Human, All Too Human - Friedrich Nietzsche - ebook

The book is Nietzsche's first in the aphoristic style that would come to dominate his writings, discussing a variety of concepts in short paragraphs or sayings. Reflecting an admiration of Voltaire as a free thinker, but also a break in his friendship with composer Richard Wagner two years earlier.

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Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche


All Too Human

New Edition





New Edition

Published by The Big Nest

This Edition first published in 2015

Copyright © 2015 The Big Nest

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Often enough, and always with great consternation, people have told me that there is something distinctive in all my writings, from The Birth of Tragedy to the most recently published Prologue to a Philosophy of the Future2. All of them, I have been told, contain snares and nets for careless birds, and an almost constant, unperceived challenge to reverse one’s habitual estimations and esteemed habits. “What’s that? Everything is only—human, all too human?” With such a sigh one comes from my writings, they say, with a kind of wariness and distrust even toward morality, indeed tempted and encouraged in no small way to become the spokesman for the worst things: might they perhaps be only the best slandered? My writings have been called a School for Suspicion, even more for Contempt, fortunately also for Courage and, in fact, for Daring. Truly, I myself do not believe that anyone has ever looked into the world with such deep suspicion, and not only as an occasional devil’s advocate, but every bit as much, to speak theologically, as an enemy and challenger of God. Whoever guesses something of the consequences of any deep suspicion, something of the chills and fears stemming from isolation, to which every man burdened with an unconditional difference of viewpoint is condemned, this person will understand how often I tried to take shelter somewhere, to recover from myself, as if to forget myself entirely for a time (in some sort of reverence, or enmity, or scholarliness, or frivolity, or stupidity); and he will also understand why, when I could not find what I needed, I had to gain it by force artificially, to counterfeit it, or create it poetically. (And what have poets ever done otherwise? And why else do we have all the art in the world?) What I always needed most to cure and restore myself, however, was the belief that I was not the only one to be thus, to see thus—I needed the enchanting intuition of kinship and equality in the eye and in desire, repose in a trusted friendship; I needed a shared blindness, with no suspicion or question marks, a pleasure in foregrounds, surfaces, what is near, what is nearest, in everything that has color, skin, appearance. Perhaps one could accuse me in this regard of some sort of “art,” various sorts of finer counterfeiting: for example, that I had deliberately and willfully closed my eyes to Schopenhauer’s blind will to morality,3 at a time when I was already clear-sighted enough about morality; similarly, that I had deceived myself about Richard Wagner’s incurable romanticism,4 as if it were a beginning and not an end; similarly, about the Greeks; similarly about the Germans and their future—and there might be a whole long list of such Similarly’s. But even if this all were true and I were accused of it with good reason, what do you know, what could you know about the amount of self-preserving cunning, of reason and higher protection that is contained in such self-deception—and how much falseness I still require so that I may keep permitting myself the luxury of my truthfulness?

Enough, I am still alive; and life has not been devised by morality: it wants deception, it lives on deception—but wouldn’t you know it? Here I am, beginning again, doing what I have always done, the old immoralist and birdcatcher, I am speaking immorally, extra-morally, “beyond good and evil:”

1. In the place of this preface to the 1886 edition, the 1878 edition of Human All Too Human included a quotation from René Descartes’s Discourse on Method

2. The Birth Of Tragedy was published in 1872, Prologue to a Philosophy of the Future is the subtitle of Beyond Good and Evil, published in 1886

3. In “Schopenhauer as Educator”(1874). For Nietzsche’s later response to Schopenhauer’s blind will to morality, see especially Aphorism 39.

4. In “Richard Wagner in Bayreuth”(1876) : for Nietzsche’s later response to Wagner’s art see especially Aphorisms 164, 165, 215, 219

Thus I invented, when I needed them, the “free spirits”5 too, to whom this heavyhearted – stouthearted6 book with the title “Human, All Too Human” is dedicated. There are no such “free spirits,” were none—but, as I said, I needed their company at the time, to be of good cheer in the midst of bad things (illness, isolation, foreignness, sloth, inactivity); as brave fellows and specters to chat and laugh with, when one feels like chatting and laughing, and whom one sends to hell when they get boring—as reparation for lacking friends. That there could someday be such free spirits, that our Europe will have such lively, daring fellows among its sons of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, real and palpable and not merely, as in my case, phantoms and a hermit’s shadow play: I am the last person to want to doubt that. I already see them coming, slowly, slowly; and perhaps I am doing something to hasten their coming when I describe before the fact the fateful conditions that I see giving rise to them, the paths on which I see them coming?

