Ideas from 'Human, All Too Human' by Friedrich Nietzsche [1878], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Human, All Too Human' by Nietzsche,Friedrich (ed/tr Faber,Marion) [Penguin 1994,0-14-044617-6]].

green numbers give full details    |     back to texts     |     unexpand these ideas

1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 1. Nature of Wisdom
The highest wisdom has the guise of simplicity
                        Full Idea: Truth tends to reveal its highest wisdom in the guise of simplicity.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 609)
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 7. Despair over Philosophy
Deep thinkers know that they are always wrong
                        Full Idea: Whoever thinks more deeply knows that he is always wrong, whatever his acts and judgments.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 518)
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 8. Humour
Comedy is a transition from fear to exuberance
                        Full Idea: The transition from momentary fear to short-lived exuberance is called the 'comic'
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 169)
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 3. Value of Truth
Truth finds fewest champions not when it is dangerous, but when it is boring
                        Full Idea: The champions of truth are hardest to find, not when it is dangerous to tell it, but rather when it is boring.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 506)
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 1. Certainty
Being certain presumes that there are absolute truths, and means of arriving at them
                        Full Idea: Conviction is the belief that in some point of knowledge one possesses absolute truth. Such a belief presumes, then, that absolute truths exists; likewise, that the perfect methods for arriving at them have been found.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 630)
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 1. Intuition
Intuition only recognises what is possible, not what exists or is certain
                        Full Idea: 'To intuit' does not mean to recognise the existence of a thing to any extent, but rather to hold it to be possible, in that one wishes or fears it. 'Intuition' takes us not one step farther into the land of certainty.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 131)
                        A reaction: I like this remark. I am sympathetic to the view that the actual world has modal properties (in opposition to Sider, for example). To apprehend dispositions is precisely to apprehend possibilities. Intuition is a thousand interwoven inductions.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 2. Knowing the Self
Just as skin hides the horrors of the body, vanity conceals the passions of the soul
                        Full Idea: Just as the bones, flesh, intestines, and blood vessels are enclosed with skin, which makes the sight of a man bearable, so the stirrings and passions of the soul are covered up by vanity: it is the skin of the soul.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], §082)
                        A reaction: What a glorious analogy! None of us should underestimate our vanity. The least vain people you ever meet can reveal their vanity if you challenge them close to home. Try accusing them of vanity! Attack their essential character! (No, don't do that).
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / b. Intellectualism
Our judgment seems to cause our nature, but actually judgment arises from our nature
                        Full Idea: It seems that our thinking and judging are to be made the cause of our nature after the fact, but actually our nature causes us to think and judge one way or the other.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 608)
People always do what they think is right, according to the degree of their intellect
                        Full Idea: Socrates and Plato are right: whatever man does, he always acts for the good; that is, in a way that seems to him good (useful) according to the degree of his intellect, the prevailing measure of his rationality.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 102)
                        A reaction: I associate this doctrine much more with Socrates than with Plato - but Nietzsche was a great classical scholar.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 3. Taste
Why are the strong tastes of other people so contagious?
                        Full Idea: Why are likes and dislikes so contagious that one can scarcely live in proximity to a person of strong sensibilities without being filled like a vessel with pros and cons?
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 371)
                        A reaction: I was on the receiving end of this when young, and I think it influenced me to propound stronger views about things than I could ever justify, since my natural disposition is to be cautious about all views. Nice question. Why?
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 4. Art as Expression
Artists are not especially passionate, but they pretend to be
                        Full Idea: Artists are by no means people of great passion, but they often pretend to be.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 211)
                        A reaction: Presumably people can gradually become what they consistently pretend to be.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / c. Altruism
No one has ever done anything that was entirely for other people
                        Full Idea: Never has a man done anything that was only for others and without any personal motivation. …How could the ego act without ego?
