Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

Page 18 of 70


Pleasure in Traditional Custom.—An important species of pleasure, and therewith the source of morality, arises out of habit. Man does what is habitual to him more easily, better, and therefore more willingly; he feels a pleasure therein, and knows from experience that the habitual has been tested, and is therefore useful; a custom that we can live with is proved to be wholesome and advantageous in contrast[Pg 96] to all new and not yet tested experiments. According to this, morality is the union of the pleasant and the useful; moreover, it requires no reflection. As soon as man can use compulsion, he uses it to introduce and enforce his customs; for in his eyes they are proved as the wisdom of life. In the same way a company of individuals compels each single one to adopt the same customs. Here the inference is wrong; because we feel at ease with a morality, or at least because we are able to carry on existence with it, therefore this morality is necessary, for it seems to be the only possibility of feeling at ease; the ease of life seems to grow out of it alone. This comprehension of the habitual as a necessity of existence is pursued even to the smallest details of custom,—as insight into genuine causality is very small with lower peoples and civilisations, they take precautions with superstitious fear that everything should go in its same groove; even where custom is difficult, hard, and burdensome, it is preserved on account of its apparent highest usefulness. It is not known that the same degree of well-being can also exist with other customs, and that even higher degrees may be attained. We become aware, however, that all customs, even the hardest, grow pleasanter and milder with time, and that the severest way of life may become a habit and therefore a pleasure.


Pleasure and Social Instinct.—Out of his relations with other men, man obtains a new[Pg 97] species of pleasure in addition to those pleasurable sensations which he derives from himself; whereby he greatly increases the scope of enjoyment. Perhaps he has already taken too many of the pleasures of this sphere from animals, which visibly feel pleasure when they play with each other, especially the mother with her young. Then consider the sexual relations, which make almost every female interesting to a male with regard to pleasure, and vice versa. The feeling of pleasure on the basis of human relations generally makes man better; joy in common, pleasure enjoyed together is increased, it gives the individual security, makes him good-tempered, and dispels mistrust and envy, for we feel ourselves at ease and see others at ease. Similar manifestations of pleasure awaken the idea of the same sensations, the feeling of being like something; a like effect is produced by common sufferings, the same bad weather, dangers, enemies. Upon this foundation is based the oldest alliance, the object of which is the mutual obviating and averting of a threatening danger for the benefit of each individual. And thus the social instinct grows out of pleasure.


The Innocent Side of So-called Evil Actions.—All "evil" actions are prompted by the instinct of preservation, or, more exactly, by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain on the part of the individual; thus prompted, but not evil. "To cause pain per se" does not exist,[Pg 98] except in the brains of philosophers, neither does "to give pleasure per se" (pity in Schopenhauer's meaning). In the social condition before the State we kill the creature, be it ape or man, who tries to take from us the fruit of a tree when we are hungry and approach the tree, as we should still do with animals in inhospitable countries. The evil actions which now most rouse our indignation, are based upon the error that he who causes them has a free will, that he had the option, therefore, of not doing us this injury. This belief in option arouses hatred, desire for revenge, spite, and the deterioration of the whole imagination, while we are much less angry with an animal because we consider it irresponsible. To do injury, not from the instinct of preservation, but as requital, is the consequence of a false judgment and therefore equally innocent. The individual can in the condition which lies before the State, act sternly and cruelly towards other creatures for the purpose of terrifying, to establish his existence firmly by such terrifying proofs of his power. Thus act the violent, the mighty, the original founders of States, who subdue the weaker to themselves. They have the right to do so, such as the State still takes for itself; or rather, there is no right that can hinder this. The ground for all-morality can only be made ready when a stronger individual or a collective individual, for instance society or the State, subdues the single individuals,.draws them out of their singleness, and forms them into an association.. Compulsion precedes morality, indeed morality itself is compulsion for a time, to[Pg 99] which one submits for the avoidance of pain. Later on it becomes custom,—later still, free obedience, and finally almost instinct,—then, like everything long accustomed and natural, it is connected with pleasure—and is henceforth called virtue.


Shame.—Shame exists everywhere where there is a "mystery"; this, however, is a religious idea, which was widely extended in the older times of human civilisation. Everywhere were found bounded domains to which access was forbidden by divine right, except under certain conditions ; at first locally, as, for example, certain spots that ought not to be trodden by the feet of the uninitiated, in the neighbourhood of which these latter experienced horror and fear. This feeling was a good deal carried over into other relations, for instance, the sex relations, which, as a privilege and o of riper years, had to be withheld from the knowledge of the young for their advantage, relations for the protection and sanctification of which many gods were invented and were set up as guardians in the nuptial chamber. (In Turkish this room is on this account called harem, "sanctuary," and is distinguished with the same name, therefore, that is used for the entrance courts of the mosques.) Thus the kingdom is as a centre from which radiate power and glory, to the subjects a mystery full of secrecy and shame, of which many after-effects may still be felt among nations which[Pg 100] otherwise do not by any means belong to the bashful type. Similarly, the whole world of inner conditions, the so-called "soul," is still a mystery for all who are not philosophers, after it has been looked upon for endless ages as of divine origin and as worthy of divine intercourse; according to this it is an o and arouses shame.


Judge Not.—In considering earlier periods, care must be taken not to fall into unjust abuse. The injustice in slavery, the cruelty in the suppression of persons and nations, is not to be measured by our standard. For the instinct of justice was not then so far developed. Who dares to reproach the Genevese Calvin with the burning of the physician Servet? It was an action following and resulting from his convictions, and in the same way the Inquisition had a good right; only the ruling views were false, and produced a result which seems hard to us because those views have now grown strange to us. Besides, what is the burning of a single individual compared with eternal pains of hell for almost all! And yet this idea was universal at that time, without essentially injuring by its dreadfulness the conception of a God. With us, too, political sectarians are hardly and cruelly treated, but because one is accustomed to believe in the necessity of the State, the cruelty is not so deeply felt here as it is where we repudiate the views. Cruelty to animals in children and Italians is[Pg 101] due to ignorance, i.e. the animal, through the interests of Church teaching, has been placed too far behind man. Much that is dreadful and inhuman in history, much that one hardly likes to believe, is mitigated by the reflection that the one who commands and the one who carries out are different persons,—the former does not behold the right and therefore does not experience the strong impression on the imagination; the latter obeys a superior and therefore feels no responsibility. Most princes and military heads, through lack of imagination, easily appear hard and cruel without really being so. Egoism is not evil, because the idea of the "neighbour"—the word is of Christian origin and does not represent the truth—is very weak in us; and we feel ourselves almost as free and irresponsible towards him as towards plants and stones. We have yet to learn that others suffer, and this can never be completely learnt.

Free Learning Resources