Thursday, March 24, 2016


Old Truths

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, tr. Michael Chase (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995; rpt. 1999), p. 108, with notes on pp. 124-125 (ellipses and brackets in original):
Vauvenargues said, "A truly new and truly original book would be one which made people love old truths."184 It is my hope that I have been "truly new and truly original" in this sense, since my goal has indeed been to make people love a few old truths. Old truths: ... there are some truths whose meaning will never be exhausted by the generations of man. It is not that they are difficult; on the contrary, they are often extremely simple.185 Often, they even appear to be banal. Yet for their meaning to be understood, these truths must be lived, and constantly re-experienced. Each generation must take up, from scratch, the task of learning to read and to re-read these "old truths."

184 Vauvenargues, Réflections et maximes, § 400 [Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747), friend of Voltaire. - Trans.], together with § 398: "Every thought is new when the author expresses it in his own way," and above all § 399: "There are many things we do not know well enough, and that it is good to have repeated."

185 "It is contained in the very briefest statements," says Plato, speaking of the essence of his own doctrine (Seventh Letter, 334e). "The essence of philosophy is the spirit of simplicity ... always and everywhere, complication is superficial, construction is an accessory, and synthesis an appearance. Philosophizing is a simple act" (Henri Bergson, La pensée et le mouvant, Paris 1946, p. 139).

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