January 8, 2010

Taste, Manners, Sentiments

Note: This entry is designed to gather into one place the aphorisms in which Gómez Dávila mentions taste, manners, and sentiments.

Spiritual maturity begins when we stop feeling like we have to take care of the world. (#6)

To mature consists not in renouncing our desires, but in admitting that the world is not obliged to fulfill them. (#455)

To mature is to transform an increasing number of commonplaces into authentic spiritual experience. (#654)

It is in reiterating the old commonplaces that the work of civilization, strictly speaking, consists. (#2,584)

To mature is to see increase the number of things about which it seems grotesque to give an opinion, for or against. (#744)

Contemplated in light of our sorrow or our happiness, of our enthusiasm or our disdain, the world displays a texture so subtle, an essence so fine, that every intellectual vision, compared to that vision of the sentiments, barely seems like clever vulgarity. (#636)

It is in the spontaneity of what I feel where I search for the coherence of what I think. (#1,453)

When faced with the assaults of caprice, authenticity needs to lay hold of principles to save itself.
Principles are bridges over a life’s flash floods. (#1,902)

In an authentic culture reason becomes sensibility. (#417)

Happiness is that state of the sensibility in which everything appears to have a reason for being. (#519)

Happiness is a moment of silence between two of life’s noises. (#560)

God is not the object of my reason, nor of my sensibility, but of my being.
God exists for me in the same act in which I exist. (#559)

To appreciate the ancient or the modern is easy; but to appreciate the obsolete is the triumph of authentic taste. (#368)

The relativity of taste is an excuse adopted by ages that have bad taste. (#2,591)

If time, subjectively, makes us change taste, it also, objectively, makes things change flavor. (#2,467)

We must neither become petrified in our primitial tastes, nor sway in the breeze of others’ tastes.
The two commandments of taste. (#1,673)

We should distrust our taste but believe only in it. (#1,953)

To have good taste is above all to know what we should reject. (#2,375)

Taste does not dishonor itself by virtue of what it likes or detests, but rather by virtue of what it erroneously equates. (#1,801)

An intelligent touch can make the austerity imposed by poverty culminate in the perfection of taste. (#2,778)

Modern man has the ambition of replacing with objects he buys what other ages hoped to obtain from the methodical cultivation of the sentiments. (#169)

Good taste that has been learned ends up being of worse taste than spontaneous bad taste. (#2,671)

In culture which is bought there are many false notes; the only culture that never goes out of tune is that which is inherited. (#2,883)

The great industrial trade fairs are the showcase of everything civilization does not require. (#2,328)

We will soon reach the point where civilization declines with each additional comfort. (#2,309)

The majority of civilizations have not passed on anything more than a stratum of detritus between two strata of ashes. (#2,647)

Modern man inverts the rank of problems.
When it comes to sex education, for example, everyone pontificates, but who worries about the education of the sentiments? (#1,884)

It is not just to reproach this century’s writers for their bad taste when the very notion of taste has perished. (#1,123)

The only indices of civilization are the clarity, lucidity, order, good manners of everyday prose. (#2,636)

A ridiculous sense of shame will not allow the intelligent writer today to deal with anything but obscene topics.
But since he learned not to be ashamed of anything, he should not be ashamed of decent sentiments. (#1,664)

Monotonous, like obscenity. (#2,229)

Posterity is not the whole of future generations.
It is a small group of men with taste, a proper upbringing, and erudition, in each generation. (#1,313)

Hatred of the past is an unequivocal sign that a society is becoming more plebeian. (#1,480)

A soul is cultured if in it the din of the living does not drown out the music of the dead. (#1,167)

Recent generations move among the ruins of Western culture like a caravan of Japanese tourists among the ruins of Palmyra. (#1,722)

Except in a few countries, trying to “promote culture” while recommending the reading of “national authors” is a contradictory endeavor. (#2,941)

As the waters of this century rise, delicate and noble sentiments, sensuous and fine tastes, discreet and profound ideas take refuge in a few solitary souls, like the survivors of the flood on some silent mountain peaks. (#827)

Between the desert pole and the city pole extends the equatorial zone of civilization. (#1,635)

