On the Suffering of the World

A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.

As a reliable compass for orientating yourself in life nothing is more useful than to accustom yourself to regarding this world as a place of atonement, a sort of penal colony. When you have done this you will order your expectations of life according to the nature of things and no longer regard the calamities, sufferings, torments and miseries of life as something irregular and not to be expected but will find them entirely in order, well knowing that each of us is here being punished for his existence and each in his own particular way. This outlook will enable us to view the so-called imperfections of the majority of men, i.e., their moral and intellectual shortcomings and the facial appearance resulting therefrom, without surprise and certainly without indignation: for we shall always bear in mind where we are and consequently regard every man first and foremost as a being who exists only as a consequence of his culpability and whose life is an expiation of the crime of being born.

As the biggest library if it is in disorder is not as useful as a small but well-arranged one, so you may accumulate a vast amount of knowledge but it will be of far less value to you than a much smaller amount if you have not thought it over for yourself.

Because appearance remains appearance and does not become thing in itself.

Every moment of our life belongs to the present only for a moment; then it belongs for ever to the past.

For the longer to have had to rack your brains for something the more firmly will is stay once you have got it.

If the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most ill-adapted to its purpose in the world.

Intellect is a magnitude of intensity, not a magnitude of extension: which is why in this respect one man can confidently take on ten thousand, and a thousand fools do not make one wise man.

In the first place, no man is happy but strives his whole life long after a supposed happiness which he seldom attains, and even if he does it is only to be disappointed with it.

Life presents itself first and foremost as a task: the task of maintaining itself, the task of earning one's living. If this task is accomplished, what has been gained is a burden, and there then appears a second task: that of doing something with it so as to ward off boredom, which hovers over every secure life like a bird of prey. Thus the first task is to gain something and the second to become unconscious of what has been gained, which is otherwise a burden.

Nature is unfathomable because we seek after causes and consequences in a realm where this form is not to be found. We try to reach the inner being of nature, which looks out at us from every phenomenon, under the guidance of the principle of sufficient reason - whereas this is merely the form under which our intellect comprehends appearance, i.e. the surface of things, while we want to employ it beyond the bounds of appearance; for within these bounds it is serviceable and sufficient.

Not the least of the torments which plague our existence is the constant pressure of time, which never lets us so much as draw breath but pursues us all like a taskmaster with a whip. It ceases to persecute only him it has delivered over to boredom.

O espírito íntimo e o sentido da vida verdadeira e pura do claustro e do ascetismo em geral, é sentirmo-nos dignos e capazes de uma existência melhor do que a nossa, e querermos fortificar e manter esta convicção pelo desprezo de todos os vãos gozos deste mundo. Espera-se com segurança e calma o fim desta vida, livre das ilusões enganadoras, para saudar um dia a hora da morte como a da libertação.

One can even say that we require at all times a certain quantity of care or sorrow or want, as a ship requires ballast, in order to keep on a straight course.

Our life is to be regarded as a loan received from death, with sleep as the daily interest on this loan.

Payment and reserved copyright are at bottom the ruin of literature. Only he who writes entirely for the sake of what he has to say writes anything worth writing. It is as if there were a curse on money: every writer writes badly as soon as he starts writing for gain.

People who pass their lives in reading and acquire their wisdom from books are like those who learn about a country from travel descriptions: they can impart information about a great number of things, but at bottom they possess no connected, clear, thorough knowledge of what the country is like. On the other hand, people who pass their lives in thinking are like those who have visited the country themselves: they alone are really familiar with it, possess connected knowledge of it and are truly at home in it.

Pleasure and well-being is negative and suffering positive, the happiness of a given life is not to be measured according to the joys and pleasures it contains but according to the absence of the positive element, the absence of suffering.

The best consolation in misfortune or affliction of any kind will be the thought of other people who are in a still worse plight than yourself; and this is a form of consolation open to every one. But what an awful fate this means for mankind as a whole! We are like lambs in a field, disporting themselves under the eye of the butcher, who chooses out first one and then another for his prey.

The greatest wisdom consists in enjoying the present and making this enjoyment the goal of life, because the present is all that is real and everything else merely imaginary. But you could just as well call this mode of life the greatest folly: for that which in a moment ceases to exist, which vanishes as completely as a dream, cannot be worth any serious effort.

The life of an individual is a constant struggle, and not merely a metaphorical one against want or boredom, but also an actual struggle against other people. He discovers adversaries everywhere, lives in continual conflict and dies with sword in hand.

The negativity of well-being and happiness, in antithesis to the positivity of pain.

The nobler and more perfect a thing is, the later and more slowly does it mature.

There is no happiness on earth to compare with that which a beautiful and fruitful mind finds in a propitious hour within itself.

Today it is bad, and day by day it will get worse?until at last the worst of all arrives.

We all feel that we are something other than a being which someone once created out of nothing: from this arises the confidence that, while death may be able to end our life, it cannot end our existence.

We take no pleasure in existence except when we are striving after something.

When you consider how great and immediate is the problem of existence, this ambiguous, tormented, fleeting, dream-like existence - so great and so immediate that as soon as you are aware of it, it overshadows and obscures all other problems and aims; and when you then see how men, with a few rare exceptions, have no clear awareness of this problem, indeed seem not to be conscious of it at all, but concern themselves with anything rather than this problem, and live on taking thought only for the day and for the hardly longer span of their own individual future, either expressly refusing to consider this problem or contenting themselves with some system of popular metaphysics..

You can also look upon our life as an episode unprofitably disturbing the blessed calm of nothingness.

You can know only what you have thought about.