Chemistry of concepts and feelings. In almost all respects, philosophical
problems today are again formulated as they were two thousand years ago: how
can something arise from its opposite--for example, reason from unreason,
sensation from the lifeless, logic from the illogical, disinterested contemplation
from covetous desire, altruism from egoism, truth from error? Until now, metaphysical
philosophy has overcome this difficulty by denying the origin of the one from
the other, and by assuming for the more highly valued things some miraculous
origin, directly from out of the heart and essence of the "thing in itself."2
Historical philosophy, on the other hand, the very youngest of all philosophical
methods, which can no longer be even conceived of as separate from the natural
sciences, has determined in isolated cases (and will probably conclude in all
of them) that they are not opposites, only exaggerated to be so by the popular
or metaphysical view, and that this opposition is based on an error of reason.
As historical philosophy explains it, there exists, strictly considered, neither
a selfless act nor a completely disinterested observation: both are merely sublimations.
In them the basic element appears to be virtually dispersed and proves to be
present only to the most careful observer.
All we need, something which can be given us only now, with the various sciences at their present level of achievement, is a chemistry of moral, religious, aesthetic ideas and feelings, a chemistry of all those impulses that we ourselves experience in the great and small interactions of culture and society, indeed even in solitude. What if this chemistry might end with the conclusion that, even here, the most glorious colors are extracted from base, even despised substances? Are there many who will want to pursue such investigations? Mankind loves to put the questions of origin and beginnings out of mind: must one not be almost inhuman to feel in himself the opposite inclination?
Congenital defect of philosophers. All philosophers suffer from the
same defect, in that they start with present‑day man and think they can
arrive at their goal by analyzing him. Instinctively they let "man"
hover before them as an aeterna veritas,3 something unchanging
in all turmoil, a secure measure of things. But everything the philosopher asserts
about man is basically no more than a statement about man within a very limited
time span. A lack of historical sense is the congenital defect of all philosophers.
Some unwittingly even take the most recent form of man, as it developed under
the imprint of certain religions or even certain political events, as the fixed
form from which one must proceed. They will not understand that man has evolved,
that the faculty of knowledge has also evolved, while some of them even permit
themselves to spin the whole world from out of this faculty of knowledge.
Now, everything essential in human development occurred in primeval times, long before those four thousand years with which we are more or less familiar. Man probably hasn't changed much more in these years. But the philosopher sees "instincts" in present-day man, and assumes that they belong to the unchangeable facts of human nature, that they can, to that extent, provide a key to the understanding of the world in general. This entire teleology is predicated on the ability to speak about man of the last four thousand years as if he were eternal, the natural direction of all things in the world from the beginning. But everything has evolved; there are no eternal facts, nor are there any absolute truths. Thus historical philosophizing is necessary henceforth, and the virtue of modesty as well.
Esteeming humble truths. It is the sign of a higher culture to esteem
more highly the little, humble truths, those discovered by a strict method,
rather than the gladdening and dazzling errors that originate in metaphysical
and artistic ages and men. At first, one has scorn on his lips for humble truths,
as if they could offer no match for the others: they stand so modest, simple,
sober, even apparently discouraging, while the other truths are so beautiful,
splendid, enchanting, or even enrapturing. But truths that are hard won, certain,
enduring, and therefore still of consequence for all further knowledge are the
higher; to keep to them is manly, and shows bravery, simplicity, restraint.
Eventually, not only the individual, but all mankind will be elevated to this
manliness, when men finally grow accustomed to the greater esteem for durable,
lasting knowledge and have lost all belief in inspiration and a seemingly miraculous
communication of truths.
The admirers of forms,4 with their standard of beauty and sublimity, will, to be sure, have good reason to mock at first, when esteem for humble truths and the scientific spirit first comes to rule, but only because either their eye has not yet been opened to the charm of the simplest form, or because men raised in that spirit have not yet been fully and inwardly permeated by it, so that they continue thoughtlessly to imitate old forms (and poorly, too, like someone who no longer really cares about the matter). Previously, the mind was not obliged to think rigorously; its importance lay in spinning out symbols and forms. That has changed; that importance of symbols has become the sign of lower culture. Just as our very arts are becoming ever more intellectual and our senses more spiritual, and as, for example, that which is sensually pleasant to the ear is judged quite differently now than a hundred years ago, so the forms of our life become ever more spiritual--to the eye of older times uglier, perhaps, but only because it is unable to see how the realm of internal, spiritual beauty is continually deepening and expanding, and to what extent a glance full of intelligence can mean more to all of us now than the most beautiful human body and the most sublime edifice.
Astrology and the like. It is probable that the objects of religious, moral, and aesthetic sensibility likewise belong only to the surface of things, although man likes to believe that here at least he is touching the heart of the world. Because those things make him so deeply happy or unhappy, he deceives himself, and shows the same pride as astrology, which thinks the heavens revolve around the fate of man. The moral man, however, presumes that that which is essential to his heart must also be the heart and essence of all things.
