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.

  Friedrich Nietzsche Full Text EBook  
Previous Section   Book 5 501-575   Next Section


Mortal Souls Where knowledge is concerned perhaps the most useful conquest that has ever been made is the abandonment of the belief in the immortality of the soul.  Humanity is henceforth at liberty to wait: men need no longer be in a hurry to swallow badly tested ideas as they had to do in former times.  For in those times the salvation of this poor "immortal soul "depended upon the extent of the knowledge which could be acquired in the course of a short existence: decisions had to be reached from one day to another and "knowledge "was a matter of dreadful importance!  Now we have acquired good courage for errors experiments and the provisional acceptance of ideas—all this is not so very important!  And for this very reason individuals and whole races may now face tasks so vast in extent that in former years they would have looked like madness and defiance of heaven and hell.  Now we have the right to experiment upon ourselves!  Yes men have the right to do so!  The greatest sacrifices have not yet been offered up to knowledge—nay in earlier periods it would have been sacrilege and a sacrifice of our eternal salvation even to surmise such ideas as now precede our actions.  


One Word for three different Conditions When in a state of passion one man will be forced to let loose the savage dreadful unbearable animal.  Another when under the influence of passion will raise himself to a high noble and lofty demeanour in comparison with which his usual self appears petty.  A third whose whole person is permeated with nobility of feeling has also the most noble storm and stress: and in this state he represents Nature in her state of savageness and beauty and stands only one degree lower than Nature in her periods of greatness and serenity which he usually represents.  It is while in this state of passion however that men understand him better and venerate him more highly at these moments—for then he is one step nearer and more akin to them.  They feel at once delighted and horrified at such a sight and call it—divine.  


Friendship The objection to a philosophic life that it renders us useless to our friends would never have arisen in a modern mind: it belongs rather to classical antiquity.  Antiquity knew the stronger bonds of friendship meditated upon it and almost took it to the grave with it.  This is the advantage it has over us: we on the other hand can point to our idealisation of sexual love.  All the great excellencies of ancient humanity owed their stability to the fact that man was standing side by side with man and that no woman was allowed to put forward the claim of being the nearest and highest nay even sole object of his love as the feeling of passion would teach.  Perhaps our trees do not grow so high now owing to the ivy and the vines that cling round them.  


Reconciliation Should it then be the task of philosophy to reconcile what the child has learnt with what the man has come to recognise?  Should philosophy be the task of young men because they stand midway between child and man and possess intermediate necessities?  It would almost appear to be so if you consider at what ages of their life philosophers are now in the habit of setting forth their concept s: at a time when it is too late for faith and too early for knowledge.  


Practical People We thinkers have the right of deciding good taste in all things and if necessary of decreeing it.  The practical people finally receive it from us: their dependence upon us is incredibly great and is one of the most ridiculous spectacles in the world little though they themselves know it and however proudly they like to carp at us unpractical people.  Nay they would even go so far as to belittle their practical life if we should show a tendency to despise it—whereto at times we might be urged on by a slightly vindictive feeling.  


The Necessary Desiccation of Everything Good What!  Must we conceive of a work exactly in the spirit of the age that has produced it?  Yet we experience greater delight and surprise and get more information out of it when we do not conceive it in this spirit!  Have you not remarked that every new and good work so long as it is exposed to the damp air of its own age is least valuable—just because it still has about it all the odour of the market of opposition of modern ideas and of all that is transient from day to day?  Later on however it dries up its "actuality "dies away: and then only does it obtain its deep lustre and its perfume—and also if it is destined for it the calm eye of eternity.  


Against the Tyranny of Truth Even if we were mad enough to consider all our opinions as truth we should nevertheless not wish them alone to exist.  I cannot see why we should ask for an autocracy and omnipotence of truth: it is sufficient for me to know that it is a great power.  Truth however must meet with opposition and be able to fight and we must be able to rest from it at times in falsehood—otherwise truth will grow tiresome powerless and insipid and will render us equally so.  


Not to take a thing Pathetically What we do to benefit ourselves should not bring us in any moral praise either from others or from ourselves and the same remark applies to those things which we do to please ourselves.  It is looked upon as bon ton among superior men to refrain from taking things pathetically in such cases and to refrain from all pathetic feelings: the man who has accustomed himself to this has retrieved his naiveté.  


The Third Eye What!  You are still in need of the theatre!  Are you still so young?  Be wise and seek tragedy and comedy where they are better acted and where the incidents are more interesting and the actors more eager.  It is indeed by no means easy to be merely a spectator in these cases—but learn!  And then amid all difficult or painful situations you will have a little gate leading to joy and refuge even when your passions attack you.  Open your theatre eye, that big third eye of yours which looks out into the world through the other two.  


Escaping from One's Virtues Of what account is a thinker who does not know how to escape from his own virtues occasionally!  Surely a thinker should be more than "a moral being"!  


The Temptress Honesty is the great temptress of all fanatics.  What seemed to tempt Luther in the guise of the devil or a beautiful woman and from which he defended himself in that uncouth way of his was probably nothing but honesty and perhaps in a few rarer cases even truth.  


Bold towards Things The man who in accordance with his character is considerate and timid towards persons but is courageous and bold towards things is afraid of new and closer acquaintances and limits his old ones in order that he may thus make his incognito and his inconsiderateness coincide with truth.  


Limits and Beauty Are you looking for men with a fine culture?  Then you will have to be satisfied with restricted views and sights exactly as when you are looking for fine countries.  There are of course such panoramic men: they are like panoramic regions instructive and marvellous: but not beautiful.  


To THE Stronger Ye stronger and arrogant intellects we ask you for only one thing: throw no further burdens upon our shoulders but take some of our burdens upon your own since you are stronger!  Yet you delight in doing the exact contrary: for you wish to soar so that we must carry your burden in addition to our own—we must crawl!  


