Of The First and Last Things: Part 1 by@nietzsche

Of The First and Last Things: Part 1

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Friedrich Nietzsche

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Human, All Too Human, A Book for Free Spirits by Friedrich Nietzsche is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post Series. The table of Links for this book can be found here.

Of The First and Last Things


Chemistry of the Notions and the Feelings. —Philosophical problems, in almost all their aspects, present themselves in the same interrogative formula now than they did two thousand years ago: how can a thing develop out of its antithesis? for example, the reasonable from the non-reasonable, the animate from the inanimate, the logical from the illogical, altruism from egoism, disinterestedness from greed, truth from error? The metaphysical philosophy formerly steered itself clear of this difficulty to such extent as to repudiate the evolution of one thing from another and to assign a miraculous origin to what it deemed highest and best, due to the very nature and being of the "thing-in-itself." The historical philosophy, on the other hand, which can no longer be viewed apart from physical science, the youngest of all philosophical methods, discovered experimentally (and its results will probably always be the same) that there is no antithesis whatever, except in the usual exaggerations of popular or metaphysical comprehension, and that an error of the reason is at the bottom of such contradiction. According to its explanation, there is, strictly speaking, neither unselfish conduct, nor a wholly disinterested point of view. Both are simply sublimations in which the basic element seems almost evaporated and betrays its presence only to the keenest observation. All that we need and that could possibly be given us in the present state of development of the sciences, is a chemistry of the moral, religious, aesthetic conceptions and feeling, as well as of those emotions which we experience in the affairs, great and small, of society and civilization, and which we are sensible of even in solitude. But what if this chemistry established the fact that, even in its domain, the most magnificent results were attained with the basest and most despised ingredients? Would many feel disposed to continue such investigations? Mankind loves to put by the questions of its origin and beginning: must one not be almost inhuman in order to follow the opposite course?


The Traditional Error of Philosophers.—All philosophers make the common mistake of taking contemporary man as their starting point and of trying, through an analysis of him, to reach a conclusion. "Man" involuntarily presents himself to them as an aeterna veritas as a passive element in every hurly-burly, as a fixed standard of things. Yet everything uttered by the philosopher on the subject of man is, in the last resort, nothing more than a piece of testimony concerning man during a very limited period of time. Lack of the historical sense is the traditional defect in all philosophers. Many innocently take man in his most childish state as fashioned through the influence of certain religious and even of certain political developments, as the permanent form under which man must be viewed. They will not learn that man has evolved,4 that the intellectual faculty itself is an evolution, whereas some philosophers make the whole cosmos out of this intellectual faculty. But everything essential in human evolution took place aeons ago, long before the four thousand years or so of which we know anything: during these man may not have changed very much. However, the philosopher ascribes "instinct" to contemporary man and assumes that this is one of the unalterable facts regarding man himself, and hence affords a clue to the understanding of the universe in general. The whole teleology is so planned that man during the last four thousand years shall be spoken of as a being existing from all eternity, and with reference to whom everything in the cosmos from its very inception is naturally ordered. Yet everything evolved: there are no eternal facts as there are no absolute truths. Accordingly, historical philosophising is henceforth indispensable, and with it honesty of judgment.



Appreciation of Simple Truths.—It is the characteristic of an advanced civilization to set a higher value upon little, simple truths, ascertained by scientific method, than upon the pleasing and magnificent errors originating in metaphysical and æsthetical epochs and peoples. To begin with, the former are spoken of with contempt as if there could be no question of comparison respecting them, so rigid, homely, prosaic and even discouraging is the aspect of the first, while so beautiful, decorative, intoxicating and perhaps beatific appear the last named. Nevertheless, the hardwon, the certain, the lasting and, therefore, the fertile in new knowledge, is the higher; to hold fast to it is manly and evinces courage, directness, endurance. And not only individual men but all mankind will by degrees be uplifted to this manliness when they are finally habituated to the proper appreciation of tenable, enduring knowledge and have lost all faith in inspiration and in the miraculous revelation of truth. The reverers of forms, indeed, with their standards of beauty and taste, may have good reason to laugh when the appreciation of little truths and the scientific spirit begin to prevail, but that will be only because their eyes are not yet opened to the charm of the utmost simplicity of form or because men though reared in the rightly appreciative spirit, will still not be fully permeated by it, so that they continue unwittingly imitating ancient forms (and that ill enough, as anybody does who no longer feels any interest in a thing). Formerly the mind was not brought into play through the medium of exact thought. Its serious business lay in the working out of forms and symbols. That has now changed. Any seriousness in symbolism is at present the indication of a deficient education. As our very acts become more intellectual, our tendencies more rational, and our judgment, for example, as to what seems reasonable, is very different from what it was a hundred years ago: so the forms of our lives grow ever more intellectual and, to the old fashioned eye, perhaps, uglier, but only because it cannot see that the richness of inner, rational beauty always spreads and deepens, and that the inner, rational aspect of all things should now be of more consequence to us than the most beautiful externality and the most exquisite limning.


Astrology and the Like.—It is presumable that the objects of the religious, moral, aesthetic and logical notions pertain simply to the superficialities of things, although man flatters himself with the thought that here at least he is getting to the heart of the cosmos. He deceives himself because these things have power to make him so happy and so wretched, and so he evinces, in this respect, the same conceit that characterises astrology. Astrology presupposes that the heavenly bodies are regulated in their movements in harmony with the destiny of mortals: the moral man presupposes that that which concerns himself most nearly must also be the heart and soul of things.


