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Henri Frederic Amiel
1821 - 1881

Swiss philosopher, best known for Amiel's Journey (1872), an insightful diary of 23 years of self-reflection and analysis


Civilization is first of all a moral thing. Without truth, respect for duty, love of neighbor, and virtue, everything is destroyed. The morality of a society is alone the basis of civilization.

When everything has its proper place in our minds, we are able to stand in equilibrium with the rest of the world.

1872 - from Amiel's Journey
We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented with ourselves. The consciousness of wrong-doing makes us irritable, and our heart in its cunning quarrels with what is outside it, in order that it may deafen the clamor within.

1872 - from Amiel's Journey
The man who insists upon seeing with perfect clearness before he decides never decides. Accept life, and you must accept regret.

1872 - from Amiel's Journey
To judge is to see clearly, to care for what is just and therefore to be impartial, more exactly, to be disinterested, more exactly still, to be impersonal.

1872 - from Amiel's Journey
He who is silent is forgotten; he who abstains is taken at his word; he who does not advance, falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed, distanced, crushed; he who ceases to grow greater becomes smaller; he who leaves off, gives up; the stationary condition is the beginning of the end.

1872 - from Amiel's Journey
It is the lack of order which makes us slaves; the confusion of to-day discounts the freedom of tomorrow.

1872 - from Amiel's Journey
To be always ready a man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied; he must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which it is enwrapped, for everything cannot be equally considered... To know how to be ready, is to know how to start.

1872 - from Amiel's Journey
Duty has the virtue of making us feel the reality of a positive world while at the same time detaching us from it.

1872 - from Amiel's Journey
For purposes of action nothing is more useful than narrowness of thought combined with energy of will.

quoted in Barnes & Noble Book of Quotations, by Robert I. Fitzhenry, 1987
A belief is not true because it is useful.

1872 - from Amiel's Journey
What we call little things are merely the causes of great things; they are the beginning, the embryo, and it is the point of departure which, generally speaking, decides the whole future of an existence.

Great men are true men, the men in whom nature has succeeded. They are not extraordinary -- they are in the true order. It is the other species of men who are not what they ought to be.

We become actors without realizing it, and actors without wanting to.

Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires but according to our powers.

A belief is not true because it is useful.