The Gay Science
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The Gay Science

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Common

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224 pages
English
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eBook - ePub

The Gay Science

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Common

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About This Book

Although dour in appearance and formidable in reputation, Friedrich Nietzsche was an ardent practitioner of the art of poetry—called in twelfth-century Provencal `the gay science.` This volume, which Nietzsche referred to as `the most personal of all my books,` features the largest collection of his poetry that he ever chose to publish. It also offers an extensive and sophisticated treatment of the philosophical themes and views most central to his thinking, as well as the ideas that proved most influential to later philosophers.
Dating from the era when Nietzsche was at the peak of his intellectual powers, most of this book was written just before Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and the rest of it five years later, after Beyond Good and Evil. Zarathustra makes his first appearance in these pages, along with the author's well-known proclamation of the death of God—a concept to which much of the book is devoted—and his doctrine of the eternal recurrence. Readers will find this volume a wellspring for some of Nietzsche's most sustained and thought-provoking discussions of art and morality, knowledge and truth, the intellectual conscience, and the origin of logic.

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Year
2012
ISBN
9780486121147

BOOK THIRD

108.

New Struggles.—After Buddha was dead people showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a cave,—an immense frightful shadow. God is dead: but as the human race is constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show his shadow.—And we—we have still to overcome his shadow!

109.

Let us be on our Guard.—Let us be on our guard against thinking that the world is a living being. Where could it extend itself? What could it nourish itself with? How could it grow and increase? We know tolerably well what the organic is; and we are to reinterpret the emphatically derivative, tardy, rare and accidental, which we only perceive on the crust of the earth, into the essential, universal and eternal, as those do who call the universe an organism? That disgusts me. Let us now be on our guard against believing that the universe is a machine; it is assuredly not constructed with a view to one end; we invest it with far too high an honour with the word “machine.” Let us be on our guard against supposing that anything so methodical as the cyclic motions of our neighbouring stars obtains generally and throughout the universe; indeed a glance at the Milky Way induces doubt as to whether there are not many cruder and more contradictory motions there, and even stars with continuous, rectilinearly gravitating orbits, and the like. The astral arrangement in which we live is an exception; this arrangement, and the relatively long durability which is determined by it, has again made possible the exception of exceptions, the formation of organic life. The general character of the world, on the other hand, is to all eternity chaos; not by the absence of necessity, but in the sense of the absence of order, structure, form, beauty, wisdom, and whatever else our æsthetic humanities are called. Judged by our reason, the unlucky casts are far oftenest the rule, the exceptions are not the secret purpose; and the whole musical box repeats eternally its air, which can never be called a melody,—and finally the very expression, “unlucky cast” is already an anthropomorphising which involves blame. But how could we presume to blame or praise the universe! Let us be on our guard against ascribing to it heartlessness and unreason, or their opposites; it is neither perfect, nor beautiful, nor noble; nor does it seek to be anything of the kind, it does not at all attempt to imitate man! It is altogether unaffected by our æsthetic and moral judgments! Neither has it any self-preservative instinct, nor instinct at all; it also knows no law. Let us be on our guard against saying that there are laws in nature. There are only necessities: there is no one who commands, no one who obeys, no one who transgresses. When you know that there is no design, you know also that there is no chance: for it is only where there is a world of design that the word “chance” has a meaning. Let us be on our guard against saying that death is contrary to life. The living being is only a species of dead being, and a very rare species.—Let us be on our guard against thinking that the world eternally creates the new. There are no eternally enduring substances; matter is just another such error as the God of the Eleatics. But when shall we be at an end with our foresight and precaution! When will all these shadows of God cease to obscure us? When shall we have nature entirely undeified! When shall we be permitted to naturalise ourselves by means of the pure, newly discovered, newly redeemed nature?

110.

