An appropriate book to snuggle up with on one’s birthday, letting cheery old Schopenhauer light the way with his torches of intellectual snobbery. I do enjoy old Schopey, minus his sexist and racist rants (p 28 and 48 among others). In this work, he reduces humans to three distinct things: what a person is, what a person has (property, possessions), and a person’s reputation. Having your health and a sound mind will get you far along the path of happiness. He recounts wisdom found from an old book, “If you laugh a great deal, you are happy; if you cry a great deal, you are unhappy” then goes on to exhort “If cheerfulness knocks at our door, we should throw it wide open, for it never comes inopportunely.” (p 21) He praises the anti-social intellect and goes on to rage at stupid people:
“intellectual dullness is at the bottom of that vacuity of soul which is stamped on so many faces, a state of mind which betrays itself by a constant and lively attention to all the trivial circumstances in the external world. This is the true source of boredom – a continual panting after excitement, in order to have a pretext for giving the mind and spirits something to occupy them… Nothing is so good a protection against such misery as inward wealth, the wealth of the mind, because the greater it grows, the less room it leaves for boredom. The inexhaustible activity of thought! finding ever new material to work upon in the multifarious phenomena of self and nature, and able tnad ready to form new combinations of them – there you have something that invigorates the mind, and apart from moments of relaxation, sets it far above the reach of boredom.(p 26)
More raging against idiots (he waxes quite poetical on the subject):
“Hamlet says, A knavish speech sleeps in a fool’s ear. And Goethe is of the same opinion, that a dull ear mocks the wisest word and again that we should not be discouraged if people are stupid, for you can make no rings if you throw your stone into a marsh. Lichtenberg asks: When a head and a book come into collision, and one sounds hollow, is it always the book?” (p 96)
He uses Lichtenberg again to inflict a grave wound on Hegel’s reputation:
The fame which vanishes proves itself to have been spurious, unmerited, due to a momentary over-estimate of a man’s work; not to speak of the kind of fame which Hegel enjoyed, and which Lichtenberg describes as trumpeted forth by a clique of admiring undergraduates – the resounding echo of empty heads – such a fame as will make posterity smile when it lights upon a grotesque architecture of words, a fine nest with the birds long ago flown; it will knock at the door of this decayed structure of conventionalities and find it utterly empty – not even a trace of thought there to invite the passer-by. (p 98-99)
Naturally he agrees that the best state in life is to be born with some property and thus freedom from having to work in drudgery, “to start life with just as much as will make one independent, to live comfortably without having to work, is an advantage which cannot be over-estimated. Only under a favorable fate like this can a man be said to be born free, to be master of his own time and powers, and able to say every morning, This day is my own.” Voltaire is quoted, “We have only two days to live; it is not worth our while to spend them in cringing to contemptible rascals.” This leads further on to the thought that “what is worth doing is hard to do,” although immeasurably easier to do with enough leisure, eh Schopey?
When Socrates saw various articles of luxury spread out for sale, he exclaimed: How much there is in the world that I do not want. (p 15)
Great section on how to treat insults: “True appreciation of his own value will make a man really indifferent to insult; but if he cannot help resenting it, a little shrewdness and culture will enable him to save appearances and dissemble his anger.” (p 84)
The wise man will strive after freedom from pain and annoyance, quiet and leisure, consequently a tranquil, modest life, with as few encounters as may be; and so, after a little experience of his so-called fellow-men, he will elect to live in retirement, or even in solitude. For the more a man has in himself, the less he will want from other people – the less, indeed, other people can be to him. This is why a high degree of intellect tends to make a man unsocial. True, if quality of intellect could be made up for by quantity, it might be worth while to live even in the great world; but, unfortunately, a hundred fools together will not make one wise man. (p 27)
A great footnote on p 100: “Our greatest pleasure consists in being admired; but those who admire us, even if they have every reason to do so, are slow to express their sentiments. Hence he is the happiest man who, no matter how, manages sincerely to admire himself- so long as other people leave him alone.”
Other odds and ends:
* I picked up the word “pleonasm” – using extraneous words (e.g. the burning fire).
* Ridiculous section on female honor requiring purity in exchange for being taken care of, “Women depend upon men in all the relations of life; men upon women, it might be said, in one only.” He also ranks women & priests as the “two classes of persons to whom one should be most careful to give as little tether as possible.” Read the whole piece of garbage on pages 67-9.