Arthur Schopenhauer.

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Studies in Pessimism online

. (page 7 of 8)
Online LibraryArthur SchopenhauerThe Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Studies in Pessimism → online text (page 7 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


alone can bestow, she to some extent loses her honor, because marriage
is the basis of civic society; and she will lead an unhappy life,
since human nature is so constituted that we pay an attention to the
opinion of other people which is out of all proportion to its value.
On the other hand, if she does not consent, she runs the risk either
of having to be given in marriage to a man whom she does not like, or
of being landed high and dry as an old maid; for the period during
which she has a chance of being settled for life is very short. And
in view of this aspect of the institution of monogamy, Thomasius'
profoundly learned treatise, _de Concubinatu_, is well worth reading;
for it shows that, amongst all nations and in all ages, down to the
Lutheran Reformation, concubinage was permitted; nay, that it was an
institution which was to a certain extent actually recognized by law,
and attended with no dishonor. It was only the Lutheran Reformation
that degraded it from this position. It was seen to be a further
justification for the marriage of the clergy; and then, after that,
the Catholic Church did not dare to remain behind-hand in the matter.

There is no use arguing about polygamy; it must be taken as _de facto_
existing everywhere, and the only question is as to how it shall be
regulated. Where are there, then, any real monogamists? We all live,
at any rate, for a time, and most of us, always, in polygamy. And so,
since every man needs many women, there is nothing fairer than to
allow him, nay, to make it incumbent upon him, to provide for many
women. This will reduce woman to her true and natural position as
a subordinate being; and the _lady_ - that monster of European
civilization and Teutonico-Christian stupidity - will disappear from
the world, leaving only _women_, but no more _unhappy women_, of whom
Europe is now full.

In India, no woman is ever independent, but in accordance with the law
of Mamu,[1] she stands under the control of her father, her husband,
her brother or her son. It is, to be sure, a revolting thing that a
widow should immolate herself upon her husband's funeral pyre; but it
is also revolting that she should spend her husband's money with her
paramours - the money for which he toiled his whole life long, in the
consoling belief that he was providing for his children. Happy are
those who have kept the middle course - _medium tenuere beati_.

[Footnote 1: Ch. V., v. 148.]

The first love of a mother for her child is, with the lower animals as
with men, of a purely _instinctive_ character, and so it ceases when
the child is no longer in a physically helpless condition. After that,
the first love should give way to one that is based on habit and
reason; but this often fails to make its appearance, especially where
the mother did not love the father. The love of a father for his child
is of a different order, and more likely to last; because it has its
foundation in the fact that in the child he recognizes his own inner
self; that is to say, his love for it is metaphysical in its origin.

In almost all nations, whether of the ancient or the modern world,
even amongst the Hottentots,[1] property is inherited by the male
descendants alone; it is only in Europe that a departure has taken
place; but not amongst the nobility, however. That the property which
has cost men long years of toil and effort, and been won with so much
difficulty, should afterwards come into the hands of women, who then,
in their lack of reason, squander it in a short time, or otherwise
fool it away, is a grievance and a wrong as serious as it is common,
which should be prevented by limiting the right of women to inherit.
In my opinion, the best arrangement would be that by which women,
whether widows or daughters, should never receive anything beyond the
interest for life on property secured by mortgage, and in no case the
property itself, or the capital, except where all male descendants
fail. The people who make money are men, not women; and it follows
from this that women are neither justified in having unconditional
possession of it, nor fit persons to be entrusted with its
administration. When wealth, in any true sense of the word, that is to
say, funds, houses or land, is to go to them as an inheritance they
should never be allowed the free disposition of it. In their case a
guardian should always be appointed; and hence they should never be
given the free control of their own children, wherever it can be
avoided. The vanity of women, even though it should not prove to be
greater than that of men, has this much danger in it, that it takes an
entirely material direction. They are vain, I mean, of their personal
beauty, and then of finery, show and magnificence. That is just why
they are so much in their element in society. It is this, too, which
makes them so inclined to be extravagant, all the more as their
reasoning power is low. Accordingly we find an ancient writer
describing woman as in general of an extravagant nature - [Greek: Gynae
to synolon esti dapanaeron Physei][2] But with men vanity often takes
the direction of non-material advantages, such as intellect, learning,
courage.

