TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS
MAXIMS AND MISSILES
THE PROBLEM OF SOCRATES
"REASON" IN PHILOSOPHY
MORALITY AS THE ENEMY OF NATURE
THE FOUR GREAT ERRORS
THE "IMPROVERS" OF MANKIND
THINGS THE GERMANS LACK
SKIRMISHES IN A WAR WITH THE AGE
THINGS I OWE TO THE ANCIENTS
THE ETERNAL RECURRENCE
NOTES TO ZARATHUSTRA
The Twilight of the Idols was written towards the end of the summer of 1888, its composition seems to have occupied only a few days,—so few indeed that, in Ecce Homo (p. 118), Nietzsche says he hesitates to give their number; but, in any case, we know it was completed on the 3rd of September in Sils Maria. The manuscript which was dispatched to the printers on the 7th of September bore the title: "Idle Hours of a Psychologist"; this, however, was abandoned in favour of the present title, while the work was going through the press. During September and the early part of October 1888, Nietzsche added to the original contents of the book by inserting the whole section entitled "Things the Germans Lack," and aphorisms 32-43 of "Skirmishes in a War with the Age"; and the book, as it now stands, represents exactly the form in which Nietzsche intended to publish it in the course of the year 1889. Unfortunately its author was already stricken down with illness when the work first appeared at the end of January 1889, and he was denied the joy of seeing it run into nine editions, of one thousand each, before his death in 1900.
Of The Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche says in Ecce Homo (p. 118):—"If anyone should desire to obtain a rapid sketch of how everything before my[Pg viii] time was standing on its head, he should begin reading me in this book. That which is called 'Idols' on the title-page is simply the old truth that has been believed in hitherto. In plain English, The Twilight of the Idols means that the old truth is on its last legs."
Certain it is that, for a rapid survey of the whole of Nietzsche's doctrine, no book, save perhaps the section entitled "Of Old and New Tables" in Thus Spake Zarathustra, could be of more real value than The Twilight of the Idols. Here Nietzsche is quite at his best. He is ripe for the marvellous feat of the transvaluation of all values. Nowhere is his language—that marvellous weapon which in his hand became at once so supple and so murderous—more forcible and more condensed. Nowhere are his thoughts more profound. But all this does not by any means imply that this book is the easiest of Nietzsche's works. On the contrary, I very much fear that, unless the reader is well prepared, not only in Nietzscheism, but also in the habit of grappling with uncommon and elusive problems, a good deal of the contents of this work will tend rather to confuse than to enlighten him in regard to what Nietzsche actually wishes to make clear in these pages.
How much prejudice, for instance, how many traditional and deep-seated opinions, must be uprooted, if we are to see even so much as an important note of interrogation in the section entitled "The Problem of Socrates"—not to speak of such sections as "Morality as the Enemy of Nature," "The Four Great Errors," &c. The errors exposed in these[Pg ix] sections have a tradition of two thousand years behind them; and only a fantastic dreamer could expect them to be eradicated by a mere casual study of these pages. Indeed, Nietzsche himself looked forward only to a gradual change in the general view of the questions he discussed; he knew only too well what the conversion of "light heads" was worth, and what kind of man would probably be the first to rush into his arms; and, grand psychologist that he was, he guarded himself beforehand against bad company by means of his famous warning:—"The first adherents of a creed do not prove anything against it."
To the aspiring student of Nietzsche, however, it ought not to be necessary to become an immediate convert in order to be interested in the treasure of thought which Nietzsche here lavishes upon us. For such a man it will be quite difficult enough to regard the questions raised in this work as actual problems. Once, however, he has succeeded in doing this, and has given his imagination time to play round these questions as problems, the particular turn or twist that Nietzsche gives to their elucidation, may then perhaps strike him, not only as valuable, but as absolutely necessary.
With regard to the substance of The Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche says in Ecce Homo (p. 119):—"There is the waste of an all-too-rich autumn in this book: you trip over truths. You even crush some to death, there are too many of them."
And what are these truths? They are things that are not yet held to be true. They are the utterances of a man who, as a single exception, escaped for a[Pg x] while the general insanity of Europe, with its blind idealism in the midst of squalor, with its unscrupulous praise of so-called "Progress" while it stood knee-deep in the belittlement of "Man," and with its vulgar levity in the face of effeminacy and decay;—they are the utterances of one who voiced the hopes, the aims, and the realities of another world, not of an ideal world, not of a world beyond, but of a real world, of this world regenerated and reorganised upon a sounder, a more virile, and a more orderly basis,—in fact, of a perfectly possible world, one that has already existed in the past, and could exist again, if only the stupendous revolution of a transvaluation of all values were made possible.
This then is the nature of the truths uttered by this one sane man in the whole of Europe at the end of last century; and when, owing to his unequal struggle against the overwhelming hostile forces of his time, his highly sensitive personality was at last forced to surrender itself to the enemy and become one with them—that is to say, insane!—at least the record of his sanity had been safely stored away, beyond the reach of time and change, in the volumes which constitute his life-work.