Human, All Too Human
Category: Ideas
Genres: Philosophy
Level 11.48 4:23 h
Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits (German: Menschliches, Allzumenschliches: Ein Buch für freie Geister) is a book by 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1878. Human, All Too Human is a collection of aphorisms, a style which Nietzsche would use in many of his subsequent works. The aphorisms of Human, All Too Human range from a few words to a few pages, but most are short paragraphs.

All Too Human

A Book for Free Spirits

Friedrich Nietzsche

Translated by Alexander Harvey

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche



It is often enough, and always with great surprise, intimated to me that there is something both ordinary and unusual in all my writings, from the “Birth of Tragedy” to the recently published “Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future”: they all contain, I have been told, snares and nets for short sighted birds, and something that is almost a constant, subtle, incitement to an overturning of habitual opinions and of approved customs. What!? Everything is merely — human — all too human? With this exclamation my writings are gone through, not without a certain dread and mistrust of ethic itself and not without a disposition to ask the exponent of evil things if those things be not simply misrepresented. My writings have been termed a school of distrust, still more of disdain: also, and more happily, of courage, audacity even. And in fact, I myself do not believe that anybody ever looked into the world with a distrust as deep as mine, seeming, as I do, not simply the timely advocate of the devil, but, to employ theological terms, an enemy and challenger of God; and whosoever has experienced any of the consequences of such deep distrust, anything of the chills and the agonies of isolation to which such an unqualified difference of standpoint condemns him endowed with it, will also understand how often I must have sought relief and self-forgetfulness from any source — through any object of veneration or enmity, of scientific seriousness or wanton lightness; also why I, when I could not find what I was in need of, had to fashion it for myself, counterfeiting it or imagining it (and what poet or writer has ever done anything else, and what other purpose can all the art in the world possibly have?) That which I always stood most in need of in order to effect my cure and self-recovery was faith, faith enough not to be thus isolated, not to look at life from so singular a point of view — a magic apprehension (in eye and mind) of relationship and equality, a calm confidence in friendship, a blindness, free from suspicion and questioning, to two sidedness; a pleasure in externals, superficialities, the near, the accessible, in all things possessed of color, skin and seeming. Perhaps I could be fairly reproached with much “art” in this regard, many fine counterfeitings; for example, that, wisely or wilfully, I had shut my eyes to Schopenhauer’s blind will towards ethic, at a time when I was already clear sighted enough on the subject of ethic; likewise that I had deceived myself concerning Richard Wagner’s incurable romanticism, as if it were a beginning and not an end; likewise concerning the Greeks, likewise concerning the Germans and their future — and there may be, perhaps, a long list of such likewises. Granted, however, that all this were true, and with justice urged against me, what does it signify, what can it signify in regard to how much of the self-sustaining capacity, how much of reason and higher protection are embraced in such self-deception? — and how much more falsity is still necessary to me that I may therewith always reassure myself regarding the luxury of my truth. Enough, I still live; and life is not considered now apart from ethic; it will [have] deception; it thrives (lebt) on deception … but am I not beginning to do all over again what I have always done, I, the old immoralist, and bird snarer — talk unmorally, ultramorally, “beyond good and evil”?


Thus, then, have I evolved for myself the “free spirits” to whom this discouraging-encouraging work, under the general title “Human, All Too Human,” is dedicated. Such “free spirits” do not really exist and never did exist. But I stood in need of them, as I have pointed out, in order that some good might be mixed with my evils (illness, loneliness, strangeness, acedia, incapacity): to serve as gay spirits and comrades, with whom one may talk and laugh when one is disposed to talk and laugh, and whom one may send to the devil when they grow wearisome. They are some compensation for the lack of friends. That such free spirits can possibly exist, that our Europe will yet number among her sons of to-morrow or of the day after to-morrow, such a brilliant and enthusiastic company, alive and palpable and not merely, as in my case, fantasms and imaginary shades, I, myself, can by no means doubt. I see them already coming, slowly, slowly. May it not be that I am doing a little something to expedite their coming when I describe in advance the influences under which I see them evolving and the ways along which they travel?