[Footnote 1: Leroy, _Lettres philosophiques sur l'intelligence et la
perfectibilité des animaux, avec quelques lettres sur l'homme_, p.
298, Paris, 1802.]

[Footnote 2: Brunck's _Gnomici poetae graeci_, v. 115.]

In the _Politics_[1] Aristotle explains the great disadvantage which
accrued to the Spartans from the fact that they conceded too much to
their women, by giving them the right of inheritance and dower, and a
great amount of independence; and he shows how much this contributed
to Sparta's fall. May it not be the case in France that the influence
of women, which went on increasing steadily from the time of Louis
XIII., was to blame for that gradual corruption of the Court and the
Government, which brought about the Revolution of 1789, of which all
subsequent disturbances have been the fruit? However that may be, the
false position which women occupy, demonstrated as it is, in the most
glaring way, by the institution of the _lady_, is a fundamental defect
in our social scheme, and this defect, proceeding from the very heart
of it, must spread its baneful influence in all directions.

[Footnote 1: Bk. I, ch. 9.]

* * * * *

That woman is by nature meant to obey may be seen by the fact that
every woman who is placed in the unnatural position of complete
independence, immediately attaches herself to some man, by whom she
allows herself to be guided and ruled. It is because she needs a lord
and master. If she is young, it will be a lover; if she is old, a
priest.




ON NOISE.


Kant wrote a treatise on _The Vital Powers_. I should prefer to write
a dirge for them. The superabundant display of vitality, which takes
the form of knocking, hammering, and tumbling things about, has proved
a daily torment to me all my life long. There are people, it is
true - nay, a great many people - who smile at such things, because they
are not sensitive to noise; but they are just the very people who are
also not sensitive to argument, or thought, or poetry, or art, in a
word, to any kind of intellectual influence. The reason of it is that
the tissue of their brains is of a very rough and coarse quality. On
the other hand, noise is a torture to intellectual people. In the
biographies of almost all great writers, or wherever else their
personal utterances are recorded, I find complaints about it; in the
case of Kant, for instance, Goethe, Lichtenberg, Jean Paul; and if it
should happen that any writer has omitted to express himself on the
matter, it is only for want of an opportunity.

This aversion to noise I should explain as follows: If you cut up a
large diamond into little bits, it will entirely lose the value it
had as a whole; and an army divided up into small bodies of soldiers,
loses all its strength. So a great intellect sinks to the level of
an ordinary one, as soon as it is interrupted and disturbed, its
attention distracted and drawn off from the matter in hand; for its
superiority depends upon its power of concentration - of bringing all
its strength to bear upon one theme, in the same way as a concave
mirror collects into one point all the rays of light that strike upon
it. Noisy interruption is a hindrance to this concentration. That is
why distinguished minds have always shown such an extreme dislike
to disturbance in any form, as something that breaks in upon and
distracts their thoughts. Above all have they been averse to that
violent interruption that comes from noise. Ordinary people are
not much put out by anything of the sort. The most sensible and
intelligent of all nations in Europe lays down the rule, _Never
Interrupt_! as the eleventh commandment. Noise is the most impertinent
of all forms of interruption. It is not only an interruption, but
also a disruption of thought. Of course, where there is nothing to
interrupt, noise will not be so particularly painful. Occasionally it
happens that some slight but constant noise continues to bother and
distract me for a time before I become distinctly conscious of it. All
I feel is a steady increase in the labor of thinking - just as though I
were trying to walk with a weight on my foot. At last I find out what
it is. Let me now, however, pass from genus to species. The most
inexcusable and disgraceful of all noises is the cracking of whips - a
truly infernal thing when it is done in the narrow resounding streets
of a town. I denounce it as making a peaceful life impossible; it puts
an end to all quiet thought. That this cracking of whips should be
allowed at all seems to me to show in the clearest way how senseless
and thoughtless is the nature of mankind. No one with anything like an
idea in his head can avoid a feeling of actual pain at this sudden,
sharp crack, which paralyzes the brain, rends the thread of
reflection, and murders thought. Every time this noise is made, it
must disturb a hundred people who are applying their minds to business
of some sort, no matter how trivial it may be; while on the thinker
its effect is woeful and disastrous, cutting his thoughts asunder,
much as the executioner's axe severs the head from the body. No sound,
be it ever so shrill, cuts so sharply into the brain as this cursed
cracking of whips; you feel the sting of the lash right inside your
head; and it affects the brain in the same way as touch affects a
sensitive plant, and for the same length of time.

