The greatest challenge is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Balthasar Gracian (1601-1658)

Balthasar Gracian (1601-1658), Spanish-born Jesuit priest wrote in 1637, The Art of Worldly Wisdom, translated to English by Joseph Jacobs in 1892. It consists of 300 maxims on politics, practical tips for professionals, and prudent advice on one's personal life such as "Think with the few and speak with the many."

He entered the Society of Jesus in 1619 where he studied Latin and Greek. He went on to study Philosophy in Calatayud, and Theology in Zaragoza during a time of early emergence of the university educational system. 

Gracian was ordained in 1627, and then taught Theology and Philosophy in a number of Jesuit schools in Aragon. He was Rector at the Jesuit college in Tarragona, and became famous as a preacher in Madrid, one of his more controversial orations from the pulpit his reading of a letter from Hell. 

In 1632 he was appointed Chair for Philosophy at the University of Gandia.

Often provocative, Gracian sometimes wrote under pseudonyms to avoid censure by his superiors, and though he had a large readership he ultimately ended up losing his tenure at Gandia. His estrangement from the monks was only reconciled shortly before his death. 

He met Don Vincencio de Lastanosa (1607-1684), a dabbler in the fine arts who lived in Huesca. A correspondence ensued and he would become a lifelong patron, friend, and primary publisher of Gracian's works.

Gracian  developed a didactic writing style of the conceptismo school that placed him among the leaders in concise and sophisticated use of stylistic pun, aphorism and metaphor, representing the periods' "conceits", which can be seen in The Mind's Wit and Art.

Balthasar Gracian died 1658 and is buried in Tarazona near Zaragoza in the province of Arragon.

 The Art of Worldly Wisdom ranks among popular works of philosophical advice. Gracian influenced such timeless and notable authors as Schopenhauer  translated his works to German.