Human, All Too Human


Man in Society


Benevolent dissembling. In interaction with people, a benevolent dissembling is often required, as if we did not see through the motives for their behavior.


Copies.Not infrequently, one encounters copies of important people; and, as with paintings, most people prefer the copy to the original.


The speaker. We can speak very appropriately and yet in such a way that all the world cries out the reverse: that is when we are not speaking to all the world.


Lack of intimacy. Lack of intimacy among friends is a mistake that cannot be censured without becoming irreparable.


On the art of giving.To have to reject a gift, simply because it was not offered in the proper way, embitters us towards the giver.


The most dangerous partisan. In every party there is one person who, by his all-too-devout enunciation of party principles, provokes the other members to defect.


Advisor to the ill. Whoever gives an ill man advice gains a feeling of superiority over him, whether the advice is accepted or rejected. For that reason, irritable and proud ill people hate advisors even more than their illness.


Twofold kind of equality. The craving for equality can be expressed either by the wish to draw all others down to one's level (by belittling, excluding, tripping them up) or by the wish to draw oneself up with everyone else (by appreciating, helping, taking pleasure in others' success).


Countering embarrassment. The best way to come to the aid of someone who is very embarrassed and to soothe him is to praise him resolutely.


Preference for certain virtues. We lay no special value on the possession of a virtue until we perceive its complete absence in our opponent.


Why one contradicts. We often contradict an opinion, while actually it is only the tone with which it was advanced that we find disagreeable.


Trust and intimacy.1 someone assiduously seeks to force intimacy with another person, he usually is not sure whether he possesses that person's trust. If someone is sure of being trusted, he places little value on intimacy.

1. Vertrauen und Vertraulichkeit


Balance of friendship. Sometimes in our relationship to another person, the right balance of friendship is restored when we put a few grains of injustice2 on our own side of the scale.

2. Unrecht


The most dangerous doctors. The most dangerous doctors are those born actors who imitate born doctors with perfect deceptive art.


When paradoxes are appropriate. At times, one can win clever people over to a principle merely by presenting it in the form of an outrageous paradox.


How brave people are won over. Brave people are persuaded to an action when it is represented as more dangerous than it is.


Courtesies. We count the courtesies shown to us by unpopular people as offenses.


Makingthem wait. A sure way to provoke people and to put evil thoughts into their heads is to make them wait a long time. This gives rise to immorality.


Against trusting people. People who give us their complete trust believe that they therefore have a right to our own. This conclusion is false: rights are not won by gifts.


Means of compensation. If we have injured someone, giving him the opportunity to make a joke about us is often enough to provide him personal satisfaction, or even to win his good will.


Vanity of the tongue. Whether a man hides his bad qualities and vices or confesses them openly, his vanity wants to gain an advantage by it in both cases: just note how subtly he distinguishes between those he will hide his bad qualities from and those he will face honestly and candidly.


Considerate. The wish not to annoy anyone or injure anyone can be an equally good indication of a just, as of a fearful disposition.


Required for debate. Whoever does not know how to put his thoughts on ice should not engage in the heat of argument.


Milieu and arrogance. One unlearns arrogance when he knows he is always among men of merit; solitude breeds presumption. Young people are arrogant because they go about with their own kind, each of whom is nothing, but wishes to be important.


Motive for attack. We attack not only to hurt a person, to conquer him, but also, perhaps, simply to become aware of our own strength.


Flattery. People who want to flatter us to dull our caution in dealing with them are using a very dangerous tool, like a sleeping potion which, if it does not put us to sleep, keeps us only the more awake.


Good letter-writer. The man who writes no books, thinks a lot, and lives in inadequate society will usually be a good letter-writer.


Most ugly. It is to be doubted whether a well-traveled man has found anywhere in the world regions more ugly than in the human face.


The sympathetic. Sympathetic natures, always helpful in a misfortune, are rarely the same ones who share our joy: when others are happy, they have nothing to do, become superfluous, do not feel in possession of their superiority, and therefore easily show dissatisfaction.


