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The Essays Of Arthur Schopenhauer by Arthur Schopenhauer

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unique understanding into the following observation, which possesses
a really deep meaning. It shows that he had an intuitive knowledge of
the entire necessity with which, characters and motives being given,
all actions take place. He makes it at the beginning of the prologue
to his comedy _Clitia_. _If_, he says, _the same men were to recur
in the world in the way that the same circumstances recur, a hundred
years would never elapse without our finding ourselves together once
more, and doing the same things as we are doing now--Se nel mondo
tornassino i medesimi uomini, como tornano i medesimi casi, non
passarebbono mai cento anni che noi non ci trovassimo un altra volta
insieme, a fare le medesime cose che hora_. He seems however to have
been drawn into the remark by a reminiscence of what Augustine says in
his _De Civitate Dei_, bk. xii., ch. xiii.

Again, Fate, or the [Greek: eimarmenae] of the ancients, is nothing
but the conscious certainty that all that happens is fast bound by a
chain of causes, and therefore takes place with a strict necessity;
that the future is already ordained with absolute certainty and can
undergo as little alteration as the past. In the fatalistic myths of
the ancients all that can be regarded as fabulous is the prediction
of the future; that is, if we refuse to consider the possibility of
magnetic clairvoyance and second sight. Instead of trying to explain
away the fundamental truth of Fatalism by superficial twaddle and
foolish evasion, a man should attempt to get a clear knowledge and
comprehension of it; for it is demonstrably true, and it helps us in a
very important way to an understanding of the mysterious riddle of
our life. Predestination and Fatalism do not differ in the main. They
differ only in this, that with Predestination the given character and
external determination of human action proceed from a rational Being,
and with Fatalism from an irrational one. But in either case the
result is the same: that happens which must happen.

On the other hand the conception of _Moral Freedom_ is inseparable
from that of _Originality_. A man may be said, but he cannot be
conceived, to be the work of another, and at the same time be free in
respect of his desires and acts. He who called him into existence out
of nothing in the same process created and determined his nature--in
other words, the whole of his qualities. For no one can create without
creating a something, that is to say, a being determined throughout
and in all its qualities. But all that a man says and does necessarily
proceeds from the qualities so determined; for it is only the
qualities themselves set in motion. It is only some external impulse
that they require to make their appearance. As a man is, so must he
act; and praise or blame attaches, not to his separate acts, but to
his nature and being.

That is the reason why Theism and the moral responsibility of man are
incompatible; because responsibility always reverts to the creator of
man and it is there that it has its centre. Vain attempts have been
made to make a bridge from one of these incompatibles to the other by
means of the conception of moral freedom; but it always breaks down
again. What is _free_ must also be _original_. If our will is _free_,
our will is also _the original element_, and conversely. Pre-Kantian
dogmatism tried to separate these two predicaments. It was thereby
compelled to assume two kinds of freedom, one cosmological, of the
first cause, and the other moral and theological, of human will. These
are represented in Kant by the third as well as the fourth antimony of

On the other hand, in my philosophy the plain recognition of the
strictly necessary character of all action is in accordance with the
doctrine that what manifests itself even in the organic and irrational
world is _will_. If this were not so, the necessity under which
irrational beings obviously act would place their action in conflict
with will; if, I mean, there were really such a thing as the freedom
of individual action, and this were not as strictly necessitated as
every other kind of action. But, as I have just shown, it is this same
doctrine of the necessary character of all acts of will which makes it
needful to regard a man's existence and being as itself the work of
his freedom, and consequently of his will. The will, therefore, must
be self-existent; it must possess so-called _a-se-ity_. Under the
opposite supposition all responsibility, as I have shown, would be at
an end, and the moral like the physical world would be a mere machine,
set in motion for the amusement of its manufacturer placed somewhere
outside of it. So it is that truths hang together, and mutually
advance and complete one another; whereas error gets jostled at every

What kind of influence it is that _moral instruction_ may exercise
on conduct, and what are the limits of that influence, are questions
which I have sufficiently examined in the twentieth section of my
treatise on the _Foundation of Morality_. In all essential particulars
an analogous influence is exercised by _example_, which, however, has
a more powerful effect than doctrine, and therefore it deserves a
brief analysis.

In the main, example works either by restraining a man or by
encouraging him. It has the former effect when it determines him to
leave undone what he wanted to do. He sees, I mean, that other people
do not do it; and from this he judges, in general, that it is not
expedient; that it may endanger his person, or his property, or his

He rests content, and gladly finds himself relieved from examining
into the matter for himself. Or he may see that another man, who has
not refrained, has incurred evil consequences from doing it; this is
example of the deterrent kind. The example which encourages a man
works in a twofold manner. It either induces him to do what he would
be glad to leave undone, if he were not afraid lest the omission might
in some way endanger him, or injure him in others' opinion; or else it
encourages him to do what he is glad to do, but has hitherto refrained
from doing from fear of danger or shame; this is example of the
seductive kind. Finally, example may bring a man to do what he would
have otherwise never thought of doing. It is obvious that in this last
case example works in the main only on the intellect; its effect on
the will is secondary, and if it has any such effect, it is by the
interposition of the man's own judgment, or by reliance on the person
who presented the example.

The whole influence of example--and it is very strong--rests on the
fact that a man has, as a rule, too little judgment of his own, and
often too little knowledge, o explore his own way for himself, and
that he is glad, therefore, to tread in the footsteps of some one
else. Accordingly, the more deficient he is in either of these
qualities, the more is he open to the influence of example; and we
find, in fact, that most men's guiding star is the example of others;
that their whole course of life, in great things and in small, comes
in the end to be mere imitation; and that not even in the pettiest
matters do they act according to their own judgment. Imitation and
custom are the spring of almost all human action. The cause of it
is that men fight shy of all and any sort of reflection, and very
properly mistrust their own discernment. At the same time this
remarkably strong imitative instinct in man is a proof of his kinship
with apes.

But the kind of effect which example exercises depends upon a man's
character, and thus it is that the same example may possibly seduce
one man and deter another. An easy opportunity of observing this is
afforded in the case of certain social impertinences which come into
vogue and gradually spread. The first time that a man notices anything
of the kind, he may say to himself: _For shame! how can he do it! how
selfish and inconsiderate of him! really, I shall take care never to
do anything like that_. But twenty others will think: _Aha! if he does
that, I may do it too_.

