steering the mind by yourself…some quotes from individual minds of the past
“Independence is for the very few, it is a privilege of the strong. Whoever attempts it enters a labyrinth, and multiplies a thousandfold the dangers of life. Not least of which is that no one can see how and where he loses his way, becomes lonely, and is torn piecemeal by some minotaur of conscience. If he fails, this happens so far from the comprehension of men that they cannot sympathise nor pity.”
“Our highest insights must, and should, sound like follies or even crimes when they are heard without permission by those they are not intended for.The virtues of the common man might perhaps signify vices and weaknesses in a philosopher. It might even be that only by degenerating into the lower spheres would the man of high type be there venerated as a saint. There are books that have opposite values for soul and health, depending on whether the sluggish lower soul, or the higher and more vigorous ones turn to them: in the former case, these books are dangerous and lead to crumbling and disintegration; in the latter, they are herald’s cries calling the bravest to courage. Books for everybody are always foul-smelling books: the smell of small people clings to them. Where the people eat and drink and worship, there is usually a stink. One should not go to church if one wants to breathe pure air.”
“Those feelings of devotion, self-sacrifice for one’s neighbour, and the whole morality of self-denial must be questioned mercilessly and taken to court. There is too much charm and sugar in these feelings of “for others,” “not for myself,” we must ask: “are these not perhaps seductions?”
“Nobody is likely to consider a doctrine true just because it makes people happy or virtuous. But unhappiness and evil are no counterarguments, something might be true while being harmful and dangerous in the extreme. When it comes to discovering certain parts of truth, there is no doubt that the wicked and the unhappy fare better. To say nothing of the wicked who are happy- a species the moralists like to ignore. Perhaps hardness and cunning furnish more favourable conditions for the strong, independent spirit and philosopher than that light-hearted good-naturedness which people prize in a scholar.”
“One has to test oneself to see that one is destined for independence and command- a dangerous game, with only ourselves as judge. Not to cleave to a person- not even the most loved- every person is a prison and a nook. Not to cleave to a fatherland- not even if it suffers and needs help. Not to cleave to pity- not even when we see the torture of noble men. Not to cleave to a science- even if it lures us with precious discoveries. Not to cleave to one’s own detachment, nor to our own virtues. Not to become the victim of some detail in us, such as our hospitality, and so exaggerate the virtue into a vice. One must know how to conserve oneself; the hardest test of independence.”(underline, me)
“He who has seen deeply into the world knows what wisdom there is in the superficiality of men. It is their instinct for preservation which teaches them to be false. Perhaps there has up till now been no finer way of making man himself more beautiful than piety: through piety, man can come to such art, such goodness, that one no longer suffers at the sight of him.”(bold, italic, underline, me…for emphasis)
“A reader does not read all the individual words of a page, but takes about five words in twenty and ‘conjectures’ their probable meaning. We put together an approximation of a tree from a few leaves and branches. We are from the very heart and from the very first accustomed to lying. Or, to express it more virtuously and hypocritically; one is more of an artist than one realizes.”
“As long as there have been human beings there have been human herds (families, tribes, nations, states, churches), and always very many who obey and very few who command. Nothing has been cultivated among men better than obedience; ‘thou shalt unconditionally do this, unconditionally not do that’. Those commanding have to deceive themselves that they too are only obeying; I call it the moral hypocrisy of commanders. They defend themselves by posing as executors of more ancient or higher commands (of ancestors, the constitution, justice, the law or even of God), or borrow the herd’s way of thinking and appear as ‘servants of the people’, or ‘instruments of the common good’. The herd-man in Europe today glorifies his qualities of timidity, modesty, industriousness, and peace which make him useful to the herd. And when leaders seem to be indispensable, the clever herd-men gather together; this is the origin of all parliamentary constitutions. What a release from burden, was the appearance of an unconditional commander for this herd-European; Napoleon!”
