Human all too human: 27. A substitute for religion.

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.

It is praised to substitute religion with philosophy as a religion for the people. When you balance your mind its sometimes good to step aside on a temperate mindset like philosophy. The transition can be dangerous. A philosophy can either satisfy or eradicate irrational Christian believes. These irrational believes are limited and contradict science. It is better to use art for the final transition because the irrational believes of the Cristian mind reacts better to art than to science. because art keeps the emotion less alive than metaphysical philosophy does. From art you can move on to a really liberating science.

 In one sentence:

To overcome irrational believes, use art to get to science.

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

It is believed that something good is said of philosophy when it is put forward as a substitute for religion for the people. It is praised to substitute religion with philosophy as a religion for the people. In fact, transitional zones of thought are occasionally necessary in the spiritual economy”. (Handwerk translation) 1 When you balance your mind its sometimes good to step aside on a temperate mindset like philosophy. The transition from religion to science can be dangerous. The transition can be dangerous. To this extent the recommendation is justifiable. But eventually we have to learn that the needs that religion satisfied, and that are now satisfied by philosophy can be weakened and eradicated. Think, for instance, of the Christian’s distress of soul, his sighing over inward corruption, his anxiety for salvation,—all notions which originate only in errors of reason and deserve not satisfaction but destruction. A philosophy can serve either to satisfy those needs or to set them aside A philosophy can either satisfy or eradicate irrational Christian believes. for they are acquired, temporally limited needs, and contradict science. These irrational believes are limited and contradict science. For the task of switching over to science from religion it is much better to use art to relieve the mind of emotions, It is better to use art for the final transition because the irrational believes of the Cristian mind reacts better to art than to science. for those notions receive much less support from it than from a metaphysical philosophy. because art keeps the emotion less alive that metaphysical philosophy does. From art you can move on to a really liberating science.

1The translators made a real mess out of this sentence. I think that Handwerk comes closest to the spirit of the text, judge for your self.

In der Tat bedarf es in der geistigen Ökonomie gelegentlich überleitender Gedankenkreise

In fact, in spiritual economy occasionally there is a need for a series of thought-processes (Google 2017)

In fact, transitional zones of thought are occasionally necessary in the spiritual economy. (Handwerk 2000)

The economy of the spirit does indeed occasionally require transitional orders of ideas (Hollingdale 1986)

in the spiritual economy there is need, at times, of an intermediary order of thought (Zimmern 1909)

And in fact, the training of the intellect does necessitate the convenient laying out of the track of thought. (Harvey 1908)


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

  1. A SUBSTITUTE FOR RELIGION.—It is believed that something good is said of philosophy when it is put forward as a substitute for religion for the people. As a matter of fact, in the spiritual economy there is need, at times, of an intermediary order of thought : the transition from religion to scientific contemplation is a violent, dangerous leap, which is not to be recommended. To this extent the recommendation is justifiable. But one should eventually learn that the needs which have been satisfied by religion and are now to be satisfied by philosophy are not unchangeable ; these themselves can be weakened and eradicated. Think, for instance, of the Christian’s distress of soul, his sighing over inward corruption, his anxiety for salvation,—all notions which originate only in errors of reason and deserve not satisfaction but destruction. A philosophy can serve either to satisfy those needs or to set them aside ; for they are acquired, temporally limited needs, which are based upon suppositions contradictory to those of science. Here, in order to make a transition, art is far rather to be employed to relieve the mind over-burdened with emotions; for those notions receive much less support from it than from a metaphysical philosophy. It is easier, then, to pass over from art to a really liberating philosophical science.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Ersatz der Religion. – Man glaubt einer Philosophie etwas Gutes nachzusagen, wenn man sie als Ersatz der Religion für das Volk hinstellt. In der That bedarf es in der geistigen Oekonomie gelegentlich überleitender Gedankenkreise; so ist der Uebergang aus Religion in wissenschaftliche Betrachtung ein gewaltsamer, gefährlicher Sprung, Etwas, das zu widerrathen ist. Insofern hat man mit jener Anempfehlung Recht. Aber endlich sollte man doch auch lernen, dass die Bedürfnisse, welche die Religion befriedigt hat und nun die Philosophie befriedigen soll, nicht unwandelbar sind; diese selbst kann man schwächen und ausrotten. Man denke zum Beispiel an die christliche Seelennoth, das Seufzen über die innere Verderbtheit, die Sorge um das Heil, – alles Vorstellungen, welche nur aus Irrthümern der Vernunft herrühren und gar keine Befriedigung, sondern Vernichtung verdienen. Eine Philosophie kann entweder so nützen, dass sie jene Bedürfnisse auch befriedigt oder dass sie dieselben beseitigt; denn es sind angelernte, zeitlich begränzte Bedürfnisse, welche auf Voraussetzungen beruhen, die denen der Wissenschaft widersprechen. Hier ist, um einen Uebergang zu machen, die Kunst viel eher zu benutzen, um das mit Empfindungen überladene Gemüth zu erleichtern; denn durch sie werden jene Vorstellungen viel weniger unterhalten, als durch eine metaphysische Philosophie. Von der Kunst aus kann man dann leichter in eine wirklich befreiende philosophische Wissenschaft übergehen.

