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will consign his metaphysics to the philosophical lumber-room ; but he
is a literary artist as well as a philosopher, and he can make a bid for
fame in atber caoacity. X B. &


TN these pages i snail speak of The Wisdom of Life in the cotntnoo

* meaning of the terra, as the art, namely, of ordering our lives so as
to obtain the greatest possible amount of pleasure and success; an art the
theory of which may be called Eudamonology, for it teaches us how to lead
a happy existence. Such an existence might perhaps be defined as one
which, looked at from a purely objective point of view, or, rather, after
cool and mature reflection for the question necessarily involves subjective
considerations, would be decidedly preferable to non-existence; implying
that we should cling to it for its own sake, and not merely from the fear
of death ; and further, that we should never like it to come to an end.

Now whether human life corresponds, or could possibly correspond, to
this conception of existence, is a question to which, as is well-known, my
philosophical system returns a negative answer. On the eudaemonistic
hypothesis, however, the question must be answered in the affirmative ;
and I have shown, in the second volume of my chief work (ch. 49), that
this hypothesis is based upon a fundamental mistake. Accordingly, in
elaborating the scheme of a happy existence, I have had to make a com-
plete surrender of the higher metaphysical and ethical standpoint to which
my own theories lead ; and everything I shall say here will to some extent
rest upon a compromise ; in so far, that is, as I take the common stand-
point of every day, and embrace the error which is at the bottom of it
My remarks, therefore, will possess only a qualified value, for the very
word eudcsmonology is a euphemism. Further, I make no claims to com-
pleteness ; partly because the subject is inexhaustible, and partly because
I should otherwise have to say over again what has been already sai^
by others.


The only book composed, as far as I remember, with a like purpose to
that which animates this collection of aphorisms, is Cardan's De utihtate ex
adversis captenda, which is well worth reading, and may be used to supple-
ment the present work. Aristotle, it is true, has a few words on
eudaemonology in the fifth chapter of the first book of his Rhetoric; but
what he says does not come to very much. As compilation is not my
business, I have made no use of these predecessors; more especially because,
in the process of compiling, individuality of view is lost, and individuality
of view is the kernel of works of this kind. In general, indeed, the wise
in all ages have always said the same thing, and the fools, who at all times
form the immense majority, have in their way too acted alike, and done
just the opposite ; and so it will continue. For, as Voltaire says, we shall
teave this world as foolish and as zuic&ed as we found it on our arrival.



A RISTOTLE 1 divides the blessings of life into three classes those
<*- which come to us from without, those of the soul, and those of
the body. Keeping nothing of this division but the number, I observe
that the fundamental differences in human lot may be reduced to three
distinct classes :

(1) What a man is : that is to say, personality, in the widest sense of
the word; under which are included health, strength, beauty, temperament,
moral character, intelligence and education.

(2) What a man has : that is, property and possessions of every

(3) How a man stands in the estimation of others : by which is to be
understood, as everybody knows, what a man is in the eyes of his fellow-
men, or, more strictly, the light in which they regard him. This is shown
by their opinion of him; and their opinion is in its turn manifested by the
honor in which he is held, and by his rank and reputation.

The differences which come under the first head are those which Nature
herself has set between man and man ; and from this fact alone we may at
once infer that they influence the happiness or unhappiness of mankind in
a much more vital and radical way than those contained under the two
following heads, which are merely the effect of human arrangements.
Compared with genuine personal advantages, such as a great mind or a
great heart, all the privileges of rank or birth, even of royal birth, are but
as kings on the stage to kings in real life. The same thing was said long
ago by Metrodorus, the earliest disciple of Epicurus, who wrote as the
title of one of his chapters, The happiness we receive from ourselves is
greater than that which we obtain from our surroundings. * And it is an
obvious fact, which cannot be called in question, that the principal
Eth. Nichom., I. 8. * Cfc Clemens Alex. Strom. II., 21.