Misconception of Dreams.—In the dream, mankind, in epochs of crude primitive civilization, thought they were introduced to a second, substantial world: here we have the source of all metaphysic. Without the dream, men would never have been incited to an analysis of the world. Even the distinction between soul and body is wholly due to the primitive conception of the dream, as also the hypothesis of the embodied soul, whence the development of all superstition, and also, probably, the belief in god. "The dead still live: for they appear to the living in dreams." So reasoned mankind at one time, and through many thousands of years.


The Scientific Spirit Prevails only Partially, not Wholly.—The specialized, minutest departments of science are dealt with purely objectively. But the general universal sciences, considered as a great, basic unity, posit the question—truly a very living question—: to what purpose? what is the use? Because of this reference to utility they are, as a whole, less impersonal than when looked at in their specialized aspects. Now in the case of philosophy, as forming the apex of the scientific pyramid, this question of the utility of knowledge is necessarily brought very conspicuously forward, so that every philosophy has, unconsciously, the air of ascribing the highest utility to itself. It is for this reason that all philosophies contain such a great amount of high flying metaphysic, and such a shrinking from the seeming insignificance of the deliverances of physical science: for the significance of knowledge in relation to life must be made to appear as great as possible.

This constitutes the antagonism between the specialties of science and philosophy. The latter aims, as art aims, at imparting to life and conduct the utmost depth and significance: in the former mere knowledge is sought and nothing else—whatever else be incidentally obtained. Heretofore there has never been a philosophical system in which philosophy itself was not made the apologist of knowledge [in the abstract]. On this point, at least, each is optimistic and insists that to knowledge the highest utility must be ascribed. They are all under the tyranny of logic, which is, from its very nature, optimism.


The Discordant Element in Science. —Philosophy severed itself from science when it put the question: what is that knowledge of the world and of life through which mankind may be made happiest? This happened when the Socratic school arose: with the standpoint of happiness the arteries of investigating science were compressed too tightly to permit of any circulation of the blood—and are so compressed to-day.


Pneumatic Explanation of Nature.5—Metaphysic reads the message of nature as if it were written purely pneumatically, as the church and its learned ones formerly did where the bible was concerned. It requires a great deal of expertness to apply to nature the same strict science of interpretation that the philologists have devised for all literature, and to apply it for the purpose of a simple, direct interpretation of the message, and at the same time, not bring out a double meaning. But, as in the case of books and literature, errors of exposition are far from being completely eliminated, and vestiges of allegorical and mystical interpretations are still to be met with in the most cultivated circles, so where nature is concerned the case is—actually much worse.

5Pneumatic is here used in the sense of spiritual. Pneuma being the Greek word in the New Testament for the Holy Spirit.—Ed.


Metaphysical World.—It is true, there may be a metaphysical world; the absolute possibility of it can scarcely be disputed. We see all things through the medium of the human head and we cannot well cut off this head: although there remains the question what part of the world would be left after it had been cut off. But that is a purely abstract scientific problem and one not much calculated to give men uneasiness: yet everything that has heretofore made metaphysical assumptions valuable, fearful or delightful to men, all that gave rise to them is passion, error and self deception: the worst systems of knowledge, not the best, pin their tenets of belief thereto. When such methods are once brought to view as the basis of all existing religions and metaphysics, they are already discredited. There always remains, however, the possibility already conceded: but nothing at all can be made out of that, to say not a word about letting happiness, salvation and life hang upon the threads spun from such a possibility. Accordingly, nothing could be predicated of the metaphysical world beyond the fact that it is an elsewhere,6 another sphere, inaccessible and incomprehensible to us: it would become a thing of negative properties. Even were the existence of such a world absolutely established, it would nevertheless remain incontrovertible that of all kinds of knowledge, knowledge of such a world would be of least consequence—of even less consequence than knowledge of the chemical analysis of water would be to a storm tossed mariner.



The Harmlessness of Metaphysic in the Future.—As soon as religion, art and ethics are so understood that a full comprehension of them can be gained without taking refuge in the postulates of metaphysical claptrap at any point in the line of reasoning, there will be a complete cessation of interest in the purely theoretical problem of the "thing in itself" and the "phenomenon." For here, too, the same truth applies: in religion, art and ethics we are not concerned with the "essence of the cosmos".7 We are in the sphere of pure conception. No presentiment [or intuition] can carry us any further. With perfect tranquility the question of how our conception of the world could differ so sharply from the actual world as it is manifest to us, will be relegated to the physiological sciences and to the history of the evolution of ideas and organisms.

7"Wesen der Welt an sich."


Language as a Presumptive Science.—The importance of language in the development of civilization consists in the fact that by means of it man placed one world, his own, alongside another, a place of leverage that he thought so firm as to admit of his turning the rest of the cosmos on a pivot that he might master it. In so far as man for ages looked upon mere ideas and names of things as upon aeternae veritates, he evinced the very pride with which he raised himself above the brute. He really supposed that in language he possessed a knowledge of the cosmos. The language builder was not so modest as to believe that he was only giving names to things. On the contrary he thought he embodied the highest wisdom concerning things in [mere] words; and, in truth, language is the first movement in all strivings for wisdom.

Here, too, it is faith in ascertained truth8 from which the mightiest fountains of strength have flowed. Very tardily—only now—it dawns upon men that they have propagated a monstrous error in their belief in language. Fortunately, it is too late now to arrest and turn back the evolutionary process of the reason, which had its inception in this belief. Logic itself rests upon assumptions to which nothing in the world of reality corresponds. For example, the correspondence of certain things to one another and the identity of those things at different periods of time are assumptions pure and simple, but the science of logic originated in the positive belief that they were not assumptions at all but established facts. It is the same with the science of mathematics which certainly would never have come into existence if mankind had known from the beginning that in all nature there is no perfectly straight line, no true circle, no standard of measurement.

8Glaube an die gefundene Wahrheit, as distinguished from faith in what is taken on trust as truth.