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

War of the dummies

Day 240-1I grow up with a mother that brought us to large demonstrations against American and Russian aggression. There were posters with peace signs on the wall and I remember that she told us, when we were young and in the early eighties, that if “the bomb” would fall we would go to the big city, so we would die quickly. There was a real scare that time for an atomic war and all because of that dumb actor and his war loving buddies in America that thought it was smart to taunt a dying bear. So, it’s clear that I didn’t grew up in a militaristic family, but me and my brother still choose to join the military. I was drafted, and I could have refused but I wasn’t sure why I was against war.

Being against war is like saying that you are against earthquakes, we live in a world where there is always a war going on, it feels like nature at work. Most people probably prefer a world without wars, but this is the world we created.  We as “homo sapiens bellum” prefer a system where we let a few people with the biggest stick steer the boat of civilization.  We all still have monkey brains with a lizard spine, the only thing we have over the monkeys is that we can imagine, for instance, a world without wars. We have imagination but what have we used it primarily for? We started in a cave with a stick to beat each other over the head, used our imagination, and a 100.000 years later we made our first nuclear weapons. Some cave dweller was probably fiddling with his stick and a piece of robe while watching cave-tv and ta da there was the first bow and arrow. It’s a random mutation that made that person smarter than his fellow cave dwellers and gave that person the change to add something to an already existing tool or object. That invention inspires yet another person, some years later, who is a little bit smarter than the others and makes some more improvements. If you wait long enough you end up with our modern weapons and mobile phones. Humanity stumbled through history to our modern times and identifies itself with the few that mattered. The exceptions have made our world, but how smart were they?

We humans have not chosen smart, if we had we would have tamed our inner monkey by now. There is more incentive to invent a better stick, a better weapon, than to develop our mind. With a better stick it’s easier to get a result and most people can use the new stick immediately. It’s much harder to “sell” a concept or idea, especially if that idea only results in success in the long run. How many iPhone’s were sold last year compared to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason? We are more adjusted to grasp things with our hands than to grasp them with our brain. If, in the last 100.000 years, we had put the same effort in ideas to better our societies instead of inventing ways to kill and envy each other. We would have skipped all the different weapons and went straight to the technological advancements that would improve our society. We would possibly have landed on the moon in 1609.

But we are a long way from that. The mightiest country in the world just put a baboon -literally- on the throne that doesn’t know what kind of devastation an atomic bomb creates. I’m not so scared of a single stupid man or woman but there are millions of people all over the world that approve of monkey’s like it.  Most of these people have access to the internet, and can find some revealing answers. If their conspiratorial mindset takes over they can always go to their grandmother’s encyclopedia collection and find some answers that contradict all of these liars. But most of those people’s eyes are probably glossed over from reading Critique of Pure Reason and have no time for that.

1. Chemistry of ideas and sensations

You can read the aphorism  I discuss here below the main article.

Synopsis and my take on it:

Nietzsche is predicting here the existence of what we now call neurotransmitters in a study field  (neurochemistry) that was not yet invented. First he pointed out that in metaphysical philosophy and in popular languages there is the assumption of “a miraculous origin for more highly valued things”. Things like making music that originates from “divine inspiration” instead of a cold hard chemistry process in the brain. Nietzsche talks about “chemistry of the moral, religious, esthetic ideas and sentiments” and about emotions we feel. And then, as Nietzsche often does in his work, he ends with a question that puts a thought in your mind that makes you feel challenged:Humanity likes to put all questions as to origin and beginning out of its mind; must one not be almost dehumanized to feel a contrary tendency in one’s self?”

