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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,393 ratings  ·  229 reviews
The philosophy of La Rochefoucauld, which influenced French intellectuals as diverse as Voltaire and the Jansenists, is captured here in more than 600 penetrating and pithy aphorisms.
Paperback, 126 pages
Published June 25th 1981 by Penguin Classics (first published 1665)
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Riku Sayuj
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

‘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
Roy Lotz
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
We do not like to praise, and we never praise without a motive.

François Duc de La Rochefoucauld was something of a bungler in life. The scion of a great house, the beneficiary of a princely education, the young nobleman got himself mixed up in all sort of plots and intrigues, eventually getting himself locked in the Bastille and later banished to his estate. As a result of this rather undistinguished career in the world, he developed into a man-of-letters, achieving far more success on the p
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Maximes Supprimeés (after the First Edition)
"La sobriété est l'amour de la santé, ou l'impuissance de manger beaucoup."(p95, Flammarion)
Moderation is either a love of health, or the inability to eat and drink any more.

"Comment prétendons-nous qu'un autre garder notre secret si nous ne pouvons le garder nous-memes?" (p99) Compare Ben Franklin's improvement:
"Three men can keep a secret, if two of them are dead."
(Poor Richard's Almanac, 70 years after Maxims, 1665.)

"C'est une ennuyeuse maladie q
Sep 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Mar 08, 2013 marked it as i-want-money
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."
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, essays
Great minds have the ability to say much in few words.

In short, the reader’s best policy is to start with the premiss that none of these maxims is directed specifically at him, and the he is the sole exception to them, even though they seem to be generally applicable. After that, I guarantee that he will be the first to subscribe to them, and that he will think them only too favourable to the human heart. That is what I have to say about the work in general.

I'm glad I re-read these
We are more able than willing; often we imagine that things are impossible because we want to excuse ourselves in our own eyes.

There is more pride than kindness* in our reprimands to people who are at fault; and we reprove them not so much to correct them as to convince them that we ourselves are free from such wrongdoing.

What men have called friendship is merely social contact, consider ation for one another’s interests, and exchange of favours; in fact, it is simply a transaction in w
Apr 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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, whi
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My French literature textbook included ten of these maxims, and I was intrigued to see more of these timeless tidbits. Most people in my class thought Rochefoucauld displayed a very pessimistic viewpoint on life here, but I thought it was fair and neutral. Maybe I'm just super pessimistic too and didn't realize it? ...more
Bogdan Liviu
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand imitations."
One of the fundamental books that humanity has produced.
Yet another great spirit who tells the Truth.

The other one is Balthasar Gracian and his The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence
Chuck LoPresti
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*I've realized I'm writing myself notes more than reviews at times. I'm logging this stuff for my kids mostly who are 6 and 2 at the time of this writing, (Hello M. and O. If I'm dead now it doesn't mean I didn't just see what you did and you should feel horrible about your behavior the moment you are done washing your hands - now go watch 12 Chaplins and get a good night's sleep), I hope I can at least convey some central themes in the book at hand that will justify their presence on this site. ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aaron Dellutri
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Stevahkno  Fwaurmo
May 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Some are quite clever, some are quite obvious, some are quite insightful, most are worth reading.
Michelle Cano
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cada frase del libro es oro.

“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.”
It's difficult to narrow down my thoughts on this book to a review that is not verbose. I want to say to begin with that reading "Portrait de M. R. D. fait par lui-même" (Portrait of Monsieur R----d, by Himself) was delightful. I know I was smiling the whole time whenever I was reading it. To me, that last part was less autobiographical and more personal. I think it is absolutely wonderful that they included that at the end of the book. (That is, aside from the Maxims of Doubtful Authenticity.) ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This was an impulse buy based on my love for Oxford World's Classics paperbacks. I hadn't heard of the author before, but after a few quick peeks around the 'net, I found it interesting. I'm glad to have read the book and it's neat that it's a dual-language edition, with the original French on the left and a new English translation on the right. It lets me try to practice my French and also enjoy the translation process.

As for the work itself, there were several maxims I really liked. I list som
Abeer Abdullah
Jun 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: france
La Rochefoucald is a very interesting person who has lead a very interesting life, in addition to his being clearly very intelligent. Such factors naturally lead to wise, if not at least fascinating writings. I at first heard about him and his short book of maxims and thought it would be a light summer read but it took me 3 times as much effort as I thought it would to read these 500 one sentence maxims, they weren't very complex and so I wondered why it was so hard for me to do so and I came to ...more
Apr 16, 2017 added it
Re-read. French courtier and spiritual precursor to -- among others -- the inverted moral perspectives and reversals worked through in Nietzsche, much of Freud and Bierce's Dictionary... Though this compact book is primarily comprised of aphorisms amenable to the Twitter format, my favorite entry is a bit lengthier:

"Of all human impulsions, the one we know least about is indolence. It is of them all the most vicious and intense, however unnoticed its intensity or concealed its ill effects. If
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
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fantastically precise observations of human nature. But the end result is gloom and depression. If you read just a few pages of this work at one sitting; you will be okay. If you read 1/2 of it at one fell swoop, you will probably need prescription medication. Whatever you do, do not read the whole thing at once--you might never recover. This is grim, savage, biting stuff.
Nov 28, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.) ...more
Feb 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I ever read.
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
La Rochefoucauld writes in the Maxims that “age makes men both sillier and wiser.” He does not say that progress in one entails progress in the other but it would be convenient to believe so because, as my children will agree, I am sillier now than I used to be. I indulge in bad puns and gratuitous spoonerisms. I make, and enjoy making, “dad jokes.” In my middle age I find that most of the old vices and temptations loosen their grip (La Rochefoucauld: “When the vices give us up we flatter oursel ...more
Grand Logothete
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is essential reading for understanding humanity, our sick, anxious, vain, twisted, deceitful, malicious, jealous, vengeful, selfish and therefore hilariously poignant minds.

It dissects with concise precision the actions and interactions in the social sphere, dismounting their apparent good nature and intentions, by exposing the actual foundations that lie beneath the surface. With its acerbic, cynical wit, it makes a very solid case in ascertaining a large chunk of our behavior towards othe
Ronald Koltnow
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Francois, Duke de Le Rouchefoucauld, was considered everything the learned French nobleman of the 17th Century should be. A man of the court, a favorite at the salons, he was a gentleman of note. His MAXIMS are a series of aphorisms, and most of them are brilliant (Hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue). Many of the aphorism deal with flirtation and coquetry, and they are dated. Most though deal with human nature and are as true today as in 1650. The aphorism is the highest form of literatu ...more
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François de La Rochefoucauld

François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac (French: [fʁɑ̃swa d(ə) la ʁɔʃfuko]; 15 September 1613 – 17 March 1680) was a noted French author of maxims and mem

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