It may be conjectured that a soul in which the type of “free spirit” can attain maturity and completeness had its decisive and deciding event in the form of a great emancipation or unbinding, and that prior to that event it seemed only the more firmly and forever chained to its place and pillar. What binds strongest? What cords seem almost unbreakable? In the case of mortals of a choice and lofty nature they will be those of duty: that reverence, which in youth is most typical, that timidity and tenderness in the presence of the traditionally honored and the worthy, that gratitude to the soil from which we sprung, for the hand that guided us, for the relic before which we were taught to pray — their sublimest moments will themselves bind these souls most strongly. The great liberation comes suddenly to such prisoners, like an earthquake: the young soul is all at once shaken, torn apart, cast forth — it comprehends not itself what is taking place. An involuntary onward impulse rules them with the mastery of command; a will, a wish are developed to go forward, anywhere, at any price; a strong, dangerous curiosity regarding an undiscovered world flames and flashes in all their being. “Better to die than live here” — so sounds the tempting voice: and this “here,” this “at home” constitutes all they have hitherto loved. A sudden dread and distrust of that which they loved, a flash of contempt for that which is called their “duty,” a mutinous, wilful, volcanic-like longing for a far away journey, strange scenes and people, annihilation, petrifaction, a hatred surmounting love, perhaps a sacrilegious impulse and look backwards, to where they so long prayed and loved, perhaps a flush of shame for what they did and at the same time an exultation at having done it, an inner, intoxicating, delightful tremor in which is betrayed the sense of victory — a victory? over what? over whom? a riddle-like victory, fruitful in questioning and well worth questioning, but the first victory, for all — such things of pain and ill belong to the history of the great liberation. And it is at the same time a malady that can destroy a man, this first outbreak of strength and will for self-destination, self-valuation, this will for free will: and how much illness is forced to the surface in the frantic strivings and singularities with which the freedman, the liberated seeks henceforth to attest his mastery over things! He roves fiercely around, with an unsatisfied longing and whatever objects he may encounter must suffer from the perilous expectancy of his pride; he tears to pieces whatever attracts him. With a sardonic laugh he overturns whatever he finds veiled or protected by any reverential awe: he would see what these things look like when they are overturned. It is wilfulness and delight in the wilfulness of it, if he now, perhaps, gives his approval to that which has heretofore been in ill repute — if, in curiosity and experiment, he penetrates stealthily to the most forbidden things. In the background during all his plunging and roaming — for he is as restless and aimless in his course as if lost in a wilderness — is the interrogation mark of a curiosity growing ever more dangerous. “Can we not upset every standard? and is good perhaps evil? and God only an invention and a subtlety of the devil? Is everything, in the last resort, false? And if we are dupes are we not on that very account dupers also? must we not be dupers also?” Such reflections lead and mislead him, ever further on, ever further away. Solitude, that dread goddess and mater saeva cupidinum, encircles and besets him, ever more threatening, more violent, more heart breaking — but who to-day knows what solitude is?


From this morbid solitude, from the deserts of such trial years, the way is yet far to that great, overflowing certainty and healthiness which cannot dispense even with sickness as a means and a grappling hook of knowledge; to that matured freedom of the spirit which is, in an equal degree, self mastery and discipline of the heart, and gives access to the path of much and various reflection — to that inner comprehensiveness and self satisfaction of over-richness which precludes all danger that the spirit has gone astray even in its own path and is sitting intoxicated in some corner or other; to that overplus of plastic, healing, imitative and restorative power which is the very sign of vigorous health, that overplus which confers upon the free spirit the perilous prerogative of spending a life in experiment and of running adventurous risks: the past-master-privilege of the free spirit. In the interval there may be long years of convalescence, years filled with many hued painfully-bewitching transformations, dominated and led to the goal by a tenacious will for health that is often emboldened to assume the guise and the disguise of health. There is a middle ground to this, which a man of such destiny can not subsequently recall without emotion; he basks in a special fine sun of his own, with a feeling of birdlike freedom, birdlike visual power, birdlike irrepressibleness, a something extraneous (Drittes) in which curiosity and delicate disdain have united. A “free spirit” — this refreshing term is grateful in any mood, it almost sets one aglow. One lives — no longer in the bonds of love and hate, without a yes or no, here or there indifferently, best pleased to evade, to avoid, to beat about, neither advancing nor retreating. One is habituated to the bad, like a person who all at once sees a fearful hurly-burly beneath him — and one was the counterpart of him who bothers himself with things that do not concern him. As a matter of fact the free spirit is bothered with mere things — and how many things — which no longer concern him.


