is no one, except perhaps for the very stupid, who has all his ideas
about any subjects at any moment ready. Therefore it makes sense to
draw up maxims, not as truths, but as reminders of useful insights
that seem more probable or more sensible than not.
That intelligence is roughly
proportional to the ability to see and make specific sensible
distinctions, does not imply that anyone can do without general
The mediocre and the stupid have
neither the incentive nor the ability to think, for they neither can
do it well nor do they have reasons to expect any special advantage
or insight from their thinking.
The mediocre and the stupid are
nearly always conformists and followers, and indeed are rational if
they rely on others to think for them, even if they often rely on
those who use and deceive them.
Anybody who believes all that any author outside mathematics wrote,
very probably has no ability to think rationally for himself.
Outside pure mathematics, there is not a single book that contains anything like "the truth, all
the truth, and nothing but the truth" about any subject (apart
from telephone-directories and the like). Those who believe that they
know such a book, generally are little better than fanatics, and can
be excused only by their ignorance or their stupidity.
For humans, to establish anything
like the truth about anything whatsoever generally is the work of
generations, and not of one man, or one generation.
state-sponsored education aims first and foremost at producing
conformist citizens rather than learned, civilised or individualist
The well educated tend to be the
1.5: It is
extra-ordinarily difficult to judge men and their affairs without
prejudice or bias, if only because such judgments tend to derive
from personal interests or concerns.
A man without personal interests
and concerns is a dead man.
Morals and science that are not applied, or not applied well, are as
useless as fantasies, and no better than wishful thinking.
The worst things tend to be done
for the noblest sounding reasons.
only reasoning that can corrupt is false, biased or prejudiced
reasoning; the only personal feelings that are not biased are those
that sincerely aim at justice or truth.
is naturally a social animal, and most human social behavior is
There are two kinds of pretense:
altruistic pretense, that tends to be restricted to one's family,
friends and fellows, and generally tends to help them; and egoistic
pretense, that tends to be extended to everybody else, and generally
aims to use or deceive them, in the interest of oneself or one's
Society requires cooperation;
cooperation requires communication and compromises, and all members
of society must have some self-control and need to play according to learned
socially agreed upon rules.
Society would be impossible if its
members would follow their present emotions whenever they felt them.
Social peace is generally due to
indifference that's praised as tolerance.
two main reasons why so very few men dare to be honest in society
are that honest persons in authoritarian societies risk their lives,
while in non-authoritarian societies they risk their incomes.
Indeed, in society almost all
public acting is dishonest and conformist, and almost the only
exceptions to this are geniuses, comedians, fools, and idiots.
Criminals also have their moral principles and rules of honor, for
without agreements between people there is no human cooperation.
It is very easy to moralize about others when one's belly is full,
and one is not in danger for uttering one's opinions.
Almost all men are moral failures
and frauds by their very own moral norms.
fewer social ties, that is, the less is the chance to be found out,
the more likely ordinary men will lie to others.
Almost all ordinary social behavior
is fraudulent: People would not act socially as they do, if they did
not fear punishment or disapproval for not doing it, or if they did
not expect advantanges or praise from doing it.
Ordinary men naturally assume all men act from self-interest only,
and indeed this is generally true of ordinary men, apart from their
friends and family.
There is genuine altruism, but it
is personal and limited.
Most saints are frauds.
Rationally speaking, it is useless to consider morals without
realizing that the greatest part of all moral speaking and acting is
posturing or hypocrisy.
Very few people - in modern western
societies - act morally and
fairly to others, if this does not conform to their own interests,
and they do not fear being found out and punished.
Cynics often have said that books of morals and sermons make no real
difference, because people are hypocrites anyway. These cynics
forget that people are not moral because they believe in morals, but
because they expect to be found out and punished when they behave or
speak counter to the moral norms of their society.
