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vulgar, when we see that we are sharing in those of great men; and yet
we do not observe that in these matters they are ordinary men. We hold
on to them by the same end by which they hold on to the rabble; for,
however exalted they are, they are still united at some point to the
lowest of men. They are not suspended in the air, quite removed from our
society. No, no; if they are greater than we, it is because their heads
are higher; but their feet are as low as ours. They are all on the same
level, and rest on the same earth; and by that extremity they are as low
as we are, as the meanest folk, as infants, and as the beasts.


When our passion leads us to do something, we forget our duty; for
example, we like a book and read it, when we ought to be doing something
else. Now, to remind ourselves of our duty, we must set ourselves a task
we dislike; we then plead that we have something else to do, and by this
means remember our duty.


How difficult it is to submit anything to the judgment of another,
without prejudicing his judgment by the manner in which we submit it!
If we say, "I think it beautiful," "I think it obscure," or the like, we
either entice the imagination into that view, or irritate it to the
contrary. It is better to say nothing; and then the other judges
according to what really is, that is to say, according as it then is,
and according as the other circumstances, not of our making, have placed
it. But we at least shall have added nothing, unless it be that silence
also produces an effect, according to the turn and the interpretation
which the other will be disposed to give it, or as he will guess it from
gestures or countenance, or from the tone of the voice, if he is a
physiognomist. So difficult is it not to upset a judgment from its
natural place, or, rather, so rarely is it firm and stable!


By knowing each man's ruling passion, we are sure of pleasing him; and
yet each has his fancies, opposed to his true good, in the very idea
which he has of the good. It is a singularly puzzling fact.


_Lustravit lampade terras._[63] - The weather and my mood have little
connection. I have my foggy and my fine days within me; my prosperity or
misfortune has little to do with the matter. I sometimes struggle
against luck, the glory of mastering it makes me master it gaily;
whereas I am sometimes surfeited in the midst of good fortune.


Although people may have no interest in what they are saying, we must
not absolutely conclude from this that they are not lying; for there are
some people who lie for the mere sake of lying.


When we are well we wonder what we would do if we were ill, but when we
are ill we take medicine cheerfully; the illness persuades us to do so.
We have no longer the passions and desires for amusements and promenades
which health gave to us, but which are incompatible with the necessities
of illness. Nature gives us, then, passions and desires suitable to our
present state.[64] We are only troubled by the fears which we, and not
nature, give ourselves, for they add to the state in which we are the
passions of the state in which we are not.

As nature makes us always unhappy in every state, our desires picture to
us a happy state; because they add to the state in which we are the
pleasures of the state in which we are not. And if we attained to these
pleasures, we should not be happy after all; because we should have
other desires natural to this new state.

We must particularise this general proposition....


The consciousness of the falsity of present pleasures, and the ignorance
of the vanity of absent pleasures, cause inconstancy.


_Inconstancy._ - We think we are playing on ordinary organs when playing
upon man. Men are organs, it is true, but, odd, changeable, variable
[with pipes not arranged in proper order. Those who only know how to
play on ordinary organs] will not produce harmonies on these. We must
know where [_the keys_] are.


_Inconstancy._ - Things have different qualities, and the soul different
inclinations; for nothing is simple which is presented to the soul, and
the soul never presents itself simply to any object. Hence it comes that
we weep and laugh at the same thing.


_Inconstancy and oddity._ - To live only by work, and to rule over the
most powerful State in the world, are very opposite things. They are
united in the person of the great Sultan of the Turks.


Variety is as abundant as all tones of the voice, all ways of walking,
coughing, blowing the nose, sneezing. We distinguish vines by their
fruit, and call them the Condrien, the Desargues, and such and such a
stock. Is this all? Has a vine ever produced two bunches exactly the
same, and has a bunch two grapes alike? etc.

I can never judge of the same thing exactly in the same way. I cannot
judge of my work, while doing it. I must do as the artists, stand at a
distance, but not too far. How far, then? Guess.


_Variety._ - Theology is a science, but at the same time how many
sciences? A man is a whole; but if we dissect him, will he be the head,
the heart, the stomach, the veins, each vein, each portion of a vein,
the blood, each humour in the blood?

A town, a country-place, is from afar a town and a country-place. But,
as we draw near, there are houses, trees, tiles, leaves, grass, ants,
limbs of ants, in infinity. All this is contained under the name of


_Thoughts._ - All is one, all is different. How many natures exist in
man? How many vocations? And by what chance does each man ordinarily
choose what he has heard praised? A well-turned heel.


_The heel of a slipper._ - "Ah! How well this is turned! Here is a clever
workman! How brave is this soldier!" This is the source of our
inclinations, and of the choice of conditions. "How much this man
drinks! How little that one!" This makes people sober or drunk,
soldiers, cowards, etc.


