16. Phenomenon and thing-in-itself

Reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Human all too human

Read the introduction here

You can read the aphorism I discuss here in English an German below the main article.

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

Philosophers see life and experiences as a picture that never changes. This picture must be correctly interpreted in order to come to a conclusion about the being that produced the picture or about the thing-in-itself1 what is regarded as sufficient ground for the world that appears to us. Philosophers see life as not changing Opposite to this, more logical minded people, after they described the metaphysical or unseen world as without a cause, have concluded that there was no connection between unseen world and the world which is known to us. Scientist see no connection between unseen and seen world So that the thing-in-itself should most certainly not appear in the phenomenon, (existing thing) and every conclusion from the former as regards the latter is to be rejected. Both sides forget that this painting of our life and experiences is still growing and cannot be used to look for a conclusion for the cause of it or deny one. (the sufficing cause)2 Our life and experiences are growing and cannot be used to predicts its cause. For ages we looked into the worlds pretentions, with blind inclination, passion, or fear, and illogical thoughts that this world has gradually become so terrible, full of meaning and of soul, it has acquired color—but we were the colorists. Our subjective eyes colored the world It is the intellect that has made this picture of life and experiences appear and put its mistaken fundamental conceptions into things. Later the philosophers started to see that the world we experience and the thing-in-itself are completely different and stopped drawing conclusions from our experiences out of the thing-in-itself, the philosophers will finely see that you cannot draw experience out of the thing-in-itself And in the worst case they will demand that we reject our personal will, so we can reach that what is real, that one may become real. Don’t know what F.N. meant with this Others have collected all the characteristic features of our world of appearance that is, the idea of the world spun out of intellectual errors and inherited by us, instead of blaming the intellect, they blamed the world-in-itself as the cause of the fact of this very sinister character of the world. Others blamed the world-in-itself and not the interpreter.  With all these opinions, the thorough process of science, that one day will celebrate its place in a history of thought, will deal with maybe as follows: That which we now call the world is the result of a mass of errors and fantasies which arose gradually in the general development of organic being, which are inter-grown with each other, and are now inherited by us as the accumulated treasure of all the past and it is a treasure, for the value of our humanity depends upon it. From this world of representation strict science is really only able to liberate us to a very slight extent—as it is also not at all desirable—inasmuch as it cannot essentially break the power of primitive habits of feeling; but it can gradually clarify the history of the rise of that world as representation,—and lift us, at least for moments, above and beyond the whole process. Perhaps we shall then recognize that the thing in itself is worth a Homeric laugh; that it seemed so much, indeed everything, and is really empty, namely, empty of meaning.”

Maybe it was not my day but I had a hard time with this aphorism, as if the different parts not really fitted with each other.

In one sentence:

Science will overcome the mistakes made by interpreting  life and experiences.

1 Objects as they are independent of observation (Read more)

2The Principle of Sufficient Reason is a powerful and controversial philosophical principle stipulating that everything must have a reason, cause, or ground. (Read more)


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

  1. PHENOMENON AND THING-IN-ITSELF.—Philosophers are in the habit of setting themselves before life and experience—before that which they call the world of appearance—as before a picture that is once for all unrolled and exhibits unchangeably fixed the same process,—this process, they think, must be rightly interpreted in order to come to a conclusion about the being that produced the picture : about the thing-in-itself, therefore, which is always accustomed to be regarded as sufficient ground for the world of phenomenon. On the other hand, since one always makes the idea of the metaphysical stand definitely as that of the unconditioned, consequently also unconditioning, one must directly disown all connection between the unconditioned (the metaphysical world) and the world which is known to us ; so that the thing-in-itself should most certainly not appear in the phenomenon, and every conclusion from the former as regards the latter is to be rejected. Both sides overlook the fact that that picture—that which we now call human life and experience—has gradually evolved,—nay, is still in the full process of evolving,—and therefore should not be regarded as a fixed magnitude from which a conclusion about its originator might be deduced (the sufficing cause) or even merely neglected. It is because for thousands of years we have looked into the world with moral, æsthetic, and religious pretensions, with blind inclination, passion, or fear, and have surfeited ourselves in the vices of illogical thought, that this world has gradually become so marvellously motley, terrible, full of meaning and of soul, it has acquired colour—but we were the colourists; the human intellect, on the basis of human needs, of human emotions, has caused this ” phenomenon ” to appear and has carried its erroneous fundamental conceptions into things. Late, very late, it takes to thinking, and now the world of experience and the thing-in-itself seem to it so extraordinarily different and separated, that it gives up drawing conclusions from the former to the latter—or in a terribly mysterious manner demands the renunciation of our intellect, of our personal will, in order thereby to reach the essential, that one may become essential. Again, others have collected all the characteristic features of our world of phenomenon,—that is, the idea of the world spun out of intellectual errors and inherited by us,—and instead of accusing the intellect as the offenders, they have laid the blame on the nature of things as being the cause of the hard fact of this very sinister character of the world, and have preached the deliverance from Being. With all these conceptions the constant and laborious process of science (which at last celebrates its greatest triumph in a history of the origin of thought) becomes completed in various ways, the result of which might perhaps run as follows :—”That which we now call the world is the result of a mass of errors and fantasies which arose gradually in the general development of organic being, which are inter-grown with each other, and are now inherited by us as the accumulated treasure of all the past —as a treasure, for the value of our humanity depends upon it. From this world of representation strict science is really only able to liberate us to a very slight extent—as it is also not at all desirable—inasmuch as it cannot essentially break the power of primitive habits of feeling ; but it can gradually elucidate the history of the rise of that world as representation,—and lift us, at least for moments, above and beyond the whole process. Perhaps we shall then recognise that the thing in itself is worth a Homeric laugh ; that it seemed so much, indeed everything, and is really empty, namely, empty of meaning.”

