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Human, All Too Human

Human, All Too Human

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Published by: spookii on Dec 27, 2008
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10/16/2011

 
I. OF FIRST AND LAST THINGS1The chemistry of concepts and sensations. Almost all the problems of philosophy
 once again pose the same form of question as they did two thousand years ago: howcan something originate in its opposite, for example rationality in irrationality,the sentient in the dead, logic in unlogic, disinterested contemplation incovetous desire, living for others in egoism, truth in error? Metaphysicalphilosophy has hitherto surmounted this difficulty by denying that the oneoriginates in the other and assuming for the more highly valued thing a miraculoussource in the very kernel and being of the thing in itself." Historical
 philosophy, on the other hand, which can no longer be separated from naturalscience, the youngest of all philosophical methods, has discovered in individualcases (and this will probably be the result in every case) that there are noopposites, except in the customary exaggeration of popular metaphysicalinterpretations, and that a mistake in reasoning lies at the bottom of thisantithesis: according to this explanation there exists, strictly speaking, neitheran unegoistic action nor completely disinterested contemplation; both are onlysublimations, in which the basic element seems almost to have dispersed andreveals itself only under the most painstaking observation. All we require, andwhat can be given us only now the individual sciences have attained their presentlevel, is a chemistry of the moral, religious and aesthetic conceptions andsensations, likewise of all the agitations we experience within ourselves incultural and social intercourse, and indeed even when we are alone: what if thischemistry would end up by revealing that in this domain too the most gloriouscolors are derived from base, indeed from despised materials? Will there be manywho desire to pursue such researches? Mankind likes to put questions of originsand beginnings out of its mind: must one not be almost inhuman to detect inoneself a contrary inclination?2Family failing of philosophers. All philosophers have the common failing of
 starting out from man as he is now and thinking they can reach their goal throughan analysis of him. They involuntarily think of man" as an aeterna veritas
 [something everlastingly true], as something that remains constant in the midst ofall flux, as a sure measure of things. Everything the philosopher has declaredabout man is, however, at bottom no more than a testimony as to the man of a verylimited period of time. Lack of historical sense is the family failing of allphilosophers; many, without being aware of it, even take the most recentmanifestation of man, such as has arisen under the impress of certain religions,even certain political events, as the fixed form from which one has to start out.They will not learn that man has become, that the faculty of cognition has become;while some of them; while some of them would have it that the whole world is spunout of this faculty of cognition. Now, everything essential in the development ofmankind took place in primeval times, long before the four thousand years we moreor less know about; during these years mankind may well not have altered verymuch. But the philosopher here sees instincts" in man as he now is and assumes
 that these belong to the unalterable facts of mankind and to that extent couldprovide a key to the understanding of the world in general: the whole of teleologyis constructed by speaking of the man of the last four millennia as of an eternalman towards whom all things in the world have had a natural relationship from thetime he began. But everything has become: there are no eternal facts, just asthere are no absolute truths. Consequently what is needed from now on ishistorical philosophizing, and with it the virtue of modesty.3
 
