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The Essays Of Arthur Schopenhauer by Arthur Schopenhauer

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The following essays are drawn from the chapters entitled _Zur Ethik_
and _Zur Rechtslehre und Politik_ which are to be found both in
Schopenhauer's _Parerga_ and in his posthumous writings. As in my
previous volumes, so also in this, I have omitted a few passages which
appeared to me to be either antiquated or no longer of any general
interest. For convenience' sake I have divided the original chapters
into sections, which I have had to name; and I have also had to invent
a title which should express their real scope. The reader will find
that it is not so much _Ethics_ and _Politics_ that are here treated,
as human nature itself in various aspects.



Truths of the physical order may possess much external significance,
but internal significance they have none. The latter is the privilege
of intellectual and moral truths, which are concerned with the
objectivation of the will in its highest stages, whereas physical
truths are concerned with it in its lowest.

For example, if we could establish the truth of what up till now is
only a conjecture, namely, that it is the action of the sun which
produces thermoelectricity at the equator; that this produces
terrestrial magnetism; and that this magnetism, again, is the cause of
the _aurora borealis_, these would be truths externally of great, but
internally of little, significance. On the other hand, examples
of internal significance are furnished by all great and true
philosophical systems; by the catastrophe of every good tragedy; nay,
even by the observation of human conduct in the extreme manifestations
of its morality and immorality, of its good and its evil character.
For all these are expressions of that reality which takes outward
shape as the world, and which, in the highest stages of its
objectivation, proclaims its innermost nature.

To say that the world has only a physical and not a moral significance
is the greatest and most pernicious of all errors, the fundamental
blunder, the real perversity of mind and temper; and, at bottom, it
is doubtless the tendency which faith personifies as Anti-Christ.
Nevertheless, in spite of all religions--and they are systems which
one and all maintain the opposite, and seek to establish it in their
mythical way--this fundamental error never becomes quite extinct, but
raises its head from time to time afresh, until universal indignation
compels it to hide itself once more.

Yet, however certain we may feel of the moral significance of life
and the world, to explain and illustrate it, and to resolve the
contradiction between this significance and the world as it is, form
a task of great difficulty; so great, indeed, as to make it possible
that it has remained for me to exhibit the true and only genuine
and sound basis of morality everywhere and at all times effective,
together with the results to which it leads. The actual facts of
morality are too much on my side for me to fear that my theory can
ever be replaced or upset by any other.

However, so long as even my ethical system continues to be ignored by
the professorial world, it is Kant's moral principle that prevails in
the universities. Among its various forms the one which is most in
favour at present is "the dignity of man." I have already exposed
the absurdity of this doctrine in my treatise on the _Foundation of
Morality_.[1] Therefore I will only say here that if the question were
asked on what the alleged dignity of man rests, it would not be long
before the answer was made that it rests upon his morality. In other
words, his morality rests upon his dignity, and his dignity rests upon
his morality.

[Footnote 1: Sec. 8.]

But apart from this circular argument it seems to me that the idea of
dignity can be applied only in an ironical sense to a being whose will
is so sinful, whose intellect is so limited, whose body is so weak and
perishable as man's. How shall a man be proud, when his conception
is a crime, his birth a penalty, his life a labour, and death a

_Quid superbit homo? cujus conceptio culpa,
Nasci poena, labor vita, necesse mori_!

Therefore, in opposition to the above-mentioned form of the Kantian
principle, I should be inclined to lay down the following rule: When
you come into contact with a man, no matter whom, do not attempt an
objective appreciation of him according to his worth and dignity. Do
not consider his bad will, or his narrow understanding and perverse
ideas; as the former may easily lead you to hate and the latter to
despise him; but fix your attention only upon his sufferings, his
needs, his anxieties, his pains. Then you will always feel your
kinship with him; you will sympathise with him; and instead of hatred
or contempt you will experience the commiseration that alone is the
peace to which the Gospel calls us. The way to keep down hatred and
contempt is certainly not to look for a man's alleged "dignity," but,
on the contrary, to regard him as an object of pity.

The Buddhists, as the result of the more profound views which they
entertain on ethical and metaphysical subjects, start from the
cardinal vices and not the cardinal virtues; since the virtues make
their appearance only as the contraries or negations of the vices.
According to Schmidt's _History of the Eastern Mongolians_ the
cardinal vices in the Buddhist scheme are four: Lust, Indolence,
Anger, and Avarice. But probably instead of Indolence, we should read
Pride; for so it stands in the _Lettres edifiantes et curieuses_,[1]
where Envy, or Hatred, is added as a fifth. I am confirmed in
correcting the statement of the excellent Schmidt by the fact that my
rendering agrees with the doctrine of the Sufis, who are certainly
under the influence of the Brahmins and Buddhists. The Sufis also
maintain that there are four cardinal vices, and they arrange them in
very striking pairs, so that Lust appears in connection with Avarice,
and Anger with Pride. The four cardinal virtues opposed to them would
be Chastity and Generosity, together with Gentleness and Humility.

[Footnote 1: Edit, of 1819, vol. vi., p. 372.]

When we compare these profound ideas of morality, as they are
entertained by oriental nations, with the celebrated cardinal virtues
of Plato, which have been recapitulated again and again--Justice,
Valour, Temperance, and Wisdom--it is plain that the latter are not
based on any clear, leading idea, but are chosen on grounds that are
superficial and, in part, obviously false. Virtues must be qualities
of the will, but Wisdom is chiefly an attribute of the Intellect.
[Greek: Sophrosynae], which Cicero translates _Temperantia_, is a very
indefinite and ambiguous word, and it admits, therefore, of a variety
of applications: it may mean discretion, or abstinence, or keeping a
level head. Courage is not a virtue at all; although sometimes it is a
servant or instrument of virtue; but it is just as ready to become
the servant of the greatest villainy. It is really a quality of
temperament. Even Geulinx (in the preface to this _Ethics_) condemned
the Platonic virtues and put the following in their place: Diligence,
Obedience, Justice and Humility; which are obviously bad. The Chinese
distinguish five cardinal virtues: Sympathy, Justice, Propriety,
Wisdom, and Sincerity. The virtues of Christianity are theological,
not cardinal: Faith, Love, and Hope.

Fundamental disposition towards others, assuming the character either
of Envy or of Sympathy, is the point at which the moral virtues and
vices of mankind first diverge. These two diametrically opposite
qualities exist in every man; for they spring from the inevitable
comparison which he draws between his own lot and that of others.
According as the result of this comparison affects his individual
character does the one or the other of these qualities become the
source and principle of all his action. Envy builds the wall between
_Thee_ and _Me_ thicker and stronger; Sympathy makes it slight and
transparent; nay, sometimes it pulls down the wall altogether; and
then the distinction between self and not-self vanishes.

Valour, which has been mentioned as a virtue, or rather the Courage
on which it is based (for valour is only courage in war), deserves a
closer examination. The ancients reckoned Courage among the virtues,
and cowardice among the vices; but there is no corresponding idea in
the Christian scheme, which makes for charity and patience, and in its
teaching forbids all enmity or even resistance. The result is that
with the moderns Courage is no longer a virtue. Nevertheless it must
be admitted that cowardice does not seem to be very compatible with
any nobility of character--if only for the reason that it betrays an
overgreat apprehension about one's own person.

Courage, however, may also be explained as a readiness to meet ills
that threaten at the moment, in order to avoid greater ills that
lie in the future; whereas cowardice does the contrary. But this
readiness is of the same quality as _patience_, for patience consists
in the clear consciousness that greater evils than those which are
present, and that any violent attempt to flee from or guard against
the ills we have may bring the others upon us. Courage, then, would
be a kind of patience; and since it is patience that enables us to
practise forbearance and self control, Courage is, through the medium
of patience, at least akin to virtue.

But perhaps Courage admits of being considered from a higher point of
view. The fear of death may in every case be traced to a deficiency
in that natural philosophy--natural, and therefore resting on mere
feeling--which gives a man the assurance that he exists in everything
outside him just as much as in his own person; so that the death of
his person can do him little harm. But it is just this very assurance
that would give a man heroic Courage; and therefore, as the reader
will recollect from my _Ethics_, Courage comes from the same source as
the virtues of Justice and Humanity. This is, I admit, to take a very
high view of the matter; but apart from it I cannot well explain why
cowardice seems contemptible, and personal courage a noble and sublime
thing; for no lower point of view enables me to see why a finite
individual who is everything to himself--nay, who is himself even
the very fundamental condition of the existence of the rest of the
world--should not put his own preservation above every other aim. It
is, then, an insufficient explanation of Courage to make it rest
only on utility, to give it an empirical and not a transcendental
character. It may have been for some such reason that Calderon once
uttered a sceptical but remarkable opinion in regard to Courage, nay,
actually denied its reality; and put his denial into the mouth of a
wise old minister, addressing his young sovereign. "Although," he
observed, "natural fear is operative in all alike, a man may be brave
in not letting it be seen; and it is this that constitutes Courage":

_Que aunque el natural temor
En todos obra igualmente,
No mostrarle es ser valiente
Y esto es lo que hace el valor_.[1]

[Footnote 1: _La Hija del Aire_, ii., 2.]

In regard to the difference which I have mentioned between the
ancients and the moderns in their estimate of Courage as a virtue,
it must be remembered that by Virtue, _virtus_, [Greek: aretae], the
ancients understood every excellence or quality that was praiseworthy
in itself, it might be moral or intellectual, or possibly only
physical. But when Christianity demonstrated that the fundamental
tendency of life was moral, it was moral superiority alone than
henceforth attached to the notion of Virtue. Meanwhile the earlier
usage still survived in the elder Latinists, and also in Italian
writers, as is proved by the well-known meaning of the word
_virtuoso_. The special attention of students should be drawn to this
wider range of the idea of Virtue amongst the ancients, as otherwise
it might easily be a source of secret perplexity. I may recommend two
passages preserved for us by Stobaeus, which will serve this purpose.
One of them is apparently from the Pythagorean philosopher Metopos, in
which the fitness of every bodily member is declared to be a virtue.
The other pronounces that the virtue of a shoemaker is to make good
shoes. This may also serve to explain why it is that in the ancient
scheme of ethics virtues and vices are mentioned which find no place
in ours.

As the place of Courage amongst the virtues is a matter of doubt,
so is that of Avarice amongst the vices. It must not, however, be
confounded with greed, which is the most immediate meaning of the
Latin word _avaritia_. Let us then draw up and examine the arguments
_pro et contra_ in regard to Avarice, and leave the final judgment to
be formed by every man for himself.

On the one hand it is argued that it is not Avarice which is a vice,
but extravagance, its opposite. Extravagance springs from a brutish
limitation to the present moment, in comparison with which the future,
existing as it does only in thought, is as nothing. It rests upon the
illusion that sensual pleasures possess a positive or real value.
Accordingly, future need and misery is the price at which the
spendthrift purchases pleasures that are empty, fleeting, and often no
more than imaginary; or else feeds his vain, stupid self-conceit on
the bows and scrapes of parasites who laugh at him in secret, or on
the gaze of the mob and those who envy his magnificence. We should,
therefore, shun the spendthrift as though he had the plague, and on
discovering his vice break with him betimes, in order that later on,
when the consequences of his extravagance ensue, we may neither have
to help to bear them, nor, on the other hand, have to play the part of
the friends of Timon of Athens.

At the same time it is not to be expected that he who foolishly
squanders his own fortune will leave another man's intact, if it
should chance to be committed to his keeping; nay, _sui profusus_ and
_alieni appetens_ are by Sallust very rightly conjoined. Hence it is
that extravagance leads not only to impoverishment but also to crime;
and crime amongst the moneyed classes is almost always the result of
extravagance. It is accordingly with justice that the _Koran_ declares
all spendthrifts to be "brothers of Satan."

