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The Gay science

The title of one of Nietzsche’s greatest books The Gay Science perhaps derives from Emerson who called himself “a professor of joyous science–an affirmer of the one Law, yet as one should affirm it, in music and dancing. ” But Nietzsche radicalized and overdid Emerson. Nietzsche lived in a social widely read by German youth Nietzsche in strongest terms rejected all believers and followers. Nietzsche repeated these words in his final work Ecce Homo.

But years before he had written: “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies,” clearly a youthful overstatement dictated by the fear that men might succumb to the temptation of the security of faith–religious, nationalist, or socialist–instead of facing the danger of free questioning. As the late-coming heir of the individualism of the Protestant Enlightenment Nietzsche insisted that “nothing has been bought more dearly than that little bit of human reason and sense of freedom which is now the basis of our pride.

” As a young man of twenty-one he wrote to his sister: “Here the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe! If you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire! Do we after all seek rest, peace, and pleasure in our inquiries? No, only truth, even if it be most abhorrent and ugly. Every true faith is infallible inasmuch as it accomplishes what the person who has the faith hopes to find in it. But faith does not offer the least support for a proof of objective truth.

” And in his last year of sanity he wrote: “One must be honest in intellectual matters to the point of hardness. A preference of strength for questions for which nobody today has the courage, the courage for the forbidden. ” What he wished to found was not a new metaphysical system or a new faith, but an unfinished system with unlimited views, a world of free and courageous inquiry in which man would not have only the courage of his own convictions, but the courage for an attack on his convictions.

In an unheroic and outwardly materialistic period, many young Germans were attracted by Nietzsche’s call for dangerous living and the “fullness of life. ” In the famous chapter of The Gay Science “Men who prepare the Future” ( Vorbereitende Menschen) Nietzsche welcomed the advent of a more manly, warlike age which would honor courage above all, an age in which a type of man who could not come “out of the sand and slime of our present civilization and the culture of its great cities ( Grossstadt-Bildung)” would seek above all what is to be overcome in all things.

They will wage wars for the sake of thoughts and their consequences. True, these men will be characterized by cheerfulness, patience, and magnanimity in victory; they will judge freely and sharply all victors and the share of chance in every victory and every fame. Yet Nietzsche tells them that to live dangerously is the secret of the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of life. “Build your cities under Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and yourselves!

Be robbers and conquerors, as long as you cannot be rulers and owners, you who think and understand (ihr Erkennenden)! . . . At last, thoughtful understanding will reach out for its due: it will want to rule and to own, and you with it! ” The words italicized were underlined by Nietzsche: to wage wars, to live dangerously, to overcome, to rule (herrschen), and to own. The wars were to be fought for the sake of ideas–and their consequences! –but wars for a faith can be, as the warlike twentieth century has shown again, the most dangerous and degrading of all wars.

In the section “On Old and New Commandments” in Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche asked, “O my brothers, am I cruel? ” The answer is horrifying in its nihilism and its daring expectation of a miraculous rebirth out of total ruin: “But I say: what is toppling should be destroyed. Everything today is toppling and decaying: why should we interfere with the natural course of events? But I-I was born to destroy. ” The hubris of the absolute will proudly proclaimed: “For creators are hard. And it is blessed to inscribe your will to power on thousands of years as if they were wax.

This new commandment, O my brothers, I give unto you: become hard! ” Inasmuch, however, as Nietzsche too probably knew that life and body die, how did his integrity measure up to a specific (surviving) honor of the spirit? As if to the Kierkegaard in himself — to the radical honesty and honor of suffering, understood perhaps as the voluntary and sovereign anticipation of death — he declared: quite understandable and worthy of esteem is the pride which the human ‘spirit’ may take in anticipating death.