Misunderstanding dreams. In ages of crude, primordial cultures, man
thought he could come to know a second real world in dreams: this is
the origin of all metaphysics. Without dreams man would have found no occasion
to divide the world. The separation into body and soul is also connected to
the oldest views about dreams, as is the assumption of a spiritual apparition5
that is, the origin of all belief in ghosts, and probably also in gods. "The
dead man lives on, because he appears to the living man in dreams."
So man concluded formerly, throughout many thousands of years.
The scientific spirit is powerful in the part, not in the whole. The distinct, smallest fields of science are treated purely objectively. On the other hand, the general, great sciences, taken as a whole, pose the question (a very unobjective question, to be sure): what for? to what benefit? Because of this concern about benefit, men treat the sciences less impersonally as a whole than in their parts. Now, in philosophy--the top of the whole scientific pyramid--the question of the benefit of knowledge itself is posed automatically and each philosophy has the unconscious intention of ascribing to knowledge the greatest benefit. For this reason, all philosophies have so much high-flying metaphysics and so much wariness of the seemingly insignificant explanations of physics. For the importance of knowledge for life ought to appear as great as possible. Here we have the antagonism between individual scientific fields and philosophy. The latter, like art, wishes to render the greatest possible depth and meaning to life and activity. In the sciences, one seeks knowledge and nothing more--whatever the consequences may be. Until now, there has been no philosopher in whose hands philosophy has not become an apology for knowledge. In this way, at least, every one is an optimist, by thinking that knowledge must be accorded the highest usefulness. All philosophers are tyrannized by logic: and logic, by its nature, is optimism.
The troublemaker in science. Philosophy divorced itself from science when it inquired which knowledge of the world and life could help man to live most happily. This occurred in the Socratic schools: out of a concern for happiness man tied off the veins of scientific investigation‑and does so still today.
Pneumatic explanation of nature. Metaphysics explains nature's scriptures as if pneumatically, the way the church and its scholars used to explain the Bible. It takes a lot of intelligence to apply to nature the same kind of strict interpretive art that philologists today have created for all books: with the intention simply to understand what the scripture wants to say, but not to sniff out, or even presume, a double meaning. Just as we have by no means overcome bad interpretive art in regard to books, and one still comes upon vestiges of allegorical and mystical interpretation in the best‑educated society, so it stands too in regard to nature--in fact much worse.
Metaphysical world. It is true, there might be a metaphysical world;
one can hardly dispute the absolute possibility of it. We see all things by
means of our human head, and cannot chop it off, though it remains to wonder
what would be left of the world if indeed it had been cut off. This is a purely
scientific problem, and not very suited to cause men worry. But all that has
produced metaphysical assumptions and made them valuable, horrible, pleasurable
to men thus far is passion, error, and self-deception. The very worst methods
of knowledge, not the very best, have taught us to believe in them. When one
has disclosed these methods to be the foundation of all existing religions and
metaphysical systems, one has refuted them. That other possibility still remains,
but we cannot begin to do anything with it, let alone allow our happiness, salvation,
and life to depend on the spider webs of such a possibility. For there is nothing
at all we could state about the metaphysical world except its differentness,
a differentness inaccessible and incomprehensible to us. It would be a thing
with negative qualities.
No matter how well proven the existence of such a world might be, it would still hold true that the knowledge of it would be the most inconsequential of all knowledge, even more inconsequential than the knowledge of the chemical analysis of water must be to the boatman facing a storm.
The harmlessness of metaphysics in the future. As soon as the origins
of religion, art, and morality have been described, so that one can explain
them fully without resorting to the use of metaphysical intervention
at the beginning and along the way, then one no longer has as strong an interest
in the purely theoretical problem of the "thing in itself" and "appearance.."6
For however the case may be, religion, art, and morality do not enable us to
touch the "essence of the world in itself." We are in the realm of
idea,7 no "intuition"8 can carry us further.
With complete calm we will let physiology and the ontogeny of organisms and
concepts determine how our image of the world can be so very different from
the disclosed essence of the world.
Language as an alleged science. The importance of language for the development
of culture lies in the fact that, in language, man juxtaposed to the one world
another world of his own, a place which he thought so sturdy that from it he
could move the rest of the world from its foundations and make himself lord
over it. To the extent that he believed over long periods of time in the concepts
and names of things as if they were aeternae veritates,9 man
has acquired that pride by which he has raised himself above the animals: he
really did believe that in language he had knowledge of the world. 10
The shaper of language was not so modest as to think that he was only giving
things labels; rather, he imagined that he was expressing the highest knowledge
of things with words; and in fact, language is the first stage of scientific
effort. Here, too, it is the belief in found truth from which the mightiest
sources of strength have flowed. Very belatedly (only now) is it dawning on
men that in their belief in language they have propagated a monstrous error.
Fortunately, it is too late to be able to revoke the development of reason,
which rests on that belief.
Logic, too, rests on assumptions that do not correspond to anything in the real world, e.g., on the assumption of the equality of things, the identity of the same thing at different points of time; but this science arose from the opposite belief (that there were indeed such things in the real world). So it is with mathematics, which would certainly not have originated if it had been known from the beginning that there is no exactly straight line in nature, no real circle, no absolute measure.