Few men have been converted by
books of morals or sermons, but since all men are ideological apes,
and rationalizing social animals, they need to acquire some system of beliefs, desires, ends and values to orient, guide and
behave themselves, and understand others.
great handicap of the small minority of the fair, the honest, the
reasonable and the rational, is that the great majority is neither
fair, nor honest, nor reasonable, nor rational, and especially not
to those who are not members of their own group.
Philosophers and theologians who do not know science or mathematics
are like the congenitally blind who dogmatize about painting.
does not require great talents of any kind to behave morally and
decently to others - all it usually requires in ordinary society is
some character, some honesty, some self-control, and a little
altruism or empathy.
If only a few intelligent men and
women reach similar conclusions about human frailties as a few
intellectually less privileged reach, it seems few people are really
As soon as intellectual ideas are
involved, that are remote from everyday practice and common sense,
or ideas which strongly involve the emotions, such as religious or
political ideas, most men cease to be rational.
Very few men know how to be social without lying or posturing.
Almost all social behavior is fraudulent, like almost all public
speaking is cant.
There is nothing that cannot be improved by rational investigation,
just as there is nothing that cannot be harmed by irrational
thinking and acting.
Religion without hypocrisy is as realistic as a stage without
There are men of sincere and deep
faith, but generally such men are not intelligent at all, or quite
special in some other way.
Most men are more like partially rational ideological apes than they
are like the best men and women there have been. Their excuse is
perfectly valid though: They did not ask to be born, nor could they
protest their lack of abilities when they were conceived.
Most men seem not to be able to be
much better, intellectually or morally, than they usually are.
philosopher who believes in the supernatural is like a fool who
believes his ticket will win the lottery.
Those who believe in supernatural
entities should also believe in ghosts, miracles, mermaids and
griffons or other oxymorons, and generally do.
There is far more in reality then
there is according to most philosophies, and far less then there can
be according to most theologies.
No Holy Book of any religion
contains as much as a percentage of a percentage of the science and
technology that has been found the last few centuries by science.
The real basis of most thinking of
most men is wishful thinking.
Those who court the public generally do not differ relevantly from
whores, who do just the same, and who are far more likely to deliver
what they promised, when paid.
An honest politician is an oxymoron
or a noble fool.
main reason for the myth of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil is the same as the main reason for most religious teachings: To
frighten people from thinking for themselves, so as to make them a
managable flock for the priests and clergy, generally in the
interest of the élites of the church and the society.
every human society, at any time, and any place, there have been
rational and reasonable men and women. Alas, in every human society,
at any time, and any place, they so far have were a small
minority, that was often persecuted, and nearly always in danger.
most stupid tend to be the most social.
Man is a social creature, and many
seem quite happy with mere chatter.
only rational remedy in nearly all cases is to think again, and try
There are men of character, but they are rare, since character and a
career are as easy to mix as water and oil.
Those who say they believe that man is good tend to be idiots or
If men in majority were good or
intelligent, history would be completely different from what it is.
The only men that most men tend to be
good to are members of their own group, family or kind, and even
then much human goodness is caused by the fear of punishment rather
than by the desire to do good to others.
1.32: To desire to make
a career one must be quite ordinary, perhaps apart from ambition.
To find fame among ordinary men, one normally
needs to be a born entertainer.
There are no social careers without deceptions, frauds and
posturing. The only persons who may hope to escape this must have
some great and remunerative talent, next to a backbone of steel.
What nearly all modern democrats and egalitarianism easily forget is
that mankind until very recently, and nearly everywhere nearly
always, consisted of a majority of slaves, or of people from lower
castes, who had to work in great misery for little or no pay, to
support a small class of so called noble men or upper caste folks.
If history shows any clue as to what
comes natural to the human average, this cannot be other than to be
the happy, faithful and loyal servants of a small class of revered
dictators, of supposed superior humanity. Or panem et circensis,
which translates into U.S.-English as a car and TV.
