Friedrich Nietzsche – History Of The Moral Feeling: 35-42Follow
Advantages of Psychological Observation.—That reflection regarding the human, all-too-human—or as the learned jargon is: psychological observation—is among the means whereby the burden of life can be made lighter, that practice in this art affords presence of mind in difficult situations and entertainment amid a wearisome environment, aye, that maxims may be culled in the thorniest and least pleasing paths of life and invigoration thereby obtained: this much was believed, was known—in former centuries. Why was this forgotten in our own century, during which, at least in Germany, yes in Europe, poverty as regards psychological observation would have been manifest in many ways had there been anyone to whom this poverty could have manifested itself. Not only in the novel, in the romance, in philosophical standpoints—these are the works of exceptional men; still more in the state of opinion regarding public events and personages; above all in general society, which says much about men but nothing whatever about man, there is totally lacking the art of psychological analysis and synthesis. But why is the richest and most harmless source of entertainment thus allowed to run to waste? Why is the greatest master of the psychological maxim no longer read?—for, with no exaggeration whatever be it said: the educated person in Europe who has read La Rochefoucauld and his intellectual and artistic affinities is very hard to find; still harder, the person who knows them and does not disparage them. Apparently, too, this unusual reader takes far less pleasure in them than the form adopted by these artists should afford him: for the subtlest mind cannot adequately appreciate the art of maxim-making unless it has had training in it, unless it has competed in it. Without such practical acquaintance, one is apt to look upon this making and forming as a much easier thing than it really is; one is not keenly enough alive to the felicity and the charm of success. Hence present day readers of maxims have but a moderate, tempered pleasure in them, scarcely, indeed, a true perception of their merit, so that their experiences are about the same as those of the average beholder of cameos: people who praise because they cannot appreciate, and are very ready to admire and still readier to turn away
Objection.—Or is there a counter-proposition to the dictum that psychological observation is one of the means of consoling, lightening, charming existence? Have enough of the unpleasant effects of this art been experienced to justify the person striving for culture in turning his regard away from it? In all truth, a certain blind faith in the goodness of human nature, an implanted distaste for any disparagement of human concerns, a sort of shamefacedness at the nakedness of the soul, may be far more desirable things in the general happiness of a man, than this only occasionally advantageous quality of psychological sharpsightedness; and perhaps belief in the good, in virtuous men and actions, in a plenitude of disinterested benevolence has been more productive of good in the world of men in so far as it has made men less distrustful. If Plutarch's heroes are enthusiastically imitated and a reluctance is experienced to looking too critically into the motives of their actions, not the knowledge but the welfare of human society is promoted thereby: psychological error and above all obtuseness in regard to it, help human nature forward, whereas knowledge of the truth is more promoted by means of the stimulating strength of a hypothesis; as La Rochefoucauld in the first edition of his "Sentences and Moral Maxims" has expressed it: "What the world calls virtue is ordinarily but a phantom created by the passions, and to which we give a good name in order to do whatever we please with impunity." La Rochefoucauld and those other French masters of soul-searching (to the number of whom has lately been added a German, the author of "Psychological Observations") are like expert marksmen who again and again hit the black spot—but it is the black spot in human nature. Their art inspires amazement, but finally some spectator, inspired, not by the scientific spirit but by a humanitarian feeling, execrates an art that seems to implant in the soul a taste for belittling and impeaching mankind