“Those strong and dangerous drives, such as enterprisingness, revengefulness, ambition, hitherto honoured for their social utility and mightily cultivated, are now branded as immoral. Lofty spiritual independence, the will to stand alone, even great intelligence, are felt to be dangerous; everything that raises the individual above the herd and makes his neighbour quail is called evil. Eventually, under very peaceful conditions, every kind of severity, even severity in justice, begins to trouble the conscience; ‘the lamb’, even more ‘the sheep’, is held in higher and higher respect. There comes a point of morbid over-tenderness in the history of society at which it takes the side even of him who harms it, the criminal. Punishment seems somehow unfair. ‘We wish that there will one day no longer be anything to fear!’ One day everywhere in Europe the will to that day is now called ‘progress’.”
“We know how offensive it sounds to say that man is an animal; and almost criminal to talk of ‘herd’ and ‘herd instinct‘. But we must insist: that which calls itself good, is the instinct of the herd-animal man. Placidly industrious democrats, revolutionary ideologists, and even the stupid fanatics who call themselves socialists, are in fact at one in their total hostility towards every form of society other than that of the herd. Europe seems threatened with a new Buddhism; a faith of mutual pity, with faith in the community, the herd, as the saviour.”
“I insist that philosophical labourers and men of science should cease to be confused with philosophers. The philosopher must traverse the whole range of human value-feelings and be able to gaze from the heights into every distance, from the depths into every height. More- he must create values. Actual philosophers are commanders and law givers: they say ‘thus it shall be!’, it is they who determine the Wherefore and Whither of mankind. Must there not be such philosophers?…”
“What a philosopher is, is hard to learn, because it cannot be taught: one has to ‘know’ it from experience. But that nowadays all the world talks of things of which it cannot have experience is most evident in respect of philosophers and the philosophical; very few know them, and all popular conceptions of them are false. Many generations must have worked to prepare for the philosopher; each of his virtues must have been individually acquired, tended, inherited, incorporated. Not only the bold, easy, course and cadence of his thoughts- but above all the readiness for great responsibilities, the lofty glance that rules and looks down, the genial protection and defence of that which is misunderstood and calumniated, be it god or devil, the pleasure in and exercise of grand justice, the art of commanding, the breadth of will, the slow eye which seldom admires, seldom looks upward, seldom loves …”
*****”Every elevation of the type “man,” has hitherto been the work of an aristocratic society- a society believing in differences of worth among human beings, and requiring slavery in some form or other. Let us acknowledge unprejudicedly how every higher civilisation has originated! The truth is hard. Men with a still natural, a barbarian nature, still in possession of unbroken strength of will and desire for power, threw themselves upon weaker, more moral, more peaceful races.”
“In a tour through the moralities of the earth, two primary types revealed themselves to me. There is master-morality and slave-morality; though in higher civilisations, there are some attempts to reconcilie the two. When moral values have originated with the ruling caste, when the rulers have determind the conception ‘good,’ then ‘good’ and ‘bad’ means practically the same as ‘noble’ and ‘despicable’. Supposing that the abused, the oppressed, should moralise; what will their morality be? Probably a pessimistic suspicion of the entire situation of man, an unfavourable eye for the virtues of the powerful. On the other hand light is shone on sympathy, the kind, helping hand, the warm heart, patience, humility, and friendliness; all the most useful qualities in surviving a harsh existence. Here is the seat of the origin of the famous antithesis ‘good’ and ‘evil’: According to slave-morality, the ‘evil’ man arouses fear; according to master-morality, it is the ‘good’ man who arouses fear. According to the servile mode of thought, the good man must be the safe man: good-natured, perhaps a little stupid, And everywhere that slave-morality gains the ascendency, language shows a tendency to connect the words ‘good’ and ‘stupid.’ And one fundamental difference: the desire for liberty necessarily belongs to slave-morals, just as reverence and devotion are symptoms of aristocratic thinking. Hence we can understand why love as passion- our European specialty- must necessarily be of noble origin.”
