Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist

Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist

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by Friedrich Nietzsche

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Written in 1888, while Nietzsche was at the height of his brilliance, these 2 polemics blaze with provocative, inflammatory rhetoric. Nietzsche's "grand declaration of war," Twilight of the Idols examines what we worship and why. In addition to its full-scale attack on Christianity and Jesus Christ, The Antichrist denounces organized religion as a…  See more details below


Written in 1888, while Nietzsche was at the height of his brilliance, these 2 polemics blaze with provocative, inflammatory rhetoric. Nietzsche's "grand declaration of war," Twilight of the Idols examines what we worship and why. In addition to its full-scale attack on Christianity and Jesus Christ, The Antichrist denounces organized religion as a whole.

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Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.
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ISBN: 978-0-486-14707-9




Idleness is the parent of all psychology. What! is psychology then a—vice?


Even the boldest of us have but seldom the courage for what we really know.


To live alone, one must be an animal or a God—says Aristotle. The third case is wanting: one must be both—a philosopher.


Every truth is simple—Is that not doubly a lie?


Once for all, there is much I do not want to know.—Wisdom sets bounds even to knowledge.


We recover best from our unnaturalness, from our spirituality, in our savage moods ...


How is it? Is man only a mistake of God? Or God only a mistake of man?—


From the military school of life.—What does not kill me, strengthens me.


Help thyself: then everyone else helps thee. Principle of brotherly love.


Would that we were guilty of no cowardice with respect to our doings, would that we did not repudiate them afterwards!—Remorse of conscience is indecent.


Is it possible for an ass to be tragic?—For a person to sink under a burden which can neither be carried nor thrown off? ... The case of the philosopher.


When one has one's wherefore of life, one gets along with almost every how.—Man does not strive after happiness; the Englishman only does so.


Man has created woman—out of what do you think? Out of a rib of his God,—his "ideal" ...


What? you are seeking? you would like to decuple, to centuple yourself? you are seeking adherents?—Seek ciphers!—


Posthumous men—myself, for example—are worse understood than opportune, but are better heard. More strictly: we are never understood—therefore our authority ...


Among women.—"Truth? Oh, you do not know truth! Is it not an outrage on all our pudeurs?"


That is an artist such as I love, modest in his requirements: he really wants only two things, his bread and his art,—panem et Circen ...


He who cannot put his will into things, puts at least a meaning into them: that is, he believes there is a will in them already. (Principle of "Belief.")


What? you choose virtue and a full heart, and at the same time gaze with envy at the advantages of the unscrupulous?—With virtue, however, one renounces "advantage" ... (At the door of an Anti-Semite.)


The perfect woman perpetrates literature as she perpetrates a little sin: by way of test, in passing, turning round to look if anybody notices it, and in order that somebody may notice it ...


To get ourselves into such conditions only as do not permit us to have feigned virtues; in which, rather, like the rope-dancer on his rope, we either fall, or stand—or escape in safety ...


"Bad men have no songs."—How is it that the Russians have songs?


"German esprit:" for eighteen years, a contradictio in adjecto.


By seeking after the beginnings of things people become crabs. The historian looks backwards; he finally believes backwards also.


Contentedness is a prophylactic even against catching cold. Has a woman who knew she was well dressed ever caught cold? I put the case that she was hardly dressed at all.


I mistrust all systematisers, and avoid them. The will to system is a lack of rectitude.


We think woman deep—why? because we never find any bottom in her. Woman is not even shallow.


If a woman possesses manly virtues, she is to be run away from; and if she does not possess them, she runs away herself.


"How much the conscience had to bite formerly! what good teeth it had!—And to-day, what is wrong?"—A dentist's question.


We seldom commit a single precipitancy. The first time we always do too much. Just on that account we are usually guilty of a second precipitancy—and then we do too little ...


The trodden worm turns itself. That is sagacious. It thereby lessens the probability of being again trodden on. In the language of morality: submissiveness.—


There is a hatred of lying and dissembling resulting from a sensitive notion of honour; there is also a similar hatred resulting from cowardice inasmuch as lying is forbidden by a Divine command. Too cowardly to tell lies ...


How little is required for happiness! The sound of a bag-pipe.—Without music life would be a mistake. The German conceives of God even as singing songs.


On ne peut penser et écrire qu'assis (G. Flaubert). There have I got you, nihilist! Sedentary application is the very sin against the Holy Ghost. Only thoughts won by walking are valuable.


There are times when we psychologists become restive like horses: we see our own shadows before us bobbing up and down. The psychologist, to see at all, has to abstract from himself.


Whether we immoralists do injury to virtue?—Just as little as Anarchists do to princes. It is only since princes have been wounded by shots that they sit firmly on their thrones again. Moral: We must wound morality by our shots.


You run on ahead? Do you do so as shepherd? or as an exception? A third case would be that of the deserter ... First question of conscience.


