Human all too human: 30. Bad habits in reasoning

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.

My take on it.

Mankind has the following bad habits: a thing exists; therefore it has a right to exist, it lives efficient and therefor it has the right to live. The next one is: the opinion that brings happiness is therefore true, this result gets labeled good as in useful (happiness is useful) And the opinion is also good but now logically (the opinion is logical). The opposite of this is: something does not work and is thus bad and an opinion causes pain and is thus true. A free spirit suffers under these “rules” and can mistakenly turn them around and say: if something does not work it is true or a distressing opinion is true because it is distressing.

In one sentence:

Reasoning follows often the beaten track mistakenly both up an downhill.

Synopsis, quote from the translation by Helen Zimmern and my take on it

The usual false conclusions of mankind are these: Mankind has the following bad habits: a thing exists, therefore it has a right to exist, the reasoning goes from it can live, to it is efficient in it and therefore it has the right to live. It lives efficient and therefor it has the right to live. Then: an opinion brings happiness; therefore, it is the true opinion, its effect is good; therefore, it is itself good and true. The next one is: the opinion that brings happiness is therefore true, Here the results get labeled good as in useful this result gets labeled good as in useful (happiness is useful) and the cause (the opinion) of that gets the same label (good) but now as logical instead of useful. And the opinion is also good but now logically. The opposite of this is that an affair cannot be carried through, or maintained, therefore it is wrong; an opinion causes pain or excites, therefore it is false. The opposite of this is: something does not work and is thus bad and an opinion causes pain and is un true. The free spirit that suffers under these modes of reasoning frequently gives way to the temptation to draw the very opposite conclusions, which, in general, are naturally just as false: an affair cannot be carried through, therefore it is good; an opinion is distressing and disturbing, therefore it is true. A free spirit suffers under these “rules” and can mistakenly turn them around and say: if something does not work it is true or a distressing opinion is true because it is distressing.


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

  1. BAD HABITS IN REASONING.—The usual false conclusions of mankind are these : a thing exists, therefore it has a right to exist. Here there is inference from the ability to live to its suitability ; from its suitability to its rightfulness. Then : an opinion brings happiness ; therefore it is the true opinion. Its effect is good ; therefore it is itself good and true. To the effect is here assigned the predicate beneficent, good, in the sense of the useful, and the cause is then furnished with the same predicate good, but here in the sense of the logically valid. The inversion of the sentences would read thus: an affair cannot be carried through, or maintained, therefore it is wrong ; an opinion causes pain or excites, therefore it is false. The free spirit who learns only too often the faultiness of this mode of reasoning, and has to suffer from its consequences, frequently gives way to the temptation to draw the very opposite conclusions, which, in general, are naturally just as false : an affair cannot be carried through, therefore it is good ; an opinion is distressing and disturbing, therefore it is true.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Schlechte Gewohnheiten im Schliessen. – Die gewöhnlichsten Irrschlüsse der Menschen sind diese: eine Sache existirt, also hat sie ein Recht. Hier wird aus der Lebensfähigkeit auf die Zweckmässigkeit, aus der Zweckmässigkeit auf die Rechtmässigkeit geschlossen. Sodann: eine Meinung beglückt, also ist sie die wahre, ihre Wirkung ist gut, also ist sie selber gut und wahr. Hier legt man der Wirkung das Prädicat beglückend, gut, im Sinne des Nützlichen, bei und versieht nun die Ursache mit dem selben Prädicat gut, aber hier im Sinne des Logisch-Gültigen. Die Umkehrung der Sätze lautet: eine Sache kann sich nicht durchsetzen, erhalten, also ist sie unrecht; eine Meinung quält, regt auf, also ist sie falsch. Der Freigeist, der das Fehlerhafte dieser Art zu schliessen nur allzu häufig kennen lernt und an ihren Folgen zu leiden hat, unterliegt oft der Verführung, die entgegengesetzten Schlüsse zu machen, welche im Allgemeinen natürlich ebenso sehr Irrschlüsse sind: eine Sache kann sich nicht durchsetzen, also ist sie gut; eine Meinung macht Noth, beunruhigt, also ist sie wahr.

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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