Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future
by Friedrich Nietzsche
The original, squashed down to read in about 30 minutes
Nietzsche turned away from his life as a professor of Greek to devote himself to producing a whole series of, in his own time, unsold and unread books arguing that 'God is dead', that new thinkers are needed, free to create their own values. His ideal übermensch, or 'Overman', would rise above the 'slave morality' of European Christianity to impose his will on the weak and worthless.
Was Nietzsche the philosopher of Nazism? Was Nietzsche mad? Or just the sort of genius which looks mad when viewed from below? Well, he only officially went insane in 1889, but, then, Nietzsche being Nietzsche, who knows?
1 The will to truth tempts us to many a venture. We want truth: why not rather untruth? Truth out of error or the pure and sunlike gaze of the sage out of lust? To be sure, among scientific men, you may find something like a drive for knowledge, a clockwork that, once wound, works without any participation from the other drives of the scholar.
8 There is a point in every philosophy when the philosopher's "conviction" appears on the stage.
9 Live "according to nature" said the ancient Stoics! What words these are! How can one not live according to nature? One must first, give the finishing stroke to that calamitous atomism which Christianity has taught best and longest, soul atomism - the belief that the soul is something indestructible.
13 Physiologists should think before taking the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of organic beings. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength - life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the results.
We sail right over morality! Psychology is become again the path to fundamental problems.
25 Take care, philosophers and friends of knowledge, beware of martyrdom! Of suffering "for the truth's sake"! You of all people, you knights of the sorrowful countenances, idlers and cobweb-spinners of the spirit, you know well enough that it cannot be of any consequence if you are proved right. You know that no philosopher so far has been proved right. Choose a good solitude, the free, playful, easy solitude that gives you, too, the right, to remain in some sense good!
27 It is hard to be understood, especially when one thinks and lives gangasrotogati among men who think and live kurmagati, or at best "the way frogs walk," mandeikagati - I do try to make myself hard to understand!
30 Our highest insights must, and should, sound like follies or even crimes when they are heard without permission by those they are not intended for. The virtues of the common man might perhaps signify vices and weaknesses in a philosopher. It might even be that only by degenerating into the lower spheres would the man of high type be there venerated as a saint. There are books that have opposite values for soul and health, depending on whether the sluggish lower soul, or the higher and more vigorous ones turn to them: in the former case, these books are dangerous and lead to crumbling and disintegration; in the latter, they are herald's cries calling the bravest to courage. Books for everybody are always foul-smelling books: the smell of small people clings to them. Where the people eat and drink and worship, there is usually a stink. One should not go to church if one wants to breathe pure air.
32 In the "pre-moral" period of mankind the imperative "know thyself!" was unknown; the value of an action was derived from its consequences.
33 Those feelings of devotion, self-sacrifice for one's neighbour, and the whole morality of self-denial must be questioned mercilessly and taken to court.
34 Shouldn't philosophers be permitted to rise above faith in grammar? All due respect for governesses but hasn't the time come for philosophy to renounce the faith of governesses?
Perhaps hardness and cunning furnish more favourable conditions for the strong, independent spirit and philosopher than that light-hearted good-naturedness which people prize in a scholar.
40 Whatever is profound loves masks, and hates image and parable. A questionable question: it would be odd if some mystic had not risked thinking it. A man whose sense of shame has some profundity encounters delicate decisions, of whose mere existence his closest intimates must not know. Not to cleave to a fatherland - not even if it suffers and needs help. Not to cleave to pity - not even when we see the torture of noble men. Not to cleave to a science - even if it lures us with precious discoveries.
42 A new species of philosophers is coming up: I venture to baptise them with a name that is not free of danger, and rightly or wrongly, call them attempters. Great things for the great, abysses for the profound, all that is rare for the rare.
44 These philosophers of the future will certainly be free spirits. In Europe and America, there are those 'levellers', so-called "free spirits", the eloquent scribbling slaves of democratic taste and "modern ideas", who have some courage, but are unfree and ridiculously superficial. They strive for the universal green pasture, happiness of the herd, security without danger, and an easier life for everyone. We opposite men, see how the plant "man" has grown most vigorously under the opposite conditions. We think that hardness, slavery, danger, experimentation, devilry, everything evil, tyrannical in man, everything akin to beasts of prey and serpents, serves to enhance the species as much as its opposite does. You new philosophers?
46 The faith of primitive Christianity, surrounded by the sceptical southerly free-spirited world with its centuries-long struggle between philosophical schools, plus the education in tolerance of the Imperium Romanum, is not that gruff, true-hearted liegeman's faith with which a Luther, or a Cromwell, or some other northern barbarian, cleaved to his God. Christianity is a faith of sacrifice; sacrifice of all freedom, pride, self-confidence, and enslavement, self-mockery and self-mutilation.