As regards morality, example, like doctrine, may, it is true, promote
civil or legal amelioration, but not that inward amendment which is,
strictly speaking, the only kind of moral amelioration. For example
always works as a personal motive alone, and assumes, therefore,
that a man is susceptible to this sort of motive. But it is just the
predominating sensitiveness of a character to this or that sort of
motive that determines whether its morality is true and real; though,
of whatever kind it is, it is always innate. In general it may be said
that example operates as a means of promoting the good and the bad
qualities of a character, but it does not create them; and so it
is that Seneca's maxim, _velle non discitur_--_will cannot be
learned_--also holds good here. But the innateness of all truly moral
qualities, of the good as of the bad, is a doctrine that consorts
better with the metempsychosis of the Brahmins and Buddhists,
according to which a man's good and bad deeds follow him from one
existence to another like his shadow, than with Judaism. For Judaism
requires a man to come into the world as a moral blank, so that, in
virtue of an inconceivable free will, directed to objects which
are neither to be sought nor avoided--_liberum arbitrium
indifferentiae_--and consequently as the result of reasoned
consideration, he may choose whether he is to be an angel or a devil,
or anything else that may lie between the two. Though I am well aware
what the Jewish scheme is, I pay no attention to it; for my standard
is truth. I am no professor of philosophy, and therefore I do not find
my vocation in establishing the fundamental ideas of Judaism at any
cost, even though they for ever bar the way to all and every kind of
philosophical knowledge. _Liberum arbitrium indifferentiae_ under
the name of _moral freedom_ is a charming doll for professors of
philosophy to dandle; and we must leave it to those intelligent,
honourable and upright gentlemen.


Men who aspire to a happy, a brilliant and a long life, instead of to
a virtuous one, are like foolish actors who want to be always having
the great parts,--the parts that are marked by splendour and triumph.
They fail to see that the important thing is not _what_ or _how much_,
but _how_ they act.

Since _a man does not alter_, and his _moral character_ remains
absolutely the same all through his life; since he must play out the
part which he has received, without the least deviation from the
character; since neither experience, nor philosophy, nor religion
can effect any improvement in him, the question arises, What is the
meaning of life at all? To what purpose is it played, this farce
in which everything that is essential is irrevocably fixed and

It is played that a man may come to understand himself, that he may
see what it is that he seeks and has sought to be; what he wants, and
what, therefore, he is. _This is a knowledge which must be imparted
to him from without_. Life is to man, in other words, to will, what
chemical re-agents are to the body: it is only by life that a man
reveals what he is, and it is only in so far as he reveals himself
that he exists at all. Life is the manifestation of character, of the
something that we understand by that word; and it is not in life, but
outside of it, and outside time, that character undergoes alteration,
as a result of the self-knowledge which life gives. Life is only
the mirror into which a man gazes not in order that he may get a
reflection of himself, but that he may come to understand himself by
that reflection; that he may see _what_ it is that the mirror shows.
Life is the proof sheet, in which the compositors' errors are brought
to light. How they become visible, and whether the type is large or
small, are matters of no consequence. Neither in the externals of life
nor in the course of history is there any significance; for as it is
all one whether an error occurs in the large type or in the small, so
it is all one, as regards the essence of the matter, whether an evil
disposition is mirrored as a conqueror of the world or a common
swindler or ill-natured egoist. In one case he is seen of all men; in
the other, perhaps only of himself; but that he should see himself is
what signifies.

Therefore if egoism has a firm hold of a man and masters him, whether
it be in the form of joy, or triumph, or lust, or hope, or frantic
grief, or annoyance, or anger, or fear, or suspicion, or passion of
any kind--he is in the devil's clutches and how he got into them does
not matter. What is needful is that he should make haste to get out of
them; and here, again, it does not matter how.

I have described _character_ as _theoretically_ an act of will lying
beyond time, of which life in time, or _character in action_, is the
development. For matters of practical life we all possess the one as
well as the other; for we are constituted of them both. Character
modifies our life more than we think, and it is to a certain extent
true that every man is the architect of his own fortune. No doubt it
seems as if our lot were assigned to us almost entirely from without,
and imparted to us in something of the same way in which a melody
outside us reaches the ear. But on looking back over our past, we see
at once that our life consists of mere variations on one and the same
theme, namely, our character, and that the same fundamental bass
sounds through it all. This is an experience which a man can and must
make in and by himself.

Not only a man's life, but his intellect too, may be possessed of a
clear and definite character, so far as his intellect is applied to
matters of theory. It is not every man, however, who has an intellect
of this kind; for any such definite individuality as I mean is
genius--an original view of the world, which presupposes an absolutely
exceptional individuality, which is the essence of genius. A man's
intellectual character is the theme on which all his works are
variations. In an essay which I wrote in Weimar I called it the knack
by which every genius produces his works, however various. This
intellectual character determines the physiognomy of men of
genius--what I might call _the theoretical physiognomy_--and gives it
that distinguished expression which is chiefly seen in the eyes and
the forehead. In the case of ordinary men the physiognomy presents no
more than a weak analogy with the physiognomy of genius. On the other
hand, all men possess _the practical physiognomy_, the stamp of will,
of practical character, of moral disposition; and it shows itself
chiefly in the mouth.

Since character, so far as we understand its nature, is above and
beyond time, it cannot undergo any change under the influence of life.
But although it must necessarily remain the same always, it requires
time to unfold itself and show the very diverse aspects which it may
possess. For character consists of two factors: one, the will-to-live
itself, blind impulse, so-called impetuosity; the other, the restraint
which the will acquires when it comes to understand the world; and the
world, again, is itself will. A man may begin by following the craving
of desire, until he comes to see how hollow and unreal a thing is
life, how deceitful are its pleasures, what horrible aspects it
possesses; and this it is that makes people hermits, penitents,
Magdalenes. Nevertheless it is to be observed that no such change
from a life of great indulgence in pleasure to one of resignation is
possible, except to the man who of his own accord renounces pleasure.
A really bad life cannot be changed into a virtuous one. The most
beautiful soul, before it comes to know life from its horrible side,
may eagerly drink the sweets of life and remain innocent. But it
cannot commit a bad action; it cannot cause others suffering to do
a pleasure to itself, for in that case it would see clearly what
it would be doing; and whatever be its youth and inexperience it
perceives the sufferings of others as clearly as its own pleasures.
That is why one bad action is a guarantee that numberless others will
be committed as soon as circumstances give occasion for them. Somebody
once remarked to me, with entire justice, that every man had something
very good and humane in his disposition, and also something very bad
and malignant; and that according as he was moved one or the other of
them made its appearance. The sight of others' suffering arouses, not
only in different men, but in one and the same man, at one moment an
inexhaustible sympathy, at another a certain satisfaction; and this
satisfaction may increase until it becomes the cruellest delight in
pain. I observe in myself that at one moment I regard all mankind with
heartfelt pity, at another with the greatest indifference, on occasion
with hatred, nay, with a positive enjoyment of their pain.