Chief talent, that which rules the rest.


Nature imitates herself. A seed sown in good ground brings forth fruit.
A principle, instilled into a good mind, brings forth fruit. Numbers
imitate space, which is of a different nature.

All is made and led by the same master, root, branches, and fruits;
principles and consequences.


[Nature diversifies and imitates; art imitates and diversifies.]


Nature always begins the same things again, the years, the days, the
hours; in like manner spaces and numbers follow each other from
beginning to end. Thus is made a kind of infinity and eternity. Not that
anything in all this is infinite and eternal, but these finite realities
are infinitely multiplied. Thus it seems to me to be only the number
which multiplies them that is infinite.


Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer the same
persons. Neither the offender nor the offended are any more themselves.
It is like a nation which we have provoked, but meet again after two
generations. They are still Frenchmen, but not the same.


He no longer loves the person whom he loved ten years ago. I quite
believe it. She is no longer the same, nor is he. He was young, and she
also; she is quite different. He would perhaps love her yet, if she were
what she was then.


We view things not only from different sides, but with different eyes;
we have no wish to find them alike.


_Contraries._ - Man is naturally credulous and incredulous, timid and


Description of man: dependency, desire of independence, need.


Condition of man: inconstancy, weariness, unrest.


The weariness which is felt by us in leaving pursuits to which we are
attached. A man dwells at home with pleasure; but if he sees a woman who
charms him, or if he enjoys himself in play for five or six days, he is
miserable if he returns to his former way of living. Nothing is more
common than that.


Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.[65]


_Restlessness._ - If a soldier, or labourer, complain of the hardship of
his lot, set him to do nothing.


_Weariness._[66] - Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely
at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without
study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his
insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will
immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness,
fretfulness, vexation, despair.


Methinks Cæsar was too old to set about amusing himself with conquering
the world.[67] Such sport was good for Augustus or Alexander. They were
still young men, and thus difficult to restrain. But Cæsar should have
been more mature.


Two faces which resemble each other, make us laugh, when together, by
their resemblance, though neither of them by itself makes us laugh.


How useless is painting, which attracts admiration by the resemblance of
things, the originals of which we do not admire!


The struggle alone pleases us, not the victory. We love to see animals
fighting, not the victor infuriated over the vanquished. We would only
see the victorious end; and, as soon as it comes, we are satiated. It is
the same in play, and the same in the search for truth. In disputes we
like to see the clash of opinions, but not at all to contemplate truth
when found. To observe it with pleasure, we have to see it emerge out of
strife. So in the passions, there is pleasure in seeing the collision of
two contraries; but when one acquires the mastery, it becomes only
brutality. We never seek things for themselves, but for the search.
Likewise in plays, scenes which do not rouse the emotion of fear are
worthless, so are extreme and hopeless misery, brutal lust, and extreme


A mere trifle consoles us, for a mere trifle distresses us.[68]


Without examining every particular pursuit, it is enough to comprehend
them under diversion.


Men naturally slaters and of all callings, save in their own rooms.


_Diversion._ - When I have occasionally set myself to consider the
different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose
themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions,
bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the
unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay
quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he
knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to go to sea
or to besiege a town. A commission in the army would not be bought so
dearly, but that it is found insufferable not to budge from the town;
and men only seek conversation and entering games, because they cannot
remain with pleasure at home.

But on further consideration, when, after finding the cause of all our
ills, I have sought to discover the reason of it, I have found that
there is one very real reason, namely, the natural poverty of our feeble
and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we
think of it closely.

Whatever condition we picture to ourselves, if we muster all the good
things which it is possible to possess, royalty is the finest position
in the world. Yet, when we imagine a king attended with every pleasure
he can feel, if he be without diversion, and be left to consider and
reflect on what he is, this feeble happiness will not sustain him; he
will necessarily fall into forebodings of dangers, of revolutions which
may happen, and, finally, of death and inevitable disease; so that if he
be without what is called diversion, he is unhappy, and more unhappy
than the least of his subjects who plays and diverts himself.

Hence it comes that play and the society of women, war, and high posts,
are so sought after. Not that there is in fact any happiness in them, or
that men imagine true bliss to consist in money won at play, or in the
hare which they hunt; we would not take these as a gift. We do not seek
that easy and peaceful lot which permits us to think of our unhappy
condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the labour of office, but the
bustle which averts these thoughts of ours, and amuses us.

Reasons why we like the chase better than the quarry.