51 Hitherto the mightiest men have bowed down reverently before the saint as the enigma of self-constraint and voluntary renunciation: why? Moreover, the saint aroused a suspicion: such an enormity of denial, of anti-nature, could not have been desired for nothing. The mighty of the world sensed a new power, a strange enemy, it was the 'will to power' which constrained them to halt before the saint and question him.
One stands in reverence and trembling before these remnants of what man once was. At one time one sacrificed human beings to one's god, perhaps precisely those most loved. Then, in the moral epoch of mankind, one sacrificed to one's god the strongest instincts one possessed; one's 'nature'. Did one not have to sacrifice God himself, and worship nothingness?.
58 Has it been observed that genuine religious life requires leisure, I mean a leisure not unlike the aristocratic idea that work degrades? Perhaps there has up till now been no finer way of making man himself more beautiful than piety.
61 The philosophers, we free spirits, who take responsibility for the evolution of mankind, will make use of the religions, and the politics, for the work of education and breeding, so as to be able to rule. To ordinary men, the great majority, who exist only for service and general utility, religion gives an invaluable contentment with their station, peace of heart, an ennobling of obedience, a piece of joy and sorrow more to share with their fellows. Christianity and Buddhism, especially, have shed sunshine over these perpetual drudges, as an Epicurean philosophy does on sufferers of a higher rank.
62 Among men, as among every other species, there is a surplus of failures, of the sick, the degenerate, the fragile, of those who are bound to suffer. The successful cases are, too, always the exception, and, in man as the animal whose nature has not yet been fixed, the rare exception. Men not high or hard enough for the refashioning of mankind, have allowed the law of thousandfold failure to prevail. Men, with their 'equal before God' have hitherto ruled the destiny of Europe, until at last a shrunken, almost ludicrous species, a herd-animal, something full of good will, sickly and mediocre has been bred, the European of today.
108 There are no moral phenomena at all, only moral interpretations of phenomena.
134 All evidence of truth comes only from the senses.
137 Behind a remarkable scholar one often finds a mediocre man, and behind a mediocre artist, often, a very remarkable man.
156 Madness is something rare in individuals - but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule.
162 'Our neighbour is not our neighbour but our neighbour's neighbour' - thus thinks every people.
164 Jesus said to his Jews: 'The law was made for servants - love God as I love him, as his son! What have we sons of God to do with morality!'
169 To talk about oneself a great deal can be a means of concealing oneself.
175 Ultimately one loves one's desires and not that which is desired.
176 The vanity of others offends our taste only when it offends our vanity.
Part Five: On the Natural History of Morals
186 Moral sensibility is as subtle, sensitive and refined in Europe today as the 'science of morals' is still young, clumsy and coarse-fingered.
188 Every morality is against 'nature' and 'reason': which is no objection unless another morality decrees tyranny and unreason impermissible. Morality is constraint.
195 The Jews - a people 'born for slavery' as Tacitus and the whole ancient world says, 'the chosen people' as they themselves say - achieved that miracle of inversion of values which gave two millennia a new and dangerous fascination. It is with them there begins the slave revolt in morals.
199 As long as there have been human beings there have been human herds (families, tribes, nations, states, churches), and always very many who obey and very few who command. Nothing has been cultivated among men better than obedience; 'thou shalt unconditionally do this, unconditionally not do that'. Those commanding have to deceive themselves that they too are only obeying; I call it the moral hypocrisy of commanders. The herd-man in Europe today glorifies his qualities of timidity, modesty, industriousness, and peace which make him useful to the herd. And when leaders seem to be indispensable, the clever herd-men gather together; this is the origin of all parliamentary constitutions.
200 Lofty spiritual independence, the will to stand alone, even great intelligence, are felt to be dangerous; everything that raises the individual above the herd and makes his neighbour quail is called evil. Eventually, under very peaceful conditions, every kind of severity, even severity in justice, begins to trouble the conscience; 'the lamb', even more 'the sheep', is held in higher and higher respect. One day everywhere in Europe the will to that day is now called 'progress'.
202 We know how offensive it sounds to say that man is an animal; and almost criminal to talk of 'herd' and 'herd instinct'. But we must insist: that which calls itself good, is the instinct of the herd-animal man. Europe seems threatened with a new Buddhism; a faith of mutual pity, with faith in the community, the herd, as the saviour.
203 We, who have a different faith - we, to whom the democratic movement is not merely politics in decay but also man in decay - whither is our hope? Towards new philosophers; towards spirits strong and original enough to revalue and reverse 'eternal values'. Towards men of the future who will compel the will of millennia on to new paths. The collective degeneration of man to the pygmy animal of equal rights and equal pretensions is certainly possible!