Relatives of a suicide. The relatives of a suicide resent him for not having stayed alive out of consideration for their reputation.


Anticipating ingratitude. The man who gives a great gift encounters no gratitude; for the recipient, simply by accepting it, already has too much of a burden.


In dull society. No one thanks the witty man for the courtesy of adapting himself to a society in which it is not courteous to display wit.


Presence of witnesses. One is twice as happy to dive after a man who has fallen into the water if people are present who do not dare to.


Silence. For both parties, the most disagreeable way of responding to a polemic is to be angry and keep silent: for the aggressor usually takes the silence as a sign of disdain.


The friend's secret. There will be but few people who, when at a loss for topics of conversation, will not reveal the more secret affairs of their friends.


Humanity. The humanity of famous intellectuals consists in graciously losing the argument when dealing with the nonfamous.,


The inhibited one. Men who do not feel secure in social situations take every opportunity to demonstrate superiority over an intimate to whom they are superior; this they do publicly, before the company--by teasing, for example.


Thanks. A refined soul is distressed to know that someone owes it thanks; a crude soul is distressed that it owes thanks.


Indication of alienation. The clearest sign that two people hold alienated views is that each says ironic things to the other, but neither of the two feels the other's irony.


Arrogance after achievements. Arrogance after achievements offends even more than arrogance in men of no achievement; for the achievement itself offends.


Danger in the voice. Sometimes in conversation the sound of our own voice confuses us and misleads us to assertions that do not at all reflect our opinion.


In conversation. In conversation, it is largely a matter of habit whether one decides mainly for or against the other person: both make sense.


Fear of one's neighbor.3 We fear the hostile mood of our neighbor because we are afraid that this mood will help him discover our secrets.

3. In the religious sense.


To distinguish by censure. Very respected people confer even their censure in such a way as to distinguish us by it. It is supposed to make us aware how earnestly they are concerned with us. We quite misunderstand them if we take their censure as a matter of fact and defend ourselves against it; we annoy them by doing so and alienate them.


Vexation at the goodwill of others. We are wrong about the degree to which we believe ourselves hated or feared; for we ourselves know well the degree of our divergence from a person, a direction, or a party, but those others know us only very superficially, and therefore also hate us only superficially. Often we encounter goodwill which we cannot explain; but if we understand it, it offends us, for it shows that one doesn't take us seriously or importantly enough.


Clashing vanities. Two people with equally great vanity retain a bad impression of one another after they meet, because each one was so busy with the impression he wanted to elicit in the other that the other made no impression on him; finally both notice that their efforts have failed and blame the other for it.


Bad manners as a good sign. The superior spirit takes pleasure in ambitious youths' tactless, arrogant, even hostile behavior toward him; it is the bad behavior of fiery horses who still have carried no rider, and yet will in a short time be so proud to carry him.


When it is advisable to be wrong. It is good to accept accusations without refuting them, even when they do us wrong, if the accuser would see an even greater wrong on our part were we to contradict him, or indeed refute him. In this way, of course, one can always be in the wrong, and always gain one's point, and, finally, with the best conscience in the world, become the most intolerable tyrant and pest; and what is true of the individual can also occur in whole classes of society.


Too little honored. Very conceited people to whom one has given fewer signs of regard than they expected will try to mislead themselves and others about this for a long time; they become casuistic psychologists in order to prove that they were indeed honored sufficiently; if they do not achieve their goal, if the veil of deception is torn away, they indulge in a rage all the greater.


Primeval states echoed in speech. In the way men make assertions in present-day society, one often hears an echo of the times when they were better skilled in arms than in anything else; sometimes they handle assertions as poised archers their weapons; sometimes one thinks he hears the whir and clatter of blades; and with some men an assertion thunders down like a heavy cudgel.
Women, on the other hand, speak like creatures who sat for thousands of years at the loom, or did sewing, or were childish with children.


The narrator. It is easy to tell whether a narrator is narrating because the subject matter interests him or because he wants to evoke interest through his narrative. If the latter is the case, he will exaggerate, use superlatives, etc. Then he usually narrates the worse, because he is not thinking so much about the story as about himself.


