Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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The Ultimate Nobility of Character.

What then makes a person "noble"?  Certainly not that he makes sacrifices; even the frantic libertine makes sacrifices.  Certainly not that he generally follows his passions; there are contemptible passions.  Certainly not that he does something for others, and without selfishness; perhaps the effect of selfishness is precisely at its greatest in the noblest persons.  But that the passion which seizes the noble man is a peculiarity, withou this knowing that it is so: the use of a rare and singular measuring-rod, almost a frenzy: the feeling of heat in things which feel cold to all other persons: a divining of values for which scales have not yet been invented: a sacrificing on altars which are consecrated to an unknown God: a bravery without the desire for honour: a self-sufficiency which has superabundance, and impares to men anc things Hitherto, therefore, it has been the rare in man, and the unconsciousness of this rareness, that has made men noble.  Here, however, let us consider that everything ordinary, immediate, and indispensable, in short, what has been most preservative of the species, and generally the rule in mankind hitherto, has been judged unreasonable and slandered in its entirety by this standard, in favour of the exceptions.  To become the advocate of the rule - that may Perhaps be the ultimate form and refinement in which nobility of character will reveal itself on earth.  
 

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