While I’m reading Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Maxims and Reflections, I thought I’d share here the aphorisms I find most insightful, applicable and/or understandable. So check back for updates as I move through the book. I may add little thoughts beneath each aphorism as well. We’ll see.

Note that all aphorisms come from the following text:

Goethe, Wolfgang von. Maxims and Reflections. Trans. Elisabeth Stopp. Ed. Peter Hutchinson. New York: Penguin, 1998.


    • 9. Every spoken word evokes its contrary meaning.


    • 21. What kind of shortcomings are we allowed to keep, indeed cultivate in ourselves? The kind that flatter, rather than hurt, other people.


    • 25. It is the way of the world to accept a person as he presents himself; but he does have to present himself. We would rather tolerate a difficult person than suffer one who is insignificant.


    • 26. One can foist anything on society, except what will have consequences.


    • 30. What we call good conduct and manners is meant to achieve what could otherwise only be effected by force, or not even by force.


    • 31. Association with women is the basic element of good manners.


    • 34. A well-educated soldier has the greatest advantages in life as a whole as well as in society.


    • 35. Crude warriors at least don’t deny their own character, and because kindness is usually hidden under their strength, it is even possible, if need be, to get on with them.


    • 36. No one is more objectionable than an awkward civilian. As he is not forced to deal with crude matters, one could demand refinement from him.


    • 41. Voluntary dependence is the best of all states to be in, and how could this be possible without love!


    • 48. There is no greater consolation for mediocrity than the fact that genius is not immortal.


    • 51. Fools and intelligent people are equally undamaging. Half-fools and half-sages, these are the most dangerous of all.


    • 72. Certain books are apparently written not so that we may learn from them, but to demonstrate the fact that the author knew something.


    • 76. It is sad to watch an outstandingly talented man battling frantically with himself, his circumstances, his time, without ever managing to get anywhere. Sad instance: Burger.


    • 77. The greatest respect an author can have for his public is never to produce what is expected but what he himself considers right and useful for whatever stage of intellectual development has been reached by himself and others.


    That’s enough for now. Check back later!


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