Reading aloud. Whoever reads dramatic poetry aloud makes discoveries about his own character. He finds his voice more natural for certain moods and scenes than for others--for everything pathetic or for the farcical, for example; whereas in his usual life, he may not have had the opportunity to indicate pathos or farce.


A comedy scene which occurs in life. Someone thinks of a clever opinion about a matter in order to expound it in company. Now, in a comedy we would hear and see how he sets all sails to get to the point, and tries to steer the company to where he can make his remark; how he continually pushes the conversation toward one destination, sometimes losing his direction, finding it again, finally reaching the moment; his breath almost fails him--then someone from the company takes his words out of his mouth. What will he do? Oppose his own opinion?


Unintentionally impolite. If we unintentionally treat another impolitely, do not greet him, for example, because we do not recognize him, this riles us, even though we cannot reproach our own good intentions; the bad opinion that we engendered in the other fellow irks us, or we fear the consequences of ill feeling, or we are pained at having hurt the other fellow--thus vanity, fear, or pity can be aroused, and perhaps all three together.


Traitor's tour-de-force. Toexpress to your fellow conspirator the hurtful suspicion that he might be betraying you, and this at the very moment when you are yourself engaged in betraying him, is a tour-de-force of malice, because it makes the other person aware of himself and forces him to behave very unsuspiciously and openly for a time, giving you, the true traitor, a free hand.


To offend and be offended. It is much more agreeable to offend and later ask forgiveness than to be offended and grant forgiveness. The one who does the former demonstrates his power and then his goodness. The other, if he does not want to be thought inhuman, must forgive; because of this coercion, pleasure in the other's humiliation is slight.


In a dispute. When someone contradicts an opinion and develops his own at the same time, his incessant consideration of the other opinion usually causes the natural presentation of his own to go awry: it appears more intentional, cutting, perhaps a bit exaggerated.


Trick. A man who wishes to demand something difficult from another man must not conceive of the matter as a problem, but rather simply lay out his plan, as if it were the only possibility; when an objection or contradiction glimmers in the eye of his opponent, he must know how to break off the conversation quickly, leaving him no time.


Pangs of conscience after parties. Why do we feel pangs of conscience after ordinary parties? Because we have taken important matters lightly; because we have discussed people with less than complete loyalty, or because we were silent when we should have spoken; because we did not on occasion jump up and run away; in short, because we behaved at the party as if we belonged to it.


One is judged wrongly. He who listens to how he is judged will always be annoyed. For we are sometimes judged wrongly even by those who are closest to us ( "who know us best"). Even good friends release their annoyance in an envious word; and would they be our friends if they knew us completely?
The judgment of disinterested people hurts a great deal, because it sounds so uninhibited, almost objective. But if we notice that an enemy knows one of our secret characteristics as well as we know ourselves--how great our annoyance is then!


Tyranny of the portrait. Artists and statesmen, who quickly put together the whole picture of a person or event from individual characteristics, are usually unjust, in that they demand afterwards that the event or person really must be the way they painted it; they virtually demand that a person be as gifted, cunning, or unjust as he is in their imagination.


The relative as best friend. The Greeks, who knew so well what a friend is (they alone of all peoples have a deep, many-sided, philosophical discussion of friendship; so that they are the first, and thus far are the last, to consider the friend as a problem worthy of solution), these same Greeks called relatives by a term that is the superlative of the word "friend." I find this inexplicable.


Unrecognized honesty. If someone quotes himself in conversation ("I used to say . . ." "I always say . . ."), this gives the impression of arrogance, whereas it more often stems from precisely the opposite source, or at least from an honesty that does not wish to embellish or adorn the moment with ideas that belong to a previous moment.


The parasite. It shows a complete lack of noble character when someone prefers to live in dependence, at the expense of others, in order not to work at any cost, and usually with a secret bitterness towards those on whom he is dependent.
This kind of character is much more common in women than in men, and also much more forgivable (for historical reasons).