A step further in recovery: and the free spirit draws near to life again, slowly indeed, almost refractorily, almost distrustfully. There is again warmth and mellowness: feeling and fellow feeling acquire depth, lambent airs stir all about him. He almost feels: it seems as if now for the first time his eyes are open to things near. He is in amaze and sits hushed: for where had he been? These near and immediate things: how changed they seem to him! He looks gratefully back — grateful for his wandering, his self exile and severity, his lookings afar and his bird flights in the cold heights. How fortunate that he has not, like a sensitive, dull home body, remained always “in the house” and “at home!” He had been beside himself, beyond a doubt. Now for the first time he really sees himself — and what surprises in the process. What hitherto unfelt tremors! Yet what joy in the exhaustion, the old sickness, the relapses of the convalescent! How it delights him, suffering, to sit still, to exercise patience, to lie in the sun! Who so well as he appreciates the fact that there comes balmy weather even in winter, who delights more in the sunshine athwart the wall? They are the most appreciative creatures in the world, and also the most humble, these convalescents and lizards, crawling back towards life: there are some among them who can let no day slip past them without addressing some song of praise to its retreating light. And speaking seriously, it is a fundamental cure for all pessimism (the cankerous vice, as is well known, of all idealists and humbugs), to become ill in the manner of these free spirits, to remain ill quite a while and then bit by bit grow healthy — I mean healthier. It is wisdom, worldly wisdom, to administer even health to oneself for a long time in small doses.


About this time it becomes at last possible, amid the flash lights of a still unestablished, still precarious health, for the free, the ever freer spirit to begin to read the riddle of that great liberation, a riddle which has hitherto lingered, obscure, well worth questioning, almost impalpable, in his memory. If once he hardly dared to ask “why so apart? so alone? renouncing all I loved? renouncing respect itself? why this coldness, this suspicion, this hate for one’s very virtues?” — now he dares, and asks it loudly, already hearing the answer, “you had to become master over yourself, master of your own good qualities. Formerly they were your masters: but they should be merely your tools along with other tools. You had to acquire power over your aye and no and learn to hold and withhold them in accordance with your higher aims. You had to grasp the perspective of every representation (Werthschätzung) — the dislocation, distortion and the apparent end or teleology of the horizon, besides whatever else appertains to the perspective: also the element of demerit in its relation to opposing merit, and the whole intellectual cost of every affirmative, every negative. You had to find out the inevitable error in every Yes and in every No, error as inseparable from life, life itself as conditioned by the perspective and its inaccuracy. Above all, you had to see with your own eyes where the error is always greatest: there, namely, where life is littlest, narrowest, meanest, least developed and yet cannot help looking upon itself as the goal and standard of things, and smugly and ignobly and incessantly tearing to tatters all that is highest and greatest and richest, and putting the shreds into the form of questions from the standpoint of its own well being. You had to see with your own eyes the problem of classification, (Rangordnung, regulation concerning rank and station) and how strength and sweep and reach of perspective wax upward together: You had” — enough, the free spirit knows henceforward which “you had” it has obeyed and also what it now can do and what it now, for the first time, dare.


Accordingly, the free spirit works out for itself an answer to that riddle of its liberation and concludes by generalizing upon its experience in the following fashion: “What I went through everyone must go through” in whom any problem is germinated and strives to body itself forth. The inner power and inevitability of this problem will assert themselves in due course, as in the case of any unsuspected pregnancy — long before the spirit has seen this problem in its true aspect and learned to call it by its right name. Our destiny exercises its influence over us even when, as yet, we have not learned its nature: it is our future that lays down the law to our to-day. Granted, that it is the problem of classification of which we free spirits may say, this is our problem, yet it is only now, in the midday of our life, that we fully appreciate what preparations, shifts, trials, ordeals, stages, were essential to that problem before it could emerge to our view, and why we had to go through the various and contradictory longings and satisfactions of body and soul, as circumnavigators and adventurers of that inner world called “man”; as surveyors of that “higher” and of that “progression” that is also called “man” — crowding in everywhere, almost without fear, disdaining nothing, missing nothing, testing everything, sifting everything and eliminating the chance impurities — until at last we could say, we free spirits: “Here — a new problem! Here, a long ladder on the rungs of which we ourselves have rested and risen, which we have actually been at times. Here is a something higher, a something deeper, a something below us, a vastly extensive order, (Ordnung) a comparative classification (Rangordnung), that we perceive: here — our problem!”


