ape does not exclude a kinship with the tiger. At the
same time religion is, in general, a sufficient satisfaction for their
dull metaphysical needs. You appear to me to have no proper idea of the
difference, wide as the heavens apart, of the profound breach between
your learned man, who is enlightened and accustomed to think, and the
heavy, awkward, stupid, and inert consciousness of mankind's beasts of
burden, whose thoughts have taken once and for all the direction of fear
about their maintenance, and cannot be put in motion in any other; and
whose muscular power is so exclusively exercised that the nervous power
which produces intelligence is thereby greatly reduced. People of this
kind must absolutely have something that they can take hold of on the
slippery and thorny path of their life, some sort of beautiful fable by
means of which things can be presented to them which their crude
intelligence could most certainly only understand in picture and
parable. It is impossible to approach them with subtle explanations and
fine distinctions. If you think of religion in this way, and bear in
mind that its aims are extremely practical and only subordinately
theoretical, it will seem to you worthy of the highest respect.

_Phil_. A respect which would finally rest on the principle that the end
sanctifies the means. However, I am not in favour of a compromise on a
basis of that sort. Religion may be an excellent means of curbing and
controlling the perverse, dull, and malicious creatures of the biped
race; in the eyes of the friend of truth every _fraus_, be it ever so
_pia_, must be rejected. It would be an odd way to promote virtue
through the medium of lies and deception. The flag to which I have sworn
is truth. I shall remain faithful to it everywhere, and regardless of
success, I shall fight for light and truth. If I see religion hostile, I

_Demop_. But you will not! Religion is not a deception; it is true, and
the most important of all truths. But because, as has already been said,
its doctrines are of such a lofty nature that the great masses cannot
grasp them immediately; because, I say, its light would blind the
ordinary eye, does it appear concealed in the veil of allegory and teach
that which is not exactly true in itself, but which is true according to
the meaning contained in it: and understood in this way religion is the

_Phil_. That would be very probable, if it were allowed to be true only
in an allegorical sense. But it claims to be exactly true, and true in
the proper sense of the word: herein lies the deception, and it is here
that the friend of truth must oppose it.

_Demop_. But this deception is a _conditio sine qua non_. If religion
admitted that it was merely the allegorical meaning in its doctrines
that was true, it would be deprived of all efficacy, and such rigorous
treatment would put an end to its invaluable and beneficial influence on
the morals and feelings of mankind. Instead of insisting on that with
pedantic obstinacy, look at its great achievements in a practical way
both as regards morality and feelings, as a guide to conduct, as a
support and consolation to suffering humanity in life and death. How
greatly you should guard against rousing suspicion in the masses by
theoretical wrangling, and thereby finally taking from them what is an
inexhaustible source of consolation and comfort to them; which in their
hard lot they need very much more than we do: for this reason alone,
religion ought not to be attacked.

_Phil_. With this argument Luther could have been beaten out of the
field when he attacked the selling of indulgences; for the letters of
indulgence have furnished many a man with irreparable consolation and
perfect tranquillity, so that he joyfully passed away with perfect
confidence in the little packet of them which he firmly held in his hand
as he lay dying, convinced that in them he had so many cards of
admission into all the nine heavens. What is the use of grounds of
consolation and peacefulness over which is constantly hanging the
Damocles-sword of deception? The truth, my friend, the truth alone holds
good, and remains constant and faithful; it is the only solid
consolation; it is the indestructible diamond.

_Demop_. Yes, if you had truth in your pocket to bless us with whenever
we asked for it. But what you possess are only metaphysical systems in
which nothing is certain but the headaches they cost. Before one takes
anything away one must have something better to put in its place.

_Phil_. I wish you would not continually say that. To free a man from
error does not mean to take something from him, but to give him
something. For knowledge that something is wrong is a truth. No error,
however, is harmless; every error will cause mischief sooner or later to
the man who fosters it. Therefore do not deceive any one, but rather
admit you are ignorant of what you do not know, and let each man form
his own dogmas for himself. Perhaps they will not turn out so bad,
especially as they will rub against each other and mutually rectify
errors; at any rate the various opinions will establish tolerance. Those
men who possess both knowledge and capacity may take up the study of
philosophy, or even themselves advance the history of philosophy.

_Demop_. That would be a fine thing! A whole nation of naturalised
metaphysicians quarrelling with each other, and _eventualiter_ striking
each other.

_Phil_. Well, a few blows here and there are the sauce of life, or at
least a very slight evil compared with priestly government--prosecution
of heretics, plundering of the laity, courts of inquisition, crusades,
religious wars, massacres of St. Bartholomew, and the like. They have
been the results of chartered popular metaphysics: therefore I still
hold that one cannot expect to get grapes from thistles, or good from
lies and deception.

_Demop_. How often must I repeat that religion is not a lie, but the
truth itself in a mythical, allegorical dress? But with respect to your
plan of each man establishing his own religion, I had still something to
say to you, that a particularism like this is totally and absolutely
opposed to the nature of mankind, and therefore would abolish all social
order. Man is an _animal metaphysicum_--in other words, he has
surpassingly great metaphysical requirements; accordingly he conceives
life above all in its metaphysical sense, and from that standpoint
wishes to grasp everything. Accordingly, odd as it may sound with regard
to the uncertainty of all dogmas, accord in the fundamental elements of
metaphysics is the principal thing, in so much as it is only among
people who hold the same views on this question that a genuine and
lasting fellowship is possible. As a result of this, nations resemble
and differ from each other more in religion than in government, or even
language. Consequently, the fabric of society, the State, will only be
perfectly firm when it has for a basis a system of metaphysics
universally acknowledged. Such a system, naturally, can only be a
popular metaphysical one--that is, a religion. It then becomes
identified with the government, with all the general expressions of the
national life, as well as with all sacred acts of private life. This was
the case in ancient India, among the Persians, Egyptians, Jews, also the
Greeks and Romans, and it is still the case among the Brahman, Buddhist,
and Mohammedan nations. There, are three doctrines of faith in China, it
is true, and the one that has spread the most, namely, Buddhism, is
exactly the doctrine that is least protected by the State; yet there is
a saying in China that is universally appreciated and daily applied,
_the three doctrines are only one_--in other words, they agree in the
main thing. The Emperor confesses all three at the same time, and agrees
with them all. Europe is the confederacy of _Christian_ States;
Christianity is the basis of each of its members and the common bond of
all; hence Turkey, although it is in Europe, is really not to be
reckoned in it. Similarly the European princes are such "by the grace of
God," and the Pope is the delegate of God; accordingly, as his throne
was the highest, he wished all other thrones to be looked upon only as
held in fee from him. Similarly Archbishops and Bishops, as such, had
temporal authority, just as they have still in England a seat and voice
in the Upper House; Protestant rulers are, as such, heads of their
churches; in England a few years ago this was a girl of eighteen. By the
revolt from the Pope, the Reformation shattered the European structure,
and, in particular, dissolved the true unity of Germany by abolishing
its common faith; this unity, which had as a matter of fact come to
grief, had accordingly to be replaced later by artificial and purely
political bonds. So you see how essentially connected is unity of faith
with common order and every state. It is everywhere the support of the
laws and the constitution--that is to say, the foundation of the social
structure, which would stand with difficulty if faith did not lend power
to the authority of the government and the importance of the ruler.

_Phil_. Oh, yes, princes look upon God as a goblin, wherewith to
frighten grown-up children to bed when nothing else is of any avail; it
is for this reason that they depend so much on God. All right; meanwhile
I should like to advise every ruling lord to read through, on a certain
day every six months, the fifteenth chapter of the First Book of Samuel,
earnestly and attentively; so that he may always have in mind what it
means to support the throne on the altar. Moreover, since burning at the
stake, that _ultima ratio theologorum_, is a thing of the past, this
mode of government has lost its efficacy. For, as you know, religions
are like glowworms: before they can shine it must be dark. A certain
degree of general ignorance is the condition of every religion, and is
the element in which alone it is able to exist. While, as soon as
astronomy, natural science, geology, history, knowledge of countries and
nations have spread their light universally, and philosophy is finally
allowed to speak, every faith which is based on miracle and revelation
must perish, and then philosophy will take its place. In Europe the day
of knowledge and science dawned towards the end of the fifteenth century
with the arrival of the modern Greek philosophers, its sun rose higher
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which were so productive,
and scattered the mists of the Middle Age. In the same proportion, both
Church and Faith were obliged to gradually disappear; so that in the
eighteenth century English and French philosophers became direct
antagonists, until finally, under Frederick the Great, Kant came and
took away from religious belief the support it had formerly received
from philosophy, and emancipated the _ancilla theologiae_ in that he
attacked the question with German thoroughness and perseverance, whereby
it received a less frivolous, that is to say, a more earnest tone. As a
result of this we see in the nineteenth century Christianity very much
weakened, almost stripped entirely of serious belief, nay, fighting for
its own existence; while apprehensive princes try to raise it up by an
artificial stimulant, as the doctor tries to revive a dying man by the
aid of a drug. There is a passage from Condorcet's _Des Progr�s de
l'esprit humain_, which seems to have been written as a warning to our
epoch: _Le z�le religieux des philosophes et des grands n'�tait qu'une
d�votion politique: et toute religion, qu'on se permet de d�fendre comme
une croyance qu'il est utile de laisser au peuple, ne peut plus esp�rer
qu'une agonie plus ou moins prolong�e_. In the whole course of the
events which I have pointed out you may always observe that belief and
knowledge bear the same relation to each other as the two scales of a
balance: when the one rises the other must fall. The balance is so
sensitive that it indicates momentary influences. For example, in the
beginning of this century the predatory excursions of French robbers
under their leader Buonaparte, and the great efforts that were requisite
to drive them out and to punish them, had led to a temporary neglect of
science, and in consequence to a certain decrease in the general
propagation of knowledge; the Church immediately began to raise her head
again and Faith to be revived, a revival partly of a poetical nature, in
keeping with the spirit of the times. On the other hand, in the more
than thirty years' peace that followed, leisure and prosperity promoted
the building up of science and the spread of knowledge in an exceptional
degree, so that the result was what I have said, the dissolution and
threatened fall of religion. Perhaps the time which has been so often
predicted is not far distant, when religion will depart from European
humanity, like a nurse whose care the child has outgrown; it is now
placed in the hands of a tutor for instruction. For without doubt
doctrines of belief that are based only on authority, miracles, and
revelation are only of use and suitable to the childhood of humanity.
That a race, which all physical and historical data confirm as having
been in existence only about a hundred times the life of a man sixty
years old, is still in its first childhood is a fact that every one will

_Demop_. If instead of prophesying with undisguised pleasure the
downfall of Christianity, you would only consider how infinitely
indebted European humanity is to it, and to the religion which, after
the lapse of some time, followed Christianity from its old home in the
East! Europe received from it a drift which had hitherto been unknown to
it--it learnt the fundamental truth that life cannot be an
end-in-itself, but that the true end of our existence lies beyond it.
The Greeks and Romans had placed this end absolutely in life itself, so
that, in this sense, they may most certainly be called blind heathens.
Correspondingly, all their virtues consist in what is serviceable to the
public, in what is useful; and Aristotle says quite na�vely, "_Those
virtues must necessarily be the greatest which are the most useful to
others_" (ἀναγκη δε μεγιστας εἰναι ἀρετας τας τοις ἀλλοις χρησιμωτατας,
_Rhetor_. I. c. 9). This is why the ancients considered love for one's
country the greatest virtue, although it is a very doubtful one, as it
is made up of narrowness, prejudice, vanity, and an enlightened
self-interest. Preceding the passage that has just been quoted,
Aristotle enumerates all the virtues in order to explain them
individually. They are _Justice, Courage, Moderation, Magnificence_
(μεγαλοπρεπεια), _Magnanimity, Liberality, Gentleness, Reasonableness,
and Wisdom_. How different from the Christian virtues! Even Plato,
without comparison the most transcendental philosopher of pre-Christian
antiquity, knows no higher virtue than _Justice_; he alone recommends it
unconditionally and for its own sake, while all the other philosophers
make a happy life--_vita beata_--the aim of all virtue; and it is
acquired through the medium of moral behaviour. Christianity released
European humanity from its superficial and crude absorption in an
ephemeral, uncertain, and hollow existence.

                         ... _coelumque tueri
  Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus_.

Accordingly, Christianity does not only preach Justice, but the _Love of
Mankind, Compassion, Charity, Reconciliation, Love of one's Enemies,
Patience, Humility, Renunciation, Faith, and Hope_. Indeed, it went even
further: it taught that the world was of evil and that we needed
deliverance; consequently it preached contempt of the world,
self-denial, chastity, the giving up of one's own will, that is to say,
turning away from life and its phantom-like pleasures; it taught further
the healing power of suffering, and that an instrument of torture is the
symbol of Christianity, I willingly admit that this serious and only
correct view of life had spread in other forms throughout Asia thousands
of years previously, independently of Christianity as it is still; but
this view of life was a new and tremendous revelation to European
humanity. For it is well known that the population of Europe consists of
Asiatic races who, driven out from their own country, wandered away, and
by degrees hit upon Europe: on their long wanderings they lost the
original religion of their homes, and with it the correct view of life;
and this is why they formed in another climate religions for themselves
which were somewhat crude; especially the worship of Odin, the Druidic
and the Greek religions, the metaphysical contents of which were small
and shallow. Meanwhile there developed among the Greeks a quite special,
one might say an instinctive, sense of beauty, possessed by them alone
of all the nations of the earth that have ever existed--a peculiar,
fine, and correct sense of beauty, so that in the mouths of their poets
and in the hands of their artists, their mythology took an exceptionally
beautiful and delightful form. On the other hand, the earnest, true, and
profound import of life was lost to the Greeks and Romans; they lived
like big children until Christianity came and brought them back to the
serious side of life.

_Phil_. And to form an idea of the result we need only compare antiquity
with the Middle Age that followed--that is, the time of Pericles with
the fourteenth century. It is difficult to believe that we have the same
kind of beings before us. There, the finest development of humanity,
excellent constitutional regulations, wise laws, cleverly distributed
offices, rationally ordered freedom, all the arts, as well as poetry and
philosophy, at their best; the creation of works which after thousands
of years have never been equalled and are almost works of a higher order
of beings, whom we can never approach; life embellished by the noblest
fellowship, as is portrayed in the _Banquet_ of Xenophon. And now look
at this side, if you can. Look at the time when the Church had
imprisoned the minds, and violence the bodies of men, whereby knights
and priests could lay the whole weight of life on the common beast of
burden--the third estate. There you have club-law, feudalism, and
fanaticism in close alliance, and in their train shocking uncertainty
and darkness of mind, a corresponding intolerance, discord of faiths,
religious wars, crusades, persecution of heretics and inquisitions; as
the form of fellowship, chivalry, an amalgam of savagery and
foolishness, with its pedantic system of absurd affectations, its
degrading superstitions, and apish veneration for women; the survival of
which is gallantry, deservedly requited by the arrogance of women; it
affords to all Asiatics continual material for laughter, in which the
Greeks would have joined. In the golden Middle Age the matter went as
far as a formal and methodical service of women and enjoined deeds of
heroism, _cours d'amour_, bombastic Troubadour songs and so forth,
although it is to be observed that these last absurdities, which have an
intellectual side, were principally at home in France; while among the
material phlegmatic Germans the knights distinguished themselves more by
drinking and robbing. Drinking and hoarding their castles with plunder
were the occupations of their lives; and certainly there was no want of
stupid love-songs in the courts. What has changed the scene so?
Migration and Christianity.

_Demop_. It is a good thing you reminded me of it. Migration was the
source of the evil, and Christianity the dam on which it broke.
Christianity was the means of controlling and taming those raw, wild
hordes who were washed in by the flood of migration. The savage man must
first of all learn to kneel, to venerate, and to obey; it is only after
that, that he can be civilised. This was done in Ireland by St. Patrick,
in Germany by Winifred the Saxon, who was a genuine Boniface. It was
migration of nations, this last movement of Asiatic races towards
Europe, followed only by their fruitless attempts under Attila, Gengis
Khan, and Timur, and, as a comic after-piece, by the gipsies: it was
migration of nations which swept away the humanity of the ancients.
Christianity was the very principle which worked against this savagery,
just as later, through the whole of the Middle Age, the Church and its
hierarchy were extremely necessary to place a limit to the savagery and
barbarism of those lords of violence, the princes and knights: it was
the ice-breaker of this mighty flood. Still, the general aim of
Christianity is not so much to make this life pleasant as to make us
worthy of a better. It looks beyond this span of time, this fleeting
dream, in order to lead us to eternal salvation. Its tendency is ethical
in the highest sense of the word, a tendency which had hitherto been
unknown in Europe; as I have already pointed out to you by comparing the
morality and religion of the ancients with those of Christianity.

_Phil_. That is right so far as theory is concerned; but look at the
practice. In comparison with the Christian centuries that followed, the
ancient world was undoubtedly less cruel than the Middle Age, with its
deaths by frightful torture, its countless burnings at the stake;
further, the ancients were very patient, thought very highly of justice,
and frequently sacrificed themselves for their country, showed traits of
magnanimity of every kind, and such genuine humanity, that, up to the
present time, an acquaintance with their doings and thoughts is called
the study of Humanity. Religious wars, massacres, crusades,
inquisitions, as well as other persecutions, the extermination of the
original inhabitants of America and the introduction of African slaves
in their place, were the fruits of Christianity, and among the ancients
one cannot find anything analogous to this, anything to counterpoise it;
for the slaves of the ancients, the _familia_, the _vernae_, were a
satisfied race and faithfully devoted to their masters, and as widely
distinct from the miserable negroes of the sugar plantations, which are
a disgrace to humanity, as they were in colour. The censurable
toleration of pederasty, for which one chiefly reproaches the morality
of the ancients, is a trifle compared with the Christian horrors I have
cited, and is not so rare among people of to-day as it appears to be.
Can you then, taking everything into consideration, maintain that
humanity has really become morally better by Christianity?

