Ideas and Their Transvaluation

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From "the Dawn Of Day," By Fr. Nietzsche.

There is a time for everything.—When man assigned a gender to all things, he did not think that he was playing, but fancied that he had gained a deep insight. But at a late period, and even then only partially, he was led to admit the enormous extent of that mistake. In the same way man has connected all things in existence with morals, and dressed up the world in a garb of ethical significance. The day will come when all this will be as utterly valueless as is already in our days the belief in the masculinity or femininity of the sun.

The new education of mankind.—All ye who are helpful and well intentioned, lend ye a helping hand in this one endeavor of removing from the world the idea of punishment which has overspread the whole world! No weed more noxious than this! Not only has that idea been applied to the consequences of our actions,—and how terrible and irrational it is to mistake cause and effect for cause and punishment!—but worse than this, by means of this infamous interpretation of the primitive idea, they have robbed the pure accidentality of events of its innocence. Nay, they have gone so far in their folly as to ask us to feel our very existence as a punishment. Surely the education of mankind, thus far, must have been in the hands of fantastic gaolers and hangmen.

Morality and obscurantism.—Custom represents the experiences of people of former ages in matters considered useful or detrimental; but the sense for custom (morality) has no reference to these experiences as such, but rather to the age, the sanctity and indisputable authority of custom. Hence this sentiment is opposed to our gaining new experiences and amending customs, i. e., morality is opposed to the formation of new and better morals: it renders people stupid.

Free-doers and free-thinkers.—Free-doers are at a disadvantage as compared with free-thinkers, because mankind suffers more manifestly from the consequences of actions than of ideas. Yet if we consider that both eagerly seek satisfaction, and that the very contemplation and utterance of forbidden things afford this satisfaction to free-thinkers, in regard to motives, there is no difference; as regards consequences, however, the case—unless we judge like the world generally, from mere outside appearances—will go very much against the free-thinker. We have to make good a great deal of the contumely which has fallen on all those who, by their actions, have broken through the conventionality of some custom—such people generally have been called criminals. Everybody who overthrew the existing moral law has hitherto, at least in the beginning, been considered a wicked man; but when afterwards, as sometimes happened, the old law could not be re-established and had to be abandoned, the epithet was gradually changed. History almost exclusively treats of such wicked men who, in the course of time, have been declared good men.

The honesty of God.—A God who is omniscient and omnipotent, and who does not even provide that His intentions be understood by His creatures—could that be a God of goodness? He who, for thousands of years, has allowed the countless doubts and scruples to continue, as if they were necessary for the salvation of mankind, and who, nevertheless, holds out prospects of terrible consequences to follow a violation of truth? Would He not be a cruel God, if He had the truth and yet could quietly look down upon mankind, miserably worrying itself for the sake of truth? But perhaps He yet is a God of goodness—and He was only unable to express Himself more distinctly. Perhaps He was wanting in intelligence? Or in eloquence? So much the worse! For, in that case, He may perhaps have mistaken that which He calls His truth, and Himself is not quite a stranger to the "poor, duped devil." Must He not suffer intense agonies on seeing His creatures, for the sake of the knowledge of Himself, suffer so much and even more pain through all eternity, without beeing able to advise and help them, except as a deaf-and-dumb, who makes all sorts of ambiguous signs when the most terrible danger hangs over his child or his dog? A believer who thus argues and thus feels oppressed, ought really to be forgiven for being more inclined to pity with the suffering God than with his "neighbors"; for they are no longer his neighbors if that most isolated, most primeval being be also the greatest sufferer and more than any in need of comfort. All religions bear traces of the fact that they owe their origin to an early immature intellectuality of men—they all make very light of the obligation to speak the truth: they know nothing of a duty of God to be truthful and clear in his communications to mankind. Nobody has been more eloquent than Pascal as regards the "hidden God" and the reasons of His thus hiding Himself; which proves that he, Pascal, could never compose his mind on this head; but his voice sounds as confident as if he had, some time or other, sat behind the curtain. He scented immorality in the "deus absconditus," and felt both ashamed and afraid of admitting this to himself: hence, like one who is afraid, he spoke as loudly as he could.

Transformation of morals.—There is a constant mending and molding going on in morals—the result of successful crimes (to which, for instance, belong all innovations in moral thinking).

Waking from a dream.—Noble and wise people once believed in the music of the spheres: noble and wise people still believe in the "moral significance of existence." But one day even this music of the spheres will cease to be audible to the ears! They will awake and perceive that their ears had been dreaming.

Punishment.—A strange thing, our punishment! It does not clear the character of the criminal, it is no expiation : on the contrary, it is more defiling than the very crime.

Aristotle and matrimony.—Among the children of master minds insanity breaks forth; among those of the virtuous, stupidity—observes Aristotle. Did he, in so saying, mean to invite the exceptional characters to matrimony?

Consider!—He who is being punished is no longer the same who has done the deed. He is always the scapegoat.

Beware of systematists.—We sometimes meet a certain amount of false pretence in systematists: in trying to complete a system and round off its horizon, they have to endeavor to make their weaker qualities appear in the light of their stronger ones. They wish to personate complete and uniformly strong characters.