All this shows very clearly that we are possessed of two different,
nay, absolutely contradictory, ways of regarding the world: one
according to the principle of individuation, which exhibits all
creatures as entire strangers to us, as definitely not ourselves. We
can have no feelings for them but those of indifference, envy, hatred,
and delight that they suffer. The other way of regarding the world
is in accordance with what I may call the
_Tat-twam-asi_--_this-is-thyself_ principle. All creatures are
exhibited as identical with ourselves; and so it is pity and love
which the sight of them arouses.

The one method separates individuals by impassable barriers; the other
removes the barrier and brings the individuals together. The one makes
us feel, in regard to every man, _that is what I am_; the other,
_that is not what I am_. But it is remarkable that while the sight of
another's suffering makes us feel our identity with him, and arouses
our pity, this is not so with the sight of another's happiness. Then
we almost always feel some envy; and even though we may have no such
feeling in certain cases,--as, for instance, when our friends are
happy,--yet the interest which we take in their happiness is of a weak
description, and cannot compare with the sympathy which we feel with
their suffering. Is this because we recognise all happiness to be a
delusion, or an impediment to true welfare? No! I am inclined to think
that it is because the sight of the pleasure, or the possessions,
which are denied to us, arouses envy; that is to say, the wish that
we, and not the other, had that pleasure or those possessions.

It is only the first way of looking at the world which is founded on
any demonstrable reason. The other is, as it were, the gate out of
this world; it has no attestation beyond itself, unless it be the very
abstract and difficult proof which my doctrine supplies. Why the first
way predominates in one man, and the second in another--though perhaps
it does not exclusively predominate in any man; why the one or the
other emerges according as the will is moved--these are deep problems.
The paths of night and day are close together:

[Greek: Engus gar nuktos de kai aematos eisi keleuthoi.]

It is a fact that there is a great and original difference between
one empirical character and another; and it is a difference which,
at bottom, rests upon the relation of the individual's will to his
intellectual faculty. This relation is finally determined by the
degree of will in his father and of intellect in his mother; and the
union of father and mother is for the most part an affair of chance.
This would all mean a revolting injustice in the nature of the
world, if it were not that the difference between parents and son is
phenomenal only and all chance is, at bottom, necessity.

As regards the freedom of the will, if it were the case that the will
manifested itself in a single act alone, it would be a free act. But
the will manifests itself in a course of life, that is to say, in a
series of acts. Every one of these acts, therefore, is determined as
a part of a complete whole, and cannot happen otherwise than it does
happen. On the other hand, the whole series is free; it is simply the
manifestation of an individualised will.

If a man feels inclined to commit a bad action and refrains, he is
kept back either (1) by fear of punishment or vengeance; or (2) by
superstition in other words, fear of punishment in a future life; or
(3) by the feeling of sympathy, including general charity; or (4) by
the feeling of honour, in other words, the fear of shame; or (5) by
the feeling of justice, that is, an objective attachment to fidelity
and good-faith, coupled with a resolve to hold them sacred, because
they are the foundation of all free intercourse between man and
man, and therefore often of advantage to himself as well. This last
thought, not indeed as a thought, but as a mere feeling, influences
people very frequently. It is this that often compels a man of honour,
when some great but unjust advantage is offered him, to reject it with
contempt and proudly exclaim: _I am an honourable man_! For otherwise
how should a poor man, confronted with the property which chance or
even some worse agency has bestowed on the rich, whose very existence
it is that makes him poor, feel so much sincere respect for this
property, that he refuses to touch it even in his need; and although
he has a prospect of escaping punishment, what other thought is it
that can be at the bottom of such a man's honesty? He is resolved not
to separate himself from the great community of honourable people
who have the earth in possession, and whose laws are recognised
everywhere. He knows that a single dishonest act will ostracise and
proscribe him from that society for ever. No! a man will spend money
on any soil that yields him good fruit, and he will make sacrifices
for it.

With a good action,--that, every action in which a man's own advantage
is ostensibly subordinated to another's,--the motive is either (1)
self-interest, kept in the background; or (2) superstition, in other
words, self-interest in the form of reward in another life; or (3)
sympathy; or (4) the desire to lend a helping hand, in other words,
attachment to the maxim that we should assist one another in need, and
the wish to maintain this maxim, in view of the presumption that some
day we ourselves may find it serve our turn. For what Kant calls a
good action done from motives of duty and for the sake of duty, there
is, as will be seen, no room at all. Kant himself declares it to be
doubtful whether an action was ever determined by pure motives of duty
alone. I affirm most certainly that no action was ever so done; it is
mere babble; there is nothing in it that could really act as a motive
to any man. When he shelters himself behind verbiage of that sort, he
is always actuated by one of the four motives which I have described.
Among these it is obviously sympathy alone which is quite genuine and

_Good_ and _bad_ apply to character only _a potiori_; that is to say,
we prefer the good to the bad; but, absolutely, there is no such
distinction. The difference arises at the point which lies between
subordinating one's own advantage to that of another, and not
subordinating it. If a man keeps to the exact middle, he is _just_.
But most men go an inch in their regard for others' welfare to twenty
yards in regard for their own.

The source of _good_ and of _bad character_, so far as we have any
real knowledge of it, lies in this, that with the bad character the
thought of the external world, and especially of the living creatures
in it, is accompanied--all the more, the greater the resemblance
between them and the individual self--by a constant feeling of _not I,
not I, not I_.

Contrarily, with the good character (both being assumed to exist in
a high degree) the same thought has for its accompaniment, like a
fundamental bass, a constant feeling of _I, I, I_. From this spring
benevolence and a disposition to help all men, and at the same time a
cheerful, confident and tranquil frame of mind, the opposite of that
which accompanies the bad character.

