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Sunday, 2 May 2010

Schopenhauer: Persona


File:Topeng Bali.jpg

There is an unconscious propriety in the way in which, in all European languages, the word person is commonly used to denote a human being. The real meaning of persona is a mask, such as actors were accustomed to wear on the ancient stage; and it is quite true that no one shows himself as he is, but wears his mask and plays his part. Indeed, the whole of our social arrangements may be likened to a perpetual comedy; and this is why a man who is worth anything finds society so insipid, while a blockhead is quite at home in it.

Arthur Schopenhauer: Psychological Observations, from Studies in Pessimism in Parerga und Paralipomena, 1851 (translated by Thomas Bailey Saunders)

Various Balinese Topeng (dance masks), Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, Jakarta
: photo by Gunawan Kartapranata, 2009

MaskTV: photo by James Reynolds, 2006


Anonymous said...

We are comfortable behind our masks, just as we are tending to be more and more comfortable behind the computer screen. Going around the world without wearing our masks, would make us completely vulnerable. I wear my mask, my nickname for instance. But I take it off in the presence of very special souls =)

Curtis Roberts said...

A long time ago at work, a friend and colleague introduced me to someone, saying “I’d like you to meet Curtis, he’s very open”. That surprised me a lot and made me wonder for the first time about how my friend perceived our relationship, how she felt she expressed herself, and why?

This all happened under the sunny Los Angeles sky, which made the experience even more surreal because everything seemed so naturally open there compared to the canyons of Manhattan, my usual habitat.

TC said...


"Open" can of course be a code word for "candid", close neighbour to "honest", almost right at the door of "dangerous".


I hear you about the internet masks. I must confess that though the rules of the game persuade us to accept internet sock-puppets as familiar acquaintances (well, not quite friends), still, it's a great relief when, in those rare cases in which we want to get a bit closer, names are given in private (as we know).

The first step toward friendship is having the courtesy to tell someone your actual name (only the first step, but still).