Quotes from “Studies in Pessimism” by Arthur Schopenhauer

Below are just a few quotes that I had highlighted on my Kindle when reading portions of “Studies in Pessimism”. I haven’t finished the book, but thought I’d share these quotes:

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“Hatred and contempt are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive. There are even not a few cases where hatred of a person is rooted in nothing but forced esteem for his qualities. And besides, if a man sets out to hate all the miserable creatures he meets, he will not have much energy left for anything else ; whereas he can despise them, one and all, with the greatest ease. True, genuine contempt is just the reverse of true, genuine pride; it keeps quite quiet and gives no sign of its existence. For if a man shows that he despises you, he signifies at least this much regard for you, that he wants to let you know how little he appreciates you; and his wish is dictated by hatred, which cannot exist with real contempt. On the contrary, if it is genuine, it is simply the conviction that the object of it is a man of no value at all. Contempt is not incompatible with indulgent and kindly treatment, and for the sake of one’s own peace and safety this should not be omitted; it will prevent irritation ; and there is no one who cannot do harm if he is roused to it. But if this pure, cold, sincere contempt ever shows itself, it will be met with the most truculent hatred; for the despised person is not in a position to fight contempt with its own weapons.”

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“Why is it that common is an expression of contempt ? and that uncommon, extraordinary, distinguished, denote approbation ? Why is everything that is common contemptible ? Common in its original meaning denotes that which is peculiar to all men. i.e., shared equally by the whole species, and therefore an inherent part of its nature. Accordingly, if an individual possesses no qualities beyond those which attach to mankind in general, he is a common man.”

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“What value can a creature have that is not a whit different from millions of its kind ? Millions, do I say ? nay, an infinitude of creatures which, century after century, in never-ending flow, Nature sends bubbling up from her inexhaustible springs; as generous with them as the smith with the useless sparks that fly around his anvil.”

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“I have argued that whilst a lower animal possesses nothing more than the generic character of its species man is the only being which can lay claim to possess an individual character. But in most men this individual character comes to very little in reality; and they may be almost all ranged under certain classes: ce sont des especes. Their thoughts and desires, like their faces, are those of the species, or, at any rate, those of the class to which they belong; and accordingly they are of a trivial, every-day, common character, and exist by the thousand. You can usually tell beforehand what they are likely to do and say. They have no special stamp or mark to distinguish them ; they are like manufactured goods, all of a piece.”

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Also, I kinda dig this quote from Oswald Spengler:

For I confess that I have never had anything but contempt for ‘philosophy for its own sake.’ To my way of thinking there is nothing more tedious than pure logic, scientific psychology, general ethics and esthetics. Life is not made up of science and generalities. Every line that is not written in the service of active living seems to me superfluous. At the risk of being taken too literally, I would say that my way of looking at the world is related to the ‘systematic’ way as the memoirs of a statesman are related to the ideal state of a Utopian. The former writes down what he has lived through; the latter records what he has dreamed up.

Related posts:

  1. Quotes collected during September 2009
  2. Quotes from the Eagle and the Serpent