Friedrich Nietzsche, Miscellaneous Maxims and opinions (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche).

Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions, the first supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1879.  A second supplement, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten) followed in 1880.

  

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Previous Section   26. FROM THE MOST INTIMATE EXPERIENCE OF THE THINKER   Next Section

From the Most Intimate Experience of the Thinker.  Nothing is harder for a man than to conceive of an object impersonally, I mean to see in it an object and not a person.  One may even ask whether it is possible for him to dispense for a single moment with the machinery of his instinct to create and construct a personality, After all, he associates with his thoughts, however abstract they may be, as with individuals, against whom he must fight or to whom he must attach himself, whom he must protect, support and nourish.  Let us watch or listen to ourselves at the moment when we hear or discover a new idea.  Perhaps it displeases us because it is so defiant and so autocratic, and we unconsciously ask ourselves whether we cannot place a contradiction of it by its side as an enemy, or fasten on to it a "perhaps" or a "sometimes": the mere little word "probably" gives us a feeling of satisfaction, for it shatters the oppressive tyranny of the unconditional.  If, on the other hand, the new idea enters in gentle shape, sweetly patient and humble, and falling at once into the arms of contradiction, we put our autocracy to the test in another way.  Can we not come to the aid of this weak creature, stroke it and feed it, give it strength and fullness, and truth and even unconditionality?  Is it possible for us to show ourselves parental or chivalrous or compassionate towards our idea?  — Then again, we see here a judgment and there a judgment, sundered from each other, never looking at or making any movement towards each other.  So we are tickled by the thought, whether it be not here feasible to make a match, to draw a conclusion, with the anticipation that if a consequence follows this conclusion it is not only the two judgments united in wedlock but the matchmakers that will gain honour.  If, however, we cannot acquire a hold upon that thought either on the path of defiance and ill-will or on that of goodwill (if we hold it to be true) — then we submit to it and do homage to it as a leader and a prince, give it a chair of honour, and speak not of it without a flourish of trumpets: for we are bright in its brightness.  Woe to him who tries to dim this brightness!  Perhaps we ourselves one day grow suspicious of our idea.  Then we, the indefatigable "king-makers" of the history of the intellect, cast it down from its throne and immediately exalt its adversary.  Surely if this be considered and thought out a little further, no one will speak of an "absolute impulse to knowledge"!  Why, then, does man prefer the true to the untrue, in this secret combat with thought-personalities, in this generally clandestine match-making of thoughts, constitution-founding of thoughts, childrearing of thoughts, nursing and almsgiving of thoughts?  For the same reason that he practises honesty in intercourse with real persons: now from habit, heredity, and training, origin ally because the true, like the fair and the just, is more expedient and more reputable than the untrue.  For in the realm of thought it is difficult to assume a power and glory that are built on error or on falsehood.  The feeling that such an edifice might at some time collapse is humiliating to the self-esteem of the architect — he is ashamed of the fragility of the material, and, as he considers himself more important than the rest of the world, he would fain construct nothing that is less durable than the rest of the world.  In his longing for truth he embraces the belief in a personal immortality, the most arrogant and defiant idea that exists, closely allied as it is to the underlying thought, pereat mundus, dum ego salvus sini!  His work has become his "ego” he transforms himself into the Imperishable with its universal challenge.  It is his immeasurable pride that will only employ the best and hardest stones for the work — truths,' or what he holds for such.  Arrogance has always been justly called the "vice of the sage"; yet without this vice, fruitful in impulses.  Truth and her status on earth would be in a parlous plight.  In our propensity to fear our thoughts, concepts and words, and yet to honour ourselves in them, unconsciously to ascribe to them the power of rewarding, despising, praising, and blaming us, and so to associate with them as with free intellectual personalities, as with independent powers, as with our equals — herein lie the roots of the remarkable phenomenon which I have called "intellectual conscience”.  Thus something of the highest moral species has bloomed from a black root.  
 

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