The Increase of Beauty Why has beauty increased by the progress of civilisation?  because the three occasions for ugliness appear ever more rarely among civilised men: first the wildest outbursts of ecstasy; secondly extreme bodily exertion and thirdly the necessity of inducing fear by one's very sight and presence—a matter which is so frequent and of so great importance in the lower and more dangerous stages of culture that it even lays down the proper gestures and ceremonials and makes ugliness a duty.  


Not to Imbue our Neighbours with our OWN Demon Let us in our age continue to hold the belief that benevolence and beneficence are the characteristics of a good man; but let us not fail to add "provided that in the first place he exhibits his benevolence and beneficence towards himself".  For if he acts otherwise—that is to say if he shuns hates or injures himself—he is certainly not a good man.  He then merely saves himself through others: and let these others take care that they do not come to grief through him however well disposed he may appear to be to them!  but to shun and hate one's own ego and to live in and for others this has up to the present with as much thoughtlessness as conviction been looked upon as "unselfish" and consequently as "good".  


Tempting into Love We ought to fear a man who hates himself; for we are liable to become the victims of his anger and revenge.  Let us therefore try to tempt him into self love.  


Resignation What is resignation?  It is the most comfortable position of a patient who after having suffered a long time from tormenting pains in order to find it at last became tired—and then found it.  


Deception When you wish to act you must close the door upon doubt said a man of action.  And are you not afraid of being deceived in doing so?  Replied the man of a contemplative mind.  


Eternal Obsequies Both within and beyond the confines of history we might imagine that we were listening to a continual funeral oration: we have buried and are still burying all that we have loved best our thoughts and our hopes receiving in exchange pride gloria mundi—that is the pomp of the graveside speech.  It is thus that everything is made good!  Even at the present time the funeral orator remains the greatest public benefactor.  


Exceptional Vanity Yonder man possesses one great quality which serves as a consolation for him: his look passes with contempt over the remainder of his being and almost his entire character is included in this.  Yet he recovers from himself when as it were he approaches his sanctuary; already the road leading to it appears to him to be an ascent on broad soft steps—and yet you cruel ones you call him vain on this account!  


Wisdom without Ears To hear every day what is said about us or even to endeavour to discover what people think of us will in the end kill even the strongest man.  Our neighbours permit us to live only that they may exercise a daily claim upon us!  They certainly would not tolerate us if we wished to claim rights over them and still less if we wished to be right!  In short let us offer up a sacrifice to the general peace let us not listen when they speak of us when they praise us blame us wish for us or hope for us—nay let us not even think of it.  


A Question of Penetration When we are confronted with any manifestation which someone has permitted us to see we may ask: what is it meant to conceal?  What is it meant to draw our attention from?  What prejudices does it seek to raise?  And again how far does the subtlety of the dissimulation go?  And in what respect is the man mistaken?  


The Jealousy of the Lonely Ones This is the difference between sociable and solitary natures provided that both possess an intellect: the former are satisfied or nearly satisfied with almost anything whatever; from the moment that their minds have discovered a communicable and happy version of it they will be reconciled even with the devil himself!  Yet the lonely souls have their silent rapture and their speechless agony about a thing: they hate the ingenious and brilliant display of their inmost problems as much as they dislike to see the women they love too loudly dressed—they watch her mournfully in such a case as if they were just beginning to suspect that she was desirous of pleasing others.  This is the jealousy which all lonely thinkers and passionate dreamers exhibit with regard to the esprit.  


The Effect of Praise Some people become modest when highly praised others insolent.  


Unwilling to be a Symbol I sympathise with princes: they are not at liberty to discard their high rank even for a short time and thus they come to know people only from the very uncomfortable position of constant dissimulation—their continual compulsion to represent something actually ends by making solemn ciphers of them.  Such is the fate of all those who deem it their duty to be symbols.  


The Hidden Men Have you never come across those people who check and restrain even their enraptured hearts and who would rather become mute than lose the modesty of moderation?  And have you never met those embarrassing and yet so often good-natured people who do not wish to be recognised and who time and again efface the tracks they have made in the sand?  And who even deceive others as well as themselves in order to remain obscure and hidden?  


Unusual Forbearance It is often no small indication of kindness to be unwilling to criticise someone and even to refuse to think of him.  


How Men and Nations gain Lustre How many really individual actions are left undone merely because before performing them we perceive or suspect that they will be misunderstood!  Those actions for example which have some intrinsic value both in good and evil.  The more highly an age or a nation values its individuals therefore and the more right and ascendancy we accord them the more will actions of this kind venture to make themselves known—and thus in the long run a lustre of honesty of genuineness in good and evil will spread over entire ages and nations so that they—the Greeks for example—like certain stars will continue to shed light for thousands of years after their sinking.  


Digressions of the Thinker The course of thought in certain men is strict and inflexibly bold.  At times it is even cruel towards such men although considered individually they may be gentle and pliable.  With well-meaning hesitation they will turn the matter ten times over in their heads but will at length continue their strict course.  They are like streams that wind their way past solitary hermitages: there are places in their course where the stream plays hide and seek with itself and indulges in short idylls with islets trees grottos and cascades—and then it rushes ahead once more passes by the rocks and forces its way through the hardest stones.  


Different Feelings towards Art From the time when we begin to live as a hermit consuming and consumed our only company being deep and prolific thoughts we expect from art either nothing more or else something quite different from what we formerly expected—in a word we change our taste.  For in former times we wished to penetrate for a moment by means of art into the element in which we are now living permanently: at that time we dreamt ourselves into the rapture of a possession which we now actually possess.  Indeed flinging away from us for the time being what we now have and imagining ourselves to be poor or to be a child a beggar or a fool may now at times fill us with delight.  


"Love Equalises.  " Love wishes to spare the other to whom it devotes itself any feeling of strangeness: as a consequence it is permeated with disguise and simulation; it keeps on deceiving continuously and feigns an equality which in reality does not exist.  And all this is done so instinctively that women who love deny this simulation and constant tender trickery and have even the audacity to assert that love equalises (in other words that it performs a miracle)!  This phenomenon is a simple matter if one of the two permits himself or herself to be loved and does not deem it necessary to feign but leaves this to the other.  No drama however could offer a more intricate and confused instance than when both persons are passionately in love with one another; for in this case both are anxious to surrender and to endeavour to conform to the other and finally they are both at a loss to know what to imitate and what to feign.  The beautiful madness of this spectacle is too good for this world and too subtle for human eyes.  