We are witnesses today to an exuberant proliferation of non-European crowds, but nowhere do any new, yellow, brown, or black civilizations arise. (#2,023)

Civilizations are the summer noise of insects between two winters. (#1,697)

Civilization does not conquer definitively: it only celebrates sporadic victories. (#2,899)

Man compensates for the solidity of the structures he erects with the fragility of the foundations upon which he builds them. (#2,631)

A language's attrition is faster, and the civilization that rests on it more fragile, when grammatical pedantry is forgotten.
Civilizations are periods of standard grammar. (#1,825)

When we sail in oceans of stupidity, intelligence requires the aid of good taste. (#1,099)

Our spontaneous aversions are often more lucid than our reasoned convictions. (#2,806)

Let us not give stupid opinions the pleasure of scandalizing us. (#2,597)

The reactionary not only has the nose to sniff out the absurd, he also has the palate to savor it. (#1,856)

We reactionaries escape, necessarily by good fortune, the vulgarity of conforming perfectly to the fashions of the day. (#1,725)

A certain disdainful way of speaking about the people reveals the plebeian in disguise. (#32)

Very few carry themselves with the discretion befitting their insignificance. (#2,352)

The authenticity of the sentiment depends on the clarity of the idea. (#34)

Triviality never lies in what is felt, but in what is said. (#629)

Nobody has so much sentimental capital that he can afford to squander his enthusiasm. (#60)

Dreams of excellence do not deserve respect except when they do not disguise a vulgar appetite for superiority. (#1,948)

False elegance is preferable to genuine vulgarity.
The man who dwells in an imaginary palace demands more from himself than the man who is happy with his hovel. (#2,125)

Vulgarity consists of striving to be what we are not. (#67)

Vulgarity is not a product of the people but a subproduct of bourgeois prosperity. (#1,539)

The majority of new customs are old behaviors that western civilization had shamefacedly confined to its lower-class neighborhoods. (#2,855)

The majority of properly modern customs would be crimes in an authentically civilized society. (#2,924)

Man today oscillates between the sterile rigidity of the law and the vulgar disorder of instinct.
He is ignorant of discipline, courtesy, good taste. (#1,447)

What are called good manners are habits derived from respect for a superior transformed into dealings between equals. (#98)

Good manners, in the end, are nothing but the way in which respect is expressed.
Since respect, in its turn, is a feeling inspired by the presence of an admitted superior, wherever hierarchies are absent—real or fictitious, but revered—good manners die out.
Rudeness is a democratic product. (#644)

The democrat’s ideas are more tolerable than his manners. (#2,267)

None of us finds it difficult to love the neighbor who seems inferior to us.
But to love someone we know is superior is another thing. (#677)

A civilized society requires that in it, as in the old Christian society, equality and inequality be in permanent dialogue. (#2,810)

The secret longing of every civilized society is not to abolish inequality, but to educate it. (#2,942)

The egalitarian considers courtesy a confession of inferiority.
Among egalitarians rudeness marks rank. (#1,421)

Courtesy is the attitude of a man who does not need to presume. (#1,645)

Systematic familiarity is the hypocrisy of an egalitarian who considers himself inferior, or superior, but not equal. (#1,669)

The courteous man secretly seduces even the man who insults him. (#1,742)

Mutual disrespect quickly turns friendship or love between plebeian souls into a mere bilateral contract for rudeness. (#1,164)

Rudeness is not a proof of authenticity, but of bad manners. (#1,428)

There are moments when the worst failing, the worst offense, the worst sin, seems to be bad manners. (#2,934)

Contempt for “formalities” is a guarantee of imbecility. (#461)

Civilizations are not made “avec des idées” but with good manners. (#1,475)

Baroque, preciosity, modernism, are noble failings, but failings in the end. (#2,938)

Sincerity corrupts, simultaneously, good manners and good taste. (#107)

He who believes he is pardoning a vile sentiment by saying it is sincere is merely making it worse. (#1,560)

Elegance, dignity, nobility are the only values life does not succeed in disrespecting. (#133)

God does not die, but unfortunately for man the subordinate gods like modesty, honor, dignity, decency, have perished. (#2,852)