But it is superfluity that Avarice brings in its train, and when was
superfluity ever unwelcome? That must be a good vice which has good
consequences. Avarice proceeds upon the principle that all pleasure is
only negative in its operation and that the happiness which consists
of a series of pleasures is a chimaera; that, on the contrary, it
is pains which are positive and extremely real. Accordingly, the
avaricious man foregoes the former in order that he may be the
better preserved from the latter, and thus it is that _bear and
forbear_--_sustine et abstine_--is his maxim. And because he knows,
further, how inexhaustible are the possibilities of misfortune,
and how innumerable the paths of danger, he increases the means of
avoiding them, in order, if possible, to surround himself with a
triple wall of protection. Who, then, can say where precaution against
disaster begins to be exaggerated? He alone who knows where the
malignity of fate reaches its limit. And even if precaution were
exaggerated it is an error which at the most would hurt the man who
took it, and not others. If he will never need the treasures which he
lays up for himself, they will one day benefit others whom nature
has made less careful. That until then he withdraws the money
from circulation is no misfortune; for money is not an article of
consumption: it only represents the good things which a man may
actually possess, and is not one itself. Coins are only counters;
their value is what they represent; and what they represent cannot be
withdrawn from circulation. Moreover, by holding back the money,
the value of the remainder which is in circulation is enhanced by
precisely the same amount. Even though it be the case, as is said,
that many a miser comes in the end to love money itself for its own
sake, it is equally certain that many a spendthrift, on the other
hand, loves spending and squandering for no better reason. Friendship
with a miser is not only without danger, but it is profitable, because
of the great advantages it can bring. For it is doubtless those who
are nearest and dearest to the miser who on his death will reap
the fruits of the self-control which he exercised; but even in his
lifetime, too, something may be expected of him in cases of great
need. At any rate one can always hope for more from him than from the
spendthrift, who has lost his all and is himself helpless and in debt.
_Mas da el duro que el desnudo_, says a Spanish proverb; the man who
has a hard heart will give more than the man who has an empty purse.
The upshot of all this is that Avarice is not a vice.

On the other side, it may be said that Avarice is the quintessence of
all vices. When physical pleasures seduce a man from the right path,
it is his sensual nature--the animal part of him--which is at fault.
He is carried away by its attractions, and, overcome by the impression
of the moment, he acts without thinking of the consequences. When,
on the other hand, he is brought by age or bodily weakness to the
condition in which the vices that he could never abandon end by
abandoning him, and his capacity for physical pleasure dies--if he
turns to Avarice, the intellectual desire survives the sensual. Money,
which represents all the good things of this world, and is these good
things in the abstract, now becomes the dry trunk overgrown with all
the dead lusts of the flesh, which are egoism in the abstract. They
come to life again in the love of the Mammon. The transient pleasure
of the senses has become a deliberate and calculated lust of money,
which, like that to which it is directed, is symbolical in its nature,
and, like it, indestructible.

This obstinate love of the pleasures of the world--a love which, as it
were, outlives itself; this utterly incorrigible sin, this refined
and sublimated desire of the flesh, is the abstract form in which all
lusts are concentrated, and to which it stands like a general idea to
individual particulars. Accordingly, Avarice is the vice of age, just
as extravagance is the vice of youth.

This _disputatio in utramque partem_--this debate for and against--is
certainly calculated to drive us into accepting the _juste milieu_
morality of Aristotle; a conclusion that is also supported by the
following consideration.

Every human perfection is allied to a defect into which it threatens
to pass; but it is also true that every defect is allied to a
perfection. Hence it is that if, as often happens, we make a mistake
about a man, it is because at the beginning of our acquaintance with
him we confound his defects with the kinds of perfection to which they
are allied. The cautious man seems to us a coward; the economical man,
a miser; the spendthrift seems liberal; the rude fellow, downright and
sincere; the foolhardy person looks as if he were going to work with a
noble self-confidence; and so on in many other cases.

* * * * *

No one can live among men without feeling drawn again and again to the
tempting supposition that moral baseness and intellectual incapacity
are closely connected, as though they both sprang direct from one
source. That that, however, is not so, I have shown in detail.[1] That
it seems to be so is merely due to the fact that both are so often
found together; and the circumstance is to be explained by the very
frequent occurrence of each of them, so that it may easily happen for
both to be compelled to live under one roof. At the same time it is
not to be denied that they play into each other's hands to their
mutual benefit; and it is this that produces the very unedifying
spectacle which only too many men exhibit, and that makes the world to
go as it goes. A man who is unintelligent is very likely to show his
perfidy, villainy and malice; whereas a clever man understands how
to conceal these qualities. And how often, on the other hand, does
a perversity of heart prevent a man from seeing truths which his
intelligence is quite capable of grasping!

[Footnote 1: In my chief work, vol. ii., ch. xix,]

Nevertheless, let no one boast. Just as every man, though he be the
greatest genius, has very definite limitations in some one sphere of
knowledge, and thus attests his common origin with the essentially
perverse and stupid mass of mankind, so also has every man something
in his nature which is positively evil. Even the best, nay the
noblest, character will sometimes surprise us by isolated traits of
depravity; as though it were to acknowledge his kinship with the human
race, in which villainy--nay, cruelty--is to be found in that degree.
For it was just in virtue of this evil in him, this bad principle,
that of necessity he became a man. And for the same reason the world
in general is what my clear mirror of it has shown it to be.

But in spite of all this the difference even between one man and
another is incalculably great, and many a one would be horrified to
see another as he really is. Oh, for some Asmodeus of morality, to
make not only roofs and walls transparent to his favourites, but
also to lift the veil of dissimulation, fraud, hypocrisy, pretence,
falsehood and deception, which is spread over all things! to show how
little true honesty there is in the world, and how often, even where
it is least to be expected, behind all the exterior outwork of virtue,
secretly and in the innermost recesses, unrighteousness sits at the
helm! It is just on this account that so many men of the better kind
have four-footed friends: for, to be sure, how is a man to get relief
from the endless dissimulation, falsity and malice of mankind, if
there were no dogs into whose honest faces he can look without

For what is our civilised world but a big masquerade? where you meet
knights, priests, soldiers, men of learning, barristers, clergymen,
philosophers, and I don't know what all! But they are not what they
pretend to be; they are only masks, and, as a rule, behind the masks
you will find moneymakers. One man, I suppose, puts on the mask of
law, which he has borrowed for the purpose from a barrister, only in
order to be able to give another man a sound drubbing; a second has
chosen the mask of patriotism and the public welfare with a similar
intent; a third takes religion or purity of doctrine. For all sorts
of purposes men have often put on the mask of philosophy, and even
of philanthropy, and I know not what besides. Women have a smaller
choice. As a rule they avail themselves of the mask of morality,
modesty, domesticity, and humility. Then there are general masks,
without any particular character attaching to them like dominoes. They
may be met with everywhere; and of this sort is the strict rectitude,
the courtesy, the sincere sympathy, the smiling friendship, that
people profess. The whole of these masks as a rule are merely, as I
have said, a disguise for some industry, commerce, or speculation. It
is merchants alone who in this respect constitute any honest class.
They are the only people who give themselves out to be what they are;
and therefore they go about without any mask at all, and consequently
take a humble rank.

It is very necessary that a man should be apprised early in life that
it is a masquerade in which he finds himself. For otherwise there are
many things which he will fail to understand and put up with, nay, at
which he will be completely puzzled, and that man longest of all whose
heart is made of better clay--

_Et meliore luto finxit praecordia Titan.[1]_

[Footnote 1: Juvenal, _Sat_. 14, 34]

Such for instance is the favour that villainy finds; the neglect that
merit, even the rarest and the greatest, suffers at the hands of those
of the same profession; the hatred of truth and great capacity; the
ignorance of scholars in their own province; and the fact that true
wares are almost always despised and the merely specious ones in
request. Therefore let even the young be instructed betimes that in
this masquerade the apples are of wax, the flowers of silk, the fish
of pasteboard, and that all things--yes, all things--are toys and
trifles; and that of two men whom he may see earnestly engaged in
business, one is supplying spurious goods and the other paying for
them in false coin.

But there are more serious reflections to be made, and worse things to
be recorded. Man is at bottom a savage, horrible beast. We know it,
if only in the business of taming and restraining him which we call
civilisation. Hence it is that we are terrified if now and then his
nature breaks out. Wherever and whenever the locks and chains of law
and order fall off and give place to anarchy, he shows himself for
what he is. But it is unnecessary to wait for anarchy in order to gain
enlightenment on this subject. A hundred records, old and new, produce
the conviction that in his unrelenting cruelty man is in no way
inferior to the tiger and the hyaena. A forcible example is supplied
by a publication of the year 1841 entitled _Slavery and the Internal
Slave Trade in the United States of North America: being replies to
questions transmitted by the British Anti-slavery Society to the
American Anti-slavery Society_.[1] This book constitutes one of the
heaviest indictments against the human race. No one can put it down
with a feeling of horror, and few without tears. For whatever the
reader may have ever heard, or imagined, or dreamt, of the unhappy
condition of slavery, or indeed of human cruelty in general, it will
seem small to him when he reads of the way in which those devils
in human form, those bigoted, church-going, strictly Sabbatarian
rascals--and in particular the Anglican priests among them--treated
their innocent black brothers, who by wrong and violence had got into
their diabolical clutches.

[Footnote 1: _Translator's 'Note_.--If Schopenhauer were writing
to-day, he would with equal truth point to the miseries of the African
trade. I have slightly abridged this passage, as some of the evils
against which he protested no longer exist.]

Other examples are furnished by Tshudi's _Travels in Peru_, in the
description which he gives of the treatment of the Peruvian soldiers
at the hands of their officers; and by Macleod's _Travels in Eastern
Africa_, where the author tells of the cold-blooded and truly devilish
cruelty with which the Portuguese in Mozambique treat their slaves.
But we need not go for examples to the New World, that obverse side of
our planet. In the year 1848 it was brought to life that in England,
not in one, but apparently in a hundred cases within a brief period, a
husband had poisoned his wife or _vice versa_, or both had joined in
poisoning their children, or in torturing them slowly to death by
starving and ill-treating them, with no other object than to get the
money for burying them which they had insured in the Burial Clubs
against their death. For this purpose a child was often insured in
several, even in as many as twenty clubs at once.[1]

[Footnote 1: Cf. _The Times_, 20th, 22nd and 23rd Sept., 1848, and
also 12th Dec., 1853.]

Details of this character belong, indeed, to the blackest pages in the
criminal records of humanity. But, when all is said, it is the
inward and innate character of man, this god _par excellence_ of the
Pantheists, from which they and everything like them proceed. In every
man there dwells, first and foremost, a colossal egoism, which breaks
the bounds of right and justice with the greatest freedom, as everyday
life shows on a small scale, and as history on every page of it on a
large. Does not the recognised need of a balance of power in Europe,
with the anxious way in which it is preserved, demonstrate that man
is a beast of prey, who no sooner sees a weaker man near him than he
falls upon him without fail? and does not the same hold good of the
affairs of ordinary life?