5. die “freien Geister”

6. schwermütig-mutig

It may be conjectured that the decisive event for a spirit in whom the type of the “free spirit” is one day to ripen to sweet perfection has been a great separation,7 and that before it, he was probably all the more a bound spirit, and seemed to be chained forever to his corner, to his post. What binds most firmly? Which cords can almost not be torn? With men of a high and select type, it will be their obligations: that awe which befits the young, their diffidence and delicacy before all that is time-honored and dignified, their gratitude for the ground out of which they grew, for the hand that led them, for the shrine where they learned to worship—their own highest moments will bind them most firmly and oblige them most lastingly. For such bound people the great separation comes suddenly, like the shock of an earthquake: all at once the young soul is devastated, torn loose, torn out—it itself does not know what is happening. An urge, a pressure governs it, mastering the soul like a command: the will and wish awaken to go away, anywhere, at any cost: a violent, dangerous curiosity for an undiscovered world flames up and flickers in all the senses. “Better to die than live here,” so sounds the imperious and seductive voice. And this “here,” this “at home” is everything which it had loved until then! A sudden horror and suspicion of that which it loved; a lightning flash of contempt toward that which was its “obligation”; a rebellious, despotic, volcanically jolting desire to roam abroad, to become alienated, cool, sober, icy: a hatred of love, perhaps a desecratory reaching and glancing backward, to where it had until then worshiped and loved; perhaps a blush of shame at its most recent act, and at the same time, jubilation that it was done; a drunken, inner, jubilant shudder, which betrays a victory-a victory? over what? over whom? a puzzling, questioning, questionable victory, but the first victory nevertheless: such bad and painful things are part of the history of the great separation. It is also a disease that can destroy man, this first outburst of strength and will to self-determination, self-valorization, this will to free will: and how much disease is expressed by the wild attempts and peculiarities with which the freed man, the separated man, now tries to prove his rule over things! He wanders about savagely with an unsatisfied lust; his booty must atone for the dangerous tension of his pride; he rips apart what attracts him.8 With an evil laugh he overturns what he finds concealed, spared until then by some shame; he investigates how these things look if they are overturned. There is some arbitrariness and pleasure in arbitrariness to it, if he then perhaps directs his favor to that which previously stood in disrepute—if he creeps curiously and enticingly around what is most forbidden. Behind his ranging activity (for he is journeying restlessly and aimlessly, as in a desert) stands the question mark of an ever more dangerous curiosity. “Cannot all values be overturned? And is Good perhaps Evil? And God only an invention, a nicety of the devil? Is everything perhaps ultimately false? And if we are deceived, are we not for that very reason also deceivers? Must we not be deceivers, too?” Such thoughts lead and mislead9 him, always further onward, always further away. Loneliness surrounds him, curls round him, ever more threatening, strangling, heart-constricting, that fearful goddess and mater saeva cupidinum10—but who today knows what loneliness is?

7. Loslösung

8. er zerreist was ihn reitzt

9. führen und verführen ihn

10. wild mother of the passions

It is still a long way from this morbid isolation, from the desert of these experimental years, to that enormous, overflowing certainty and health which cannot do without even illness itself, as an instrument and fishhook of knowledge; to that mature freedom of the spirit which is fully as much self-mastery and discipline of the heart, and which permits paths to many opposing ways of thought. It is a long way to the inner spaciousness and cosseting of a superabundance which precludes the danger that the spirit might lose itself on its own paths and fall in love and stay put, intoxicated, in some nook; a long way to that. excess of vivid healing, reproducing, reviving powers, the very sign of great health, an excess that gives the free spirit the dangerous privilege of being permitted to live experimentally and to offer himself to adventure: the privilege of the master free spirit! In between may lie long years of convalescence, years full of multicolored, painful magical transformations, governed and led by a tough will to health which already often dares to dress and disguise11 itself as health. There is a middle point on the way, which a man having such a fate cannot remember later without being moved: a pale, fine light and sunny happiness are characteristic of it, a feeling of a birdlike freedom, birdlike perspective, birdlike arrogance, some third thing in which curiosity and a tender contempt are united. A “free spirit”—this cool term is soothing in that state, almost warming. No longer chained down by hatred and love, one lives without Yes, without No, voluntarily near, voluntarily far, most preferably slipping away, avoiding, fluttering on, gone again, flying upward again; one is spoiled, like anyone who has ever seen an enormous multiplicity beneath him—and one becomes the antithesis of those who trouble themselves about things that do not concern them. Indeed, now the free spirit concerns himself only with things (and how many there are!) which no longer trouble him.

11. zu kleiden und zu verkleiden

Another step onward in convalescence. The free spirit again approaches life, slowly, of course, almost recalcitrantly, almost suspiciously. It grows warmer around him again, yellower, as it were; feeling and fellow-feeling gain depth; mild breezes of all kinds pass over him. He almost feels as if his eyes were only now open to what is near. He is amazed and sits motionless: where had he been, then? These near and nearest things, how they seem to him transformed! What magical fluff they have acquired in the meantime! He glances backward gratefully—grateful to his travels, to his severity and self-alienation, to his far-off glances and bird flights into cold heights. How good that he did not stay “at home,” “with himself” the whole time, like a dull, pampered loafer! He was beside himself: there is no doubt about that. Only now does he see himself—and what surprises he finds there! What untried terrors! What happiness even in weariness, in the old illness, in the convalescent’s relapses! How he likes to sit still, suffering, spinning patience, or to lie in the sun! Who understands as he does the happiness of winter, the sun spots on the wall! They are the most grateful animals in the world, the most modest, too, these convalescents and squirrels, turned halfway back to life again—there are those among them who let no day pass without hanging a little song of praise on its trailing hem. And to speak seriously, all pessimism (the inveterate evil of old idealists and liars, as we know) is thoroughly cured by falling ill in the way these free spirits do, staying ill for a good while, and then, for even longer, even longer, becoming healthy—I mean “healthier.” There is wisdom, practical wisdom in it, when over a long period of time even health itself is administered only in small doses.