Dream and Civilization.—The function of the brain which is most encroached upon in slumber is the memory; not that it is wholly suspended, but it is reduced to a state of imperfection as, in primitive ages of mankind, was probably the case with everyone, whether waking or sleeping. Uncontrolled and entangled as it is, it perpetually confuses things as a result of the most trifling similarities, yet in the same mental confusion and lack of control the nations invented their mythologies, while nowadays travelers habitually observe how prone the savage is to forgetfulness, how his mind, after the least exertion of memory, begins to wander and lose itself until finally he utters falsehood and nonsense from sheer exhaustion. Yet, in dreams, we all resemble this savage. Inadequacy of distinction and error of comparison are the basis of the preposterous things we do and say in dreams, so that when we clearly recall a dream we are startled that so much idiocy lurks within us. The absolute distinctness of all dream-images, due to implicit faith in their substantial reality, recalls the conditions in which earlier mankind were placed, for whom hallucinations had extraordinary vividness, entire communities and even entire nations laboring simultaneously under them. Therefore: in sleep and in dream we make the pilgrimage of early mankind over again.


Logic of the Dream.—During sleep the nervous system, through various inner provocatives, is in constant agitation. Almost all the organs act independently and vigorously. The blood circulates rapidly. The posture of the sleeper compresses some portions of the body. The coverlets influence the sensations in different ways. The stomach carries on the digestive process and acts upon other organs thereby. The intestines are in motion. The position of the head induces unaccustomed action. The feet, shoeless, no longer pressing the ground, are the occasion of other sensations of novelty, as is, indeed, the changed garb of the entire body. All these things, following the bustle and change of the day, result, through their novelty, in a movement throughout the entire system that extends even to the brain functions. Thus, there are a hundred circumstances to induce perplexity in the mind, a questioning as to the cause of this excitation. Now, the dream is a seeking and presenting of reasons for these excitations of feeling, of the supposed reasons, that is to say. Thus, for example, whoever has his feet bound with two threads will probably dream that a pair of serpents are coiled about his feet. This is at first a hypothesis, then a belief with an accompanying imaginative picture and the argument: "these snakes must be the causa of those sensations which I, the sleeper, now have." So reasons the mind of the sleeper. The conditions precedent, as thus conjectured, become, owing to the excitation of the fancy, present realities. Everyone knows from experience how a dreamer will transform one piercing sound, for example, that of a bell, into another of quite a different nature, say, the report of cannon. In his dream he becomes aware first of the effects, which he explains by a subsequent hypothesis and becomes persuaded of the purely conjectural nature of the sound. But how comes it that the mind of the dreamer goes so far astray when the same mind, awake, is habitually cautious, careful, and so conservative in its dealings with hypotheses? why does the first plausible hypothesis of the cause of a sensation gain credit in the dreaming state? (For in a dream we look upon that dream as reality, that is, we accept our hypotheses as fully established). I have no doubt that as men argue in their dreams to-day, mankind argued, even in their waking moments, for thousands of years: the first causa, that occurred to the mind with reference to anything that stood in need of explanation, was accepted as the true explanation and served as such. (Savages show the same tendency in operation, as the reports of travelers agree). In the dream this atavistic relic of humanity manifests its existence within us, for it is the foundation upon which the higher rational faculty developed itself and still develops itself in every individual. Dreams carry us back to the earlier stages of human culture and afford us a means of understanding it more clearly. Dream thought comes so easily to us now because we are so thoroughly trained to it through the interminable stages of evolution during which this fanciful and facile form of theorising has prevailed. To a certain extent the dream is a restorative for the brain, which, during the day, is called upon to meet the many demands for trained thought made upon it by the conditions of a higher civilization.—We may, if we please, become sensible, even in our waking moments, of a condition that is as a door and vestibule to dreaming. If we close our eyes the brain immediately conjures up a medley of impressions of light and color, apparently a sort of imitation and echo of the impressions forced in upon the brain during its waking moments. And now the mind, in co-operation with the imagination, transforms this formless play of light and color into definite figures, moving groups, landscapes. What really takes place is a sort of reasoning from effect back to cause. As the brain inquires: whence these impressions of light and color? it posits as the inducing causes of such lights and colors, those shapes and figures. They serve the brain as the occasions of those lights and colors because the brain, when the eyes are open and the senses awake, is accustomed to perceiving the cause of every impression of light and color made upon it. Here again the imagination is continually interposing its images inasmuch as it participates in the production of the impressions made through the senses day by day: and the dream-fancy does exactly the same thing—that is, the presumed cause is determined from the effect and after the effect: all this, too, with extraordinary rapidity, so that in this matter, as in a matter of jugglery or sleight-of-hand, a confusion of the mind is produced and an after effect is made to appear a simultaneous action, an inverted succession of events, even.—From these considerations we can see how late strict, logical thought, the true notion of cause and effect must have been in developing, since our intellectual and rational faculties to this very day revert to these primitive processes of deduction, while practically half our lifetime is spent in the super-inducing conditions.—Even the poet, the artist, ascribes to his sentimental and emotional states causes which are not the true ones. To that extent he is a reminder of early mankind and can aid us in its comprehension.


Association.9—All strong feelings are associated with a variety of allied sentiments and emotions. They stir up the memory at the same time. When we are under their influence we are reminded of similar states and we feel a renewal of them within us. Thus are formed habitual successions of feelings and notions, which, at last, when they follow one another with lightning rapidity are no longer felt as complexities but as unities. In this sense we hear of moral feelings, of religious feelings, as if they were absolute unities. In reality they are streams with a hundred sources and tributaries. Here again, the unity of the word speaks nothing for the unity of the thing.

9Miterklingen: to sound simultaneously with.


