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#163616 11/20/06 07:42 PM
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Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax. -Arthur Schopenhauer,
philosopher (1788-1860)


As much as I like the daily word and the word placed in a context I look out for the daily quote or statement.
Most of the time I smile in regognition or pleasant surprise.
The above one I somehow feel is a little , well what could I call it?

Right; obviously warmth will melt the wax but then the wax is either burned into nothing or turned into a shapeless puddle (muddle?)
So what a strange comparison. If you take it through litterally it would mean human nature would disappear just like the wax.
That's what according to Shopenhauer politeness does to human nature.
It makes it melt, disappear.

Is this meant as a positive qualification of politeness or just the opposite? I really think this is an unstable sort of a statememt.
Don't know exactly how to define it.

#163617 11/20/06 08:09 PM
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boy, howdy! this is some of that philosophical type stuff, ya know..

SECTION 36. Politeness,—which the Chinese hold to be a cardinal virtue,—is based upon two considerations of policy. I have explained one of these considerations in my Ethics; the other is as follows:—Politeness is a tacit agreement that people’s miserable defects, whether moral or intellectual, shall on either side be ignored and not made the subject of reproach; and since these defects are thus rendered somewhat less obtrusive, the result is mutually advantageous.44

44 Translator’s Note.—In the passage referred to (Grundlage der Moral, collected works, Vol. IV., pp. 187 and 198), Schopenhauer explains politeness as a conventional and systematic attempt to mask the egoism of human nature in the small affairs of life,—an egoism so repulsive that some such device is necessary for the purpose of concealing its ugliness. The relation which politeness bears to the true love of one’s neighbor is analogous to that existing between justice as an affair of legality, and justice as the real integrity of the heart.]

It is a wise thing to be polite; consequently, it is a stupid thing to be rude. To make enemies by unnecessary and willful incivility, is just as insane a proceeding as to set your house on fire. For politeness is like a counter—an avowedly false coin, with which it is foolish to be stingy. A sensible man will be generous in the use of it. It is customary in every country to end a letter with the words:—your most obedient servant—votre très-humble serviteur—suo devotissimo servo. (The Germans are the only people who suppress the word servant—Diener—because, of course, it is not true!) However, to carry politeness to such an extent as to damage your prospects, is like giving money where only counters are expected.

Wax, a substance naturally hard and brittle, can be made soft by the application of a little warmth, so that it will take any shape you please. In the same way, by being polite and friendly, you can make people pliable and obliging, even though they are apt to be crabbed and malevolent. Hence politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.

Of course, it is no easy matter to be polite; in so far, I mean, as it requires us to show great respect for everybody, whereas most people deserve none at all; and again in so far as it demands that we should feign the most lively interest in people, when we must be very glad that we have nothing to do with them. To combine politeness with pride is a masterpiece of wisdom.

We should be much less ready to lose our temper over an insult,—which, in the strict sense of the word, means that we have not been treated with respect,—if, on the one hand, we have not such an exaggerated estimate of our value and dignity—that is to say, if we were not so immensely proud of ourselves; and, on the other hand, if we had arrived at any clear notion of the judgment which, in his heart, one man generally passes upon another. If most people resent the slightest hint that any blame attaches to them, you may imagine their feelings if they were to overhear what their acquaintance say about them. You should never lose sight of the fact that ordinary politeness is only a grinning mask: if it shifts its place a little, or is removed for a moment, there is no use raising a hue and cry. When a man is downright rude, it is as though he had taken off all his clothes, and stood before you in puris naturalibus. Like most men in this condition, he does not present a very attractive appearance.

- Arthur Schopenhauer, Counsels and Maxims

edit: I wonder if Anu considered the context...

"Schopenhauer is in many ways peculiar among philosophers. He is a pessimist, whereas almost all the others are in some sense optimists." - Bertrand Russell

Last edited by tsuwm; 11/20/06 08:23 PM.
#163618 11/20/06 09:20 PM
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Quote:

Wax, a substance naturally hard and brittle, can be made soft by the application of a little warmth, so that it will take any shape you please. In the same way, by being polite and friendly, you can make people pliable and obliging, even though they are apt to be crabbed and malevolent. Hence politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.




Well tsuwm's posting of Schopenhauer's unabridged remarks about politeness and wax should answer BranShea's question, but I would like to further explain the narrowness of Schopenhauer's point of view, as such:

Schopenhauer failed to understand that "politeness" is an invention of social evolution designed to keep close-quartered cultures functioning under overcrowded conditions that cause strife.

Today we all know that all homogenous societies respond to the "crabbed and malevolent" effects of overcrowding by excessive overblown politeness (especially island cultures like the Brits and the Nips but not New Yorkers).

Last edited by themilum; 11/21/06 02:46 AM.
#163619 11/20/06 09:29 PM
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Quote:


Wax, a substance naturally hard and brittle, can be made soft by the application of a little warmth, so that it will take any shape you please. In the same way, by being polite and friendly, you can make people pliable and obliging, even though they are apt to be crabbed and malevolent. Hence politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.

