Derek Sivers

Essays and Aphorisms - by Arthur Schopenhauer

Essays and Aphorisms - by Arthur Schopenhauer

ISBN: 0140442278
Date read: 2022-05-06
How strongly I recommend it: 7/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Classic philosophy. I strongly disagreed with his thoughts on the meaning of life, on women, and some on religion. But the rest were fascinating and worthy of deeper reflection. Too much to summarize. See notes.

my notes

‘Everything is really water’ means:
The world we perceive is characterized by great diversity, but fundamentally the world is a unity.
The reverse is apparent.
Two worlds, the ‘real’ and the ‘apparent’.

The living occupy the world of nature, but the world of thought is also inhabited by the dead, immortal.
In memory the past, that which has vanished from the perceived world, continues to exist.
Where does it exist? In that other world which we perceive only in thought.
It is only there that we encounter actual terror.
The world of thought is much more real than the physical world.
All the qualities in it which men find useful or interesting or dreadful will be transferred one by one to the ‘real’ world as to their true home, so that at last the physical world is denuded of all value and claim to veneration and becomes a mere illusion, an appearance, a veil masking that other, ‘real’ world?

The conceptual basis of Christianity:
Crumbling Roman Empire is contrasted with the supernal realm of beauty and order which alone is asserted to be real.
With Christianity all positive value is transferred to the Beyond.

Thinking substance or soul and extended substance or matter.
‘I don't know’ is water, and mankind wants something stronger.

Suppose the material world did not exist: would anything about our perception of the world be changed?

The world is a creation of mind. Everything is ‘really’ mind.

Some arguments are merely ingenious rather than convincing.

Causation cannot be perceived.

The world is my idea.
‘I’ is the real world.

Knowledge of oneself would be knowledge of immediate reality.

Will is evil and must be denied.
Every individual is an ego whose interest in staying alive overrides every other, including of course the life-interest of every other individual.
The outcome is universal conflict.
The way out of this circle of suffering lies in denial of the will, refusal to enter the contest.

We never really notice what is agreeable to our will.
If we notice something, our will has been thwarted.
We are conscious not of the healthiness of our whole body but only of the little pains.

We find pleasure much less pleasurable, pain much more painful than we expected.
Compare the feelings of an animal engaged in eating another with those of the animal being eaten.

Knowledge is in itself always painless.
Pain affects only the will and consists in an obstruction, impediment or frustration of it.

The most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes.

We take no pleasure in existence except when we are striving after something – in which case distance and difficulties make our goal look as if it would satisfy us (an illusion which fades when we reach it) – or when engaged in purely intellectual activity, in which case we are really stepping out of life so as to regard it from outside, like spectators at a play.

Pregnancy is a cancellation of the guilt incurred by coitus.
Coitus bears all the shame while pregnancy stays innocent and sacred, with a kind of pride.

After your death you will be what you were before your birth.

We do not know what things are like in themselves — independently of our perception of them.

Death may be able to end our life, it cannot end our existence.
The more clearly you become conscious of the frailty, vanity and dream-like quality of all things, the more clearly will you also become conscious of the eternity of your own inner being.

Life is a loan received from death, with sleep as the daily interest on this loan.

When you die you will become everything.

Suppose I guarantee you the continued existence of your individuality, but on condition it is preceded by a completely unconscious death-sleep of three months.
But since when we are completely unconscious we have no notion of the passage of time, it is all one to us whether, while we are lying in that death-sleep, three months or ten thousand years pass in the conscious world. For in either case, when we awake we have to take on trust how long we have been sleeping. So that it will be all the same to you whether your individuality is restored to you after three months or ten thousand years.
If after these ten thousand years have passed it was forgotten to wake you up, you would be completely content with the whole thing.

As the biggest library if it is in disorder is not as useful as a small but well-arranged one, so you may accumulate a vast amount of knowledge but it will be of far less value to you than a much smaller amount if you have not thought it over for yourself.
Because only through ordering what you know by comparing every truth with every other truth can you take complete possession of your knowledge and get it into your power.

You can know only what you have thought about.

Too much reading robs the mind of all elasticity, as the continual pressure of a weight does a spring, and that the surest way of never having any thoughts of your own is to pick up a book every time you have a free moment.

Erudition makes most men duller and sillier than they are by nature.

Reading is merely a surrogate for thinking for yourself; it means letting someone else direct your thoughts.

You should read only when your own thoughts dry up.

Mere experience is no substitute for thinking.

He who truly thinks for himself accepts no authorities, and he acknowledges the validity of nothing he has not himself confirmed.

There is no happiness on earth to compare with that which a beautiful and fruitful mind finds in a propitious hour in itself.

Think for your own instruction.
Sophists think for the instruction of others.
They want to appear as thinkers and seek their happiness in what they hope thereby to get from others. This is what they are in earnest about.

Religion is the metaphysics of the people.
Just as there is folk-poetry and, in the proverbs, folk-wisdom, so there has to be folk-metaphysics: one they are capable of understanding.
That is why it is always clothed in allegory.

The capacity for faith is at its strongest in childhood, which is why religions apply themselves before all else to getting these tender years into their possession.

Even if a really true philosophy had taken the place of religion, nine-tenths of mankind at the very least would receive it on authority, so that it too would be a matter of belief.