With all due respect for the most holy doctrine of utility, I really
cannot see why a fellow who is taking away a wagon-load of gravel or
dung should thereby obtain the right to kill in the bud the thoughts
which may happen to be springing up in ten thousand heads - the number
he will disturb one after another in half an hour's drive through the
town. Hammering, the barking of dogs, and the crying of children are
horrible to hear; but your only genuine assassin of thought is the
crack of a whip; it exists for the purpose of destroying every
pleasant moment of quiet thought that any one may now and then enjoy.
If the driver had no other way of urging on his horse than by making
this most abominable of all noises, it would be excusable; but quite
the contrary is the case. This cursed cracking of whips is not only
unnecessary, but even useless. Its aim is to produce an effect upon
the intelligence of the horse; but through the constant abuse of it,
the animal becomes habituated to the sound, which falls upon blunted
feelings and produces no effect at all. The horse does not go any
faster for it. You have a remarkable example of this in the ceaseless
cracking of his whip on the part of a cab-driver, while he is
proceeding at a slow pace on the lookout for a fare. If he were to
give his horse the slightest touch with the whip, it would have much
more effect. Supposing, however, that it were absolutely necessary to
crack the whip in order to keep the horse constantly in mind of its
presence, it would be enough to make the hundredth part of the noise.
For it is a well-known fact that, in regard to sight and hearing,
animals are sensitive to even the faintest indications; they are alive
to things that we can scarcely perceive. The most surprising instances
of this are furnished by trained dogs and canary birds.

It is obvious, therefore, that here we have to do with an act of pure
wantonness; nay, with an impudent defiance offered to those members of
the community who work with their heads by those who work with their
hands. That such infamy should be tolerated in a town is a piece of
barbarity and iniquity, all the more as it could easily be remedied by
a police-notice to the effect that every lash shall have a knot at the
end of it. There can be no harm in drawing the attention of the mob to
the fact that the classes above them work with their heads, for any
kind of headwork is mortal anguish to the man in the street. A fellow
who rides through the narrow alleys of a populous town with unemployed
post-horses or cart-horses, and keeps on cracking a whip several yards
long with all his might, deserves there and then to stand down and
receive five really good blows with a stick.

All the philanthropists in the world, and all the legislators, meeting
to advocate and decree the total abolition of corporal punishment,
will never persuade me to the contrary! There is something even more
disgraceful than what I have just mentioned. Often enough you may see
a carter walking along the street, quite alone, without any horses,
and still cracking away incessantly; so accustomed has the wretch
become to it in consequence of the unwarrantable toleration of this
practice. A man's body and the needs of his body are now everywhere
treated with a tender indulgence. Is the thinking mind then, to be
the only thing that is never to obtain the slightest measure of
consideration or protection, to say nothing of respect? Carters,
porters, messengers - these are the beasts of burden amongst mankind;
by all means let them be treated justly, fairly, indulgently, and with
forethought; but they must not be permitted to stand in the way of
the higher endeavors of humanity by wantonly making a noise. How many
great and splendid thoughts, I should like to know, have been lost to
the world by the crack of a whip? If I had the upper hand, I should
soon produce in the heads of these people an indissoluble association
of ideas between cracking a whip and getting a whipping.

