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John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

The Quotable Philosopher


  

Jean-Jacques Rousseau



How much more reasonable is it to say with the sage Plato, that the perfect happiness of a state consists in the subjects obeying their prince, the prince obeying the laws, and the laws being equitable and always directed to the good of the public?

Gambling is only the resource of those who do not know what to do with themselves

All wickedness comes from weakness. The child is wicked only because he is weak. Make him strong; he will be good. He who could do everything would never do harm.

Liberty is like rich food and strong wine: the strong natures accustomed to them thrive and grow even stronger on them; but they deplete, inebriate and destroy the weak.

Hatred, as well as love, renders its votaries credulous.

 [Rousseau is] the person whom I most revere both for the Force of [his] Genius and the Greatness of [his] mind.  David Hume

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying 'This is mine', and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling in the ditch, and crying to his fellows: 'Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.

I ask: which of the two, civil or natural life, is more likely to become insufferable to those who live it? We see about us practically no people who do not complain about their existence; many even deprive themselves of it to the extent they are able, and the combination of divine and human laws is hardly enough to stop this disorder.

Our sweetest existence is relative and collective and our true self is not entirely in us. Such is man’s constitution in this life that he never succeeds in truly enjoying himself without the help of other people.

The sword wears out its sheath, as it is sometimes said. That is my story. My passions have made me live, and my passions have killed me. What passions, it may be asked. Trifles, the most childish things in the world. Yet they affected me as much as if the possessions of Helen, or the throne of the Universe, had been at stake.

But so long as power remains by itself on one side, and enlightenment and wisdom isolated on the other, wise men will rarely think of great things, princes will more rarely carry out fine actions, and the people will continue to be vile, corrupt, and unhappy.

When I stay in one Place,
I can hardly think at all;
my body had to be on the move to set my mind going.


The mind has its needs, just as the body does. The latter are the foundations of society; from the former emerge the pleasures of society. While government and laws take care of the security and the well being of men in groups, the sciences, letters, and the arts, less despotic and perhaps more powerful, spread garlands of flowers over the iron chains which weigh men down, snuffing out in them the feeling of that original liberty for which they appear to have been born, and make them love their slavery by turning them into what are called civilized people.

 Nowadays, when more subtle studies and more refined taste have reduced the art of pleasing into principles, a vile and misleading uniformity governs our customs, and all minds seem to have been cast in the same mould: incessantly politeness makes demands, propriety issues orders, and incessantly people
follow customary usage, never their own inclinations. One does not dare to appear as what one is. And in this perpetual constraint, men who make up this herd we call society, placed in the same circumstances, will all do the same things, unless more powerful motives prevent them. Thus, one will never know well the person one is dealing with.

But if the aberrations of foolish youth made me forget such wise lessons for a time, I have the happiness to sense at last that whatever the inclination one may have toward vice, it is difficult for an education in which the heart is involved to remain forever lost.

We no longer dare seem what we really are, but lie under a perpetual restraint; in the meantime the herd of men, which we call society, all act under the same circumstances exactly alike, unless very particular and powerful motives prevent them. Thus we never know with whom we have to deal; and even to know our friends we must wait for some critical and pressing occasion; that it, till it is too late; for it is on those very occasion that such knowledge is of use to us.

...the Despot is Master only as long as he is the strongest, and as soon as he can be driven out he cannot protest against violence. The uprising that ends by strangling or dethroning a Sultan is as Lawful an act as those by which he disposed, the day before, of the lives and goods of his Subjects.

All our wisdom consists in servile prejudices. All our practices are only subjection, impediment, and constraint. Civil man is born, lives, and dies in slavery. At his birth he is sewed in swaddling clothes; at his death he is nailed in a coffin. So long as he keeps his human shape, he is enchained by our institutions.

I open the books on Right and on ethics; I listen to the professors and jurists; and, my mind full of their seductive doctrines, I admire the peace and justice established by the civil order; I bless the wisdom of our political institutions and, knowing myself a citizen, cease to lament I am a man. Thoroughly instructed as to my duties and my happiness, I close the book, step out of the lecture room, and look around me. I see wretched nations groaning beneath a yoke of iron. I see mankind ground down by a handful of oppressors, I see a famished mob, worn down by sufferings and famine, while the rich drink the blood and tears of their victims at their ease. I see on every side the strong armed with the terrible powers of the Law against the weak.

And all this is done quietly and without resistance. It is the peace of Ulysses and his comrades, imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops and waiting their turn to be devoured. We must groan and be silent. Let us for ever draw a veil over sights so terrible. I lift my eyes and look to the horizon. I see fire and flame, the fields laid waste, the towns put to sack. Monsters! where are you dragging the hapless wretches? I hear a hideous noise. What a tumult and what cries! I draw near; before me lies a scene of murder, ten thousand slaughtered, the dead piled in heaps, the dying trampled under foot by horses, on every side the image of death and the throes of death. And that is the fruit of your peaceful institutions! Indignation and pity rise from the very bottom of my heart. Yes, heartless philosopher! come and read us your book on a field of battle!