The difference, however, is only phenomenal, although it is a
difference which is radical. But now we come to _the hardest of all
problems_: How is it that, while the will, as the thing-in-itself, is
identical, and from a metaphysical point of view one and the same
in all its manifestations, there is nevertheless such an enormous
difference between one character and another?--the malicious,
diabolical wickedness of the one, and set off against it, the goodness
of the other, showing all the more conspicuously. How is it that we
get a Tiberius, a Caligula, a Carcalla, a Domitian, a Nero; and on the
other hand, the Antonines, Titus, Hadrian, Nerva? How is it that among
the animals, nay, in a higher species, in individual animals, there is
a like difference?--the malignity of the cat most strongly developed
in the tiger; the spite of the monkey; on the other hand, goodness,
fidelity and love in the dog and the elephant. It is obvious that the
principle of wickedness in the brute is the same as in man.

We may to some extent modify the difficulty of the problem by
observing that the whole difference is in the end only one of degree.
In every living creature, the fundamental propensities and instincts
all exist, but they exist in very different degrees and proportions.
This, however, is not enough to explain the facts.

We must fall back upon the intellect and its relation to the will; it
is the only explanation that remains. A man's intellect, however, by
no means stands in any direct and obvious relation with the goodness
of his character. We may, it is true, discriminate between two kinds
of intellect: between understanding, as the apprehension of relation
in accordance with the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and cognition,
a faculty akin to genius, which acts more directly, is independent of
this law, and passes beyond the Principle of Individuation. The latter
is the faculty which apprehends Ideas, and it is the faculty which
has to do with morality. But even this explanation leaves much to
be desired. _Fine minds are seldom fine souls_ was the correct
observation of Jean Paul; although they are never the contrary. Lord
Bacon, who, to be sure, was less a fine soul than a fine mind, was a

I have declared space and time to be part of the Principle of
Individuation, as it is only space and time that make the multiplicity
of similar objects a possibility. But multiplicity itself also admits
of variety; multiplicity and diversity are not only quantitative, but
also qualitative. How is it that there is such a thing as qualitative
diversity, especially in ethical matters? Or have I fallen into an
error the opposite of that in which Leibnitz fell with his _identitas

The chief cause of intellectual diversity is to be found in the
brain and nervous system. This is a fact which somewhat lessens the
obscurity of the subject. With the brutes the intellect and the brain
are strictly adapted to their aims and needs. With man alone there
is now and then, by way of exception, a superfluity, which, if it is
abundant, may yield genius. But ethical diversity, it seems, proceeds
immediately from the will. Otherwise ethical character would not be
above and beyond time, as it is only in the individual that intellect
and will are united. The will is above and beyond time, and eternal;
and character is innate; that is to say, it is sprung from the same
eternity, and therefore it does not admit of any but a transcendental

Perhaps some one will come after me who will throw light into this
dark abyss.


An act done by instinct differs from every other kind of act in that
an understanding of its object does not precede it but follows upon
it. Instinct is therefore a rule of action given _a priori_. We may be
unaware of the object to which it is directed, as no understanding of
it is necessary to its attainment. On the other hand, if an act is
done by an exercise of reason or intelligence, it proceeds according
to a rule which the understanding has itself devised for the purpose
of carrying out a preconceived aim. Hence it is that action according
to rule may miss its aim, while instinct is infallible.

On the _a priori_ character of instinct we may compare what Plato says
in the _Philebus_. With Plato instinct is a reminiscence of something
which a man has never actually experienced in his lifetime; in the
same way as, in the _Phaedo_ and elsewhere, everything that a man
learns is regarded as a reminiscence. He has no other word to express
the _a priori_ element in all experience.

There are, then, three things that are _a priori_:

(1) Theoretical Reason, in other words, the conditions which make all
experience possible.

(2) Instinct, or the rule by which an object promoting the life of the
senses may, though unknown, be attained.

(3) The Moral Law, or the rule by which an action takes place without
any object.

Accordingly rational or intelligent action proceeds by a rule laid
down in accordance with the object as it is understood. Instinctive
action proceeds by a rule without an understanding of the object of
it. Moral action proceeds by a rule without any object at all.

_Theoretical Reason_ is the aggregate of rules in accordance
with which all my knowledge--that is to say, the whole world of
experience--necessarily proceeds. In the same manner _Instinct_ is the
aggregate of rules in accordance with which all my action necessarily
proceeds if it meets with no obstruction. Hence it seems to me that
Instinct may most appropriately be called _practical reason_, for like
theoretical reason it determines the _must_ of all experience.

The so-called moral law, on the other hand, is only one aspect of _the
better consciousness_, the aspect which it presents from the point of
view of instinct. This better consciousness is something lying beyond
all experience, that is, beyond all reason, whether of the theoretical
or the practical kind, and has nothing to do with it; whilst it is in
virtue of the mysterious union of it and reason in the same individual
that the better consciousness comes into conflict with reason, leaving
the individual to choose between the two.

In any conflict between the better consciousness and reason, if the
individual decides for reason, should it be theoretical reason, he
becomes a narrow, pedantic philistine; should it be practical, a

If he decides for the better consciousness, we can make no further
positive affirmation about him, for if we were to do so, we should
find ourselves in the realm of reason; and as it is only what takes
place within this realm that we can speak of at all it follows that we
cannot speak of the better consciousness except in negative terms.

This shows us how it is that reason is hindered and obstructed;
that _theoretical reason_ is suppressed in favour of _genius_, and
_practical reason_ in favour of _virtue_. Now the better consciousness
is neither theoretical nor practical; for these are distinctions that
only apply to reason. But if the individual is in the act of choosing,
the better consciousness appears to him in the aspect which it assumes
in vanquishing and overcoming the practical reason (or instinct, to
use the common word). It appears to him as an imperative command, an
_ought_. It so appears to him, I say; in other words, that is the
shape which it takes for the theoretical reason which renders
all things into objects and ideas. But in so far as the better
consciousness desires to vanquish and overcome the theoretical reason,
it takes no shape at all; on the simple ground that, as it comes
into play, the theoretical reason is suppressed and becomes the mere
servant of the better consciousness. That is why genius can never give
any account of its own works.

In the morality of action, the legal principle that both sides are to
be heard must not be allowed to apply; in other words, the claims of
self and the senses must not be urged. Nay, on the contrary, as soon
as the pure will has found expression, the case is closed; _nec
audienda altera pars_.

