Therefore ordinary people are small but not the genius ones. (ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER)

Therefore ordinary people are small but not the genius ones. (ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER)

Always to see the universal in the particular is just the fundamental characteristic of genius, while, the, normal man knows in the particular only the particular as such, for only as such does it belong to the actual which alone has interests for him, i.e., relations to his will.

What is called the stirrings of genius, the hour of consecration, the moment of inspiration, is nothing but the liberation of the intellect, when the latter, for the time exempt from service to the will, does not now sink into inactivity or relaxation, but, for a short time, is active all alone, of its own accord. Then the intellect is of the greatest purity, and becomes the true mirror of the world.

The normal man is sunk in the whirl and tumult of life, to which he belongs through his will; his intellect is filled with the things and events of life ; but he does not know these things nor life itself in their objective significance ; as the merchant on Change in Amsterdam apprehends perfectly what his neighbour says, but does not hear the hum of the whole Exchange, like the sound of the sea, which astonishes the distant observer. From the genius, on the contrary, whose intellect is delivered from the will, and thus from the person, what concerns these does not conceal the world and things themselves ; but he becomes distinctly conscious of them, he apprehends them in and for themselves in objective perception ; in this sense he is reflective.

It is reflectiveness which enables the painter to repeat the natural objects which he contemplates faithfully upon the canvas, and the poet accurately to call up again the concrete present.

The brute lives entirely without reflection. It has consciousness, i.e., it knows itself and its good and ill, also the objects which occasion these. But its knowledge remains always subjective, never becomes objective; everything that enters it seems a matter of course, and therefore can never become for it a theme (an object of exposition) nor a problem (an object of meditation).

Its consciousness is thus entirely immanent. Not certainly the same, but yet of kindred nature, is the consciousness of the common type of man, for his apprehension also of things and the world is predominantly subjective and remains prevalently immanent. It apprehends the things in the world, but not the world; its own action and suffering, but not itself.

It all amounts ultimately to this, where the true seriousness of the man lies. In almost all it lies exclusively in their own well-being and that of their families ; therefore they are in a position to promote this and nothing else ; for no purpose, no voluntary and intentional effort, imparts the true, profound, and proper seriousness, or makes up for it, or more correctly, takes its place. For it always remains where nature has placed it; and without it everything is only half performed. Therefore, for the same reason, persons of genius often manage so badly for their own welfare. As a leaden weight always brings a body back to the position which its centre of gravity thereby determined demands, so the true seriousness of the man always draws the strength and attention of the intellect back to that in which it lies ; everything else the man does without true seriousness. Therefore only the exceedingly rare and abnormal men whose true seriousness does not lie in the personal and practical, but in the objective and theoretical, are in a position to apprehend what is essential in the things of the world, thus the highest truths, and reproduce them in any way. For such a seriousness of the individual, falling outside himself in the objective, is something foreign to the nature of man, something unnatural, or really supernatural: yet on account of this alone is the man great; and therefore what he achieves is then ascribed to a genius different from himself, which takes possession of him. To such a man his painting, poetry, or thinking is an end; to others it is a means. The latter thereby seek their own things, and, as a rule, they know how to further them, for they flatter their contemporaries, ready to serve their wants and humours ; therefore for the most part they live in happy circumstances ; the former often in very miserable circumstances. For he sacrifices his personal welfare to his objective end ; he cannot indeed do otherwise, because his seriousness lies there. They act conversely; therefore they are small, but he is great. Accordingly his work is for all time, but the recognition of it generally only begins with posterity : they live and die with their time. In general he only is great who in his work, whether it is practical or theoretical, seeks not his own concerns, but pursues an objective end alone ; he is so, however, even when in the practical sphere this end is a misunderstood one, and even if in consequence of this it should be a crime. That he sees not himself and his own concerns, this makes him under all circumstances great. Small, on the other hand, is all action which is directed to personal ends ; for whoever is thereby set in activity knows and finds himself only in his own transient and insignificant person. He who is great, again, finds himself in all, and therefore in the whole: he lives not, like others, only in the microcosm, but still more in the macrocosm. Hence the whole interests him, and he seeks to comprehend it in order to represent it, or to explain it, or to act practically upon it. For it is not strange to him ; lie feels that it concerns him.

 

 

 

The World as Will and Representation
Arthur Schopenhauer



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