Translated by J. M. Kennedy.
Autumn, 1874. Published Posthumously.
To what a great extent men are ruled by pure hazard, and how little
reason itself enters into the question, is sufficiently shown by
observing how few people have any real capacity for their professions
and callings, and how many square pegs there are in round holes: happy
and well chosen instances are quite exceptional, like happy marriages,
and even these latter are not brought about by reason. A man chooses his
calling before he is fitted to exercise his faculty of choice. He does
not know the number of different callings and professions that exist; he
does not know himself; and then he wastes his years of activity in this
calling, applies all his mind to it, and becomes experienced and
practical. When, afterwards, his understanding has become fully
developed, it is generally too late to start something new; for wisdom
on earth has almost always had something of the weakness of old age and
lack of vigour about it.
For the most part the task is to make good, and to set to rights as well
as possible, that which was bungled in the beginning. Many will come to
recognise that the latter part of their life shows a purpose or design
which has sprung from a primary discord: it is hard to live through it.
Towards the end of his life, however, the average man has become
accustomed to it—then he may make a mistake in regard to the life he
has lived, and praise his own stupidity: bene navigavi cum naufragium
feci . he may even compose a song of thanksgiving to “Providence.”
On inquiring into the origin of the philologist I find:
1. A young man cannot have the slightest conception of what the Greeks
and Romans were.
2. He does not know whether he is fitted to investigate into them;
3. And, in particular, he does not know to what extent, in view of the
knowledge he may actually possess, he is fitted to be a teacher. What
then enables him to decide is not the knowledge of himself or his
(b) The convenience of carrying on the kind of work which he had
begun at school.
(c) His intention of earning a living.
In short, ninety-nine philologists out of a hundred should not be
philologists at all.
The more strict religions require that men shall look upon their
activity simply as one means of carrying out a metaphysical scheme: an
unfortunate choice of calling may then be explained as a test of the
individual. Religions keep their eyes fixed only upon the salvation of
the individual . whether he is a slave or a free man, a merchant or a
scholar, his aim in life has nothing to do with his calling, so that a
wrong choice is not such a very great piece of unhappiness. Let this
serve as a crumb of comfort for philologists in general; but true
philologists stand in need of a better understanding: what will result
from a science which is “gone in for” by ninety-nine such people? The
thoroughly unfitted majority draw up the rules of the science in
accordance with their own capacities and inclinations; and in this way
they tyrannise over the hundredth, the only capable one among them. If
they have the training of others in their hands they will train them
consciously or unconsciously after their own image . what then becomes
of the classicism of the Greeks and Romans?
The points to be proved are—
(a) The disparity between philologists and the ancients.
(b) The inability of the philologist to train his pupils, even with
the help of the ancients.
(c) The falsifying of the science by the (incapacity of the) majority,
the wrong requirements held in view; the renunciation of the real aim of
All this affects the sources of our present philology: a sceptical and
melancholy attitude. But how otherwise are philologists to be produced?
The imitation of antiquity: is not this a principle which has been
refuted by this time?
The flight from actuality to the ancients: does not this tend to falsify
our conception of antiquity?
We are still behindhand in one type of contemplation: to understand how
the greatest productions of the intellect have a dreadful and evil
background . the sceptical type of contemplation. Greek antiquity is now
investigated as the most beautiful example of life.
As man assumes a sceptical and melancholy attitude towards his life's
calling, so we must sceptically examine the highest life’s calling of a
nation: in order that we may understand what life is.
My words of consolation apply particularly to the single tyrannised
individual out of a hundred: such exceptional ones should simply treat
all the unenlightened majorities as their subordinates; and they should
in the same way take advantage of the prejudice, which is still
widespread, in favour of classical instruction—they need many helpers.
But they must have a clear perception of what their actual goal is.
