“What is rarest in the world is fair−mindedness, method, the critical view, the sense of proportion, the capacity for distinguishing. The common state of human thought is one of confusion, incoherence, and presumption, and the common state of human hearts is a state of passion, in which equity, impartiality, and openness to impressions are unattainable. Men’s wills are always in advance of their intelligence, their desires ahead of their will, and accident the source of their desires; so that they express merely fortuitous opinions which are not worth the trouble of taking seriously, and which have no other account to give of themselves than this childish one: I am, because I am. The art of finding truth is very little practiced; it scarcely exists, because there is no personal humility, nor even any love of truth among us. We are covetous enough of such knowledge as may furnish weapons to our hand or tongue, as may serve our vanity or gratify our craving for power; but self−knowledge, the criticism of our own appetites and prejudices, is unwelcome and disagreeable to us.
Man is a willful and covetous animal, who makes use of his intellect to satisfy his inclinations, but who cares nothing for truth, who rebels against personal discipline, who hates disinterested thought and the idea of self−education. Wisdom offends him, because it rouses in him disturbance and confusion, and because he will not see himself as he is.
The great majority of men are but tangled skeins, imperfect keyboards, so many specimens of restless or stagnant chaos—and what makes their situation almost hopeless is the fact that they take pleasure in it. There is no curing a sick man who believes himself in health.”
Amiel’s Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frederic Amiel, translated by Mrs. Humphrey Ward (entry on February 6, 1877).