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Collected Maxims and Other Reflections

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  1,346 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Deceptively brief and insidiously easy to read, La Rochefoucauld's shrewd, unflattering analyses of human behavior have influenced writers, thinkers, and public figures as various as Voltaire, Proust, de Gaulle, Nietzsche, and Conan Doyle. This is the fullest collection of La Rochefoucauld's writings ever published in English, and includes the first complete translation of ...more
Paperback, 354 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1665)
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Riku Sayuj

‘Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily,’ declares La Rochefoucauld.

The editors assure us:

the same may be said of his Maxims. Few books as widely read have provoked as much resistance. Most of us can no more look at it without wavering than we could the sun. We cannot bear the thought that it might be true; the consequences would be too painful. So, to shut our eyes to it, to avoid facing it, we rely on every psychological defence we can muster. The book is a work of cynicism, pes
The full title of the text is Reflections or Aphorisms and Moral Maxims; and in centered text below the title are the words "Our virtues are usually only vices in disguise." The subtitle says as much as the title. These aphorisms are bitter as they are pithy. Perhaps not bitter -- say, rather, that La Rochefoucauld was not optimistic about human nature. Very few of these aphorisms speak of love, friendship, virtue, or humility with anything but skepticism.

Given how nearly sublimely pessimistic L
Apr 17, 2007 Boniva rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
Wow. This is seeing the glass all the way empty (& maybe smashed).

Lilian Tomlin said something like, no matter how cynical you get, it's never enough to keep up. If this jives with your view of humanity, read Rochefoucauld.

The maxims are short and pithy and misanthropic:

Self-love is subtler than the subtlest man of the world.

The moderation of happy people comes from the tranquility that good fortune gives to their disposition.

What is called generosity is most often just the vanity of giving,
Some of the maxims that caught my eye:

"Philosophy triumphs easily over past evils and future evils; but present evils triumph over it."
Maxim 22

"We have more strength than will; and it is often merely for an excuse we say things are impossible." Maxim 30

"Those who apply themselves too closely to little things often become incapable of great things."
Maxim 41

"We have not enough strength to follow all our reason." Maxim 42

"Happiness is in the taste, and not in the things themselves; we are happy fro
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Mar 08, 2013 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as i-want-money  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: Moira Russell
Shelves: pretty-old-stuff
Vanity causes me to pursue an accounting of the following exchange:

"Nathan "N.R." wrote: "There is nothing worse in the world than someone who has fallen in love."

[Moira]: Nathan, you get the La Rochefoucauld (sp) award for the day."
Depressing, bitter, single-sentence maxims that opened my naive eyes and made me want to choose to be a better person than most. La Rouchefoucauld published these first in 1665 (France), but at least 80 percent are still applicable today. Fascinating observations.
Our virtues are most frequently but vices in disguise.- Francois de La Rochefoucauld In the early 17th century, a French writer earned great acclaim for publishing a book of maxims that influenced French society centuries after he wrote. Important thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche admired him, and literary critics bandied his name about in comparison and contrast to their own contemporaries. Around the same time Blaise Pascal was writing what he intended to be a defense of the Christian faith, t ...more
La Rochefoucauld’s maxims are all things that good maxims should be: pithy, shrewd, redolent of experience, and memorable. A sampling: “Few things are impossible in themselves, it is not so much the means we lack as perseverance to make them succeed.” “We are far indeed from knowing all we want.” “It is easier to stifle a first desire than to satisfy all the ensuing ones.” “We are so used to disguising ourselves from others that we end up disguising ourselves from ourselves.” “Nature provides th ...more
'Amazing' is a bit of enthusiasm that doesn't really fit with La Rochefoucauld's pithy sentences. I'll settle for diamond-like or 'adamantine' instead. Even not in the wake of a bad relationship, these summations of human conduct, folly, and motivation are as true as philosophy could pose.
Chris Watson
1: "What we take for virtues are often merely a collection of different acts and personal interests pieced together by chance or our own ingenuity and it is not always because of valour or chastity that men are valiant or women chaste."

2: "Self love is the greatest flatterer of all."


Some take this book as cycnical, and read with a modern sensibility it could be seen that way. But really, it's a thesis on certain aspects of Christian thought: know thyself; all are sinners; to sin in the min
This work is a collection of maxims likely intended to guide moral conduct. However, Maxims does little more than get the reader acquainted with La Rochefoucauld's cynicism. Behind every good word or act there lies a selfish motive and an eye constantly out for one's own gain. It is hard to believe that every moral act indiscriminately is nothing but a veil over the machinations of pitch black souls, but maybe La Rochefoucauld did live in such a social environment. If it does nothing else, Maxim ...more
Aaron Dellutri
Apr 03, 2008 Aaron Dellutri rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People curious about human motivation.
"Our virtues are usually only vices in disguise."

So begins this collection of hundreds of short aphorisms about human nature, most of them 3 sentences or less, which touch on love, war, business, courage, money, death, perception, politics, freindship, vanity, morality, laziness, and hypocrisy. The writer, the Duc De La Rochefoucauld, had a philosophy which linked all human action to people's "self-love".