“Vanity, trying to arouse a good opinion of oneself, and even to try to beleive in it, seems, to the noble man, such bad taste, so self-disrespectful, so grotesquely unreasonable, that he would like to consider vanity a rarity. He will say, “I may be mistaken about my value, but nevertheless demand that I be valued as I value myself”, but this is not vanity. The man of noble character must learn that in all social strata in any way dependent, the ordinary man has only ever valued himself as his master dictates (it is the peculiar right of masters to create values). It may be looked upon as an extraordinary atavism that the ordinary man is always waiting for an opinion about himself and then instinctively submitting to it; not only to a “good” opinion, but also to a bad and unjust one (think of all the self-depreciations which the believing Christian learns from his Church). It is “the slave” in the vain man’s blood- and how much of the “slave” is still left in woman- which seeks to seduce to good opinions of itself; it is the slave, too, who immediately afterwards falls prostrate himself before these opinions, as though he had not called them forth. Vanity is an atavism.”
“A species originates, and becomes strong, in the long struggle with unfavourable conditions. On the other hand, breeders know that a species that receives super-abundant nourishment and protection becomes prone prodigies and monstrosities. Consider an aristocratic commonwealth, say an ancient Greek polis, or Venice, as a contrivance for breeding human beings; it consists of those who must make their species prevail against neighbours or rebellious vassals, or risk being exterminated. Finally, a happy state of things results; there are perhaps no more enemies, and the means of life are abundant. This turning-point of history throws up a magnificent, virgin-forest-like and up-striving; and in the rivalry of growth, an extraordinary decay and self-destruction. The old morality is out of date. The individual is obliged to have recourse to his own law-giving. Danger is again present, the mother of morality, great danger. What will the moral philosophers of this time have to preach? They discover, these sharp onlookers and loafers, that the end is approaching. The mediocre alone have a prospect of continuing and propagating themselves- they will be the men of the future, the sole survivors. ”
“At the risk of displeasing innocent ears, I submit that egoism belongs to the essence of a noble soul. ”
“What, after all, is ignobleness? Words are vocal symbols for ideas; ideas, however, are more or less definite mental symbols for frequently returning and concurring sensations. To understand one another needs more than the same words- we must have experiences in common. When people have lived long together under similar conditions there grows an entity that “understands itself”- a nation. The greater their common danger, the greater the need of agreeing words about necessities. We discover how love and friendship falters when we realise that we understand words in ways unalike. One must appeal to immense opposing forces to thwart the natural, all-too-natural, evolution toward the similar, the ordinary, the average- to the ignoble!”
“My judgement is my judgement: another cannot easily acquire a right to it” — such a philosopher of the future may perhaps say. One has to get rid of the bad taste of wanting to be in agreement with many. “Good” is no longer good when your neighbour takes it into his mouth. And how could there exist a “common good”! The expression is a self-contradiction: what can be common has ever but little value. In the end it must be as it is and has always been: great things are for the great, abysses for the profound, shudders and delicacies for the refined, and, in sum, all rare things for the rare. –”
“Man must not be afraid of ‘not doing what everybody else does’ or of ‘doing what nobody else does.’ It means that he must not be a mere mimic or sheep. HE MUST THINK FOR HIMSELF!!!! He must examine for himself the (his) grounds of right and wrong, and not let the principles upon which his life is conducted be laid down for him merely by other people’s opinions. He must not be afraid of criticism if he feels in his own heart that he is right. THIS IS AN EXACTING IDEAL. IT REQUIRES THE HIGHEST MORAL COURAGE.”
Arthur Schopenhauer. from On Thinking for Oneself.
“Reading and learning are things that anyone can do of his own free will; but not so thinking.”
“Objective interest is confined to heads that think by nature; to whom thinking is as natural as breathing; and they are very rare. This is why most men of learning show so little of it.”
“It is incredible what a different effect is produced upon the mind by thinking for oneself, as compared with reading. It carries on and intensifies that original difference in the nature of two minds which leads the one to think and the other to read. What I mean is that reading forces alien thoughts upon the mind—thoughts which are as foreign to the drift and temper in which it may be for the moment, as the seal is to the wax on which it stamps its imprint. The mind is thus entirely under compulsion from without; it is driven to think this or that, though for the moment it may not have the slightest impulse or inclination to do so.”
