Day 617

Day 617-1

“Just to love! She did not ask to be loved. It was rapture enough just to sit there beside him in silence, alone in the summer night in the white splendor of moonshine, with the wind blowing down on them out of the pine woods.”

L.M. Montgomery,

23. The age of comparison.

Reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Human all too human

Read the introduction here

You can read the aphorism I discuss here in English and German below the main article.

Synopsis, quote from the translation by Helen Zimmern and my take on it.

The less man is influenced by tradition, the more internal movement his motives make Tradition stifles mankind and unfocused their motives. and as a consequence, you have their outward restlessness and the confused fluidity of mankind, the polyphony2 of strivings. The more unfocused, the more confused they behave. Who wants to bind himself to one place? With tradition gone you are free to move and choose. As all styles of arts are imitated simultaneously, so also are all grades and kinds of morality, of customs, of cultures.  Now different cultures can live together and not like before separated because of the localized sway of every culture, corresponding to the rooting of all artistic styles in place and time. Because more people mix together, their cultures also mix. Now that it is all here, ready to compare with each other the best esthetics, customs and moralities, this competition will crush the lesser ones. It is the age of comparison! In this mix the cultures compare with each other and the better cultures will push aside the lesser cultures. That is its pride, but more justly also its grief. Let us not be afraid of this grief! Rather will we comprehend as adequately as possible the task our age sets us: The better cultures can be proud but should also grief. The future cultures will know they are better than the old enclosed cultures and the culture of comparison, but which looks back with gratitude on both kinds of culture as upon antiquities worthy of veneration. Future cultures will look back at the old mono-cultures and the newer “comparative” culture as valuable memories.

In one sentence:

Future cultures will appreciate the long lost global culture that came from mono-cultures

1A style of musical composition employing two or more simultaneous but relatively independent melodic lines.


Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I translated by Helen Zimmern 1909

  1. THE AGE OF COMPARISON.—The less men are fettered by tradition, the greater becomes the inward activity of their motives ; the greater, again, in proportion thereto, the outward restlessness, the confused flux of mankind, the polyphony of strivings. For whom is there still an absolute compulsion to bind himself and his descendants to one place ? For whom is there still anything strictly compulsory? As all styles of arts are imitated simultaneously, so also are all grades and kinds of morality, of customs, of cultures. Such an age obtains its importance because in it the various views of the world, customs, and cultures can be compared and experienced simultaneously,—which was formerly not possible with the always localised sway of every culture, corresponding to the rooting of all artistic styles in place and time. An increased æsthetic feeling will now at last decide amongst so many forms presenting themselves for comparison; it will allow the greater number, that is to say all those rejected by it, to die out. In the same way a selection amongst the forms and customs of the higher moralities is taking place, of which the aim can be nothing else than the downfall of the lower moralities. It is the age of comparison ! That is its pride, but more justly also its grief. Let us not be afraid of this grief! Rather will we comprehend as adequately as possible the task our age sets us : posterity will bless us for doing so,—a posterity which knows itself to be as much above the terminated original national cultures as above the culture of comparison, but which looks back with gratitude on both kinds of culture as upon antiquities worthy of veneration.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Zeitalter der Vergleichung. – je weniger die Menschen durch das Herkommen gebunden sind, um so grösser wird die innere Bewegung der Motive, um so grösser wiederum, dem entsprechend, die äussere Unruhe, das Durcheinanderfluten der Menschen, die Polyphonie der Bestrebungen. Für wen giebt es jetzt noch einen strengeren Zwang, an einen Ort sich und seine Nachkommen anzubinden? Für wen giebt es überhaupt noch etwas streng Bindendes? Wie alle Stilarten der Künste neben einander nachgebildet werden, so auch alle Stufen und Arten der Moralität, der Sitten, der Culturen. – Ein solches Zeitalter bekommt seine Bedeutung dadurch, dass in ihm die verschiedenen Weltbetrachtungen, Sitten, Culturen verglichen und neben einander durchlebt werden können; was früher, bei der immer localisirten Herrschaft jeder Cultur, nicht möglich war, entsprechend der Gebundenheit aller künstlerischen Stilarten an Ort und Zeit. Jetzt wird eine Vermehrung des ästhetischen Gefühls endgültig unter so vielen der Vergleichung sich darbietenden Formen entscheiden: sie wird die meisten, – nämlich alle, welche durch dasselbe abgewiesen werden, – absterben lassen. Ebenso findet jetzt ein Auswählen in den Formen und Gewohnheiten der höheren Sittlichkeit statt, deren Ziel kein anderes, als der Untergang der niedrigeren Sittlichkeiten sein kann. Es ist das Zeitalter der Vergleichung! Das ist sein Stolz, – aber billigerweise auch sein Leiden. Fürchten wir uns vor diesem Leiden nicht! Vielmehr wollen wir die Aufgabe, welche das Zeitalter uns stellt, so gross verstehen, als wir nur vermögen: so wird uns die Nachwelt darob segnen, – eine Nachwelt, die ebenso sich über die abgeschlossenen originalen Volks-Culturen hinaus weiss, als über die Cultur der Vergleichung, aber auf beide Arten der Cultur als auf verehrungswürdige Alterthümer mit Dankbarkeit zurückblickt.