The lower animals are not endowed with moral freedom. Probably this is
not because they show no trace of the better consciousness which in us
is manifested as morality, or nothing analogous to it; for, if that
were so, the lower animals, which are in so many respects like
ourselves in outward appearance that we regard man as a species of
animal, would possess some _raison d'etre_ entirely different from our
own, and actually be, in their essential and inmost nature, something
quite other than ourselves. This is a contention which is obviously
refuted by the thoroughly malignant and inherently vicious character
of certain animals, such as the crocodile, the hyaena, the scorpion,
the snake, and the gentle, affectionate and contented character of
others, such as the dog. Here, as in the case of men, the character,
as it is manifested, must rest upon something that is above and beyond
time. For, as Jacob Boehme says,[1] _there is a power in every animal
which is indestructible, and the spirit of the world draws it into
itself, against the final separation at the Last Judgment_. Therefore
we cannot call the lower animals free, and the reason why we cannot
do so is that they are wanting in a faculty which is profoundly
subordinate to the better consciousness in its highest phase, I mean
reason. Reason is the faculty of supreme comprehension, the idea of
totality. How reason manifests itself in the theoretical sphere Kant
has shown, and it does the same in the practical: it makes us capable
of observing and surveying the whole of our life, thought, and action,
in continual connection, and therefore of acting according to general
maxims, whether those maxims originate in the understanding as
prudential rules, or in the better consciousness as moral laws.

[Footnote 1: _Epistles_, 56.]

If any desire or passion is aroused in us, we, and in the same way the
lower animals, are for the moment filled with this desire; we are all
anger, all lust, all fear; and in such moments neither the better
consciousness can speak, nor the understanding consider the
consequences. But in our case reason allows us even at that moment
to see our actions and our life as an unbroken chain,--a chain
which connects our earlier resolutions, or, it may be, the future
consequences of our action, with the moment of passion which now fills
our whole consciousness. It shows us the identity of our person, even
when that person is exposed to influences of the most varied kind, and
thereby we are enabled to act according to maxims. The lower animal
is wanting in this faculty; the passion which seizes it completely
dominates it, and can be checked only by another passion--anger, for
instance, or lust, by fear; even though the vision that terrifies does
not appeal to the senses, but is present in the animal only as a dim
memory and imagination. Men, therefore, may be called irrational, if,
like the lower animals, they allow themselves to be determined by the

So far, however, is reason from being the source of morality that it
is reason alone which makes us capable of being rascals, which the
lower animals cannot be. It is reason which enables us to form an evil
resolution and to keep it when the provocation to evil is removed; it
enables us, for example, to nurse vengeance. Although at the moment
that we have an opportunity of fulfilling our resolution the better
consciousness may manifest itself as love or charity, it is by force
of reason, in pursuance of some evil maxim, that we act against it.
Thus Goethe says that a man may use his reason only for the purpose of
being more bestial than any beast:

_Er hat Vernunft, doch braucht er sie allein
Um theirischer als jedes Thier zu sein_.

For not only do we, like the beasts, satisfy the desires of the
moment, but we refine upon them and stimulate them in order to prepare
the desire for the satisfaction.

Whenever we think that we perceive a trace of reason in the lower
animals, it fills us with surprise. Now our surprise is not excited by
the good and affectionate disposition which some of them exhibit--we
recognise that as something other than reason--but by some action in
them which seems to be determined not by the impression of the moment,
but by a resolution previously made and kept. Elephants, for instance,
are reported to have taken premeditated revenge for insults long after
they were suffered; lions, to have requited benefits on an opportunity
tardily offered. The truth of such stories has, however, no bearing at
all on the question, What do we mean by reason? But they enable us to
decide whether in the lower animals there is any trace of anything
that we can call reason.

Kant not only declares that all our moral sentiments originate in
reason, but he lays down that reason, _in my sense of the word_, is
a condition of moral action; as he holds that for an action to be
virtuous and meritorious it must be done in accordance with maxims,
and not spring from a resolve taken under some momentary impression.
But in both contentions he is wrong. If I resolve to take vengeance on
some one, and when an opportunity offers, the better consciousness in
the form of love and humanity speaks its word, and I am influenced by
it rather than by my evil resolution, this is a virtuous act, for it
is a manifestation of the better consciousness. It is possible to
conceive of a very virtuous man in whom the better consciousness is
so continuously active that it is never silent, and never allows his
passions to get a complete hold of him. By such consciousness he is
subject to a direct control, instead of being guided indirectly,
through the medium of reason, by means of maxims and moral principles.
That is why a man may have weak reasoning powers and a weak
understanding and yet have a high sense of morality and be eminently
good; for the most important element in a man depends as little on
intellectual as it does on physical strength. Jesus says, _Blessed
are the poor in spirit_. And Jacob Boehme has the excellent and noble
observation: _Whoso lies quietly in his own will, like a child in the
womb, and lets himself be led and guided by that inner principle from
which he is sprung, is the noblest and richest on earth_.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Epistles_, 37.]


The philosophers of the ancient world united in a single conception
a great many things that had no connection with one another. Of this
every dialogue of Plato's furnishes abundant examples. The greatest
and worst confusion of this kind is that between ethics and politics.
The State and the Kingdom of God, or the Moral Law, are so entirely
different in their character that the former is a parody of the
latter, a bitter mockery at the absence of it. Compared with the Moral
Law the State is a crutch instead of a limb, an automaton instead of a

* * * * *

The _principle of honour_ stands in close connection with human
freedom. It is, as it were, an abuse of that freedom. Instead of
using his freedom to fulfil the moral law, a man employs his power
of voluntarily undergoing any feeling of pain, of overcoming any
momentary impression, in order that he may assert his self-will,
whatever be the object to which he directs it. As he thereby shows
that, unlike the lower animals, he has thoughts which go beyond the
welfare of his body and whatever makes for that welfare, it has come
about that the principle of honour is often confused with virtue. They
are regarded as if they were twins. But wrongly; for although the
principle of honour is something which distinguishes man from the
lower animals, it is not, in itself, anything that raises him above
them. Taken as an end and aim, it is as dark a delusion as any other
aim that springs from self. Used as a means, or casually, it may be
productive of good; but even that is good which is vain and frivolous.
It is the misuse of freedom, the employment of it as a weapon for
overcoming the world of feeling, that makes man so infinitely more
terrible than the lower animals; for they do only what momentary
instinct bids them; while man acts by ideas, and his ideas may entail
universal ruin before they are satisfied.