“But when a man thinks for himself, he follows the impulse of his own mind, which is determined for him at the time, either by his environment or some particular recollection. The visible world of a man’s surroundings does not, as reading does, impress a single definite thought upon his mind, but merely gives the matter and occasion which lead him to think what is appropriate to his nature and present temper. So it is, that much reading deprives the mind of all elasticity; it is like keeping a spring continually under pressure. The safest way of having no thoughts of one’s own is to take up a book every moment one has nothing else to do.”
“Reading is nothing more than a substitute for thought of one’s own. It means putting the mind into leading-strings. The multitude of books serves only to show how many false paths there are, and how widely astray a man may wander if he follows any of them. But he who is guided by his genius, he who thinks for himself, who thinks spontaneously and exactly, possesses the only compass by which he can steer aright. A man should read only when his own thoughts stagnate at their source, which will happen often enough even with the best of minds. On the other hand, to take up a book for the purpose of scaring away one’s own original thoughts is sin against the Holy Spirit. It is like running away from Nature to look at a museum of dried plants or gaze at a landscape in copperplate.”
“A man may have discovered some portion of truth or wisdom, after spending a great deal of time and trouble in thinking it over for himself and adding thought to thought; and it may sometimes happen that he could have found it all ready to hand in a book and spared himself the trouble. But even so, it is a hundred times more valuable if he has acquired it by thinking it out for himself. For it is only when we gain our knowledge in this way that it enters as an integral part, a living member, into the whole system of our thought; that it stands in complete and firm relation with what we know; that it is understood with all that underlies it and follows from it; that it wears the color, the precise shade, the distinguishing mark, of our own way of thinking; that it comes exactly at the right time, just as we felt the necessity for it; that it stands fast and cannot be forgotten.”
“The man who thinks for himself, forms his own opinions and learns the authorities for them only later on, when they serve but to strengthen his belief in them and in himself.”
“Truth that has been merely learned is like an artificial limb, a false tooth, a waxen nose; at best, like a nose made out of another’s flesh; it adheres to us only because it is put on. But truth acquired by thinking of our own is like a natural limb; it alone really belongs to us. This is the fundamental difference between the thinker and the mere man of learning.”
“Reading is thinking with some one else’s head instead of one’s own. To think with one’s own head is always to aim at developing a coherent whole—a system, even though it be not a strictly complete one; and nothing hinders this so much as too strong a current of others’ thoughts, such as comes of continual reading. These thoughts, springing every one of them from different minds, belonging to different systems, and tinged with different colors, never of themselves flow together into an intellectual whole; they never form a unity of knowledge, or insight, or conviction; but, rather, fill the head with a Babylonian confusion of tongues. The mind that is over-loaded with alien thought is thus deprived of all clear insight, and is well-nigh disorganized. This is a state of things observable in many men of learning; and it makes them inferior in sound sense, correct judgment and practical tact, to many illiterate persons, who, after obtaining a little knowledge from without, by means of experience, intercourse with others, and a small amount of reading, have always subordinated it to, and embodied it with, their own thought.”
“A man can always sit down and read, but not—think.”
“This rule applies to the life of the intellect as well as to matters of practice. A man must wait for the right moment. Not even the greatest mind is capable of thinking for itself at all times. Hence a great mind does well to spend its leisure in reading, which, as I have said, is a substitute for thought; it brings stuff to the mind by letting another person do the thinking; although that is always done in a manner not our own. Therefore, a man should not read too much, in order that his mind may not become accustomed to the substitute and thereby forget the reality; that it may not form the habit of walking in well-worn paths; nor by following an alien course of thought grow a stranger to its own. Least of all should a man quite withdraw his gaze from the real world for the mere sake of reading; as the impulse and the temper which prompt to thought of one’s own come far oftener from the world of reality than from the world of books. The real life that a man sees before him is the natural subject of thought; and in its strength as the primary element of existence, it can more easily than anything else rouse and influence the thinking mind.”