We Beginners How many things does an actor see and divine when he watches another on the stage!  He notices at once when a muscle fails in some gesture; he can distinguish those little artificial tricks which are so calmly practised separately before the mirror and are not in conformity with the whole; he feels when the actor is surprised on the stage by his own invention and when he spoils it amid this surprise.  How differently again does a painter look at someone who happens to be moving before him!  He will see a great deal that does not actually exist in order to complete the actual appearance of the person and to give it its full effect.  In his mind he attempts several different illuminations of the same object and divides the whole by an additional contrast.  Oh, that we now possessed the eyes of such an actor and such a painter for the province of the human soul!  


Small Doses If we wish a change to be as deep and radical as possible we must apply the remedy in minute doses but unremittingly for long periods.  What great action can be performed all at once?  Let us therefore be careful not to exchange violently and precipitately the moral conditions with which we are familiar for a new evaluation of things—nay we may even wish to continue living in the old way for a long time to come until probably at some very remote period we become aware of the fact that the new evaluation has made itself the predominating power within us and that' its minute doses to which we must henceforth become accustomed have set up a new nature within us.  We now also begin to understand that the last attempt at a great change of evaluations—that which concerned itself with political affairs (the "great revolution")—was nothing more than a pathetic and sanguinary piece of quackery which by means of sudden crises was able to inspire a credulous Europe with the hope of a sudden recovery and has therefore made all political invalids impatient and dangerous up to this very moment.  


Truth requires Power Truth in itself is no power at all- regardless of what flattering rationalists are in the habit of saying to the contrary.  Truth must either attract power to its side or else side with power for otherwise it will perish again and again.  This has already been sufficiently demonstrated - more than sufficiently!  


The Thumbscrew It is disgusting to observe with what cruelty everyone charges his two or three private virtues to the account of others who may perhaps not possess them and whom he torments and worries with them.  Let us therefore deal humanely with the "sense of honesty" although we may possess in it a thumbscrew with which we can worry to death all these presumptuous egoists who even yet wish to impose their own beliefs upon the whole world—we have tried this thumbscrew on ourselves!  


Mastery We have reached mastery when we neither mistake nor hesitate in the achievement.  


The Moral Insanity of Genius In a certain category of great intellects we may observe a painful and partly horrible spectacle: in their most productive moments their flights aloft and into the far distance appear to be out of harmony with their general constitution and to exceed their power in one way or another so that each time there remains a deficiency and also in the long run a defectiveness in the entire machinery which latter is manifested among those highly intellectual natures by various kinds of moral and intellectual symptoms more regularly than by conditions of bodily distress.  Thus those incomprehensible characteristics of their nature- all their timidity vanity hatefulness envy their narrow and narrowing disposition—and that too personal and awkward element in natures like those of Rousseau and Schopenhauer may very well be the consequences of a periodical attack of heart disease; and this in its turn may be the result of a nervous complaint of which this is the result.  So long as genius dwells within us we are full of audacity yea almost mad and heedless of health life and honour; we fly through the day as free and swift as an eagle and in the darkness we feel as confident as an owl.  Yet let genius once leave us and we are instantly overcome by a feeling of the most profound despondency: we can no longer understand ourselves; we suffer from everything that we experience and do not experience; we feel as if we were in the midst of shelterless rocks with the tempest raging round us and we are at the same time like pitiful childish souls afraid of a rustle or a shadow.  Three quarters of all the evil committed in the world is due to timidity; and this is above all a physiological process.  


Do you know what you want?  Have you never been troubled by the fear that you might not be at all fitted for recognising what is true?  By the fear that your senses might be too dull and even your delicacy of sight far too blunt?  If you could only perceive even once to what extent your volition dominates your sight!  How for example you wished yesterday to see more than someone else while today you wish to see it differently!  And how from the start you were anxious to see something which would be in conformity with or in opposition to anything that people thought they had observed up to the present.  Oh, those shameful cravings!  How often you keep your eyes open for what is efficacious for what is soothing just because you happen to be tired at the moment!  Always full of secret predeterminations of what truth should be like so that you—you forsooth!  Might accept it!  Or do you think that today because you are as frozen and dry as a bright winter morning and because nothing is weighing on your mind you have better eyesight!  Are not ardour and enthusiasm necessary to do justice to the creations of thought?  And this indeed is what is called sight!  As if you could treat matters of thought any differently from the manner in which you treat men.  In all relations with thought there is the same morality the same honesty of purpose the same arriere-pensee the same slackness the same faint-heartedness—your whole lovable and hateful self!  Your physical exhaustion will lend the things pale colours whilst your feverishness will turn them into monsters!  Does not your morning show the things in a different light from the evening?  Are you not afraid of finding in the cave of all knowledge your own phantom the veil in which truth is wrapped up and hidden from your sight?  Is it not a dreadful comedy in which you so thoughtlessly wish to take part?  


Learning Michelangelo considered Raphael's genius as having been acquired by study and upon his own as a natural gift: learning as opposed to talent; though this is mere pedantry with all due respect to the great pedant himself.  For what is talent but a name for an older piece of learning experience exercise appropriation and incorporation perhaps as far back as the times of our ancestors or even earlier!  And again: he who learns forms his own talents only learning is not such an easy matter and depends not only upon our willingness but also upon our being able to learn at all.  Jealousy often prevents this in an artist or that pride which when it experiences any strange feeling at once assumes an attitude of defence instead of an attitude of scholarly receptiveness.  Raphael like Goethe lacked this pride on which account they were great learners and not merely the exploiters of those quarries which had been formed by the manifold genealogy of their forefathers.  Raphael vanishes before our eyes as a learner in the midst of that assimilation of what his great rival called his "nature ": this noblest of all thieves daily carried off a portion of it; but before he had appropriated all the genius of Michelangelo he died—and the final series of his works because it is the beginning of a new plan of study is less perfect and good for the simple reason that the great student was interrupted by death in the midst of his most difficult task and took away with him that justifying and final goal which he had in view.  


