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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Little Unconventional Actions are Necessary!  To act occasionally in matters of custom against our own better judgments; to yield in practice while reserving our own intellectual liberty; to behave like everybody else and thus to show ourselves amiable and considerate to all to compensate them as it were even if only to some extent for our unconventional opinions—all this among many tolerably liberal—minded men is looked upon not only as permissible but even as "honourable" "humane" "tolerant" and "unpedantic" or whatever fine words may be used to lull to sleep the intellectual conscience.  So for example one man although he may be an atheist has his infant baptized in the usual Christian fashion; another goes through his period of military service though he may severely condemn all hatred between nations; and a third runs into the Church with a girl because she comes from a religious family and makes his vows to a priest without feeling ashamed of it.  "It is of no importance if one of us does what everyone else does and has done "— so says ignorant prejudice!  What a profound mistake!  For nothing is of greater importance than that a powerful long—established and irrational custom should be once again confirmed by the act of someone who is recognised as rational.  In this way the proceeding is thought to be sanctioned by reason itself!  All honour to your opinions!  Yet little unconventional actions are of still greater value.  


The chance of Marriages If I were a god and a benevolent god the marriages of men would cause me more displeasure than anything else.  An individual can make very great progress within the seventy years of his life—yea even within thirty years: such progress indeed as to surprise even the gods!  Yet when we then see him exposing the inheritance and legacy of his struggles and victories the laurel crown of his humanity on the first convenient peg where any female may pick it to pieces for him; when we observe how well he can acquire and how little he is capable of preserving his acquisitions and how he does not even dream that by procreation he might prepare a still more victorious life—we then indeed become impatient and say "Nothing can in the end result from humanity individuals are wasted for all rationality of a great advance of humanity is rendered impossible by the chance of marriages: let us cease from being the assiduous spectators and fools of this aimless drama"!  It was in this mood that the gods of Epicurus withdrew long ago to their divine seclusion and felicity: they were tired of men and their love affairs.  


Here are New Ideals to Invent At a time when a man is in love he should not be allowed to come to a decision about his life and to determine once and for all the character of his society on account of a whim.  We ought publicly to declare invalid the vows of lovers and to refuse them permission to marry: and this because we should treat marriage itself much more seriously so that in cases where it is now contracted it would not usually be allowed in future!  Are not the majority of marriages such that we should not care to have them witnessed by a third party?  And yet this third party is scarcely ever lacking—the child—and he is more than a witness; he is the whipping—boy and scapegoat.  


Formula of Oath "If I am now telling a lie I am no longer an honourable man and everyone may say so to my face".  I recommend this formula in place of the present judicial oath and its customary invocation to the Deity: it is stronger.  There is no reason why even religious men should oppose it; for as soon as the customary oath no longer serves all the religious people will have to turn to their catechism which says "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain".  


The Malcontent He is one of the brave old warriors: angry with civilisation because he believes that its object is to make all good things—honour rewards and fair women—accessible even to cowards.  


Consolation amid Perils The Greeks in the course of a life that was always surrounded by great dangers and cataclysms endeavoured to find in meditation and knowledge a kind of security of feeling a last refugium.  We who live in a much more secure state have introduced danger into meditation and knowledge and it is in life itself that we endeavour to find repose a refuge from danger.  


Extinct Scepticism Hazardous enterprises are rarer in modern times than in antiquity and in the Middle Ages probably because modern times have no more belief in omens oracles stars and soothsayers.  In other words we have become incapable of believing in a future which is reserved for us as the ancients did who—in contradistinction to ourselves—were much less sceptical regarding that which is to be than that which is.  


Evil through Exuberance " Oh, that we should not feel too happy!  "— Such was the secret fear of the Greeks in their best age.  That is why they preached moderation to themselves.  And we?  


The Worship of Natural Sounds What signification can we find in the fact that our culture is not only indulgent to the manifestations of grief such as tears complaints reproaches and attitudes of rage and humility but even approves them and reckons them among the most noble and essential things?  while on the other hand the spirit of ancient philosophy looked down upon them with contempt without admitting their necessity in any way.  Let us remember how Plato—who was by no means one of the most inhuman of the philosophers—speaks of the Philoctetus of the tragic stage.  Is it possible that our modern culture is wanting in "philosophy "?  or in accordance with the evaluations of those old philosophers do we perhaps all form part of the "mob "?  


The Climate for Flattery In our day flatterers should no longer be sought at the courts of kings since these have all acquired a taste for militarism which cannot tolerate flattery.  Yet this flower even now often grows in abundance in the neighbourhood of bankers and artists.  


