The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Counsels and Maxims eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 162 pages of information about The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Counsels and Maxims.

[Footnote 1:  De Iside et Osiride ch. 14.]

[Footnote 2:  De Sapientia Veterum, C. 6. Natura enim rerum omnibus viventibus indidit mentum ac formidinem, vitae atque essentiae suae conservatricem, ac mala ingruentia vitantem et depellentem.  Verumtamen eaden natura modum tenere nescia est:  sed timoribus salutaribus semper vanos et innanes admiscet; adeo ut omnia (si intus conspici darentur) Panicis terroribus plenissima sint praesertim humana.]



There is a very fine saying of Voltaire’s to the effect that every age of life has its own peculiar mental character, and that a man will feel completely unhappy if his mind is not in accordance with his years:—­

  Qui n’a pas l’esprit de son age,
  De son age atout le malheur

It will, therefore, be a fitting close to our speculations upon the nature of happiness, if we glance at the chances which the various periods of life produce in us.

Our whole life long it is the present, and the present alone, that we actually possess:  the only difference is that at the beginning of life we look forward to a long future, and that towards the end we look back upon a long past; also that our temperament, but not our character, undergoes certain well-known changes, which make the present wear a different color at each period of life.

I have elsewhere stated that in childhood we are more given to using our intellect than our will; and I have explained why this is so.[1] It is just for this reason that the first quarter of life is so happy:  as we look back upon it in after years, it seems a sort of lost paradise.  In childhood our relations with others are limited, our wants are few,—­in a word, there is little stimulus for the will; and so our chief concern is the extension of our knowledge.  The intellect—­like the brain, which attains its full size in the seventh year,[2] is developed early, though it takes time to mature; and it explores the whole world of its surroundings in its constant search for nutriment:  it is then that existence is in itself an ever fresh delight, and all things sparkle with the charm of novelty.

[Footnote 1:  Translator’s Note.—­Schopenhauer refers to Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Bk.  II. c, 31, p. 451 (4th edit.), where he explains that this is due to the fact that at that period of life the brain and nervous system are much more developed than any other part of the organism.]

[Footnote 2:  Translator’s Note.—­This statement is not quite correct.  The weight of the brain increases rapidly up to the seventh year, more slowly between the sixteenth and the twentieth year, still more slowly till between thirty and forty years of age, when it attains its maximum.  At each decennial period after this, it is supposed to decrease in weight on the average, an ounce for every ten years.]

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