Hence it comes that men so much love noise and stir; hence it comes that
the prison is so horrible a punishment; hence it comes that the pleasure
of solitude is a thing incomprehensible. And it is in fact the greatest
source of happiness in the condition of kings, that men try incessantly
to divert them, and to procure for them all kinds of pleasures.

The king is surrounded by persons whose only thought is to divert the
king, and to prevent his thinking of self. For he is unhappy, king
though he be, if he think of himself.

This is all that men have been able to discover to make themselves
happy. And those who philosophise on the matter, and who think men
unreasonable for spending a whole day in chasing a hare which they would
not have bought, scarce know our nature. The hare in itself would not
screen us from the sight of death and calamities; but the chase which
turns away our attention from these, does screen us.

The advice given to Pyrrhus to take the rest which he was about to seek
with so much labour, was full of difficulties.[69]

[To bid a man live quietly is to bid him live happily. It is to advise
him to be in a state perfectly happy, in which he can think at leisure
without finding therein a cause of distress. This is to misunderstand

As men who naturally understand their own condition avoid nothing so
much as rest, so there is nothing they leave undone in seeking turmoil.
Not that they have an instinctive knowledge of true happiness ...

So we are wrong in blaming them. Their error does not lie in seeking
excitement, if they seek it only as a diversion; the evil is that they
seek it as if the possession of the objects of their quest would make
them really happy. In this respect it is right to call their quest a
vain one. Hence in all this both the censurers and the censured do not
understand man's true nature.]

And thus, when we take the exception against them, that what they seek
with such fervour cannot satisfy them, if they replied - as they should
do if they considered the matter thoroughly - that they sought in it only
a violent and impetuous occupation which turned their thoughts from
self, and that they therefore chose an attractive object to charm and
ardently attract them, they would leave their opponents without a
reply. But they do not make this reply, because they do not know
themselves.[70] They do not know that it is the chase, and not the
quarry, which they seek.

Dancing: we must consider rightly where to place our feet. - A gentleman
sincerely believes that hunting is great and royal sport; but a beater
is not of this opinion.

They imagine that if they obtained such a post, they would then rest
with pleasure, and are insensible of the insatiable nature of their
desire. They think they are truly seeking quiet, and they are only
seeking excitement.

They have a secret instinct which impels them to seek amusement and
occupation abroad, and which arises from the sense of their constant
unhappiness. They have another secret instinct, a remnant of the
greatness of our original nature, which teaches them that happiness in
reality consists only in rest, and not in stir. And of these two
contrary instincts they form within themselves a confused idea, which
hides itself from their view in the depths of their soul, inciting them
to aim at rest through excitement, and always to fancy that the
satisfaction which they have not will come to them, if, by surmounting
whatever difficulties confront them, they can thereby open the door to

Thus passes away all man's life. Men seek rest in a struggle against
difficulties; and when they have conquered these, rest becomes
insufferable. For we think either of the misfortunes we have or of those
which threaten us. And even if we should see ourselves sufficiently
sheltered on all sides, weariness of its own accord would not fail to
arise from the depths of the heart wherein it has its natural roots, and
to fill the mind with its poison.

Thus so wretched is man that he would weary even without any cause for
weariness from the peculiar state of his disposition; and so frivolous
is he, that, though full of a thousand reasons for weariness, the least
thing, such as playing billiards or hitting a ball, is sufficient to
amuse him.

But will you say what object has he in all this? The pleasure of
bragging to-morrow among his friends that he has played better than
another. So others sweat in their own rooms to show to the learned that
they have solved a problem in algebra, which no one had hitherto been
able to solve. Many more expose themselves to extreme perils, in my
opinion as foolishly, in order to boast afterwards that they have
captured a town. Lastly, others wear themselves out in studying all
these things, not in order to become wiser, but only in order to prove
that they know them; and these are the most senseless of the band, since
they are so knowingly, whereas one may suppose of the others, that if
they knew it, they would no longer be foolish.

This man spends his life without weariness in playing every day for a
small stake. Give him each morning the money he can win each day, on
condition he does not play; you make him miserable. It will perhaps be
said that he seeks the amusement of play and not the winnings. Make him
then play for nothing; he will not become excited over it, and will feel
bored. It is then not the amusement alone that he seeks; a languid and
passionless amusement will weary him. He must get excited over it, and
deceive himself by the fancy that he will be happy to win what he would
not have as a gift on condition of not playing; and he must make for
himself an object of passion, and excite over it his desire, his anger,
his fear, to obtain his imagined end, as children are frightened at the
face they have blackened.

