It is increasingly apparent to me that the philosopher, who is necessarily a man of tomorrow and the day after, has in every age found and had to find himself in contradiction to his today: his enemy every time was the ideal of the day. Up to now all these extraordinary promoters of humanity whom we call philosophers and who themselves seldom felt that they were friends of wisdom but rather embarrassing fools and dangerous question marks have found their work, their hard, unsought for, inescapable task - but finally the greatness of their work - was for them to be the bad consciences of their age. By applying the knife of vivisection to the chest of the virtues of the day, they revealed what their own secret was - to know a new greatness for man, to know a new untrodden path to increasing his greatness. Every time they exposed how much hypocrisy, laziness, letting oneself go, letting oneself fall, how many lies lay hidden under the most highly honoured type of their contemporary morality, how much virtue was out of date; every time they said, "We must go there, out there, where you nowadays are least at home." Faced with a world of "modern ideas" which would like to banish everyone into a corner and a "specialty," a philosopher, if there could be a philosopher these days, would be compelled to establish the greatness of mankind, the idea of "greatness," on the basis of his own particular extensive range and multiplicity, his own totality in the midst of diversity. He would even determine value and rank according to how much and how many different things one could endure and take upon oneself, how far one could extend one's own responsibility. Today contemporary taste and virtue weaken and dilute the will; nothing is as topical as the weakness of the will. Thus, in the ideal of the philosopher it is precisely the strength of will, the hardness and ability to make long-range decisions that must be part of the idea "greatness" - with just as much justification as the opposite doctrine and the ideal of a stupid, denying, humble, selfless humanity was appropriate to an opposite age, one which suffered, like the sixteenth century, from the bottled up energy of its will and the wildest waters and storm tides of selfishness. At the time of Socrates, among nothing but men of exhausted instincts, among conservative old Athenians, who allowed themselves to go "for happiness," as they said, and for pleasure, as they did, and who, in the process, still kept mouthing the old splendid words to which their lives no longer gave them any right, perhaps irony was essential for greatness in the soul, that malicious Socratic confidence of the old doctor and member of the rabble, who sliced ruthlessly into his own flesh, as into the flesh and heart of the "noble man," with a look which spoke intelligibly enough "Don't play act in front of me! Here - we are the same!" By contrast, today, when the herd animal in Europe is the only one who attains and distributes honours, when "equality of rights" all too easily can get turned around into equality of wrongs - what I mean is into a common war against everything rare, strange, privileged, the higher man, the higher soul, the higher duty, the higher responsibility, the creative fullness of power and mastery - these days the sense of being noble, of willing to be for oneself, of being able to be different, of standing alone, and of having to live by one's own initiative - these are part of the idea "greatness," and the philosopher will reveal something of his own ideal if he proposes "The man who is to be the greatest is the one who can be the most solitary, the most hidden, the most deviant, the man beyond good and evil, lord of his virtues, a man lavishly endowed with will - this is simply what greatness is to be called: capable of being as much a totality as something multifaceted, as wide as it is full." And to ask the question again: today - is greatness possible?

Friedrich Nietzsche - Beyond Good and Evil
Part VI - Aphorism # 212

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