Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860
Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)
Translated By T. Bailey Saunders, M.A.
Parerga Greek for Appendices and Paralipomena Greek for Omissions.
The Parerga is volume one and has 6 essays whereas Paralipomena is volume 2 and has 31 shorter essays.
One cold winter day a party of Porcupines huddled close up together, to keep each other warm and prevent themselves from freezing. But they soon found that they were pricking each other, and this made them move apart. When the need of warmth brought them together again, this second drawback made itself felt once more, and between these two woes they were driven like a shuttlecock between two battledores, until they discovered that the way out of the difficulty was, to keep close, but not too close.
So the need of companionship, arising from the emptiness and monotony of their inner existence, drives men together; but their many repellent qualities and unbearable failings drive them apart once more. The medium position, which they discover at last, in which they can endure to be together, is Civility and Good Manners.
Any one who transgresses against these, will be told to keep his distance. Though the need of mutual warmth will in this way be only imperfectly satisfied, yet the prick of the quills will not be felt. He, however, who has much inner warmth of his own, will prefer to keep out of society, and will thus neither cause nor suffer inconvenience.
The distinction between the thing-in -itself and the phenomenon may be expressed as that between the subjective and objective essence of a thing. Its pure subjective essence is the thing-in- itself, but this is no object of knowledge. For in order to be such it is essential that it should always be present in a knowing consciousness as its presentment, and what displays itself there is the objective essence of the thing. This is accordingly object of knowledge, but as such it is mere presentment, and as it can only become so by means of a presentment-apparatus which must have its own structure and the laws resulting therefrom, it is a mere phenomenon which must connect itself with the thing-in-itself.
Descartes is rightly deemed the father of modem philosophy, and this in a special, as well as a general sense, inasmuch as he placed the reason on its own feet by teaching men to use their own brains, in the place of which the Bible had previously served on the one hand, and Aristotle on the other. ….
The line of cleavage between the Real and the Ideal falls therefore, with me, in such wise that the whole perceivable and objectively- presented world, including every man’s body, together with time, space, and causality, in other words, together with the extended of Spinoza, and the matter of Locke, belongs as presentment to the Ideal. But in this case the Will alone remains as the Real, and this the whole of my predecessors, thoughtlessly and without reflection, had thrown into the Ideal as a mere result of presentment and of thought, Descartes and Spinoza having even identified it with the judgment.
The difference between the genius and the ordinary man is, no doubt, a quantitative one, in so far as it is a difference of degree; but one is tempted to regard it also as qualitative in view of the fact that ordinary minds, notwithstanding individual variation, have a certain tendency to think alike. Thus on similar occasions their thoughts at once take the same direction and run on the same lines; and this explains why their judgments constantly agree not, however, because they are based on truth. To such lengths does this go that certain fundamental views obtain among mankind at all times, and are always being repeated and brought forward anew, while the great minds of all ages are in open or secret opposition to them.
A genius is a man in whose mind the World as Idea reflects itself with a higher degree of clearness and a greater distinction of outline than is attained by ordinary people. It is from him that humanity may look for most instruction; for the deepest insight into the most important matters is to be acquired, not by an observant attention to detail, but by a close study of things as a whole. And if his mind reaches maturity the instruction he gives will be conveyed, now in one form, now in another. Thus genius may be defined as an eminently clear consciousness of things in general, and, therefore, also of that which is opposed to them namely, one’s own self.
How can we suppose on beholding the death of a human being that a thing-in-itself here comes to nothing? That a phenomenon in time, that form of all phenomena, finds its end without the thing-in-itself being thereby affected is an immediate intuitive cognition of every man; hence men have endeavoured to give utterance to it at all times, in the most diverse forms and expressions, but these are all derived from the phenomenon in its special sense and only have reference thereto. Everyone feels that he is something different from a being who has once been created from nothing by another being.