On the altar of conciliation. There are circumstances when one obtains an object from a person only by offending him and antagonizing him; this feeling of having an enemy torments the man so that he gladly seizes the first sign of a milder mood to bring about conciliation, and on the altar of this conciliation sacrifices the object which was earlier of such great importance to him that he did not want to give it up at any price.


Demanding pity as a sign of arrogance. There are people, who, when they become angry and offend others, demand first that nothing be held against them, and second, that they be pitied because they are prey to such violent attacks. Human arrogance can go that far.


Bait. "Every man has his price"4--that is not true. But every one has a bait into which he must bite. Thus, to win certain people to a matter, one need only paint it as human, noble, charitable, self-sacrificing--and what matter could not be painted thus? It is the sweet candy of their souls: others have another.

4. Attributed to Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)


Behavior when praised. When good friends praise a talented man's nature, he often appears pleased about it out of politeness and good will, but in truth it is a matter of indifference to him. His real nature is quite sluggish about it, and cannot be dragged one step out of the sun or shade in which it lies; but men want to give joy by praising, and we would sadden them if we did not take pleasure in their praise.


What Socrates found out. If someone has mastered one subject, it usually has made him a complete amateur in most other subjects; but people judge just the reverse, as Socrates found out. This is the drawback that makes associating with masters disagreeable.


Means of bestialization. 5 In the struggle with stupidity the fairest and gentlest people finally become brutal. Perhaps that is the right way for them to defend themselves; for by rights the argument against a stupid brow is a clenched fist. But because, as we said, they have a fair and gentle disposition, this means of self-defense makes their own suffering greater than the suffering they inflict.

5. Vertierung. In Zimmern's text Verteidiging (defense)


Curiosity. If there were no curiosity, nothing much would be done for the good of one's neighbor. But, using the name of Duty or Pity, Curiosity sneaks into the house of the unfortunate and needy.
Perhaps even in the much-celebrated matter of motherly love, there is a good bit of curiosity.


Miscalculating in society. One person wants to be interesting by virtue of his judgments, another by his likes and dislikes, a third by his acquaintances, a fourth by his isolation--and all of them are miscalculating. For the person for whom they are putting on the spectacle thinks that he himself is the only spectacle that counts.


Duel. It can be said in favor of all duels and affairs of honor, that if a man is so sensitive as not to want to live if so-and-so said or thought this-and-that about him, then he has a right to let the matter be settled by the death of one man or the other. We cannot argue about his being so sensitive; in that regard we are the heirs of the past, its greatness as well as its excesses, without which there can never be any greatness. Now, if a canon of honor exists that allows blood to take the place of death, so that the heart is relieved after a duel according to the rules, then this is a great blessing, because otherwise many human lives would be in danger.
Such an institution, by the way, educates men to be cautious in their remarks, and makes associating with them possible.


Nobility and gratitude. A noble soul will be happy to feel itself bound in gratitude and will not try anxiously to avoid the occasions when it may be so bound; it will likewise be at ease later in expressing gratitude; while cruder souls resist being bound in any way, or are later excessive and much too eager in expressing their gratitude. This last, by the way, also occurs in people of low origin or oppressed station: they think a favor shown to them is a miracle of mercy.


The hours of eloquence. In order to speak well, one person needs someone who is definitely and admittedly superior to him; another person can speak completely freely and turn a phrase with eloquence only in front of someone whom he surpasses; the reason is the same in both cases: each of them speaks well only when he speaks sans gêne,6 the one because he does not feel the stimulus of rivalry or competition vis à vis the superior man, the other for the same reason vis à vis the lesser man.
Now, there is quite another category of men who speak well only when they speak in competition, intending to win. Which of the two categories is the more ambitious: the one that speaks well when ambition is aroused, or the one that, out of precisely the same motives, speaks badly or not at all?