But to the boundless egoism of our nature there is joined more or
less in every human breast a fund of hatred, anger, envy, rancour and
malice, accumulated like the venom in a serpent's tooth, and waiting
only for an opportunity of venting itself, and then, like a demon
unchained, of storming and raging. If a man has no great occasion for
breaking out, he will end by taking advantage of the smallest, and by
working it up into something great by the aid of his imagination; for,
however small it may be, it is enough to rouse his anger--

_Quantulacunque adeo est occasio, sufficit irae[1]_--

[Footnote 1: Juvenal, _Sat_. 13, 183.]

and then he will carry it as far as he can and may. We see this in
daily life, where such outbursts are well known under the name of
"venting one's gall on something." It will also have been observed
that if such outbursts meet with no opposition the subject of them
feels decidedly the better for them afterwards. That anger is
not without its pleasure is a truth that was recorded even by
Aristotle;[1] and he quotes a passage from Homer, who declares anger
to be sweeter than honey. But not in anger alone--in hatred too, which
stands to anger like a chronic to an acute disease, a man may indulge
with the greatest delight:

[Footnote 1: _Rhet_., i., 11; ii., 2.]

_Now hatred is by far the longest pleasure,
Men love in haste, but they detest at leisure_[1]

[Footnote 1: Byron _Don Juan_, c. xiii, 6.]

Gobineau in his work _Les Races Humaines_ has called man _l'animal
mechant par excellence_. People take this very ill, because they feel
that it hits them; but he is quite right, for man is the only animal
which causes pain to others without any further purpose than just to
cause it. Other animals never do it except to satisfy their hunger, or
in the rage of combat. If it is said against the tiger that he kills
more than eats, he strangles his prey only for the purpose of eating
it; and if he cannot eat it, the only explanation is, as the French
phrase has it, that _ses yeux sont plus grands que son estomac_. No
animal ever torments another for the mere purpose of tormenting, but
man does it, and it is this that constitutes the diabolical feature in
his character which is so much worse than the merely animal. I have
already spoken of the matter in its broad aspect; but it is manifest
even in small things, and every reader has a daily opportunity
of observing it. For instance, if two little dogs are playing
together--and what a genial and charming sight it is--and a child of
three or four years joins them, it is almost inevitable for it to
begin hitting them with a whip or stick, and thereby show itself, even
at that age, _l'animal mechant par excellence_. The love of teasing
and playing tricks, which is common enough, may be traced to the same
source. For instance, if a man has expressed his annoyance at any
interruption or other petty inconvenience, there will be no lack of
people who for that very reason will bring it about: _animal mechant
par excellence_! This is so certain that a man should be careful not
to express any annoyance at small evils. On the other hand he should
also be careful not to express his pleasure at any trifle, for, if
he does so, men will act like the jailer who, when he found that his
prisoner had performed the laborious task of taming a spider, and took
a pleasure in watching it, immediately crushed it under his foot:
_l'animal mechant par excellence_! This is why all animals are
instinctively afraid of the sight, or even of the track of a man, that
_animal mechant par excellence_! nor does their instinct them false;
for it is man alone who hunts game for which he has no use and which
does him no harm.

It is a fact, then, that in the heart of every man there lies a wild
beast which only waits for an opportunity to storm and rage, in its
desire to inflict pain on others, or, if they stand in his way, to
kill them. It is this which is the source of all the lust of war and
battle. In trying to tame and to some extent hold it in check, the
intelligence, its appointed keeper, has always enough to do. People
may, if they please, call it the radical evil of human nature--a
name which will at least serve those with whom a word stands for an
explanation. I say, however, that it is the will to live, which, more
and more embittered by the constant sufferings of existence, seeks to
alleviate its own torment by causing torment in others. But in this
way a man gradually develops in himself real cruelty and malice. The
observation may also be added that as, according to Kant, matter
subsists only through the antagonism of the powers of expansion and
contraction, so human society subsists only by the antagonism of
hatred, or anger, and fear. For there is a moment in the life of
all of us when the malignity of our nature might perhaps make us
murderers, if it were not accompanied by a due admixture of fear to
keep it within bounds; and this fear, again, would make a man the
sport and laughing stock of every boy, if anger were not lying ready
in him, and keeping watch.

But it is _Schadenfreude_, a mischievous delight in the misfortunes of
others, which remains the worst trait in human nature. It is a feeling
which is closely akin to cruelty, and differs from it, to say the
truth, only as theory from practice. In general, it may be said of it
that it takes the place which pity ought to take--pity which is its
opposite, and the true source of all real justice and charity.

_Envy_ is also opposed to pity, but in another sense; envy, that is
to say, is produced by a cause directly antagonistic to that which
produces the delight in mischief. The opposition between pity and envy
on the one hand, and pity and the delight in mischief on the other,
rests, in the main, on the occasions which call them forth. In the
case of envy it is only as a direct effect of the cause which excites
it that we feel it at all. That is just the reason why envy, although
it is a reprehensible feeling, still admits of some excuse, and is,
in general, a very human quality; whereas the delight in mischief is
diabolical, and its taunts are the laughter of hell.

The delight in mischief, as I have said, takes the place which pity
ought to take. Envy, on the contrary, finds a place only where there
is no inducement to pity, or rather an inducement to its opposite; and
it is just as this opposite that envy arises in the human breast; and
so far, therefore, it may still be reckoned a human sentiment. Nay, I
am afraid that no one will be found to be entirely free from it. For
that a man should feel his own lack of things more bitterly at the
sight of another's delight in the enjoyment of them, is natural; nay,
it is inevitable; but this should not rouse his hatred of the man who
is happier than himself. It is just this hatred, however, in which
true envy consists. Least of all should a man be envious, when it is a
question, not of the gifts of fortune, or chance, or another's favour,
but of the gifts of nature; because everything that is innate in a man
rests on a metaphysical basis, and possesses justification of a higher
kind; it is, so to speak, given him by Divine grace. But, unhappily,
it is just in the case of personal advantages that envy is most
irreconcilable. Thus it is that intelligence, or even genius, cannot
get on in the world without begging pardon for its existence, wherever
it is not in a position to be able, proudly and boldly, to despise the

In other words, if envy is aroused only by wealth, rank, or power,
it is often kept down by egoism, which perceives that, on occasion,
assistance, enjoyment, support, protection, advancement, and so
on, may be hoped for from the object of envy or that at least by
intercourse with him a man may himself win honour from the reflected
light of his superiority; and here, too, there is the hope of one day
attaining all those advantages himself. On the other hand, in the envy
that is directed to natural gifts and personal advantages, like beauty
in women, or intelligence in men, there is no consolation or hope of
one kind or the other; so that nothing remains but to indulge a
bitter and irreconcilable hatred of the person who possesses these
privileges; and hence the only remaining desire is to take vengeance
on him.

But here the envious man finds himself in an unfortunate position; for
all his blows fall powerless as soon as it is known that they come
from him. Accordingly he hides his feelings as carefully as if they
were secret sins, and so becomes an inexhaustible inventor of tricks
and artifices and devices for concealing and masking his procedure,
in order that, unperceived, he may wound the object of his envy. For
instance, with an air of the utmost unconcern he will ignore the
advantages which are eating his heart out; he will neither see them,
nor know them, nor have observed or even heard of them, and thus make
himself a master in the art of dissimulation. With great cunning he
will completely overlook the man whose brilliant qualities are gnawing
at his heart, and act as though he were quite an unimportant person;
he will take no notice of him, and, on occasion, will have even quite
forgotten his existence. But at the same time he will before all
things endeavour by secret machination carefully to deprive those
advantages of any opportunity of showing themselves and becoming
known. Then out of his dark corner he will attack these qualities with
censure, mockery, ridicule and calumny, like the toad which spurts
its poison from a hole. No less will he enthusiastically praise
unimportant people, or even indifferent or bad performances in the
same sphere. In short, he will becomes a Proteas in stratagem, in
order to wound others without showing himself. But what is the use
of it? The trained eye recognises him in spite of it all. He betrays
himself, if by nothing else, by the way in which he timidly avoids
and flies from the object of his envy, who stands the more completely
alone, the more brilliant he is; and this is the reason why pretty
girls have no friends of their own sex. He betrays himself, too, by
the causeless hatred which he shows--a hatred which finds vent in a
violent explosion at any circumstance however trivial, though it is
often only the product of his imagination. How many such men there are
in the world may be recognised by the universal praise of modesty,
that is, of a virtue invented on behalf of dull and commonplace
people. Nevertheless, it is a virtue which, by exhibiting the
necessity for dealing considerately with the wretched plight of these
people, is just what calls attention to it.

For our self-consciousness and our pride there can be nothing more
flattering than the sight of envy lurking in its retreat and plotting
its schemes; but never let a man forget that where there is envy there
is hatred, and let him be careful not to make a false friend out of
any envious person. Therefore it is important to our safety to lay
envy bare; and a man should study to discover its tricks, as it is
everywhere to be found and always goes about _incognito_; or as I
have said, like a venomous toad it lurks in dark corners. It deserves
neither quarter nor sympathy; but as we can never reconcile it let our
rule of conduct be to scorn it with a good heart, and as our happiness
and glory is torture to it we may rejoice in its sufferings:

_Den Neid wirst nimmer du versoehnen;
So magst du ihn getrost verhoehnen.
Dein Glueck, dein Ruhm ist ihm ein Leiden:
Magst drum an seiner Quaal dich weiden_.

We have been taking a look at the _depravity_ of man, and it is a
sight which may well fill us with horror. But now we must cast our
eyes on the _misery_ of his existence; and when we have done so, and
are horrified by that too, we must look back again at his depravity.
We shall then find that they hold the balance to each other. We shall
perceive the eternal justice of things; for we shall recognise that
the world is itself the Last Judgment on it, and we shall begin to
understand why it is that everything that lives must pay the penalty
of its existence, first in living and then in dying. Thus the evil
of the penalty accords with the evil of the sin--_malum poenae_ with
_malum culpae_. From the same point of view we lose our indignation at
that intellectual incapacity of the great majority of mankind which in
life so often disgusts us. In this _Sansara_, as the Buddhists call
it, human misery, human depravity and human folly correspond with one
another perfectly, and they are of like magnitude. But if, on some
special inducement, we direct our gaze to one of them, and survey it
in particular, it seems to exceed the other two. This, however, is an
illusion, and merely the effect of their colossal range.

All things proclaim this _Sansara_; more than all else, the world of
mankind; in which, from a moral point of view, villainy and baseness,
and from an intellectual point of view, incapacity and stupidity,
prevail to a horrifying extent. Nevertheless, there appear in
it, although very spasmodically, and always as a fresh surprise,
manifestations of honesty, of goodness, nay, even of nobility; and
also of great intelligence, of the thinking mind of genius. They never
quite vanish, but like single points of light gleam upon us out of the
great dark mass. We must accept them as a pledge that this _Sansara_
contains a good and redeeming principle, which is capable of breaking
through and of filling and freeing the whole of it.

* * * * *

The readers of my _Ethics_ know that with me the ultimate foundation
of morality is the truth which in the _Vedas_ and the _Vedanta_
receives its expression in the established, mystical formula, _Tat
twam asi (This is thyself_), which is spoken with reference to every
living thing, be it man or beast, and is called the _Mahavakya_, the
great word.

Actions which proceed in accordance with this principle, such as those
of the philanthropist, may indeed be regarded as the beginning of
mysticism. Every benefit rendered with a pure intention proclaims that
the man who exercises it acts in direct conflict with the world of
appearance; for he recognises himself as identical with another
individual, who exists in complete separation from him. Accordingly,
all disinterested kindness is inexplicable; it is a mystery; and hence
in order to explain it a man has to resort to all sorts of fictions.
When Kant had demolished all other arguments for theism, he admitted
one only, that it gave the best interpretation and solution of such
mysterious actions, and of all others like them. He therefore allowed
it to stand as a presumption unsusceptible indeed of theoretical
proof, but valid from a practical point of view. I may, however,
express my doubts whether he was quite serious about it. For to make
morality rest on theism is really to reduce morality to egoism;
although the English, it is true, as also the lowest classes of
society with us, do not perceive the possibility of any other
foundation for it.