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 133)
                        A reaction: This is only a denial of the purest of 'pure' altruism. It is hard to imagine anyone performing an altruistic action which permanently shamed the reputationof its performer - though it might be possible in a nicely contrived fiction.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / d. Love
Simultaneous love and respect are impossible; love has no separation or rank, but respect admits power
                        Full Idea: It is impossible to be loved and respected by the same person. For the man who respects another acknowledges his power; his condition is one of awe. But love acknowledges no power, nothing that separates, differentiates, ranks higher or subordinates.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 603)
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / e. Fine deeds
We get enormous pleasure from tales of noble actions
                        Full Idea: How much pleasure we get from morality! Just think what a river of agreeable tears has flowed at tales of noble, generous actions.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 091)
                        A reaction: How can anyone not adore Nietzsche? The pleasure of a noble deed is the most piercing and the deepest pleasure known to us. It isn't 'just' a pleasure.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
We can only achieve happy moments, not happy eras
                        Full Idea: The destiny of men is designed for happy moments (every life has those), but not for happy eras.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 471)
                        A reaction: The vicissitudes of life (my favourite word!) are such that even the most serene and well-adjusted person is going to be perturbed on several days of the week, even if only by the unhappiness of the people around them.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / g. Moral responsibility
The history of morality rests on an error called 'responsibility', which rests on an error called 'free will'
                        Full Idea: The history of moral feelings is the history of an error, an error called 'responsibility', which in turn rests on an error called 'freedom of the will'.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 039)
                        A reaction: I totally agree with this, though I think the term 'responsible' is useful in ethics, though only in the sense that the lightning was responsible for the thunder. Nietzsche appears to have anticipated Mackie's error theory about morality.
Ceasing to believe in human responsibility is bitter, if you had based the nobility of humanity on it
                        Full Idea: Man's complete lack of responsibility, for his behaviour and for his nature, is the bitterest drop which the man of knowledge must swallow, if he had been in the habit of seeing responsibility and duty as humanity's claim to nobility.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 107)
                        A reaction: If you were seeing humanity as little transient angels, living a moral life that was an echo of God's, then you needed cutting down to size. But if you ask if there is anything 'noble' in the universe, it will still be the fine deeds of humanity.
It is absurd to blame nature and necessity; we should no more praise actions than we praise plants or artworks
                        Full Idea: Man may no longer praise, no longer blame, for it is nonsensical to praise and blame nature and necessity. Just as he loves a work of art (or a plant) but does not praise it, because it can do nothing about itself, so he must regard human actions.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 107)
                        A reaction: But humans can 'do something about themselves'. They can read the works of Nietzsche. He overestimates the importance of the loss of free will, when we grasp that there is no such thing.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / b. Rational ethics
Intellect is tied to morality, because it requires good memory and powerful imagination
                        Full Idea: One must have a good memory to be able to keep the promises one has given. One must have strong powers of imagination to be able to have pity. So closely is morality bound to the quality of the intellect.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 059)
                        A reaction: Nice to see him say that strong powers of imagination are an 'intellectual' quality, which I think is not properly understood by the more geeky sort of intellectual.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / f. Übermensch
Originally it was the rulers who requited good for good and evil for evil who were called 'good'
                        Full Idea: In the soul of the original ruling clans and castes, the man who has the power to requite goodness with goodness, evil with evil, and really does practice requital by being grateful and vengeful, is called 'good'.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 045)
                        A reaction: The idea that evil should indeed repay evil was very much a feature of goodness until the philosophers came in on the act. In those days no one else had any power, so they had no scope for goodness.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / b. Basis of virtue
First morality is force, then custom, then acceptance, then instinct, then a pleasure - and finally 'virtue'
                        Full Idea: Force precedes morality; for a time morality itself is force, to which others acquiesce. Later it becomes custom, and then free obedience, and finally almost instinct; then it is coupled to pleasure, like all habitual things, and is now called 'virtue'.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 099)
                        A reaction: How few philosophers delve into the history of the concepts they work with, and yet how revealing it can be. Richard Taylor was wonderful on 'duty'. You will never grasp the 'problem of free will' if you don't examine its history.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / d. Virtue theory critique
You are mastered by your own virtues, but you must master them, and turn them into tools
                        Full Idea: You had to become your own master, and also the master of your own virtues. Previously, your virtues were your master; but they must be nothing more than your tools.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 006)
                        A reaction: What on earth would Aristotle make of that? Nietzsche offers a sort of metatheory for virtues. I take this to be a form of particularism - that you live by your virtues, but occasionally you can discard a virtue if it seems right. Lie, steal...