About that time it may finally happen, among the sudden illuminations of a still turbulent, still changeable state of health, that the free spirit, ever freer, begins to unveil the mystery of that great separation which until then had waited impenetrable, questionable, almost unapproachable in his memory. Perhaps for a long time he hardly dared ask himself, “Why so apart, so alone? Renouncing everything I admired, even admiration? Why this severity, this suspicion, this hatred of one’s own virtues?” But now he dares to ask it loudly, and already hears something like an answer. “You had to become your own master, and also the master of your own virtues. Previously, your virtues were your masters; but they must be nothing more than your tools, along with your other tools. You had to gain power over your For and Against, and learn how to hang them out or take them in, according to your higher purpose. You had to learn that all estimations have a perspective, to learn the displacement, distortion, apparent teleology of horizons, and whatever else is part of perspective; also the bit of stupidity in regard to opposite values and all the intellectual damage that every For or Against exacts in payment. You had to learn to grasp the necessary injustice in every For and Against; to grasp that injustice is inseparable from life, that life itself is determined by perspective and its injustice. Above all you had to see clearly wherever injustice is greatest, where life is developed least, most narrowly, meagerly, rudimentarily, and yet cannot help taking itself as the purpose and measure of things, and for the sake of its preservation picking at and questioning secretly and pettily and incessantly what is higher, greater, and richer. You had to see clearly the problem of hierarchy, and how power and justice and breadth of perspective grow upward together. You had to—.” Enough, now the free spirit knows which “thou shalt” he has obeyed, and also what he now can do, what he only now is permitted to do.

That is how the free spirit answers himself about that mystery of separation and he ends by generalizing his case, to decide thus about his experience. “As it happened to me,” he tells himself, “so must it happen to everyone in whom a task wants to take form and `come into the world.”’ The secret power and necessity of this task will hold sway within and among his various destinies like an unsuspected pregnancy, long before he has looked the task itself in the eye or knows its name. Our destiny commands us, even when we do not yet know what it is; it is the future which gives the rule to our present. Granted that it is the problem of hierarchy which we may call our problem, we free spirits; only now, in the noonday of our lives, do we understand what preparations, detours, trials, temptations, disguises, were needed before the problem was permitted to rise up before us. We understand how we first had to experience the most numerous and contradictory conditions of misery and happiness in our bodies and souls, as adventurers and circumnavigators of that inner world which is called “human being,” as surveyors of every “higher” and “one above the other” which is likewise called “human being,” penetrating everywhere, almost without fear, scorning nothing, losing nothing, savoring everything, cleaning and virtually straining off everything of the coincidental—until we finally could say, we free spirits: “Here is a new problem! Here is a long ladder on whose rungs we ourselves have sat and climbed, and which we ourselves were at one time! Here is a Higher, a Deeper, a Below-us, an enormous long ordering, a hierarchy which we see: here—is our problem!”

No psychologist or soothsayer will have a moment’s difficulty in discovering at which place in the development sketched out above the present book belongs (or is placed). But where are there psychologists today? In France, certainly; perhaps in Russia; surely not in Germany. There are sufficient reasons for which the present-day Germans could esteem it an honor to be such; bad enough for a person who is constituted and has become un-German in this respect! This German book, which has known how to find its readers in a wide circle of countries and peoples (it has been on the road for approximately ten years), which must understand some kind of music and flute playing to seduce even unreceptive foreign ears to listen—precisely in Germany has this book been read most negligently, heard most poorly. What is the cause? “It demands too much,” has been the reply, “it addresses itself to men who do not know the hardship of crude obligations; it demands fine, cosseted senses; it needs superfluity, superfluity of time, of bright heavens and hearts, of otium12 in the boldest sense—all good things which we Germans of today do not have and therefore cannot give.” After such a polite answer, my philosophy counsels me to be silent and inquire no further, especially since in certain cases, as the saying suggests, one remains a philosopher only by—being silent.13

12. leisure

13. A reference to the medieval Latin distich: “o si tacuisses/ Philosophus mansisses.”

Nice, Spring, 1886.




Chemistry of concepts and feelings. In almost all respects, philosophical problems today are again formulated as they were two thousand years ago: how can something arise from its opposite—for example, reason from unreason, sensation from the lifeless, logic from the illogical, disinterested contemplation from covetous desire, altruism from egoism, truth from error? Until now, metaphysical philosophy has overcome this difficulty by denying the origin of the one from the other, and by assuming for the more highly valued things some miraculous origin, directly from out of the heart and essence of the “thing in itself.”2 Historical philosophy, on the other hand, the very youngest of all philosophical methods, which can no longer be even conceived of as separate from the natural sciences, has determined in isolated cases (and will probably conclude in all of them) that they are not opposites, only exaggerated to be so by the popular or metaphysical view, and that this opposition is based on an error of reason. As historical philosophy explains it, there exists, strictly considered, neither a selfless act nor a completely disinterested observation: both are merely sublimations. In them the basic element appears to be virtually dispersed and proves to be present only to the most careful observer.

All we need, something which can be given us only now, with the various sciences at their present level of achievement, is a chemistry of moral, religious, aesthetic ideas and feelings, a chemistry of all those impulses that we ourselves experience in the great and small interactions of culture and society, indeed even in solitude. What if this chemistry might end with the conclusion that, even here, the most glorious colors are extracted from base, even despised substances? Are there many who will want to pursue such investigations? Mankind loves to put the questions of origin and beginnings out of mind: must one not be almost inhuman to feel in himself the opposite inclination?

