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   629. CONVICTION AND JUSTICE   Next Section

CONVICTION AND JUSTICE.  The requirement that a person must afterwards, when cool and sober, stand by what he says, promises, and resolves during passion, is one of the heaviest burdens that weigh upon mankind.  To have to acknowledge for all future time the consequences of anger, of fiery revenge, of enthusiastic devotion, may lead to a bitterness against these feelings proportionate to the idolatry with which they are idolised, especially by artists.  These cultivate to its full extent the esteem of the passions, and have always done so; to be sure, they also glorify the terrible satisfaction of the passions which a person affords himself, the outbreaks of vengeance, with death, mutilation, or voluntary banishment in their train, and the resignation of the broken heart In any case they keep alive curiosity about the passions; it is as if they said: "Without passions you have no experience whatever”.  Because we have sworn fidelity (perhaps even to a purely fictitious being, such as a god), because we have surrendered our heart to a prince, a party, a woman, a priestly order, an artist, or a thinker, in a state of infatuated delusion that threw a charm over us and made those beings appear worthy of all veneration, and every sacrifice are we, therefore, firmly and inevitably bound?  Or did we not, after all, deceive ourselves then?  Was there not a hypothetical promise, under the tacit presupposition that those beings to whom we consecrated ourselves were really the beings they seemed to be in our imagination?  Are we under obligation to be faithful to our errors, even with the knowledge that by this fidelity we shall cause injury to our higher selves?  No, there is no law, no obligation of that sort; we must become traitors, we must act unfaithfully and abandon our ideals again and again.  We cannot advance from one period of life into another without causing these pains of treachery and also suffering from them.  Might it be necessary to guard against the ebullitions of our feelings in order to escape these pains?  Would not the world then become too arid, too ghost like for us?  Rather will we ask ourselves whether these pains are necessary on a change of convictions, or whether they do not depend on a mistaken opinion and estimate.  Why do we admire a person who remains true to his convictions and despise him who changes them?  I fear the answer must be, "because everyone takes for granted that such a change is caused only by motives of more general utility or of personal trouble”.  That is to say, we believe at bottom that nobody alters his opinions as long as they are advantageous to him, or at least as long as they do not cause him any harm.  If it is so, however, it furnishes a bad proof of the intellectual significance of all convictions.  Let us once examine how convictions arise, and let us see whether their importance is not greatly over estimated; it will thereby be seen that the change of convictions also is in all circumstances judged according to a false standard, that we have hitherto been accustomed to suffer too much from this change.  

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