17. metaphysical explanations

Reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Human all too human

Read the introduction here

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

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

The young person appreciates answers coming from the unseen world because they show him something highly significant in things that are unpleasant to him, and if he is dissatisfied with himself it will be easier when he finds likeness between his misery and that of the unseen world. This makes him feel less responsible and in makes it more interesting. Later he will get distrustful of the whole metaphysical method of explanation; then perhaps it grows clear to him that those results can be obtained equally well and more scientifically in another way: that physical and historical explanations produce the feeling of personal relief to at least the same extent as the metaphysical, and that the interest in life and its problems is perhaps still more aroused thereby.

In one sentence:

Answers from the unseen world are less fulfilling than answers from the seen world


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

17.METAPHYSICAL EXPLANATIONS.—The young man values metaphysical explanations, because they show him something highly significant in things which he found unpleasant or despicable, and if he is dissatisfied with himself, the feeling becomes lighter when he recognises the innermost world-puzzle or world-misery in that which he so strongly disapproves of in himself. To feel himself less responsible and at the same time to find things more interesting—that seems to him a double benefit for which he has to thank metaphysics. Later on, certainly, he gets distrustful of the whole metaphysical method of explanation ; then perhaps it grows clear to him that those results can be obtained equally well and more scientifically in another way : that physical and historical explanations produce the feeling of personal relief to at least the same extent, and that the interest in life and its problems is perhaps still more aroused thereby.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Metaphysische Erklärungen. – Der junge Mensch schätzt metaphysische Erklärungen, weil sie ihm in Dingen, welche er unangenehm oder verächtlich fand, etwas höchst Bedeutungsvolles aufweisen: und ist er mit sich unzufrieden, so erleichtert sich diess Gefühl, wenn er das innerste Welträthsel oder Weltelend in dem wiedererkennt, was er so sehr an sich missbilligt. Sich unverantwortlicher fühlen und die Dinge zugleich interessanter finden – das gilt ihm als die doppelte Wohlthat, welche er der Metaphysik verdankt. Später freilich bekommt er Misstrauen gegen die ganze metaphysische Erklärungsart, dann sieht er vielleicht ein, dass jene Wirkungen auf einem anderen Wege eben so gut und wissenschaftlicher zu erreichen sind: dass physische und historische Erklärungen mindestens ebenso sehr jenes Gefühl der Unverantwortlichkeit herbeiführen, und dass jenes Interesse am Leben und seinen Problemen vielleicht noch mehr dabei entflammt wird.

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

 

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