Philology as the science of antiquity does not, of course, endure for
ever; its elements are not inexhaustible. What cannot be exhausted,
however, is the ever-new adaptation of one’s age to antiquity; the
comparison of the two. If we make it our task to understand our own age
better by means of antiquity, then our task will be an everlasting
one.—This is the antinomy of philology: people have always endeavoured
to understand antiquity by means of the present—and shall the present
now be understood by means of antiquity? Better: people have explained
antiquity to themselves out of their own experiences; and from the
amount of antiquity thus acquired they have assessed the value of their
experiences. Experience, therefore, is certainly an essential
prerequisite for a philologist—that is, the philologist must first of
all be a man; for then only can he be productive as a philologist. It
follows from this that old men are well suited to be philologists if
they were not such during that portion of their life which was richest
It must be insisted, however, that it is only through a knowledge of the
present that one can acquire an inclination for the study of classical
antiquity. Where indeed should the impulse come from if not from this
inclination? When we observe how few philologists there actually are,
except those that have taken up philology as a means of livelihood, we
can easily decide for ourselves what is the matter with this impulse for
antiquity: it hardly exists at all, for there are no disinterested
Our task then is to secure for philology the universally educative
results which it should bring about. The means: the limitation of the
number of those engaged in the philological profession (doubtful whether
young men should be made acquainted with philology at all). Criticism of
the philologist. The value of antiquity: it sinks with you: how deeply
you must have sunk, since its value is now so little!
It is a great advantage for the true philologist that a great deal of
preliminary work has been done in his science, so that he may take
possession of this inheritance if he is strong enough for it—I refer to
the valuation of the entire Hellenic mode of thinking. So long as
philologists worked simply at details, a misunderstanding of the Greeks
was the consequence. The stages of this undervaluation are · the
sophists of the second century, the philologist-poets of the
Renaissance, and the philologist as the teacher of the higher classes of
society (Goethe, Schiller).
Valuing is the most difficult of all.
In what respect is one most fitted for this valuing?
—Not, at all events, when one is trained for philology as one is now.
It should be ascertained to what extent our present means make this last
—Thus the philologist himself is not the aim of philology.
Most men show clearly enough that they do not regard themselves as
individuals: their lives indicate this. The Christian command that
everyone shall steadfastly keep his eyes fixed upon his salvation, and
his alone, has as its counterpart the general life of mankind, where
every man lives merely as a point among other points—living not only as
the result of earlier generations, but living also only with an eye to
the future. There are only three forms of existence in which a man
remains an individual as a philosopher, as a Saviour, and as an artist.
But just let us consider how a scientific man bungles his life:[Pg 115] what
has the teaching of Greek particles to do with the sense of life?—Thus
we can also observe how innumerable men merely live, as it were, a
preparation for a man, the philologist, for example, as a preparation
for the philosopher, who in his turn knows how to utilise his ant-like
work to pronounce some opinion upon the value of life. When such
ant-like work is not carried out under any special direction the greater
part of it is simply nonsense, and quite superfluous.
Besides the large number of unqualified philologists there is, on the
other hand, a number of what may be called born philologists, who from
some reason or other are prevented from becoming such. The greatest
obstacle, however, which stands in the way of these born philologists is
the bad representation of philology by the unqualified philologists.
Leopardi is the modern ideal of a philologist: The German philologists
can do nothing. (As a proof of this Voss should be studied!)
Let it be considered how differently a science is propagated from the
way in which any special talent in a family is transmitted. The bodily
transmission of an individual science is something very rare. Do the
sons of philologists easily become philologists? Dubito. Thus there is
no such accumulation of philological capacity as there was, let us say,
in Beethoven’s family of musical capacity.[Pg 116] Most philologists begin from
the beginning, and even then they learn from books, and not through
travels, &c. They get some training, of course.
Most men are obviously in the world accidentally; no necessity of a
higher kind is seen in them. They work at this and that, their talents
are average. How strange! The manner in which they live shows that they
think very little of themselves: they merely esteem themselves in so far
as they waste their energy on trifles (whether these be mean or
frivolous desires, or the trashy concerns of their everyday calling). In
the so-called life’s calling, which everyone must choose, we may
perceive a touching modesty on the part of mankind. They practically
admit in choosing thus. “We are called upon to serve and to be of
advantage to our equals—the same remark applies to our neighbour and to
his neighbour, so everyone serves somebody else; no one is carrying out
the duties of his calling for his own sake, but always for the sake of
others and thus we are like geese which support one another by the one
leaning against the other. When the aim of each one of us is centred in
another, then we have all no object in existing; and this 'existing for
others’ is the most comical of comedies.”
Vanity is the involuntary inclination to set one’s self up for an
individual while not really being one; that is to say, trying to appear
independent when one is dependent. The case of wisdom is the exact contrary: it appears to be dependent while in reality it is independent.