Sovereignty, for the same reason as makes it in alienable, cannot be represented; it lies essentially in the general will, and will does not admit of representation: it is either the same, or other; there is no intermediate possibility. The deputies of the people, therefore, are not and cannot be its representatives: they are merely its stewards, and can carry through no definitive acts. Every law the people has not ratified in person is null and void -- is in fact, not a law. The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing. The use it makes of the short moments of liberty enjoys shows indeed that it deserves to lose them.

The spectacle of nature, by growing quite familiar to him, becomes at last equally indifferent. It is constantly the same order, constantly the same revolutions; he has not sense enough to feel surprise at the sight of the greatest wonders; and it is not in his mind we must look for that philosophy, which man must have to know how to observe once, what he has every day seen. Jean Jacques Rousseau

People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little.

I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery.

Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.

I am not made like any of those I have seen. I venture to believe that I am not made like any of those who are in existence. If I am not better, at least I am different.

What wisdom can you find greater than kindness.

Every person has a right to risk their own life for the preservation of it.

I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices.

To be sane in a world of madman is in itself madness.
The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had some one pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!

It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living.

Those that are most slow in making a promise are the most faithful in the performance of it. 

Freedom is the power to choose our own chains

Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Maker of the world, but degenerates once it gets into the hands of man

Why should we build our happiness on the opinions of others, when we can find it in our own hearts?

Every man having been born free and master of himself, no one else may under any pretext whatever subject him without his consent. To assert that the son of a slave is born a slave is to assert that he is not born a man.

Or, rather, let us be more simple and less vain.

Civilization is a hopeless race to discover remedies for the evils it produces.

I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about.


Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.

I perceive God everywhere in His works. I sense Him in me; I see Him all around me.

All my misfortunes come of having thought too well of my fellows.

The truth brings no man a fortune.

...in respect of riches, no citizen shall ever be wealthy enough to buy another, and none poor enough to be forced to sell himself.

Love, known to the person by whom it is inspired, becomes more bearable.

In truth, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing; from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all possess something and none has too much.

Trust your heart rather than your head.


I have never thought, for my part, that man's freedom consists in his being able to do whatever he wills, but that he should not, by any human power, be forced to do what is against his will.

If there is a state where the soul can find a resting-place secure enough to establish itself and concentrate its entire being there, with no need to remember the past or reach into the future, where time is nothing to it, where the present runs on indefinitely but this duration goes unnoticed, with no sign of the passing of time, and no other feeling of deprivation or enjoyment, pleasure or pain, desire or fear than the simple feeling of existence, a feeling that fills our soul entirely, as long as this state lasts, we can call ourselves happy, not with a poor, incomplete and relative happiness such as we find in the pleasures of life, but with a sufficient, complete and perfect happiness which leaves no emptiness to be filled in the soul.

There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend.

Teach your scholar to observe the phenomena of nature; you will soon rouse his curiosity, but if you would have it grow, do not be in too great a hurry to satisfy this curiosity. Put the problems before him and let him solve them himself. Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learnt it for himself. Let him not be taught science, let him discover it. If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; he will be a mere plaything of other people's thoughts.

The word ‘slavery’ and ‘right’ are contradictory, they cancel each other out. Whether as between one man and another, or between one man and a whole people, it would always be absurd to say: I hereby make a covenant with you which is wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I will respect it so long as I please and you shall respect it as long as I wish.


We must powder our wigs; that is why so many poor people have no bread.

A born king is a very rare being.

My illusions about the world caused me to think that in order to benefit by my reading I ought to possess all the knowledge the book presupposed. I was very far indeed from imagining that often the author did not possess it himself, but had extracted it from other books, as and when he needed it. This foolish conviction forced me to stop every moment, and to rush incessantly from one book to another; sometimes before coming to the tenth page of the one I was trying to read I should, by this extravagant method, have had to run through whole libraries. Nevertheless I stuck to it so persistently that I wasted infinite time, and my head became so confused that I could hardly see or take in anything.

Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death.

In any case, frequent punishments are a sign of weakness or slackness in the government. There is no man so bad that he cannot be made good for something. No man should be put to death, even as an example, if he can be left to live without danger to society.

She was dull, unattractive, couldn't tell the time, count money or tie her own shoe laces... But I loved her

It is as if my heart and my brain did not belong to the same person. Feelings come quicker than lightning and fill my soul, but they bring me no illumination; they burn me and dazzle me.

The greatest enemies of freedom are the extremely rich and the extremely poor, because one is willing to buy it while the other is willing to sell it.

Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being.

