Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything.
The most solid pleasure in this life is the empty pleasure of illusion.
People are ridiculous only when they try or seem to be that which they are not.
Illusions, however weakened and unmasked by reason, still remain and form the chief part of our life.
I say that the world is a league of scoundrels against the men of good will, and of the petty against the generous.
There is no greater need in society than that of gossip. It is the principal means of passing the time, which is one of the first necessities of life.
Real misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world; since it is experience of life, and not philosophy, which produces real hatred of mankind.
As a man's desires grow cooler, he becomes better equipped to deal with other men or to succeed in society. Nature, with her usual benevolence, has ordained that men shall not learn to live until they lose the motives for living.
The old man, especially if he is in society, in the privacy of his thoughts, though he may protest the opposite, never stops believing that, through some singular exception of the universal rule, he can in some unknown and inexplicable way still make an impression on women.
If you analyze well your most poetic impressions and imaginings -- the ones that most exalt you and pull you outside of yourself and of the real world -- you would find that they and the pleasure they cause (at least after childhood) consist totally or chiefly in remembrance.
If those few truly worthy men who seek glory were to know, one by one, the people who make up that public by which the seeker of glory strives with a thousand hardships to be esteemed, it is believable that they would grow cold in their endeavor or perhaps abandon it altogether.
Death is not evil, for it frees man from all ills and takes away his desires along with desire's rewards. Old age is the supreme evil, for it deprives man of all pleasures while allowing his appetites to remain, and it brings with it every possible sorrow. Yet men fear death and desire old age.
Man (like the other animals) is not born to enjoy life, but only to perpetuate life, to communicate it to others who come after, to conserve it. Neither he himself, nor life, nor any object of this world is actually made for him, but, on the contrary, he exists completely for life. Terrifying, but a true proposition of all metaphysics.
I will admit that virtue -- like everything else beautiful and great -- is nothing but an illusion. But if it were a shared illusion, if all men believed and wanted to be good, if they were compassionate, generous, high-minded, full of enthusiasm, in a word, if everyone were sensible (for I make no distinction between sensibility and what we call virtue), wouldn't people be happier?
If in this moment I were to go mad, my madness would consist of sitting always with my eyes staring, my mouth open, and my hands between my knees, without laughing or crying, or even moving except for sheer necessity. I haven't the least urge to conceive a desire, not even for death. . . . This is the first time that noia [boredom or spleen] not only presses and tires me but harries and rips like the sharpest pain.
The period of enthusiasm, heat, and agitated imagination is not right [for poetic creation]; indeed it works against it. One needs a time of intensity, but tranquil intensity, a time of real genius rather than real excitement . . . , an impression of past or future or habitual emotion rather than its actual presence -- one could say its twilight rather than its bright noon. Often the best moment occurs when, the feeling and impulse being over, the mind though calm surges up again after the storm, as it were, to pleasurably recall the past sensation.
Works of genius have this in common, that even when they vividly capture the nothingness of things, when they clearly show and make us feel the inevitable unhappiness of life, and when they express the most terrible despair, nonetheless to a great soul -- though he find himself in a state of extreme duress, disillusion, nothingness, noia, and despair of life, or in the bitterest and deadliest misfortunes (caused by deep feelings or whatever) -- these works always console and rekindle enthusiasm; and though they treat or represent only death, they give back to him, at least temporarily, that life which he had lost.