Origin of Knowledge.—Throughout immense stretches of time the intellect produced nothing but errors; some of them proved to be useful and preservative of the species: he who fell in with them, or inherited them, waged the battle for himself and his offspring with better success. Those erroneous articles of faith which were successively transmitted by inheritance, and have finally become almost the property and stock of the human species, are, for example, the following:—that there are enduring things, that there are equal things, that there are things, substances, and bodies, that a thing is what it appears, that our will is free, that what is good for me is also good absolutely. It was only very late that the deniers and doubters of such propositions came forward,—it was only very late that truth made its appearance as the most impotent form of knowledge. It seemed as if it were impossible to get along with truth, our organism was adapted for the very opposite; all its higher functions, the perceptions of the senses, and in general every kind of sensation, co-operated with those primevally embodied, fundamental errors. Moreover, those propositions became the very standards of knowledge according to which the “true” and the “false” were determined—throughout the whole domain of pure logic. The strength of conceptions does not, therefore, depend on their degree of truth, but on their antiquity, their embodiment, their character as conditions of life.Where life and knowledge seemed to conflict, there has never been serious contention; denial and doubt have there been regarded as madness. The exceptional thinkers like the Eleatics, who, in spite of this, advanced and maintained the antitheses of the natural errors, believed that it was possible also to live these counterparts: it was they who devised the sage as the man of immutability, impersonality and universality of intuition, as one and all at the same time, with a special faculty for that reverse kind of knowledge; they were of the belief that their knowledge was at the same time the principle of life. To be able to affirm all this, however, they had to deceive themselves concerning their own condition: they had to attribute to themselves impersonality and unchanging permanence, they had to mistake the nature of the philosophic individual, deny the force of the impulses in cognition, and conceive of reason generally as an entirely free and self-originating activity; they kept their eyes shut to the fact that they also had reached their doctrines in contradiction to valid methods, or through their longing for repose or for exclusive possession or for domination. The subtler development of sincerity and of scepticism finally made these men impossible; their life also, and their judgments, turned out to be dependent on the primeval impulses and fundamental errors of all sentient being.—The subtler sincerity and scepticism arose wherever two antithetical maxims appeared to be applicable to life, because both of them were compatible with the fundamental errors; where, therefore, there could be contention concerning a higher or lower degree of utility for life; and likewise where new maxims proved to be, not necessarily useful, but at least not injurious, as expressions of an intellectual impulse to play a game that was like all games innocent and happy. The human brain was gradually filled with such judgments and convictions; and in this tangled skein there arose ferment, strife and lust for power. Not only utility and delight, but every kind of impulse took part in the struggle for “truths”: the intellectual struggle became a business, an attraction, a calling, a duty, an honour—: cognizing and striving for the true finally arranged themselves as needs among other needs. From that moment, not only belief and conviction, but also examination, denial, distrust and contradiction became forces; all “evil” instincts were subordinated to knowledge, were placed in its service, and acquired the prestige of the permitted, the honoured, the useful, and finally the appearance and innocence of the good. Knowledge, thus became a portion of life itself, and as life it became a continually growing power: until finally the cognitions and those primeval, fundamental errors clashed with each other, both as life, both as power, both in the same man. The thinker is now the being in whom the impulse to truth and those life-preserving errors wage their first conflict, now that the impulse to truth has also proved itself to be a life-preserving power. In comparison with the importance of this conflict everything else is indifferent; the final question concerning the conditions of life is here raised, and the first attempt is here made to answer it by experiment. How far is truth susceptible of embodiment?—that is the question, that is the experiment.

111.

Origin of the Logical.—Where has logic originated in men’s heads? Undoubtedly out of the illogical, the domain of which must originally have been immense. But numberless beings who reasoned otherwise than we do at present, perished; albeit that they may have come nearer to truth than we! Whoever, for example, could not discern the “like” often enough with regard to food, and with regard to animals dangerous to him, whoever, therefore, deduce...

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Citation styles for The Gay Science
APA 6 Citation
Nietzsche, F. (2012). The Gay Science ([edition unavailable]; T. Common, Trans.). Dover Publications. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/113363/the-gay-science-pdf (Original work published 2012)
Chicago Citation
Nietzsche, Friedrich. (2012) 2012. The Gay Science. Translated by Thomas Common. [Edition unavailable]. Dover Publications. https://www.perlego.com/book/113363/the-gay-science-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Nietzsche, F. (2012) The Gay Science. [edition unavailable]. Translated by T. Common. Dover Publications. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/113363/the-gay-science-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Trans. Thomas Common. [edition unavailable]. Dover Publications, 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.