Distilled Wisdom: Aphorisms – Uplifers


“Everyone complains about their memory, no one complains about their thinking.” – La Rochefoucauld

He was called Prince Marsillac. He lived in France in the seventeenth century; imagine an aristocrat who received at birth the labels of nobility, power, wealth; this man was the famous thinker and writer François de La Rochefoucauld.

Although the philosophers living at that time loved to convey their wisdom in fancy phrases and thick and expensive books, the public could not actually read what was being transmitted. For this reason, the ideas of that period could not become effective, since they were not available. But at the same time, something interesting happened, and in France “one-line philosophies” began to come to life, which were so concise that they could be passed from mouth to mouth. You can also think of it as a pill short story being shared on social media today.

Source: artofmanliness

La Rochefoucauld, who started life from scratch, but unfortunately fell in love with duchesses who did not treat him well at all, was imprisoned, exiled, learned courtrooms, lost most of his money, was slandered and did not receive much benefit. from the comfort of his nobility in his life. It can be said that this is also the principle of philosophical proposals.

At the beginning of his life, our thinker was involved in some conspiracies in the political atmosphere of France. He was a man who participated in actions that ended in death, challenged some rulers and led various rebellions. In 1652, he almost died in a skirmish. This dangerous dance with death pushed him away from politics.

In the seventeenth century, salon literature was of great importance. In particular, the French nobility found a way to satisfy the hunger that grew in the soul or satisfy it in the living room. La Rochefoucauld began a new life in 1653 and took his place of honor in the famous salons of Paris. He developed a literary genre with which he became famous in the same halls: “Aphorisms”. We can also call it a short expression that skillfully captures the dark side of the human psyche and reminds us of the often disturbing truth to describe an aphorism.

In fact, the art of aphorisms has a history dating back to ancient times. Some of the earliest examples date back to the BC period. It can be found in the writings of the 5th century Greek philosopher Heraclitus.

“You cannot bathe in the same river twice: because the river is not the same river, and you are not the same you.” -Heraclitus

Heraclitus was known for his mysterious and catchy words expressing universal truths about the nature of being and the world around us.

In ancient Greece and Rome, aphorisms were used by philosophers, poets, and common people to convey wisdom and advice. For example, the Greek philosopher Hippocrates used aphorisms to convey the principles of medicine, while the Roman poet Juvenal used them to express his social and political interpretations.

“Sometimes doing nothing is the cure.” -Hippocrates

“Everyone wants to learn; but no one wants to pay for it.” -Juvenal

During the Renaissance, aphorisms gained immense popularity and became an important tool for the vivid communication of ideas. François de La Rochefoucauld, the protagonist of this article, is also considered one of the greatest practitioners of the aphorism.

The most famous work of François de La Rochefoucauld; Maxims (Proverbs), which he wrote sarcastically about human behavior and motives. La Rochefoucauld perfected 504 aphorisms. His aphorisms cover many psychological topics. He argues that most of those who wear the mask of honesty are actually hiding their shortcomings, and that true honesty can only be achieved by acknowledging and exposing their shortcomings. In all her lines one can feel that she rejects traditional morality. With his aphorisms, he ridicules and subverts the generally accepted idea of ​​human nature. Referring to Maxim, he wrote:

“The reason why the Parables that reveal the human heart are so controversial is that we are afraid that they themselves will be exposed.” He said.

Anyone who reads Proverbs quickly sees the blunt effect of worldviews and the weight they carry in proverbs. His views on humanity are at times cynical and pessimistic. La Rochefoucauld, whom Nietzsche would like to compare to an “experienced marksman”, continues to aim with a constant stream of chants and hit again and again the phenomenon called human nature. Indeed, their understanding of the human condition exhibits such poignancy that it allows each word to make sense on its own. But we can go further and say that every thought, if it is considered, is, as it were, the starting point of philosophical research.

There is a misconception that a man looks smart only when he talks a lot. However, you can isolate what is said in three sentences and express the meaning you want in one sentence.

