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Chapter 24 - On reading and books

from PARERGA AND PARALIPOMENA, VOLUME 2

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2015

Adrian Del Caro
Affiliation:
University of Tennessee
Christopher Janaway
Affiliation:
University of Southampton
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Summary

§290

Ignorance only degrades mankind when it is encountered in the company of wealth. The poor man is limited by his poverty and plight; his achievements take the place of knowledge and occupy his thoughts. On the other hand, wealthy men who are ignorant live merely for their pleasures and resemble animals, as can be seen every day. Added to this is the accusation that wealth and leisure were not used for what grants them the greatest possible value.

§291

When we read someone else thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. This is like the pupil who in learning to write traces with his pen the strokes made in pencil by the teacher. Accordingly in reading we are for the most part absolved of the work of thinking. This is why we sense relief when we transition from preoccupation with our own thoughts to reading. But during reading our mind is really only the playground of the thoughts of others. What remains when these finally move on? It stems from this that whoever reads very much and almost the whole day, but in between recovers by thoughtless pastime, gradually loses the ability to think on his own – as someone who always rides forgets in the end how to walk. But such is the case of many scholars: they have read themselves stupid. For constant reading immediately taken up again in every free moment is even more mentally paralysing than constant manual labour, since in the latter we can still muse about our own thoughts. But just as a coiled spring finally loses its elasticity through the sustained pressure of a foreign body, so too the mind through the constant force of other people's thoughts. And just as one ruins the stomach by too much food and so harms the entire body, so too we can overfill and choke the mind with too much mental food. For the more one reads, the fewer traces are left behind in the mind by what was read; it becomes like a tablet on which many things have been written over one another. Therefore we do not reach the point of rumination; but only through this do we assimilate what we have read, just as food does not nourish us through eating but through digestion.

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Chapter
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Schopenhauer: Parerga and Paralipomena
Short Philosophical Essays
, pp. 496 - 505
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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