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Chapter 23 - On writing and style

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

§272

First there are two kinds of writers: those who write for the sake of the subject and those who write for the sake of writing. The former have had thoughts or experiences that seem to them worthy of communicating; the latter need money and that is why they write, for money. They think for the purpose of writing. We will recognize them by the fact that they spin out their thoughts as long as possible and also elaborate half-true, crooked, forced and vacillating thoughts, and usually favour the twilight in order to appear as something they are not, which is why their writing lacks definiteness and full clarity. We are therefore soon able to observe that they write in order to fill up paper; sometimes we can observe this in our best writers, for instance in certain passages in Lessing's Dramaturgy and even in some novels of Jean Paul. As soon as we notice it, we should throw the book away, for time is precious. At bottom, however, an author cheats his reader as soon as he writes in order to fill up paper, because he alleges that he writes because he has something to communicate. – Honoraria and reservation of copyright are at bottom the ruin of literature. Only he who writes solely for the sake of the subject writes anything worthy of being written. What an inestimable gain it would be if in all branches of a literature only a few exquisite books existed! But it will never come to that as long as honoraria are to be earned. For it is as if a curse lay on money: every writer becomes bad as soon as he in any way writes for profit. The most exquisite works of great men are all from the time when they still had to write for nothing or for a very meagre honorarium. Here too the Spanish proverb applies: Honra y provecho no caben en un saco. – The whole wretched state of literature in and outside Germany today has its roots in the earning of money through book writing. Anyone who needs money sits down and writes a book, and the public is stupid enough to buy it. The secondary consequence of this is the ruin of language.

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Schopenhauer: Parerga and Paralipomena
Short Philosophical Essays
, pp. 450 - 495
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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