Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Georg Brandes, fully Georg Morris Cohen Brandes

Danish Critic and+ Scholar

"The appalling thing about war is that it kills all love of truth."

"The crowd will follow a leader who marches twenty paces ahead of them, but if he is a thousand paces ahead of them, they will neither see nor follow him."

"The stream of time sweeps away errors, and leaves the truth for the inheritance of humanity."

"It is useless to send armies against ideas."

"A love for humanity came over me, and watered and fertilised the fields of my inner world which had been lying fallow, and this love of humanity vented itself in a vast compassion."

"About the same time as my legal studies were thus beginning, I planned out a study of Philosophy and Aesthetics on a large scale as well."

"Again and again while reading Hegel's works I felt carried away with delight at the new world of thought opening out before me."

"Among the delights of Summer were picnics to the woods."

"Any feeling that I was enriching my mind from those surrounding me was unfortunately rare with me."

"Being gifted needs courage."

"Birth was something that came quite unexpectedly, and afterwards there was one child more in the house."

"But I did not find any positive inspiration in my studies until I approached my nineteenth year."

"But my doubt would not be overcome. Kierkegaard had declared that it was only to the consciousness of sin that Christianity was not horror or madness. For me it was sometimes both."

"But what of the voice and judgment of conscience? The difficulty is that we have a conscience behind our conscience, an intellectual one behind the moral. … We can see quite well that our opinions of what is noble and good, our moral valuations, are powerful levers where action is concerned; but we must begin by refining these opinions and independently creating for ourselves new tables of values."

"But when I was twelve years old I caught my first strong glimpse of one of the fundamental forces of existence, whose votary I was destined to be for life - namely, Beauty."

"Children were not at that time debarred from the Royal Theatre, and I had no more ardent wish than to get inside."

"For long ages, too, no notice whatever was taken of the criminal’s “sin”; he was regarded as harmful, not guilty, and looked upon as a piece of destiny; and the criminal on his side took his punishment as a piece of destiny which had overtaken him, and bore it with the same fatalism ... In general we may say that punishment tames the man, but does not make him “better.”"

"Forgetfulness, the unhistorical, is … the atmosphere, in which alone life can come into being. In order to understand it, let us imagine a youth who is seized with a passion for a woman, or a man who is swayed by a passion for his work. In both cases what lies behind them has ceased to exist and yet this state (the most unhistorical that can be imagined) is that in which every action, every great deed is conceived and accomplished."

"Goethe's life fascinated me for a time to such an extent that I found duplicates of the characters in the book everywhere."

"Greatness has nothing to do with results or with success."

"He maintains that culture shows itself above all else in a unity of artistic style running through every expression of a nation's life. On the other hand, the fact of having learnt much and knowing much is, as he points out, neither a necessary means to culture nor a sign of culture; it accords remarkably well with barbarism, that is to say, with want of style or a motley hotchpotch of styles."

"He who does not understand a joke, he does not understand Danish."

"He who feels that in his inmost being he cannot be compared with others, will be his own lawgiver. For one thing is needful: to give style to one’s character. This art is practiced by him who, with an eye for the strong and weak sides of his nature, removes from it one quality and another, and then by daily practice and acquired habit replaces them by others which become second nature to him; in other words, he puts himself under restraint in order by degrees to bend his nature entirely to his own law. Only thus does a man arrive at satisfaction with himself, and only thus does he become endurable to others. For the dissatisfied and the unsuccessful as a rule avenge themselves on others. They absorb poison from everything, from their own incompetence as well as from their poor circumstances, and they live in a constant craving for revenge on those in whose nature they suspect harmony. Such people ever have virtuous precepts on their lips; the whole jingle of morality, seriousness, chastity, the claims of life; and their hearts ever burn with envy of those who have become well [harmonious] and can therefore enjoy life."

"History, in [Nietzsche’s] view, belongs to him who is fighting a great fight, and who needs examples, teachers and comforters, but cannot find them among his contemporaries. Without history the mountain chain of great men’s great moments, which runs through millennia, could not stand clearly and vividly before me."

"I admired in others the strength that I lacked myself."

"I became an ardent, but never a specially good, dancer."

"I came into the world two months too soon, I was in such a hurry."

"I did not know what it was to be happy for a whole day at a time, scarcely for an hour."

"I encountered among my comrades the most varied human traits, from frankness to reserve, from goodness, uprightness and kindness, to brutality and baseness."