The increasing freedom of customs in modern society has not suppressed domestic conflicts.
It has only taken away their dignity. (#1,412)

How routine insults are today proves our ignorance in the art of living. (#150)

Virtue has become less rare than good breeding. (#1,271)

Good breeding seems like a fragrance from the 18th century that evaporated. (#2,129)

The anonymity of the modern city is as intolerable as the familiarity of modern customs.
Life should resemble a salon of people with good manners, where all know each other but where none hug each other. (#694)

Even small-town grudges are more civilized than the mutual indifference of big cities. (#2,241)

Cordiality tends to be less an effusion of goodness than of bad manners. (#1,541)

Familiarity, with persons or objects, is the only thing that does not become tiring. (#2,338)

An excess of etiquette paralyzes; a lack of etiquette animalizes. (#1,538)

Humanity is what is elaborated in man’s animality by reserve and modesty. (#2,733)

Where there are no vestiges of old Christian charity, even the purest courtesy is somewhat cold, hypocritical, hard. (#2,596)

What cements society together is mutual flattery. (#163)

Other ages may have been as vulgar as ours, but none had the extraordinary sounding board, the inexorable amplifier, of modern industry. (#170)

Man no longer knows how to invent anything that does not serve to kill better or to make the world a little more vulgar. (#2,779)

The industrialization of agriculture is stopping up the source of decency in the world. (#2,912)

The cultural rickets of our time is a result of the industrialization of culture. (#2,304)

Vulgarity colonized the earth.
Its weapons have been the television, the radio, the press. (#2,088)

Modern society works feverishly to put vulgarity within everyone’s reach. (#2,840)

A “revolutionary” today means an individual for whom modern vulgarity is not triumphing quickly enough. (#2,807)

The city imagined by every utopian is always tacky—beginning with that of the Apocalypse. (#2,068)

Earth will never be a paradise, but it could perhaps be prevented from coming closer and closer to being a vulgar imitation of hell. (#2,331)

The effect of democratic rhetoric on taste is called nausea. (#1,594)

The worst rhetoric is cultivated in democratic nations, where all formalism must pretend to be a spontaneous and sincere attitude.
Monarchical rhetoric is a formalism that recognizes and admits what it is, like etiquette. (#2,330)

Today, whoever does not shout is neither heard nor understood. (#1,513)

Opinions, customs, institutions, cities—everything has become vulgar, since we gave up repairing the old in order to buy every day some gaudy novelty. (#1,184)

The object of bad taste is manufactured where social prestige makes people acquire objects which give no pleasure to those who buy them. (#667)

Civilization is not an endless succession of inventions and discoveries, but the task of ensuring that certain things endure. (#521)

Today the individual must gradually reconstruct inside himself the civilized universe that is disappearing around him. (#2,046)

Civilized individuals are not products of a civilization, but its cause. (#2,116)

For a cultural continuity to be broken, the destruction of certain institutions is enough, but when the soul softens, the survival of those very same institutions is not enough to prevent it from being broken. (#1,869)

Wisdom, in this century, consists above all in knowing how to put up with vulgarity without becoming upset. (#332)

A little patience in dealing with a fool helps us avoid sacrificing our good manners to our convictions. (#500)

Intellectual combat is won not by throwing up barricades, but by courteously leaving the field open, so that the adversary’s stupidities only break each other's noses. (#1,131)

Intellectual boorishness is the defect that we least know how to avoid in this century. (#2,766)

Solitude teaches us to be more intellectually honest, but it induces us to be less intellectually courteous. (#2,586)

Let us not try to convince; apostolate harms good manners. (#1,074)

Apostolate perverts in two ways: by inducing one either to mitigate in order to lull to sleep, or to exaggerate in order to arouse. (#2,034)

To think that only important things matter is the menace of barbarism. (#191)

In this century of threats and menaces nothing is more frivolous than to occupy oneself with serious things. (#691)

When today they tell us that someone lacks personality, we know they are speaking of a simple, trustworthy, upright being. (#218)

Personality, in our time, is the sum total of what impresses the fool. (#219)

