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Chapter 31 - Similes, parables and fables

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

§379

The concave mirror can be used for many kinds of similes, for instance, it can be compared to genius, as occurred above in passing, inasmuch as it too concentrates its powers on one spot in order to project a deceptive but embellished image of things, or generally to amass light and warmth to astonishing effects, like the mirror. The elegant polyhistor, on the other hand, resembles a convex diffusing mirror which simultaneously displays just beneath its surface all objects and even a miniaturized image of the sun, projecting them in all directions at everyone, whereas the concave mirror works only in one direction and demands a specific position of the viewer.

Secondly, every genuine artwork can also be compared to the concave mirror insofar as what it really communicates is not its own tangible self, its empirical content, but instead something lying outside of it which cannot be grasped with the hands, and which can only be pursued by the imagination as the real but elusive spirit of the thing. For more on this see my main work, chapter 34 of the second volume.

Finally a hopeless lover can also epigrammatically compare his cruel beloved to a concave mirror, which like her shines, enflames and consumes, all the while remaining cold itself.

§380

Switzerland resembles a genius: beautiful and sublime, yet poorly suited to bear nourishing fruit. On the other hand Pomerania and the marshlands of Holstein are exceedingly fertile and nourishing, but flat and boring like the useful philistine.

§380a

I stood before a gap trampled into a ripening cornfield by a careless foot. There I saw between the countless identical, perfectly straight stalks heavily laden with ears a great variety of blue, red and violet flowers which were extremely beautiful to look at in their naturalness and with their foliage. But, I thought to myself, they are useless, unproductive and really mere weeds which are tolerated here because they cannot be got rid of. Yet it is they alone that lend beauty and charm to this sight. Thus in every respect their role is the same as that played by poetry and the fine arts in serious, useful and productive civil life, which is why they can be regarded as its symbol.

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Schopenhauer: Parerga and Paralipomena
Short Philosophical Essays
, pp. 579 - 585
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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