April 6 2009

Origin of the logical.

How did logic come into existence in man’s head? Certainly out of illogic, whose realm originally must have been immense. Innumerable beings who made inferences in a way different from ours perished: for all that, their ways might have been truer! Those, for example, who did not know how to find often enough what is “equal” as regards both nourishment and hostile animals, who subsumed things too slowly and cautiously, were favored with a lesser probability of survival than those who guessed immediately upon encountering similar instances that they must be equal. The dominant tendency, however, to treat as equal what is merely similar, an illogical tendency—for nothing is really equal—is what first created any basis for logic. In order that the concept of substance could originate—which is indispensable for logic although in the strictest sense nothing real corresponds to it—it was likewise necessary that for a long time one did not see nor perceive the changes in things; the beings that did not see so precisely had an advantage over those that saw everything “in flux.” At bottom, every high degree of caution in making inferences and every skeptical tendency constitute a great danger for life. No living beings would have survived if the opposite tendency, to affirm rather than suspend judgment, to err and make up things rather than wait, to assent rather than negate, to pass judgment rather than be just—had not been bred to the point where it became extraordinarily strong.

The course of logical ideas and inferences in our brain today corresponds to a process and a struggle among impulses that are, taken singly, very illogical and unjust; we generally experience only the result of this struggle: this primeval mechanism now runs its course so quickly and is so well concealed.

March 25 2009

Star friendship.

We were friends and have become estranged. But this was right, and we do not want to conceal and obscure it from ourselves as if we had reason to feel ashamed. We are two ships each of which has its goal and course; our paths may cross and we may celebrate a feast together, as we did — and then the good ships rested so quietly in one harbor and one sunshine that it may have looked as if they had reached their goal and as if they had one goal. But then the almighty force of our tasks drove us apart again into different seas and sunny zones, and perhaps we shall never see one another again — perhaps we shall meet again but fail to recognize each other: our exposure to different seas and suns has changed us! That we have to become estranged is the law above us: by the same token we should also become more venerable for each other! And thus the memory of our former friendship should become more sacred! There is probably a tremendous but invisible stellar orbit in which our very different ways and goals may be included as small parts of this path — let us rise up to this thought! But our life is too short and our power of vision too small for us to be more than friends in the sense of this sublime possibility.

Let us then believe in our star friendship even if we should be compelled to be earth enemies.

March 19 2009

What should win our gratitude.

Only artists, and especially those of the theater, have given men eyes and ears to see and hear with some pleasure what each man is himself, experiences himself, desires himself; only they have taught us to esteem the hero that is concealed in everyday characters; only they have taught us the art of viewing ourselves as heroes, from a distance and, as it were, simplified and transfigured—the art of staging and watching ourselves. Only in this way can we deal with some base details in ourselves! Without this art we would be nothing but foreground and live entirely in the spell of that perspective which makes what is closest at hand and most vulgar appear as if it were vast, and reality itself.

Perhaps one should concede a similar merit to the religion that made men see the sinfulness of every single individual through a magnifying glass, turning the sinner into a great, immortal criminal: by surrounding him with eternal perspectives, it taught man to see himself from a distance and as something past and whole.

February 23 2009

Only as creators!

This has given me the greatest trouble and still does: to realize that what things are called is incomparably more important than what they are. The reputation, name, and appearance, the usual measure and weight of a thing, what it counts for—originally almost always wrong and arbitrary, thrown over things like a dress and altogether foreign to their nature and even to their skin—all this grows from generation unto generation, merely because people believe in it, until it gradually grows to be part of the thing and turns into its very body: what at first was appearance becomes in the end, almost invariably, the essence and is effective as such! How foolish it would be to suppose that one only needs to point out this origin and this misty shroud of delusion in order to destroy the world that counts for real, so-called “reality”! We can destroy only as creators!— But let us not forget this either: it is enough to create new names and estimations and probabilities in order to create in the long run new “things.”

February 20 2009

New struggles.

After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave—a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.

And we—we still have to vanquish his shadow, too!

February 18 2009

From Maxims

Merchant and pirate were for a long period one and the same person. Even today mercantile morality is really nothing but a refinement of piratical morality.

February 16 2009


I favor any skepsis to which I may reply: “Let us try it!” But I no longer wish to hear anything of all those things and questions that do not permit any experiment. This is the limit of my “truthfulness”: for there courage has lost its right.

February 15 2009

The intellectual conscience.

I keep having the same experience and keep resisting it every time, I do not want to believe it although it is palpable: the great majority of people lack an intellectual conscience; indeed, it has often seemed to me as if anyone calling for an intellectual conscience were as lonely in the most densely populated cities as if he were in a desert. Everybody looks at you with strange eyes and goes right on handling his scales, calling this good and that evil; nobody even blushes when you intimate that their weights are underweight—nor do people feel outraged: they merely laugh at your doubts. I mean: the great majority of people does not consider it contemptible to believe this or that and to live accordingly, without first having given themselves an account of the final and most certain reasons pro and con, and without even troubling themselves about such reasons afterward—the most gifted men and the noblest women still belong to this “great majority.” But what is goodheartedness, refinement, or genius to me, when the person who has these virtues tolerates slack feelings in his faith and judgments and when he does not account the desire for certainty as his inmost craving and deepest distress—as that which separates the higher human beings from the lower! Among some pious people I have found a hatred of reason and was well disposed to them for that: for this at least betrayed their bad intellectual conscience! But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors [“Discordant concord of things”] and of this whole marvelous uncertainty and rich ambiguity of existence without questioning, without trembling with the craving and the rapture of such questioning, without at least hating the person who questions, perhaps even finding him faintly amusing—that is what I feel to be contemptible, and this is the feeling for which I look first in everybody:—some folly keeps persuading me that every human being has this feeling, simply because he is human. This is my sense of injustice.

February 14 2009

Better deaf than deafened.

Formerly, one wished to acquire fame and be spoken of: now that it is no longer enough because the market has grown too large,—nothing less than screaming will do. As a consequence, even good voices scream till they are hoarse, and the best goods are offered by cracked voices; without the screaming of those who want to sell and without hoarseness there no longer is any genius.

This is surely an evil age for a thinker: he has to learn how to find his silence between two noises and to pretend to be deaf until he really becomes deaf. Until he has learned this, to be sure, he runs the risk of perishing of impatience and headaches.

The greatest weight.

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you in your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again—and you with it, speck of dust!”— Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine!” If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you; the question in each and every thing, “Do you desire this once more, and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?