Whence comes it that this man, who lost his only son a few months ago,
or who this morning was in such trouble through being distressed by
lawsuits and quarrels, now no longer thinks of them? Do not wonder; he
is quite taken up in looking out for the boar which his dogs have been
hunting so hotly for the last six hours. He requires nothing more.
However full of sadness a man may be, he is happy for the time, if you
can prevail upon him to enter into some amusement; and however happy a
man may be, he will soon be discontented and wretched, if he be not
diverted and occupied by some passion or pursuit which prevents
weariness from overcoming him. Without amusement there is no joy; with
amusement there is no sadness. And this also constitutes the happiness
of persons in high position, that they have a number of people to amuse
them, and have the power to keep themselves in this state.

Consider this. What is it to be superintendent, chancellor, first
president, but to be in a condition wherein from early morning a large
number of people come from all quarters to see them, so as not to leave
them an hour in the day in which they can think of themselves? And when
they are in disgrace and sent back to their country houses, where they
lack neither wealth nor servants to help them on occasion, they do not
fail to be wretched and desolate, because no one prevents them from
thinking of themselves.


[How does it happen that this man, so distressed at the death of his
wife and his only son, or who has some great lawsuit which annoys him,
is not at this moment sad, and that he seems so free from all painful
and disquieting thoughts? We need not wonder; for a ball has been served
him, and he must return it to his companion. He is occupied in catching
it in its fall from the roof, to win a game. How can he think of his own
affairs, pray, when he has this other matter in hand? Here is a care
worthy of occupying this great soul, and taking away from him every
other thought of the mind. This man, born to know the universe, to judge
all causes, to govern a whole state, is altogether occupied and taken up
with the business of catching a hare. And if he does not lower himself
to this, and wants always to be on the strain, he will be more foolish
still, because he would raise himself above humanity; and after all he
is only a man, that is to say capable of little and of much, of all and
of nothing; he is neither angel nor brute, but man.]


Men spend their time in following a ball or a hare; it is the pleasure
even of kings.


_Diversion._ - Is not the royal dignity sufficiently great in itself to
make its possessor happy by the mere contemplation of what he is? Must
he be diverted from this thought like ordinary folk? I see well that a
man is made happy by diverting him from the view of his domestic sorrows
so as to occupy all his thoughts with the care of dancing well. But will
it be the same with a king, and will he be happier in the pursuit of
these idle amusements than in the contemplation of his greatness? And
what more satisfactory object could be presented to his mind? Would it
not be a deprivation of his delight for him to occupy his soul with the
thought of how to adjust his steps to the cadence of an air, or of how
to throw a [ball] skilfully, instead of leaving it to enjoy quietly the
contemplation of the majestic glory which encompasses him? Let us make
the trial; let us leave a king all alone to reflect on himself quite at
leisure, without any gratification of the senses, without any care in
his mind, without society; and we will see that a king without
diversion is a man full of wretchedness. So this is carefully avoided,
and near the persons of kings there never fail to be a great number of
people who see to it that amusement follows business, and who watch all
the time of their leisure to supply them with delights and games, so
that there is no blank in it. In fact, kings are surrounded with persons
who are wonderfully attentive in taking care that the king be not alone
and in a state to think of himself, knowing well that he will be
miserable, king though he be, if he meditate on self.

In all this I am not talking of Christian kings as Christians, but only
as kings.


_Diversion._ - Men are entrusted from infancy with the care of their
honour, their property, their friends, and even with the property and
the honour of their friends. They are overwhelmed with business, with
the study of languages, and with physical exercise;[71] and they are
made to understand that they cannot be happy unless their health, their
honour, their fortune and that of their friends be in good condition,
and that a single thing wanting will make them unhappy. Thus they are
given cares and business which make them bustle about from break of
day. - It is, you will exclaim, a strange way to make them happy! What
more could be done to make them miserable? - Indeed! what could be done?
We should only have to relieve them from all these cares; for then they
would see themselves: they would reflect on what they are, whence they
came, whither they go, and thus we cannot employ and divert them too
much. And this is why, after having given them so much business, we
advise them, if they have some time for relaxation, to employ it in
amusement, in play, and to be always fully occupied.

How hollow and full of ribaldry is the heart of man!


I spent a long time in the study of the abstract sciences, and was
disheartened by the small number of fellow-students in them. When I
commenced the study of man, I saw that these abstract sciences are not
suited to man, and that I was wandering farther from my own state in
examining them, than others in not knowing them. I pardoned their little
knowledge; but I thought at least to find many companions in the study
of man, and that it was the true study which is suited to him. I have
been deceived; still fewer study it than geometry. It is only from the
want of knowing how to study this that we seek the other studies. But is
it not that even here is not the knowledge which man should have, and
that for the purpose of happiness it is better for him not to know


[One thought alone occupies us; we cannot think of two things at the
same time. This is lucky for us according to the world, not according to


Man is obviously made to think. It is his whole dignity and his whole

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