"I had an exceedingly keen eye for the ridiculous, and easily influenced as I still was, I could not content myself with a smile."

"I hardly ever met little girls except at children's balls, and in my early childhood I did not think further of any of them."

"I was a town child, it is true, but that did not prevent me enjoying open-air life, with plants and animals."

"I was always hearing that I was pale and thin and small."

"I was at home then in the world of figures, but not in that of values."

"I was not afraid of what I did not like. To overcome dislike of a thing often satisfied one's feeling of honor."

"I was not given to looking at life in a rosy light."

"In opposition to the aristocratic valuation (good = noble, beautiful, happy, favoured by the gods) the slave morality then is this: The wretched alone are the good; those who suffer and are heavy laden, the sick and the ugly, they are the only pious ones. On the other hand, you, ye noble and rich, are to all eternity the evil, the cruel, the insatiate, the ungodly, and after death the damned. Whereas noble morality was the manifestation of great self-esteem, a continual yea-saying, slave morality is a continual Nay, a Thou shall not, a negation. To the noble valuation good bad (bad = worthless) corresponds the antithesis of slave morality, good evil. And who are the evil in this morality of the oppressed? Precisely the same who in the other morality were the good."

"Instead of trying to educate the human race, they should imitate the pedagogues of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who concentrated their efforts on the education of a single person."

"It appears to [Nietzsche] that the modern age has produced for imitation three types of man … First, Rousseau’s man, the Titan who raises himself … and in his need calls upon holy nature. Then Goethe’s man … a spectator of the world … [Third] Schopenhauer’s man … voluntarily takes upon himself the pain of telling the truth."

"It gradually dawned upon me that there was no one more difficult to please than my mother."

"It is not with this idea of immediately resigning his personality again that the young man in our day desires to become himself and seeks an educator. He will not have a dogma set up before him, at which he is expected to arrive."

"It was jolly in the country. A cow and little pigs to play with and milk warm from the cow."

"Just about this time, when in imagination I was so great a warrior, I had good use in real life for more strength, as I was no longer taken to school by the nurse, but instead had myself to protect my brother, two years my junior."

"My father, though, could run very much faster. It was impossible to compete with him on the grass. But it was astonishing how slow old people were. Some of them could not run up a hill and called it trying to climb stairs."

"My first experiences of academic friendship made me smile in after years when I looked back on them. But my circle of acquaintances had gradually grown so large that it was only natural new friendships should grow out of it."

"Neither of my parents was in any way associated with the Jewish religion, and neither of them ever went to the Synagogue."

"Nietzsche asks how it has come about that so prodigious a contradiction can exist as that between the lack of true culture and the self-satisfied belief in actually possessing the only true one and he finds the answer in the circumstance that a class of men has come to the front which no former century has known, and to which (in 1873) he gave the name of “Culture-Philistines.”"

"Nietzsche attributes to himself an extremely vivid and sensitive instinct of cleanliness. At the first contact the filth lying at the base of another’s nature is revealed to him. The unclean are therefore ill at ease hi his presence"

"Nietzsche inveighs against every sort of historical optimism; but he energetically repudiates the ordinary pessimism, which is the result of degenerate or enfeebled instincts of decadence. He preaches with youthful enthusiasm the triumph of a tragic culture, introduced by an intrepid rising generation, in which the spirit of ancient Greece might be born again. He rejects the pessimism of Schopenhauer, for he already abhors all renunciation; but he seeks a pessimism of healthiness, one derived from strength, from exuberant power, and he believes he has found it in the Greeks."

"Nietzsche proposes the following brilliant hypothesis: The bad conscience is the deep-seated morbid condition that declared itself in man under the stress of the most radical change he has ever experienced when he found himself imprisoned in perpetuity within a society which was in- violable. All the strong and savage instincts such as adventurousness, rashness, cunning, rapacity, lust of power, which till then had not only been honoured, but actually encouraged, were suddenly put down as dangerous, and by degrees branded as immoral and criminal. Creatures adapted to a roving life of war and adventure suddenly saw all their instincts classed as worthless, nay, as forbidden. An immense despondency, a dejection without parallel, then took possession of them. And all these instincts that were not allowed an outward vent, turned inwards on the man himself feelings of enmity, cruelty… violence, persecution, destruction and thus the bad conscience originated."