Blog

75 Quotes from the Genius of Pessimism Arthur Schopenhauer

Last updated on Sep 21st, 2015

75 Quotes from the Genius of Pessimism Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher who is often called the “philosopher of pessimism”.

He was born on 22 February 1788 in Danzig (now Gdańsk), Poland. His parents, Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer were descendants of wealthy German families. They relocated to Hamburg after Prussia annexed Danzig in 1793.

Schopenhauer enrolled at the University of Gottingen in 1809. During studying, he focused on philosophy and especially the ideas of Plato and Immanuel Kant. In 1819, after four years of work (1814 – 1818), he published The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung). A year after that, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of Berlin. Because of the rivalry with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and a small group of students who had attended his lectures, he soon left the academy.

Schopenhauer believed that the world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will which constantly seeks satisfaction. He considered that humans are motivated by their own basic desires and that their actions are directionless. According to him, the main problem is the desire which is the root of suffering and pain.

Arthur Schopenhauer had a great influence on others thinkers. His popularity peaked in the early twentieth century, during the Modernist era.  Many great minds like Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner and Jorge Luis Borges have cited Schopenhauer as their major influence.

1

Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.On The Freedom Of The Will (1839)

2

They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice; that only a madman could be guiltyof it, and other insipidities of the sam kind; or else they make the nonsensical remark that suicide is wrong, when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.'On Suicide', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

3

Talent is like the marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like the marksman who hits a target, as far as which others cannot even see.'On Genius', The World as Will and Representation Volume 2 (1844)

4

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.'Our Relation to Ourselves', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

5

The two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom.'Personality, or What a Man Is', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

6

The doctor sees all the weakness of mankind; the lawyer all the wickedness, the theologian all the stupidity.'Psychological Observations', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

7

What is most opposed to the discovery of truth is not the false appearance that proceeds from things and leads to error, or even directly a weakness of the intellect. On the contrary, it is the preconceived opinion, the prejudice, which, as a spurious a priori, is opposed to truth.'On Philosophy and its Method', Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)

8

Every state of welfare, every feeling of satisfaction, is negative in its character; that is to say, it consists in freedom from pain, which is the positive element of existence.'On the Sufferings of the World', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

9

Great minds are like eagles, and build their nest on some lofty solitude.'Our Relation to Others', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

10

Opinion is like a pendulum and obeys the same law. If it goes past the centre of gravity on one side, it must go a like distance on the other; and it is only after a certain time that it finds the true point at which it can remain at rest.'Futher Psychological Observations', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

11

Sleep is the interest we have to pay on the capital which is called in at death; and the higher the rate of interest and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed.'Our Relation to Others', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

12

Every parting gives a foretaste of death; every coming together again a foretaste of the resurrection.'Futher Psychological Observations', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

13

Riches, one may say, are like sea-water: the more you drink, the thirstier you become; and the same is true of fame.'Property, or What a Man Has', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

14

To be alone is the fate of all great minds.'Our Relation to Ourselves', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

15

Compassion is the basis of morality.On the Basis of Morality (1841)

16

The first forty years of life furnish the text, while the remaining thirty supply the commentary.'The Ages of Life', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

17

We have to forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to become like other people.'Our Relation to Ourselves', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

18

If you want to find out your real opinion of anyone, observe the impression made upon you by the first sight of a letter from him.'Psychological Observations', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

19

With people of only moderate ability modesty is mere honesty; but with those who possess great talent it is hypocrisy.'Futher Psychological Observations', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

20

If you desire to get on in the world, friends and acquaintances are by far the best passport to fortune.'Our Relation to Others', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

21

The greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind of happiness.'Personality, or What a Man Is', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

22

Money is human happiness in the abstract: he, then, who is no longer capable of enjoying human happiness in the concrete, devotes his heart entirely to money.'Psychological Observations', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

23

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.'Futher Psychological Observations', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

24

Honor means that a man is not exceptional; fame, that he is. Fame is something which must be won; honor, only something which must not be lost.'Position, or a Man's Place in the Estimation of Others', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

25

Religion is the masterpiece of the art of training, because it trains people in the way they shall thing: and, as is well known, you cannot begin the process too early.'Futher Psychological Observations', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

26

Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.'Our Relation to Others', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

27

The face of a man gives us a fuller and more interesting information than his tongue; for his face is the compendium of all he will ever say, as it is the one record of all his thoughts and endeavors.'On Physiognomy', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

28

Great minds are related to the short span of time wherein they live as are large buildings to the narrow plot of ground on which they stand. Thus large buildings are not seen to their full extent because we are too close to them.'On Judgement, Criticism, Approbation, and Fame', Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)

29

The wise in all ages have always said the same things, and the fools, who at all times form the immense majority, have in their way too acted alike, and done just the opposite; and so it will continue.'Introduction', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

30

Men are by nature merely indifferent to one another; but women are by nature enemies.'On Women', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

31

No doubt, when modesty was made a virtue, it was a very advantageous thing for the fools, for everybody is expected to speak of himself as if he were one.'Position, or a Man's Place in the Estimation of Others', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

32

There is no doubt that life is given us, not to be enjoyed, but to be overcome – to be got over.'General Rules', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

33

A man shows his character just in the way in which he deals with trifles, for then he is off his guard.'Our Relation to Others', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

34

It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time in which to read them.'On Some Forms of Literature', The Art of Literature (1851)

35

Hatred comes from the heart, contempt from the head; and neither feeling is quite within our control.'Futher Psychological Observations', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

