Schopenhauer on Goodness

I recently read a quotation by Schopenhauer (in English) roughly to the effect that the truly good can be recognized by the fact that they don’t go about drawing attention to their own goodness.  But for the life of me, I can’t remember where I read this.  Can anyone help me out here?  I’d very much appreciate it.

6 thoughts on “Schopenhauer on Goodness

  1. I can’t help you, but I did find this, which is close:

    “…let me utter a word of protest against any and every form of affectation. It always arouses contempt; in the first place, because it argues deception, and the deception is cowardly, for it is based on fear; and, secondly, it argues self-condemnation, because it means that a man is trying to appear what he is not, and therefore something which he thinks better than he actually is. To affect a quality, and to plume yourself upon it, is just to confess that you have not got it. Whether it is courage, or learning, or intellect, or wit, or success with women, or riches, or social position, or whatever else it may be that a man boasts of, you may conclude by his boasting about it that that is precisely the direction in which he is rather weak; for if a man really possesses any faculty to the full, it will not occur to him to make a great show of affecting it; he is quite content to know that he has it. That is the application of the Spanish proverb: herradura que chacolotea clavo le falta—a clattering hoof means a nail gone.”

    I think it likely that Schopenhauer might have been inspired in this regard by his reading of Gracián.

    Not to forget Matthew 5 and 6 (“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” et passim).


  2. > I think it likely that Schopenhauer might have been inspired in this regard by his reading of Gracián.

    Dialectically so: “Son las passiones los portillos del ánimo. El más plático saber consiste en dissimular; lleva riesgo de perder el que juega a juego descubierto.” (Passions are the soul’s openings. Dissimulation is the most useful knowledge; he who puts his cards on the table, risks defeat.)

    Never shy to flash his feelings, chacoloteando como un lunático: MM


  3. What a nice little task to spur the inquiring mind. Or at least the librarian that lives in each one of us… So I combed through our bookshelf, found my girlfriend’s edition of “The World as Will and Idea”, dusted it off thoroughly und scanned it for some quote that somehow fits your recollection. There I found in the 4th Book, § 66, p. 477 of dtv’s edition the following lines, which I was so bold to put them into modern spelling:
    *Die echte Güte der Gesinnung, die uneigennützige Tugend und der reine Edelmut gehen also nicht von abstrakter Erkenntnis aus, aber doch von Erkenntnis: nämlich von einer unmittelbaren und intuitiven, die nicht wegzuräsonieren und nicht anzuräsonieren ist, von einer Erkenntnis, die eben weil sie nicht abstrakt ist, sich auch nicht mitteilen lässt, sondern jedem selbst aufgehen muss, die daher ihren eigentlichen adäquaten Ausdruck nicht in Worten findet, sondern ganz allein in Taten, im Handeln, im Lebenslauf der Menschen.*

    I do not feel entitled to give an English translation, however I was able to find one here:

    It reads:
    *Thus genuine goodness of disposition, disinterested virtue, and pure nobility do not proceed from abstract knowledge. Yet they do proceed from knowledge; but it is a direct intuitive knowledge, which can neither be reasoned away, nor arrived at by reasoning, a knowledge which, just because it is not abstract, cannot be communicated, but must arise in each for himself, which therefore finds its real and adequate expression not in words, but only in deeds, in conduct, in the course of the life of man.*

    Well, it doesn’t comply completely with what you remembered, but it adresses the same subject.

    Back to lurking mode…


  4. Markus, that is exactly what I was looking for. Many thanks. And so much other interesting stuff along the way! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this blog has the most good-looking, intelligent, well-read, financially secure, romantic, sensual, and spontaneous readers in the galaxy.


  5. Lord, to think that I used to study such unctious drivel as Schopenhauer. He did have one zinger, in reply to the “best of all possible worlds” thesis Leibniz got tarred with espousing: This is the worst of all possible worlds, reasoned Schopey. If it were any worse, it would cease to exist.


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