element in a man's well-being, indeed, in the whole tenor of his existence,
is what he is made of, his inner constitution. For this is the immediate
source of that inward satisfaction or dissatisfaction resulting from the sum
total of his sensations, desires and thoughts; whilst his surroundings, on
the other hand, exert only a mediate or indirect influence upon him. This
is why the same external events or circumstances affect no two people
alike ; even with perfectly similar surroundings everyone lives in a world
of his own. For a man has immediate apprehension only of his own
ideas, feelings and volitions; the outer world can influence him only in so
far as it brings these to life. The world in which a man lives shapes itself
chiefly by the way in which he looks at it, and so it proves different to
different men ; to one it is barren, dull, and superficial ; to another rich,
interesting, and full of meaning. On hearing of the interesting events
which have happened in the course of a man's experience, many people
will wish that similar things had happened in their lives, too, completely
forgetting that they should be envious rather of the mental aptitude which
lent those events the significance they possess when he describes them;
to a man of genius they were interesting adventures; but to the dull per-
ceptions of an ordinary individual they would have been stale, everyday
occurrences. This is in the highest degree the case with many of Goethe's
and Byron's poems, which are obviously founded upon actual facts; where
it is open to a foolish reader to envy the poet because so many delightful
things happened to him, instead of envying that mighty power of phantasy
which was capable of turning a fairly common experience into something
so great and beautiful.

In the same way, a person of melancholy temperament will make a
scene in a tragedy out of what appears to the sanguine man only in the
light of an interesting conflict, and to a phlegmatic soul as something
without any meaning; all of which rests upon the fact that every event,
in order to be realized and appreciated, requires the co-operation of two
factors, namely, a subject and an object ; although these are as closely and
necessarily connected as oxygen and hydrogen in water. When therefore
the objective or external factor in an experience is actually the same, but
the subjective or personal appreciation of it varies, the event is just as
much a different one in the eyes of different persons as if the objective
factors had not been alike ; for to a blunt intelligence the fairest and best
object in the world presents only a poor reality, and is therefore only
poorly appreciated, like a fine landscape in dull weather, or in the
reflection of a bad camera obscura. In plain language, every man is pent up
within the limits of his own consciousness, and cannot directly get beyond
those limits any more than he can get beyond his own skin ; so external
aid is not of much use to him. On the stage, one man is a prince, another
a minister, a third a servant or a soldier or a general, and so on, mere
external differences : the inner reality, the kernel of all these appearances
is the same a poor player, with all the anxieties of his lot. In life it is




jnst the same. Differences of rank and wealth give every man his part to
play, but this by no means implies a difference of inward happiness and
pleasure; here, too, there is the same being in all a poor mortal, with his
hardships and troubles. Though these may, indeed, in every case pro-
ceed from dissimilar causes, they are in their essential nature much the
same in all their forms, with degrees of intensity which vary, no doubt,
but in no wise correspond to the part a man has to play, to the presence
or absence of position and wealth. Since everything which exists or hap-
pens for a man exists only in his consciousness and happens for it alone,
the most essential thing for a man is the constitution of this consciousness,
which is in most cases far more important than the circumstances which
go to form its contents. All the pride and pleasure of the world, mirrored
in the dull consciousness of a fool, is poor indeed compared with the
imagination of Cervantes writing his Don Quixote in a miserable prison.
The objective half of life and reality is in the hand of fate, and accordingly
takes various forms in different cases: the subjective half is ourself, and in
essentials it always remains the same.

