What Nietzsche Taught


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[Pg 45]

II

"Human, All-Too-Human"

Volumes I and II

"Human, All-Too-Human" ("Menschliches Allzu Menschliches") was first published in 1878. Previous to this time Nietzsche had devoted himself to a sedulous study of the French philosophers—Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Vanergues, Montaigne and others—and these men influenced him in his selection of the aphoristic style as a medium for his thoughts. His serious illness at the time made it impossible for him to attempt any large and co-ordinated philosophical task which would have required sustained thinking and continual physical labour, and the detached manner of writing employed by the French thinkers fitted in with the intermittent manner in which he was necessitated to work. "Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions," the second part of "Human, All-Too-Human," appeared the following year; and "The Wanderer and his Shadow," the third section, was made public in 1880. Six years later these three parts were put together in two volumes under the caption of the original book, and were subtitled "A Book of Free Spirits."

At that time Nietzsche already had numerous writings to his credit. "The Birth of Tragedy" ("Die Geburt der Tragdie") was composed between 1869 and 1871, and issued in January, 1872. It was a treatise on pessimism[Pg 46] and Hellenism, and in it Nietzsche endeavoured to ascertain the origin of Greek tragedy. In his research he passed over many of the lesser philological discussions which were then occupying the minds of his academic confrres, and, mild as was this first published work of his, he suddenly found himself the centre of a discussion which augured ill for his future at the University of Ble. In this book he undertook to explain the constant conflict between the Apollonian and Dionysian ideals, and defined the differences underlying these two great influences in Greek art. Later in his writings we find him applying the theories stated in "The Birth of Tragedy" to all human transactions.

"On the Future of our Educational Institutions" and "Homer and Classical Philology," contained in one volume, were addresses delivered during Nietzsche's professorship of classical philology at Ble University. In these lectures he pointed out the necessity of protecting the man of genius, and denied the existence of actual culture in the educational institutions of modern Germany, holding that true culture is only for the higher type of man. He made a plea for an institution where genuine culture, founded on the ideals of ancient Greece, would be harboured for the few who would devote their lives to it. Here unquestionably was the faint beginning of his conception of the superman. While these lectures dealt only with the educational institutions of Germany, the criticisms in them may nevertheless be applied in a broader sense to the general principles underlying all schools. This book is the first visible step in the development of his thought.

More evidences of what was to come later are found in a series of essays written during the early seventies, which[Pg 47] are now published under the general caption of "Early Greek Philosophy and Other Essays." The seven essays contained in this volume are: "The Greek State" (1871), in which he attacked the modern conception of labour, and advanced a brief for slavery based on the assumption that without it true culture cannot exist; "The Greek Woman" (1871), an outline of Nietzsche's ideal of woman; "On Music and Words" (1871), an analysis of the origins of music and language and a statement of the functions of each; "Homer's Contest" (1872), a comparison of the ancient and modern individualistic strife, in which was pointed out the necessity of competition in any successful commonwealth; "The Relation of Schopenhauer's Philosophy to a German Culture" (1872), a gay attack upon certain phases of German philistinism, with the suggestion that Schopenhauer's philosophy would prove an excellent counter-irritant; "Philosophy During the Tragic Age of the Greeks" (1873), a brilliant account and exposition of those Greek thinkers who preceded Socrates; and "On Truth and Falsity in their Ultramoral Sense" (1873), a rhapsodic refutation of the theory of absolute truth, in which we find many denials of the values attached to current conventions. These denials we are constantly meeting in the major part of Nietzsche's later work.

In Volume I of "Thoughts Out of Season" we find two essays: "David Strauss, the Confessor and Writer" (written in 1873), and "Richard Wagner at Bayreuth" (written during the close of 1875 and at the beginning of 1876). The first essay is an attack upon an ex-clerical who set up a philosopher's shop in Nietzsche's day and succeeded in sufficiently inflaming the popular mind to secure for himself a wide and ardent following.[Pg 48] Nietzsche, angered by the effect that Strauss's sophistries had upon the German mind, undertook to answer them and show up their spuriousness. In the essay on Richard Wagner, Nietzsche praised the composer in no uncertain terms, hailing him as a saviour of mankind through the medium of the drama. Nietzsche thought he saw in Wagner a kindred spirit, a man free from the narrow dictates of his time, one capable of establishing a new order of things in the realm of art. Subsequently the philosopher turned against Wagner and denounced him bitterly for his anti-Hellenic tendencies.

Volume II of "Thoughts out of Season" contains "The Use and Abuse of History" and "Schopenhauer as Educator," both written in 1874. In the first of these essays Nietzsche attacked the study of history which was then the foremost educational fad in Germany. He denied it a place in the curriculum of culture unless it had for its foundation a profound knowledge of the causes of history. Also in this essay he made a plea for the individualistic interpretation of history, arguing that the events founded on the activities of majorities are useless to a true understanding of the fundamentals of racial development. Here again we encounter the foreshadowing of the philosophy of the superman. Nietzsche paid high tribute to Schopenhauer in his essay "Schopenhauer as Educator." Without subscribing unqualifiedly to all the doctrines of the great pessimist, he nevertheless allied himself philosophically with Schopenhauer's theory that all logic is an outgrowth of the law of self-preservation.

In the autumn of 1874 Nietzsche wrote a series of brief comments dealing with the subject of education. These paragraphs contain about 20,000 words, and were to have constituted, when completed, the fifth part of[Pg 49] "Thoughts Out of Season." He never finished them, however, and they were not published until after his death. These fragments appear, under the caption of "We Philologists," at the end of the volume entitled "The Case of Wagner." "We Philologists" is a protest against the manner in which classical culture was promulgated in the universities. It offers a stinging criticism of those German professors, the philologists, to whom was entrusted the duty of disseminating Greek cultural ideals, and in addition presents a concise outline of what genuine Hellenic culture should consist. Nietzsche protests against the filtering of pagan antiquity through Christian doctrines—the method of teaching then in vogue—and insists that such a form of education entirely misses its aim. Although "We Philologists" is comparatively of small value to the student of Nietzsche's later philosophy, it is interesting to note that as early as 1874, his anti-Christian spirit was already well defined.

The four essays contained in the two volumes of "Thoughts out of Season" and "We Philologists" were the first of an intended series of pamphlets to be called "Unzeitgemsse Betrachtungen"[1] but the series was never finished. However, the Nietzschean philosophical ideas had unquestionably begun to take definite form. Already there had been attempts at idealistic and moralistic valuations. There had also been a considerable amount of that preliminary analysis which was to form a foundation for the destructive and constructive thoughts of later years. In these essays Nietzsche had already begun to strike his bearings, and while they cannot be taken as a part of his philosophical scheme, they nevertheless form an excellent introduction for those students who[Pg 50] care to go behind the final expression of his ideas and behold them in embryo.



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