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   35. ADVANTAGES OF PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATION   Next Section

ADVANTAGES OF PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATION.  That reflection on the human, all too human or, according to the learned expression, psychological observation is one of the means by which one may lighten the burden of life, that exercise in this art produces presence of mind in difficult circumstances, in the midst of tiresome surroundings, even that from the most thorny and unpleasant periods of one's own life one may gather maxims and thereby feel a little better: all this was believed, was known in former centuries.  Why was it forgotten by our century, when in Germany at least, even in all Europe, the poverty of psychological observation betrays itself by many signs?  Not exactly in novels, tales, and philosophical treatises, they are the work of exceptional individuals, rather in the judgments on public events and personalities; but above all there is a lack of the art of psychological analysis and summing up in every rank of society, in which a great deal is talked about men, but nothing about man.  Why do we allow the richest and most harmless subject of conversation to escape us?  Why are not the great masters of psychological maxims more read?  For, without any exaggeration, the educated man in Europe who has read La Rochefoucauld and his kindred in mind and art, is rarely found, and still more rare is he who knows them and does not blame them.  It is probable, however, that even this exceptional reader will find much less pleasure in them than the form of this artist should afford him; for even the clearest head is not capable of rightly estimating the art of shaping and polishing maxims unless he has really been brought up to it and has competed in it.  Without this practical teaching one deems this shaping and polishing to be easier than it is; one has not a sufficient perception of fitness and charm.  For this reason the present readers of maxims find, in them a comparatively small pleasure, hardly a mouthful of pleasantness, so that they resemble the people who generally look at cameos, who praise because they cannot love, and are very ready to admire, but still more ready to run away.  
 

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