How we should turn to stone By slowly, very, very slowly becoming hard like a precious stone and at last lie still a joy to all eternity.  


The Philosopher and Old Age It is not wise to permit evening to act as a judge of the day; for only too often in this case weariness becomes the judge of success and good will.  We should also take the greatest precautions in regard to everything connected with old age and its judgment upon life more especially since old age like the evening is fond of assuming a new and charming morality and knows well enough how to humiliate the day by the glow of the evening skies twilight and a peaceful and wistful silence.  The reverence which we feel for an old man especially if he is an old thinker and sage easily blinds us to the deterioration of his intellect and it is always necessary to bring to light the hidden symptoms of such a deterioration and lassitude that is to say to uncover the physiological phenomenon which is still concealed behind the old man's moral judgments and prejudices in case we should be deceived by our veneration for him and do something to the disadvantage of knowledge.  For it is not seldom that the illusion of a great moral renovation and regeneration takes possession of the old man.  Basing his views upon this he then proceeds to express his opinions on the work and development of his life as if he had only then for the first time become clear-sighted—and nevertheless it is not wisdom but fatigue which prompts his present state of well—being and his positive judgments.  The most dangerous indication of this weariness is above all the belief in genius which as a rule only arises in great and semi-great men of intellect at this period of their lives: the belief in an exceptional position and exceptional rights.  The thinker who thus believes himself to be inspired by genius henceforth deems it permissible for him to take things more easily and takes advantage of his position as a genius to decree rather than to prove.  It is probable however that the need felt by the weary intellect for alleviation is the main source of this belief—it precedes it in time though appearances may indicate the contrary.  At this time too as the result of the love which all weary and old people feel for enjoyment such men as those I am speaking of wish to enjoy the results of their thinking instead of again testing them and scattering the seeds abroad once more.  This leads them to make their thoughts palatable and enjoyable and to take away their dryness coldness and want of flavour; and thus it comes about that the old thinker apparently raises himself above his life's work while in reality he spoils it by infusing into it a certain amount of fantasy sweetness flavour poetic mists and mystic lights.  This is how Plato ended as did also that great and honest Frenchman Auguste Comte who as a conqueror of the exact sciences cannot be matched either among the Germans or the Englishmen of this century.  There is a third symptom of fatigue: that ambition which actuated the great thinker when he was young and which could not then find anything to satisfy it has also grown old and like more time to lose it begins to snatch at the coarser and more immediate means of its gratification means which are peculiar to active dominating violent and conquering dispositions.  From this time onwards the thinker wishes to found institutions which shall bear his name instead of erecting mere brain-structures.  What are now to him the ethereal victories and honours to be met with in the realm of proofs and refutations or the perpetuation of his fame in books or the thrill of exultation in the soul of the reader?  Yet the institution on the other hand is a temple as he well knows—a temple of stone a durable edifice which will keep its god alive with more certainty than the sacrifices of rare and tender souls.  Perhaps too at this period of his life the old thinker will for the first time meet with that love which is fitted for a god rather than for a human being and his whole nature becomes softened and sweetened in the rays of such a sun like fruit in autumn.  Yes he grows more divine and beautiful this great old man—and nevertheless it is old age and weariness which permit him to ripen in this way to grow more silent and to repose in the luminous adulation of a woman.  Now it is all up with his former desire- a desire which was superior even to his own ego—for real disciples followers who would carry on his thought that is true opponents.  This desire arose from his to date undiminished energy the conscious pride he felt in being able at any time to become an opponent himself—nay even the deadly enemy of his own doctrine—but now his desire is for resolute partisans unwavering comrades auxiliary forces heralds a pompous train of followers.  He is now no longer able to bear that dreadful isolation in which every intellect that advances beyond the others is compelled to live.  From this time forward he surrounds himself with objects of veneration companionship tenderness and love; but he also wishes to enjoy the privileges of all religious people and to worship what he venerates most highly in his little community—he will even go as far as to invent a religion for the purpose of having a community.  Thus lives the wise old man and in living thus he falls almost imperceptibly into such a deplorable proximity to priestly and poetic extravagances that it is difficult to recollect all his wise and severe period of youth the former rigid morality of his mind and his truly virile dread of fancies and misplaced enthusiasm.  When he was formerly in the habit of comparing himself with the older thinkers he did so merely that he might measure his weakness against their strength and that he might become colder and more audacious towards himself; but now he only makes this comparison to intoxicate himself with his own delusions.  Formerly he looked forward with confidence to future thinkers and he even took a delight in imagining himself to be cast into the shade by their brighter light.  Now however he is mortified to think that he cannot be the last: he endeavours to discover some way of imposing upon mankind together with the inheritance which he is leaving to them a restriction of sovereign thinking.  He fears and reviles the pride and the love of freedom of individual minds: after him no one must allow his intellect to govern with absolute unrestriction: he himself wishes to remain for ever the bulwark on which the waves of ideas may break—these are his secret wishes and perhaps indeed they are not always secret.  The hard fact upon which such wishes are based however is that he himself has come to a halt before his teaching and has set up his boundary stone his "thus far and no farther".  In canonising himself he has drawn up his own death warrant: from now on his mind cannot develop further.  His race is run; the hour hand stops.  Whenever a great thinker tries to make of himself a lasting institution for posterity we may be certain that he has passed the height of his powers and is very tired, very near the setting of his sun.  