The Hades of Homer—From what type of existence is it really copied? I
think it is the description of the philologist: it is better to be a
day-labourer than to have such an anæmic recollection of the past.—
The attitude of the philologist towards antiquity is apologetic, or else
dictated by the view that what our own age values can likewise be found
in antiquity. The right attitude to take up, however, is the reverse
one, viz., to start with an insight into our modern topsyturviness, and
to look back from antiquity to it—and many things about antiquity which
have hitherto displeased us will then be seen to have been most profound
We must make it clear to ourselves that we are acting in an absurd
manner when we try to defend or to beautify antiquity: who are we!
We are under a false impression when we say that there is always some
caste which governs a nation’s culture, and that therefore savants are
necessary; for savants only possess knowledge concerning culture (and
even this only in exceptional cases). Among learned men themselves there
might be a few, certainly not a caste, but even these would indeed be
One very great value of antiquity consists in the fact that its writings
are the only ones which modern men still read carefully.
Overstraining of the memory—very common among philologists, together
with a poor development of the judgment.
Busying ourselves with the culture-epochs of the past: is this
gratitude? We should look backwards in order to explain to ourselves the
present conditions of culture: we do not become too laudatory in regard
to our own circumstances, but perhaps we should do so in order that we
may not be too severe on ourselves.
He who has no sense for the symbolical has none for antiquity: let
pedantic philologists bear this in mind.
My aim is to bring about a state of complete enmity between our present
"culture” and antiquity. Whoever wishes to serve the former must hate
Careful meditation upon the past leads to the impression that we are a
multiplication of many pasts · so how can we be a final aim? But why
not? In most instances, however, we do not wish to be this. We take up
our positions again in the[Pg 119] ranks, work in our own little corner, and
hope that what we do may be of some small profit to our successors. But
that is exactly the case of the cask of the Danæ · and this is useless,
we must again set about doing everything for ourselves, and only for
ourselves—measuring science by ourselves, for example with the question
· What is science to us? not . what are we to science? People really
make life too easy for themselves when they look upon themselves from
such a simple historical point of view, and make humble servants of
themselves. “Your own salvation above everything"—that is what you
should say; and there are no institutions which you should prize more
highly than your own soul.—Now, however, man learns to know himself: he
finds himself miserable, despises himself, and is pleased to find
something worthy of respect outside himself. Therefore he gets rid of
himself, so to speak, makes himself subservient to a cause, does his
duty strictly, and atones for his existence. He knows that he does not
work for himself alone; he wishes to help those who are daring enough to
exist on account of themselves, like Socrates. The majority of men are
as it were suspended in the air like toy balloons; every breath of wind
moves them.—As a consequence the savant must be such out of
self-knowledge, that is to say, out of contempt for himself—in other
words he must recognise himself to be merely the servant of some higher
being who comes after him. Otherwise he is simply a sheep.[Pg 120]
It is the duty of the free man to live for his own sake, and not for
others. It was on this account that the Greeks looked upon handicrafts
As a complete entity Greek antiquity has not yet been fully valued · I
am convinced that if it had not been surrounded by its traditional
glorification, the men of the present day would shrink from it horror
stricken. This glorification, then, is spurious; gold-paper.
The false enthusiasm for antiquity in which many philologists live. When
antiquity suddenly comes upon us in our youth, it appears to us to be
composed of innumerable trivialities; in particular we believe ourselves
to be above its ethics. And Homer and Walter Scott—who carries off the
palm? Let us be honest! If this enthusiasm were really felt, people
could scarcely seek their life’s calling in it. I mean that what we can
obtain from the Greeks only begins to dawn upon us in later years: only
after we have undergone many experiences, and thought a great deal.
People in general think that philology is at an end—while I believe
that it has not yet begun.
The greatest events in philology are the appearance of Goethe,
Schopenhauer, and Wagner; standing on their shoulders we look far into
the distance. The fifth and sixth centuries have still to be discovered.