1. “Last Things” (die letzten Dinge) refers to eschatology.

2. Ding an sich: the thing in itself, in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781), refers to the existent as it exists independently of our knowledge; a noumenon, a thing of the mind rather than of the senses; that which a thing is when there is no human perception of it, i.e., when it is in “essence” rather than in “appearance.”


Congenital defect of philosophers. All philosophers suffer from the same defect, in that they start with present-day man and think they can arrive at their goal by analyzing him. Instinctively they let “man” hover before them as an aeterna veritas,3 something unchanging in all turmoil, a secure measure of things. But everything the philosopher asserts about man is basically no more than a statement about man within a very limited time span. A lack of historical sense is the congenital defect of all philosophers. Some unwittingly even take the most recent form of man, as it developed under the imprint of certain religions or even certain political events, as the fixed form from which one must proceed. They will not understand that man has evolved, that the faculty of knowledge has also evolved, while some of them even permit themselves to spin the whole world from out of this faculty of knowledge.

Now, everything essential in human development occurred in primeval times, long before those four thousand years with which we are more or less familiar. Man probably hasn’t changed much more in these years. But the philosopher sees “instincts” in present-day man, and assumes that they belong to the unchangeable facts of human nature, that they can, to that extent, provide a key to the understanding of the world in general. This entire teleology is predicated on the ability to speak about man of the last four thousand years as if he were eternal, the natural direction of all things in the world from the beginning. But everything has evolved; there are no eternal facts, nor are there any absolute truths. Thus historical philosophizing is necessary henceforth, and the virtue of modesty as well.

3. eternal truth


Esteeming humble truths. It is the sign of a higher culture to esteem more highly the little, humble truths, those discovered by a strict method, rather than the gladdening and dazzling errors that originate in metaphysical and artistic ages and men. At first, one has scorn on his lips for humble truths, as if they could offer no match for the others: they stand so modest, simple, sober, even apparently discouraging, while the other truths are so beautiful, splendid, enchanting, or even enrapturing. But truths that are hard won, certain, enduring, and therefore still of consequence for all further knowledge are the higher; to keep to them is manly, and shows bravery, simplicity, restraint. Eventually, not only the individual, but all mankind will be elevated to this manliness, when men finally grow accustomed to the greater esteem for durable, lasting knowledge and have lost all belief in inspiration and a seemingly miraculous communication of truths.

The admirers of forms,4 with their standard of beauty and sublimity, will, to be sure, have good reason to mock at first, when esteem for humble truths and the scientific spirit first comes to rule, but only because either their eye has not yet been opened to the charm of the simplest form, or because men raised in that spirit have not yet been fully and inwardly permeated by it, so that they continue thoughtlessly to imitate old forms (and poorly, too, like someone who no longer really cares about the matter). Previously, the mind was not obliged to think rigorously; its importance lay in spinning out symbols and forms. That has changed; that importance of symbols has become the sign of lower culture. Just as our very arts are becoming ever more intellectual and our senses more spiritual, and as, for example, that which is sensually pleasant to the ear is judged quite differently now than a hundred years ago, so the forms of our life become ever more spiritual—to the eye of older times uglier, perhaps, but only because it is unable to see how the realm of internal, spiritual beauty is continually deepening and expanding, and to what extent a glance full of intelligence can mean more to all of us now than the most beautiful human body and the most sublime edifice.

4. Artists and aesthetes, as opposed to scientists.


Astrology and the like. It is probable that the objects of religious, moral, and aesthetic sensibility likewise belong only to the surface of things, although man likes to believe that here at least he is touching the heart of the world. Because those things make him so deeply happy or unhappy, he deceives himself, and shows the same pride as astrology, which thinks the heavens revolve around the fate of man. The moral man, however, presumes that that which is essential to his heart must also be the heart and essence of all things.


Misunderstanding dreams. In ages of crude, primordial cultures, man thought he could come to know a second real world in dreams: this is the origin of all metaphysics. Without dreams man would have found no occasion to divide the world. The separation into body and soul is also connected to the oldest views about dreams, as is the assumption of a spiritual apparition5 that is, the origin of all belief in ghosts, and probably also in gods. “The dead man lives on, because he appears to the living man in dreams.” So man concluded formerly, throughout many thousands of years.

5. Seelenscheinleib, Nietzsche’s neologism.


The scientific spirit is powerful in the part, not in the whole. The distinct, smallest fields of science are treated purely objectively. On the other hand, the general, great sciences, taken as a whole, pose the question (a very unobjective question, to be sure): what for? to what benefit? Because of this concern about benefit, men treat the sciences less impersonally as a whole than in their parts. Now, in philosophy—the top of the whole scientific pyramid—the question of the benefit of knowledge itself is posed automatically and each philosophy has the unconscious intention of ascribing to knowledge the greatest benefit. For this reason, all philosophies have so much high-flying metaphysics and so much wariness of the seemingly insignificant explanations of physics. For the importance of knowledge for life ought to appear as great as possible. Here we have the antagonism between individual scientific fields and philosophy. The latter, like art, wishes to render the greatest possible depth and meaning to life and activity. In the sciences, one seeks knowledge and nothing more—whatever the consequences may be. Until now, there has been no philosopher in whose hands philosophy has not become an apology for knowledge. In this way, at least, every one is an optimist, by thinking that knowledge must be accorded the highest usefulness. All philosophers are tyrannized by logic: and logic, by its nature, is optimism.


