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   16. WHERE INDIFFERENCE IS NECESSARY   Next Section

Where Indifference is Necessary.  Nothing would be more perverse than to wait for the truths that science will finally establish concerning the first and last things, and until then to think (and especially to believe) in the traditional way, as one is so often advised to do.  The impulse that bids us seek nothing but certainties in this domain is a religious offshoot, nothing better — a hidden and only apparently sceptical variety of the "metaphysical need” the underlying idea being that for a long time no view of these ultimate certainties will be obtainable, and that until then the "believer "has the right not to trouble himself about the whole subject.  We have no need of these certainties about the farthermost horizons in order to live a full and efficient human life, any more than the ant needs them in order to be a good ant.  Rather must we ascertain the origin of that troublesome significance that we have attached to these things for so long.  For this we require the history of ethical and religious sentiments, since it is only under the influence of such sentiments that these most acute problems of knowledge have become so weighty and terrifying.  Into the outermost regions to which the mental eye can penetrate (without ever penetrating into them), we have smuggled such concepts as guilt and punishment (everlasting punishment, too)!  The darker those regions, the more careless we have been.  For ages men have let their imaginations run riot where they could establish nothing, and have induced posterity to accept these fantasies as something serious and true, with this abominable lie as their final trumpcard: that faith is worth more than knowledge.  What we need now in regard to these ultimate things is not knowledge as against faith, but indifference as against faith and pretended knowledge in these matters!  — Everything must lie nearer to us than what has hitherto been preached to us as the most important thing, I mean the questions: "What end does man serve?  ", "What is his fate after death"?  How does he make his peace with God"?  and all the rest of that bag of tricks.  The problems of the dogmatic philosophers, be they idealists, materialists, or realists, concern us as little as do these religious questions.  They all have the same object in view — to force us to a decision in matters where neither faith nor knowledge is needed.  It is better even for the most ardent lover of knowledge that the territory open to investigation and to reason should be encircled by a belt of fog laden, treacherous marshland, a strip of ever watery, impenetrable, and indeterminable country.  It is just by the comparison with the realm of darkness on the edge of the world of knowledge that the bright, accessible region of that world rises in value.  We must once more become good friends of the "everyday matters” and not, as hitherto, despise them and look beyond them at clouds and monsters of the night.  In forests and caverns, in marshy tracts and under dull skies, on the lowest rungs of the ladder of culture, man has lived for aeons, and lived in poverty.  There he has learnt to despise the present, his neighbours, his life, and himself, and we, the inhabitants of the brighter fields of Nature and mind, still inherit in our blood some taint of this contempt for everyday matters.  
 

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