Democracy is a very fine and fair
way to decide matters of taste, provided the majority of those who
vote are qualified to judge what they vote on. This is unfortunately
rarely the case.
At most 1 in 10.000 will be remembered for anything special, whether
good or bad, after his death. For nearly all men it is as if they
have never lived, for all the differences they have made to nearly
There is nothing in nature that may be as noble or as cruel as a man
become a social success, one needs to be as much as possible like
the others, except that for most successes one also needs fewer
Only extra-ordinary individuals may hope to escape turning into
frauds and phoneys when they grow up.
There have been many detractors of reason. All tend to forget that
man without reason is like a furless chimpanzee.
If you don't believe in reason, you
should give your wealth to the poor, since this should make no
appreciable reasonable difference to you.
What most men say they believe, in fact is the pretense of
What is claimed to be true and
cannot be shown to be true commonsensically or mathematically
usually is false.
1.41: It is possible,
sometimes, to love one's child like oneself, but to love one's
neighbour like oneself takes a saintliness that is beyond the
humanity of the vast majority.
Society is as succesful in helping people on a
large scale, as it is succesful in killing, exploiting and
repressing people on a large scale.
The easiest way to become unhappy is to try to become someone in the
eyes of the multitude.
The greatest source of joy for many is the
evil that others suffer.
Real philosophers are as rare as true love; false philosophers are
as common as streetwalkers.
Most men are little better than thinking apes.
Human civilisation is mostly the
result of the thinking and acting of a small minority of rational or
(The wittiness in the French saying
is due to the fact that in French a cockchafer is synonymous with a
There is an unfortunate tendency, especially among those who know
little of science or mathematics, to attribute to Bacon Lord Verulam
things he very probably or certainly did not do, such as writing the
works of Shakespeare or laying the foundations of modern science. To
speak only of science: It was Galileo Galilei who first clearly saw and said
that the book of nature is written in mathematics and discoverable
by experiment - and it may be added, in fairness, that this great
mathematician and physicist wrote as well as, and more clearly than,
Lord Bacon did in his Essays
Since anything that may be used, may be abused, reason may be
abused too, just as one may unwittingly saw off the branch on which
one is sitting.
Youth without passions and illusions is an oxymoron.
There is no passion without some
illusion, and vice versa.
It has been well-said that the art of medicine mostly consists in
keeping the patient amused, while nature effects the cure.
What few realize who
are impressed by modern medical science and modern medical doctors,
is that the medical doctors of the past were as pretentious as the
modern doctors, and that the modern doctors are more effective than
their predecessors because they stand on the shoulders of
great scientists - who usually were not medical doctors.
I have seen many
medical doctors in my life, and the vast majority of them behaved
more like shamans or cheats than like scientists - and indeed, a
modern medical education is not so much a scientific education as it is a practical
course to learn to prescribe pills, make diagnosis, and refer to
colleagues in a somewhat rational manner, and profit by that.
1.49: Fortunes and
careers tend to be made by the same means as wars are won: By
deception, by fraud, by force - and not at all by honesty, fairness
To become a nouveaux riche, one generally
requires genius or fraudulence. Few fortunes have been made by honest
means; most fortunes are made by fraud, force, theft or war.
There are more social than natural ills, because man has had little
time to evolve, and is the only kind of animal that is consciously
and deliberately cruel.
There are very many natural ills,
but they differ from the harm man does in being neither premeditated
nor done for monetary profit or out of religious or political fanaticism.
Nearly all things nearly all men believe have no better foundation
than faith: It is make-belief based on authority, not on individual
thinking or effort.
public, most men pretend; in private, most men misbehave.
philosopher who knows neither science nor mathematics is a fraud -
and the same is true of a carpenter, if not to the same degree.