Estimation of unpretentious truths. It is the mark of a higher culture to value
 the little unpretentious truths which have been discovered by means of rigorousmethod more highly than the errors handed down by metaphysical ages and men, whichblind us and make us happy. At first, one has scorn on his lips for unpretentioustruths, as if they could offer no match for the others: they stand so modest,simple, sober, even apparently discouraging, while the other truths are sobeautiful, splendid, enchanting, or even enrapturing. But truths that are hardwon, certain, enduring, and therefore still of consequence for all furtherknowledge are the higher; to keep to them is manly, and shows bravery, simplicity,restraint. Eventually, not only the individual, but all mankind will be elevatedto this manliness, when men finally grow accustomed to the greater esteem fordurable, lasting knowledge and have lost all belief in inspiration and a seeminglymiraculous communication of truths.The admirers of forms, with their standard of beauty and sublimity, will, to besure, have good reason to mock at first, when esteem for unpretentious truths andthe scientific spirit first comes to rule, but only because either their eye hasnot yet been opened to the charm of the simplest form, or because men raised inthat spirit have not yet been fully and inwardly permeated by it, so that theycontinue thoughtlessly to imitate old forms (and poorly, too, like someone who nolonger really cares about the matter). Previously, the mind was not obliged tothink rigorously; its importance lay in spinning out symbols and forms. That haschanged; that importance of symbols has become the sign of lower culture. Just asour very arts are becoming ever more intellectual and our senses more spiritual,and as, for example, that which is sensually pleasant to the ear is judged quitedifferently now than a hundred years ago, so the forms of our life become evermore spiritualto the eye of older times uglier, perhaps, but only because it is
 unable to see how the realm of internal, spiritual beauty is continually deepeningand expanding, and to what extent a glance full of intelligence can mean more toall of us now than the most beautiful human body and the most sublime edifice.4Astrology and the like. It is probable that the objects of religious, moral, and
 aesthetic sensibility likewise belong only to the surface of things, although manlikes to believe that here at least he is touching the heart of the world. Becausethose things make him so deeply happy or unhappy, he deceives himself, and showsthe same pride as astrology, which thinks the heavens revolve around the fate ofman. The moral man, however, presumes that that which is essential to his heartmust also be the heart and essence of all things.5Misunderstanding of the dream. The man of the ages of barbarous primordial
 culture believed that in the dream he was getting to know a second real world:here is the origin of all metaphysics. Without the dream, one would have had nooccasion to divide the world into two. The dissection into soul and body is alsoconnected with the oldest idea of the dream, likewise the postulation of a life ofthe soul [Seelenscheinleib], thus the origin of all beliefs in spirits and
 probably also of the belief in gods. The dead live on, for they appear to the
 living in dreams": that was the conclusion one formerly drew, throughout manymillennia.6The scientific spirit is powerful in the part, not in the whole. The distinct,
 smallest fields of science are treated purely objectively. On the other hand, the
 
general, great sciences, taken as a whole, pose the question (a very unobjectivequestion, to be sure): what for? to what benefit? Because of this concern aboutbenefit, men treat the sciences less impersonally as a whole than in their parts.Now, in philosophythe top of the whole scientific pyramidthe question of the
 benefit of knowledge itself is posed automatically and each philosophy has theunconscious intention of ascribing to knowledge the greatest benefit. For thisreason, all philosophies have so much high-flying metaphysics and so much warinessof the seemingly insignificant explanations of physics. For the importance ofknowledge for life ought to appear as great as possible. Here we have theantagonism between individual scientific fields and philosophy. The latter, likeart, wishes to render the greatest possible depth and meaning to life andactivity. In the sciences, one seeks knowledge and nothing morewhatever the
 consequences may be. Until now, there has been no philosopher in whose handsphilosophy has not become an apology for knowledge. In this way, at least, everyone is an optimist, by thinking that knowledge must be accorded the highestusefulness. All philosophers are tyrannized by logic: and logic, by its nature, isoptimism.7The troublemaker in science. Philosophy divorced itself from science when it
 inquired which knowledge of the world and life could help man to live mosthappily. This occurred in the Socratic schools: out of a concern for happiness mantied off the veins of scientific investigationand does so still today.
8Pneumatic explanation of nature. Metaphysics explains natures scriptures as if
 pneumatologically, the way the church and its scholars used to explain the Bible.It takes a lot of intelligence to apply to nature the same kind of strictinterpretive art that philologists today have created for all books: with theintention simply to understand what the scripture wants to say, but not to sniffout, or even presume, a double meaning. Just as we have by no means overcome badinterpretive art in regard to books, and one still comes upon vestiges ofallegorical and mystical interpretation in the best-educated society, so it standstoo in regard to naturein fact much worse.
9Metaphysical world. It is true, there could be a metaphysical world; the absolute
 possibility of it is hardly to be disputed. We behold all things through the humanhead and cannot cut off this head; while the question nonetheless remains what ofthe world would still be there if one had cut it off. This is a purely scientificproblem and one not very well calculated to bother people overmuch; but all thathas hitherto mad metaphysical assumptions valuable, terrible, delightful to them,all that has begotten these assumptions, is passion, error and self-deception; theworst of all methods of acquiring knowledge, not the best of all, have taughtbelief in them. When one has disclosed these methods as the foundation of allextant religions and metaphysical systems one has refuted them! Then thatpossibility still remains over; but one can do absolutely nothing with it, not tospeak of letting happiness, salvation and life depend on the gossamer of such apossibility. For one could assert nothing at all of the metaphysical world except
 that it was a being-other; it would be a thing with negative qualities. Even if
 the existence of such a world were never so well demonstrated, it is certain thatknowledge of it would be the most useless of all knowledge: more useless even thanknowledge of the chemical composition of water must be to the sailor in danger ofshipwreck.

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