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Essays of Schopenhauer by Arthur Schopenhauer

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exaggeration of a degenerate being. A man, on the other hand, is not
controlled in instinctive love by the _qualities_ of the woman's
_character_; this is why so many a Socrates has found his Xantippe, as
for instance, Shakespeare, Albrecht Duerer, Byron, and others. But here
we have the influence of intellectual qualities, because they are
inherited from the mother; nevertheless their influence is easily
overpowered by physical beauty, which concerns more essential points,
and therefore has a more direct effect. By the way, it is for this
reason that mothers who have either felt or experienced the former
influence have their daughters taught the fine arts, languages, etc., so
that they may prove more attractive. In this way they hope by artificial
means to pad the intellect, just as they do their bust and hips if it is
necessary to do so. Let it be understood that here we are simply
speaking of that attraction which is absolutely direct and instinctive,
and from which springs real love. That an intelligent and educated woman
esteems intelligence and brains in a man, and that a man after
deliberate reasoning criticises and considers the character of his
_fiancee_, are matters which do not concern our present subject. Such
things influence a rational selection in marriage, but they do not
control passionate love, which is our matter.

Up to the present I have taken into consideration merely the _absolute_
considerations--_id est_, such considerations as apply to every one. I
now come to the _relative_ considerations, which are individual, because
they aim at rectifying the type of the species which is defectively
presented and at correcting any deviation from it existing in the person
of the chooser himself, and in this way lead back to a pure presentation
of the type. Hence each man loves what he himself is deficient in. The
choice that is based on relative considerations--that is, has in view
the constitution of the individual--is much more certain, decided, and
exclusive than the choice that is made after merely absolute
considerations; consequently real passionate love will have its origin,
as a rule, in these relative considerations, and it will only be the
ordinary phases of love that spring from the absolute. So that it is not
stereotyped, perfectly beautiful women who are wont to kindle great
passions. Before a truly passionate feeling can exist, something is
necessary that is perhaps best expressed by a metaphor in
chemistry--namely, the two persons must neutralise each other, like acid
and alkali to a neutral salt. Before this can be done the following
conditions are essential. In the first place, all sexuality is
one-sided. This one-sidedness is more definitely expressed and exists in
a higher degree in one person than in another; so that it may be better
supplemented and neutralised in each individual by one person than by
another of the opposite sex, because the individual requires a
one-sidedness opposite to his own in order to complete the type of
humanity in the new individual to be generated, to the constitution of
which everything tends....

The following is necessary for this neutralisation of which we are
speaking. The particular degree of _his_ manhood must exactly correspond
to the particular degree of _her_ womanhood in order to exactly balance
the one-sidedness of each. Hence the most manly man will desire the most
womanly woman, and _vice versa_, and so each will want the individual
that exactly corresponds to him in degree of sex. Inasmuch as two
persons fulfil this necessary relation towards each other, it is
instinctively felt by them and is the origin, together with the other
_relative_ considerations, of the higher degrees of love. While,
therefore, two lovers are pathetically talking about the harmony of
their souls, the kernel of the conversation is for the most part the
harmony concerning the individual and its perfection, which obviously is
of much more importance than the harmony of their souls--which
frequently turns out to be a violent discord shortly after marriage.

We now come to those other relative considerations which depend on each
individual trying to eradicate, through the medium of another, his
weaknesses, deficiencies, and deviations from the type, in order that
they may not be perpetuated in the child that is to be born or develop
into absolute abnormities. The weaker a man is in muscular power, the
more will he desire a woman who is muscular; and the same thing applies
to a woman....

Nevertheless, if a big woman choose a big husband, in order, perhaps, to
present a better appearance in society, the children, as a rule, suffer
for her folly. Again, another very decided consideration is complexion.
Blonde people fancy either absolutely dark complexions or brown; but it
is rarely the case _vice versa_. The reason for it is this: that fair
hair and blue eyes are a deviation from the type and almost constitute
an abnormity, analogous to white mice, or at any rate white horses. They
are not indigenous to any other part of the world but Europe,--not even
to the polar regions,--and are obviously of Scandinavian origin. _En
passant_, it is my conviction that a white skin is not natural to man,
and that by nature he has either a black or brown skin like our
forefathers, the Hindoos, and that the white man was never originally
created by nature; and that, therefore, there is no _race_ of white
people, much as it is talked about, but every white man is a bleached
one. Driven up into the north, where he was a stranger, and where he
existed only like an exotic plant, in need of a hothouse in winter, man
in the course of centuries became white. The gipsies, an Indian tribe
which emigrated only about four centuries ago, show the transition of
the Hindoo's complexion to ours. In love, therefore, nature strives to
return to dark hair and brown eyes, because they are the original type;
still, a white skin has become second nature, although not to such an
extent as to make the dark skin of the Hindoo repellent to us.

Finally, every man tries to find the corrective of his own defects and
aberrations in the particular parts of his body, and the more
conspicuous the defect is the greater is his determination to correct
it. This is why snub-nosed persons find an aquiline nose or a
parrot-like face so indescribably pleasing; and the same thing applies
to every other part of the body. Men of immoderately long and attenuated
build delight in a stunted and short figure. Considerations of
temperament also influence a man's choice. Each prefers a temperament
the reverse of his own; but only in so far as his is a decided one.

A man who is quite perfect in some respect himself does not, it is true,
desire and love imperfection in this particular respect, yet he can be
more easily reconciled to it than another man, because he himself saves
the children from being very imperfect in this particular. For instance,
a man who has a very white skin himself will not dislike a yellowish
complexion, while a man who has a yellowish complexion will consider a
dazzlingly white skin divinely beautiful. It is rare for a man to fall
in love with a positively ugly woman, but when he does, it is because
exact harmony in the degree of sex exists between them, and all her
abnormities are precisely the opposite to, that is to say, the
corrective of his. Love in these circumstances is wont to attain a high

