Wednesday, July 16, 2014

from The Gay Science

124 In the Horizon of the Infinite.

We have left the land and have gone aboard ship! We have broken down the bridge behind us - nay, more, the land behind us! Well, little ship! look out! Beside thee is the ocean; it is true it does not always roar, and sometimes it spreads out like silk and gold and a gentle reverie. But times will come when thou wilt feel that it is infinite, and that there is nothing more frightful than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that felt itself free, and now strikes against the walls of this cage! Alas, if homesickness for the land should attack thee, as if there had been more freedom there - and there is no "land" any longer!

125 The Madman.

Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: "I seek God! I seek God!" As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why? is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea voyage? Has he emigrated? - the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. "Where is God gone?" he called out. "I mean to tell you! We have killed him, you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction? - for even Gods putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife - who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it? There never was a greater event - and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!" Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. "I come too early," e then said. "I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is traveling - it has not yet reached men's ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star - and yet they have done it themselves!" It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: "What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?"

143. The greatest advantage of polytheism

For an individual to posit his own ideal and to derive from it his own law, joys, and rights—that may well have been considered hitherto as the most outrageous human aberration and as idolatry itself. The few who dared as much always felt the need to apologize to themselves, usually by saying: "It wasn't I! Not I! But a god through me!" The wonderful art and gift of creating gods — polytheism — was the medium through which this impulse could discharge, purifiy, perfect, and ennoble itself; for originally it was a very undistinguished impulse, related to stubbornness, disobedience and envy. Hostility against this impulse to have an ideal of one's own was formerly the central law of all morality. There was only one norm, man; and every people thought that it possessed this one ultimate norm. But above and outside, in some distant overworld, one was permitted to behold a plurality of norms; one god was not considered a denial of another god, nor blasphemy against him. It was here that the luxury of individuals was first permitted; it was here that one first honored the rights of individuals. The invention of gods, heroes, and overmen of all kinds, as well as near-men and undermen, of dwarfs, fairies, centaurs, satyrs, demons, and devils was the inestimable preliminary exercise for the justification of the egoism and sovereignty of the individual: the freedom that one conceded to a god in his relation to other gods—one eventually also granted to oneself in relation to laws, customs, and neighbors.

Monotheism, on the other hand, this rigid consequence of the doctrine of one normal human type— the faith in one normal human god beside whom there are only pseudo-gods—was perhaps the greatest danger that has yet confronted humanity. It threatened us with the premature stagnation that, as far as we can see, most other species have long reached; for all of them believe in one normal type and ideal for their species, and they have translated the morality of mores definitively into their own flesh and blood. In polytheism the free-spiriting and many-spiriting of man obtained its first preliminary form—the strength to create for ourselves our own new eyes—and ever again new eyes that are even more are own: hence man alone among all the animals has no eternal horizons and perspectives.

290 One Thing is Needful.

To "give style" to one's character-that is a grand and a rare art! He who surveys all that his nature presents in its strength and in its weakness, and then fashions it into an ingenious plan, until everything appears artistic and rational, and even the weaknesses enchant the eye-exercises that admirable art. Here there has been a great amount of second nature added, there a portion of first nature has been taken away-in both cases with long exercise and daily labor at the task. Here the ugly, which does not permit of being taken away, has been concealed, there it has been re-interpreted into the sublime. Much of the vague, which refuses to take form, has been reserved and utilized for the perspectives-it is meant to give a hint of the remote and immeasurable. In the end, I when the work has been completed, it is revealed how it was the constraint of the same taste that organized and fashioned it in whole and in part: whether the taste was good or bad is of less importance than one thinks-it is sufficient that it was a taste!It will be the strong imperious I natures which experience their most refined joy in such constraint, in such confinement and perfection under their own law; the passion of their I violent volition lessens at the sight of all disciplined nature, all conquered and ministering nature: even when they have pa laces to build and gardens to lay out, it is not to their taste to allow nature to be free. It is the reverse with weak characters who have not power over themselves, and hate the restriction of style: they feel that if this repugnant constraint were laid upon them, they would necessarily become vulgarized under it: they become slaves as soon as they serve, they hate service. Such intellects-they may be intellects of the first rank-are always concerned with fashioning and interpreting themselves and their surroundings as free nature-wild, arbitrary, fantastic, confused and surprising: and it is well for them to do so, because only in this manner can they please themselves! For one thing is needful: namely, that man should attain to satisfaction with himself-be it but through this or that fable and artifice: it is only then that man's aspect is at all endurable! He who is dissatisfied with himself is ever ready to avenge himself on that account: we others will be his victims, if only in having always to endure his ugly aspect. For the aspect of the ugly makes one mean and sad.