To what stage in the development just outlined the present book belongs (or is assigned) is something that will be hidden from no augur or psychologist for an instant. But where are there psychologists to-day? In France, certainly; in Russia, perhaps; certainly not in Germany. Grounds are not wanting, to be sure, upon which the Germans of to-day may adduce this fact to their credit: unhappily for one who in this matter is fashioned and mentored in an un-German school! This German book, which has found its readers in a wide circle of lands and peoples — it has been some ten years on its rounds — and which must make its way by means of any musical art and tune that will captivate the foreign ear as well as the native — this book has been read most indifferently in Germany itself and little heeded there: to what is that due? “It requires too much,” I have been told, “it addresses itself to men free from the press of petty obligations, it demands fine and trained perceptions, it requires a surplus, a surplus of time, of the lightness of heaven and of the heart, of otium in the most unrestricted sense: mere good things that we Germans of to-day have not got and therefore cannot give.” After so graceful a retort, my philosophy bids me be silent and ask no more questions: at times, as the proverb says, one remains a philosopher only because one says — nothing!

Nice, Spring, 1886.

Of the First and Last Things


Chemistry of the Notions and the Feelings. — Philosophical problems, in almost all their aspects, present themselves in the same interrogative formula now that they did two thousand years ago: how can a thing develop out of its antithesis? for example, the reasonable from the non-reasonable, the animate from the inanimate, the logical from the illogical, altruism from egoism, disinterestedness from greed, truth from error? The metaphysical philosophy formerly steered itself clear of this difficulty to such extent as to repudiate the evolution of one thing from another and to assign a miraculous origin to what it deemed highest and best, due to the very nature and being of the “thing-in-itself.” The historical philosophy, on the other hand, which can no longer be viewed apart from physical science, the youngest of all philosophical methods, discovered experimentally (and its results will probably always be the same) that there is no antithesis whatever, except in the usual exaggerations of popular or metaphysical comprehension, and that an error of the reason is at the bottom of such contradiction. According to its explanation, there is, strictly speaking, neither unselfish conduct, nor a wholly disinterested point of view. Both are simply sublimations in which the basic element seems almost evaporated and betrays its presence only to the keenest observation. All that we need and that could possibly be given us in the present state of development of the sciences, is a chemistry of the moral, religious, aesthetic conceptions and feeling, as well as of those emotions which we experience in the affairs, great and small, of society and civilization, and which we are sensible of even in solitude. But what if this chemistry established the fact that, even in its domain, the most magnificent results were attained with the basest and most despised ingredients? Would many feel disposed to continue such investigations? Mankind loves to put by the questions of its origin and beginning: must one not be almost inhuman in order to follow the opposite course?


The Traditional Error of Philosophers. — All philosophers make the common mistake of taking contemporary man as their starting point and of trying, through an analysis of him, to reach a conclusion. “Man” involuntarily presents himself to them as an aeterna veritas as a passive element in every hurly-burly, as a fixed standard of things. Yet everything uttered by the philosopher on the subject of man is, in the last resort, nothing more than a piece of testimony concerning man during a very limited period of time. Lack of the historical sense is the traditional defect in all philosophers. Many innocently take man in his most childish state as fashioned through the influence of certain religious and even of certain political developments, as the permanent form under which man must be viewed. They will not learn that man has evolved, that the intellectual faculty itself is an evolution, whereas some philosophers make the whole cosmos out of this intellectual faculty. But everything essential in human evolution took place aeons ago, long before the four thousand years or so of which we know anything: during these man may not have changed very much. However, the philosopher ascribes “instinct” to contemporary man and assumes that this is one of the unalterable facts regarding man himself, and hence affords a clue to the understanding of the universe in general. The whole teleology is so planned that man during the last four thousand years shall be spoken of as a being existing from all eternity, and with reference to whom everything in the cosmos from its very inception is naturally ordered. Yet everything evolved: there are no eternal facts as there are no absolute truths. Accordingly, historical philosophising is henceforth indispensable, and with it honesty of judgment.


