Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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Our Note of Interrogation.

But you don’t understand it?  As a matter of fact, an effort will be necessary in order to understand us.  We seek for words; we seek perhaps also for ears.  Who are we after all?  If we wanted simply to call ourselves in older phraseology, atheists, unbelievers, or even immoralists, we should still be far from thinking ourselves designated thereby: we are all three in too late a phase for people generally to conceive, for you, my inquisitive friends to be able to conceive what is our state of mind under the circumstances.  No!  We have no longer the bitterness and passion of him who has broken loose, who has to make for himself a belief, a goal, and even martyrdom out of his unbelief!  We have become saturated with the conviction (and have grown cold and hard in it) that things are not at all divinely ordered in this world, nor even according to human standards do they go on rationally, mercifully, or justly: we know the fact that the world in which we live is ungodly, immoral, and "inhuman” we have far too long interpreted it to ourselves falsely and mendaciously, according to the wish and will of our veneration, that is to say, according to our need.  For man is a venerating animal!  But he is also a distrustful animal: and that the world is not worth what we believed it to be worth is about the surest thing our distrust has at last managed to grasp.  So much distrust, so much philosophy!  We take good care not to say that the world is of less value: it seems to us at present absolutely ridiculous when man claims to devise values to surpass the values of the actual world, it is precisely from that point that we have retraced our steps; as from an extravagant error of human conceit and irrationality, which for a long period has not been recognised as such.  This error had its last expression in modern Pessimism; an older and stronger manifestation in the teaching of Buddha; but Christianity also contains it, more dubiously, to be sure, and more ambiguously, but none the less seductive on that account.  The whole attitude of "man versus the world” man as world denying principle, man as the standard of the value of things, as judge of the world, who in the end puts existence itself on his scales and finds it too light - the monstrous impertinence of this attitude has dawned upon us as such, and has disgusted us, we now laugh when we find, "Man and World" placed beside one another, separated by the sublime presumption of the little word " and "!  But how is it?  Have we not in our very laughing just made a further step in despising mankind?  And consequently also in Pessimism, in despising the existence cognisable by us?  Have we not just thereby awakened suspicion that there is an opposition between the world in which we have hitherto been at home with our venerations for the sake of which we perhaps endure life and another world which we ourselves are: an inexorable, radical, most profound suspicion concerning ourselves, which is continually getting us Europeans more annoyingly into its power, and could easily face the coming generation with the terrible alternative: Either do away with your venerations, or with yourselves"!  The latter would be Nihilism but would not the former also be Nihilism?  This is our note of interrogation.  
 

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