Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Humane Maxims

The Art of Worldly WisdomThe Art of Worldly Wisdom 
by Baltasar Gracián

“Three things make a marvel, and are at the acme of true nobility:  fertile intelligence, deep powers of judgement, and a pleasant, relevant taste.”   ― Baltasar Gracián, The Art of Worldly Wisdom

This collection of aphorisms rivals the wisdom found in Machiavelli's The Prince or Sun-Tzu's The Art of War. However this is significantly less well-known than the other two. 
Gracian was a Spanish Jesuit scholar and baroque prose writer and philosopher. He wrote down his observations of those in power. His study of statesmen and potentates demonstrates examples of their ethical behavior and worldly effectiveness. Collected as The Art of Worldly Wisdom, it is almost entirely composed of three hundred maxims with commentary. He constantly plays with words: each phrase becomes a puzzle, using the most diverse rhetorical devices.

Gracián is the most representative writer of the Spanish Baroque literary style known as Conceptism, of which he was the most important theoretician; his Wit and the Art of Inventiveness is at once a poetic, a rhetoric and an anthology of the conceptist style. I found many of the maxims in this collection useful insights into a humane way of living and achieving a flourishing life.

View all my reviews


Stephen said...

I have heard good things about this volume! Thanks for the reminder.

Brian Joseph said...

I do not think that I ever heard of this. It sounds very worthy of reading.

The playing with words and rhetorical devices is something I wonder about in translation. One has to think that the translator must have had to make many changes in regards to this aspect of the writing.

James said...

Thanks for your comment. This is a wonderful book to dip into from time to time. Inspiration abounds!