Collected maxims and other reflections

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When we think it renounces and forsakes its Pleasure, it only suspends or changes it; and when we fancy it conquered, and totally routed, we find it rise victorious, and its very Defeat contributes to its Triumph. The Sea indeed is a very sensible Resemblance of this Passion, and the perpetual Ebbings and Flowings of the Waves there are a lively and faithful Emblem of that restless Succession of Thoughts, and those boisterous Roulings of the Mind, which are eternally caused and kept up by it.

V Self-Love is more ingenious, than the most ingenious Man in the World. VIII Those great and glorious Actions, that even dazle our Eyes with their Lustre, are represented by Politicians, as the result of great Wisdom, and excellent Design; whereas, in truth, they are commonly the Effects of Passion and Humour.

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Thus the War between Augustus and Antony, which is usually thought to proceed from Greatness of Soul, and an Ambition that each of them had to become Master of the World, was, very probably, no more than Envy and Emulation. IX The Passions are the only Orators that are always successful in perswading. They are a kind of Art in Nature, that proceeds upon infallible Rules; and the plainest Man, with the help of Passion, shall prevail more, than the most eloquent Man without it.

Collected Maxims and Other Reflections

X There is in the Passions such a constant Tendency to private Interest and Injustice, that it is dangerous to be guided by them. And indeed, we should not dare to trust them, even then when they appear most fair and reasonable. XI The Heart of Man ever finds a constant Succession of Passions; insomuch, that the destroying and pulling down of One, proves generally to be nothing else, but the production and the setting up of Another.


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XII The Passions, so odd a Way of breeding they have do very often give Birth to others of a Nature most contrary and distant from their own. XV Men are not only apt to forget the Kindnesses and Injuries that have been done them, but which is a great deal more, they hate the Persons that have obliged them, and lay aside their Resentments against those that have used them ill. The Trouble of returning Favours, and revenging of Wrongs, is a Slavery, it seems, which they can very hardly submit to.

XVII That Clemency, which the World cries up for such a mighty Vertue, proceeds sometimes from Ostentation; sometimes from Laziness and Neglect; very often from Fear, and almost always from a Mixture of all these together. XIX Moderation is a Fear of falling into that Envy and Contempt, which those who grow giddy with their good Fortune, most justly draw upon themselves.

It is a kind of boasting the Greatness of our Mind; and, in short, the Moderation of Men, in the most exalted Fortunes, is a Desire to be thought above those Things that have raised them so high.

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XX No body is so weak, but he is strong enough to bear the Misfortunes that he does not feel. XXIII Philosophy finds it an easie matter to vanquish past and future Evils, but the present are commonly too hard for it. XXIV Very few People are acquainted with Death; they undergo it, commonly, not so much out of Resolution, as Custom and Insensibility; and the greatest Part of the World pretend, they are content to die, only because they know they cannot help it. XXV When Great Men sink under the Length of their Misfortunes, this discovers, that it was not the Greatness of their Soul, but of their Ambition, that kept up their Spirits so long; and that, setting aside abundance of Vanity, Heroes are just like common Men.

But Envy is a Passion so full of Cowardice and Shame, that no body ever had the Confidence to own it. XXIX There is something to be said for Jealousie, because this only designs the Preservation of some Good, which we either have, or think we have a Right to; but Envy is a raging Madness, that cannot be satisfied with the Good of others. XXXI We do not want Strength, so much as Will to use it; and very often the fancying Things impossible to be done, is nothing else, but an Excuse of our own contriving, to reconcile ourselves to our own Idleness.

When those Doubts change into Certainties, then the Passion either ceases, or turns absolute Madness. XXXV The being proud our selves makes us complain of others, and uneasie at their being so. The only difference is, that all do not take the same Methods of shewing it. XXXVIII Pride hath a greater share than Goodness in the Reproofs we give other People for their Faults; and we chide them, not so much with a Design to mend them, as to make them believe that we our selves are not guilty of them.

XL Interest speaks all manner of Languages, and acts all sorts of Parts; nay, even that of a Man that hath no regard at all to Interest. XLI Interest makes some People blind, and others quick-sighted. XLIV A Man often thinks he governs himself, when all the while he is governed and managed; and while his Understanding directs to one Design, his Affections insensibly draw him into another.

XLIX Happiness does not consist in the Things themselves, but in the Relish we have of them; and a Man hath attained to it when he enjoys what he loves and desires himself, and not what other People think lovely and desirable.


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LI People that are conceited of their own Merit, take a Pride in being unfortunate, that so themselves and others may think them considerable enough to be the Envy and the Mark of Fortune. LII Nothing ought in reason to mortifie our Self-Satisfaction more, than the considering that we condemn at one Time, what we highly approve and commend at another.

Fortune must contribute her Part too; and till both concur, the Work cannot be perfected.

LV When the Philosophers despised Riches, it was because they had a mind to vindicate their own Merit, and take a Revenge upon the Injustice of Fortune, by vilifying those Enjoyments which she had not given them: This was a Secret to ward off the Contempt that Poverty brings, a kind of winding By-Path to get into the Esteem of the World, and when Riches had not made them considerable, to make themselves so some other Way.

LVI We hate Favourites, because we are fond of Favour our selves: The Indignation we profess against others who are in possession, sooths and softens a little the Concern for our own being excluded. And we deny to pay them our Respects, because we would fain, but cannot, take away that which makes them respected by all the World besides.