The above-mentioned recognition of a man's own true being in
another individual objectively presented to him, is exhibited in a
particularly beautiful and clear way in the cases in which a man,
already destined to death beyond any hope of rescue, gives himself up
to the welfare of others with great solicitude and zeal, and tries to
save them. Of this kind is the well-known story of a servant who was
bitten in a courtyard at night by a mad dog. In the belief that she
was beyond hope, she seized the dog and dragged it into a stable,
which she then locked, so that no one else might be bitten. Then again
there is the incident in Naples, which Tischbein has immortalised in
one of his _aquarelles_. A son, fleeing from the lava which is rapidly
streaming toward the sea, is carrying his aged father on his back.
When there is only a narrow strip of land left between the devouring
elements, the father bids the son put him down, so that the son may
save himself by flight, as otherwise both will be lost. The son obeys,
and as he goes casts a glance of farewell on his father. This is the
moment depicted. The historical circumstance which Scott represents
in his masterly way in _The Heart of Midlothian_, chap, ii., is of a
precisely similar kind; where, of two delinquents condemned to death,
the one who by his awkwardness caused the capture of the other happily
sets him free in the chapel by overpowering the guard after the
execution-sermon, without at the same time making any attempt on his
own behalf. Nay, in the same category must also be placed the scene
which is represented in a common engraving, which may perhaps be
objectionable to western readers--I mean the one in which a soldier,
kneeling to be shot, is trying by waving a cloth to frighten away his
dog who wants to come to him.

In all these cases we see an individual in the face of his own
immediate and certain destruction no longer thinking of saving
himself, so that he may direct the whole of his efforts to saving some
one else. How could there be a clearer expression of the consciousness
that what is being destroyed is only a phenomenon, and that the
destruction itself is only a phenomenon; that, on the other hand, the
real being of the man who meets his death is untouched by that event,
and lives on in the other man, in whom even now, as his action
betrays, he so clearly perceives it to exist? For if this were not so,
and it was his real being which was about to be annihilated, how could
that being spend its last efforts in showing such an ardent sympathy
in the welfare and continued existence of another?

There are two different ways in which a man may become conscious
of his own existence. On the one hand, he may have an empirical
perception of it, as it manifests itself externally--something so
small that it approaches vanishing point; set in a world which, as
regards time and space, is infinite; one only of the thousand millions
of human creatures who run about on this planet for a very brief
period and are renewed every thirty years. On the other hand, by going
down into the depths of his own nature, a man may become conscious
that he is all in all; that, in fact, he is the only real being; and
that, in addition, this real being perceives itself again in others,
who present themselves from without, as though they formed a mirror of

Of these two ways in which a man may come to know what he is, the
first grasps the phenomenon alone, the mere product of _the principle
of individuation_; whereas the second makes a man immediately
conscious that he is _the thing-in-itself_. This is a doctrine in
which, as regards the first way, I have Kant, and as regards both, I
have the _Vedas_, to support me.

There is, it is true, a simple objection to the second method. It may
be said to assume that one and the same being can exist in different
places at the same time, and yet be complete in each of them.
Although, from an empirical point of view, this is the most palpable
impossibility--nay, absurdity--it is nevertheless perfectly true
of the thing-in-itself. The impossibility and the absurdity of it,
empirically, are only due to the forms which phenomena assume,
in accordance with the principle of individuation. For the
thing-in-itself, the will to live, exists whole and undivided in every
being, even in the smallest, as completely as in the sum-total of all
things that ever were or are or will be. This is why every being, even
the smallest, says to itself, So long as I am safe, let the world
perish--_dum ego salvus sim, pereat mundus_. And, in truth, even if
only one individual were left in the world, and all the rest were to
perish, the one that remained would still possess the whole self-being
of the world, uninjured and undiminished, and would laugh at the
destruction of the world as an illusion. This conclusion _per
impossible_ may be balanced by the counter-conclusion, which is on all
fours with it, that if that last individual were to be annihilated in
and with him the whole world would be destroyed. It was in this sense
that the mystic Angelas Silesius[1] declared that God could not live
for a moment without him, and that if he were to be annihilated God
must of necessity give up the ghost:

_Ich weiss dass ohne mich Gott nicht ein Nu kann leben;
Werd' ich zunicht, er muss von Noth den Geist aufgeben_.

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--Angelus Silesius, see _Counsels and
Maxims_, p. 39, note.]

But the empirical point of view also to some extent enables us to
perceive that it is true, or at least possible, that our self can
exist in other beings whose consciousness is separated and different
from our own. That this is so is shown by the experience of
somnambulists. Although the identity of their ego is preserved
throughout, they know nothing, when they awake, of all that a moment
before they themselves said, did or suffered. So entirely is the
individual consciousness a phenomenon that even in the same ego two
consciousnesses can arise of which the one knows nothing of the other.


It is a characteristic failing of the Germans to look in the clouds
for what lies at their feet. An excellent example of this is furnished
by the treatment which the idea of _Natural Right_ has received at
the hands of professors of philosophy. When they are called upon
to explain those simple relations of human life which make up the
substance of this right, such as Right and Wrong, Property, State,
Punishment and so on, they have recourse to the most extravagant,
abstract, remote and meaningless conceptions, and out of them build a
Tower of Babel reaching to the clouds, and taking this or that form
according to the special whim of the professor for the time being. The
clearest and simplest relations of life, such as affect us directly,
are thus made quite unintelligible, to the great detriment of the
young people who are educated in such a school. These relations
themselves are perfectly simple and easily understood--as the reader
may convince himself if he will turn to the account which I have given
of them in the _Foundation of Morality_, Sec. 17, and in my chief work,
bk. i., Sec. 62. But at the sound of certain words, like Right, Freedom,
the Good, Being--this nugatory infinitive of the cupola--and many
others of the same sort, the German's head begins to swim, and falling
straightway into a kind of delirium he launches forth into high-flown
phrases which have no meaning whatever. He takes the most remote and
empty conceptions, and strings them together artificially, instead of
fixing his eyes on the facts, and looking at things and relations as
they really are. It is these things and relations which supply the
ideas of Right and Freedom, and give them the only true meaning that
they possess.

The man who starts from the preconceived opinion that the conception
of Right must be a positive one, and then attempts to define it, will
fail; for he is trying to grasp a shadow, to pursue a spectre, to
search for what does not exist. The conception of Right is a negative
one, like the conception of Freedom; its content is mere negation.
It is the conception of Wrong which is positive; Wrong has the same
significance as _injury_--_laesio_--in the widest sense of the term.
An injury may be done either to a man's person or to his property or
to his honour; and accordingly a man's rights are easy to define:
every one has a right to do anything that injures no one else.

To have a right to do or claim a thing means nothing more than to be
able to do or take or vise it without thereby injuring any one else.
_Simplex sigillum veri_. This definition shows how senseless many
questions are; for instance, the question whether we have the right to
take our own life, As far as concerns the personal claims which others
may possibly have upon us, they are subject to the condition that we
are alive, and fall to the ground when we die. To demand of a man, who
does not care to live any longer for himself, that he should live
on as a mere machine for the advantage of others is an extravagant

Although men's powers differ, their rights are alike. Their rights do
not rest upon their powers, because Right is of a moral complexion;
they rest on the fact that the same will to live shows itself in
every man at the same stage of its manifestation. This, however, only
applies to that original and abstract Right, which a man possesses as
a man. The property, and also the honour, which a man acquires for
himself by the exercise of his powers, depend on the measure and kind
of power which he possesses, and so lend his Right a wider sphere of
application. Here, then, equality comes to an end. The man who is
better equipped, or more active, increases by adding to his gains, not
his Right, but the number of the things to which it extends.

In my chief work[1] I have proved that the State in its essence is
merely an institution existing for the purpose of protecting its
members against outward attack or inward dissension. It follows from
this that the ultimate ground on which the State is necessary is the
acknowledged lack of Right in the human race. If Right were there, no
one would think of a State; for no one would have any fear that his
rights would be impaired; and a mere union against the attacks of wild
beasts or the elements would have very little analogy with what we
mean by a State. From this point of view it is easy to see how dull
and stupid are the philosophasters who in pompous phrases represent
that the State is the supreme end and flower of human existence. Such
a view is the apotheosis of Philistinism.

[Footnote 1: 1 Bk. ii., ch. xlvii.]

If it were Right that ruled in the world, a man would have done enough
in building his house, and would need no other protection than the
right of possessing it, which would be obvious. But since Wrong is the
order of the day, it is requisite that the man who has built his house
should also be able to protect it. Otherwise his Right is _de
facto_ incomplete; the aggressor, that is to say, has the right of
might--_Faustrecht_; and this is just the conception of Right
which Spinoza entertains. He recognises no other. His words are:
_unusquisque tantum juris habet quantum potentia valet_;[1] each man
has as much right as he has power. And again: _uniuscujusque jus
potentia ejus definitur_; each man's right is determined by his
power.[2] Hobbes seems to have started this conception of Right,[3]
and he adds the strange comment that the Right of the good Lord to all
things rests on nothing but His omnipotence.

[Footnote 1: _Tract. Theol. Pol_., ch. ii., Sec. 8.]

[Footnote 2: _Ethics_, IV., xxxvii., 1.]

[Footnote 3: Particularly in a passage in the _De Cive_, I, Sec. 14.]

Now this is a conception of Right which, both in theory and in
practice, no longer prevails in the civic world; but in the world
in general, though abolished in theory, it continues to apply in
practice. The consequences of neglecting it may be seen in the case
of China. Threatened by rebellion within and foes without, this great
empire is in a defenceless state, and has to pay the penalty of having
cultivated only the arts of peace and ignored the arts of war.

There is a certain analogy between the operations of nature and those
of man which is a peculiar but not fortuitous character, and is based
on the identity of the will in both. When the herbivorous animals had
taken their place in the organic world, beasts of prey made their
appearance--necessarily a late appearance--in each species, and
proceeded to live upon them. Just in the same way, as soon as by
honest toil and in the sweat of their faces men have won from the
ground what is needed for the support of their societies, a number of
individuals are sure to arise in some of these societies, who, instead
of cultivating the earth and living on its produce, prefer to take
their lives in their hands and risk health and freedom by falling upon
those who are in possession of what they have honestly earned, and by
appropriating the fruits of their labour. These are the beasts of
prey in the human race; they are the conquering peoples whom we find
everywhere in history, from the most ancient to the most recent times.
Their varying fortunes, as at one moment they succeed and at another
fail, make up the general elements of the history of the world. Hence
Voltaire was perfectly right when he said that the aim of all war is
robbery. That those who engage in it are ashamed of their doings is
clear by the fact that governments loudly protest their reluctance to
appeal to arms except for purposes of self-defence. Instead of trying
to excuse themselves by telling public and official lies, which are
almost more revolting than war itself, they should take their stand,
as bold as brass, on Macchiavelli's doctrine. The gist of it may be
stated to be this: that whereas between one individual and another,
and so far as concerns the law and morality of their relations,
the principle, _Don't do to others what you wouldn't like done to
yourself_, certainly applies, it is the converse of this principle
which is appropriate in the case of nations and in politics: _What you
wouldn't like done to yourself do to others_. If you do not want to
be put under a foreign yoke, take time by the forelock, and put your
neighbour under it himself; whenever, that is to say, his weakness
offers you the opportunity. For if you let the opportunity pass, it
will desert one day to the enemy's camp and offer itself there. Then
your enemy will put you under his yoke; and your failure to grasp the
opportunity may be paid for, not by the generation which was guilty of
it, but by the next. This Macchiavellian principle is always a much
more decent cloak for the lust of robbery than the rags of very
obvious lies in a speech from the head of the State; lies, too, of a
description which recalls the well-known story of the rabbit attacking
the dog. Every State looks upon its neighbours as at bottom a horde of
robbers, who will fall upon it as soon as they have the opportunity.