No Within and Without in the World.10—As Democritus transferred the notions above and below to limitless space, where they are destitute of meaning, so the philosophers do generally with the idea "within and without," as regards the form and substance (Wesen und Erscheinung) of the world. What they claim is that through the medium of profound feelings one can penetrate deep into the soul of things (Innre), draw close to the heart of nature. But these feelings are deep only in so far as with them are simultaneously aroused, although almost imperceptibly, certain complicated groups of thoughts (Gedankengruppen) which we call deep: a feeling is deep because we deem the thoughts accompanying it deep. But deep thought can nevertheless be very widely sundered from truth, as for instance every metaphysical thought. Take from deep feeling the element of thought blended with it and all that remains is strength of feeling which is no voucher for the validity of knowledge, as intense faith is evidence only of its own intensity and not of the truth of that in which the faith is felt.

10Kein Innen und Aussen in der Welt: the above translation may seem too literal but some dispute has arisen concerning the precise idea the author means to convey.


Phenomenon and Thing-in-Itself.—The philosophers are in the habit of placing themselves in front of life and experience—that which they call the world of phenomena—as if they were standing before a picture that is unrolled before them in its final completeness. This panorama, they think, must be studied in every detail in order to reach some conclusion regarding the object represented by the picture. From effect, accordingly is deduced cause and from cause is deduced the unconditioned. This process is generally looked upon as affording the all sufficient explanation of the world of phenomena. On the other hand one must, (while putting the conception of the metaphysical distinctly forward as that of the unconditioned, and consequently of the unconditioning) absolutely deny any connection between the unconditioned (of the metaphysical world) and the world known to us: so that throughout phenomena there is no manifestation of the thing-in-itself, and getting from one to the other is out of the question. Thus is left quite ignored the circumstance that the picture—that which we now call life and experience—is a gradual evolution, is, indeed, still in process of evolution and for that reason should not be regarded as an enduring whole from which any conclusion as to its author (the all-sufficient reason) could be arrived at, or even pronounced out of the question. It is because we have for thousands of years looked into the world with moral, aesthetic, religious predispositions, with blind prejudice, passion or fear, and surfeited ourselves with indulgence in the follies of illogical thought, that the world has gradually become so wondrously motley, frightful, significant, soulful: it has taken on tints, but we have been the colorists: the human intellect, upon the foundation of human needs, of human passions, has reared all these "phenomena" and injected its own erroneous fundamental conceptions into things.

Late, very late, the human intellect checks itself: and now the world of experience and the thing-in-itself seem to it so severed and so antithetical that it denies the possibility of one's hinging upon the other—or else summons us to surrender our intellect, our personal will, to the secret and the awe-inspiring in order that thereby we may attain certainty of certainty hereafter. Again, there are those who have combined all the characteristic features of our world of phenomena—that is, the conception of the world which has been formed and inherited through a series of intellectual vagaries—and instead of holding the intellect responsible for it all, have pronounced the very nature of things accountable for the present very sinister aspect of the world, and preached annihilation of existence. Through all these views and opinions the toilsome, steady process of science (which now for the first time begins to celebrate its greatest triumph in the genesis of thought) will definitely work itself out, the result, being, perhaps, to the following effect: That which we now call the world is the result of a crowd of errors and fancies which gradually developed in the general evolution of organic nature, have grown together and been transmitted to us as the accumulated treasure of all the past—as the treasure, for whatever is worth anything in our humanity rests upon it. From this world of conception it is in the power of science to release us only to a slight extent—and this is all that could be wished—inasmuch as it cannot eradicate the influence of hereditary habits of feeling, but it can light up by degrees the stages of the development of that world of conception, and lift us, at least for a time, above the whole spectacle. Perhaps we may then perceive that the thing-in-itself is a meet subject for Homeric laughter: that it seemed so much, everything, indeed, and is really a void—void, that is to say, of meaning.


Metaphysical Explanation.—Man, when he is young, prizes metaphysical explanations, because they make him see matters of the highest import in things he found disagreeable or contemptible: and if he is not satisfied with himself, this feeling of dissatisfaction is soothed when he sees the most hidden world-problem or world-pain in that which he finds so displeasing in himself. To feel himself more unresponsible and at the same time to find things (Dinge) more interesting—that is to him the double benefit he owes to metaphysics. Later, indeed, he acquires distrust of the whole metaphysical method of explaining things: he then perceives, perhaps, that those effects could have been attained just as well and more scientifically by another method: that physical and historical explanations would, at least, have given that feeling of freedom from personal responsibility just as well, while interest in life and its problems would be stimulated, perhaps, even more.


The Fundamental Problems of Metaphysics.—If a history of the development of thought is ever written, the following proposition, advanced by a distinguished logician, will be illuminated with a new light: "The universal, primordial law of the apprehending subject consists in the inner necessity of cognizing every object by itself, as in its essence a thing unto itself, therefore as self-existing and unchanging, in short, as a substance." Even this law, which is here called "primordial," is an evolution: it has yet to be shown how gradually this evolution takes place in lower organizations: how the dim, mole eyes of such organizations see, at first, nothing but a blank sameness: how later, when the various excitations of desire and aversion manifest themselves, various substances are gradually distinguished, but each with an attribute, that is, a special relationship to such an organization. The first step towards the logical is judgment, the essence of which, according to the best logicians, is belief. At the foundation of all beliefs lie sensations of pleasure or pain in relation to the apprehending subject. A third feeling, as the result of two prior, single, separate feelings, is judgment in its crudest form. We organic beings are primordially interested by nothing whatever in any thing (Ding) except its relation to ourselves with reference to pleasure and pain. Between the moments in which we are conscious of this relation, (the states of feeling) lie the moments of rest, of not-feeling: then the world and every thing (Ding) have no interest for us: we observe no change in them (as at present a person absorbed in something does not notice anyone passing by). To plants all things are, as a rule, at rest, eternal, every object like itself. From the period of lower organisms has been handed down to man the belief that there are like things (gleiche Dinge): only the trained experience attained through the most advanced science contradicts this postulate.

