Isreal Smith Clare.

Library of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) online

. (page 34 of 60)
Online LibraryIsreal Smith ClareLibrary of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) → online text (page 34 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

regard to others, that, as he possesses no intellectual, but only physical
needs, he will seek the society of those who can satisfy the latter, but not
the former. The last thing he will expect from his friends is the posses-
sion of any sort of intellectual capacity ; nay, if he chances to meet with
it, it will rouse his antipathy and even hatred ; simply because in addi-
tion to an unpleasant sense of inferiority, he experiences, in his heart, a


dull kind of envy, which has to be carefully concealed ever, from himselt
Nevertheless, it sometimes grows into a secret feeling of rancor. But
for all that, it will never occur to him to make his own ideas of worth or
value conform to the standard of such qualities ; he will continue to give
the preference to rank and riches, power and influence, which in his
eyes seem to be the only genuine advantages in the world ; and his wish
will be to excel in them himself. All this is the consequence of his being
a man without intellectual needs. The great affliction of all philistines is
that they have no interest in ideas, and that, to escape being bored, they are
in constant need of realities. Now realities are either unsatisfactory or
dangerous ; when they lose their interest, they become fatiguing. But
the ideal world is illimitable and calm,

something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow.

NOTE In these remarks on the personal qualities which go to make
happiness, I have been mainly concerned with the physical and intellec-
tual nature of man. For an account of the direct and immediate influ-
ence of morality upon happiness, let me refer to my prize essay on The
Foundation of Morals (Sec. 22).


EPICURUS divides the needs of mankind into three classes, and the
division made by this great professor of happiness is a true and a
fine one. First come natural and necessary needs, such as, when not sat-
isfied, produce pain, food and clothing, victus et amicttts, needs which
can easily be satisfied. Secondly, there are those needs which, though
natural, are not necessary, such as the gratification of certain of the
senses. I may add, however, that in the report given by Diogenes
Laertius, Epicurus does not mention which of the senses he means ; so
that on this point my account of his doctrine is somewhat more definite
and exact than the original. These are needs rather more difficult to
satisfy. The third class consists of needs which are neither natural nor
necessary, the need of luxury and prodigality, show and splendor, which
never come to an end, and are very hard to satisfy. '

It is difficult, if not impossible, to define the limits which reason
should impose on the desire for wealth ; for there is no absolute or
definite amount of wealth which will satisfy a man. The amount is
always relative, that is to say, just so much as will maintain the propor-
tion between what he wants and what he gets ; for to measure a man's
happiness only by what he gets, and not also by what he expects to get,
is as futile as to try and express a fraction which shall have a numerator
but no denominator. A man never feels the loss of things which it never
occurs to him to ask for ; he is just as happy without them ; whilst
another, who may have a hundred times as much, feels miserable because
he has not got the one thing which he wants. In fact, here too, every
man has an horizon of his own, and he will expect just as much as he
thinks it possible for him to get. If an object within his horizon looks
as though he could confidently reckon on getting it, he is happy ; but if

Bculties come in the way, he is miserable. What lies beyond his hori-
zons has no effect at all upon him. So it is that the vast possessions of

e rich do not agitate the poor, and conversely, that a wealthy man is

t consoled by all his wealth for the failure of his hopes. Riches, one
^ i Cf. Diodes Laertius, Bk. x., ch. xxvii., pp. 127 and 149 ; also Cicero dtfinibus, i.,


may say, are like sea-water ; the more you drink, the thirstier you
become ; and the same is true of fame. The loss of wealth and pros-
perity leaves a man, as soon as the first pangs of grief are over, in very
much the same habitual temper as before ; and the reason of this is, that
as soon as fate diminishes the amount of his possessions, he himself
immediately reduces the amount of his claims. But when misfortune
comes upon us, to reduce the amount of our claims is just what is most
painful : once that we have done so, the pain becomes less and less, and
is felt no more ; like an old wound which has healed. Conversely, when
a piece of good fortune befalls us, our claims mount higher and higher,
as there is nothing to regulate them ; it is in this feeling of expansion
that the delight of it lies. But it lasts no longer than the process itself,
and when the expansion is complete, the delight ceases ; we have
become accustomed to the increase in our claims, and consequently
indifferent to the amount of wealth which satisfies them. There is a
passage in the Odyssey 1 - illustrating this truth, of which I may quote the
last two lines :