Where do we see the effect of antiquity? Not in language, not in the
imitation of something or other, and not in perversity and waywardness,
to which uses the French have turned it. Our museums are gradually
becoming filled up: I always experience a sensation of disgust when I
see naked statues in the Greek style in the presence of this thoughtless
philistinism which would fain devour everything.[Pg 122]
PLANS AND THOUGHTS RELATING TO A WORK ON PHILOLOGY
Of all sciences philology at present is the most favoured · its progress
having been furthered for centuries by the greatest number of scholars
in every nation who have had charge of the noblest pupils. Philology has
thus had one of the best of all opportunities to be propagated from
generation to generation, and to make itself respected. How has it
acquired this power?
Calculations of the different prejudices in its favour.
How then if these were to be frankly recognised as prejudices? Would not
philology be superfluous if we reckoned up the interests of a position
in life or the earning of a livelihood? What if the truth were told
about antiquity, and its qualifications for training people to live in
In order that the questions set forth above may be answered let us
consider the training of the philologist, his genesis: he no longer
comes into being where these interests are lacking.
If the world in general came to know what an unseasonable thing for us
antiquity really is, philo[Pg 123]logists would no longer be called in as the
educators of our youth.
Effect of antiquity on the non-philologist likewise nothing. If they
showed themselves to be imperative and contradictory, oh, with what
hatred would they be pursued! But they always humble themselves.
Philology now derives its power only from the union between the
philologists who will not, or cannot, understand antiquity and public
opinion, which is misled by prejudices in regard to it.
The real Greeks, and their “watering down” through the philologists.
The future commanding philologist sceptical in regard to our entire
culture, and therefore also the destroyer of philology as a profession.
The Preference for Antiquity
If a man approves of the investigation of the past he will also approve
and even praise the fact—and will above all easily understand it—that
there are scholars who are exclusively occupied with the investigation
of Greek and Roman antiquity: but that these scholars are at the same
time the teachers of the children of the nobility and gentry is not
equally easy of comprehension—here lies a problem.
Why philologists precisely? This is not altogether such a matter of
course as the case of a professor of medicine, who is also a practical
physician and surgeon. For, if the cases were identical, preoccupation
with Greek and Roman antiquity would be[Pg 124] identical with the “science of
education.” In short, the relationship between theory and practice in
the philologist cannot be so quickly conceived. Whence comes his
pretension to be a teacher in the higher sense, not only of all
scientific men, but more especially of all cultured men? This
educational power must be taken by the philologist from antiquity; and
in such a case people will ask with astonishment: how does it come that
we attach such value to a far-off past that we can only become cultured
men with the aid of its knowledge?
These questions, however, are not asked as a rule: The sway of philology
over our means of instruction remains practically unquestioned; and
antiquity has the importance assigned to it. To this extent the
position of the philologist is more favourable than that of any other
follower of science. True, he has not at his disposal that great mass of
men who stand in need of him—the doctor, for example, has far more than
the philologist. But he can influence picked men, or youths, to be more
accurate, at a time when all their mental faculties are beginning to
blossom forth—people who can afford to devote both time and money to
their higher development. In all those places where European culture has
found its way, people have accepted secondary schools based upon a
foundation of Latin and Greek as the first and highest means of
instruction. In this way philology has found its best opportunity of
transmitting itself, and commanding respect: no other science has been
so well favoured. As a general rule all those who have passed through
such institutions have afterwards borne testimony to the[Pg 125] excellence of
their organisation and curriculum, and such people are, of course,
unconscious witnesses in favour of philology. If any who have not passed
through these institutions should happen to utter a word in
disparagement of this education, an unanimous and yet calm repudiation
of the statement at once follows, as if classical education were a kind
of witchcraft, blessing its followers, and demonstrating itself to them
by this blessing. There is no attempt at polemics · “We have been
through it all.” “We know it has done us good.”
Now there are so many things to which men have become so accustomed that
they look upon them as quite appropriate and suitable, for habit
intermixes all things with sweetness; and men as a rule judge the value
of a thing in accordance with their own desires. The desire for
classical antiquity as it is now felt should be tested, and, as it were,
taken to pieces and analysed with a view to seeing how much of this
desire is due to habit, and how much to mere love of adventure—I refer
to that inward and active desire, new and strange, which gives rise to a
productive conviction from day to day, the desire for a higher goal, and
also the means thereto · as the result of which people advance step by
step from one unfamiliar thing to another, like an Alpine climber.