The profoundly earnest way in which we criticise and narrowly consider
every part of a woman, while she on her part considers us; the
scrupulously careful way we scrutinise, a woman who is beginning to
please us; the fickleness of our choice; the strained attention with
which a man watches his _fiancee_; the care he takes not to be deceived
in any trait; and the great importance he attaches to every more or less
essential trait,--all this is quite in keeping with the importance of
the end. For the child that is to be born will have to bear a similar
trait through its whole life; for instance, if a woman stoops but a
little, it is possible for her son to be inflicted with a hunchback; and
so in every other respect. We are not conscious of all this, naturally.
On the contrary, each man imagines that his choice is made in the
interest of his own pleasure (which, in reality, cannot be interested in
it at all); his choice, which we must take for granted is in keeping
with his own individuality, is made precisely in the interest of the
species, to maintain the type of which as pure as possible is the secret
task. In this case the individual unconsciously acts in the interest of
something higher, that is, the species. This is why he attaches so much
importance to things to which he might, nay, would be otherwise
indifferent. There is something quite singular in the unconsciously
serious and critical way two young people of different sex look at each
other on meeting for the first time; in the scrutinising and penetrating
glances they exchange, in the careful inspection which their various
traits undergo. This scrutiny and analysis represent the _meditation of
the genius of the species_ on the individual which may be born and the
combination of its qualities; and the greatness of their delight in and
longing for each other is determined by this meditation. This longing,
although it may have become intense, may possibly disappear again if
something previously unobserved comes to light. And so the genius of the
species meditates concerning the coming race in all who are yet not too
old. It is Cupid's work to fashion this race, and he is always busy,
always speculating, always meditating. The affairs of the individual in
their whole ephemeral totality are very trivial compared with those of
this divinity, which concern the species and the coming race; therefore
he is always ready to sacrifice the individual regardlessly. He is
related to these ephemeral affairs as an immortal being is to a mortal,
and his interests to theirs as infinite to finite. Conscious, therefore,
of administering affairs of a higher order than those that concern
merely the weal and woe of the individual, he administers them with
sublime indifference amid the tumult of war, the bustle of business, or
the raging of a plague--indeed, he pursues them into the seclusion of
the cloisters.

It has been seen that the intensity of love grows with its
individuation; we have shown that two individuals may be so physically
constituted, that, in order to restore the best possible type of the
species, the one is the special and perfect complement of the other,
which, in consequence, exclusively desires it. In a case of this kind,
passionate love arises, and as it is bestowed on one object, and one
only--that is to say, because it appears in the _special_ service of the
species--it immediately assumes a nobler and sublimer nature. On the
other hand, mere sexual instinct is base, because, without
individuation, it is directed to all, and strives to preserve the
species merely as regards quantity with little regard for quality.
Intense love concentrated on one individual may develop to such a
degree, that unless it is gratified all the good things of this world,
and even life itself, lose their importance. It then becomes a desire,
the intensity of which is like none other; consequently it will make any
kind of sacrifice, and should it happen that it cannot be gratified, it
may lead to madness or even suicide. Besides these unconscious
considerations which are the source of passionate love, there must be
still others, which we have not so directly before us. Therefore, we
must take it for granted that here there is not only a fitness of
constitution but also a special fitness between the man's _will_ and the
woman's _intellect_, in consequence of which a perfectly definite
individual can be born to them alone, whose existence is contemplated by
the genius of the species for reasons to us impenetrable, since they are
the very essence of the thing-in-itself. Or more strictly speaking, the
will to live desires to objectivise itself in an individual which is
precisely determined, and can only be begotten by this particular father
and this particular mother. This metaphysical yearning of the will in
itself has immediately, as its sphere of action in the circle of human
beings, the hearts of the future parents, who accordingly are seized
with this desire. They now fancy that it is for their own sakes they are
longing for what at present has purely a metaphysical end, that is to
say, for what does not come within the range of things that exist in
reality. In other words, it is the desire of the future individual to
enter existence, which has first become possible here, a longing which
proceeds from the primary source of all being and exhibits itself in the
phenomenal world as the intense love of the future parents for each
other, and has little regard for anything outside itself. In fact, love
is an illusion like no other; it will induce a man to sacrifice
everything he possesses in the world, in order to obtain this woman, who
in reality will satisfy him no more than any other. It also ceases to
exist when the end, which was in reality metaphysical, has been
frustrated perhaps by the woman's barrenness (which, according to
Hufeland, is the result of nineteen accidental defects in the
constitution), just as it is frustrated daily in millions of crushed
germs in which the same metaphysical life-principle struggles to exist;
there is no other consolation in this than that there is an infinity of
space, time, and matter, and consequently inexhaustible opportunity, at
the service of the will to live.

Although this subject has not been treated by Theophrastus Paracelsus,
and my entire train of thought is foreign to him, yet it must have
presented itself to him, if even in a cursory way, when he gave
utterance to the following remarkable words, written in quite a
different context and in his usual desultory style: _Hi sunt, quos Deus
copulavit, ut eam, quae fuit Uriae et David; quamvis ex diametro (sic
enim sibi humana mens persuadebat) cum justo et legitimo matrimonio
pugnaret hoc ... sed propter Salomonem, qui aliunde nasci non potuit,
nisi ex Bathseba, conjuncto David semine, quamvis meretrice, conjunxit
eos Deus._[18]

The yearning of love, the [Greek: himeros], which has been expressed in
countless ways and forms by the poets of all ages, without their
exhausting the subject or even doing it justice; this longing which
makes us imagine that the possession of a certain woman will bring
interminable happiness, and the loss of her, unspeakable pain; this
longing and this pain do not arise from the needs of an ephemeral
individual, but are, on the contrary, the sigh of the spirit of the
species, discerning irreparable means of either gaining or losing its
ends. It is the species alone that has an interminable existence: hence
it is capable of endless desire, endless gratification, and endless
pain. These, however, are imprisoned in the heart of a mortal; no
wonder, therefore, if it seems like to burst, and can find no expression
for the announcements of endless joy or endless pain. This it is that
forms the substance of all erotic poetry that is sublime in character,
which, consequently, soars into transcendent metaphors, surpassing
everything earthly. This is the theme of Petrarch, the material for the
St. Preuxs, Werthers, and Jacopo Ortis, who otherwise could be neither
understood nor explained. This infinite regard is not based on any kind
of intellectual, nor, in general, upon any real merits of the beloved
one; because the lover frequently does not know her well enough; as was
the case with Petrarch.

It is the spirit of the species alone that can see at a glance of what
_value_ the beloved one is to _it_ for its purposes. Moreover, great
passions, as a rule, originate at first sight:

"Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight."

--SHAKESPEARE, _As You Like It,_ iii. 5.