* * * * *

Between the serf, the farmer, the tenant, and the mortgagee, the
difference is rather one of form than of substance. Whether the
peasant belongs to me, or the land on which he has to get a living;
whether the bird is mine, or its food, the tree or its fruit, is a
matter of little moment; for, as Shakespeare makes Shylock say:

_You take my life
When you do take the means whereby I live_.

The free peasant has, indeed, the advantage that he can go off and
seek his fortune in the wide world; whereas the serf who is attached
to the soil, _glebae adscriptus_, has an advantage which is perhaps
still greater, that when failure of crops or illness, old age or
incapacity, render him helpless, his master must look after him, and
so he sleeps well at night; whereas, if the crops fail, his master
tosses about on his bed trying to think how he is to procure bread for
his men. As long ago as Menander it was said that it is better to
be the slave of a good master than to live miserably as a freeman.
Another advantage possessed by the free is that if they have any
talents they can improve their position; but the same advantage is not
wholly withheld from the slave. If he proves himself useful to his
master by the exercise of any skill, he is treated accordingly; just
as in ancient Rome mechanics, foremen of workshops, architects, nay,
even doctors, were generally slaves.

Slavery and poverty, then, are only two forms, I might almost say only
two names, of the same thing, the essence of which is that a man's
physical powers are employed, in the main, not for himself but for
others; and this leads partly to his being over-loaded with work, and
partly to his getting a scanty satisfaction for his needs. For Nature
has given a man only as much physical power as will suffice, if he
exerts it in moderation, to gain a sustenance from the earth. No great
superfluity of power is his. If, then, a not inconsiderable number of
men are relieved from the common burden of sustaining the existence
of the human race, the burden of the remainder is augmented, and they
suffer. This is the chief source of the evil which under the name of
slavery, or under the name of the proletariat, has always oppressed
the great majority of the human race.

But the more remote cause of it is luxury. In order, it may be said,
that some few persons may have what is unnecessary, superfluous,
and the product of refinement--nay, in order that they may satisfy
artificial needs--a great part of the existing powers of mankind
has to be devoted to this object, and therefore withdrawn from the
production of what is necessary and indispensable. Instead of building
cottages for themselves, thousands of men build mansions for a few.
Instead of weaving coarse materials for themselves and their families,
they make fine cloths, silk, or even lace, for the rich, and in
general manufacture a thousand objects of luxury for their pleasure. A
great part of the urban population consists of workmen who make these
articles of luxury; and for them and those who give them work the
peasants have to plough and sow and look after the flocks as well
as for themselves, and thus have more labour than Nature originally
imposed upon them. Moreover, the urban population devotes a great deal
of physical strength, and a great deal of land, to such things as
wine, silk, tobacco, hops, asparagus and so on, instead of to corn,
potatoes and cattle-breeding. Further, a number of men are withdrawn
from agriculture and employed in ship-building and seafaring, in order
that sugar, coffee, tea and other goods may be imported. In short,
a large part of the powers of the human race is taken away from the
production of what is necessary, in order to bring what is superfluous
and unnecessary within the reach of a few. As long therefore as luxury
exists, there must be a corresponding amount of over-work and misery,
whether it takes the name of poverty or of slavery. The fundamental
difference between the two is that slavery originates in violence,
and poverty in craft. The whole unnatural condition of society--the
universal struggle to escape from misery, the sea-trade attended with
so much loss of life, the complicated interests of commerce, and
finally the wars to which it all gives rise--is due, only and alone,
to luxury, which gives no happiness even to those who enjoy it, nay,
makes them ill and bad-tempered. Accordingly it looks as if the most
effective way of alleviating human misery would be to diminish luxury,
or even abolish it altogether.

There is unquestionably much truth in this train of thought. But the
conclusion at which it arrives is refuted by an argument possessing
this advantage over it--that it is confirmed by the testimony of
experience. A certain amount of work is devoted to purposes of luxury.
What the human race loses in this way in the _muscular power_ which
would otherwise be available for the necessities of existence is
gradually made up to it a thousandfold by the _nervous power_, which,
in a chemical sense, is thereby released. And since the intelligence
and sensibility which are thus promoted are on a higher level than the
muscular irritability which they supplant, so the achievements of mind
exceed those of the body a thousandfold. One wise counsel is worth the
work of many hands:

[Greek: Hos en sophon bouleuma tas pollon cheiras nika.]

A nation of nothing but peasants would do little in the way of
discovery and invention; but idle hands make active heads. Science and
the Arts are themselves the children of luxury, and they discharge
their debt to it. The work which they do is to perfect technology in
all its branches, mechanical, chemical and physical; an art which in
our days has brought machinery to a pitch never dreamt of before, and
in particular has, by steam and electricity, accomplished things the
like of which would, in earlier ages, have been ascribed to the agency
of the devil. In manufactures of all kinds, and to some extent in
agriculture, machines now do a thousand times more than could ever
have been done by the hands of all the well-to-do, educated, and
professional classes, and could ever have been attained if all luxury
had been abolished and every one had returned to the life of a
peasant. It is by no means the rich alone, but all classes, who derive
benefit from these industries. Things which in former days hardly
any one could afford are now cheap and abundant, and even the lowest
classes are much better off in point of comfort. In the Middle Ages a
King of England once borrowed a pair of silk stockings from one of his
lords, so that he might wear them in giving an audience to the French
ambassador. Even Queen Elizabeth was greatly pleased and astonished to
receive a pair as a New Year's present; to-day every shopman has them.
Fifty years ago ladies wore the kind of calico gowns which servants
wear now. If mechanical science continues to progress at the same
rate for any length of time, it may end by saving human labour almost
entirely, just as horses are even now being largely superseded by
machines. For it is possible to conceive that intellectual culture
might in some degree become general in the human race; and this would
be impossible as long as bodily labour was incumbent on any great part
of it. Muscular irritability and nervous sensibility are always and
everywhere, both generally and particularly, in antagonism; for the
simple reason that it is one and the same vital power which underlies
both. Further, since the arts have a softening effect on character, it
is possible that quarrels great and small, wars and duels, will vanish
from the world; just as both have become much rarer occurrences.
However, it is not my object here to write a _Utopia_.

But apart from all this the arguments used above in favour of the
abolition of luxury and the uniform distribution of all bodily labour
are open to the objection that the great mass of mankind, always and
everywhere, cannot do without leaders, guides and counsellors, in
one shape or another, according to the matter in question; judges,
governors, generals, officials, priests, doctors, men of learning,
philosophers, and so on, are all a necessity. Their common task is to
lead the race for the greater part so incapable and perverse, through
the labyrinth of life, of which each of them according to his position
and capacity has obtained a general view, be his range wide or narrow.
That these guides of the race should be permanently relieved of all
bodily labour as well as of all vulgar need and discomfort; nay,
that in proportion to their much greater achievements they should
necessarily own and enjoy more than the common man, is natural and
reasonable. Great merchants should also be included in the same
privileged class, whenever they make far-sighted preparations for
national needs.

The question of the sovereignty of the people is at bottom the same
as the question whether any man can have an original right to rule
a people against its will. How that proposition can be reasonably
maintained I do not see. The people, it must be admitted, is
sovereign; but it is a sovereign who is always a minor. It must have
permanent guardians, and it can never exercise its rights itself,
without creating dangers of which no one can foresee the end;
especially as like all minors, it is very apt to become the sport of
designing sharpers, in the shape of what are called demagogues.

Voltaire remarks that the first man to become a king was a successful
soldier. It is certainly the case that all princes were originally
victorious leaders of armies, and for a long time it was as such that
they bore sway. On the rise of standing armies princes began to regard
their people as a means of sustaining themselves and their soldiers,
and treated them, accordingly, as though they were a herd of cattle,
which had to be tended in order that it might provide wool, milk, and
meat. The why and wherefore of all this, as I shall presently show in
detail, is the fact that originally it was not right, but might, that
ruled in the world. Might has the advantage of having been the first
in the field. That is why it is impossible to do away with it and
abolish it altogether; it must always have its place; and all that a
man can wish or ask is that it should be found on the side of right
and associated with it. Accordingly says the prince to his subjects:
"I rule you in virtue of the power which I possess. But, on the other
hand, it excludes that of any one else, and I shall suffer none but
my own, whether it comes from without, or arises within by one of you
trying to oppress another. In this way, then, you are protected." The
arrangement was carried out; and just because it was carried out the
old idea of kingship developed with time and progress into quite a
different idea, and put the other one in the background, where it may
still be seen, now and then, flitting about like a spectre. Its place
has been taken by the idea of the king as father of his people, as
the firm and unshakable pillar which alone supports and maintains the
whole organisation of law and order, and consequently the rights
of every man.[1] But a king can accomplish this only by inborn
prerogative which reserves authority to him and to him alone--an
authority which is supreme, indubitable, and beyond all attack, nay,
to which every one renders instinctive obedience. Hence the king is
rightly said to rule "by the grace of God." He is always the most
useful person in the State, and his services are never too dearly
repaid by any Civil List, however heavy.

[Footnote 1: We read in Stobaeus, _Florilegium_, ch. xliv., 41, of a
Persian custom, by which, whenever a king died, there was a five days'
anarchy, in order that people might perceive the advantage of having
kings and laws.]

But even as late a writer as Macchiavelli was so decidedly imbued with
the earlier or mediaeval conception of the position of a prince that
he treats it as a matter which is self-evident: he never discusses it,
but tacitly takes it as the presupposition and basis of his advice.
It may be said generally that his book is merely the theoretical
statement and consistent and systematic exposition of the practice
prevailing in his time. It is the novel statement of it in a complete
theoretical form that lends it such a poignant interest. The same
thing, I may remark in passing, applies to the immortal little work of
La Rochefaucauld, who, however, takes private and not public life for
his theme, and offers, not advice, but observations. The title of this
fine little book is open, perhaps, to some objection: the contents are
not, as a rule, either _maxims_ or _reflections_, but _apercus_;
and that is what they should be called. There is much, too, in
Macchiavelli that will be found also to apply to private life.

Right in itself is powerless; in nature it is Might that rules. To
enlist might on the side of right, so that by means of it right
may rule, is the problem of statesmanship. And it is indeed a hard
problem, as will be obvious if we remember that almost every human
breast is the seat of an egoism which has no limits, and is usually
associated with an accumulated store of hatred and malice; so that
at the very start feelings of enmity largely prevail over those of
friendship. We have also to bear in mind that it is many millions of
individuals so constituted who have to be kept in the bonds of law
and order, peace and tranquillity; whereas originally every one had
a right to say to every one else: _I am just as good as you are_! A
consideration of all this must fill us with surprise that on the whole
the world pursues its way so peacefully and quietly, and with so much
law and order as we see to exist. It is the machinery of State which
alone accomplishes it. For it is physical power alone which has any
direct action on men; constituted as they generally are, it is for
physical power alone that they have any feeling or respect.

