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- I would be better for me … that multitudes of men should disagree with me rather than that I, being one, should be out of harmony with myself.
- The common individual always conforms to the prevailing opinion and the prevailing fashion; he regards the state in which everything now exists as the only possible one and passively accepts it all. … To the genius it always occurs to ask: Could this too not be false?
- Georg Lichtenberg, The Waste Books, R. J. Hollingdale trans. (2000), C25
- It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion. It is easy in solitude to live after our own. But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” Essays: First Series (1883), p. 55
- Most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us and we know not where to begin to set them right.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” Essays: First Series (1883), pp. 55-56
- Wenn wir uns selbst fehlen, fehlt uns doch alles.
- When we lack ourselves, we lack everything.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther
- When we lack ourselves, we lack everything.
- It is Christian heroism—a rarity, to be sure—to venture wholly to become oneself, an individual human being, this specific individual human being, alone before God, alone in this prodigious strenuousness and this prodigious responsibility.
- Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death (1849), H. and E. Hong, trans. (1980), pp. 5-6
- It is not by wearing down into uniformity all that is individual in themselves, but by cultivating it and calling it forth, within the limits imposed by the rights and interests of others, that human beings become a noble and beautiful object of contemplation.
- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1895), Chapter 3, pp. 112-113
- In his heart every man knows quite well that, being unique, he will be in the world only once and that no imaginable chance will for a second time gather together into a unity so strangely variegated an assortment as he is: he knows it but he hides it like a bad conscience—why? From fear of his neighbor, who demands conventionality and cloaks himself with it. But what is it that constrains the individual to fear his neighbor, to think and act like a member of a herd, and to have no joy in himself? Modesty, perhaps, in a few rare cases. With the great majority it is indolence, inertia. ... Men are even lazier than they are timid, and fear most of all the inconveniences with which unconditional honesty and nakedness would burden them. Artists alone hate this sluggish promenading in borrowed fashions and appropriated opinions and they reveal everyone’s secret bad conscience, the law that every man is a unique miracle.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.1, R. Hollingdale, trans. (1983), p. 127
- A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. Constraint is always present in society, like a companion of whom there is no riddance; and in proportion to the greatness of a man’s individuality, it will be hard for him to bear the sacrifices which all intercourse with others demands.
- Arthur Schopenhauer, Counsels and Maxims, T. B. Saunders, trans., § 9
- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden
- As long as man has not ascended to the rank of existence where he leaves behind him the domain of the universal and enters into his own personal domain—no longer dependent upon the principles operative in the realm of the universal—he is still subject to the rule of the species and the universal form. However, as soon as he liberates himself from the burden of the species, he becomes a free man. Complete freedom belongs only to the prophet, the man of God. The man who is a mere random example of the species, on the other hand, is wholly under the rule of the scientific lawfulness of existence. Between this species man and the man of God, between necessity and freedom, is the middle range in which most people find themselves.
- Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man (1983), p. 135