_Demop_. If the result has not everywhere corresponded with the purity
and accuracy of the doctrine, it may be because this doctrine has been
too noble, too sublime for humanity, and its aim set too high: to be
sure, it was much easier to comply with heathen morality or with the
Mohammedan. It is precisely what is most elevated that is the most open
to abuse and deception--_abusus optimi pessimus_; and therefore those
lofty doctrines have sometimes served as a pretext for the most
disgraceful transactions and veritable crimes. The downfall of the
ancient institutions, as well as of the arts and sciences of the old
world, is, as has been said, to be ascribed to the invasion of foreign
barbarians. Accordingly, it was inevitable that ignorance and savagery
got the upper hand; with the result that violence and fraud usurped
their dominion, and knights and priests became a burden to mankind. This
is partly to be explained by the fact that the new religion taught the
lesson of eternal and not temporal welfare, that simplicity of heart was
preferable to intellectual knowledge, and it was averse to all worldly
pleasures which are served by the arts and sciences. However, in so far
as they could be made serviceable to religion they were promoted, and so
flourished to a certain extent.

_Phil_. In a very narrow sphere. The sciences were suspicious
companions, and as such were placed under restrictions; while fond
ignorance, that element so necessary to the doctrines of faith, was
carefully nourished.

_Demop_. And yet what humanity had hitherto acquired in the shape of
knowledge, and handed down in the works of the ancients, was saved from
ruin by the clergy, especially by those in the monasteries. What would
have happened if Christianity had not come in just before the migration
of nations?

_Phil_. It would really be an extremely useful inquiry if some one, with
the greatest frankness and impartiality, tried to weigh exactly and
accurately the advantages and disadvantages derived from religions. To
do this, it would be necessary to have a much greater amount of
historical and psychological data than either of us has at our command.
Academies might make it a subject for a prize essay.

_Demop_. They will take care not to do that.

_Phil_. I am surprised to hear you say that, for it is a bad look-out
for religion. Besides, there are also academies which make it a secret
condition in submitting their questions that the prize should be given
to the competitor who best understands the art of flattering them. If
we, then, could only get a statistician to tell us how many crimes are
prevented yearly by religious motives, and how many by other motives.
There would be very few of the former. If a man feels himself tempted to
commit a crime, certainly the first thing which presents itself to his
mind is the punishment he must suffer for it, and the probability that
he will be punished; after that comes the second consideration, that his
reputation is at stake. If I am not mistaken, he will reflect by the
hour on these two obstacles before religious considerations ever come
into his mind. If he can get away from these two first safeguards
against crime, I am convinced that religion _alone_ will very rarely
keep him back from it.

_Demop_. I believe, however, that it will do so very often; especially
when its influence works through the medium of custom, and thereby
immediately makes a man shrink from the idea of committing a crime.
Early impressions cling to him. As an illustration of what I mean,
consider how many a man, and especially if he is of noble birth, will
often, in order to fulfil some promise, make great sacrifices, which are
instigated solely by the fact that his father has often impressed it
upon him in childhood that "a man of honour, or a gentleman, or a
cavalier, always keeps his word inviolate."

_Phil_. And that won't work unless there is a certain innate _probitas_.
You must not ascribe to religion what is the result of innate goodness
of character, by which pity for the one who would be affected by the
crime prevents a man from committing it. This is the genuine moral
motive, and as such it is independent of all religions.

_Demop_. But even this moral motive has no effect on the masses unless
it is invested with a religious motive, which, at any rate, strengthens
it. However, without any such natural foundation, religious motives
often in themselves alone prevent crime: this is not a matter of
surprise to us in the case of the multitude, when we see that even
people of good education sometimes come under the influence, not indeed
of religious motives, which fundamentally are at least allegorically
true, but of the most absurd superstitions, by which they are guided
throughout the whole of their lives; as, for instance, undertaking
nothing on a Friday, refusing to sit down thirteen at table, obeying
chance omens, and the like: how much more likely are the masses to be
guided by such things. You cannot properly conceive the great
limitations of the raw mind; its interior is entirely dark, especially
if, as is often the case, a bad, unjust, and wicked heart is its
foundation. Men like these, who represent the bulk of humanity, must be
directed and controlled meanwhile, as well as possible, even if it be by
really superstitious motives, until they become susceptible to truer and
better ones. Of the direct effect of religion, one may give as an
instance a common occurrence in Italy, namely, that of a thief being
allowed to replace what he has stolen through the medium of his
confessor, who makes this the condition of his absolution. Then think of
the case of an oath, where religion shows a most decided influence:
whether it be because a man places himself expressly in the position of
a mere _moral being_, and as such regards himself as solemnly appealed
to,--as seems to be the case in France, where the form of the oath is
merely "_je le jure_"; and among the Quakers, whose solemn "yea" or
"nay" takes the place of the oath;--or whether it is because a man
really believes he is uttering something that will forfeit his eternal
happiness,--a belief which is obviously only the investiture of the
former feeling. At any rate, religious motives are a means of awakening
and calling forth his moral nature. A man will frequently consent to
take a false oath, but suddenly refuse to do so when it comes to the
point; whereby truth and right come off victorious.

_Phil_. But false oaths are still oftener sworn, whereby truth and right
are trodden underfoot with the clear knowledge of all the witnesses of
the act. An oath is the jurist's metaphysical _pons asinorum_, and like
this should be used as seldom as ever possible. When it cannot be
avoided, it should be taken with great solemnity, always in the presence
of the clergy--nay, even in a church or in a chapel adjoining the court
of justice.... This is precisely why the French abstract formulary of
the oath is of no value. By the way, you are right to cite the oath as
an undeniable example of the practical efficacy of religion. I must, in
spite of everything you have said, doubt whether the efficacy of
religion goes much beyond this. Just think, if it were suddenly declared
by public proclamation that all criminal laws were abolished; I believe
that neither you nor I would have the courage to go home from here alone
under the protection of religious motives. On the other hand, if in a
similar way all religions were declared to be untrue; we would, under
the protection of the laws alone, live on as formerly, without any
special increase in our fears and measures of precaution. But I will
even go further: religions have very frequently a decidedly demoralising
influence. It may be said generally that duties towards God are the
reverse of duties towards mankind; and that it is very easy to make up
for lack of good behaviour towards men by adulation of God. Accordingly,
we see in all ages and countries that the great majority of mankind find
it much easier to beg admission into Heaven by prayers than to deserve
it by their actions. In every religion it soon comes to be proclaimed
that it is not so much moral actions as faith, ceremonies, and rites of
every kind that are the immediate objects of the Divine will; and indeed
the latter, especially if they are bound up with the emoluments of the
clergy, are considered a substitute for the former. The sacrifice of
animals in temples, or the saying of masses, the erection of chapels or
crosses by the roadside, are soon regarded as the most meritorious
works; so that even a great crime may be expiated by them, as also by
penance, subjection to priestly authority, confessions, pilgrimages,
donations to the temple and its priests, the building of monasteries and
the like; until finally the clergy appear almost only as mediators in
the corruption of the gods. And if things do not go so far as that,
where is the religion whose confessors do not consider prayers, songs of
praise, and various kinds of devotional exercise, at any rate, a partial
substitute for moral conduct? Look at England, for instance, where the
audacious priestcraft has mendaciously identified the Christian Sunday
with the Jewish Sabbath, in spite of the fact that it was ordained by
Constantine the Great in opposition to the Jewish Sabbath, and even took
its name, so that Jehovah's ordinances for the Sabbath--_i.e._, the day
on which the Almighty rested, tired after His six days' work, making it
therefore _essentially the last day_ of the week--might be conferred on
the Christian Sunday, the _dies solis_, the first day of the week which
the sun opens in glory, the day of devotion and joy. The result of this
fraud is that in England "Sabbath breaking," or the "desecration of the
Sabbath," that is, the slightest occupation, whether it be of a useful
or pleasurable nature, and any kind of game, music, knitting, or worldly
book, are on Sundays regarded as great sins. Must not the ordinary man
believe that if, as his spiritual guides impress upon him, he never
fails in a "strict observance of the holy Sabbath and a regular
attendance on Divine Service,"--in other words, if he invariably whiles
away his time on a Sunday, and never fails to sit two hours in church to
listen to the same Litany for the thousandth time, and to babble it with
the rest _a tempo_, he may reckon on indulgence in here and there little
sins which he at times allows himself? Those devils in human form, the
slave-owners and slave-traders in the Free States of North America (they
should be called the Slave States), are, in general, orthodox, pious
Anglicans, who look upon it as a great sin to work on Sundays; and
confident in this, and their regular attendance at church, they expect
to gain eternal happiness. The demoralising influence of religion is
less problematical than its moral influence. On the other hand, how
great and how certain that moral influence must be to make amends for
the horrors and misery which religions, especially the Christian and
Mohammedan religions, have occasioned and spread over the earth! Think
of the fanaticism, of the endless persecutions, the religious wars, that
sanguinary frenzy of which the ancients had no idea; then, think of the
Crusades, a massacre lasting two hundred years, and perfectly
unwarrantable, with its war-cry, _It is God's will_, so that it might
get into its possession the grave of one who had preached love and
endurance; think of the cruel expulsion and extermination of the Moors
and Jews from Spain; think of the massacres, of the inquisitions and
other heretical tribunals, the bloody and terrible conquests of the
Mohammedans in three different parts of the world, and the conquest of
the Christians in America, whose inhabitants were for the most part, and
in Cuba entirely, exterminated; according to Las Casas, within forty
years twelve million persons were murdered--of course, all _in majorem
Dei gloriam_, and for the spreading of the Gospel, and because,
moreover, what was not Christian was not looked upon as human. It is
true I have already touched upon these matters; but when in our day "the
Latest News from the Kingdom of God" is printed, we shall not be tired
of bringing older news to mind. And in particular, let us not forget
India, that sacred soil, that cradle of the human race, at any rate of
the race to which we belong, where first Mohammedans, and later
Christians, were most cruelly infuriated against the followers of the
original belief of mankind; and the eternally lamentable, wanton, and
cruel destruction and disfigurement of the most ancient temples and
images, still show traces of the monotheistic rage of the Mohammedans,
as it was carried on from Marmud the Ghaznevid of accursed memory, down
to Aureng Zeb, the fratricide, whom later the Portuguese Christians
faithfully tried to imitate by destroying the temples and the _auto da
f�_ of the inquisition at Goa. Let us also not forget the chosen people
of God, who, after they had, by Jehovah's express and special command,
stolen from their old and faithful friends in Egypt the gold and silver
vessels which had been lent to them, made a murderous and predatory
excursion into the Promised Land, with Moses at their head, in order to
tear it from the rightful owners, also at Jehovah's express and repeated
commands, knowing no compassion, and relentlessly murdering and
exterminating all the inhabitants, even the women and children (Joshua
x., xi.); just because they were not circumcised and did not know
Jehovah, which was sufficient reason to justify every act of cruelty
against them. For the same reason, in former times the infamous roguery
of the patriarch Jacob and his chosen people against Hamor, King of
Shalem, and his people is recounted to us with glory, precisely because
the people were unbelievers. Truly, it is the worst side of religions
that the believers of one religion consider themselves allowed
everything against the sins of every other, and consequently treat them
with the utmost viciousness and cruelty; the Mohammedans against the
Christians and Hindoos; the Christians against the Hindoos, Mohammedans,
Americans, Negroes, Jews, heretics, and the like. Perhaps I go too far
when I say _all_ religions; for in compliance with truth, I must add
that the fanatical horrors, arising from religion, are only perpetrated
by the followers of the monotheistic religions, that is, of Judaism and
its two branches, Christianity and Islamism. The same is not reported of
the Hindoos and Buddhists, although we know, for instance, that Buddhism
was driven out about the fifth century of our era by the Brahmans from
its original home in the southernmost part of the Indian peninsula, and
afterwards spread over the whole of Asia; yet we have, so far as I know,
no definite information of any deeds of violence, of wars and cruelties
by which this was brought about. This may, most certainly, be ascribed
to the obscurity in which the history of those countries is veiled; but
the extremely mild character of their religion, which continually
impresses upon us to be forbearing towards _every living thing_, as well
as the circumstance that Brahmanism properly admits no proselytes by
reason of its caste system, leads us to hope that its followers may
consider themselves exempt from shedding blood to any great extent, and
from cruelty in any form. Spence Hardy, in his excellent book on
_Eastern Monachism_, p. 412, extols the extraordinary tolerance of the
Buddhists, and adds his assurance that the annals of Buddhism furnish
fewer examples of religious persecution than those of any other
religion. As a matter of fact, intolerance is only essential to
monotheism: an only god is by his nature a jealous god, who cannot
permit any other god to exist. On the other hand, polytheistic gods are
by their nature tolerant: they live and let live; they willingly
tolerate their colleagues as being gods of the same religion, and this
tolerance is afterwards extended to alien gods, who are, accordingly,
hospitably received, and later on sometimes attain even the same rights
and privileges; as in the case of the Romans, who willingly accepted and
venerated Phrygian, Egyptian, and other foreign gods. Hence it is the
monotheistic religions alone that furnish us with religious wars,
persecutions, and heretical tribunals, and also with the breaking of
images, the destruction of idols of the gods; the overthrowing of Indian
temples and Egyptian colossi, which had looked on the sun three thousand
years; and all this because a jealous God had said: "_Thou shalt make no
graven image_," etc. To return to the principal part of the matter: you
are certainly right in advocating the strong metaphysical needs of
mankind; but religions appear to me to be not so much a satisfaction as
an abuse of those needs. At any rate we have seen that, in view of the
progress of morality, its advantages are for the most part
problematical, while its disadvantages, and especially the enormities
which have appeared in its train, are obvious. Of course the matter
becomes quite different if we consider the utility of religion as a
mainstay of thrones; for in so far as these are bestowed "by the grace
of God," altar and throne are closely related. Accordingly, every wise
prince who loves his throne and his family will walk before his people
as a type of true religion; just as even Machiavelli, in the eighteenth
chapter of his book, urgently recommended religion to princes. Moreover,
it may be added that revealed religions are related to philosophy,
exactly as the sovereigns by the grace of God are to the sovereignty of
the people; and hence the two former terms of the parallel are in
natural alliance.

_Demop_. Oh, don't adopt that tone! But consider that in doing so you
are blowing the trumpet of ochlocracy and anarchy, the arch-enemy of all
legislative order, all civilisation, and all humanity.

_Phil_. You are right. It was only a sophism, or what the fencing-master
calls a feint. I withdraw it therefore. But see how disputing can make
even honest men unjust and malicious. So let us cease.

_Demop_. It is true I regret, after all the trouble I have taken, that I
have not altered your opinion in regard to religion; on the other hand,
I can assure you that everything you have brought forward has not shaken
my conviction of its high value and necessity.

_Phil_. I believe you; for as it is put in Hudibras:

  "He that complies against his will
  Is of his own opinion still."

I find consolation, however, in the fact that in controversies and in
taking mineral waters, it is the after-effects that are the true ones.

_Demop_. I hope the after-effect may prove to be beneficial in your

_Phil_. That might be so if I could only digest a Spanish proverb.

_Demop_. And that is?

_Phil._ _Detras de la cruz est� el Diablo_.

_Demop_. Which means?

_Phil_ Wait--"Behind the cross stands the devil."

_Demop_. Come, don't let us separate from each other with sarcasms, but
rather let us allow that religion, like Janus, or, better still, like
the Brahman god of death, Yama, has two faces, and like him, one very
friendly and one very sullen. Each of us, however, has only fixed his
eyes on one.

_Phil_. You are right, old fellow.


[13] _De Anim. Mundi_, p. 104, d. Steph.


Every animal, and especially man, requires, in order to exist and get on
in the world, a certain fitness and proportion between his will and his
intellect. The more exact and true this fitness and proportion are by
nature, the easier, safer, and pleasanter it will be for him to get
through the world. At the same time, a mere approximation to this exact
point will protect him from destruction. There is, in consequence, a
certain scope within the limits of exactness and fitness of this
so-called proportion. The normal proportion is as follows. As the object
of the intellect is to be the light and guide of the will on its path,
the more violent, impetuous, and passionate the inner force of the will,
the more perfect and clear must be the intellect which belongs to it; so
that the ardent efforts of the will, the glow of passion, the vehemence
of affection, may not lead a man astray or drive him to do things that
he has not given his consideration or are wrong or will ruin him; which
will infallibly be the case when a very strong will is combined with a
very weak intellect. On the other hand, a phlegmatic character, that is
to say, a weak and feeble will, can agree and get on with little
intellect; a moderate will only requires a moderate intellect. In
general, any disproportion between the will and intellect--that is to
say, any deviation from the normal proportion referred to--tends to make
a man unhappy; and the same thing happens when the disproportion is
reversed. The development of the intellect to an abnormal degree of
strength and superiority, thereby making it out of all proportion to the
will, a condition which constitutes the essence of true genius, is not
only superfluous but actually an impediment to the needs and purposes of
life. This means that, in youth, excessive energy in grasping the
objective world, accompanied by a lively imagination and little
experience, makes the mind susceptible to exaggerated ideas and a prey
even to chimeras; and this results in an eccentric and even fantastic
character. And when, later, this condition of mind no longer exists and
succumbs to the teaching of experience, the genius will never feel so
much at home or take up his position in the everyday world or in civic
life, and move with the ease of a man of normal intellect; indeed, he is
often more apt to make curious mistakes. For the ordinary mind is so
perfectly at home in the narrow circle of its own ideas and way of
grasping things that no one can control it in that circle; its
capacities always remain true to their original purpose, namely, to look
after the service of the will; therefore it applies itself unceasingly
to this end without ever going beyond it. While the genius, as I have
stated, is at bottom a _monstrum per excessum_; just as conversely the
passionate, violent, and unintelligent man, the brainless savage, is a
_monstrum per dejectum_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _will_ to _live_, which forms the innermost kernel of every living
being, is most distinctly apparent in the highest, that is to say in the
cleverest, order of animals, and therefore in them we may see and
consider the nature of the will most clearly. For _below_ this order of
animals the will is not so prominent, and has a less degree of
objectivation; but _above_ the higher order of animals, I mean in men,
we get reason, and with reason reflection, and with this the faculty for
dissimulation, which immediately throws a veil over the actions of the
will. But in outbursts of affection and passion the will exhibits itself
unveiled. This is precisely why passion, when it speaks, always carries
conviction, whatever the passion may be; and rightly so. For the same
reason, the passions are the principal theme of poets and the
stalking-horse of actors. And it is because the will is most striking in
the lower class of animals that we may account for our delight in dogs,
apes, cats, etc.; it is the absolute _na�vet�_ of all their expressions
which charms us so much.

