Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Maxims of François La Rochefoucauld

François La Rouchefoucald (1613-1680) was a French author primarily known for his maxims.  In them, he could be pointedly cynical and blunt.  His view of human conduct can be a tonic in small doses, but corrosive in large doses.

I do not believe, unlike La Rochefoucald, that everything that motivates people is reducible to the motive of self-interest.  Anyway, here are some examples of his maxims:

That which makes the vanity of others unbearable to us is that which wounds our own.
Hypocrisy is the homage which vice renders to virtue.

In the adversity of our best friends we often find something which does not displease us.
How can we expect another to keep our secret if we cannot keep it ourselves.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
A refusal of praise is a desire to be praised twice.
We sometimes think that we hate flattery, but we only hate the manner in which it is done.
It is the prerogative of great men only to have great defects.
It is easier to appear worthy of a position one does not hold, than of the office which one fills.

Attention to health is life greatest hindrance.
The accent of one's country dwells in the mind and in the heart as much as in the language.
It is a species of coquetry to make a parade of never practising it.
One may outwit another, but not all the others.
We always love those who admire us, and we do not always love those whom we admire.
Absence diminishes little passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans a fire.
There is merit without elevation, but there is no elevation without some merit.
We are more interested in making others believe we are happy than in trying to be happy ourselves.
If we resist our passions it is more from their weakness than from our strength.

We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.
Passion often renders the most clever man a fool, and even sometimes renders the most foolish man clever.
Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily.
We often forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those whom we bore.

We confess to little faults only to persuade ourselves we have no great ones.
Of all violent passions, the least unbecoming to a woman is love.
Quarrels would not last long if the fault were only on one side.
The gratitude of most men is but a secret desire to receive even greater benefits.
Who lives without folly is not as wise as he thinks.
There are good marriages, but no delicious ones.


9 comments:

Bilbo said...

"It is easier to appear worthy of a position one does not hold, than of the office which one fills." How true, and the very essence of modern political campaigns! If you like maxims and aphorisms, try reading the works of Eric Hoffer, the so-called "Longshoreman Philosopher." I've been one of his fans for many years.

TexWisGirl said...

this one made me laugh: Attention to health is life greatest hindrance.

Mike said...

'Quarrels would not last long if the fault were only on one side.'

Oh so true.

Leroy said...

Very arch observations. He was definitely an expert on human nature.

Big Sky Heidi said...

He has a strange logic in his thinking. Not wrong, though.

John Hill said...

These are very true. I like the test of character--adversity and power. Very good.

Thank you, Angel.

MarkD60 said...

Great quotes, I may be stealing this.

Anemone said...

The maxims are witty!

troutbirder said...

Only a cynical Frenchman...