21. Conjectural victory of scepticism

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.

Let’s use the skeptical mindset and accept that there is no metaphysical world, and that metaphysical explanations of our world are useless, how would we look at man and world. You can imagine this even if you dismiss the question if Kant and Schopenhauer have any scientific proof. For it is quite possible, according to historical probability, that some time or other man, as a general rule, may grow skeptical; the question will then be this: What form will human society take under the influence of such a mode of thought? Maybe mankind distrust scientific proof of a metaphysical world, and when there is this distrust it will have the same result as if it was outright refuted and could no longer be believed in. The historical question with regard to an unmetaphysical frame of mind in mankind remains the same in both cases.

In one sentence:

It is historically possible that metaphysics will be refuted no matter what.

.


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

  1. CONJECTURAL VICTORY OF SCEPTICISM.—For once let the sceptical starting-point be accepted, —granted that there were no other metaphysical world, and all explanations drawn from meta- physics about the only world we know were useless to us, in what light should we then look upon men and things? We can think this out for ourselves, it is useful, even though the question whether anything metaphysical has been scientifically proved by Kant and Schopenhauer were altogether set aside. For it is quite possible, according to historical probability, that some time or other man, as a general rule, may grow sceptical ; the question will then be this : What form will human society take under the influence of such a mode of thought ? Perhaps the scientific proof of some metaphysical world or other is already so difficult that mankind will never get rid of a certain distrust of it. And when there is distrust of metaphysics, there are on the whole the same results as if it had been directly refuted and could no longer be believed in. The historical question with regard to an unmetaphysical frame of mind in mankind remains the same in both cases.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Muthmaasslicher Sieg der Skepsis. – Man lasse einmal den skeptischen Ausgangspunct gelten: gesetzt, es gäbe keine andere, metaphysische Welt und alle aus der Metaphysik genommenen Erklärungen der uns einzig bekannten Welt wären unbrauchbar für uns, mit welchem Blick würden wir dann auf Menschen und Dinge sehen? Diess kann man sich ausdenken, es ist nützlich, selbst wenn die Frage, ob etwas Metaphysisches wissenschaftlich durch Kant und Schopenhauer bewiesen sei, einmal abgelehnt würde. Denn es ist, nach historischer Wahrscheinlichkeit, sehr gut möglich, dass die Menschen einmal in dieser Beziehung im Ganzen und Allgemeinen skeptisch werden; da lautet also die Frage: wie wird sich dann die menschliche Gesellschaft, unter dem Einfluss einer solchen Gesinnung, gestalten? Vielleicht ist der wissenschaftliche Beweis irgend einer metaphysischen Welt schon so schwierig, dass die Menschheit ein Misstrauen gegen ihn nicht mehr los wird. Und wenn man gegen die Metaphysik Misstrauen hat, so giebt es im Ganzen und Grossen die selben Folgen, wie wenn sie direct widerlegt wäre und man nicht mehr an sie glauben dürfte. Die historische Frage in Betreff einer unmetaphysischen Gesinnung der Menschheit bleibt in beiden Fällen die selbe.

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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