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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The Great Danger of Savants.  It is just the most thorough and profound savants who are in peril of seeing their life's goal set ever lower and lower, and, with a feeling of this in their minds, to become ever more discouraged and more unendurable in the latter half of their lives.  At first they plunge into their science with spacious hopes and set themselves daring tasks, the ends of which are already anticipated by their imaginations.  Then there are moments as in the lives of the great maritime discoverers — knowledge, presentiment, and power raise each other higher and higher, until a new shore first dawns upon the eye in the far distance.  But now the stern man recognises more and more how important it is that the individual task of the inquirer should be limited as far as possible, so that it may be entirely accomplished and the intolerable waste of force from which earlier periods of science suffered may be avoided.  In those days everything was done ten times over, and then the eleventh always had the last and best word.  Yet the more the savant learns and practises this art of solving riddles in their entirety, the more pleasure he finds in so doing.  But at the same time his demands upon what is here called "entirety" grow more exacting.  He sets aside everything that must remain in this sense incomplete, he acquires a disgust and an acute scent for the half soluble — for all that can only give a kind of certainty in a general and indefinite form.  His youthful plans crumble away before his eyes.  There remains scarcely anything but a few little knots, in untying which the master now takes his pleasure and shows his strength.  Then, in the midst of all this useful, restless activity, he, now grown old, is suddenly then often overcome by a deep misgiving, a sort of torment of conscience.  He looks upon himself as one changed, as if he were diminished, humbled, transformed into a dexterous dwarf; he grows anxious as to whether mastery in small matters be not a convenience, an escape from the summons to greatness in life and form.  But he cannot pass beyond any longer — the time for that has gone by.  

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