The Gay Science


The Origin of our Conception of "Knowledge". I take this explanation from the street. I heard one of the people saying that "he knew me," so I asked myself: What do the people really understand by knowledge? what do they want when they seek "knowledge"? Nothing more than that what is strange is to be traced back to something known. And we philosophers - have we really understood anything more by knowledge? The known, that is to say, what we are accustomed to so that we no longer marvel at it, the common place, any kind of rule to which we are habituated, all and everything in which we know ourselves to be at home: - what? is our need of knowing not just this need of the known? the will to discover in everything strange, unusual, or questionable, something which no longer disquiets us? Is it not possible that it should be the instinct of fear which enjoins upon us to know? Is it not possible that the rejoicing of the discerner should be just his rejoicing in the regained feeling of security?... One philosopher imagined the world "known" when he had traced it back to the "idea": alas, was it not because the idea was so known, so familiar to him? because he had so much less fear of the "idea" - Oh, this moderation of the discerners! let us but look at their principles, and at their solutions of the riddle of the world in this connection! When they again find aught in things, among things, or behind things that is unfortunately very well known to us, for example, our multiplication table, or our logic, or our willing and desiring, how happy they immediately are! For "what is known is understood": they are unanimous as to that. Even the most circumspect among them think that the known is at least more easily understood than the strange; that for example, it is methodically ordered to proceed outward from the "inner world," from "the facts of consciousness," because it is the world which is better known to us! Error of errors! The known is the accustomed, and the accustomed is the most difficult of all to "understand," that is to say, to perceive as a problem, to perceive as strange, distant, "outside of us."... The great certainty of the natural sciences in comparison with psychology and the criticism of the elements of consciousness - unnatural sciences, as one might almost be entitled to call them - rests precisely on the fact that they take what is strange as their object: while it is almost like something contradictory and absurd to wish to take generally what is not strange as an object...

Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #35511478 years, 3 months ago 


In what manner Europe will always become "more Artistic!" Providing a living still enforces even in the present day (in our transition period when so much ceases to enforce) a definite role on almost all male Europeans, their so-called callings; some have the liberty, an apparent liberty, to choose this role themselves, but most have it chosen for them. The result is strange enough. Almost all Europeans confound themselves with their role when they advance in age; they themselves are the victims of their "good acting," they have forgotten how much chance, whim and arbitrariness swayed them when their "calling" was decided - and how many other roles they could perhaps have played: for it is now too late! Looked at more closely, we see that their characters have actually evolved out of their role, nature out of art. There were ages in which people believed with unshaken confidence, yea, with piety, in their predestination for this very business, for that very mode of livelihood, and would not at all acknowledge chance, or the fortuitous role, or arbitrariness therein. Ranks, guilds, and hereditary trade privileges succeeded, with the help of this belief, in rearing those extraordinary broad towers of society which distinguished the Middle Ages, and of which at all events one thing remains to their credit: capacity for duration (and duration is a thing of the first rank on earth!). But there are ages entirely the reverse, the properly democratic ages, in which people tend to become more and more oblivious of this belief, and a sort of impudent conviction and quite contrary mode of viewing things comes to the front, the Athenian conviction which is first observed in the epoch of Pericles, the American conviction of the present day, which wants also more and more to become a European conviction: whereby the individual is convinced that he can do almost anything, that he can play almost any role, whereby everyone makes experiments with himself, improvises, tries anew, tries with delight, whereby all nature ceases and becomes art.... The Greeks, having adopted this role-creed - an artist creed, if you will - underwent step by step, as is well known, a curious transformation, not in every respect worthy of imitation: they became actual stage-players; and as such they enchanted, they conquered all the world, and at last even the conqueror of the world, (for the Graeculus histrio conquered Rome, and not Greek culture, as the naïve are accustomed to say...). What I fear, however, and what is at present obvious, if we desire to perceive it, is that we modern men are quite on the same road already; and whenever a man begins to discover in what respect he plays a role, and to what extent he can be a stage-player, he becomes a stage-player.... A new flora and fauna of men thereupon springs up, which cannot grow in more stable, more restricted eras - or is left "at the bottom," under the ban and suspicion of infamy; thereupon the most interesting and insane periods of history always make their appearance, in which "stage-players," all kinds of stage-players, are the real masters. Precisely thereby another species of man is always more and more injured, and in the end made impossible: above all the great "architects"; the building power is now being paralysed; the courage that makes plans for the distant future is disheartened; there begins to be a lack of organising geniuses. Who is there who would now venture to undertake works for the completion of which millenniums would have to be reckoned upon? The fundamental belief is dying out, on the basis of which one could calculate, promise and anticipate the future in one’s plan, and offer it as a sacrifice thereto, that in fact man has only value and significance in so far as he is a stone in a great building; for which purpose he has first of all to be solid, he has to be a "stone."... Above all, not a stage-player! In short - alas! this fact will be hushed up for some considerable time to come! - that which from henceforth will no longer be built, and can no longer be built, is a society in the old sense of the term; to build that structure everything is lacking, above all, the material. None of us are any longer material for a society: that is a truth which is seasonable at present! It seems to me a matter of indifference that meanwhile the most short-sighted, perhaps the most honest, and at any rate the noisiest species of men of the present day, our friends the Socialists, believe, hope, dream, and above all scream and scribble almost the opposite; in fact one already reads their watchword of the future: "free society," on all tables and walls. Free society? Indeed! Indeed! But you know, gentlemen, sure enough whereof one builds it? Out of wooden iron! Out of the famous wooden iron! And not even out of wooden...

Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #3569988 years, 3 months ago 


The old Problem: What is German? Let us count up apart the real acquisitions of philosophical thought for which we have to thank German intellects: are they in any allowable sense to be counted also to the credit of the whole race? Can we say that they are at the same time the work of the "German soul," or at least a symptom of it, in the sense in which we are accustomed to think, for example, of Plato’s ideomania, his almost religious madness for form, as an event and an evidence of the "Greek soul"? Or would the reverse perhaps be true? Were they individually as much exceptions to the spirit of the race, as was, for example, Goethe’s Paganism with a good conscience? Or as Bismarck’s Macchiavelism was with a good conscience, his so-called "practical politics" in Germany? Did our philosophers perhaps even go counter to the need of the "German soul"? In short, were the German philosophers really philosophical Germans? - I call to mind three cases. Firstly Leibnitz's incomparable insight - with which he obtained the advantage not only over Descartes but over all who had philosophised up to his time - that consciousness is only an accident of mental representation, and not its necessary and essential attribute; that consequently what we call consciousness only constitutes a state of our spiritual and psychical world (perhaps a morbid state) and is far from being that world itself: -is there anything German in this thought, the profundity of which has not as yet been exhausted? Is there reason to think that a person of the Latin race would not readily have stumbled on this reversal of the apparent? - for it is a reversal. Let us call to mind secondly, the immense note of interrogation which Kant wrote after the notion of causality. Not that he at all doubted its legitimacy, like Hume: on the contrary, he began cautiously to define the domain within which this notion has significance generally (we have not even yet got finished with the marking out of these limits). Let us take thirdly, the astonishing hit of Hegel, who stuck at no logical usage or fastidiousness when he ventured to teach that the conceptions of kinds develop out of one another: with which theory the thinkers in Europe were prepared for the last great scientific movement, for Darwinism - for without Hegel there would have been no Darwin. Is there anything German in this Hegelian innovation which first introduced the decisive conception of evolution into science? - Yes, without doubt we feel that there is something of ourselves "discovered" and divined in all three cases; we are thankful for it, and at the same time surprised; each of these three principles is a thoughtful piece of German self-confession, self-understanding, and self-knowledge. We feel with Leibnitz that "our inner world is far richer, ampler, and more concealed"; as Germans we are doubtful, like Kant, about the ultimate validity of scientific knowledge of nature, and in general about whatever can be known causaliter (causally): the knowable as such now appears to us of less worth. We Germans should still have been Hegelians, even though there had never been a Hegel, inasmuch as we (in contradistinction to all Latin peoples) instinctively attribute to becoming, to evolution, a profounder significance and higher value than to that which "is" - we hardly believe at all in the validity of the concept "being." This is all the more the case because we are not inclined to concede to our human logic that it is logic in itself, that it is the only kind of logic (we should rather like, on the contrary, to convince ourselves that it is only a special case, and perhaps one of the strangest and most stupid). - A fourth question would be whether also Schopenhauer with his Pessimism, that is to say, the problem of the worth of existence, had to be a German. I think not. The event after which this problem was to be expected with certainty, so that an astronomer of the soul could have calculated the day and the hour for it - namely, the decay of the belief in the Christian God, the victory of scientific atheism, - is a universal European event, in which all races are to have their share of service and honour. On the contrary, it has to be ascribed precisely to the Germans - those with whom Schopenhauer was contemporary, - that they delayed this victory of atheism longest, and endangered it most. Hegel especially was its retarder par excellence, in virtue of the grandiose attempt which he made to persuade us at the very last of the divinity of existence, with the help of our sixth sense, "the historical sense." As philosopher, Schopenhauer was the first avowed and inflexible atheist we Germans have had: his hostility to Hegel had here its motive. The non-divinity of existence was