We must not make Passion an Argument for Truth Oh, you kind-hearted and even noble enthusiasts I know you!  You wish to seem right in our eyes as well as in your own but especially in your own!  And an irritable and subtle evil conscience so often spurs you on against your very enthusiasm!  How ingenious you then become in deceiving your conscience and lulling it to sleep!  How you hate honest simple and clean souls; how you avoid their innocent glances!  That better knowledge whose representatives they are and whose voice you hear only too distinctly within yourselves when it questions your belief—how you try to cast suspicion upon it as a bad habit as a disease of the age as the neglect and infection of your own intellectual health!  It drives you on to hate even criticism science reason!  You must falsify history to make it testify in your favour; you must deny virtues in case they should obscure those of your own idols and ideals.  Coloured images where arguments are needed!  Ardour and power of expression!  Silver mists!  Ambrosian nights!  Well do you know how to enlighten and to darken—to darken by means of light!  And indeed when your passion can no longer be kept within bounds the moment comes when you say to yourselves "Now I have won for myself a good conscience now I am exalted courageous self-denying magnanimous; now I am honest"!  How you long for these moments when your passion will confer upon you full and absolute rights and also as it were innocence.  How happy you are when engaged in battle and inspired with ecstasy or courage when you are elated beyond yourself when gnawing doubt has left you and when you can even decree: "Any man who is not in ecstasy as we are cannot by any chance know what or where truth is".  How you long to meet with those who share your belief in this state—which is a state of intellectual depravity—and to set your own fire alight with their flames!  Oh, for your martyrdom your victory of the sanctified lie!  Must you really inflict so much pain upon yourselves?  Must you?  


How Philosophy is now Practised I can see quite well that our philosophising youths, women and artists require from philosophy exactly the opposite of what the Greeks derived from it.  What does he who does not hear the continual exultation that resounds through every speech and counter-argument in a Platonic dialogue this exultation over the new invention of rational thinking know about Plato or about ancient philosophy?  At that time souls were filled with enthusiasm when they gave themselves up to the severe and sober sport of ideas generalisations refutations—that enthusiasm which perhaps those old great severe and prudent contrapuntists in music have also known.  At that time the Greek palate still possessed that older and formerly omnipotent taste: and by the side of this taste their new taste appeared to be enveloped in so much charm that the divine art of dialectic was sung by hesitating voices as if its followers were intoxicated with the frenzy of love.  That old form of thinking however was thought within the bounds of morality and for it nothing existed but fixed judgments and established facts and it had no reasons but those of authority.  Thinking therefore was simply a matter of repetition and all the enjoyment of speech and dialogue could only lie in their form.  Wherever the substance of a thing is looked upon as eternal and universally approved there is only one great charm the charm of variable forms that is of fashion.  Even in the poets ever since the time of Homer and later on in the case of the sculptors the Greeks did not enjoy originality but its contrary.  It was Socrates who discovered another charm that of cause and effect of reason and sequence and we moderns have become so used to it and have been brought up to the necessity of logic that we look upon it as the normal taste and as such it cannot but be repugnant to ardent and presumptuous people; such people are pleased by whatever stands out boldly from the normal: their more subtle ambition leads them to believe only too readily that they are exceptional souls not dialectic and rational beings but let us say "intuitive" beings gifted with an "inner sense" or with a certain "intellectual perception".  Above all however they wish to be "artistic natures "with a genius in their heads and a demon in their bodies and consequently with special rights in this world and in the world to come—especially the divine privilege of being incomprehensible.  And people like these are "going in for" philosophy nowadays!  I fear they will discover one day that they have made a mistake—what they are looking for is religion!  


Yet we do not Believe you You would fain pass for psychologists but we shall not allow it!  Are we not to notice that you pretend to be more experienced profound passionate and perfect than you actually are?  Just as we notice in yonder painter that there is a trifling presumptuousness in his manner of wielding the brush and in yonder musician that he brings forward his theme with the desire to make it appear superior to what it really is.  Have you experienced history within yourselves commotions earthquakes long and profound sadness and sudden flashes of happiness?  Have you acted foolishly with great and little fools?  Have you really undergone the delusions and woe of the good people?  And also the woe and the peculiar happiness of the most evil?  Then you may speak to me of morality but not otherwise!  


Slave and Idealist The followers of Epictetus would doubtless not be to the taste of those who are now striving after the ideal.  The constant tension of his being the indefatigable inward glance the prudent and reserved incommunicativeness of his eye whenever it happens to gaze upon the outer world and above all his silence or laconic speech: all these are characteristics of the strictest fortitude—and what would our idealists who above all else are desirous of expansion care for this?  Yet in spite of all this the Stoic is not fanatical.  He detests the display and boasting of our idealists: his pride however great it may be is not eager to disturb others.  It permits of a certain gentle approach and has no desire to spoil anybody's good humour—nay it can even smile.  A great deal of ancient humanity is to be seen exemplified in this ideal.  The most excellent feature about it however is that the thinker is completely free from the fear of God strictly believes in reason and is no preacher of penitence.  Epictetus was a slave: his ideal man is without any particular rank and may exist in any grade of society but above all he is to be sought in the deepest and lowest social classes as the silent and self-sufficient man in the midst of a general state of servitude a man who defends himself alone against the outer world and is constantly living in a state of the highest fortitude.  He is distinguished from the Christian especially because the latter lives in hope in the promise of "unspeakable glory" permits presents to be made to him and expects and accepts the best things from divine love and grace and not from himself.  Epictetus on the other hand neither hopes nor allows his best treasure to be given him—he possesses it already holds it bravely in his hand and defies the world to take it away from him.  Christianity was devised for another class of ancient slaves for those who had a weak will and weak reason—that is to say for the majority of slaves.  