Nevertheless.—The matter therefore, as regards pro and con, stands thus: in the present state of philosophy an awakening of the moral observation is essential. The repulsive aspect of psychological dissection, with the knife and tweezers entailed by the process, can no longer be spared humanity. Such is the imperative duty of any science that investigates the origin and history of the so-called moral feelings and which, in its progress, is called upon to posit and to solve advanced social problems:—The older philosophy does not recognize the newer at all and, through paltry evasions, has always gone astray in the investigation of the origin and history of human estimates (Werthschätzungen). With what results may now be very clearly perceived, since it has been shown by many examples, how the errors of the greatest philosophers have their origin in a false explanation of certain human actions and feelings; how upon the foundation of an erroneous analysis (for example, of the so called disinterested actions), a false ethic is reared, to support which religion and like mythological monstrosities are called in, until finally the shades of these troubled spirits collapse in physics and in the comprehensive world point of view. But if it be established that superficiality of psychological observation has heretofore set the most dangerous snares for human judgment and deduction, and will continue to do so, all the greater need is there of that steady continuance of labor that never wearies putting stone upon stone, little stone upon little stone; all the greater need is there of a courage that is not ashamed of such humble labor and that will oppose persistence, to all contempt. It is, finally, also true that countless single observations concerning the human, all-too-human, have been first made and uttered in circles accustomed, not to furnish matter for scientific knowledge, but for intellectual pleasure-seeking; and the original home atmosphere—a very seductive atmosphere—of the moral maxim has almost inextricably interpenetrated the entire species, so that the scientific man involuntarily manifests a sort of mistrust of this species and of its seriousness. But it is sufficient to point to the consequences: for already it is becoming evident that events of the most portentous nature are developing in the domain of psychological observation. What is the leading conclusion arrived at by one of the subtlest and calmest of thinkers, the author of the work "Concerning the Origin of the Moral Feelings", as a result of his thorough and incisive analysis of human conduct? "The moral man," he says, "stands no nearer the knowable (metaphysical) world than the physical man."19 This dictum, grown hard and cutting beneath the hammer-blow of historical knowledge, can some day, perhaps, in some future or other, serve as the axe that will be laid to the root of the "metaphysical necessities" of men—whether more to the blessing than to the banning of universal well being who can say?—but in any event a dictum fraught with the most momentous consequences, fruitful and fearful at once, and confronting the world in the two faced way characteristic of all great facts
19 "Der moralische Mensch, sagt er, steht der intelligiblen (metaphysischen) Welt nicht näher, als der physische Mensch."
To What Extent Useful.—Therefore, whether psychological observation is more an advantage than a disadvantage to mankind may always remain undetermined: but there is no doubt that it is necessary, because science can no longer dispense with it. Science, however, recognizes no considerations of ultimate goals or ends any more than nature does; but as the latter duly matures things of the highest fitness for certain ends without any intention of doing it, so will true science, doing with ideas what nature does with matter,20 promote the purposes and the welfare of humanity, (as occasion may afford, and in many ways) and attain fitness [to ends]—but likewise without having intended it
20 als die Nachahmung der Natur in Begriffen, literally: "as the counterfeit of nature in (regard to) ideas."
He to whom the atmospheric conditions of such a prospect are too wintry, has too little fire in him: let him look about him, and he will become sensible of maladies requiring an icy air, and of people who are so "kneaded together" out of ardor and intellect that they can scarcely find anywhere an atmosphere too cold and cutting for them. Moreover: as too serious individuals and nations stand in need of trivial relaxations; as others, too volatile and excitable require onerous, weighty ordeals to render them entirely healthy: should not we, the more intellectual men of this age, which is swept more and more by conflagrations, catch up every cooling and extinguishing appliance we can find that we may always remain as self contained, steady and calm as we are now, and thereby perhaps serve this age as its mirror and self reflector, when the occasion arises?