It is easier to conquer than to administer. With enough leverage, a finger could overturn the world; but to support the world, one must have the shoulders of Hercules.

As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State what does it matter to me? The State may be given up for lost.

There are times when I am so unlike myself that I might be taken for someone else of an entirely opposite character.

An unbroken horse erects his mane, paws the ground and starts back impetuously at the sight of the bridle; while one which is properly trained suffers patiently even whip and spur: so savage man will not bend his neck to the yoke to which civilised man submits without a murmur, but prefers the most turbulent state of liberty to the most peaceful slavery. We cannot therefore, from the servility of nations already enslaved, judge of the natural disposition of mankind for or against slavery; we should go by the prodigious efforts of every free people to save itself from oppression. I know that the former are for ever holding forth in praise of the tranquillity they enjoy in their chains, and that they call a state of wretched servitude a state of peace: miserrimam servitutem pacem appellant. But when I observe the latter sacrificing pleasure, peace, wealth, power and life itself to the preservation of that one treasure, which is so disdained by those who have lost it; when I see free-born animals dash their brains out against the bars of their cage, from an innate impatience of captivity; when I behold numbers of naked savages, that despise European pleasures, braving hunger, fire, the sword and death, to preserve nothing but their independence, I feel that it is not for slaves to argue about liberty.

In all the ills that befall us, we are more concerned by the intention than the result. A tile that falls off a roof may injure us more seriously, but it will not wound us so deeply as a stone thrown deliberately by a malevolent hand. The blow may miss, but the intention always strikes home.

In a well governed state, there are few punishments, not because there are many pardons, but because criminals are rare; it is when a state is in decay that the multitude of crimes is a gaurantee of impunity.


The world has become sad because a puppet was once melancholy. The nihilist, that strange martyr who has no faith, who goes to the stake without enthusiasm, and dies for what he does not believe in, is a purely literary product. He was invented by Turgenev, and completed by Dostoevsky. Robespierre came out of the pages of Rousseau as surely as the People's Palace rose out debris of a novel. Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it, but moulds it to its purpose.
Oscar Wilde

The indolence I love is not that of a lazy fellow who sits with his arms across in total inaction, and thinks no more than he acts, but that of a child which is incessantly in motion doing nothing, and that of a dotard who wanders from his subject. I love to amuse myself with trifles, by beginning a hundred things and never finishing one of them, by going or coming as I take either into my head, by changing my project at every instant, by following a fly through all its windings, in wishing to overturn a rock to see what is under it, by undertaking with ardor the work of ten years, and abandoning it without regret at the end of ten minutes; finally, in musing from morning until night without order or coherence, and in following in everything the caprice of a moment.

There is no evildoer who could not be made good for something. 

Laws are always useful to those who possess and vexatious to those who have nothing.

Hold childhood in reverence, and do not be in any hurry to judge it for good or ill. Leave exceptional cases to show themselves, let their qualities be tested and confirmed, before special methods are adopted. Give nature time to work before you take over her business, lest you interfere with her dealings. You assert that you know the value of time and are afraid to waste it. You fail to perceive that it is a greater waste of time to use it ill than to do nothing, and that a child ill taught is further from virtue than a child who has learnt nothing at all. You are afraid to see him spending his early years doing nothing. What! is it nothing to be happy, nothing to run and jump all day? He will never be so busy again all his life long. Plato, in his Republic, which is considered so stern, teaches the children only through festivals, games, songs, and amusements. It seems as if he had accomplished his purpose when he had taught them to be happy; and Seneca, speaking of the Roman lads in olden days, says, They were always on their feet, they were never taught anything which kept them sitting. Were they any the worse for it in manhood? Do not be afraid, therefore, of this so-called idleness. What would you think of a man who refused to sleep lest he should waste part of his life? You would say, He is mad; he is not enjoying his life, he is robbing himself of part of it; to avoid sleep he is hastening his death. Remember that these two cases are alike, and that childhood is the sleep of reason.

The apparent ease with which children learn is their ruin. You fail to see that this very facility proves that they are not learning. Their shining, polished brain reflects, as in a mirror, the things you show them, but nothing sinks in. The child remembers the words and the ideas are reflected back; his hearers understand them, but to him they are meaningless.

Although memory and reason are wholly different faculties, the one does not really develop apart from the other. Before the age of reason the child receives images, not ideas; and there is this difference between them: images are merely the pictures of external objects, while ideas are notions about those objects determined by their relations.

Every artists wants to be applauded

I believed that I was approaching the end of my days without having tasted to the full any of the pleasures for which my heart thirsted...without having ever tasted that passion which, through lack of an object, was always suppressed. ...The impossibility of attaining the real persons precipitated me into the land of chimeras; and seeing nothing that existed worthy of my exalted feelings, I fostered them in an ideal world which my creative imagination soon peopled with beings after my own heart.

To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties.