Education consists not in cooperating in the free development of the individual, but in appealing to the decency we all possess against the perversity we all possess. (#806)

To educate is not to transmit instructions, but rather aversions and fervors. (#1,773)

The idea of “the free development of personality” seems admirable as long as one does not meet an individual whose personality has developed freely. (#436)

The common man often has a personality in everyday dealings.
But the effort to express it transforms him into an exponent of fashionable topics. (#776)

After several periods of urbanism, as well as several interludes of war, the rural and urban context of the cultivated era will not survive except in linguistic atlases and etymological dictionaries. (#1,398)

Doctrinaire individualism is dangerous not because it produces individuals, but because it suppresses them.
The product of the doctrinaire individualism of the 19th century is the mass man of the 20th century. (#705)

Individualism is the cradle of vulgarity. (#2,720)

The cultural standard of an intelligent people sinks as its standard of living rises. (#1,445)

Cultural rhetoric today replaces patriotic rhetoric, in the effusive expectorations of fools. (#2,777)

It is fine to demand that the imbecile respect arts, letters, philosophy, the sciences, but let him respect them in silence. (#2,895)

They call crowning mediocre men “promoting culture.” (#2,871)

It is not easy to discern whether contemporary journalism is a cynical way to get rich by corrupting man or a “cultural” apostolate carried out by hopelessly uncivilized minds. (#863)

The “apostles of culture” eventually turn it into a business. (#1,610)

The peddlers of cultural objects would not be annoying if they did not sell them with the rhetoric of an apostle. (#2,914)

When the business acumen of some exploits the cultural sanctimoniousness of others, one says that culture is spreading. (#2,080)

The cultured man and the simple man do not take an interest in anything but what spontaneously attracts them; the semi-cultured man only has artificial interests.
The semi-cultured man is the good fortune of the merchant of “culture.” (#2,233)

In addition to civilized societies and semi-civilized societies, there are pseudo-civilized societies. (#2,907)

Capitalism is the vulgar side of the modern soul, socialism its tedious side. (#1,855)

Each individual calls “culture” the collection of things he regards with respectful boredom. (#803)

The contemporary public is the first to readily buy what it neither needs nor likes. (#1,942)

The possibility of selling to the public any man-made object in the name of art is a democratic phenomenon.
Democratic ages, in effect, foment the uncertainty of taste by abolishing every model.
If the most excellent work of art is still possible there, lesser art dies and extravagance abounds.
Where an authority exists, on the other hand, enjoying unfamiliar works is not easy, but taste is infallible when dealing with contemporary art, and lesser art flourishes. (#2,237)

To visit a museum or to read a classic are, for the contemporary masses, simple ethical requirements. (#814)

Museums are the tourist’s punishment. (#2,412)

Admiring only mediocre works, or reading only masterpieces, characterize the uncultivated reader. (#1,909)

The most dangerous illiteracy is not that of a man who disrespects all books, but that of a man who respects them all. (#2,245)

Culture presumes that we will die educating ourselves, at whatever age we pass away. (#1,365)

An individual’s culture is the sum total of intellectual or artistic objects that bring him pleasure. (#241)

To call himself cultivated, it is not enough for an individual to adorn his specialty with bits and pieces of other specialties.
Culture is not a group of special objects but a subject’s specific attitude. (#484)

To become cultivated is to learn that a particular class of questions is meaningless. (#2,519)

In a century where the media publish endless stupidities, the cultured man is defined not by what he knows but what he does not know. (#556)

The only man saved from intellectual vulgarity is the man who ignores what it is fashionable to know. (#1,964)

The emancipated intellectual shares with his contemporaries the “personal taste” he prides himself on. (#1,998)

The press always chooses what to praise with impeccably bad taste. (#1,555)

The desire to be informed is the dissolvent of culture. (#1,582)

The cultured man does not turn culture into a profession. (#503)

Culture lives from being a diversion and dies from being a profession. (#1,268)

An authentic reader is someone who reads for pleasure the books which everyone else only studies. (#1,600)

The palate is the only suitable laboratory for the analysis of texts. (#1,955)

