Why, then, does man prefer the true to the untrue, in this secret combat with thought-personalities, in this generally clandestine match-making of thoughts, constitution-founding of thoughts, child-rearing of thoughts, nursing and almsgiving of thoughts? For the same reason that he practises honesty in intercourse with real persons: now from habit, heredity, and training, originally because the true, like the fair and the just, is more expedient and more reputable than the untrue. For in the realm of thought it is difficult to assume a power and glory that are built on error or on falsehood. The feeling that such an edifice might at some time collapse is humiliating to the self-esteem of the architect – he is ashamed of the fragility of the material, and, as he considers himself more important than the rest of the world, he would fain construct nothing that is less durable than the rest of the world. In his longing for truth he embraces the belief in a personal immortality, the most arrogant and defiant idea that exists, closely allied as it is to the underlying thought, pereat mundus, dum ego salvus sim! His work has become his “ego,” he transforms himself into the Imperishable with its universal challenge. It is his immeasurable pride that will only employ the best and hardest stones for the work – truths, or what he holds for such. Arrogance has always been justly called the “vice of the sage”; yet without this vice, fruitful in impulses, Truth and her status on earth would be in a parlous plight. In our propensity to fear our thoughts, concepts and words, and yet to honour ourselves in them, unconsciously to ascribe to them the power of rewarding, despising, praising, and blaming us, and so to associate with them as with free intellectual personalities, as with independent powers, as with our equals – herein lie the roots of the remarkable phenomenon which I have called “intellectual conscience.” Thus something of the highest moral species has bloomed from a black root.
The Obscurantists. – The essential feature of the black art of obscurantism is not its intention of clouding the brain, but its attempt to darken the picture of the world and cloud our idea of existence. It often employs the method of thwarting all illumination of the intellect, but at times it uses the very opposite means, seeking by the highest refinement of the intellect to induce a satiety of the intellect's fruits. Hair-splitting metaphysicians, who pave the way for scepticism and by their excessive acumen provoke a distrust of acumen, are excellent instruments of the more subtle form of obscurantism. – Is it possible that even Kant may be applied to this purpose? Did he even intend something of the sort, for a time at least, to judge from his own notorious exposition: “to clear the way for belief by setting limitations to knowledge”? – Certainly he did not succeed, nor did his followers, on the wolf and fox tracks of this highly refined and dangerous form of obscurantism – the most dangerous of all, for the black art here appears in the garb of light.
By what Kind of Philosophy Art is Corrupted. – When the mists of a metaphysical-mystical philosophy succeed in making all æsthetic phenomena opaque, it follows that these phenomena cannot be comparatively valued, inasmuch as each becomes individually inexplicable. But when once they cannot be compared for the sake of valuation, there arises an entire absence-of-criticism, a blind indulgence. From this source springs a continual diminution of the enjoyment of art (which is only distinguished from the crude satisfaction of a need by the highest refinement of taste and appreciation). The more taste diminishes, the more does the desire for art change and revert to a vulgar hunger, which the artist henceforth seeks to appease by ever coarser fare.
On Gethsemane. – The most painful thing a thinker can say to artists is: “Could ye not watch with me one hour?”
At the Loom. – There are many (artists and women, for instance) who work against the few that take a pleasure in untying the knot of things and unravelling their woof. The former always want to weave the woof together again and entangle it and so turn the conceived into the unconceived and if possible inconceivable. Whatever the result may be, the woof and knot always look rather untidy, because too many hands are working and tugging at them.
In the Desert of Science. – As the man of science proceeds on his modest and toilsome wanderings, which must often enough be journeys in the desert, he is confronted with those brilliant mirages known as “philosophic systems.” With magic powers of deception they show him that the solution of all riddles and the most refreshing draught of true water of life are close at hand. His weary heart rejoices, and he well-nigh touches with his lips the goal of all scientific endurance and hardship, so that almost unconsciously he presses forward. Other natures stand still, as if spellbound by the beautiful illusion: the desert swallows them up, they become lost to science. Other natures, again, that have often experienced these subjective consolations, become very disheartened and curse the salty taste which these mirages leave behind in the mouth and from which springs a raging thirst – without one's having come one step nearer to any sort of a spring.