But, because in the final analysis it remains empty, he refuses to recognize in this capacity the real function, honor and truth of philosophizing. He declares that men are, in any case, inclined enough to unite in a “brotherhood of death. ” He praises men that en masse they nevertheless manage to avoid such a union. Even as a philosopher he recommends, as over against the brotherhood of death, the far more exacting brotherhood of life: “It fills me with happiness to see that men do not at all want to think thoughts about death.

I should like to do something to make thinking about life a hundred times more worthy for them to think about. ” During the time of his Schopenhauer veneration, Nietzsche educated and schooled himself philosophically in Kant; he studied Kant with particular philological thoroughness (in contrast to other philosophers, whom he often did not know in detail). His criticism, unvarying in content, began already at the time of his enthusiastic veneration of Kant. Nietzsche contrasts Kant’s ethics and metaphysics, on the one hand with perceptions of Goethe’s, and, on the other, with Darwin’s viewpoints.

Partly influenced by Goethe and partly by Darwin, he criticizes above all the wilful conceptions of “origins” out of “freedom,” and conceives as over against it the idea of a “natural history of morality. ” There is a fundamentally erroneous doctrine in contemporary morality, celebrated particularly in England: according to this, the judgments “good” and “evil” are condensations of the experiences concerning “expedient” and “inexpedient”; what is called good preserves the species, while what is called evil is harmful to the species.

In truth, however, the evil urges are expedient and indispensable and preserve the species to as high a degree as the good ones—only their function is different. In science, convictions have no rights of citizenship, as is said with good reason. Only when they decide to descend to the modesty of a hypothesis, of a provisional experimental point of view, of a regulative fiction, may they be granted admission and even a certain value within the realm of knowledge—though always with the restriction that they remain under police supervision, under the police of mistrust.

But does this not mean, more precisely considered, that a conviction may obtain admission to science only when it ceases to be a conviction? Would not the discipline of the scientific spirit begin with this, no longer to permit oneself any convictions? Probably that is how it is. But one must still ask whether it is not the case that, in order that this discipline could begin, a conviction must have been there already, and even such a commanding and unconditional one that it sacrificed all other convictions for its own sake.

It is clear that science too rests on a faith; there is no science “without presuppositions. ” The question whether truth is needed must not only have been affirmed in advance, but affirmed to the extent that the principle, the faith, the conviction is expressed: “nothing is needed more than truth, and in relation to it everything else has only second-rate value. ” This unconditional will to truth: what is it? …

What do you know in advance of the character of existence, to be able to decide whether the greater advantage is on the side of the unconditionally mistrustful or of the unconditionally trusting? Yet if both are required, much trust and much mistrust: whence might science then take its unconditional faith, its conviction, on which it rests, that truth is more important than anything else, even than any other conviction? Just this conviction could not have come into being if both truth and untruth showed themselves to be continually useful, as is the case.

Thus, though there undeniably exists a faith in science, it cannot owe its origin to such a utilitarian calculus but it must rather have originated in spite of the fact that the inutility and dangerousness of the “will to truth,” of “truth at any price,” are proved to it continually…. Consequently, “will to truth” does not mean “I will not let myself be deceived” but—there is no choice—”I will not deceive, not even myself”: and with this we are on the ground of morality. For one should ask oneself carefully: “Why don’t you want to deceive?

” especially if it should appear—and it certainly does appear—that life depends on appearance; I mean, on error, simulation, deception, self-deception; and when life has, as a matter of fact, always shown itself to be on the side of the most unscrupulous polytropoi. Such an intent, charitably interpreted, could perhaps be a quixotism, a little enthusiastic impudence; but it could also be something worse, namely, a destructive principle, hostile to life. “Will to truth”—that might be a concealed will to death. Thus the question “Why science?

” leads back to the moral problem, “For what end any morality at all” if life, nature, and history are “not moral”? … But one will have gathered what I am driving at, namely, that it always remains a metaphysical faith upon which our faith in science rests—that even we devotees of knowledge today, we godless ones and anti-metaphysicians, still take our fire too from the flame which a faith thousands of years old has kindled: that Christian faith, which was also Plato’s faith, that God is truth, that truth is divine….

