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   216. "GERMAN VIRTUE”   Next Section

"German Virtue”.  There is no denying that from the end of the eighteenth century a current of moral awakening flowed through Europe.  Then only Virtue found again the power of speech.  She learnt to discover the unrestrained gestures of exaltation and emotion, she was no longer ashamed of herself, and she created philosophies and poems for her own glorification.  If we look for the sources of this current, we come upon Rousseau, but the mythical Rousseau, the phantom formed from the impression left by his writings (one might almost say again, his mythically interpreted writings) and by the indications that he provided himself.  He and his public constantly worked at the fashioning of this ideal figure.  The other origin lies in the resurrection of the Stoical side of Rome's greatness, whereby the French so nobly carried on the task of the Renaissance.  With striking success they proceeded from the reproduction of antique forms to the reproduction of antique characters.  Thus they may always claim a title to the highest honours, as the nation which has hitherto given the modern world its best books and its best men.  How this twofold archetype, the mythical Rousseau and the resurrected spirit of Rome, affected France's weaker neighbours, is particularly noticeable in Germany, which, in consequence of her novel and quite unwonted impulse to seriousness and loftiness in will and self control, finally came to feel astonishment at her own newfound virtue, and launched into the world the concept "German virtue” as if this were the most original and hereditary of her possessions.  The first great men who transfused into their own blood that French impulse towards greatness and consciousness of the moral will were more honest, and more grateful.  Whence comes the moralism of Kant?  He is continually reminding us: from Rousseau and the revival of Stoic Rome.  The moralism of Schiller has the same source and the same glorification of the source.  The moralism of Beethoven in notes is a continual song in praise of Rousseau, the antique French, and Schiller.  "Young Germany "was the first to forget its gratitude, because in the meantime people had listened to the preachers of hatred of the French.  The "young German "came to the fore with more consciousness than is generally allowed to youths.  When he investigated his paternity, he might well think of the proximity of Schiller, Schleiermacher, and Fichte.  But he should have looked for his grandfathers in Paris and Geneva, and it was very short sighted of him to believe what he believed: that virtue was not more than thirty years old.  People became used to demanding that the word "German" should connote "virtue” and this process has not been wholly forgotten to this day.  Be it observed further that this moral awakening, as may almost be guessed, has resulted only in drawbacks and obstacles to the recognition of moral phenomena.  What is the entire German philosophy, starting from Kant, with all its French, English, and Italian offshoots and by products?  A semi theological attack upon Helvetius, a rejection of the slowly and laboriously acquired views and signposts of the right road, which in the end he collected and expressed so well.  To this day Helvetius is the best abused of all good moralists and good men in Germany.  
 

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