Let us hope that the more intelligent and refined among the nations
will make a beginning in this matter, and then that the Germans may
take example by it and follow suit.[1] Meanwhile, I may quote what
Thomas Hood says of them[2]: _For a musical nation, they are the most
noisy I ever met with_. That they are so is due to the fact, not that
they are more fond of making a noise than other people - they would
deny it if you asked them - but that their senses are obtuse;
consequently, when they hear a noise, it does not affect them much. It
does not disturb them in reading or thinking, simply because they do
not think; they only smoke, which is their substitute for thought. The
general toleration of unnecessary noise - the slamming of doors, for
instance, a very unmannerly and ill-bred thing - is direct evidence
that the prevailing habit of mind is dullness and lack of thought. In
Germany it seems as though care were taken that no one should ever
think for mere noise - to mention one form of it, the way in which
drumming goes on for no purpose at all.

[Footnote 1: According to a notice issued by the Society for the
Protection of Animals in Munich, the superfluous whipping and the
cracking of whips were, in December, 1858, positively forbidden in
Nuremberg.]

[Footnote 2: In _Up the Rhine_.]

Finally, as regards the literature of the subject treated of in this
chapter, I have only one work to recommend, but it is a good one. I
refer to a poetical epistle in _terzo rimo_ by the famous painter
Bronzino, entitled _De' Romori: a Messer Luca Martini_. It gives a
detailed description of the torture to which people are put by the
various noises of a small Italian town. Written in a tragicomic style,
it is very amusing. The epistle may be found in _Opere burlesche del
Berni, Aretino ed altri_, Vol. II., p. 258; apparently published in
Utrecht in 1771.




A FEW PARABLES.


In a field of ripening corn I came to a place which had been trampled
down by some ruthless foot; and as I glanced amongst the countless
stalks, every one of them alike, standing there so erect and bearing
the full weight of the ear, I saw a multitude of different flowers,
red and blue and violet. How pretty they looked as they grew there so
naturally with their little foliage! But, thought I, they are quite
useless; they bear no fruit; they are mere weeds, suffered to remain
only because there is no getting rid of them. And yet, but for these
flowers, there would be nothing to charm the eye in that wilderness
of stalks. They are emblematic of poetry and art, which, in civic
life - so severe, but still useful and not without its fruit - play the
same part as flowers in the corn.

* * * * *

There are some really beautifully landscapes in the world, but the
human figures in them are poor, and you had not better look at them.

* * * * *

The fly should be used as the symbol of impertinence and audacity; for
whilst all other animals shun man more than anything else, and run
away even before he comes near them, the fly lights upon his very
nose.

* * * * *

Two Chinamen traveling in Europe went to the theatre for the first
time. One of them did nothing but study the machinery, and he
succeeded in finding out how it was worked. The other tried to get at
the meaning of the piece in spite of his ignorance of the language.
Here you have the Astronomer and the Philosopher.

* * * * *

Wisdom which is only theoretical and never put into practice, is like
a double rose; its color and perfume are delightful, but it withers
away and leaves no seed.

No rose without a thorn. Yes, but many a thorn without a rose.

* * * * *

A wide-spreading apple-tree stood in full bloom, and behind it a
straight fir raised its dark and tapering head. _Look at the thousands
of gay blossoms which cover me everywhere_, said the apple-tree; _what
have you to show in comparison? Dark-green needles! That is true_,
replied the fir, _but when winter comes, you will be bared of your
glory; and I shall be as I am now_.

* * * * *

Once, as I was botanizing under an oak, I found amongst a number
of other plants of similar height one that was dark in color, with
tightly closed leaves and a stalk that was very straight and stiff.
When I touched it, it said to me in firm tones: _Let me alone; I am
not for your collection, like these plants to which Nature has given
only a single year of life. I am a little oak_.

