Human all too human: 26. Reaction as 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.

Sometimes strong people appear that bring alive the old days, they remind us that the new ways are not strong enough. Sometimes, strong wills revive old times. Luther is one of those people that’s showed up when science was not strong enough to resist him, the whole Renaissance seems like an early spring which is almost snowed under again. Luther halted science during the renaissance. But in this century Schopenhauer’s Metaphysics played the role of Luther and science is still not strong enough, Schopenhauer did it in Nietzsche’s time. in spite of the long-achieved destruction of all Christian dogmas. There is science in his teachings, but it is not strong, the old well – known “metaphysical requirement”1 are ruling. Schopenhauer has science ruled by metaphysic’s. It is one of Schopenhauer’s advantages that he gives us back older, mightier modes of contemplating the world and man, to which no other path would so easily lead us. His mode of thinking let you look at the world like in the old days. No one can do justice towards Christianity and its Asiatic cousins without the help of Schopenhauer, it is impossible to do it from the basis of still existing Christianity. You need Schopenhauer to do justice to religion, you cannot do it from existing Christianity. Only after this great success of justice The success is the use of Schopenhauer to look back at religion as it really was and is.   only after we resurrect the historical mindset of the enlightenment we can wear the banner of enlightenment We need the historical mindset of enlightenment including the three names, Petrarch2, Erasmus, Voltaire. We have turned reaction into progress. We no longer react if a strong will arrives, we go on, with progress

In one sentence:

Schopenhauer’s metaphysics can lead us to real enlightenment.

1In the Dutch translation there is a note that leads to Schopenhauer’s book: Die welt als wille und Vorstellung, book 2, chaper 17. (You can read the English version here)

2 Francesco Petrarca; July 20, 1304 – July 19, 1374), was an Italian scholar and poet in Renaissance Italy, who was one of the earliest humanists. His rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited with initiating the 14th-century Renaissance. Petrarch is often considered the founder of Humanism. In the 16th century, Pietro Bembo created the model for the modern Italian language based on Petrarch’s works, as well as those of Giovanni Boccaccio, and, to a lesser extent, Dante Alighieri. Petrarch would be later endorsed as a model for Italian style by the Accademia della Crusca. Petrarch’s sonnets were admired and imitated throughout Europe during the Renaissance and became a model for lyrical poetry. He is also known for being the first to develop the concept of the “Dark Ages.” This standing back from his time was possible because he straddled two worlds—the classical and his own modern day. (Read more here)

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

  1. REACTION AS PROGRESS.—Now and again there appear rugged, powerful, impetuous, but nevertheless backward-lagging minds which conjure up once more a past phase of mankind ; they serve to prove that the new tendencies against which they are working are not yet sufficiently strong, that they still lack something, otherwise they would show better opposition to those exorcisers. Thus, for example, Luther’s Reformation bears witness to the fact that in his century all the movements of the freedom of the spirit were still uncertain, tender, and youthful ; science could not yet lift up its head. Indeed the whole Renaissance seems like an early spring which is almost snowed under again. But in this century also, Schopenhauer’s Metaphysics showed that even now the scientific spirit is not yet strong enough ; thus the whole mediæval Christian view of the world and human feeling could celebrate its resurrection in Schopenhauer’s doctrine, in spite of the long achieved destruction of all Christian dogmas. There is much science in his doctrine, but it does not dominate it : it is rather the old well – known “metaphysical requirement” that does so. It is certainly one of the greatest and quite invaluable advantages which we gain from Schopenhauer, that he occasionally forces our sensations back into older, mightier modes of contemplating the world and man, to which no other path would so easily lead us. The gain to history and justice is very great,—I do not think that any one would so easily succeed now in doing justice to Christianity and its Asiatic relations without Schopenhauer’s assistance, which is specially impossible from the basis of still existing Christianity. Only after this great success of justice, only after we have corrected so essential a point as the historical mode of contemplation which the age of enlightenment brought with it, may we again bear onward the banner of enlightenment, the banner with the three names, Petrarch, Erasmus, Voltaire. We have turned reaction into progress.


Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Die Reaction als Fortschritt. – Mitunter erscheinen schroffe, gewaltsame und fortreissende, aber trotzdem zurückgebliebene Geister, welche eine vergangene Phase der Menschheit noch einmal heraufbeschwören: sie dienen zum Beweis, dass die neuen Richtungen, welchen sie entgegenwirken, noch nicht kräftig genug sind, dass Etwas an ihnen fehlt: sonst würden sie jenen Beschwörern besseren Widerpart halten. So zeugt zum Beispiel Luther’s Reformation dafür, dass in seinem Jahrhundert alle Regungen der Freiheit des Geistes noch unsicher, zart, jugendlich waren; die Wissenschaft konnte noch nicht ihr Haupt erheben. Ja, die gesammte Renaissance erscheint wie ein erster Frühling, der fast wieder weggeschneit wird. Aber auch in unserem Jahrhundert bewies Schopenhauer’s Metaphysik, dass auch jetzt der wissenschaftliche Geist noch nicht kräftig genug ist: so konnte die ganze mittelalterliche christliche Weltbetrachtung und Mensch-Empfindung noch einmal in Schopenhauer’s Lehre, trotz der längst errungenen Vernichtung aller christlichen Dogmen, eine Auferstehung feiern. Viel Wissenschaft klingt in seine Lehre hinein, aber sie beherrscht dieselbe nicht, sondern das alte, wohlbekannte “metaphysische Bedürfniss”. Es ist gewiss einer der grössten und ganz unschätzbaren Vortheile, welche wir aus Schopenhauer gewinnen, dass er unsere Empfindung zeitweilig in ältere, mächtige Betrachtungsarten der Welt und Menschen zurückzwingt, zu welchen sonst uns so leicht kein Pfad führen würde. Der Gewinn für die Historie und die Gerechtigkeit ist sehr gross: ich glaube, dass es jetzt Niemandem so leicht gelingen möchte, ohne Schopenhauer’s Beihülfe dem Christenthum und seinen asiatischen Verwandten Gerechtigkeit widerfahren zu lassen: was namentlich vom Boden des noch vorhandenen Christenthums aus unmöglich ist. Erst nach diesem grossen Erfolge der Gerechtigkeit, erst nachdem wir die historische Betrachtungsart, welche die Zeit der Aufklärung mit sich brachte, in einem so wesentlichen Puncte corrigirt haben, dürfen wir die Fahne der Aufklärung – die Fahne mit den drei Namen: Petrarca, Erasmus, Voltaire – von Neuem weiter tragen. Wir haben aus der Reaction einen Fortschritt gemacht.


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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