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Maxims and Reflections by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

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  1. Goethe is one of Germany’s most famous writers but also specialized in anatomy, geology and botany. This book is a collection of his thoughts and maxims, all of which are meant to provoke reflection
Key Takeaways
  1. Would immediately write down and give form and structure to all creative thoughts
  2. The only way to get absurdities of the day in proportion is to compare them with great masses of world history
  3. Preparation for school is to be found only in the school itself
  4. You ask which form of government is best? The one which teaches us to govern ourselves
  5. Scholarly knowledge is greatly retarded by our preoccupation with what is not worth knowing and what is unknowable
  6. How can we learn self-knowledge? Never by taking thought by rather by action. Try to do your duty and you’ll soon discover what you’re like. But what is your duty? The demands of the day
  7. Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are. If you know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you
  8. One who is content to simply experience life and act accordingly has all the truth he needs. This is the wisdom of the growing child
  9. Everything that exists is an analogue of all existing things; that is why existence always and at the same time looks to us both separate and interlocked. If you pursue this analogy too closely, everything coincides identically; if you avoid it, all is scattered into infinity. In both cases contemplation stagnates, either as hyperactive, or else as done to death.
  10. The particular and the general coincide; the particular is the general made manifest under different conditions
  11. Truth is not immediately perceptible
  12. One is never deceived, one deceives oneself
  13. Knowledge is not enough, we have to apply it, wanting is not enough, there has to be action
  14. There are people who ponder about their friends’ shortcomings: there’s nothing to be gained by that. I have always been on the look-out for the merits of my opponents and this has been rewarding
  15. There is no vantage point within an epoch from out of which an epoch can be considered and assessed
What I got out of it
  1. Definitely some good nuggets to think deeply on and come back to time and again