The Twilight of the Idols - The Antichrist

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"How often conscience had to bite in times gone by! What good teeth it must have had! And to-day, what is amiss?"—A dentist's question.


Errors of haste are seldom committed singly. The first time a man always docs too much. And precisely on that account he commits a second error, and then he does too little.


The trodden worm curls up. This testifies to its caution. It thus reduces its chances of being trodden[Pg 6] upon again. In the language of morality: Humility.—


There is such a thing as a hatred of lies and dissimulation, which is the outcome of a delicate sense of humour; there is also the selfsame hatred but as the result of cowardice, in so far as falsehood is forbidden by Divine law. Too cowardly to lie....


What trifles constitute happiness! The sound of a bagpipe. Without music life would be a mistake. The German imagines even God as a songster.


On ne peut penser et crire qu'assis (G. Flaubert). Here I have got you, you nihilist! A sedentary life is the real sin against the Holy Spirit. Only those thoughts that come by walking have any value.


There are times when we psychologists are like horses, and grow fretful. We see our own shadow rise and fall before us. The psychologist must look away from himself if he wishes to see anything at all.


Do we immoralists injure virtue in any way? Just as little as the anarchists injure royalty. Only since they have been shot at do princes sit firmly on their thrones once more. Moral: morality must be shot at.

[Pg 7]


Thou runnest ahead?—Dost thou do so as a shepherd or as an exception? A third alternative would be the fugitive.... First question of conscience.


Art thou genuine or art thou only an actor? Art thou a representative or the thing represented, itself? Finally, art thou perhaps simply a copy of an actor?... Second question of conscience.


The disappointed man speaks:—I sought for great men, but all I found were the apes of their ideal.


Art thou one who looks on, or one who puts his own shoulder to the wheel?—Or art thou one who looks away, or who turns aside?... Third question of conscience.


Wilt thou go in company, or lead, or go by thyself?... A man should know what he desires, and that he desires something.—Fourth question of conscience.


They were but rungs in my ladder, on them I made my ascent:—to that end I had to go beyond them. But they imagined that I wanted to lay myself to rest upon them.

[Pg 8]


What matters it whether I am acknowledged to be right! I am much too right. And he who laughs best to-day, will also laugh last.


The formula of my happiness: a Yea, a Nay, a straight line, goal....

[1] This is a reference to Seume's poem "Die Gesnge" the first verse of which is:—

"Wo man singet, lass dich ruhig nieder,
Ohne Furcht, was man im Lande glaubt;
Wo man singet, wird kein Mensch beraubt:
Bsewichter haben keine Lieder."

(Wherever people sing thou canst safely settle down without a qualm as to what the general faith of the land may be Wherever people sing, no man is ever robbed; rascals have no songs.) Popular tradition, however, renders the lines thus:—

"Wo man singt, da lass dich ruhig nieder; Base Menschen [evil men] haben keine Lieder."

[Pg 9]



In all ages the wisest have always agreed in their V judgment of life: it is no good. At all times and places the same words have been on their lips,—words full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness of life, full of hostility to life. Even Socrates' dying words were:—"To live—means to be ill a long while: I owe a cock to the god sculapius." Even Socrates had had enough of it. What does that prove? What does it point to? Formerly people would have said (—oh, it has been said, and loudly enough too; by our Pessimists loudest of all!): "In any case there must be some truth in this! The consensus sapientium is a proof of truth."—Shall we say the same to-day? May we do so? "In any case there must be some sickness here," we make reply. These great sages of all periods should first be examined more closely! Is it possible that they were, everyone of them, a little shaky on their legs, effete, rocky, decadent? Does wisdom perhaps appear on earth after the manner of a crow attracted by a slight smell of carrion?


This irreverent belief that the great sages were decadent types, first occurred to me precisely in regard to that case concerning which both learned[Pg 10] and vulgar prejudice was most opposed to my view I recognised Socrates and Plato as symptoms of decline, as instruments in the disintegration of Hellas, as pseudo-Greek, as anti-Greek ("The Birth of Tragedy," 1872). That consensus sapientium, as I perceived ever more and more clearly, did not in the least prove that they were right in the matter on which they agreed. It proved rather that these sages themselves must have been alike in some physiological particular, in order to assume the same negative attitude towards life—in order to be bound to assume that attitude. After all, judgments and valuations of life, whether for or against, cannot be true: their only value lies in the fact that they are symptoms; they can be considered only as symptoms,—per se such judgments are nonsense. You must therefore endeavour by all means to reach out and try to grasp this astonishingly subtle axiom, that the value of life cannot be estimated. A living man cannot do so, because he is a contending party, or rather the very object in the dispute, and not a judge; nor can a dead man estimate it—for other reasons. For a philosopher to see a problem in the value of life, is almost an objection against him, a note of interrogation set against his wisdom—a lack of wisdom. What? Is it possible that all these great sages were not only decadents, but that they were not even wise? Let me however return to the problem of Socrates.


To judge from his origin, Socrates belonged to the lowest of the low: Socrates was mob. You know, and you can still see it for yourself, how ugly[Pg 11] he was. But ugliness, which in itself is an objection, was almost a refutation among the Greeks. Was Socrates really a Greek? Ugliness is not infrequently the expression of thwarted development, or of development arrested by crossing. In other cases it appears as a decadent development. The anthropologists among the criminal specialists declare that I the typical criminal is ugly: monstrum in fronte, monstrum in animo. But the criminal is a decadent?[1] Was Socrates a typical criminal?—At all events this would not clash with that famous physiognomist's judgment which was so repugnant to Socrates' friends. While on his way through Athens a certain foreigner who was no fool at judging by looks, told Socrates to his face that he was a monster, that his body harboured all the worst vices and passions. And Socrates replied simply: "You know me, sir!"—

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