23. The age of comparison.

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.

The less man is influenced by tradition, the more internal movement his motives make Tradition stifles mankind and unfocused their motives. and as a consequence, you have their outward restlessness and the confused fluidity of mankind, the polyphony2 of strivings. The more unfocused, the more confused they behave. Who wants to bind himself to one place? With tradition gone you are free to move and choose. As all styles of arts are imitated simultaneously, so also are all grades and kinds of morality, of customs, of cultures.  Now different cultures can live together and not like before separated because of the localized sway of every culture, corresponding to the rooting of all artistic styles in place and time. Because more people mix together, their cultures also mix. Now that it is all here, ready to compare with each other the best esthetics, customs and moralities, this competition will crush the lesser ones. It is the age of comparison! In this mix the cultures compare with each other and the better cultures will push aside the lesser cultures. That is its pride, but more justly also its grief. Let us not be afraid of this grief! Rather will we comprehend as adequately as possible the task our age sets us: The better cultures can be proud but should also grief. The future cultures will know they are better than the old enclosed cultures and the culture of comparison, but which looks back with gratitude on both kinds of culture as upon antiquities worthy of veneration. Future cultures will look back at the old mono-cultures and the newer “comparative” culture as valuable memories.

In one sentence:

Future cultures will appreciate the long lost global culture that came from mono-cultures

1A style of musical composition employing two or more simultaneous but relatively independent melodic lines.


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

  1. THE AGE OF COMPARISON.—The less men are fettered by tradition, the greater becomes the inward activity of their motives ; the greater, again, in proportion thereto, the outward restlessness, the confused flux of mankind, the polyphony of strivings. For whom is there still an absolute compulsion to bind himself and his descendants to one place ? For whom is there still anything strictly compulsory? As all styles of arts are imitated simultaneously, so also are all grades and kinds of morality, of customs, of cultures. Such an age obtains its importance because in it the various views of the world, customs, and cultures can be compared and experienced simultaneously,—which was formerly not possible with the always localised sway of every culture, corresponding to the rooting of all artistic styles in place and time. An increased æsthetic feeling will now at last decide amongst so many forms presenting themselves for comparison; it will allow the greater number, that is to say all those rejected by it, to die out. In the same way a selection amongst the forms and customs of the higher moralities is taking place, of which the aim can be nothing else than the downfall of the lower moralities. It is the age of comparison ! That is its pride, but more justly also its grief. Let us not be afraid of this grief! Rather will we comprehend as adequately as possible the task our age sets us : posterity will bless us for doing so,—a posterity which knows itself to be as much above the terminated original national cultures as above the culture of comparison, but which looks back with gratitude on both kinds of culture as upon antiquities worthy of veneration.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Zeitalter der Vergleichung. – je weniger die Menschen durch das Herkommen gebunden sind, um so grösser wird die innere Bewegung der Motive, um so grösser wiederum, dem entsprechend, die äussere Unruhe, das Durcheinanderfluten der Menschen, die Polyphonie der Bestrebungen. Für wen giebt es jetzt noch einen strengeren Zwang, an einen Ort sich und seine Nachkommen anzubinden? Für wen giebt es überhaupt noch etwas streng Bindendes? Wie alle Stilarten der Künste neben einander nachgebildet werden, so auch alle Stufen und Arten der Moralität, der Sitten, der Culturen. – Ein solches Zeitalter bekommt seine Bedeutung dadurch, dass in ihm die verschiedenen Weltbetrachtungen, Sitten, Culturen verglichen und neben einander durchlebt werden können; was früher, bei der immer localisirten Herrschaft jeder Cultur, nicht möglich war, entsprechend der Gebundenheit aller künstlerischen Stilarten an Ort und Zeit. Jetzt wird eine Vermehrung des ästhetischen Gefühls endgültig unter so vielen der Vergleichung sich darbietenden Formen entscheiden: sie wird die meisten, – nämlich alle, welche durch dasselbe abgewiesen werden, – absterben lassen. Ebenso findet jetzt ein Auswählen in den Formen und Gewohnheiten der höheren Sittlichkeit statt, deren Ziel kein anderes, als der Untergang der niedrigeren Sittlichkeiten sein kann. Es ist das Zeitalter der Vergleichung! Das ist sein Stolz, – aber billigerweise auch sein Leiden. Fürchten wir uns vor diesem Leiden nicht! Vielmehr wollen wir die Aufgabe, welche das Zeitalter uns stellt, so gross verstehen, als wir nur vermögen: so wird uns die Nachwelt darob segnen, – eine Nachwelt, die ebenso sich über die abgeschlossenen originalen Volks-Culturen hinaus weiss, als über die Cultur der Vergleichung, aber auf beide Arten der Cultur als auf verehrungswürdige Alterthümer mit Dankbarkeit zurückblickt.

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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