10 Philosophical Quotes By Oswald Spengler


Oswald Spengler, prophet of Western decline

The New Modern Man | Spengler’s Decline of the West Series

Oswald Spengler and his seminal work Decline of the West is a perennial favorite at The New Modern Man. More than perhaps any other philosophical work, it provides perspective on where we are and where we are headed to in life and society.

These 10 selected quotes from Spengler have been prescient to say the least. They are as relevant now as they were when they were published a century ago. Spengler’s study of past high cultures’ rise then decline and how our own relates to them yielded Decline of the West, Man and Technics, and Aphorisms.

His civilization model has given us astonishingly accurate predictions, not only foreseeing the current malaise and decline of Western civilization, but given us a philosophy that doesn’t just contradict the liberal, linear model of history, it destroys it.

Spengler deserves more attention than he receives from the current education system. Here are 10 of his best quotes as selected by The New Modern Man:

1. The Common Man

The common man wants nothing of life but health, longevity, amusement, comfort – “happiness.” He who does not despise this should turn his eyes from world history, for it contains nothing of the sort. The best that history has created is great suffering.

2. Democracy


“Through money, democracy becomes its own destroyer, after money has destroyed intellect.” -Oswald Spengler

3. The Media

Today we live so cowed under the bombardment of this intellectual artillery (the media) that hardly anyone can attain to the inward detachment that is required for a clear view of the monstrous drama. The will-to-power operating under a pure democratic disguise has finished off its masterpiece so well that the object’s sense of freedom is actually flattered by the most thorough-going enslavement that has ever existed.

4. World Peace and the Liberal Utopia

The question of whether world peace will ever be possible can only be answered by someone familiar with world history. To be familiar with world history means, however, to know human beings as they have been and always will be. There is a vast difference, which most people will never comprehend, between viewing future history as it will be and viewing it as one might like it to be. Peace is a desire, war is a fact; and history has never paid heed to human desires and ideals…

5. The Real Motivation of Socialist and Communists

There is no proletarian, not even a Communist movement, that has not operated in the interests of money, and for the time being permitted by money – and that without the idealists among its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact.

6. Destiny

We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man.

7. The Death of Art

One day the last portrait of Rembrandt and the last bar of Mozart will have ceased to be — though possibly a colored canvas and a sheet of notes will remain — because the last eye and the last ear accessible to their message will have gone.

8. Liberalism Vs. Conservatism

For the Age has itself become vulgar, and most people have no idea to what extent they are themselves tainted. The bad manners of all parliaments, the general tendency to connive at a rather shady business transaction if it promises to bring in money without work, jazz and Negro dances as the spiritual outlet in all circles of society, women painted like prostitutes, the efforts of writers to win popularity by ridiculing in their novels and plays the correctness of well-bred people, and the bad taste shown even by the nobility and old princely families in throwing off every kind of social restraint and time-honoured custom: all of these go to prove that it is now the vulgar mob that gives the tone.

9. The City Cannibalizing the Countryside

Long ago the country bore the country-town and nourished it with her best blood. Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.

10. What History Tells Us

World-history is the history of the great Cultures, and peoples are but the symbolic forms and vessels in which the men of these Cultures fulfil their Destinies.

Some call his world views pessimistic. To his detractors, Spengler only had this to say:

Man was, and is, too shallow and cowardly to endure the fact of the mortality of everything living. He wraps it up in rose-colored progress-optimism, he heaps upon it the flowers of literature, he crawls behind the shelter of ideals so as not to see anything. But impermanence, the birth and the passing, is the form of all that is actual — from the stars, whose destiny is for us incalculable, right down to the ephemeral concourses on our planet. The life of the individual – whether this be animal or plant or man – is as perishable as that of peoples of Cultures. Every creation is foredoomed to decay, every thought, every discovery, every deed to oblivion. Here, there, and everywhere we are sensible of grandly fated courses of history that have vanished. Ruins of the “have-been” works of dead Cultures lie all about us. The hubris of Prometheus, who thrust his hand into the heavens in order to make the divine powers subject to man, carries with it his fall. What, then, becomes of the chatter about undying achievements?

However, rather than become totally fatalistic, Spengler offers this advice for living the best life we can given the circumstances presented to us that our out of our control.

This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us…to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves, to act in such a way that some part of us lives on. This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us…to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves, to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.

A life we can be proud of when the end comes is a noble desire, indeed. Facing the circumstances we are actually in, not what we would like them to be, is the essence of masculinity and allows us to plan our lives accordingly instead of living under a Niebuhr-esque trance foisted upon us by the mythmakers. As Spengler put it, “Optimism is cowardice.”

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