Quotations by Von Clausewitz, Karl


There is nothing more common than to hear of men losing their energy on being raised to a higher position, to which they do not feel themselves equal.

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Krieg], Book 1, ch. 3 (1832) [tr. J. Graham (1873)]
    (Source)
Added on 3-Apr-20 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Von Clausewitz, Karl

If the mind is to emerge unscathed from this relentless struggle with the unforeseen, two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow this faint light wherever it may lead.

[So sind ihm zwei Eigenschaften unentbehrlich: einmal ein Verstand, der auch in dieser gesteigerten Dunkelheit nicht ohne einige Spuren des inneren Lichts ist, die ihn zur Wahrheit führen, und dann Mut, diesem schwachen Lichte zu folgen.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege] Book 1, ch. 3 “On Military Genius ” (1832) [tr. Howard & Paret (1984)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translations:

Now, if it is to get safely through this perpetual conflict with the unexpected, two qualities are indispensable: in the first place an understanding which, even in the midst of this intense obscurity, is not without some traces of inner light, which lead to the truth, and then the courage to follow this faint light.
[tr. Graham (1874)]

Now if it is to get safely through this continual conflict with the unexpected, two qualities are indispensable: in the first place, an intellect which even in the midst of this intensified obscurity is not without some traces of inner light which lead to the truth, and next, courage to follow this faint light.
[tr. Jolles (1943)]

Added on 16-Aug-22 | Last updated 16-Aug-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Von Clausewitz, Karl

War is not merely a political act but a real political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of the same by other means.

[Der Krieg ist nichts anderes als die Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 1, ch. 1, sec. 24 (1832) [tr. Jolles (1943)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means." [tr. Graham (1873)]
  • "War is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means." [tr. Howard and Paret (1976)]
  • Often quoted or paraphrased using "a continuation of policy ....".
Added on 19-Mar-08 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , ,
More quotes by Von Clausewitz, Karl

We repeat: strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one’s balance in spite of them. Even with the violence of emotion, judgment and principle must still function like a ship’s compass, which records the slightest variations however rough the sea.

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 1, ch. 3 “On Military Genius” (1832) [tr. Howard/Paret (1976)]
    (Source)

Alternate translation:

We, therefore, say once more a strong mind is not one that is merely susceptible of strong excitement, but one which can maintain its serenity under the most powerful excitement; so that, in spite of the storm in the breast, the perception and judgment can act with perfect freedom, like the needle of the compass in the storm-tossed ship.
[tr. Graham (1873), "The Genius for War"]
Added on 10-Sep-21 | Last updated 10-Sep-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Von Clausewitz, Karl

There are cases in which the greatest daring is the greatest wisdom.

[Es giebt Fälle, wo das höchste Wagen die höchste Weisheit ist.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 2, ch. 5 “Critical Analysis [Kritik]” (1832) [tr. Graham (1874)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

There are times when the utmost daring is the height of wisdom. [tr. Howard & Paret (1984)]

Added on 4-Aug-22 | Last updated 4-Aug-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , ,
More quotes by Von Clausewitz, Karl

Surprise becomes effective when we suddenly face the enemy at one point with far more troops than he expected. This type of numerical superiority is quite distinct from numerical superiority in general: it is the most powerful medium in the art of war.

[Die Überraschung zeigt sich dadurch wirksam, dass man dem Feinde auf einem Punkt viel mehr Truppen entgegen stellt, als er erwartete. Diese Überlegenheit der Zahl ist von der allgemeinen sehr verschieden, sie ist das wichtigste Agens der Kriegskunst.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 6 “Defense,” ch. 2 (1832) [tr. Howard & Paret (1984)]
    (Source)

(Source(German)). Alternate translation:

The surprise produces an effect by opposing to the enemy a great many more troops than he expected at some particular point. The superiority in numbers in this case is very different to a general superiority of numbers; it is the most powerful agent in the art of war.
[tr. Graham (1874)]

Added on 21-Jul-22 | Last updated 21-Jul-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Von Clausewitz, Karl

Courage is of two kinds: first, physical courage, or courage in the presence of danger to the person; and next, moral courage, or courage before responsibility, whether it be before the judgment seat of external authority, or of the inner power, the conscience.

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War, 1.3 (1832) [tr. J. Graham (1873)]
Added on 26-Aug-09 | Last updated 26-Aug-09
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Von Clausewitz, Karl

There is a point beyond which perseverance can only be termed desperate folly.

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War, 4.9 (1852) [tr. Graham (1873)]
Added on 8-Jul-15 | Last updated 8-Jul-15
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Von Clausewitz, Karl

A strong mind is one which does not lose its balance even under the most violent excitement.

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War, Book 1, ch. 3 (1832) [tr. J. Graham (1873)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "A strong character is one that will not be unbalanced by the most powerful emotions." [tr. Howard & Paret (1976)]
Added on 27-Apr-09 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Von Clausewitz, Karl