Hence the life of every man is stamped with the same character
throughout, however much his external circumstances may alter ; it is
like a series of variations on a single theme. No one can get beyond his
own individuality. An animal, under whatever circumstances it is placed,
remains within the narrow limits to which nature has irrevocably consigned
it ; so that our endeavors to make a pet happy must always keep within the
compass of its nature, and be restricted to what it can feel. So it is with
man ; the measure of the happiness he can attain is determined before-
hand by his individuality. More especially is this the case with the men-
tal powers, which fix once for all his capacity for the higher kinds of
pleasure. If these powers are small, no efforts from without, nothing
that his fellow-men or that fortune can do for him, will suffice to raise
him above the ordinary degree of human happiness and pleasure, half
animal though it be ; his only resources are his sensual appetite, a cosy
and cheerful family life at the most, low company and vulgar pastime ;
even education, on the whole, can avail little, if anything, for the
enlargement of his horizon. For the highest, most varied and lasting
pleasures are those of the mind, however much our youth may deceive us
oa this point ; and the pleasures of the mind turn chiefly on the powers
of the mind. It is clear, then, that our happiness depends in a great
degree upon what we are, upon our individuality, whilst lot or destiny is
generally taken to mean only what we have, or our reputation. Our lot,
in this sense, may improve ; but we do no ask much of it if we are
inwardly rich : on the other hand, a fool remains a fool, a dull block-
head, to his last hour, even though he were surrounded by houris in
paradise. This is why Goethe, in the West-ostlicher Divan, says that
every man, whether he occupy a low position in life, or emerges as its
victor, testifies to personality as the greatest factor in happiness :



Volk und Knecht und Ueberutinder

Siegestehen, tujeder Zeit,
BOckttei Gluck der Erdenkinder
Set nur die PersOnlichkeit.

Everything confirms the fact that the subjective element in life is
incomparably more important for our happiness and pleasure than the
objective, from such sayings as Hunger is the best sauce, and Youth and
Age cannot live together, up to the life of the Genius and the Saint.
Health outweighs all other blessings so much that one may really say
that a healthy beggar is happier than an ailing king. A quiet and cheer-
ful temperament, happy in the enjoyment of a perfectly sound physique,
an intellect clear, lively, penetrating and seeing things as they are, a
moderate and gentle will, and therefore a good conscience these are
privileges which no rank or wealth can make up for or replace. For
what a man is in himself, what accompanies him when he is alone, what
no one can give or take away, is obviously more essential to him than
everything he has in the way of possessions, or even what he may be in
the eyes of the world. An intellectual man in complete solitude has
excellent entertainment in his own thoughts and fancies, whilst no
amount of diversity of social pleasures, theatres, excursions and amuse-
ments, can ward off boredom from a dullard. A good, temperate, gentle
character can be happy in needy circumstances, whilst a covetous, envi-
ous and malicious man, even if he be the richest in the world, goes mis-
erable. Nay more ; to one who has the constant delight of a special
individuality, with a high degree of intellect, most of the pleasures which
are run after by mankind are perfectly superfluous ; they are even a
trouble and a burden. And so Horace says of himself, that, however
many are deprived of the fancy-goods of life, there is one at least who can
life without them :

Gtmmas, marmor, ebur, Tyrrhena sigilla, tabellat,
Argentum, vestes Gactulo murice tinctas
Suttt qui non habeant, est qui non cur at habere ;

and when Socrates saw various articles of luxury spread out for sale, he
exclaimed : How much there is in the world that I do not want.

So the first and most essential element in our life's happiness is what
we are, our personality, if for no other reason than that it is a constant
factor coming into play under all circumstances : besides, unlike the
blessings which are described under the two heads, it is not the sport of
destiny and cannot be wrested from us ; and, so far, it is endowed with
an absolute value in contrast to the merely relative worth of the other
two. The consequence of this is that it is much more difficult than people
commonly suppose to get a hold on a man from without. But here the
all-powerful agent, Time, comes in and claims its rights, and before its
influence physical and mental advantages gradually waste away. Moral


character alone remains inaccessible to it In view of the destructive
effect of time, it seems, indeed, as if the blessings named under the other
two heads, of which time cannot directly rob us, were superior to those
of the first Another advantage might be claimed for them, namely, that
being in their very nature objective and external, they are attainable, and
every one is presented with the possibility, at least, of coming into pos-
session of them ; whilst what is subjective is not open to us to acquire,
but, making its entry by a kind of divine right, it remains for life, immu-
table, inalienable, an inexorable doom. Let me quote those lines in
which Goethe describes how an unalterable destiny is assigned to every
man at the hour of his birth, so that he can develope only in the lines
laid down for him, as it were, by the conjunctions of the stars ; and how
the Sibyl and the prophets declare that himself -a. man can never escape,
nor any power of time avail to change the path on which his life is cast :

