Sage (philosophy)

someone who has attained the wisdom which a philosopher seeks
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A sage, in classical philosophy, is someone who has attained the wisdom which a philosopher seeks.


  • Il ne manque cependant à l’oisiveté du sage qu’un meilleur nom, et que méditer, parler, lire, et être tranquille s’appelât travailler.
    • There is, however, nothing wanting to the idleness of a philosopher but a better name, and that meditation, conversation, and reading should be called “work.”
      • Jean de La Bruyère, Characters, H. Van Laun, trans. (London: 1885) “Of Personal Merit,” #12
  • There are more fools than wise men, and even in a wise man there is more folly than wisdom.
  • A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his own thought, because it is his.
  • En un descuido puede caer el mayor sabio, pero en dos no; y de paso, que no de asiento.
    • The greatest of sages can commit one mistake, but not two; he may fall into error, but he doesn’t lie down and make his home there.
      • Baltasar Gracián, Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia, § 214 (Christopher Maurer trans.)
  • Nothing better or happier can befall a man than to be in the proximity of one of those victorious ones, who, precisely because they have thought the most deeply, must love what is most alive and, as sages, incline in the end to the beautiful. They speak truly, they do not stammer, and do not chatter about what they have heard; they are active and live truly and not the uncanny masquerade men are accustomed to live: which is why, in their proximity, we for once feel human and natural for once, and feel like exclaiming with Goethe: “How glorious and precious is a living thing!”
  • He is a despicable sage whose wisdom does not profit himself.
  • I cannot understand how some people can live without communicating with the wisest people who ever lived on earth.
  • A questioner asks: If human nature is evil, then where do ritual and rightness come from? I reply: ritual and rightness are always created by the conscious activity of the sages.
    • Xun Zi, “Human Nature is Evil,” Sources of Chinese Tradition (1999), vol. 1, p. 180

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