Sources:

I will read a Dutch translation that is based on the work of researchers Colli and Montinari. I also use a translation from R.J.Hollingdale and the Gary Handwerk translation from the Colli-Montinari edition. Both are more modern than the copyright free translation I use here. This is a translation from 1909 by Helen Zimmern, who knew Nietzsche personally, but there was no critical study of Nietzsche’s work done back then and this translation suffers from that. The same goes for the translation from Alexander Harvey. My German is not good enough to pretend that I can translate it better than the professionals do but I will use the original as a referee.

  1. Menselijk al te menselijk een boek voor vrije geesten, translated by Thomas Graftdijk, 2000. Buy it here
  2. Human, all too human a book for free spirits, translated by R.J.Hollingdale, 1986
  3. Human, all too human a book for free spirits I V3, translated by Gary handwerk 1997
  4. Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I, translated by Helen Zimmern 1909. Read it  here
  5. Human, all too human a book for free spirits, translated by Alexander Harvey, 1908. Read it here
  6. Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80. Read it here

 

22. Unbelief in the “monumentumære perennius”

Reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Human all too human

Read the introduction here

You can read the aphorism I discuss here in English and German below the main article.

Synopsis, quote from the translation by Helen Zimmern and my take on it.

Unbelief in the “monumentumære perennius” 1When mankind no longer has a metaphysical view of life it will lose interest in doing anything lasting and for later generations. Metaphysic views bring him in contact with something lasting and starting a church, for instance, will bring his soul eternal life. Can science also arouse such faith in its results? Science needs no faith but distrust. But lasting scientific truth may have become so great… that one may determine to found thereupon “eternal” works. For the present the contrast between our excited ephemeral2 existence and the long-winded rest of metaphysical ages is still too strong, because they exist too close together. The individual goes through too many inward and outward developments to settle down. He has a feeling as if he were going to immure himself alive in a mausoleum.

In one sentence:

The scientific age stretches and stresses the metaphysical mind.

1 A monument more lasting than bronze.

2 short-live


Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I translated by Helen Zimmern 1909

  1. UNBELIEF IN THE “MONUMENTUM ÆRE PERENNIUS”—An actual drawback which accompanies the cessation of metaphysical views lies in the fact that the individual looks upon his short span of life too exclusively and receives no stronger incentives to build durable institutions intended to last for centuries,—he himself wishes to pluck the fruit from the tree which he plants, and therefore he no longer plants those trees which require regular care for centuries, and which are destined to afford shade to a long series of generations. For metaphysical views furnish the belief that in them the last conclusive foundation has been given, upon which henceforth all the future of mankind is compelled to settle down and establish itself; the individual furthers his salvation, when, for instance, he founds a church or convent, he thinks it will be reckoned to him and recompensed to him in the eternal life of the soul, it is work for the soul’s eternal salvation. Can science also arouse such faith in its results ? As a matter of fact, it needs doubt and distrust as its most faithful auxiliaries ; nevertheless in the course of time, the sum of inviolable truths—those, namely, which have weathered all the storms of scepticism, and all destructive analysis—may have become so great (in the regimen of health, for instance), that one may determine to found thereupon “eternal” works. For the present the contrast between our excited ephemeral existence and the long-winded repose of metaphysical ages still operates too strongly, because the two ages still stand too closely together ; the individual man himself now goes through too many inward and outward developments for him to venture to arrange his own lifetime permanently, and once and for all. An entirely modern man, for instance, who is going to build himself a house, has a feeling as if he were going to immure himself alive in a mausoleum.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Unglaube an das “monumentum aere perennius”. – Ein wesentlicher Nachtheil, welchen das Aufhören metaphysischer Ansichten mit sich bringt, liegt darin, dass das Individuum zu streng seine kurze Lebenszeit in’s Auge fasst und keine stärkeren Antriebe empfängt, an dauerhaften, für Jahrhunderte angelegten Institutionen zu bauen; es will die Frucht selbst vom Baume pflücken, den es pflanzt, und desshalb mag es jene Bäume nicht mehr pflanzen, welche eine Jahrhundert lange gleichmässige Pflege erfordern und welche lange Reihenfolgen von Geschlechtern zu überschatten bestimmt sind. Denn metaphysische Ansichten geben den Glauben, dass in ihnen das letzte endgültige Fundament gegeben sei, auf welchem sich nunmehr alle Zukunft der Menschheit niederzulassen und anzubauen genöthigt sei; der Einzelne fördert sein Heil, wenn er zum Beispiel eine Kirche, ein Kloster stiftet, es wird ihm, so meint er, im ewigen Fortleben der Seele angerechnet und vergolten, es ist Arbeit am ewigen Heil der Seele. – Kann die Wissenschaft auch solchen Glauben an ihre Resultate erwecken? In der That braucht sie den Zweifel und das Misstrauen als treuesten Bundesgenossen; trotzdem kann mit der Zeit die Summe der unantastbaren, das heisst alle Stürme der Skepsis, alle Zersetzungen überdauernden Wahrheiten so gross werden (zum Beispiel in der Diätetik der Gesundheit), dass man sich daraufhin entschliesst, “ewige” Werke zu gründen. Einstweilen wirkt der Contrast unseres aufgeregten Ephemeren-Daseins gegen die langathmige Ruhe metaphysischer Zeitalter noch zu stark, weil die beiden Zeiten noch zu nahe gestellt sind; der einzelne Mensch selber durchläuft jetzt zu viele innere und äussere Entwickelungen, als dass er auch nur auf seine eigene Lebenszeit sich dauerhaft und ein für alle Mal einzurichten wagt. Ein ganz moderner Mensch, der sich zum Beispiel ein Haus bauen will, hat dabei ein Gefühl, als ob er bei lebendigem Leibe sich in ein Mausoleum vermauern wolle.

