Thursday, July 23, 2020


Pliny the Elder

Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. II, § 245 (tr. Adrian Del Caro and Christopher Janaway):
Students and scholars of all kinds and every age as a rule are only focused on information, not on insight. They make it a point of honour to have information about everything, about all rocks, plants, battles, experiments and especially about every manner of book. It does not occur to them that information is a mere means to insight, having little or no value in itself, whereas it is the way of thinking that characterizes philosophical minds. Occasionally, when I consider the impressive erudition of these know-it-alls I say to myself: oh how little they have had to think about, in order to have been able to read so much! Even when it is reported of the elder Pliny that he was constantly reading, or having things read to him at the table, on trips, in the bath and so on, the question arises for me whether the man was so terribly lacking in thoughts of his own that those of others had to be incessantly transfused to him, just as a consommé is given to a consumptive to keep him alive. And neither his undiscriminating gullibility nor his unspeakably repulsive, incomprehensible, and paper-saving collectanea style does anything to give me a high opinion of his capacity to think for himself.

Studierende und Studierte aller Art und jedes Alters gehn in der Regel nur auf Kunde aus; nicht auf Einsicht. Sie setzen ihre Ehre darin, von Allem Kunde zu haben, von allen Steinen, oder Pflanzen, oder Bataillen, oder Experimenten und sammt und sonders von allen Büchern. Daß die Kunde ein bloßes Mittel zur Einsicht sei, an sich aber wenig, oder keinen Werth habe, fällt ihnen nicht ein, ist hingegen die Denkungsart, welche den philosophischen Kopf charakterisirt. Bei der imposanten Gelehrsamkeit jener Vielwisser sage ich mir bisweilen: o, wie wenig muß doch Einer zu denken gehabt haben, damit er so viel hat lesen können! Sogar wenn vom alten Plinius berichtet wird, daß er beständig las, oder sich vorlesen ließ, bei Tische, auf Reisen, im Bade; so dringt sich mir die Frage auf, ob denn der Mann so großen Mangel an eigenen Gedanken gehabt habe, daß ihm ohne Unterlaß fremde eingeflößt werden mußten, wie dem an der Auszehrung Leidenden ein consommé, ihn am Leben zu erhalten. Und von seinem Selbstdenken mir hohe Begriffe zu geben ist weder seine urtheilslose Leichtgläubigkeit, noch sein unaussprechlich widerwärtiger, schwer verständlicher, papiersparender Kollektaneenstil geeignet.
Pliny the Younger, Letters 3.5.13-16 (to Baebius Macer; tr. John B. Firth):
In summer he used to rise from the dinner-table while it was still light; in winter always before the first hour had passed, as though there was a law obliging him to do so. Such was his method of living when up to the eyes in work and amid the bustle of Rome. When he was in the country the only time snatched from his work was when he took his bath, and when I say bath I refer to the actual bathing, for while he was being scraped with the strigil or rubbed down, he used to listen to a reader or dictate. When he was travelling he cut himself aloof from every other thought and gave himself up to study alone. At his side he kept a shorthand writer with a book and tablets, who wore mittens on his hands in winter, so that not even the sharpness of the weather should rob him of a moment, and for the same reason, when in Rome, he used to be carried in a litter. I remember that once he rebuked me for walking, saying, "If you were a student, you could not waste your hours like that," for he considered that all time was wasted which was not devoted to study.

surgebat aestate a cena luce, hieme intra primam noctis et tamquam aliqua lege cogente. haec inter medios labores urbisque fremitum. in secessu solum balinei tempus studiis eximebatur: cum dico balinei, de interioribus loquor; nam dum destringitur tergiturque, audiebat aliquid aut dictabat. in itinere quasi solutus ceteris curis, huic uni vacabat: ad latus notarius cum libro et pugillaribus, cuius manus hieme manicis muniebantur, ut ne caeli quidem asperitas ullum studii tempus eriperet; qua ex causa Romae quoque sella vehebatur. repeto me correptum ab eo, cur ambularem: 'poteras' inquit 'has horas non perdere'; nam perire omne tempus arbitrabatur, quod studiis non impenderetur.

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