Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten).

The Wanderer and his Shadow, the second supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1880.

  

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Previous Section   11. FREEDOM OF THE WILL AND THE ISOLATION OF FACTS   Next Section

Freedom of the Will and the Isolation of Facts.  Our ordinary inaccurate observation takes a group of phenomena as one and calls them a fact.  Between this fact and another we imagine a vacuum, we isolate each fact.  In reality, however, the sum of our actions and cognitions is no series of facts and intervening vacua, but a continuous stream.  Now the belief in free will is incompatible with the idea of a continuous, uniform, undivided, indivisible flow.  This belief presupposes that every single action is isolated and indivisible; it is an atomic theory as regards volition and cognition.  We misunderstand facts as we misunderstand characters, speaking of similar characters and similar facts, whereas both are non existent.  Further, we bestow praise and blame only on this false hypothesis, that there are similar facts, that a graduated order of species of facts exists, corresponding to a graduated order of values.  Thus we isolate not only the single fact, but the groups of apparently equal facts (good, evil, compassionate, envious actions, and so forth).  In both cases we are wrong.  The word and the concept are the most obvious reason for our belief in this isolation of groups of actions.  We do not merely thereby designate the things; the thought at the back of our minds is that by the word and the concept we can grasp the essence of the actions.  We are still constantly led astray by words and actions, and are induced to think of things as simpler than they are, as separate, indivisible, existing in the absolute.  Language contains a hidden philosophical mythology, which, however careful we may be, breaks out afresh at every moment. The belief in free will — that is to say, in similar facts and isolated facts — finds in language its continual apostle and advocate.  The belief in free will — that is to say, in similar facts and isolated facts — finds in language its continual apostle and advocate.  
 

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