What is the foundation on which the high value attached to antiquity at
the present time is based, to such an extent indeed that our whole
modern culture is founded on it? Where must we look for the origin of
this delight in antiquity, and the preference shown for it?[Pg 126]
I think I have recognised in my examination of the question that all our
philology—that is, all its present existence and power—is based on the
same foundation as that on which our view of antiquity as the most
important of all means of training is based. Philology as a means of
instruction is the clear expression of a predominating conception
regarding the value of antiquity, and the best methods of education. Two
propositions are contained in this statement. In the first place all
higher education must be a historical one, and secondly, Greek and Roman
history differs from all others in that it is classical. Thus the
scholar who knows this history becomes a teacher. We are not here going
into the question as to whether higher education ought to be historical
or not; but we may examine the second and ask: in how far is it classic?
On this point there are many widespread prejudices. In the first place
there is the prejudice expressed in the synonymous concept, “The study
of the humanities”: antiquity is classic because it is the school of the
Secondly: “Antiquity is classic because it is enlightened——”
It is the task of all education to change certain conscious actions and
habits into more or less unconscious ones; and the history of mankind is
in this sense its education. The philologist now practises unconsciously
a number of such occupations and habits. It is my object to ascertain
how[Pg 127] his power, that is, his instinctive methods of work, is the result
of activities which were formerly conscious, but which he has gradually
come to feel as such no longer: but that consciousness consisted of
prejudices. The present power of philologists is based upon these
prejudices, for example the value attached to the ratio as in the
cases of Bentley and Hermann. Prejudices are, as Lichtenberg says, the
art impulses of men.
It is difficult to justify the preference for antiquity since it has
arisen from prejudices:
1. From ignorance of all non-classical antiquity.
2. From a false idealisation of humanitarianism, whilst Hindoos and
Chinese are at all events more humane.
3. From the pretensions of school-teachers.
4. From the traditional admiration which emanated from antiquity itself.
5. From opposition to the Christian church; or as a support for this
6. From the impression created by the century-long work of the
philologists, and the nature of this work. It must be a gold mine,
thinks the spectator.
7. The acquirement of knowledge attained as the result of the study. The
preparatory school of science.
In short, partly from ignorance, wrong impressions, and misleading
conclusions; and also from the interest which philologists have in
raising their science to a high level in the estimation of laymen.[Pg 128]
Also the preference for antiquity on the part of the artists, who
involuntarily assume proportion and moderation to be the property of all
antiquity. Purity of form. Authors likewise.
The preference for antiquity as an abbreviation of the history of the
human race, as if there were an autochthonous creation here by which all
becoming might be studied.
The fact actually is that the foundations of this preference are being
removed one by one, and if this is not remarked by philologists
themselves, it is certainly being remarked as much as it can possibly be
by people outside their circle. First of all history had its effect, and
then linguistics brought about the greatest diversion among philologists
themselves, and even the desertion of many of them. They have still the
schools in their hands: but for how long! In the form in which it has
existed up to the present philology is dying out; the ground has been
swept from under its feet. Whether philologists may still hope to
maintain their status is doubtful; in any case they are a dying race.
The peculiarly significant situation of philologists: a class of people
to whom we entrust our youth, and who have to investigate quite a
special antiquity. The highest value is obviously attached to this
antiquity. But if this antiquity has been wrongly valued, then the whole
foundation upon which the high position of the philologist is based
suddenly collapses. In any case this antiquity has[Pg 129] been very
differently valued, and our appreciation of the philologists has
constantly been guided by it. These people have borrowed their power
from the strong prejudices in favour of antiquity,—this must be made
Philologists now feel that when these prejudices are at last refuted,
and antiquity depicted in its true colours, the favourable prejudices
towards them will diminish considerably. It is thus to the interest of
their profession not to let a clear impression of antiquity come to
light; in particular the impression that antiquity in its highest sense
renders one “out of season?” i.e., an enemy to one’s own time.
It is also to the interest of philologists as a class not to let their
calling as teachers be regarded from a higher standpoint than that to
which they themselves can correspond.
It is to be hoped that there are a few people who look upon it as a
problem why philologists should be the teachers of our noblest youths.