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
The 'good' man does the moral thing as if by nature, easily and gladly, after a long inheritance
                        Full Idea: We call 'good' the man who does the moral thing as if by nature, after a long history of inheritance - that is, easily, and gladly, whatever it is. …He is called 'good' because he is good 'for' something.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 096)
                        A reaction: I am amazed at the brief and rather disrespectful remarks that Nietzsche makes about Aristotle's ethics, given how close this idea is to the ideal of Aristotle (though the latter who not emphasise 'inheritance'!).
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / a. Virtues
All societies of good men give a priority to gratitude
                        Full Idea: Every society of good men (that is, originally, of powerful men) places gratitude among its first duties.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 044)
                        A reaction: His reason here is that gratitude is a way of displaying the power of the powerful!
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
Justice (fairness) originates among roughly equal powers (as the Melian dialogues show)
                        Full Idea: Justice (fairness) originates among approximately equal powers, as Thucydides (in the horrifying conversation between the Athenian and Melian envoys) rightly understood.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 092)
                        A reaction: The moral position of the powerless is a notorious problem for social contract theories of morality. They have nothing to offer in a mere contract.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / f. Compassion
Pity consoles those who suffer, because they see that they still have the power to hurt
                        Full Idea: The pity that the spectators express consoles the weak and suffering, inasmuch as they see that , despite all their weakness, they still have at least one power: the power to hurt.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], §050)
                        A reaction: This pinpoints how the will to power led to the inversion of values.
Apart from philosophers, most people rightly have a low estimate of pity
                        Full Idea: Aside from a few philosophers, men have always placed pity rather low in the hierarchy of moral feelings - and rightly so.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 103)
                        A reaction: Presumably this includes Jesus among the 'philosophers'.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / d. Friendship
Many people are better at having good friends than being a good friend
                        Full Idea: In many people the gift of having good friends is much greater than the gift of being a good friend.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 368)
Women can be friends with men, but only some physical antipathy will maintain it
                        Full Idea: Women can very well enter into a friendship with a man, but to maintain it - a little physical antipathy must help out.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 390)
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 1. Utilitarianism
In Homer it is the contemptible person, not the harmful person, who is bad
                        Full Idea: In Homer, both the Trojan and the Greek are good. Not the man who inflicts harm on us, but the man who is contemptible, is bad.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 045)
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 1. Existentialism
We could live more naturally, relishing the spectacle, and not thinking we are special
                        Full Idea: I can imagine a life much more simple...than the present one. ...One would live among men and with oneself as in nature, without praise, reproach, overzealousness, delighting in things as in a spectacle. One would no longer feel one was more than nature.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], §034)
                        A reaction: [compressed] Safranski says this passage is a big turning point for Nietzsche, replacing his earlier idea that art could be salvation. Eternal Recurrence puts a seal on this new view. Nietzsche adds that this life needs to be 'cheerful'.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 4. Boredom
People do not experience boredom if they have never learned to work properly
                        Full Idea: Many people, especially women, do not experience boredom, because they have never learned to work properly.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 391)
                        A reaction: It certainly seems right that boredom is a response to expectations and past habits. Life in a medieval village looks like boredom verging on torture for your busy modern urban sophisticate, but I daresay it was quite absorbing.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 5. Existence-Essence
Over huge periods of time human character would change endlessly
                        Full Idea: If a man eighty thousand years old were conceivable, his character would in fact be absolutely variable. …The brevity of human life misleads us…
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 041)
                        A reaction: This would be one of my many exhibits for claiming Nietzsche as an existentialist. I think he is largely right, and we do detect slow shifts in our characters over long periods of time. They may be as much a response to culture as a personal matter.
