Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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To what Extent even We are still Pious.

It is said with good reason that convictions have no civic rights in the domain of science: it is only when a conviction voluntarily condescends to the modesty of an hypothesis, a preliminary standpoint for experiment, or a regulative fiction, that its access to the realm of knowledge, and a certain value therein, can be conceded, always, however, with the restriction that it must remain under police super vision, under the police of our distrust.  Regarded more accurately, however, does not this imply that only when a conviction ceases to be a conviction can it obtain admission into science?  Does not the discipline of the scientific spirit just commence when one no longer harbours any conviction?  It is probably so: only, it remains to be asked whether, in order that this discipline may commence, it is not necessary that there should already be a conviction, and in fact one so imperative and absolute, that it makes a sacrifice of all other convictions.  One sees that science also rests on a faith: there is no science at all "without premises".  The question whether truth is necessary, must not merely be affirmed beforehand, but must be affirmed to such an extent that the principle, belief, or conviction finds expression, that "there is nothing more necessary than truth, and in comparison with it everything else has only secondary value".  This absolute will to truth: what is it?  Is it the will not to allow ourselves to be deceived?  Is it the will not to deceive?  For the will to truth could also be interpreted in this fashion, provided one included under the generalization "I will not deceive" the special case "I will not deceive myself".  But why not deceive?  Why not allow oneself to be deceived?  Let it be noted that the reasons for the former eventuality belong to a category quite different from those for the latter: one does not want to be deceived oneself, under the supposition that it is injurious, dangerous, or fatal to be deceived, in this sense science would be a prolonged process of caution, foresight and utility; against which, however, one might reasonably make objections.  What?  Is not wishing to be deceived really less injurious, less dangerous, less fatal?  What do you know of the character of existence in all its phases to be able to decide whether the greater advantage is on the side of absolute distrust, or of absolute trustfulness?  In case, however, of both being necessary, much trusting and much distrusting, whence then should science derive the absolute belief, the conviction on which it rests, that truth is more important than anything else, even than every other conviction?  This conviction could not have arisen if truth and untruth had both continually proved themselves to be useful: as is the case.  Thus the belief in science, which now undeniably exists, cannot have had its origin in such a utilitarian calculation, but rather in spite of the fact of the un-usefulness and dangerousness of the "Will to truth", of "truth at all costs" being continually demonstrated.  "At all costs": alas, we understand that sufficiently well, after having sacrificed and slaughtered one belief after another at this altar!  Consequently, "Will to truth" does not imply "I will not allow I myself to be deceived" but there is no other alternative - "I will not deceive, not even myself"; and thus we have reached the realm of morality.  For let one just ask oneself fairly: "Why will you not want to deceive"?  Especially if it should seem - and it does seem - as if life were laid out with a view to appearance, I mean, with a view to error, deceit, dissimulation, delusion, self-delusion; and when on the other hand it is a matter of fact that the great sweep of life has always shown itself to be on the side of the most unscrupulous polytropoi.  Such an intention might perhaps, to express it mildly, be a piece of Quixotism, a enthusiastic craziness; it might also, however, be something more serious, namely, a destructive principle, hostile to life - "Will to Truth" that might be a concealed Will to Death.  Thus the question "Why is there science” leads back to the moral problem: What in general is the purpose of morality, if life, nature, and history are "non-moral"?  There is no doubt that the conscientious man in the daring and extreme sense in which he is presupposed by the belief in science, affirms thereby a world other than that of life, nature, and history; and in so far as he affirms this "other world" - what?  Must he not just thereby deny its counterpart, this world, our world?  But you will have gathered what I am driving at, namely, that it is always a metaphysical faith on which our faith in science rests - that even we seekers after knowledge today, we godless anti-metaphysians still take our fire from the flame lit by a faith a millennium old, the Christian faith, which was also the faith of Plato, that God is truth, that the truth is divine.  But what if this should become more and more incredible, what if nothing any longer proves itself divine, unless it were error, blindness, the lie - what if God himself turns out to be our most persistent lie?  

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