Wit an dem Tag, der dich der Welt verliehen.
Die Sonne stand zum Grusse der Planeten,
JBist alsobald undfort und fort gediehen,
Nach dem Gesetz, wonach du angetreten.
So musst du sttn, dir kannst du nicht entflithen^
Sosagten schon Sibyllen und Prophet en ;
Und keine Zeit und keine Macht zerstuckelt
Gepr&gte Form, die lebend sicA entwickelt.

The only thing that stands in our power to achieve, is to make the
most advantageous use possible of the personal qualities we possess, and
accordingly to follow such pursuits only as will call them into play, to
strive after the kind of perfection of which they admit and to avoid every
other ; consequently, to choose the position, occupation and manner of
life which are most suitable for their development

Imagine a man endowed with herculean strength who is compelled by
circumstances to follow a sedentary occupation, some minute exquisite
work of the hands, for example, or to engage in study and mental labor
demanding quite other powers, and just those which he has not got,
compelled, that is, to leave unused the powers in which he is pre-emi-
nently strong ; a man placed like this will never feel happy all his life
through. Even more miserable will be the lot of the man with intellec-
tual powers of a very high order, who has to leave them undeveloped and
unemployed, in the pursuit of a calling which does not require them,
some bodily labor, perhaps, for which his strength is insufficient Still,
in a case of this kind, it should be our care, especially in youth, to avoid
the precipice of presumption, and not ascribe to ourselves a superfluity
of power which is not there.

Since the blessings described under the first head decidedly outweigh
those contained under the other two, it is manifestly a wiser course to
aim at the maintenance of our health and the cultivation of our faculties,
than at the amassing of wealth ; but this must not be mistaken as mean-



ing that we should neglect to acquire an adequate supply of the necessa-
ries of life. Wealth, in the strict sense of the word, that is, great super-
fluity, can do little for our happiness ; and many rich people feel
unhappy just 'because they are without any true mental culture or knowl-
edge, and consequently have no objective interests which would qualify
them for intellectual occupations. For, beyond the satisfaction of some
real and natural necessities, all that the possession of wealth can achieve
has a very small influence upon our happiness, in the proper sense of
the word ; indeed, wealth rather disturbs it, because the preservation of
property entails a great many unavoidable anxieties. And still men are
a thousand times more intent on becoming rich than on acquiring cul-
ture, though it is quite certain that what a man is contributes much more
to his happiness than what he has. So you may see many a man, as
industrious as an ant, ceaselessly occupied from morning to night in the
endeavor to increase his heap of gold. Beyond the narrow horizon of
means to this end, he knows nothing ; his mind is a blank, and conse-
quently unsusceptible to any other influence. The highest pleasures,
those of the intellect, are to him inaccessible, and he tries in vain to
replace them by the fleeting pleasures of sense in which he indulges, last-
ing but a brief hour and at tremendous cost. And if he is lucky, his
struggles result in his having a really grea^ pile of gold, which he leaves to
his heir, either to make it still larger, or to squander it in extravagance.
A life like this, though pursued with a sense of earnestness and an air of
importance, is just as silly as many another which has a fool's cap for its

What a man has in himself is, then, the chief element in his happiness.
Because this is, as a rule, so very little, most of those who are placed
beyond the struggle with penury, feel at bottom quite as unhappy as
those who are still engaged in it. Their minds are vacant, their imag-
ination dull, their spirits poor, and so they are driven to the company of
those like them for similis simili gaudet where they make common pur-
suit of pastime and entertainment, consisting for the most part in sensual
pleasure, amusement of every kind, and finally, in excess and libertinism.
A young man of rich family enters upon life with a large patrimony, and
often runs through it in an incredibly short space of time, in vicious
extravagance ; and why ? Simply because, here too, the mind is empty
and void, and so the man is bored with existence. He was sent
forth into the world outwardly rich but inwardly poor, and his vain
endeavor was to make his external wealth compensate for his inner pov
erty, by trying to obtain everything from without, like an old man who
seeks to strengthen himself as King David or Marshal de Retz tried to
do. And so in the end one who is inwardly poor comes to be also poor