Dream and culture. Memory is that function of the brain which is most
greatly impaired by sleep--not that it relaxes entirely, but it is brought
back to a state of imperfection, as it might have been in everyone, when awake
and by day, during mankind's primeval age. 11 Arbitrary and confused
as it is, it continually mistakes things on the basis of the most superficial
similarities; but it was the same arbitrariness and confusion with which the
tribes composed their mythologies, and even now travelers regularly observe
how greatly the savage inclines to forgetfulness, how, after he strains his
memory briefly, his mind begins to stagger about, and he produces lies and nonsense
simply because he is weary. But all of us are like the savage when we dream.
Faulty recognitions and mistaken equations are the basis of the poor conclusions
which we are guilty of making in dreams, so that when we recollect a dream clearly,
we are frightened of ourselves, because we harbor so much foolishness within.
The utter clarity of all dream-ideas, which presupposes an unconditional belief in their reality, reminds us once again of the state of earlier mankind in which hallucinations were extraordinarily frequent, and sometimes seized whole communities, whole nations simultaneously. Thus, in our sleep and dreams, we go through the work of earlier mankind once more.
The logic of dreams. When we sleep, our nervous system is continually
stimulated by various inner causes: almost all the organs secrete and are active;
the blood circulates turbulently; the sleeper's position presses certain limbs;
his blankets influence sensation in various ways; the stomach digests and disturbs
other organs with its movements; the intestines turn; the placement of the head
occasions unusual positions of the muscles; the feet, without shoes, their soles
not pressing on the floor, cause a feeling of unusualness, as does the different
way the whole body is clothed after its daily change and variation, all of this
strangeness stimulates the entire system, including even the brain function.
And so there are a hundred occasions for the mind to be amazed, and to seek
reasons for this stimulation. It is the dream which seeks and imagines
the causes for those stimulated feelings--that is, the alleged causes.
The man who ties two straps around his feet, for example, may dream that two
snakes are winding about his feet. This is at first a hypothesis, then a belief,
accompanied by a pictorial idea and elaboration: "These snakes must be
the causa12 of that feeling which I, the sleeper, am having"‑thus
judges the mind of the sleeper. The stimulated imagination turns the recent
past, disclosed in this way, into the present. Everyone knows from experience
how fast the dreamer can incorporate into his dream a loud sound he hears, bell
ringing, for example, or cannon fire, how he can explain it after the fact
from his dream, so that he believes he is experiencing first the occasioning
factors, and then that sound'13
But how is it that the mind of the dreamer always errs so greatly, while the same mind awake tends to be so sober, careful, and skeptical about hypotheses? Why does he think the first best hypothesis that explains a feeling is enough to believe in it at once? (For when dreaming, we believe in the dream as if it were reality; that is, we take our hypothesis for fully proven.)
I think that man still draws conclusions in his dreams as mankind once did in a waking state, through many thousands of years: the first causa which occurred to the mind to explain something that needed explaining sufficed and was taken for truth. (According to the tales of travelers, savages proceed this way even today.) This old aspect of humanity lives on in us in our dreams, for it is the basis upon which higher reason developed, and is still developing, in every human: the dream restores us to distant states of human culture and gives us a means by which to understand them better. Dream-thought14 is so easy for us now because, during mankind's immense periods of development, we have been so well drilled in just this form of fantastic and cheap explanation from the first, best idea. In this way dreaming is recuperation for a brain which must satisfy by day the stricter demands made on thought by higher culture.
A related occurrence when we are awake can be viewed as a virtual gate and antechamber to the dream. If we close our eyes, the brain produces a multitude of impressions of light and colors, probably as a kind of postlude and echo to all those effects of light which penetrate it by day. Now, however, our reason (in league with imagination) immediately works these plays of color, formless in themselves, into definite figures, forms, landscapes, moving groups. Once again, the actual process is a kind of conclusion from the effect to the cause; as the mind inquires about the origin of these light impressions and colors, it assumes those figures and shapes to be the cause. They seem to be the occasion of those colors and lights, because the mind is used to finding an occasioning cause for every color and every light impression it receives by day, with eyes open. Here, then, the imagination keeps pushing images upon the mind, using in their production the visual impressions of the day--and this is precisely what dream imagination does. That is, the supposed cause is deduced from the effect and imagined after the effect. All this with an extraordinary speed, so that, as with a conjurer, judgment becomes confused, and a sequence can appear to be a synchronism, or even a reversed sequence.
We can infer from these processes, how late a more acute logical thinking, a rigorous application of cause and effect, developed; even now, our functions of reason and intelligence reach back instinctively to those primitive forms of deductions, and we live more or less half our lives in this state. The poet, too, the artist, attributes his moods and states to causes that are in no way the true ones; to this extent he reminds us of an older mankind, and can help us to understand it.
Resonance. All intense moods bring with them a resonance of related feelings and moods; they seem to stir up memory. Something in us remembers and becomes aware of similar states and their origin. Thus habitual, rapid associations of feelings and thoughts are formed, which, when they follow with lightning speed upon one another, are eventually no longer felt as complexes, but rather as unities. In this sense, one speaks of moral feelings, religious feelings, as if they were all unities; in truth they are rivers with a hundred sources and tributaries. As is so often the case, the unity of the word does not guarantee the unity of the thing.