204 The Declaration of Independence of science, its emancipation from philosophy, is one of the more subtle after-effects of the democratic formlessness of life. It is the colour blindness of the utility man who sees in philosophy nothing but refuted systems and wasteful expenditure which 'benefits' nobody. How our world is lacking royal and splendid hermits in the mould of Heraclitus, Plato or Empedocles! Philosophy reduced to 'theory of knowledge' is philosophy at its last gasp. How could such a philosophy rule!
206 Unlike genius, which always begets or bears, the scholar, the average man of science, has, like the old maid, some respectability, but no acquaintanceship with the two most valuable functions of mankind. So, what is the man of science? A species with ignoble virtues; subservient, unauthoritative and un-self-sufficient.
208 When a philosopher today gives us to understand that he is not a sceptic, all the world is offended. Our new philosophers will say: critics are philosophers' instruments and not philosophers themselves! Even the Chinaman of Königsberg was only a great critic.
211 The philosopher must traverse the whole range of human value-feelings and be able to gaze from the heights into every distance, from the depths into every height. More - he must create values. Must there not be such philosophers?
214 Our virtues? We Europeans of the day after tomorrow, we first-born of the twentieth century with all our dangerous curiosity, our multiplicity and art of disguise, our mellow and sugared cruelty in spirit and senses - if we are to have virtues we shall presumably have only such virtues as have learned to get along with our most secret and heartfelt inclinations. Alas! The fact emerges that the great majority of things which interest and stimulate every higher nature and refined taste appear altogether 'uninteresting' to the average man. There have been philosophers who have failed to state obvious truth that the 'disinterested' act is a very interesting and interested act, provided that ... But here truth prefers to stifle her yawns.
224 The historical sense, that Europeans speciality, has come to us through the mad and fascinating semi-barbarism into which Europe has been plunged through the democratic mingling of classes and races.
227 Honesty is our only virtue, we free spirits - let us labour at it with love and malice to 'perfect' ourselves in our virtue: may its brightness one day overspread this ageing culture like a gilded azure mocking evening glow!
228 May I be forgiven the discovery that all moral philosophy hitherto has been boring. Fear not! I see no one in Europe who sees any danger in thinking about morality! In 'the common good', ultimately, they want English morality to prevail. It is here that the spirit lets itself be deceived, it enjoys the sense of being safe.
232 Woman wants to be independent, and so she is beginning to enlighten men about 'woman as such' - this is one of the worst developments in the general uglification of Europe. Is it not in the worst of taste when woman tries to adorn herself with science? But what is truth to a woman! Her great art is the lie, her supreme concern is appearance and beauty. Let us confess it, we men: it is precisely this art and this instinct in woman which we love and honour: which makes our seriousness appear to us almost as folly.
234 Woman does not understand what food means. It is the complete absence of reason in the kitchen, that the evolution of man has been most harmed.
237 Proverbs for Women
How the slowest tedium flees when a man comes on his knees!
Sober garb and total muteness dress a woman with astuteness.
God! Noble name, a leg that's fine, man as well: oh were he mine!
Men have hitherto treated women like beautiful, delicate, birds strayed down from the heights: but which must be caged to stop them escaping.
239 The weak sex has in no age been treated by men with such respect as it is in ours: is it any wonder if this respect is immediately abused? She wants more, she unlearns fear of man: and sacrifices her most womanly instincts. Wherever the spirit of industry has triumphed over the military and aristocratic, woman now aspires to economic and legal independence. As she looks to the 'progress' of women, the reverse is happening: woman is retrogressing. There is stupidity in this 'emancipation of women', an almost masculine stupidity, of which real woman - clever woman - will be ashamed from the very heart. Is woman slowly being made boring? O Europe! Europe!
240 A genuine token of the German soul, at once young and aged, over-mellow and still too rich in future.
245 Wagner's music for Manfred is a mistake to the point of injustice, his quiet lyricism merely a German event in music, not a European event. In him German music was losing the voice for the soul of Europe and sinking into mere nationality.
248 There are two kinds of genius: the kind which begets and the kind which likes to give birth. Likewise there are among peoples of genius those upon whom has fallen the woman's problem of pregnancy and the secret task of forming, maturing - the Greeks were a people of this kind, and so were the French, the Jews, the Romans and, I ask, the Germans? These two kinds of genius seek one another, as man and woman do; but they also misunderstand one another, as man and woman do.
251 If a people is suffering from nationalistic nervous fever, it must be expected that little attacks of stupidity will pass over its spirit. The Jews are wishing to be assimilated into Europe, they are longing to put an end to the nomadic life of the 'Wandering Jew'. European noblesse of feeling, taste, of custom, is the work and invention of France; European vulgarity, the plebeianism of modern ideas, that of - England.
