18.Fundamental questions of metaphysics

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 history of thoughts will contain a statement by a famous logician1 and it will be seen in new light: “The primordial general law of the cognizant knowing subject consists in the inner necessity of recognizing every object in itself in its own nature, as a thing identical with itself, consequently self-existing and at bottom remaining ever the same and unchangeable: in short, in recognizing everything as a substance.” Everything that thinks needs to see the others whole, not changing, its identity from itself.  Even this law came from somewhere and one day it will be shown how in lower organisms this came to be. These organisms see first one thing and then they see more but only with one quality at a time or one relation to it. Our ancestors see only one, stand alone, quality at a time The first step in logic is the judgment, the nature of which, according to the decision of the best logicians, consists in belief. At the bottom of all belief lies the sensation of the pleasant or the painful in relation to the sentient subject. In logic you first have judgment which comes from belief which comes from pleasant or painful sensations. We organic beings have originally no interest in anything but its relation to us in connection with pleasure and pain. We are interested in the feelings our interactions with others bring, we are not interested in the other.  Between moments we have a feeling and notice this, lie moments of rest, of non-feeling; the world and everything is then without interest for us, we notice no change in it (as even now a deeply interested person does not notice when any one passes him). When we have a feeling, and are aware of it, all other inputs are blocked. From the period of the lower organism’s man has inherited the belief that similar things exist (this theory is only contradicted by the matured experience of the most advanced science). Humans inherited from lower beings the belief that similar things exist2. The primordial belief of everything organic from the beginning is perhaps even this, that all the rest of the world is one and immovable. From the believe in similar thing stems the believe that the world is one and never changing. The point furthest removed from those early beginnings of logic is the idea of Causality, In those early days of logical thinking there was no notion of causality3. indeed we still really think that all sensations and activities are acts of the free will4 Our idea of a free will comes from those early “logical” days. when the sentient individual contemplates himself, he regards every sensation, every alteration as something isolated, that is to say, unconditioned and disconnected,—it rises up in us without connection with anything foregoing or following. If we think about ourselves, we look at everything that happens to us as something that stands on its own. Therefore, belief in the freedom of the will is an original error of everything organic, as old as the existence of the awakenings of logic in it Without a notion of causality, the sensations we have stands on their own, and feel to originate from themselves. Our thoughts and actions can be seen as originating from ourselves instead of being caused by something else. But inasmuch as all metaphysics has concerned itself chiefly with substance and the freedom of will, it may be designated as the science which treats of the fundamental errors of mankind, but treats of them as if they were fundamental truths.

In one sentence:

From the beginning we thought “in boxes” and our free will saw no causes.

1Note from the Dutch translation point’s to the Russian philosopher Afrikan Spir, Denken und wirklichkeit, p177 “So sehr hat sich dem menschlichen Bewusstsein der Gedanke unbedingter, von dem Subjecte unabhängig existirender Gegenstände eingeprägt, dass der Begriff des Objects überhaupt mit dem des Unbedingten geradezu als identificirt oder verschmolzen erscheint. Nicht allein gewöhnlichen Leuten, sondern selbst philosophischen Männern ist dieser Begriff des Objects .am geläufigsten. Das lehrt uns die Geschichte der Philosophie. Das Bewusstsein, dass die Objecte des Erkennens von diesem letzteren selbst abhängig sind“ (Read more)

2 “gleiche Dinge“ or same things. The belief that there are same things, my take on that is that for example a spider with a red cross wil bring a similar reaction as the next spider with a red cross even if there are small differences. Our ancestors believed in similar thing, otherwise it would be to dangerous if they examine every spider with a red cross they encounter.

3“Causality (also referred to as causation,[1] or cause and effect) is the natural or worldly agency or efficacy that connects one process (the cause) with another process or state (the effect), where the first is partly responsible for the second, and the second is partly dependent on the first. In general, a process has many causes, which are said to be causal factors for it, and all lie in its past. An effect can in turn be a cause of, or causal factor for, many other effects, which all lie in its future. Causality is metaphysically prior to notions of time and space.” (Read more)

4 Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded. (Read more)