The Revivers Vain men value a fragment of the past more highly from the moment when they are able to revive it in their imagination (especially if it is difficult to do so) they would even like if possible to raise it from the dead.  Since however the number of vain people is always very large the danger presented by historical studies if an entire epoch devotes its attention to them is by no means small: too great an amount of strength is then wasted on all sorts of imaginable resurrections.  The entire movement of romanticism is perhaps best understood from this point of view.  


Vain Greedy and not very Wise Your desires are greater than your understanding and your vanity is even greater than your desires—to people of your type a great deal of Christian practice and a little Schopenhauerian theory may be strongly recommended.  


Beauty corresponding to the Age If our sculptors painters and musicians wish to catch the significance of the age they should represent beauty as bloated gigantic and nervous: just as the Greeks under the influence of their morality of moderation saw and represented beauty in the Apollo di Belvedere.  We should indeed call him ugly!  Yet the pedantic "classicists "have deprived us of all our honesty!  


The Irony of the Present Time At the present day it is the habit of Europeans to treat all matters of great importance with irony because as the result of our activity in their service we have no time to take them seriously!  


Against Rousseau If it is true that there is something contemptible about our civilisation we have two alternatives: of concluding with Rousseau that "This despicable civilisation is to blame for our bad morality" or to infer contrary to Rousseau's view that "Our good morality is to blame for this contemptible civilisation.  Our social concept s of good and evil weak and effeminate as they are and their enormous influence over both body and soul have had the effect of weakening all bodies and souls and of crushing all unprejudiced independent and self-reliant men the real pillars of a strong civilisation: wherever we still find the evil morality today we see the last crumbling ruins of these pillars".  Thus let paradox be opposed by paradox!  It is quite impossible for the truth to lie with both sides: and can we say indeed that it lies with either?  Decide for yourself.  


Perhaps Premature It would seem at the present time that under many different and misleading names and often with a great want of clearness those who do not feel themselves attached to morals and to established laws are taking the first initial steps to organise themselves and thus to create a right for themselves; whilst to date as criminals free—thinkers immoral men and miscreants they have lived beyond the pale of the law under the bane of outlawry and bad conscience corrupted and corrupting.  On the whole we should consider this as right and proper although it may result in insecurity for the coming century and compel everyone to bear arms.  There is thereby a counterforce which continually reminds us that there is no exclusively moral—making morality and that a morality which asserts itself to the exclusion of all other morality destroys too much sound strength and is too dearly bought by mankind.  The non—conventional and deviating people who are so often productive and inventive must no longer be sacrificed: it must never again be considered as a disgrace to depart from morality either in actions or thought; many new experiments must be made upon life and society and the world must be relieved from a huge weight of bad conscience.  These general aims must be recognised and encouraged by all those upright people who are seeking truth.  


A Morality which does not bore one The principal moral commandments which a nation permits its teachers to emphasise again and again stand in relation to its chief defects and that is why it does not find them tiresome.  The Greeks who so often failed to employ moderation coolness fair—mindedness and rationality in general turned a willing ear to the four Socratic virtues—they stood in such need of them and yet had so little talent for them!  


At the Parting of the Ways Shame!  You wish to form part of a system in which you must be a wheel fully and completely or risk being crushed by wheels!  Where it is understood that each one will be that which his superiors make of him!  Where the seeking for "connections "will form part of one's natural duties!  where no one feels himself offended when he has his attention drawn to someone with the remark "He may be useful to you some time"; where people do not feel ashamed of paying a visit to ask for somebody's intercession and where they do not even suspect that by such a voluntary submission to these morals they are once and for all stamped as the common pottery of nature which others can employ or break up of their free will without feeling in any way responsible for doing so—just as if one were to say "People of my type will never be lacking therefore do what you will with me!  Do not stand on ceremony"!  


