Book Summaries Philosophy

Use Cunning (The Art of Worldly Wisdom)

Make use of Folly. The wisest play this card at times, and there are times when the greatest
wisdom lies in seeming not to be wise. You need not be unwise, but merely affect unwisdom. To be
wise with fools and foolish with the wise were of little use. Speak to each in his own language. He
is no fool who affects folly, but he is who suffers from it. Ingenuous folly rather than the pretended is the true foolishness, since cleverness has arrived at such a pitch. To be well liked one must dress in the skin of the simplest of animals.

Create a Feeling of Dependence. Not he that adorns but he that adores makes a divinity. The
wise man would rather see men needing him than thanking him. To keep them on the threshold of
hope is diplomatic, to trust to their gratitude boorish; hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad
one. More is to be got from dependence than from courtesy. He that has satisfied his thirst
turns his back on the well, and the orange once sucked falls from the golden platter into the
waste-basket. When dependence disappears, good behaviour goes with it as well as respect.
Let it be one of the chief lessons of experience to keep hope alive without entirely satisfying it, by
preserving it to make oneself always needed even by a patron on the throne. But let not silence be
carried to excess lest you go wrong, nor let another’s failing grow incurable for the sake of
your own advantage.

Avoid Victories over Superiors. All victories breed hate, and that over your superior is foolish or fatal. Superiority is always detested, a fortiori superiority over superiority. Caution can gloss over common advantages; for example, good looks may be cloaked by careless attire. There be some that will grant you precedence in good luck or good temper, but none in good sense, least of all a prince; for good sense is a royal prerogative, any claim to that is a case of lese majeste. They are princes, and wish to be so in that most princely of qualities. They will allow a man to help them but not to surpass them, and will have any advice tendered them appear like a recollection of something they have forgotten
rather than as a guide to something they cannot find. The stars teach us this finesse with happy
tact; though they are his children and brilliant like him, they never rival the brilliancy of the sun.

Be Spotless: the indispensable condition of perfection. Few live without some weak point,
either physical or moral, which they pamper because they could easily cure it. The keenness of
others often regrets to see a slight defect attaching itself to a whole assembly of elevated
qualities, and yet a single cloud can hide the whole of the sun. There are likewise patches on
our reputation which ill-will soon finds out and is continually noticing. The highest skill is to
transform them into ornament. So Caesar hid his natural defects with the laurel

Find out each Man’s Thumbscrew. ‘Tis the art of setting their wills in action. It needs more
skill than resolution. You must know where to get at any one. Every volition has a special motive
which varies according to taste. All men are idolaters, some of fame, others of self-interest,
most of pleasure. Skill consists in knowing these idols in order to bring them into play. Knowing
any man’s mainspring of motive you have as it were the key to his will. Have resort to primary
motors, which are not always the highest but more often the lowest part of his nature: there
are more dispositions badly organised than well. First guess a man’s ruling passion, appeal to it by
a word, set it in motion by temptation, and you will infallibly give checkmate to his freedom of

A Man of Rectitude clings to the sect of right with such tenacity of purpose that neither the
passions of the mob nor the violence of the tyrant can ever cause him to transgress the
bounds of right. But who shall be such a Phoenix of equity? What a scanty following has rectitude!
Many praise it indeed, but–for others. Others follow it till danger threatens; then the false deny
it, the politic conceal it. For it cares not if it fights with friendship, power, or even selfinterest: then comes the danger of desertion. Then astute men make plausible distinctions so as not to stand in the way of their superiors or of reasons of state. But the straightforward and constant regard dissimulation as a kind of treason, and set more store on tenacity than on sagacity. Such are always to be found on the side of truth, and if they desert a party, they do not change from fickleness, but because the others have first deserted truth.

Select the Lucky and avoid the Unlucky. Illluck is generally the penalty of folly, and there is no disease so contagious to those who share in it. Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it. The greatest skill at cards is to know when to discard;
the smallest of current trumps is worth more than the ace of trumps of the last game. When in doubt, follow the suit of the wise and prudent; sooner or later they will win the odd trick.

Use, but do not abuse, Cunning. One ought not to delight in it, still less to boast of it.
Everything artificial should be concealed, most of all cunning, which is hated. Deceit is much in
use; therefore our caution has to be redoubled, but not so as to show itself, for it arouses distrust,
causes much annoy, awakens revenge, and gives rise to more ills than you would imagine. To go to
work with caution is of great advantage in action, and there is no greater proof of wisdom. The
greatest skill in any deed consists in the sure mastery with which it is executed.

Be all Things to all Men –a discreet Proteus, learned with the learned, saintly with the sainted.
It is the great art to gain every one’s suffrages; their goodwill gains general agreement. Notice
men’s moods and adapt yourself to each, genial or serious as the case may be. Follow their lead,
glossing over the changes as cunningly as possible. This is an indispensable art for dependent persons. But this savoir faire calls for great cleverness. He only will find no difficulty
who has a universal genius in his knowledge and universal ingenuity in his wit.

Make use of your Enemies. You should learn to seize things not by the blade, which cuts, but
by the handle, which saves you from harm: especially is this the rule with the doings of your
enemies. A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends. Their ill-will
often levels mountains of difficulties which one would otherwise not face. Many have had their
greatness made for them by their enemies. Flattery is more dangerous than hatred, because
it covers the stains which the other causes to be wiped out. The wise will turn ill-will into a mirror
more faithful than that of kindness. and remove or improve the faults referred to. Caution thrives
well when rivalry and ill-will are next-door neighbors.

Reality and Appearance. Things pass for what they seem, not for what they are. Few see inside;
many take to the outside. It is not enough to be right, if right seem false and ill.

Utilise Another’s Wants. The greater his wants the greater the turn of the screw. Philosophers say privation is non-existent, statesmen say it is all-embracing, and they are right. Many make ladders to attain their ends out of wants of others. They make use of the opportunity and tantalise the appetite by pointing out the difficulty of satisfaction. The energy of desire promises more than the inertia
of possession. The passion of desire increases with every increase of opposition. It is a subtle
point to satisfy the desire and yet preserve the dependence.

Know how to play the Card of Contempt. It is a shrewd way of getting things you want, by
affecting to depreciate them: generally they are not to be had when sought for, but fall into one’s
hands when one is not looking for them. As all mundane things are but shadows of the things
eternal, they share with shadows this quality, that they flee from him who follows them and follow
him that flees from them. Contempt is besides the most subtle form of revenge. It is a fixed rule
with the wise never to defend themselves with the pen. For such defence always leaves a stain,
and does more to glorify one’s opponent than to punish his offence. It is a trick of the worthless to
stand forth as opponents of great men, so as to win notoriety by a roundabout way, which they
would never do by the straight road of merit. There are many we would not have heard of if
their eminent opponents had not taken notice of them. There is no revenge like oblivion, through
which they are buried in the dust of their unworthiness. Audacious persons hope to make
themselves eternally famous by setting fire to one of the wonders of the world and of the ages. The
art of reproving scandal is to take no notice of it, to combat it damages our own case; even if
credited it causes discredit, and is a source of satisfaction to our opponent, for this shadow of a
stain dulls the lustre of our fame even if it cannot altogether deaden it.

If you cannot clothe Yourself in Lionskin use Foxpelt. To follow the times is to lead them. He that gets what he wants never loses his reputation. Cleverness when force will not do. One way or another, the king’s highway of valour or the bypath of cunning. Skill has effected more than force, and astuteness has conquered courage more often than the other way. When you cannot get a thing then is the time to despise it.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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