The social pact, far from destroying natural equality, substitutes, on the contrary, a moral and lawful equality for whatever physical inequality that nature may have imposed on mankind; so that however unequal in strength and intelligence, men become equal by covenant and by right.

Nothing is less in our power than the heart, and far from commanding we are forced to obey it.

What, then, is the government? An intermediary body established between the subjects and the sovereign for their mutual communication, a body charged with the execution of the laws and the maintenance of freedom, both civil and political.

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said This is mine, and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.

A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. . . I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. The real reason for democracy is: Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.  C.S. Lewis Present Concerns


I say to myself: Who are you to measure infinite power?

To live is not to breathe but to act. It is to make use of our organs, our senses, our faculties, of all the parts of ourselves which give us the sentiment of our existence. The man who has lived the most is not he who has counted the most years but he who has most felt life.

To discover the rules of society that are best suited to nations, there would need to exist a superior intelligence, who could understand the passions of men without feeling any of them, who had no affinity with our nature but knew it to the full, whose happiness was independent of ours, but who would nevertheless make our happiness his concern, who would be content to wait in the fullness of time for a distant glory, and to labour in one age to enjoy the fruits in another. Gods would be needed to give men laws.


Rousseau pounced. Men who dislike cats were tyrannical: They do not like cats because the cat is free and will never consent to become a slave.  Robert Zaretsky

Jean-Jacques Rousseau defined civilization as when people build fences. A very perceptive observation. And it’s true—all civilization is the product of a fenced-in lack of freedom. The Australian Aborigines are the exception, though. They managed to maintain a fenceless civilization until the seventeenth century. They’re dyed-in-the-wool free. They go where they want, when they want, doing what they want. Their lives are a literal journey. Walkabout is a perfect metaphor for their lives. When the English came and built fences to pen in their cattle, the Aborigines couldn’t fathom it. And, ignorant to the end of the principle at work, they were classified as dangerous and antisocial and were driven away, to the outback. So I want you to be careful. The people who build high, strong fences are the ones who survive the best. You deny that reality only at the risk of being driven into the wilderness yourself.  Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore


If there is in this world a well-attested account, it is that of vampires. Nothing is lacking: official reports, affidavits of well-known people, of surgeons, of priests, of magistrates; the judicial proof is most complete. And with all that, who is there who believes in vampires?

Man is born free but today everywhere he is in chains.

To renounce freedom is to renounce one's humanity, one's rights as a man and equally one's duties.

Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.

I was not much afraid of punishment, I was only afraid of disgrace.But that I feared more than death, more than crime, more than anything in the world. I should have rejoiced if the earth had swallowed me up and stifled me in the abyss. But my invincible sense of shame prevailed over everything . It was my shame that made me impudent, and the more wickedly I behaved the bolder my fear of confession made me. I saw nothing but the horror of being found out, of being publicly proclaimed, to my face, as a thief, as a liar, and slanderer.
Matthey, a Geneva physician very close to Rousseau's influence, formulates the prospect for all men of reason: 'Do not glory in your state, if you are wise and civilized men; an instant suffices to disturb and annihilate that supposed wisdom of which you are so proud; an unexpected event, a sharp and sudden emotion of the soul will abruptly change the most reasonable and intelligent man into a raving idiot.

Everything is in constant flux on this earth. Nothing keeps the same unchanging shape, and our affections, being attached to things outside us, necessarily change and pass away as they do. Always out ahead of us or lagging behind, they recall a past which is gone or anticipate a future which may never come into being; there is nothing solid there for the heart to attach itself to. Thus our earthly joys are almost without exception the creatures of a moment...

Virtue is a state of war, and to live in it we have always to combat with ourselves.

If there were a nation of Gods, it would govern itself democratically. A government so perfect is not suited to men.

Finance is a slave's word.

The only moral lesson which is suited for a child--the most important lesson for every time of life--is this: 'Never hurt anybody.

I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose
accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my
fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man
shall be myself.

I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I
have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work.

Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I. With equal freedom and veracity have I related what was laudable or wicked, I have concealed no crimes, added no virtues; and if I have sometimes introduced superfluous ornament, it was merely to occupy a void occasioned by defect of memory: I may have supposed that certain, which I only knew to be probable, but have never asserted as truth, a conscious falsehood. Such as I was, I have declared myself; sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous, generous and sublime; even as thou hast read my inmost soul: Power
eternal! assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my fellow-mortals, let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man.

Though it may be the peculiar happiness of Socrates and other geniuses of his stamp, to reason themselves into virtue, the human species would long ago have ceased to exist, had it depended entirely for its preservation on the reasonings of the individuals that compose it.