Review of all sections of the book Book I In book I Nietzsche speaks about the “The teachers of the purpose of existence”, “The intellectual conscience”, “Consciousness”, “On the doctrine of the feeling of power”, “ The things people call love”, “What laws betray”, “Truthfulness”, “The consciousness of appearance”, “The craving for suffering” Book II In book II Nietzsche speaks about the topics like “To the realists” , “Only as creators” “What should win our gratitude”, “In praise of Shakespeare”

“Music as an advocate”, “Our ultimate gratitude to art” Book III In book III Nietzsche talks about, “New struggles”, “Origin of knowledge”, “Origin of the logical”, “Cause and effect”, “Herd instinct”, “Herd remorse”, “In the horizon of the infinite”, “The madman”, “The greatest advantage of polytheism”, “The failures of reformations”, “Of the origin of religion”, “Homo poeta”, “Different types of dangerous lives”, “After a great victory” Book IV

In book IV along with his poetry he speaks about, “ For the New Year”, “The thought of death”, “Star friendship”, “Preparatory human beings”, “Excelsior”, “Brief habits” “A firm reputation”, “The ability to contradict”, “What one should learn from artists”, “By doing we forego”, “In favor of criticism”, “As interpreters of our experience” “New caution”, “In media vita (In mid-life)” “To harm stupidity”, “Better deaf than deafened”, “One must learn to love”, “Long live physics”, “How many people know how to observe something”, “The dying Socrates”, “The greatest weight”

Book V In book V he speaks about, “We Fearless Ones”, “The meaning of our cheerfulness”, “How we, too, are still pious”, “Morality as a problem”, “Our question mark”, “Believers and their need to believe”, “Once more the origin of scholars”, “In honor of the priestly type”, “How morality is scarcely dispensable”, “The origin of our concept of knowledge”, “The revenge against the spirit and other ulterior motives of morality”, “The hermit speaks once more”, “Our new “infinite. “, “Why we look like Epicureans” “We who are homeless”, “The fool interrupts”, “The great health”

Conclusion Nietzsche presents the reader with a catalogue of calamities resulting from an excess of history. One of these calamities is that men, confronted with a spectacle of history so vast that it becomes meaningless for them, will come to think of themselves as epigoni, late arrivals on the scene for whom there is nothing whatever to do. If Hegel were right, if history were finished, modern men would indeed be epigoni. Hegel is wrong, but the belief that he is right makes men act as if they were epigoni.

Men who have no further task to accomplish or men who believe there is nothing more to be done are bound to degenerate for what is best in man is his aspiration. But neither the assertion that the historical process is finished nor the assertion that the historical process is rational is the most fundamental assertion of historicism. Historicism asserts the overwhelming importance of history, the determination of man’s life and thought by history, and the impossibility of transcending the historical process.

Nietzsche accepts this assertion of the omnipotence of history, and his acceptance constitutes a crucial area of agreement with Hegel. The calamities which Nietzsche attributes to an excess of historical knowledge can be summarized by saying that an excess of historical knowledge destroys man’s horizon. There is, however, no permanent horizon of man as man. Men’s fundamental assumptions about things are unevident, unsupported, historically variable and historically determined. There are neither eternal things nor eternal truths; there is only flux and change, which Nietzsche calls the finality of becoming.

6 While doctrines asserting the finality of becoming are true they are also fatal. History as the science of universal becoming is true but deadly. If human life can only thrive within a certain horizon which men believe to be the absolute truth, but which in reality is merely one of many possible horizons, then life is in need of illusions, and the truth which exposes the horizon as a mere horizon is deadly. There is, then, a conflict between truth and life, or between life and wisdom. References Nietzsche, Friedrich (1974). The Gay Science, trans. By Kaufmann Walter (New York: Random House)

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