regarded by him as something understood, palpable, indisputable; he always lost his philosophical composure and got into a passion when he saw anyone hesitate and beat about the bush here. It is at this point that his thorough uprightness of character comes in: unconditional, honest atheism is precisely the preliminary condition for his raising the problem, as a final and hardwon victory of the European conscience, as the most prolific act of two thousand years discipline to truth, which in the end no longer tolerates the lie of the belief in a God.... One sees what has really gained the victory over the Christian God, Christian morality itself, the conception of veracity, taken ever more strictly, the confessional subtlety of the Christian conscience, translated and sublimated to the scientific conscience, to intellectual purity at any price. To look upon nature as if it were a proof of the goodness and care of a God; to interpret history in honour of a divine reason, as a constant testimony to a moral order in the world and a moral final purpose; to explain personal experiences as pious men have long enough explained them, as if everything were a dispensation or intimation of Providence, something planned and sent on behalf of the salvation of the soul: all that is now past, it has conscience against it, it is regarded by all the more acute consciences as disreputable and dishonourable, as mendaciousness, femininism, weakness, and cowardice, - by virtue of this severity, if by anything, we are good Europeans, the heirs of Europe’s longest and bravest self-conquest. When we thus reject the Christian interpretation, and condemn its "significance" as a forgery, we are immediately confronted in a striking manner with the Schopenhauerian question: Has existence then a significance at all? - the question which will require a couple of centuries even to be completely heard in all its profundity. Schopenhauer’s own answer to this question was - if I may be forgiven for saying so - a premature, juvenile reply, a mere compromise, a stoppage and sticking in the very same Christian-ascetic, moral perspectives, the belief in which had got notice to quit along with the belief in God. But he raised the question as a good European, as we have said, and not as a German. - Or did the Germans prove at least by the way in which they seized on the Schopenhauerian question, their inner connection and relationship to him, their preparation for his problem, and their need of it? That there has been thinking and printing even in Germany since Schopenhauer’s time on the problem raised by him, - it was late enough! - does not at all suffice to enable us to decide in favour of this closer relationship; one could, on the contrary, lay great stress on the peculiar awkwardness of this post-Schopenhauerian Pessimism - Germans evidently do not behave themselves here as in their element. I do not at all allude here to Eduard von Hartmann; on the contrary, my old suspicion is not vanished even at present that he is too clever for us; I mean to say that as arrant rogue from the very first, he did not perhaps make merry solely over German Pessimism - and that in the end he might probably "bequeathe" to them the truth as to how far a person could bamboozle the Germans themselves in the age of bubble companies. But further, are we perhaps to reckon to the honour of Germans, the old humming-top, Bahnsen, who all his life spun about with the greatest pleasure around his realistically dialectic misery and "personal ill-luck," - was that German? (In passing I recommend his writings for the purpose for which I myself have used them, as anti-pessimistic fare, especially on account of his elegantia psychologica, which, it seems to me, could alleviate even the most constipated body and soul). Or would it be proper to count such dilettanti and old maids as the mawkish apostle of virginity, Mainlander, among the genuine Germans? After all he was probably a Jew (all Jews become mawkish when they moralise). Neither Bahnsen, nor Mainlander, nor even Eduard von Hartmann, give us a reliable grasp of the question whether the pessimism of Schopenhauer (his frightened glance into an undeified world, which has become stupid, blind, deranged and problematic, his honourable fright) was not only an exceptional case among Germans, but a German event: while everything else which stands in the foreground, like our valiant politics and our joyful Jingoism (which decidedly enough regards everything with reference to a principle sufficiently unphilosophical: "Deutschland, Deutschland, über Alles"* consequently sub specie speciei, namely, the German species), testifies very plainly to the contrary. No! The Germans of today are not pessimists! And Schopenhauer was a pessimist, I repeat it once more, as a good European, and not as a German.