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Erscheinung und Ding an sich. – Die Philosophen pflegen sich vor das Leben und die Erfahrung – vor Das, was sie die Welt der Erscheinung nennen – wie vor ein Gemälde hinzustellen, das ein für alle Mal entrollt ist und unveränderlich fest den selben Vorgang zeigt: diesen Vorgang, meinen sie, müsse man richtig ausdeuten, um damit einen Schluss auf das Wesen zu machen, welches das Gemälde hervorgebracht habe: also auf das Ding an sich, das immer als der zureichende Grund der Welt der Erscheinung angesehen zu werden pflegt. Dagegen haben strengere Logiker, nachdem sie den Begriff des Metaphysischen scharf als den des Unbedingten, folglich auch Unbedingenden festgestellt hatten, jeden Zusammenhang zwischen dem Unbedingten (der metaphysischen Welt) und der uns bekannten Welt in Abrede gestellt: so dass in der Erscheinung eben durchaus nicht das Ding an sich erscheine, und von jener auf dieses jeder Schluss abzulehnen sei. Von beiden Seiten ist aber die Möglichkeit übersehen, dass jenes Gemälde – Das, was jetzt uns Menschen Leben und Erfahrung heisst – allmählich geworden ist, ja noch völlig im Werden ist und desshalb nicht als feste Grösse betrachtet werden soll, von welcher aus man einen Schluss über den Urheber (den zureichenden Grund) machen oder auch nur ablehnen dürfte. Dadurch, dass wir seit Jahrtausenden mit moralischen, ästhetischen, religiösen Ansprüchen, mit blinder Neigung, Leidenschaft oder Furcht in die Welt geblickt und uns in den Unarten des unlogischen Denkens recht ausgeschwelgt haben, ist diese Welt allmählich so wundersam bunt, schrecklich, bedeutungstief, seelenvoll geworden, sie hat Farbe bekommen, – aber wir sind die Coloristen gewesen: der menschliche Intellect hat die Erscheinung erscheinen lassen und seine irrthümlichen Grundauffassungen in die Dinge hineingetragen. Spät, sehr spät – besinnt er sich: und jetzt scheinen ihm die Welt der Erfahrung und das Ding an sich so ausserordentlich verschieden und getrennt, dass er den Schluss von jener auf dieses ablehnt – oder auf eine schauerlich geheimnissvolle Weise zum Aufgeben unsers Intellectes, unsers persönlichen Willens auffordert: um dadurch zum Wesenhaften zu kommen, dass man wesenhaft werde. Wiederum haben Andere alle charakteristischen Züge unserer Welt der Erscheinung – das heisst der aus intellectuellen Irrthümern herausgesponnenen und uns angeerbten Vorstellung von der Welt – zusammengelesen und anstatt den Intellect als Schuldigen anzuklagen, das Wesen der Dinge als Ursache dieses thatsächlichen, sehr unheimlichen Weltcharakters angeschuldigt und die Erlösung vom Sein gepredigt. – Mit all diesen Auffassungen wird der stetige und mühsame Process der Wissenschaft, welcher zuletzt einmal in einer Entstehungsgeschichte des Denkens seinen höchsten Triumph feiert, in entscheidender Weise fertig werden, dessen Resultat vielleicht auf diesen Satz hinauslaufen dürfte: Das, was wir jetzt die Welt nennen, ist das Resultat einer Menge von Irrthümern und Phantasien, welche in der gesammten Entwickelung der organischen Wesen allmählich entstanden, in einander verwachsen [sind] und uns jetzt als aufgesammelter Schatz der ganzen Vergangenheit vererbt werden, – als Schatz: denn der Werth unseres Menschenthums ruht darauf. Von dieser Welt der Vorstellung vermag uns die strenge Wissenschaft thatsächlich nur in geringem Maasse zu lösen – wie es auch gar nicht zu wünschen ist -, insofern sie die Gewalt uralter Gewohnheiten der Empfindung nicht wesentlich zu brechen vermag: aber sie kann die Geschichte der Entstehung jener Welt als Vorstellung ganz allmählich und schrittweise aufhellen – und uns wenigstens für Augenblicke über den ganzen Vorgang hinausheben. Vielleicht erkennen wir dann, dass das Ding an sich eines homerischen Gelächters werth ist: dass es so viel, ja Alles schien und eigentlich leer, nämlich bedeutungsleer ist.