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 4. Natural Rights / a. Natural rights
If self-defence is moral, then so are most expressions of 'immoral' egoism
                        Full Idea: If we accept self-defense as moral, then we must also accept nearly all expressions of so-called immoral egoism.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 104)
                        A reaction: I find this idea rather disconcerting, because I have always thought that the clearest possible 'natural right' was that of self-defence - but this implication (if it be so) had never struck me. Hm.
25. Society / B. The State / 1. Purpose of a State
The state aims to protect individuals from one another
                        Full Idea: The state is a clever institution for protecting individuals from one another.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 235)
                        A reaction: This is Nietzsche allying with Hobbes, and presumably aiming this remark at Hegel.
25. Society / B. The State / 8. Culture
Culture cannot do without passions and vices
                        Full Idea: Culture absolutely cannot do without passions, vices and acts of malice.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 477)
                        A reaction: I'm not sure how you test the truth of that aphorism, given that humanity is perpetually doomed to live with such things. If those qualities disappeared, I suppose we would drift apart. We are 'dependent' beings, as MacIntyre says.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 2. Social Freedom / a. Slavery
Slavery cannot be judged by our standards, because the sense of justice was then less developed
                        Full Idea: The injustice of slavery, the cruelty in subjugating persons and peoples, cannot be measured by our standards. For the instinct for justice was not so widely developed then.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 101)
                        A reaction: Why do we value the instinct for justic which we have subsequently developed? Why do we think it is important, and battle to preserve it? This is the sort of creepy relativism that Nietzsche drifted into, and for the worse.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 5. Right to Punish / a. Right to punish
Execution is worse than murder, because we are using the victim, and really we are the guilty
                        Full Idea: Why does execution offend us more than murder? It is the coldness of the judges, the painful preparation, the use of a man to deter others. For guilt is not being punished, which lies in the educators, parents, environment, in us, not in the murderer.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 070)
                        A reaction: Someone was stabbed to death in Oxford Street yesterday (26 Dec 11), and we all feel horribly that London is responsible for producing this event, even if we try and load all the blame onto one youth with a knife. Oscar Wilde endorsed this idea.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / b. Consultation
If we want the good life for the greatest number, we must let them decide on the good life
                        Full Idea: If the business of politics is to make life tolerable for the greatest number, this greatest number may also determine what they understand by a tolerable life.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 438)
25. Society / E. State Functions / 1. The Law / a. Legal system
Laws that are well thought out, or laws that are easy to understand?
                        Full Idea: Lawyers argue whether that law which is most thoroughly thought out, or that which is easiest to understand, should prevail in a people.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 459)
                        A reaction: Our system of speed limits is radically simplified, to save money on road signs, and facilitate enforcement. But then its inflexibility brings it into disrepute.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 4. Education / a. Education principles
Interest in education gains strength when we lose interest in God
                        Full Idea: Interest in education will gain great strength only at the moment when belief in a God and his loving care is given up.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 242)
                        A reaction: This remark may well sum up the motivation of my entire life. What effect would it have had if I had read it when I was twenty?
Education in large states is mediocre, like cooking in large kitchens
                        Full Idea: The educational system in large states will always be mediocre at best, for the same reason that the cooking in large kitchens is at best mediocre.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 467)
                        A reaction: I wish he had said what that 'same reason' is. Something to do with too many cooks, I suppose. Nothing seems harder than reaching a wide concensus on how the young should be educated. Like interior design by a committee.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 4. Education / b. Aims of education
Don't crush girls with dull Gymnasium education, the way we have crushed boys!
                        Full Idea: For heaven's sake, do not pass our Gymnasium education on to girls too! For it often turns witty, inquisitive, fiery youths - into copies of their teachers!