If a man would convince himself by experience that this is the case,
he need do nothing but remove all compulsion from his fellows, and try
to govern them by clearly and forcibly representing to them what
is reasonable, right, and fair, though at the same time it may be
contrary to their interests. He would be laughed to scorn; and as
things go that is the only answer he would get. It would soon be
obvious to him that moral force alone is powerless. It is, then,
physical force alone which is capable of securing respect. Now this
force ultimately resides in the masses, where it is associated with
ignorance, stupidity and injustice. Accordingly the main aim of
statesmanship in these difficult circumstances is to put physical
force in subjection to mental force--to intellectual superiority, and
thus to make it serviceable. But if this aim is not itself accompanied
by justice and good intentions the result of the business, if it
succeeds, is that the State so erected consists of knaves and fools,
the deceivers and the deceived. That this is the case is made
gradually evident by the progress of intelligence amongst the masses,
however much it may be repressed; and it leads to revolution. But
if, contrarily, intelligence is accompanied by justice and good
intentions, there arises a State as perfect as the character of human
affairs will allow. It is very much to the purpose if justice and
good intentions not only exist, but are also demonstrable and openly
exhibited, and can be called to account publicly, and be subject to
control. Care must be taken, however, lest the resulting participation
of many persons in the work of government should affect the unity of
the State, and inflict a loss of strength and concentration on the
power by which its home and foreign affairs have to be administered.
This is what almost always happens in republics. To produce a
constitution which should satisfy all these demands would accordingly
be the highest aim of statesmanship. But, as a matter of fact,
statesmanship has to consider other things as well. It has to reckon
with the people as they exist, and their national peculiarities. This
is the raw material on which it has to work, and the ingredients of
that material will always exercise a great effect on the completed

Statesmanship will have achieved a good deal if it so far attains its
object as to reduce wrong and injustice in the community to a minimum.
To banish them altogether, and to leave no trace of them, is merely
the ideal to be aimed at; and it is only approximately that it can be
reached. If they disappear in one direction, they creep in again in
another; for wrong and injustice lie deeply rooted in human nature.
Attempts have been made to attain the desired aim by artificial
constitutions and systematic codes of law; but they are not in
complete touch with the facts--they remain an asymptote, for the
simple reason that hard and fast conceptions never embrace all
possible cases, and cannot be made to meet individual instances. Such
conceptions resemble the stones of a mosaic rather than the delicate
shading in a picture. Nay, more: all experiments in this matter are
attended with danger; because the material in question, namely, the
human race, is the most difficult of all material to handle. It is
almost as dangerous as an explosive.

No doubt it is true that in the machinery of the State the freedom
of the press performs the same function as a safety-valve in other
machinery; for it enables all discontent to find a voice; nay, in
doing so, the discontent exhausts itself if it has not much substance;
and if it has, there is an advantage in recognising it betimes
and applying the remedy. This is much better than to repress the
discontent, and let it simmer and ferment, and go on increasing until
it ends in an explosion. On the other hand, the freedom of the press
may be regarded as a permission to sell poison--poison for the heart
and the mind. There is no idea so foolish but that it cannot be put
into the heads of the ignorant and incapable multitude, especially if
the idea holds out some prospect of any gain or advantage. And when a
man has got hold of any such idea what is there that he will not do?
I am, therefore, very much afraid that the danger of a free press
outweighs its utility, particularly where the law offers a way of
redressing wrongs. In any case, however, the freedom of the press
should be governed by a very strict prohibition of all and every

Generally, indeed, it may be maintained that right is of a nature
analogous to that of certain chemical substances, which cannot be
exhibited in a pure and isolated condition, but at the most only with
a small admixture of some other substance, which serves as a vehicle
for them, or gives them the necessary consistency; such as fluorine,
or even alcohol, or prussic acid. Pursuing the analogy we may say that
right, if it is to gain a footing in the world and really prevail,
must of necessity be supplemented by a small amount of arbitrary
force, in order that, notwithstanding its merely ideal and therefore
ethereal nature, it may be able to work and subsist in the real and
material world, and not evaporate and vanish into the clouds, as
it does in Hesoid. Birth-right of every description, all heritable
privileges, every form of national religion, and so on, may be
regarded as the necessary chemical base or alloy; inasmuch as it is
only when right has some such firm and actual foundation that it can
be enforced and consistently vindicated. They form for right a sort of
[Greek: os moi pou sto]--a fulcrum for supporting its lever.

Linnaeus adopted a vegetable system of an artificial and arbitrary
character. It cannot be replaced by a natural one, no matter how
reasonable the change might be, or how often it has been attempted to
make it, because no other system could ever yield the same certainty
and stability of definition. Just in the same way the artificial and
arbitrary basis on which, as has been shown, the constitution of
a State rests, can never be replaced by a purely natural basis. A
natural basis would aim at doing away with the conditions that have
been mentioned: in the place of the privileges of birth it would put
those of personal merit; in the place of the national religion, the
results of rationalistic inquiry, and so on. However agreeable to
reason this might all prove, the change could not be made; because a
natural basis would lack that certainty and fixity of definition which
alone secures the stability of the commonwealth. A constitution which
embodied abstract right alone would be an excellent thing for natures
other than human, but since the great majority of men are extremely
egoistic, unjust, inconsiderate, deceitful, and sometimes even
malicious; since in addition they are endowed with very scanty
intelligence there arises the necessity for a power that shall be
concentrated in one man, a power that shall be above all law and
right, and be completely irresponsible, nay, to which everything shall
yield as to something that is regarded as a creature of a higher
kind, a ruler by the grace of God. It is only thus that men can be
permanently held in check and governed.

The United States of North America exhibit the attempt to proceed
without any such arbitrary basis; that is to say, to allow abstract
right to prevail pure and unalloyed. But the result is not attractive.
For with all the material prosperity of the country what do we find?
The prevailing sentiment is a base Utilitarianism with its inevitable
companion, ignorance; and it is this that has paved the way for a
union of stupid Anglican bigotry, foolish prejudice, coarse brutality,
and a childish veneration of women. Even worse things are the order of
the day: most iniquitous oppression of the black freemen, lynch law,
frequent assassination often committed with entire impunity, duels of
a savagery elsewhere unknown, now and then open scorn of all law and
justice, repudiation of public debts, abominable political rascality
towards a neighbouring State, followed by a mercenary raid on its rich
territory,--afterwards sought to be excused, on the part of the chief
authority of the State, by lies which every one in the country knew to
be such and laughed at--an ever-increasing ochlocracy, and finally
all the disastrous influence which this abnegation of justice in high
quarters must have exercised on private morals. This specimen of a
pure constitution on the obverse side of the planet says very little
for republics in general, but still less for the imitations of it in
Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Peru.

A peculiar disadvantage attaching to republics--and one that might
not be looked for--is that in this form of government it must be more
difficult for men of ability to attain high position and exercise
direct political influence than in the case of monarchies. For always
and everywhere and under all circumstances there is a conspiracy, or
instinctive alliance, against such men on the part of all the stupid,
the weak, and the commonplace; they look upon such men as their
natural enemies, and they are firmly held together by a common fear of
them. There is always a numerous host of the stupid and the weak,
and in a republican constitution it is easy for them to suppress and
exclude the men of ability, so that they may not be outflanked by
them. They are fifty to one; and here all have equal rights at the

In a monarchy, on the other hand, this natural and universal league of
the stupid against those who are possessed of intellectual advantages
is a one-sided affair; it exists only from below, for in a monarchy
talent and intelligence receive a natural advocacy and support from
above. In the first place, the position of the monarch himself is
much too high and too firm for him to stand in fear of any sort of
competition. In the next place, he serves the State more by his will
than by his intelligence; for no intelligence could ever be equal
to all the demands that would in his case be made upon it. He is
therefore compelled to be always availing himself of other men's
intelligence. Seeing that his own interests are securely bound up with
those of his country; that they are inseparable from them and one with
them, he will naturally give the preference to the best men, because
they are his most serviceable instruments, and he will bestow his
favour upon them--as soon, that is, as he can find them; which is not
so difficult, if only an honest search be made. Just in the same
way even ministers of State have too much advantage over rising
politicians to need to regard them with jealousy; and accordingly for
analogous reasons they are glad to single out distinguished men and
set them to work, in order to make use of their powers for themselves.
It is in this way that intelligence has always under a monarchical
government a much better chance against its irreconcilable and
ever-present foe, stupidity; and the advantage which it gains is very

In general, the monarchical form of government is that which is
natural to man; just as it is natural to bees and ants, to a flight of
cranes, a herd of wandering elephants, a pack of wolves seeking prey
in common, and many other animals, all of which place one of their
number at the head of the business in hand. Every business in which
men engage, if it is attended with danger--every campaign, every
ship at sea--must also be subject to the authority of one commander;
everywhere it is one will that must lead. Even the animal organism is
constructed on a monarchical principle: it is the brain alone which
guides and governs, and exercises the hegemony. Although heart, lungs,
and stomach contribute much more to the continued existence of the
whole body, these philistines cannot on that account be allowed to
guide and lead. That is a business which belongs solely to the brain;
government must proceed from one central point. Even the solar system
is monarchical. On the other hand, a republic is as unnatural as it
is unfavourable to the higher intellectual life and the arts and
sciences. Accordingly we find that everywhere in the world, and at all
times, nations, whether civilised or savage, or occupying a position
between the two, are always under monarchical government. The rule of
many as Homer said, is not a good thing: let there be one ruler, one

[Greek: Ouk agathon polykoiraniae-eis koiranos esto
Eis basoleus.] [1]

[Footnote 1: _Iliad_, ii., 204.]

How would it be possible that, everywhere and at all times, we should
see many millions of people, nay, even hundreds of millions, become
the willing and obedient subjects of one man, sometimes even one
woman, and provisionally, even, of a child, unless there were a
monarchical instinct in men which drove them to it as the form of
government best suited to them? This arrangement is not the product
of reflection. Everywhere one man is king, and for the most part his
dignity is hereditary. He is, as it were, the personification, the
monogram, of the whole people, which attains an individuality in him.
In this sense he can rightly say: _l'etat c'est moi_. It is precisely
for this reason that in Shakespeare's historical plays the kings
of England and France mutually address each other as _France_ and
_England_, and the Duke of Austria goes by the name of his country. It
is as though the kings regarded themselves as the incarnation of their
nationalities. It is all in accordance with human nature; and for this
very reason the hereditary monarch cannot separate his own welfare and
that of his family from the welfare of his country; as, on the other
hand, mostly happens when the monarch is elected, as, for instance, in
the States of the Church.[1] The Chinese can conceive of a monarchical
government only; what a republic is they utterly fail to understand.
When a Dutch legation was in China in the year 1658, it was obliged to
represent that the Prince of Orange was their king, as otherwise the
Chinese would have been inclined to take Holland for a nest of pirates
living without any lord or master.[2] Stobaeus, in a chapter in his
_Florilegium_, at the head of which he wrote _That monarchy is best_,
collected the best of the passages in which the ancients explained
the advantages of that form of government. In a word, republics are
unnatural and artificial; they are the product of reflection. Hence it
is that they occur only as rare exceptions in the whole history of
the world. There were the small Greek republics, the Roman and the
Carthaginian; but they were all rendered possible by the fact that
five-sixths, perhaps even seven-eighths, of the population consisted
of slaves. In the year 1840, even in the United States, there were
three million slaves to a population of sixteen millions. Then, again,
the duration of the republics of antiquity, compared with that of
monarchies, was very short. Republics are very easy to found, and
very difficult to maintain, while with monarchies it is exactly the
reverse. If it is Utopian schemes that are wanted, I say this: the
only solution of the problem would be a despotism of the wise and the
noble, of the true aristocracy and the genuine nobility, brought about
by the method of generation--that is, by the marriage of the noblest
men with the cleverest and most intellectual women. This is my Utopia,
my Republic of Plato.

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--The reader will recollect that
Schopenhauer was writing long before the Papal territories were
absorbed into the kingdom of Italy.]

