Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak:  Reflections on Moral Prejudice. Morgenröte: Gedanken über die moralischen Vorurteile (also could be translated as The Dawn).

Written and published in 1881.

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1.

In this book we find an "underground man" at work: digging, mining, undermining.  You can see him always provided that you have eyes for such deep work—how he makes his way slowly cautiously gently but surely without showing signs of the weariness that usually accompanies a long privation of light and air.  He might even be called happy despite his labours in the dark.  Does it not seem as if some faith were leading him on some solace recompensing him for his toil?  Or that he himself desires to be incomprehensible hidden enigmatic something knowing that thereby he will in time have his own morning his own redemption his own rosy dawn?  –Yes, he will return: ask him not what he seeks for in the depths; for he himself will tell you this seeming Trophonius and subterranian when he once again becomes Man.  One easily unlearns how to hold one's tongue when one has for so long been a mole and all alone like him.  

2.

Indeed my indulgent friends I will tell you—here in this late preface which might easily have become an obituary or a funeral oration—what I sought in the depths below: for I have come back and—I have escaped.  Do not think that I will urge you to run the same perilous risk!  or that I will urge you on even to the same solitude!  For whoever proceeds on his own path meets no one: this is inherent in "following one’s own path".  No one comes to help him in his task: he must face everything quite alone—danger bad luck malice foul weather.  He goes his own way; and as is only right meets with bitterness and occasional irritation because he pursues his "own way": for instance the knowledge that not even his friends can guess who he is and whither he is going and that they ask themselves now and then: "Well,  Is he really progressing at all?  Has he still-   a path before him"?  —At that time I had undertaken something which could not have been done by everybody: I went down into the deepest depths; I tunnelled to the very bottom; I started to investigate and unearth an ancient faith which for thousands of years we philosophers used to build on as the safest of all foundations—which we built on again and again although every previous structure fell down: I began to undermine our faith in morals.  Yet you do not understand me?  

3.

So far it is on Good and Evil that we have meditated least profoundly: this was always too dangerous a subject.  Conscience a good reputation hell and at times even the police have not allowed and do not allow of impartiality; in the presence of morality as before all authority we must not even think much less speak: here we must obey!  Ever since the beginning of the world no authority has permitted itself to be made the subject of criticism; and to criticise morals—to look upon morality as a problem as problematic—what!  was that not—is that not—immoral?  But morality has at its disposal not only every means of intimidation with which to keep itself free from critical hands and instruments of torture: its security lies rather in a certain art of enchantment in which it is a past master—it knows how to "inspire".  It can often paralyse the critical will with a single look or even seduce it to its own side: there are even cases where morality can turn the critical will against itself; so that then like the scorpion it thrusts the sting into its own body.  Morality has for ages been an expert in all kinds of devilry in the art of convincing: even at the present day there is no orator who would not turn to it for assistance (listen to our anarchists for instance: how morally they speak when they want to convince!  In the end they even call themselves "the good and the just").  Morality has shown herself to be the greatest of all mistresses of seduction ever since men began to discourse and persuade on earth—and so far as we philosophers are concerned she is the veritable Circe of philosophers.  Why is it that from Plato onwards all the philosophic architects in Europe have built in vain?  That everything which they themselves honestly believed to be aere perennius threatens to subside or is already laid in ruins?  Oh, how wrong is the answer which even in our own day rolls glibly off the tongue when this question is asked: "Because they have all neglected the prerequisite the examination of the foundation a critique of all reason"—that fatal answer made by Kant who has certainly not thereby attracted us modern philosophers to firmer and less treacherous ground!  (and one may ask apropos of this was it not rather strange to demand that an instrument should criticise its own value and suitability?  that the intellect itself should "recognise" its own worth power and limits?  Was it not even just a little ridiculous?)  The right answer would rather have been that all philosophers including Kant himself were building under the seductive influence of morality—that they aimed at certainty and "truth" only in appearance; but that in reality their attention was directed towards "majestic moral structures" to use once more Kant's innocent mode of expression who deems it his "less brilliant but not undeserving" task and work "to level the ground and prepare a solid foundation for the erection of those majestic moral structures" (Critique of Pure Reason ii.  P.  257).  Alas!  He did not succeed in his aim quite the contrary—as we must acknowledge today.  With this exalted aim Kant was merely a true son of his century which more than any other may justly be called the century of enthusiasm: and this he fortunately continued to be in respect to the more valuable side of this century (with that solid piece of sensuality for example which he introduced into his theory of knowledge).  He too had been bitten by the moral tarantula Rousseau; he too felt weighing on his soul that moral fanaticism of which another disciple of Rousseau's Robespierre felt and proclaimed himself to be the executor: de fonder sur la terre l'empire de la sagesse de la justice et de la vertu.  (Speech of June 7th  1794.)  On the other hand with such a French fanaticism in his heart no one could have cultivated it in a less French more deep more thorough and more German manner—if the word German is still permissible in this sense—than Kant did: in order to make room for his "moral kingdom" he found himself compelled to add to it an indemonstrable world a logical "beyond "—that was why he required his critique of pure reason!  In other words he would not have wanted it if he had not deemed one thing to be more important than all the others: to render his moral kingdom unassailable by—or better still invisible to reason—for he felt too strongly the vulnerability of a moral order of things in the face of reason.  For when confronted with nature and history when confronted with the ingrained immorality of nature and history Kant was like all good Germans from the earliest times a pessimist: he believed in morality not because it is demonstrated through nature and history but despite its being steadily contradicted by them.  To understand this "despite" we should perhaps recall a somewhat similar trait in Luther that other great pessimist who once urged it upon his friends with true Lutheran audacity: "If we could conceive by reason alone how that God who shows so much wrath and malignity could be merciful and just what need should we have of faith"?  For from the earliest times nothing has ever made a deeper impression upon the German soul nothing has ever "tempted" it more than that deduction the most dangerous of all which for every true Latin is a sin against the intellect: credo quia absurdum est.  —With it German logic enters for the first time into the history of Christian dogma; but even today a thousand years later we Germans of the present late Germans in every way catch the scent of truth a possibility of truth at the back of the famous fundamental principle of dialectics with which Hegel secured the victory of the German spirit over Europe—— "contradiction moves the world; all things contradict themselves": for we are pessimists—even in logic.  

