• InLibroVeritas

Lichtenberg : Aphorisms on Books, Reading and Truth





{Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, (born July 1, 1742, Ober-Ramstadt, near Darmstadt, Hesse [Germany]—died Feb. 24, 1799, Göttingen, Hanover), German physicist, satirist, and writer of aphorisms, best known for his ridicule of metaphysical and romantic excesses.


From 1765 until the end of his life, Lichtenberg kept notebooks he referred to as Sudelbücher, or “waste books,” where he recorded quotations, sketched, and made brief observations on a wide range of subjects from science to philosophy.


First published posthumously in 1800–06, they became his best-known work and gave him his reputation as an aphorist. Selections from the Sudelbücher were published in English as The Waste Books (2000).}




Aphorisms



I offer this book to you not as a lorgnette to observe others but as a mirror to observe yourself.


(Notebook)


*


A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it, an apostle is unlikely to look out.


(Notebook)


*


When a book and a head collide and a hollow sound is heard, must it always have come from the book ?

(The Waste Books)


*


A sure sign of a good book is that you like it more the older you get.


(The Waste Books)


*


Does the soul not find itself in a peculiar situation when it reads an investigation of itself, thus when it searches in books for what it itself might be ?


(Notebook)


*


In this world, one can hardly find a stranger ware than books: they are printed by people who do not understand them; sold by people who do not understand them; bound, reviewed, and read by people who do not understand them; and now they are even written by people who do not understand them.


(Notebook)


*


Nowadays we already have books about books and descriptions of descriptions.


(Notebook)


*


There are very many people who read simply to prevent themselves from thinking.

(The Waste Books)


*


Popular presentation today is all too often that which puts the mob in a position to talk about something without understanding it.


(Notebook)


*


Much reading has brought upon us a learned barbarism.


(Notebook)


*


We accumulate our opinions at an age when our understanding is at its weakest.


(Notebook)


*


In our premature and often all too extensive reading, by which we acquire numerous materials without constructing anything from them and which accustoms our memory to keep house for sensibility and taste, a profound philosophy is often required to restore to our feelings their initial state of innocence: to extricate one’s self from the detritus of alien ideas, to begin to feel for oneself, to speak for oneself, and, I might almost say, to exist for oneself.

Even if my philosophy does not extend to discovering anything new, it does nevertheless possess the courage to regard as questionable what has long been thought true."


(Notebook)


*


Just as there are polysyllabic words that say very little, so there are also monosyllabic words of infinite meaning.


(The Waste Books)


*


I forget most of what I read, just as I do most of what I have eaten, but I know that both contribute no less to the conservation of my mind and my body on that account.


(The Waste Books)


*


Do we write books so that they shall merely be read ? Don't we also write them for employment in the household ? For one that is read from start to finish, thousands are leafed through, other thousands lie motionless, others are jammed against mouseholes, thrown at rats, others are stood on, sat on, drummed on, have gingerbread baked on them or are used to light pipes.


(Notebook)


*


What concerns me alone I only think, what concerns my friends I tell them, what can be of interest to only a limited public I write, and what the world ought to know is printed...


(Notebook)


*


Even truth needs to be clad in new garments if it is to appeal to a new age.

(Notebook)



*


You can make a good living from soothsaying but not from truthsaying.


(The Waste Book)


*


It is almost impossible to bear the torch of truth through a crowd without singeing somebody's beard.


(Notebook)


*


In the world we live in, one fool makes many fools, but one sage only a few sages.

(Notebook)


*


It is said that truth comes from the mouths of fools and children: I wish every good mind which feels an inclination for satire would reflect that the finest satirist always has something of both in him.


(Notebook)


* * *