[Footnote 2: See Jean Nieuhoff, _L'Ambassade de la Compagnie Orientale
des Provinces Unies vers L'Empereur de la Chine_, traduit par Jean le
Charpentier a Leyde, 1665; ch. 45.]

Constitutional kings are undoubtedly in much the same position as
the gods of Epicurus, who sit upon high in undisturbed bliss and
tranquillity, and do not meddle with human affairs. Just now they are
the fashion. In every German duodecimo-principality a parody of the
English constitution is set up, quite complete, from Upper and
Lower Houses down to the Habeas Corpus Act and trial by jury. These
institutions, which proceed from English character and English
circumstances, and presuppose both, are natural and suitable to the
English people. It is just as natural to the German people to be split
up into a number of different stocks, under a similar number of ruling
Princes, with an Emperor over them all, who maintains peace at home,
and represents the unity of the State board. It is an arrangement
which has proceeded from German character and German circumstances.
I am of opinion that if Germany is not to meet with the same fate as
Italy, it must restore the imperial crown, which was done away with
by its arch-enemy, the first Napoleon; and it must restore it as
effectively as possible. [1] For German unity depends on it, and
without the imperial crown it will always be merely nominal, or
precarious. But as we no longer live in the days of Guenther of
Schwarzburg, when the choice of Emperor was a serious business, the
imperial crown ought to go alternately to Prussia and to Austria, for
the life of the wearer. In any case, the absolute sovereignty of the
small States is illusory. Napoleon I. did for Germany what Otto the
Great did for Italy: he divided it into small, independent States, on
the principle, _divide et impera_.

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--Here, again, it is hardly necessary
to say that Schopenhauer, who died in 1860, and wrote this passage at
least some years previously, cannot be referring to any of the
events which culminated in 1870. The whole passage forms a striking
illustration of his political sagacity.]

The English show their great intelligence, amongst other ways, by
clinging to their ancient institutions, customs and usages, and by
holding them sacred, even at the risk of carrying this tenacity too
far, and making it ridiculous. They hold them sacred for the simple
reason that those institutions and customs are not the invention of an
idle head, but have grown up gradually by the force of circumstance
and the wisdom of life itself, and are therefore suited to them as a
nation. On the other hand, the German Michel[1] allows himself to be
persuaded by his schoolmaster that he must go about in an English
dress-coat, and that nothing else will do. Accordingly he has bullied
his father into giving it to him; and with his awkward manners this
ungainly creature presents in it a sufficiently ridiculous figure. But
the dress-coat will some day be too tight for him and incommode him.
It will not be very long before he feels it in trial by jury. This
institution arose in the most barbarous period of the Middle Ages--the
times of Alfred the Great, when the ability to read and write exempted
a man from the penalty of death. It is the worst of all criminal
procedures. Instead of judges, well versed in law and of great
experience, who have grown grey in daily unravelling the tricks and
wiles of thieves, murderers and rascals of all sorts, and so are well
able to get at the bottom of things, it is gossiping tailors and
tanners who sit in judgment; it is their coarse, crude, unpractised,
and awkward intelligence, incapable of any sustained attention, that
is called upon to find out the truth from a tissue of lies and deceit.
All the time, moreover, they are thinking of their cloth and their
leather, and longing to be at home; and they have absolutely no clear
notion at all of the distinction between probability and certainty. It
is with this sort of a calculus of probabilities in their stupid heads
that they confidently undertake to seal a man's doom.

[Footnote 1: _Translator's Note_.--It may be well to explain that
"Michel" is sometimes used by the Germans as a nickname of their
nation, corresponding to "John Bull" as a nickname of the English.
Fluegel in his German-English Dictionary declares that _der deutsche
Michel_ represents the German nation as an honest, blunt, unsuspicious
fellow, who easily allows himself to be imposed upon, even, he adds,
with a touch of patriotism, "by those who are greatly his inferiors in
point of strength and real worth."]

The same remark is applicable to them which Dr. Johnson made of a
court-martial in which he had little confidence, summoned to decide a
very important case. He said that perhaps there was not a member of
it who, in the whole course of his life, had ever spent an hour by
himself in balancing probabilities.[1] Can any one imagine that the
tailor and the tanner would be impartial judges? What! the vicious
multitude impartial! as if partiality were not ten times more to be
feared from men of the same class as the accused than from judges who
knew nothing of him personally, lived in another sphere altogether,
were irremovable, and conscious of the dignity of their office. But
to let a jury decide on crimes against the State and its head, or on
misdemeanours of the press, is in a very real sense to set the fox to
keep the geese.

[Footnote 1: Boswell's _Johnson_, 1780, set. 71.]

Everywhere and at all times there has been much discontent with
governments, laws and public regulations; for the most part, however,
because men are always ready to make institutions responsible for the
misery inseparable from human existence itself; which is, to speak
mythically, the curse that was laid on Adam, and through him on the
whole race. But never has that delusion been proclaimed in a more
mendacious and impudent manner than by the demagogues of the
_Jetstzeit_--of the day we live in. As enemies of Christianity, they
are, of course, optimists: to them the world is its own end and
object, and accordingly in itself, that is to say, in its own natural
constitution, it is arranged on the most excellent principles, and
forms a regular habitation of bliss. The enormous and glaring evils of
the world they attribute wholly to governments: if governments, they
think, were to do their duty, there would be a heaven upon earth; in
other words, all men could eat, drink, propagate and die, free from
trouble and want. This is what they mean when they talk of the world
being "its own end and object"; this is the goal of that "perpetual
progress of the human race," and the other fine things which they are
never tired of proclaiming.

Formerly it was _faith_ which was the chief support of the throne;
nowadays it is _credit_. The Pope himself is scarcely more concerned
to retain the confidence of the faithful than to make his creditors
believe in his own good faith. If in times past it was the guilty debt
of the world which was lamented, now it is the financial debts of the
world which arouse dismay. Formerly it was the Last Day which was
prophesied; now it is the [Greek: seisachtheia] the great repudiation,
the universal bankruptcy of the nations, which will one day happen;
although the prophet, in this as in the other case, entertains a firm
hope that he will not live to see it himself.

From an ethical and a rational point of view, the _right of
possession_ rests upon an incomparably better foundation than the
_right of birth_; nevertheless, the right of possession is allied with
the right of birth and has come to be part and parcel of it, so that
it would hardly be possible to abolish the right of birth without
endangering the right of possession. The reason of this is that most
of what a man possesses he inherited, and therefore holds by a kind of
right of birth; just as the old nobility bear the names only of their
hereditary estates, and by the use of those names do no more than give
expression to the fact that they own the estates. Accordingly all
owners of property, if instead of being envious they were wise, ought
also to support the maintenance of the rights of birth.

The existence of a nobility has, then, a double advantage: it helps to
maintain on the one hand the rights of possession, and on the other
the right of birth belonging to the king. For the king is the first
nobleman in the country, and, as a general rule, he treats the
nobility as his humble relations, and regards them quite otherwise
than the commoners, however trusty and well-beloved. It is quite
natural, too, that he should have more confidence in those whose
ancestors were mostly the first ministers, and always the immediate
associates, of his own. A nobleman, therefore, appeals with reason
to the name he bears, when on the occurrence of anything to rouse
distrust he repeats his assurance of fidelity and service to the king.
A man's character, as my readers are aware, assuredly comes to him
from his father. It is a narrow-minded and ridiculous thing not to
consider whose son a man is.


No thoughtful man can have any doubt, after the conclusions reached in
my prize-essay on _Moral Freedom_, that such freedom is to be sought,
not anywhere in nature, but outside of it. The only freedom that
exists is of a metaphysical character. In the physical world freedom
is an impossibility. Accordingly, while our several actions are in no
wise free, every man's individual character is to be regarded as a
free act. He is such and such a man, because once for all it is his
will to be that man. For the will itself, and in itself, and also in
so far as it is manifest in an individual, and accordingly constitutes
the original and fundamental desires of that individual, is
independent of all knowledge, because it is antecedent to such
knowledge. All that it receives from knowledge is the series of
motives by which it successively develops its nature and makes itself
cognisable or visible; but the will itself, as something that lies
beyond time, and so long as it exists at all, never changes. Therefore
every man, being what he is and placed in the circumstances which
for the moment obtain, but which on their part also arise by strict
necessity, can absolutely never do anything else than just what at
that moment he does do. Accordingly, the whole course of a man's life,
in all its incidents great and small, is as necessarily predetermined
as the course of a clock.

The main reason of this is that the kind of metaphysical free act
which I have described tends to become a knowing consciousness--a
perceptive intuition, which is subject to the forms of space and time.
By means of those forms the unity and indivisibility of the act are
represented as drawn asunder into a series of states and events,
which are subject to the Principle of Sufficient Reason in its four
forms--and it is this that is meant by _necessity_. But the result of
it all assumes a moral complexion. It amounts to this, that by what we
do we know what we are, and by what we suffer we know what we deserve.

Further, it follows from this that a man's _individuality_ does not
rest upon the principle of individuation alone, and therefore is not
altogether phenomenal in its nature. On the contrary, it has its roots
in the thing-in-itself, in the will which is the essence of each
individual. The character of this individual is itself individual. But
how deep the roots of individuality extend is one of the questions
which I do not undertake to answer.

In this connection it deserves to be mentioned that even Plato, in his
own way, represented the individuality of a man as a free act.[1] He
represented him as coming into the world with a given tendency, which
was the result of the feelings and character already attaching to
him in accordance with the doctrine of metempsychosis. The Brahmin
philosophers also express the unalterable fixity of innate character
in a mystical fashion. They say that Brahma, when a man is produced,
engraves his doings and sufferings in written characters on his skull,
and that his life must take shape in accordance therewith. They point
to the jagged edges in the sutures of the skull-bones as evidence of
this writing; and the purport of it, they say, depends on his previous
life and actions. The same view appears to underlie the Christian, or
rather, the Pauline, dogma of Predestination.

[Footnote 1: _Phaedrus_ and _Laws, bk_. x.]

But this truth, which is universally confirmed by experience, is
attended with another result. All genuine merit, moral as well as
intellectual, is not merely physical or empirical in its origin,
but metaphysical; that is to say, it is given _a priori_ and not _a
posteriori_; in other words, it lies innate and is not acquired,
and therefore its source is not a mere phenomenon, but the
thing-in-itself. Hence it is that every man achieves only that which
is irrevocably established in his nature, or is born with him.
Intellectual capacity needs, it is true, to be developed just as many
natural products need to be cultivated in order that we may enjoy or
use them; but just as in the case of a natural product no cultivation
can take the place of original material, neither can it do so in the
case of intellect. That is the reason why qualities which are merely
acquired, or learned, or enforced--that is, qualities _a posteriori_,
whether moral or intellectual--are not real or genuine, but
superficial only, and possessed of no value. This is a conclusion of
true metaphysics, and experience teaches the same lesson to all who
can look below the surface. Nay, it is proved by the great importance
which we all attach to such innate characteristics as physiognomy and
external appearance, in the case of a man who is at all distinguished;
and that is why we are so curious to see him. Superficial people, to
be sure,--and, for very good reasons, commonplace people too,--will be
of the opposite opinion; for if anything fails them they will thus be
enabled to console themselves by thinking that it is still to come.

The world, then, is not merely a battlefield where victory and defeat
receive their due recompense in a future state. No! the world is
itself the Last Judgment on it. Every man carries with him the reward
and the disgrace that he deserves; and this is no other than the
doctrine of the Brahmins and Buddhists as it is taught in the theory
of metempsychosis.

