by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
001. The greatest things in the world are brought about by other things which we count as nothing: little causes we overlook but which at length accumulate.
002. I have seen that fervent ambition and mistrustfulness always go together.
003. Rousseau was right to call accent the soul of speech and we often regard people as stupid and when we look into it we find it is merely the simple sound of their manner of speaking.
004. In novels there occur fatal illnesses that in ordinary life are never fatal and conversely in ordinary life fatal illnesses that are never fatal in novels.
005. It is easy to construct a landscape out of a mass of disorderly lines, but disorderly sounds cannnot be made into music.
006. In order to become really sensible of a piece of good fortune which seems to us as a matter or indifference we must image we had lost it and have recovered it again at just this moment; to undertake this experiment successfully, however, requires a certain amount of experience in all sorts of suffering.
007. Even at school I harboured ideas of suicide which were diametrically opposed to the commonly accepted in the world and I recall that I once disputed in Latin in favour of suicide and sought to defend it… In August and in the following months I thought about suicide more than ever before and I have at all times considered that a man in whom the instinct for self-preservation has become so weakened that it can so easily be over-powered may kill himself without incurring guilt. If a sin has been committed it was committed a long time before.
008. The excuses we make to ourselves when we want to do something are excellent material for soliloquies for they are rarely made except when we are alone, and are very often made aloud.
009. Prejudices are so to speak the mechanical instincts of man: through their prejudices they do without any effort many things they would find to difficult to think through to the point of resolving to do them.
010. It is we who are the measure of what it strange and miraculous: if we sought a universal measure the stranger and miraculous should not occur and all things would be equal.
011. In his Comedy , Dante Alighieri names Virgil with many tokens of respect, as his teacher, and yet, as Herr Meinhard remarks make such ill use of him: a clear proof that even in the days of Dante one praised the ancients without knowing why. This respect for poets one does not understand and yet wishes to equal is the source of the bad writing in one literature.
012. It is wholly unavailable fault of all languages that they express only the general of concepts and seldom say adequately what they intend to say… We should be able to decline words philosophically, that is to indicate their relationship through modification. In mathematical analysis, the undetermined part of a line a we call x, and the remainder we call, not y as in ordinary life, but a-x. That is why mathematical language possesses such a great advantage over our ordinary language.