No inside and outside in the world. Just as Democritus15
applied the concepts of above and below to infinite space, where they have no
meaning, so philosophers in general apply the concept "inside and outside"
to the essence and appearance of the world. They think that with deep feelings
man penetrates deep into the inside, approaches the heart of nature. But these
feelings are deep only to the extent that they regularly stimulate, almost imperceptibly,
certain complicated groups of thoughts, which we call deep. A feeling is deep
because we hold the accompanying thought to be deep. But the deep thought can
nevertheless be very far from the truth, as is, for example, every metaphysical
thought. If one subtracts the added elements of thought from the deep feeling,
what remains is intense feeling, which guarantees nothing at all about knowledge
except itself, just as strong belief proves only its own strength, not the truth
of what is believed.
Appearance and the thing-in-itself. Philosophers tend to confront life
and experience (what they call the world of appearance) as they would a painting
that has been revealed once and for all, depicting with unchanging constancy
the same event. They think they must interpret this event correctly in order
to conclude something about the essence which produced the painting, that is,
about the thing-in-itself, which always tends to be regarded as the sufficient
reason16 for the world of appearance. Conversely, stricter logicians,
after they had rigorously established the concept of the metaphysical as the
concept of that which is unconditioned and consequently unconditioning, denied
any connection between the unconditioned (the metaphysical world) and the world
we are familiar with. So that the thing-in-itself does not appear in
the world of appearances, and any conclusion about the former on the basis of
the latter must be rejected. 17 But both sides overlook the possibility
that that painting--that which to us men means life and experience--has
gradually evolved, indeed is still evolving, and therefore should
not be considered a fixed quantity, on which basis a conclusion about the creator
(the sufficient reason) may be made, or even rejected. Because for thousands
of years we have been looking at the world with moral, aesthetic, and religious
claims, with blind inclination, passion, or fear, and have indulged ourselves
fully in the bad habits of illogical thought, this world has gradually become
so strangely colorful, frightful, profound, soulful; it has acquired color,
but we have been the painters: the human intellect allowed appearance to appear,
and projected its mistaken conceptions onto the things. Only late, very late,
does the intellect stop to think: and now the world of experience and the thing-in-itself
seem so extraordinarily different and separate that it rejects any conclusion
about the latter from the former, or else, in an awful, mysterious way, it demands
the abandonment of our intellect, of our personal will in order to come
to the essential by becoming essential.18 On the other hand,
other people have gathered together all characteristic traits of our world of
appearances (that is, our inherited idea of the world, spun out of intellectual
errors) and, instead of accusing the intellect, have attacked the essence
of things for causing this real, very uncanny character of the world, and have
preached salvation from being. 19
The steady and arduous progress of science, which will ultimately celebrate its greatest triumph in an ontogeny of thought, will deal decisively with all these views. Its conclusion might perhaps end up with this tenet: That which we now call the world is the result of a number of errors and fantasies, which came about gradually in the overall development of organic beings, fusing with one another, and now handed down to us as a collected treasure of our entire past--a treasure: for the value of our humanity rests upon it. From this world of idea strict science can, in fact, release us only to a small extent (something we by no means desire), in that it is unable to break significantly the power of ancient habits of feeling. But it can illuminate, quite gradually, step by step, the history of the origin of that world as idea--and lift us, for moments at least, above the whole process. Perhaps we will recognize then that the thing-in-itself deserves a Homeric laugh 20 in that it seemed to be so much, indeed everything, and is actually empty, that is, empty of meaning.
Metaphysical explanations. A young person appreciates metaphysical explanations because they show him something highly meaningful in matters he found unpleasant or despicable. If he is dissatisfied with himself, his feeling is relieved if he can recognize in that which he so disapproves of in himself the innermost riddle of the world or its misery. To feel less responsible, and at the same time to find things more interesting: that is the twofold benefit which he owes to metaphysics. Later, of course, he comes to distrust the whole method of metaphysical explanation; then perhaps he understands that those same effects are to be obtained just as well and more scientifically in another way; he understands that physical and historical explanations bring about at least as much that feeling of irresponsibility, and that his interest in life and its problems is kindled perhaps even more thereby.
Basic questions of metaphysics. Once the ontogeny of thought is written,
the following sentence by an excellent logician will be seen in a new light:
"The original general law of the knowing subject consists in the inner
necessity of knowing each object in itself, in its own being, as an object identical
with itself, that is, self-existing and fundamentally always the same and unchangeable,
in short, as a substance." 21 This law, too, which is here called
"original," also evolved. Some day the gradual origin of this tendency
in lower organisms will be shown, how the dull mole's eyes of these organizations
at first see everything as identical; how then, when the various stimuli of
pleasure and unpleasure become more noticeable, different substances are gradually
distinguished, but each one with One attribute, that is, with one single relationship
to such an organism.
The first stage of logic is judgment, whose essence consists, as the best logicians have determined, in belief. All belief is based on the feeling of pleasure or pain in relation to the feeling subject. A new, third feeling as the result of two preceding feelings is judgment in its lowest form.