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

 

Gedanken über die Dauer des Exils

Bertolt Brecht:

Gedanken über die Dauer des Exils

1

Schlage keinen Nagel in die Wand

Wirf den Rock auf den Stuhl.

Warum vorsorgen für vier Tage?

Du kehrst morgen zurück.

House-4

Lass den kleinen Baum ohne Wasser.

Wozu noch einen Baum pflanzen?

Bevor er so hoch wie eine Stufe ist

Gehst du fort von hier.

House-3

Zieh die Mütze ins Gesicht, wenn Leute vorbeigehn!

Wozu in fremden Grammatiken blättern?

Die Nachricht, die dich heimruft

Ist in bekannter Sprache geschrieben.

House-1

So wie der Kalk vom Gebälk blättert

(Tue nichts dagegen!)

Wird der Zaun der Gewalt zermorschen

Der an der Grenze aufgerichtet ist

Gegen die Gerechtigkeit.

2

Sieh den Nagel in der Wand, den du eingeschlagen hast:

Wann, glaubst du, wirst du zurückkehren?

Willst du wissen, was du im Innersten glaubst?

House-2

Tag um Tag

Arbeitest du an der Befreiung

Sitzend in der Kammer schreibst du.

Willst du wissen, was du von deiner Arbeit hältst?

Sieh den kleinen Kastanienbaum im Eck des Hofes

Zu dem du die Kanne voll Wasser schlepptest!


 

Thoughts concerning the duration of exile

1

Don’t drive a nail into the wall,

Throw your coat on a chair!

Why bother about four days?

Tomorrow you’ll go back

House-7

Let the little tree go unwatered!

Why plant a tree at all?

Before it’s as high as a stair tread

You’ll be happily leaving this place.

House-8

Pull your cap over your eyes when you pass people!

Why turn the pages of a strange grammar?

The news that calls your home

Is written I a familiar language.

 

 

As the calcimine peels from the roofbeam

(do nothing to stop it)

So the fence of force will crumble

That has been reared up on the border

Against justice.

2

See the nail in the wall, the nail you hammered into it!

When do you think you’ll be going back?

Do you want to know what you really believe in your heart?

House-5

Day after day

You work for the liberation,

Sitting in your room writing.

Do you want to know what you really think of your work?

Look at the little chestnut tree in the corner of the courtyard

That you carry your canful of water to.

 

L

Free will

Drawings from the bottom of the drawer.

I have made some drawings in the past and they all came alive because of overflowing thoughts and philosophies and the urge to visualize them. The lack of words, and listeners, to express myself put my fantasy at work and I started these drawings. I have no talent for drawing or ambition in that direction. I only judge my work, and deem it finished, in so far as it pleases my eye and sense of proportion. I will now try to describe some of these drawings and tell something about the thoughts behind it. Bear in mind that some drawings are almost 20 years old and that my thoughts about them now compared to my intentions then can differ now, but I hope only in details and nuances and not in the core meaning.

tekening -1

 

We see here a checkerboard floating through space. This checkerboard resembles your life and is part of an underlying construction. On the checkerboard stands a depiction of you. The mechanical cross stands for religion and/or a constructed governing force that holds the checkerboard in place and can tilt it, so to slide you to one side unknowingly.  In the background you see a similar contraption where the other person, like you, is consuming parts of other people’s lives or at least the places where you could go. Underneath the main checkerboard hangs a large construct that you don’t see at the other one. This constrict works like a counterweight, and is made of knowledge, and dampens the effect of the steering crosses. I made it with a pen you couldn’t erase, to simulate life, when I made a little mistake I turned it in a flower as a sign of hope.