The So-called “Real Reality.” – When the poet depicts the various callings – such as those of the warrior, the silk-weaver, the sailor – he feigns to know all these things thoroughly, to be an expert. Even in the exposition of human actions and destinies he behaves as if he had been present at the spinning of the whole web of existence. In so far he is an impostor. He practises his frauds on pure ignoramuses, and that is why he succeeds. They praise him for his deep, genuine knowledge, and lead him finally into the delusion that he really knows as much as the individual experts and creators, yes, even as the great world-spinners themselves. In the end, the impostor becomes honest, and actually believes in his own sincerity. Emotional people say to his very face that he has the “higher” truth and sincerity – for they are weary of reality for the time being, and accept the poetic dream as a pleasant relaxation and a night's rest for head and heart. The visions of the dream now appear to them of more value, because, as has been said, they find them more beneficial, and mankind has always held that what is apparently of more value is more true, more real. All that is generally called reality, the poets, conscious of this power, proceed with intention to disparage and to distort into the uncertain, the illusory, the spurious, the impure, the sinful, sorrowful, and deceitful. They make use of all doubts about the limits of knowledge, of all sceptical excesses, in order to spread over everything the rumpled veil of uncertainty. For they desire that when this darkening process is complete their wizardry and soul-magic may be accepted without hesitation as the path to “true truth” and “real reality.”
The Wish to be Just and the Wish to be a Judge. – Schopenhauer, whose profound understanding of what is human and all-too-human and original sense for facts was not a little impaired by the bright leopard-skin of his metaphysic (the skin must first be pulled off him if one wants to find the real moralist genius beneath) – Schopenhauer makes this admirable distinction, wherein he comes far nearer the mark than he would himself dare to admit: “Insight into the stern necessity of human actions is the boundary line that divides philosophic from other brains.” He worked against that wonderful insight of which he was sometimes capable by the prejudice that he had in common with the moral man (not the moralist), a prejudice that he expresses quite guilelessly and devoutly as follows: “The ultimate and true explanation of the inner being of the entirety of things must of necessity be closely connected with that about the ethical significance of human actions.” This connection is not “necessary” at all: such a connection must rather be rejected by that principle of the stern necessity of human actions, that is, the unconditioned non-freedom and non-responsibility of the will. Philosophic brains will accordingly be distinguished from others by their disbelief in the metaphysical significance of morality. This must create between the two kinds of brain a gulf of a depth and unbridgeableness of which the much-deplored gulf between “cultured” and “uncultured” scarcely gives a conception. It is true that many back doors, which the “philosophic brains,” like Schopenhauer's own, have left for themselves, must be recognised as useless. None leads into the open, into the fresh air of the free will, but every door through which people had slipped hitherto showed behind it once more the gleaming brass wall of fate. For we are in a prison, and can only dream of freedom, not make ourselves free. That the recognition of this fact cannot be resisted much longer is shown by the despairing and incredible postures and grimaces of those who still press against it and continue their wrestling-bout with it. Their attitude at present is something like this: “So no one is responsible for his actions? And all is full of guilt and the consciousness of guilt? But some one must be the sinner. If it is no longer possible or permissible to accuse and sentence the individual, the one poor wave in the inevitable rough-and-tumble of the waves of development – well, then, let this stormy sea, this development itself, be the sinner. Here is free will: this totality can be accused and sentenced, can atone and expiate. So let God be the sinner and man his redeemer. Let the world's history be guilt, expiation, and self-murder. Let the evil-doer be his own judge, the judge his own hangman.” This Christianity strained to its limits – for what else is it? – is the last thrust in the fencing-match between the teaching of unconditioned morality and the teaching of unconditioned non-freedom. It would be quite horrible if it were anything more than a logical pose, a hideous grimace of the underlying thought, perhaps the death-convulsion of the heart that seeks a remedy in its despair, the heart to which delirium whispers: “Behold, thou art the lamb which taketh away the sin of God.” This error lies not only in the feeling, “I am responsible,” but just as much in the contradiction, “I am not responsible, but some one must be.” That is simply not true. Hence the philosopher must say, like Christ, “Judge not,” and the final distinction between the philosophic brains and the others would be that the former wish to be just and the latter wish to be judges.