Initially, we organic beings have no interest in a thing, other than in its relationship to us with regard to pleasure and pain. Between those moments in which we become aware of this relationship (i.e., the states of sensation) lie those states of quiet, of non-sensation. Then we find the world and every thing in it without interest; we notice no change in it (just as even now, a person who is intensely interested in something will not notice that someone is passing by him). To a plant, all things are normally quiet, eternal, each thing identical to itself. From the period of low organisms, man has inherited the belief that there are identical things (only experience which has been educated by the highest science contradicts this tenet). From the beginning, the first belief of all organic beings may be that the whole rest of the world is One and unmoved.
In that first stage of logic, the thought of causality is furthest removed. Even now, we believe fundamentally that all feelings and actions are acts of free will; when the feeling individual considers himself, he takes each feeling, each change, to be something isolated, that is, something unconditioned, without a context. It rises up out of us, with no connection to anything earlier or later. We are hungry, but do not think initially that the organism wants to be kept alive. Rather, that feeling seems to assert itself without reason or purpose; it isolates itself and takes itself to be arbitrary. Thus the belief in freedom of the will is an initial error of all organic beings, as old as the existence in them of stirrings of logic. Belief in unconditioned substances and identical things is likewise an old, original error of all that is organic. To the extent that all metaphysics has dealt primarily with substance and freedom of the will, however, one may characterize it as that science which deals with the basic errors of man--but as if they were basic truths.
The number. The laws of numbers were invented on the basis of the initially
prevailing error that there are various identical things (but actually there
is nothing identical) or at least that there are things (but there is no "thing").
The assumption of multiplicity always presumes that there is something,
which occurs repeatedly. But this is just where error rules; even here, we invent
entities, unities, that do not exist.
Our feelings of space and time are false, for if they are tested rigorously, they lead to logical contradictions. Whenever we establish something scientifically, we are inevitably always reckoning with some incorrect quantities; but because these quantities are at least constant (as is, for example, our feeling of time and space), the results of science do acquire a perfect strictness and certainty in their relationship to each other. One can continue to build upon them--up to that final analysis, where the mistaken basic assumptions, those constant errors, come into contradiction with the results, for example, in atomic theory. There we still feel ourselves forced to assume a "thing" or a material "substratum" that is moved, while the entire scientific procedure has pursued the task of dissolving everything thing-like (material) into movements. Here, too, our feeling distinguishes that which is moving from that which is moved, and we do not come out of this circle, because the belief in things has been tied up with our essential nature from time immemorial.22
When Kant says "Reason does not create its laws from nature, but dictates them to her,"23 this is perfectly true in respect to the concept of nature which we are obliged to apply to her (Nature = world as idea, that is, as error), but which is the summation of a number of errors of reason.
To a world that is not our idea, the laws of numbers are completely inapplicable: they are valid only in the human world.
A few rungs down. One level of education, itself a very high one, has
been reached when man gets beyond superstitious and religious concepts and fears
and, for example, no longer believes in the heavenly angels or original sin,
and has stopped talking about the soul's salvation. Once he is at this level
of liberation, he must still make a last intense effort to overcome metaphysics.
Then, however, a retrograde movement is necessary: he must understand
both the historical and the psychological justification in metaphysical ideas.
He must recognize how mankind's greatest advancement came from them and how,
if one did not take this retrograde step, one would rob himself of mankind's
finest accomplishments to date.
With regard to philosophical metaphysics, I now see a number of people who have arrived at the negative goal (that all positive metaphysics is an error), but only a few who climb back down a few rungs. For one should look out over the last rung of the ladder, but not want to stand on it. Those who are most enlightened can go only as far as to free themselves of metaphysics and look back on it with superiority, while here, as in the hippodrome, it is necessary to take a turn at the end of the track.
Presumed triumph of skepticism. Let us accept for the moment the skeptical starting point: assuming there were no other, metaphysical world and that we could not use any metaphysical explanations of the only world known to us, how would we then look upon men and things? One can imagine this; it is useful to do so, even if one were to reject the question of whether Kant and Schopenhauer proved anything metaphysical scientifically. For according to historical probability, it is quite likely that men at some time will become skeptical about this whole subject. So one must ask the question: how will human society take shape under the influence of such an attitude? Perhaps the scientific proof of any metaphysical world is itself so difficult that mankind can no longer keep from distrusting it. And if one is distrustful of metaphysics, then we have, generally speaking, the same consequences as if metaphysics had been directly refuted and one were no longer permitted to believe in it. The historical question about mankind's unmetaphysical views remains the same in either case.
Disbelief in the "monumentum aere perennius." 24
One crucial disadvantage about the end of metaphysical views is that the individual
looks his own short life span too squarely in the eye and feels no strong incentives
to build on enduring institutions, designed for the ages. He wants to pick the
fruit from the tree he has planted himself, and therefore no longer likes to
plant those trees which require regular care over centuries, trees that are
destined to overshade long successions of generations. For metaphysical views
lead one to believe that they offer the conclusive foundation upon which all
future generations are henceforth obliged to settle and build. The individual
is furthering his salvation when he endows a church, for example, or a monastery;
he thinks it will be credited to him and repaid in his soul's eternal afterlife;
it is work on the eternal salvation of his soul.
