Monday, January 10, 2011

A Selection from Maxims & Reflections

As mentioned in the last post, here's a selection from von Goethe's
"Maxims & Reflections". You'll have to forgive the references to the
male third person a lot - that's how they wrote in those days.

If you're interested, the complete list is available online at:

100. What matters to an active man is to do the right thing, whether the
right thing comes to pass should not bother him.

128. He who is afraid of ideas in the end also lacks concepts.

247. Hatred is active displeasure, envy is passive; hence one need not
be surprised that envy soon turns into hatred.

254. It is the most foolish of all errors for young people of good
intelligence to imagine that they will forfeit their originality if they
acknowledge truth already acknowledged by others.

267. How little of all that has happened has been recorded in writing,
how little of this corpus of writings has been preserved! By its very
nature, literature is fragmentary; it contains monuments of the human
spirit in so far as these constitute written texts and have ultimately
268. And yet, in spite of all the incompleteness of the literary scene,
we find repetitions multiplied a thousandfold, which shows how limited
are man’s mind and his destiny.

331. Error is related to truth as sleeping is to waking. I have observed
that when one has been in error, one turns to truth as though

353. You ask which form of government is the best? Whichever teaches us
to govern ourselves.

367. There is nothing more dreadful than active ignorance.

383. He who is and remains true to himself and to others has the most
attractive quality of the greatest talents.

475. Only those people who are both clever and active, who are clear
about their own capacities and can use them with moderation and common
sense, will really get on in the world as it is.

476. A great failing: to see yourself as more than you are and to value
yourself at less than your true worth.

486. The dignity of art perhaps appears most eminent in music because it
has no material of a kind for which detailed accounting might be needed.
It is all form and content and it heightens and ennobles all it

493. To find and to appreciate goodness everywhere is the sign of a love
of truth.

507. Imagination is only ordered and structured by poetry. There is
nothing more awful than imagination devoid of taste.

689. Knowledge is not enough, we have to apply it; wanting is not
enough, there has to be action.

791. The most original authors of the day are not rated as such because
they produce something new, but only because they are capable of saying
this kind of thing as though it had never been said before.
792. That is why the most attractive mark of originality is knowing how
to develop a received idea so creatively that no one can easily guess
how much lies hidden within it.

865. Only people unable to produce anything themselves feel there is
nothing there.

1188. He who has the understanding to declare his limitations is closest
to perfection.