The Tyrants of the Intellect.  The progress of science is at the present time no longer hindered by the purely accidental fact that man attains to about seventy years which was the case far too long.  In former times people wished to master the entire extent of knowledge within this period and all the methods of knowledge were valued according to this general desire.  Minor questions and individual experiments were looked upon as unworthy of notice: people wanted to take the shortest path under the impression that since everything in this world seemed to be arranged with a view to man's needs even the acquirement of knowledge was regulated in view of the limits of human life.  To solve everything at a single stroke with one word—this was the secret desire; and the task was represented in the symbol of the Gordian knot or the egg of Columbus.  No one doubted that it was possible to reach the goal of knowledge after the manner of Alexander or Columbus and to settle all questions with one answer.  "There is a mystery to be solved" seemed to be the aim of life in the eyes of the philosopher: it was necessary in the first place to find out what this enigma was and to condense the problem of the world into the simplest enigmatical formula possible.  The boundless ambition and delight of being the "unraveller of the world" charmed the dreams of many a thinker: nothing seemed to him worth troubling about in this world but the means of bringing everything to a satisfactory conclusion.  Philosophy thus became a kind of supreme struggle for the tyrannical sway over the intellect and no one doubted that such a tyrannical domination was reserved for some very happy subtle ingenious bold and powerful person—a single individual!  And many (the last was Schopenhauer) fancied themselves to be this privileged person.  From this it follows that on the whole science has up to the present remained in a rather backward state owing to the moral narrow-mindedness of its disciples and that henceforth it will have to be pursued from a higher and more generous motive.  Over the door of the thinker of the future is written: "What do I matter"?  


Victory over Power If we consider all that has been venerated up to the present as "superhuman intellect" or "genius" we must come to the sad conclusion that considered as a whole the intellectuality of mankind must have been extremely low and poor: so little mind has to date been necessary in order to feel at once considerably superior to all this!  Alas for the cheap glory of "genius"!  How quickly has it been raised to the throne and its worship grown into a custom!  We still fall on our knees before power—according to the old custom of slaves—and nevertheless when the degree of venerability comes to be determined only the degree of reason in the power will be the deciding factor.  We must find out indeed to how great an extent power has been overcome by something higher which it now obeys as a tool and instrument.  As yet however there have been too few eyes for such investigations: even in the majority of cases the mere evaluation of genius has almost been looked upon as blasphemy.  And thus perhaps everything that is most beautiful still takes place in the midst of darkness and vanishes in endless night almost as soon as it has made its appearance—I refer to the spectacle of that power which a genius does not lay out upon works but upon himself as a work that is his own self-control, the purifying of his own imagination, the order and selection in his inspirations and tasks.  The great man ever remains invisible in the greatest thing that claims worship like some distant star: his victory over power remains without witnesses and hence also without songs and singers!  The hierarchy of the great men in all the past history of the human race has not yet been determined.  


Flight from One's Self Those sufferers from intellectual spasms who are impatient towards themselves and look upon themselves with a gloomy eye—such as Byron or Alfred de Musset—and who in everything that they do resemble runaway horses and from their own works derive only a transient joy and an ardent passion which almost bursts their veins followed by sterility and disenchantment—how are they able to bear up!  They would fain attain to something "beyond themselves".  If we happen to be Christians and are seized by such a desire as this we strive to reach God and to become one with Him; if we are a Shakespeare we shall be glad to perish in images of a passionate life; if we are like Byron we long for actions because these detach us from ourselves to an even greater extent than thoughts, feelings and works.  And should the desire for performing great deeds really be at bottom nothing but a flight from our own selves?  As Pascal would ask us.  And indeed this assertion might be proved by considering the most noble representations of this desire for action: in this respect let us remember bringing the knowledge of an alienist to our aid that four of the greatest men of all ages who were possessed of this lust for action were epileptics—Alexander the Great Caesar Mohammed and Napoleon; and Byron likewise was subject to the same complaint.  


Knowledge and Beauty If men as they are still in the habit of doing reserve their veneration and feelings of happiness for works of fancy arid imagination we should not be surprised if they feel chilled and displeased by the contrary of fancy and imagination.  The rapture which arises from even the smallest sure and definite step in advance into insight and which our present state of science yields to so many in such abundance—this rapture is in the meantime not believed in by all those who are in the habit of feeling enraptured only when they leave reality altogether and plunge into the depths of vague appearance—romanticism.  These people look upon reality as ugly but they entirely overlook the fact that the knowledge of even the ugliest reality is beautiful and that the man who can discern much and often is in the end very far from considering as ugly the main items of that reality the discovery of which has always inspired him with the feeling of happiness.  Is there anything "beautiful in itself"?  The happiness of those who can recognise augments the beauty of the world bathing everything that exists in a sunnier light: discernment not only envelops all things in its own beauty but in the long run permeates the things themselves with its beauty—may ages to come bear witness to the truth of this statement!  In the meantime let us recall an old experience: two men so thoroughly different in every respect as Plato and Aristotle were agreed in regard to what constituted superior happiness—not merely their own and that of men in general but happiness in itself even the happiness of the gods.  They found this happiness to lie in knowledge, in the activity of a well practised and inventive understanding (not in "intuition "like the German theologians and semi-theologians; not in visions like the mystics; and not in work like the merely practical men).  Similar opinions were expressed by Descartes and Spinoza.  What great delight must all these men have felt in knowledge!  And how great was the danger that their honesty might give way and that they themselves might become panegyrists of things!  


Future Virtues How has it come about that the more intelligible the world has become the more all kinds of ceremonies have diminished?  Was fear so frequently the fundamental basis of that awe which overcame us at the sight of anything to date unknown and mysterious and which taught us to fall upon our knees before the unintelligible and to beg for mercy?  And has the world perhaps through the very fact that we have grown less timid lost some of the charms it formerly had for us!  Is it not possible that our own dignity and stateliness our formidable character has decreased together with our spirit of dread?  Perhaps we value the world and ourselves less highly since we have begun to think more boldly about it and ourselves?  Perhaps there will come a moment in the future when this courageous spirit of thinking will have reached such a point that it will feel itself soaring in supreme pride far above men and things—when the wise man being also the boldest will see himself and even more particularly existence the lowest of all beneath himself?  This type of courage which is not far removed from excessive generosity has been lacking in humanity up to the present.  Oh, that our poets might once again become what they once were: seers telling us something about what might possibly happen!  now that what is real and what is past are being ever more and more taken from them and must continue to be taken from them—for the time of innocent counterfeiting is at an end!  Let them try to enable us to anticipate future virtues or virtues that will never be found on earth although they may exist somewhere in the world!  purple—glowing constellations and whole Milky Ways of the beautiful!  Where are ye you astronomers of the ideal?  


