Monday, September 15, 2014

Notes on Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human, Section One: Of First and Last Things

Given that the book takes an aphoristic approach, I have attempted to condense the aphorisms into truly short statements. This necessarily leaves out important material, but my hope is that this condensed version at least reasonably states some of the points made. Note that in some cases I have used words directly from the translation without quotations.

1. Metaphysics denies opposites; historical philosophy holds that they are simplifications of a more basic element. What we need is a chemistry of morality, religion, and aesthetics.

2. Philosophers fail to have a historical sense; they do not recognize that everything evolves, and there are no eternal facts nor absolute truths.

3. Hard won, humble, and enduring truths are superior to grandiose but frivolous metaphysical, or narrow and concrete perceptual, claims.

4. Man tends to think that the world revolves around human concerns, but the truth is more of a two-way street.

5. Dreams are the origin of metaphysics, because without them man would have had no need to divide the world.

6. Philosophy tries to give great depth and meaning to knowledge, life and activity, sometimes through grandiose metaphysics. Science, in contrast, only seeks knowledge.

7. The search for happiness has unfortunately focused and limited the scope of science.

8. Metaphysics uses spirits to explain nature, and mystical approaches are still common today.

9. It is possible that there is a metaphysical world, but we believe in it due to bad methods of knowledge. If it does exist, it is inscrutable and any knowledge of it would be inconsequential.

10. When origins of religion, art, and morality have been described without reliance on metaphysics, we no longer have to concern ourselves with the distinction between thing-in-itself and appearance.

11. Language and logic are powerful, but they are founded on an error, the assumption there are identical things across time.

12. Dreams are like an earlier state of mankind, when hallucinations were frequent and we easily confused things based on superficial similarities.

13. In dreams and sometimes imagination, as in an earlier conscious state of mankind, the mind concludes from the effect to the most obvious cause, yet experiences it as cause to effect.

14. We experience moral and religious feelings as unities, but actually they are complex with many contributing elements.

15. Deep and complex thoughts can be very far from the truth, and an intense feeling that stimulates them guarantees nothing about knowledge.

16. The projections of the intellect from appearance to thing-in-itself are errors, but ones with great value to humanity. Nevertheless, the thing-in-itself is empty of meaning.

17. Metaphysical explanations both reduce our responsibility and make things more interesting; but those same effects can also be gained scientifically through physical and historical explanations.

18. All belief originates in pleasure and pain. We have thus inherited two original errors, that of freedom of the will and that of unconditioned substances and identical things.

19. We invent entities and unities that do not exist; the laws of numbers are only applicable to the human world, not the unconditioned world.

20. Once we get past superstition, religion, and metaphysics, we must then return to them to understand their historical and psychological importance and how much they have actually contributed.

21. If we cannot use any metaphysical explanations, we are likely to become skeptical about the subject.

22. A disadvantage of abandoning the metaphysical is the apparent elimination of the incentive to think and act long-term. But the accumulation of scientific truths can eventually play the same role.

23. The breakdown of provincialism has ushered in an age of comparison regarding views, customs, and culture, as well as the forms and habits of morality.

24. Previously culture developed unconsciously and randomly, but men can choose to develop culture consciously; this kills the old culture and makes progress possible.

25. The notion of a universal morality is widely accepted, but naive and possibly completely undesirable; the great task of the next century is to discover the knowledge of the conditions of culture.

26. Occasionally there are influential people who conjure up a past phase of mankind (e.g., Luther, Schopenhauer), and this demonstrates that the newer tendencies are not yet strong enough. This is crucial to correcting erroneous elements of the new way before moving forward.

27. Religion satisfied real needs for which philosophy will now substitute; we should use art to mitigate the difficulties of this transition.

28. We should not use the terms "optimism" and "pessimism," nor should we use the terms "good" and "evil" except in reference to men, as opposed to the world.

29. Religion and art, and the associated errors of idea, have brought great meaning, and happiness and sorrow, to man. Nevertheless, we understand the world through science, not art and religion.

30. The most common errors are to think that a thing's existence makes it legitimate and if an opinion makes us glad it must be true. The free spirit often is tempted to make exactly contrary deductions, which are usually just as false.

31. The illogical is necessary for man and much good comes from it; even the most rational man needs nature and his illogical basic attitude at times.

32. We are illogical and therefore unfair beings, and we can know this; it is an insoluble disharmony of existence.

33. The ordinary man empathizes as little as possible with others; if he did he would despair about the value of life. Only by rejoicing in the activity of great men, or the great activities of mankind, can one have a positive view, and this is impure thinking.

34. A man's temperament determines the aftereffect of knowledge; the truth can lead to despair, but with a different attitude, by rising above the everyday disputes and evaluations and being content, he can have joy.

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