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Maxims and Reflections

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  496 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Maxims and Reflections is a collection of several hundred brilliant, unforgettable paragraphs and aphorisms by the legendary German Renaissance writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, divided into the categories Life and Character, Literature and Art, Science and Nature. Like the Manual of Epictetus and Seneca's Letters, Goethe's Maxims and Reflections is a timeless guide to na ...more
Hardcover, 56 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by (first published 1833)
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Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-improvement
Thoughts and quips from Germany's most prolific polymath - 590 in all - plus a bonus section of wonderful reflections on Mother Nature. Also features critiques on writers from Kalidas to Shakespeare.

Very difficult to cull these faves :

9. Unqualified activity, of whatever kind, leads at last to bankruptcy.

12. Our plans and designs should be so perfect in truth and beauty, that in touching them the world could only mar. We should thus have the advantage of setting right what is
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-read
To communicate is natural; to accept what is communicated is an acquired art.

What kind of shortcomings are we allowed to keep, indeed cultivate in ourselves? The kind that flatter, rather than hurt, other people.

Passions are faults or virtues, only heightened ones.

There is no way of more surely avoiding the world than by art, and it is by art that you form the surest link with it.

It is easier to imagine the mental state of a man who labours under total error than the state of mind of someon
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Goethe is a combination Emerson, Whitman, James, Franklin, and whoever might be America’s best playwright. He is the kind of artist for whom the adjective Renaissance was invented: poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, philosopher, and engineer. He probably did windows and could parallel park a coach pulled by six horses as well. This slender volume is filled with aphorisms, observations, maxims, and various other nuggets of wisdom. Witness some randomly pulled examples: “Error is continually r ...more
"In some quiet hour when they were sociably together, Faith, Love and Hope felt an urge to fashion something new; they set to work together and created a lovable new quality, a higher kind of Pandora: Patience."

This book was quite ineffective. I don't know what I really expected when I got it from the bookstore and saw it's cheaper compared to other books. Subconsciously, I was probably hoping for another perspective a la Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. To be fair, Goethe's 1,413 Maxims and Reflec
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
İ love this reflections book- İ read it and read it since 15 years and can't get enough of it- it is so rich with moving thoughts ...more
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Truly wondrous bits and pieces from a great mind. This bulk of work was my companion during the past few months. Anyways, without further ado, I will just list the reflections I loved the most.

"It is sad to watch an outstandingly talented man battling frantically with himself, his circumstances, his time, without ever managing to get anywhere."

"People are at a loss with regard to themselves and one another because they use means as ends, and then, because of sheer busyness, nothing whatever happ
John Hughes
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book of 1413 maxims from various Goethe works and sketchings

Some samplers:
“Wisdom is to be found only in truth”
“The smallest hair casts its shadow”
“Hindus in the desert vow never to eat fish”
“We all live on the past and perish by the past”
“We very seldom satisfy ourselves; all the more consoling, therefore, to have satisfied others”
“What is esoteric is damaging when it tries to be exoteric”
“A thinking man’s greatest happiness is to have fathomed what can be fathomed and to revere in sile
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This dude was wise af
Arthur Cravan
Nah, I don't know. This book irked me. I got a lot of neat sayings from it - I'll type them up later & add some, if I remember - but it's just not me. It had little spurts of things that resembled sweet pathways to me, but a lot of it felt like a slog. I think the big difference is that Goethe was an old man, & I am a young man. Also, I think it's fair to say I much more enjoyed the maxims than the reflections. Some of them being broken apart made no sense to me - they literally don't work witho ...more
Jun 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The introduction makes an excellent accidental case that this is a printout of Goethe's Facebook status updates:

"Goethe probably regarded his reflections as miniature creative language events to be shared with his readers, reflecting the time- and life-sequence of his personal reactions."

So, you have wonderful little maxims like this:

"How could a man claim to be a master of his subject if he has taught nothing that's unnecessary!"


"Bonus vir semper tiro."

And you also have head scratchers and
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn't a book that one reads start to finish, but some great observations to take in. ...more
"Hope is the second soul of those who are unfortunate."

"Our whole achievement is to give up our existence in order to exist."

"Human nature needs to be numbed from time to time, but without being put to sleep; hence smoking, spirits, opiates."

"The person who wants to do better than everybody else is generally deceiving himself: he is just doing all he can and then is pleased to fancy that this is as much and more than everybody else can do."

"Certain minds have to be left to their private illusion
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
509 aphorisms, epigrams, proverbs, and sayings.