Appreciation of Simple Truths. — It is the characteristic of an advanced civilization to set a higher value upon little, simple truths, ascertained by scientific method, than upon the pleasing and magnificent errors originating in metaphysical and æsthetical epochs and peoples. To begin with, the former are spoken of with contempt as if there could be no question of comparison respecting them, so rigid, homely, prosaic and even discouraging is the aspect of the first, while so beautiful, decorative, intoxicating and perhaps beatific appear the last named. Nevertheless, the hardwon, the certain, the lasting and, therefore, the fertile in new knowledge, is the higher; to hold fast to it is manly and evinces courage, directness, endurance. And not only individual men but all mankind will by degrees be uplifted to this manliness when they are finally habituated to the proper appreciation of tenable, enduring knowledge and have lost all faith in inspiration and in the miraculous revelation of truth. The reverers of forms, indeed, with their standards of beauty and taste, may have good reason to laugh when the appreciation of little truths and the scientific spirit begin to prevail, but that will be only because their eyes are not yet opened to the charm of the utmost simplicity of form or because men though reared in the rightly appreciative spirit, will still not be fully permeated by it, so that they continue unwittingly imitating ancient forms (and that ill enough, as anybody does who no longer feels any interest in a thing). Formerly the mind was not brought into play through the medium of exact thought. Its serious business lay in the working out of forms and symbols. That has now changed. Any seriousness in symbolism is at present the indication of a deficient education. As our very acts become more intellectual, our tendencies more rational, and our judgment, for example, as to what seems reasonable, is very different from what it was a hundred years ago: so the forms of our lives grow ever more intellectual and, to the old fashioned eye, perhaps, uglier, but only because it cannot see that the richness of inner, rational beauty always spreads and deepens, and that the inner, rational aspect of all things should now be of more consequence to us than the most beautiful externality and the most exquisite limning.


Astrology and the Like. — It is presumable that the objects of the religious, moral, aesthetic and logical notions pertain simply to the superficialities of things, although man flatters himself with the thought that here at least he is getting to the heart of the cosmos. He deceives himself because these things have power to make him so happy and so wretched, and so he evinces, in this respect, the same conceit that characterises astrology. Astrology presupposes that the heavenly bodies are regulated in their movements in harmony with the destiny of mortals: the moral man presupposes that that which concerns himself most nearly must also be the heart and soul of things.


Misconception of Dreams. — In the dream, mankind, in epochs of crude primitive civilization, thought they were introduced to a second, substantial world: here we have the source of all metaphysic. Without the dream, men would never have been incited to an analysis of the world. Even the distinction between soul and body is wholly due to the primitive conception of the dream, as also the hypothesis of the embodied soul, whence the development of all superstition, and also, probably, the belief in god. “The dead still live: for they appear to the living in dreams.” So reasoned mankind at one time, and through many thousands of years.


The Scientific Spirit Prevails only Partially, not Wholly. — The specialized, minutest departments of science are dealt with purely objectively. But the general universal sciences, considered as a great, basic unity, posit the question — truly a very living question — : to what purpose? what is the use? Because of this reference to utility they are, as a whole, less impersonal than when looked at in their specialized aspects. Now in the case of philosophy, as forming the apex of the scientific pyramid, this question of the utility of knowledge is necessarily brought very conspicuously forward, so that every philosophy has, unconsciously, the air of ascribing the highest utility to itself. It is for this reason that all philosophies contain such a great amount of high flying metaphysic, and such a shrinking from the seeming insignificance of the deliverances of physical science: for the significance of knowledge in relation to life must be made to appear as great as possible. This constitutes the antagonism between the specialties of science and philosophy. The latter aims, as art aims, at imparting to life and conduct the utmost depth and significance: in the former mere knowledge is sought and nothing else — whatever else be incidentally obtained. Heretofore there has never been a philosophical system in which philosophy itself was not made the apologist of knowledge [in the abstract]. On this point, at least, each is optimistic and insists that to knowledge the highest utility must be ascribed. They are all under the tyranny of logic, which is, from its very nature, optimism.


The Discordant Element in Science. — Philosophy severed itself from science when it put the question: what is that knowledge of the world and of life through which mankind may be made happiest? This happened when the Socratic school arose: with the standpoint of happiness the arteries of investigating science were compressed too tightly to permit of any circulation of the blood — and are so compressed to-day.


Pneumatic Explanation of Nature. — Metaphysic reads the message of nature as if it were written purely pneumatically, as the church and its learned ones formerly did where the bible was concerned. It requires a great deal of expertness to apply to nature the same strict science of interpretation that the philologists have devised for all literature, and to apply it for the purpose of a simple, direct interpretation of the message, and at the same time, not bring out a double meaning. But, as in the case of books and literature, errors of exposition are far from being completely eliminated, and vestiges of allegorical and mystical interpretations are still to be met with in the most cultivated circles, so where nature is concerned the case is — actually much worse.


