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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No matter to what high extent a man can attain to knowledge of himself nothing can be more incomplete than the picture that he forms of the drives of which he is made.  He can scarcely name the more common drives: their number and strength, their growth or diminishment, their action and counteraction and above all the laws of their nutrition remain completely unknown to him.  This nutrition is therefore a matter of accident: the daily experiences of our lives throw their prey to this drive or that and the drives eagerly seize upon it; but the ebb and flow of these events has no rational relationship to the nutritive needs of the community of drives.  Two things then must always happen: some drives will be neglected and starved to death while others will be overfed.  Every moment in the life of man causes some polyp-like arm of his being to grow and others to wither away in proportion to the nutriment that it does or does not receive.  Our experiences, as I have already said, are in this sense means of nutrition but are scattered without care and without discrimination between the hungry and the already overfed.  As a consequence of this arbitrary feeding of the discrete parts the polypus, its eventual overall development will be just as fortuitous as its growth.  To put this more clearly: let us suppose that a drive or craving has reached that point when it demands gratification—either the exercise of its power or the discharge of its power or the filling in of a vacuum (all this is metaphorical)—then it will observe every event occurring in the course of the day to see if it can fulfil those needs: whether the man runs or rests or is angry or reads or speaks or fights or rejoices - the hungry instinct watches as it were every condition into which the man enters and, as a rule, if it finds nothing for itself it must wait still unsatisfied.  After a little while it becomes feeble and at the end of a few days or a few months if it has not been satisfied it will wither away like a plant which has not been watered.  This cruelty of chance would perhaps be more obvious if all the cravings were as aggressive in their demands as is the hunger which refuses to be satisfied with imaginary food; but the great majority of our instincts, especially those which are called moral, are satisfied in this way - If we accept my supposition that our dreams are compensation for the accidental absence of "nutriment "during the day.  Why was last night's dream full of tenderness and tears, that of the night before amusing and light hearted and the previous one adventurous and engaged in some endless gloomy pursuit?  How does it come about that in this dream I enjoy indescribable beauties of music and in that one I soar and fly upwards with the delight of an eagle to the most distant heights?  These fantasies, in which our need of tenderness, of light heartedness or excitement or our desire for music and mountains can have free play and scope—and everyone can recall striking instances of one’s own—are interpretations of the nervous stimuli received during sleep, very free and arbitrary interpretations of the movements of our blood and intestines, the pressure of our arm and the bedding or the sound of a church bell, the weathercocks, moths and so on.  That this text, which on the whole is very much the same for one night as another is so differently commented upon, that our inventive reasoning faculty imagines such different causes for the nervous stimuli of one day as compared with another, may be explained by the fact that the prompter of this faculty was not the same as yesterday—a different drive wanted to be satisfied, to show itself, to exercise itself, to be refreshed and discharged: this particular drive being uppermost at that time and another one being at its height on the previous occasion.  Waking life does not have the freedom of interpretation possessed by dream life; it is less poetic and unrestrained—but do I really need to demonstrate that our drives when we are awake are also mere interpretations of our nervous stimuli and posit their "causes" according to their requirements?  That there is no essential difference between waking and dreaming?  That even in comparing different degrees of culture the freedom of the conscious interpretation of the one is not in any way inferior to the freedom in dreams of the other!  That our moral judgments and evaluations are only images and fantasies concerning physiological processes unknown to us, a kind of acquired language to describe certain nervous stimuli?  That all our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary on an unknown text - one that is perhaps unknowable but yet felt?  Consider some insignificant occurrence.  Let us suppose that some day as we pass along a public street we see someone laughing at us.  In accordance with whatever drive is uppermost within us at that moment this incident will have this or that signification for us; and it will be a different occurrence depending on the type of person that we are.  One man will take it like a drop of rain, another will shake it off like a fly, a third person will try to pick a quarrel on account of it, a fourth will examine his garments to see if there is anything about them that is likely to cause laughter and a fifth will in consequence think about what is ridiculous per se.  A sixth will be pleased at having involuntarily contributed a ray of sunshine and mirth to the world—in all these cases some craving is gratified whether anger, combativeness, meditation or benevolence.  This drive, whatever it may be, has seized upon that incident as its prey: why that particular one?  Because hungry and thirsty it was lying in ambush.  Not long ago, at 11 o'clock in the morning a man suddenly collapsed and fell down in front of me as if struck by lightning.  All the women who were near at once cried out in horror while I set the man on his feet again and waited until he recovered his speech.  During this time no muscle of my face moved and I experienced no sensation of fear or pity; I simply did what was most urgent and reasonable and calmly proceeded on my way.  Supposing someone had told me on the previous evening that at 11 o'clock on the following day a man would fall down in front of me like this, I should have suffered all kinds of agonies in the interval, lying awake all night and at the decisive moment should also perhaps have fallen down like the man instead of helping him; for in the meantime all possible drives within me would have had an opportunity to realise and to comment upon this incident.  What are our experiences then?  They are more what we put into them than what they are of themselves.  Or should we perhaps go so far as to say that they contain nothing?  That to experience is to invent?  
 

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