Curiously enough, there is a passage touching upon this in _Guzmann de
Alfarache_, a well-known romance written two hundred and fifty years ago
by Mateo Aleman: _No es necessario para que uno ame, que pase distancia
de tiempo, que siga discurso, in haga eleccion, sino que con aquella
primera y sola vista, concurran juntamente cierta correspondencia o
consonancia, o lo que aca solemos vulgarmente decir, una confrontacion
de sangre, a que por particular influxo suelen mover las estrellas_.
(For a man to love there is no need for any length of time to pass for
him to weigh considerations or make his choice, but only that a certain
correspondence and consonance is encountered on both sides at the first
and only glance, or that which is ordinarily called _a sympathy of
blood_, to which a peculiar influence of the stars generally impels.)
Accordingly, the loss of the beloved one through a rival, or through
death, is the greatest pain of all to those passionately in love; just
because it is of a transcendental nature, since it affects him not
merely as an individual, but also assails him in his _essentia aeterna_,
in the life of the species, in whose special will and service he was
here called. This is why jealousy is so tormenting and bitter, and the
giving up of the loved one the greatest of all sacrifices. A hero is
ashamed of showing any kind of emotion but that which may be the outcome
of love; the reason for this is, that when he is in love it is not he,
but the species which is grieving. In Calderon's _Zenobia the Great_
there is a scene in the second act between Zenobia and Decius where the
latter says, _Cielos, luego tu me quieres? Perdiera cien mil victorias,
Volvierame_, etc. (Heavens! then you love me? For this I would
sacrifice a thousand victories, etc.) In this case honour, which has
hitherto outweighed every other interest, is driven out of the field
directly love--_i.e._, the interest of the species--comes into play and
discerns something that will be of decided advantage to itself; for the
interest of the species, compared with that of the mere individual,
however important this may be, is infinitely more important. Honour,
duty, and fidelity succumb to it after they have withstood every other
temptation--the menace of death even. We find the same going on in
private life; for instance, a man has less conscience when in love than
in any other circumstances. Conscience is sometimes put on one side even
by people who are otherwise honest and straightforward, and infidelity
recklessly committed if they are passionately in love--i.e., when the
interest of the species has taken possession of them. It would seem,
indeed, as if they believed themselves conscious of a greater authority
than the interests of individuals could ever confer; this is simply
because they are concerned in the interest of the species. Chamfort's
utterance in this respect is remarkable: _Quand un homme et une femme
ont l'un pour l'autre une passion violente, il me semble toujours que
quelque soient les obstacles qui les separent, un mari, des parens,
etc.; les deux amans sont l'un a l'autre, de par la Nature, qu'ils
s'appartiennent de droit devin, malgre les lois et les conventions
humaines_.... From this standpoint the greater part of the _Decameron_
seems a mere mocking and jeering on the part of the genius of the
species at the rights and interests of the individual which it treads
underfoot. Inequality of rank and all similar relations are put on one
side with the same indifference and disregarded by the genius of the
species, if they thwart the union of two people passionately in love
with one another: it pursues its ends pertaining to endless generations,
scattering human principles and scruples abroad like chaff.

For the same reason, a man will willingly risk every kind of danger, and
even become courageous, although he may otherwise be faint-hearted. What
a delight we take in watching, either in a play or novel, two young
lovers fighting for each other--i.e., for the interest of the
species--and their defeat of the old people, who had only in view the
welfare of the individual! For the struggling of a pair of lovers seems
to us so much more important, delightful, and consequently justifiable
than any other, as the species is more important than the individual.

Accordingly, we have as the fundamental subject of almost all comedies
the genius of the species with its purposes, running counter to the
personal interests of the individuals presented, and, in consequence,
threatening to undermine their happiness. As a rule it carries out its
ends, which, in keeping with true poetic justice, satisfies the
spectator, because the latter feels that the purposes of the species
widely surpass those of the individual. Hence he is quite consoled when
he finally takes leave of the victorious lovers, sharing with them the
illusion that they have established their own happiness, while, in
truth, they have sacrificed it for the welfare of the species, in
opposition to the will of the discreet old people.

It has been attempted in a few out-of-the-way comedies to reverse this
state of things and to effect the happiness of the individuals at the
cost of the ends of the species; but here the spectator is sensible of
the pain inflicted on the genius of the species, and does not find
consolation in the advantages that are assured to the individuals.

Two very well-known little pieces occur to me as examples of this kind:
_La reine de 16 ans_, and _Le mariage de raison_.

In the love-affairs that are treated in tragedies the lovers, as a rule,
perish together: the reason for this is that the purposes of the
species, whose tools the lovers were, have been frustrated, as, for
instance, in _Romeo and Juliet, Tancred, Don Carlos, Wallenstein, The
Bride of Messina_, and so on.

A man in love frequently furnishes comic as well as tragic aspects; for
being in the possession of the spirit of the species and controlled by
it, he no longer belongs to himself, and consequently his line of
conduct is not in keeping with that of the individual. It is
fundamentally this that in the higher phases of love gives such a
poetical and sublime colour, nay, transcendental and hyperphysical turn
to a man's thoughts, whereby he appears to lose sight of his essentially
material purpose. He is inspired by the spirit of the species, whose
affairs are infinitely more important than any which concern mere
individuals, in order to establish by special mandate of this spirit the
existence of an indefinitely long posterity with _this_ particular and
precisely determined nature, which it can receive only from him as
father and his loved one as mother, and which, moreover, _as such_ never
comes into existence, while the objectivation of the will to live
expressly demands this existence. It is the feeling that he is engaged
in affairs of such transcendent importance that exalts the lover above
everything earthly, nay, indeed, above himself, and gives such a
hyperphysical clothing to his physical wishes, that love becomes, even
in the life of the most prosaic, a poetical episode; and then the affair
often assumes a comical aspect. That mandate of the will which
objectifies itself in the species presents itself in the consciousness
of the lover under the mask of the anticipation of an infinite
happiness, which is to be found in his union with this particular woman.
This illusion to a man deeply in love becomes so dazzling that if it
cannot be attained, life itself not only loses all charm, but appears to
be so joyless, hollow, and uninteresting as to make him too disgusted
with it to be afraid of the terrors of death; this is why he sometimes
of his own free will cuts his life short. The will of a man of this kind
has become engulfed in that of the species, or the will of the species
has obtained so great an ascendency over the will of the individual that
if such a man cannot be effective in the manifestation of the first, he
disdains to be so in the last. The individual in this case is too weak a
vessel to bear the infinite longing of the will of the species
concentrated upon a definite object. When this is the case suicide is
the result, and sometimes suicide of the two lovers; unless nature, to
prevent this, causes insanity, which then enshrouds with its veil the
consciousness of so hopeless a condition. The truth of this is confirmed
yearly by various cases of this description.

