Human all too human: 33. Error about life necessary for life.

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.

  1. The ignorant lives, may the rest write poetry.

CVG_9391Every belief in the value and worthiness of life is based on impure thinking. It is only possible because of a lack of compassion for mankind. The few that think further only do this in a limited way. If you, for example, only look at the gifted people, and see them as the purpose of life and rejoice their activities, then you might believe in the value of life, but you have to ignore the rest and thus think impure. The same goes for when you only look at one human trade, the les egoistical, and forget about the rest.  But either way you are an exception if you think like that. But most people don’t complain about life and value it as it is, they only look at themselves and don’t look beyond themselves like the beforementioned exceptions. The lack of imagination and compassion shields him for the fate of others. The person with compassion will, then again, have a low value of life, and if he could understand it all he would curse life, because it has no goal. He who sees this will not find comfort in life, even in his own. But feeling lost as humanity and as an individual like a blossom in nature is greater than all other feelings, but who can handle that? Probably the poet, they know how to console themselves.


Text from the translation by Helen Zimmern and my take on it

Every belief in the value and worthiness of life is based on vitiated1 Every belief in the value and worthiness of life is based on impure thinking. thought; it is only possible through the fact that sympathy for the general life and suffering of mankind is very weakly developed in the individual. It is only possible because of a lack of compassion for mankind. Even the rarer people who think outside themselves do not contemplate this general life, but only a limited part of it. The few that think further only do this in a limited way. If one understands how to direct one’s attention chiefly to the exceptions,—I mean to the highly gifted and the rich souls,—if one regards the production of these as the aim of the whole world-development and rejoices in its operation, then one may believe in the value of life, because one thereby overlooks the other men—one consequently thinks fallaciously. If you, for example, only look at the gifted people, and see them as the purpose of life and rejoice their activities, then you might believe in the value of life, but you have to ignore the rest and thus think impure.  So too, when one directs one’s attention to all mankind, but only considers one species of impulses in them, the less egoistical ones, and excuses them with regard to the other instincts, one may then again entertain hopes of mankind in general and believe so far in the value of life, consequently in this case also through fallaciousness of thought. The same goes for when you only look at one human trade, the les egoistical, and forget about the rest.  Let one, however, behave in this or that manner: with such behaviour one is an exception amongst men. But either way you are an exception if you think like that. Now, most people bear life without any considerable grumbling, and consequently believe in the value of existence, But most people don’t complain about life and value it as it is, but precisely because each one is solely self-seeking and self-affirming, and does not step out of himself like those exceptions ; everything extra-personal is imperceptible to them, or at most seems only a faint shadow. they only look at themselves and don’t look beond themselves like the beforementioned exceptions. Therefore, on this alone is based the value of life for the ordinary everyday man, that he regards himself as more important than the world. The great lack of imagination from which he suffers is the reason why he cannot enter into the feelings of other beings, and therefore sympathizes as little as possible with their fate and suffering. The lack of imagination and compassion shields him for the fate of others. He, on the other hand, who really could sympathize therewith, would have to despair of the value of life ; The person with compassion will, then again,  have a low value of life, were he to succeed in comprehending and feeling in himself the general consciousness of mankind, he would collapse with a curse on existence ; for mankind as a whole has no goals, and if he could understand it all he would curse life, because it has no goal. consequently man, in considering his whole course, cannot find in it his comfort and support, but his despair. If, in all that he does, he considers the final aimlessness of man, his own activity assumes in his eyes the character of wastefulness. He who sees this will not find comfort in life, even in his own. But to feel one’s self just as much wasted as humanity (and not only as an individual) as we see the single blossom of nature wasted, is a feeling above all other feelings. But feeling lost as humanity and an individual like a blossom in nature is greater than all other feelings,  But who is capable of it? Assuredly only a poet, and poets always know how to console themselves. But who can handle that? Probably the poet, they know how to console themselves.

1 Vitiated according to the dictionary: to impair the quality of; make faulty; spoil. The original German word: unreinem is translated as impure. Handwerk translated it like that, Hollingdale translated it as false.


