Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

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Falsehood.—Why do people mostly speak the truth in daily life?—Assuredly not because a god has forbidden falsehood. But, firstly, because it is more convenient, as falsehood requires invention, deceit, and memory. (As Swift says, he who tells a lie is not sensible how great a task he undertakes; for in order to uphold one lie he must invent twenty others.) Therefore, because it is advantageous in upright circumstances to say straight out, "I want this, I have done that," and so on; because, in other words, the path of compulsion and authority is surer than that of cunning. But if a child has been brought up in complicated domestic circumstances, he employs falsehood, naturally and unconsciously says whatever best suits his interests; a sense of truth and a hatred of falsehood are quite foreign and unknown to him, and so he lies in all innocence.

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Throwing Suspicion on Morality For Faith's Sake.—No power can be maintained when it is only represented by hypocrites; no matter how many "worldly" elements the Catholic Church possesses, its strength lies in those still numerous priestly natures who render life hard and full of meaning for themselves, and whose glance and worn bodies speak of nocturnal vigils, hunger, burning prayers, and perhaps even of scourging; these move men and inspire them with fear. What if it were necessary to live thus? This is the terrible question which their aspect brings to the lips. Whilst they spread this doubt they always uprear another pillar of their power; even the free-thinker does not dare to withstand such unselfishness with hard words of truth, and to say, "Thyself deceived, deceive not others!" Only the difference of views divides them from him, certainly no difference of goodness or badness; but men generally treat unjustly that which they do not like. Thus we speak of the cunning and the infamous art of the Jesuits, but overlook the self-control which every individual Jesuit practises, and the fact that the lightened manner of life preached by Jesuit books is by no means for their benefit, but for that of the laity. We may even ask whether, with precisely similar tactics and organisation, we enlightened ones would make equally good tools, equally admirable through self-conquest, indefatigableness, and renunciation.

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Victory of Knowledge Over Radical Evil.—It is of great advantage to him who desires to be wise to have witnessed for a time the spectacle of a thoroughly evil and degenerate man; it is false, like the contrary spectacle, but for whole long periods it held the mastery, and its roots have even extended and ramified themselves to us and our world. In order to understand ourselves we must understand it but then, in order to mount higher we must rise above it. We recognise, then, that there exist no sins in the metaphysical sense; but, in the same sense, also no virtues; we recognise that the entire domain of ethical ideas is perpetually tottering, that there are higher and deeper conceptions of good and evil, of moral and immoral. He who does not desire much more from things than a knowledge of them easily makes peace with his soul, and will make a mistake (or commit a sin, as the world calls it) at the most from ignorance, but hardly from covetousness. He will no longer wish to excommunicate and exterminate desires; but his only, his wholly dominating ambition, to know as well as possible at all times, will make him cool and will soften all the savageness in his disposition. Moreover, he has been freed from a number of tormenting conceptions, he has no more feeling at the mention of the words "punishments of hell," "sinfulness," "incapacity for good," he recognises in them only the vanishing shadow-pictures of false views of the world and of life.

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Morality As the Self-disintegration of Man.—A good author, who really has his heart in his work, wishes that some one could come and annihilate him by representing the same thing in a clearer way and answering without more ado the problems therein proposed. The loving girl wishes she could prove the self-sacrificing faithfulness of her love by the unfaithfulness of her beloved. The soldier hopes to die on the field of battle for his victorious fatherland; for his loftiest desires triumph in the victory of his country. The mother gives to the child that of which she deprives herself—sleep, the best food, sometimes her health and fortune. But are all these un-egoistic conditions? Are these deeds of morality miracles, because, to use Schopenhauer's expression, they are "impossible and yet performed"? Is it not clear that in all four cases the individual loves something of himself, a thought, a desire, a production, better than anything else of himself; that he therefore divides his nature and to one part sacrifices all the rest? Is it something entirely different when an obstinate man says, "I would rather be shot than move a step out of my way for this man"? The desire for something (wish, inclination, longing) is present in all the instances mentioned; to give way to it, with all its consequences, is certainly not "un-egoistic."—In ethics man does not consider himself as Individuum but as dividuum.

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What One May Promise.—One may promise actions, but no sentiments, for these are involuntary. Whoever promises to love or hate a person, or be faithful to him for ever, promises something which is not within his power; he can certainly promise such actions as are usually the results of love, hate, or fidelity, but which may also spring from other motives; for many ways and motives lead to one and the same action. The promise to love some one for ever is, therefore, really: So long as I love you I will act towards you in a loving way; if I cease to love you, you will still receive the same treatment from me, although inspired by other motives, so that our fellow-men will still be deluded into the belief that our love is unchanged and ever the same. One promises, therefore, the continuation of the semblance of love, when, without self-deception, one speaks vows of eternal love.


Intellect and Morality.—One must have a good memory to be able to keep a given promise. One must have a strong power of imagination to be able to feel pity. So closely is morality bound to the goodness of the intellect.


TO WISH FOR REVENGE AND TO TAKE REVENGE.—To have a revengeful thought and to[Pg 77] carry it into effect is to have a violent attack of fever, which passes off, however,—but to have a revengeful thought without the strength and courage to carry it out is a chronic disease, a poisoning of body and soul which we have to bear about with us. Morality, which only takes intentions into account, considers the two cases as equal; usually the former case is regarded as the worse (because of the evil consequences which may perhaps result from the deed of revenge). Both estimates are short-sighted.


The Power of Waiting.—Waiting is so difficult that even great poets have not disdained to take incapability of waiting as the motive for their works. Thus Shakespeare in Othello or Sophocles in Ajax, to whom suicide, had he been able to let his feelings cool down for one day, would no longer have seemed necessary, as the oracle intimated; he would probably have snapped his fingers at the terrible whisperings of wounded vanity, and said to himself, "Who has not already, in my circumstances, mistaken a fool for a hero? Is it something so very extraordinary?" On the contrary, it is something very commonly human; Ajax might allow himself that consolation. Passion will not wait; the tragedy in the lives of great men frequently lies not in their conflict with the times and the baseness of their fellow-men, but in their incapacity of postponing their work for a year or two; they cannot wait. In all duels advising[Pg 78] friends have one thing to decide, namely whether the parties concerned can still wait awhile; if this is not the case, then a duel is advisable, inasmuch as each of the two says, "Either I continue to live and that other man must die immediately, or vice versa." In such case waiting would mean a prolonged suffering of the terrible martyrdom of wounded honour in the face of the insulter, and this may entail more suffering than life is worth.

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