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

Freedom is but the possibility of a various and indefinite activity; while government, or the exercise of dominion, is a single, yet real activity. The longing for freedom, therefore, is at first only too frequently suggested by the deep-felt consciousness of its absence.

In order to bring about the transition from the condition of the present to another newly resolved on, every reform should be allowed to proceed as much as possible from men's minds and thoughts.

Real inward devotion knows no prayer but that arising from the depths of its own feelings.

To behold, is not necessary to observe, and the power of comparing and combining is only to be obtained by education. It is much to be regretted that habits of exact observation are not cultivated in our schools; to this deficiency may be traced much of the fallacious reasoning, the false philosophy which prevails.

Governmental regulations all carry coercion to some degree, and even where they don't, they habituate man to expect teaching, guidance and help outside himself, instead of formulating his own.

In the moral world there is nothing impossible if we can bring a thorough will to it. Man can do everything with himself, but he must not attempt to do too much with others.

Results are nothing; the energies which produce them and which again spring from them are everything.

To inquire and to create;—these are the grand centres around which all human pursuits revolve, or at least to these objects do they all more or less directly refer.

Happiness is so nonsynonymous with joy or pleasure that it is not infrequently sought and felt in grief and deprivation.

It is a characteristic of old age to find the progress of time accelerated. The less one accomplishes in a given time, the shorter does the retrospect appear.

Scholars conduct is not much better than a comedian group to have.

To judge a man means nothing other than to ask: What content does he give to the form of humanity? What concept should we have of humanity if he were its only representative?

All growth toward perfection is but a returning to original existence.

How a person masters his fate is more important than what his fate is.

It is a truly sublime spectacle when in the stillness of the night, in an unclouded sky, the stars, like the world's choir, rise and set, and as it were divide existence into two portions,--the one, belonging to the earthly, is silent in the perfect stillness of night; whilst the other alone comes forth in sublimity, pomp, and majesty. Viewed in this light, the starry heavens truly exercise a moral influence over us; and who can readily stray into the paths of immorality if he has been accustomed to live amidst such thoughts and feelings, and frequently to dwell upon them? How are we entranced by the simple splendors of this wonderful drama of nature!

The best and noblest parts of man depend precious little on culture, education, and whatever else it is called. One can never have enough respect for true humanity as it is visible in the persons of the totally uneducated classes, and never enough humility if one sometimes believes one is superior to them.

Trees have about them something beautiful and attractive even to the fancy, since they cannot change their places, are witnesses of all the changes that take place around them; and as some reach a great age, they become, as it were, historical monuments, and like ourselves they have a life, growing and passing away,--not being inanimate and unvarying like the fields and rivers. One sees them passing through various stages, and at last step by step approaching death, which makes them look still more like ourselves.

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.

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