Sacrifice.– You hold that sacrifice is the hallmark of moral action? – Just consider whether in every action that is done with deliberation, in the best as in the worst, there be not a sacrifice.
Against the “Triers of the Reins” of Morality. – One must know the best and the worst that a man is capable of in theory and in practice before one can judge how strong his moral nature is and can be. But this is an experiment that one can never carry out.
Serpent's Tooth. – Whether we have a serpent's tooth or not we cannot know before some one has set his heel upon our necks. A wife or a mother could say: until some one has put his heel upon the neck of our darling, our child. – Our character is determined more by the absence of certain experiences than by the experiences we have undergone.
Deception in Love. – We forget and purposely banish from our minds a good deal of our past. In other words, we wish our picture, that beams at us from the past, to belie us, to flatter our vanity – we are constantly engaged in this self-deception. And you who talk and boast so much of “self-oblivion in love,” of the “absorption of the ego in the other person” – you hold that this is something different? So you break the mirror, throw yourselves into another personality that you admire, and enjoy the new portrait of your ego, though calling it by the other person's name – and this whole proceeding is not to be thought self-deception, self-seeking, you marvellous beings? – It seems to me that those who hide something of themselves from themselves, or hide their whole selves from themselves, are alike committing a theft from the treasury of knowledge. It is clear, then, against what transgression the maxim “Know thyself” is a warning.
To the Denier of his Vanity. – He who denies his own vanity usually possesses it in so brutal a form that he instinctively shuts his eyes to avoid the necessity of despising himself.
Why the Stupid so often Become Malignant. – To those arguments of our adversary against which our head feels too weak our heart replies by throwing suspicion on the motives of his arguments.
The Art of Moral Exceptions. – An art that points out and glorifies the exceptional cases of morality – where the good becomes bad and the unjust just – should rarely be given a hearing: just as now and again we buy something from gipsies, with the fear that they are diverting to their own pockets much more than their mere profit from the purchase.
Enjoyment and Non-enjoyment of Poisons. – The only decisive argument that has always deterred men from drinking a poison is not that it is deadly, but that it has an unpleasant taste.
The World without Consciousness of Sin. – If men only committed such deeds as do not give rise to a bad conscience, the human world would still look bad and rascally enough, but not so sickly and pitiable as at present. – Enough wicked men without conscience have existed at all times, and many good honest folk lack the feeling of pleasure in a good conscience.
The Conscientious. – It is more convenient to follow one's conscience than one's intelligence, for at every failure conscience finds an excuse and an encouragement in itself. That is why there are so many conscientious and so few intelligent people.
Opposite Means of Avoiding Bitterness. – One temperament finds it useful to be able to give vent to its disgust in words, being made sweeter by speech. Another reaches its full bitterness only by speaking out: it is more advisable for it to have to gulp down something – the restraint that men of this stamp place upon themselves in the presence of enemies and superiors improves their character and prevents it from becoming too acrid and sour.
Not to be Too Dejected. – To get bed-sores is unpleasant, but no proof against the merits of the cure that prescribes that you should take to your bed. Men who have long lived outside themselves, and have at last devoted themselves to the inward philosophic life, know that one can also get sores of character and intellect. This, again, is on the whole no argument against the chosen way of life, but necessitates a few small exceptions and apparent relapses.
The Human “Thing in Itself.” – The most vulnerable and yet most unconquerable of things is human vanity: nay, through being wounded its strength increases and can grow to giant proportions.
The Farce of Many Industrious Persons. – By an excess of effort they win leisure for themselves, and then they can do nothing with it but count the hours until the tale is ended.
The Possession of Joy Abounding. – He that has joy abounding must be a good man, but perhaps he is not the cleverest of men, although he has reached the very goal towards which the cleverest man is striving with all his cleverness.