What a peculiar pleasure it affords us to see any free animal looking
after its own welfare unhindered, finding its food, or taking care of
its young, or associating with others of its kind, and so on! This is
exactly what ought to be and can be. Be it only a bird, I can look at it
for some time with a feeling of pleasure; nay, a water-rat or a frog,
and with still greater pleasure a hedgehog, a weazel, a roe, or a deer.
The contemplation of animals delights us so much, principally because we
see in them our own existence very _much simplified_.

There is only one mendacious creature in the world--man. Every other is
true and genuine, for it shows itself as it is, and expresses itself
just as it feels. An emblematical or allegorical expression of this
fundamental difference is to be found in the fact that all animals go
about in their natural state; this largely accounts for the happy
impression they make on us when we look at them; and as far as I myself
am concerned, my heart always goes out to them, particularly if they are
free animals. Man, on the other hand, by his silly dress becomes a
monster; his very appearance is objectionable, enhanced by the unnatural
paleness of his complexion,--the nauseating effect of his eating meat,
of his drinking alcohol, his smoking, dissoluteness, and ailments. He
stands out as a blot on Nature. And it was because the Greeks were
conscious of this that they restricted themselves as far as possible in
the matter of dress.

       *       *       *       *       *

Much that is attributed to _force of habit_ ought rather to be put down
to the constancy and immutability of original, innate character, whereby
we always do the _same_ thing under the same circumstances; which
happens the first as for the hundredth time in consequence of the same
necessity. While _force of habit_, in reality, is solely due to
_indolence_ seeking to save the intellect and will the work, difficulty,
and danger of making a fresh choice; so that we are made to do to-day
what we did yesterday and have done a hundred times before, and of which
we know that it will gain its end.

But the truth of the matter lies deeper; for it can be explained more
clearly than appears at first sight. The _power of inertia_ applied to
bodies which may be moved by mechanical means only, becomes _force of
habit_ when applied to bodies which are moved by motives. The actions
which we do out of sheer force of habit occur, as a matter of fact,
without any individual separate motive exercised for the particular
case; hence we do not really think of them. It was only when each action
at first took place that it had a motive; after that it became a habit;
the secondary after-effect of this motive is the present habit, which is
sufficient to carry on the action; just as a body, set in motion by a
push, does not need another push in order to enable it to continue its
motion; it will continue in motion for ever if it is not obstructed in
any way. The same thing applies to animals; training is a habit which is
forced upon them. The horse draws a cart along contentedly without being
urged to do so; this motion is still the effect of those lashes with the
whip which incited him at first, but which by the law of inertia have
become perpetuated as habit. There is really something more in all this
than a mere parable; it is the identity of the thing in question, that
is to say of the will, at very different degrees of its objectivation,
by which the same law of motion takes such different forms.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Viva muchos a�os!_ is the ordinary greeting in Spain, and it is usual
throughout the whole world to wish people a long life. It is not a
knowledge of what life is that explains the origin of such a wish, but
rather knowledge of what man is in his real nature: namely, _the will to

The wish which every one has, that he may be _remembered_ after his
death, and which those people with aspirations have for _posthumous_
fame, seems to me to arise from this tenacity to life. When they see
themselves cut off from every possibility of real existence they
struggle after a life which is still within their reach, even if it is
only an ideal--that is to say, an unreal one.

       *       *       *       *       *

We wish, more or less, to get to the end of everything we are interested
in or occupied with; we are impatient to get to the end of it, and glad
when it is finished. It is only the general end, the end of all ends,
that we wish, as a rule, as far off as possible.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every separation gives a foretaste of death, and every meeting a
foretaste of the resurrection. This explains why even people who were
indifferent to each other, rejoice so much when they meet again after
the lapse of twenty or thirty years.

       *       *       *       *       *

The deep sorrow we feel on the death of a friend springs from the
feeling that in every individual there is a something which we cannot
define, which is his alone and therefore _irreparable. Omne individuum
ineffabile_. The same applies to individual animals. A man who has by
accident fatally wounded a favourite animal feels the most acute sorrow,
and the animal's dying look causes him infinite pain.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is possible for us to grieve over the death of our enemies and
adversaries, even after the lapse of a long time, almost as much as over
the death of our friends--that is to say, if we miss them as witnesses
of our brilliant success.

       *       *       *       *       *

That the sudden announcement of some good fortune may easily have a
fatal effect on us is due to the fact that our happiness and unhappiness
depend upon the relation of our demands to what we get; accordingly, the
good things we possess, or are quite sure of possessing, are not felt to
be such, because the nature of all enjoyment is really only _negative_,
and has only the effect of annulling pain; whilst, on the other hand,
the nature of pain or evil is really positive and felt immediately. With
the possession, or the certain prospect of it, our demands instantly
rise and increase our desire for further possession and greater
prospects. But if the mind is depressed by continual misfortune, and the
claims reduced to a _minimum_, good fortune that comes suddenly finds no
capacity for its acceptance. Neutralised by no previous claims, it now
has apparently a positive effect, and accordingly its whole power is
exercised; hence it may disorganise the mind--that is to say, be fatal
to it. This is why, as is well known, one is so careful to get a man
first to hope for happiness before announcing it, then to suggest the
prospect of it, then little by little make it known, until gradually all
is known to him; every portion of the revelation loses the strength of
its effect because it is anticipated by a demand, and room is still left
for more. In virtue of all this, it might be said that our stomach for
good fortune is bottomless, but the entrance to it is narrow. What has
been said does not apply to sudden misfortunes in the same way. Since
hope always resists them, they are for this reason rarely fatal. That
fear does not perform an analogous office in cases of good fortune is
due to the fact that we are instinctively more inclined to hope than to
fear; just as our eyes turn of themselves to light in preference to

       *       *       *       *       *

_Hope_ is to confuse the desire that something should occur with the
probability that it will. Perhaps no man is free from this folly of the
heart, which deranges the intellect's correct estimation of probability
to such a degree as to make him think the event quite possible, even if
the chances are only a thousand to one. And still, an unexpected
misfortune is like a speedy death-stroke; while a hope that is always
frustrated, and yet springs into life again, is like death by slow

He who has given up hope has also given up fear; this is the meaning of
the expression _desperate_. It is natural for a man to have faith in
what he wishes, and to have faith in it because he wishes it. If this
peculiarity of his nature, which is both beneficial and comforting, is
eradicated by repeated hard blows of fate, and he is brought to a
converse condition, when he believes that something must happen because
he does not wish it, and what he wishes can never happen just because he
wishes it; this is, in reality, the state which has been called

       *       *       *       *       *

That we are so often mistaken in others is not always precisely due to
our faulty judgment, but springs, as a rule as Bacon says, from
_intellectus luminis sicci non est, sec recipit infusionem a voluntate
et affectibus_: for without knowing it, we are influenced for or against
them by trifles from the very beginning. It also often lies in the fact
that we do not adhere to the qualities which we really discover in them,
but conclude from these that there are others which we consider
inseparable from, or at any rate incompatible with, them. For instance,
when we discern generosity, we conclude there is honesty; from lying we
conclude there is deception; from deception, stealing, and so on; and
this opens the door to many errors, partly because of the peculiarity of
human nature, and partly because of the one-sidedness of our point of
view. It is true that character is always consistent and connected; but
the roots of all its qualities lies too deep to enable one to decide
from special data in a given case which qualities can, and which cannot
exist together.

       *       *       *       *       *

The use of the word _person_ in every European language to signify a
human individual is unintentionally appropriate; _persona_ really means
a player's mask, and it is quite certain that no one shows himself as he
is, but that each wears a mask and plays a _r�le_. In general, the whole
of social life is a continual comedy, which the worthy find insipid,
whilst the stupid delight in it greatly.

       *       *       *       *       *

It often happens that we blurt out things that may in some kind of way
be harmful to us, but we are silent about things that may make us look
ridiculous; because in this case effect follows very quickly on cause.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ordinary man who has suffered injustice burns with a desire for
revenge; and it has often been said that revenge is sweet. This is
confirmed by the many sacrifices made merely for the sake of enjoying
revenge, without any intention of making good the injury that one has
suffered. The centaur Nessus utilised his last moments in devising an
extremely clever revenge, and the fact that it was certain to be
effective sweetened an otherwise bitter death. The same idea, presented
in a more modern and plausible way, occurs in Bertolotti's novel, _Le
due Sorelle_ which has been translated into three languages. Walter
Scott expresses mankind's proneness to revenge in words as powerful as
they are true: "Vengeance is the sweetest morsel to the mouth that ever
was cooked in hell!" I shall now attempt a psychological explanation of
revenge. All the suffering that nature, chance, or fate have assigned to
us does not, _ceteris paribus_, pain us so much as suffering which is
brought upon us by the arbitrary will of another. This is due to the
fact that we regard nature and fate as the original rulers of the world;
we look upon what befalls us, through them, as something that might have
befallen every one else. Therefore in a case of suffering which arises
from this source, we bemoan the fate of mankind in general more than we
do our own. On the other hand, suffering inflicted on us through the
arbitrary will of another is a peculiarly bitter addition to the pain or
injury caused, as it involves the consciousness of another's
superiority, whether it be in strength or cunning, as opposed to our own
weakness. If compensation is possible, it wipes out the injury; but that
bitter addition, "I must submit to that from you," which often hurts
more than the injury itself, is only to be neutralised by vengeance. For
by injuring the man who has injured us, whether it be by force or
cunning, we show our superiority, and thereby annul the proof of his.
This gives that satisfaction to the mind for which it has been
thirsting. Accordingly, where there is much pride or vanity there will
be a great desire for revenge. But as the fulfilment of every wish
proves to be more or less a delusion, so is also the wish for revenge.
The expected enjoyment is mostly embittered by pity; nay, gratified
revenge will often lacerate the heart and torment the mind, for the
motive which prompts the feeling of it is no longer active, and what is
left is the testimony of our wickedness.

       *       *       *       *       *

The pain of an ungratified desire is small compared with that of
repentance; for the former has to face the immeasurable, open future;
the latter the past, which is closed irrevocably.

       *       *       *       *       *

Money is human happiness _in abstracto_; so that a man who is no longer
capable of enjoying it _in concrete_ gives up his whole heart to it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Moroseness and melancholy are very opposite in nature; and melancholy is
more nearly related to happiness than to moroseness. Melancholy
attracts; moroseness repels. Hypochondria not only makes us unreasonably
cross and angry over things concerning the present; not only fills us
with groundless fears of imaginative mishaps for the future; but also
causes us to unjustly reproach ourselves concerning our actions in the

Hypochondria causes a man to be always searching for and racking his
brain about things that either irritate or torment him. The cause of it
is an internal morbid depression, combined often with an inward
restlessness which is temperamental; when both are developed to their
utmost, suicide is the result.

       *       *       *       *       *

What makes a man hard-hearted is this, that each man has, or fancies he
has, sufficient in his own troubles to bear. This is why people placed
in happier circumstances than they have been used to are sympathetic and
charitable. But people who have always been placed in happy
circumstances are often the reverse; they have become so estranged to
suffering that they have no longer any sympathy with it; and hence it
happens that the poor sometimes show themselves more benevolent than the

On the other hand, what makes a man so very _curious_, as may be seen in
the way he will spy into other people's affairs, is boredom, a condition
which is diametrically opposed to suffering;--though envy also often
helps in creating curiosity.

       *       *       *       *       *

At times, it seems as though we wish for something, and at the same time
do not wish for it, so that we are at once both pleased and troubled
about it. For instance, if we have to undergo some decisive test in some
affair or other, in which to come off victorious is of great importance
to us; we both wish that the time to be tested were here, and yet dread
the idea of its coming. If it happens that the time, for once in a way,
is postponed, we are both pleased and sorry, for although the
postponement was unexpected, it, however, gives us momentary relief. We
have the same kind of feeling when we expect an important letter
containing some decision of moment, and it fails to come.

In cases like these we are really controlled by two different motives;
the stronger but more remote being the desire to stand the test, and to
have the decision given in our favour; the weaker, which is closer at
hand, the desire to be left in peace and undisturbed for the present,
and consequently in further enjoyment of the advantage that hoping on in
uncertainty has over what might possibly be an unhappy issue.
Consequently, in this case the same happens to our moral vision as to
our physical, when a smaller object near at hand conceals from view a
bigger object some distance away.

       *       *       *       *       *

The course and affairs of our individual life, in view of their true
meaning and connection, are like a piece of crude work in mosaic. So
long as one stands close in front of it, one cannot correctly see the
objects presented, or perceive their importance and beauty; it is only
by standing some distance away that both come into view. And in the same
way one often understands the true connection of important events in
one's own life, not while they are happening, or even immediately after
they have happened, but only a long time afterwards.

Is this so, because we require the magnifying power of imagination, or
because a general view can only be got by looking from a distance? or
because one's emotions would otherwise carry one away? or because it is
only the school of experience that ripens our judgment? Perhaps all
these combined. But it is certain that it is only after many years that
we see the actions of others, and sometimes even our own, in their true
light. And as it is in one's own life, so it is in history.

       *       *       *       *       *

Why is it, in spite of all the mirrors in existence, no man really knows
what he looks like, and, therefore, cannot picture in his mind his own
person as he pictures that of an acquaintance? This is a difficulty
which is thwarted at the very outset by _gnothi sauton--know thyself_.

This is undoubtedly partly due to the fact that a man can only see
himself in the glass by looking straight towards it and remaining quite
still; whereby the play of the eye, which is so important, and the real
characteristic of the face is, to a great extent, lost. But co-operating
with this physical impossibility, there appears to be an ethical
impossibility analogous to it. A man cannot regard the reflection of his
own face in the glass as if it were the face of _some one else_--which
is the condition of his seeing himself _objectively_. This objective
view rests with a profound feeling on the egoist's part, as a moral
being, that what he is looking at is _not himself_; which is requisite
for his perceiving all his defects as they really are from a purely
objective point of view; and not until, then can he see his face
reflected as it really and truly is. Instead of that, when a man sees
his own person in the glass the egoistic side of him always whispers,
_It is not somebody else, but I myself_, which has the effect of a _noli
me tangere_, and prevents his taking a purely objective view. Without
the leaven of a grain of malice, it does not seem possible to look at
oneself objectively.

       *       *       *       *       *

No one knows what capacities he possesses for suffering and doing until
an opportunity occurs to bring them into play; any more than he imagines
when looking into a perfectly smooth pond with a mirror-like surface,
that it can tumble and toss and rush from rock to rock, or leap as high
into the air as a fountain;--any more than in ice-cold water he suspects
latent warmth.

       *       *       *       *       *

That line of Ovid's,

  "_Pronaque cum spectent animalia cetera terram_,"

is only applicable in its true physical sense to animals; but in a
figurative and spiritual sense, unfortunately, to the great majority of
men too. Their thoughts and aspirations are entirely devoted to physical
enjoyment and physical welfare, or to various personal interests which
receive their importance from their relation to the former; but they
have no interests beyond these. This is not only shown in their way of
living and speaking, but also in their look, the expression of their
physiognomy, their gait and gesticulations; everything about them
proclaims _in terram prona!_ Consequently it is not to them, but only to
those nobler and more highly endowed natures, those men who really think
and observe things round them, and are the exceptions in the human race,
that the following lines are applicable:

  "_Os homini sublime dedit coelumque tueri
  Jussitt et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus_."

       *       *       *       *       *

Why is "_common_" an expression of contempt? And why are _"uncommon,"
"extraordinary," "distinguished,"_ expressions of approbation? Why is
everything that is common contemptible?

_Common_, in its original sense, means that which is peculiar and common
to the whole species, that is to say that which is innate in the
species. Accordingly, a man who has no more qualities than those of the
human species in general is a "_common man_" "Ordinary man" is a much
milder expression, and is used more in reference to what is
intellectual, while _common_ is used more in a moral sense.

What value can a being have that is nothing more than like millions of
its kind? Millions? Nay, an infinitude, an endless number of beings,
which Nature in _secula seculorum_ unceasingly sends bubbling forth from
her inexhaustible source; as generous with them as the smith with the
dross that flies round his anvil.

So it is evidently only right that a being which has no other qualities
than those of the species, should make no claim to any other existence
than that confined to and conditioned by the species.

I have already several times explained[14] that whilst animals have only
the generic character, it falls to man's share alone to have an
individual character. Nevertheless, in most men there is in reality very
little individual character; and they may be almost all classified. _Ce
sont des esp�ces_. Their desires and thoughts, like their faces, are
those of the whole species--at any rate, those of the class of men to
which they belong, and they are therefore of a trivial, common nature,
and exist in thousands. Moreover, as a rule one can tell pretty exactly
beforehand what they will say and do. They have no individual stamp:
they are like manufactured goods. If, then, their nature is absorbed in
that of the species, must not their existence be too? The curse of
vulgarity reduces man to the level of animals, for his nature and
existence are merged in that of the species only. It is taken for
granted that anything that is high, great, or noble by its very nature
stands isolated in a world where no better expression can be found to
signify what is base and paltry than the term which I have mentioned as
being generally used--namely, _common_.

