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.
Since people no longer believe in a God that guides them in great style, the people have to find a worldwide morality themselves. No god, no guidance. The older morality, especially that of Kant, required from the individual actions which were desired from all men, Kant’s categorical imperative. as if anybody knows what is good for all. If that is possible. It is a theory like that of free trade, that takes for granted that general harmony will come because of essential laws of progress. In the future they may find out that it’s not desirable to act alike. In the future maybe not desirable. In the interest of ecumenical aims it might rather be that for whole sections of mankind, special, and perhaps under certain circumstances even evil, tasks would have to be set2. Maybe some must suffer for the greater good. No matter what, if mankind is not too destroy itself by such a conscious universal rule3, it must learn a knowledge of the conditions of culture What does a culture need to exist? as scientific standard. Herein lies the enormous task of the great minds of the next century.
In one sentence:
No God, no Kant, is it now kill or be killed for the greater good?
1In this case it means worldwide, general, or universal but maybe with a hint of its more common meaning of promoting or fostering Christian unity throughout the world. (read more here)
2This is the first quote of Nietzsche, in this book, where he gives permission (or warns for) to regimes that act “for the good of the many” or what there doctrines say that is right like the former USSR, communist China, Nazi Germany or Modern USA.
3 “a conscious universal rule” is the translation for “solche bewusste Gesammtregierung” The Handwerk translation is: “conscious, total regulation”. The Dutch version it is:” bewuste integrale regering” or translated in English conscious integral government. The German dictionary says this about it: “gesammtregierung, f. oder sammtregierung, die von mehreren fürsten oder mächten für ein land gemeinschaftlich aufgestellte regierung. ebenda. (Link) I think the word Gesammtregierung is better translated as integral government because it emphasizes more the consciousness or “made by man” of the “rule”. And I think that Nietzsche talks about Kant’s categorical imperative here as a typical rule that might be turned into law by a “world” government. Think about the sentence that came before this one: “In the interest of ecumenical aims it might rather be that for whole sections of mankind, special, and perhaps under certain circumstances even evil, tasks would have to be set”. That is something that is not easily accepted as a moral rule but something a state could fabricate. if you don’t like this more direct translation from the Dutch version than Zimmern’s (and hollingdale’s) translations are better than the newest one from Handwerk in my opinion,
Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I translated by Helen Zimmern 1909
- PRIVATE AND ŒCUMENICAL MORALITY.—Since the belief has ceased that a God directs in general the fate of the world and, in spite of all apparent crookedness in the path of humanity, leads it on gloriously, men themselves must set themselves œcumenical aims embracing the whole earth. The older morality, especially that of Kant, required from the individual actions which were desired from all men,—that was a delightfully naïve thing, as if each one knew off-hand what course of action was beneficial to the whole of humanity, and consequently which actions in general were desirable ; it is a theory like that of free trade, taking for granted that the general harmony must result of itself according to innate laws of amelioration. Perhaps a future contemplation of the needs of humanity will show that it is by no means desirable that all men should act alike ; in the interest of œcumenical aims it might rather be that for whole sections of mankind, special, and perhaps under certain circumstances even evil, tasks would have to be set. In any case, if mankind is not to destroy itself by such a conscious universal rule, there must previously be found, as a scientific standard for œcumenical aims, a knowledge of the conditions of culture superior to what has hitherto been attained. Herein lies the enormous task of the great minds of the next century.
Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80
- Privat- und Welt-Moral. – Seitdem der Glaube aufgehört hat, dass ein Gott die Schicksale der Welt im Grossen leite und, trotz aller anscheinenden Krümmungen im Pfade der Menschheit, sie doch herrlich hinausführe, müssen die Menschen selber sich ökumenische, die ganze Erde umspannende Ziele stellen. Die ältere Moral, namentlich die Kant’s, verlangt vom Einzelnen Handlungen, welche man von allen Menschen wünscht: das war eine schöne naive Sache; als ob ein jeder ohne Weiteres wüsste, bei welcher Handlungsweise das Ganze der Menschheit wohlfahre, also welche Handlungen überhaupt wünschenswerth seien; es ist eine Theorie wie die vom Freihandel, voraussetzend, dass die allgemeine Harmonie sich nach eingeborenen Gesetzen des Besserwerdens von selbst ergeben müsse. Vielleicht lässt es ein zukünftiger Ueberblick über die Bedürfnisse der Menschheit durchaus nicht wünschenswerth erscheinen, dass alle Menschen gleich handeln, vielmehr dürften im Interesse ökumenischer Ziele für ganze Strecken der Menschheit specielle, vielleicht unter Umständen sogar böse Aufgaben zu stellen sein. – Jedenfalls muss, wenn die Menschheit sich nicht durch eine solche bewusste Gesammtregierung zu Grunde richten soll, vorher eine alle bisherigen Grade übersteigende Kenntniss der Bedingungen der Cultur, als wissenschaftlicher Maassstab für ökumenische Ziele, gefunden sein. Hierin liegt die ungeheure Aufgabe der grossen Geister des nächsten Jahrhunderts.
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.
- Menselijk al te menselijk een boek voor vrije geesten, translated by Thomas Graftdijk, 2000. Buy it here
- Human, all too human a book for free spirits, translated by R.J.Hollingdale, 1986
- Human, all too human a book for free spirits I V3, translated by Gary handwerk 1997
- Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I, translated by Helen Zimmern 1909. Read it here
- Human, all too human a book for free spirits, translated by Alexander Harvey, 1908. Read it here
- Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80. Read it here