Human, All Too Human


Seriousness in play. At sunset in Genoa, I heard from a tower a long chiming of bells: it kept on and on, and over the noise of the backstreets, as if insatiable for itself, it rang out into the evening sky and the sea air, so terrible and so childish at the same time, so melancholy. Then I thought of Plato's words and felt them suddenly in my heart: all in all, nothing human is worth taking very seriously; nevertheless...

Friedrich NietzscheHuman, All Too Human: Section Nine: Man Alone with Himself - Aphorism #62817213 years, 5 months ago 


On convictions and justice. To carry out later, in coolness and sobriety, what a man promises or decides in passion: this demand is among the heaviest burdens oppressing mankind. To have to acknowledge for all duration the consequences of anger, of raging vengeance, of enthusiastic devotion-this can incite a bitterness against these feelings all the greater because everywhere, and especially by artists, precisely these feelings are the object of idol worship. Artists cultivate the esteem for the passions, and have always done so; to be sure, they also glorify the frightful satisfactions of passion, in which one indulges, the outbursts of revenge that have death, mutilation, or voluntary banishment as a consequence, and the resignation of the broken heart. In any event, they keep alive curiosity about the passions; it is as if they wished to say: without passions you have experienced nothing at all.

Because we have vowed to be faithful, even, perhaps, to a purely imaginary being, a God, for instance; because we have given our heart to a prince, a party, a woman, a priestly order, an artist, or a thinker, in the state of blind madness that enveloped us in rapture and let those beings appear worthy of every honor, every sacrifice: are we then inextricably bound? Were we not deceiving ourselves then? Was it not a conditional promise, under the assumption (unstated, to be sure) that those beings to whom we dedicated ourselves really are the beings they appeared to be in our imaginations? Are we obliged to be faithful to our errors, even if we perceive that by this faithfulness we do damage to our higher self?

No - there is no law, no obligation of that kind; we must become traitors, act unfaithfully, forsake our ideals again and again. We do not pass from one period of life to another without causing these pains of betrayal, and without suffering from them in turn. Should we have to guard ourselves against the upsurging of our feeling in order to avoid these pains? Would not the world then become too bleak, too ghostly for us? We want rather to ask ourselves whether these pains at a change of conviction are necessary, or whether they do not depend on an erroneous opinion and estimation. Why do we admire the man who remains faithful to his conviction and despise the one who changes it? I fear the answer must be that everyone assumes such a change is caused only by motives of baser advantage or personal fear. That is, we believe fundamentally that no one changes his opinions as long as they are advantageous to him, or at least as long as they do him no harm. But if that is the case, it bears bad testimony to the intellectual meaning of all convictions. Let us test how convictions come into being and observe whether they are not vastly overrated: in that way it will be revealed that the change of convictions too is in any case measured by false standards and that until now we have tended to suffer too much from such changes.

Friedrich NietzscheHuman, All Too Human: Section Nine: Man Alone with Himself - Aphorism #62922213 years, 5 months ago 


Conviction is the belief that in some point of knowledge one possesses absolute truth. Such a belief presumes, then, that absolute truths exist; likewise, that the perfect methods for arriving at them have been found; finally, that every man who has convictions makes use of these perfect methods. All three assertions prove at once that the man of convictions is not the man of scientific thinking; he stands before us still in the age of theoretical innocence, a child, however grownup he might be otherwise. But throughout thousands of years, people have lived in such childlike assumptions, and from out of them mankind's mightiest sources of power have flowed. The countless people who sacrificed themselves for their convictions thought they were doing it for absolute truth. All of them were wrong: probably no man has ever sacrificed himself for truth; at least, the dogmatic expression of his belief will have been unscientific or half-scientific. But actually one wanted to be right because one thought he had to be right. To let his belief be torn from him meant perhaps to put his eternal happiness in question. With a matter of this extreme importance, the "will" was all too audibly the intellect's prompter. Every believer of every persuasion assumed he could not be refuted; if the counterarguments proved very strong, he could still always malign reason in general and perhaps even raise as a banner of extreme fanaticism the "credo quia absurdum est." It is not the struggle of opinions that has made history so violent, but rather the struggle of belief in opinions, that is, the struggle of convictions. If only all those people who thought so highly of their conviction, who sacrificed all sorts of things to it and spared neither their honor, body nor life in its service, had devoted only half of their strength to investigating by what right they clung to this or that conviction, how they had arrived at it, then how peaceable the history of mankind would appear! How much more would be known! All the cruel scenes during the persecution of every kind of heretic would have been spared us for two reasons: first, because the inquisitors would above all have inquired within themselves, and got beyond the arrogant idea that they were defending the absolute truth; and second, because the heretics themselves would not have granted such poorly established tenets as those of all the sectarians and "orthodox" any further attention, once they had investigated them.

Friedrich NietzscheHuman, All Too Human: Section Nine: Man Alone with Himself - Aphorism #63019613 years, 5 months ago 


Stemming from the time when people were accustomed to believe that they possessed absolute truth is a deep discomfort with all skeptical and relativistic positions on any questions of knowledge; usually we prefer to surrender unconditionally to a conviction held by people of authority (fathers, friends, teachers, princes), and we have a kind of troubled conscience if we do not do so. This inclination is understandable and its consequences do not entitle us to violent reproaches against the development of human reason. But eventually the scientific spirit in man must bring forth that virtue of cautious restraint, that wise moderation that is better known in the realm of practical life than in the realm of theoretical life, and that Goethe, for example, portrayed in his Antonio, as an object of animosity for all Tassos, that is, for those unscientific and also passive natures. The man of conviction has in himself a right not to understand the man of cautious thinking, the theoretical Antonio; the scientific man, on the other hand, has no right to scold him for this; he makes allowances for him and knows besides that, in certain cases, the man will cling to him as Tasso finally does to Antonio.

Friedrich NietzscheHuman, All Too Human: Section Nine: Man Alone with Himself - Aphorism #63116113 years, 5 months ago 


If one has not passed through various convictions, but remains caught in the net of his first belief, he is in all events, because of just this unchangeability, a representative of backward cultures; in accordance with this lack of education (which always presupposes educability), he is harsh, injudicious, unteachable, without gentleness, eternally suspect, a person lacking scruples, who reaches for any means to enforce his opinion because he simply cannot understand that there have to be other opinions. In this regard, he is perhaps a source of power, and even salutary in cultures grown too free and lax, but only because he powerfully incites opposition: for in that way the new culture's more delicate structure, which is forced to struggle with him, becomes strong itself.

Friedrich NietzscheHuman, All Too Human: Section Nine: Man Alone with Himself - Aphorism #63214413 years, 5 months ago