The primordial belief of all organisms is, perhaps, that all the rest of the world is one thing and motionless.—Furthest away from this first step towards the logical is the notion of causation: even to-day we think that all our feelings and doings are, at bottom, acts of the free will; when the sentient individual contemplates himself he deems every feeling, every change, a something isolated, disconnected, that is to say, unqualified by any thing; it comes suddenly to the surface, independent of anything that went before or came after. We are hungry, but originally we do not know that the organism must be nourished: on the contrary that feeling seems to manifest itself without reason or purpose; it stands out by itself and seems quite independent. Therefore: the belief in the freedom of the will is a primordial error of everything organic as old as the very earliest inward prompting of the logical faculty; belief in unconditioned substances and in like things (gleiche Dinge) is also a primordial and equally ancient error of everything organic. Inasmuch as all metaphysic has concerned itself particularly with substance and with freedom of the will, it should be designated as the science that deals with the fundamental errors of mankind as if they were fundamental truths.


Number.—The invention of the laws of number has as its basis the primordial and prior-prevailing delusion that many like things exist (although in point of fact there is no such thing is a duplicate), or that, at least, there are things (but there is no "thing"). The assumption of plurality always presupposes that something exists which manifests itself repeatedly, but just here is where the delusion prevails; in this very matter we feign realities, unities, that have no existence. Our feelings, notions, of space and time are false for they lead, when duly tested, to logical contradictions. In all scientific demonstrations we always unavoidably base our calculation upon some false standards [of duration or measurement] but as these standards are at least constant, as, for example, our notions of time and space, the results arrived at by science possess absolute accuracy and certainty in their relationship to one another: one can keep on building upon them—until is reached that final limit at which the erroneous fundamental conceptions, (the invariable breakdown) come into conflict with the results established—as, for example, in the case of the atomic theory. Here we always find ourselves obliged to give credence to a "thing" or material "substratum" that is set in motion, although, at the same time, the whole scientific programme has had as its aim the resolving of everything material into motions [themselves]: here again we distinguish with our feeling [that which does the] moving and [that which is] moved,11 and we never get out of this circle, because the belief in things12 has been from time immemorial rooted in our nature.—When Kant says "the intellect does not derive its laws from nature, but dictates them to her" he states the full truth as regards the idea of nature which we form (nature = world, as notion, that is, as error) but which is merely the synthesis of a host of errors of the intellect. To a world not [the outcome of] our conception, the laws of number are wholly inapplicable: such laws are valid only in the world of mankind.

11Wir scheiden auch hier noch mit unserer Empfindung Bewegendes und Bewegtes.

12Glaube an Dinge.


Some Backward Steps.—One very forward step in education is taken when man emerges from his superstitious and religious ideas and fears and, for instance, no longer believes in the dear little angels or in original sin, and has stopped talking about the salvation of the soul: when he has taken this step to freedom he has, nevertheless, through the utmost exertion of his mental power, to overcome metaphysics. Then a backward movement is necessary: he must appreciate the historical justification, and to an equal extent the psychological considerations, in such a movement. He must understand that the greatest advances made by mankind have resulted from such a course and that without this very backward movement the highest achievements of man hitherto would have been impossible.—With regard to philosophical metaphysics I see ever more and more who have arrived at the negative goal (that all positive metaphysic is a delusion) but as yet very few who go a few steps backward: one should look out over the last rungs of the ladder, but not try to stand on them, that is to say. The most advanced as yet go only far enough to free themselves from metaphysic and look back at it with an air of superiority: whereas here, no less than in the hippodrome, it is necessary to turn around in order to reach the end of the course.


Presumable [Nature of the] Victory of Doubt.—Let us assume for a moment the validity of the skeptical standpoint: granted that there is no metaphysical world, and that all the metaphysical explanations of the only world we know are useless to us, how would we then contemplate men and things? [Menschen und Dinge]. This can be thought out and it is worth while doing so, even if the question whether anything metaphysical has ever been demonstrated by or through Kant and Schopenhauer, be put altogether aside. For it is, to all appearances, highly probable that men, on this point, will be, in the mass, skeptical. The question thus becomes: what sort of a notion will human society, under the influence of such a state of mind, form of itself? Perhaps the scientific demonstration of any metaphysical world is now so difficult that mankind will never be free from a distrust of it. And when there is formed a feeling of distrust of metaphysics, the results are, in the mass, the same as if metaphysics were refuted altogether and could no longer be believed. In both cases the historical question, with regard to an unmetaphysical disposition in mankind, remains the same.


Disbelief in the "monumentum aere perennius".13—A decided disadvantage, attending the termination of metaphysical modes of thought, is that the individual fixes his mind too attentively upon his own brief lifetime and feels no strong inducement to aid in the foundation of institutions capable of enduring for centuries: he wishes himself to gather the fruit from the tree that he plants and consequently he no longer plants those trees which require centuries of constant cultivation and are destined to afford shade to generation after generation in the future. For metaphysical views inspire the belief that in them is afforded the final sure foundation upon which henceforth the whole future of mankind may rest and be built up: the individual promotes his own salvation; when, for example, he builds a church or a monastery he is of opinion that he is doing something for the salvation of his immortal soul:—Can science, as well, inspire such faith in the efficacy of her results? In actual fact, science requires doubt and distrust as her surest auxiliaries; nevertheless, the sum of the irresistible (that is all the onslaughts of skepticism, all the disintegrating effects of surviving truths) can easily become so great (as, for instance, in the case of hygienic science) as to inspire the determination to build "eternal" works upon it. At present the contrast between our excitated ephemeral existence and the tranquil repose of metaphysical epochs is too great because both are as yet in too close juxtaposition. The individual man himself now goes through too many stages of inner and outer evolution for him to venture to make a plan even for his life time alone. A perfectly modern man, indeed, who wants to build himself a house feels as if he were walling himself up alive in a mausoleum.

