Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo:   How One Becomes What One Is.  Ecce homo: Wie man wird, was man ist.  

Written in 1888 and not published until 1908

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The four essays composing the Untimely Meditations are thoroughly warlike in tone.  They prove that I was no mere dreamer, that I delight in drawing the sword—also perhaps that my wrist is dangerously supple.  The first onslaught (1873) was directed against German culture which I looked down upon with unmitigated contempt even at that time.  Without either sense, substance or goal it was simply "public opinion”.  There could be no more dangerous misunderstanding than to suppose that Germany’s success at arms proved anything in favour of German culture—and still less the triumph of this culture over that of France.  The second essay (1874) brings to light what is dangerous, that which corrodes and poisons life, in our manner of pursuing scientific study: Life is diseased thanks to this dehumanized piece of clockwork and mechanism, with the "impersonality” of the workman and the false economy of the "division of labour”.  The object, which is culture, is lost sight of: modem scientific activity as the means— is barbarised.  In this treatise the "historical sense” of which this century is so proud is for the first time recognized as sickness, as a typical symptom of decay.  In the third and fourth essays sign posts are set up pointing to a higher concept of culture, to a re-establishment of the concept "culture”; two pictures of the sternest selfishness and self-discipline are presented, untimely types par excellence, full of sovereign contempt for all that which lay around them and was called "Empire”, "Culture”, "Christianity”, "Bismarck” and "Success”—these two types were Schopenhauer and Wagner or in a word Nietzsche.  


Of these four attacks the first met with extraordinary success.  The stir which it created was in every way magnificent.  I had put my finger on the sore spot of a triumphant nation—I had told it that its victory was not a red-letter day for culture but perhaps something very different.  The reply rang out from all sides and certainly not only from old friends of David Strauss whom I had made ridiculous as the type of a German Philistine of Culture and a man of smug self-content—in short as the author of that suburban gospel of his called The Old Faith and the New (the term "Philistine of Culture” passed into the current language of Germany after the appearance of my book).  These old friends who as Wurtembergians and Swabians I had deeply wounded by regarding their prodigy, their bird of Paradise, as a trifle comic, replied to me as ingenuously and as grossly as I could have wished.  The Prussian replies were smarter; they contained more "Prussian blue”.  The most disreputable attitude was assumed by a Leipzig paper the infamous Grentzboten; and it cost me some pains to prevent my indignant friends in Basel from taking action against it.  Only a few old gentlemen decided in my favour and for very diverse and sometimes unaccountable reasons.  Among them was one Ewald of Gottingen who made it clear that my attack on Strauss had been deadly.  There was also the Hegelian Bruno Bauer who from that time became one of my most attentive readers.  In his later years he liked to refer to me when for instance he wanted to give Herr von Treitschke the Prussian Historiographer a hint as to where he could obtain information about the notion "Culture” of which he had completely lost sight.  The weightiest and longest commentary on my book and its author appeared in Wurzburg and was written by Professor Hoffmann, an old pupil of the philosopher von Baader.  The essays made him foresee a great future for me, namely that of bringing about a sort of crisis and decisive turning-point in the problem of atheism of which he recognized in me the most instinctive and most radical advocate.  It was atheism that had drawn me to Schopenhauer.  The review which received by far the most attention and which excited the most bitterness was an extraordinarily powerful and plucky defence of my work by Carl Hillebrand, a man usually so mild and the last humane German who knew how to wield a pen.  The article appeared in the Augsburger Zeitung and it can be read today couched in rather more cautious language among his collected essays.  In it my work was referred to as an event, as a decisive turning-point, as the first sign of an awakening, as the best of signs and as a real revival of German earnestness and of German passion in things spiritual.  Hillebrand could speak only in the terms of the highest respect of the form of my book, of its consummate taste, of its perfect tact in discriminating between persons and causes: he characterized it as the best polemical work in the German language—the best performance in the art of polemics, which for Germans is so dangerous and so strongly to be discouraged.  Besides confirming my standpoint he laid even greater stress upon what I had dared to say about the deterioration of language in Germany (nowadays writers assume the airs of Purists and can no longer even construct a sentence); sharing my contempt for the literary stars of this nation he concluded by expressing his admiration for my courage—that "greatest courage of all which holds to account the people’s favourites”.  The after-effects of this essay of mine proved invaluable to the rest of my life.  No one has ever tried to quarrel with me since.  People are silent.  In Germany I am treated with gloomy caution: for years I have rejoiced in the privilege of such absolute freedom of speech as no one nowadays, least of all in the "Empire”, can claim.  My paradise lies "in the shadow of my sword”.  At bottom, all I had done was to put one of Stendhal’s maxims into practice: he advises one to make one’s entrance into society by means of a duel.  And how well I had chosen my opponent!  the foremost free-thinker of Germany.  As a matter of fact, a new kind of free thought found its expression: there is nothing stranger and more distant to me than the whole of that European and American species known as libres penseurs.  Incorrigible blockheads and clowns of "modern ideas” that they are, I feel much more deeply at odds with them than with any one of their opponents.  They also wish to "improve” mankind, after their own fashion—that is to say in their own image; they would wage an implacable war against all that I am and stand for, if only they understood it; the whole lot of them still believe in the "ideal”.  I am the first Immoralist.  


