The Crusty Curmudgeon: Epigrams by Geo. Bernard Shaw

Epigrams selected from George Bernard Shaw’s Maxims for Revolutionists in Man and Superman, 1903.

On Liberty

He who confuses political liberty with freedom and political equality with similarity has never thought for five minutes about either.

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.

On Education

A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education. (Shaw was writing at a time of rigid class distinctions, a period when gentlemen lived on inherited wealth. Cutting inheritance taxes may produce the same class again.)

Every fool believes what his teachers tell him, and calls his credulity science or morality as confidently as his father called it divine revelation.

On Titles

Titles distinguish the mediocre, embarrass the superior, and are disgraced by the inferior.

On Religion, Virtue, and Greatness

What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.

In a stupid nation the man of genius becomes a god: everybody worships him and nobody does his will.

Virtue consists, not in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it.

The difference between the shallowest routineer and the deepest thinker appears, to the latter, trifling; to the former, infinite.

On Happiness

Beauty and happiness are by-products. Folly is the direct pursuit of Beauty and happiness.

The man with toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound. The poverty stricken man makes the same mistake about the rich man.

The more a man possesses over and above what he uses, the more careworn he becomes.

The Unconscious Self

The unconscious self is the real genius. Your breathing goes wrong the moment your conscious self meddles with it. Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does.

On Gambling

The most popular method of distributing wealth is the method of the roulette table. The roulette table pays nobody except him that keeps it. Nevertheless a passion for gaming is common, though a passion for keeping roulette tables is unknown.

Stray Sayings

Two starving men cannot be twice as hungry as one; but two rascals can be ten times as vicious as one.