4.

But logical judgments are not the deepest and most fundamental to which the daring of our suspicion descends: the confidence in reason which is inseparable from the validity of these judgments is as confidence a moral phenomenon.  .  perhaps German pessimism has yet to take its last step?  Perhaps it has once more to draw up its "credo" opposite its "absurdum" in a terrible manner?  And if this book is pessimistic even in regard to morals even above the confidence in morals—should it not be a German book for that very reason?  For in fact it represents a contradiction and one which it does not fear: in it confidence in morals is withdrawn—but why?  Out of morality!  Or how shall we call that which takes place in it—in us?  For our taste inclines to the employment of more modest phrases.  Yet there is no doubt that to us likewise there speaks a "thou shalt"; we likewise obey a strict law which is set above us—and this is the last cry of morals which is still audible to us which we know how to live: here if anywhere are we still men of conscience because to put the matter in plain words we will not return to that which we look upon as decayed outlived and superseded we will not return to something "unworthy of belief" whether it be called God virtue truth justice love of one's neighbour or what not; we will not permit ourselves to open up a path of lies to old ideals; we are thoroughly and unalterably opposed to anything that would intercede and mingle with us; opposed to all forms of present—day faith and Christianity; opposed to the insipidness of all romanticism and fatherland—ism; opposed also to the artistic sense of enjoyment and lack of principle which would like to make us worship where we no longer believe—for we are artists—opposed in short to all this European feminism (or idealism if you prefer this term) which is always "draws us upwards" and which in consequence everlastingly "lowers" and "degrades" us.  Yet being men of this conscience we feel that we are related to that German uprightness and piety which dates back thousands of years although we immoralists we godless men of today may be the late and questionable offspring of these virtues—we even consider ourselves in a certain respect as their heirs the executors of their inmost will a pessimistic will as I have already pointed out which is not afraid to deny itself because it denies itself with joy!  In us is consummated if you desire a formula—the self-sublimation of morality.  

5.

But after all why must we proclaim so loudly and with such intensity what we are what we want and what we do not want?  Let us look at this more calmly and wisely; from a higher and more distant point of view.  Let us proclaim it as if among ourselves in so low a tone that all the world fails to hear it and us!  Above all however let us say it slowly..  This preface comes late but not too late: what after all do five or six years matter?  Such a book and such a problem are in no hurry; besides we are friends of lento I and my book.  I have not been a philologist in vain—perhaps I am one yet: a teacher of slow reading.  I even come to write slowly.  At present it is not only my habit but even my taste—a malicious taste perhaps—to write nothing but what will drive to despair everyone who is "in a hurry".  For philology is that venerable art which exacts from its followers one thing above all—to step to one side to leave themselves spare moments to wax silent to become slow—the leisurely art of the goldsmith applied to language: an art which must carry out slow fine work and attains nothing if not lento.  For this very reason philology is now more desirable than ever before; for this very reason it is the highest attraction and incitement in an age of "work": that is to say of hurry of unseemly and immoderate haste which is intent upon "getting things done" at once even books whether old or new.  Philology itself perhaps will not "get things done" so hurriedly: it teaches how to read well: i.  e.  slowly deeply attentively prudently with caution with the doors of the mind ajar with delicate eyes and fingers .  My patient friends this book appeals only to perfect readers and philologists: learn to read me well!  

Ruta near Genoa Autumn 1886.

 

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