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The worst of what is called good society is not only that it offers us the companionship of people who are unable to win either our praise or our affection, but that it does not allow of our being that which we naturally are; it compels us, for the sake of harmony, to shrivel up, or even alter our shape altogether. Intellectual conversation, whether grave or humorous, is only fit for intellectual society; it is downright abhorrent to ordinary people, to please whom it is absolutely necessary to be commonplace and dull. This demands an act of severe self-denial; we have to forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to become like other people.

[Demnach hat die Gesellschaft, welche man die gute nennt, nicht nur den Nachtheil, daß sie uns Menschen darbietet, die wir nicht loben und lieben können, sondern sie läßt auch nicht zu, daß wir selbst seien, wie es unsrer Natur angemessen ist; vielmehr nöthigt sie uns, des Einklanges mit den Anderen wegen, einzuschrumpfen, oder gar uns selbst zu verunstalten. Geistreiche Reden oder Einfälle gehören nur vor geistreiche Gesellschaft: in der gewönlichen sind sie geradezu verhaßt; denn um in diser zu gefallen, ist durchaus notwendig, daß man platt und bornirt sei. In solcher Gesellschaft wir daher, mit schwerer Selbstverleugnung, 3/4 unsrer selbst aufgeben, um uns den Andern zu verähnlichen.]

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” ch. 5 “Counsels and Maxims [Paränesen und Maximen],” § 2.9 (1851) [tr. Saunders (1890)]

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

Accordingly, society that is called good not only has the drawback of offering us men whom we cannot praise and like, but also it will not allow us to be ourselves in harmony with our nature. On the contrary, it compels us, for the sake of agreeing with others, to shrivel up and even alter our shape. Intellectual talking and ideas are fit only for intellectual society; in ordinary society they are positively loathed, for here in order to go down well it is absolutely necessary to be dull and narrow-minded. In such society, therefore, we must practise great self-denial and give up three-quarters of our own individuality in order to become like other people.
[tr. Payne (1974)]

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Nov-22
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“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

Harper Lee (1926-2016) American writer [Nellie Harper Lee]
To Kill a Mockingbird, ch. 11 (1960)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Jan-23
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