So it is with a man whose influence is to last for hundreds of years.
As a child, as a youth, often even as a full-grown man, nay, his whole
life long, he goes about among his fellows, looking like them and
seemingly as unimportant. But let him alone; he will not die. Time
will come and bring those who know how to value him.

* * * * *

The man who goes up in a balloon does not feel as though he were
ascending; he only sees the earth sinking deeper under him.

There is a mystery which only those will understand who feel the truth
of it.

* * * * *

Your estimation of a man's size will be affected by the distance at
which you stand from him, but in two entirely opposite ways according
as it is his physical or his mental stature that you are considering.
The one will seem smaller, the farther off you move; the other,
greater.

* * * * *

Nature covers all her works with a varnish of beauty, like the tender
bloom that is breathed, as it were, on the surface of a peach or a
plum. Painters and poets lay themselves out to take off this varnish,
to store it up, and give it us to be enjoyed at our leisure. We drink
deep of this beauty long before we enter upon life itself; and when
afterwards we come to see the works of Nature for ourselves, the
varnish is gone: the artists have used it up and we have enjoyed it in
advance. Thus it is that the world so often appears harsh and devoid
of charm, nay, actually repulsive. It were better to leave us to
discover the varnish for ourselves. This would mean that we should
not enjoy it all at once and in large quantities; we should have no
finished pictures, no perfect poems; but we should look at all things
in that genial and pleasing light in which even now a child of Nature
sometimes sees them - some one who has not anticipated his aesthetic
pleasures by the help of art, or taken the charms of life too early.

* * * * *

The Cathedral in Mayence is so shut in by the houses that are built
round about it, that there is no one spot from which you can see it
as a whole. This is symbolic of everything great or beautiful in the
world. It ought to exist for its own sake alone, but before very long
it is misused to serve alien ends. People come from all directions
wanting to find in it support and maintenance for themselves; they
stand in the way and spoil its effect. To be sure, there is nothing
surprising in this, for in a world of need and imperfection everything
is seized upon which can be used to satisfy want. Nothing is exempt
from this service, no, not even those very things which arise only
when need and want are for a moment lost sight of - the beautiful and
the true, sought for their own sakes.

This is especially illustrated and corroborated in the case of
institutions - whether great or small, wealthy or poor, founded, no
matter in what century or in what land, to maintain and advance human
knowledge, and generally to afford help to those intellectual efforts
which ennoble the race. Wherever these institutions may be, it is not
long before people sneak up to them under the pretence of wishing to
further those special ends, while they are really led on by the desire
to secure the emoluments which have been left for their furtherance,
and thus to satisfy certain coarse and brutal instincts of their own.
Thus it is that we come to have so many charlatans in every branch
of knowledge. The charlatan takes very different shapes according
to circumstances; but at bottom he is a man who cares nothing about
knowledge for its own sake, and only strives to gain the semblance
of it that he may use it for his own personal ends, which are always
selfish and material.

* * * * *

Every hero is a Samson. The strong man succumbs to the intrigues of
the weak and the many; and if in the end he loses all patience he
crushes both them and himself. Or he is like Gulliver at Lilliput,
overwhelmed by an enormous number of little men.

* * * * *

A mother gave her children Aesop's fables to read, in the hope of
educating and improving their minds; but they very soon brought the
book back, and the eldest, wise beyond his years, delivered himself as
follows: _This is no book for us; it's much too childish and stupid.
You can't make us believe that foxes and wolves and ravens are able to
talk; we've got beyond stories of that kind_!

In these young hopefuls you have the enlightened Rationalists of the
future.

* * * * *

A number of porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day in
winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills,
they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together
again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of
huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off
by remaining at a little distance from one another. In the same way
the need of society drives the human porcupines together, only to be
mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of
their nature. The moderate distance which they at last discover to be
the only tolerable condition of intercourse, is the code of politeness
and fine manners; and those who transgress it are roughly told - in
the English phrase - _to keep their distance_. By this arrangement the


1 2 3 4 5 7

Online LibraryArthur SchopenhauerThe Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Studies in Pessimism → online text (page 7 of 8)