13Monument more enduring than brass: Horace, Odes III:XXX.


Age of Comparison.—The less men are bound by tradition, the greater is the inner activity of motives, the greater, correspondingly, the outer restlessness, the promiscuous flow of humanity, the polyphony of strivings. Who now feels any great impulse to establish himself and his posterity in a particular place? For whom, moreover, does there exist, at present, any strong tie? As all the methods of the arts were copied from one another, so were all the methods and advancements of moral codes, of manners, of civilizations.—Such an age derives its significance from the fact that in it the various ideas, codes, manners and civilizations can be compared and experienced side by side; which was impossible at an earlier period in view of the localised nature of the rule of every civilization, corresponding to the limitation of all artistic effects by time and place. To-day the growth of the aesthetic feeling is decided, owing to the great number of [artistic] forms which offer themselves for comparison. The majority—those that are condemned by the method of comparison—will be allowed to die out. In the same way there is to-day taking place a selection of the forms and customs of the higher morality which can result only in the extinction of the vulgar moralities. This is the age of comparison! That is its glory—but also its pain. Let us not, however shrink from this pain. Rather would we comprehend the nature of the task imposed upon us by our age as adequately as we can: posterity will bless us for doing so—a posterity that knows itself to be [developed] through and above the narrow, early race-civilizations as well as the culture-civilization of comparison, but yet looks gratefully back upon both as venerable monuments of antiquity.


Possibility of Progress.—When a master of the old civilization (den alten Cultur) vows to hold no more discussion with men who believe in progress, he is quite right. For the old civilization14 has its greatness and its advantages behind it, and historic training forces one to acknowledge that it can never again acquire vigor: only intolerable stupidity or equally intolerable fanaticism could fail to perceive this fact. But men may consciously determine to evolve to a new civilization where formerly they evolved unconsciously and accidentally. They can now devise better conditions for the advancement of mankind, for their nourishment, training and education, they can administer the earth as an economic power, and, particularly, compare the capacities of men and select them accordingly. This new, conscious civilization is killing the other which, on the whole, has led but an unreflective animal and plant life: it is also destroying the doubt of progress itself—progress is possible. I mean: it is hasty and almost unreflective to assume that progress must necessarily take place: but how can it be doubted that progress is possible? On the other hand, progress in the sense and along the lines of the old civilization is not even conceivable. If romantic fantasy employs the word progress in connection with certain aims and ends identical with those of the circumscribed primitive national civilizations, the picture presented of progress is always borrowed from the past. The idea and the image of progress thus formed are quite without originality.

14Cultur, culture, civilisation etc., but there is no exact English equivalent.


Private Ethics and World Ethics.—Since the extinction of the belief that a god guides the general destiny of the world and, notwithstanding all the contortions and windings of the path of mankind, leads it gloriously forward, men must shape oecumenical, world-embracing ends for themselves. The older ethics, namely Kant's, required of the individual such a course of conduct as he wishes all men to follow. This evinces much simplicity—as if any individual could determine off hand what course of conduct would conduce to the welfare of humanity, and what course of conduct is preëminently desirable! This is a theory like that of freedom of competition, which takes it for granted that the general harmony [of things] must prevail of itself in accordance with some inherent law of betterment or amelioration. It may be that a later contemplation of the needs of mankind will reveal that it is by no means desirable that all men should regulate their conduct according to the same principle; it may be best, from the standpoint of certain ends yet to be attained, that men, during long periods should regulate their conduct with reference to special, and even, in certain circumstances, evil, objects. At any rate, if mankind is not to be led astray by such a universal rule of conduct, it behooves it to attain a knowledge of the condition of culture that will serve as a scientific standard of comparison in connection with cosmical ends. Herein is comprised the tremendous mission of the great spirits of the next century.


Reaction as Progress.—Occasionally harsh, powerful, impetuous, yet nevertheless backward spirits, appear, who try to conjure back some past era in the history of mankind: they serve as evidence that the new tendencies which they oppose, are not yet potent enough, that there is something lacking in them: otherwise they [the tendencies] would better withstand the effects of this conjuring back process. Thus Luther's reformation shows that in his century all the impulses to freedom of the spirit were still uncertain, lacking in vigor, and immature. Science could not yet rear her head. Indeed the whole Renaissance appears but as an early spring smothered in snow. But even in the present century Schopenhauer's metaphysic shows that the scientific spirit is not yet powerful enough: for the whole mediaeval Christian world-standpoint (Weltbetrachtung) and conception of man (Mensch-Empfindung)15 once again, notwithstanding the slowly wrought destruction of all Christian dogma, celebrated a resurrection in Schopenhauer's doctrine. There is much science in his teaching although the science does not dominate, but, instead of it, the old, trite "metaphysical necessity." It is one of the greatest and most priceless advantages of Schopenhauer's teaching that by it our feelings are temporarily forced back to those old human and cosmical standpoints to which no other path could conduct us so easily. The gain for history and justice is very great. I believe that without Schopenhauer's aid it would be no easy matter for anyone now to do justice to Christianity and its Asiatic relatives—a thing impossible as regards the christianity that still survives. After according this great triumph to justice, after we have corrected in so essential a respect the historical point of view which the age of learning brought with it, we may begin to bear still farther onward the banner of enlightenment—a banner bearing the three names: Petrarch, Erasmus, Voltaire. We have taken a forward step out of reaction.