However, it is not only unrequited love that leads frequently to a
tragic end; for requited love more frequently leads to unhappiness than
to happiness. This is because its demands often so severely clash with
the personal welfare of the lover concerned as to undermine it, since
the demands are incompatible with the lover's other circumstances, and
in consequence destroy the plans of life built upon them. Further, love
frequently runs counter not only to external circumstances but to the
individuality itself, for it may fling itself upon a person who, apart
from the relation of sex, may become hateful, despicable, nay, even
repulsive. As the will of the species, however, is so very much stronger
than that of the individual, the lover shuts his eyes to all
objectionable qualities, overlooks everything, ignores all, and unites
himself for ever to the object of his passion. He is so completely
blinded by this illusion that as soon as the will of the species is
accomplished the illusion vanishes and leaves in its place a hateful
companion for life. From this it is obvious why we often see very
intelligent, nay, distinguished men married to dragons and she-devils,
and why we cannot understand how it was possible for them to make such a
choice. Accordingly, the ancients represented _Amor_ as blind. In fact,
it is possible for a lover to clearly recognise and be bitterly
conscious of horrid defects in his _fiancee's_ disposition and
character--defects which promise him a life of misery--and yet for him
not to be filled with fear:

"I ask not, I care not,
If guilt's in thy heart;
I know that I love thee,
Whatever thou art."

For, in truth, he is not acting in his own interest but in that of a
third person, who has yet to come into existence, albeit he is under the
impression that he is acting in his own But it is this very _acting in
some one else's interest_ which is everywhere the stamp of greatness and
gives to passionate love the touch of the sublime, making it a worthy
subject for the poet. Finally, a man may both love and hate his beloved
at the same time. Accordingly, Plato compares a man's love to the love
of a wolf for a sheep. We have an instance of this kind when a
passionate lover, in spite of all his exertions and entreaties, cannot
obtain a hearing upon any terms.

"I love and hate her."--SHAKESPEARE, _Cymb_. iii. 5.

When hatred is kindled, a man will sometimes go so far as to first kill
his beloved and then himself. Examples of this kind are brought before
our notice yearly in the newspapers. Therefore Goethe says truly:

"Bei aller verschmaehten Liebe, beim hoellichen Elemente!
Ich wollt', ich wuesst' was aerger's, das ich fluchen koennte!"

It is in truth no hyperbole on the part of a lover when he calls his
beloved's coldness, or the joy of her vanity, which delights in his
suffering, _cruelty_. For he has come under the influence of an impulse
which, akin to the instinct of animals, compels him in spite of all
reason to unconditionally pursue his end and discard every other; he
cannot give it up. There has not been one but many a Petrarch, who,
failing to have his love requited, has been obliged to drag through life
as if his feet were either fettered or carried a leaden weight, and give
vent to his sighs in a lonely forest; nevertheless there was only one
Petrarch who possessed the true poetic instinct, so that Goethe's
beautiful lines are true of him:

"Und wenn der Mensch in seiner Quaal verstummt,
Gab mir ein Gott, zu sagen, wie ich leide."

As a matter of fact, the genius of the species is at continual warfare
with the guardian genius of individuals; it is its pursuer and enemy; it
is always ready to relentlessly destroy personal happiness in order to
carry out its ends; indeed, the welfare of whole nations has sometimes
been sacrificed to its caprice. Shakespeare furnishes us with such an
example in _Henry VI_ Part III., Act iii., Scenes 2 and 3. This is
because the species, in which lies the germ of our being, has a nearer
and prior claim upon us than the individual, so that the affairs of the
species are more important than those of the individual. Sensible of
this, the ancients personified the genius of the species in Cupid,
notwithstanding his having the form of a child, as a hostile and cruel
god, and therefore one to be decried as a capricious and despotic demon,
and yet lord of both gods and men.

[Greek: Su d' o theon tyranne k' anthropon, Eros.]
(Tu, deorum hominumque tyranne, Amor!)

Murderous darts, blindness, and wings are Cupid's attributes. The latter
signify inconstancy, which as a rule comes with the disillusion
following possession.

Because, for instance, love is based on an illusion and represents what
is an advantage to the species as an advantage to the individual, the
illusion necessarily vanishes directly the end of the species has been
attained. The spirit of the species, which for the time being has got
the individual into its possession, now frees him again. Deserted by the
spirit, he relapses into his original state of narrowness and want; he
is surprised to find that after all his lofty, heroic, and endless
attempts to further his own pleasure he has obtained but little; and
contrary to his expectation, he finds that he is no happier than he was
before. He discovers that he has been the dupe of the will of the
species. Therefore, as a rule, a Theseus who has been made happy will
desert his Ariadne. If Petrarch's passion had been gratified his song
would have become silent from that moment, as that of the birds as soon
as the eggs are laid.

Let it be said in passing that, however much my metaphysics of love may
displease those in love, the fundamental truth revealed by me would
enable them more effectually than anything else to overcome their
passion, if considerations of reason in general could be of any avail.
The words of the comic poet of ancient times remain good: _Quae res in
se neque consilium, neque modum habet ullum, eam consilio regere non
potes_. People who marry for love do so in the interest of the species
and not of the individuals. It is true that the persons concerned
imagine they are promoting their own happiness; but their real aim,
which is one they are unconscious of, is to bring forth an individual
which can be begotten by them alone. This purpose having brought them
together, they ought henceforth to try and make the best of things. But
it very frequently happens that two people who have been brought
together by this instinctive illusion, which is the essence of
passionate love, are in every other respect temperamentally different.
This becomes apparent when the illusion wears off, as it necessarily

Accordingly, people who marry for love are generally unhappy, for such
people look after the welfare of the future generation at the expense of
the present. _Quien se casa por amores, ha de vivir con dolores_ (He who
marries for love must live in grief), says the Spanish proverb.
Marriages _de convenance_, which are generally arranged by the parents,
will turn out the reverse. The considerations in this case which control
them, whatever their nature may be, are at any rate real and unable to
vanish of themselves. A marriage of this kind attends to the welfare of
the present generation to the detriment of the future, it is true; and
yet this remains problematical.

A man who marries for money, and not for love, lives more in the
interest of the individual than in that of the species; a condition
exactly opposed to truth; therefore it is unnatural and rouses a certain
feeling of contempt. A girl who against the wish of her parents refuses
to marry a rich man, still young, and ignores all considerations of
_convenance_, in order to choose another instinctively to her liking,
sacrifices her individual welfare to the species. But it is for this
very reason that she meets with a certain approval, for she has given
preference to what was more important and acted in the spirit of nature
(of the species) more exactly; while the parents advised only in the
spirit of individual egoism.

As the outcome of all this, it seems that to marry means that either the
interest of the individual or the interest of the species must suffer.
As a rule one or the other is the case, for it is only by the rarest and
luckiest accident that _convenance_ and passionate love go hand in hand.
The wretched condition of most persons physically, morally, and
intellectually may be partly accounted for by the fact that marriages
are not generally the result of pure choice and inclination, but of all
kinds of external considerations and accidental circumstances. However,
if inclination to a certain degree is taken into consideration, as well
as convenience, this is as it were a compromise with the genius of the
species. As is well known, happy marriages are few and far between,
since marriage is intended to have the welfare of the future generation
at heart and not the present.