They say that Caliph Omar, when consulted about what had to be done with the library of Alexandria, answered as follows: 'If the books of this library contain matters opposed to the Koran, they are bad and must be burned. If they contain only the doctrine of the Koran, burn them anyway, for they are superfluous.' Our learned men have cited this reasoning as the height of absurdity. However, suppose Gregory the Great was there instead of Omar and the Gospel instead of the Koran. The library would still have been burned, and that might well have been the finest moment in the life of this illustrious pontiff.

Our wisdom is slavish prejudice, our customs consist in control, constraint, compulsion. Civilised man is born and dies a slave. The infant is bound up in swaddling clothes, the corpse is nailed down in his coffin. All his life long man is imprisoned by our institutions.

A feeble body makes a feeble mind. I do not know what doctors cure us of, but I know this: they infect us with very deadly diseases, cowardice, timidity, credulity, the fear of death. What matter if they make the dead walk, we have no need of corpses; they fail to give us men, and it is men we need.

Children are taught to look down on their nurses nannies, to treat them as mere servants. When their task is completed the child is withdrawn or the nurse is dismissed. Her visits to her foster-child are discouraged by a cold reception. After a few years the child never sees her again. The mother expects to take her place, and to repair by her cruelty the results of her own neglect. But she is greatly mistaken; she is making an ungrateful foster-child, not an affectionate son; she is teaching him ingratitude, and she is preparing him to despise at a later day the mother who bore him, as he now despises his nurse.

So long as one remains in the same condition, the inclinations which result from habit and are the least natural to us can be kept; but as soon as the situation changes, habit ceases and the natural returns.
 Education is certainly only habit. Now are there not people who forget and lose their education? Others who keep it? Where does this difference come from? If the name nature were limited to habits conformable to nature, we would spare ourselves this garble!

With regard to equality, this word must not be understood to mean that degress of power and wealth should be exactly the same, but rather that with regard to power, it should be incapable of all violence and never exerted except by virtue of status and the laws; and with regard to wealth, no citizen should be so opulent that he can buy another, and none so poor that he is constrained to sell himself.

Why did you paint a couch in the middle of the jungle?
Rousseau: Because one has a right to paint one's dreams.

Once you teach people to say what they do not understand, it is easy enough to get them to say anything you like.

So finally we tumble into the abyss, we ask God why he has made us so feeble. But, in spite of ourselves, He replies through our consciences: 'I have made you too feeble to climb out of the pit, because i made you strong enough not to fall in.

Being wealthy isn't just a question of having lots of money. It's a question of what we want. Wealth isn't an absolute, it's relative to desire. Every time we seek something that we can't afford, we can be counted as poor, how much money we may actually have.

If force compels obedience, there is no need to invoke a duty to obey, and if force ceases to compel obedience, there is no longer any obligation.

To write a love letter, you have to start, without knowing, what you want to say, and end, without knowing what you have said.

It is hard to prevent oneself from believing what one so keenly desires, and who can doubt that the interest we have in admitting or denying the reality of the Judgement to come determines the faith of most men in accordance with their hopes and fears.

It is reason which breeds pride and reflection which fortifies it; reason which turns man inward into himself; reason which separates him from everything which troubles or affects him. It is philosophy which isolates a man, and prompts him to say in secret at the sight of another suffering: 'Perish if you will; I am safe.' No longer can anything but dangers to society in general disturb the tranquil sleep of the philosopher or drag him from his bed. A fellow-man may with impunity be murdered under his window, for the philosopher has only to put his hands over his ears and argue a little with himself to prevent nature, which rebels inside him, from making him identify himself with the victim of the murder. The savage man entirely lacks this admirable talent, and for want of wisdom and reason he always responds recklessly to the first promptings of human feeling.

Europe had fallen back into the barbarity of the first ages. People from this part of world, so enlightened today, lived a few centuries ago in a state worse than ignorance. Some sort of learned jargon much more despicable than ignorance had usurped the name of knowledge and set up an almost invincible obstacle in the way of its return. A revolution was necessary to bring men back to common sense, and it finally came from a quarter where one would least expect it. It was the stupid Muslim, the eternal blight on learning, who brought about its rebirth among us.

Like Rousseau, Hegel appreciated quite early on that in modern commercial societies, individuals' desires and needs were generated by the desires and needs of others. Implanted by advertising, dictated by fashion, and determined by style, individual desire was always socially determined, shaped by the particular contexts in which we live. [..] Hence the need for greater comfort does not exactly arise within you directly; it is suggested to you by those who hope to make a profit from its creation.  Darrin M. McMahon Happiness: A History

...there is no real advance in human reason, for what we gain in one direction we lose in another; for all minds start from the same point, and as the time spent in learning what others have thought is so much time lost in learning to think for ourselves, we have more acquired knowledge and less vigor of mind. Our minds like our arms are accustomed to use tools for everything, and to do nothing for themselves.