Are you genuine? or only a dissembler? A representative? or the represented itself?—Finally, you are merely an imitation of a dissembler ... Second question of conscience.


The disillusioned speaks.—I sought for great men; I never found aught but the apes of their ideal.


Are you one who looks on? or one who goes to work?—or one who looks away, and turns aside? ... Third question of conscience.


Do you intend to go along with others? or go on ahead? or go by yourself? ... One must know what one intends, and that one intends something.—Fourth question of conscience.


Those were steps for me, I have climbed up beyond them,—to do so, I had to pass them. But it was thought I would make them my resting place ...


Of what consequence is it that I am in the right! I am too much in the right.—And he who laughs best to-day, will laugh also in the end.


Formula of my happiness: A Yea, a Nay, a straight line, a goal ...




The wisest men in all ages have judged similarly with regard to life: it is good for nothing. Always and everywhere we hear the same sound out of their mouth—a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy: full of the fatigue of life, full of resistance to life. Even Socrates said when he died, "To live—that means to be long sick: I owe a cock to Asclepios the saviour." Even Socrates had enough of it.—What does that prove? What does it indicate? Formerly it would have been said (it has been said indeed and loud enough, and loudest of all by our pessimists!) "Here at all events, there must be something true! The consensus sapientium proves the truth."—Are we still to continue talking in such a manner? are we allowed to do so? "Here at all events there must be something diseased," is our answer: those wisest men of all ages, we should look at them close at hand! Were they, perhaps all of them, a little shaky on their legs? latish? tottering? décadents? Does wisdom perhaps appear on earth as a raven inspirited by a faint scent of carrion? ...


This irreverence, that the great wise men are declining types, first suggested itself to my mind with regard to a case where the strongest prejudices of the learned and the unlearned stood opposed to it: I recognised Socrates and Plato as symptoms of decline, as agencies in Grecian dissolution, as pseudo-Grecian, as anti-Grecian ("The Birth of Tragedy," 1872). That consensus sapientium—I understood it better and better—proves least of all that they were correct in that on which they were in accordance: it proves rather that they themselves, those wisest men, were somehow in accordance physiologically to take up a position—to have to take up a position—unanimously negative with regard to life. Judgments, valuations with regard to life, for or against, can ultimately never be true: they only possess value as symptoms, they only come into consideration as symptoms,—in themselves such judgments are follies. We must by all means stretch out the hand, and attempt to grasp this surprising finesse, that the worth of life cannot be estimated. It cannot be estimated by a living being, because such a one is a party—yea, the very object—in the dispute, and not a judge; it cannot be estimated by a dead person for a different reason.—For a philosopher to see a problem in the worth of life, is really an objection to him, a mark questioning his wisdom, a folly.—What? and all these great wise men—they were not only décadents, they were not even wise?—But I come back to the problem of Socrates.


Socrates, according to his descent, belonged to the lowest of the people; Socrates was of the mob. One knows, one still sees it one's self, how ugly he was. But ugliness, while it is an objection in itself, is almost a refutation when found among Greeks. Was Socrates Greek at all? Ugliness is often enough the expression of a thwarted development checked by cross breeding. Besides, it appears as deteriorating development. The anthropologists who are criminologists tell us that the typical criminal is ugly: monstrum in fronte, monstrum in animo. But the criminal is a décadent. Was Socrates a typical criminal?—At least the famous verdict of a physiognomist, which was so offensive to the friends of Socrates, would not contradict that assumption. A foreigner, who was a judge of countenances, when he passed through Athens, told Socrates to his face that he was a monstrum—he concealed in himself all the worst vices and passions. And Socrates merely answered, "You know me, Sir."


Not only does the confessed dissoluteness and anarchy in his instincts point to décadence in Socrates, but the superfœtation of logicality and that rhachitical malignity which distinguishes him points in the same direction. Neither must we forget those auditory hallucinations which have wrongly been interpreted in a religious sense, as the "demon of Socrates." Everything is exaggerated in him, everything is buffo and caricature; at the same time everything is concealed, reserved, and subterranean. —I try to understand out of what idiosyncrasy the Socratic equation of reason = virtue = happiness originates: that most bizarre of equations, which, in particular, has all the instincts of the older Hellenes opposed to it.


With Socrates Greek taste veers round in favour of dialectics. What really happens then? Above all superior taste is vanquished, the mob gets the upper hand along with dialectics. Previous to Socrates dialectic manners were repudiated in good society: they were regarded as improper manners, they compromised. The youths were warned against them. Besides, all such modes of presenting reasons were distrusted. Honest things, like honest men, do not carry their reasons in their hands in such fashion. It is indecent to put forth all the five fingers. That which requires to be proved is little worth. All the world over, where authority still belongs to good usage, where one does not "demonstrate" but commands, the dialectician is a sort of buffoon: he is laughed at, he is not taken seriously. Socrates was the buffoon who got himself taken seriously. What really happened then?