Religion takes a blind man by the hand and leads him, since he cannot see for himself and the sole point is that he should arrive at his destination, not that he should see all there is to see.

If religion were to admit that it was only the allegorical meaning of its doctrine which was true this would rob it of all efficacy.

If only a statistician could tell us first of all how many crimes are refrained from each year from religious motives and how many from other motives.
There would be very few of the former.
For when a man feels tempted to commit a crime, religion alone will very rarely hold him back.

Have the courage not to keep any question back.
Attain a clear consciousness of anything that goes without saying so as to comprehend it as a problem.

Scepticism is in philosophy what the Opposition is in Parliament; it is just as beneficial, and indeed necessary.

Write down valuable ideas that occur to you as soon as possible

Knowledge is not power.
One man can have a great deal of knowledge without its giving him the least power, while another possesses supreme authority but next to no knowledge.

Most people resolve to get by with the least possible expenditure of thought, because to them thinking is hard and burdensome.
They think only as much as their trade or business makes absolutely necessary.

Man is the only animal which causes pain to others with no other object than causing pain.

We know what we are by what we do.

As the botanist plucks one single flower from the endless abundance of the plant world and then analyses it so as to demonstrate to us the nature of the plant in general, so the poet selects a single scene, indeed sometimes no more than a single mood or sensation, from the endless confusion of ceaselessly active human life, in order to show us what the life and nature of man is.

Poetry as the art of setting the imagination into action by means of words.

A man who tries to live on the generosity of the Muses, I mean on his poetic gifts, seems to me somewhat to resemble a girl who lives on her charms. Both profane for base profit what ought to be the free gift of their inmost being. Both are liable to become exhausted and both usually come to a shameful end. So do not degrade your Muse to a whore.

It is natural to man to believe true what he desires to be true, and to believe it because he desires it.

The use of the word person to designate the human individual, as is done in all European languages: for persona really means an actor's mask, and it is true that no one reveals himself as he is; we all wear a mask and play a role.

Money is human happiness in abstracto; consequently he who is no longer capable of happiness in concreto sets his whole heart on money.

There is no surer sign of greatness than ignoring hurtful or insulting expressions by attributing them without further ado, like countless other errors, to the speaker's lack of knowledge and thus merely taking note of them without feeling them.

To possess a great deal of imagination means that the perceiving function of the brain is sufficiently strong not invariably to require stimulation by the senses in order to become active.

When a great deal of real material is provided from without for us to perceive, as on journeys, in the bustle of life, at high noon, then the imagination takes a holiday and refuses to become active even when summoned: it sees that this is not its season. Nonetheless, if the imagination is to be fruitful it must have received a great deal of material from the outer world, for this alone can fill its store-room. But the nourishing of the fantasy is like the nourishing of the body: it is precisely at the time it is being given a great deal of nourishment which it has to digest that the body is at its least efficient and most likes to take a holiday – yet it is to this nourishment that it owes all the strength which later, in the right season, it manifests.

People need external activity because they have no internal activity. Where, on the contrary, the latter does exist, the former is likely to be a very troublesome, indeed execrable annoyance

The restlessness of those who have nothing to do, and their aimless travelling. What drives them from country to country is the same boredom.
A man traveled the world for years then bragged, ‘I wasn't bored for an instant.’

Faith and knowledge are totally different things which for their mutual benefit have to be kept strictly separate, so that each goes its own way without paying the slightest attention to the other.

Christianity had to supplant was Judaism, whose rude dogma was sublimated and tacitly allegorized in the Christian.

It is not the seed but the fruit which is edible.

The weak point of all religions remains that they can never dare to confess to being allegorical, so that they have to present their doctrines in all seriousness as true, which leads to perpetual deception.
In time it comes to light that they are not true sensu proprio, and then they perish.
It would be better to admit their allegorical nature straightway.
The difficulty here is to make the people understand that a thing can be true and not true at the same time.

Christianity, unlike the other religions, it is not a pure doctrine, but essentially and above all a history, a succession of events, a complex of facts and the actions and sufferings of individuals, and it is this history which constitutes the dogma belief in which redeems.
It its death throes, we see religion clinging to morality.

Belief is like love: it cannot be compelled; and as any attempt to compel love produces hate, so it is the attempt to compel belief which first produces real unbelief.

Only he who writes entirely for the sake of what he has to say writes anything worth writing.

A multitude of bad writers lives exclusively on the stupid desire of the public to read nothing but what has just been printed: the journalists. Well named! In English the word means ‘day-labourers’.

Three kinds of author:
Firstly, there are those who write without thinking. They write from memory, from reminiscence, or even directly from other people's books. This class is the most numerous. –
Secondly, there are those who think while writing. They think in order to write. Very common.
Thirdly, there are those who have thought before they started writing. They write simply because they have thought. Rare.

Writing: when it begins to exist for others it ceases to live in us.
As soon as our thinking has found words it ceases to be sincere or at bottom serious.

Reading can not teach writing.
It instructs us in the use we can make of our own natural gifts; thus it can instruct us only when we possess such gifts.
If we do not possess them we can learn from reading nothing but cold dead mannerism, and become superficial imitators.