The more I study the works of men in their institutions, the more clearly I see that, in their efforts after independence, they become slaves, and that their very freedom is wasted in vain attempts to assure its continuance. That they may not be carried away by the flood of things, they form all sorts of attachments; then as soon as they wish to move forward they are surprised to find that everything drags them back. It seems to me that to set oneself free we need do nothing, we need only continue to desire freedom.

He who blushes is already guilty.

A child who passes through many hands in turn, can never be well brought up. At every change he makes a secret comparison, which continually tends to lessen his respect for those who control him, and with it their authority over him. If once he thinks there are grown-up people with no more sense than children the authority of age is destroyed and his education is ruined.

Liberty may be gained, but can never be recovered.

Our will is always for our own good, but we do not always see what that is; the people is never corrupted, but it is often deceived...

The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing.

Truth is an homage that the good man pays to his own dignity.

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying 'this is mine', and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.

 The man who meditates is a depraved animal.

There is no subjection so perfect as that which keeps the appearance of freedom.

My love for imaginary objects and my facility in lending myself to them ended by disillusioning me with everything around me, and determined that love of solitude which I have retained ever since that time.

 
Man’s first law is to watch over his own preservation; his first care he owes to himself; and as soon as he reaches the age of reason, he becomes the only judge of the best means to preserve himself; he becomes his own master.

I can discover nothing in any mere animal but an ingenious machine, to which nature has given senses to wind itself up, and guard, to a certain degree, against everything that might destroy or disorder it.

What good would it be to possess the whole universe if one were its only survivor?

The Abbe de Saint-Pierre suggested an association of all the states of Europe to maintain perpetual peace among themselves. Is this association practicable, and supposing that it were established, would it be likely to last?
And I'm afraid it really is a jungle too, pursued the Consul, in fact I expect Rousseau to come riding out of it at any moment on a tiger. What's that? Mr Quincey said, frowning in a manner that might have meant: And God never drinks before breakfast either.
On a tiger, the Consul repeated.
The other gazed at him a moment with the cold sardonic eye of the material world. I expect so, he said sourly. Plenty tigers. Plenty elephants too... Might I ask you if the next time you inspect your jungle you'd mind being sick on your own side of the fence? — Malcolm Lowry Under the Volcano

Liberty is like those solid and tasty foods or those full-bodied wines which are appropriate for nourishing and strengthening robust constitutions that are used to them, but which overpower, ruin and intoxicate the weak and delicate who are not suited for them.


For if men needed speech in order to learn to think, they had a still greater need for knowing how to think in order to discover the art of speaking - Rousseau

The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty

If we assume man has been corrupted by an artificial civilization, what is the natural state? the state of nature from which he has been removed? imagine, wandering up and down the forest without industry, without speech, and without home.

The real world has its limits; the imaginary world is infinite. Unable to enlarge the one, let us restrict the other, for it is from the difference between the two alone that are born all the pains which make us truly unhappy.

I don't know how this lively and dumb scene would have ended, or how long I might have remained immoveable in this ridiculous and delightful situation, had we not been interrupted.

However great a man's natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once.

We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man's estate, is the gift of education.

In fact, the real source of all those differences, is that the savage lives within himself, whereas the citizen, constantly beside himself, knows only how to live in the opinion of others; insomuch that it is, if I may say so, merely from their judgment that he derives the consciousness of his own existence.

One ought to blush at making a mistake and not at correcting it.

More than half of my life is past; I have left only the time I need for turning the rest of it to account and for effacing my errors by my virtues.

It’s the accent. Women always swoon for an accent. I rolled my eyes.
And does the accent work on you?

Peoples once accustomed to masters are not in a condition to do without them. If they attempt to shake off the yoke, they still more estrange themselves from freedom, as, by mistaking for it an unbridled license to which it is diametrically opposed, they nearly always manage, by their revolutions, to hand themselves over to seducers, who only make their chains heavier than before.

I had brought from Paris the national prejudice against Italian music; but I had also received from nature that acute sensibility against which prejudices are powerless. I soon contracted the passion it inspires in all those born to understand it.

Those who read this will not fail to laugh at my gallantries, and remark, that after very promising preliminaries, my most forward adventures concluded by a kiss of the hand: yet be not mistaken, reader, in your estimate of my enjoyments; I have, perhaps, tasted more real pleasure in my amours, which concluded by a kiss of the hand, than you will ever have in yours, which, at least, begin there.

It is true that the genius of assembled men or of peoples is quite different from a man's character in private, and that one would know the human heart very imperfectly if he did not examine it also in the multitude. But it is no less true that one must begin by studying man in order to judge men, and that he who knew each individual's inclinations perfectly could foresee all their effects when combined in the body of the people.

The continual emotion that is felt in the theater excites us, enervates us, enfeebles us, and makes us less able to resist our passions. And the sterile interest taken in virtue serves only to satisfy our vanity without obliging us to practice it.