       *       *       *       *       *

According as our intellectual energy is strained or relaxed will life
appear to us either so short, petty, and fleeting, that nothing can
happen of sufficient importance to affect our feelings; nothing is of
any importance to us--be it pleasure, riches, or even fame, and however
much we may have failed, we cannot have lost much; or _vice vers�,_ life
will appear so long, so important, so all in all, so grave, and so
difficult that we throw ourselves into it with our whole soul, so that
we may get a share of its possessions, make ourselves sure of its
prizes, and carry out our plans. The latter is the immanent view of
life; it is what Gracian means by his expression, _tomar muy de veras el
vivir_ (life is to be taken seriously); while for the former, the
transcendental view, Ovid's _non est tanti_ is a good expression;
Plato's a still better, οὔτε τι των ἀνθρωπινων ἀξιον ἑστι, μεγαλης
σπουδης (_nihil, in rebus humanis, magno studio dignum est_).

The former state of mind is the result of the intellect having gained
ascendency over consciousness, where, freed from the mere service of the
will, it grasps the phenomena of life objectively, and so cannot fail to
see clearly the emptiness and futility of it. On the other hand, it is
the _will_ that rules in the other condition of mind, and it is only
there to lighten the way to the object of its desires. A man is great or
small according to the predominance of one or the other of these views
of life.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is quite certain that many a man owes his life's happiness solely to
the circumstance that he possesses a pleasant smile, and so wins the
hearts of others. However, these hearts would do better to take care to
remember what Hamlet put down in his tablets--_that one may smile, and
smile, and be a villain_.

       *       *       *       *       *

People of great and brilliant capacities think little of admitting or
exposing their faults and weaknesses. They regard them as something for
which they have paid, and even are of the opinion that these weaknesses,
instead of being a disgrace to them, do them honour. This is especially
the case when they are errors that are inseparable from their brilliant
capacities--_conditiones sine quibus non_, or, as George Sand expressed
it, _chacun a les d�fauts de ses vertus_.

On the contrary, there are people of good character and irreproachable
minds, who, rather than admit their few little weaknesses, carefully
conceal them, and are very sensitive if any reference is made to them;
and this just because their whole merit consists in the absence of
errors and defects; and hence when these errors come to light they are
immediately held in less esteem.

       *       *       *       *       *

Modesty, in people of moderate ability, is merely honesty, but in people
of great talent it is hypocrisy. Hence it is just as becoming in the
latter to openly admit the regard they have for themselves, and not to
conceal the fact that they are conscious of possessing exceptional
capabilities, as it is in the former to be modest. Valerius Maximus
gives some very good examples of this in his chapter _de fiducia sui_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Man even surpasses all the lower order of animals in his capacity for
being trained. Mohammedans are trained to pray five times a day with
their faces turned towards Mecca; and they do it regularly. Christians
are trained to make the sign of the Cross on certain occasions, and to
bow, and so forth; so that religion on the whole is a real masterpiece
of training--that is to say, it trains people what they are to think;
and the training, as is well known, cannot begin too early. There is no
absurdity, however palpable it may be, which may not be fixed in the
minds of all men, if it is inculcated before they are six years old by
continual and earnest repetition. For it is the same with men as with
animals, to train them with perfect success one must begin when they are
very young.

Noblemen are trained to regard nothing more sacred than their word of
honour, to believe earnestly, rigidly, and firmly in the inane code of
knight-errantry, and if necessary to seal their belief by death, and to
look upon a king as a being of a higher order. Politeness and
compliments, and particularly our courteous attitude towards ladies, are
the result of training; and so is our esteem for birth, position, and
title. And so is our displeasure at certain expressions directed against
us, our displeasure being proportionate to the expression used. The
Englishman has been trained to consider his being called no gentleman a
crime worthy of death--a liar, a still greater crime; and so, the
Frenchman, if he is called a coward; a German, if he is called a stupid.
Many people are trained to be honest in some particular direction,
whilst in everything else they exhibit very little honesty; so that many
a man will not steal money, but he will steal everything that will
afford him enjoyment in an indirect way. Many a shopkeeper will deceive
without scruple, but he will on no condition whatever steal.

       *       *       *       *       *

The doctor sees mankind in all its weakness; the lawyer in all its
wickedness; the theologian in all its stupidity.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Opinion_ obeys the same law as the swing of the pendulum: if it goes
beyond the centre of gravity on one side, it must go as far beyond on
the other. It is only after a time that it finds the true point of rest
and remains stationary.

       *       *       *       *       *

Distance in space decreases the size of things, for it contracts them
and so makes their defects and deficiencies disappear. This is why
everything looks so much finer in a contracting mirror or in a _camera
obscura_ than it is in reality; and the past is affected in the same way
in the course of time. The scenes and events that happened long ago, as
well as the persons who took part in them, become a delight to the
memory, which ignores everything that is immaterial and disagreeable.
The present possesses no such advantage; it always seems to be
defective. And in space, small objects near at hand appear to be big,
and if they are very near, they cover the whole of our field of vision;
but as soon as we stand some little distance away they become minute and
finally invisible. And so it is with time: the little affairs and
misfortunes of everyday life excite in us emotion, anxiety, vexation,
passion, for so long as they are quite near us, they appear big,
important, and considerable; but as soon as the inexhaustible stream of
time has carried them into the distance they become unimportant; they
are not worth remembering and are soon forgotten, because their
importance merely consisted in being near.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is only now and then that a man learns something; but he forgets the
whole day long.

Our memory is like a sieve, that with time and use holds less and less;
in so far, namely, as the older we get, the quicker anything we have
entrusted to our memory slips through it, while anything that was fixed
firmly in it, when we were young, remains. This is why an old man's
recollections are the clearer the further they go back, and the less
clear the nearer they approach the present; so that his memory, like his
eyes, becomes long-sighted (πρεσβυς).

That sometimes, and apparently without any reason, long-forgotten scenes
suddenly come into the memory, is, in many cases, due to the recurrence
of a scarcely perceptible odour, of which we were conscious when those
scenes actually took place; for it is well known that odours more easily
than anything else awaken memories, and that, in general, something of
an extremely trifling nature is all that is necessary to call up a
_nexus idearum_.

And by the way, I may say that the sense of sight has to do with the
understanding,[15] the sense of hearing with reason,[16] and the sense
of smell with memory, as we see in the present case. Touch and taste are
something real, and dependent on contact; they have no ideal side.

       *       *       *       *       *

Memory has also this peculiarity attached to it, that a slight state of
intoxication very often enhances the remembrance of past times and
scenes, whereby all the circumstances connected with them are recalled
more distinctly than they could be in a state of sobriety; on the other
hand, the recollection of what one said or did while in a state of
intoxication is less clear than usual, nay, one does not recollect at
all if one has been very drunk. Therefore, intoxication enhances one's
recollection of the past, while, on the other hand, one remembers little
of the present, while in that state.

       *       *       *       *       *

That arithmetic is the basest of all mental activities is proved by the
fact that it is the only one that can be accomplished by means of a
machine. Take, for instance, the reckoning machines that are so commonly
used in England at the present time, and solely for the sake of
convenience. But all _analysis finitorum et infinitorum_ is
fundamentally based on calculation. Therefore we may gauge the "profound
sense of the mathematician," of whom Lichtenberg has made fun, in that
he says: "These so-called professors of mathematics have taken advantage
of the ingenuousness of other people, have attained the credit of
possessing profound sense, which strongly resembles the theologians'
profound sense of their own holiness."

       *       *       *       *       *

As a rule, people of very great capacities will get on better with a man
of extremely limited intelligence than with a man of ordinary
intelligence; and it is for the same reason that the despot and the
plebeians, the grandparents and the grandchildren, are natural allies.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am not surprised that people are bored when they are alone; they
cannot laugh when they are alone, for such a thing seems foolish to
them. Is laughter, then, to be regarded as merely a signal for others, a
mere sign, like a word? It is a want of imagination and dulness of mind
generally (ἀναισθησια και βραδυτης ψυχης), as Theophrastus puts it, that
prevents people from laughing when they are alone. The lower animals
neither laugh when they are alone nor in company.

Nyson, the misanthropist, was surprised as he was laughing to himself by
one of these people, who asked him why he laughed when he was alone.
"That is just why I was laughing," was the answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

People who do not go to the theatre are like those who make their toilet
without a looking-glass;--but it is still worse to come to a decision
without seeking the advice of a friend. For a man may have the most
correct and excellent judgment in everything else but in his own
affairs; because here the will at once deranges the intellect. Therefore
a man should seek counsel. A doctor can cure every one but himself; this
is why he calls in a colleague when he is ill.

       *       *       *       *       *

The natural gesticulation of everyday life, such as accompanies any kind
of lively conversation, is a language of its own, and, moreover, is much
more universal than the language of words; so far as it is independent
of words, and the same in all nations; although each nation makes use of
gesticulation in proportion to its vivacity, and in individual nations,
the Italian, for instance, it is supplemented by some few gesticulations
which are merely conventional, and have therefore only local value.

Its universal use is analogous to logic and grammar, since it expresses
the form and not the matter of conversation. However, it is to be
distinguished from them since it has not only an intellectual relation
but also a moral--that is, it defines the movements of the will. And so
it accompanies conversation, just as a correctly progressive bass
accompanies a melody, and serves in the same way to enhance the effect.
The most interesting fact about gesticulation is that as soon as
conversation assumes the same _form_ there is a repetition of the same
gesture. This is the case, however varied the _matter_, that is to say,
the subject-matter, may be. So that I am able to understand quite well
the general nature of a conversation--in other words, the mere form and
type of it, while looking out of a window--without hearing a word
spoken. It is unmistakably evident that the speaker is arguing,
advancing his reasons, then modifying them, then urging them, and
drawing his conclusion in triumph; or it may be he is relating some
wrong that he has suffered, plainly depicting in strong and condemnatory
language the stupidity and stubbornness of his opponents; or he is
speaking of the splendid plan he has thought out and put in execution,
explaining how it became a success, or perhaps failed because fate was
unfavourable; or perhaps he is confessing that he was powerless to act
in the matter in question; or recounting that he noticed and saw
through, in good time, the evil schemes that had been organised against
him, and by asserting his rights or using force frustrated them and
punished their author; and a hundred other things of a similar kind. But
what gesticulation alone really conveys to me is the essential
matter--be it of a moral or intellectual nature--of the whole
conversation _in abstracto_. That is to say the quintessence, the true
substance of the conversation, remains identical whatever has brought
about the conversation, and consequently whatever the subject-matter of
it may be.

The most interesting and amusing part of the matter, as has been said,
is the complete identity of the gestures for denoting the same kind of
circumstances, even if they are used by most diverse people; just as the
words of a language are alike for every one and liable to such
modifications as are brought about by a slight difference in accent or
education. And yet these standing forms of gesticulation which are
universally observed are certainly the outcome of no convention; they
are natural and original, a true language of nature, which may have been
strengthened by imitation and custom. It is incumbent on an actor, as is
well known, and on a public speaker, to a less extent, to make a careful
study of gesture--a study which must principally consist in the
observation and imitation of others, for the matter cannot very well be
based on abstract rules; with the exception of some quite general
leading principles--as, for instance, that the gesture must not follow
the word, but rather immediately precede it, in order to announce it and
thereby rouse attention.

The English have a peculiar contempt for gesticulation, and regard it as
something undignified and common; this seems to me to be only one of
those silly prejudices of English fastidiousness. For it is a language
which nature has given to every one and which every one understands;
therefore to abolish and forbid it for no other reason than to gratify
that so much extolled, gentlemanly feeling, is a very dubious thing to

       *       *       *       *       *

The state of human happiness, for the most part, is like certain groups
of trees, which seen from a distance look wonderfully fine; but if we go
up to them and among them, their beauty disappears; we do not know
wherein it lay, for it is only trees that surround us. And so it happens
that we often envy the position of others.


[14] _Grundpr. der Ethik_, p. 48; _Welt als Wille und Vorstellung_, vol.
i. p. 338.

[15] _Vierfache Wurzel_, � 21.

[16] _Pererga_, vol. ii. � 311.


We are accustomed to see poets principally occupied with describing the
love of the sexes. This, as a rule, is the leading idea of every
dramatic work, be it tragic or comic, romantic or classic, Indian or
European. It in no less degree constitutes the greater part of both
lyric and epic poetry, especially if in these we include the host of
romances which have been produced every year for centuries in every
civilised country in Europe as regularly as the fruits of the earth. All
these works are nothing more than many-sided, short, or long
descriptions of the passion in question. Moreover, the most successful
delineations of love, such, for example, as _Romeo and Juliet, La
Nouvelle H�loise_, and _Werther_, have attained immortal fame.

Rochefoucauld says that love may be compared to a ghost since it is
something we talk about but have never seen, and Lichtenberg, in his
essay _Ueber die Macht der Liebe_, disputes and denies its reality and
naturalness--but both are in the wrong. For if it were foreign to and
contradicted human nature--in other words, if it were merely an
imaginary caricature, it would not have been depicted with such zeal by
the poets of all ages, or accepted by mankind with an unaltered
interest; for anything artistically beautiful cannot exist without

  "_Rien n'est beau que le vrai; le vrai seul est aimable_."--BOIL.

Experience, although not that of everyday, verifies that that which as a
rule begins only as a strong and yet controllable inclination, may
develop, under certain conditions, into a passion, the ardour of which
surpasses that of every other. It will ignore all considerations,
overcome all kinds of obstacles with incredible strength and
persistence. A man, in order to have his love gratified, will
unhesitatingly risk his life; in fact, if his love is absolutely
rejected, he will sacrifice his life into the bargain. The Werthers and
Jacopo Ortis do not only exist in romances; Europe produces every year
at least half-a-dozen like them: _sed ignotis perierunt mortibus illi_:
for their sufferings are chronicled by the writer of official registers
or by the reporters of newspapers. Indeed, readers of the police news in
English and French newspapers will confirm what I have said.

Love drives a still greater number of people into the lunatic asylum.
There is a case of some sort every year of two lovers committing suicide
together because material circumstances happen to be unfavourable to
their union. By the way, I cannot understand how it is that such people,
who are confident of each other's love, and expect to find their
greatest happiness in the enjoyment of it, do not avoid taking extreme
steps, and prefer suffering every discomfort to sacrificing with their
lives a happiness which is greater than any other they can conceive. As
far as lesser phases and passages of love are concerned, all of us have
them daily before our eyes, and, if we are not old, the most of us in
our hearts.

After what has been brought to mind, one cannot doubt either the reality
or importance of love. Instead, therefore, of wondering why a
philosopher for once in a way writes on this subject, which has been
constantly the theme of poets, rather should one be surprised that love,
which always plays such an important _r�le_ in a man's life, has
scarcely ever been considered at all by philosophers, and that it still
stands as material for them to make use of.

Plato has devoted himself more than any one else to the subject of love,
especially in the _Symposium_ and the _Phaedrus_; what he has said about
it, however, comes within the sphere of myth, fable, and raillery, and
only applies for the most part to the love of a Greek youth. The little
that Rousseau says in his _Discours sur l'in�galit�_ is neither true nor
satisfactory. Kant's disquisition on love in the third part of his
treatise, _Ueber das Gef�hl des Sch�nen und Erhabenen_, is very
superficial; it shows that he has not thoroughly gone into the subject,
and therefore it is somewhat untrue. Finally, Platner's treatment of it
in his _Anthropology_ will be found by every one to be insipid and

To amuse the reader, on the other hand, Spinoza's definition deserves to
be quoted because of its exuberant na�vet�: _Amor est titillatio,
concomitante idea causae externae_ (_Eth._ iv., prop. 44). It is not my
intention to be either influenced or to contradict what has been written
by my predecessors; the subject has forced itself upon me objectively,
and has of itself become inseparable from my consideration of the world.
Moreover, I shall expect least approval from those people who are for
the moment enchained by this passion, and in consequence try to express
their exuberant feelings in the most sublime and ethereal images. My
view will seem to them too physical, too material, however metaphysical,
nay, transcendent it is fundamentally.

First of all let them take into consideration that the creature whom
they are idealising to-day in madrigals and sonnets would have been
ignored almost entirely by them if she had been born eighteen years

Every kind of love, however ethereal it may seem to be, springs entirely
from the instinct of sex; indeed, it is absolutely this instinct, only
in a more definite, specialised, and perhaps, strictly speaking, more
individualised form. If, bearing this in mind, one considers the
important _r�le_ which love plays in all its phases and degrees, not
only in dramas and novels, but also in the real world, where next to
one's love of life it shows itself as the strongest and most active of
all motives; if one considers that it constantly occupies half the
capacities and thoughts of the younger part of humanity, and is the
final goal of almost every human effort; that it influences adversely
the most important affairs; that it hourly disturbs the most earnest
occupations; that it sometimes deranges even the greatest intellects for
a time; that it is not afraid of interrupting the transactions of
statesmen or the investigations of men of learning; that it knows how to
leave its love-letters and locks of hair in ministerial portfolios and
philosophical manuscripts; that it knows equally well how to plan the
most complicated and wicked affairs, to dissolve the most important
relations, to break the strongest ties; that life, health, riches, rank,
and happiness are sometimes sacrificed for its sake; that it makes the
otherwise honest, perfidious, and a man who has been hitherto faithful a
betrayer, and, altogether, appears as a hostile demon whose object is to
overthrow, confuse, and upset everything it comes across: if all this is
taken into consideration one will have reason to ask--"Why is there all
this noise? Why all this crowding, blustering, anguish, and want? Why
should such a trifle play so important a part and create disturbance and
confusion in the well-regulated life of mankind?" But to the earnest
investigator the spirit of truth gradually unfolds the answer: it is not
a trifle one is dealing with; the importance of love is absolutely in
keeping with the seriousness and zeal with which it is prosecuted. The
ultimate aim of all love-affairs, whether they be of a tragic or comic
nature, is really more important than all other aims in human life, and
therefore is perfectly deserving of that profound seriousness with which
it is pursued.