La Rochefoucauld defends the same, saying: “Just as great minds can say a lot with a few words, small minds can say a lot and say nothing.”

La Rochefoucauld exposes the absurdity of what we consider sustainable. According to him, insidious aspects lie at the heart of human spirituality. If we examine behavior that we consider to be good, we can find unethical triggers underlying that behavior.

“Our strengths are often just our weaknesses in disguise.” or

“If we didn’t have flaws, we wouldn’t be as fond of dealing with other people’s flaws.”

“If the world saw all the factors that created our actions, we would be ashamed even of our best actions.” speaks.

There is a widespread belief, promoted by commercial giants Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, that all it takes to succeed in life is determined ambition and a relentless pursuit of ideals. When we live our worldly life, such views have a strong influence on us; We acknowledge that this logic of thought is correct. But in fact, the road to success is littered with many obstacles. La Rochefoucauld puts it this way:

“When the greatest passion is faced with the absolute impossibility of achieving its goal, it has nothing to do with passion.”

“There is an endless formation of passion in the heart of man. So much so that when one passion leaves, another one immediately takes its place.

Passions often breed passions against them. Sometimes stinginess breeds extravagance, and extravagance breeds stinginess. A person often becomes stoic because he is afraid and impulsive because he is shy.”

We believe we are made up of stories, we love them, and through this storytelling, we connect deeply with the hero’s journey. Every story told today follows the same format; There is an imperfect hero who goes through trials and tribulations along the way, and this journey transforms him. He quickly overcomes the difficulties that arise. But life isn’t always like this memorable hero’s journey. There is often another important factor that plays a role in whether we succeed in our journey: LUCK.

La Rochefoucauld characterizes this: “No matter how great feats nature rewards, heroes are not only her work, but also the work of fortune working with her.”

The Stoics also believed that our lives are not entirely under our control. The famous words of Epictetus support this view:

“Some things are under our control and some are not. What is under our control are our ideas, our desires, our hatreds, our desires and, in a word, our actions. What is not under our control is our bodies, our property, our reputation, what we have, and, in a word, what we do not… If you know which one is yours, you will never there will be problems, you do not judge anyone, and whatever you do, you will do with all your heart. You will not have a single enemy, no one can harm you, because you have a shield that will protect you from all this.

Although we control our efforts, sometimes we also rely on luck, and perhaps this approach often works in our favor.

Before I read La Rochefoucauld’s sayings, I gave some important advice. I was advised to read the book twice. The first suggested trying to feel the weight of all the maxims, rather than thinking about each sentence in isolation. Such reading was said to reveal hidden themes; indeed the limits of self-knowledge and human nature; deception of the human mind and actions; appearance and reality; the decisive role of fortune in our lives and the themes of love for nature, passions and death became more noticeable.

Something exciting came to light on a second reading of the text. What seemed scattered at the first reading, at the second reading began to take on the appearance of a philosophical whole. It felt like putting together a puzzle. Everyone’s reading adventure is of course different, my adventure was even deeper thanks to the advice I received, perhaps this will inspire others who want to read.

We could say that the writing of aphorisms allowed La Rochefoucauld to access or depict human nature in a way that other forms of philosophizing certainly could not. As a result, this book has given and will continue to give a different education of perception to all who read it, from ordinary readers to thinkers like Nietzsche. Therefore, it will continue to be read, no matter how many years pass.

-TS Webster-General Bibliography
-School of Life- La Rochefoucauld
-Duke Mitchell – La Rochefoucauld with blue bird
– Marion J. Faber – Metamorphoses of a French Aphorism: La Rochefoucauld and Nietzsche
-DA Digerolamo-3 Powerful Lessons from La Rochefoucauld
-Berke Vardar – French Literature
– Turkish and world famous encyclopedia – Who is Francois de La Rochefoucauld, his life, work, information about
– David Bahr – The Man of Many Masks: La Rochefoucauld’s Maxims
-Afshar Timuchin – The moral concerns of Duke La Rochefoucauld

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