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 409)
25. Society / E. State Functions / 4. Education / c. Teaching
Teachers only gather knowledge for their pupils, and can't be serious about themselves
                        Full Idea: A teacher is incapable of doing anything of his own for his own good. He always thinks of the good of his pupils, and all new knowledge gladdens him only to the extent that he can teach it. He is a thoroughfare for learning, and has lost seriousness.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 200)
                        A reaction: Oh dear. I look in the mirror. Do I only delight in finding all these quotations so that I can stick them in the database and pass them on to someone else? Are they actually impingeing on my life? Could I meet an idea that made me abandon this project?
25. Society / E. State Functions / 5. War
People will enthusiastically pursue an unwanted war, once sacrifices have been made
                        Full Idea: All things for which we have made sacrifices are in the right. This explains why, just as soon as sacrifices are made, people continue with enthusiasm a war that was begun against their wishes.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 229)
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 1. Laws of Nature
In religious thought nature is a complex of arbitrary acts by conscious beings
                        Full Idea: In the mind of religious men, all nature is the sum of actions of conscious and intentioned beings, an enormous complex of arbitrary acts.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 111)
                        A reaction: This is the beginning of the process, I think, which then sees the gods as dictating through laws, and then the laws themselves doing the dictating, then seeing the laws as inhering in nature - and finally realising there aren't any laws!
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 11. Against Laws of Nature
Modern man wants laws of nature in order to submit to them
                        Full Idea: In present times, man wishes to understand the lawfulness of nature in order to submit to it.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 111)
                        A reaction: They don't make philosophers like Nietzsche any more (or at least, in the analytic tradition I am following!). No one who is trying to give an analysis of the laws of nature has any interest in why we are so keen to find them. Stoics 'live by nature'.
29. Religion / A. Polytheistic Religion / 2. Greek Polytheism
The Greeks saw the gods not as their masters, but as idealised versions of themselves
                        Full Idea: The Greeks did not see the Homeric gods above them as masters and themselves below them as servants, as did the Jews. They saw, as it were, only the reflection of the most successful specimens of their own caste - an ideal, not a contrast.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 114)
29. Religion / B. Monotheistic Religion / 4. Christianity / a. Christianity
The Sermon on the Mount is vanity - praying to one part of oneself, and demonising the rest
                        Full Idea: This shattering of oneself, this scorn of one's own nature, is actually a high degree of vanity. The whole morality of the Sermon on the Mount belongs here; in ascetic morality man prays to one part of himself as a god, and has to diabolify the rest.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 137)
                        A reaction: This seems to be the core of Nietzsche's objection to Christian teaching - that it doesn't provide a direction of life for the whole human being. The modern rejection of religions agrees with Nietzsche, especially in disputes over the place of sex.
Christ seems warm hearted, and suppressed intellect in favour of the intellectually weak
                        Full Idea: Christ, whom we like to imagine as having the warmest of hearts, furthered men's stupidity, took the side of the intellectually weak, and kept the greatest intellect from being produced: and this was consistent.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 235)
                        A reaction: Thomas Aquinas was a stupendous intellect. The surest way to be swept forward on a wave of popularity is to find some reason why the uneducated are superior to the educated.
Science rejecting the teaching of Christianity in favour of Epicurus shows the superiority of the latter
                        Full Idea: We can determine whether Christianity or Greek philosophy has the greater truth by noting that the awakening sciences have carried on point for point with the philosophy of Epicurus, but have rejected Christianity point for point.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 068)
Christ was the noblest human being
                        Full Idea: Christ was the noblest human being.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 475)
                        A reaction: That one will come as a surprise to those who only know of Nietzsche's religion that 'God is dead'!
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 1. Religious Commitment / a. Religious Belief
Religion is tempting if your life is boring, but you can't therefore impose it on the busy people
                        Full Idea: People who think their daily lives too empty and monotonous easily become religious: this is understandable and forgivable; however, they have no right to demand religiosity from those whose daily life does not pass in emptiness and monotony.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 115)
                        A reaction: Well wicked, that Nietzsche. Richard Dawkins and the hated new atheists are a right bunch of wimps in comparison.