Can science, too, awaken such a belief in its results? To be sure, its truest allies must be doubt and distrust. Nevertheless, the sum of indisputable truths, which outlast all storms of skepticism and all disintegration, can in time become so large (in the dietetics of health, for example), that one can decide on that basis to found "eternal" works. In the meanwhile, the contrast between our excited ephemeral existence and the long-winded quiet of metaphysical ages is still too strong, because the two ages are still too close to each other; the individual runs through too many inner and outer evolutions himself to dare to set himself up permanently, once and for all, for even the span of his own life. When a wholly modern man intends, for example, to build a house, he has a feeling as if he were walling himself up alive in a mausoleum.
Age of comparisons. The less men are bound by their tradition, the greater
the internal stirring of motives; the greater, accordingly, the external unrest,
the whirling flow of men, the polyphony of strivings. Who today still feels
a serious obligation to bind himself and his descendents to one place? Who feels
that anything is seriously binding? Just as all artistic styles of the arts
are imitated one next to the other, so too are all stages and kinds of morality,
Such an age gets its meaning because in it the various world views, customs, cultures are compared and experienced next to one another, which was not possible earlier, when there was always a localized rule for each culture, just as all artistic styles were bound to place and time. Now, man's increased aesthetic feeling will decide definitively from among the many forms which offer themselves for comparison. It will let most of them (namely all those that it rejects) die out. Similarly, a selection is now taking place among the forms and habits of higher morality, whose goal can be none other than the downfall of baser moralities. This is the age of comparisons! That is its pride--but also by rights its sorrow. Let us not be afraid of this sorrow! Instead, we will conceive the task that this age sets us to be as great as possible. Then posterity will bless us for it--a posterity that knows it has transcended both the completed original folk cultures, as well as the culture of comparison, but that looks back on both kinds of culture as on venerable antiquities, with gratitude.
Possibility of progress. When a scholar of the old culture vows no longer to have anything to do with men who believe in progress, he is right. For the old culture has its greatness and goodness behind it, and an historical education forces one to admit that it can never again be fresh. To deny this requires an intolerable obtuseness or an equally insufferable enthusiasm. But men can consciously decide to develop themselves forward to a new culture, whereas formerly they developed unconsciously and by chance. Now they can create better conditions for the generation of men, their nourishment, upbringing, instruction; they can administer the earth as a whole economically, can weigh the strengths of men, one against the other, and employ them. The new, conscious culture kills the old culture, which, seen as a whole, led an unconscious animal-and-vegetable life; it also kills the distrust of progress: progress is possible. I mean to say, it is premature and almost nonsensical to believe that progress must of necessity come about; but how could one deny that it is possible? Conversely, progress in the sense of the old culture, and by means of it, is not even conceivable. Even if romantic fantasizing still uses the word "progress" about its goals (e.g., completed, original folk cultures) it is in any event borrowing that image from the past: its thinking and imagining in this area lack all originality.
Private morality, world morality. Since man no longer believes that
a God is guiding the destinies of the world as a whole, or that, despite all
apparent twists, the path of mankind is leading somewhere glorious, men must
set themselves ecumenical goals, embracing the whole earth. The older morality,
namely Kant's 25 demands from the individual those actions that one
desires from all men--a nice, naive idea, as if everyone without further
ado would know which manner of action would benefit the whole of mankind, that
is, which actions were desirable at all. It is a theory like that of free trade,
which assumes that a general harmony would have to result of itself, according
to innate laws of melioration. Perhaps a future survey of the needs of mankind
will reveal it to be thoroughly undesirable that all men act identically; rather,
in the interest of ecumenical goals, for whole stretches of human time special
tasks, perhaps in some circumstances even evil tasks, would have to be set.
In any event, if mankind is to keep from destroying itself by such a conscious overall government, we must discover first a knowledge of the conditions of culture, a knowledge surpassing all previous knowledge, as a scientific standard for ecumenical goals. This is the enormous task of the great minds of the next century.
Reaction as progress. Sometimes there appear rough, violent, and impetuous
spirits, who are nevertheless backward; they conjure up once again a past phase
of mankind. They serve as proof that the new tendencies which they are opposing
are still not strong enough, that something is lacking there; otherwise, those
conjurors would be opposed more effectively. For example, Luther's Reformation
proves that in his century all the impulses of freedom of the spirit were still
uncertain, delicate, juvenescent. Science could not yet raise her head. Indeed,
the whole Renaissance appears like an early spring, which almost gets snowed away.
