2. Inherited faults of philosophers

You can read the aphorism  I discuss here below the main article.

Synopsis and my take on it:

Nietzsche begins with writing that “all philosophers” look upon man as “aeterna veritas” or eternal truth and unchangeable, but they only use a limited timeframe to define man. Some philosophers define man by recent developments like religion and political events. But man has evolved, including their understanding of things. Philosophers still see the instincts of humans as unalterable facts and key to the understanding of the world, but everything essential in human evolution took place ages ago, before our written history. Think of our “lizard brain combined with the aphorism 1. Nietzsche goes on by writing that they, the philosophers, speak of man since they started writing as unaltered or “eternal man”. And then follows a famous quote “Yet everything evolved: there are no eternal facts as there are no absolute truths.” In the light of this aphorism it seems to me that he speaks of man not fixt but ever changing despite he also pointed out thateverything essential in the development of mankind took place in primeval times, long before the four thousand years we more or less know about” hinting at a more stable beginning lingering on, in us.

In one sentence:

Man’s being cannot be fixed in time or connected to an event and identified with it.

Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I, translated by Helen Zimmern 1914

2. INHERITED FAULTS OF PHILOSOPHERS.—All philosophers have the common fault that they start from man in his present state and hope to attain their end by an analysis of him. Unconsciously they look upon ” man ” as an aeterna veritas(eternal truth), as a thing unchangeable in all commotion, as a sure measure of things. Everything the philosopher has declared about man is, however, at bottom no more than a testimony as to the man of a very limited period of time. Lack of historical sense is the family failing of all philosophers; many, without being aware of it, even take the most recent manifestation of man, such as has arisen under the impress of certain religions, even certain political events, as the fixed form from which one has to start out. They will not learn that man has become, that the faculty of cognition has become; while some of them would have it that the whole world is spun out of this faculty of cognition. Now, everything essential in the development of mankind took place in primeval times, long before the four thousand years we more or less know about; during these years mankind may well not have altered very much. But the philosopher here sees “instincts” in man as he now is and assumes that these belong to the unalterable facts of mankind and to that extent could provide a key to the understanding of the world in general: the whole of teleology is constructed by speaking of the man of the last four millennia as of an eternal man towards whom all things in the world have had a natural relationship from the time he began. But everything has become: there are no eternal facts, just as there are no absolute truths. Consequently what is needed from now on is historical philosophizing, and with it the virtue of modesty.

Menschliches allzumenschlich 1878/80

2. Erbfehler der Philosophen. – Alle Philosophen haben den gemeinsamen Fehler an sich, dass sie vom gegenwärtigen Menschen ausgehen und durch eine Analyse desselben an’s Ziel zu kommen meinen. Unwillkürlich schwebt ihnen “der Mensch” als eine aeterna veritas, als ein Gleichbleibendes in allem Strudel, als ein sicheres Maass der Dinge vor. Alles, was der Philosoph über den Menschen aussagt, ist aber im Grunde nicht mehr, als ein Zeugniss über den Menschen eines sehr beschränkten Zeitraumes. Mangel an historischem Sinn ist der Erbfehler aller Philosophen; manche sogar nehmen unversehens die allerjüngste Gestaltung des Menschen, wie eine solche unter dem Eindruck bestimmter Religionen, ja bestimmter politischer Ereignisse entstanden ist, als die feste Form, von der man ausgehen müsse. Sie wollen nicht lernen, dass der Mensch geworden ist, dass auch das Erkenntnissvermögen geworden ist; während Einige von ihnen sogar die ganze Welt aus diesem Erkenntnissvermögen sich herausspinnen lassen. – Nun ist alles Wesentliche der menschlichen Entwickelung in Urzeiten vor sich gegangen, lange vor jenen vier tausend Jahren, die wir ungefähr kennen; in diesen mag sich der Mensch nicht viel mehr verändert haben. Da sieht aber der Philosoph “Instincte” am gegenwärtigen Menschen und nimmt an, dass diese zu den unveränderlichen Thatsachen des Menschen gehören und insofern einen Schüssel zum Verständniss der Welt überhaupt abgeben können; die ganze Teleologie ist darauf gebaut, dass man vom Menschen der letzten vier Jahrtausende als von einem ewigen redet, zu welchem hin alle Dinge in der Welt von ihrem Anbeginne eine natürliche Richtung haben. Alles aber ist geworden; es giebt keine ewigen Thatsachen: sowie es keine absoluten Wahrheiten giebt. – Demnach ist das historische Philosophiren von jetzt ab nöthig und mit ihm die Tugend der Bescheidung.


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



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