Schopenhauer Aphorisms & Quotes | Philosophy Podcasts

Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. Regular listeners of our podcast may be a little surprised by our choice of authors today, Arthur Schopenhauer, since the German philosopher is well known for his pessimism and rather depressing outlook on life. Indeed this past weekend on Our Sunday Talks, we read from the work of David Starr Jordan, who pointed out the weakness of Schopenhauer’s philosophy of despair versus the superior qualities of hope and optimism.

But we can part ways with Schopenhauer on some subjects, while still recognizing that he often provides useful insights about human nature and life—and today I will read some of those insights for you, which were compiled by J.N. Larned in his book A Multitude of Counsellors, published in 1901.

What you have in yourself is the chief element in your happiness. . . .

What you are, and what you have in your own person, is always the chief thing to consider; for your individuality accompanies you always and everywhere, and gives its color to all your experiences. . . .

The person who is cheerful and merry has always a good reason for being so — the fact, namely, that they are so. . . .

Nothing contributes so little to cheerfulness as riches, or so much as health. . . .

The most general survey shows us that the two foes of happiness are pain and boredom. We may go further, and say that in the degree in which we are fortunate enough to get away from the one, we approach the other. Life presents, in fact, a more or less violent oscillation between the two. Needy surroundings and poverty produce pain; while, if we are more than well off, we are bored. Nothing is so good a protection as inward wealth, the wealth of the mind, because the greater it grows the less room it leaves for boredom. . . .

Ordinary people think merely how they shall spend their time; a person of intellect and wisdom tries to use it. . . .

The conclusion we come to is that the individual whom nature has endowed with intellectual wealth is the happiest. Men and women of inner wealth want nothing from outside but the gift of undisturbed leisure, to develop and mature their intellectual faculties, that is, to enjoy their wealth. In short, they want permission to be themselves, their whole life long, every day and every hour. . . .

The value we set upon the opinion of others, and our constant endeavor in respect of it, are each quite out of proportion to any result we may reasonably hope to attain; so that this attention to other people’s attitude may be regarded as a kind of universal mania which everyone inherits. In all we do, almost the first thing we think about is, what will people say; and nearly half the troubles and bothers of life may be traced to our anxiety on this score. . . .

Honor is, on its objective side, other people’s opinion of what we are worth; on its subjective side, it is the respect we pay to this opinion. From the latter point of view, to be a person of honor is to exercise what is often a very wholesome, but by no means a purely moral influence. . . .

The ultimate foundation of honor is the conviction that moral character is unalterable: a single bad action implies that future actions of the same kind will, under similar circumstances, also be bad. . . .

Fame is something which must be won — honor: only something which must not be lost. The absence of fame is obscurity, which is only a negative; but loss of honor is shame, which is a positive quality. . . .

The first and foremost rule for the wise conduct of life seems to me to be contained in a view to which Aristotle parenthetically refers to in his Ethics. That is: not pleasure, but freedom from pain, is what the wise person will aim at. . . .

If you desire to tabulate the book of your life and determine where the balance of happiness lies, you must put down in your accounts, not the pleasures which you have enjoyed, but the evils which you have escaped. . . .

There is no doubt that life is given us, not simply to be enjoyed, but to be overcome — to be got over. . .

The fool rushes after the pleasures of life and finds themselves their dupe; the wise person avoids its snares. . . .

The safest way of not being very miserable is not to expect to be very happy. [But then that is not living]. . . .

For me to estimate your condition in regard to happiness, it is necessary to ask, not what things please you, but what things trouble you; and the more trivial these things are in themselves, the happier the person you will be. . . .

Another important element in the wise conduct of life is to preserve a proper proportion between our thought for the present and our thought for the future; in order not to spoil the one by paying over-great attention to the other. Many live too much in the present — and are frivolous; others too much in the future, ever anxious and full of care. . . .

Peace of mind is impossible without a considerable amount of solitude. Let me advise you to form the habit of taking some of your solitude with you into society, to learn to be to some extent alone even though you are in company.  Society is like a fire — the wise person warming themselves at a proper distance from it. . . .

Envy is natural to the human being; and still it is at once a vice and a source of misery. We should treat it as the enemy of our happiness, and stifle it like an evil thought. This is the advice given by Seneca, as he well puts it: we shall be pleased with what we have, if we are to avoid the self-torture of comparing our own lot with some other and happier one. . . .

We should open our eyes wide to all [the] enormity [of our faults], in order that we may firmly resolve to avoid them in the time to come. . . .

We should sometimes try to look upon our possessions in the light in which they would appear if we had lost them. It is usually only when we have lost them that we begin to find out their value. . . .

Self-control may not appear so very difficult if we consider that every person has to submit to a great deal of very severe control due to their surroundings. A little self-control at the right moment may prevent much subsequent compulsion at the hands of others. . . .

Activity! — doing something, if possible creating something, at any rate learning something — how fortunate it is that we cannot exist without that! A person wants to use their strength, to see, if they can, what effect it will produce. And they will get the most complete satisfaction of this desire if they can make or construct something — be it a book or a basket. . . .

No man or woman can see over their own height. You cannot see in another person any more than you have in yourself. . . .

The individual who can see truly in the midst of general infatuation is like a person whose watch keeps good time, when all clocks in the town in which they lives are wrong. They alone know the right time; but what use is that to them? —for everyone goes by the clocks which speak falsely. . . .

You show your character just in the way in which you deal with trifling matters — for then you off your guard. . . .

To observe and blame the faults in another person is a very suitable way of becoming conscious of your own. . . .

Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax. . . .

If you want your judgment to be accepted, express it coolly and without passion. . . .

Money is never spent to so much advantage as when you have been cheated out of it; for at one stroke you have purchased prudence. . . .

If you have to live amongst men and women, you must allow every one the right to exist in accordance with the character they have, whatever it turns out to be. And all you should strive to do is to make use of this character in such a way as its kind and nature permit, rather than to hope for any alteration in it, or to condemn it offhand for what it is. This is the true sense of the maxim — “Live and let live.”. . .

Subscribe to the Inspirational Living Podcast at iTunes & Stitcher

Inspirational Podcasts Stitcher
Subscribe Inspirational Podcast

All transcripts from our self-development podcasts are edited adaptations of the original work and copyrighted by LivingHour.org.