The Gay Science


What is Romanticism? It will be remembered perhaps, at least among my friends, that at first I assailed the modern world with some gross errors and exaggerations, but at any rate with hope in my heart. I recognised - who knows from what personal experiences? - the philosophical pessimism of the nineteenth century as the symptom of a higher power of thought, a more daring courage and a more triumphant plenitude of life than had been characteristic of the eighteenth century, the age of Hume, Kant, Condillac, and the sensualists: so that the tragic view of things seemed to me the peculiar luxury of our culture, its most precious, noble, and dangerous mode of prodigality; but nevertheless, in view of its overflowing wealth, a justifiable luxury. In the same way I interpreted for myself German music as the expression of a Dionysian power in the German soul: I thought I heard in it the earthquake by means of which a primeval force that had been imprisoned for ages was finally finding vent - indifferent as to whether all that usually calls itself culture was thereby made to totter. It is obvious that I then misunderstood what constitutes the veritable character both of philosophical pessimism and of German music, - namely, their Romanticism. What is Romanticism? Every art and every philosophy may be regarded as a healing and helping appliance in the service of growing, struggling life: they always presuppose suffering and sufferers. But there are two kinds of sufferers: on the one hand those that suffer from overflowing vitality, who need Dionysian art, and require a tragic view and insight into life; and on the other hand those who suffer from reduced vitality, who seek repose, quietness, calm seas, and deliverance from themselves through art or knowledge, or else intoxication, spasm, bewilderment and madness. All Romanticism in art and knowledge responds to the twofold craving of the latter; to them Schopenhauer as well as Wagner responded (and responds), - to name those most celebrated and decided romanticists, who were then misunderstood by me (not however to their disadvantage, as may be reasonably conceded to me). The being richest in overflowing vitality, the Dionysian God and man, may not only allow himself the spectacle of the horrible and questionable, but even the fearful deed itself, and all the luxury of destruction, disorganisation and negation. With him evil, senselessness and ugliness seem as it were licensed, in consequence of the overflowing plenitude of procreative, fructifying power, which can convert every desert into a luxuriant orchard. Conversely, the greatest sufferer, the man poorest in vitality, would have most need of mildness, peace and kindliness in thought and action: he would need, if possible, a God who is specially the God of the sick, a "Saviour"; similarly he would have need of logic, the abstract intelligibility of existence for logic soothes and gives confidence; - in short he would need a certain warm, fear-dispelling narrowness and imprisonment within optimistic horizons. In this manner I gradually began to understand Epicurus, the opposite of a Dionysian pessimist; - in a similar manner also the "Christian," who in fact is only a type of Epicurean, and like him essentially a romanticist: - and my vision has always become keener in tracing that most difficult and insidious of all forms of retrospective inference in which most mistakes have been made - the inference from the work to its author from the deed to its doer, from the ideal to him who needs it, from every mode of thinking and valuing to the imperative want behind it. - In regard to all aesthetic values I now avail myself of this radical distinction: I ask in every single case, "Has hunger or superfluity become creative here?" At the outset another distinction might seem to recommend itself more - it is far more conspicuous, - namely, to have in view whether the desire for rigidity, for perpetuation, for being is the cause of the creating, or the desire for destruction, for change, for the new, for the future - for becoming. But when looked at more carefully, both these kinds of desire prove themselves ambiguous, and are explicable precisely according to the before-mentioned, and, as it seems to me, rightly preferred scheme. The desire for destruction, change and becoming, may be the expression of overflowing power, pregnant with futurity (my terminus for this is of course the word "Dionysian"); but it may also be the hatred of the ill-constituted, destitute and unfortunate, which destroys, and must destroy, because the enduring, yea, all that endures, in fact all being, excites and provokes it. To understand this emotion we have but to look closely at our anarchists. The will to perpetuation requires equally a double interpretation. It may on the one hand proceed from gratitude and love: - art of this origin will always be an art of apotheosis, perhaps dithyrambic, as with Rubens, mocking divinely, as with Hafiz, or clear and kind-hearted as with Goethe, and spreading a Homeric brightness and glory over everything (in this case I speak of Apollonian art). It may also, however, be the tyrannical will of a sorely-suffering, struggling or tortured being, who would like to stamp his most personal, individual and narrow characteristics, the very idiosyncrasy of his suffering, as an obligatory law and constraint on others; who, as it were, takes revenge on all things, in that he imprints, enforces and brands his image, the image of his torture, upon them. The latter is romantic pessimism in its most extreme form, whether it be as Schopenhauerian will-philosophy, or as Wagnerian music: - romantic pessimism, the last great event in the destiny of our civilisation. (That there may be quite a different kind of pessimism, a classical pessimism - this presentiment and vision belongs to me, as something inseparable from me, as my proprium and ipsissimum; only that the word "classical" is repugnant to my ears, it has become far too worn, too indefinite and indistinguishable. I call that pessimism of the future, - for it is coming! I see it coming! - Dionysian pessimism.)

Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #37023407 years, 3 months ago 


We Unintelligible Ones. Have we ever complained among ourselves of being misunderstood, misjudged, and confounded with others; of being calumniated, misheard, and not heard? That is just our lot - alas, for a long time yet! say, to be modest, until 1901 - , it is also our distinction; we should not have sufficient respect for ourselves if we wished it otherwise. People confound us with others - the reason of it is that we ourselves grow, we change continually, we cast off old bark, we still slough every spring, we always become younger, higher, stronger, as men of the future, we thrust pur roots always more powerfully into the deep - into evil -, while at the same time we embrace the heavens ever more lovingly, more extensively, and suck in their light ever more eagerly with all our branches and leaves. We grow like trees - that is difficult to understand, like all life! - not in one place, but everywhere, not in one direction only, but upwards and outwards, as well as inwards and downwards. At the same time our force shoots forth in stem, branches, and roots; we are really no longer free to do anything separately, or to be anything separately.... Such is our lot, as we have said: we grow in height; and even should it be our calamity - for we dwell ever closer to the lightning! - well, we honour it none the less on that account; it is that which we do not wish to share with others, which we do not wish to bestow upon others, the fate of all elevation, our fate...

Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #3719637 years, 3 months ago 


Why we are not Idealists. Formerly philosophers were afraid of the senses: have we, perhaps, been far too forgetful of this fear? We are at present all of us sensualists, we representatives of the present and of the future in philosophy, - not according to theory, however, but in praxis, in practice.... Those former philosophers, on the contrary, thought that the senses lured them out of their world, the cold realm of "ideas," to a dangerous southern island, where they were afraid that their philosopher-virtues would melt away like snow in the sun. "Wax in the ears" was then almost a condition of philosophising; a genuine philosopher no longer listened to life, in so far as life is music, he denied the music of life - it is an old philosophical superstition that all music is Sirens' music. Now we should be inclined at the present day to judge precisely in the opposite manner (which in itself might be just as false), and to regard ideas, with their cold, anaemic appearance, and not even in spite of this appearance, as worse seducers than the senses. They have always lived on the "blood" of the philosopher, they always consumed his senses, and indeed, if you will believe me, his "heart" as well. Those old philosophers were heartless: philosophising was always a species of vampirism. At the sight of such figures even as Spinoza, do you not feel a profoundly enigmatical and disquieting sort of impression? Do you not see the drama which is here performed, the constantly increasing pallor, the spiritualisation always more ideally displayed? Do you not imagine some long-concealed blood-sucker in the background, which makes its beginning with the senses, and in the end retains or leaves behind nothing but bones and their rattling? - I mean categories, formulae, and words (for you will pardon me in saying that what remains of Spinoza, amor intellectualis dei, is rattling and nothing more! What is amor, what is deus, when they have lost every drop of blood?...) In summa: all philosophical idealism has hitherto been something like a disease, where it has not been, as in the case of Plato, the prudence of superabundant and dangerous healthfulness, the fear of overpowerful senses, fear the senses because - 

Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #37210097 years, 3 months ago 


"Science" as Prejudice. It follows from the laws of class distinction that the learned, in so far as they belong to the intellectual middle-class, are debarred from getting even a sight of the really great problems and notes of interrogation. Besides, their courage, and similarly their outlook, does not reach so far, - and above all their need which makes them investigators, their innate anticipation and desire that things should be constituted in such and such a way, their fears and hopes, are too soon quieted and set at rest. For example, that which makes the pedantic Englishman, Herbert Spencer, so enthusiastic in his way, and impels him to draw a line of hope, a horizon of desirability, the final reconciliation of "egoism and altruism" of which he dreams, - that almost causes nausea to people like us: - a humanity with such Spencerian perspectives as ultimate perspectives would seem to us deserving of contempt, of extermination! But the fact that something has to be taken by him as his highest hope, which is regarded, and may well be regarded, by others merely as a distasteful possibility, is a note of interrogation which Spencer could not have foreseen…. It is just the same with the belief with which at present so many materialistic natural-scientists are content, the belief in a world which is supposed to have its equivalent and measure in human thinking and human valuations, a "world of truth" at which we might be able ultimately to arrive with the help of our insignificant, four-cornered human reason! What? do we actually wish to have existence debased in that fashion to a ready-reckoner exercise and calculation for stay-at-home mathematicians? We should not, above all, seek to divest existence of its ambiguous character: good taste forbids it, gentlemen, the taste of reverence for everything that goes beyond your horizon! That a world-interpretation is alone right by which you maintain your position, by which investigation and work can go on scientifically in your sense (you really mean mechanically?), an interpretation which acknowledges numbering, calculating, weighing, seeing and handling, and nothing more - such an idea is a piece of grossness and naivety, provided it is not lunacy and idiocy. Would the reverse not be quite probable, that the most superficial and external characters of existence - its most apparent quality, its outside, its embodiment - should let themselves be apprehended first? perhaps alone allow themselves to be apprehended? A "scientific" interpretation of the world as you understand it might consequently still be one of the stupidest, that is to say, the most destitute of significance, of all possible world-interpretations: - I say this in confidence to my friends the Mechanicians, who today like to hobnob with philosophers, and absolutely believe that mechanics is the teaching of the first and last laws upon which, as upon a ground-floor, all existence must be built. But an essentially mechanical world would be an essentially meaningless world! Supposing we valued the worth of a music with reference to how much it could be counted, calculated, or formulated - how absurd such a "scientific" estimate of music would be! What would one have apprehended, understood, or discerned in it! Nothing, absolutely nothing of what is really "music" in it ! ..

Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #37313007 years, 3 months ago 


Our new "Infinite". How far the perspective character of existence extends, or whether it have any other character at all, whether an existence without explanation, without "sense" does not just become "nonsense," whether, on the other hand, all existence is not essentially an explaining existence - these questions, as is right and proper, cannot be determined even by the most diligent and severely conscientious analysis and self-examination of the intellect, because in this analysis the human intellect cannot avoid seeing itself in its perspective forms, and only in them. We cannot see round our corner: it is hopeless curiosity to want to know what other modes of intellect and perspective there might be: for example, whether any kind of being could perceive time backwards, or alternately forwards and backwards (by which another direction of life and another conception of cause and effect would be given). But I think that we are today at least far from the ludicrous immodesty of decreeing from our nook that there can only be legitimate perspectives from that nook. The world, on the contrary, has once more become "infinite" to us: in so far we cannot dismiss the possibility that it contains infinite interpretations. Once more the great horror seizes us - but who would desire forthwith to deify once more this monster of an unknown world in the old fashion? And perhaps worship the unknown thing as the "unknown person" in future? Ah! there are too many ungodly possibilities of interpretation comprised in this unknown, too much devilment, stupidity and folly of interpretation, - our own human, all too human interpretation itself, which we know... 

Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science: Book V - Aphorism #37417397 years, 3 months ago