Ideas of La Rochefoucauld, by Theme

[French, 1613 - 1680, Aristocratic soldier and socialite, and compiler of a famous set of maxims.]

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 2. Wise People
To try to be wise all on one's own is folly
     Full Idea: To try to be wise all on one's own is sheer folly.
     From: La Rochefoucauld (Maxims [1663], 231)
     A reaction: I agree strongly with this. There are counter-examples, of whom Spinoza may be the greatest, and Nietzsche thought that philosophy was essentially a solitary business, but most of us are not Spinoza or Nietzsche.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 2. Unconscious Mind
La Rochefoucauld's idea of disguised self-love implies an unconscious mind
     Full Idea: La Rochefoucauld is one of the first to have made use of the unconscious without naming it: for him, amour-propre conceals itself in the most diverse disguises.
     From: report of La Rochefoucauld (Maxims [1663]) by Jean-Paul Sartre - Transcendence of the Ego I (C)
     A reaction: It seems odd that no one before that ever thought that someone might have hidden motives of which even they themselves were unaware. How about Iago, or Macbeth, or Hamlet? It is a profound change in our view of human nature.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / e. Love
Judging by effects, love looks more like hatred than friendship
     Full Idea: If love be judged by its most visible effects it looks more like hatred than friendship.
     From: La Rochefoucauld (Maxims [1663], 072)
     A reaction: Presumably he is thinking of pursuit, possession and jealousy. The remark is plausible if you add the word 'sometimes' to it, but as a universal generalisation it is ridiculous, the product of a society where they competed to exceed in cynicism.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / e. Good as knowledge
Supreme cleverness is knowledge of the real value of things
     Full Idea: Supreme cleverness is knowledge of the real value of things.
     From: La Rochefoucauld (Maxims [1663], 244)
     A reaction: Good. Right at the heart of wisdom is some kind of grasp of right values. It is so complex and subtle that it seems like pure intuition, but I am sure that reason is involved. 'Intelligent' people tend to be better at it. Some justifications can be given.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
Realising our future misery is a kind of happiness
     Full Idea: To realise how much misery we have to face is in itself a kind of happiness.
     From: La Rochefoucauld (Maxims [1663], 570)
     A reaction: Probably true. Knowing that you have got hold of the truth is a sort of happiness in any area, no matter how grim the truth. However, a happy life could easily be poisoned by brooding on the future. Should the happily married brood on future solitude?
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
Virtue doesn't go far without the support of vanity
     Full Idea: Virtue would not go far without vanity to bear it company.
     From: La Rochefoucauld (Maxims [1663], 200)
     A reaction: Rochefoucauld's cynicism gets a bit tedious, but lovers of virtue must face up to this possibility when they consider what motivates them. At the heart of Aristotle there is a missing question, of what is so good about right-functioning and virtue.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / d. Friendship
True friendship is even rarer than true love
     Full Idea: Rare though true love may be, true friendship is rarer still.
     From: La Rochefoucauld (Maxims [1663], 473)
     A reaction: This seems to be true. Our culture doesn't encourage friendship as a high ideal. Are women better at friendship than men? Which culture, past or present, led to the greatest flourishing of friendship? Epicurus's Garden?
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 4. Boredom
We are bored by people to whom we ourselves are boring
     Full Idea: Almost always we are bored by people to whom we ourselves are boring.
     From: La Rochefoucauld (Maxims [1663], 555)
     A reaction: An obvious exception would be a celebrity being bored with their fans. Their very excess of interest is precisely what is boring. If two people communicate well, it is unlikely that either of them will ever be bored.