Sources:

I will read a Dutch translation that is based on the work of researchers Colli and Montinari. I also use a translation from R.J.Hollingdale and the Gary Handwerk translation from the Colli-Montinari edition. Both are more modern than the copyright free translation I use here. This is a translation from 1909 by Helen Zimmern, who knew Nietzsche personally, but there was no critical study of Nietzsche’s work done back then and this translation suffers from that. The same goes for the translation from Alexander Harvey. My German is not good enough to pretend that I can translate it better than the professionals do but I will use the original as a referee.

  1. Menselijk al te menselijk een boek voor vrije geesten, translated by Thomas Graftdijk, 2000. Buy it here
  2. Human, all too human a book for free spirits, translated by R.J.Hollingdale, 1986
  3. Human, all too human a book for free spirits I V3, translated by Gary handwerk 1997
  4. Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I, translated by Helen Zimmern 1909. Read it  here
  5. Human, all too human a book for free spirits, translated by Alexander Harvey, 1908. Read it here
  6. Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80. Read it here

 

Why’er

You bend
Round
what is straight
Down

You’re cold
Steel
It is plain
Flat

You don’t
Weight
What is the same
Depressed

You’re mine
Gold
It is simple
Grounded

Wire-1

Wire-2

Wire-3

Wire-4

Wire-5

Day 616

Day 616-1

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Wallace Stevens

The problem of democracy

Day 281-1

There is only democracy because we have no answer to the question of how we should govern ourselves.  The people that govern us are following the whims of the constituent and hence steer the boat erratically across the sea of time, every now and then catching a wave from the side. The only thing that keeps order in this imaginary boat is the relative order in the steer house, not every sailor gets a swing at the big wheel, and even a drunken skipper can be sent to their quarters.

After 1945, most prosperous nations are democracies. Before the war there were also democracies, but the chosen leaders were often granted more power. Its often said that Hitler came to power by democratic means, but his takeover of the government and consequently becoming a dictator is for the most part due to the system behind their democracy. Their system let him strategically move around his opponents and even let him use a law that gave him basically dictatorial powers. In Germany the inconsistent behavior of the voters where not the biggest cause for the rise to power of Hitler, the long tentacles of their peculiar history provided a system of government that allowed the rise of authoritarian rulers. England has a better history in this regard and it’s not surprising that the voters over there kicked their war winning prime minister (Churchill) on the curbs without causing a problem when the power had to be handed over.

A definition of democracy is that the power lies with the people. Most of the times this power is given to a representative, of the people, and from there a whole system is built made out of ministers, prime ministers, senators, parliaments and more. This system works, more or less, as a mood stabilizer, dampening the worst decision of the constituency. The different representatives can decide not to work with a racist party, even if they get a sizable part of the votes. But the people that vote still contribute to the main direction the country is going despite of the stabilizing power of the legislative and executive power.