As a matter of fact, love determines nothing less than the
_establishment of the next generation_. The existence and nature of the
_dramatis personae_ who come on to the scene when we have made our exit
have been determined by some frivolous love-affair. As the being, the
_existentia_ of these future people is conditioned by our instinct of
sex in general, so is the nature, the _essentia_, of these same people
conditioned by the selection that the individual makes for his
satisfaction, that is to say, by love, and is thereby in every respect
irrevocably established. This is the key of the problem. In applying it,
we shall understand it more fully if we analyse the various degrees of
love, from the most fleeting sensation to the most ardent passion; we
shall then see that the difference arises from the degree of
individualisation of the choice. All the love-affairs of the present
generation taken altogether are accordingly the _meditatio compositionis
generationis futurae, e qua iterum pendent innumerae generationes_ of
mankind. Love is of such high import, because it has nothing to do with
the weal or woe of the present individual, as every other matter has; it
has to secure the existence and special nature of the human race in
future times; hence the will of the individual appears in a higher
aspect as the will of the species; and this it is that gives a pathetic
and sublime import to love-affairs, and makes their raptures and
troubles transcendent, emotions which poets for centuries have not tired
of depicting in a variety of ways. There is no subject that can rouse
the same interest as love, since it concerns both the weal and woe of
the species, and is related to every other which only concerns the
welfare of the individual as body to surface.

This is why it is so difficult to make a drama interesting if it
possesses no love motive; on the other hand, the subject is never
exhausted, although it is constantly being utilised.

What manifests itself in the individual consciousness as instinct of sex
in general, without being concentrated on any particular individual, is
very plainly in itself, in its generalised form, the will to live. On
the other hand, that which appears as instinct of sex directed to a
certain individual, is in itself the will to live as a definitely
determined individual. In this case the instinct of sex very cleverly
wears the mask of objective admiration, although in itself it is a
subjective necessity, and is, thereby, deceptive. Nature needs these
stratagems in order to accomplish her ends. The purpose of every man in
love, however objective and sublime his admiration may appear to be, is
to beget a being of a definite nature, and that this is so, is verified
by the fact that it is not mutual love but possession that is the
essential. Without possession it is no consolation to a man to know that
his love is requited. In fact, many a man has shot himself on finding
himself in such a position. On the other hand, take a man who is very
much in love; if he cannot have his love returned he is content simply
with possession. Compulsory marriages and cases of seduction corroborate
this, for a man whose love is not returned frequently finds consolation
in giving handsome presents to a woman, in spite of her dislike, or
making other sacrifices, so that he may buy her favour.

The real aim of the whole of love's romance, although the persons
concerned are unconscious of the fact, is that a particular being may
come into the world; and the way and manner in which it is accomplished
is a secondary consideration. However much those of lofty sentiments,
and especially of those in love, may refute the gross realism of my
argument, they are nevertheless in the wrong. For is not the aim of
definitely determining the individualities of the next generation a much
higher and nobler aim than that other, with its exuberant sensations and
transcendental soap-bubbles? Among all earthly aims is there one that is
either more important or greater? It alone is in keeping with that
deep-rooted feeling inseparable from passionate love, with that
earnestness with which it appears, and the importance which it attaches
to the trifles that come within its sphere. It is only in so far as we
regard _this_ end as the real one that the difficulties encountered, the
endless troubles and vexations endured, in order to attain the object we
love, appear to be in keeping with the matter. For it is the future
generation in its entire individual determination which forces itself
into existence through the medium of all this strife and trouble.
Indeed, the future generation itself is already stirring in the careful,
definite, and apparently capricious selection for the satisfaction of
the instinct of sex which we call love. That growing affection of two
lovers for each other is in reality the will to live of the new being,
of which they shall become the parents; indeed, in the meeting of their
yearning glances the life of a new being is kindled, and manifests
itself as a well-organised individuality of the future. The lovers have
a longing to be really united and made one being, and to live as such
for the rest of their lives; and this longing is fulfilled in the
children born to them, in whom the qualities inherited from both, but
combined and united in one being, are perpetuated. Contrarily, if a man
and woman mutually, persistently, and decidedly dislike each other, it
indicates that they could only bring into the world a badly organised,
discordant, and unhappy being. Therefore much must be attached to
Calderon's words, when he calls the horrible Semiramis a daughter of the
air, yet introduces her as a daughter of seduction, after which follows
the murder of the husband.

Finally, it is the will to live presenting itself in the whole species,
which so forcibly and exclusively attracts two individuals of different
sex towards each other. This will anticipates in the being, of which
they shall become the parents, an objectivation of its nature
corresponding to its aims. This individual will inherit the father's
will and character, the mother's intellect, and the constitution of
both. As a rule, however, an individual takes more after the father in
shape and the mother in stature, corresponding to the law which applies
to the offspring of animals.... It is impossible to explain the
individuality of each man, which is quite exceptional and peculiar to
him alone; and it is just as impossible to explain the passion of two
people for each other, for it is equally individual and uncommon in
character; indeed, fundamentally both are one and the same. The former
is _explicite_ what the latter was _implicite_.

We must consider as the origin of a new individual and true _punctum
saliens_ of its life the moment when the parents begin to love each
other--_to fancy each other_, as the English appropriately express it.
And, as has been said, in the meeting of their longing glances
originates the first germ of a new being, which, indeed, like all germs,
is generally crushed out. This new individual is to a certain extent a
new (Platonic) Idea; now, as all Ideas strive with the greatest
vehemence to enter the phenomenal sphere, and to do this, ardently seize
upon the matter which the law of causality distributes among them all,
so this particular Idea of a human individuality struggles with the
greatest eagerness and vehemence for its realisation in the phenomenal.
It is precisely this vehement desire which is the passion of the future
parents for one another. Love has countless degrees, and its two
extremes may be indicated as Ἀφροδιτη πανδημος and οὐρανια;
nevertheless, in essentials it is the same everywhere.

According to the degree, on the other hand, it will be the more powerful
the more _individualised_ it is--that is to say, the more the loved
individual, by virtue of all her qualities, is exclusively fit to
satisfy the lover's desire and needs determined by her own
individuality. If we investigate further we shall understand more
clearly what this involves. All amorous feeling immediately and
essentially concentrates itself on health, strength, and beauty, and
consequently on youth; because the will above all wishes to exhibit the
specific character of the human species as the basis of all
individuality. The same applies pretty well to everyday courtship
(Ἀφροδιτη πανδημος). With this are bound up more special requirements,
which we will consider individually later on, and with which, if there
is any prospect of gratification, there is an increase of passion.
Intense love, however, springs from a fitness of both individualities
for each other; so that the will, that is to say the father's character
and the mother's intellect combined, exactly complete that individual
for which the will to live in general (which exhibits itself in the
whole species) has a longing--a longing proportionate to this its
greatness, and therefore surpassing the measure of a mortal heart; its
motives being in a like manner beyond the sphere of the individual
intellect. This, then, is the soul of a really great passion. The more
perfectly two individuals are fitted for each other in the various
respects which we shall consider further on, the stronger will be their
passion for each other. As there are not two individuals exactly alike,
a particular kind of woman must perfectly correspond with a particular
kind of man--always in view of the child that is to be born. Real,
passionate love is as rare as the meeting of two people exactly fitted
for each other. By the way, it is because there is a possibility of real
passionate love in us all that we understand why poets have depicted it
in their works.

Because the kernel of passionate love turns on the anticipation of the
child to be born and its nature, it is quite possible for friendship,
without any admixture of sexual love, to exist between two young,
good-looking people of different sex, if there is perfect fitness of
temperament and intellectual capacity. In fact, a certain aversion for
each other may exist also. The reason of this is that a child begotten
by them would physically or mentally have discordant qualities. In
short, the child's existence and nature would not be in harmony with the
purposes of the will to live as it presents itself in the species.

In an opposite case, where there is no fitness of disposition,
character, and mental capacity, whereby aversion, nay, even enmity for
each other exists, it is possible for love to spring up. Love of this
kind makes them blind to everything; and if it leads to marriage it is a
very unhappy one.

And now let us more thoroughly investigate the matter. Egoism is a
quality so deeply rooted in every personality that it is on egotistical
ends only that one may safely rely in order to rouse the individual to

To be sure, the species has a prior, nearer, and greater claim on the
individual than the transient individuality itself; and yet even when
the individual makes some sort of conscious sacrifice for the
perpetuation and future of the species, the importance of the matter
will not be made sufficiently comprehensible to his intellect, which is
mainly constituted to regard individual ends.

Therefore Nature attains her ends by implanting in the individual a
certain illusion by which something which is in reality advantageous to
the species alone seems to be advantageous to himself; consequently he
serves the latter while he imagines he is serving himself. In this
process he is carried away by a mere chimera, which floats before him
and vanishes again immediately, and as a motive takes the place of
reality. _This illusion is instinct_. In most instances instinct may be
regarded as the sense of the species which presents to the will whatever
is of service to the species. But because the will has here become
individual it must be deceived in such a manner for it to discern by the
sense of the _individual_ what the sense of the species has presented to
it; in other words, imagine it is pursuing ends concerning the
individual, when in reality it is pursuing merely general ends (using
the word general in its strictest sense).

Outward manifestation of instinct can be best observed in animals, where
the part it plays is most significant; but it is in ourselves alone that
we can get to know its internal process, as of everything internal. It
is true, it is thought that man has scarcely any instinct at all, or at
any rate has only sufficient instinct when he is born to seek and take
his mother's breast. But as a matter of fact man has a very decided,
clear, and yet complicated instinct--namely, for the selection, both
earnest and capricious, of another individual, to satisfy his instinct
of sex. The beauty or ugliness of the other individual has nothing
whatever to do with this satisfaction in itself, that is in so far as it
is a matter of pleasure based upon a pressing desire of the individual.
The regard, however, for this satisfaction, which is so zealously
pursued, as well as the careful selection it entails, has obviously
nothing to do with the chooser himself, although he fancies that it has.
Its real aim is the child to be born, in whom the type of the species is
to be preserved in as pure and perfect a form as possible. For instance,
different phases of degeneration of the human form are the consequences
of a thousand physical accidents and moral delinquencies; and yet the
genuine type of the human form is, in all its parts, always restored;
further, this is accomplished under the guidance of the sense of beauty,
which universally directs the instinct of sex, and without which the
satisfaction of the latter would deteriorate to a repulsive necessity.

Accordingly, every one in the first place will infinitely prefer and
ardently desire those who are most beautiful--in other words, those in
whom the character of the species is most purely defined; and in the
second, every one will desire in the other individual those perfections
which he himself lacks, and he will consider imperfections, which are
the reverse of his own, beautiful. This is why little men prefer big
women, and fair people like dark, and so on. The ecstasy with which a
man is filled at the sight of a beautiful woman, making him imagine that
union with her will be the greatest happiness, is simply the _sense of
the species_. The preservation of the type of the species rests on this
distinct preference for beauty, and this is why beauty has such power.

We will later on more fully state the considerations which this
involves. It is really instinct aiming at what is best in the species
which induces a man to choose a beautiful woman, although the man
himself imagines that by so doing he is only seeking to increase his own
pleasure. As a matter of fact, we have here an instructive solution of
the secret nature of all instinct which almost always, as in this case,
prompts the individual to look after the welfare of the species. The
care with which an insect selects a certain flower or fruit, or piece of
flesh, or the way in which the ichneumon seeks the larva of a strange
insect so that it may lay its eggs in _that particular place only_, and
to secure which it fears neither labour nor danger, is obviously very
analogous to the care with which a man chooses a woman of a definite
nature individually suited to him. He strives for her with such ardour
that he frequently, in order to attain his object, will sacrifice his
happiness in life, in spite of all reason, by a foolish marriage, by
some love-affair which costs him his fortune, honour, and life, even by
committing crimes. And all this in accordance with the will of nature
which is everywhere sovereign, so that he may serve the species in the
most efficient manner, although he does so at the expense of the

Instinct everywhere works as with the conception of an end, and yet it
is entirely without one. Nature implants instinct where the acting
individual is not capable of understanding the end, or would be
unwilling to pursue it. Consequently, as a rule, it is only given
prominently to animals, and in particular to those of the lowest order,
which have the least intelligence. But it is only in such a case as the
one we are at present considering that it is also given to man, who
naturally is capable of understanding the end, but would not pursue it
with the necessary zeal--that is to say, he would not pursue it at the
cost of his individual welfare. So that here, as in all cases of
instinct, truth takes the form of illusion in order to influence the

All this, however, on its part throws light upon the instinct of
animals. They, too, are undoubtedly carried away by a kind of illusion,
which represents that they are working for their own pleasure, while it
is for the species that they are working with such industry and
self-denial. The bird builds its nest; the insect seeks a suitable place
wherein to lay its eggs, or even hunts for prey, which it dislikes
itself, but which must be placed beside the eggs as food for the future
larvae; the bee, the wasp, and the ant apply themselves to their skilful
building and extremely complex economy. All of them are undoubtedly
controlled by an illusion which conceals the service of the species
under the mask of an egotistical purpose.

This is probably the only way in which to make the inner or subjective
process, from which spring all manifestations of instinct, intelligible
to us. The outer or objective process, however, shows in animals
strongly controlled by instinct, as insects for instance, a
preponderance of the ganglion--_i.e., subjective_ nervous system over
the _objective_ or cerebral system. From which it may be concluded that
they are controlled not so much by objective and proper apprehension as
by subjective ideas, which excite desire and arise through the influence
of the ganglionic system upon the brain; accordingly they are moved by a
certain illusion....

The great preponderance of brain in man accounts for his having fewer
instincts than the lower order of animals, and for even these few easily
being led astray. For instance, the sense of beauty which instinctively
guides a man in his selection of a mate is misguided when it degenerates
into the proneness to pederasty. Similarly, the blue-bottle (_Musca
vomitoria_), which instinctively ought to place its eggs in putrified
flesh, lays them in the blossom of the _Arum dracunculus_, because it is
misled by the decaying odour of this plant. That an absolutely generic
instinct is the foundation of all love of sex may be confirmed by a
closer analysis of the subject--an analysis which can hardly be avoided.

In the first place, a man in love is by nature inclined to be
inconstant, while a woman constant. A man's love perceptibly decreases
after a certain period; almost every other woman charms him more than
the one he already possesses; he longs for change: while a woman's love
increases from the very moment it is returned. This is because nature
aims at the preservation of the species, and consequently at as great an
increase in it as possible.... This is why a man is always desiring
other women, while a woman always clings to one man; for nature compels
her intuitively and unconsciously to take care of the supporter and
protector of the future offspring. For this reason conjugal fidelity is
artificial with the man but natural to a woman. Hence a woman's
infidelity, looked at objectively on account of the consequences, and
subjectively on account of its unnaturalness, is much more unpardonable
than a man's.

In order to be quite clear and perfectly convinced that the delight we
take in the other sex, however objective it may seem to be, is
nevertheless merely instinct disguised, in other words, the sense of the
species striving to preserve its type, it will be necessary to
investigate more closely the considerations which influence us in this,
and go into details, strange as it may seem for these details to figure
in a philosophical work. These considerations may be classed in the
following way:--

Those that immediately concern the type of the species, _id est_,
beauty; those that concern other physical qualities; and finally, those
that are merely relative and spring from the necessary correction or
neutralisation of the one-sided qualities and abnormities of the two
individuals by each other. Let us look at these considerations

The first consideration that influences our choice and feelings is

The second consideration is that of _health_: a severe illness may alarm
us for the time being, but an illness of a chronic nature or even
cachexy frightens us away, because it would be transmitted.

The third consideration is the _skeleton_, since it is the foundation of
the type of the _species_. Next to old age and disease, nothing disgusts
us so much as a deformed shape; even the most beautiful face cannot make
amends for it--in fact, the ugliest face combined with a well-grown
shape is infinitely preferable. Moreover, we are most keenly sensible of
every malformation of the _skeleton_; as, for instance, a stunted,
short-legged form, and the like, or a limping gait when it is not the
result of some extraneous accident: while a conspicuously beautiful
figure compensates for every defect. It delights us. Further, the great
importance which is attached to small feet! This is because the size of
the foot is an essential characteristic of the species, for no animal
has the tarsus and metatarsus combined so small as man; hence the
uprightness of his gait: he is a plantigrade. And Jesus Sirach has
said[17] (according to the improved translation by Kraus), "A woman that
is well grown and has beautiful feet is like pillars of gold in sockets
of silver." The teeth, too, are important, because they are essential
for nourishment, and quite peculiarly hereditary.

The fourth consideration is a certain _plumpness_, in other words, a
superabundance of the vegetative function, plasticity.... Hence
excessive thinness strikingly repels us.... The last consideration that
influences us is a _beautiful face_. Here, too, the bone parts are taken
into account before everything else. So that almost everything depends
on a beautiful nose, while a short _retrouss�_ one will mar all. A
slight upward or downward turn of the nose has often determined the
life's happiness of a great many maidens; and justly so, for the type of
the species is at stake.

A small mouth, by means of small maxillae, is very essential, as it is
the specific characteristic of the human face as distinguished from the
muzzle of the brutes. A receding, as it were, a cut-away chin is
particularly repellent, because _mentum prominulum_ is a characteristic
belonging exclusively to our species.

Finally, we come to the consideration of beautiful eyes and a beautiful
forehead; they depend upon the psychical qualities, and in particular,
the intellectual, which are inherited from the mother. The unconscious
considerations which, on the other hand, influence women in their choice
naturally cannot be so accurately specified. In general, we may say the
following:--That the age they prefer is from thirty to thirty-five. For
instance, they prefer men of this age to youths, who in reality possess
the highest form of human beauty. The reason for this is that they are
not guided by taste but by instinct, which recognises in this particular
age the acme of generative power. In general, women pay little attention
to beauty, that is, to beauty of face; they seem to take it upon
themselves alone to endow the child with beauty. It is chiefly the
strength of a man and the courage that goes with it that attract them,
for both of these promise the generation of robust children and at the
same time a brave protector for them. Every physical defect in a man,
any deviation from the type, a woman may, with regard to the child,
eradicate if she is faultless in these parts herself or excels in a
contrary direction. The only exceptions are those qualities which are
peculiar to the man, and which, in consequence, a mother cannot bestow
on her child; these include the masculine build of the skeleton, breadth
of shoulder, small hips, straight legs, strength of muscle, courage,
beard, and so on. And so it happens that a woman frequently loves an
ugly man, albeit she never loves an unmanly man, because she cannot
neutralise his defects.