It is a great and beautiful spectacle to see a man somehow emerging from oblivion by his own efforts, dispelling with the light of his reason the shadows in which nature had enveloped him, rising above himself, soaring in his mind right up to the celestial regions, moving, like the sun, with giant strides through
the vast extent of the universe, and, what is even greater and more difficult, returning to himself in order to study man there and learn of his nature, his obligations, and his end.

Since men cannot create new forces, but merely combine and control those which already exist, the only way in which they can preserve themselves is by uniting their separate powers in a combination strong enough to overcome any resistance, uniting them so that their powers are directed by a single motive and act in concert.

A taste for ostentation is rarely associated in the same souls with a taste for honesty. No, it is not possible that minds degraded by a multitude of futile concerns would ever raise themselves to anything great. Even when they had the strength for that, the courage would be missing.

I am not worried about pleasing clever minds or fashionable people. In every period there will be men fated to be governed by the opinions of their century, their country, and their society. For that very reason, a freethinker or philosopher today would have been nothing but a fanatic at the time of the League.* One must not write for such readers, if one wishes to live beyond one’s own age.

And, indeed, even in the most tumultuous times, the plebiscites of the people always proceeded peacefully when the senate did not interfere, and votes were given with large majorities. The citizens having only one interest, the people had only one will. At the other extreme of the cycle unanimity reappears. This is when citizens, lapsed into servitude, have no longer either freedom or will. Then fear and flattery change voting into acclamation; people no longer deliberate, they worship or they curse.

God Nature, in my view makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil. He fores one soil to yield the products of another, one tree to bear another's fruit. He confuses and confounds time, place, and natural conditions. He mutilates his dog, his horse, and his slave. He destroys and defaces all things; he loves all that is deformed and monstrous; he will have nothing as nature made it, not even himself, who must learn his paces like a saddle-horse, and be shaped to his master's taste like the trees in his garden.

The former breathes only peace and liberty; he desires only to live and be free from labor; even the ataraxia of the Stoic falls far short of his profound indifference to every other object.

In fact, the real source of all those differences, is that the savage lives within himself, whereas the citizen, constantly beside himself, knows only how to live in the opinion of others; insomuch that it is, if I may say so, merely from their judgment that he derives the consciousness of his own existence

Usurpers always bring about or select troublous times to get passed, under cover of the public terror, destructive laws, which the people would never adopt in cold blood. The moment chosen is one of the surest means of distinguishing the work of the legislator from that of the tyrant.

The ever-recurring law of necessity soon teaches a man to do what he does not like, so as to avert evils which he would dislike still more... this foresight, well or ill used, is the source of all the wisdom or the wretchedness of mankind.

To this motive which encourages me is added another which made up my mind: after I have upheld, according to my natural intelligence, the side of truth, no matter what success I have, there is a prize which I cannot fail to win. I will find it in the depths of my heart.

Such is the pure movement of nature prior to all reflection. Such is the force of natural pity, which the most depraved mores still have difficulty destroying, since everyday one sees in our theaters someone affected and weeping at the ills of some unfortunate person, and who, were he in the tyrant's place, would intensify the torments of his enemy still more; [like the bloodthirsty Sulla, so sensitive to ills he had not caused, or like Alexander of Pherae, who did not dare attend the performance of any tragedy, for fear of being seen weeping with Andromache and Priam, and yet who listened impassively to the cries of so many citizens who were killed everyday on his orders. Nature, in giving men tears, bears witness that she gave the human race the softest hearts.] Mandeville has a clear awareness that, with all their mores, men would never have been anything but monsters, if nature had not given them pity to aid their reason; but he has not seen that from this quality alone flow all the social virtues that he wants to deny in men. In fact, what are generosity, mercy, and humanity, if not pity applied to the weak, to the guilty, or to the human species in general. Benevolence and even friendship are, properly understood, the products of a constant pity fixed on a particular object; for is desiring that someone not suffer anything but desiring that he be happy?

The first man, who, after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. How many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors, would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows: Be sure not to listen to this imposter; you are lost, if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to nobody!

Political writers argue in regard to the love of liberty with the same philosophy that philosophers do in regard to the state of nature; by the things they see they judge of things very different which they have never seen, and they attribute to men a natural inclination to slavery, on account of the patience with which the slaves within their notice carry the yoke; not reflecting that it is with liberty as with innocence and virtue, the value of which is not known but by those who possess them, though the relish for them is lost with the things themselves. I know the charms of your country, said Brasidas to a satrap who was comparing the life of the Spartans with that of the Persepolites; but you can not know the pleasures of mine.

