Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld, HOME

Solaris is about a crew of scientists as they attempt to understand an extraterrestrial intelligence, which takes the form of a vast ocean on the titular alien planet.

Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld,


The first 100 maxims

1.—What we term virtue is often but a mass of various actions and divers interests, which fortune, or our own industry, manage to arrange; and it is not always from valour or from chastity that men are brave, and women chaste.

2.—Self-love is the greatest of flatterers.

3.—Whatever discoveries have been made in the region of self-love, there remain many unexplored territories there.

4.—Self love is more cunning than the most cunning man in the world.

5.—The duration of our passions is no more dependant upon us than the duration of our life.

6.—Passion often renders the most clever man a fool, and even sometimes renders the most foolish man clever.

7.—Great and striking actions which dazzle the eyes are represented by politicians as the effect of great designs, instead of which they are commonly caused by the temper and the passions. Thus the war between Augustus and Anthony, which is set down to the ambition they entertained of making themselves masters of the world, was probably but an effect of jealousy.

8.—The passions are the only advocates which always persuade. They are a natural art, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man with passion will be more persuasive than the most eloquent without.

9.—The passions possess a certain injustice and self interest which makes it dangerous to follow them, and in reality we should distrust them even when they appear most trustworthy.

10.—In the human heart there is a perpetual generation of passions; so that the ruin of one is almost always the foundation of another.

11.—Passions often produce their contraries: avarice sometimes leads to prodigality, and prodigality to avarice; we are often obstinate through weakness and daring though timidity.

12.—Whatever care we take to conceal our passions under the appearances of piety and honour, they are always to be seen through these veils.

13.—Our self love endures more impatiently the condemnation of our tastes than of our opinions.

14.—Men are not only prone to forget benefits and injuries; they even hate those who have obliged them, and cease to hate those who have injured them. The necessity of revenging an injury or of recompensing a benefit seems a slavery to which they are unwilling to submit.

15.—The clemency of Princes is often but policy to win the affections of the people.

16.—This clemency of which they make a merit, arises oftentimes from vanity, sometimes from idleness, oftentimes from fear, and almost always from all three combined.

17.—The moderation of those who are happy arises from the calm which good fortune bestows upon their temper.

18.—Moderation is caused by the fear of exciting the envy and contempt which those merit who are intoxicated with their good fortune; it is a vain display of our strength of mind, and in short the moderation of men at their greatest height is only a desire to appear greater than their fortune.

19.—We have all sufficient strength to support the misfortunes of others.

20.—The constancy of the wise is only the talent of concealing the agitation of their hearts.

21.—Those who are condemned to death affect sometimes a constancy and contempt for death which is only the fear of facing it; so that one may say that this constancy and contempt are to their mind what the bandage is to their eyes.

22.—Philosophy triumphs easily over past evils and future evils; but present evils triumph over it.

23.—Few people know death, we only endure it, usually from determination, and even from stupidity and custom; and most men only die because they know not how to prevent dying.

24.—When great men permit themselves to be cast down by the continuance of misfortune, they show us that they were only sustained by ambition, and not by their mind; so that PLUS a great vanity, heroes are made like other men.

25.—We need greater virtues to sustain good than evil fortune.

26.—Neither the sun nor death can be looked at without winking.

27.—People are often vain of their passions, even of the worst, but envy is a passion so timid and shame-faced that no one ever dare avow her.

28.—Jealousy is in a manner just and reasonable, as it tends to preserve a good which belongs, or which we believe belongs to us, on the other hand envy is a fury which cannot endure the happiness of others.

29.—The evil that we do does not attract to us so much persecution and hatred as our good qualities.

30.—We have more strength than will; and it is often merely for an excuse we say things are impossible.

31.—If we had no faults we should not take so much pleasure in noting those of others.

32.—Jealousy lives upon doubt; and comes to an end or becomes a fury as soon as it passes from doubt to certainty.

33.—Pride indemnifies itself and loses nothing even when it casts away vanity.

34.—If we had no pride we should not complain of that of others.

35.—Pride is much the same in all men, the only difference is the method and manner of showing it.

36.—It would seem that nature, which has so wisely ordered the organs of our body for our happiness, has also given us pride to spare us the mortification of knowing our imperfections.

37.—Pride has a larger part than goodness in our remonstrances with those who commit faults, and we reprove them not so much to correct as to persuade them that we ourselves are free from faults.

38.—We promise according to our hopes; we perform according to our fears.

39.—Interest speaks all sorts of tongues and plays all sorts of characters; even that of disinterestedness.

40.—Interest blinds some and makes some see.

41.—Those who apply themselves too closely to little things often become incapable of great things.

42.—We have not enough strength to follow all our reason.

43.—A man often believes himself leader when he is led; as his mind endeavours to reach one goal, his heart insensibly drags him towards another.

44.—Strength and weakness of mind are mis-named; they are really only the good or happy arrangement of our bodily organs.

45.—The caprice of our temper is even more whimsical than that of Fortune.

46.—The attachment or indifference which philosophers have shown to life is only the style of their self love, about which we can no more dispute than of that of the palate or of the choice of colours.

47.—Our temper sets a price upon every gift that we receive from fortune.

48.—Happiness is in the taste, and not in the things themselves; we are happy from possessing what we like, not from possessing what others like.

49.—We are never so happy or so unhappy as we suppose.

50.—Those who think they have merit persuade themselves that they are honoured by being unhappy, in order to persuade others and themselves that they are worthy to be the butt of fortune.

51.—Nothing should so much diminish the satisfaction which we feel with ourselves as seeing that we disapprove at one time of that which we approve of at another.

