The Art of Worldly Wisdom: The Second Maxim


The second maxim in Baltasar Gracian’s book, The Art of Worldly Wisdom is a frustratingly short one.

ii Character and Intellect:

the two poles of our capacity; one without the other is but halfway to happiness. Intellect sufficeth not, character is also needed. On the other hand, it is the fool’s misfortune, to fail in obtaining the position, the employment, the neighbourhood, and the circle of friends that suit him.

I find this one particularly frustrating because I have a difficult time with the metaphor it is using.  I know I am overcomplicating it because the most likely meaning is a description of a globe with two poles.  Yet I sort of want to think that it is a complicated device rotating on two separate axis.  Character and Intellect do rotate separately.  You can have one without the other.  That is what Gracian is saying with this maxim.  A person of great character would be admired by many but limited in the capacity of what can be done.  A person of intellect would have the capacity to accompish a lot but would lack the connections necessary to reach that capacity.

The other reason why I like to think of the metaphor as a more complicated device because I like the image of a person in a machine that has two separate vectors of rotation and trying to balance the movement.  In my mind, balancing these two traits is a difficult task.

Honestly, I know that I worship at the altar of intellect a bit too much, neglecting the growth of character.  I have the left to right rotation down, now I have to get the forward to back rotation.  Just like trying to pat my head and rub my belly at the same time.  Tricky, but doable.

Published by Sean D. Francis

Sean D. Francis is a technologist, writer, and geek. He podcasts, makes video, and dabbles in all the geeky genres including horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.

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