36

In truth the most striking figure for the relation of the two is that of the strong blind man carrying the sighted lame man on his shoulders.'On The Primacy Of The Will In Self-Consciousness', The World as Will and Representation Volume 2 (1844)

37

Wicked thoughts and worthless efforts gradually set their mark upon the face, especially the eyes.'Religion: A Dialogue', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

38

In our part of the world where monogamy is the rule, to marry means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties.'On Women', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

39

Because people have no thoughts to deal in, they deal cards, and try and win one another’s money. Idiots!'Personality, or What a Man Is', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

40

On the path of actions, a great heart is the chief recommendation; on that of works, a great head.'Position, or a Man's Place in the Estimation of Others', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

41

Reading is thinking with some one else’s head instead of one’s own.'On Thinking For One's Self', The Art of Literature (1851)

42

If we were not all of us exaggeratedly interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that no one could endure it.'On the Wisdom of Life: Aphorisms', The Art of Controversy (1851)

43

Will without intellect is the most vulgar and common thing in the world, possessed by every blockhead, who, in the gratification of his passions, shows the stuff of which he is made.'Personality, or What a Man Is', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

44

Every nation mocks at other nations, and all are right.'Position, or a Man's Place in the Estimation of Others', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

45

Nature shows that with the growth of intelligence comes increased capacity for pain, and it is only with the highest degree of intelligence that suffering reaches its supreme point.'Personality, or What a Man Is', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

46

The difficulty is to teach the multitude that something can be both true and untrue at the same time.'The Christian System', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

47

The word of man is the most durable of all material.'On Language and Words', Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)

48

Obstinacy is the result of the will forcing itself into the place of the intellect.'Psychological Observations', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

49

The longer a man’s fame is likely to last, the later it will be in coming.'Position, or a Man's Place in the Estimation of Others', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

50

A man never feels the loss of things which it never occurs to him to ask for.'Property, or What a Man Has', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

51

It is only at the first encounter that a face makes its full impression on us.'On Physiognomy', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

52

The ultimate basis on which all our knowledge and science rest is the inexplicable.'On philosophy and its Method', Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)

53

There is no absurdity so palpable but that it may be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to inculcate it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity.'Futher Psychological Observations', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

54

National character is only another name for the particular form which the littleness, perversity and baseness of mankind take in every country.'Position, or a Man's Place in the Estimation of Others', The Wisdom of Life (1851)

55

For an author to write as he speaks is just as reprehensible as the opposite fault, to speak as he writes; for this gives a pedantic effect to what he says, and at the same time makes him hardly intelligible.'On Style', The Art of Literature (1851)

56

To free a man from error is to give, and not to take away.'Religion: A Dialogue', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

57

The bad thing about all religions is that, instead of being able to confess their allegorical nature, they have to conceal it.'The Christian System', Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays (1851)

58

Life is short, and truth works far and lives long: let us speak the truth.'Preface To The First Edition', The World as Will and Representation Volume 1 (1819)

59

This actual world of what is knowable, in which we are and which is in us, remains both the material and the limit of our consideration.'Fourth Book. The World As Will', The World as Will and Representation Volume 1 (1819)

60

Every time a man is begotten and born, the clock of human life is wound up anew to repeat once more its same old tune that has already been played innumerable times, movement by movement and measure by measure, with insignificant variations.'Fourth Book. The World As Will', The World as Will and Representation Volume 1 (1819)

61

Reason is feminine in nature; it can only give after it has received.'First Book. The World As Idea', The World as Will and Representation Volume 1 (1819)

62

Life is a business that does not cover the costs.'On The Vanity And Suffering Of Life', The World as Will and Representation Volume 2 (1844)

63

If a person is stupid, we excuse him by saying that he cannot help it; but if we attempted to excuse in precisely the same way the person who is bad, we should be laughed at.'On The Primacy Of The Will In Self-Consciousness', The World as Will and Representation Volume 2 (1844)

64

All religions promise a reward beyond this life in eternity for excellences of the will or heart, but none for excellences of the head, of the understanding.'On The Primacy Of The Will In Self-Consciousness', The World as Will and Representation Volume 2 (1844)

65

Every child is in a way a genius; and every genius is in a way a child.'On Genius', The World as Will and Representation Volume 2 (1844)

66

A man of talent will strive for money and reputation; but the spring that moves genius to the production of its works is not as easy to name. 'On Genius', The Art of Literature (1851)

67

Dissimulation is innate in woman, and almost as much a quality of the stupid as of the clever.'On Women', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

68

Noise is the most impertinent of all forms of interruption. It is not only an interruption, but also a disruption of thought.'On Noise', Studies in Pessimism (1851)

69

The truth can wait, for it lives a long life.On the Will in Nature (1836)

70

Intellect is invisible to the man who has none.'Our Relation to Others', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

71

Every human perfection is allied to a defect into which it threatens to pass; but it is also true that every defect is allied to a perfection.'Human Nature', On Human Nature (1851)

72

Truth is most beautiful undraped; and the impression it makes is deep in proportion as its expression has been simple. 'On Style', The Art of Literature (1851)

73

True brevity of expression consists in a man only saying what is worth saying, while avoiding all diffuse explanations of things which every one can think out for himself.'On Style', The Art of Literature (1851)

74

Each 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.'Our Relation to Ourselves', Counsels and Maxims (1851)

75

The general history of art and literature shows that the highest achievements of the human mind are, as a rule, not favourably received at first.'Position, or a Man's Place in the Estimation of Others', The Wisdom of Life (1851)