Totof yap vdo? ttirlv kitiifiovitov dvQpooitoov
Olov kq> fi/tap ayst itarrfp dvSpiav re Qeoav re.

the thoughts of man that dwells on the earth are as the day granted
him by the father of gods and men. Discontent springs from a constant
endeavor to increase the amount of our claims, when we are powerless
to increase the amount which will satisfy them.

When we consider how full of needs the human race is, how its whole
existence is based upon them, it is not a matter for surprise that wealth is
held in more sincere esteem, nay in greater honor, than anything else in
the world ; nor ought we to wonder that gain is made the only goal of
life, and everything that does not lead to it pushed aside or thrown over-
board philosophy, for instance, by those who profess it. People are
often reproached for wishing for money above all things, and for loving it
more than anything else ; but it is natural and even inevitable for people
to love that which, like an unwearied Proteus, is always ready to turn itself
into whatever object their wandering wishes or manifold desires may for
the moment fix upon. Everything . else can satisfy only one wish, one
need : food is good only if you are hungry ; wine, if you are able to
enjoy it ; drugs, if you are sick ; 'fur for the winter ; love for youth, and
so on. These are all only relatively good, ay add xpds n. Money alone is
absolutely good, because it is not only a concrete satisfaction of one need
in particular ; it is an abstract satisfaction of all.

If a man has an independent fortune, he should regard it as a bulwark
against the many evils and misfortunes which he may encounter ; he
should not look upon it as giving him leave to get what pleasure he can
out of the world, or as rendering it incumbent upon him to spend it in



this way. People who are not born with a fortune, but end by making
large one through the exercise of whatever talents they possess, almost
always come to think that their talents are their capital, and that the
money they have gained is merely the interest upon it ; they do not lay
by a part of their earnings to form permanent capital, but spend their
money much as they have earned it Accordingly, they often fall into
poverty ; their earnings decrease, or come to an end altogether, either
because their talent is exhausted by becoming antiquated, as, for
instance, very often happens in the case of fine art ; or else it was valid
only under a special conjunction of circumstances which has now passed
away. There is nothing to prevent those who live on the common labor
of their hands from treating their earnings in that way if they like ; because
their kind of skill is not likely to disappear, or, if it does, it can be
replaced by that of their fellow- workmen ; moreover, the kind of work they
do is always in demand ; so that what the proverb says is quite true, a
useful trade is a mine of gold. But with artists and professionals of every
kind the case is quite different, and that is the reason why they are well
paid. They ought to build up a capital out of their earnings ; but they
recklessly look upon them as merely interest, and end in ruin. On the
other hand, people who inherit money know, at least, how to distinguish
between capital and interest, and most of them try to make their capital
secure and not encroach upon it ; nay, if they can, they put by at least an
eighth of their interest in order to meet future contingencies. So most
of them maintain their position. These few remarks about capital and
interest are not applicable to commercial life, for merchants look upon
money only as a means of further gain, just as a workman regards
his tools ; so, even if their capital has been entirely the result of
their own efforts, they try to preserve and increase it by using it
Accordingly, wealth is nowhere so much at home as in the merchant

It will generally be found that those who know what it is to have been
in need and destitution are very much less afraid of it, and consequently
more inclined to extravagance, than those who know poverty only by
hearsay. People who have been born and bred in good circumstances
are as a rule much more careful about the future, more economical, in
fact, than those who, by a piece of good luck, have suddenly passed from
poverty to wealth. This looks as if poverty were not really such a very
wretched thing as it appears from a distance. The true reason, however,
is rather the fact that the man who has been born into a position of wealth
comes to look upon it as something without which he could no more live
than he could live without air; he guards it as he does his very life; and
so he is generally a lover of order, prudent and economical. But the
man who has been born in a poor position looks upon it as the natural
one, and if by any chance he comes in for a fortune, he regards it as a
superfluity, something to be enjoyed or wasted, because, ir it comes to an



end, he can get on just as well as before, with one anxiety the less ; or, as
Shakespeare says in Henry VI., 1

. . . . the adage must be verified
That beggars mounted run their horse to death.