Ideal Selfishness Is there a more sacred state than that of pregnancy?  To perform everyone of our actions in the silent conviction that in one way or another it will be to the benefit of that which is being generated within us—that it must augment its mysterious value the very thought of which fills us with rapture?  At such a time we refrain from many things without having to force ourselves to do so: we suppress the angry word we grasp the hand forgivingly; our child must be born from all that is best and gentlest.  We shun our own harshness and brusqueness in case it should instil a drop of unhappiness into the cup of the beloved unknown.  Everything is veiled ominous; we know nothing about what is going on but simply wait and try to be prepared.  During this time too we experience a pure and purifying feeling of profound irresponsibility similar to that felt by a spectator before a drawn curtain; it is growing it is coming to light; we have nothing to do with determining its value or the hour of its arrival.  We are thrown back altogether upon indirect beneficent and defensive influences.  "Something greater than we are is growing here "— such is our most secret hope: we prepare everything with a view to his birth and prosperity—not merely everything that is useful but also the noblest gifts of our souls.  We should and can live under the influence of such a blessed inspiration!  Whether what we are looking forward to is a thought or a deed our relationship to every essential achievement is none other than that of pregnancy and all our vainglorious boasting about "willing "and "creating "should be cast to the winds!  True and ideal selfishness consists in always watching over and restraining the soul so that our productiveness may come to a beautiful termination.  Thus in this indirect manner we must provide for and watch over the good of all; and the frame of mind the mood in which we live is a kind of soothing oil which spreads far around us on the restless souls.  Still these pregnant ones are funny people!  let us therefore dare to be funny also and not reproach others if they must be the same.  And even when this phenomenon becomes dangerous and evil we must not show less respect to that which is generating within us or others than ordinary worldly justice which does not allow the judge or the hangman to interfere with a pregnant woman.  


Circuitous Routes Where does all this philosophy mean to end with its circuitous routes?  Does it do more than transpose into reason so to speak a continuous and strong impulse—a craving for a mild sun a bright and bracing atmosphere southern plants sea breezes short meals of meat eggs and fruit hot water to drink quiet walks for days at a time little talking rare and cautious reading living alone pure simple and almost soldier-like habits—a craving in short for all things which are suited to my own personal taste?  a philosophy which is in the main the instinct for a personal regimen—an instinct that longs for my air my height my temperature and my kind of health and takes the circuitous route of my head to persuade me to it!  There are many other and certainly more lofty philosophies and not only such as are more gloomy and pretentious than mine—and are they perhaps taking them as a whole nothing but intellectual circuitous routes of the same kind of personal impulses?  In the meantime I look with a new eye upon the mysterious and solitary flight of a butterfly high on the rocky banks of the lake where so many plants are growing: there it flies hither and thither heedless of the fact that its life will last only one more day and that the night will be too cold for its winged fragility.  For it too a philosophy might be found though it might not be my own.  


Leading When we praise progress we only praise the movement and those who do not let us remain on the same spot and in the circumstances this is certainly something especially if we live among Egyptians.  In changeable Europe however where movement is "understood" to use their own expression "as a matter of course"— alas if we only understood something about it too!  I praise leaders and forerunners: that is to say those who always leave themselves behind and do not care in the least whether any one is following them or not.  "Wherever I halt I find myself alone: why should I halt!  The desert is still so wide!  "— Such is the sentiment of the true leader.  


The least Important are Sufficient We ought to avoid events when we know that even the least important of them frequently enough leave a strong impression upon us—and these we cannot avoid.  The thinker must possess an approximate canon of all the things he still wishes to experience.  


The Four Virtues Honest towards ourselves and to all and everything friendly to us; brave in the face of our enemy; generous towards the vanquished; polite at all times: such do the four cardinal virtues wish us to be.  


Marching against an Enemy How pleasant is the sound of even bad music and bad motives when we are setting out to march against an enemy!  


Not concealing One's Virtues I love those men who are as transparent as water and who to use Pope's expression hide not from view the turbid bottom of their stream.  Even they however possess a certain vanity though of a rare and more sublimated kind: some of them would wish us to see nothing but the mud and to take no notice of the clearness of the water which enables us to look right to the bottom.  No less a man than Gautama Buddha has imagined the vanity of these few in the formula "Let your sins appear before men and conceal your virtues".  But this would exhibit a disagreeable spectacle to the world—it would be a sin against good taste.  


"Nothing in Excess"!  How often is the individual recommended to set up a goal which it is beyond his power to reach in order that he may at least attain that which lies within the scope of his abilities and most strenuous efforts!  Is it really so desirable however that he should do so?  Do not the best men who try to act according to this doctrine together with their best deeds necessarily assume a somewhat exaggerated and distorted appearance on account of their excessive tension?  And in the future will not a grey mist of failure envelop the world owing to the fact that we may see everywhere struggling athletes and tremendous gestures but nowhere a conqueror crowned with the laurel and rejoicing in his victory?  


What we are Free to do We can act as the gardeners of our impulses and—which few people know—we may cultivate the seeds of anger pity vanity or excessive brooding and make these things fecund and productive just as we can train a beautiful plant to grow along trellis-work.  We may do this with the good or bad taste of a gardener and as it were in the French English Dutch or Chinese style.  We may let nature take its own course only trimming and embellishing a little here and there; and finally without any knowledge or consideration we may even allow the plants to spring up in accordance with their own natural growth and limitations and fight out their battle among themselves—nay we can even take delight in such chaos though we may possibly have a hard time with it!  All this is at our option: but how many know that it is?  Do not the majority of people believe in themselves as complete and perfect facts?  And have not the great philosophers set their seal on this prejudice through their doctrine of the unchangeability of character?  