But in our century, too, Schopenhauer's metaphysics proved that the scientific
spirit is still not strong enough. Thus, in Schopenhauer's teaching the whole
medieval Christian world view and feeling of man could again celebrate a resurrection,
despite the defeat, long since achieved, of all Christian dogmas. His teaching
is infused with much science, but what rules it is not science but rather the
old, well-known "metaphysical need."26 Certainly one of the
greatest and quite inestimable benefits we gain from Schopenhauer is that he forces
our feeling for a time back to older, powerful forms of contemplating the world
and men, to which other paths could not so readily lead us. History and justice
benefit greatly. I believe that without Schopenhauer's aid, no one today could
so easily do justice to Christianity and its Asian cousins; to attempt to do so
based on the Christianity still existing today is impossible. Only after this
great achievement of justice, only after we have corrected in such an essential
point the historical way of thinking that the Enlightenment brought with it, may
we once again carry onward the banner of the Enlightenment, the banner with the
three names: Petrarch, Erasmus, Voltaire.27 Out of reaction, we have
taken a step forward.28
Substitute for religion. One thinks he is speaking well of philosophy when he presents it as a substitute religion for the people. In spiritual economy, transitional spheres of thought are indeed necessary occasionally, for the transition from religion to scientific contemplation is a violent, dangerous leap, something inadvisable. To that extent, it is right to recommend philosophy. But in the end, one ought to understand that the needs which religion has satisfied, which philosophy is now to satisfy, are not unchangeable: these needs themselves can be weakened and rooted out. Think, for example, of Christian anguish, the sighing about inner depravity, concern about salvation--all of these ideas originate only from errors of reason and deserve not satisfaction, but annihilation. A philosophy can be useful either by satisfying those needs or by eliminating them; for they are acquired needs, temporally limited, based on assumptions that contradict those of science. It is preferable to use art for this transition, for easing a heart overburdened with feelings; those ideas are entertained much less by art than by a metaphysical philosophy. Beginning with art, one can more easily move on to a truly liberating philosophical science.
Disreputable words. Away with those tedious, worn-out words "optimism"
and "pessimism."29 Every day there is less and less cause
to use them; only babblers still cannot do without them. For why in the world
should anyone want to be an optimist if he does not have to defend a God who
must have created the best of all possible worlds, given that he himself
is goodness and perfection? What thinking person still needs the hypothesis
of a god?
Nor is there cause for a pessimistic confession, if one does not have an interest in irritating the advocates of God, the theologians or the theologizing philosophers, and energetically asserting the opposite claim, namely that evil reigns, that unpleasure is greater than pleasure, that the world is a botched job, the manifestation of an evil will to life. But who worries about theologians these days (except the theologians)?
All theology and its opposition aside, it is self-evident that the world is not good and not evil, let alone the best or the worst, and that these concepts "good" and "evil" make sense only in reference to men. Perhaps even there, as they are generally used, they are not justified: we must in every case dispense with both the reviling and the glorifying view of the world.
Intoxicated by the blossoms' fragrance. The ship of mankind, it is thought, has an ever greater draft, the more it is laden; it is believed that the deeper man thinks, the more delicate his feelings; the higher he esteems himself, the farther his distance from the other animals (the more he appears as the genius among animals), the nearer he will come to the true essence of the world and knowledge of it. This he does indeed through science, but he thinks he does it more through his religions and arts. These are, to be sure, a flower of civilization, but by no means nearer to the root of the world than is its stem. One does not understand the essence of things through art and religion, although nearly everyone is of that opinion. Error has made man so deep, delicate, inventive as to bring forth such blossoms as religions and arts. Pure knowledge would have been incapable of it. Whoever revealed to us the essence of the world would disappoint us all most unpleasantly. It is not the world as a thing in itself, but the world as idea (as error) that is so rich in meaning, deep, wonderful, pregnant with happiness and unhappiness. This conclusion leads to a philosophy of the logical denial of the world, which, by the way, can be combined just as well with a practical affirmation of the world as with its opposite.
Bad habits in making conclusions. The most common false conclusions of men are these: a thing exists, therefore it is legitimate. Here one is concluding functionality from viability, and legitimacy from functionality. Furthermore, if an opinion makes us glad, it must be true; if its effect is good, it in itself must be good and true. Here one is attributing to the effect the predicate "gladdening," "good," in the sense of the useful, and providing the cause with the same predicate "good," but now in the sense of the logically valid. The reversal of the proposition is: if a thing cannot prevail and maintain itself, it must be wrong; if an opinion tortures and agitates, it must be false. The free spirit, who comes to know all too well the error of this sort of deduction and has to suffer from its consequences, often succumbs to the temptation of making contrary deductions, which are in general naturally just as false: if a thing cannot prevail, it must be good; if an opinion troubles and disturbs, it must be true.
The illogical necessary. Among the things that can drive a thinker to
despair is the knowledge that the illogical is necessary for man and that much
good comes from it. It is so firmly lodged in the passions, in speech, in art,
in religion, and generally in everything which endows life with value, that
one cannot extricate it without doing irreparable harm to these beautiful things.
Only the very naive are capable of thinking that the nature of man can be transformed
into a purely logical one; 30 but, if there were degrees of approximation
to this goal, how much would not have to vanish along this path! Even the most
rational man needs nature again from time to time, that is, his illogical
basic attitude to all things.
Unfairness necessary.31 All judgments about the value of
life have developed illogically and therefore unfairly. The impurity of the
judgment lies first in the way the material is present (that is very incompletely),
second, in the way it is assessed, and third, in the fact that every separate
part of the material again results, as is absolutely necessary, from impure
knowledge. No experience of a man, for example, however close he is to us, can
be so complete that we would have a logical right to evaluate him in toto.