15Literally man-feeling or human outlook.


A Substitute for Religion.—It is supposed to be a recommendation for philosophy to say of it that it provides the people with a substitute for religion. And in fact, the training of the intellect does necessitate the convenient laying out of the track of thought, since the transition from religion by way of science entails a powerful, perilous leap,—something that should be advised against. With this qualification, the recommendation referred to is a just one. At the same time, it should be further explained that the needs which religion satisfies and which science must now satisfy, are not immutable. Even they can be diminished and uprooted. Think, for instance, of the christian soul-need, the sighs over one's inner corruption, the anxiety regarding salvation—all notions that arise simply out of errors of the reason and require no satisfaction at all, but annihilation. A philosophy can either so affect these needs as to appease them or else put them aside altogether, for they are acquired, circumscribed needs, based upon hypotheses which those of science explode. Here, for the purpose of affording the means of transition, for the sake of lightening the spirit overburdened with feeling, art can be employed to far better purpose, as these hypotheses receive far less support from art than from a metaphysical philosophy. Then from art it is easier to go over to a really emancipating philosophical science.


Discredited Words.—Away with the disgustingly over-used words optimism and pessimism! For the occasion for using them grows daily less; only drivelers now find them indispensably necessary. What earthly reason could anyone have for being an optimist unless he had a god to defend who must have created the best of all possible worlds, since he is himself all goodness and perfection?—but what thinking man has now any need for the hypothesis that there is a god?—There is also no occasion whatever for a pessimistic confession of faith, unless one has a personal interest in denouncing the advocate of god, the theologian or the theological philosopher, and maintaining the counter proposition that evil reigns, that wretchedness is more potent than joy, that the world is a piece of botch work, that phenomenon (Erscheinung) is but the manifestation of some evil spirit. But who bothers his head about the theologians any more—except the theologians themselves? Apart from all theology and its antagonism, it is manifest that the world is neither good nor bad, (to say nothing about its being the best or the worst) and that these ideas of "good" and "bad" have significance only in relation to men, indeed, are without significance at all, in view of the sense in which they are usually employed. The contemptuous and the eulogistic point of view must, in every case, be repudiated.


Intoxicated by the Perfume of Flowers.—The ship of humanity, it is thought, acquires an ever deeper draught the more it is laden. It is believed that the more profoundly man thinks, the more exquisitely he feels, the higher the standard he sets for himself, the greater his distance from the other animals—the more he appears as a genius (Genie) among animals—the nearer he gets to the true nature of the world and to comprehension thereof: this, indeed, he really does through science, but he thinks he does it far more adequately through his religions and arts. These are, certainly, a blossoming of the world, but not, therefore, nearer the roots of the world than is the stalk. One cannot learn best from it the nature of the world, although nearly everyone thinks so. Error has made men so deep, sensitive and imaginative in order to bring forth such flowers as religions and arts. Pure apprehension would be unable to do that. Whoever should disclose to us the essence of the world would be undeceiving us most cruelly. Not the world as thing-in-itself but the world as idea16 (as error) is rich in portent, deep, wonderful, carrying happiness and unhappiness in its womb. This result leads to a philosophy of world negation: which, at any rate, can be as well combined with a practical world affirmation as with its opposite.

16Vorstellung: this word sometimes corresponds to the English word "idea", at others to "conception" or "notion."


Evil Habits in Reaching Conclusions.—The most usual erroneous conclusions of men are these: a thing17 exists, therefore it is right: Here from capacity to live is deduced fitness, from fitness, is deduced justification. So also: an opinion gives happiness, therefore it is the true one, its effect is good, therefore it is itself good and true. Here is predicated of the effect that it gives happiness, that it is good in the sense of utility, and there is likewise predicated of the cause that it is good, but good in the sense of logical validity. Conversely, the proposition would run: a thing17 cannot attain success, cannot maintain itself, therefore it is evil: a belief troubles [the believer], occasions pain, therefore it is false. The free spirit, who is sensible of the defect in this method of reaching conclusions and has had to suffer its consequences, often succumbs to the temptation to come to the very opposite conclusions (which, in general, are, of course, equally erroneous): a thing cannot maintain itself: therefore it is good; a belief is troublesome, therefore it is true.

17Sache, thing but not in the sense of Ding. Sache is of very indefinite application (res).


The Illogical is Necessary.—Among the things which can bring a thinker to distraction is the knowledge that the illogical is necessary to mankind and that from the illogical springs much that is good. The illogical is so imbedded in the passions, in language, in art, in religion and, above all, in everything that imparts value to life that it cannot be taken away without irreparably injuring those beautiful things. Only men of the utmost simplicity can believe that the nature man knows can be changed into a purely logical nature. Yet were there steps affording approach to this goal, how utterly everything would be lost on the way! Even the most rational man needs nature again, from time to time, that is, his illogical fundamental relation (Grundstellung) to all things.


Being Unjust is Essential.—All judgments of the value of life are illogically developed and therefore unjust. The vice of the judgment consists, first, in the way in which the subject matter comes under observation, that is, very incompletely; secondly in the way in which the total is summed up; and, thirdly, in the fact that each single item in the totality of the subject matter is itself the result of defective perception, and this from absolute necessity. No practical knowledge of a man, for example, stood he never so near to us, can be complete—so that we could have a logical right to form a total estimate of him; all estimates are summary and must be so. Then the standard by which we measure, (our being) is not an immutable quantity; we have moods and variations, and yet we should know ourselves as an invariable standard before we undertake to establish the nature of the relation of any thing (Sache) to ourselves. Perhaps it will follow from all this that one should form no judgments whatever; if one could but merely live without having to form estimates, without aversion and without partiality!—for everything most abhorred is closely connected with an estimate, as well as every strongest partiality. An inclination towards a thing, or from a thing, without an accompanying feeling that the beneficial is desired and the pernicious contemned, an inclination without a sort of experiential estimation of the desirability of an end, does not exist in man. We are primordially illogical and hence unjust beings and can recognise this fact: this is one of the greatest and most baffling discords of existence.


