Book Review: A Cynic Looks at Life by Ambrose Bierce
The one purpose of every sane human being is to be happy. No one can have any other motive than that. There is no such thing as unselfishness. We perform the most "generous" and "self–sacrificing" acts because we should be unhappy if we did not. We move on lines of least reluctance. Whatever tends to increase the beggarly sum of human happiness is worth having; nothing else has any value.
Author begins with the first question, "Does civilization civilize?" "No", says the author, "For every mischievous or absurd practice of the natural man I can name you one of ours that is essentially the same". And the author regards criticisms low, as criticism is nothing but "a universal human weakness to disparage the knowledge that we do not ourselves possess". Many books, author says, 'are bad reading, though may have been good hearing". And comes up with a line I liked, except for the "Literature by which the reader is compelled to bear in mind the producer and the circumstances under which it was produced".
Further reflections on death penalty, immortality, mind, etc., give a wealthy collections on cynical notes. "A strong mind is more easily impressed than a weak; you shall not so readily convince a fool that you are a philosopher as a philosopher that you are a fool."
This is an informative book, it gave me many new ideas about how to act cynical. One of the best is this, "Nothing is more logical than persecution. Religious tolerance is a kind of infidelity".