Daybreak, Book II
The so-called “Ego.”—Language and the prejudices upon which language is based very often act as obstacles in our paths when we proceed to explore internal phenomena and impulses: as one example, we may instance the fact that there are only words to express the superlative degrees of these phenomena and impulses. Now, it is our habit no longer to observe accurately when words fail us, since it is difficult in such cases to think with precision: in former times, even, people involuntarily came to the conclusion that where the domain of words ceased, the domain of existence ceased also. Wrath, hatred, love, pity, desire, recognition, joy, pain: all these are names indicating extreme conditions; the milder and middle stages, and even more particularly the ever active lower stages, escape our attention, and yet it is they which weave the warp and woof of our character and destiny. It often happens that these extreme outbursts—and even the most moderate pleasure or displeasure of which we are actually conscious, whether in partaking of food or listening to a sound, is possibly, if properly estimated, merely an extreme outburst,—destroy the texture and are then violent exceptions, in most cases the consequences of some congestions,—and how easily as such can they mislead the observer! as indeed they mislead the person acting! We are all of us not what we appear to be according to the conditions for which alone we have consciousness and words, and consequently praise and blame. We fail to recognise ourselves after these coarse outbursts which are known to ourselves alone, we draw conclusions from data where the exceptions prove stronger than the rules; we misinterpret ourselves in reading our own ego’s pronouncements, which appeared to be so clear. But our opinion of ourselves, this so-called ego which we have arrived at by this wrong method, contributes henceforth to form our character and destiny.