The question has been raised, What two men would do, who lived a
solitary life in the wilds and met each other for the first time.
Hobbes, Pufendorf, and Rousseau have given different answers.
Pufendorf believed that they would approach each other as friends;
Hobbes, on the contrary, as enemies; Rousseau, that they would pass
each other by In silence. All three are both right and wrong. This
is just a case in which the incalculable difference that there is in
innate moral disposition between one individual and another would make
its appearance. The difference is so strong that the question here
raised might be regarded as the standard and measure of it. For there
are men in whom the sight of another man at once rouses a feeling of
enmity, since their inmost nature exclaims at once: That is not me!
There are, others in whom the sight awakens immediate sympathy; their
inmost nature says: _That is me over again_! Between the two there
are countless degrees. That in this most important matter we are so
totally different is a great problem, nay, a mystery.

In regard to this _a priori_ nature of moral character there is matter
for varied reflection in a work by Bastholm, a Danish writer, entitled
_Historical Contributions to the Knowledge of Man in the Savage
State_. He is struck by the fact that intellectual culture and moral
excellence are shown to be entirely independent of each other,
inasmuch as one is often found without the other. The reason of this,
as we shall find, is simply that moral excellence in no wise springs
from reflection, which is developed by intellectual culture, but
from the will itself, the constitution of which is innate and not
susceptible in itself of any improvement by means of education.
Bastholm represents most nations as very vicious and immoral; and on
the other hand he reports that excellent traits of character are found
amongst some savage peoples; as, for instance, amongst the Orotchyses,
the inhabitants of the island Savu, the Tunguses, and the Pelew
islanders. He thus attempts to solve the problem, How it is that some
tribes are so remarkably good, when their neighbours are all bad,

It seems to me that the difficulty may be explained as follows: Moral
qualities, as we know, are heritable, and an isolated tribe, such as
is described, might take its rise in some one family, and ultimately
in a single ancestor who happened to be a good man, and then maintain
its purity. Is it not the case, for instance, that on many unpleasant
occasions, such as repudiation of public debts, filibustering raids
and so on, the English have often reminded the North Americans of
their descent from English penal colonists? It is a reproach, however,
which can apply only to a small part of the population.

It is marvellous how _every man's individuality_ (that is to say, the
union of a definite character with a definite intellect) accurately
determines all his actions and thoughts down to the most unimportant
details, as though it were a dye which pervaded them; and how, in
consequence, one man's whole course of life, in other words, his inner
and outer history, turns out so absolutely different from another's.
As a botanist knows a plant in its entirety from a single leaf; as
Cuvier from a single bone constructed the whole animal, so an accurate
knowledge of a man's whole character may be attained from a single
characteristic act; that is to say, he himself may to some extent
be constructed from it, even though the act in question is of very
trifling consequence. Nay, that is the most perfect test of all, for
in a matter of importance people are on their guard; in trifles
they follow their natural bent without much reflection. That is
why Seneca's remark, that even the smallest things may be taken as
evidence of character, is so true: _argumenta morum ex minimis quoque
licet capere_.[1] If a man shows by his absolutely unscrupulous and
selfish behaviour in small things that a sentiment of justice is
foreign to his disposition, he should not be trusted with a penny
unless on due security. For who will believe that the man who every
day shows that he is unjust in all matters other than those which
concern property, and whose boundless selfishness everywhere protrudes
through the small affairs of ordinary life which are subject to
no scrutiny, like a dirty shirt through the holes of a ragged
jacket--who, I ask, will believe that such a man will act honourably
in matters of _meum_ and _tuum_ without any other incentive but that
of justice? The man who has no conscience in small things will be a
scoundrel in big things. If we neglect small traits of character,
we have only ourselves to blame if we afterwards learn to our
disadvantage what this character is in the great affairs of life. On
the same principle, we ought to break with so-called friends even in
matters of trifling moment, if they show a character that is malicious
or bad or vulgar, so that we may avoid the bad turn which only waits
for an opportunity of being done us. The same thing applies to
servants. Let it always be our maxim: Better alone than amongst

[Footnote 1: _Ep_., 52.]

Of a truth the first and foremost step in all knowledge of mankind is
the conviction that a man's conduct, taken as a whole, and in all its
essential particulars, is not governed by his reason or by any of the
resolutions which he may make in virtue of it. No man becomes this or
that by wishing to be it, however earnestly. His acts proceed from his
innate and unalterable character, and they are more immediately and
particularly determined by motives. A man's conduct, therefore, is the
necessary product of both character and motive. It may be illustrated
by the course of a planet, which is the result of the combined effect
of the tangential energy with which it is endowed, and the centripetal
energy which operates from the sun. In this simile the former energy
represents character, and the latter the influence of motive. It is
almost more than a mere simile. The tangential energy which properly
speaking is the source of the planet's motion, whilst on the
other hand the motion is kept in check by gravitation, is, from a
metaphysical point of view, the will manifesting itself in that body.

To grasp this fact is to see that we really never form anything more
than a conjecture of what we shall do under circumstances which are
still to happen; although we often take our conjecture for a resolve.
When, for instance, in pursuance of a proposal, a man with the
greatest sincerity, and even eagerness, accepts an engagement to do
this or that on the occurrence of a certain future event, it is by
no means certain that he will fulfil the engagement; unless he is so
constituted that the promise which he gives, in itself and as such, is
always and everywhere a motive sufficient for him, by acting upon him,
through considerations of honour, like some external compulsion. But
above and beyond this, what he will do on the occurrence of that event
may be foretold from true and accurate knowledge of his character and
the external circumstances under the influence of which he will fall;
and it may with complete certainty be foretold from this alone. Nay,
it is a very easy prophecy if he has been already seen in a like
position; for he will inevitably do the same thing a second time,
provided that on the first occasion he had a true and complete
knowledge of the facts of the case. For, as I have often remarked, a
final cause does not impel a man by being real, but by being known;
_causa finalis non movet secundum suum esse reale, sed secundum esse
cognitum_.[1] Whatever he failed to recognise or understand the first
time could have no influence upon his will; just as an electric
current stops when some isolating body hinders the action of the
conductor. This unalterable nature of character, and the consequent
necessity of our actions, are made very clear to a man who has not,
on any given occasion, behaved as he ought to have done, by showing
a lack either of resolution or endurance or courage, or some other
quality demanded at the moment. Afterwards he recognises what it is
that he ought to have done; and, sincerely repenting of his incorrect
behaviour, he thinks to himself, _If the opportunity were offered to
me again, I should act differently_. It is offered once more; the same
occasion recurs; and to his great astonishment he does precisely the
same thing over again.[2]

[Footnote 1: Suarez, _Disp. Metaph_., xxiii.; Sec.Sec.7 and 8.]

[Footnote 2: Cf. _World as Will_, ii., pp. 251 ff. _sqq_. (third

The best examples of the truth in question are in every way furnished
by Shakespeare's plays. It is a truth with which he was thoroughly
imbued, and his intuitive wisdom expressed it in a concrete shape on
every page. I shall here, however, give an instance of it in a case in
which he makes it remarkably clear, without exhibiting any design or
affectation in the matter; for he was a real artist and never set
out from general ideas. His method was obviously to work up to the
psychological truth which he grasped directly and intuitively,
regardless of the fact that few would notice or understand it, and
without the smallest idea that some dull and shallow fellows in
Germany would one day proclaim far and wide that he wrote his works to
illustrate moral commonplaces. I allude to the character of the Earl
of Northumberland, whom we find in three plays in succession, although
he does not take a leading part in any one of them; nay, he appears
only in a few scenes distributed over fifteen acts. Consequently, if
the reader is not very attentive, a character exhibited at such great
intervals, and its moral identity, may easily escape his notice, even
though it has by no means escaped the poet's. He makes the earl appear
everywhere with a noble and knightly grace, and talk in language
suitable to it; nay, he sometimes puts very beautiful and even
elevated passages, into his mouth. At the same time he is very far
from writing after the manner of Schiller, who was fond of painting
the devil black, and whose moral approval or disapproval of the
characters which he presented could be heard in their own words. With
Shakespeare, and also with Goethe, every character, as long as he is
on the stage and speaking, seems to be absolutely in the right, even
though it were the devil himself. In this respect let the reader
compare Duke Alba as he appears in Goethe with the same character in

We make the acquaintance of the Earl of Northumberland in the play of
_Richard II_., where he is the first to hatch a plot against the King
in favour of Bolingbroke, afterwards Henry IV., to whom he even offers
some personal flattery (Act II., Sc. 3). In the following act he
suffers a reprimand because, in speaking of the King he talks of him
as "Richard," without more ado, but protests that he did it only for
brevity's sake. A little later his insidious words induce the King to
surrender. In the following act, when the King renounces the crown,
Northumberland treats him with such harshness and contempt that the
unlucky monarch is quite broken, and losing all patience once more
exclaims to him: _Fiend, thou torment'st me ere I come to hell_! At
the close, Northumberland announces to the new King that he has sent
the heads of the former King's adherents to London.

In the following tragedy, _Henry IV_., he hatches a plot against the
new King in just the same way. In the fourth act we see the rebels
united, making preparations for the decisive battle on the morrow, and
only waiting impatiently for Northumberland and his division. At last
there arrives a letter from him, saying that he is ill, and that he
cannot entrust his force to any one else; but that nevertheless the
others should go forward with courage and make a brave fight. They
do so, but, greatly weakened by his absence, they are completely
defeated; most of their leaders are captured, and his own son, the
valorous Hotspur, falls by the hand of the Prince of Wales.

Again, in the following play, the _Second Part of Henry IV_., we see
him reduced to a state of the fiercest wrath by the death of his son,
and maddened by the thirst for revenge. Accordingly he kindles another
rebellion, and the heads of it assemble once more. In the fourth act,
just as they are about to give battle, and are only waiting for him to
join them, there comes a letter saying that he cannot collect a proper
force, and will therefore seek safety for the present in Scotland;
that, nevertheless, he heartily wishes their heroic undertaking the
best success. Thereupon they surrender to the King under a treaty
which is not kept, and so perish.

So far is character from being the work of reasoned choice and
consideration that in any action the intellect has nothing to do but
to present motives to the will. Thereafter it looks on as a mere
spectator and witness at the course which life takes, in accordance
with the influence of motive on the given character. All the incidents
of life occur, strictly speaking, with the same necessity as the
movement of a clock. On this point let me refer to my prize-essay on
_The Freedom of the Will_. I have there explained the true meaning and
origin of the persistent illusion that the will is entirely free in
every single action; and I have indicated the cause to which it is
due. I will only add here the following teleological explanation of
this natural illusion.

Since every single action of a man's life seems to possess the freedom
and originality which in truth only belong to his character as he
apprehends it, and the mere apprehension of it by his intellect is
what constitutes his career; and since what is original in every
single action seems to the empirical consciousness to be always being
performed anew, a man thus receives in the course of his career the
strongest possible moral lesson. Then, and not before, he becomes
thoroughly conscious of all the bad sides of his character. Conscience
accompanies every act with the comment: _You should act differently_,
although its true sense is: _You could be other than you are_. As the
result of this immutability of character on the one hand, and, on the
other, of the strict necessity which attends all the circumstances in
which character is successively placed, every man's course of life
is precisely determined from Alpha right through to Omega. But,
nevertheless, one man's course of life turns out immeasurably happier,
nobler and more worthy than another's, whether it be regarded from a
subjective or an objective point of view, and unless we are to exclude
all ideas of justice, we are led to the doctrine which is well
accepted in Brahmanism and Buddhism, that the subjective conditions in
which, as well as the objective conditions under which, every man is
born, are the moral consequences of a previous existence.

Macchiavelli, who seems to have taken no interest whatever in
philosophical speculations, is drawn by the keen subtlety of his very

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