I need not insist upon the importance of the other two kinds of bless-
ings which make up the happiness of human life ; now-a-days the value



of possessing them is too well known to require advertisement Thi
third class, it is true, may seem, compared with the second, of a ver*
ethereal character, as it consists only of other people's opinions. Still,
everyone has to strive for reputation, that is to say, a good name. Rank,
on the other hand, should be aspired to only by those who serve the
State, and fame by very few indeed. In any case, reputation is looked
upon as a priceless treasure, and fame as the most precious of all the
blessings a man can attain, the Golden Fleece, as it were, of the elect :
whilst only fools will prefer rank to property. The second and third
classes, moreover, are reciprocally cause and effect ; so far that is, as
Petronius' maxim, hales habeberis, is true ; and conversely, the favor of
others, in all its forms, often puts us in the way of getting what we want.



WE have already seen, in general, that what a man is contributes
much more to his happiness than what he has, or how he is
regarded by others. What a man is, and so what he has in his own per-
son, is always the chief thing to consider ; for his individuality accom-
panies him always and everywhere, and gives its color to all his experi-
ences. In every kind of enjoyment, for instance, the pleasure depends
principally upon the man himself. Every one admits this in regard to
physical, and how much truer it is of intellectual, pleasure. When we
use that English expression, "to enjoy oneself," we are employing a very
striking and appropriate phrase ; for observe one says, not "he enjoys
Paris, " but, ' ' he enjoys himself in Paris. " To a man possessed of an ill-con-
ditioned individuality, all pleasure is like delicate wine in a mouth made
bitter with gall. Therefore, in the blessings as well as in the ills of life,
less depends upon what befalls us than upon the way in which it is met,
that is, upon the kind and degree of our general susceptibility. What a
man is and has in himself, in a word, personality, with all it entails, is
the only immediate and direct factor in his happiness and welfare. All
else is mediate and indirect, and its influence can be neutralized and
frustrated ; but the influence of personality never. This is why the
envy which personal qualities excite is the most implacable of all, as it
is also the most carefully dissembled.

Further, the constitution of our consciousness is the ever present and
lasting element in all we do or suffer ; our individuality is persistently
at work, more or less, at every moment of our life : all other influences
are temporal, incidental, fleeting, and subject to every kind of chance
and change. This is why Aristotle says : // is not wealth but character
that lasts. > And just for the same reason we can more easily bear a mis-
fortune which comes to us entirely from without, than one which we have
drawn upon ourselves ; for fortune may always change, but not character.
Therefore, subjective blessings, a noble nature, a capable head, a joyful
temperament, bright spirits, a well-constituted, perfectly sound physique,
in a word, mens sana in corpore sano, are the first and most important ele-
ments in happiness ; so that we should be more intent on promoting and

iEth. Eud, viii. 2. 37 :
i) ydp (pv6t$ ftiftaioY t ov rd


preserving such qualities than on the possession of external wealth and
external honor.

And of all these, the one which makes us the most directly happy is a
genial flow of good spirits ; for this excellent quality is its own immedi-
iate reward. The man who is cheerful and merry has alway a good
reason for being so, the fact, namely, that he is so. There is nothing
which, like this quality, can so completely replace the loss of every other
blessing. If you know anyone who is young, handsome, rich and
esteemed, and you want to know, further, if he is happy, ask, Is he
cheerful and genial ? and if he is, what does it matter whether he is
young or old, straight or humpbacked, poor or rich? he is happy. In
my early days I once opened an old book and found these words :
If you laugh a great deal you are happy ; if you cry a great deal, you are

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