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Parts One and Two
By FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Helen Zimmern Paul V. Cohn
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.
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First and Last Things
CHEMISTRY OF IDEAS AND SENSATIONS.—Philosophical problems adopt in almost all matters the same form of question as they did two thousand years ago; how can anything spring from its opposite? for instance, reason out of unreason, the sentient out of the dead, logic out of unlogic, disinterested contemplation out of covetous willing, life for others out of egoism, truth out of error? Metaphysical philosophy has helped itself over those difficulties hitherto by denying the origin of one thing in another, and assuming a miraculous origin for more highly valued things, immediately out of the kernel and essence of the "thing in itself." Historical philosophy, on the contrary, which is no longer to be thought of as separate from physical science, the youngest of all philosophical methods, has ascertained in single cases (and presumably this will happen in everything) that there are no opposites except in the usual exaggeration of the popular or metaphysical point of view, and that an error of reason lies at the bottom of the opposition: according to this explanation, strictly understood, there is neither an unegoistical action nor an entirely disinterested point of view, they are both only sublimations in which the fundamental element appears almost evaporated, and is only to be discovered by the closest observation. All that we require, and which can only be given us by the present advance of the single sciences, is a chemistry of the moral, religious, æsthetic ideas and sentiments, as also of those emotions which we experience in ourselves both in the great and in the small phases of social and intellectual intercourse, and even in solitude; but what if this chemistry should result in the fact that also in this case the most beautiful colours have been obtained from base, even despised materials? Would many be inclined to pursue such examinations? Humanity likes to put all questions as to origin and beginning out of its mind; must one not be almost dehumanised to feel a contrary tendency in one's self?
INHERITED FAULTS OF PHILOSOPHERS.—All philosophers have the common fault that they start from man in his present state and hope to attain their end by an analysis of him. Unconsciously they look upon "man" as an æterna veritas, as a thing unchangeable in all commotion, as a sure standard of things. But everything that the philosopher says about man is really nothing more than testimony about the man of a very limited space of time. A lack of the historical sense is the hereditary fault of all philosophers; many, indeed, unconsciously mistake the very latest variety of man, such as has arisen under the influence of certain religions, certain political events, for the permanent form from which one must set out. They will not learn that man has developed, that his faculty of knowledge has developed also; whilst for some of them the entire world is spun out of this faculty of knowledge. Now everything essential in human development happened in pre-historic times, long before those four thousand years which we know something of; man may not have changed much during this time. But the philosopher sees "instincts" in the present man and takes it for granted that this is one of the unalterable facts of mankind, and, consequently, can furnish a key to the understanding of the world; the entire teleology is so constructed that man of the last four thousand years is spoken of as an eternal being, towards which all things in the world have from the beginning a natural direction. But everything has evolved; there are no eternal facts, as there are likewise no absolute truths. Therefore, historical philosophising is henceforth necessary, and with it the virtue of diffidence.
APPRECIATION OF UNPRETENTIOUS TRUTHS.—It is a mark of a higher culture to value the little unpretentious truths, which have been found by means of strict method, more highly than the joy-diffusing and dazzling errors which spring from metaphysical and artistic times and peoples. First of all one has scorn on the lips for the former, as if here nothing could have equal privileges with anything else, so unassuming, simple, bashful, apparently discouraging are they, so beautiful, stately, intoxicating, perhaps even animating, are the others. But the hardly attained, the certain, the lasting, and therefore of great consequence for all wider knowledge, is still the higher; to keep one's self to that is manly and shows bravery, simplicity, and forbearance. Gradually not only single individuals but the whole of mankind will be raised to this manliness, when it has at last accustomed itself to the higher appreciation of durable, lasting knowledge, and has lost all belief in inspiration and the miraculous communication of truths. Respecters of forms, certainly, with their standard of the beautiful and noble, will first of all have good reasons for mockery, as soon as the appreciation of unpretentious truths, and the scientific spirit, begin to obtain the mastery; but only because their eye has either not yet recognised the charm of the simplest form, or because men educated in that spirit are not yet completely and inwardly saturated by it, so that they still thoughtlessly imitate old forms (and badly enough, as one does who no longer cares much about the matter). Formerly the spirit was not occupied with strict thought, its earnestness then lay in the spinning out of symbols and forms. This is changed; that earnestness in the symbolical has become the mark of a lower culture. As our arts themselves grow ever more intellectual, our senses more spiritual, and as, for instance, people now judge concerning what sounds well to the senses quite differently from how they did a hundred years ago, so the forms of our life grow ever more spiritual, to the eye of older ages perhaps uglier, but only because it is incapable of perceiving how the kingdom of the inward, spiritual beauty constantly grows deeper and wider, and to what extent the inner intellectual look may be of more importance to us all than the most beautiful bodily frame and the noblest architectural structure.
