Human all too human: 41. The unchangeable character.

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/synopsis.

  1. Small perspective leads to small minds.

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That the character is unchangeable is not true in a strict sense. This popular notion only means that during our short lives, our experiences are not strong enough to change many millennia of ingrained human characteristics. But if you imagine a man of eighty thousand years old, you will have someone that has changed many times. Our short lives mislead us into forming many flawed ideas about the qualities of man. 


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

That the character is unchangeable is not true in a strict sense; That the character is unchangeable is not true in a strict sense this favorite theory means, rather, that during the short lifetime of an individual the new influencing motives cannot penetrate deeply enough to destroy the ingrained marks of many thousands of years. This popular notion only means that during our short lives our experiences are not strong enough to change thousands years of marks left by history. But if one were to imagine a man of eighty thousand years, one would have in him an absolutely changeable character, so that a number of different individuals would gradually develop out of him. The shortness of human life misleads us into forming many erroneous ideas about the qualities of man. But if you imagine a man of eighty thousand years, you will have an absolutely changeable character, so that a number of different individuals would gradually develop out of him. The shortness of human life misleads us into forming many flawed ideas about the qualities of man.


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

  1. THE UNCHANGEABLE CHARACTER.—That the character is unchangeable is not true in a strict sense; this favourite theory means, rather, that during the short lifetime of an individual the new influencing motives cannot penetrate deeply enough to destroy the ingrained marks of many thousands of years. But if one were to imagine a man of eighty thousand years, one would have in him an absolutely changeable character, so that a number of different individuals would gradually develop out of him. The shortness of human life misleads us into forming many erroneous ideas about the qualities of man.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Der unveränderliche Charakter. – Dass der Charakter unveränderlich sei, ist nicht im strengen Sinne wahr; vielmehr heisst dieser beliebte Satz nur so viel, dass während der kurzen Lebensdauer eines Menschen die einwirkenden Motive gewöhnlich nicht tief genug ritzen können, um die aufgeprägten Schriftzüge vieler Jahrtausende zu zerstören. Dächte man sich aber einen Menschen von achtzigtausend Jahren, so hätte man an ihm sogar einen absolut veränderlichen Charakter: so dass eine Fülle verschiedener Individuen sich nach und nach aus ihm entwickelte. Die Kürze des menschlichen Lebens verleitet zu manchen irrthümlichen Behauptungen über die Eigenschaften des Menschen.

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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