The checkerboard

If we get born, we are “thrown” into a specific situation. You are born in a specific country, class, religion, age, political system and so on. All these situations play a great role in your life if you want it to or not. If you are born in China in 1968 you cannot pretend to be only influenced by Brazilian culture when your 4 years old. What happens around you has a strong influence on you and how you will become when you grow up. You can go along with your culture and or rebel against it, but in both cases, you react to the situation you were “thrown” in at your birth. The checkerboard represents the life you are in and all the possibilities available to you in that life. You have a limited choice in where you stand but it all depends on where you grew up. The construction where the checkerboard rest on represents the constructed nature of most of the things and situations that influence us. Your are born in a specific family, there are many different forms of family life through the ages and in all the different cultures. You can have a typical 21st century western family with a mom and dad and two kids or, a family from 300 years ago in another part of the world where you live in a big building with 10 brothers and sister, uncles, aunts, grandmother, grandfather, and your parents. Both are constructed ways of living together, life, culture and history made these groups the way they are, nature has not so much to do with it. It is not hard to imagine what an effect these two different groups would have on you when you grow up in either one of them. You as a person have no choice in that, you are formed by your circumstances. “Everyone is the other and no one is himself.” Martin Heidegger

The iron crosses.

The iron cross represents the mechanism that has a more steering role after you start making “your own” choices in where to stand on the “checkerboard” that is given to you by your birth. Let’s say you are born in a religious family, then there are only a few places on your checkerboard where you can go to, to become an atheist. If you remain in a country that is heavily controlled by religious rulers than this “iron cross” represent these rulers and will tilt you on the checkerboard to a place where you will stay religious. Let’s say that you now move to a secular country, you will still be bound by the checkerboard or possibilities given to you by birth but now the “iron cross” or authorities will not steer you away from the little secular squares you have, but steer you towards it. Another way of reaching the few secular squares you have, in this example, is by studying and gaining knowledge. This knowledge might work as a counterweight to the forces in your religious country have on the direction of your life, and thus might steer you to the secular spaces on your checkerboard. This is most likely not a conscious move on your part, if you by coincidence start reading the “wrong” books this so-called counterweight might form without you knowing it. This iron cross is not only representing religion but all man-made constructs that steer your life, like the form of government or social structures you live under. All of these, steer your life towards their wishes. Remember that these constructs are not controlled by humans, they might be invented by them, but they live a life of their own and steer you as well as the so called rulers that are proclaiming and defending that system.

The others

The others, or other people in your life, take away pieces of your checkerboard or life. We do the same thing when we are in the vicinity of others.  Let’s take the religious person from before as an example. If I, an atheist, would become a friend with a religious person and we start talking and discussing life I will slowly eat away from their religious side of their checkerboard till I potentially consume, enough religious parts that they have no choice and land on a secular square despite the pull of the “cross” or system they live under. They will also feast on my secular squares and it depends on their quality and the pull of the system where I live under to see if and when in the end I will give.

In short.

You are born in specific circumstances that will give you a limited amount of choices. Society will guide your future choices, by the way of social pressure or laws but self-education can make you more independent. Other people will take away choices like someone telling you, while growing up, what you can’t do, and this will make it harder and harder to reach that goal that you desire.

Where is the free will?

I think that our free will is encapsulated in an imaginary tiny box. In that box we have free will but just outside that the box is everything we do in the world and determent by the world. Free will is something we think, but we act deterministic. We think we made a choice, and that is the limit of our freedom, we can think.

Let’s say you agree with me that we are thrown into the world and that YOU have had no choice in that. You had no choice in the circumstances you grew up in, it is determent for you. So, you might think that you choose that school later in life, but that choice was already made by the time and place you were born. You can choose from different schools, that all belonged to that specific time and place, you were born. That you choose the technical school was probably because of an example or someone talked you into it and don’t forget your genetic makeup. It is impossible to prove that there was a single point in your life where you decided to go to that school without influences from outside. Even if you stubbornly choose the opposite of all that surrounds you it still just the opposite of what was already determined.  Like I said, it feels like a choice, but it isn’t. There are all kinds of forces steering us forward. This doesn’t mean that you than give up. If you know that life is like that you can use that little freedom in your head to prepare yourself for the movements of life. I can give you an example of that: in my training as a Marine we learned certain fighting skills whereby you use the force of your opponent to defeat him. A little guy could, by accepting the forces around him, the powerful swing going towards his face, and stepping aside and lightly guide the powerful blow in a direction where the opened my stumble by means of his own forward momentum, and thus using these forces to beat a towering hulk. Your freedom rest in excepting the forces around you and not get overwhelmed by it. Your freedom lies, encapsulated, in that little box in your mind, and only there you can be free as long as you are not overwhelmed by the forces around you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

15. No internal and external in the world

Reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Human all too human

Read the introduction here

You can read the aphorism I discuss here in English an German below the main article.