However, let me add for the consolation of the more tender-hearted that
passionate love is sometimes associated with a feeling of quite another
kind--namely, real friendship founded on harmony of sentiment, but this,
however, does not exist until the instinct of sex has been extinguished.
This friendship will generally spring from the fact that the physical,
moral, and intellectual qualities which correspond to and supplement
each other in two individuals in love, in respect of the child to be
born, will also supplement each other in respect of the individuals
themselves as opposite qualities of temperament and intellectual
excellence, and thereby establish a harmony of sentiment.

The whole metaphysics of love which has been treated here is closely
related to my metaphysics in general, and the light it throws upon this
may be said to be as follows.

We have seen that a man's careful choice, developing through innumerable
degrees to passionate love, for the satisfaction of his instinct of sex,
is based upon the fundamental interest he takes in the constitution of
the next generation. This overwhelming interest that he takes verifies
two truths which have been already demonstrated.

First: Man's immortality, which is perpetuated in the future race. For
this interest of so active and zealous a nature, which is neither the
result of reflection nor intention, springs from the innermost
characteristics and tendencies of our being, could not exist so
continuously or exercise such great power over man if the latter were
really transitory and if a race really and totally different to himself
succeeded him merely in point of time.

Second: That his real nature is more closely allied to the species than
to the individual. For this interest that he takes in the special nature
of the species, which is the source of all love, from the most fleeting
emotion to the most serious passion, is in reality the most important
affair in each man's life, the successful or unsuccessful issue of which
touches him more nearly than anything else. This is why it has been
pre-eminently called the "affair of the heart." Everything that merely
concerns one's own person is set aside and sacrificed, if the case
require it, to this interest when it is of a strong and decided nature.
Therefore in this way man proves that he is more interested in the
species than in the individual, and that he lives more directly in the
interest of the species than in that of the individual.

Why, then, is a lover so absolutely devoted to every look and turn of
his beloved, and ready to make any kind of sacrifice for her? Because
the _immortal_ part of him is yearning for her; it is only the _mortal_
part of him that longs for everything else. That keen and even intense
longing for a particular woman is accordingly a direct pledge of the
immortality of the essence of our being and of its perpetuity in the

To regard this perpetuity as something unimportant and insufficient is
an error, arising from the fact that in thinking of the continuity of
the species we only think of the future existence of beings similar to
ourselves, but in no respect, however, identical with us; and again,
starting from knowledge directed towards without, we only grasp the
outer form of the species as it presents itself to us, and do not take
into consideration its inner nature. It is precisely this inner nature
that lies at the foundation of our own consciousness as its kernel, and
therefore is more direct than our consciousness itself, and as
thing-in-itself exempt from the _principium individuationis_--is in
reality identical and the same in all individuals, whether they exist at
the same or at different times.

This, then, is the will to live--that is to say, it is exactly _that
which_ so intensely desires both life and continuance, and which
accordingly remains unharmed and unaffected by death. Further, its
present state cannot be improved, and while there is life it is certain
of the unceasing sufferings and death of the individual. The _denial_ of
the will to live is reserved to free it from this, as the means by which
the individual will breaks away from the stem of the species, and
surrenders that existence in it.

We are wanting both in ideas and all data as to what it is after that.
We can only indicate it as something which is free to be will to live or
not to live. Buddhism distinguishes the latter case by the word
_Nirvana_. It is the point which as such remains for ever impenetrable
to all human knowledge.

Looking at the turmoil of life from this standpoint we find all occupied
with its want and misery, exerting all their strength in order to
satisfy its endless needs and avert manifold suffering, without,
however, daring to expect anything else in return than merely the
preservation of this tormented individual existence for a short span of
time. And yet, amid all this turmoil we see a pair of lovers exchanging
longing glances--yet why so secretly, timidly, and stealthily? Because
these lovers are traitors secretly striving to perpetuate all this
misery and turmoil that otherwise would come to a timely end.


[17] Ch. xxvi. 23.

[18] _De vita longa_ i. 5.


That the outside reflects the inner man, and that the face expresses his
whole character, is an obvious supposition and accordingly a safe one,
demonstrated as it is in the desire people have _to see_ on all
occasions a man who has distinguished himself by something good or evil,
or produced some exceptional work; or if this is denied them, at any
rate to hear from others _what he looks like_. This is why, on the one
hand, they go to places where they conjecture he is to be found; and on
the other, why the press, and especially the English press, tries to
describe him in a minute and striking way; he is soon brought visibly
before us either by a painter or an engraver; and finally, photography,
on that account so highly prized, meets this necessity in a most perfect

It is also proved in everyday life that each one inspects the
physiognomy of those he comes in contact with, and first of all secretly
tries to discover their moral and intellectual character from their
features. This could not be the case if, as some foolish people state,
the outward appearance of a man is of no importance; nay, if the soul is
one thing and the body another, and the latter related to the soul as
the coat is to the man himself.

Rather is every human face a hieroglyph, which, to be sure, admits of
being deciphered--nay, the whole alphabet of which we carry about with
us. Indeed, the face of a man, as a rule, bespeaks more interesting
matter than his tongue, for it is the compendium of all which he will
ever say, as it is the register of all his thoughts and aspirations.
Moreover, the tongue only speaks the thoughts of one man, while the face
expresses a thought of nature. Therefore it is worth while to observe
everybody attentively; even if they are not worth talking to. Every
individual is worthy of observation as a single thought of nature; so is
beauty in the highest degree, for it is a higher and more general
conception of nature: it is her thought of a species. This is why we are
so captivated by beauty. It is a fundamental and principal thought of
Nature; whereas the individual is only a secondary thought, a corollary.

In secret, everybody goes upon the principle that a man _is_ what he
_looks_; but the difficulty lies in its application. The ability to
apply it is partly innate and partly acquired by experience; but no one
understands it thoroughly, for even the most experienced may make a
mistake. Still, it is not the face that deceives, whatever Figaro may
say, but it is we who are deceived in reading what is not there. The
deciphering of the face is certainly a great and difficult art. Its
principles can never be learnt _in abstracto_. Its first condition is
that the man must be looked at from a _purely objective_ point of view;
which is not so easy to do. As soon as, for instance, there is the
slightest sign of dislike, or affection, or fear, or hope, or even the
thought of the impression which we ourselves are making on him--in
short, as soon as anything of a subjective nature is present, the
hieroglyphics become confused and falsified. The sound of a language is
only heard by one who does not understand it, because in thinking of the
significance one is not conscious of the sign itself; and similarly the
physiognomy of a man is only seen by one to whom it is still
strange--that is to say, by one who has not become accustomed to his
face through seeing him often or talking to him. Accordingly it is,
strictly speaking, the first glance that gives one a purely objective
impression of a face, and makes it possible for one to decipher it. A
smell only affects us when we first perceive it, and it is the first
glass of wine which gives us its real taste; in the same way, it is only
when we see a face for the first time that it makes a full impression
upon us. Therefore one should carefully attend to the first impression;
one should make a note of it, nay, write it down if the man is of
personal importance--that is, if one can trust one's own sense of
physiognomy. Subsequent acquaintance and intercourse will erase that
impression, but it will be verified one day in the future.