For true culture in the humanities it is absolutely necessary that a man should be many-sided and take large views; and for a man of learning in the higher sense of the word, an extensive acquaintance with history is needful. He, however, who wishes to be a complete philosopher, must gather into his head the remotest ends of human knowledge: for where else could they ever come together?
It is precisely minds of the first order that will never be specialists. For their very nature is to make the whole of existence their problem; and this is a subject upon which they will every one of them in some form provide mankind with a new revelation. For he alone can deserve the name of genius who takes the All, the Essential, the Universal, for the theme of his achievements; not he who spends his life in explaining some special relation of things one to another.
Reading and learning are things that anyone can do of his own free will; but not so thinking. Thinking must be kindled, like a fire by a draught; it must be sustained by some interest in the matter in hand. This interest may be of purely objective kind, or merely subjective. The latter comes into play only in things that concern us personally. Objective interest is confined to heads that think by nature; to whom thinking is as natural as breathing; and they are very rare. This is why most men of learning show so little of it.
It is incredible what a different effect is produced upon the mind by thinking for oneself, as compared with reading.
The dullness, grossness, perversity, silliness and brutality of by far the greater part of the race, are always an obstacle to the efforts of the genius, whatever be the method of his art; they so form that hostile army to which at last he has to succumb. Let the isolated champion achieve what he may: it is slow to be acknowledged; it is late in being appreciated, and then only on the score of authority; it may easily fall into neglect again, at any rate for a while. Ever afresh it finds itself opposed by false, shallow, and insipid ideas, which are better suited to that large majority, that so generally hold the field. Though the critic may step forth and say, like Hamlet when he held up the two portraits to his wretched mother, Have you eyes? Have you eyes? alas! they have none.
No child under the age of fifteen should receive instruction in subjects which may possibly be the vehicle of serious error, such as philosophy, religion, or any other branch of knowledge where it is necessary to take large views; because wrong notions imbibed early can seldom be rooted out, and of all the intellectual faculties judgment is the last to arrive at maturity. The child should give its attention either to subjects where no error is possible at all, such as mathematics, or to those in which there is no particular danger in making a mistake, such as languages, natural science, history, and so on.
The will to live, which forms the inmost core of every living being, exhibits itself most conspicuously in the higher order of animals, that is, the cleverer ones; and so in them the nature of the will may be seen and examined most clearly. For in the lower orders its activity is not so evident; it has a lower degree of objectivation; whereas, in the class which stands above the higher order of animals, that is, in men, reason enters in; and with reason comes discretion, and with discretion, the capacity of dissimulation, which throws a veil over the operations of the will. And in mankind, consequently, the will appears without its mask only in the affections and the passions.
That the outer man is a picture of the inner, and the face an expression and revelation of the whole character, is a presumption likely enough in itself, and therefore a safe one to go by; evidenced as it is by the fact that people are always anxious to see anyone who has made himself famous by good or evil, or as the author of some extraordinary work; or if they cannot get a sight of him, to hear at any rate from others what he looks like.
When Socrates said to a young man who was introduced to him to have his capabilities tested, “Talk in order that I may see you,” if indeed by “seeing” he did not simply mean “hearing,” he was right, so far as it is only in conversation that the features and especially the eyes become animated, and the intellectual resources and capacities set their mark upon the countenance. This puts us in a position to form a provisional notion of the degree and capacity of intelligence; which was in that case Socrates’ aim.
The two first conditions of philosophizing are these: firstly, to have the courage to set one’s heart upon no question; and, secondly, to bring all that which is obvious in itself to clear consciousness in order to comprehend it as problem. Finally, in order, properly-speaking, to philosophize, the mind must be truly at leisure. It must pursue no purposes, and thus not be led by the Will, but give itself over undividedly to the teaching which the perceptive world and its own consciousness impart to it. Now professors of philosophy are concerned as to their personal use and advantage, and what leads thereto; there the serious point for them lies. For this reason they fail altogether to see so many obvious things, indeed do not so much as once come to reflection on the problems of philosophy.
