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The Gay Science
By FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Thomas Common
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The Teachers of the Object of Existence.— Whether I look with a good or an evil eye upon men, I find them always at one problem, each and all of them: to do that which conduces to the conservation of the human species. And certainly not out of any sentiment of love for this species, but simply because nothing in them is older, stronger, more inexorable and more unconquerable than that instinct,—because it is precisely the essence of our race and herd. Although we are accustomed readily enough, with our usual shortsightedness, to separate our neighbours precisely into useful and hurtful, into good and evil men, yet when we make a general calculation, and reflect longer on the whole question, we become distrustful of this defining and separating, and finally leave it alone. Even the most hurtful man is still perhaps, in respect to the conservation of the race, the most useful of all; for he conserves in himself, or by his effect on others, impulses without which mankind might long ago have languished or decayed. Hatred, delight in mischief, rapacity and ambition, and whatever else is called evil—belong to the marvellous economy of the conservation on the race; to be sure a costly, lavish, and on the whole very foolish economy:—which has, however, hitherto preserved our race, as is demonstrated to us. I no longer know, my dear fellow-man and neighbour, if thou canst at all live to the disadvantage of the race, and therefore, "unreasonably" and "badly"; that which could have injured the race has perhaps died out many millenniums ago, and now belongs to the things which are no longer possible even to God. Indulge thy best or thy worst desires, and above all, go to wreck!—in either case thou art still probably the furtherer and benefactor of mankind in some way or other, and in that respect thou mayest have thy panegyrists—and similarly thy mockers! But thou wilt never find him who would be quite qualified to mock at thee, the individual, at thy best, who could bring home to thy conscience its limitless, buzzing and croaking wretchedness so as to be in accord with truth! To laugh at oneself as one would have to laugh in order to laugh out of the veriest truth,—to do this, the best have not hitherto had enough of the sense of truth, and the most endowed have had far too little genius! There is perhaps still a future even for laughter! When the maxim, "The race is all, the individual is nothing,"—has incorporated itself in humanity, and when access stands open to every one at all times to this ultimate emancipation and irresponsibility.—Perhaps then laughter will have united with wisdom, perhaps then there will be only "gay science." Meanwhile, however, it is quite otherwise, meanwhile the comedy of existence has not yet "become conscious" of itself, meanwhile it is still the period of tragedy, the period of morals and religions. What does the ever new appearing of founders of morals and religions, of instigators of struggles for moral valuations, of teachers of remorse of conscience and religious war, imply? What do these heroes on this stage imply? For they have hitherto been the heroes of it, and all else, though solely visible for the time being, and too close to one, has served only as preparation for these heroes, whether as machinery and coulisse, or in the rôle of confidants and valets. (The poets, for example, have always been the valets of some morality or other.)—It is obvious of itself that these tragedians also work in the interest of the race, though they may believe that they work in the interest of God, and as emissaries of God. They also further the life of the species, in that they further the belief in life. "It is worth while to live"—each of them calls out,—"there is something of importance in this life; life has something behind it and under it; take care!" That impulse, which rules equally in the noblest and the ignoblest, the impulse to the conservation of the species, breaks forth from time to time as reason and passion of spirit; it has then a brilliant train of motives about it, and tries with all its power to make us forget that fundamentally it is just impulse, instinct, folly and baselessness. Life should be loved, for ...! Man should benefit himself and his neighbour, for ...! And whatever all these shoulds and fors imply, and may imply in future! In order that that which necessarily and always happens of itself and without design, may henceforth appear to be done by design, and may appeal to men as reason and ultimate command,—for that purpose the ethiculturist comes forward as the teacher of design in existence; for that purpose he devises a second and different existence, and by means of this new mechanism he lifts the old common existence off its old common hinges. No! he does not at all want us to laugh at existence, nor even at ourselves—nor at himself; to him an individual is always an individual, something first and last and immense, to him there are no species, no sums, no noughts. However foolish and fanatical his inventions and valuations may be, however much he may misunderstand the course of nature and deny its conditions—and all systems of ethics hitherto have been foolish and anti-natural to such a degree that mankind would have been ruined by any one of them had it got the upper hand,—at any rate, every time that "the hero" came upon the stage something new was attained: the frightful counterpart of laughter, the profound convulsion of many individuals at the thought, "Yes, it is worth while to live! yes, I am worthy to live!"—life, and thou, and I, and all of us together became for a while interesting to ourselves once more.—It is not to be denied that hitherto laughter and reason and nature have in the long run got the upper hand of all the great teachers of design: in the end the short tragedy always passed over once more into the eternal comedy of existence; and the "waves of innumerable laughters"—to use the expression of Æschylus—must also in the end beat over the greatest of these tragedies. But with all this corrective laughter, human nature has on the whole been changed by the ever new appearance of those teachers of the design of existence,—human nature has now an additional requirement, the very requirement of the ever new appearance of such teachers and doctrines of "design." Man has gradually become a visionary animal, who has to fulfil one more condition of existence than the other animals: man must from time to time believe that he knows why he exists; his species cannot flourish without periodically confiding in life! Without the belief in reason in life! And always from time to time will the human race decree anew that "there is something which really may not be laughed at." And the most clairvoyant philanthropist will add that "not only laughing and gay science, but also the tragic with all its sublime irrationality, counts among the means and necessities for the conservation of the race!"—And consequently! Consequently! Consequently! Do you understand me, oh my brothers? Do you understand this new law of ebb and flow? We also shall have our time!