We choose dialectics only when we have no other means. We know we excite mistrust with it, we know it does not carry much conviction. Nothing is easier wiped away than the effect of a dialectician: that is proved by the experience of every assembly where speeches are made. It can only be a last defence in the hands of such as have no other weapon left. It is necessary to have to extort one's rights; otherwise one makes no use of dialectics. The Jews were therefore dialecticians; Reynard the Fox was a dialectician: what? and Socrates also was one?—


—Is the irony of Socrates an expression of revolt? of a moblike resentment? Does he, as one of the suppressed, enjoy his natural ferocity in the dagger-thrusts of syllogism? does he revenge himself on the upper classes whom he fascinates?—As a dialectician a person has a merciless instrument in his hand: he can play the tyrant with it; he compromises when he conquers. The dialectician leaves it to his opponent to demonstrate that he is not an idiot; he is made furious, and at the same time helpless. The dialectician paralyses the intellect of his opponent. —What? is dialectics only a form of revenge with Socrates?


I have given to understand what could make Socrates repellent; there is now the more need to explain the fact that he fascinated.—That he discovered a new mode of agon, of which he became the first fencing-master for the superior circles of Athens—that is one reason. He fascinated in that he appealed to the agonal impulse of the Hellenes,—he introduced a variation into the wrestling matches among young men and youths. Socrates was also a great erotic.


But Socrates found out somewhat more. He saw behind the higher class of Athenians, he understood that his case, the idiosyncrasy of his case, was no longer exceptional. The same kind of degeneration was preparing quietly everywhere: old Athens was coming to an end.—And Socrates understood that all the world had need of him,—of his method, his cure, his special artifice for self-maintenance ... Everywhere the instincts were in anarchy; everywhere people were within an ace of excess: the monstrum in animo was the universal danger. "The impulses are about to play the tyrant, we must invent a counter-tyrant stronger than they" ... When the physiognomist had disclosed to Socrates who he was, a cave of all evil passions, the great ironist uttered another word which gives the key to him. "It is true," he said, "but I became master over them all." How did Socrates become master over himself?—His case was after all only the extreme case, the most striking case of that which then began to be the universal trouble—namely, that nobody was any longer master of himself, that the instincts became mutually antagonistic. He fascinated as such an extreme case,—his fear-inspiring ugliness proclaimed him as such to every eye; as a matter of course, he fascinated still more as the answer, the solution, the seeming cure of this case.—


When it is necessary to make a tyrant out of reason, as Socrates did, there must be considerable danger of something else playing the tyrant. Rationality was hit upon in those days as a Saviour, it was not a matter of free choice for either Socrates or his "valetudinarians" to be rational, —it was de rigueur, it was their last expedient. The fanaticism with which the whole of Greek thought throws itself upon rationality betrays a desperate situation: they were in danger, they had only one choice: they had either to go to ruin, or—be absurdly rational ... The moralism of Greek philosophers, from Plato downwards, is pathologically conditioned; their estimation of dialectics likewise. Reason = virtue = happiness means merely that we have to imitate Socrates, and put a permanent day-light in opposition to the obscure desires—the day-light of reason. We have to be rational, clear, and distinct, at any price: every yielding to the instincts, to the unconscious, leads downwards ...


I have given to understand by what means Socrates fascinated: he seemed to be a physician, a Saviour. Is it necessary to expose the error which was involved in his belief in "rationality at any price?"—It is self-deception on the part of philosophers and moralists to think of rising above décadence by waging war with it. Rising above it is beyond their power; what they select as an expedient, as a deliverance, is itself only an expression of décadence:—they alter its expression, they do not do away with itself. Socrates was a misunderstanding; the whole of improving morality, including Christian morality, has been a misunderstanding ... The fiercest day-light, rationality at any price, the life clear, cold, prudent, conscious, without instincts, in opposition to instincts: this itself was only an infirmity, another infirmity, and not at all a way of return to "virtue," to "health," or to happiness. To have to combat the instincts—that is the formula for décadence: as long as life ascends, happiness is identical with instinct.—


Excerpted from Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist by FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Thomas Common. Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was born in Prussia in 1844. After the death of his father, a Lutheran minister, Nietzsche was raised from the age of five by his mother in a household of women. In 1869 he was appointed Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Basel, where he taught until 1879 when poor health forced him to retire. He never recovered from a nervous breakdown in 1889 and died eleven years later. Known for saying that “god is dead,” Nietzsche propounded his metaphysical construct of the superiority of the disciplined individual (superman) living in the present over traditional values derived from Christianity and its emphasis on heavenly rewards. His ideas were appropriated by the Fascists, who turned his theories into social realities that he had never intended.
R. J. Hollingdale has translated eleven of Nietzsche’s books and published two books about him. He has also translated works by, among others, Schopenhauer, Goethe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Lichtenberg and Theodor Fontane, many of these for the Penguin Classics. He is Honorary President of the British Nietzsche Society, and was for the Australian academic year 1991 Visiting Fellow at Trinity College, Melbourne.

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