52.—Whatever difference there appears in our fortunes, there is nevertheless a certain compensation of good and evil which renders them equal.

53.—Whatever great advantages nature may give, it is not she alone, but fortune also that makes the hero.

54.—The contempt of riches in philosophers was only a hidden desire to avenge their merit upon the injustice of fortune, by despising the very goods of which fortune had deprived them; it was a secret to guard themselves against the degradation of poverty, it was a back way by which to arrive at that distinction which they could not gain by riches.

55.—The hate of favourites is only a love of favour. The envy of NOT possessing it, consoles and softens its regrets by the contempt it evinces for those who possess it, and we refuse them our homage, not being able to detract from them what attracts that of the rest of the world.

56.—To establish ourselves in the world we do everything to appear as if we were established.

57.—Although men flatter themselves with their great actions, they are not so often the result of a great design as of chance.

58.—It would seem that our actions have lucky or unlucky stars to which they owe a great part of the blame or praise which is given them.

59.—There are no accidents so unfortunate from which skilful men will not draw some advantage, nor so fortunate that foolish men will not turn them to their hurt.

60.—Fortune turns all things to the advantage of those on whom she smiles.

61.—The happiness or unhappiness of men depends no less upon their dispositions than their fortunes.

62.—Sincerity is an openness of heart; we find it in very few people; what we usually see is only an artful dissimulation to win the confidence of others.

63.—The aversion to lying is often a hidden ambition to render our words credible and weighty, and to attach a religious aspect to our conversation.

64.—Truth does not do as much good in the world, as its counterfeits do evil.

65.—There is no praise we have not lavished upon Prudence; and yet she cannot assure to us the most trifling event.

66.—A clever man ought to so regulate his interests that each will fall in due order. Our greediness so often troubles us, making us run after so many things at the same time, that while we too eagerly look after the least we miss the greatest.

67.—What grace is to the body good sense is to the mind.

68.—It is difficult to define love; all we can say is, that in the soul it is a desire to rule, in the mind it is a sympathy, and in the body it is a hidden and delicate wish to possess what we love—Plus many mysteries.

69.—If there is a pure love, exempt from the mixture of our other passions, it is that which is concealed at the bottom of the heart and of which even ourselves are ignorant.

70.—There is no disguise which can long hide love where it exists, nor feign it where it does not.

71.—There are few people who would not be ashamed of being beloved when they love no longer.

72.—If we judge of love by the majority of its results it rather resembles hatred than friendship.

73.—We may find women who have never indulged in an intrigue, but it is rare to find those who have intrigued but once.

74.—There is only one sort of love, but there are a thousand different copies.

75.—Neither love nor fire can subsist without perpetual motion; both cease to live so soon as they cease to hope, or to fear.

76.—There is real love just as there are real ghosts; every person speaks of it, few persons have seen it.

77.—Love lends its name to an infinite number of engagements (Commerces) which are attributed to it, but with which it has no more concern than the Doge has with all that is done in Venice.

78.—The love of justice is simply in the majority of men the fear of suffering injustice.

79.—Silence is the best resolve for him who distrusts himself.

80.—What renders us so changeable in our friendship is, that it is difficult to know the qualities of the soul, but easy to know those of the mind.

81.—We can love nothing but what agrees with us, and we can only follow our taste or our pleasure when we prefer our friends to ourselves; nevertheless it is only by that preference that friendship can be true and perfect.

82.—Reconciliation with our enemies is but a desire to better our condition, a weariness of war, the fear of some unlucky accident.

83.—What men term friendship is merely a partnership with a collection of reciprocal interests, and an exchange of favours—in fact it is but a trade in which self love always expects to gain something.

84.—It is more disgraceful to distrust than to be deceived by our friends.

85.—We often persuade ourselves to love people who are more powerful than we are, yet interest alone produces our friendship; we do not give our hearts away for the good we wish to do, but for that we expect to receive.

86.—Our distrust of another justifies his deceit.

87.—Men would not live long in society were they not the dupes of each other.

88.—Self love increases or diminishes for us the good qualities of our friends, in proportion to the satisfaction we feel with them, and we judge of their merit by the manner in which they act towards us.

89.—Everyone blames his memory, no one blames his judgment.

90.—In the intercourse of life, we please more by our faults than by our good qualities.

91.—The largest ambition has the least appearance of ambition when it meets with an absolute impossibility in compassing its object.

92.—To awaken a man who is deceived as to his own merit is to do him as bad a turn as that done to the Athenian madman who was happy in believing that all the ships touching at the port belonged to him.

93.—Old men delight in giving good advice as a consolation for the fact that they can no longer set bad examples.

94.—Great names degrade instead of elevating those who know not how to sustain them.

95.—The test of extraordinary merit is to see those who envy it the most yet obliged to praise it.

96.—A man is perhaps ungrateful, but often less chargeable with ingratitude than his benefactor is.

97.—We are deceived if we think that mind and judgment are two different matters: judgment is but the extent of the light of the mind. This light penetrates to the bottom of matters; it remarks all that can be remarked, and perceives what appears imperceptible. Therefore we must agree that it is the extent of the light in the mind that produces all the effects which we attribute to judgment.

98.—Everyone praises his heart, none dare praise their understanding.

99.—Politeness of mind consists in thinking chaste and refined thoughts.

100.—Gallantry of mind is saying the most empty things in an agreeable manner. ere then, among the objects we both had touched, in the air she had breathed? In the name of what? In the hope of her return? I hoped for nothing. And yet I lived in expectation. Since she had gone, that was all that remained. I did not know what achievements, what mockery, even what tortures still awaited me. I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.”