Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Arthur Schopenhauer

German Philosopher

"According to the true nature of things, everyone has all the sufferings of the world as his own; indeed, he has to look upon all merely possible sufferings as actual for him, so long as he is the firm and constant will-to-live, in other words, affirms life with all his strength. For the knowledge that sees through the principium individuationis, a happy life in time, given by chance or won from it by shrewdness, amid the sufferings of innumerable others, is only a beggar’s dream, in which he is a king, but from which he must awake, in order to realize that only a fleeting illusion had separated him from the suffering of his life."

"A man can be himself only so long as he is alone;... if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free."

"All love, however ethereally it may bear itself, is rooted in the sexual impulse alone, nay, it absolutely is only a more definitely determined, specialised, and indeed in the strictest sense individualized sexual impulse."

"Compared with the short span of time they live, men of great intellect are like huge buildings, standing on a small plot of ground. The size of the building cannot be seen by anyone, just in front of it; nor, for an analogous reason, can the greatness of a genius be estimated while he lives. but when a century has passed, the world recognizes it and wishes him back again."

"Every generation, no matter how paltry its character, thinks itself much wiser than the one immediately preceding it, let alone those that are more remote."

"Everyone can make a claim to honor; very few to fame, as being attainable only in virtue of extraordinary achievements."

"Great intellectual gifts mean an activity pre-eminently nervous in its character, and consequently a very high degree of susceptibility to pain in every form."

"If we turn from contemplating the world as a whole, and, in particular, the generations of men as they live their little hour of mock-existence, and then are swept away in rapid succession; if we turn from this, and look at life in its small details, as presented, say, in a comedy, how ridiculous it all seems ! It is like a drop of water seen through a microscope, a single drop teeming with infusoria; or a speck of cheese full of mites invisible to the naked eye. How e laugh as they bustle about so eagerly, and struggle with one another in so tiny a space! And whether here, or in the little span of human life, this terrible activity produces a comic effect."

"Instead of developing the child’s own faculties of discernment, and teaching it to judge and think for itself, the teacher uses all his energies to stuff its head full of the ready-made thoughts of other people."

"Hatred comes from the heart; contempt from the head; and neither feeling is quite within our control."

"Restlessness is the hallmark of existence."

"It is difficult, if not impossible, to define the limits which reason should impose on the desire for wealth; for there is no absolute or definite amount of wealth which will satisfy a man."

"It is not so difficult a task to plant new truths as to root out old errors, for there is this paradox in men: they run after that which is new, but are prejudiced in favor of that which is old... A truth that is merely acquired from others only clings to us as a limb added to the body, or as a false tooth, or a wax nose. A truth we have acquired by our own mental exertions, is like our natural limbs, which really belong to us. This is exactly the difference between an original thinker and the mere learned man."

"Lessons well learnt in youth are never forgotten."

"Man shows his character best in trifles."

"Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on guard. It is in insignificant matters, and in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feelings of others, and denies nothing to itself."

"Music... stand quite alone. It is cut off from all the other arts... It does not express a particular and definite joy, sorrow, anguish, horror, delight, or mood of peace, but joy, sorrow, anguish, horror, delight, peace of mind themselves, in the abstract, in their essential nature, without accessories, and therefore without their customary motives. Yet it enables us to grasp and share them fully in this quintessence."

"Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax."

"Ordinary people merely think how they shall spend their time; a man of talent tries to use it."

"Reason deserves to be called a prophet; for in showing us the consequence and effect of our actions in the present, does it not tell us what the future will be?"

"We may divide thinkers into those who think for themselves, and those who think through others. The latter are the rule, and the former the exception. The first are original thinkers in a double sense, and egotists in the noblest meaning of the world. It is from them only that the world learns wisdom. For only the light which we have kindled in ourselves can illuminate others."

"Rudeness is better than any argument; it totally eclipses intellect."

"The man who has been born into a position of wealth comes to look upon it as something without which he could no more live than he could live without air; he guards it as he does his very life; and so he is generally a lover of order, prudent and economical. But the man who has been born into a poor position looks upon it as the natural one, and if by any chance he comes in for a fortune, he regards it as a superfluity, something to be enjoyed or wasted, because, if it comes to an end, he can get on just as well as before, with one anxiety the less."

"There is no more mistaken path to happiness than worldliness, revelry and high life."

"There is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person."

"What a man is in himself, what accompanies him when he is alone, what no one can give him or take away, is obviously more essential to him than everything he has in the way of possessions, or even what he may be in the eyes of the world."

"There is wide difference between the original thinker and the merely learned man."

"There is nothing, absolutely nothing, a man cannot forget except himself, his own character."

"Truth is most beautiful undraped; and in the impression it makes is deep in proportion as its expression has been simple. This is so partly because it then takes unobstructed possession of the hearer’s whole soul, and leaves him no by-thought to distract him; partly, also, because he feels that here he is not being corrupted or cheated by the arts of rhetoric, but that all the effect of what is said comes from the thing itself."

"Virtue is as little to be acquired by learning as genius; nay, the idea is barren, and is only to be employed as an instrument, in the same way as genius in respect to art. It would be as foolish to expect that our moral and ethical systems would turn out virtuous, noble, and holy beings, as that our aesthetic systems would produce poets, painters and musicians."

"When a man has reached a condition in which he believes that a thing must happen because he does not wish it, and that what he wishes to happen can never be, this is really the state called desperation."

"Why is it that , in spite of all the mirrors in the world, no one really knows what he looks like?"

""The world is my idea" - this is a truth which holds good for everything that lives and knows, though man alone can bring it into reflective and abstract thought."

"A word too much always defeats its purpose."

"Christianity has this peculiar disadvantage, that unlike other religions, it is not a pure system of doctrine: its chief and essential feature is that it is a history, a series of events, a collection of facts, a statement of the actions and sufferings of individuals: it is this history which constitutes dogma, and belief in it is salvation."

"Almost all of our sorrows spring out of our relations with other people."

"Every day is a little life; every waking and rising a little birth; every fresh morning a little youth; every going to rest and sleep a little death."

"Death is the true inspiring genius, or the muse of philosophy... Indeed, without death man would scarcely philosophize."

"He who does not enjoy solitude will not love freedom."

"Great minds are like eagles, and build their nests in some lofty solitude."

"Everybody's friend is nobody's."

"If a man wants to read good books, he must make a point of avoiding bad ones; for life is short, an time and energy limited."

"Intellect is invisible to the person who hasn't any."

"If you want to discover your true opinion of anybody, observe the impression made on you by the first sight of a letter from him."

"History has always been the favorite study of those who wish to learn something without having to face the effort demanded by any branch of real knowledge, which taxes the intelligence."

"If we were not all so excessively interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that no one of us would be able to endure it."

"It is difficult to keep quiet if you have nothing to do."

"It is only in the microscope that our life looks so big. It is an indivisible point, drawn out and magnified by the powerful lenses of Time and Space."

"It is with trifles, and when he is off guard, that a man best reveals his character."

"Joy and sorrow are not ideas of the mind but affections of the will, and so they do not lie in the domain of memory. We cannot recall our joys and sorrows; by which I mean we cannot renew them. We can recall only the ideas that accompanied them; and, in particular, the things we were led to say; and these form a gauge of our feelings at the time. Hence our memory of joys and sorrows is always imperfect, and they become a matter of indifference to us as soon as they are over."