LX There is no Accident so exquisitely unfortunate, but wise Men will make some advantage of it; nor any so intirely fortunate, but Fools may turn it to their own Prejudice. It is to be found but in very few, and what we commonly look upon to be so, is only a more cunning sort of Dissimulation, to insinuate our selves into the Confidence of others. The reason of which is, that Man is the subject of its Operation, and he is the most fickle and changeable Creature in the World. LXVII A wise Man should order his Designs, and set all his interests in their proper Places: This Order is often confounded by a foolish Greediness, which, while it puts us upon pursuing so many several Things at once, that in Eagerness for Matters of less consideration, we grasp at Trifles, and let go Things of greater value.

LXX Love pure, and untainted with any other Passion, if such a Thing there be lies hidden in the Bottom of our Heart, so exceeding close, that we scarce know it our selves. LXXI It is not in the Power of any the most crafty Dissimulation, to conceal Love long, where it really is, nor to counterfeit it long where it is not. LXXII Considering how little the beginning, or the ceasing to Love is in our own Power, it is foolish and unreasonable for the Lover, or his Mistress, to complain of one anothers Inconstancy.

Love hath no more concern in them, than the Doge hath in what is done at Venice. LXXXVI We oftentimes fancy, that we love Persons above us, when it is nothing but Interest that makes us fond of them; and all our Applications and Attendances, are not so much upon the account of any Good we desire to do them, as for what we expect and hope they may do us. XC Every body complains for want of Memory; but you never find any body complain of the Weakness of his Judgment. XCI When idle Men have indulged themselves as much as they think fit, no body is then so full of Haste and Activity as they, because they hope this quickning of others, will give them the Reputation of Diligence.

XCII The greatest Ambition does not appear at all so, when it finds what it would fain aspire to, absolutely impossible to be attained. XCIV Old Folks love mightily to give good Advice, because this makes them some sort of amends, for being incapable now of setting ill Examples.

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XCV Great Characters do rather lessen, than exalt, those that know not how to maintain, and make them good. Judgment is nothing else but the exceeding Brightness of Wit, which, like Light, pierces into the very Bottom of Things, observes all that ought to be observed there, and discovers what seemed to be past any bodies finding out: From whence we must conclude, that the Energy and Extension of this Light of the Wit, is the very Thing that produces all those Effects, usually ascribed to the Judgment.

C The polite Wit consists in nice, curious, and commendable Thoughts.

Being Happy: Maxims 49 and 50 by Fran├žois Duc de la Rochefoucauld

CII It often happens, that some Things offer themselves finer in the very first Thought, than it were possible for a Man to have made them by Art and Study. Some you must come very near to, to judge of them exactly, and others are better seen at a greater distance. CVI He is not to pass for a Man of Reason, who stumbles upon Reason by chance; but he that knows, and can judge, and hath a true Relish of it. CVII It is necessary, in order to know Things throughly well, to know the Particulars of them; and these being infinite, make our Knowledge ever superficial and imperfect.

CXIV Matrimony is sometimes convenient, but never delightful. CXV Men are never to be comforted for the Treachery of their Friends, or the over-reaching of their Enemies; and yet they are often very highly satisfied, to be both cheated and betrayed by their own selves. CXVII Nothing betrays more want of Sincerity, than the Methods commonly used in asking and receiving Advice: He that asks it, pretends to a respectful Deference for the Opinion of his Friend, and all the while only designs to have his own approved, and shelter his Actions under the Authority of another; and he that gives it, returns these Professions with a pretended Kindness and impartial Zeal, and yet hath generally no other End in the advising him, but his own Interest and Honour.

CXIX An honest Intention of imposing upon no body, lays us open to be frequently imposed upon our selves. CXX We are so used to dissemble with other People, that in Time we come to deceive and dissemble with our selves. CXXV The most ingenious Men continually pretend to condemn Tricking; but this is often done, that they may use it more conveniently themselves, when some great Occasion or Interest offers it self to them.

CXXVI To use crafty Dealing, is a Sign of a little Soul; and it generally falls out, that he who conceals himself by it in one Instance, betrays himself as much by it in another. CXXXV Men become ridiculous, not so much for the Qualities they have, as those they would be thought to have, when they really have them not. The most Ingenious and Complaisant Sort go no farther than pretending to hearken attentively; when at the same Time, a Man may plainly see, that both their Eyes and their Mind are roving from what is said to them, and posting back again to what they long to be at themselves.

Whereas it ought to be considered, that to seek ones own Pleasure so very Passionately, can never be the way either to please or perswade others; and that diligent Attention, and proper Repartees, are the very Things that accomplish a Man for Company. The one accepts it, as a Reward due to his Desert; the other gives it, that he may be lookt upon as a Just and a Discreet Person.

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CL He that refuses Praise the first Time it is offered, does it, because he would hear it a second. CLII It is an easier matter to manage others, than to keep from being managed ones self. CLVII All that some People are good for, is the saying and doing foolish Things seasonably and usefully; and when they are once taken out of this Road, you quite spoil them, and they are worth nothing. CLIX Kings put a value upon Men, as well as Money, and we are forced to take them both, not by Weight, but according as they are pleased to stamp them, and at the current Rate of the Coin.

CLXIV There are a World of Proceedings, that appear odd and ridiculous, which yet are grounded upon secret Reasons, that are very solid and substantial. CLXV It is easier for a Man to be thought fit for an Employment that he hath not, than for one that he stands already possest of, and is his proper Post.