But it should be said that people of this kind have a firm and excessive
trust, partly in fate, partly in the peculiar means which have already
raised them out of need and poverty, a trust not only of the head, but
of the heart also ; and so they do not, like the man born rich, look upon
the shallows of poverty as bottomless, but console themselves with the
thought that once they have touched ground again, they can take another
upward flight It is this trait in human character which explains the fact
that women who were poor before their marriage often make greater
claims, and are more extravagant, than those who have brought theii
husbands a rich dowry ; because, as a rule, rich girls bring with them not
only a fortune, but also more eagerness, nay more of the inherited instinct,
to preserve it, than poor girls do. If anyone doubts the truth of this, and
thinks that it is just the opposite, he will find authority for his view in
Ariosto's first Satire ; but on the other hand, Dr. Johnson agrees with my
opinion. A woman of fortune, he says, being used to the handling of
money, spends it judiciously ; but a woman who gets the command of money
for the first time upon her marriage, has such a gusto in spending it, that she
throws it away with great profusion.* And in any case let me advise any-
one who marries a poor girl not to leave her the capital but only the
interest, and to take especial care that she has not the management of the
children's fortune.

I do not by any means think that I am touching upon a subject which
is not worth my while to mention when I recommend people to be careful
to preserve what they have earned or inherited. For to start life with
just as much as will make one independent, that is, allow one to live com-
fortably without having to work even if one has only just enough for
oneself, not to speak of a family is an advantage which cannot be over-
estimated ; for it means exemption and immunity from that chronic
disease of penury, which fastens on the life of man like a plague ; it is
emancipation from that forced labor which is the natural lot of every
mortal. Only under a favorable fate like this can a man be said to be
born free, to be, in the proper sense of the word, suijuris, master of his
own time and powers, and able to say every morning, This day is my own.
And just for the same reason the difference between the man who has a
hundred a year and the man who has a thousand, is infinitely smaller than
the difference between the former and a man who has nothing at all. But
inherited wealth reaches its utmost value when it falls to the individual
endowed with mental powers of a high order, who is resolved to pursue a
line of life not compatible with the making of money ; for he is then

Prt UI., Act I, Sc. 4. * Boswell's Life of Johnson: ann: 1776, *Ut: 67.



doubly endowed by fate and can live for his genius ; and he will pay his
debt to mankind a hundred times, by achieving what no other could
achieve, by producing some work which contributes to the general good,
and redounds to the honor of humanity at large. Another, again, may
use his wealth to further philanthropic schemes, and make himself well-
deserving of his fellow-men. But a man who does none of these things,
who does not even try to do them, who never attempts to study thoroughly
some one branch of knowledge so that he may at least do what he cap
towards promoting it such a one, born as he is into riches, is a mere idle
and thief of time, a contemptible fellow. He will not even be happy
because, in his ease, exemption from need delivers him up to the othe
extreme of human suffering, boredom, which is such martyrdom to him,
that he would have been better off if poverty had given him something to
do. And as he is bored he is apt to be extravagant, and so lose the
advantage of which he showed himself unworthy. Countless numbers of
people find themselves in want, simply because, when they had money,
they spent it only to get momentary relief from the feeling of boredom
which oppressed them.