Unconditional Homage When I think of the most read German philosopher the most popular German musician and the most distinguished German statesman I cannot but acknowledge that life is now rendered unusually arduous for these Germans this nation of unconditional sentiments and that too by their own great men.  We see three magnificent spectacles spread out before us: on each occasion there is a river rushing along in the bed which it has made for itself and even so agitated that one thinks at times it intends to flow uphill.  And yet however we might admire Schopenhauer who would not all things considered like to have other opinions than his?  Who in all greater and smaller things would now share the opinions of Richard Wagner although there may be truth in the view expressed by someone: viz that wherever Wagner gave or took offence some problem lay hidden—which however he did not unearth for us.  And finally how many are there who would be willing and eager to agree with Bismarck if only he could always agree with himself or were even to show some signs of doing so for the future!  It is true that it is by no means astonishing to find statesmen without principles but with dominant instincts; a versatile mind actuated by these dominant and violent instincts and hence without principles—these qualities are looked upon as reasonable and natural in a statesman.  Yet alas this has up to the present been so un-German; as un-German as the fuss made about music and the discord and bad temper excited around the person of the musician; or as un-German as the new and extraordinary position taken up by Schopenhauer: he did not feel himself to be either above things or on his knees before them—one or other of these alternatives might still have been German—but he assumed an attitude against things!  How incredible and disagreeable!  to range one's self with things and nevertheless be their adversary and finally the adversary of one's self—what can the unconditional admirer do with such an example?  And what again can he do with three such examples who cannot keep the peace towards one another!  Here we see Schopenhauer as the antagonist of Wagner's music Wagner attacking Bismarck's politics and Bismarck attacking Wagnerism and Schopenhauerism.  What remains for us to do?  Where shall we flee with our thirst for wholesale hero—worship!  Would it not be possible to choose from the music of the musician a few hundred bars of good music which appealed to the heart and which we should like to take to heart because they are inspired by the heart—could we not stand aside with this small piece of plunder and forget the rest?  And could we not make a similar compromise as regards the philosopher and the statesman—select take to heart and in particular forget the rest?  Yes if only forgetfulness were not so difficult!  There was once a very proud man who would never on any account accept anything good or evil from others—from any one indeed but himself.  When he wanted to forget however he could not bestow this gift upon himself and was three times compelled to conjure up the spirits.  They came listened to his desire and said at last "This is the only thing it is not in our power to give!  "Could not the Germans take warning by this experience of Manfred?  Why then should the spirits be conjured up?  It is useless.  We never forget what we endeavour to forget.  And how great would be the "balance "which we should have to forget if we wished henceforth to continue wholesale admirers of these three great men!  It would therefore be far more advisable to profit by the excellent opportunity offered us to try something new i.  e.  to advance in the spirit of honesty towards ourselves and become instead of a nation of credulous repetition and of bitter and blind animosity a people of conditional assent and benevolent opposition.  We must come to learn in the first place however that unconditional homage to people is something rather ridiculous that a change of view on this point would not discredit even Germans and that there is a profound and memorable saying: "Ce qui importe ce ne sont point les personnes: mais les choses".  This saying is like the man who uttered it—great honest simple and silent—just like Carnot the soldier and Republican.  Yet may I at the present time speak thus to Germans of a Frenchman and a Republican into the bargain?  Perhaps not: perhaps I must not even recall what Niebuhr in his time dared to say to the Germans: that no one had made such an impression of true greatness upon him as Carnot.  


A Model What do I like about Thucydides and how does it come that I esteem him more highly than Plato?  He exhibits the most widespread and artless pleasure in everything typical in men and events and finds that each type is possessed of a certain quantity of good sense: it is this good sense which he seeks to discover.  He likewise exhibits a larger amount of practical justice than Plato; he never reviles or belittles those men whom he dislikes or who have in any way injured him in the course of his life.  On the contrary: while seeing only types he introduces something noble and additional into all things and persons; for what could posterity to which he dedicates his work do with things not typical!  Thus this culture of the disinterested knowledge of the world attains in him the poet—thinker a final marvellous bloom—this culture which has its poet in Sophocles its statesman in Pericles its doctor in Hippocrates and its natural philosopher in Democritus: this culture which deserves to be called by the name of its teachers the Sophists and which unhappily from the moment of its baptism at once begins to grow pale and incomprehensible to us—for henceforward we suspect that this culture which was combated by Plato and all the Socratic schools must have been very immoral!  The truth of this matter is so complicated and entangled that we feel unwilling to unravel it: so let the old error (error veritate simplicior) run its old course.  


The Greek Genius Foreign to us Oriental or modern Asiatic or European: compared with the ancient Greeks everything is characterised by enormity of size and by the revelling in great masses as the expression of the sublime whilst in Paestum Pompeii and Athens we are astonished when contemplating Greek architecture to see with what small masses the Greeks were able to express the sublime and how they loved to express it thus.  In the same way how simple were the Greeks in the idea which they formed of themselves!  How far we surpass them in the knowledge of man!  Again how full of labyrinths would our souls and our concept s of our souls appear in comparison with theirs!  If we had to venture upon an architecture after the style of our own souls—(we are too cowardly for that!)  —a labyrinth would have to be our model.  That music which is peculiar to us and which really expresses us lets this be clearly seen!  (for in music men let themselves go because they think there is no one who can see them hiding behind their music).  


Another Point of View How we babble about the Greeks!  What do we understand of their art the soul of which was the passion for naked masculine beauty!  It was only by starting from this that they appreciated feminine beauty.  For the latter they had thus a perspective quite different from ours.  It was the same in regard to their love for women: their worship was of a different kind and so also was their contempt.  

Friedrich Nietzsche, "Ecce Homo" Ebook

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