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

 

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