I should not like to say that the last two essays in the Untimely Meditations associated with the names of Schopenhauer and Wagner respectively serve any special purpose in throwing light upon these two cases or in formulating their psychological problems— excepting of course a few details.  Thus for instance, in the second of the two essays with a profound certainty of instinct I already characterized the elementary factor in Wagner’s nature as an actor’s talent of which the means and inspiration are only consequences.  My desire in this essay was to do something very different to a study of psychology: an unprecedented educational problem, a new understanding of self-discipline and self-defence carried to the point of hardness, a road to greatness and to world-historic duties yearned to find expression.  In essence, I seized two famous and as yet completely undefined types by the forelock in the manner in which one seizes opportunities, simply in order to speak my mind on certain questions, in order to have a few more formulas, signs and means of expression at my disposal.  Indeed, with uncanny sagacity, I point this out on page 183 of Schopenhauer as Educator.  Plato made use of Socrates in the same way—that is to say as a set of signs for Plato.  Now that from some distance I can look back upon the conditions of which these essays are the testimony I would not like to deny that they refer simply to me.  The essay Wagner in Bayreuth is a vision of my own future; on the other hand my most inner history, my evolution is written down in Schopenhauer as Educator.  But above all, the solemn vow that I made!  What I am today, the place I now hold—at a height from which I speak no longer with words but with thunderbolts—how far I was from all this in those days!  But I saw the land—I did not deceive myself for one moment as to the way, the sea the danger—and success!  What great calm is here in promising this happy prospect of a future which must not remain only a promise!  In this book every word has been lived profoundly and intimately; the most painful things can be found in it; it contains words which are positively running with blood.  But a wind of great freedom blows over everything; its wounds do not form an objection.  As to what I understand by being a philosopher—that is to say, a terrible explosive from which everything is in danger  ; as to how I remove my idea of the philosopher by miles from that other idea of him which includes even a Kant, not to speak of the academic "ruminators” and other professors of philosophy—concerning all these things this essay provides invaluable information even granting that at bottom it is not "Schopenhauer as Educator” but "Nietzsche as Educator” who speaks. Considering that in those days my trade was that of a scholar and perhaps also that I understood my trade, the piece of austere psychology concerning the scholar which suddenly makes its appearance in this essay is not without importance: it expresses the feeling of distance and my profound certainty regarding what was my real life-task and what were merely means intervals and ancillary work to me.  My wisdom consists in my having been many things and in many places in order to become one person—in order to be able to attain to one thing.  

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