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The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Counsels and Maxims   By: (1788-1860)

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First Page:

THE ESSAYS

OF

ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER

TRANSLATED BY

T. BAILEY SAUNDERS, M.A.

COUNSELS AND MAXIMS.

Le bonheur n'est pas chose aisée: il est très difficile de le trouver en nous, et impossible de le trouver ailleurs .

CHAMFORT.

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER

INTRODUCTION I. GENERAL RULES II. OUR RELATION TO OURSELVES III. OUR RELATION TO OTHERS IV. WORLDLY FORTUNE V. THE AGES OF LIFE

INTRODUCTION.

If my object in these pages were to present a complete scheme of counsels and maxims for the guidance of life, I should have to repeat the numerous rules some of them excellent which have been drawn up by thinkers of all ages, from Theognis and Solomon[1] down to La Rochefoucauld; and, in so doing, I should inevitably entail upon the reader a vast amount of well worn commonplace. But the fact is that in this work I make still less claim to exhaust my subject than in any other of my writings.

[Footnote 1: I refer to the proverbs and maxims ascribed, in the Old Testament, to the king of that name.]

An author who makes no claims to completeness must also, in a great measure, abandon any attempt at systematic arrangement. For his double loss in this respect, the reader may console himself by reflecting that a complete and systematic treatment of such a subject as the guidance of life could hardly fail to be a very wearisome business. I have simply put down those of my thoughts which appear to be worth communicating thoughts which, as far as I know, have not been uttered, or, at any rate, not just in the same form, by any one else; so that my remarks may be taken as a supplement to what has been already achieved in the immense field.

However, by way of introducing some sort of order into the great variety of matters upon which advice will be given in the following pages, I shall distribute what I have to say under the following heads: (1) general rules; (2) our relation to ourselves; (3) our relation to others; and finally, (4) rules which concern our manner of life and our worldly circumstances. I shall conclude with some remarks on the changes which the various periods of life produce in us.

CHAPTER I.

GENERAL RULES. SECTION 1.

The first and foremost rule for the wise conduct of life seems to me to be contained in a view to which Aristotle parenthetically refers in the Nichomachean Ethics :[1] [Greek: o phronimoz to alupon dioke e ou to aedu] or, as it may be rendered, not pleasure, but freedom from pain, is what the wise man will aim at .

[Footnote 1: vii. (12) 12.]

The truth of this remark turns upon the negative character of happiness, the fact that pleasure is only the negation of pain, and that pain is the positive element in life. Though I have given a detailed proof of this proposition in my chief work,[1] I may supply one more illustration of it here, drawn from a circumstance of daily occurrence. Suppose that, with the exception of some sore or painful spot, we are physically in a sound and healthy condition: the sore of this one spot, will completely absorb our attention, causing us to lose the sense of general well being, and destroying all our comfort in life. In the same way, when all our affairs but one turn out as we wish, the single instance in which our aims are frustrated is a constant trouble to us, even though it be something quite trivial. We think a great deal about it, and very little about those other and more important matters in which we have been successful. In both these cases what has met with resistance is the will ; in the one case, as it is objectified in the organism, in the other, as it presents itself in the struggle of life; and in both, it is plain that the satisfaction of the will consists in nothing else than that it meets with no resistance. It is, therefore, a satisfaction which is not directly felt; at most, we can become conscious of it only when we reflect upon our condition. But that which checks or arrests the will is something positive; it proclaims its own presence... Continue reading book >>




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