The Joyful Wisdom

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The Intellectual Conscience.—I have always the same experience over again, and always make a new effort against it; for although it is evident to me I do not want to believe it: in the greater number of men the intellectual conscience is lacking; indeed, it would often seem to me that in demanding such a thing, one is as solitary in the largest cities as in the desert. Everyone looks at you with strange[Pg 36] eyes and continues to make use of his scales, calling this good and that bad; and no one blushes for shame when you remark that these weights are not the full amount,—there is also no indignation against you; perhaps they laugh at your doubt. I mean to say that the greater number of people do not find it contemptible to believe this or that, and live according to it, without having been previously aware of the ultimate and surest reasons for and against it, and without even giving themselves any trouble about such reasons afterwards,—the most Sifted men and the noblest women still belong to this "greater number." But what is kind-heartedness, refinement and genius to me, if he who has these virtues harbours indolent sentiments in belief and judgment, if the longing for certainty does not rule in him, as his innermost desire and profoundest need—as that which separates higher from lower men! In certain pious people I have found a hatred of reason, and have been favourably disposed to them for it: their bad intellectual conscience at least still betrayed itself in this manner! But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors and all the marvellous uncertainty and ambiguity of existence, and not to question, not to tremble with desire and delight in questioning, not even to hate the questioner—perhaps even to make merry over him to the extent of weariness—that is what I regard as contemptible, and it is this sentiment which I first of all search for in every one—some folly or other always persuades me anew that every man has this sentiment, as man. This is my special kind of unrighteousness.

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Noble and Ignoble.—To ignoble natures all noble, magnanimous sentiments appear inexpedient, and on that account first and foremost, as incredible: they blink with their eyes when they hear of such matters, and seem inclined to say," there will, no doubt, be some advantage therefrom, one cannot see through all walls;"—they are jealous of the noble person, as if he sought advantage by back-stair methods. When they are all too plainly convinced of the absence of selfish intentions and emoluments, the noble person is regarded by them as a kind of fool: they despise him in his gladness, and laugh at the lustre of his eye. "How can a person rejoice at being at a disadvantage, how can a person with open eyes want to meet with disadvantage! It must be a disease of the reason with which the noble affection is associated";—so they think, and they look depreciatingly thereon; just as they depreciate the joy which the lunatic derives from his fixed idea. The ignoble nature is distinguished by the fact that it keeps its advantage steadily in view, and that this thought of the end and advantage is even stronger than its strongest impulse: not to be tempted to inexpedient activities by its impulses—that is its wisdom and inspiration. In comparison with the ignoble nature the higher nature is more irrational:—for the noble, magnanimous, and self-sacrificing person succumbs in fact to his impulses, and in his best moments his reason lapses altogether. An animal, which at the risk[Pg 38] of life protects its young, or in the pairing season follows the female where it meets with death, does not think of the risk and the death; its reason pauses likewise, because its delight in its young, or in the female, and the fear of being deprived of this delight, dominate it exclusively; it becomes stupider than at other times, like the noble and magnanimous person. He possesses feelings of pleasure and pain of such intensity that the intellect must either be silent before them, or yield itself to their service: his heart then goes into his head, and one henceforth speaks of "passions." (Here and there to be sure, the antithesis to this, and as it were the "reverse of passion," presents itself; for example in Fontenelle, to whom some one once laid the hand on the heart with the words, "What you have there, my dearest friend, is brain also.") It is the unreason, or perverse reason of passion, which the ignoble man despises in the noble individual, especially when it concentrates upon objects whose value appears to him to be altogether fantastic and arbitrary. He is offended at him who succumbs to the passion of the belly, but he understands the allurement which here plays the tyrant; but he does not understand, for example, how a person out of love of knowledge can stake his health and honour on the game. The taste of the higher nature devotes itself to exceptional matters, to things which usually do not affect people, and seem to have no sweetness; the higher nature has a singular standard of value. Yet it is mostly of the belief that it has not a singular standard of value in its idiosyncrasies[Pg 39] of taste; it rather sets up its values and non-values as the generally valid values and non-values, and thus becomes incomprehensible and impracticable. It is very rarely that a higher nature has so much reason over and above as to understand and deal with everyday men as such; for the most part it believes in its passion as if it were the concealed passion of every one, and precisely in this belief it is full of ardour and eloquence. If then such exceptional men do not perceive themselves as exceptions, how can they ever understand the ignoble natures and estimate average men fairly! Thus it is that they also speak of the folly, inexpediency and fantasy of mankind, full of astonishment at the madness of the world, and that it will not recognise the "one thing needful for it."—This is the eternal unrighteousness of noble natures.


That which Preserves the Species.—The strongest and most evil spirits have hitherto advanced mankind the most: they always rekindled the sleeping passions—all orderly arranged society lulls the passions to sleep; they always reawakened the sense of comparison, of contradiction, of delight in the new, the adventurous, the untried; they compelled men to set opinion against opinion, ideal plan against ideal plan. By means of arms, by upsetting boundary-stones, by violations of piety most of all: but also by new religions and morals! The same kind of "wickedness" is in every teacher and preacher of the new—which makes a conqueror[Pg 40] infamous, although it expresses itself more refinedly, and does not immediately set the muscles in motion (and just on that account does not make so infamous!) The new, however, is under all circumstances the evil, as that which wants to conquer, which tries to upset the old boundary-stones and the old piety; only the old is the good! The good men of every age are those who go to the roots of the old thoughts and bear fruit with them, the agriculturists of the spirit. But every soil becomes finally exhausted, and the ploughshare of evil must always come once more.—There is at present a fundamentally erroneous theory of morals which is much celebrated, especially in England: according to it the judgments "good" and "evil" are the accumulation of the experiences of that which is "expedient" and "inexpedient"; according to this theory, that which is called good is conservative of the species, what is called evil, however, is detrimental to it. But in reality the evil impulses are just in as high a degree expedient, indispensable, and conservative of the species as the good:—only, their function is different.

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