The Fable of Discretionary Freedom.—The history of the feelings, on the basis of which we make everyone responsible, hence, the so-called moral feelings, is traceable in the following leading phases. At first single actions are termed good or bad without any reference to their motive, but solely because of the utilitarian or prejudicial consequences they have for the community. In time, however, the origin of these designations is forgotten [but] it is imagined that action in itself, without reference to its consequences, contains the property "good" or "bad": with the same error according to which language designates the stone itself as hard[ness] the tree itself as green[ness]—for the reason, therefore, that what is a consequence is comprehended as a cause. Accordingly, the good[ness] or bad[ness] is incorporated into the motive and [any] deed by itself is regarded as morally ambiguous. A step further is taken, and the predication good or bad is no longer made of the particular motives but of the entire nature of a man, out of which motive grows as grow the plants out of the soil. Thus man is successively made responsible for his [particular] acts, then for his [course of] conduct, then for his motives and finally for his nature. Now, at last, is it discovered that this nature, even, cannot be responsible, inasmuch as it is only and wholly a necessary consequence and is synthesised out of the elements and influence of past and present things: therefore, that man is to be made responsible for nothing, neither for his nature, nor his motives, nor his [course of] conduct nor his [particular] acts. By this [process] is gained the knowledge that the history of moral estimates is the history of error, of the error of responsibility: as is whatever rests upon the error of the freedom of the will. Schopenhauer concluded just the other way, thus: since certain actions bring depression ("consciousness of guilt") in their train, there must, then, exist responsibility, for there would be no basis for this depression at hand if all man's affairs did not follow their course of necessity—as they do, indeed, according to the opinion of this philosopher, follow their course—but man himself, subject to the same necessity, would be just the man that he is—which Schopenhauer denies. From the fact of such depression Schopenhauer believes himself able to prove a freedom which man in some way must have had, not indeed in regard to his actions but in regard to his nature: freedom, therefore, to be thus and so, not to act thus and so. Out of the esse, the sphere of freedom and responsibility, follows, according to his opinion, the operari, the spheres of invariable causation, necessity and irresponsibility. This depression, indeed, is due apparently to the operari—in so far as it be delusive—but in truth to whatever esse be the deed of a free will, the basic cause of the existence of an individual: [in order to] let man become whatever he wills to become, his [to] will (Wollen) must precede his existence.—Here, apart from the absurdity of the statement just made, there is drawn the wrong inference that the fact of the depression explains its character, the rational admissibility of it: from such a wrong inference does Schopenhauer first come to his fantastic consequent of the so called discretionary freedom (intelligibeln Freiheit). (For the origin of this fabulous entity Plato and Kant are equally responsible). But depression after the act does not need to be rational: indeed, it is certainly not so at all, for it rests upon the erroneous assumption that the act need not necessarily have come to pass. Therefore: only because man deems himself free, but not because he is free, does he experience remorse and the stings of conscience.—Moreover, this depression is something that can be grown out of; in many men it is not present at all as a consequence of acts which inspire it in many other men. It is a very varying thing and one closely connected with the development of custom and civilization, and perhaps manifest only during a relatively brief period of the world's history.—No one is responsible for his acts, no one for his nature; to judge is tantamount to being unjust. This applies as well when the individual judges himself. The proposition is as clear as sunlight, and yet here everyone prefers to go back to darkness and untruth: for fear of the consequences
Above Animal.—The beast in us must be wheedled: ethic is necessary, that we may not be torn to pieces. Without the errors involved in the assumptions of ethics, man would have remained an animal. Thus has he taken himself as something higher and imposed rigid laws upon himself. He feels hatred, consequently, for states approximating the animal: whence the former contempt for the slave as a not-yet-man, as a thing, is to be explained
Unalterable Character.—That character is unalterable is not, in the strict sense, true; rather is this favorite proposition valid only to the extent that during the brief life period of a man the potent new motives can not, usually, press down hard enough to obliterate the lines imprinted by ages. Could we conceive of a man eighty thousand years old, we should have in him an absolutely alterable character; so that the maturities of successive, varying individuals would develop in him. The shortness of human life leads to many erroneous assertions concerning the qualities of man
Classification of Enjoyments and Ethic.—The once accepted comparative classification of enjoyments, according to which an inferior, higher, highest egoism may crave one or another enjoyment, now decides as to ethical status or unethical status. A lower enjoyment (for example, sensual pleasure) preferred to a more highly esteemed one (for example, health) rates as unethical, as does welfare preferred to freedom. The comparative classification of enjoyments is not, however, alike or the same at all periods; when anyone demands satisfaction of the law, he is, from the point of view of an earlier civilization, moral, from that of the present, non-moral. "Unethical" indicates, therefore, that a man is not sufficiently sensible to the higher, finer impulses which the present civilization has brought with it, or is not sensible to them at all; it indicates backwardness, but only from the point of view of the contemporary degree of distinction.—The comparative classification of enjoyments itself is not determined according to absolute ethics; but after each new ethical adjustment, it is then decided whether conduct be ethical or the reverse
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