In the Mirror of Nature. – Is not a man fairly well described, when we are told that he likes to walk between tall fields of golden corn: that he prefers the forest and flower colours of sere and chilly autumn to all others, because they point to something more beautiful than Nature has ever attained: that he feels as much at home under big broad-leaved walnut trees as among his nearest kinsfolk: that in the mountains his greatest joy is to come across those tiny distant lakes from which the very eyes of solitude seem to peer at him: that he loves that grey calm of the misty twilight that steals along the windows on autumn and early winter evenings and shuts out all soulless sounds as with velvet curtains: that in unhewn stones he recognises the last remaining traces of the primeval age, eager for speech, and honours them from childhood upwards: that, lastly, the sea with its shifting serpent skin and wild-beast beauty is, and remains to him, unfamiliar? – Yes, something of the man is described herewith, but the mirror of Nature does not say that the same man, with (and not even “in spite of”) all his idyllic sensibilities, might be disagreeable, stingy, and conceited. Horace, who was a good judge of such matters, in his famous beatus ille qui procul negotiis puts the tenderest feeling for country life into the mouth of a Roman money-lender.
Power without Victory. – The strongest cognition (that of the complete non-freedom of the human will) is yet the poorest in results, for it has always had the mightiest of opponents – human vanity.
Pleasure and Error. – A beneficial influence on friends is exerted by one man unconsciously, through his nature; by another consciously, through isolated actions. Although the former nature is held to be the higher, the latter alone is allied to good conscience and pleasure – the pleasure in justification by good works, which rests upon a belief in the volitional character of our good and evil doing – that is to say, upon a mistake.
The Folly of Committing Injustice. – The injustice we have inflicted ourselves is far harder to bear than the injustice inflicted upon us by others (not always from moral grounds, be it observed). After all, the doer is always the sufferer – that is, if he be capable of feeling the sting of conscience or of perceiving that by his action he has armed society against himself and cut himself off. For this reason we should beware still more of doing than of suffering injustice, for the sake of our own inward happiness – so as not to lose our feeling of well-being – quite apart from any consideration of the precepts of religion and morality. For in suffering injustice we have the consolation of a good conscience, of hope and of revenge, together with the sympathy and applause of the just, nay of the whole of society, which is afraid of the evil-doer. Not a few are skilled in the impure self-deception that enables them to transform every injustice of their own into an injustice inflicted upon them from without, and to reserve for their own acts the exceptional right to the plea of self-defence. Their object, of course, is to make their own burden lighter.
Envy with or without a Mouthpiece. – Ordinary envy is wont to cackle when the envied hen has laid an egg, thereby relieving itself and becoming milder. But there is a yet deeper envy that in such a case becomes dead silent, desiring that every mouth should be sealed and always more and more angry because this desire is not gratified. Silent envy grows in silence.
Anger as a Spy. – Anger exhausts the soul and brings its very dregs to light. Hence, if we know no other means of gaining certainty, we must understand how to arouse anger in our dependents and adversaries, in order to learn what is really done and thought to our detriment.
Defence Morally more Difficult than Attack. – The true heroic deed and masterpiece of the good man does not lie in attacking opinions and continuing to love their propounders, but in the far harder task of defending his own position without causing or intending to cause bitter heartburns to his opponent. The sword of attack is honest and broad, the sword of defence usually runs out to a needle point.
Honest towards Honesty. – One who is openly honest towards himself ends by being rather conceited about this honesty. He knows only too well why he is honest – for the same reason that another man prefers outward show and hypocrisy.
Coals of Fire. – The heaping of coals of fire on another's head is generally misunderstood and falls flat, because the other knows himself to be just as much in the right, and on his side too has thought of collecting coals.
Dangerous Books. – A man says: “Judging from my own case, I find that this book is harmful.” Let him but wait, and perhaps one day he will confess that the book did him a great service by thrusting forward and bringing to light the hidden disease of his soul. – Altered opinions alter not at all (or very little) the character of a man: but they illuminate individual facets of his personality, which hitherto, in another constellation of opinions, had remained dark and unrecognisable.