The troublemaker in science. Philosophy divorced itself from science when it inquired which knowledge of the world and life could help man to live most happily. This occurred in the Socratic schools: out of a concern for happiness man tied off the veins of scientific investigation-and does so still today.


Pneumatic explanation of nature. Metaphysics explains nature’s scriptures as if pneumatically, the way the church and its scholars used to explain the Bible. It takes a lot of intelligence to apply to nature the same kind of strict interpretive art that philologists today have created for all books: with the intention simply to understand what the scripture wants to say, but not to sniff out, or even presume, a double meaning. Just as we have by no means overcome bad interpretive art in regard to books, and one still comes upon vestiges of allegorical and mystical interpretation in the best-educated society, so it stands too in regard to nature—in fact much worse.


Metaphysical world. It is true, there might be a metaphysical world; one can hardly dispute the absolute possibility of it. We see all things by means of our human head, and cannot chop it off, though it remains to wonder what would be left of the world if indeed it had been cut off. This is a purely scientific problem, and not very suited to cause men worry. But all that has produced metaphysical assumptions and made them valuable, horrible, pleasurable to men thus far is passion, error, and self-deception. The very worst methods of knowledge, not the very best, have taught us to believe in them. When one has disclosed these methods to be the foundation of all existing religions and metaphysical systems, one has refuted them. That other possibility still remains, but we cannot begin to do anything with it, let alone allow our happiness, salvation, and life to depend on the spider webs of such a possibility. For there is nothing at all we could state about the metaphysical world except its differentness, a differentness inaccessible and incomprehensible to us. It would be a thing with negative qualities.

No matter how well proven the existence of such a world might be, it would still hold true that the knowledge of it would be the most inconsequential of all knowledge, even more inconsequential than the knowledge of the chemical analysis of water must be to the boatman facing a storm.


The harmlessness of metaphysics in the future. As soon as the origins of religion, art, and morality have been described, so that one can explain them fully without resorting to the use of metaphysical intervention at the beginning and along the way, then one no longer has as strong an interest in the purely theoretical problem of the “thing in itself” and “appearance..”6 For however the case may be, religion, art, and morality do not enable us to touch the “essence of the world in itself.” We are in the realm of idea,7 no “intuition”8 can carry us further. With complete calm we will let physiology and the ontogeny of organisms and concepts determine how our image of the world can be so very different from the disclosed essence of the world.

6. Erscheinung (see n.2 to this section).

7. Vorstellung. Often translated as “representation.” Schopenhauer himself used “idea.”.

8. A reference to Schopenhauer.


Language as an alleged science. The importance of language for the development of culture lies in the fact that, in language, man juxtaposed to the one world another world of his own, a place which he thought so sturdy that from it he could move the rest of the world from its foundations and make himself lord over it. To the extent that he believed over long periods of time in the concepts and names of things as if they were aeternae veritates,9 man has acquired that pride by which he has raised himself above the animals: he really did believe that in language he had knowledge of the world. 10 The shaper of language was not so modest as to think that he was only giving things labels; rather, he imagined that he was expressing the highest knowledge of things with words; and in fact, language is the first stage of scientific effort. Here, too, it is the belief in found truth from which the mightiest sources of strength have flowed. Very belatedly (only now) is it dawning on men that in their belief in language they have propagated a monstrous error. Fortunately, it is too late to be able to revoke the development of reason, which rests on that belief.

Logic, too, rests on assumptions that do not correspond to anything in the real world, e.g., on the assumption of the equality of things, the identity of the same thing at different points of time; but this science arose from the opposite belief (that there were indeed such things in the real world). So it is with mathematics, which would certainly not have originated if it had been known from the beginning that there is no exactly straight line in nature, no real circle, no absolute measure.

9. eternal truths

10. Cf. Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense” (1873)


Dream and culture. Memory is that function of the brain which is most greatly impaired by sleep—not that it relaxes entirely, but it is brought back to a state of imperfection, as it might have been in everyone, when awake and by day, during mankind’s primeval age. 11 Arbitrary and confused as it is, it continually mistakes things on the basis of the most superficial similarities; but it was the same arbitrariness and confusion with which the tribes composed their mythologies, and even now travelers regularly observe how greatly the savage inclines to forgetfulness, how, after he strains his memory briefly, his mind begins to stagger about, and he produces lies and nonsense simply because he is weary. But all of us are like the savage when we dream. Faulty recognitions and mistaken equations are the basis of the poor conclusions which we are guilty of making in dreams, so that when we recollect a dream clearly, we are frightened of ourselves, because we harbor so much foolishness within.

The utter clarity of all dream-ideas, which presupposes an unconditional belief in their reality, reminds us once again of the state of earlier mankind in which hallucinations were extraordinarily frequent, and sometimes seized whole communities, whole nations simultaneously. Thus, in our sleep and dreams, we go through the work of earlier mankind once more.

11. Cf. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams. In an addendum to the fifth edition of this work 1919 Freud refers to Nietzsche’s concept of the dream as a means to knowledge of man’s archaic heritage, “of what is psychically innate in him.” (Standard Edition, V, p 549).


