Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches), subtitled A Book for Free Spirits (Ein Buch für freie Geister).

First published in 1878.   A second part, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), was published in 1879, and a third part, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten), followed in 1880.

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Previous Section   16. PHENOMENON AND THING IN ITSELF   Next Section

PHENOMENON AND THING IN ITSELF.  Philosophers are in the habit of setting themselves before life and experience before that which they call the world of appearance as before a picture that is once for all unrolled and exhibits unchangeably fixed the same process, this process, they think, must be rightly interpreted in order to come to a conclusion about the being that produced the picture: about the thing in itself, therefore, which is always accustomed to be regarded as sufficient ground for the world of phenomenon.  On the other hand, since one always makes the idea of the metaphysical stand definitely as that of the unconditioned, consequently also unconditioning, one must directly disown all connection between the unconditioned (the metaphysical world) and the world which is known to us; so that the thing in itself should most certainly not appear in the phenomenon, and every conclusion from the former as regards the latter is to be rejected.  Both sides overlook the fact that that picture that which we now call human life and experience has gradually evolved, nay, is still in the full process of evolving, and therefore should not be regarded as a fixed magnitude from which a conclusion about its originator might be deduced (the sufficing cause) or even merely neglected.  It is because for thousands of years we have looked into the world with moral, aesthetic, and religious pretensions, with blind inclination, passion, or fear, and have surfeited ourselves in the vices of illogical thought, that this world has gradually become so marvellously motley, terrible, full of meaning and of soul, it has acquired colour but we were the colourists; the human intellect, on the basis of human needs, of human emotions, has caused this "phenomenon" to appear and has carried its erroneous fundamental conceptions into things.  Late, very late, it takes to thinking, and now the world of experience and the thing in itself seem to it so extraordinarily different and separated, that it gives up drawing conclusions from the former to the latter or in a terribly mysterious manner demands the renunciation of our intellect, of our personal will, in order thereby to reach the essential, that one may become essential.  Again, others have collected all the characteristic features of our world of phenomenon, that is, the idea of the world spun out of intellectual errors and inherited by us, and instead of accusing the intellect as the offenders, they have laid the blame on the nature of things as being the cause of the hard fact of this very sinister character of the world, and have preached the deliverance from Being.  With all these conceptions the constant and laborious process of science (which at last celebrates its greatest triumph in a history of the origin of thought) becomes completed in various ways, the result of which might perhaps run as follows: "That which we now call the world is the result of a mass of errors and fantasies which arose gradually in the general development of organic being, which are inter grown with each other, and are now inherited by us as the accumulated treasure of all the pas!  s as a treasure, for the value of our humanity depends upon it.  From this world of representation strict science is really only able to liberate us to a very slight extent as it is also not at all desirable inasmuch as it cannot essentially break the power of primitive habits of feeling; but it can gradually elucidate the history of the rise of that world as representation, and lift us, at least for moments, above and beyond the whole process.  Perhaps we shall then recognise that the thing in itself is worth a Homeric laugh; that it seemed so much, indeed everything, and is really empty, namely, empty of meaning”.  

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