Short summary - Introduction to an Understanding of the Human Mind - Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Introduction to an Understanding of the Human Mind
Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues

Pascal says: "All the rules of decent behavior have long been known, the stop for little - for the ability to use them."
Any principle is contradictory, any term is interpreted in different ways. But, having comprehended a person, you can comprehend everything.
Book 1.
On the mind in general
Some people confuse the properties of the mind with the properties of character, for example, the ability to speak clearly and think confused, and think that the mind is contradictory. But the mind is only very diverse.
Reason relies on three basic principles: imagination, thinking, memory.
Imagination is the ability to imagine something with the help of images and with their help to express your ideas.
Reflection is a gift that allows you to focus on ideas, ponder and combine them. This is the starting point of judgment and evaluation. Memory is the keeper of the fruits of imagination and reflection. The power of memory must correspond to the mind, otherwise it leads either to a paucity of thought, or to its excessive breadth.
Fertility. Barren minds cannot understand the whole subject; fertile but unreasonable minds cannot understand themselves: the ardor of feelings makes their thought work hard, but in the wrong direction.
Intelligence is manifested in the speed of the mind. It is not always associated with fertility. There are minds that are quick-witted, but fruitless - a mind that is lively in conversation, but fading away at the desk.
Insight is the ability to comprehend phenomena, to ascend to their causes and foresee their consequences. Knowledge and habits improve it.
Clarity is the adornment of prudence, but not everyone with a clear mind is prudent. The prudence and distinctness of the imagination differs from the judiciousness and distinctness of memory, feeling, eloquence. Sometimes people have incompatible ideas, which, however, are tied in memory by upbringing or customs. Features of character and customs create differences between people, but also limit their properties to a certain framework.
Common sense boils down to the ability to see any object in its proportion to our nature or position in society; it is the ability to perceive things from their useful side and to assess sensibly. To do this, you need to look at everything simply. Reason should prevail over feeling, experience over thinking.
Depth is the goal of all reflection. The deep mind must keep the thought in front of the eyes in order to explore it to the end. Wits always come at the cost of depth.
Delicacy is sensitivity that depends on freedom of custom. Subtlety is a kind of wisdom in matters of feeling; sometimes without delicacy.
Breadth of mind - the ability to assimilate many ideas at the same time, without confusing them with each other. You cannot become a genius without her.
Influence is an instant transition from one idea to another, which can be coupled with the first. These are unexpected turns of the mind. Jokes are superficial products of inspiration.
Good taste is the ability to judge things related to feeling. This is the ability to feel the beautiful nature. The taste of the crowd is never true. The reasoning of the mind can change our judgment, but not our taste. About syllable and eloquence. Not always the one who thinks well can express his thought in words; but the splendor of the syllable with the weakness of the idea is sheer nonsense. Simplicity, accuracy and naturalness give the presentation nobility. Some are eloquent in conversation, others are alone with the manuscript. Eloquence enlivens everything: science, business, poetry. Everything obeys him.
About ingenuity. To invent is not to create material for inventions, but to shape it, as an architect does to marble. The pattern of our search is nature itself.
About talent and intelligence. Talent is inconceivable without activity; it also depends on passions. Talent is a rarity, as it requires a combination of the various virtues of the mind and heart. The talent is original, although all the great people followed the models: for example, Cornel - Lucan and Seneca. Reason should denote the totality of prudence, depth and other qualities, but usually only one of these abilities is called reason - and there are disputes over which one.
About character. Character contains everything that distinguishes our mind and heart; it is woven of contradictions.
Seriousness is a particular character trait; it has many reasons and varieties. There is the seriousness of a calm mind, the seriousness of an ardent or noble mind, the seriousness of a timid person, and many other varieties of it. The seriousness of absent-mindedness is reflected in eccentricities.
Resourcefulness is the ability to take advantage of an opportunity in conversations and deeds. It requires ingenuity and experience.
About absent-mindedness. There is absent-mindedness arising from the fact that the work of the mind is slowed down in general, and sometimes - from the fact that the soul is focused on one object.
