The Twilight of the Idols - The Antichrist

Page 44 of 51


Formerly it was thought that unlimited energy was a necessary corollary to unlimited activity in time, and that this energy could be exhausted by no form of consumption. Now it is thought that energy remains constant and docs not require to be infinite. It is eternally active but it is no longer able eternally to create new forms, it must repeat itself: that is my conclusion.


An incalculable number of complete states of energy have existed, but these have not been infinitely different: for if they had been, unlimited energy would have been necessary. The energy of the universe can only have a given number of possible qualities.


The endless evolution of new forms is a contradiction, for it would imply eternally increasing energy. But whence would it grow? Whence would it derive its nourishment and its surplus of nourishment?[Pg 239] The assumption that the universe is an organism contradicts the very essence of the organic.


In what principle and belief is that decisive turning point in philosophical thought best expressed which has come into being thanks to the preponderance of the scientific spirit over the religious and God-creating one? We insist upon the fact that the world as a sum of energy must not be regarded as unlimited—we forbid ourselves the concept infinite energy, because it seems incompatible with the concept energy.


An unlimited number of new changes and states on the part of limited energy is a contradiction, however extensive one may imagine it to be, and however economical the changes may be, provided it is infinite. We are therefore forced to conclude: (1) either that the universe began its activity at a given moment of time and will end in a similar fashion,—but the beginning of activity is absurd; if a state of equilibrium had been reached it would have persisted to all eternity; (2) Or there is no such thing as an endless number of changes, but a circle consisting of a definite number of them which continually recurs: activity is eternal, the number of the products and states of energy is limited.


If all the possible combinations and relations of forces had not already been exhausted, then an infinity would not yet lie behind us. Now since[Pg 240] infinite time must be assumed, no fresh possibility can exist and everything must have appeared already, and moreover an infinite number of times.


The present world of forces leads back to a state of greatest simplicity in these forces: it likewise leads forwards to such a state,—cannot and must not both states be identical? No incalculable number of states can evolve out of a system of limited forces, that is to say, out of a given quantity of energy which may be precisely measured. Only when we falsely assume that space is unlimited, and that therefore energy gradually becomes dissipated, can the final state be an unproductive and lifeless one.


First principles.—The last physical state of energy which we can imagine must necessarily be the first also. The absorption of energy in latent energy must be the cause of the production of the most vital energy. For a highly positive state must follow a negative state Space like matter is a subjective form, time is not. The notion of space first arose from the assumption that space could be empty. But there is no such thing as empty space. Everything is energy.

We cannot think of that which moves and that which is moved together, but both these things constitute matter and space. We isolate.


Concerning the resurrection of the world.—Out[Pg 241] of two negatives, when they are forces, a positive arises. (Darkness comes of light opposed to light, cold arises from warmth opposed to warmth, &c., &c.)


An uncertain state of equilibrium occurs just as seldom in nature as two absolutely equal triangles. Consequently anything like a static state of energy in general is impossible. If stability were possible it would already have been reached.


Either complete equilibrium must in itself be an impossibility, or the changes of energy introduce themselves in the circular process before that equilibrium which is in itself possible has appeared.—But it would be madness to ascribe a feeling of self-preservation to existence! And the same applies to the conception of a contest of pain and pleasure among atoms.


Physics supposes that energy may be divided up: but every one of its possibilities must first be adjusted to reality. There can therefore be no question of dividing energy into equal parts; in every one of its states it manifests a certain quality, and qualities cannot be subdivided: hence a state of equilibrium in energy is impossible.


If energy had ever reached a stage of equilibrium that stage would have persisted: it has therefore[Pg 242] never reached such a stage. The present condition of things contradicts this assumption. If we assume that there has ever been a state absolutely like the present one this assumption is in no wise refuted by the present state. For, among all the endless possibilities, this case must already have occurred, as an infinity is already behind us. If equilibrium were possible it would already have been reached.—And if this momentary state has already existed then that which bore it and the previous one also would likewise have existed and so on backwards,—and from this it follows that it has already existed not only twice but three times,—just as it will exist again not only twice but three times,—in fact an infinite number of times backwards and forwards. That is to say, the whole process of Becoming consists of a repetition of a definite number of precisely similar states.—Clearly the human brain cannot be left to imagine the whole series of possibilities: but in any case, quite apart from our ability to judge or our inability to conceive the whole range of possibilities, the present state at least is a possible one—because it is a real one. We should therefore say: in the event of the number of possibilities not being infinite, and assuming that in the course of unlimited time a limited number of these must appear, all real states must have been preceded by similar states? Because from every given moment a whole infinity is to be calculated backwards? The stability of forces and their equilibrium is a possible alternative: but it has not been reached; consequently the number of possibilities is greater than the number of real states. The fact that nothing similar recurs could[Pg 243] not be explained by appealing to accident, but only by supposing that a certain intention, that no similar things should recur, were actually inherent in the essence of energy: for, if we grant that the number of cases is enormous, the occurrence of like cases is more probable than absolute disparity.


Let us think backwards a moment If the world had a goal, this goal must have been reached: if a certain (unintentional) final state existed for the world, this state also would have been reached. If it were in any way capable of a stationary or stable condition, and if in the whole course of its existence only one second of Being, in the strict sense of the word, had been possible, then there could no longer be such a process as evolution, and therefore no thinking and no observing of such a process. If on the other hand the world were something which continually renovated itself, it would then be understood to be something miraculous and free to create itself—in fact something divine. Eternal renovation presupposes that energy voluntarily increases itself, that it not only has the intention, but also the power, to avoid repeating itself or to avoid returning into a previous form, and that every instant it adjusts itself in every one of its movements to prevent such a contingency,—or that it was incapable of returning to a state it had already passed through. That would mean that the whole sum of energy was not constant, any more than its attributes were But a sum of energy which would be inconstant and which would fluctuate is quite unthinkable Let us not indulge[Pg 244] our fancy any longer with unthinkable things in order to fall once more before the concept of a Creator (multiplication out of nothing, reduction out of nothing, absolute arbitrariness and freedom in growth and in qualities):—

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