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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What men have found it so difficult to understand from the most ancient times down to the present day is their ignorance in regard to themselves, not merely with respect to good and evil but also on even more essential matters.  The oldest of illusions, still thriving, is that we know precisely in each case how human action is brought about.  Not only "God who sees the workings of every heart", nor the man who deliberately reflects upon his action but each one of us does not doubt that he understands the process of action in everyone else.  "I know what I want, what I have done, I am free and responsible for my act and I make others responsible for their acts; I can mention by its name every moral possibility and every internal movement which precedes an act—you may act as you will, I understand myself and I understand you all!  " This is how everyone formerly thought and almost everyone continues to do so even now.  Socrates and Plato who in this matter were great sceptics and admirable innovators were nevertheless incredibly naive in regard to that fatal prejudice, that profound error which maintains that "The right knowledge must necessarily be followed by the right action".  In holding this principle they were still the heirs of the universal folly and presumption that knowledge exists concerning the essence of an action.  "It would be dreadful if the comprehension of the essence of a right action were not followed by that right action itself "— this was the only outcome considered by these great men - the contrary seemed to them to be crazy and inconceivable - and yet the contrary position is in fact the naked reality which has been demonstrated daily and hourly from time immemorial.  Is it not the "dreadful" truth that all that no matter how much we know about an act this knowledge is never sufficient to accomplish the act, that the bridge connecting the knowledge of the act with the act itself has never yet been built?  Acts are never what they appear to us to be.  We have taken great pains to learn that external things are not as they appear to us.  Well then!  It is the same with internal phenomena.  All moral acts are in reality "something other"—we cannot say anything more about them and all acts are essentially unknown to us.  The general belief however has been and still is, quite the contrary - the most ancient realism is against us: up to the present humanity has thought "An action is what it appears to be".  (In re-reading these words a very expressive passage from Schopenhauer occurs to me and I will quote it as a proof that he too without the slightest scruple continued to adhere to this moral realism: "Each one of us is in reality a competent and perfect moral judge knowing exactly good and evil, ourselves made holy by loving good and despising evil—at least in so far as we are considering the acts of others and not our own, when we merely have to approve or disapprove whilst the burden of the performance of the acts is borne by other shoulders.  Everyone is then capable of being a Confessor and being wholly qualified as a deputy for God.  

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