Cynical, but not in a mean way. La Rochefoucauld was very good at seeing the hidden selfish
Alex Lee
Rochefoucauld is an interesting guy. He provides some interesting meditations on the inconsistency of human behavior, asking that we consider in the formation of knowledge, not only what is presented to us, but what remains bracketed. What I mean is that inherent in Rochefoucauld is a dichotomy, in that if one presents one side to us, asking that we consider them in a given way, we can only really understand the fullness (in a Newtonian sense) by asking where did the opposing reaction for this p ...more
Men not only forget benefits and injuries; they hate those toward whom they are under an obligation and cringe to those who have insulted them. Gratitude and revenge, as duties, are yokes that gall.

Clemency, usually counted a virtue, is occasionally the outcome of vanity, sometimes of laziness, often of fear, and usually of all three.

Our Acts are like rhymes; we adopt whatever sequence we please.

Envy always outlives the happiness we envy.
have decided that the gnomic is my least favorite genre. perhaps there is something valuable here, but am finding it trite in its presentation and unsustained in its intellectual rigor. (am not a fan of nietzsche's contributions to the genre, either.)
"Those who most obstinately oppose the most widely-held opinions more often do so because of pride than lack of intelligence. They find the best places in the right set already taken, and they do not want back seats."
Scott Kleinpeter
I feel while I read these as if La Rochefoucauld is a friend of mine who is older, wiser, and in a subtle, half-conscious way, convincing me of the follies of cynicism.
Infallible and incisive maxims on human idiocy, hypocrisy and all other identifiable emotions.

A must for Nietzsche readers.
Stevahkno  Fwaurmo
Some are quite clever, some are quite obvious, some are quite insightful, most are worth reading.
Superb. Another book everyone should read before death whisks them away.
Heavenly, even if you aren't hopelessly cynical.
This is one of the best books I ever read.
Cynicism as an art.
Gary Patella
I had to take a break and read something fairly light when work got crazy, so I picked up this book that sat on my bookshelf unread for over 15 years.

The Maxims of Le Duc are nice and quick to read, and some are very profound. But the book is not without its flaws. There are some maxims that are very superficial, and some that amount to nothing but seem to have been inserted simply because they sound clever (without being clever). Furthermore, there are some maxims that outright contradict previ
A mixed bag. There's a lot of unbelievable observation/insight in here (and apparently people sucked back then, too) but it also gets a little tedious to be told over and over that people don't know their real motives, and that all is a mask for self-love. Nietzsche would later steal not only the aphoristic style (which goes back to the pre-Socratics) of philosophy but also (1) that the brain is slave to the stomach (the intellect to the will), and (2) that all (good, evil, virtue, vice, love, h ...more
This took me months to finish, but I enjoyed it. Well, except for this one maxim:

A woman may like science, but all sciences are not suitable for her, and the doctrines of certain sciences never become her, and when applied by her are always false.

But here are the maxims I liked:

I like reading, in general; but that in which one finds something to polish the wit and strengthen the soul is what I like best. But, above all, I have the greatest pleasure in reading with an intelligent person, for then
Jun 04, 2014 Paul marked it as to-read

Deceptively brief and easy to read, La Rochefoucauld’s shrewd, unflattering analyses of human behavior have influenced writers, thinkers, and public figures as various as Voltaire, Proust, de Gaulle, Nietzsche, and Conan Doyle. This is the fullest collection of La Rochefoucauld’s writings ever published in English. I’ll be going back to this again.
Jorge Robles sanchez
I like reading, in general; but that in which one finds something to polish the wit and strengthen the soul is what I like best. But, above all, I have the greatest pleasure in reading with an intelligent person, for then we reflect constantly upon what we read, and the observations we make form the most pleasant and useful form of conversation there is. 'La Rochefoucauld. '
Paweł Hnatyszyn
Supposedly an immense inspiration for Nietzsche, which is not surprising when you take into consideration the similarly aphoric and contradictory style. Slightly more dated than Schopenhauer's "Art of Being Right" (both seem to serve a similar function), but nonetheless interesting side-read.
Harsimran Khural
The book contains many beautiful maxims, but most of these employ the same sort of irony. Thus it gets a bit tiresome, and feels like listening to someone speaking in a single tone.
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  • The Waste Books
  • Models of My Life
  • Philosophical Dictionary
  • Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son
  • The Trouble With Being Born
  • Essays and Aphorisms
  • The Essential Epicurus (Great Books in Philosophy)
  • The Education of Cyrus
  • The Poems of François Villon
  • Andromaque
  • The Complete Essays
  • Pensées
  • The Art of Worldly Wisdom
  • Jacques the Fatalist
  • The Discourses
  • Discourse on Metaphysics
  • Maxims and Reflections
  • The Essays
Memoires precedes de l'Apologie de M. le prince de Marcillac La Rochefoucauld : Les Moralistes -- Maximes (La Rochefoucauld); Caractères (La Bruyère) Oeuvres Morales de Francois de La Rochefoucault (1798) Memuary ;Maksimy I Moralʹnye Razmyshlenii︠a︡ Massime scelte

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