_En passant_, let us not conceal from ourselves the fact that this first
impression is as a rule extremely disagreeable: but how little there is
in the majority of faces! With the exception of those that are
beautiful, good-natured, and intellectual--that is, the very few and
exceptional,--I believe a new face for the most part gives a sensitive
person a sensation akin to a shock, since the disagreeable impression is
presented in a new and surprising combination.

As a rule it is indeed _a sorry sight_. There are individuals whose
faces are stamped with such naive vulgarity and lowness of character,
such an animal limitation of intelligence, that one wonders how they
care to go out with such a face and do not prefer to wear a mask. Nay,
there are faces a mere glance at which makes one feel contaminated. One
cannot therefore blame people, who are in a position to do so, if they
seek solitude and escape the painful sensation of "_seeing new faces_."
The _metaphysical_ explanation of this rests on the consideration that
the individuality of each person is exactly that by which he should be
reclaimed and corrected.

If any one, on the other hand, will be content with a _psychological_
explanation, let him ask himself what kind of physiognomy can be
expected in those whose minds, their whole life long, have scarcely ever
entertained anything but petty, mean, and miserable thoughts, and
vulgar, selfish, jealous, wicked, and spiteful desires. Each one of
these thoughts and desires has left its impress on the face for the
length of time it existed; all these marks, by frequent repetition, have
eventually become furrows and blemishes, if one may say so. Therefore
the appearance of the majority of people is calculated to give one a
shock at first sight, and it is only by degrees that one becomes
accustomed to a face--that is to say, becomes so indifferent to the
impression as to be no longer affected by it.

But that the predominating facial expression is formed by countless
fleeting and characteristic contortions is also the reason why the faces
of intellectual men only become moulded gradually, and indeed only
attain their sublime expression in old age; whilst portraits of them in
their youth only show the first traces of it. But, on the other hand,
what has just been said about the shock one receives at first sight
coincides with the above remark, that it is only at first sight that a
face makes its true and full impression. In order to get a purely
objective and true impression of it, we must stand in no kind of
relation to the person, nay, if possible, we must not even have spoken
to him. Conversation makes one in some measure friendly disposed, and
brings us into a certain _rapport_, a reciprocal _subjective_ relation,
which immediately interferes with our taking an objective view. As
everybody strives to win either respect or friendship for himself, a man
who is being observed will immediately resort to every art of
dissembling, and corrupt us with his airs, hypocrisies, and flatteries;
so that in a short time we no longer see what the first impression had
clearly shown us. It is said that "most people gain on further
acquaintance" but what ought to be said is that "they delude us" on
further acquaintance. But when these bad traits have an opportunity of
showing themselves later on, our first impression generally receives its
justification. Sometimes a further acquaintance is a hostile one, in
which case it will not be found that people gain by it. Another reason
for the apparent advantage of a further acquaintance is, that the man
whose first appearance repels us, as soon as we converse with him no
longer shows his true being and character, but his education as
well--that is to say, not only what he really is by nature, but what he
has appropriated from the common wealth of mankind; three-fourths of
what he says does not belong to him, but has been acquired from without;
so that we are often surprised to hear such a minotaur speak so humanly.
And on a still further acquaintance, the brutality of which his face
gave promise, will reveal itself in all its glory. Therefore a man who
is gifted with a keen sense of physiognomy should pay careful attention
to those verdicts prior to a further acquaintance, and therefore
genuine. For the face of a man expresses exactly what he is, and if he
deceives us it is not his fault but ours. On the other hand, the words
of a man merely state what he thinks, more frequently only what he has
learnt, or it may be merely what he pretends to think. Moreover, when we
speak to him, nay, only hear others speak to him, our attention is taken
away from his real physiognomy; because it is the substance, that which
is given fundamentally, and we disregard it; and we only pay attention
to its pathognomy, its play of feature while speaking. This, however, is
so arranged that the good side is turned upwards.

When Socrates said to a youth who was introduced to him so that he might
test his capabilities, "Speak so that I may see you" (taking it for
granted that he did not simply mean "hearing" by "seeing"), he was right
in so far as it is only in speaking that the features and especially the
eyes of a man become animated, and his intellectual powers and
capabilities imprint their stamp on his features: we are then in a
position to estimate provisionally the degree and capacity of his
intelligence; which was precisely Socrates' aim in that case. But, on
the other hand, it is to be observed, firstly, that this rule does not
apply to the _moral_ qualities of a man, which lie deeper; and secondly,
that what is gained from an _objective_ point of view by the clearer
development of a man's countenance while he is speaking, is again from a
_subjective_ point of view lost, because of the personal relation into
which he immediately enters with us, occasioning a slight fascination,
does not leave us unprejudiced observers, as has already been explained.
Therefore, from this last standpoint it might be more correct to say:
"Do not speak in order that I may see you."

For to obtain a pure and fundamental grasp of a man's physiognomy one
must observe him when he is alone and left to himself. Any kind of
society and conversation with another throw a reflection upon him which
is not his own, mostly to his advantage; for he thereby is placed in a
condition of action and reaction which exalts him. But, on the contrary,
if he is alone and left to himself immersed in the depths of his own
thoughts and sensations, it is only then that he is absolutely and
wholly _himself_. And any one with a keen, penetrating eye for
physiognomy can grasp the general character of his whole being at a
glance. For on his face, regarded in and by itself, is indicated the
ground tone of all his thoughts and efforts, the _arret irrevocable_ of
his future, and of which he is only conscious when alone.

The science of physiognomy is one of the principal means of a knowledge
of mankind: arts of dissimulation do not come within the range of
physiognomy, but within that of mere pathognomy and mimicry. This is
precisely why I recommend the physiognomy of a man to be studied when he
is alone and left to his own thoughts, and before he has been conversed
with; partly because it is only then that his physiognomy can be seen
purely and simply, since in conversation pathognomy immediately steps
in, and he then resorts to the arts of dissimulation which he has
acquired; and partly because personal intercourse, even of the slightest
nature, makes us prejudiced, and in consequence impairs our judgment.