Never as witty as Wilde or as practical as Franklin, these various maxims on life, literature, nature and art are sometimes wiser than both.

Some highlights:
Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are.

Reading ought to mean understanding; writing ought to mean knowing something; believing ought to mean comprehending; when you desire a thing, you will have to take it; when you demand it, you will not get it; and when you are experi
Kieran McLoughlin
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book a really profound and fascinating read. I read one review that described it as one of the first self-help books, and I feel that description really summarises what's available here. His mind was rich and full of great ideas, providing a framework in which to encourage us to live and act in the world. With a great emphasis on encouraging creativity and going against idleness and typical societal thinking it truly is a little treasure which is ended with a beautiful piece called ...more
Amit Sanyal
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“There is no way more surely avoiding the world than by art, and it is by art you form the surest link with it”.

A great collection of maxims, aphorisms and reflections from a great 19th century German mind. Goethe’s maxims and aphorisms touch the realms of art, literature, natural science, morphology, human conditions and the nature herself.

Written based on Goethe’s day to day experiences, these meticulous maxims also talk about human reasonings and rationality.

These 1,413 maxims/reflections are
Erik Rostad
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books
This is a pretty short book of sayings that is divided into four sections - Life and Character, Literature and Art, Science, and Nature: Aphorisms. Some of the sayings were pithy and enjoyable, others were more complex and required some chewing. It's sort of like reading the book of Proverbs. There's not a general storyline, so you could pick it up at random times and just take in a few sayings. While reading it, I was thinking this would be a great book to leave by the toilet to take a few page ...more
Rick Wilson
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot express how wonderful this book is. Like Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, I tried to read a bit every night before bed. Some nights I would read pages. Some nights I would read a line or two. The vast majority of the time I would come across something profound that I could turn over as I nodded off. Some people count sheep, but I find this works for me.

Goethe is definitely on my "magical dinner guest" list after reading his thoughts on everything from science to spirituality.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A compilation of thoughts.
Ossian's Dream
Goethe the man is often more interesting than his words, manly and freedom loving maxims nonetheless.
Aaron Schuschu
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goethe
Very typical of German philosophers. Painful, inconvenient truths from an original angle. The type of thing that makes me cry at the bottom of a bottle.
Nicholas Theodoropoulos
A fantastic read filled with some real gems. I dip into it regularly and am always surprised by the lucidity of the insights.
A collection of interesting quotes by Goethe.
Enrico Höschler
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
In total 590 maxims and reflections of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The biggest part is on character, then some on literature and art, science and nature. Pretty enjoyable read.
20191225 - 20200101 ( on plane from delhi to HK). old school writing, some interesting thoughts, quotations in kindle.
Eustacia Tan
I'm not sure why I decided to borrow this book, but I did. Basically, it's a collection of Goethe's passing thoughts, which is really strange because I don't think I've read Goethe before (I know, I'm terrible. I should probably remedy that soon).

Maxims and Reflections is basically a book of quotes. Some, I really liked, such as:
"Books, we find, are like new acquaintances. To begin with, we are highly delighted if we find an area of general agreement, if we feel a friendly response concerning so
Was Goethe an example of the universal man, or merely the embodiment of the German spirit of his era? I don’t know. I only know that I struggle to admire and enjoy Goethe. Perhaps I’m insufficiently Teutonic. Forgive me, there are worthy passages here – I did my share of marking up the text – but the good stuff is scattered amongst a great deal of dry and (to my mind) unnecessary stuffing.
I didn't particulary enjoy this book. It could have used more notes to explain Goethe's thoughts on the topics he covers. While there are plenty of notes about people that are mentioned in his reflections, there wasn't anything to explain what he was thinking of about optics, phenomenoms, etc. Perhaps if I had studied thought during this era and had a philosophy background I could have understood the book better. ...more
Jan 29, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: could-not-finish
I wish there was an option to give a book "0" stars. I just don't believe that one man is responsible for 1413 maxims and reflections that all seem to be cleverly obvious. I couldn't finish this, but it's possible I will since Experiment #6 for Creative Non-Fiction Workshop has to be influenced by one of these. There's got to be a few good ones... ...more
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alex Kartelias
Some of his thoughts were inspiring and noteworthy, but others were sexist and cliche. Regardless, he's an amazing polymath who is someone I look up to. ...more
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer. George Eliot called him "Germany's greatest man of letters... and the last true polymath to walk the earth." Goethe's works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, humanism, and science. Goethe's magnum opus, lauded as one of the peaks of world literature, is the two-part drama Faust. Goethe's other well-known literary works include h ...more

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