The Joyful Wisdom

Page 42 of 59

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Applause.—The thinker does not need applause or the clapping of hands, provided he be sure of the clapping of his own hands: the latter, however, he cannot do without. Are there men who could also do without this, and in general without any kind of applause? I doubt it: and even as regards the wisest, Tacitus, who is no calumniator of the wise, says: quando etiam sapientibus glori cupido novissima exuitur—that means with him: never.


Better Deaf than Deafened.—Formerly a person wanted to have his calling, but that no longer suffices to-day, for the market has become too large,—there has now to be bawling. The consequence is that even good throats outcry each other, and the best wares are offered for sale with hoarse voices; without market-place bawling and hoarseness there is now no longer any genius.—It is, sure enough, an evil age for the thinker: he has to learn to find his stillness betwixt two noises, and has to pretend to be deaf until he finally becomes so. As long as he has not learned this, he is in danger of perishing from impatience and headaches.


The Evil Hour.—There has perhaps been an evil hour for every philosopher, in which he thought: What do I matter, if people should not believe my poor arguments!—And then some malicious bird has flown past him and twittered: "What do you matter? What do you matter?"

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What does Knowing Mean?—Non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere! says Spinoza, so simply and sublimely, as is his wont. Nevertheless, what else is this intelligere ultimately, but just the form in which the three other things become perceptible to us all at once? A result of the diverging and opposite impulses of desiring to deride, lament and execrate? Before knowledge is possible each of these impulses must first have brought forward its one-sided view of the object or event. The struggle of these one-sided views occurs afterwards, and out of it there occasionally arises a compromise, a pacification, a recognition of rights on all three sides, a sort of justice and agreement: for in virtue of the justice and agreement all those impulses can maintain themselves in existence and retain their mutual rights. We, to whose consciousness only the closing reconciliation scenes and final settling of accounts of these long processes manifest themselves, think on that account that intelligere is something conciliating, just and good, something essentially antithetical to the impulses; whereas it is only a certain relation of the impulses to one another. For a very long time conscious thinking was regarded as the only thinking: it is now only that the truth dawns upon us that the greater part of our intellectual activity goes on unconsciously and unfelt by us; I believe, however, that the impulses which are here in mutual conflict understand rightly how to make themselves felt by one[Pg 258] another, and how to cause pain:—the violent sudden exhaustion which overtakes all thinkers, may have its origin here (it is the exhaustion of the battle-field). Aye, perhaps in our struggling interior there is much concealed heroism, but certainly nothing divine, or eternally-reposing-in-itself, as Spinoza supposed. Conscious thinking, and especially that of the philosopher, is the weakest, and on that account also the relatively mildest and quietest mode of thinking: and thus it is precisely the philosopher who is most easily misled concerning the nature of knowledge.


One must Learn to Love.—This is our experience in music: we must first learn in general to hear, to hear fully, and to distinguish a theme or a melody, we have to isolate and limit it as a life by itself; then we need to exercise effort and good-will in order to endure it in spite of its strangeness we need patience towards its aspect and expression and indulgence towards what is odd in it:—in the end there comes a moment when we are accustomed to it, when we expect it, when it dawns upon us that we should miss it if it were lacking; and then it goes on to exercise its spell and charm more and more, and does not cease until we have become its humble and enraptured lovers, who want it, and want it again, and ask for nothing better from the world.—It is thus with us, however, not only in music: it is precisely thus that we have learned to love everything that we love. We are always finally recompensed for our good-will, our patience[Pg 259] reasonableness and gentleness towards what is unfamiliar, by the unfamiliar slowly throwing off its veil and presenting itself to us as a new, ineffable beauty:—that is its thanks for our hospitality. He also who loves himself must have learned it in this way: there is no other way. Love also has to be learned.


