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   39. THE FABLE OF INTELLIGIBLE FREEDOM   Next Section

THE FABLE OF INTELLIGIBLE FREEDOM.  The history of the sentiments by means of which we make a person responsible consists of the following principal phases.  First, all single actions are called good or bad without any regard to their motives, but only on account of the useful or injurious consequences which result for the community.  But soon the origin of these distinctions is forgotten, and it is deemed that the qualities "good" or "bad" are contained in the action itself without regard to its consequences, by the same error according to which language describes the stone as hard, the tree as green, with which, in short, the result is regarded as the cause.  Then the goodness or badness is implanted in the motive, and the action in itself is looked upon as morally ambiguous.  Mankind even goes further, and applies the predicate good or bad no longer to single motives, but to the whole nature of an individual, out of whom the motive grows as the plant grows out of the earth.  Thus, in turn, man is made responsible for his operations, then for his actions, then for his motives, and finally for his nature.  Eventually it is discovered that even this nature cannot be responsible, inasmuch as it is an absolutely necessary consequence concreted out of the elements and influences of past and present things, that man, therefore, cannot be made responsible for anything, neither for his nature, nor his motives, nor his actions, nor his effects.  It has therewith come to be recognised that the history of moral valuations is at the same time the history of an error, the error of responsibility, which is based upon the error of the freedom of will.  Schopenhauer thus decided against it: because certain actions bring ill humour ("consciousness of guilt") in their train, there must be a responsibility; for there would be no reason for this ill humour if not only all human actions were not done of necessity, -which is actually the case and also the belief of this philosopher, but man himself from the same necessity is precisely the being that he is which Schopenhauer denies.  From the fact of that ill humour Schopenhauer thinks he can prove a liberty which man must somehow have had, not with regard to actions, but with regard to nature; liberty, therefore, to be thus or otherwise, not to act thus or otherwise.  From the esse, the sphere of freedom and responsibility, there results, in his opinion, the operari, the sphere of strict causality, necessity, and irresponsibility.  This ill humour is apparently directed to the operari,- in so far it is erroneous, but in reality it is directed to the esse, which is the deed of a free will, the fundamental cause of the existence of an individual, man becomes that which he wishes to be, his will is anterior to his existence.  Here the mistaken conclusion is drawn that from the fact of the ill humour, the justification, the reasonable admissableness of this ill humour is presupposed; and starting from this mistaken conclusion, Schopenhauer arrives at his fantastic sequence of the so called intelligible freedom.  But the ill humour after the deed is not necessarily reasonable, indeed it is assuredly not reasonable, for it is based upon the erroneous presumption that the action need not have inevitably followed.  Therefore, it is only because man believes himself to be free, not because he is free, that he experiences remorse and pricks of conscience.  Moreover, this ill humour is a habit that can be broken off; in many people it is entirely absent in connection with actions where others experience it.  It is a very changeable thing, and one which is connected with the development of customs and culture, and probably only existing during a comparatively short period of the world's history.  Nobody is responsible for his actions, nobody for his nature; to judge is identical with being unjust.  This also applies when an individual judges himself.  The theory is as clear as sunlight, and yet everyone prefers to go back into the shadow and the untruth, for fear of the consequences.  
 

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