Even more important than the stabilizing effect of the legislative and executive power for our fortune is the separation of powers or simply said: the agreement amongst citizens that prevent their ruler from ignoring or making laws that are made by the citizens. This system is developed in the 18th century where a king could still make laws, and order the police and judges what to do with these laws. They slowly moved to a separate entity for law making (legislative Power), and even the king had to obey these laws.  The judges became also independent (judicative Power), so they were free to interpret the laws and were no longer ordered on how to interpret them. Later these potentates became a symbolic head of state or were replaced by something less ancient and their power was more formally divided between the Legislative Power (parliament, normally in two chambers), executive Power (government and administration) and judicative Power (courts of justice)

This separation of power takes more direct influence away from the people in so far the main direction of the country is concerned.  There are some fundamental laws in each country that cannot be change by a simple majority vote like for example the constitution in America. So, together with our governmental system they ensure a certain stability for the long term. But for the short term we still have these ridiculous elections where the direction of a country is often determent by a minority that cannot make up their mind, a majority of the voters stay with their side for a long time.

It is not easy to come up with a better system. I have never studied politics, the things I say about democracy and the separation of power should be common knowledge, and I don’t pretend to know all the nuances. My problem is not this system we’ve built but the question of how you resolve differences of opinion. Giving everybody a vote is one way to solve a dispute but there are some questions where this can be dangerous. In a debate there are a lot of questions that you can answer with your opinion, for example birth control. There are no hard facts for or against it, your subjective feeling should decide your answer and in a democratic society each individual can decide if they want to use birth control and no law should be made enforcing or withholding it. But debating about the health risks of smoking is another story, there are too many hard facts about the negative effects of it. Forbidding people from smoking in certain places is no problem because it affects other people and its accepted that it is harmful towards others. But a law that forbids people from smoking is not good because the negative effects of smoking only effects the smoker, and in a democracy, we should be allowed to be boss over your own body. We can agree on these two I hope but with the next example, climate change, it gets more difficult. With climate change we also have an overwhelming amount of evidence, like with smoking, but not allowing cigarettes in a bar takes away some freedom, most people understand the reasons why. It took more than 60 years before the risks of smoking were finally accepted to a point that lawmakers could make some laws prohibiting smoking in certain places and labeling cigarettes with warnings. Imagine if these laws were enacted, 60 years ago, because scientist recommended it and the voters believed them. Countless people would have been saved from unnecessary painful deaths. The same problem we have now with climate change where political motivated opinions prevent us from taking strong and necessary actions. People are easy persuaded by warnings that their gasoline will be more expensive, and their freedom taken away, things that touch people directly, so they think. You have a problem when you debate a climate change denier, they more or less deny the science that they also rely on when they go to the hospital or drive a car. It is not rational, and as long as their grandfather hasn’t died of climate change related illnesses they will probably not change their mind. Like with the birth control example, you cannot say that it is just a matter of opinion because there are facts.

With climate change you touch a sore point in our democracy. The people that know, the scientist, say: go there. But the people that are in power, the voters, don’t necessarily understand why, and are easily persuaded to choose a goal not so far away. Why would I pay for something I will not benefit from…I don’t care about the world my children have to live in.  The voter and their representatives can debate a lot about  birth control, and as long as no one forbids either birth control or the beliefs against it there is no problem but for the things that matter, like climate change, democracy is a bad system.

In my fantasy democratic system, in a galaxy far, far away, there are no elections. The people have to write an essay, starting when they are 15, and repeat it every 5 years. In that essay they have to tell about their dreams, likes, dislikes, point of view and whatever makes their stance in life clear. Everybody does that every 5 years of their life, this way you have a constant stream of opinions that the government can use to steer their decision making with. In an ideal world some kind of artificial intelligence would read all of these letters and come up with some kind of guideline. In this system everybody has an equal vote, there are good reasons for this, you’ll get in shady waters if you give a philosopher, who writes a 50 pages essay more say than someone who just manages to fill 1 page. The effort is important, even if your level of motivation might be determined by your genes, you have to draw the line somewhere. These essays follow some rules of course, like a minimum length, and it has to show an understanding of the arguments and not a summary of someone else’s ideas, something a A.I. can simply find out.

This society offers, of course, free lessons on every level and in every field of science necessary to make a good essay, filled with well thought out arguments, to ensure a good functioning democracy…maybe we should start with this last part.

Stars

the stars

Stars

The stars are glowing their distance into my imagination.

O could I… O could I go there, please fall.

Fall down to me o distance, you star.

Your incentive of unlimited fantasy, you star.

Please fall down to me, I cannot fall to you.

Please come to me and let me wish.

Let me wish to be there, be you.

Let me glow and be distance.

Let my falling down give hope.

Let me shine amongst billions and shine my lite to millions.

Let me reach out to other worlds.

Where they look up and wonder why.

Why is that star, that star over there, glowing so bright.

So fulfilled in this night here down under the stars.

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