Metaphysical World. — It is true, there may be a metaphysical world; the absolute possibility of it can scarcely be disputed. We see all things through the medium of the human head and we cannot well cut off this head: although there remains the question what part of the world would be left after it had been cut off. But that is a purely abstract scientific problem and one not much calculated to give men uneasiness: yet everything that has heretofore made metaphysical assumptions valuable, fearful or delightful to men, all that gave rise to them is passion, error and self deception: the worst systems of knowledge, not the best, pin their tenets of belief thereto. When such methods are once brought to view as the basis of all existing religions and metaphysics, they are already discredited. There always remains, however, the possibility already conceded: but nothing at all can be made out of that, to say not a word about letting happiness, salvation and life hang upon the threads spun from such a possibility. Accordingly, nothing could be predicated of the metaphysical world beyond the fact that it is an elsewhere, another sphere, inaccessible and incomprehensible to us: it would become a thing of negative properties. Even were the existence of such a world absolutely established, it would nevertheless remain incontrovertible that of all kinds of knowledge, knowledge of such a world would be of least consequence — of even less consequence than knowledge of the chemical analysis of water would be to a storm tossed mariner.


The Harmlessness of Metaphysic in the Future. — As soon as religion, art and ethics are so understood that a full comprehension of them can be gained without taking refuge in the postulates of metaphysical claptrap at any point in the line of reasoning, there will be a complete cessation of interest in the purely theoretical problem of the “thing in itself” and the “phenomenon.” For here, too, the same truth applies: in religion, art and ethics we are not concerned with the “essence of the cosmos”. We are in the sphere of pure conception. No presentiment [or intuition] can carry us any further. With perfect tranquility the question of how our conception of the world could differ so sharply from the actual world as it is manifest to us, will be relegated to the physiological sciences and to the history of the evolution of ideas and organisms.


Language as a Presumptive Science. — The importance of language in the development of civilization consists in the fact that by means of it man placed one world, his own, alongside another, a place of leverage that he thought so firm as to admit of his turning the rest of the cosmos on a pivot that he might master it. In so far as man for ages looked upon mere ideas and names of things as upon aeternae veritates, he evinced the very pride with which he raised himself above the brute. He really supposed that in language he possessed a knowledge of the cosmos. The language builder was not so modest as to believe that he was only giving names to things. On the contrary he thought he embodied the highest wisdom concerning things in [mere] words; and, in truth, language is the first movement in all strivings for wisdom. Here, too, it is faith in ascertained truth from which the mightiest fountains of strength have flowed. Very tardily — only now — it dawns upon men that they have propagated a monstrous error in their belief in language. Fortunately, it is too late now to arrest and turn back the evolutionary process of the reason, which had its inception in this belief. Logic itself rests upon assumptions to which nothing in the world of reality corresponds. For example, the correspondence of certain things to one another and the identity of those things at different periods of time are assumptions pure and simple, but the science of logic originated in the positive belief that they were not assumptions at all but established facts. It is the same with the science of mathematics which certainly would never have come into existence if mankind had known from the beginning that in all nature there is no perfectly straight line, no true circle, no standard of measurement.


Dream and Civilization. — The function of the brain which is most encroached upon in slumber is the memory; not that it is wholly suspended, but it is reduced to a state of imperfection as, in primitive ages of mankind, was probably the case with everyone, whether waking or sleeping. Uncontrolled and entangled as it is, it perpetually confuses things as a result of the most trifling similarities, yet in the same mental confusion and lack of control the nations invented their mythologies, while nowadays travelers habitually observe how prone the savage is to forgetfulness, how his mind, after the least exertion of memory, begins to wander and lose itself until finally he utters falsehood and nonsense from sheer exhaustion. Yet, in dreams, we all resemble this savage. Inadequacy of distinction and error of comparison are the basis of the preposterous things we do and say in dreams, so that when we clearly recall a dream we are startled that so much idiocy lurks within us. The absolute distinctness of all dream-images, due to implicit faith in their substantial reality, recalls the conditions in which earlier mankind were placed, for whom hallucinations had extraordinary vividness, entire communities and even entire nations laboring simultaneously under them. Therefore: in sleep and in dream we make the pilgrimage of early mankind over again.