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

  1. FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF METAPHYSICS.—When the history of the rise of thought comes to be written, a new light will be thrown on the following statement of a distinguished logician :— “The primordial general law of the cognisant subject consists in the inner necessity of recognising every object in itself in its own nature, as a thing identical with itself, consequently self-existing and at bottom remaining ever the same and unchangeable : in short, in recognising everything as a substance.” Even this law, which is here called ” primordial,” has evolved: it will some day be shown how gradually this tendency arises in the lower organisms, how the feeble mole-eyes of their organisations at first see only the same thing,—how then, when the various awakenings of pleasure and displeasure become noticeable, various substances are gradually distinguished, but each with one attribute, i.e. one single relation to such an organism. The first step in logic is the judgment,—the nature of which, according to the decision of the best logicians, consists in belief. At the bottom of all belief lies the sensation of the pleasant or the painful in relation to the sentient subject. A new third sensation as the result of two previous single sensations is the judgment in its simplest form. We organic beings have originally no interest in anything but its relation to us in connection with pleasure and pain. Between the moments (the states of feeling) when we become conscious of this connection, lie moments of rest, of non-feeling ; the world and everything is then without interest for us, we notice no change in it (as even now a deeply interested person does not notice when any one passes him). To the plant, things are as a rule tranquil and eternal, everything like itself. From the period of the lower organisms man has inherited the belief that similar things exist (this theory is only contradicted by the matured experience of the most advanced science). The primordial belief of everything organic from the beginning is perhaps even this, that all the rest of the world is one and immovable. The point furthest removed from those early beginnings of logic is the idea of Causality,—indeed we still really think that all sensations and activities are acts of the free will ; when the sentient individual contemplates himself, he regards every sensation, every alteration as something isolated, that is to say, unconditioned and disconnected,—it rises up in us without connection with anything foregoing or following. We are hungry, but do not originally think that the organism must be nourished ; the feeling seems to make itself felt without cause and purpose, it isolates itself and regards itself as arbitrary. Therefore, belief in the freedom of the will is an original error of everything organic, as old as the existence of the awakenings of logic in it ; the belief in unconditioned substances and similar things is equally a primordial as well as an old error of everything organic. But inasmuch as all metaphysics has concerned itself chiefly with substance and the freedom of will, it may be designated as the science which treats of the fundamental errors of mankind, but treats of them as if they were fundamental truths.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Grundfragen der Metaphysik. – Wenn einmal die Entstehungsgeschichte des denkens geschrieben ist, so wird auch der folgende Satz eines ausgezeichneten Logikers von einem neuen Lichte erhellt dastehen: “Das ursprüngliche allgemeine Gesetz des erkennenden Subjects besteht in der inneren Nothwendigkeit, jeden Gegenstand an sich, in seinem eigenen Wesen als einen mit sich selbst identischen, also selbstexistirenden und im Grunde stets gleichbleibenden und unwandelbaren, kurz als eine Substanz zu erkennen.” Auch dieses Gesetz, welches hier “ursprünglich” genannt wird, ist geworden: es wird einmal gezeigt werden, wie allmählich, in den niederen Organismen, dieser Hang entsteht, wie die blöden Maulwurfsaugen dieser Organisationen zuerst Nichts als immer das Gleiche sehen, wie dann, wenn die verschiedenen Erregungen von Lust und Unlust bemerkbarer werden, allmählich verschiedene Substanzen unterschieden werden, aber jede mit Einem Attribut, das heisst einer einzigen Beziehung zu einem solchen Organismus. – Die erste Stufe des Logischen ist das Urtheil; dessen Wesen besteht, nach der Feststellung der besten Logiker, im Glauben. Allem Glauben zu Grunde liegt die Empfindung des Angenehmen oder Schmerzhaften in Bezug auf das empfindende Subject. Eine neue dritte Empfindung als Resultat zweier vorangegangenen einzelnen Empfindungen ist das Urtheil in seiner niedrigsten Form. – Uns organische Wesen interessirt ursprünglich Nichts an jedem Dinge, als sein Verhältniss zu uns in Bezug auf Lust und Schmerz. Zwischen den Momenten, in welchen wir uns dieser Beziehung bewusst werden, den Zuständen des Empfindens, liegen solche der Ruhe, des Nichtempfindens: da ist die Welt und jedes Ding für uns interesselos, wir bemerken keine Veränderung an ihm (wie jetzt noch ein heftig Interessirter nicht merkt, dass jemand an ihm vorbeigeht). Für die Pflanze sind gewöhnlich alle Dinge ruhig, ewig, jedes Ding sich selbst gleich. Aus der Periode der niederen Organismen her ist dem Menschen der Glaube vererbt, dass es gleiche Dinge giebt (erst die durch höchste Wissenschaft ausgebildete Erfahrung widerspricht diesem Satze). Der Urglaube alles Organischen von Anfang an ist vielleicht sogar, dass die ganze übrige Welt Eins und unbewegt ist. – Am fernsten liegt für jene Urstufe des Logischen der Gedanke an Causalität: ja jetzt noch meinen wir im Grunde, alle Empfindungen und Handlungen seien Acte des freien Willens; wenn das fühlende Individuum sich selbst betrachtet, so hält es jede Empfindung, jede Veränderung für etwas Isolirtes, das heisst Unbedingtes, Zusammenhangloses: es taucht aus uns auf, ohne Verbindung mit Früherem oder Späterem. Wir haben Hunger, aber meinen ursprünglich nicht, dass der Organismus erhalten werden will, sondern jenes Gefühl scheint sich ohne Grund und Zweck geltend zu machen, es isolirt sich und hält sich für willkürlich. Also: der Glaube an die Freiheit des Willens ist ein ursprünglicher Irrthum alles Organischen, so alt, als die Regungen des Logischen in ihm existiren; der Glaube an unbedingte Substanzen und an gleiche Dinge ist ebenfalls ein ursprünglicher, ebenso alter Irrthum alles Organischen. Insofern aber alle Metaphysik sich vornehmlich mit Substanz und Freiheit des Willens abgegeben hat, so darf man sie als die Wissenschaft bezeichnen, welche von den Grundirrthümern des Menschen handelt, doch so, als wären es Grundwahrheiten.

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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