The second class of considerations that are the source of love are those
depending on the psychical qualities. Here we shall find that a woman
universally is attracted by the qualities of a man's heart or character,
both of which are inherited from the father. It is mainly firmness of
will, determination and courage, and may be honesty and goodness of
heart too, that win a woman over; while intellectual qualifications
exercise no direct or instinctive power over her, for the simple reason
that these are not inherited from the father. A lack of intelligence
carries no weight with her; in fact, a superabundance of mental power or
even genius, as abnormities, might have an unfavourable effect. And so
we frequently find a woman preferring a stupid, ugly, and ill-mannered
man to one who is well-educated, intellectual, and agreeable. Hence,
people of extremely different temperament frequently marry for
love--that is to say, _he_ is coarse, strong, and narrow-minded, while
_she_ is very sensitive, refined, cultured, and aesthetic, and so on; or
_he_ is genial and clever, and _she_ is a goose.

  "Sic visum Veneri; cui placet impares
  Formas atque animos sub juga a�nea
    Saevo mittere cum joco."

The reason for this is, that she is not influenced by intellectual
considerations, but by something entirely different, namely, instinct.
Marriage is not regarded as a means for intellectual entertainment, but
for the generation of children; it is a union of hearts and not of
minds. When a woman says that she has fallen in love with a man's mind,
it is either a vain and ridiculous pretence on her part or the
exaggeration of a degenerate being. A man, on the other hand, is not
controlled in instinctive love by the _qualities_ of the woman's
_character_; this is why so many a Socrates has found his Xantippe, as
for instance, Shakespeare, Albrecht D�rer, Byron, and others. But here
we have the influence of intellectual qualities, because they are
inherited from the mother; nevertheless their influence is easily
overpowered by physical beauty, which concerns more essential points,
and therefore has a more direct effect. By the way, it is for this
reason that mothers who have either felt or experienced the former
influence have their daughters taught the fine arts, languages, etc., so
that they may prove more attractive. In this way they hope by artificial
means to pad the intellect, just as they do their bust and hips if it is
necessary to do so. Let it be understood that here we are simply
speaking of that attraction which is absolutely direct and instinctive,
and from which springs real love. That an intelligent and educated woman
esteems intelligence and brains in a man, and that a man after
deliberate reasoning criticises and considers the character of his
_fiance�_, are matters which do not concern our present subject. Such
things influence a rational selection in marriage, but they do not
control passionate love, which is our matter.

Up to the present I have taken into consideration merely the _absolute_
considerations--_id est_, such considerations as apply to every one. I
now come to the _relative_ considerations, which are individual, because
they aim at rectifying the type of the species which is defectively
presented and at correcting any deviation from it existing in the person
of the chooser himself, and in this way lead back to a pure presentation
of the type. Hence each man loves what he himself is deficient in. The
choice that is based on relative considerations--that is, has in view
the constitution of the individual--is much more certain, decided, and
exclusive than the choice that is made after merely absolute
considerations; consequently real passionate love will have its origin,
as a rule, in these relative considerations, and it will only be the
ordinary phases of love that spring from the absolute. So that it is not
stereotyped, perfectly beautiful women who are wont to kindle great
passions. Before a truly passionate feeling can exist, something is
necessary that is perhaps best expressed by a metaphor in
chemistry--namely, the two persons must neutralise each other, like acid
and alkali to a neutral salt. Before this can be done the following
conditions are essential. In the first place, all sexuality is
one-sided. This one-sidedness is more definitely expressed and exists in
a higher degree in one person than in another; so that it may be better
supplemented and neutralised in each individual by one person than by
another of the opposite sex, because the individual requires a
one-sidedness opposite to his own in order to complete the type of
humanity in the new individual to be generated, to the constitution of
which everything tends....

The following is necessary for this neutralisation of which we are
speaking. The particular degree of _his_ manhood must exactly correspond
to the particular degree of _her_ womanhood in order to exactly balance
the one-sidedness of each. Hence the most manly man will desire the most
womanly woman, and _vice vers�_, and so each will want the individual
that exactly corresponds to him in degree of sex. Inasmuch as two
persons fulfil this necessary relation towards each other, it is
instinctively felt by them and is the origin, together with the other
_relative_ considerations, of the higher degrees of love. While,
therefore, two lovers are pathetically talking about the harmony of
their souls, the kernel of the conversation is for the most part the
harmony concerning the individual and its perfection, which obviously is
of much more importance than the harmony of their souls--which
frequently turns out to be a violent discord shortly after marriage.

We now come to those other relative considerations which depend on each
individual trying to eradicate, through the medium of another, his
weaknesses, deficiencies, and deviations from the type, in order that
they may not be perpetuated in the child that is to be born or develop
into absolute abnormities. The weaker a man is in muscular power, the
more will he desire a woman who is muscular; and the same thing applies
to a woman....

Nevertheless, if a big woman choose a big husband, in order, perhaps, to
present a better appearance in society, the children, as a rule, suffer
for her folly. Again, another very decided consideration is complexion.
Blonde people fancy either absolutely dark complexions or brown; but it
is rarely the case _vice vers�_. The reason for it is this: that fair
hair and blue eyes are a deviation from the type and almost constitute
an abnormity, analogous to white mice, or at any rate white horses. They
are not indigenous to any other part of the world but Europe,--not even
to the polar regions,--and are obviously of Scandinavian origin. _En
passant_, it is my conviction that a white skin is not natural to man,
and that by nature he has either a black or brown skin like our
forefathers, the Hindoos, and that the white man was never originally
created by nature; and that, therefore, there is no _race_ of white
people, much as it is talked about, but every white man is a bleached
one. Driven up into the north, where he was a stranger, and where he
existed only like an exotic plant, in need of a hothouse in winter, man
in the course of centuries became white. The gipsies, an Indian tribe
which emigrated only about four centuries ago, show the transition of
the Hindoo's complexion to ours. In love, therefore, nature strives to
return to dark hair and brown eyes, because they are the original type;
still, a white skin has become second nature, although not to such an
extent as to make the dark skin of the Hindoo repellent to us.

Finally, every man tries to find the corrective of his own defects and
aberrations in the particular parts of his body, and the more
conspicuous the defect is the greater is his determination to correct
it. This is why snub-nosed persons find an aquiline nose or a
parrot-like face so indescribably pleasing; and the same thing applies
to every other part of the body. Men of immoderately long and attenuated
build delight in a stunted and short figure. Considerations of
temperament also influence a man's choice. Each prefers a temperament
the reverse of his own; but only in so far as his is a decided one.

A man who is quite perfect in some respect himself does not, it is true,
desire and love imperfection in this particular respect, yet he can be
more easily reconciled to it than another man, because he himself saves
the children from being very imperfect in this particular. For instance,
a man who has a very white skin himself will not dislike a yellowish
complexion, while a man who has a yellowish complexion will consider a
dazzlingly white skin divinely beautiful. It is rare for a man to fall
in love with a positively ugly woman, but when he does, it is because
exact harmony in the degree of sex exists between them, and all her
abnormities are precisely the opposite to, that is to say, the
corrective of his. Love in these circumstances is wont to attain a high

The profoundly earnest way in which we criticise and narrowly consider
every part of a woman, while she on her part considers us; the
scrupulously careful way we scrutinise, a woman who is beginning to
please us; the fickleness of our choice; the strained attention with
which a man watches his _fianc�e_; the care he takes not to be deceived
in any trait; and the great importance he attaches to every more or less
essential trait,--all this is quite in keeping with the importance of
the end. For the child that is to be born will have to bear a similar
trait through its whole life; for instance, if a woman stoops but a
little, it is possible for her son to be inflicted with a hunchback; and
so in every other respect. We are not conscious of all this, naturally.
On the contrary, each man imagines that his choice is made in the
interest of his own pleasure (which, in reality, cannot be interested in
it at all); his choice, which we must take for granted is in keeping
with his own individuality, is made precisely in the interest of the
species, to maintain the type of which as pure as possible is the secret
task. In this case the individual unconsciously acts in the interest of
something higher, that is, the species. This is why he attaches so much
importance to things to which he might, nay, would be otherwise
indifferent. There is something quite singular in the unconsciously
serious and critical way two young people of different sex look at each
other on meeting for the first time; in the scrutinising and penetrating
glances they exchange, in the careful inspection which their various
traits undergo. This scrutiny and analysis represent the _meditation of
the genius of the species_ on the individual which may be born and the
combination of its qualities; and the greatness of their delight in and
longing for each other is determined by this meditation. This longing,
although it may have become intense, may possibly disappear again if
something previously unobserved comes to light. And so the genius of the
species meditates concerning the coming race in all who are yet not too
old. It is Cupid's work to fashion this race, and he is always busy,
always speculating, always meditating. The affairs of the individual in
their whole ephemeral totality are very trivial compared with those of
this divinity, which concern the species and the coming race; therefore
he is always ready to sacrifice the individual regardlessly. He is
related to these ephemeral affairs as an immortal being is to a mortal,
and his interests to theirs as infinite to finite. Conscious, therefore,
of administering affairs of a higher order than those that concern
merely the weal and woe of the individual, he administers them with
sublime indifference amid the tumult of war, the bustle of business, or
the raging of a plague--indeed, he pursues them into the seclusion of
the cloisters.

It has been seen that the intensity of love grows with its
individuation; we have shown that two individuals may be so physically
constituted, that, in order to restore the best possible type of the
species, the one is the special and perfect complement of the other,
which, in consequence, exclusively desires it. In a case of this kind,
passionate love arises, and as it is bestowed on one object, and one
only--that is to say, because it appears in the _special_ service of the
species--it immediately assumes a nobler and sublimer nature. On the
other hand, mere sexual instinct is base, because, without
individuation, it is directed to all, and strives to preserve the
species merely as regards quantity with little regard for quality.
Intense love concentrated on one individual may develop to such a
degree, that unless it is gratified all the good things of this world,
and even life itself, lose their importance. It then becomes a desire,
the intensity of which is like none other; consequently it will make any
kind of sacrifice, and should it happen that it cannot be gratified, it
may lead to madness or even suicide. Besides these unconscious
considerations which are the source of passionate love, there must be
still others, which we have not so directly before us. Therefore, we
must take it for granted that here there is not only a fitness of
constitution but also a special fitness between the man's _will_ and the
woman's _intellect_, in consequence of which a perfectly definite
individual can be born to them alone, whose existence is contemplated by
the genius of the species for reasons to us impenetrable, since they are
the very essence of the thing-in-itself. Or more strictly speaking, the
will to live desires to objectivise itself in an individual which is
precisely determined, and can only be begotten by this particular father
and this particular mother. This metaphysical yearning of the will in
itself has immediately, as its sphere of action in the circle of human
beings, the hearts of the future parents, who accordingly are seized
with this desire. They now fancy that it is for their own sakes they are
longing for what at present has purely a metaphysical end, that is to
say, for what does not come within the range of things that exist in
reality. In other words, it is the desire of the future individual to
enter existence, which has first become possible here, a longing which
proceeds from the primary source of all being and exhibits itself in the
phenomenal world as the intense love of the future parents for each
other, and has little regard for anything outside itself. In fact, love
is an illusion like no other; it will induce a man to sacrifice
everything he possesses in the world, in order to obtain this woman, who
in reality will satisfy him no more than any other. It also ceases to
exist when the end, which was in reality metaphysical, has been
frustrated perhaps by the woman's barrenness (which, according to
Hufeland, is the result of nineteen accidental defects in the
constitution), just as it is frustrated daily in millions of crushed
germs in which the same metaphysical life-principle struggles to exist;
there is no other consolation in this than that there is an infinity of
space, time, and matter, and consequently inexhaustible opportunity, at
the service of the will to live.

Although this subject has not been treated by Theophrastus Paracelsus,
and my entire train of thought is foreign to him, yet it must have
presented itself to him, if even in a cursory way, when he gave
utterance to the following remarkable words, written in quite a
different context and in his usual desultory style: _Hi sunt, quos Deus
copulavit, ut eam, quae fuit Uriae et David; quamvis ex diametro (sic
enim sibi humana mens persuadebat) cum justo et legitimo matrimonio
pugnaret hoc ... sed propter Salomonem, qui aliunde nasci non potuit,
nisi ex Bathseba, conjuncto David semine, quamvis meretrice, conjunxit
eos Deus._[18]

The yearning of love, the ἱμερος, which has been expressed in countless
ways and forms by the poets of all ages, without their exhausting the
subject or even doing it justice; this longing which makes us imagine
that the possession of a certain woman will bring interminable
happiness, and the loss of her, unspeakable pain; this longing and this
pain do not arise from the needs of an ephemeral individual, but are, on
the contrary, the sigh of the spirit of the species, discerning
irreparable means of either gaining or losing its ends. It is the
species alone that has an interminable existence: hence it is capable of
endless desire, endless gratification, and endless pain. These, however,
are imprisoned in the heart of a mortal; no wonder, therefore, if it
seems like to burst, and can find no expression for the announcements of
endless joy or endless pain. This it is that forms the substance of all
erotic poetry that is sublime in character, which, consequently, soars
into transcendent metaphors, surpassing everything earthly. This is the
theme of Petrarch, the material for the St. Preuxs, Werthers, and Jacopo
Ortis, who otherwise could be neither understood nor explained. This
infinite regard is not based on any kind of intellectual, nor, in
general, upon any real merits of the beloved one; because the lover
frequently does not know her well enough; as was the case with Petrarch.

It is the spirit of the species alone that can see at a glance of what
_value_ the beloved one is to _it_ for its purposes. Moreover, great
passions, as a rule, originate at first sight:

  "Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight."

--SHAKESPEARE, _As You Like It,_ iii. 5.

Curiously enough, there is a passage touching upon this in _Guzmann de
Alfarache_, a well-known romance written two hundred and fifty years ago
by Mateo Aleman: _No es necessario para que uno ame, que pase distancia
de tiempo, que siga discurso, in haga eleccion, sino que con aquella
primera y sola vista, concurran juntamente cierta correspondencia �
consonancia, � lo que ac� solemos vulgarmente decir, una confrontacion
de sangre, � que por particular influxo suelen mover las estrellas_.
(For a man to love there is no need for any length of time to pass for
him to weigh considerations or make his choice, but only that a certain
correspondence and consonance is encountered on both sides at the first
and only glance, or that which is ordinarily called _a sympathy of
blood_, to which a peculiar influence of the stars generally impels.)
Accordingly, the loss of the beloved one through a rival, or through
death, is the greatest pain of all to those passionately in love; just
because it is of a transcendental nature, since it affects him not
merely as an individual, but also assails him in his _essentia aeterna_,
in the life of the species, in whose special will and service he was
here called. This is why jealousy is so tormenting and bitter, and the
giving up of the loved one the greatest of all sacrifices. A hero is
ashamed of showing any kind of emotion but that which may be the outcome
of love; the reason for this is, that when he is in love it is not he,
but the species which is grieving. In Calderon's _Zenobia the Great_
there is a scene in the second act between Zenobia and Decius where the
latter says, _Cielos, luego tu me quieres? Perdiera cien mil victorias,
Volvi�rame_, etc. (Heavens! then you love me? For this I would
sacrifice a thousand victories, etc.) In this case honour, which has
hitherto outweighed every other interest, is driven out of the field
directly love--_i.e._, the interest of the species--comes into play and
discerns something that will be of decided advantage to itself; for the
interest of the species, compared with that of the mere individual,
however important this may be, is infinitely more important. Honour,
duty, and fidelity succumb to it after they have withstood every other
temptation--the menace of death even. We find the same going on in
private life; for instance, a man has less conscience when in love than
in any other circumstances. Conscience is sometimes put on one side even
by people who are otherwise honest and straightforward, and infidelity
recklessly committed if they are passionately in love--i.e., when the
interest of the species has taken possession of them. It would seem,
indeed, as if they believed themselves conscious of a greater authority
than the interests of individuals could ever confer; this is simply
because they are concerned in the interest of the species. Chamfort's
utterance in this respect is remarkable: _Quand un homme et une femme
ont l'un pour l'autre une passion violente, il me semble toujours que
quelque soient les obstacles qui les s�parent, un mari, des parens,
etc.; les deux amans sont l'un � l'autre, de par la Nature, qu'ils
s'appartiennent de droit devin, malgr� les lois et les conventions
humaines_.... From this standpoint the greater part of the _Decameron_
seems a mere mocking and jeering on the part of the genius of the
species at the rights and interests of the individual which it treads
underfoot. Inequality of rank and all similar relations are put on one
side with the same indifference and disregarded by the genius of the
species, if they thwart the union of two people passionately in love
with one another: it pursues its ends pertaining to endless generations,
scattering human principles and scruples abroad like chaff.

For the same reason, a man will willingly risk every kind of danger, and
even become courageous, although he may otherwise be faint-hearted. What
a delight we take in watching, either in a play or novel, two young
lovers fighting for each other--i.e., for the interest of the
species--and their defeat of the old people, who had only in view the
welfare of the individual! For the struggling of a pair of lovers seems
to us so much more important, delightful, and consequently justifiable
than any other, as the species is more important than the individual.

Accordingly, we have as the fundamental subject of almost all comedies
the genius of the species with its purposes, running counter to the
personal interests of the individuals presented, and, in consequence,
threatening to undermine their happiness. As a rule it carries out its
ends, which, in keeping with true poetic justice, satisfies the
spectator, because the latter feels that the purposes of the species
widely surpass those of the individual. Hence he is quite consoled when
he finally takes leave of the victorious lovers, sharing with them the
illusion that they have established their own happiness, while, in
truth, they have sacrificed it for the welfare of the species, in
opposition to the will of the discreet old people.