341 The Greatest Burden.

What if a demon crept after thee into thy loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: "This life, as thou livest it at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all in the same series and sequence-and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever be turned once more, and thou with it, thou speck of dust!"- Wouldst thou not throw thyself down and gnash thy teeth, and curse the demon that so spake? Or hast thou once experienced a tremendous moment in which thou wouldst answer him: "Thou art a God, and never did I hear anything so divine! "If that thought acquired power over thee as thou art, it would transform thee, and perhaps crush thee; the question with regard to all and everything: "Dost thou want this once more, and also for innumerable times?" would lie as the heaviest burden upon thy activity! Or, how wouldst thou have to become favorably inclined to thyself and to life, so as to long for nothing more ardently than for this last eternal sanctioning and sealing?


- D.Z. - said...

Aphorism 341, The Greatest Burden, I found to be a particularly strong piece of writing. In part because it contains Nietzsche's masterful way of composing literature, but also because it contains some powerful thoughts which I'm sure has crossed everyone's mind at one time or another. What is there, really, after our lives in this existence ceases, and what possible theories there are about an afterlife. The scenario through which he poses these questions also adds to the heaviness behind the types of feelings expressed by those thoughts. For me, it made me reflect on my past and think which moments in life would be wondrous to repeat. The manner in which Nietzsche writes has been very thought-provoking for me, and I've enjoyed reading all of his works which were posted for us. Most likely, at a later time, I'll be looking to explore more of his work.

Leah Daoud said...

Re: The Madman. This is a pretty apt piece of writing directed towards modern philosophy. If we have evolved beyond religion, if we no longer need God and have indeed killed him, then we are untethered as a society. Not to suggest religion has not had its own problems - or that society as a whole has ever subscribed to a universal God - but this new world is a frightening position to find ourselves suddenly in. Morality is indeed subjective - but what makes any of the actions we consider morally reprehensible actually wrong? What is the overall basis for morality? Is there good and evil and, if so, why? Even if the “event” has not yet happened, it raises legitimate questions.

Aaron Baum said...

In regards to Leah Daoud's comment:

I do think there is that element of aimlessness which you mentioned. At the same time, humans are actively attempting to counter this. The madman says "Is not the magnitude of this deed [murdering God] too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it?" What Nietzsche is saying here is that humans are attempting to reconcile this loss of guidance by themselves guiding. Here, he is referring to philosophers, scientists, etc., who, through their respective arts, believe that they are somehow above the rest of the population, and that their rational studies can allow them to guide the people in their conduct. However, we have to remember Nietzsche's cynicism towards truth, so in actuality he is again poking fun at those who think they are superior, just as he does in many of his other works.

Leah Daoud said...

@Aaron, I’m on board with what you’re saying - it’s just that I don’t believe that our attempt to guide ourselves is the same as being guided by a higher power. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that philosophy has replaced religion (in terms of ways of thinking about the world). If that’s the case, Nietzsche, as far as I can tell, doesn’t give me an objective reason to act in a way that values human life. As human beings so fallible towards acting atrociously (ie. the Holocaust, everything that’s been going on in the Middle East, etc.), how can we say we are fit to become gods?