There is another circumstance which helps to promote the notion that
honour and virtue are connected. A man who can do what he wants to do
shows that he can also do it if what he wants to do is a virtuous act.
But that those of our actions which we are ourselves obliged to regard
with contempt are also regarded with contempt by other people serves
more than anything that I have here mentioned to establish the
connection. Thus it often happens that a man who is not afraid of the
one kind of contempt is unwilling to undergo the other. But when we
are called upon to choose between our own approval and the world's
censure, as may occur in complicated and mistaken circumstances, what
becomes of the principle of honour then?

Two characteristic examples of the principle of honour are to be found
in Shakespeare's _Henry VI_., Part II., Act IV., Sc. 1. A pirate is
anxious to murder his captive instead of accepting, like others, a
ransom for him; because in taking his captive he lost an eye, and
his own honour and that of his forefathers would in his opinion be
stained, if he were to allow his revenge to be bought off as though he
were a mere trader. The prisoner, on the other hand, who is the Duke
of Suffolk, prefers to have his head grace a pole than to uncover it
to such a low fellow as a pirate, by approaching him to ask for mercy.

Just as civic honour--in other words, the opinion that we deserve to
be trusted--is the palladium of those whose endeavour it is to make
their way in the world on the path of honourable business, so knightly
honour--in other words, the opinion that we are men to be feared--is
the palladium of those who aim at going through life on the path
of violence; and so it was that knightly honour arose among the
robber-knights and other knights of the Middle Ages.

* * * * *

A theoretical philosopher is one who can supply in the shape of ideas
for the reason, a copy of the presentations of experience; just as
what the painter sees he can reproduce on canvas; the sculptor, in
marble; the poet, in pictures for the imagination, though they are
pictures which he supplies only in sowing the ideas from which they

A so-called practical philosopher, on the other hand, is one who,
contrarily, deduces his action from ideas. The theoretical philosopher
transforms life into ideas. The practical philosopher transforms ideas
into life; he acts, therefore, in a thoroughly reasonable manner; he
is consistent, regular, deliberate; he is never hasty or passionate;
he never allows himself to be influenced by the impression of the

And indeed, when we find ourselves among those full presentations of
experience, or real objects, to which the body belongs--since the body
is only an objectified will, the shape which the will assumes in the
material world--it is difficult to let our bodies be guided, not by
those presentations, but by a mere image of them, by cold, colourless
ideas, which are related to experience as the shadow of Orcus to life;
and yet this is the only way in which we can avoid doing things of
which we may have to repent.

The theoretical philosopher enriches the domain of reason by adding to
it; the practical philosopher draws upon it, and makes it serve him.

* * * * *

According to Kant the truth of experience is only a hypothetical
truth. If the suppositions which underlie all the intimations of
experience--subject, object, time, space and causality--were removed,
none of those intimations would contain a word of truth. In other
words, experience is only a phenomenon; it is not knowledge of the

If we find something in our own conduct at which we are secretly
pleased, although we cannot reconcile it with experience, seeing that
if we were to follow the guidance of experience we should have to
do precisely the opposite, we must not allow this to put us out;
otherwise we should be ascribing an authority to experience which
it does not deserve, for all that it teaches rests upon a mere
supposition. This is the general tendency of the Kantian Ethics.

* * * * *

Innocence is in its very nature stupid. It is stupid because the aim
of life (I use the expression only figuratively, and I could just
as well speak of the essence of life, or of the world) is to gain a
knowledge of our own bad will, so that our will may become an object
for us, and that we may undergo an inward conversion. Our body is
itself our will objectified; it is one of the first and foremost of
objects, and the deeds that we accomplish for the sake of the body
show us the evil inherent in our will. In the state of innocence,
where there is no evil because there is no experience, man is, as
it were, only an apparatus for living, and the object for which the
apparatus exists is not yet disclosed. An empty form of life like
this, a stage untenanted, is in itself, like the so-called real world,
null and void; and as it can attain a meaning only by action, by
error, by knowledge, by the convulsions of the will, it wears a
character of insipid stupidity. A golden age of innocence, a fools'
paradise, is a notion that is stupid and unmeaning, and for that
very reason in no way worthy of any respect. The first criminal and
murderer, Cain, who acquired a knowledge of guilt, and through
guilt acquired a knowledge of virtue by repentance, and so came to
understand the meaning of life, is a tragical figure more significant,
and almost more respectable, than all the innocent fools in the world
put together.

* * * * *

If I had to write about _modesty_ I should say: I know the esteemed
public for which I have the honour to write far too well to dare to
give utterance to my opinion about this virtue. Personally I am quite
content to be modest and to apply myself to this virtue with
the utmost possible circumspection. But one thing I shall never
admit--that I have ever required modesty of any man, and any statement
to that effect I repel as a slander.

The paltry character of most men compels the few who have any merit
or genius to behave as though they did not know their own value, and
consequently did not know other people's want of value; for it is
only on this condition that the mob acquiesces in tolerating merit. A
virtue has been made out of this necessity, and it is called modesty.
It is a piece of hypocrisy, to be excused only because other people
are so paltry that they must be treated with indulgence.

* * * * *

Human misery may affect us in two ways, and we may be in one of two
opposite moods in regard to it.

In one of them, this misery is immediately present to us. We feel it
in our own person, in our own will which, imbued with violent desires,
is everywhere broken, and this is the process which constitutes
suffering. The result is that the will increases in violence, as
is shown in all cases of passion and emotion; and this increasing
violence comes to a stop only when the will turns and gives way to
complete resignation, in other words, is redeemed. The man who is
entirely dominated by this mood will regard any prosperity which he
may see in others with envy, and any suffering with no sympathy.

In the opposite mood human misery is present to us only as a fact
of knowledge, that is to say, indirectly. We are mainly engaged in
looking at the sufferings of others, and our attention is withdrawn
from our own. It is in their person that we become aware of human
misery; we are filled with sympathy; and the result of this mood is
general benevolence, philanthropy. All envy vanishes, and instead
of feeling it, we are rejoiced when we see one of our tormented
fellow-creatures experience any pleasure or relief.