6. without embarrassment


The talent for friendship. Among men who have a particular gift for friendship, two types stand out. The one man is in a continual state of ascent, and finds an exactly appropriate friend for each phase of his development. The series of friends that he acquires in this way is only rarely interconnected, and sometimes discordant and contradictory, quite in accordance with the fact that the later phases in his development invalidate or compromise the earlier phases. Such a man may jokingly be called a ladder.
The other type is represented by the man who exercises his powers of attraction on very different characters and talents, thereby winning a whole circle of friends; and these come into friendly contact with one another through him, despite all their diversity. Such a man can be called a circle; for in him, that intimate connection of so many different temperaments and natures must somehow be prefigured.
In many people, incidentally, the gift of having good friends is much greater than the gift of being a good friend.


Tactics in conversation. After a conversation with someone, one is best disposed towards his partner in conversation if he had the opportunity to display to him his own wit and amiability in its full splendor. Clever men who want to gain someone's favor use this during a conversation, giving the other person the best opportunities for a good joke and the like. One could imagine an amusing conversation between two very clever people, both of whom want to gain the other's favor and therefore toss the good conversational opportunities back and forth, neither one accepting them-so that the conversation as a whole would proceed without wit or amiability because each one was offering the other the opportunity to demonstrate wit and amiability.


Releasing ill humor. The man who fails at something prefers to attribute the failure to the bad will of another rather than to chance. His injured sensibility is relieved by imagining a person, not a thing, as the reason for his failure. For one can avenge oneself on people, but one must choke down the injuries of coincidence. Therefore, when a prince fails at something, his court habitually points out to him a single person as the alleged cause, and sacrifices this person in the interest of all the courtiers; for the prince's ill humor would otherwise be released on them all, since he can, of course, take no vengeance on Dame Fortune herself.


Assuming the colors of the environment. Why are likes and dislikes so contagious that one can scarcely live in proximity to a person of strong sensibilities without being filled like a vessel with his pros and cons? First, it is very hard to withhold judgment entirely, and sometimes it is virtually intolerable for our vanity. It can look like poverty of thought and feeling, fearfulness, unmanliness; and so we are persuaded at least to take a side, perhaps against the direction of our environment if our pride likes this posture better. Usually, however (this is the second point), we are not even aware of the transition from indifference to liking or disliking, but gradually grow used to the sentiments of our environment; and because sympathetic agreement and mutual understanding are so pleasant, we soon wear all its insignias and party colors.


Irony. Irony is appropriate only as a pedagogical tool, used by a teacher interacting with pupils of whatever sort; its purpose is humiliation, shame, but the salubrious kind that awakens good intentions and bids us offer, as to a doctor, honor and gratitude to the one who treated us so. The ironic man pretends to be ignorant, and, in fact, does it so well that the pupils conversing with him are fooled and become bold in their conviction about their better knowledge, exposing themselves in all kinds of ways; they lose caution and reveal themselves as they are--until the rays of the torch that they held up to their teacher's face are suddenly reflected back on them, humiliating them.
Where there is no relation as between teacher and pupil, irony is impolite, a base emotion. All ironic writers are counting on that silly category of men who want to feel, along with the author, superior to all other men, and regard the author as the spokesman for their arrogance.
Incidentally, the habit of irony, like that of sarcasm, ruins the character; eventually it lends the quality of a gloating superiority; finally, one is like a snapping dog, who, besides biting, has also learned to laugh.


Arrogance. Man should beware of nothing so much as the growth of that weed called arrogance, which ruins every one of our good harvests;7 for there is arrogance in warmheartedness, in marks of respect, in well-meaning intimacy, in caresses, in friendly advice, in confession of errors, in the pity for others--and all these fine things awaken revulsion when that weed grows among them. The arrogant man, that is, the one who wants to be more important than he is or is thought to be, always miscalculates. To be sure, he enjoys his momentary success, to the extent that the witnesses of his arrogance usually render to him, out of fear or convenience, that amount of honor which he demands. But they take a nasty vengeance for it, by subtracting just the amount of excess honor he demands from the value they used to attach to him. People make one pay for nothing so dearly as for humiliation. An arrogant man can make his real, great achievement so suspect and petty in the eyes of others that they tread upon it with dust-covered feet.
One should not even allow himself a proud bearing, unless he can be quite sure that he will not be misunderstood and considered arrogant--with friends or wives, for example. For in associating with men, there is no greater foolishness than to bring on oneself a reputation for arrogance; it is even worse than not having learned to lie politely.