It is in literature as in life: wherever you turn, you stumble at once upon the incorrigible mob of humanity, swarming in all directions, crowding and soiling everything, like flies in summer. Hence the number, which no man can count, of bad books, those rank weeds of literature, which draw nourishment from the corn and choke it. The time, money and attention of the public, which rightfully belong to good books and their noble aims, they take for themselves: they are written for the mere purpose of making money or procuring places. So they are not only useless; they do positive mischief. Nine-tenths of the whole of our present literature has no other aim than to get a few shillings out of the pockets of the public; and to this end author, publisher and reviewer are in league.
Pantheism presupposes Theism; only in so far as you start from a god, that is, in so far as you possess him as something with which you are already familiar, can you end by identifying him with the world; and your purpose in doing so is to put him out of the way in a decent fashion. In other words, you do not start clear from the world as something that requires explanation; you start from God as something that is given, and not knowing what to do with him, you make the world take over his role. This is the origin of Pantheism.
The inmost kernel of Christianity is the truth that suffering — the Gross — is the real end and object of life. Hence Christianity condemns suicide as thwarting this end ; whilst the ancient world, taking a lower point of view, held it in approval, and, in honour.
The nobler and more perfect a thing is, the later and slower it is in arriving at maturity. A man reaches the maturity of his reasoning powers and mental faculties hardly before the age of twenty-eight; a woman, at eighteen.
It is by no means a bad plan to consult women in matters of difficulty, as the Germans used to do in ancient times; for their way of looking at things is quite different from ours, chiefly in the fact that they like to take the shortest way to their goal, and, in general, manage to fix their eyes upon what lies before them ; while we, as a rule, see far beyond it, just because it is in front of our noses. In cases like this, we need to be brought back to the right standpoint, so as to recover the near and simple view.
Kant wrote a treatise on The Vital Powers. I should prefer to write a dirge for them. The super-abundant display of vitality, which takes the form of knocking, hammering, and tumbling things about, has proved a daily torment to me all my life long. There are people, it is true — nay, a great many people —who smile at such things, because they are not sensitive to noise; but they are just the very people who are also not sensitive to argument, or thought, or poetry, or art, in a word, to any kind of intellectual influence. The reason of it is that the tissue of their brains is of a very rough and coarse quality. On the other hand, noise is a torture to intellectual people.
If the reader wishes to study any subject, let him beware of rushing to the newest books upon it, and confining his attention to them alone, under the notion that science is always advancing, and that the old books have been drawn upon in the writing of the new. They have been drawn upon, it is true; but how? The writer of the new book often does not understand the old books thoroughly, and yet he is unwilling to take their exact words; so he bungles them, and says in his own bad way that which has been said very much better and more clearly by the old writers, who wrote from their own lively knowledge of the subject.
Every mediocre writer tries to mask his own natural style, because in his heart he knows the truth of what I am saying. He is thus forced, at the outset, to give up any attempt at being frank or naïve—a privilege which is thereby reserved for superior minds, conscious of their own worth, and therefore sure of themselves. What I mean is that these everyday writers are absolutely unable to resolve upon writing just as they think; because they have a notion that, were they to do so, their work might possibly look very childish and simple. For all that, it would not be without its value. If they would only go honestly to work, and say, quite simply, the things they have really thought, and just as they have thought them, these writers would be readable and, within their own proper sphere, even instructive.
Thrasymachos. 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.
Philalethes. 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.
That which distinguishes genius, and should be the standard for judging it, is the height to which it is able to soar when it is in the proper mood and finds a fitting occasion—a height always out of the reach of ordinary talent. And, in like manner, it is a very dangerous thing to compare two great men of the same class; for instance, two great poets, or musicians, or philosophers, or artists; because injustice to the one or the other, at least for the moment, can hardly be avoided.
Everywhere, therefore, where the question hinges on the knowledge of cause and effect, or other forms of ground and consequence, that is, in all branches of natural science and of mathematics, as also of history or of inventions, etc., the knowledge sought for must be a, purpose of the Will, and the more eagerly it strives after it the sooner it will be attained.