Book 2.
About passions
Locke teaches: any passion originates in pleasure or suffering. Since pleasure or pain is caused in different people by different reasons, then everyone understands different things under good and evil. However, there are two sources of good and evil for us: feelings and reflections. Impressions from the senses are instantaneous and unknowable. Passions generated by thought are based either on the love of being, or feed on the feeling of their own imperfection. In the first case, gaiety, meekness, moderation in desires occur. In the second, anxiety and melancholy appear. The passions of great people are a combination of both.
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La Rochefoucauld says that in love we seek only our own pleasure. But you need to distinguish between self-love and self-love. Self-love allows you to love yourself outside the personality (in a woman, in fame and in other things), and self-love puts us at the center of the universe. Pride is a consequence of pride.
Ambition is the result of striving to push the limits of your personality, it can be both a virtue and a vice.
Glory drowns our sorrows better than anything else, but this is not a virtue or merit, but only a reward for them. Therefore, there is no need to rush to condemn the pursuit of fame. The passion for glory thirsts for external greatness, and the passion for science - greatness from within. Arts depict nature, sciences - truth. The knowledge of a reasonable person is not too extensive, but thorough. They need to be applied to practice: knowledge of the rules of dance will not benefit a person who has never danced. But any talent must be nurtured.
Avarice is the brainchild of an absurd distrust of the circumstances of life; passion for the game, on the other hand, is born of an absurd belief in chance.
Father's love is no different from love for oneself, for the child in everything depends on his parents and is connected with them. But children have pride, so children love their fathers less than fathers love their children.
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Pets gratify our pride: we imagine that the parrot loves us, appreciates our affection - and we love him for this superiority over him.
The imperfection of our essence gives rise to friendly affection, and the imperfection of this very affection leads to its cooling. We suffer from loneliness, but friendship does not fill the void. In youth they make friends more tenderly, in old age they are stronger. Low in soul is the one who is ashamed of friendship with people who have stained themselves.
About love. Love is quite possible, free from coarse sensuality, but the eye is infrequent. A person falls in love with the image he created, and not with a real woman. In general, in love, the main thing for us is the inner qualities, the soul. Do not confuse love with friendship, for friendship is ruled by reason, and love is ruled by feelings. You cannot judge a person by his face, it is much more interesting to see which faces he likes more than others.
Compassion is a feeling in which sadness is mixed with affection. It is disinterested, the mind has no power over it.
About hate. Hatred is a deep depression that turns us away from what caused it - this feeling includes both jealousy and envy.
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A person respects everything he loves, including himself.
The main human feelings: desire, discontent, hope, regret, timidity, ridicule, confusion, surprise. But they are all weaker than love, ambition and avarice.
Man cannot control passions in general. it is impossible to calm them down, and it is not necessary, because they are the basis and essence of our soul. But it is necessary to fight against bad habits, and whether we defeat them is for all the Lord's will.
Book 3.
About good and evil as moral concepts
Good should be considered only that which is beneficial for the whole society, and evil is that which is disastrous for it. The interests of the individual have to be sacrificed. The purpose of laws is to protect the rights of everyone.
Virtue is a preference for common interest over personal interest; and selfish interest is the source of all vices. Virtue does not bring happiness to people because they are vicious, and vices are not useful.
The greatness of the soul is the urge to do great deeds, good or bad. Therefore, other vices do not exclude great virtues, and vice versa.
About courage. There are many varieties of courage: courage in the fight against fate, patience, courage, firmness, and others. But they rarely occur all at once.
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Sincerity is loyalty without suspicion or subterfuge. Moderation speaks of peace of mind. Prudence is sound foresight. Activity is a manifestation of restless strength, laziness is a calm powerlessness. Severity is hatred of pleasures, severity is hatred of vices. Wisdom is the understanding of the essence of good and love for it.
Virtue is goodness and beauty together; for example, medicines are good but not beautiful, and there are many things that are beautiful but not useful.
Mister Cruz says that beauty is what our mind perceives as a complex but inseparable whole, it is diversity in unity.