ASTROLOGY AND THE LIKE.—It is probable that the objects of religious, moral, æsthetic and logical sentiment likewise belong only to the surface of things, while man willingly believes that here, at least, he has touched the heart of the world; he deceives himself, because those things enrapture him so profoundly, and make him so profoundly unhappy, and he therefore shows the same pride here as in astrology. For astrology believes that the firmament moves round the destiny of man; the moral man, however, takes it for granted that what he has essentially at heart must also be the essence and heart of things.
MISUNDERSTANDING OF DREAMS.—In the ages of a rude and primitive civilisation man believed that in dreams he became acquainted with a second actual world; herein lies the origin of all metaphysics. Without dreams there could have been found no reason for a division of the world. The distinction, too, between soul and body is connected with the most ancient comprehension of dreams, also the supposition of an imaginary soul-body, therefore the origin of all belief in spirits, and probably also the belief in gods. "The dead continues to live, for he appears to the living in a dream": thus men reasoned of old for thousands and thousands of years.
THE SCIENTIFIC SPIRIT PARTIALLY BUT NOT WHOLLY POWERFUL.—The smallest subdivisions of science taken separately are dealt with purely in relation to themselves,—the general, great sciences, on the contrary, regarded as a whole, call up the question—certainly a very non-objective one—"Wherefore? To what end?" It is this utilitarian consideration which causes them to be dealt with less impersonally when taken as a whole than when considered in their various parts. In philosophy, above all, as the apex of the entire pyramid of science, the question as to the utility of knowledge is involuntarily brought forward, and every philosophy has the unconscious intention of ascribing to it the greatest usefulness. For this reason there is so much high-flying metaphysics in all philosophies and such a shyness of the apparently unimportant solutions of physics; for the importance of knowledge for life must appear as great as possible. Here is the antagonism between the separate provinces of science and philosophy. The latter desires, what art does, to give the greatest possible depth and meaning to life and actions; in the former one seeks knowledge and nothing further, whatever may emerge thereby. So far there has been no philosopher in whose hands philosophy has not grown into an apology for knowledge; on this point, at least, every one is an optimist, that the greatest usefulness must be ascribed to knowledge. They are all tyrannised over by logic, and this is optimism—in its essence.
THE KILL-JOY IN SCIENCE.—Philosophy separated from science when it asked the question, "Which is the knowledge of the world and of life which enables man to live most happily?" This happened in the Socratic schools; the veins of scientific investigation were bound up by the point of view of happiness,—and are so still.
PNEUMATIC EXPLANATION OF NATURE.—Metaphysics explains the writing of Nature, so to speak, pneumatically, as the Church and her learned men formerly did with the Bible. A great deal of understanding is required to apply to Nature the same method of strict interpretation as the philologists have now established for all books with the intention of clearly understanding what the text means, but not suspecting a double sense or even taking it for granted. Just, however, as with regard to books, the bad art of interpretation is by no means overcome, and in the most cultivated society one still constantly comes across the remains of allegorical and mystic interpretation, so it is also with regard to Nature, indeed it is even much worse.