Simulated Pity. – We simulate pity when we wish to show ourselves superior to the feeling of animosity, but generally in vain. This point is not noticed without a considerable enhancement of that feeling of animosity.
Open Contradiction often Conciliatory. – At the moment when a man openly makes known his difference of opinion from a well-known party leader, the whole world thinks that he must be angry with the latter. Sometimes, however, he is just on the point of ceasing to be angry with him. He ventures to put himself on the same plane as his opponent, and is free from the tortures of suppressed envy.
Seeing our Light Shining. – In the darkest hour of depression, sickness, and guilt, we are still glad to see others taking a light from us and making use of us as of the disk of the moon. By this roundabout route we derive some light from our own illuminating faculty.
Fellowship in Joy.5– The snake that stings us means to hurt us and rejoices in so doing: the lowest animal can picture to itself the pain of others. But to picture to oneself the joy of others and to rejoice thereat is the highest privilege of the highest animals, and again, amongst them, is the property only of the most select specimens – accordingly a rare “human thing.” Hence there have been philosophers who denied fellowship in joy.
Supplementary Pregnancy.– Those who have arrived at works and deeds are in an obscure way, they know not how, all the more pregnant with them, as if to prove supplementarily that these are their children and not those of chance.
Hard-hearted from Vanity. – Just as justice is so often a cloak for weakness, so men who are fairly intelligent, but weak, sometimes attempt dissimulation from ambitious motives and purposely show themselves unjust and hard, in order to leave behind them the impression of strength.
Humiliation. – If in a large sack of profit we find a single grain of humiliation we still make a wry face even at our good luck.
Extreme Herostratism.6– There might be Herostratuses who set fire to their own temple, in which their images are honoured.
A World of Diminutives. – The fact that all that is weak and in need of help appeals to the heart induces in us the habit of designating by diminutive and softening terms all that appeals to our hearts – and accordingly making such things weak and clinging to our imaginations.
The Bad Characteristic of Sympathy. – Sympathy has a peculiar impudence for its companion. For, wishing to help at all costs, sympathy is in no perplexity either as to the means of assistance or as to the nature and cause of the disease, and goes on courageously administering all its quack medicines to restore the health and reputation of the patient.
Importunacy. – There is even an importunacy in relation to works, and the act of associating oneself from early youth on an intimate footing with the illustrious works of all times evinces an entire absence of shame. – Others are only importunate from ignorance, not knowing with whom they have to do – for instance classical scholars young and old in relation to the works of the Greeks.
The Will is Ashamed of the Intellect. – In all coolness we make reasonable plans against our passions. But we make the most serious mistake in this connection in being often ashamed, when the design has to be carried out, of the coolness and calculation with which we conceived it. So we do just the unreasonable thing, from that sort of defiant magnanimity that every passion involves.
Why the Sceptics Offend Morality. – He who takes his morality solemnly and seriously is enraged against the sceptics in the domain of morals. For where he lavishes all his force, he wishes others to marvel but not to investigate and doubt. Then there are natures whose last shred of morality is just the belief in morals. They behave in the same way towards sceptics, if possible still more passionately.
Shyness. – All moralists are shy, because they know they are confounded with spies and traitors, so soon as their penchant is noticed. Besides, they are generally conscious of being impotent in action, for in the midst of work the motives of their activity almost withdraw their attention from the work.
A Danger to Universal Morality. – People who are at the same time noble and honest come to deify every devilry that brings out their honesty, and to suspend for a time the balance of their moral judgment.
The Saddest Error. – It is an unpardonable offence when one discovers that where one was convinced of being loved, one is only regarded as a household utensil and decoration, whereby the master of the house can find an outlet for his vanity before his guests.
Love and Duality. – What else is love but understanding and rejoicing that another lives, works, and feels in a different and opposite way to ourselves? That love may be able to bridge over the contrasts by joys, we must not remove or deny those contrasts. Even self-love presupposes an irreconcileable duality (or plurality) in one person.
