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

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.

Death is but a word to us. One’s own experience alone can teach us the real meaning of the word. The sight of the dying does little. What one sees of them is merely what precedes death: dull unconsciousness is all we see. Whether this be so,—how and when the spirit wakes to life again,—this is what all wish to know, and what never can be known until it is experienced.

If it were not somewhat fanciful to suppose that every human excellence is presented, as it were, in one kind of being, we might believe that the whole treasure of morality and order is enshrined in the female character.

Language makes infinite use of finite media.

The price of apparent happiness and enjoyment is the neglect of the spontaneous active energies of the acting members.

Whatever does not spring from a man's free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very being, but still remains alien to his true nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness.

Even by means of our sorrows we belong to the eternal plan.

If it were possible to make an accurate calculation of the evils which police regulations occasion, and of those which they prevent, the number of the former would, in all cases, exceed that of the latter.

Man is more disposed to domination than freedom; and a structure of dominion not only gladdens the eye of the master who rears and protects it, but even its servants are uplifted by the thought that they are members of a whole, which rises high above the life and strength of single generations.

The sea has been called deceitful and treacherous, but there lies in this trait only the character of a great natural power, which, to speak according to our own feelings, renews its strength, and, without reference to joy or sorrow, follows eternal laws which are imposed by a higher Power.

When we are not too anxious about happiness and unhappiness, but devote ourselves to the strict and unsparing performance of duty, then happiness comes of itself--nay, even springs from the midst of a life of troubles and anxieties and privations.

Even sleep is characteristic. How beautiful are children in their lovely innocence! how angel-like their blooming features! and how painful and anxious is the sleep of the guilty!

If something possesses no capacity for activity whatever, it is nothing; it may be wholly penetrated, but it cannot be touched. Therefore passivity and reaction are everywhere equal.

Man reconciles himself to almost any event, however trying, if it happens in the ordinary course of nature. It is the extraordinary alone that he rebels against. There is a moral idea associated with this feeling; for the extraordinary appears to be something like an injustice of heaven.

The sensual and spiritual are linked together by a mysterious bond, sensed by our emotions, though hidden from our eyes. To this double nature of the visible and invisible world / to the profound longing for the latter, coupled with the feeling of the sweet necessity for the former, we owe all sound and logical systems of philosophy, truly based on the immutable principles of our nature, just as from the same source arise the most senseless enthusiasms.

Wherever the citizen becomes indifferent to his fellows, so will the husband be to his wife, and the father of a family toward the members of his household.

Every man, however good he may be, has a yet better man dwelling in him, which is properly himself, but to whom nevertheless he is often unfaithful. It is to this interior and less mutable being that we should attach ourselves, not to be changeable, every-day man.

If the mind loves solitude, it has thereby acquired a loftier character, and it becomes still more noble when the taste is indulged in.

Only what we have wrought into our character during life can we take away with us.

The sorrow which calls for help and comfort is not the greatest, nor does it come from the depths of the heart.

Women are in this respect more fortunate than men, that most of their employments are of such a nature that they can at the same time be thinking of quite different things.

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