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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In order to understand other people, that is, to reproduce his feelings in ourselves we often try to discover the cause of his feelings for example by asking ourselves - Why is he sad?  By these means we may become sad ourselves for the same reason.  Yet we much more frequently do not do this and instead produce these feelings in ourselves in accordance with the effects that are evident in the person we are studying—by imitating in our own body the expression of his eyes, his voice, his bearing, his attitude (or at any rate the likeness of these things in words, images and rhythm) or we may at least try to mimic the action of his muscles and nervous system.  A similar feeling will then spring up in us as the result of an ancient correspondence between movement and feeling which is able to operate either backwards or forwards.  We have developed to a very high degree this ability of sensing the feelings of others and when we are in the presence of others we bring this faculty of ours into play almost involuntarily—observe the animation in a woman’s face, how it vibrates and quivers as the result of the continual imitation and reflection of what is going on around her.  It is music however, more than anything else, that shows us what past masters we are in the rapid and subtle divination of feelings and sympathy; for even if music is only an imitation of an imitation of feelings, nevertheless despite its distance and vagueness it often enables us to participate in those feelings so that we become sad without any real reason - like the fools that we are - merely because we hear certain sounds and rhythms that somehow or other remind us of the intonation and the movements or perhaps even only of the things associated with sorrowful people.  It is told that a certain Danish king was wrought up to such a pitch of warlike enthusiasm by the song of a minstrel that he sprang to his feet and killed five persons of his assembled court: there was neither war nor enemy; there was rather the exact opposite; yet the power of the retrospective inference from a feeling to the cause of it was sufficiently strong in this king to overpower both his observation and his reason.  Such however is almost invariably the effect of music (assuming it is capable of effecting us) and we have no need of such paradoxical instances to recognise this—the state of feeling into which music transports us is almost always in contradiction to our actual state and of our reasoning power which recognises this actual state and its causes.  If we inquire how it happened that this imitation of the feelings of others has become so common there will be no doubt as to the answer: man being the most timid of all beings because of his subtle and delicate nature has been made familiar through his timidity with this sympathy for and rapid comprehension of the feelings of others even of animals.  For century after century he saw danger in everything that was unfamiliar to him ,in anything that happened to be alive and whenever the spectacle of such things and creatures came before his eyes he imitated their features and attitude, drawing at the same time his own conclusion as to the nature of the evil intentions they concealed.  This interpretation of movements and facial characteristics in the sense of intentions man has even brought to bear on inanimate things—urged on as he was by the illusion that there was nothing inanimate.  I believe that this is the origin of what we call the feeling for nature, that sensation of joy which men experience at the sight of the sky, fields, rocks, forests, storms, the heavens, landscapes and spring: without our old habit of fear which forced us to suspect behind everything a kind of secondary and hidden meaning we should now experience no delight in nature in the same way as men and animals would hold no joy for us without first being assessed by fear.  For joy and enjoyable surprise and finally the feeling of the ridiculous are the younger children of sympathy and the much younger brothers and sisters of fear.  The faculty of rapid understanding which is based on the faculty of rapid dissimulation decreases in proud and autocratic men and nations as they are less fearful; but on the other hand every category of understanding and dissimulation is well known to timid peoples and among them is to be found the real home of the imitative arts and higher intelligence.  When proceeding from the theory of sympathy such as I have just outlined I turn my attention to the theory now so popular and almost sacrosanct of a mystical process by means of which pity blends two beings into one and thus permits them immediately to understand one another: when I recollect that even so clear a brain as Schopenhauer's delighted in such fantastic nonsense and that he in his turn passed onthis delight into other clear and not so clear brains I feel endless astonishment and compassion.  How great must be the pleasure we experience in this senseless foolishness!  How near must even a sane man be to insanity as soon as he listens to his own secret intellectual desires!  Why did Schopenhauer really feel so grateful, so profoundly indebted to Kant?  He revealed on one occasion the undoubted answer to this question.  Someone had spoken of the way in which the qualitas occulta might be removed from Kant's Categorical Imperative so that the theory itself might be rendered intelligible.  Whereupon Schopenhauer gave utterance to the following outburst: "An intelligible Categorical Imperative!  What apreposterous idea!  Stygian darkness!  God forbid that it should ever become intelligible!  The fact that there is actually something unintelligible, that this misery of the understanding and its concepts is limited, conditional, finite and deceptive—this is beyond question Kant's great gift".  Let anyone consider whether a man can be in possession of a desire to gain an insight into moral things when he feels himself comforted from the start by a belief in the inconceivableness of these things!  One who still honestly believes in illuminations from above, in magic, in ghostly appearances and in the metaphysical ugliness of the toad!  
 

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