Friedrich Nietzsche? Josh Billings? Thomas Common? Alexander Tille? Walter Kaufmann? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: A popular humorist or a famous philosopher said something like the following:
It is better to know nothing than to half-know many topics.
Would you please help me to find the correct statement of this adage and the name of its originator?
Quote Investigator: The prominent German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote a philosophical novel titled “Also Sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen” (“Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One”) between 1883 and 1885. During one episode the main character Zarathustra encountered a man whose arm was bleeding because he had been bitten by leeches. The man was a follower of Zarathustra’s philosophy, and he employed the adage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:
“I am the spiritually conscientious one,” answered he who was asked, “and in matters of the spirit it is difficult for any one to take it more rigorously, more restrictedly, and more severely than I, except him from whom I learnt it, Zarathustra himself. Better know nothing than half-know many things! Better be a fool on one’s own account, than a sage on other people’s approbation!”
The text above is from a translation by Thomas Common published in 1911. Below is the original German together with two other translations.
Continue reading Better Know Nothing Than Half-Know Many Things
Friedrich Nietzsche? Viktor E. Frankl? Thomas Common? Anthony M. Ludovici? Walter Kaufmann? R. J. Hollingdale? Ilse Lasch?
Dear Quote Investigator: Life can be aggravating and even agonizing. Yet, a steady internal purpose helps to make difficulties endurable together with the thought that happiness and pleasure will someday return. Here is an apposite adage:
One who has a ‘why’ to live for can endure almost any ‘how’.
This notion has been attributed to philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: In 1889 Friedrich Nietzsche published “Götzen-Dämmerung; oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophirt” (“Twilight of the Idols, or, How to philosophize with a hammer”) which included a section called “Sprüche und Pfeile” (“Maxims and Arrows”). The following statement was included. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:
Mit einem Ziele. — Hat man sein warum? des Lebens, so verträgt man sich fast mit jedem wie? — Der Mensch strebt nicht nach Glück; nur der Engländer thut das.
This statement has been translated into English in several different ways during the ensuing decades. Here is a rendering by Thomas Common which appeared in an 1896 edition of Nietzsche’s work:
When one has one’s wherefore of life, one gets along with almost every how.—Man does not strive after happiness; the Englishman only does so.
Viktor E. Frankl did employ a version of the adage, but he credited Nietzsche as discussed further below.
Here are additional selected citations.
Continue reading If We Have Our Own ‘Why’ of Life, We Shall Get Along With Almost Any ‘How’
Creator: Friedrich Nietzsche
Context: In 1878 Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche published “Menschliches, Allzumenschliches: Ein Buch für Freie Geister” (“Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits”). He employed an aphoristic style that explicated topics with short numbered passages and sayings. Item number 536 consisted of the following:
Werth abgeschmackter Gegner. — Man bleibt mitunter einer Sache nur desshalb treu, weil ihre Gegner nicht aufhören, abgeschmackt zu sein.
A translation of the volume from German to English appeared in 1915. The translator Helen Zimmern rendered item 536 as follows:
THE VALUE OF INSIPID OPPONENTS—We sometimes remain faithful to a cause merely because its opponents never cease to be insipid.
In 1954 “The Portable Nietzsche” by translator Walter Kaufmann presented this version:
The value of insipid opponents. At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Dan Dulay who inquired about the authenticity of this saying.