THE METAPHYSICAL WORLD.—It is true that there might be a metaphysical world; the absolute possibility of it is hardly to be disputed. We look at everything through the human head and cannot cut this head off; while the question remains, What would be left of the world if it had been cut off? This is a purely scientific problem, and one not very likely to trouble mankind; but everything which has hitherto made metaphysical suppositions valuable, terrible, delightful for man, what has produced them, is passion, error, and self-deception; the very worst methods of knowledge, not the best, have taught belief therein. When these methods have been discovered as the foundation of all existing religions and metaphysics, they have been refuted. Then there still always remains that possibility; but there is nothing to be done with it, much less is it possible to let happiness, salvation, and life depend on the spider-thread of such a possibility. For nothing could be said of the metaphysical world but that it would be a different condition, a condition inaccessible and incomprehensible to us; it would be a thing of negative qualities. Were the existence of such a world ever so well proved, the fact would nevertheless remain that it would be precisely the most irrelevant of all forms of knowledge: more irrelevant than the knowledge of the chemical analysis of water to the sailor in danger in a storm.
THE HARMLESSNESS OF METAPHYSICS IN THE FUTURE.—Directly the origins of religion, art, and morals have been so described that one can perfectly explain them without having recourse to metaphysical concepts at the beginning and in the course of the path, the strongest interest in the purely theoretical problem of the "thing-in-itself" and the "phenomenon" ceases. For however it may be here, with religion, art, and morals we do not touch the "essence of the world in itself"; we are in the domain of representation, no "intuition" can carry us further. With the greatest calmness we shall leave the question as to how our own conception of the world can differ so widely from the revealed essence of the world, to physiology and the history of the evolution of organisms and ideas.
LANGUAGE AS A PRESUMPTIVE SCIENCE.—The importance of language for the development of culture lies in the fact that in language man has placed a world of his own beside the other, a position which he deemed so fixed that he might therefrom lift the rest of the world off its hinges, and make himself master of it. Inasmuch as man has believed in the ideas and names of things as æternæ veritates for a great length of time, he has acquired that pride by which he has raised himself above the animal; he really thought that in language he possessed the knowledge of the world. The maker of language was not modest enough to think that he only gave designations to things, he believed rather that with his words he expressed the widest knowledge of the things; in reality language is the first step in the endeavour after science. Here also it is belief in ascertained truth, from which the mightiest sources of strength have flowed. Much later—only now—it is dawning upon men that they have propagated a tremendous error in their belief in language. Fortunately it is now too late to reverse the development of reason, which is founded upon that belief. Logic, also, is founded upon suppositions to which nothing in the actual world corresponds,—for instance, on the supposition of the equality of things, and the identity of the same thing at different points of time,—but that particular science arose out of the contrary belief (that such things really existed in the actual world). It is the same with mathematics, which would certainly not have arisen if it had been known from the beginning that in Nature there are no exactly straight lines, no real circle, no absolute standard of size.
DREAM AND CULTURE.—The function of the brain which is most influenced by sleep is the memory; not that it entirely ceases; but it is brought back to a condition of imperfection, such as every one may have experienced in prehistoric times, whether asleep or awake. Arbitrary and confused as it is, it constantly confounds things on the ground of the most fleeting resemblances; but with the same arbitrariness and confusion the ancients invented their mythologies, and even at the present day travellers are accustomed to remark how prone the savage is to forgetfulness, how, after a short tension of memory, his mind begins to sway here and there from sheer weariness and gives forth lies and nonsense. But in dreams we all resemble the savage; bad recognition and erroneous comparisons are the reasons of the bad conclusions, of which we are guilty in dreams: so that, when we clearly recollect what we have dreamt, we are alarmed at ourselves at harbouring so much foolishness within us. The perfect distinctness of all dream-representations, which pre-suppose absolute faith in their reality, recall the conditions that appertain to primitive man, in whom hallucination was extraordinarily frequent, and sometimes simultaneously seized entire communities, entire nations. Therefore, in sleep and in dreams we once more carry out the task of early humanity.
Excerpted from Human, All-Too-Human by FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Helen Zimmern Paul V. Cohn. Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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