All evaluations are premature, and must be so. Finally, the gauge by which we
measure, our own nature, is no unchangeable quantity; we have moods and vacillations;
yet we would have to know ourselves to be a fixed gauge if we were to evaluate
fairly the relationship of any one thing to ourselves. Perhaps it will follow
from all this that one ought not to judge at all; if only one could live
without evaluating, without having disinclinations and inclinations! For all
disinclination depends upon an evaluation, just as does all inclination. Man
cannot experience a drive to or away from something without the feeling that
he is desiring what is beneficial and avoiding what is harmful, without evaluating
knowingly the merit of the goal. We are from the start illogical and therefore
unfair beings, and this we can know: it is one of the greatest and most insoluble
disharmonies of existence.
Error about life necessary for life. Every belief in the value and worth
of life is based on impure thinking and is only possible because the individual's
sympathy for life in general, and for the suffering of mankind, is very weakly
developed. Even uncommon men who think beyond themselves at all do not focus
on life in general, but rather on limited parts of it. If one knows how to keep
his attention primarily on exceptions, that is, on the great talents and pure
souls, if one takes their coming into existence to be the goal of all world
evolution and rejoices in their activity, then one may believe in the value
of life--for one is overlooking other men, which is to say, thinking
impurely. And likewise, if one does focus on all men, but takes only one type
of drive, the less egoistical type, as valid and excuses mankind in respect
to its other drives, then too one can hope something about mankind as a whole,
and believe to this extent in the value of life--in this case, too, through
impurity of thought. But whichever is the case, such a stance makes one an exception
among men. Most men tolerate life without grumbling too much and believe
thus in the value of existence, but precisely because everyone wills himself
alone and stands his ground alone, and does not step out of himself as do those
exceptional men, everything extrapersonal escapes his notice entirely, or seems
at the most a faint shadow. Thus the value of life for ordinary, everyday man
is based only on his taking himself to be more important than the world. The
great lack of fantasy from which he suffers keeps him from being able to empathize
with other beings, and he therefore participates in their vicissitudes and suffering
as little as possible. On the other hand, whoever would be truly able to participate
in it would have to despair about the value of life; if he were able to grasp
and feel mankind's overall consciousness in himself, he would collapse with
a curse against existence--for mankind, as whole, has no goals and
consequently, considering the whole affair, man cannot find his comfort and
support in it, but rather his despair. If, in everything he does, he considers
the ultimate aimlessness of men, his own activity acquires the character of
squandering in his eyes. But to feel squandered as mankind (and not just
as an individual), as we see the single blossom squandered by nature, is a feeling
above all feelings.
But who is capable of it? Certainly only a poet--and poets always know how to comfort themselves.
Some reassurance. But does not our philosophy then turn into tragedy?
Does not truth become an enemy of life, an enemy of what is better? A question
seems to weigh down our tongues, and yet not want to be uttered: whether one
is capable of consciously remaining in untruth, or, if one had
to do so, whether death would not be preferable? For there is no "ought"
anymore. Morality to the extent that it was an "ought" has been destroyed
by our way of reflection, every bit as much as religion. Knowledge can allow
only pleasure and unpleasure, benefit and harm, as motives. But how will these
motives come to terms with the feeling for truth? These motives, too, have to
do with errors (to the extent that inclination and disinclination, and their
very unfair measurements, essentially determine, as we have said, our pleasure
and unpleasure). All human life is sunk deep in untruth; the individual cannot
pull it out of this well without growing profoundly annoyed with his entire
past, without finding his present motives (like honor) senseless, and without
opposing scorn and disdain to the passions that urge one on to the future and
to the happiness in it. If this is true, is there only one way of thought left,
with despair as a personal end and a philosophy of destruction as a theoretical
I believe that a man's temperament determines the aftereffect of knowledge; although the aftereffect described above is possible in some natures, I could just as well imagine a different one, which would give rise to a life much more simple, more free of affects than the present one. The old motives of intense desire would still be strong at first, due to old, inherited habit, but they would gradually grow weaker under the influence of cleansing knowledge. Finally one would live among men and with oneself as in nature, without praise, reproaches, overzealousness, delighting in many things as in a spectacle that one formerly had only to fear. One would be free of appearance 32 and would no longer feel the goading thought that one was not simply nature, or that one was more than nature. Of course, as I said, a good temperament would be necessary--a secure, mild, and basically cheerful soul; such a disposition would not need to be on guard for tricks and sudden explosions, and its expressions would have neither a growling tone nor sullenness--those familiar bothersome traits of old dogs and men who have lain a long time chained up. Rather, a man from whom the ordinary chains of life have fallen in such measure that he continues to live on only to better his knowledge must be able to renounce without envy and chagrin much, indeed almost everything, that other men value. He must be content with that free, fearless hovering over men, customs, laws and the traditional evaluations of things, which is for him the most desirable of states. He is glad to communicate his joy in this state, and perhaps he has nothing else to communicate, which is, to be sure, one renunciation, one self-denial the more. But if one nevertheless wants more from him, with a benevolent shake of the head he will indicate his brother, the free man of action, and perhaps not conceal a little scorn: for that man's "freedom" is another matter entirely.