7. in uns jede gute Ernte verdirbt ; in some other editions uns jede gute Ernte verdirbt


Dialogue. A dialogue is the perfect conversation because everything that the one person says acquires its particular color, sound, its accompanying gesture in strict consideration of the other person to whom he is speaking; it is like letter-writing, where one and the same man shows ten ways of expressing his inner thoughts, depending on whether he is writing to this person or to that. In a dialogue, there is only one single refraction of thought: this is produced by the partner in conversation, the mirror in which we want to see our thoughts reflected as beautifully as possible. But how is it with two, or three, or more partners? There the conversation necessarily loses something of its individualizing refinement; the various considerations clash, cancel each other out; the phrase that pleases the one, does not accord with the character of the other. Therefore, a man interacting with several people is forced to fall back upon himself, to present the facts as they are, but rob the subject matter of that scintillating air of humanity that makes a conversation one of the most agreeable things in the world. Just listen to the tone in which men interacting with whole groups of men tend to speak; it is as if the ground bass8 of all speech were: "That is who I am; that is what I say; now you think what you will about it!" For this reason, clever women whom a man has met in society are generally remembered as strange, awkward, unappealing: it is speaking to and in front of many people that robs them of all intelligent amiability and turns a harsh light only on their conscious dependence on themselves, their tactics, and their intention to triumph publicly; while the same women in a dialogue become females again and rediscover their mind's gracefulness.

8. Recurrent short musical phrase, played against the melodies of the upper voices


Posthumous fame. It makes sense to hope for recognition in a distant future only if one assumes that mankind will remain essentially unchanged and that all greatness must be perceived as great, not for one time only, but for all times. However, this is a mistake; in all its perceptions and judgments of what is beautiful and good, mankind changes very greatly; it is fantasy to believe of ourselves that we have a mile's head start and that all mankind is following our path. Besides, a scholar who goes unrecognized may certainly count on the fact that other men will also make the same discovery he did, and that in the best case a historian will later acknowledge that he already knew this or the other thing but was not capable of winning belief for his theory. Posterity always interprets lack of recognition as a lack of strength.
In short, one should not speak so quickly in favor of arrogant isolation. Incidentally, there are exceptions; but usually it is our errors, weaknesses, or follies that keep our great qualities from being recognized.


About friends. Just think to yourself some time how different are the feelings, how divided the opinions, even among the closest acquaintances; how even the same opinions have quite a different place or intensity in the heads of your friends than in your own; how many hundreds of times there is occasion for misunderstanding or hostile flight. After all that, you will say to yourself: "How unsure is the ground on which all our bonds and friendships rest; how near we are to cold downpours or ill weather; how lonely is every man!" If someone understands this, and also that all his fellow men's opinions, their kind and intensity, are as inevitable and irresponsible as their actions; if he learns to perceive that there is this inner inevitability of opinions, due to the indissoluble interweaving of character, occupation, talent, and environment-- then he will perhaps be rid of the bitterness and sharpness of that feeling with which the wise man called out: "Friends, there are no friends!"9 Rather, he will admit to himself that there are, indeed, friends, but they were brought to you by error and deception about yourself; and they must have learned to be silent in order to remain your friend; for almost always, such human relationships rest on the fact that a certain few things are never said, indeed that they are never touched upon; and once these pebbles are set rolling, the friendship follows after, and falls apart. Are there men who cannot be fatally wounded, were they to learn what their most intimate friends really know about them?
By knowing ourselves and regarding our nature itself as a changing sphere of opinions and moods, thus learning to despise it a bit, we bring ourselves into balance with others again. It is true, we have good reason to despise each of our acquaintances, even the greatest; but we have just as good reason to turn this feeling against ourselves.
And so let us bear with each other, since we do in fact bear with ourselves; and perhaps each man will some day know the more joyful hour in which he says:
"Friends, there are no friends!" the dying wise man shouted.
"Enemies, there is no enemy!" shout I, the living fool.

9. Attributed to Aristotle

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