It is quite another matter if one's object is success in political life,
where favor, friends and connections are all important, in order to mount
by their aid step by step on the ladder of promotion, and perhaps gain
the topmost rung. In this kind of life, it is much better to be cast on the
world without a penny ; and if the aspirant is not of noble family, but is
a man of some talent, it will redound to his advantage to be an absolute
pauper. For what every one most aims at in ordinary contact with his
fellows is to prove them inferior to himself ; and how much more is this
the case in politics. Now, it is only an absolute pauper who has such a
thorough conviction of his own complete, profound and positive inferi-
ority from every point of view, of his own utter insignificance and worth-
lessness, that he can take his place quietly in the political machine. * He
is the only one who can keep on bowing low enough, and even go right
down upon his face if necessary ; he alone can submit to everything and
laugh at it ; he alone knows the entire worthlessness of merit ; he alone
uses his loudest voice and his boldest type whenever he has to speak or
write of those who are placed over his head, or occupy any position of
influence ; and if they do a little scribbling, he is ready to applaud it as a
master-work. He alone understands how to beg, and so betimes, when
he is hardly out of his boyhood, he becomes a high priest of that hidden
mystery which Goethe brings to light ;

1 Translator's Note. Schopenhauer is probably here making one of his many viru-
lent attacks upon Hegel ; in this case on account of what he thought to be the philoso-
pher's abject servility to the government of his day. Though the Hegelian system has
been the fruitful mother of many liberal ideas, there can be no doubt that Hegel's influ-
ence, in ha own life-time, was an effective support of Prussian bureaucracy.



Ue&er's Niedertrachtige
Niemand sich beklage:
Denn es ist das Machtige
Was man dir ouch sage :

it is no use to complain of low aims ; for, whatever people may say,
they rule the world.

On the other hand, the man who is born with enough to live upon is
generally of a somewhat independent turn of mind ; he is accustomed to
keep his head up ; he has not learned all the arts of the beggar ; perhaps
he even presumes a little upon the possession of talents which, as he
ought to know, can never compete with cringing mediocrity ; in the
long run he comes to recognize the inferiority of those who are placed
over his head, and when they try to put insults upon him, he becomes
refractory and shy. This is not the way to get on in the world. Nay,
such a man may at last incline to the opinion freely expressed by Vol-
taire : We have only two days to live ; it is not worth our while to spend them
in cringing to contemptible rascals. But alas ! let me observe by the way,
that contemptible rascal is an attribute which may be predicated of an.
abominable number of people. What Juvenal says it is difficult to rise
if your poverty is greater than your talent

Haud facile emergunt quorum virtittibus obstat
Res angusta domi

is more applicable to a career of art and literature than to political and
social ambition.

Wife and children I have not reckoned amongst a man's possessions :
he is rather in their possession. It would be easier to include frienda
under that head ; but a man's friends belong to him not a whit more
than he belongs to them.



Section /. Reputation.

BY a peculiar weakness of human nature, people generally think too
much about the opinion which others form of them ; although the
slightest reflection will show that this opinion, whatever it may be, is not
in itself essential to happiness. Therefore it is hard to understand why
everybody feels so very pleased when he sees that other people have a
good opinion of him, or say anything flattering to his vanity. If you
stroke a cat, it will purr ; and, as inevitably, if you praise a man, a sweet
expression of delight will appear on his face ; and even though the praise
is a palpable lie, it will be welcome, if the matter is one on which he
prides himself. If only other people will applaud him, a man may con-
sole himself for downright misfortune, or for the pittance he gets from
the two sources of human happiness already discussed : and conversely,
it is astonishing how infallibly a man will be annoyed, and in some cases
deeply pained, by any wrong done to his feeling of self-importance,
whatever be the nature, degree, or circumstances of the injury, or by any
depreciation, slight, or disregard.