Logic of the Dream. — During sleep the nervous system, through various inner provocatives, is in constant agitation. Almost all the organs act independently and vigorously. The blood circulates rapidly. The posture of the sleeper compresses some portions of the body. The coverlets influence the sensations in different ways. The stomach carries on the digestive process and acts upon other organs thereby. The intestines are in motion. The position of the head induces unaccustomed action. The feet, shoeless, no longer pressing the ground, are the occasion of other sensations of novelty, as is, indeed, the changed garb of the entire body. All these things, following the bustle and change of the day, result, through their novelty, in a movement throughout the entire system that extends even to the brain functions. Thus there are a hundred circumstances to induce perplexity in the mind, a questioning as to the cause of this excitation. Now, the dream is a seeking and presenting of reasons for these excitations of feeling, of the supposed reasons, that is to say. Thus, for example, whoever has his feet bound with two threads will probably dream that a pair of serpents are coiled about his feet. This is at first a hypothesis, then a belief with an accompanying imaginative picture and the argument: “these snakes must be the causa of those sensations which I, the sleeper, now have.” So reasons the mind of the sleeper. The conditions precedent, as thus conjectured, become, owing to the excitation of the fancy, present realities. Everyone knows from experience how a dreamer will transform one piercing sound, for example, that of a bell, into another of quite a different nature, say, the report of cannon. In his dream he becomes aware first of the effects, which he explains by a subsequent hypothesis and becomes persuaded of the purely conjectural nature of the sound. But how comes it that the mind of the dreamer goes so far astray when the same mind, awake, is habitually cautious, careful, and so conservative in its dealings with hypotheses? why does the first plausible hypothesis of the cause of a sensation gain credit in the dreaming state? (For in a dream we look upon that dream as reality, that is, we accept our hypotheses as fully established). I have no doubt that as men argue in their dreams to-day, mankind argued, even in their waking moments, for thousands of years: the first causa, that occurred to the mind with reference to anything that stood in need of explanation, was accepted as the true explanation and served as such. (Savages show the same tendency in operation, as the reports of travelers agree). In the dream this atavistic relic of humanity manifests its existence within us, for it is the foundation upon which the higher rational faculty developed itself and still develops itself in every individual. Dreams carry us back to the earlier stages of human culture and afford us a means of understanding it more clearly. Dream thought comes so easily to us now because we are so thoroughly trained to it through the interminable stages of evolution during which this fanciful and facile form of theorising has prevailed. To a certain extent the dream is a restorative for the brain, which, during the day, is called upon to meet the many demands for trained thought made upon it by the conditions of a higher civilization. — We may, if we please, become sensible, even in our waking moments, of a condition that is as a door and vestibule to dreaming. If we close our eyes the brain immediately conjures up a medley of impressions of light and color, apparently a sort of imitation and echo of the impressions forced in upon the brain during its waking moments. And now the mind, in co-operation with the imagination, transforms this formless play of light and color into definite figures, moving groups, landscapes. What really takes place is a sort of reasoning from effect back to cause. As the brain inquires: whence these impressions of light and color? it posits as the inducing causes of such lights and colors, those shapes and figures. They serve the brain as the occasions of those lights and colors because the brain, when the eyes are open and the senses awake, is accustomed to perceiving the cause of every impression of light and color made upon it. Here again the imagination is continually interposing its images inasmuch as it participates in the production of the impressions made through the senses day by day: and the dream-fancy does exactly the same thing — that is, the presumed cause is determined from the effect and after the effect: all this, too, with extraordinary rapidity, so that in this matter, as in a matter of jugglery or sleight-of-hand, a confusion of the mind is produced and an after effect is made to appear a simultaneous action, an inverted succession of events, even. — From these considerations we can see how late strict, logical thought, the true notion of cause and effect must have been in developing, since our intellectual and rational faculties to this very day revert to these primitive processes of deduction, while practically half our lifetime is spent in the super-inducing conditions. — Even the poet, the artist, ascribes to his sentimental and emotional states causes which are not the true ones. To that extent he is a reminder of early mankind and can aid us in its comprehension.


Association. — All strong feelings are associated with a variety of allied sentiments and emotions. They stir up the memory at the same time. When we are under their influence we are reminded of similar states and we feel a renewal of them within us. Thus are formed habitual successions of feelings and notions, which, at last, when they follow one another with lightning rapidity are no longer felt as complexities but as unities. In this sense we hear of moral feelings, of religious feelings, as if they were absolute unities. In reality they are streams with a hundred sources and tributaries. Here again, the unity of the word speaks nothing for the unity of the thing.


