Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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The Teachers of the purpose of Existence.

Whether I look with a good or an evil eye upon men, I find them always at one task, each and every one of them: they are doing something that supports the conservation of the human species.  And certainly not out of any sentiment of love for this species, but simply because nothing in them is older, stronger, more inexorable and more unconquerable than that instinct, because it is precisely the essence of our species and herd.  Although we are accustomed readily enough, with our usual short-sightedness, to separate our neighbours precisely into useful and hurtful, into good and evil men.  Yet when we make a general calculation, and reflect longer on the whole question, we become distrustful of this neat definition and abandon it.  Even the most hurtful man is still perhaps, in respect to the conservation of the race, the most useful of all; for he conserves in himself, or by his effect on others, instincts withoutwhich mankind might long ago have become weak or rotten.  Hatred, delight in mischief, rapacity and ambition, and whatever else is called evil belong to the marvellous economy of the conservation of the species. To be sure a costly, lavish, and on the whole very foolish economy - which has, however, preserved the species, as is demonstrated to us.  I no longer know, my dear fellow man and neighbour, if you can at all live to the disadvantage of the race, and therefore, "unreasonably "and "badly".  That which could have injured the race has perhaps become extinct many millenniums ago, and now belongs to the things which are no longer possible even to God.  Indulge your best or your worst desires, and above all, perish!  In either case you are still probably the furtherer and benefactor of mankind in some way or other, and in that respect you may have your supporters and similarly your detractors!  But you will never find him who would be really qualified to mock you, the individual, even at your best, someone who could bring home to you your truly limitless, buzzing and croaking wretchedness!  To laugh at oneself as one would have to laugh in order to laugh out of the whole truth, to do this, the best have not hitherto had enough of the sense of truth, and the most gifted have had far too little genius!  There is perhaps still a future even for laughter!  When the maxim, "The species is all, the individual is nothing," has incorporated itself in humanity, and when access stands open to everyone at all times to this ultimate emanciption and irresponsibility.  Perhaps then laughter will have united with wisdom, perhaps then there will be only "joyful wisdom."  Meanwhile, however, it is quite otherwise, meanwhile the comedy of existence has not yet "become conscious" of itself, meanwhile it is still the period of tragedy, the period of morals and religions.  What does the ever new appearance of founders of morals and religions, of instigators of struggles for moral valuations, of teachers of remorse of conscience and religious war, imply?  What do these heroes on this stage imply?  For they have hitherto been the heroes of it, and all else, though solely visible for the time being, and too close to one, has served only as preparation for these heroes, whether as machinery and coulisse, or in the role of confidants and servants (The poets, for example, have always been the servants of some morality or other.)  It is obvious of itself that these tragedians also work in the interest of the species, though they may believe that they work in the interest of God, and as emissaries of God.  They also further the life of the species, in that they further the belief in life.  "It is worthwhile to live" each of them calls out, "there is something of importance in this life; life has something behind it and under it; take care!"  That impulse, which rules equally in the noblest and the commonst, the impulse to the conservation of the species, breaks forth from time to time as reason and passion of spirit; it has then a brilliant train of motives about it, and tries with all its power to make us forget that fundamentally it is just impulse, instinct, folly and baselessness.  Life should be loved, Man should benefit himself and his neighbour, And whatever all these should and fors imply, and may imply in future!  In order that that which necessarily and always happens of itself and without design, may henceforth appear to be done by design, and may appeal to men as reason and ultimate command, for that purpose the ethical teacher comes forward as the teacher of design in existence; for that purpose he devises a second and different existence, and by means of this new mechanism he lifts the old common existence off its old common hinges.  No!  he does not at all want us to laugh at existence, nor even at ourselves nor at himself; to him an individual is always an individual, something first and last and immense, to him there are no species, no sums, no noughts.  However foolish and fanatical his inventions and valuations may be, however much he may misunderstand the course of nature and deny its conditions and all systems of ethics hitherto have been foolish and anti -natural to such a degree that mankind would have been ruined by any one of them had it got the upper hand, at any rate, every time that "the hero" came upon the stage something new was attained: the frightful counterpare of laughter, the profound convulsion of many individuals at the thought, "Yes, it is worthwhile to live!  yes, I am worthy of living!"  Life, and you, and I, and all of us together became for a while interesing to ourselves once more.  It is not to be denied that hitherto laughter and reason and nature have in the long run got the upper hand of all the great teachers of design: in the end the brief tragedy always passed over once more into the eternal comedy of existence; and the "waves of innumerable laughters" to use the expression of Eschylus must also in the end triumph over the greatest of these tragedies.  But with all this corrective laughter, human nature has on the whole been changed by the ever new appearance of those teachers of the design of existence, human nature has now an additional requirement, the very requirement of the ever new appearance of such teachers and doctrines of "design."  Man has gradually become a visionary animal, who has to fulfil one more condition of existence than the other animals: man must from time to time believe that he knows why he exists; his species cannot flourish without periodically confiding in life!  without the belief in reason in life!  And always from time to time will the human race decree anew that "there is something which really may not be laughed at."  And the most clairvoyant philanthropist will add that "not only laughing and joyful wisdom, but also the tragic with all its sublime irrationality, counts among the means and necessities for the conservation of the race!"  And consequently!  Consequently!  Consequently!  Do you understand me, oh my brothers?  Do you understand this new law of ebb and flow?  We also shall have our time!  
 

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