The cultural propaganda of the last decades (scholarly, journalistic, etc.) has not educated the public; it has merely obtained the result, like so many a missionary, that the natives celebrate their ceremonies in secret. (#788)

The now secular task of “democratizing culture” has achieved the result not that more people admire, for example, Shakespeare or Racine, but that more people believe they admire them. (#789)

The dissemination of culture has had the effect of enabling the fool to chatter about what he does not know. (#1,092)

Civilizations enter into agony when they forget that there exists not merely an aesthetic activity, but also an aesthetic of activity. (#2,449)

“Cultural activities” is an expression we hear not in the mouth of someone who spontaneously engages in them, but in the mouth of someone who performs them for profit or for prestige. (#787)

The barbarian either totally mocks or totally worships.
Civilization is a smile that discretely combines irony and respect. (#568)

To be civilized is to be able to criticize what we believe in without ceasing to believe in it. (#835)

Vulgarity consists as much in disrespecting what deserves respect as in respecting what does not deserve it. (#599)

The intelligent man’s unjust judgments tend to be truths wrapped up in a bad mood. (#228)

South American exuberance is not abundance, but disorder. (#233)

The “cultural” expressions of these “new countries” are not originally born one from another, like branches from the same trunk.
On the contrary, being imported, they superimpose themselves mechanically one onto another, like aeolian alluvia. (#1,599)

The metic’s fascinated imitation is the solvent of cultures.
A culture, in fact, does not perish by absorbing exotic elements, but rather by being assimilated and spread by foreign minds. (#1,761)

The forces that will ruin a civilization collaborate from its birth with the forces that construct it. (#2,134)

The external adversary is less the enemy of a civilization than is internal attrition. (#2,582)

When only boorish solutions confront each other, it is difficult to express an opinion with subtlety.
Rudeness is this century’s passport. (#263)

With good humor and pessimism it is not possible to be either wrong or bored. (#760)

Upon each person depends whether his soul, deprived of its many pretensions by the years, is revealed as bitter spite or as humble resignation. (#549)

Let us not pompously recommend that the inevitable be accepted with “heroism,” but rather that it be welcomed with courteous resignation. (#1,462)

To age with dignity is the task of every moment. (#271)

Only the years teach us to deal with our ignorance tactfully. (#2,901)

The soul is man’s task. (#530)

In silent solitude only the soul capable of conquering in the most public disputes bears fruit.
The weakling begs for commotion. (#488)

The true aristocrat is the man who has an interior life. Whatever his origin, his rank, or his fortune. (#594)

The distances between nations, social classes, cultures, and races, are a little thing.
The fault line runs between the plebeian mind and the patrician mind. (#1,766)

Those whose gratitude for receiving a benefit is transformed into devotion to the person who grants it, instead of degenerating into the usual hatred aroused by all benefactors, are aristocrats.
Even if they walk around in rags. (#831)

We only know how to carry ourselves with decency in front of the world when we know that we are owed nothing.
Without the pained grimace of a frustrated creditor. (#1,257)

A civilized society is one where physical pain and pleasure are not the only arguments. (#1,713)

Civilization is the sum total of internal and external repressions imposed on the amorphous expansion of an individual or a society. (#2,239)

A decent man is one who makes demands upon himself that the circumstances do not make upon him. (#1,794)

Professional worshipers of man believe they are authorized to scorn their fellow man.
The defense of human dignity allows them to be boors toward their neighbor. (#296)

A man with good manners excuses himself as he makes use of his rights. (#299)

The ignoramus believes that the expression “aristocratic manners” signified insolent behavior; whoever investigates discovers that the expression signified courtesy, refinement, dignity. (#2,842)

Courtesy is not incompatible with anything. (#1,427)

Courtesy is an obstacle to progress. (#1,717)

Man tends to exercise all his powers. The impossible seems to him the only legitimate limit.
A civilized man, however, is one who for various reasons refuses to do everything he can. (#372)

Conservatism should not be a party but the normal attitude of every decent man. (#2,403)

Nothing is as difficult as to learn that force too can be ridiculous. (#411)

He who accepts the rank which nature assigns him does not turn into the mere absence of what he is not.
Even the most modest thing has, in its proper place, immeasurable worth. (#324)