Concerning our physiognomy in general, it is still to be observed that
it is much easier to discover the intellectual capacities of a man than
his moral character. The intellectual capacities take a much more
outward direction. They are expressed not only in the face and play of
his features, but also in his walk, nay, in every movement, however
slight it may be. One could perhaps discriminate from behind between a
blockhead, a fool, and a man of genius. A clumsy awkwardness
characterises every movement of the blockhead; folly imprints its mark
on every gesture, and so do genius and a reflective nature. Hence the
outcome of La Bruyere's remark: _Il n'y a rien de si delie, de si
simple, et de si imperceptible ou il n'y entrent des manieres, qui nous
decelent: un sot ni n'entre, ni ne sort, ni ne s'assied, ni ne se leve,
ni ne se tait, ni n'est sur ses jambes, comme un homme d'esprit_. This
accounts for, by the way, that instinct _stir et prompt_ which,
according to Helvetius, ordinary people have of recognising people of
genius and of running away from them. This is to be accounted for by the
fact that the larger and more developed the brain, and the thinner, in
relation to it, the spine and nerves, the greater not only is the
intelligence, but also at the same time the mobility and pliancy of all
the limbs; because they are controlled more immediately and decisively
by the brain; consequently everything depends more on a single thread,
every movement of which precisely expresses its purpose. The whole
matter is analogous to, nay dependent on, the fact that the higher an
animal stands in the scale of development, the easier can it be killed
by wounding it in a single place. Take, for instance, batrachia: they
are as heavy, clumsy, and slow in their movements as they are
unintelligent, and at the same time extremely tenacious of life. This is
explained by the fact that with a little brain they have a very thick
spine and nerves. But gait and movement of the arms are for the most
part functions of the brain; because the limbs receive their motion, and
even the slightest modification of it, from the brain through the medium
of the spinal nerves; and this is precisely why voluntary movements tire
us. This feeling of fatigue, like that of pain, has its seat in the
brain, and not as we suppose in the limbs, hence motion promotes sleep;
on the other hand, those motions that are not excited by the brain, that
is to say, the involuntary motions of organic life, of the heart and
lungs, go on without causing fatigue: and as thought as well as motion
is a function of the brain, the character of its activity is denoted in
both, according to the nature of the individual. Stupid people move like
lay figures, while every joint of intellectual people speaks for itself.
Intellectual qualities are much better discerned, however, in the face
than in gestures and movements, in the shape and size of the forehead,
in the contraction and movement of the features, and especially in the
eye; from the little, dull, sleepy-looking eye of the pig, through all
gradations, to the brilliant sparkling eye of the genius. The _look of
wisdom_, even of the best kind, is different from that of _genius_,
since it bears the stamp of serving the will; while that of the latter
is free from it. Therefore the anecdote which Squarzafichi relates in
his life of Petrarch, and has taken from Joseph Brivius, a contemporary,
is quite credible--namely, that when Petrarch was at the court of
Visconti, and among many men and titled people, Galeazzo Visconti asked
his son, who was still a boy in years and was afterwards the first Duke
of Milan, to pick out _the wisest man_ of those present. The boy looked
at every one for a while, when he seized Petrarch's hand and led him to
his father, to the great admiration of all present. For nature imprints
her stamp of dignity so distinctly on the distinguished among mankind
that a child can perceive it. Therefore I should advise my sagacious
countrymen, if they ever again wish to trumpet a commonplace person as a
genius for the period of thirty years, not to choose for that end such
an inn-keeper's physiognomy as was possessed by Hegel, upon whose face
nature had written in her clearest handwriting the familiar title,
_commonplace person_. But what applies to intellectual qualities does
not apply to the moral character of mankind; its physiognomy is much
more difficult to perceive, because, being of a metaphysical nature, it
lies much deeper, and although moral character is connected with the
constitution and with the organism, it is not so immediately connected,
however, with definite parts of its system as is intellect. Hence, while
each one makes a public show of his intelligence, with which he is in
general quite satisfied, and tries to display it at every opportunity,
the moral qualities are seldom brought to light, nay, most people
intentionally conceal them; and long practice makes them acquire great
mastery in hiding them.

Meanwhile, as has been explained above, wicked thoughts and worthless
endeavours gradually leave their traces on the face, and especially the
eyes. Therefore, judging by physiognomy, we can easily guarantee that a
man will never produce an immortal work; but not that he will never
commit a great crime.


As far as I can see, it is only the followers of monotheistic, that is
of Jewish, religions that regard suicide as a crime. This is the more
striking as there is no forbiddance of it, or even positive disapproval
of it, to be found either in the New Testament or the Old; so that
teachers of religion have to base their disapprobation of suicide on
their own philosophical grounds; these, however, are so bad that they
try to compensate for the weakness of their arguments by strongly
expressing their abhorrence of the act--that is to say, by abusing it.
We are told that suicide is an act of the greatest cowardice, that it is
only possible to a madman, and other absurdities of a similar nature; or
they make use of the perfectly senseless expression that it is
"_wrong_," while it is perfectly clear that no one has such indisputable
right over anything in the world as over his own person and life.
Suicide, as has been said, is computed a crime, rendering
inevitable--especially in vulgar, bigoted England--an ignominious
burial and the confiscation of the property; this is why the jury almost
always bring in the verdict of insanity. Let one's own moral feelings
decide the matter for one. Compare the impression made upon one by the
news that a friend has committed a crime, say a murder, an act of
cruelty or deception, or theft, with the news that he has died a
voluntary death. Whilst news of the first kind will incite intense
indignation, the greatest displeasure, and a desire for punishment or
revenge, news of the second will move us to sorrow and compassion;
moreover, we will frequently have a feeling of admiration for his
courage rather than one of moral disapproval, which accompanies a wicked
act. Who has not had acquaintances, friends, relatives, who have
voluntarily left this world? And are we to think of them with horror as
criminals? _Nego ac pernego_! I am rather of the opinion that the clergy
should be challenged to state their authority for stamping--from the
pulpit or in their writings--as a _crime_ an act which has been
committed by many people honoured and loved by us, and refusing an
honourable burial to those who have of their own free will left the
world. They cannot produce any kind of Biblical authority, nay, they
have no philosophical arguments that are at all valid; and it is
_reasons_ that we want; mere empty phrases or words of abuse we cannot
accept. If the criminal law forbids suicide, that is not a reason that
holds good in the church; moreover, it is extremely ridiculous, for what
punishment can frighten those who seek death? When a man is punished for
trying to commit suicide, it is his clumsy failure that is punished.