Similarly in affairs of State, in war, in the business of finance or trade, in intrigues of every kind, and so forth, the Will must first compel the intellect by the intensity of its longing to strain all its powers, in order, in the case in question, to get on the exact track of all its grounds and consequences. It is indeed astonishing how far the spur of the Will can drive a given intellect beyond the accustomed measure of its powers. Hence, for all distinguished achievements in such things, not merely a clever or well-balanced head, but also an energetic Will is required, which must first impel the former to the laborious strain and restless activity without which such achievements are not to be carried out.
He who is capable of deeper thinking will soon see that human desires cannot first begin to be sinful at that point where they, fortuitously crossing one another in their individual directions, occasion evil from the one and malice from the other, side ; but that, if this be so, they must be originally and in their very essence sinful and accursed, and that consequently the entire Will-to-Live must itself be accursed. The horrors and misery with which the world is full are then the necessary result of the sum of the characters in which the Will-to-Live objectifies itself, to which the circumstances occurring in the unbroken chain, of necessity supply motives — in other words, are the mere commentary on the affirmation of the Will-to-Live. That our existence itself implies a fault is proved by death.
The Buddhists, in consequence of their deeper ethical and metaphysical insights, do not start from cardinal virtues, but from cardinal vices, as the antitheses or negations of which the cardinal virtues first appear.
Every human perfection is akin to a fault into which it threatens to pass over; and conversely every fault is akin to a perfection. Hence the mistake respecting a man in which we are often landed, rests upon the fact that at the beginning of our acquaintance we confound his faults with their kindred perfections, or vice versa. The prudent man thus seems to us cowardly, the economical man avaricious; the spendthrift seems liberal, the discourteous man straight-forward and upright, the blockhead endowed with a noble self-confidence, &c.
I have never been able to make out the fable of Pandora; it seems to me to have neither rhyme nor reason. My opinion is, that Hesiod himself misunderstood it and put it in the wrong way. Surely Pandora — her very name shows it — had all the excellent things of the world in her box, and not all the evils. Epimetheus opening it too hastily, out they all flew — all, that is, except Hope, who was saved and remains with us.
It is a characteristic failing of the Germans to look in the clouds for what lies at their feet. An excellent example of this is furnished by the treatment which the idea of Natural Right has received at the hands of professors of philosophy. When they are called upon to explain those simple relations of human life which make up the substance of this right, such as Right and Wrong, Property, State, Punishment and so on, they have recourse to the most extravagant, abstract, remote and meaningless conceptions, and out of them build a Tower of Babel reaching to the clouds, and taking this or that form according to the special whim of the professor for the time being.
To read, instead of the original works of philosophers, all sorts of expositions of their doctrines, or history of philosophy generally, is as though one should get some one else to masticate one’s food. Would anyone read the history of the world if it were possible for him to behold the interesting events of ancient times with his own eyes?
Between Sokrates and Kant many parallels may be drawn. Both reject all dogmatism; both profess a complete ignorance in matters of metaphysic and make their speciality the clear consciousness of this ignorance. Both maintain that the practical, that which man has to do and to forbear, is, on the other hand, perfectly certain of itself without any further theoretical foundation. Both had the fortune, that their immediate successors and declared disciples broke away from them precisely on these principles, and, elaborating a metaphysic, established thoroughly dogmatic systems ; and further, that these systems turned out very diverse, and yet all agreed in maintaining that they started from the doctrines of Sokrates or Kant, as the case might be.
As I am myself a Kantian, I will here notify my relation to him in one word. Kant teaches that we cannnot know anything beyond experience and its possibility. I admit this, but maintain that experience itself, in its totality, is susceptible of an explanation which I have endeavored to give by deciphering it like a writing, and not, as with all earlier philosophers, by undertaking to transcend it by means of its mere forms, a method Kant had proved to be invalid.