What is called an acute knowledge of human nature is mostly nothing but the observer’s own weaknesses reflected back from others.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books (1990, trans. R. J. Hollingdale) (p. 110)


To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that we could drink all day and keep completely sober.

Logan Pearsall Smith, All Trivia (1933) (p. 145)

In vain you search for your model among human beings; from those who have gone farther than you, you have borrowed only the compromising and harmful aspect: from the sage, sloth; from the saint, incoherence; from the aesthete, rancour; from the poet, profligacy – and from all, disagreement with yourself, ambiguity in everyday things and hatred for what lives simply to live. Pure, you regret filth; sordid, seemliness; vague, vigor. You will never be anything but what you are.

E. M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay (1975, trans. Richard Howard) (p. 140)