I think God (or really any objective symbol of authority and reason in the world) gives us an immeasurable amount of security and, as the text suggests, the idea that we don’t have complete free reign has kept the chaos reasonably in check for a long time.

Aaron Baum said...


I agree that man's guidance is not the same as a monotheistic God. But, I think it is close.

After looking at Nietzsche's "Aphorism 143: The greatest advantage of polytheism" and the sentence I quoted from the Madman in my comment, it seems like Nietzsche has three forms of guidance: monotheism, the elite, and polytheism.

To be led by a monotheistic God is to have the ultimate security and guidance. At the same time, there is no individuality, as everyone is led by the same God. The other weakness of this system is that once this God is killed, all guidance leaves the Earth. As Nietzsche says, the death of God "loosened this earth from its sun". There is, essentially, no backup plan, which is why the madman is so crazed.

Next, to be led by the elite, be it political, philosophic, scientific, etc., is to be led by a large, sort of polytheistic group with little security. As an alternative to God, this has upsides and downsides. On the one hand, all of these individuals imbue themselves with some sort of supposedly rational legitimacy which God lacks, and this gives security for some. Additionally, it is harder to destroy the elite than it is to kill God, even as crazy as that sounds. However, this elitism often elicits not faith but instead anger, and their often conflicting ideas undermine each other to create a society which is, yes, often characterized by irrationalities dressed up as rationalities, as Leah pointed out.

Finally, in aphorism 143, Nietzsche praises polytheism. This is a way to gain the benefits of both faith in a monotheistic God and the indestructibility of a multi-member elite. Nietzsche says that polytheism is necessary for the sovereignty of the individual, for only with polytheism can an individual lead their life in their way, and not receive judgment on their choices from a partisan elite or a singular God.

So yes, humans cannot be Gods. However, Nietzsche proposes that individuals should create the Gods.

Clinton Barnes said...

I think it is also important to point out that Nietzsche argues in aphorism 143 that humanity has always created its own gods in order to guide their sense of truth, joy and morality. In the case of polytheism, the individual was able to create their own truth. With the creation of monotheism, however, all individuals are prescribed to the same set of truths, thus creating ressentiment.

Nietzsche's attraction to polytheism results from its allowance for individuals to create radical new truths by allowing them to attribute it to "a god through" them. Polytheism to Nietzsche is a "medium."

AC said...

Nietzsche's use of metaphor is as effective as it is beautiful; I find the metaphor about the bird especially effective in illustrating his point about what society is like without the guidance of central morality derived from Christianity. I can't remember if this was discussed in class, but does anyone else feel a tension between the rhetoric techniques he uses here and his stance on truth/metaphor "[truths are] metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power"? If this was discussed in class already, how was it reconciled?

Anonymous said...

I too noticed the use of metaphor in this piece contradictory with his piece On Truth and Lie in an Extra Moral Sense. Nietzshe clearly critques the use of metaphor and argues that using it leads to distorted truths. In this piece of the Gay Science, he uses these same metaphors to make a point. Can we use his arguments against himself? It seems that some of the philosophers I have read who vehemently critique against certain methods use those same methods in their works. For example, in Plato’s Republic, he condemned artists for their use of poetry but he often employed verbal tales and poetry to establish his points when expanding on his metaphysical ideas.

-Samiha Baseer

Samiha Baseer said...

I too noticed the use of metaphor in this piece contradictory with his piece On Truth and Lie in an Extra Moral Sense. Nietzshe clearly critques the use of metaphor and argues that using it leads to distorted truths. In this piece of the Gay Science, he uses these same metaphors to make a point. Can we use his arguments against himself? It seems that some of the philosophers I have read who vehemently critique against certain methods use those same methods in their works. For example, in Plato’s Republic, he condemned artists for their use of poetry but he often employed verbal tales and poetry to establish his points when expanding on his metaphysical ideas.