Enemies of truth. Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.
A person of character. It is much more common for a person to appear to have character because he always acts in accord with his temperament, rather than because he always acts in accord with his principles.
Friend. Shared joy, not compassion, makes a friend.
Evaluating services rendered. We evaluate services someone renders us according to the value that person places on them, not according to the value they have for us.
Talent. The talent of some men appears slighter than it is because they have always set themselves tasks that are too great.
Dangerous helpfulness. There are people who want to make men’s lives more difficult for no other reason than afterwards to offer them their prescriptions for making life easier – their Christianity, for example.
In danger. When we have just gotten out of the way of a vehicle, we are most in danger of being run over.
Our own opinions. The first opinion that occurs to us when we are suddenly asked about a matter is usually not our own, but only the customary one, appropriate to our caste, position, or parentage; our own opinions seldom swim near the surface.
Magical vanity. He who has boldly prophesied the weather three times and has been successful, believes a bit, at the bottom of his heart, in his own prophetic gift. We do not dispute what is magical or irrational when it flatters our self-esteem.
The first thought of the day. The best way to begin each day well is to think upon awakening whether we could not give at least one person pleasure on this day. If this practice could be accepted as a substitute for the religious habit of prayer, our fellow men would benefit by this change.
Cause and effect confused. Unconsciously we seek out the principles and dogmas that are in keeping with our temperament, so that in the end it looks as if the principles and dogmas had created our character, given it stability and certainty, while precisely the opposite has occurred. It seems that our thinking and judging are to be made the cause of our nature after the fact, but actually our nature causes us to think and judge one way or the other. And what decides us on this almost unconscious comedy? Laziness and convenience, and not least the vain desire to be considered consistent through and through, uniform in both character and thought: for this earns us respect, brings us trust and power.
Age and truth. Young people love what is interesting and odd, no matter how true or false it is. More mature minds love what is interesting and odd about truth. Fully mature intellects, finally, love truth, even when it appears plain and simple, boring to the ordinary person; for they have noticed that truth tends to reveal its highest wisdom in the guise of simplicity.
Alienated from the present. There are great advantages to for once removing ourselves distinctly from our time and letting ourselves be driven from its shore back into the ocean of former world views. Looking at the coast from that perspective, we survey for the first time its entire shape, and when we near it again, we have the advantage of understanding it better on the whole than do those who have never left it.
A philosophical frame of mind. Generally we strive to acquire one emotional stance, one viewpoint for all life situations and events: we usually call that being of a philosophical frame of mind. But rather than making oneself uniform, we may find greater value for the enrichment of knowledge by listening to the soft voice of different life situations; each brings its own views with it. Thus we acknowledge and share the life and nature of many by not treating ourselves like rigid, invariable, single individuals.
Love as a device. Whoever wants really to get to know something new (be it a person, an event, or a book) does well to take up this new thing with all possible love, to avert his eye quickly from, even to forget, everything about it that he finds inimical, objectionable, or false. So, for example, we give the author of a book the greatest possibly head start, and, as if at a race, virtually yearn with a pounding heart for him to reach his goal. By doing this, we penetrate into the heart of the new thing, into its motive center: and this is what it means to get to know it. Once we have got that far, reason then sets its limits; that overestimation, that occasional unhinging of the critical pendulum, was just a device to entice the soul of a matter out into the open.
All in all, scientific methods are at least as important as any other result of inquiry; for the scientific spirit is based on the insight into methods, and were those methods to be lost, all the results of science could not prevent a renewed triumph of superstition and nonsense. Clever people may learn the results of science as much as they like, one still sees from their conversation, especially from their hypotheses in conversation, that they lack the scientific spirit. They do not have that instinctive mistrust of the wrong ways of thinking, a mistrust which, as a consequence of long practice, has put its roots deep into the soul of every scientific man. For them it is enough to find any one hypothesis about a matter; then they get fired up about it and think that puts an end to it. For them, to have an opinion means to get fanatical about it and cherish it in their hearts henceforth as a conviction. If a matter is unexplained, they become excited at the first notion resembling an explanation that enters their brain; this always has the worst consequences, especially in the realm of politics. Therefore everyone should have come to know at least one science in its essentials; then he knows what method is, and how necessary is the most extreme circumspection.
Every superior human being will instinctively aspire after a secret citadel where he is set free from the crowd, the many, the majority, where, as its exception, he may forget the rule ‘man’ – except in the one case in which, as a man of knowledge in the great and exceptional sense, he will be impelled by an even stronger instinct to make straight for this rule. He who, when trafficking with men, does not occasionally glisten with all the shades of distress, green and grey with disgust, satiety, sympathy, gloom and loneliness, is certainly not a man of an elevated taste; but if he does not voluntarily assume this burden and displeasure, if he continually avoids it and, as aforesaid, remains hidden quietly and proudly away in his citadel, then one thing is sure: he is not made, not predestined for knowledge. For if he were, he would one day have to say to himself: 'The devil can take my good taste! the rule is more interesting than the exception – than I, the exception!’ – and would go down, would above all ‘go in’. The study of the average human being, protracted, serious, and with much dissembling, self-overcoming, intimacy, bad company – all company is bad company except the company of one’s equals –: this constitutes a necessary part of the life story of every philosopher, perhaps the most unpleasant and malodorous part and the part most full of disappointments.
One must test oneself to see whether one is destined for independence and command; and one must do so at the proper time. One should not avoid one’s tests, although they are perhaps the most dangerous game one could play and are in the end tests which are then before ourselves and before no other judge. Not to cleave to another person, though be the one you love most – every person is a prison, also a nook and corner. Not to cleave to a fatherland, though it be the most suffering and in need of help – it is already easier to sever your heart from a victorious fatherland. Not to cleave to a feeling of pity, though it be for higher men into whose rare torment and helplessness chance allowed us to look. Not to cleave to a science, though it lures one with the most precious discoveries seemingly reserved precisely for us. Not to cleave to one’s own detachment, to that voluptuous remoteness and strangeness of the bird which flies higher and higher so as to see more and more beneath it – the danger which threatens the flier. Not to cleave to our own virtues, and become as a whole the victim of some part of us, of our ‘hospitality’ for example, which is the danger of dangers for rich and noble souls who expend themselves prodigally, almost indifferently, and take the virtue of liberality to the point where it becomes a vice. One must know how to conserve oneself: the sternest test of independence.