Of course, it is no easy matter to be polite; in so far, I mean, as it requires us to show great respect for everybody, whereas most people deserve none at all; and again in so far as it demands that we should feign the most lively interest in people, when we must be very glad that we have nothing to do with them. To combine politeness with pride is a masterpiece of wisdom.






All of your edited text is very nice indeed and I'll add it to my paper AWAD collection, but I light out these two parts because in this context it becomes clear to me that Schopenhauer is referring to moulding wax while my first thought went out to candle wax.(the season,maybe)

The second part is just so well put! Great, I won't say I'm going to read all of Schopenhauer now, but every word makes clear that he is/was a great philosopher.

So thank you kindly and politely.

#163620 11/22/06 10:25 PM
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Quote:

Well I would like to further explain the narrowness of Schopenhauer's point of view, as such:

Schopenhauer failed to understand that "politeness" is an invention of social evolution designed to keep close-quartered cultures functioning under overcrowded conditions that cause strife.

Today we all know that all homogenous societies respond to the "crabbed and malevolent" effects of overcrowding by excessive overblown politeness (especially island cultures like the Brits and the Nips but not New Yorkers).




Besides my guess that excessive overblown is a redundancy I think that Schopenhauer makes it very clear that he understands politeness quite for what it is : a cultivated construction to make social traffic easier. And where you see it as linked to island cultures I think the more or less strict use of polite formulas is sooner linked to social classes and training.(not class restricted)

Further more some people are more apt to be polite (though I would rather call it gracious, because in politeness there is also often the desire to really please, meaning not all politeness is calculated strategy) than others.
And finally, anyone can be tempted by someone challenging him over the edge to drop politeness and say the word he'd rather not said.

Schopenhauer's line: " To combine politeness with pride is a masterpiece of wisdom " could refer to this.
Loosing your temper often brings along as side effect the loss of some self esteem.

It is true that politeness seems to slip easier in overcrowded situations , but also the training to be polite seems to be slipping away little by little. Non excessive politeness is a good thing.
(IMO)

Last edited by BranShea; 11/23/06 03:55 PM.
#163621 11/22/06 11:38 PM
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Schopenhauers: something that is extended after Thanksgiving.


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#163622 11/23/06 10:36 AM
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> "Schopenhauer is in many ways peculiar among philosophers. He is a pessimist, whereas almost all the others are in some sense optimists." - Bertrand Russell

Schopenhauer derided Leibnitz for his 'systematic optimism' and criticised his prof Hegel on similar points. The realisation of the futility of 'Zweckoptimismus' (optimism to suit one's own needs) is an insight that moulded some of the best philosophers that followed Schopenhauer, not least his greatest student Nietzsche in his early years. The militant assertion of 'pessimism' was no doubt somewhat akin to Voltaire's ironic 'best of all possible worlds' too and must be seen in the context of the chronology of intellectual debate. The polarity between optimism and pessimism is clearly trickier than a cursory glance might suggest anyway. To start with, optimism is often seen as an imperative for moral reasons; this basic interest in the 'lie' of a life affirming stance is one that touches us all. And thus the assertion of pessimism also hides more than it reveals. One thing is for sure though, Schopenhauer sees comedy were Hegel and Nietzsche do not, even if it is comedy involving Mephistopheles and the selling of the soul.

At to the assertion that almost all other philosophers are optimists - see all Eastern works. These could, by Russell's measure, easily be written off as negative and pessimistic, for suffering is positioned front and centre. One must differentiate in order to tease apart the confusion in such arguments, these terms are otherwise used only in the most perfunctory way.

#163623 11/23/06 12:54 PM
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Quote:

Besides my guess that "excessive overblown" is a redundancy I think that Schopenhauer makes it very clear that he understands politeness quite for what it is : a cultivated construction to make social traffic easier. And where you see it as linked to island cultures I think the more or less strict use of polite formulas is sooner linked to social classes and training.(not class restricted)




Wrongo, BranShea, my use of "excessive overblown" was intended as a intensifier. But yes, I should have set "overblown" apart with commas.

And no! Schopenhauser could not have possibly understand "politeness" for what it is, because Schopenhauser didn't understand the nature of language.

Like BelligerentMan said about the comments of that phoney, third rate, English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, who accused Shopenhauser of being "optimistic" :

(in effect) before you can philosophically assign a value to human behavior you must first determine a raison d'etre for humans.

Last edited by themilum; 11/23/06 01:25 PM.
#163624 11/23/06 03:03 PM
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as long as you're throwing about "wrongo"s, them, here's a couple:

>Bertrand Russell, who accused Shopenhauser of being "optimistic"

rather the opposite is the case.

and it's not really sporting to accuse Shopenhauser[sic] of "narrowness of view" in regards to "overcrowding" and "social evolution" - he lived from 1788 to 1860, and, perforce, his views are dated accordingly.

#163625 11/23/06 03:08 PM
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THAT made me groan aloud!

Thanks.


"I am certain there is too much certainty in the world" -Michael Crichton
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