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
That intelligence is roughly
proportional to the ability to see and
make specific sensible distinctions,
does not imply that anyone can do
without general judgements.
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.
who believes all that any author
outside mathematics wrote, very
probably has no ability to think
rationally for himself.
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
state-sponsored education aims first
and foremost at producing conformist
citizens rather than learned,
civilised or individualist citizens.
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.
and science that are not applied, or
not applied well, are as useless as
fantasies, and no better than wishful
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.
1.8: Man is
naturally a social animal, and most
human social behavior is pretense.
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 fellows.
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
1.9: The 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
Indeed, in society almost all public
acting is dishonest and conformist,
and almost the only exceptions to this
are geniuses, comedians, fools, and
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
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
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
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
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
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 sane.
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
few men know how to be social without
lying or posturing. Almost all social
behavior is fraudulent, like almost
all public speaking is cant.
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 actors.
There are men of sincere and deep
faith, but generally such men are not
intelligent at all, or quite special
in some other way.
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
Those who believe in supernatural
entities should also believe in
ghosts, miracles, mermaids and
griffons or other oxymorons, and
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.
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,
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 been a
small minority, that was often
persecuted, and nearly always in
most stupid tend to be the most
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
are men of character, but they are
rare, since character and a career are
as easy to mix as water and oil.
who say they believe that man is good
tend to be idiots or politicians.
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.
desire to make a career one must be
quite ordinary, perhaps apart from
To find fame among ordinary men, one
normally needs to be a born
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.
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 everybody.
is nothing in nature that may be as
noble or as cruel as a man may be.
become a social success, one needs to
be as much as possible like the
others, except that for most successes
one also needs fewer moral
extra-ordinary individuals may hope to
escape turning into frauds and phoneys
when they grow up.
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.
most men say they believe, in fact is
the pretense of fashionable cant.
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.
1.42: The easiest way to
become unhappy is to try to become
someone in the eyes of the
The greatest source of joy for many
is the evil that others suffer.
philosophers are as rare as true love;
false philosophers are as common as
men are little better than thinking
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
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
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
without passions and illusions is an
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
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 or
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
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
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
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
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 well.
1.56: It 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
stupidity is one of the greatest
"unacknowledged legislators of
is no fashionable opinion that is not
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.
are no social judgments of people
without bias; there are few social
judgements of people that are based on
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 effectively
Tyche, the Greek goddess of chance, is
the only somewhat credible deity - and
she is completely irresponsible, and
unresponsive to all prayer.
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 and reasonable.
are no politicians who are not
hypocrites, for the same reason as
there are no swindlers who are not
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.
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
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
1.68: None are more ambitious
than the witless, the fraudulent
and the greedy.
cement of human society is reputation,
and reputation tends to be based on
posturing and hypocrisy.
is nothing so deceptive and deceiving
1.71: Reason and emotion are
two sides of the same coin, or
perhaps rather: Reason is emotion,
constrained by values, ends, will
1.72: There is no such thing
as pure emotion: all emotions are
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 chances.
A man without desires is a thoroughly
first virtue must be self-control, for
there is no virtue without it.
choices in life are made from whim,
weakness, or prejudice,
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 now.
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
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
Most men and most
societies are such that those who
can't pay their own way must starve.
To love nature or a pet is much easier
and less demanding than to love a
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.
Circumstances and 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 inheritance.
A secret that's not kept secret is no
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.
1.85: To learn to forego
personal pleasure for social
approval is one way of making
people more social and
is no true philosophy without prior
destruction of most of the cant and
superstition one was raised in and
is so much pain, misery and danger in
any human life, that it is easy not to
men differ so little from their
fellows, that they have no special
value of their own.