Wilhelm von Humboldt, fully Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand von Humboldt

Wilhelm von
Humboldt, fully Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand von Humboldt
1767
1835

Prussian Philosopher, Government Functionary, Diplomat and Founder of the University of Berlin

Author Quotes

All merit ceases the moment we perform an act for the sake of its consequences. Truly, in this respect "we have our reward."

However benevolent may be the intentions of Providence, they do not always advance the happiness of the individual. Providence has always higher ends in view, and works in a pre-eminent degree on the inner feelings and disposition.

It is an absolutely vain endeavor to attempt to reconstruct or even comprehend the nature of a human being by simply knowing the forces which have acted upon him. However deeply we should like to penetrate, however close we seem to be drawing to truth, one unknown quantity eludes us: man's primordial energy, his original self, that personality which was given him with the gift of life itself. On it rests man's true freedom; it alone determines his real character.

The finest fruit earth holds up to its Maker is a finished man.

True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united.

All situations in which the interrelationships between extremes are involved are the most interesting and instructive.

However great an evil immorality may be, we must not forget that it is not without its beneficial consequences. It is only through extremes that men can arrive at the middle path of wisdom and virtue.

It is continued temperance which sustains the body for the longest period of time, and which most surely preserves it free from sickness.

The government is best which makes itself unnecessary.

True resignation, which always brings with it the confidence that unchangeable goodness will make even the disappointment of our hopes, and the contradictions of life, conducive to some benefit, casts a grave but tranquil light over the prospect of even a toilsome and troubled life.

As soon as one stops searching for knowledge, or if one imagines that it need not be creatively sought in the depths of the human spirit but can be assembled extensively by collecting and classifying facts, everything is irrevocably and lost.

Human nature must be something which always remains one and the same, but which may be carried out in manifold ways.

It is resignation and contentment that are best calculated to lead us safely through life. Whoever has not sufficient power to endure privations, and even suffering, can never feel that he is armor proof against painful emotions,--nay, he must attribute to himself, or at least to the morbid sensitiveness of his nature, every disagreeable feeling he may suffer.

The inquiry into the proper aims and limits of State agency must be of the highest importance—nay, that it is perhaps more vitally momentous than any other political question.

War seems to be one of the most salutary phenomena for the culture of human nature; and it is not without regret that I see it disappearing more and more from the scene.

Besides the pleasure derived from acquired knowledge, there lurks in the mind of man, and tinged with a shade of sadness, an unsatisfactory longing for something beyond the present, a striving towards regions yet unknown and unopened.

I am more and more convinced that our happiness or our unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves.

It is usually more important how a man meets his fate than what it is.

The legislator should keep two things constantly before his eyes:—1. The pure theory developed to its minutest details; 2. The particular condition of actual things which he designs to reform.

We cannot assume the injustice of any actions which only create offense, and especially as regards religion and morals. He who utters or does anything to wound the conscience and moral sense of others, may indeed act immorally; but, so long as he is not guilty of being importunate, he violates no right.

Coercion may prevent many transgressions; but it robs even actions which are legal of a part of their beauty. Freedom may lead to many transgressions, but it lends even to vices a less ignoble form.

I lay very little stress either upon asking or giving advice. Generally speaking, they who ask advice know what they wish to do, and remain firm to their intentions. A man may allow himself to be enlightened on various points, even upon matters of expediency and duty; but, after all, he must determine his course of action, for himself.

Joy mingled with sadness, even with grief, is the deepest human joy. It winds itself about the soul with indescribable sweetness, with a dim but unerring sense for what will someday be born of it.

The mere reality of life would be inconceivably poor without the charm of fancy, which brings in its bosom, no doubt, as many vain fears as idle hopes, but lends much oftener to the illusions it calls up a gay flattering hue than one which inspires terror.

We have not the remotest realistic inkling of a consciousness which is not self-consciousness.

Author Picture
First Name
Wilhelm von
Last Name
Humboldt, fully Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand von Humboldt
Birth Date
1767
Death Date
1835
Bio

Prussian Philosopher, Government Functionary, Diplomat and Founder of the University of Berlin