It has been attempted in a few out-of-the-way comedies to reverse this
state of things and to effect the happiness of the individuals at the
cost of the ends of the species; but here the spectator is sensible of
the pain inflicted on the genius of the species, and does not find
consolation in the advantages that are assured to the individuals.

Two very well-known little pieces occur to me as examples of this kind:
_La reine de 16 ans_, and _Le mariage de raison_.

In the love-affairs that are treated in tragedies the lovers, as a rule,
perish together: the reason for this is that the purposes of the
species, whose tools the lovers were, have been frustrated, as, for
instance, in _Romeo and Juliet, Tancred, Don Carlos, Wallenstein, The
Bride of Messina_, and so on.

A man in love frequently furnishes comic as well as tragic aspects; for
being in the possession of the spirit of the species and controlled by
it, he no longer belongs to himself, and consequently his line of
conduct is not in keeping with that of the individual. It is
fundamentally this that in the higher phases of love gives such a
poetical and sublime colour, nay, transcendental and hyperphysical turn
to a man's thoughts, whereby he appears to lose sight of his essentially
material purpose. He is inspired by the spirit of the species, whose
affairs are infinitely more important than any which concern mere
individuals, in order to establish by special mandate of this spirit the
existence of an indefinitely long posterity with _this_ particular and
precisely determined nature, which it can receive only from him as
father and his loved one as mother, and which, moreover, _as such_ never
comes into existence, while the objectivation of the will to live
expressly demands this existence. It is the feeling that he is engaged
in affairs of such transcendent importance that exalts the lover above
everything earthly, nay, indeed, above himself, and gives such a
hyperphysical clothing to his physical wishes, that love becomes, even
in the life of the most prosaic, a poetical episode; and then the affair
often assumes a comical aspect. That mandate of the will which
objectifies itself in the species presents itself in the consciousness
of the lover under the mask of the anticipation of an infinite
happiness, which is to be found in his union with this particular woman.
This illusion to a man deeply in love becomes so dazzling that if it
cannot be attained, life itself not only loses all charm, but appears to
be so joyless, hollow, and uninteresting as to make him too disgusted
with it to be afraid of the terrors of death; this is why he sometimes
of his own free will cuts his life short. The will of a man of this kind
has become engulfed in that of the species, or the will of the species
has obtained so great an ascendency over the will of the individual that
if such a man cannot be effective in the manifestation of the first, he
disdains to be so in the last. The individual in this case is too weak a
vessel to bear the infinite longing of the will of the species
concentrated upon a definite object. When this is the case suicide is
the result, and sometimes suicide of the two lovers; unless nature, to
prevent this, causes insanity, which then enshrouds with its veil the
consciousness of so hopeless a condition. The truth of this is confirmed
yearly by various cases of this description.

However, it is not only unrequited love that leads frequently to a
tragic end; for requited love more frequently leads to unhappiness than
to happiness. This is because its demands often so severely clash with
the personal welfare of the lover concerned as to undermine it, since
the demands are incompatible with the lover's other circumstances, and
in consequence destroy the plans of life built upon them. Further, love
frequently runs counter not only to external circumstances but to the
individuality itself, for it may fling itself upon a person who, apart
from the relation of sex, may become hateful, despicable, nay, even
repulsive. As the will of the species, however, is so very much stronger
than that of the individual, the lover shuts his eyes to all
objectionable qualities, overlooks everything, ignores all, and unites
himself for ever to the object of his passion. He is so completely
blinded by this illusion that as soon as the will of the species is
accomplished the illusion vanishes and leaves in its place a hateful
companion for life. From this it is obvious why we often see very
intelligent, nay, distinguished men married to dragons and she-devils,
and why we cannot understand how it was possible for them to make such a
choice. Accordingly, the ancients represented _Amor_ as blind. In fact,
it is possible for a lover to clearly recognise and be bitterly
conscious of horrid defects in his _fianc�e's_ disposition and
character--defects which promise him a life of misery--and yet for him
not to be filled with fear:

  "I ask not, I care not,
    If guilt's in thy heart;
  I know that I love thee,
    Whatever thou art."

For, in truth, he is not acting in his own interest but in that of a
third person, who has yet to come into existence, albeit he is under the
impression that he is acting in his own But it is this very _acting in
some one else's interest_ which is everywhere the stamp of greatness and
gives to passionate love the touch of the sublime, making it a worthy
subject for the poet. Finally, a man may both love and hate his beloved
at the same time. Accordingly, Plato compares a man's love to the love
of a wolf for a sheep. We have an instance of this kind when a
passionate lover, in spite of all his exertions and entreaties, cannot
obtain a hearing upon any terms.

  "I love and hate her."--SHAKESPEARE, _Cymb_. iii. 5.

When hatred is kindled, a man will sometimes go so far as to first kill
his beloved and then himself. Examples of this kind are brought before
our notice yearly in the newspapers. Therefore Goethe says truly:

  "Bei aller verschm�hten Liebe, beim h�llichen Elemente!
  Ich wollt', ich w�sst' was �rger's, das ich fluchen k�nnte!"

It is in truth no hyperbole on the part of a lover when he calls his
beloved's coldness, or the joy of her vanity, which delights in his
suffering, _cruelty_. For he has come under the influence of an impulse
which, akin to the instinct of animals, compels him in spite of all
reason to unconditionally pursue his end and discard every other; he
cannot give it up. There has not been one but many a Petrarch, who,
failing to have his love requited, has been obliged to drag through life
as if his feet were either fettered or carried a leaden weight, and give
vent to his sighs in a lonely forest; nevertheless there was only one
Petrarch who possessed the true poetic instinct, so that Goethe's
beautiful lines are true of him:

  "Und wenn der Mensch in seiner Quaal verstummt,
  Gab mir ein Gott, zu sagen, wie ich leide."

As a matter of fact, the genius of the species is at continual warfare
with the guardian genius of individuals; it is its pursuer and enemy; it
is always ready to relentlessly destroy personal happiness in order to
carry out its ends; indeed, the welfare of whole nations has sometimes
been sacrificed to its caprice. Shakespeare furnishes us with such an
example in _Henry VI_ Part III., Act iii., Scenes 2 and 3. This is
because the species, in which lies the germ of our being, has a nearer
and prior claim upon us than the individual, so that the affairs of the
species are more important than those of the individual. Sensible of
this, the ancients personified the genius of the species in Cupid,
notwithstanding his having the form of a child, as a hostile and cruel
god, and therefore one to be decried as a capricious and despotic demon,
and yet lord of both gods and men.

  Συ δ' ὠ θεων τυραννε κ' ἀνθρωπων, Ἐρως.
  (Tu, deorum hominumque tyranne, Amor!)

Murderous darts, blindness, and wings are Cupid's attributes. The latter
signify inconstancy, which as a rule comes with the disillusion
following possession.

Because, for instance, love is based on an illusion and represents what
is an advantage to the species as an advantage to the individual, the
illusion necessarily vanishes directly the end of the species has been
attained. The spirit of the species, which for the time being has got
the individual into its possession, now frees him again. Deserted by the
spirit, he relapses into his original state of narrowness and want; he
is surprised to find that after all his lofty, heroic, and endless
attempts to further his own pleasure he has obtained but little; and
contrary to his expectation, he finds that he is no happier than he was
before. He discovers that he has been the dupe of the will of the
species. Therefore, as a rule, a Theseus who has been made happy will
desert his Ariadne. If Petrarch's passion had been gratified his song
would have become silent from that moment, as that of the birds as soon
as the eggs are laid.

Let it be said in passing that, however much my metaphysics of love may
displease those in love, the fundamental truth revealed by me would
enable them more effectually than anything else to overcome their
passion, if considerations of reason in general could be of any avail.
The words of the comic poet of ancient times remain good: _Quae res in
se neque consilium, neque modum habet ullum, eam consilio regere non
potes_. People who marry for love do so in the interest of the species
and not of the individuals. It is true that the persons concerned
imagine they are promoting their own happiness; but their real aim,
which is one they are unconscious of, is to bring forth an individual
which can be begotten by them alone. This purpose having brought them
together, they ought henceforth to try and make the best of things. But
it very frequently happens that two people who have been brought
together by this instinctive illusion, which is the essence of
passionate love, are in every other respect temperamentally different.
This becomes apparent when the illusion wears off, as it necessarily

Accordingly, people who marry for love are generally unhappy, for such
people look after the welfare of the future generation at the expense of
the present. _Quien se casa por amores, ha de vivir con dolores_ (He who
marries for love must live in grief), says the Spanish proverb.
Marriages _de convenance_, which are generally arranged by the parents,
will turn out the reverse. The considerations in this case which control
them, whatever their nature may be, are at any rate real and unable to
vanish of themselves. A marriage of this kind attends to the welfare of
the present generation to the detriment of the future, it is true; and
yet this remains problematical.

A man who marries for money, and not for love, lives more in the
interest of the individual than in that of the species; a condition
exactly opposed to truth; therefore it is unnatural and rouses a certain
feeling of contempt. A girl who against the wish of her parents refuses
to marry a rich man, still young, and ignores all considerations of
_convenance_, in order to choose another instinctively to her liking,
sacrifices her individual welfare to the species. But it is for this
very reason that she meets with a certain approval, for she has given
preference to what was more important and acted in the spirit of nature
(of the species) more exactly; while the parents advised only in the
spirit of individual egoism.

As the outcome of all this, it seems that to marry means that either the
interest of the individual or the interest of the species must suffer.
As a rule one or the other is the case, for it is only by the rarest and
luckiest accident that _convenance_ and passionate love go hand in hand.
The wretched condition of most persons physically, morally, and
intellectually may be partly accounted for by the fact that marriages
are not generally the result of pure choice and inclination, but of all
kinds of external considerations and accidental circumstances. However,
if inclination to a certain degree is taken into consideration, as well
as convenience, this is as it were a compromise with the genius of the
species. As is well known, happy marriages are few and far between,
since marriage is intended to have the welfare of the future generation
at heart and not the present.

However, let me add for the consolation of the more tender-hearted that
passionate love is sometimes associated with a feeling of quite another
kind--namely, real friendship founded on harmony of sentiment, but this,
however, does not exist until the instinct of sex has been extinguished.
This friendship will generally spring from the fact that the physical,
moral, and intellectual qualities which correspond to and supplement
each other in two individuals in love, in respect of the child to be
born, will also supplement each other in respect of the individuals
themselves as opposite qualities of temperament and intellectual
excellence, and thereby establish a harmony of sentiment.

The whole metaphysics of love which has been treated here is closely
related to my metaphysics in general, and the light it throws upon this
may be said to be as follows.

We have seen that a man's careful choice, developing through innumerable
degrees to passionate love, for the satisfaction of his instinct of sex,
is based upon the fundamental interest he takes in the constitution of
the next generation. This overwhelming interest that he takes verifies
two truths which have been already demonstrated.

First: Man's immortality, which is perpetuated in the future race. For
this interest of so active and zealous a nature, which is neither the
result of reflection nor intention, springs from the innermost
characteristics and tendencies of our being, could not exist so
continuously or exercise such great power over man if the latter were
really transitory and if a race really and totally different to himself
succeeded him merely in point of time.

Second: That his real nature is more closely allied to the species than
to the individual. For this interest that he takes in the special nature
of the species, which is the source of all love, from the most fleeting
emotion to the most serious passion, is in reality the most important
affair in each man's life, the successful or unsuccessful issue of which
touches him more nearly than anything else. This is why it has been
pre-eminently called the "affair of the heart." Everything that merely
concerns one's own person is set aside and sacrificed, if the case
require it, to this interest when it is of a strong and decided nature.
Therefore in this way man proves that he is more interested in the
species than in the individual, and that he lives more directly in the
interest of the species than in that of the individual.

Why, then, is a lover so absolutely devoted to every look and turn of
his beloved, and ready to make any kind of sacrifice for her? Because
the _immortal_ part of him is yearning for her; it is only the _mortal_
part of him that longs for everything else. That keen and even intense
longing for a particular woman is accordingly a direct pledge of the
immortality of the essence of our being and of its perpetuity in the

To regard this perpetuity as something unimportant and insufficient is
an error, arising from the fact that in thinking of the continuity of
the species we only think of the future existence of beings similar to
ourselves, but in no respect, however, identical with us; and again,
starting from knowledge directed towards without, we only grasp the
outer form of the species as it presents itself to us, and do not take
into consideration its inner nature. It is precisely this inner nature
that lies at the foundation of our own consciousness as its kernel, and
therefore is more direct than our consciousness itself, and as
thing-in-itself exempt from the _principium individuationis_--is in
reality identical and the same in all individuals, whether they exist at
the same or at different times.

This, then, is the will to live--that is to say, it is exactly _that
which_ so intensely desires both life and continuance, and which
accordingly remains unharmed and unaffected by death. Further, its
present state cannot be improved, and while there is life it is certain
of the unceasing sufferings and death of the individual. The _denial_ of
the will to live is reserved to free it from this, as the means by which
the individual will breaks away from the stem of the species, and
surrenders that existence in it.

We are wanting both in ideas and all data as to what it is after that.
We can only indicate it as something which is free to be will to live or
not to live. Buddhism distinguishes the latter case by the word
_Nirvana_. It is the point which as such remains for ever impenetrable
to all human knowledge.

Looking at the turmoil of life from this standpoint we find all occupied
with its want and misery, exerting all their strength in order to
satisfy its endless needs and avert manifold suffering, without,
however, daring to expect anything else in return than merely the
preservation of this tormented individual existence for a short span of
time. And yet, amid all this turmoil we see a pair of lovers exchanging
longing glances--yet why so secretly, timidly, and stealthily? Because
these lovers are traitors secretly striving to perpetuate all this
misery and turmoil that otherwise would come to a timely end.


[17] Ch. xxvi. 23.

[18] _De vita longa_ i. 5.


That the outside reflects the inner man, and that the face expresses his
whole character, is an obvious supposition and accordingly a safe one,
demonstrated as it is in the desire people have _to see_ on all
occasions a man who has distinguished himself by something good or evil,
or produced some exceptional work; or if this is denied them, at any
rate to hear from others _what he looks like_. This is why, on the one
hand, they go to places where they conjecture he is to be found; and on
the other, why the press, and especially the English press, tries to
describe him in a minute and striking way; he is soon brought visibly
before us either by a painter or an engraver; and finally, photography,
on that account so highly prized, meets this necessity in a most perfect

It is also proved in everyday life that each one inspects the
physiognomy of those he comes in contact with, and first of all secretly
tries to discover their moral and intellectual character from their
features. This could not be the case if, as some foolish people state,
the outward appearance of a man is of no importance; nay, if the soul is
one thing and the body another, and the latter related to the soul as
the coat is to the man himself.

Rather is every human face a hieroglyph, which, to be sure, admits of
being deciphered--nay, the whole alphabet of which we carry about with
us. Indeed, the face of a man, as a rule, bespeaks more interesting
matter than his tongue, for it is the compendium of all which he will
ever say, as it is the register of all his thoughts and aspirations.
Moreover, the tongue only speaks the thoughts of one man, while the face
expresses a thought of nature. Therefore it is worth while to observe
everybody attentively; even if they are not worth talking to. Every
individual is worthy of observation as a single thought of nature; so is
beauty in the highest degree, for it is a higher and more general
conception of nature: it is her thought of a species. This is why we are
so captivated by beauty. It is a fundamental and principal thought of
Nature; whereas the individual is only a secondary thought, a corollary.

In secret, everybody goes upon the principle that a man _is_ what he
_looks_; but the difficulty lies in its application. The ability to
apply it is partly innate and partly acquired by experience; but no one
understands it thoroughly, for even the most experienced may make a
mistake. Still, it is not the face that deceives, whatever Figaro may
say, but it is we who are deceived in reading what is not there. The
deciphering of the face is certainly a great and difficult art. Its
principles can never be learnt _in abstracto_. Its first condition is
that the man must be looked at from a _purely objective_ point of view;
which is not so easy to do. As soon as, for instance, there is the
slightest sign of dislike, or affection, or fear, or hope, or even the
thought of the impression which we ourselves are making on him--in
short, as soon as anything of a subjective nature is present, the
hieroglyphics become confused and falsified. The sound of a language is
only heard by one who does not understand it, because in thinking of the
significance one is not conscious of the sign itself; and similarly the
physiognomy of a man is only seen by one to whom it is still
strange--that is to say, by one who has not become accustomed to his
face through seeing him often or talking to him. Accordingly it is,
strictly speaking, the first glance that gives one a purely objective
impression of a face, and makes it possible for one to decipher it. A
smell only affects us when we first perceive it, and it is the first
glass of wine which gives us its real taste; in the same way, it is only
when we see a face for the first time that it makes a full impression
upon us. Therefore one should carefully attend to the first impression;
one should make a note of it, nay, write it down if the man is of
personal importance--that is, if one can trust one's own sense of
physiognomy. Subsequent acquaintance and intercourse will erase that
impression, but it will be verified one day in the future.

_En passant_, let us not conceal from ourselves the fact that this first
impression is as a rule extremely disagreeable: but how little there is
in the majority of faces! With the exception of those that are
beautiful, good-natured, and intellectual--that is, the very few and
exceptional,--I believe a new face for the most part gives a sensitive
person a sensation akin to a shock, since the disagreeable impression is
presented in a new and surprising combination.

As a rule it is indeed _a sorry sight_. There are individuals whose
faces are stamped with such na�ve vulgarity and lowness of character,
such an animal limitation of intelligence, that one wonders how they
care to go out with such a face and do not prefer to wear a mask. Nay,
there are faces a mere glance at which makes one feel contaminated. One
cannot therefore blame people, who are in a position to do so, if they
seek solitude and escape the painful sensation of "_seeing new faces_."
The _metaphysical_ explanation of this rests on the consideration that
the individuality of each person is exactly that by which he should be
reclaimed and corrected.