“After these considerations, it will not be matter for surprise that a man who thinks for himself can easily be distinguished from the book-philosopher by the very way in which he talks, by his marked earnestness, and the originality, directness, and personal conviction that stamp all his thoughts and expressions. The book-philosopher, on the other hand, lets it be seen that everything he has is second-hand; that his ideas are like the number and trash of an old furniture-shop, collected together from all quarters. Mentally, he is dull and pointless—a copy of a copy. His literary style is made up of conventional, nay, vulgar phrases, and terms that happen to be current; in this respect much like a small State where all the money that circulates is foreign, because it has no coinage of its own.”
“The characteristic sign of a mind of the highest order is that it always judges at first hand. Everything it advances is the result of thinking for itself; and this is everywhere evident by the way in which it gives its thoughts utterance. Such a mind is like a Prince. In the realm of intellect its authority is imperial, whereas the authority of minds of a lower order is delegated only; as may be seen in their style, which has no independent stamp of its own.”
“Every one who really thinks for himself is so far like a monarch. His position is undelegated and supreme. His judgments, like royal decrees, spring from his own sovereign power and proceed directly from himself. He acknowledges authority as little as a monarch admits a command; he subscribes to nothing but what he has himself authorized. The multitude of common minds, laboring under all sorts of current opinions, authorities, prejudices, is like the people, which silently obeys the law and accepts orders from above.”
“But still it must not be forgotten that a true value attaches only to what a man has thought in the first instance for his own case. Thinkers may be classed according as they think chiefly for their own case or for that of others. The former are the genuine independent thinkers; they really think and are really independent; they are the true philosophers; they alone are in earnest. The pleasure and the happiness of their existence consists in thinking. The others are the sophists; they want to seem that which they are not, and seek their happiness in what they hope to get from the world. They are in earnest about nothing else. To which of these two classes a man belongs may be seen by his whole style and manner. Lichtenberg is an example for the former class; Herder, there can be no doubt, belongs to the second.”
“When one considers how vast and how close to us is the problem of existence—this equivocal, tortured, fleeting, dream-like existence of ours—so vast and so close that a man no sooner discovers it than it overshadows and obscures all other problems and aims; and when one sees how all men, with few and rare exceptions, have no clear consciousness of the problem, nay, seem to be quite unaware of its presence, but busy themselves with everything rather than with this, and live on, taking no thought but for the passing day and the hardly longer span of their own personal future, either expressly discarding the problem or else over-ready to come to terms with it by adopting some system of popular metaphysics and letting it satisfy them; when, I say, one takes all this to heart, one may come to the opinion that man may be said to be a thinking being only in a very remote sense, and henceforth feel no special surprise at any trait of human thoughtlessness or folly; but know, rather, that the normal man’s intellectual range of vision does indeed extend beyond that of the brute, whose whole existence is, as it were, a continual present, with no consciousness of the past or the future, but not such an immeasurable distance as is generally supposed. This is, in fact, corroborated by the way in which most men converse; where their thoughts are found to be chopped up fine, like chaff, so that for them to spin out a discourse of any length is impossible.”
“If this world were peopled by really thinking beings, it could not be that noise of every kind would be allowed such generous limits, as is the case with the most horrible and at the same time aimless form of it. If Nature had meant man to think, she would not have given him ears; or, at any rate, she would have furnished them with airtight flaps, such as are the enviable possession of the bat. But, in truth, man is a poor animal like the rest, and his powers are meant only to maintain him in the struggle for existence; so he must need keep his ears always open, to announce of themselves, by night as by day, the approach of the pursuer.”
And of course the reflection of Aristotle.
Reflection on MY desires
is the point where
CONTEMPLATION has a different
is on 1st Principles–Namely:
WHAT IS IT TO BE ME?
WHAT IS MY TELOS?
Contemplating the essence of ME.
I have to have a correct
conception of MY good.
Who am I in relation to the rest
of the species?
Some view of MY nature.
Some thought about actions
and desires that best suit
those should get the mind fired up…to do what it does best: be itself and think!!
here’s to all those fabulous individuals out there!! forever be your self.