O Fabricius! What would your great soul have thought, if to your own misfortune you had been called back to life and had seen the pompous face of this Rome saved by your efforts and which your honourable name had distinguished more than all its conquests? 'Gods,' you would have said, 'what has happened to those thatched roofs and those rustic dwelling places where, back then, moderation and virtue lived? What fatal splendour has succeeded Roman simplicity? What is this strange language? What are these effeminate customs? What do these statues signify, these paintings, these buildings? You mad people, what have you done? You, masters of nations, have you turned yourself into the slaves of the frivolous men you conquered? Are you now governed by rhetoricians? Was it to enrich architects, painters, sculptors, and comic actors that you soaked Greece and Asia with your blood? Are the spoils of Carthage trophies for a flute player? Romans, hurry up and tear down these amphitheatres, break up these marbles, burn these paintings, chase out these slaves who are subjugating you, whose fatal arts are corrupting you. Let other hands distinguish themselves with vain talents. The only talent worthy of Rome is that of conquering the world and making virtue reign there. When Cineas took our Senate for an assembly of kings, he was not dazzled by vain pomp or by affected elegance. He did not hear there this frivolous eloquence, the study and charm of futile men. What then did Cineas see that was so majestic? O citizens! He saw a spectacle which your riches or your arts could never produce, the most beautiful sight which has ever appeared under heaven, an assembly of two hundred virtuous men, worthy of commanding in Rome and governing the earth.

Ancient politicians talked incessantly about morality and virtue; our politicians talk only about business and money. One will tell you that in a particular country a man is worth the sum he could be sold for in Algiers; another, by following this calculation, will find countries where a man is worth nothing, and others where he is worth less than nothing. They assess men like herds of livestock. According to them, a man has no value to the State apart from what he consumes in it. Thus one Sybarite would have been worth at least thirty Lacedaemonians. Would someone therefore hazard a guess which of these two republics, Sparta or Sybaris, was overthrown by a handful of peasants and which one made Asia tremble?

Those whom nature destined to make her disciples have no need of teachers. Bacon, Descartes, Newton — these tutors of the human race had no need of tutors themselves, and what guides could have led them to those places where their vast genius carried them? Ordinary teachers could only have limited their understanding by confining it to their own narrow capabilities. With the first obstacles, they learned to exert themselves and made the effort to traverse the immense space they moved through. If it is necessary to permit some men to devote themselves to the study of the sciences and the arts, that should be only for those who feel in themselves the power to walk alone in those men's footsteps and to move beyond them. It is the task of this small number of people to raise monuments to the glory of the human mind.

Are your principles not engraved in all hearts, and in order to learn your laws is it not enough to go back into oneself and listen to the voice of one's conscience in the silence of the passions? There you have true philosophy. Let us learn to be satisfied with that, and without envying the glory of those famous men who are immortalized in the republic of letters, let us try to set between them and us that glorious distinction which people made long ago between two great peoples: one knew how to speak well; the other how to act well.

One does not drink. One gives a kiss to his glass, and the wine returns a caress to you.

Sovereignty, for the same reason as makes it inalienable, cannot be represented; it lies essentially in the general will, and will does not admit of representation: it is either the same, or other; there is no intermediate possibility. The
deputies of the people, therefore, are not and cannot be its representatives: they are merely its stewards, and can carry through no definitive acts. Every law the people has not ratified in person is null and void — is in fact, not a law. The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected,
slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing. The use it makes of the short moments of liberty it enjoys shows indeed that it deserves to lose them.

Princes always are always happy to see developing among their subjects the taste for agreeable arts and for superfluities which do not result in the export of money. For quite apart from the fact that with these they nourish that spiritual pettiness so appropriate for servitude, they know very well that all the needs which people give themselves are so many chains binding them. When Alexander wished to keep the Ichthyophagi dependent on him, he forced them to abandon fishing and to nourish themselves on foods common to other people. And no one has been able to subjugate the savages in America, who go around quite naked and live only from what their hunting provides. In fact, what yoke could be imposed on men who have no need of anything?

I am beginning to feel the drunkenness that this agitated, tumultuous life plunges you into. With such a multitude of objects passing before my eyes, I’m getting dizzy. Of all the things that strike me, there is none that holds my heart, yet all of them together disturb my feelings, so that I forget what I am and who I belong to.

Even the soberest judged it requisite to sacrifice one part of their liberty to ensure the other, as a man, dangerously wounded in any of his limbs, readily parts with it to save the rest of his body.

But in some great souls, who consider themselves as citizens of the world, and forcing the imaginary barriers that separate people from people...

Government in its infancy had no regular and permanent form. For want of a sufficient fund of philosophy and experience, men could see no further than the present inconveniences, and never thought of providing remedies for future ones, but in proportion as they arose.


Voltaire

I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours. But as I have lost that habit for more than sixty years, I feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it. Nor can I embark in search of the savages of Canada, because the maladies to which I am condemned render a European surgeon necessary to me; because war is going on in those regions; and because the example of our actions has made the savages nearly as bad as ourselves. [in response to Rousseau's The Social Contract] 


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