Cheers for Physics!—How many men are there who know how to observe? And among the few who do know,—how many observe themselves? "Everyone is furthest from himself"—all the "triers of the reins" know that to their discomfort; and the saying, "Know thyself," in the mouth of a God and spoken to man, is almost a mockery. But that the case of self-observation is so desperate, is attested best of all by the manner in which almost everybody talks of the nature of a moral action, that prompt, willing, convinced, loquacious manner, with its look, its smile, and its pleasing eagerness! Everyone seems inclined to say to you: "Why, my dear Sir, that is precisely my affair! You address yourself with your question to him who is authorised to answer, for I happen to be wiser with regard to this matter than in anything else. Therefore, when a man decides that 'this is right,' when he accordingly concludes that 'it must therefore be done, and thereupon does what he has thus recognised as right and designated as necessary—then the nature of his action is moral!" But, my friend, you are talking to me about three actions instead of one: your deciding, for instance, that "this is right," is also an action,—could one not[Pg 260] judge either morally or immorally? Why do you regard this, and just this, as right?—"Because my conscience tells me so; conscience never speaks immorally, indeed it determines in the first place what shall be moral!"—But why do you listen to the voice of your conscience? And in how far are you justified in regarding such a judgment as true and infallible? This belief—is there no further conscience for it? Do you know nothing of an intellectual conscience? A conscience behind your "conscience"? Your decision, "this is right," has a previous history in your impulses, your likes and dislikes, your experiences and non-experiences; "how has it originated?" you must ask, and afterwards the further question: "what really impels me to give ear to it?" You can listen to its command like a brave soldier who hears the command of his officer. Or like a woman who loves him who commands. Or like a flatterer and coward, afraid of the commander. Or like a blockhead who follows because he has nothing to say to the contrary. In short, you can give ear to your conscience in a hundred different ways. But that you hear this or that judgment as the voice of conscience, consequently, that you feel a thing to be right—may have its cause in the fact that you have never thought about your nature, and have blindly accepted from your childhood what has been designated to you as right: or in the fact that hitherto bread and honours have fallen to your share with that which you call your duty,—it is "right" to you, because it seems to be your "condition of existence" (that you, however, have a right to existence seems to[Pg 261] you irrefutable!). The persistency of your moral judgment might still be just a proof of personal wretchedness or impersonality; your "moral force" might have its source in your obstinacy—or in your incapacity to perceive new ideals! And to be brief: if you had thought more acutely, observed more accurately, and had learned more, you would no longer under all circumstances call this and that your "duty" and your "conscience": the knowledge how moral judgments have in general always originated would make you tired of these pathetic words,—as you have already grown tired of other pathetic words, for instance "sin," "salvation," and "redemption."—And now, my friend, do not talk to me about the categorical imperative! That word tickles my ear, and I must laugh in spite of your presence and your seriousness. In this connection I recollect old Kant, who, as a punishment for having gained possession surreptitiously of the "thing in itself"—also a very ludicrous affair!—was imposed upon by the categorical imperative, and with that in his heart strayed back again to "God," the "soul," "freedom," and "immortality," like a fox which strays back into its cage: and it had been his strength and shrewdness which had broken open this cage!—What? You admire the categorical imperative in you? This "persistency" of your so-called moral judgment? This absoluteness of the feeling that "as I think on this matter, so must everyone think"? Admire rather your selfishness therein! And the blindness, paltriness, and modesty of your selfishness! For it is selfishness in a person to regard his judgment as universal law, and a blind, paltry[Pg 262] and modest selfishness besides, because it betrays that you have not yet discovered yourself, that you have not yet created for yourself any personal, quite personal ideal:—for this could never be the ideal of another, to say nothing of all, of every one!—He who still thinks that "each would have to act in this manner in this case," has not yet advanced half a dozen paces in self-knowledge: otherwise he would know that there neither are, nor can be, similar actions,—that every action that has been done, has been done in an entirely unique and inimitable manner, and that it will be the same with regard to all future actions; that all precepts of conduct (and even the most esoteric and subtle precepts of all moralities up to the present), apply only to the coarse exterior,—that by means of them, indeed, a semblance of equality can be attained, but only a semblance,—that in outlook and retrospect, every action is, and remains, an impenetrable affair, —that our opinions of the "good," "noble" and "great" can never be proved by our actions, because no action is cognisable,—that our opinions, estimates, and tables of values are certainly among the most powerful levers in the mechanism of our actions, that in every single case, nevertheless, the law of their mechanism is untraceable. Let us confine ourselves, therefore, to the purification of our opinions and appreciations, and to the construction of new tables of value of our own:—we will, however, brood no longer over the "moral worth of our actions"! Yes, my friends! As regards the whole moral twaddle of people about one another, it is time to be disgusted with it! To sit in judgment[Pg 263] morally ought to be opposed to our taste! Let us leave this nonsense and this bad taste to those who have nothing else to do, save to drag the past a little distance further through time, and who are never themselves the present,—consequently to the many, to the majority! We, however, would seek to become what we are,—the new, the unique, the incomparable, making laws for ourselves and creating ourselves! And for this purpose we must become the best students and discoverers of all the laws and necessities in the world. We must be physicists in order to be creators in that sense—whereas hitherto all appreciations and ideals have been based on ignorance of physics, or in contradiction thereto. And therefore, three cheers for physics! And still louder cheers for that which impels us thereto—our honesty.

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