La Rochefoucauld on Moderation

Author of Maxims, a collection of short, penetrating aphorisms, François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) served in the military under Louis XIV before publishing his book, which contributed to his meteoric rise in the literary world, placing him amongst some of the greatest philosophers, forever provoking our minds with his incise comments regarding the world.

On moderation he says:

“Men have made a virtue of moderation to limit the ambition of the great, and to console people of mediocrity for their want of fortune and of merit.”

La Rochefoucauld has been feared by some, for his quotes–like that seen above–are revealing in nature, cynical, a critical insight into human nature, eliciting that reflection we seldom engage in; his quotes show us our frailties, foibles we should look after and seek to change–as uncomfortable as they may be, as difficult as they may be. And indeed La Rochefoucauld makes a valid point when speaking of moderation in the case of the former as a restraint, the latter a disincentive, so far as it keeps us from wanting too much and from coveting too much.


Source: A New Dictionary of Quotations: On Historical Principles From Ancient and Modern Sources by H.L. Mencken (1942)


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