After the same fashion we may be in one of two opposite moods in
regard to human baseness and depravity. In the one we perceive this
baseness indirectly, in others. Out of this mood arise indignation,
hatred, and contempt of mankind. In the other we perceive it directly,
in ourselves. Out of it there arises humiliation, nay, contrition.

In order to judge the moral value of a man, it is very important to
observe which of these four moods predominate in him. They go in
pairs, one out of each division. In very excellent characters the
second mood of each division will predominate.

* * * * *

The categorical imperative, or absolute command, is a contradiction.
Every command is conditional. What is unconditional and necessary is a
_must_, such as is presented by the laws of nature.

It is quite true that the moral law is entirely conditional. There
is a world and a view of life in which it has neither validity nor
significance. That world is, properly speaking, the real world in
which, as individuals, we live; for every regard paid to morality is a
denial of that world and of our individual life in it. It is a view
of the world, however, which does not go beyond the principle of
sufficient reason; and the opposite view proceeds by the intuition of

* * * * *

If a man is under the influence of two opposite but very strong
motives, A and B, and I am greatly concerned that he should choose A,
but still more that he should never be untrue to his choice, and by
changing his mind betray me, or the like, it will not do for me to say
anything that might hinder the motive B from having its full effect
upon him, and only emphasise A; for then I should never be able to
reckon on his decision. What I have to do is, rather, to put both
motives before him at the same time, in as vivid and clear a way as
possible, so that they may work upon him with their whole force. The
choice that he then makes is the decision of his inmost nature, and
stands firm to all eternity. In saying _I will do this_, he has said
_I must do this_. I have got at his will, and I can rely upon its
working as steadily as one of the forces of nature. It is as certain
as fire kindles and water wets that he will act according to the
motive which has proved to be stronger for him. Insight and knowledge
may be attained and lost again; they may be changed, or improved, or
destroyed; but will cannot be changed. That is why _I apprehend, I
perceive, I see_, is subject to alteration and uncertainty; _I will_,
pronounced on a right apprehension of motive, is as firm as nature
itself. The difficulty, however, lies in getting at a right
apprehension. A man's apprehension of motive may change, or be
corrected or perverted; and on the other hand, his circumstances may
undergo an alteration.

* * * * *

A man should exercise an almost boundless toleration and placability,
because if he is capricious enough to refuse to forgive a single
individual for the meanness or evil that lies at his door, it is doing
the rest of the world a quite unmerited honour.

But at the same time the man who is every one's friend is no one's
friend. It is quite obvious what sort of friendship it is which we
hold out to the human race, and to which it is open to almost every
man to return, no matter what he may have done.

* * * * *

With the ancients _friendship_ was one of the chief elements in
morality. But friendship is only limitation and partiality; it is
the restriction to one individual of what is the due of all mankind,
namely, the recognition that a man's own nature and that of mankind
are identical. At most it is a compromise between this recognition and

* * * * *

A lie always has its origin in the desire to extend the dominion of
one's own will over other individuals, and to deny their will in order
the better to affirm one's own. Consequently a lie is in its very
nature the product of injustice, malevolence and villainy. That is why
truth, sincerity, candour and rectitude are at once recognised and
valued as praiseworthy and noble qualities; because we presume that
the man who exhibits them entertains no sentiments of injustice or
malice, and therefore stands in no need of concealing such sentiments.
He who is open cherishes nothing that is bad.

* * * * *

There is a certain kind of courage which springs from the same source
as good-nature. What I mean is that the good-natured man is almost as
clearly conscious that he exists in other individuals as in himself. I
have often shown how this feeling gives rise to good-nature. It
also gives rise to courage, for the simple reason that the man who
possesses this feeling cares less for his own individual existence,
as he lives almost as much in the general existence of all creatures.
Accordingly he is little concerned for his own life and its
belongings. This is by no means the sole source of courage for it is
a phenomenon due to various causes. But it is the noblest kind of
courage, as is shown by the fact that in its origin it is associated
with great gentleness and patience. Men of this kind are usually
irresistible to women.

* * * * *

All general rules and precepts fail, because they proceed from the
false assumption that men are constituted wholly, or almost wholly,
alike; an assumption which the philosophy of Helvetius expressly
makes. Whereas the truth is that the original difference between
individuals in intellect and morality is immeasurable.

* * * * *

The question as to whether morality is something real is the question
whether a well-grounded counter-principle to egoism actually exists.

As egoism restricts concern for welfare to a single individual,
_viz_., the man's own self, the counter-principle would have to extend
it to all other individuals.

* * * * *

It is only because the will is above and beyond time that the stings
of conscience are ineradicable, and do not, like other pains,
gradually wear away. No! an evil deed weighs on the conscience years
afterwards as heavily as if it had been freshly committed.

* * * * *

Character is innate, and conduct is merely its manifestation; the
occasion for great misdeeds comes seldom; strong counter-motives keep
us back; our disposition is revealed to ourselves by our desires,
thoughts, emotions, when it remains unknown to others. Reflecting on
all this, we might suppose it possible for a man to possess, in some
sort, an innate evil conscience, without ever having done anything
very bad.

* * * * *

_Don't do to others what you wouldn't like done to yourself_. This is,
perhaps, one of those arguments that prove, or rather ask, too much.
For a prisoner might address it to a judge.

* * * * *

Stupid people are generally malicious, for the very same reason as the
ugly and the deformed.

Similarly, genius and sanctity are akin. However simple-minded a saint
may be, he will nevertheless have a dash of genius in him; and however
many errors of temperament, or of actual character, a genius may
possess, he will still exhibit a certain nobility of disposition by
which he shows his kinship with the saint.

* * * * *

The great difference between Law without and Law within, between
the State and the Kingdom of God, is very clear. It is the State's
business to see that _every one should have justice done to him_;
it regards men as passive beings, and therefore takes no account of
anything but their actions. The Moral Law, on the other hand, is
concerned that _every one should do justice_; it regards men as
active, and looks to the will rather than the deed. To prove that this
is the true distinction let the reader consider what would happen if
he were to say, conversely, that it is the State's business that every
one should do justice, and the business of the Moral Law that every
one should have justice done to him. The absurdity is obvious.

As an example of the distinction, let me take the case of a debtor and
a creditor disputing about a debt which the former denies. A lawyer
and a moralist are present, and show a lively interest in the matter.
Both desire that the dispute should end in the same way, although what
they want is by no means the same. The lawyer says, _I want this man
to get back what belongs to him_; and the moralist, _I want that man
to do his duty_.