In one sentence:

Chemistry takes over


Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I, translated by Helen Zimmern 1914

First and last things

  1. CHEMISTRY OF IDEAS AND SENSATIONS. —Philosophical problems adopt in almost all matters the same form of question as they did two thousand years ago ; how can anything spring from its opposite ? for instance, reason out of unreason, the sentient out of the dead, logic out of unlogic, disinterested contemplation out of covetous willing, life for others out of egoism, truth out of error ? Metaphysical philosophy has helped itself over those difficulties hitherto by denying the origin of one thing in another, and assuming a miraculous origin for more highly valued things, immediately out of the kernel and essence of the ” thing in itself.” Historical philosophy, on the contrary, which is no longer to be thought of as separate from physical science, the youngest of all philosophical methods, has ascertained in single cases (and presumably this will happen in everything) that there are no opposites except in the usual exaggeration of the popular or metaphysical point of view, and that an error of reason lies at the bottom of the opposition : according to this explanation, strictly understood, there is neither an unegoistical action nor an entirely disinterested point of view, they are both only sublimations in which the fundamental element appears almost evaporated, and is only to be discovered by the closest observation. All that we require, and which can only be given us by the present advance of the single sciences, is a chemistry of the moral, religious, esthetic ideas and sentiments, as also of those emotions which we experience in ourselves both in the great and in the small phases of social and intellectual intercourse, and even in solitude; but what if this chemistry should result in the fact that also in this case the most beautiful colors have been obtained from base, even despised materials ? Would many be inclined to pursue such examinations? Humanity likes to put all questions as to origin and beginning out of its mind; must one not be almost dehumanised to feel a contrary tendency in one’s self?

Menschliches allzumenschlich 1878/80

Von den ersten und letzten Dingen.

  1. Chemie der Begriffe und Empfindungen. – Die Philosophischen Probleme nehmen jetzt wieder fast in allen Stücken dieselbe Form der Frage an, wie vor zweitausend Jahren.- wie kann Etwas aus seinem Gegensatz entstehen, zum Beispiel Vernünftiges aus Vernunftlosem, Empfindendes aus Todtem, Logik aus Unlogik, interesseloses Anschauen aus begehrlichem Wollen, Leben für Andere aus Egoismus, Wahrheit aus Irrthümern? Die metaphysische Philosophie half sich bisher über diese Schwierigkeit hinweg, insofern sie die Entstehung des Einen aus dem Andern leugnete und für die höher gewertheten Dinge einen Wunder-Ursprung annahm, unmittelbar aus dem Kern und Wesen des “Dinges an sich” heraus. Die historische Philosophie dagegen, welche gar nicht mehr getrennt von der Naturwissenschaft zu denken ist, die allerjüngste aller philosophischen Methoden, ermittelte in einzelnen Fällen (und vermuthlich wird diess in allen ihr Ergebniss sein), dass es keine Gegensätze sind, ausser in der gewohnten Uebertreibung der populären oder metaphysischen Auffassung und dass ein Irrthum der Vernunft dieser Gegenüberstellung zu Grunde liegt: nach ihrer Erklärung giebt es, streng gefasst, weder ein unegoistisches Handeln, noch ein völlig interesseloses Anschauen, es sind beides nur Sublimirungen, bei denen das Grundelement fast verflüchtigt erscheint und nur noch für die feinste Beobachtung sich als vorhanden erweist. – Alles, was wir brauchen und was erst bei der gegenwärtigen Höhe der einzelnen Wissenschaften uns gegeben werden kann, ist eine Chemie der moralischen, religiösen, ästhetischen Vorstellungen und Empfindungen, ebenso aller jener Regungen, welche wir im Gross- und Kleinverkehr der Cultur und Gesellschaft, ja in der Einsamkeit an uns erleben: wie, wenn diese Chemie mit dem Ergebniss abschlösse, dass auch auf diesem Gebiete die herrlichsten Farben aus niedrigen, ja verachteten Stoffen gewonnen sind? Werden Viele Lust haben, solchen Untersuchungen zu folgen? Die Menschheit liebt es, die Fragen über Herkunft und Anfänge sich aus dem Sinn zu schlagen: muss man nicht fast entmenscht sein, um den entgegengesetzten Hang in sich zu spüren? –

20171106_173550


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