The Twilight of the Idols - The Antichrist

Page 15 of 51


Emerson.—He is much more enlightened, much broader, more versatile, and more subtle than Carlyle; but above all, he is happier. He is one who instinctively lives on ambrosia and who leaves the indigestible parts of things on his plate. Compared with Carlyle he is a man of taste.—Carlyle, who was very fond of him, nevertheless declared that "he does not give us enough to chew." This is perfectly true but it is not unfavourable to Emerson.—Emerson possesses that kindly intellectual cheerfulness which deprecates overmuch seriousness; he[Pg 71] has absolutely no idea of how old he is already, and how young he will yet be,—he could have said of himself, in Lope de Vega's words: "yo me sucedo a mi mismo." His mind is always finding reasons for being contented and even thankful; and at times he gets preciously near to that serene superiority of the worthy bourgeois who returning from an amorous rendezvous tamquam re bene gesta, said gratefully "Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluptas."—


Anti-Darwin.—As to the famous "struggle for existence," it seems to me, for the present, to be more of an assumption than a fact. It does occur, but as an exception. The general condition of life! is not one of want or famine, but rather of riches, of lavish luxuriance, and even of absurd prodigality,—where there is a struggle, it is a struggle for power. We should not confound Malthus with nature.—Supposing, however, that this struggle exists,—and it does indeed occur,—its result is unfortunately the very reverse of that which the Darwinian school seems to desire, and of that which in agreement with them we also might desire: that is to say, it is always to the disadvantage of the strong, the privileged, and the happy exceptions. Species do not evolve towards perfection: the weak always prevail over the strong—simply because they are the majority, and because they are also the more crafty. Darwin forgot the intellect (—that is English!), the weak have more intellect. In order to acquire intellect, one must be in need of it. One loses it when one no longer needs it. He who possesses strength[Pg 72] flings intellect to the deuce (—"let it go hence!"[2] say the Germans of the present day, "the Empire will remain"). As you perceive, intellect to me means caution, patience, craft, dissimulation, great self-control, and everything related to mimicry (what is praised nowadays as virtue is very closely related the latter).


Casuistry of a Psychologist.—This man knows mankind: to what purpose does he study his fellows? He wants to derive some small or even great advantages from them,—he is a politician!... That man yonder is also well versed in human nature: and ye tell me that he wishes to draw no personal profit from his knowledge, that he is a thoroughly disinterested person? Examine him a little more closely! Maybe he wishes to derive a more wicked advantage from his possession; namely, to feel superior to men, to be able to look down upon them, no longer to feel one of them. This "disinterested person" is a despiser of mankind; and the former is of a more humane type, whatever appearances may seem to say to the contrary. At least he considers himself the equal of those about him, at least he classifies himself with them.


The psychological tact of Germans seems to me to have been set in doubt by a whole series of cases[Pg 73] which my modesty forbids me to enumerate. In one case at least I shall not let the occasion slip for substantiating my contention: I bear the Germans a grudge for having made a mistake about Kant and his "backstairs philosophy," as I call it. Such a man was not the type of intellectual uprightness. Another thing I hate to hear is a certain infamous "and": the Germans say, "Goethe and Schiller,"—I even fear that they say, "Schiller and Goethe." ... Has nobody found Schiller out yet?—But there are other "ands" which are even more egregious. With my own ears I have heard—only among University professors, it is true!—men speak of "Schopenhauer and Hartmann." ...[3]


The most intellectual men, provided they are also the most courageous, experience the most excruciating tragedies: but on that very account they honour life, because it confronts them with its most formidable antagonism.


Concerning "the Conscience of the Intellect" Nothing seems to me more uncommon to-day than genuine hypocrisy. I strongly suspect that this growth is unable to flourish in the mild climate of our culture. Hypocrisy belongs to an age of strong faith,—one in which one does not lose one's own faith in spite of the fact that one has to make an[Pg 74] outward show of holding another faith. Nowadays a man gives it up; or, what is still more common, he acquires a second faith,—in any case, however, he remains honest. Without a doubt it is possible to have a much larger number of convictions at present, than it was formerly: possible—that is to say, allowable,—that is to say, harmless. From this there arises an attitude of toleration towards one's self. Toleration towards one's self allows of a greater number of convictions: the latter live comfortably side by side, and they take jolly good care, as all the world does to-day, not to compromise themselves. How does a man compromise himself to-day? When he is consistent; when he pursues a straight course; when he has anything less than five faces; when he is genuine.... I very greatly fear that modern man is much too fond of comfort for certain vices; and the consequence is that the latter are dying out. Everything evil which is the outcome of strength of will—and maybe there is nothing evil without the strengh of will,—degenerates, in our muggy atmosphere, into virtue. The few hypocrites I have known only imitated hypocrisy: like almost every tenth man to-day, they were actors.—


Beautiful and Ugly:—Nothing is more relative, let us say, more restricted, than our sense of the beautiful. He who would try to divorce it from the delight man finds in his fellows, would immediately lose his footing. "Beauty in itself," is simply a word, it is not even a concept. In the beautiful, man postulates himself as the standard of perfection;[Pg 75] in exceptional cases he worships himself as that standard. A species has no other alternative than to say "yea" to itself alone, in this way. Its lowest instinct, the instinct of self-preservation and self-expansion, still radiates in such sublimities. Man imagines the world itself to be overflowing with beauty,—he forgets that he is the cause of it all. He alone has endowed it with beauty. Alas! and only with human all-too-human beauty! Truth to tell man reflects himself in things, he thinks everything beautiful that throws his own image back at him. The judgment "beautiful" is the "vanity of his species." ... A little demon of suspicion may well whisper into the sceptic's ear: is the world really beautified simply because man thinks it beautiful? He has only humanised it—that is all. But nothing, absolutely nothing proves to us that it is precisely man who is the proper model of beauty. Who knows what sort of figure he would cut in the eyes of a higher judge of taste? He might seem a little outr? perhaps even somewhat amusing? perhaps a trifle arbitrary? "O Dionysus, thou divine one, why dost thou pull mine ears?" Ariadne asks on one occasion of her philosophic lover, during one of those famous conversations on the island of Naxos. "I find a sort of humour in thine ears, Ariadne: why are they not a little longer?"

Free Learning Resources