The ancients were also very far from looking at the matter in this
light. Pliny says: "_Vitam quidem non adeo expetendam censemus, ut
quoque modo trahenda sit. Quisquis es talis, aeque moriere, etiam cum
obscoenus vixeris, aut nefandus. Quapropter hoc primum quisque in
remediis animi sui habeat: ex omnibus bonis, quae homini tribuit natura,
nullum melius esse tempestiva morte: idque in ea optimum, quod illam
sibi quisque praestare poterit_." He also says: "_Ne Deum quidem posse
omnia. Namque nec sibi potest mortem consciscere, si velit, quod homini
dedit optimum in taniis vitae poenis_," etc.

In Massilia and on the island of Ceos a hemlock-potion was offered in
public by the magistrate to those who could give valid reasons for
quitting this life. And how many heroes and wise men of ancient times
have not ended their lives by a voluntary death! To be sure, Aristotle
says "Suicide is a wrong against the State, although not against the
person;" Stobaeus, however, in his treatise on the Peripatetic ethics
uses this sentence: _[Greek: pheukton de ton bion gignesthai tois men
agathois en tais agan atychiais tois de kakois kai en tais agan
eutychiais]. (Vitam autem relinquendam esse bonis in nimiis quidem
miseriis pravis vero in nimium quoque secundis_) And similarly: [Greek:
Dio kai gamaesein, kai paidopoiaesesthai, kai politeusesthai], etc.;
[Greek: kai katholou taen aretaen aokounta kai menein en to bio, kai
palin, ei deoi, pote di anankas apallagaesesthai, taphaes pronoaesanta]
etc. _(Ideoque et uxorem ducturum, et liberos procreaturum, et ad
civitatem accessurum,_ etc.; _atque omnino virtutem colendo tum vitam
servaturum, tum iterum, cogente necessitate, relicturum,_ etc.) And we
find that suicide was actually praised by the Stoics as a noble and
heroic act, this is corroborated by hundreds of passages, and especially
in the works of Seneca. Further, it is well known that the Hindoos often
look upon suicide as a religious act, as, for instance, the
self-sacrifice of widows, throwing oneself under the wheels of the
chariot of the god at Juggernaut, or giving oneself to the crocodiles in
the Ganges or casting oneself in the holy tanks in the temples, and so
on. It is the same on the stage--that mirror of life. For instance, in
the famous Chinese play, _L'Orphelin de la Chine_,[19] almost all the
noble characters end by suicide, without indicating anywhere or it
striking the spectator that they were committing a crime. At bottom it
is the same on our own stage; for instance, Palmira in _Mahomet_,
Mortimer in _Maria Stuart_, Othello, Countess Terzky. Is Hamlet's
monologue the meditation of a criminal? He merely states that
considering the nature of the world, death would be certainly
preferable, if we were sure that by it we should be annihilated. But
_there lies the rub_! But the reasons brought to bear against suicide by
the priests of monotheistic, that is of Jewish religions, and by those
philosophers who adapt themselves to it, are weak sophisms easily
contradicted.[20] Hume has furnished the most thorough refutation of
them in his _Essay on Suicide_, which did not appear until after his
death, and was immediately suppressed by the shameful bigotry and gross
ecclesiastical tyranny existing in England. Hence, only a very few
copies of it were sold secretly, and those at a dear price; and for this
and another treatise of that great man we are indebted to a reprint
published at Basle. That a purely philosophical treatise originating
from one of the greatest thinkers and writers of England, which refuted
with cold reason the current arguments against suicide, must steal about
in that country as if it were a fraudulent piece of work until it found
protection in a foreign country, is a great disgrace to the English
nation. At the same time it shows what a good conscience the Church has
on a question of this kind. The only valid moral reason against suicide
has been explained in my chief work. It is this: that suicide prevents
the attainment of the highest moral aim, since it substitutes a real
release from this world of misery for one that is merely apparent. But
there is a very great difference between a mistake and a crime, and it
is as a crime that the Christian clergy wish to stamp it. Christianity's
inmost truth is that suffering (the Cross) is the real purpose of life;
hence it condemns suicide as thwarting this end, while the ancients,
from a lower point of view, approved of it, nay, honoured it. This
argument against suicide is nevertheless ascetic, and only holds good
from a much higher ethical standpoint than has ever been taken by moral
philosophers in Europe. But if we come down from that very high
standpoint, there is no longer a valid moral reason for condemning
suicide. The extraordinarily active zeal with which the clergy of
monotheistic religions attack suicide is not supported either by the
Bible or by any valid reasons; so it looks as if their zeal must be
instigated by some secret motive. May it not be that the voluntary
sacrificing of one's life is a poor compliment to him who said, [Greek:
panta kala lian]?[21]

In that case it would be another example of the gross optimism of these
religions denouncing suicide, in order to avoid being denounced by it.

* * * * *

As a rule, it will be found that as soon as the terrors of life outweigh
the terrors of death a man will put an end to his life. The resistance
of the terrors of death is, however, considerable; they stand like a
sentinel at the gate that leads out of life. Perhaps there is no one
living who would not have already put an end to his life if this end had
been something that was purely negative, a sudden cessation of
existence. But there is something positive about it, namely, the
destruction of the body. And this alarms a man simply because his body
is the manifestation of the will to live.

Meanwhile, the fight as a rule with these sentinels is not so hard as it
may appear to be from a distance; in consequence, it is true, of the
antagonism between mental and physical suffering. For instance, if we
suffer very great bodily pain, or if the pain lasts a long time, we
become indifferent to all other troubles: our recovery is what we desire
most dearly. In the same way, great mental suffering makes us insensible
to bodily suffering: we despise it. Nay, if it outweighs the other, we
find it a beneficial distraction, a pause in our mental suffering. And
so it is that suicide becomes easy; for the bodily pain that is bound up
with it loses all importance in the eyes of one who is tormented by
excessive mental suffering. This is particularly obvious in the case of
those who are driven to commit suicide through some purely morbid and
discordant feeling. They have no feelings to overcome; they do not need
to rush at it, but as soon as the keeper who looks after them leaves
them for two minutes they quickly put an end to their life.

* * * * *

When in some horrid and frightful dream we reach the highest pitch of
terror, it awakens us, scattering all the monsters of the night. The
same thing happens in the dream of life, when the greatest degree of
terror compels us to break it off.

* * * * *

Suicide may also be looked upon as an experiment, as a question which
man puts to Nature and compels her to answer. It asks, what change a
man's existence and knowledge of things experience through death? It is
an awkward experiment to make; for it destroys the very consciousness
that awaits the answer.


[19] Translated by St. Julien, 1834.

[20] See my treatise on the _Foundation of Morals_, Sec. 5.

[21] Bd. I. p. 69.

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