Letting our Happiness also Shine In the same way as painters are unable to reproduce the deep brilliant hue of the natural sky and are compelled to use all the colours they require for their landscapes a few shades deeper than nature has made them—just as they by means of this trick succeed in approaching the brilliancy and harmony of nature's own hues so also must poets and philosophers for whom the luminous rays of happiness are inaccessible endeavour to find an expedient.  By picturing all things a shade or two darker than they really are their light in which they excel will produce almost exactly the same effect as the sunlight and will resemble the light of true happiness.  The pessimist on the other hand who paints all things in the blackest and most sombre hues only makes use of bright flames lightning celestial glories and everything that possesses a glaring dazzling power and bewilders our eyes: to him light only serves the purpose of increasing the horror and of making us look upon things as being more dreadful than they really are.  


The Settled and the Free It is only in the Underworld that we catch a glimpse of that gloomy background of all that bliss of adventure which forms an everlasting halo around Ulysses and his like rivalling the eternal phosphorescence of the sea—that background which we can never forget: the mother of Ulysses died of grief and yearning for her child.  The one is driven on from place to place and the heart of the other the tender stay-at-home friend breaks through it—so it always is.  Affliction breaks the hearts of those who live to see that those whom they love best are deserting their former views and faith—it is a tragedy brought about by the free spirits—a tragedy which indeed occasionally comes to their own knowledge.  Then perhaps they too like Ulysses will be forced to descend among the dead to get rid of their sorrow and to relieve their affliction.  


The Illusion of the Moral Order of the Universe There is no "eternal justice "which requires that every fault shall be atoned and paid for—the belief that such a justice existed was a terrible delusion and useful only to a limited extent; just as it is also a delusion that everything is guilt which is felt as such.  It is not the things themselves but the opinions about things that do not exist which have been such a source of trouble to mankind.  


By the Side of Experience Even great intellects have only a hand-breadth experience—in the immediate proximity of this experience their reflection ceases and its place is taken by unlimited vacuity and stupidity.  


Dignity and Ignorance Wherever we understand we become amiable happy and ingenious; and when we have learnt enough and have trained our eyes and ears our souls show greater plasticity and charm.  We understand so little however and are so insufficiently informed that it rarely happens that we seize upon a thing and make ourselves lovable at the same time—on the contrary we pass through cities nature and history with stiffness and indifference at the same time taking a pride in our stiff and indifferent attitude as if it were simply due to superiority.  Thus our ignorance and our mediocre desire for knowledge understand quite well how to assume a mask of dignity and character.  


Living Cheaply The cheapest and most innocent mode of life is that of the thinker; for to mention at once its most important feature he has the greatest need of those very things which others neglect and look upon with contempt.  In the second place he is easily pleased and has no desire for any expensive pleasures.  His task is not difficult but so to speak southern; his days and nights are not wasted by remorse; he moves eats drinks and sleeps in a manner suited to his intellect in order that it may grow calmer stronger and clearer.  Again he takes pleasure in his body and has no reason to fear it; he does not require society except from time to time in order that he may afterwards go back to his solitude with even greater delight.  He seeks and finds in the dead compensation for the living and can even replace his friends in this way—viz.  by seeking out among the dead the best who have ever lived.  Let us consider whether it is not the contrary desires and habits which have made the life of man expensive and as a consequence difficult and often unbearable.  In another sense however the thinker's life is certainly the most expensive for nothing is too good for him; and it would be an intolerable privation for him to be deprived of the best.  


In the Field "We should take things more cheerfully than they deserve; especially because for a very long time we have taken them more seriously than they deserved".  So speak the brave soldiers of knowledge.  


Poet and Bird The bird Phoenix showed the poet a glowing scroll which was being gradually consumed in the flames.  "Be not alarmed" said the bird "it is your work!  It does not contain the spirit of the age and to a still less extent the spirit of those who are against the age: so it must be burnt.  Yet that is a good sign.  There is many a dawn of day".  


To the Lonely Ones If we do not respect the honour of others in our soliloquies as well as in what we say publicly we are not gentlemen.  


Losses There are some losses which communicate to the soul a sublimity in which it ceases from wailing and wanders about silently as if in the shade of some high and dark cypresses.  


The Battle—Field Dispensary of the Soul What is the most efficacious remedy?  Victory.  


Life shall Comfort us If like the thinker we live habitually amid the great current of ideas and feelings and even our dreams follow this current we expect comfort and peacefulness from life while others wish to rest from life when they give themselves up to meditation.  


Casting One's Skin The snake that cannot cast its skin perishes.  So too with those minds which are prevented from changing their views: they cease to be minds.  


Never Forget!  The higher we fly, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.  


We Aeronauts of the Intellect All those daring birds that soar far and ever farther into space will somewhere or other be certain to find themselves unable to continue their flight and they will perch on a mast or some narrow ledge—and will be grateful even for this miserable accommodation!  Yet who could conclude from this that there was not an endless free space stretching far in front of them and that they had flown as far as they possibly could?  In the end however all our great teachers and predecessors have come to a standstill and it is by no means in the noblest or most graceful attitude that their weariness has brought them to a pause: the same thing will happen to you and me!  Yet what does this matter to either of us?  Other birds will fly farther!  Our minds and hopes vie with them far out and on high; they rise far above our heads and our failures and from this height they look far into the distant horizon and see hundreds of birds much more powerful than we are striving whither we ourselves have also striven and where all is sea; sea and nothing but sea!  And where then are we aiming at?  Do we wish to cross the sea?  Whither does this overpowering passion urge us this passion which we value more highly than any other delight?  Why do we fly precisely in this direction where all the suns of humanity have to date set?  Is it possible that people may one day say of us that we also steered westward hoping to reach India—but that it was our fate to be wrecked on the infinite?  Or my brethren?  Or—?  

Friedrich Nietzsche, "Ecce Homo" Ebook

Kindle Version : $1 from Amazon!

PDA, Mobile/Smart phone : $1 from!


All works are unique editions by Lexido of public domain texts provided by kind permission of Project Gutenberg

Wiki Portal Quotes Quotations Frases Citas Citações Citations Zitate Citazioni Cytat цитат Aforismi Aphorism Sözleri Vida Biografia