Human all too human: 24. The possibility of progress.

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.

When a wise man from an old culture swears no longer to deal with people that believe in progress, he is right. Because his great culture lies behind him and its history teaches that it will never be young again; some sort of stupidity is needed to deny this. Old cultures will not turn young again. But man can consciously decide to move on to another culture, instead of unconsciously move on like before. But you can decide to move on This way they can create better conditions for the propagation of man for their nourishment, education and instruction. They can manage the earth better economically and control the power of man. When you shoose to move on you can better manage the world This new, conscious culture kills the old, which, regarded as a whole, has led an unconscious animal and plant life; it also kills distrust in progress, —progress is possible. This new conscious culture outshines the old unconscious culture. It is off course important to know that progress not necessarily follows, but you can not deny it either. But with the old culture progress is unthinkable. Progress is not guaranteed, but also not denied like with the old culture. Even if romantic fantasy has also constantly used the word ” progress ” to denote its aims (for instance, circumscribed primitive national cultures), it borrows the picture of it in any case from the past; its thoughts and ideas on this subject are entirely without originality. The romantic ideal of old cultures is borrowed from old cultures and not original.

In one sentence:

You can choose progress but some copy the old cultures to make-up new.


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

  1. THE POSSIBILITY OF PROGRESS.—When a scholar of the ancient culture forswears the company of men who believe in progress, he does quite right. For the greatness and goodness of ancient culture lie behind it, and historical education compels one to admit that they can never be fresh again ; an unbearable stupidity or an equally insufferable fanaticism would be necessary to deny this. But men can consciously resolve to develop themselves towards a new culture ; whilst formerly they only developed unconsciously and by chance, they can now create better conditions for the rise of human beings, for their nourishment, education and instruction ; they can administer the earth economically as a whole, and can generally weigh and restrain the powers of man. This new, conscious culture kills the old, which, regarded as a whole, has led an unconscious animal and plant life; it also kills distrust in progress,—progress is possible. I must say that it is over-hasty and almost nonsensical to believe that progress must necessarily follow ; but how could one deny that it is possible? On the other hand, progress in the sense and on the path of the old culture is not even thinkable. Even if romantic fantasy has also constantly used the word ” progress ” to denote its aims (for instance, circumscribed primitive national cultures), it borrows the picture of it in any case from the past ; its thoughts and ideas on this subject are entirely without originality.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Möglichkeit des Fortschritts. – Wenn ein Gelehrter der alten Cultur es verschwört, nicht mehr mit Menschen umzugehen, welche an den Fortschritt glauben, so hat er Recht. Denn die alte Cultur hat ihre Grösse und Güte hinter sich und die historische Bildung zwingt Einen, zuzugestehen, dass sie nie wieder frisch werden kann; es ist ein unausstehlicher Stumpfsinn oder ebenso unleidliche Schwärmerei nöthig, um diess zu leugnen. Aber die Menschen können mit Bewusstsein beschliessen, sich zu einer neuen Cultur fortzuentwickeln, während sie sich früher unbewusst und zufällig entwickelten: sie können jetzt bessere Bedingungen für die Entstehung der Menschen, ihre Ernährung, Erziehung, Unterrichtung schaffen, die Erde als Ganzes ökonomisch verwalten, die Kräfte der Menschen überhaupt gegen einander abwägen und einsetzen. Diese neue bewusste Cultur tödtet die alte, welche, als Ganzes angeschaut, ein unbewusstes Thier- und Pflanzenleben geführt hat; sie tödtet auch das Misstrauen gegen den Fortschritt, -er ist möglich. Ich will sagen: es ist voreilig und fast unsinnig, zu glauben, dass der Fortschritt nothwendig erfolgen müsse; aber wie könnte man leugnen, dass er möglich sei? Dagegen ist ein Fortschritt im Sinne und auf dem Wege der alten Cultur nicht einmal denkbar. Wenn romantische Phantastik immerhin auch das Wort “Fortschritt” von ihren Zielen (z.B. abgeschlossenen originalen Volks-Culturen) gebraucht: jedenfalls entlehnt sie das Bild davon aus der Vergangenheit; ihr Denken und Vorstellen ist auf diesem Gebiete ohne jede Originalität.

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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