* "Germany, Germany, above all" : the first line of the German national anthem.
Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #35714708 years, 3 months ago 


The Peasant Revolt of the Spirit. We Europeans find ourselves in view of an immense world of ruins, where some things still tower aloft, while other objects stand mouldering and dismal, where most things however already lie on the ground, picturesque enough - where were there ever finer ruins? - overgrown with weeds, large and small. It is the Church which is this city of decay: we see the religious organisation of Christianity shaken to its deepest foundations. The belief in God is overthrown, the belief in the Christian ascetic ideal is now fighting its last fight. Such a long and solidly built work as Christianity - it was the last construction of the Romans! - could not of course be demolished all at once; every sort of earthquake had to shake it, every sort of spirit which perforates, digs, gnaws and moulders had to assist in the work of destruction. But that which is strangest is that those who have exerted themselves most to retain and preserve Christianity, have been precisely those who did most to destroy it, - the Germans. It seems that the Germans do not understand the essence of a Church. Are they not spiritual enough, or not distrustful enough to do so? In any case the structure of the Church rests on a southern freedom and liberality of spirit, and similarly on a southern suspicion of nature, man, and spirit, - it rests on a knowledge of man, an experience of man, entirely different from what the north has had. The Lutheran Reformation in all its length and breadth was the indignation of the simple against something "complicated." To speak cautiously, it was a coarse, honest misunderstanding, in which much is to be forgiven, - people did not understand the mode of expression of a victorious Church, and only saw corruption; they misunderstood the noble scepticism, the luxury of scepticism and toleration which every victorious, self-confident power permits.... One overlooks the fact readily enough at present that as regards all cardinal questions concerning power Luther was badly endowed; he was fatally short-sighted, superficial and imprudent - and above all, as a man sprung from the people, he lacked all the hereditary qualities of a ruling caste, and all the instincts for power; so that his work, his intention to restore the work of the Romans, merely became involuntarily and unconsciously the commencement of a work of destruction. He unravelled, he tore asunder with honest rage, where the old spider had woven longest and most carefully. He gave the sacred books into the hands of everyone, - they thereby got at last into the hands of the philologists, that is to say, the annihilators of every belief based upon books. He demolished the conception of "the Church" in that he repudiated the belief in the inspiration of the Councils: for only under the supposition that the inspiring spirit which had founded the Church still lives in it, still builds it, still goes on building its house, does the conception of "the Church" retain its power. He gave back to the priest sexual intercourse: but three-fourths of the reverence of which the people (and above all the women of the people) are capable, rests on the belief that an exceptional man in this respect will also be an exceptional man in other respects. It is precisely here that the popular belief in something superhuman in man, in a miracle, in the saving God in man, has its most subtle and insidious advocate. After Luther had given a wife to the priest, he had to take from him auricular confession; that was psychologically right: but thereby he practically did away with the Christian priest himself, whose profoundest utility has ever consisted in his being a sacred ear, a silent well, and a grave for secrets. "Every man his own priest" - behind such formulas and their bucolic slyness, there was concealed in Luther the profoundest hatred of "higher men," and of the rule of "higher men," as the Church had conceived them. Luther disowned an ideal which he did not know how to attain, while he seemed to combat and detest the degeneration thereof. As a matter of fact, he, the impossible monk, repudiated the rule of the homines religiosi he consequently brought about precisely the same thing within the ecclesiastical social order that he combated so impatiently in the civic order, - namely a "peasant insurrection." As to all that grew out of his Reformation afterwards, good and bad, which can at present be almost counted up - who would be naive enough to praise or blame Luther simply on account of these results? He is innocent of all; he knew not what he did. The art of making the European spirit shallower especially in the north, or more good-natured, if people would rather hear it designated by a moral expression, undoubtedly took a clever step in advance in the Lutheran Reformation; and similarly there grew out of it the mobility and disquietude of the spirit, its thirst for independence, its belief in the right to freedom, and its "naturalness." If people wish to ascribe to the Reformation in the last instance the merit of having prepared and favoured that which we at present honour as "modern science," they must of course add that it is also accessory to bringing about the degeneration of the modern scholar, with his lack of reverence, of shame and of profundity; and that it is also responsible for all naive candour and plain-dealing in matters of knowledge, in short for the plebeianism of the spirit which is peculiar to the last two centuries, and from which even pessimism hitherto, has not in any way delivered us. "Modern ideas" also belong to this peasant insurrection of the north against the colder, more ambiguous, more suspicious spirit of the south, which has built itself its greatest monument in the Christian Church. Let us not forget in the end what a Church is, and especially in contrast to every "State": a Church is above all an authoritative organisation which secures to the most spiritual men the highest rank, and believes in the power of spirituality so far as to forbid all grosser appliances of authority. Through this alone the Church is under all circumstances a nobler institution than the State.

Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #3589588 years, 3 months ago 


Vengeance on Intellect, and other Backgrounds of Morality. Morality - where do you think it has its most dangerous and rancorous advocates? - There, for example, is an ill-constituted man, who does not possess enough of intellect to be able to take pleasure in it, and just enough of culture to be aware of the fact; bored, satiated, and a self-despiser; besides being cheated unfortunately by some hereditary property out of the last consolation, "blessing of labour," the self-forgetfulness in the "day’s work"; one who is thoroughly ashamed of his existence - perhaps also harbouring some vices, - and who on the other hand (by means of books to which he has no right, or more intellectual society than he can digest), cannot help vitiating himself more and more, and making himself vain and irritable: such a thoroughly poisoned man - for intellect becomes poison, culture becomes poison, possession becomes poison, solitude becomes poison, to such ill-constituted beings - gets at last into a habitual state of vengeance and inclination for vengeance.... What do you think he finds necessary, absolutely necessary in order to give himself the appearance in his own eyes of superiority over more intellectual men, so as to give himself the delight of perfect revenge, at least in imagination? It is always morality that he requires, one may wager on it; always the big moral words, always the high-sounding words: justice, wisdom, holiness, virtue; always the Stoicism of gestures (how well Stoicism hides what one does not possess!); always the mantle of wise silence, of affability, of gentleness, and whatever else the idealist-mantle is called, in which the incurable self-despisers and also the incurably conceited walk about. Let me not be misunderstood: out of such born enemies of the spirit there arises now and then the rare specimen of humanity who is honoured by the people under the name of saint or sage: it is out of such men that there arise those prodigies of morality that make a noise, and make history, - St Augustine was one of these men. Fear of the intellect, vengeance on the intellect - Oh! how often have these powerfully impelling vices become the root of virtues! Yea, virtue itself! - And asking the question among ourselves, even the philosopher’s pretension to wisdom, which has occasionally been made here and there on the earth, the maddest and most immodest of all pretensions, - has it not always been above all in India as well as in Greece, a means of concealment? Sometimes, perhaps, from the point of view of education which hallows so many lies, it is a tender regard for growing and evolving persons, for disciples who have often to be guarded against themselves by means of the belief in a person (by means of an error). In most cases, however, it is a means of concealment for a philosopher, behind which he seeks protection, owing to exhaustion, age, chilliness, or hardening; as a feeling of the approaching end, as the sagacity of the instinct which animals have before their death, - they go apart, remain at rest, choose solitude, creep into caves, become wise.... What? Wisdom a means of concealment of the philosopher from intellect?

Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #35912388 years, 3 months ago