The logic of dreams. When we sleep, our nervous system is continually stimulated by various inner causes: almost all the organs secrete and are active; the blood circulates turbulently; the sleeper’s position presses certain limbs; his blankets influence sensation in various ways; the stomach digests and disturbs other organs with its movements; the intestines turn; the placement of the head occasions unusual positions of the muscles; the feet, without shoes, their soles not pressing on the floor, cause a feeling of unusualness, as does the different way the whole body is clothed after its daily change and variation, all of this strangeness stimulates the entire system, including even the brain function. And so there are a hundred occasions for the mind to be amazed, and to seek reasons for this stimulation. It is the dream which seeks and imagines the causes for those stimulated feelings—that is, the alleged causes. The man who ties two straps around his feet, for example, may dream that two snakes are winding about his feet. This is at first a hypothesis, then a belief, accompanied by a pictorial idea and elaboration: “These snakes must be the causa12 of that feeling which I, the sleeper, am having”-thus judges the mind of the sleeper. The stimulated imagination turns the recent past, disclosed in this way, into the present. Everyone knows from experience how fast the dreamer can incorporate into his dream a loud sound he hears, bell ringing, for example, or cannon fire, how he can explain it after the fact from his dream, so that he believes he is experiencing first the occasioning factors, and then that sound’13

But how is it that the mind of the dreamer always errs so greatly, while the same mind awake tends to be so sober, careful, and skeptical about hypotheses? Why does he think the first best hypothesis that explains a feeling is enough to believe in it at once? (For when dreaming, we believe in the dream as if it were reality; that is, we take our hypothesis for fully proven.)

I think that man still draws conclusions in his dreams as mankind once did in a waking state, through many thousands of years: the first causa which occurred to the mind to explain something that needed explaining sufficed and was taken for truth. (According to the tales of travelers, savages proceed this way even today.) This old aspect of humanity lives on in us in our dreams, for it is the basis upon which higher reason developed, and is still developing, in every human: the dream restores us to distant states of human culture and gives us a means by which to understand them better. Dream-thought14 is so easy for us now because, during mankind’s immense periods of development, we have been so well drilled in just this form of fantastic and cheap explanation from the first, best idea. In this way dreaming is recuperation for a brain which must satisfy by day the stricter demands made on thought by higher culture.

A related occurrence when we are awake can be viewed as a virtual gate and antechamber to the dream. If we close our eyes, the brain produces a multitude of impressions of light and colors, probably as a kind of postlude and echo to all those effects of light which penetrate it by day. Now, however, our reason (in league with imagination) immediately works these plays of color, formless in themselves, into definite figures, forms, landscapes, moving groups. Once again, the actual process is a kind of conclusion from the effect to the cause; as the mind inquires about the origin of these light impressions and colors, it assumes those figures and shapes to be the cause. They seem to be the occasion of those colors and lights, because the mind is used to finding an occasioning cause for every color and every light impression it receives by day, with eyes open. Here, then, the imagination keeps pushing images upon the mind, using in their production the visual impressions of the day—and this is precisely what dream imagination does. That is, the supposed cause is deduced from the effect and imagined after the effect. All this with an extraordinary speed, so that, as with a conjurer, judgment becomes confused, and a sequence can appear to be a synchronism, or even a reversed sequence.

We can infer from these processes, how late a more acute logical thinking, a rigorous application of cause and effect, developed; even now, our functions of reason and intelligence reach back instinctively to those primitive forms of deductions, and we live more or less half our lives in this state. The poet, too, the artist, attributes his moods and states to causes that are in no way the true ones; to this extent he reminds us of an older mankind, and can help us to understand it.

12. cause

13. Cf Freud, Interpretation of Dreams (Standard Edition) V, pp. 23-30.

14. Das Traumdenken.


Resonance. All intense moods bring with them a resonance of related feelings and moods; they seem to stir up memory. Something in us remembers and becomes aware of similar states and their origin. Thus habitual, rapid associations of feelings and thoughts are formed, which, when they follow with lightning speed upon one another, are eventually no longer felt as complexes, but rather as unities. In this sense, one speaks of moral feelings, religious feelings, as if they were all unities; in truth they are rivers with a hundred sources and tributaries. As is so often the case, the unity of the word does not guarantee the unity of the thing.


No inside and outside in the world. Just as Democritus15 applied the concepts of above and below to infinite space, where they have no meaning, so philosophers in general apply the concept “inside and outside” to the essence and appearance of the world. They think that with deep feelings man penetrates deep into the inside, approaches the heart of nature. But these feelings are deep only to the extent that they regularly stimulate, almost imperceptibly, certain complicated groups of thoughts, which we call deep. A feeling is deep because we hold the accompanying thought to be deep. But the deep thought can nevertheless be very far from the truth, as is, for example, every metaphysical thought. If one subtracts the added elements of thought from the deep feeling, what remains is intense feeling, which guarantees nothing at all about knowledge except itself, just as strong belief proves only its own strength, not the truth of what is believed.