It is with the will alone that morality is concerned. Whether external
force hinders or fails to hinder the will from working does not in the
least matter. For morality the external world is real only in so far
as it is able or unable to lead and influence the will. As soon as
the will is determined, that is, as soon as a resolve is taken, the
external world and its events are of no further moment and
practical do not exist. For if the events of the world had any
such reality--that is to say, if they possessed a significance in
themselves, or any other than that derived from the will which is
affected by them--what a grievance it would be that all these events
lie in the realm of chance and error! It is, however, just this which
proves that the important thing is not what happens, but what is
willed. Accordingly, let the incidents of life be left to the play of
chance and error, to demonstrate to man that he is as chaff before the

The State concerns itself only with the incidents--with what happens;
nothing else has any reality for it. I may dwell upon thoughts of
murder and poison as much as I please: the State does not forbid me,
so long as the axe and rope control my will, and prevent it from
becoming action.

Ethics asks: What are the duties towards others which justice imposes
upon us? in other words, What must I render? The Law of Nature asks:
What need I not submit to from others? that is, What must I suffer?
The question is put, not that I may do no injustice, but that I
may not do more than every man must do if he is to safeguard his
existence, and than every man will approve being done, in order that
he may be treated in the same way himself; and, further, that I may
not do more than society will permit me to do. The same answer will
serve for both questions, just as the same straight line can be drawn
from either of two opposite directions, namely, by opposing forces;
or, again, as the angle can give the sine, or the sine the angle.

It has been said that the historian is an inverted prophet. In the
same way it may be said that a teacher of law is an inverted moralist
(_viz_., a teacher of the duties of justice), or that politics are
inverted ethics, if we exclude the thought that ethics also teaches
the duty of benevolence, magnanimity, love, and so on. The State is
the Gordian knot that is cut instead of being untied; it is Columbus'
egg which is made to stand by being broken instead of balanced, as
though the business in question were to make it stand rather than to
balance it. In this respect the State is like the man who thinks that
he can produce fine weather by making the barometer go up.

* * * * *

The pseudo-philosophers of our age tell us that it is the object of
the State to promote the moral aims of mankind. This is not true;
it is rather the contrary which is true. The aim for which mankind
exists--the expression is parabolic--is not that a man should act in
such and such a manner; for all _opera operata_, things that have
actually been done, are in themselves matters of indifference. No! the
aim is that the Will, of which every man is a complete specimen--nay,
is the very Will itself--should turn whither it needs to turn; that
the man himself (the union of Thought and Will) should perceive what
this will is, and what horrors it contains; that he should show the
reflection of himself in his own deeds, in the abomination of them.
The State, which is wholly concerned with the general welfare, checks
the manifestation of the bad will, but in no wise checks the will
itself; the attempt would be impossible. It is because the State
checks the manifestation of his will that a man very seldom sees the
whole abomination of his nature in the mirror of his deeds. Or does
the reader actually suppose there are no people in the world as bad as
Robespierre, Napoleon, or other murderers? Does he fail to see that
there are many who would act like them if only they could?

Many a criminal dies more quietly on the scaffold than many a
non-criminal in the arms of his family. The one has perceived what his
will is and has discarded it. The other has not been able to discard
it, because he has never been able to perceive what it is. The aim
of the State is to produce a fool's paradise, and this is in direct
conflict with the true aim of life, namely, to attain a knowledge of
what the will, in its horrible nature, really is.

* * * * *

Napoleon was not really worse than many, not to say most, men. He was
possessed of the very ordinary egoism that seeks its welfare at the
expense of others. What distinguished him was merely the greater power
he had of satisfying his will, and greater intelligence, reason and
courage; added to which, chance gave him a favourable scope for his
operations. By means of all this he did for his egoism what a thousand
other men would like to do for theirs, but cannot. Every feeble lad
who by little acts of villainy gains a small advantage for himself by
putting others to some disadvantage, although it may be equally small,
is just as bad as Napoleon.

Those who fancy that retribution comes after death would demand that
Napoleon should by unutterable torments pay the penalty for all the
numberless calamities that he caused. But he is no more culpable than
all those who possess the same will, unaccompanied by the same power.

The circumstance that in his case this extraordinary power was added
allowed him to reveal the whole wickedness of the human will; and the
sufferings of his age, as the necessary obverse of the medal, reveal
the misery which is inextricably bound up with this bad will. It is
the general manipulation of this will that constitutes the world. But
it is precisely that it should be understood how inextricably the will
to live is bound up with, and is really one and the same as, this
unspeakable misery, that is the world's aim and purpose; and it is an
aim and purpose which the appearance of Napoleon did much to assist.
Not to be an unmeaning fools' paradise but a tragedy, in which the
will to live understands itself and yields--that is the object for
which the world exists. Napoleon is only an enormous mirror of the
will to live.

The difference between the man who causes suffering and the man who
suffers it, is only phenomenal. It is all a will to live, identical
with great suffering; and it is only by understanding this that the
will can mend and end.

* * * * *

What chiefly distinguishes ancient from modern times is that in
ancient times, to use Napoleon's expression, it was affairs that
reigned: _les paroles aux choses_. In modern times this is not so.
What I mean is that in ancient times the character of public life,
of the State, and of Religion, as well as of private life, was a
strenuous affirmation of the will to live. In modern times it is a
denial of this will, for such is the character of Christianity. But
now while on the one hand that denial has suffered some abatement even
in public opinion, because it is too repugnant to human character, on
the other what is publicly denied is secretly affirmed. Hence it is
that we see half measures and falsehood everywhere; and that is why
modern times look so small beside antiquity.

* * * * *

The structure of human society is like a pendulum swinging between two
impulses, two evils in polar opposition, _despotism_ and _anarchy_.
The further it gets from the one, the nearer it approaches the other.
From this the reader might hit on the thought that if it were exactly
midway between the two, it would be right. Far from it. For these
two evils are by no means equally bad and dangerous. The former is
incomparably less to be feared; its ills exist in the main only as
possibilities, and if they come at all it is only one among millions
that they touch. But, with anarchy, possibility and actuality are
inseparable; its blows fall on every man every day. Therefore every
constitution should be a nearer approach to a despotism than to
anarchy; nay, it must contain a small possibility of despotism.

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