If any one, on the other hand, will be content with a _psychological_
explanation, let him ask himself what kind of physiognomy can be
expected in those whose minds, their whole life long, have scarcely ever
entertained anything but petty, mean, and miserable thoughts, and
vulgar, selfish, jealous, wicked, and spiteful desires. Each one of
these thoughts and desires has left its impress on the face for the
length of time it existed; all these marks, by frequent repetition, have
eventually become furrows and blemishes, if one may say so. Therefore
the appearance of the majority of people is calculated to give one a
shock at first sight, and it is only by degrees that one becomes
accustomed to a face--that is to say, becomes so indifferent to the
impression as to be no longer affected by it.

But that the predominating facial expression is formed by countless
fleeting and characteristic contortions is also the reason why the faces
of intellectual men only become moulded gradually, and indeed only
attain their sublime expression in old age; whilst portraits of them in
their youth only show the first traces of it. But, on the other hand,
what has just been said about the shock one receives at first sight
coincides with the above remark, that it is only at first sight that a
face makes its true and full impression. In order to get a purely
objective and true impression of it, we must stand in no kind of
relation to the person, nay, if possible, we must not even have spoken
to him. Conversation makes one in some measure friendly disposed, and
brings us into a certain _rapport_, a reciprocal _subjective_ relation,
which immediately interferes with our taking an objective view. As
everybody strives to win either respect or friendship for himself, a man
who is being observed will immediately resort to every art of
dissembling, and corrupt us with his airs, hypocrisies, and flatteries;
so that in a short time we no longer see what the first impression had
clearly shown us. It is said that "most people gain on further
acquaintance" but what ought to be said is that "they delude us" on
further acquaintance. But when these bad traits have an opportunity of
showing themselves later on, our first impression generally receives its
justification. Sometimes a further acquaintance is a hostile one, in
which case it will not be found that people gain by it. Another reason
for the apparent advantage of a further acquaintance is, that the man
whose first appearance repels us, as soon as we converse with him no
longer shows his true being and character, but his education as
well--that is to say, not only what he really is by nature, but what he
has appropriated from the common wealth of mankind; three-fourths of
what he says does not belong to him, but has been acquired from without;
so that we are often surprised to hear such a minotaur speak so humanly.
And on a still further acquaintance, the brutality of which his face
gave promise, will reveal itself in all its glory. Therefore a man who
is gifted with a keen sense of physiognomy should pay careful attention
to those verdicts prior to a further acquaintance, and therefore
genuine. For the face of a man expresses exactly what he is, and if he
deceives us it is not his fault but ours. On the other hand, the words
of a man merely state what he thinks, more frequently only what he has
learnt, or it may be merely what he pretends to think. Moreover, when we
speak to him, nay, only hear others speak to him, our attention is taken
away from his real physiognomy; because it is the substance, that which
is given fundamentally, and we disregard it; and we only pay attention
to its pathognomy, its play of feature while speaking. This, however, is
so arranged that the good side is turned upwards.

When Socrates said to a youth who was introduced to him so that he might
test his capabilities, "Speak so that I may see you" (taking it for
granted that he did not simply mean "hearing" by "seeing"), he was right
in so far as it is only in speaking that the features and especially the
eyes of a man become animated, and his intellectual powers and
capabilities imprint their stamp on his features: we are then in a
position to estimate provisionally the degree and capacity of his
intelligence; which was precisely Socrates' aim in that case. But, on
the other hand, it is to be observed, firstly, that this rule does not
apply to the _moral_ qualities of a man, which lie deeper; and secondly,
that what is gained from an _objective_ point of view by the clearer
development of a man's countenance while he is speaking, is again from a
_subjective_ point of view lost, because of the personal relation into
which he immediately enters with us, occasioning a slight fascination,
does not leave us unprejudiced observers, as has already been explained.
Therefore, from this last standpoint it might be more correct to say:
"Do not speak in order that I may see you."

For to obtain a pure and fundamental grasp of a man's physiognomy one
must observe him when he is alone and left to himself. Any kind of
society and conversation with another throw a reflection upon him which
is not his own, mostly to his advantage; for he thereby is placed in a
condition of action and reaction which exalts him. But, on the contrary,
if he is alone and left to himself immersed in the depths of his own
thoughts and sensations, it is only then that he is absolutely and
wholly _himself_. And any one with a keen, penetrating eye for
physiognomy can grasp the general character of his whole being at a
glance. For on his face, regarded in and by itself, is indicated the
ground tone of all his thoughts and efforts, the _arr�t irrevocable_ of
his future, and of which he is only conscious when alone.

The science of physiognomy is one of the principal means of a knowledge
of mankind: arts of dissimulation do not come within the range of
physiognomy, but within that of mere pathognomy and mimicry. This is
precisely why I recommend the physiognomy of a man to be studied when he
is alone and left to his own thoughts, and before he has been conversed
with; partly because it is only then that his physiognomy can be seen
purely and simply, since in conversation pathognomy immediately steps
in, and he then resorts to the arts of dissimulation which he has
acquired; and partly because personal intercourse, even of the slightest
nature, makes us prejudiced, and in consequence impairs our judgment.

Concerning our physiognomy in general, it is still to be observed that
it is much easier to discover the intellectual capacities of a man than
his moral character. The intellectual capacities take a much more
outward direction. They are expressed not only in the face and play of
his features, but also in his walk, nay, in every movement, however
slight it may be. One could perhaps discriminate from behind between a
blockhead, a fool, and a man of genius. A clumsy awkwardness
characterises every movement of the blockhead; folly imprints its mark
on every gesture, and so do genius and a reflective nature. Hence the
outcome of La Bruyere's remark: _Il n'y a rien de si d�li�, de si
simple, et de si imperceptible o� il n'y entrent des mani�res, qui nous
d�c�lent: un sot ni n'entre, ni ne sort, ni ne s'assied, ni ne se l�ve,
ni ne se tait, ni n'est sur ses jambes, comme un homme d'esprit_. This
accounts for, by the way, that instinct _stir et prompt_ which,
according to Helvetius, ordinary people have of recognising people of
genius and of running away from them. This is to be accounted for by the
fact that the larger and more developed the brain, and the thinner, in
relation to it, the spine and nerves, the greater not only is the
intelligence, but also at the same time the mobility and pliancy of all
the limbs; because they are controlled more immediately and decisively
by the brain; consequently everything depends more on a single thread,
every movement of which precisely expresses its purpose. The whole
matter is analogous to, nay dependent on, the fact that the higher an
animal stands in the scale of development, the easier can it be killed
by wounding it in a single place. Take, for instance, batrachia: they
are as heavy, clumsy, and slow in their movements as they are
unintelligent, and at the same time extremely tenacious of life. This is
explained by the fact that with a little brain they have a very thick
spine and nerves. But gait and movement of the arms are for the most
part functions of the brain; because the limbs receive their motion, and
even the slightest modification of it, from the brain through the medium
of the spinal nerves; and this is precisely why voluntary movements tire
us. This feeling of fatigue, like that of pain, has its seat in the
brain, and not as we suppose in the limbs, hence motion promotes sleep;
on the other hand, those motions that are not excited by the brain, that
is to say, the involuntary motions of organic life, of the heart and
lungs, go on without causing fatigue: and as thought as well as motion
is a function of the brain, the character of its activity is denoted in
both, according to the nature of the individual. Stupid people move like
lay figures, while every joint of intellectual people speaks for itself.
Intellectual qualities are much better discerned, however, in the face
than in gestures and movements, in the shape and size of the forehead,
in the contraction and movement of the features, and especially in the
eye; from the little, dull, sleepy-looking eye of the pig, through all
gradations, to the brilliant sparkling eye of the genius. The _look of
wisdom_, even of the best kind, is different from that of _genius_,
since it bears the stamp of serving the will; while that of the latter
is free from it. Therefore the anecdote which Squarzafichi relates in
his life of Petrarch, and has taken from Joseph Brivius, a contemporary,
is quite credible--namely, that when Petrarch was at the court of
Visconti, and among many men and titled people, Galeazzo Visconti asked
his son, who was still a boy in years and was afterwards the first Duke
of Milan, to pick out _the wisest man_ of those present. The boy looked
at every one for a while, when he seized Petrarch's hand and led him to
his father, to the great admiration of all present. For nature imprints
her stamp of dignity so distinctly on the distinguished among mankind
that a child can perceive it. Therefore I should advise my sagacious
countrymen, if they ever again wish to trumpet a commonplace person as a
genius for the period of thirty years, not to choose for that end such
an inn-keeper's physiognomy as was possessed by Hegel, upon whose face
nature had written in her clearest handwriting the familiar title,
_commonplace person_. But what applies to intellectual qualities does
not apply to the moral character of mankind; its physiognomy is much
more difficult to perceive, because, being of a metaphysical nature, it
lies much deeper, and although moral character is connected with the
constitution and with the organism, it is not so immediately connected,
however, with definite parts of its system as is intellect. Hence, while
each one makes a public show of his intelligence, with which he is in
general quite satisfied, and tries to display it at every opportunity,
the moral qualities are seldom brought to light, nay, most people
intentionally conceal them; and long practice makes them acquire great
mastery in hiding them.

Meanwhile, as has been explained above, wicked thoughts and worthless
endeavours gradually leave their traces on the face, and especially the
eyes. Therefore, judging by physiognomy, we can easily guarantee that a
man will never produce an immortal work; but not that he will never
commit a great crime.


As far as I can see, it is only the followers of monotheistic, that is
of Jewish, religions that regard suicide as a crime. This is the more
striking as there is no forbiddance of it, or even positive disapproval
of it, to be found either in the New Testament or the Old; so that
teachers of religion have to base their disapprobation of suicide on
their own philosophical grounds; these, however, are so bad that they
try to compensate for the weakness of their arguments by strongly
expressing their abhorrence of the act--that is to say, by abusing it.
We are told that suicide is an act of the greatest cowardice, that it is
only possible to a madman, and other absurdities of a similar nature; or
they make use of the perfectly senseless expression that it is
"_wrong_," while it is perfectly clear that no one has such indisputable
right over anything in the world as over his own person and life.
Suicide, as has been said, is computed a crime, rendering
inevitable--especially in vulgar, bigoted England--an ignominious
burial and the confiscation of the property; this is why the jury almost
always bring in the verdict of insanity. Let one's own moral feelings
decide the matter for one. Compare the impression made upon one by the
news that a friend has committed a crime, say a murder, an act of
cruelty or deception, or theft, with the news that he has died a
voluntary death. Whilst news of the first kind will incite intense
indignation, the greatest displeasure, and a desire for punishment or
revenge, news of the second will move us to sorrow and compassion;
moreover, we will frequently have a feeling of admiration for his
courage rather than one of moral disapproval, which accompanies a wicked
act. Who has not had acquaintances, friends, relatives, who have
voluntarily left this world? And are we to think of them with horror as
criminals? _Nego ac pernego_! I am rather of the opinion that the clergy
should be challenged to state their authority for stamping--from the
pulpit or in their writings--as a _crime_ an act which has been
committed by many people honoured and loved by us, and refusing an
honourable burial to those who have of their own free will left the
world. They cannot produce any kind of Biblical authority, nay, they
have no philosophical arguments that are at all valid; and it is
_reasons_ that we want; mere empty phrases or words of abuse we cannot
accept. If the criminal law forbids suicide, that is not a reason that
holds good in the church; moreover, it is extremely ridiculous, for what
punishment can frighten those who seek death? When a man is punished for
trying to commit suicide, it is his clumsy failure that is punished.

The ancients were also very far from looking at the matter in this
light. Pliny says: "_Vitam quidem non adeo expetendam censemus, ut
quoque modo trahenda sit. Quisquis es talis, aeque moriere, etiam cum
obscoenus vixeris, aut nefandus. Quapropter hoc primum quisque in
remediis animi sui habeat: ex omnibus bonis, quae homini tribuit natura,
nullum melius esse tempestiva morte: idque in ea optimum, quod illam
sibi quisque praestare poterit_." He also says: "_Ne Deum quidem posse
omnia. Namque nec sibi potest mortem consciscere, si velit, quod homini
dedit optimum in taniis vitae poenis_," etc.

In Massilia and on the island of Ceos a hemlock-potion was offered in
public by the magistrate to those who could give valid reasons for
quitting this life. And how many heroes and wise men of ancient times
have not ended their lives by a voluntary death! To be sure, Aristotle
says "Suicide is a wrong against the State, although not against the
person;" Stob�us, however, in his treatise on the Peripatetic ethics
uses this sentence: _φευκτον δε τον βιον γιγνεσθαι τοις μεν ἀγαθοις ἐν
ταις ἀγαν ἀτυχιαις τοις δε κακοις και ἐν ταις ἀγαν εὐτυχιαις. (Vitam
autem relinquendam esse bonis in nimiis quidem miseriis pravis vero in
nimium quoque secundis_) And similarly: Διο και γαμησειν, και
παιδοποιησεσθαι, και πολιτευσεσθαι, etc.; και καθολου την ἀρετην
ἀοκουντα και μενειν ἐν τῳ βιῳ, και παλιν, εἰ δεοι, ποτε δἰ ἀναγκας
ἀπαλλαγησεσθαι, ταφης προνοησαντα, etc. _(Ideoque et uxorem ducturum, et
liberos procreaturum, et ad civitatem accessurum,_ etc.; _atque omnino
virtutem colendo tum vitam servaturum, tum iterum, cogente necessitate,
relicturum,_ etc.) And we find that suicide was actually praised by the
Stoics as a noble and heroic act, this is corroborated by hundreds of
passages, and especially in the works of Seneca. Further, it is well
known that the Hindoos often look upon suicide as a religious act, as,
for instance, the self-sacrifice of widows, throwing oneself under the
wheels of the chariot of the god at Juggernaut, or giving oneself to the
crocodiles in the Ganges or casting oneself in the holy tanks in the
temples, and so on. It is the same on the stage--that mirror of life.
For instance, in the famous Chinese play, _L'Orphelin de la Chine_,[19]
almost all the noble characters end by suicide, without indicating
anywhere or it striking the spectator that they were committing a crime.
At bottom it is the same on our own stage; for instance, Palmira in
_Mahomet_, Mortimer in _Maria Stuart_, Othello, Countess Terzky. Is
Hamlet's monologue the meditation of a criminal? He merely states that
considering the nature of the world, death would be certainly
preferable, if we were sure that by it we should be annihilated. But
_there lies the rub_! But the reasons brought to bear against suicide by
the priests of monotheistic, that is of Jewish religions, and by those
philosophers who adapt themselves to it, are weak sophisms easily
contradicted.[20] Hume has furnished the most thorough refutation of
them in his _Essay on Suicide_, which did not appear until after his
death, and was immediately suppressed by the shameful bigotry and gross
ecclesiastical tyranny existing in England. Hence, only a very few
copies of it were sold secretly, and those at a dear price; and for this
and another treatise of that great man we are indebted to a reprint
published at Basle. That a purely philosophical treatise originating
from one of the greatest thinkers and writers of England, which refuted
with cold reason the current arguments against suicide, must steal about
in that country as if it were a fraudulent piece of work until it found
protection in a foreign country, is a great disgrace to the English
nation. At the same time it shows what a good conscience the Church has
on a question of this kind. The only valid moral reason against suicide
has been explained in my chief work. It is this: that suicide prevents
the attainment of the highest moral aim, since it substitutes a real
release from this world of misery for one that is merely apparent. But
there is a very great difference between a mistake and a crime, and it
is as a crime that the Christian clergy wish to stamp it. Christianity's
inmost truth is that suffering (the Cross) is the real purpose of life;
hence it condemns suicide as thwarting this end, while the ancients,
from a lower point of view, approved of it, nay, honoured it. This
argument against suicide is nevertheless ascetic, and only holds good
from a much higher ethical standpoint than has ever been taken by moral
philosophers in Europe. But if we come down from that very high
standpoint, there is no longer a valid moral reason for condemning
suicide. The extraordinarily active zeal with which the clergy of
monotheistic religions attack suicide is not supported either by the
Bible or by any valid reasons; so it looks as if their zeal must be
instigated by some secret motive. May it not be that the voluntary
sacrificing of one's life is a poor compliment to him who said, παντα
καλα λιαν?[21]

In that case it would be another example of the gross optimism of these
religions denouncing suicide, in order to avoid being denounced by it.

       *       *       *       *       *

As a rule, it will be found that as soon as the terrors of life outweigh
the terrors of death a man will put an end to his life. The resistance
of the terrors of death is, however, considerable; they stand like a
sentinel at the gate that leads out of life. Perhaps there is no one
living who would not have already put an end to his life if this end had
been something that was purely negative, a sudden cessation of
existence. But there is something positive about it, namely, the
destruction of the body. And this alarms a man simply because his body
is the manifestation of the will to live.

Meanwhile, the fight as a rule with these sentinels is not so hard as it
may appear to be from a distance; in consequence, it is true, of the
antagonism between mental and physical suffering. For instance, if we
suffer very great bodily pain, or if the pain lasts a long time, we
become indifferent to all other troubles: our recovery is what we desire
most dearly. In the same way, great mental suffering makes us insensible
to bodily suffering: we despise it. Nay, if it outweighs the other, we
find it a beneficial distraction, a pause in our mental suffering. And
so it is that suicide becomes easy; for the bodily pain that is bound up
with it loses all importance in the eyes of one who is tormented by
excessive mental suffering. This is particularly obvious in the case of
those who are driven to commit suicide through some purely morbid and
discordant feeling. They have no feelings to overcome; they do not need
to rush at it, but as soon as the keeper who looks after them leaves
them for two minutes they quickly put an end to their life.

       *       *       *       *       *

When in some horrid and frightful dream we reach the highest pitch of
terror, it awakens us, scattering all the monsters of the night. The
same thing happens in the dream of life, when the greatest degree of
terror compels us to break it off.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suicide may also be looked upon as an experiment, as a question which
man puts to Nature and compels her to answer. It asks, what change a
man's existence and knowledge of things experience through death? It is
an awkward experiment to make; for it destroys the very consciousness
that awaits the answer.


[19] Translated by St. Julien, 1834.

[20] See my treatise on the _Foundation of Morals_, � 5.

[21] Bd. I. p. 69.

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