15. Greek philosopher, 460?-370? B.C.


Appearance and the thing-in-itself. Philosophers tend to confront life and experience (what they call the world of appearance) as they would a painting that has been revealed once and for all, depicting with unchanging constancy the same event. They think they must interpret this event correctly in order to conclude something about the essence which produced the painting, that is, about the thing-in-itself, which always tends to be regarded as the sufficient reason16 for the world of appearance. Conversely, stricter logicians, after they had rigorously established the concept of the metaphysical as the concept of that which is unconditioned and consequently unconditioning, denied any connection between the unconditioned (the metaphysical world) and the world we are familiar with. So that the thing-in-itself does not appear in the world of appearances, and any conclusion about the former on the basis of the latter must be rejected. 17 But both sides overlook the possibility that that painting—that which to us men means life and experience—has gradually evolved, indeed is still evolving, and therefore should not be considered a fixed quantity, on which basis a conclusion about the creator (the sufficient reason) may be made, or even rejected. Because for thousands of years we have been looking at the world with moral, aesthetic, and religious claims, with blind inclination, passion, or fear, and have indulged ourselves fully in the bad habits of illogical thought, this world has gradually become so strangely colorful, frightful, profound, soulful; it has acquired color, but we have been the painters: the human intellect allowed appearance to appear, and projected its mistaken conceptions onto the things. Only late, very late, does the intellect stop to think: and now the world of experience and the thing-in-itself seem so extraordinarily different and separate that it rejects any conclusion about the latter from the former, or else, in an awful, mysterious way, it demands the abandonment of our intellect, of our personal will in order to come to the essential by becoming essential.18 On the other hand, other people have gathered together all characteristic traits of our world of appearances (that is, our inherited idea of the world, spun out of intellectual errors) and, instead of accusing the intellect, have attacked the essence of things for causing this real, very uncanny character of the world, and have preached salvation from being. 19

The steady and arduous progress of science, which will ultimately celebrate its greatest triumph in an ontogeny of thought, will deal decisively with all these views. Its conclusion might perhaps end up with this tenet: That which we now call the world is the result of a number of errors and fantasies, which came about gradually in the overall development of organic beings, fusing with one another, and now handed down to us as a collected treasure of our entire past—a treasure: for the value of our humanity rests upon it. From this world of idea strict science can, in fact, release us only to a small extent (something we by no means desire), in that it is unable to break significantly the power of ancient habits of feeling. But it can illuminate, quite gradually, step by step, the history of the origin of that world as idea—and lift us, for moments at least, above the whole process. Perhaps we will recognize then that the thing-in-itself deserves a Homeric laugh 20 in that it seemed to be so much, indeed everything, and is actually empty, that is, empty of meaning.

16. Ontological principle that every existent, every objective reality, has a ground of existence (Critique of Pure Reason A201 A783, B246, B811 ). Thus, that the metaphysical world is the explanation of the existence of the world of appearances. Schopenhauer’s earliest essay (1813) is “The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.” Cf. E. F. J. Payne’s translation (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court Publishing Co., 1974).

17. A reference to Kant.

18. wesenhaft

19 A reference to Schopenhauer.

20. A loud, inexhaustible laugh; cf. Iliad 1.599, or Odyssey 7.326, 20.346.


Metaphysical explanations. A young person appreciates metaphysical explanations because they show him something highly meaningful in matters he found unpleasant or despicable. If he is dissatisfied with himself, his feeling is relieved if he can recognize in that which he so disapproves of in himself the innermost riddle of the world or its misery. To feel less responsible, and at the same time to find things more interesting: that is the twofold benefit which he owes to metaphysics. Later, of course, he comes to distrust the whole method of metaphysical explanation; then perhaps he understands that those same effects are to be obtained just as well and more scientifically in another way; he understands that physical and historical explanations bring about at least as much that feeling of irresponsibility, and that his interest in life and its problems is kindled perhaps even more thereby.


Basic questions of metaphysics. Once the ontogeny of thought is written, the following sentence by an excellent logician will be seen in a new light: “The original general law of the knowing subject consists in the inner necessity of knowing each object in itself, in its own being, as an object identical with itself, that is, self-existing and fundamentally always the same and unchangeable, in short, as a substance.” 21 This law, too, which is here called “original,” also evolved. Some day the gradual origin of this tendency in lower organisms will be shown, how the dull mole’s eyes of these organizations at first see everything as identical; how then, when the various stimuli of pleasure and unpleasure become more noticeable, different substances are gradually distinguished, but each one with One attribute, that is, with one single relationship to such an organism.

The first stage of logic is judgment, whose essence consists, as the best logicians have determined, in belief. All belief is based on the feeling of pleasure or pain in relation to the feeling subject. A new, third feeling as the result of two preceding feelings is judgment in its lowest form.

Initially, we organic beings have no interest in a thing, other than in its relationship to us with regard to pleasure and pain. Between those moments in which we become aware of this relationship (i.e., the states of sensation) lie those states of quiet, of non-sensation. Then we find the world and every thing in it without interest; we notice no change in it (just as even now, a person who is intensely interested in something will not notice that someone is passing by him). To a plant, all things are normally quiet, eternal, each thing identical to itself. From the period of low organisms, man has inherited the belief that there are identical things (only experience which has been educated by the highest science contradicts this tenet). From the beginning, the first belief of all organic beings may be that the whole rest of the world is One and unmoved.