To be a protagonist in the drama of life, it is enough to be a perfect actor, whatever the role one plays.
Life has no secondary roles, only secondary actors. (#416)

Whoever merely resigns himself to his lot feels frustrated by a destiny without meaning.
Whoever humbly accepts it knows that he just does not understand the significance of the divine decision concerning him. (#811)

What is great, for the sensibility, is not the sum of the parts, but the quality of certain wholes.
Greatness of size—every modern building shows this—is not related to monumental greatness. (#354)

Words are not enough for a civilization to be transmitted.
When its architectural landscape crumbles, a civilization’s soul deserts. (#1,800)

The gesture, rather than the word, is the true transmitter of traditions. (#2,889)

Modern individualism is nothing but claiming as one’s own the opinions everyone shares. (#355)

When individuality withers, sociology flourishes. (#733)

Man is more capable of heroic acts than of decent gestures. (#423)

Civilization always consists in dressing oneself, not undressing. (#1,085)

Evening dress is the first step toward civilization. (#2,905)

Civilization is what is born when the soul does not surrender to its congenital vulgarity. (#1,587)

He who abandons himself to his instincts degrades his face as obviously as he degrades his soul. (#476)

Man can be granted all types of liberties, except that of dressing himself and of edifying his taste. (#2,425)

Once youth is past, chastity forms a part not so much of ethics as of good taste. (#955)

Ethical conduct is the aesthetically satisfactory conduct. (#2,406)

Discipline is not so much a social necessity as an aesthetic obligation. (#477)

The society that does not discipline attitudes and gestures renounces social aesthetics. (#2,120)

Not the man who has disciplined only his intelligence is cultivated, but rather the man who also disciplines the movements of his soul and even the gestures of his hands. (#2,491)

Public gestures ought to be regulated by the strictest formalism in order to prevent that feigned spontaneity that so pleases the fool. (#2,094)

Any rule is preferable to caprice.
The soul without discipline disintegrates into the ugliness of a larva. (#525)

The secular importance of religion lies less in its influence on our conduct than on the noble sonority with which it enriches the soul. (#1,390)

Only religion can be popular without being vulgar. (#2,780)

Perhaps religious practices do not improve ethical behavior, but they do without question improve manners. (#2,308)

Only churchmen’s hands knew, for a period of a few centuries, how to beautify conduct and the soul. (#2,498)

Without religious routines souls unlearn subtle and polished sentiments. (#1,929)

Cultures dry out when their religious ingredients evaporate. (#1,811)

The liturgy can definitely only speak in Latin.
In the vernacular it is vulgar. (#1,465)

The classical languages have educational value because they are safe from the vulgarity with which modern life corrupts the languages that are in use. (#2,061)

Someone who did not learn Latin and Greek goes through life convinced, even though he may deny it, that he is only semi-cultured. (#2,860)

Individualism degenerates into the beatification of caprice. (#569)

What is vulgar is not what the crowd does, but rather what pleases it. (#470)

As long as the entertainment is sufficiently vulgar, nobody protests. (#1,349)

The taste of the masses is characterized not by their antipathy to the excellent, but by the passivity with which they enjoy equally the good, the mediocre, and the bad.
The masses do not have bad taste. They simply do not have taste. (#695)

The people will adopt even refined opinions if those opinions are preached with crude arguments. (#1,413)

Intellectual vulgarity attracts voters like flies. (#1,543)

Democracy does not entrust power to anyone who does not pay it the homage of sacrificing to it his conscience and taste. (#905)

It is not in the hands of popular majorities where power is most easily perverted; it is in the hands of the semi-educated. (#2,925)

The psychiatrist considers only vulgar behavior sane. (#575)

A sentiment is not sincere unless its manifestations deceive the professional psychologist. (#2,342)

Sin ceases to seem like a fiction when we have been slapped in the face by its aesthetic vulgarity. (#1,772)

Theoretical affability toward vice is not a proof of liberality and elegance, but of vulgarity. (#2,035)

Vulgarity is born when authenticity is lost.
Authenticity is lost when we search for it. (#777)

Serenity is the fruit of uncertainty freely accepted. (#550)

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