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

  1. ERROR ABOUT LIFE NECESSARY FOR LIFE.—Every belief in the value and worthiness of life is based on vitiated thought ; it is only possible through the fact that sympathy for the general life and suffering of mankind is very weakly developed in the individual. Even the rarer people who think outside themselves do not contemplate this general life, but only a limited part of it. If one understands how to direct one’s attention chiefly to the exceptions,—I mean to the highly gifted and the rich souls,—if one regards the production of these as the aim of the whole world-development and rejoices in its operation, then one may believe in the value of life, because one thereby overlooks the other men—one consequently thinks fallaciously. So too, when one directs one’s attention to all mankind, but only considers one species of impulses in them, the less egoistical ones, and excuses them with regard to the other instincts, one may then again entertain hopes of mankind in general and believe so far in the value of life, consequently in this case also through fallaciousness of thought. Let one, however, behave in this or that manner : with such behaviour one is an exception amongst men. Now, most people bear life without any considerable grumbling, and consequently believe in the value of existence, but precisely because each one is solely self-seeking and self-affirming, and does not step out of himself like those exceptions ; everything extra-personal is imperceptible to them, or at most seems only a faint shadow. Therefore on this alone is based the value of life for the ordinary everyday man, that he regards himself as more important than the world. The great lack of imagination from which he suffers is the reason why he cannot enter into the feelings of other beings, and therefore sympathises as little as possible with their fate and suffering. He, on the other hand, who really could sympathise therewith, would have to despair of the value of life ; were he to succeed in comprehending and feeling in himself the general consciousness of mankind, he would collapse with a curse on existence ; for mankind as a whole has no goals, consequently man, in considering his whole course, cannot find in it his comfort and support, but his despair. If, in all that he does, he considers the final aimlessness of man, his own activity assumes in his eyes the character of wastefulness. But to feel one’s self just as much wasted as humanity (and not only as an individual) as we see the single blossom of nature wasted, is a feeling above all other feelings. But who is capable of it? Assuredly only a poet, and poets always know how to console themselves.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Der Irrthum über das Leben zum Leben nothwendig. – Jeder Glaube an Werth und Würdigkeit des Lebens beruht auf unreinem Denken; er ist allein dadurch möglich, dass das Mitgefühl für das allgemeine Leben und Leiden der Menschheit sehr schwach im Individuum entwickelt ist. Auch die seltneren Menschen, welche überhaupt über sich hinaus denken, fassen nicht dieses allgemeine Leben, sondern abgegränzte Theile desselben in’s Auge. Versteht man es, sein Augenmerk vornehmlich auf Ausnahmen, ich meine auf die hohen Begabungen und die reinen Seelen zu richten, nimmt man deren Entstehung zum Ziel der ganzen Weltentwickelung und erfreut sich an deren Wirken, so mag man an den Werth des Lebens glauben, weil man nämlich die anderen Menschen dabei übersieht: also unrein denkt. Und ebenso, wenn man zwar alle Menschen in’s Auge fasst, aber in ihnen nur eine Gattung von Trieben, die weniger egoistischen, gelten lässt und sie in Betreff der anderen Triebe entschuldigt: dann kann man wiederum von der Menschheit im Ganzen Etwas hoffen und insofern an den Werth des Lebens glauben: also auch in diesem Falle durch Unreinheit des Denkens. Mag man sich aber so oder so verhalten, man ist mit diesem Verhalten eine Ausnahme unter den Menschen. Nun ertragen aber gerade die allermeisten Menschen das Leben, ohne erheblich zu murren, und glauben somit an den Werth des Daseins, aber gerade dadurch, dass sich jeder allein will und behauptet, und nicht aus sich heraustritt wie jene Ausnahmen: alles Ausserpersönliche ist ihnen gar nicht oder höchstens als ein schwacher Schatten bemerkbar. Also darauf allein beruht der Werth des Lebens für den gewöhnlichen, alltäglichen Menschen, dass er sich wichtiger nimmt, als die Welt. Der grosse Mangel an Phantasie, an dem er leidet, macht, dass er sich nicht in andere Wesen hineinfühlen kann und daher so wenig als möglich an ihrem Loos und Leiden theilnimmt. Wer dagegen wirklich daran theilnehmen könnte, müsste am Werthe des Lebens verzweifeln; gelänge es ihm, das Gesammtbewusstsein der Menschheit in sich zu fassen und zu empfinden, er würde mit einem Fluche gegen das Dasein zusammenbrechen, – denn die Menschheit hat im Ganzen keine Ziele, folglich kann der Mensch, in Betrachtung des ganzen Verlaufes, nicht darin seinen Trost und Halt finden, sondern seine Verzweifelung. Sieht er bei Allem, was er thut, auf die letzte Ziellosigkeit der Menschen, so bekommt sein eigenes Wirken in seinen Augen den Charakter der Vergeudung. Sich aber als Menschheit (und nicht nur als Individuum) ebenso vergeudet zu fühlen, wie wir die einzelne Blüthe von der Natur vergeudet sehen, ist ein Gefühl über alle Gefühle. – Wer ist aber desselben fähig? Gewiss nur ein Dichter: und Dichter wissen sich immer zu trösten.

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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