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Joseph Joubert (1754–1824). Joubert: A Selection from His Thoughts. 1899.

Chapter III.

Of Minds and Their Nature

[1]THE TRUE worth, quality, and excellence of minds lie rather in their temper and their natural lucidity, than in their amount of force, which is as variable as health.

[2]Minds are measured by their stature; it were better worth while to measure them by their beauty.

[3]Some of the best minds are unappreciated, because there is no recognised measure by which to try them. They are like a precious metal, that has no touchstone.

[4]Every mind has its dregs.

[5]To have a good intelligence and a bad brain—that is fairly common among the delicate spirits.

[6]Oh! ye fat geniuses, despise not the lean!

[7]There is a weakness of body which comes from the strength of the mind, and a weakness of mind which comes from the strength of the body.

[8]A mind has still some strength, so long as it has strength to bewail its feebleness.

[9]All fine natures have the quality of lightness, and as they have wings to rise with, so have they also wings to go astray.

[10]There are some men who are only in full possession of their minds when they are in a good temper, and others only when they are sad.

[11]There are some who can only find activity in repose, and others who can only find repose in movement.

[12]Minds that never rest are greatly prone to go astray.

[13]To occupy ourselves with little things as with great, to be as fit and ready for the one as for the other, is not weakness and littleness, but power and sufficiency.

[14]Those who have denied themselves grave thoughts, are apt to fall into sombre thoughts.

[15]Enlightenment—a great word! Some men think themselves enlightened, because they are decided, taking conviction for truth, and strong conception for intelligence. Others, because they know all that can be said think that they know all truth. But which of us is enlightened by that eternal light that shines as it were from the walls of the brain, and makes forever luminous those minds wherein it enters, and those objects that it has touched!

[16]The man of imagination without learning has wings and no feet.[M.A.]

[17]In some minds there is a nucleus of error, which attracts and assimilates everything to itself.

[18]If men of imagination are sometimes the dupes of appearance, colder intellects are often the dupes of their own reasonings.

[19]It is no use to hold ideas strongly, the important thing is to have strong ideas; that is to say, ideas that contain a great force of truth. Now the truth, and its force depend in no way upon the brain of the man. We call him a strong man who resists all argument, but that is only a strength of attitude. A blunt arrow, launched by a strong hand, may hit hard, because it flies from body to body; but strong lungs and great determination will not give true efficacy to a weak idea loudly expressed, for it is only mind that flies to mind.

[20]The lofty mind finds pleasure in generalities; the weighty mind loves applications.

[21]Questions show the mind’s range, and answers its subtlety.