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.

16. Ontological principle that every existent, every objective reality, has a ground of existence (Critique of Pure Reason A201 A783, B246, B811 ). Thus, that the metaphysical world is the explanation of the existence of the world of appearances. Schopenhauer's earliest essay (1813) is "The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason." Cf. E. F. J. Payne's translation (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court Publishing Co., 1974).
17. A reference to Kant.
18. wesenhaft
19 A reference to Schopenhauer.
20. A loud, inexhaustible laugh; cf. Iliad 1.599, or Odyssey 7.326, 20.346.

Friedrich Nietzsche - Human, All Too Human
Section One: Of First and Last Things - Aphorism # 16

« Prev - Random - Next »