Schopenhauer on Genius

{p.115} It is the curse of the genius that in the same {p. 116} measure in which others think him great and worthy of admiration, he thinks them small and miserable creatures. His whole life long he has to suppress this opinion; and, as a rule, they suppress theirs as well. Meanwhile, he is condemned to live in a bleak world, where he meets no equal, as it were an island where there are no inhabitants but monkeys and parrots. Moreover, he is always troubled by the illusion that from a distance a monkey looks like a man.

Vulgar people take a huge delight in the faults and follies of great men; and great men are equally annoyed at being thus reminded of their kinship with them.

The real dignity of a man of genius or great intellect, the trait which raises him over others and makes him worthy of respect, is at bottom the fact, that the only unsullied and innocent part of human nature, namely, the intellect, has the upper hand in him, and prevails; whereas, in the other there is nothing but sinful will, and just as much intellect as is requisite for guiding his steps, –rarely any more, very often somewhat less, –and of what use is it?

It seems to me that genius might have its root in a certain perfection and vividness of the memory as it stretches back over the events of past life. For it is only by dint of memory, which makes our life in the strict sense a complete whole, that we attain a more profound and comprehensive understanding of it.

Arthur Schopenhauer

The Art of Controversy and Other Posthumous Papers

Selected and Translated by T. Bailey Saunders, M.A.
London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Ruskin House 40 Museum Street, W.C.
First Published 1896, Reprinted 1921 The Aberdeen University Press Ltd.

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~ by Thanatologist on 2009-09-26.

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