- Series: Oxford World's Classics
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199540004
- ISBN-13: 978-0199540006
- Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.2 x 5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Collected Maxims and Other Reflections (Oxford World's Classics) 1st Edition
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This superb publication of La Rouchefoucauld's seminal 'Maxims' combines the erudition and comprehensiveness of a scholarly edition with the welcoming accessibility of a first-class textbook. * Kevin De Ornellas, University of Ulster *
About the Author
E.H. Blackmore, Freelance writer and translator. A.M. Blackmore, Freelance writer and translator.
Top customer reviews
The difficulty in reflection is at the heart of why professors dislike him. La Rochefoucauld was a prince in mid 1600s France. He was wealthy and had time to think and write, and what he came up with is a collection of maxims and essays. How much could this guy know about people, scholars ask, to let him use the word "we"? He wasn't collecting data, he wasn't interviewing people. Who is he to say "we"? The conclusion: La Rochefoucauld wrote about himself. That, to scholars, is the death knell of a writer. Literature is supposed to be constructed art, not self exploration.
"We" can be jarring, that's for sure, because the reader has to stop and ask, Is this true for me? The answer might be no. The answer might be yes. Or the question might be draining to answer. It can be hard to accept "We forgive as long as we love." If that's true, why do people end relationships over infidelity? Is the love gone? Does that mean there is no forgiveness? But Christians always forgive. The word "we" causes problems for conscientious readers, because it's direct and personal and accusatory, and demands introspection.
But take it for what it is. He has some problematic bits about women: "Women do not know just what flirts they are," "Women never behave with total austerity when they feel no aversion," "Women are less able to overcome their flirting than their passion." He doesn't have a reputation for being misogynistic, and these could just be words from a man who's been hurt, and who's at the early stages or working through jealousy. Indeed, in the same group of maxims, he writes, "There is a certain kind of love which is so extreme it prevents jealousy."
Those types of maxims are the ones that secured La Rochefoucauld's place in posterity. Is that special love a pure love, or one that develops after a person has learned from past relationships? It has to be thought about.
I think it says something that students tend to like La Rochefoucauld though professors don't. Perhaps La Rochefoucauld fulfills something missing in education. "Young people just entering society should look shamefaced or half-witted; a confident, assured manner usually turns into insolence." That's meaningful advice.
But it's unpopular. The rhetoric of Generation Y entrepreneurs, house flippers, and smoothie drinking life coaches tells us to be loud and sure. You know your path. Go get it. And perhaps being loud and confident is indeed better than being humble. I once read that crickets that chirp the loudest and most frequent mate the most. If that's so, if people like being loud and sure, then what La Rochefoucauld says is understandably unsettling, especially to professors who build their careers trumpeting their CVs.
But whatever. All this thought is killing me. That last maxim, to me, rings true. And that's what matters.
I am not a cricket.
La Rochefoucauld's theme to which he continually returns is that people more often than not make decisions based on self-love, an assertion that presages Nietzsche's concept of will to power. The maxims read much like proverbs and La Rochefoucauld touches on envy, self-control (and the lack thereof), fortune, wisdom and prudence, regret, friendship, love, happiness and unhappiness, passion and moderation, good taste and bad taste, tact, and other facets of life, suggesting that much if not most human behavior is deterministic. He closes with a portrait of himself.
The introduction states that these maxims are too painful to read. While the reader will likely find some of the maxims cross the line between realism and cynicism, reading this collection would only be painful perhaps to the naïve. Those who are clear-eyed, though, can receive valid criticism which is meant to help one better oneself as opposed to invalid criticism that is simply meant to manipulate one into succumbing to the selfishness of others.