No Within and Without in the World. — As Democritus transferred the notions above and below to limitless space, where they are destitute of meaning, so the philosophers do generally with the idea “within and without,” as regards the form and substance (Wesen und Erscheinung) of the world. What they claim is that through the medium of profound feelings one can penetrate deep into the soul of things (Innre), draw close to the heart of nature. But these feelings are deep only in so far as with them are simultaneously aroused, although almost imperceptibly, certain complicated groups of thoughts (Gedankengruppen) which we call deep: a feeling is deep because we deem the thoughts accompanying it deep. But deep thought can nevertheless be very widely sundered from truth, as for instance every metaphysical thought. Take from deep feeling the element of thought blended with it and all that remains is strength of feeling which is no voucher for the validity of knowledge, as intense faith is evidence only of its own intensity and not of the truth of that in which the faith is felt.


Phenomenon and Thing-in-Itself. — The philosophers are in the habit of placing themselves in front of life and experience — that which they call the world of phenomena — as if they were standing before a picture that is unrolled before them in its final completeness. This panorama, they think, must be studied in every detail in order to reach some conclusion regarding the object represented by the picture. From effect, accordingly is deduced cause and from cause is deduced the unconditioned. This process is generally looked upon as affording the all sufficient explanation of the world of phenomena. On the other hand one must, (while putting the conception of the metaphysical distinctly forward as that of the unconditioned, and consequently of the unconditioning) absolutely deny any connection between the unconditioned (of the metaphysical world) and the world known to us: so that throughout phenomena there is no manifestation of the thing-in-itself, and getting from one to the other is out of the question. Thus is left quite ignored the circumstance that the picture — that which we now call life and experience — is a gradual evolution, is, indeed, still in process of evolution and for that reason should not be regarded as an enduring whole from which any conclusion as to its author (the all-sufficient reason) could be arrived at, or even pronounced out of the question. It is because we have for thousands of years looked into the world with moral, aesthetic, religious predispositions, with blind prejudice, passion or fear, and surfeited ourselves with indulgence in the follies of illogical thought, that the world has gradually become so wondrously motley, frightful, significant, soulful: it has taken on tints, but we have been the colorists: the human intellect, upon the foundation of human needs, of human passions, has reared all these “phenomena” and injected its own erroneous fundamental conceptions into things. Late, very late, the human intellect checks itself: and now the world of experience and the thing-in-itself seem to it so severed and so antithetical that it denies the possibility of one’s hinging upon the other — or else summons us to surrender our intellect, our personal will, to the secret and the awe-inspiring in order that thereby we may attain certainty of certainty hereafter. Again, there are those who have combined all the characteristic features of our world of phenomena — that is, the conception of the world which has been formed and inherited through a series of intellectual vagaries — and instead of holding the intellect responsible for it all, have pronounced the very nature of things accountable for the present very sinister aspect of the world, and preached annihilation of existence. Through all these views and opinions the toilsome, steady process of science (which now for the first time begins to celebrate its greatest triumph in the genesis of thought) will definitely work itself out, the result, being, perhaps, to the following effect: That which we now call the world is the result of a crowd of errors and fancies which gradually developed in the general evolution of organic nature, have grown together and been transmitted to us as the accumulated treasure of all the past — as the treasure, for whatever is worth anything in our humanity rests upon it. From this world of conception it is in the power of science to release us only to a slight extent — and this is all that could be wished — inasmuch as it cannot eradicate the influence of hereditary habits of feeling, but it can light up by degrees the stages of the development of that world of conception, and lift us, at least for a time, above the whole spectacle. Perhaps we may then perceive that the thing-in-itself is a meet subject for Homeric laughter: that it seemed so much, everything, indeed, and is really a void — void, that is to say, of meaning.


Metaphysical Explanation. — Man, when he is young, prizes metaphysical explanations, because they make him see matters of the highest import in things he found disagreeable or contemptible: and if he is not satisfied with himself, this feeling of dissatisfaction is soothed when he sees the most hidden world-problem or world-pain in that which he finds so displeasing in himself. To feel himself more unresponsible and at the same time to find things (Dinge) more interesting — that is to him the double benefit he owes to metaphysics. Later, indeed, he acquires distrust of the whole metaphysical method of explaining things: he then perceives, perhaps, that those effects could have been attained just as well and more scientifically by another method: that physical and historical explanations would, at least, have given that feeling of freedom from personal responsibility just as well, while interest in life and its problems would be stimulated, perhaps, even more.

WholeReader. Empty coverWholeReader. Book is closedWholeReader. FilterWholeReader. Compilation cover