The Joyful Wisdom

Page 47 of 59


The Origin of the Learned.—The learned man in Europe grows out of all the different ranks and social conditions, like a plant requiring no specific soil: on that account he belongs essentially and involuntarily to the partisans of democratic thought. But this origin betrays itself. If one has trained one's glance to some extent to recognise in a learned book or scientific treatise the intellectual idiosyncrasy of the learned man—all of them have such idiosyncrasy,—and if we take it by surprise, we shall almost always get a glimpse behind it of the "antecedent history" of the[Pg 288] learned man and his family, especially of the nature of their callings and occupations. Where the feeling finds expression, "That is at last proved, I am now done with it," it is commonly the ancestor in the blood and instincts of the learned man that approves of the "accomplished work" in the nook from which he sees things;—the belief in the proof is only an indication of what has been looked upon for ages by a laborious family as "good work." Take an example: the sons of registrars and office-clerks of every kind, whose main task has always been to arrange a variety of material, distribute it in drawers, and systematise it generally, evince, when they become learned men, an inclination to regard a problem as almost solved when they have systematised it There are philosophers who are at bottom nothing but systematising brains—the formal part of the paternal occupation has become its essence to them. The talent for classifications, for tables of categories, betrays something; it is not for nothing that a person is the child of his parents. The son of an advocate will also have to be an advocate as investigator: he seeks as a first consideration, to carry the point in his case, as a second consideration, he perhaps seeks to be in the right. One recognises the sons of Protestant clergymen and schoolmasters by the nave assurance with which as learned men they already assume their case to be proved, when it has but been presented by them staunchly and warmly: they are thoroughly accustomed to people believing in them,—it belonged to their fathers' "trade"![Pg 289] A Jew, contrariwise, in accordance with his business surroundings and the past of his race, is least of all accustomed—to people believing him. Observe Jewish scholars with regard to this matter,—they all lay great stress on logic, that is to say, on compelling assent by means of reasons; they know that they must conquer thereby, even when race and class antipathy is against them, even where people are unwilling to believe them. For in fact, nothing is more democratic than logic: it knows no respect of persons, and takes even the crooked nose as straight. (In passing we may remark that in respect to logical thinking, in respect to cleaner intellectual habits, Europe is not a little indebted to the Jews; above all the Germans, as being a lamentably draisonnable race, who, even at the present day, must always have their "heads washed"[1] in the first place. Wherever the Jews have attained to influence, they have taught to analyse more subtly, to argue more acutely, to write more clearly and purely: it has always been their problem to bring a people "to raison.")

[1] In German the expression Kopf zu waschen, besides the literal sense, also means "to give a person a sound drubbing."—TR.


The Origin of the Learned once more.—To seek self-preservation merely, is the expression of a state of distress, or of limitation of the true, fundamental instinct of life, which aims at the extension of power, and with this in view often enough calls in question self-preservation and sacrifices it. It should be[Pg 290] taken as symptomatic when individual philosophers, as for example, the consumptive Spinoza, have seen and have been obliged to see the principal feature of life precisely in the so-called self-preservative instinct:—they have just been men in states of distress. That our modern natural sciences have entangled themselves so much with Spinoza's dogma (finally and most grossly in Darwinism, with its inconceivably one-sided doctrine of the "struggle for existence"—), is probably owing to the origin of most of the inquirers into nature: they belong in this respect to the people, their forefathers have been poor and humble persons, who knew too well by immediate experience the difficulty of making a living. Over the whole of English Darwinism there hovers something of the suffocating air of over-crowded England, something of the odour of humble people in need and in straits. But as an investigator of nature, a person ought to emerge from his paltry human nook: and in nature the state of distress does not prevail, but superfluity, even prodigality to the extent of folly. The struggle for existence is only an exception, a temporary restriction of the will to live; the struggle, be it great or small, turns everywhere on predominance, on increase and expansion, on power, in conformity to the will to power, which is just the will to live.


In Honour of Homines Religiosi.—The struggle against the church is certainly (among other things—for it has a manifold significance) the[Pg 291] struggle of the more ordinary, cheerful, confiding, superficial natures against the rule of the graver, profounder, more contemplative natures, that is to say, the more malign and suspicious men, who with long continued distrust in the worth of life, brood also over their own worth:—the ordinary instinct of the people, its sensual gaiety, its "good heart," revolts against them. The entire Roman Church rests on a Southern suspicion of the nature of man (always misunderstood in the North), a suspicion whereby the European South has succeeded, to the inheritance of the profound Orient—the mysterious, venerable Asia—and its contemplative spirit. Protestantism was a popular insurrection in favour of the simple, the respectable, the superficial (the North has always been more good-natured and more shallow than the South), but it was the French Revolution that first gave the sceptre wholly and solemnly into the hands of the "good man" (the sheep, the ass, the goose, and everything incurably shallow, bawling, and fit for the Bedlam of "modern ideas").


In Honour of Priestly Natures.—I think that philosophers have always felt themselves very remote from that which the people (in all classes of society nowadays) take for wisdom: the prudent, bovine placidity, piety, and country-parson meekness, which lies in the meadow and gazes at life seriously and ruminatingly:—this is probably because philosophers have not had sufficiently the taste of the "people," or of the country-parson,[Pg 292] for that kind of wisdom. Philosophers will also perhaps be the last to acknowledge that the people should understand something of that which lies furthest from them, something of the great passion of the thinker, who lives and must live continually in the storm-cloud of the highest problems and the heaviest responsibilities (consequently, not gazing at all, to say nothing of doing so indifferently, securely, objectively). The people venerate an entirely different type of men when on their part they form the ideal of a "sage," and they are a thousand times justified in rendering homage with the highest eulogies and honours to precisely that type of men—namely, the gentle, serious, simple, chaste, priestly natures and those related to them,—it is to them that the praise falls due in the popular veneration of wisdom. And to whom should the multitude have more reason to be grateful than to these men who pertain to its class and rise from its ranks, but are persons consecrated, chosen, and sacrificed for its good—they themselves believe themselves sacrificed to God,—before whom every one can pour forth his heart with impunity, by whom he can get rid of his secrets, cares, and worse things (for the man who "communicates himself" gets rid of himself, and he who has "confessed" forgets). Here there exists a great need: for sewers and pure cleansing waters are required also for spiritual filth, and rapid currents of love are needed, and strong, lowly, pure hearts, who qualify and sacrifice themselves for such service of the non-public health-department—for it is a sacrificing, the priest is, and continues to[Pg 293] be, a human sacrifice.... The people regard such sacrificed, silent, serious men of "faith" as "wise," that is to say, as men who have become sages, as "reliable" in relation to their own unreliability. Who would desire to deprive the people of that expression and that veneration?—But as is fair on the other side, among philosophers the priest also is still held to belong to the "people," and is not regarded as a sage, because, above all, they themselves do not believe in "sages," and they already scent "the people" in this very belief and superstition. It was modesty which invented in Greece the word "philosopher," and left to the play-actors of the spirit the superb arrogance of assuming the name "wise"—the modesty of such monsters of pride and self-glorification as Pythagoras and Plato.—

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