Synopsis, quote from the translation by Helen Zimmern (1909) and my take on it

As Democritus1 transferred applied2 the concepts ” above ” and ” below ” to endless space where they have no sense, so philosophers in general have transferred Applied the concepts ” Internal ” and ” External ” to the essence and appearance of the world; Philosophers think that with deep internal feelings you can reach the “essence” of our nature. But these deep feelings are only deep if they are accompanied by hardly noticeable thoughts that we call “deep thoughts”, a feeling is deep because we think that the accompanying thought is deep. But these deep thoughts can be far from the truth for instance, every metaphysical one. If we take away the thoughts or words from the deep feeling we had, we are left with this deep feeling without any insight.  as strong faith proves only its strength and not the truth of what is believed in.

In one sentence:

Deep feelings are empty without words that are often empty to.

1Democritus was born in Abdera, Thrace, around 460 BC, although some thought it was 490 BC. His exact contributions are difficult to disentangle from those of his mentor Leucippus, as they are often mentioned together in texts. Their speculation on atoms, taken from Leucippus, bears a passing and partial resemblance to the 19th-century understanding of atomic structure that has led some to regard Democritus as more of a scientist than other Greek philosophers; however, their ideas rested on very different bases. Largely ignored in ancient Athens, Democritus is said to have been disliked so much by Plato that the latter wished all of his books burned. He was nevertheless well known to his fellow northern-born philosopher Aristotle. Many consider Democritus to be the “father of modern science”. None of his writings have survived; only fragments are known from his vast body of work. (Wikipedia)

2The German word “übertrug“ is in most translations translated as transferred but Handwerk translated it as extended and the Dutch version as “toepaste” that you translate in English as applied. It’s just a small difference between transferring, extending and applying and it has little influence on the whole aphorism. English is not my first languish, so I don’t know the full extent of the word transferred but it sounds like moved. In the second part of this first sentence: “transferred the concepts ” Internal ” and ” External ” to the essence and appearance of the world” I much rather use the word applied or extend.


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

  1. NO INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL IN THE WORLD.—As Democritus transferred the concepts ” above ” and ” below ” to endless space where they have no sense, so philosophers in general have transferred the concepts ” Internal ” and ” External ” to the essence and appearance of the world ; they think that with deep feelings one can penetrate deeply into the internal and approach the heart of Nature. But these feelings are only deep in so far as along with them, barely noticeable, certain complicated groups of thoughts, which we call deep, are regularly excited ; a feeling is deep because we think that the accompanying thought is deep. But the ” deep ” thought can nevertheless be very far from the truth, as, for instance, every metaphysical one ; if one take away from the deep feeling the commingled elements of thought, then the strong feeling remains, and this guarantees nothing for knowledge but itself, just as strong faith proves only its strength and not the truth of what is believed in.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Kein Innen und Aussen in der Welt. – Wie Demokrit die Begriffe Oben und Unten auf den unendlichen Raum übertrug, wo sie keinen Sinn haben, so die Philosophen überhaupt den Begriff “Innen und Aussen” auf Wesen und Erscheinung der Welt; sie meinen, mit tiefen Gefühlen komme man tief in’s Innere, nahe man sich dem Herzen der Natur. Aber diese Gefühle sind nur insofern tief, als mit ihnen, kaum bemerkbar, gewisse complicirte Gedankengruppen regelmässig erregt werden, welche wir tief nennen; ein Gefühl ist tief, weil wir den begleitenden Gedanken für tief halten. Aber der tiefe Gedanke kann dennoch der Wahrheit sehr fern sein, wie zum Beispiel jeder metaphysische; rechnet man vom tiefen Gefühle die beigemischten Gedankenelemente ab, so bleibt das starke Gefühl übrig, und dieses verbürgt Nichts für die Erkenntniss, als sich selbst, ebenso wie der starke Glaube nur seine Stärke, nicht die Wahrheit des Geglaubten beweist.

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