The Intellectual Conscience.—I have always the same experience over again, and always make a new effort against it; for although it is evident to me I do not want to believe it: in the greater number of men the intellectual conscience is lacking; indeed, it would often seem to me that in demanding such a thing, one is as solitary in the largest cities as in the desert. Everyone looks at you with strange eyes, and continues to make use of his scales, calling this good and that bad; and no one blushes for shame when you remark that these weights are not the full amount,—there is also no indignation against you; perhaps they laugh at your doubt. I mean to say that the greater number of people do not find it contemptible to believe this or that, and live according to it, without having been previously aware of the ultimate and surest reasons for and against it, and without even giving themselves any trouble about such reasons afterwards,—the most gifted men and the noblest women still belong to this "greater number." But what is kind-heartedness, refinement and genius to me, if he who has these virtues harbours indolent sentiments in belief and judgment, if the longing for certainty does not rule in him, as his innermost desire and profoundest need—as that which separates higher from lower men! In certain pious people I have found a hatred of reason, and have been favourably disposed to them for it: their bad intellectual conscience at least still betrayed itself, in this manner! But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors and all the marvellous uncertainty and ambiguity of existence, and not to question, not to tremble with desire and delight in questioning, not even to hate the questioner—perhaps even to make merry over him to the extent of weariness—that is what I regard as contemptible, and it is this sentiment which I first of all search for in every one:—some folly or other always persuades me anew that every man has this sentiment, as man. This is my special kind of unrighteousness.
Noble and Ignoble.— To ignoble natures all noble, magnanimous sentiments appear inexpedient, and on that account first and foremost, as incredible: they blink with their eyes when they hear of such matters, and seem inclined to say, "there will, no doubt, be some advantage therefrom, one cannot see through all walls;"—they are jealous of the noble person, as if he sought advantage by backstair methods. When they are all too plainly convinced of the absence of selfish intentions and emoluments, the noble person is regarded by them as a kind of fool: they despise him in his gladness, and laugh at the lustre of his eye. "How can a person rejoice at being at a disadvantage, how can a person with open eyes want to meet with disadvantage! It must be a disease of the reason with which the noble affection is associated";—so they think, and they look depreciatingly thereon;just as they depreciate the joy which the lunatic derives from his fixed idea.The ignoble nature is distinguished by the fact that it keeps its advantage steadily in view, and that this thought of the end and advantage is even stronger than its strongest impulse: not to be tempted to inexpedient activities by its impulses—that is its wisdom and inspiration. In comparison with the ignoble nature the higher nature is more irrational:—for the noble, magnanimous, and self-sacrificing person succumbs in fact to his impulses, and in his best moments his reason lapses altogether. An animal, which at the risk of life protects its young, or in the pairing season follows the female where it meets with death, does not think of the risk and the death; its reason pauses likewise, because its delight in its young, or in the female, and the fear of being deprived of this delight, dominate it exclusively; it becomes stupider than at other times, like the noble and magnanimous person. He possesses feelings of pleasure and pain of such intensity that the intellect must either be silent before them, or yield itself to their service: his heart then goes into his head, and one henceforth speaks of "passions." (Here and there to be sure, the antithesis to this, and as it were the "reverse of passion," presents itself; for example in Fontenelle, to whom some one once laid the hand on the heart with the words, "What you have there, my dearest friend, is brain also.") It is the unreason, or perverse reason of passion, which the ignoble man despises in the noble individual, especially when it concentrates upon objects whose value appears to him to be altogether fantastic and arbitrary. He is offended at him who succumbs to the passion of the belly, but he understands the allurement which here plays the tyrant; but he does not understand, for example, how a person out of love of knowledge can stake his health and honour on the game. The taste of the higher nature devotes itself to exceptional matters, to things which usually do not affect people, and seem to have no sweetness; the higher nature has a singular standard of value.Yet it is mostly of the belief that it has not a singular standard of value in its idiosyncrasies of taste; it rather sets up its values and non-values as the generally valid values and non-values, and thus becomes incomprehensible and impracticable. It is very rarely that a higher nature has so much reason over and above as to understand and deal with everyday men as such; for the most part it believes in its passion as if it were the concealed passion of every one, and precisely in this belief it is full of ardour and eloquence. If then such exceptional men do not perceive themselves as exceptions, how can they ever understand the ignoble natures and estimate average men fairly! Thus it is that they also speak of the folly, inexpediency and fantasy of mankind, full of astonishment at the madness of the world, and that it will not recognise the "one thing needful for it."—This is the eternal unrighteousness of noble natures.
That which Preserves the Species.— The strongest and most evil spirits have hitherto advanced mankind the most: they always rekindled the sleeping passions—all orderly arranged society lulls the passions to sleep; they always reawakened the sense of comparison, of contradiction, of delight in the new, the adventurous, the untried; they compelled men to set opinion against opinion, ideal plan against ideal plan. By means of arms, by upsetting boundary-stones, by violations of piety most of all: but also by new religions and morals! The same kind of "wickedness" is in every teacher and preacher of the new—which makes a conqueror infamous, although it expresses itself more refinedly, and does not immediately set the muscles in motion (and just on that account does not make so infamous!). The new, however, is under all circumstances the evil, as that which wants to conquer, which tries to upset the old boundary-stones and the old piety; only the old is the good! The good men of every age are those who go to the roots of the old thoughts and bear fruit with them, the agriculturists of the spirit. But every soil becomes finally exhausted, and the ploughshare of evil must always come once more.—There is at present a fundamentally erroneous theory of morals which is much celebrated, especially in England: according to it the judgments "good" and "evil" are the accumulation of the experiences of that which is "expedient" and "inexpedient"; according to this theory, that which is called good is conservative of the species, what is called evil, however, is detrimental to it. But in reality the evil impulses are just in as high a degree expedient, indispensable, and conservative of the species as the good:—only, their function is different.
Excerpted from The Gay Science by FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Thomas Common. Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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