In that first stage of logic, the thought of causality is furthest removed. Even now, we believe fundamentally that all feelings and actions are acts of free will; when the feeling individual considers himself, he takes each feeling, each change, to be something isolated, that is, something unconditioned, without a context. It rises up out of us, with no connection to anything earlier or later. We are hungry, but do not think initially that the organism wants to be kept alive. Rather, that feeling seems to assert itself without reason or purpose; it isolates itself and takes itself to be arbitrary. Thus the belief in freedom of the will is an initial error of all organic beings, as old as the existence in them of stirrings of logic. Belief in unconditioned substances and identical things is likewise an old, original error of all that is organic. To the extent that all metaphysics has dealt primarily with substance and freedom of the will, however, one may characterize it as that science which deals with the basic errors of man—but as if they were basic truths.

21. From Afrikan Spir, Denken and Wirklichkeit (Thought and Reality) (Leipzig, 1873), which Nietzsche read in Basel in the year of its publication.


The number. The laws of numbers were invented on the basis of the initially prevailing error that there are various identical things (but actually there is nothing identical) or at least that there are things (but there is no “thing”). The assumption of multiplicity always presumes that there is something, which occurs repeatedly. But this is just where error rules; even here, we invent entities, unities, that do not exist.

Our feelings of space and time are false, for if they are tested rigorously, they lead to logical contradictions. Whenever we establish something scientifically, we are inevitably always reckoning with some incorrect quantities; but because these quantities are at least constant (as is, for example, our feeling of time and space), the results of science do acquire a perfect strictness and certainty in their relationship to each other. One can continue to build upon them—up to that final analysis, where the mistaken basic assumptions, those constant errors, come into contradiction with the results, for example, in atomic theory. There we still feel ourselves forced to assume a “thing” or a material “substratum” that is moved, while the entire scientific procedure has pursued the task of dissolving everything thing-like (material) into movements. Here, too, our feeling distinguishes that which is moving from that which is moved, and we do not come out of this circle, because the belief in things has been tied up with our essential nature from time immemorial.22

To a world that is not our idea, the laws of numbers are completely inapplicable: they are valid only in the human world.

22. Besides Democritus, Nietzsche also mentions the work of Empedocles (5th c. B.C.) and Anaxagoras (500-428 B.C.) in connection with these problems (cf. Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, par. 14 ).

23. Kant, Prolegomena, par. 36.


A few rungs down. One level of education, itself a very high one, has been reached when man gets beyond superstitious and religious concepts and fears and, for example, no longer believes in the heavenly angels or original sin, and has stopped talking about the soul’s salvation. Once he is at this level of liberation, he must still make a last intense effort to overcome metaphysics. Then, however, a retrograde movement is necessary: he must understand both the historical and the psychological justification in metaphysical ideas. He must recognize how mankind’s greatest advancement came from them and how, if one did not take this retrograde step, one would rob himself of mankind’s finest accomplishments to date.

With regard to philosophical metaphysics, I now see a number of people who have arrived at the negative goal (that all positive metaphysics is an error), but only a few who climb back down a few rungs. For one should look out over the last rung of the ladder, but not want to stand on it. Those who are most enlightened can go only as far as to free themselves of metaphysics and look back on it with superiority, while here, as in the hippodrome, it is necessary to take a turn at the end of the track.


Presumed triumph of skepticism. Let us accept for the moment the skeptical starting point: assuming there were no other, metaphysical world and that we could not use any metaphysical explanations of the only world known to us, how would we then look upon men and things? One can imagine this; it is useful to do so, even if one were to reject the question of whether Kant and Schopenhauer proved anything metaphysical scientifically. For according to historical probability, it is quite likely that men at some time will become skeptical about this whole subject. So one must ask the question: how will human society take shape under the influence of such an attitude? Perhaps the scientific proof of any metaphysical world is itself so difficult that mankind can no longer keep from distrusting it. And if one is distrustful of metaphysics, then we have, generally speaking, the same consequences as if metaphysics had been directly refuted and one were no longer permitted to believe in it. The historical question about mankind’s unmetaphysical views remains the same in either case.


Disbelief in the “monumentum aere perennius.” 24 One crucial disadvantage about the end of metaphysical views is that the individual looks his own short life span too squarely in the eye and feels no strong incentives to build on enduring institutions, designed for the ages. He wants to pick the fruit from the tree he has planted himself, and therefore no longer likes to plant those trees which require regular care over centuries, trees that are destined to overshade long successions of generations. For metaphysical views lead one to believe that they offer the conclusive foundation upon which all future generations are henceforth obliged to settle and build. The individual is furthering his salvation when he endows a church, for example, or a monastery; he thinks it will be credited to him and repaid in his soul’s eternal afterlife; it is work on the eternal salvation of his soul.

Can science, too, awaken such a belief in its results? To be sure, its truest allies must be doubt and distrust. Nevertheless, the sum of indisputable truths, which outlast all storms of skepticism and all disintegration, can in time become so large (in the dietetics of health, for example), that one can decide on that basis to found “eternal” works. In the meanwhile, the contrast between our excited ephemeral existence and the long-winded quiet of metaphysical ages is still too strong, because the two ages are still too close to each other; the individual runs through too many inner and outer evolutions himself to dare to set himself up permanently, once and for all, for even the span of his own life. When a wholly modern man intends, for example, to build a house, he has a feeling as if he were walling himself up alive in a mausoleum.

24.. “a monument more enduring than brass” from Horace, Odes 3.30. 1.