If the feeling of honor rests upon this peculiarity of human nature, it
may have a very salutary effect upon the welfare of a great many people,
as a substitute for morality ; but upon their happiness, more especially
upon that peace of mind and independence which are so essential to
happiness, its effect will be disturbing and prejudicial rather than salutary.
Therefore it is advisable, from our point of view, to set limits to this
weakness, and duly to consider and rightly to estimate the relative value
of advantages, and thus temper, as far as possible, this great susceptibility
to other people's opinion, whether the opinion be one flattering to our
vanity, or whether it causes us pain ; for in either case it is the same
feeling which is touched. Otherwise, a man is the slave of what other
people are pleased to think, and how little it requires to disconcert or
the mind that is greedy of praise :

Sic lag, sic parvunt est, ammum quod laudis avarum
Submit ac rcjicit.*

Horace, Epist t II, I, 180.


Therefore it will very much conduce to our happiness if we duly
compare the value of what a man is in and for himself with what he is in
the eyes of others. Under the former comes everything that fills up the
span of our existence and makes it what it is, in short, all the advantages
already considered and summed up under the heads of personality and
property ; and the sphere in which all this takes place is the man's own
consciousness. On the other hand, the sphere of what we are for other
people is their consciousness, not ours ; it is the kind of figure we make
in their eyes, together with the thoughts which this arouses. ' But this is
something which has no direct and immediate existence for us, but can
affect us only mediately and indirectly, so far, that is, as other people's
behavior towards us is directed by it ; and even then it ought to affect us
only in so far as it can move us to modify what -we are in and for out selves.
Apart from this, what goes on in other people's consciousness is, as such,
a matter of indifference to us : and in time we get really indifferent to it,
when we come to see how superficial and futile are most people's
thoughts, how narrow their ideas, how mean their sentiments, how per-
verse their opinions, and how much of error there is in most of them ;
when we learn by experience with what depreciation a man will speak of
his fellow, when he is not obliged to fear him, or thinks that what he
says will not come to his ears. And if ever we have had an opportunity
of seeing how the greatest of men will meet with nothing but slight from
half-a-dozen blockheads, we shall understand that to lay great value
upon what other people say is to pay them too much honor.

At all events, a man is in a very bad way, who finds no source of
happiness in the first two classes of blessings already treated of, but has
to seek it in the third, in other words, not in what he is in himself, but
in what he is in the opinion of others. For, after all, the foundation of
our whole nature, and, therefore, of our happiness, is our physique, and
the most essential factor in happiness is health, and, next in importance
after health, the ability to maintain ourselves in independence and free-
dom from care. There can be no competition or compensation between
these essential factors on the one side, and honor, pomp, rank and repu-
tation on the other, however much value we may set upon the latter.
No one would hesitate to sacrifice the latter for the former, if it were
necessary. We should add very much to our happiness by a timely
recognition of the simple truth that every man's chief and real existence
is in his own skin, and not in other people's opinions ; and, consequently,
that the actual conditions of our personal life, health, temperament,
capacity, income, wife, children, friends, home, are a hundred times
more important for our happiness than what other people are pleased to
think of us : otherwise we shall be miserable. And if people insist that

i Let me remark that people in the highest positions in life, with all their brilliance,
pomp, display, magnificence and general show, may well say: Our happiness lies en-
tirely outside us, for it exists only in the heads of others.



honor is dearer than life itself, what they really mean is that existence
and well-being are as nothing compared with other people's opinions.
Of course, this may be only an exaggerated way of stating the prosaic
truth that reputation, that is, the opinion others have of us, is indispen-
sable if we are to make any progress in the world ; but I shall come back
to that presently. When we see that almost everything men devote their
lives to attain, sparing no effort and encountering a thousand toils and
dangers in the process, has, in the end, no further object than to raise
themselves in the estimation of others ; when we see that not only offices,
titles, decorations, but also wealth, nay, even knowledge 1 and art, are
striven for only to obtain, as the ultimate goal of all effort, greater respect
from one's fellow-men, is not this a lamentable proof of the extent to
which human folly can go ? To set much too high a value on other
people's opinion is a common error everywhere ; an error, it may be,
rooted in human nature itself, or the result of civilization and social
arrangements generally ; but, whatever its source, it exercises a very

Online LibraryIsreal Smith ClareLibrary of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) → online text (page 34 of 60)