1.54: If a fool is
witty, he generally is so by accident, if the wit is in any way
There are extra-ordinarily few people who dare to be their own man,
and not someone else's creature or follower, because so very many
men oppose whoever is not like them, and so very few men can think
is much more reasonable to try to help those who have been harmed,
than to try to improve those who have harmed, but it is also more
common and more popular to moralize verbally than to act
Human stupidity is one of the greatest "unacknowledged legislators of
There is no fashionable opinion that is not mostly cant.
Character is destiny, and there is no one without the weaknesses
that belong to the character he is, or tries to pretend to be, just
as there can be no mountains without valleys.
There are no social judgments of people without bias; there are few
social judgements of people that are based on adequate knowledge.
believe that any extensive human society can make do without a small
élite or a large lower class is as rational as to believe in circles
Any society where all are equal
consists of just one person, if only for purely logical reasons,
wholly apart from utopian dreams.
If there are fewer criminals and
frauds than honest men in a society, the laws in it must be
1.62: Tyche, the Greek
goddess of chance, is the only somewhat credible deity - and she is
completely irresponsible, and unresponsive to all prayer.
There are few men who are capable of "a vigorous and intrepid use of
their reason", and even fewer who dare to do so: In human society it
so far has always been dangerous and unpopular to try to be rational
There are no politicians who are not hypocrites, for the same reason
as there are no swindlers who are not frauds.
It is not necessarily a blemish in
a politician that he is a fraud, for so are his opponents. The true
test of a politician is whose interests he serves - and most serve
their own interests, or those of their party.
There is nothing that demeans people so easily and effectively as
nearly anonymous membership in a group.
There is no crime or cruelty that
cannot be speciously justified by the supposed interests and moral
norms of some group.
society, nearly all depends on mutual checks and balances.
The advantage of society are the
chances for individual betterment it provides; the disadvantage of
society is that nearly all ways towards social improvement are ways
of individual corruption.
None are more ambitious than the witless, the fraudulent and the
cement of human society is reputation, and reputation tends to be
based on posturing and hypocrisy.
1.70: There is nothing
so deceptive and deceiving as passion.
Reason and emotion are two sides of the same coin, or perhaps
rather: Reason is emotion, constrained by values, ends, will and
There is no such thing as pure emotion: all emotions are mixed.
Those who believe that man can only be saved by giving up his
desires, may as well believe man needs to grow fins to improve his
A man without desires is a
thoroughly dead man.
first virtue must be self-control, for there is no virtue without
1.75: Most choices in
life are made from whim, weakness, or prejudice,
There is no humanity without hopes and illusions, and there seem to
be necessary human illusions like there are necessary logical
truths: Without them, no man can hope to survive; with them, no man
can hope to be always rational and reasonable.
Man is the only animal that lives
by dreams, fantasies and metaphysics, instead of in the here and
goodness and the morality of most men, that exists just as well as
does their badness and hypocrisy, tends to be limited to their own
fellows or family.
Those who have been
ill often or long, and have had to rely on the goodness of their
fellow men, know best how good most men are: In precise proportion
to the expected rewards for good behavior.
Most men and most
societies are such that those who can't pay their own way must
To love nature or a pet is much easier and less demanding than to
love a human being.
The theatre pleases only because it summarizes, deletes, improves,
enhances, in short falsifies so much in ordinary life.
Men are usually much
fonder of their dreams and illusions than of reality.
The miseries of most men are mostly not their own doing.
chance are stronger than any man.
Human stupidity is one of the great forces of history.
To get ahead in society and not be a phoney one needs a large
A secret that's not kept secret is no secret.
Most men are as interested in real knowledge as asses are interested in
mathematics: It gives them no joy whatsoever, and it doesn't help
them eat or make a career either.
The knowledge most men are truly
interested in involves scandal and sensation, not science.
To learn to forego personal pleasure for social approval is one way
of making people more social and cooperative.
There is no true philosophy without prior destruction of most of the
cant and superstition one was raised in and educated with.
There is so much pain, misery and danger in any human life, that it
is easy not to fear death.
Most men differ so little from their fellows, that they have no
special value of their own.