Error Respecting Living for the Sake of Living Essential.—Every belief in the value and worthiness of life rests upon defective thinking; it is for this reason alone possible that sympathy with the general life and suffering of mankind is so imperfectly developed in the individual. Even exceptional men, who can think beyond their own personalities, do not have this general life in view, but isolated portions of it. If one is capable of fixing his observation upon exceptional cases, I mean upon highly endowed individuals and pure souled beings, if their development is taken as the true end of world-evolution and if joy be felt in their existence, then it is possible to believe in the value of life, because in that case the rest of humanity is overlooked: hence we have here defective thinking. So, too, it is even if all mankind be taken into consideration, and one species only of impulses (the less egoistic) brought under review and those, in consideration of the other impulses, exalted: then something could still be hoped of mankind in the mass and to that extent there could exist belief in the value of life: here, again, as a result of defective thinking. Whatever attitude, thus, one may assume, one is, as a result of this attitude, an exception among mankind. Now, the great majority of mankind endure life without any great protest, and believe, to this extent, in the value of existence, but that is because each individual decides and determines alone, and never comes out of his own personality like these exceptions: everything outside of the personal has no existence for them or at the utmost is observed as but a faint shadow. Consequently the value of life for the generality of mankind consists simply in the fact that the individual attaches more importance to himself than he does to the world. The great lack of imagination from which he suffers is responsible for his inability to enter into the feelings of beings other than himself, and hence his sympathy with their fate and suffering is of the slightest possible description. On the other hand, whosoever really could sympathise, necessarily doubts the value of life; were it possible for him to sum up and to feel in himself the total consciousness of mankind, he would collapse with a malediction against existence,—for mankind is, in the mass, without a goal, and hence man cannot find, in the contemplation of his whole course, anything to serve him as a mainstay and a comfort, but rather a reason to despair. If he looks beyond the things that immediately engage him to the final aimlessness of humanity, his own conduct assumes in his eyes the character of a frittering away. To feel oneself, however, as humanity (not alone as an individual) frittered away exactly as we see the stray leaves frittered away by nature, is a feeling transcending all feeling. But who is capable of it? Only a poet, certainly: and poets always know how to console themselves.


For Tranquility.—But will not our philosophy become thus a tragedy? Will not truth prove the enemy of life, of betterment? A question seems to weigh upon our tongue and yet will not put itself into words: whether one can knowingly remain in the domain of the untruthful? or, if one must, whether, then, death would not be preferable? For there is no longer any ought (Sollen), morality; so far as it is involved "ought," is, through our point of view, as utterly annihilated as religion. Our knowledge can permit only pleasure and pain, benefit and injury, to subsist as motives. But how can these motives be distinguished from the desire for truth? Even they rest upon error (in so far, as already stated, partiality and dislike and their very inaccurate estimates palpably modify our pleasure and our pain). The whole of human life is deeply involved in untruth. The individual cannot extricate it from this pit without thereby fundamentally clashing with his whole past, without finding his present motives of conduct, (as that of honor) illegitimate, and without opposing scorn and contempt to the ambitions which prompt one to have regard for the future and for one's happiness in the future. Is it true, does there, then, remain but one way of thinking, which, as a personal consequence brings in its train despair, and as a theoretical [consequence brings in its train] a philosophy of decay, disintegration, self annihilation? I believe the deciding influence, as regards the after-effect of knowledge, will be the temperament of a man; I can, in addition to this after-effect just mentioned, suppose another, by means of which a much simpler life, and one freer from disturbances than the present, could be lived; so that at first the old motives of vehement passion might still have strength, owing to hereditary habit, but they would gradually grow weaker under the influence of purifying knowledge. A man would live, at last, both among men and unto himself, as in the natural state, without praise, reproach, competition, feasting one's eyes, as if it were a play, upon much that formerly inspired dread. One would be rid of the strenuous element, and would no longer feel the goad of the reflection that man is not even [as much as] nature, nor more than nature. To be sure, this requires, as already stated, a good temperament, a fortified, gentle and naturally cheerful soul, a disposition that has no need to be on its guard against its own eccentricities and sudden outbreaks and that in its utterances manifests neither sullenness nor a snarling tone—those familiar, disagreeable characteristics of old dogs and old men that have been a long time chained up. Rather must a man, from whom the ordinary bondages of life have fallen away to so great an extent, so do that he only lives on in order to grow continually in knowledge, and to learn to resign, without envy and without disappointment, much, yes nearly everything, that has value in the eyes of men. He must be content with such a free, fearless soaring above men, manners, laws and traditional estimates of things, as the most desirable of all situations. He will freely share the joy of being in such a situation, and he has, perhaps, nothing else to share—in which renunciation and self-denial really most consist. But if more is asked of him, he will, with a benevolent shake of the head, refer to his brother, the free man of fact, and will, perhaps, not dissemble a little contempt: for, as regards his "freedom," thereby hangs a tale.

den mit dessen "Freiheit" hat es eine eigene Bewandtniss.

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This book is part of the public domain. Nietzsche, Friedrich. (November 26, 2011). HUMAN, ALL TOO HUMAN, A BOOK FOR FREE SPIRITS. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved DECEMBER 7, 2021, from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38145/38145-h/38145-h.htm#OF_THE_FIRST_AND_LAST_THINGS

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