Signs from Dreams. – What one sometimes does not know and feel accurately in waking hours – whether one has a good or a bad conscience as regards some person – is revealed completely and unambiguously by dreams.
Debauchery. – Not joy but joylessness is the mother of debauchery.
Reward and Punishment. – No one accuses without an underlying notion of punishment and revenge, even when he accuses his fate or himself. All complaint is accusation, all self-congratulation is praise. Whether we do one or the other, we always make some one responsible.
Doubly Unjust. – We sometimes advance truth by a twofold injustice: when we see and represent consecutively the two sides of a case which we are not in a position to see together, but in such a way that every time we mistake or deny the other side, fancying that what we see is the whole truth.
Mistrust. – Self-mistrust does not always proceed uncertainly and shyly, but sometimes in a furious rage, having worked itself into a frenzy in order not to tremble.
Philosophy of Parvenus. – If you want to be a personality you must even hold your shadow in honour.
Knowing how to Wash Oneself Clean. – We must know how to emerge cleaner from unclean conditions, and, if necessary, how to wash ourselves even with dirty water.
Letting Yourself Go. – The more you let yourself go, the less others let you go.
The Innocent Rogue. – There is a slow, gradual path to vice and rascality of every description. In the end, the traveller is quite abandoned by the insect-swarms of a bad conscience, and although a thorough scoundrel he walks in innocence.
Making Plans. – Making plans and conceiving projects involves many agreeable sentiments. He that had the strength to be nothing but a contriver of plans all his life would be a happy man. But one must occasionally have a rest from this activity by carrying a plan into execution, and then comes anger and sobriety.
Wherewith We See the Ideal. – Every efficient man is blocked by his efficiency and cannot look out freely from its prison. Had he not also a goodly share of imperfection, he could, by reason of his virtue, never arrive at an intellectual or moral freedom. Our shortcomings are the eyes with which we see the ideal.
Dishonest Praise. – Dishonest praise causes many more twinges of conscience than dishonest blame, probably only because we have exposed our capacity for judgment far more completely through excessive praise than through excessive and unjust blame.
How One Dies is Indifferent. – The whole way in which a man thinks of death during the prime of his life and strength is very expressive and significant for what we call his character. But the hour of death itself, his behaviour on the death-bed, is almost indifferent. The exhaustion of waning life, especially when old people die, the irregular or insufficient nourishment of the brain during this last period, the occasionally violent pain, the novel and untried nature of the whole position, and only too often the ebb and flow of superstitious impressions and fears, as if dying were of much consequence and meant the crossing of bridges of the most terrible kind – all this forbids our using death as a testimony concerning the living. Nor is it true that the dying man is generally more honest than the living. On the contrary, through the solemn attitude of the bystanders, the repressed or flowing streams of tears and emotions, every one is inveigled into a comedy of vanity, now conscious, now unconscious. The serious way in which every dying man is treated must have been to many a poor despised devil the highest joy of his whole life and a sort of compensation and repayment for many privations.
Morality and its Sacrifice. – The origin of morality may be traced to two ideas: “The community is of more value than the individual,” and “The permanent interest is to be preferred to the temporary.” The conclusion drawn is that the permanent interest of the community is unconditionally to be set above the temporary interest of the individual, especially his momentary well-being, but also his permanent interest and even the prolongation of his existence. Even if the individual suffers by an arrangement that suits the mass, even if he is depressed and ruined by it, morality must be maintained and the victim brought to the sacrifice. Such a trend of thought arises, however, only in those who are not the victims – for in the victim's case it enforces the claim that the individual might be worth more than the many, and that the present enjoyment, the “moment in paradise,”7 should perhaps be rated higher than a tame succession of untroubled or comfortable circumstances. But the philosophy of the sacrificial victim always finds voice too late, and so victory remains with morals and morality: which are really nothing more than the sentiment for the whole concept of morals under which one lives and has been reared – and reared not as an individual but as a member of the whole, as a cipher in a majority. Hence it constantly happens that the individual makes himself into a majority by means of his morality.