254 France is still the seat of Europe's most spiritual and refined culture - and there are things which the French can still exhibit with pride. Their ancient, manifold, moralistic culture, by virtue of which even boulevardiers de Paris have a psychological sensitivity and curiosity of which Germans have no conception. The south preserves them from dreary northern grey-on-grey and makes in France a kind of patriotism, which knows how to love the south in the north and the north in the south - the born Midlanders, the 'good Europeans'.
256 Thanks to the morbid estrangement which the lunacy of nationality has produced between the peoples of Europe, and thanks to the shortsighted politicians who have used it - the obvious sign is being overlooked - Europe wants to become one. The more profound and comprehensive men of this century have anticipated the European of the future: only in their foreground hours of weakness were they 'patriots'. I think of men such as Napoleon, Goethe, Beethoven, Schopenhauer; and I include Richard Wagner.
257 Every elevation of the type "man," has hitherto been the work of an aristocratic society - a society believing in differences of worth among human beings, and requiring slavery in some form or other. The truth is hard.
260 There is master-morality and slave-morality; though in higher civilisations, there are some attempts to reconcile the two. When moral values have originated with the ruling caste, when the rulers have determined the conception 'good,' then 'good' and 'bad' means practically the same as 'noble' and 'despicable'. Here is the seat of the origin of the famous antithesis 'good' and 'evil': According to slave-morality, the 'evil' man arouses fear; according to master-morality, it is the 'good' man who arouses fear. And one fundamental difference: the desire for liberty necessarily belongs to slave-morals, just as reverence and devotion are symptoms of aristocratic thinking. Hence we can understand why love as passion - our European speciality - must necessarily be of noble origin.
261 Vanity, trying to arouse a good opinion of oneself, and even to try to believe in it, seems, to the noble man, such bad taste, so self-disrespectful, so grotesquely unreasonable, that he would like to consider vanity a rarity. The man of noble character must learn that in all social strata in any way dependent, the ordinary man has only ever valued himself as his master dictates (it is the peculiar right of masters to create values). Vanity is an atavism.
262 A species originates, and becomes strong, in the long struggle with unfavourable conditions. The old morality is out of date. Danger is again present, the mother of morality, great danger.
263. There is an instinct for rank, which is itself a sign of a high rank. He who investigates souls will test each one by its instinct for reverence.
264 It cannot be effaced from a man's soul what his ancestors did: whether they were diligent economisers attached to desk and a cash-box; or whether they were accustomed to commanding from morning to night; or whether they sacrificed all for their "God". This is the problem of race.
265 At the risk of displeasing innocent ears, I submit that egoism belongs to the essence of a noble soul. He might call it "justice", and, once he has settled questions of rank he moves among his equals with respect.
267 Chinese mothers still teach their children "Siao-sin" ("make thy heart small"). Such self-dwarfing of latter civilisations would, no doubt, make an ancient Greek shudder at today's Europe.
268 When people have lived long together under similar conditions there grows an entity that "understands itself" - a nation. The greater their common danger, the greater the need of agreeing words about necessities. We discover how love and friendship falters when we realise that we understand words in ways unalike. Whenever a man finishes building his house, he discovers what he needed to know to begin.
278 Wanderer, rest here: there is hospitality for everyone. What refreshes? Speak out! 'Another mask! A second mask!'...
287 What is noble? How does the noble man betray himself, how is he recognised in the gloom of the new plebeianism? The noble soul has reverence for itself.
294 The Olympian Vice - Despite the, very English, philosopher who said; "Laughing is a bad infirmity of human nature, which every thinking mind will strive to overcome" (Hobbes), - I might rank philosophers according to the quality of their laughter.
295 The genius of the heart of the hidden tempter god, the pied-piper of consciences, whose voice can descend into the underworld of every soul. Have I forgotten to name who I talk about? I mean the God Dionysus, the great equivocator and tempter. I, his last disciple; might I give you, a little taste of his philosophy? The very fact that Dionysus, a god, is a philosopher, might arouse suspicion among you philosophers - loth nowadays to believe in God and gods. Here, you see, is a divinity lacking not only shame, but among gods who might learn from we humans. We humans are more - humane...
296 Alas! what are you, my written and my painted thoughts! Not long ago you were young and malicious and full of thorns and secret spices - you made me sneeze and laugh - and now? You have doffed your novelty, and some of you, I fear, are ready to become truths, so immortal do they look, so tediously honest! What then do we write and paint, we mandarins with Chinese brush? Alas, only that which is about to fade and lose its scent! Alas, only birds exhausted by flight, which let themselves be caught with our hand! We immortalise things exhausted and mellow! And it is only for your afternoon, my written and painted thoughts, for which alone I have many colours; but nobody will divine how you looked in your morning, you sudden sparks and marvels of my solitude, you, my old, beloved - wicked thoughts!
From High Mountains: Epode
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