Perhaps the case will not be always so—It would be much more natural
per se if our children were instructed in the elements of geography,
natural science, political economy, and sociology, if they were
gradually led to a consideration of life itself, and if finally, but
much later, the most noteworthy events of the past were brought to their
knowledge. A knowledge of antiquity should be among the last subjects
which a student would take up; and would not this position of antiquity
in the curriculum of a school be more honourable for it than the present
one?[Pg 130]—Antiquity is now used merely as a propædeutic for thinking,
speaking, and writing; but there was a time when it was the essence of
earthly knowledge, and people at that time wished to acquire by means of
practical learning what they now seek to acquire merely by means of a
detailed plan of study—a plan which, corresponding to the more advanced
knowledge of the age, has entirely changed.
Thus the inner purpose of philological teaching has been entirely
altered; it was at one time material teaching, a teaching that taught
how to live, but now it is merely formal.
If it were the task of the philologist to impart formal education, it
would be necessary for him to teach walking, dancing, speaking, singing,
acting, or arguing · and the so-called formal teachers did impart their
instruction this way in the second and third centuries. But only the
training of a scientific man is taken into account, which results in
"formal” thinking and writing, and hardly any speaking at all.
If the gymnasium is to train young men for science, people now say there
can be no more pre[Pg 131]liminary preparation for any particular science, so
comprehensive have all the sciences become. As a consequence teachers
have to train their students generally, that is to say for all the
sciences—for scientificality in other words; and for that classical
studies are necessary! What a wonderful jump! a most despairing
justification! Whatever is, is right, even when it is clearly seen
that the “right” on which it has been based has turned to wrong.
It is accomplishments which are expected from us after a study of the
ancients: formerly, for example, the ability to write and speak. But
what is expected now! Thinking and deduction . but these things are not
learnt from the ancients, but at best through the ancients, by means
of science. Moreover, all historical deduction is very limited and
unsafe, natural science should be preferred.
It is the same with the simplicity of antiquity as it is with the
simplicity of style: it is the highest thing which we recognise and must
imitate; but it is also the last. Let it be remembered that the classic
prose of the Greeks is also a late result.
What a mockery of the study of the “humanities” lies in the fact that
they were also called “belles lettres” (bellas litteras)![Pg 132]
Wolf's reasons why the Egyptians, Hebrews, Persians, and other
Oriental nations were not to be set on the same plane with the Greeks
and Romans: “The former have either not raised themselves, or have
raised themselves only to a slight extent, above that type of culture
which should be called a mere civilisation and bourgeois acquirement, as
opposed to the higher and true culture of the mind.” He then explains
that this culture is spiritual and literary: “In a well-organised nation
this may be begun earlier than order and peacefulness in the outward
life of the people (enlightenment).”
He then contrasts the inhabitants of easternmost Asia ("like such
individuals, who are not wanting in clean, decent, and comfortable
dwellings, clothing, and surroundings; but who never feel the necessity
for a higher enlightenment") with the Greeks ("in the case of the
Greeks, even among the most educated inhabitants of Attica, the contrary
often happens to an astonishing degree; and the people neglect as
insignificant factors that which we, thanks to our love of order, are in
the habit of looking upon as the foundations of mental culture itself").
Our terminology already shows how prone we are to judge the ancients
wrongly: the exaggerated sense of literature, for example, or, as Wolf,
when[Pg 133] speaking of the “inner history of ancient erudition,” calls it,
"the history of learned enlightenment.”
According to Goethe, the ancients are “the despair of the emulator."
Voltaire said. “If the admirers of Homer were honest, they would
acknowledge the boredom which their favourite often causes them.”
The position we have taken up towards classical antiquity is at bottom
the profound cause of the sterility of modern culture; for we have taken
all this modern conception of culture from the Hellenised Romans. We
must distinguish within the domain of antiquity itself: when we come to
appreciate its purely productive period, we condemn at the same time the
entire Romano-Alexandrian culture. But at the same time also we condemn
our own attitude towards antiquity, and likewise our philology.
There has been an age-long battle between the Germans and antiquity,
i.e., a battle against the old culture. It is certain that precisely
what is best and deepest in the German resists it. The main point,
however, is that such resistance is only justifiable in the case of the
Romanised culture; for this culture, even at that time, was a
falling-off from something more profound and noble. It is this latter
that the Germans are wrong in resisting.[Pg 134]
Everything classic was thoroughly cultivated by Charles the Great,
whilst he combated everything heathen with the severest possible
measures of coercion. Ancient mythology was developed, but German
mythology was treated as a crime. The feeling underlying all this, in my
opinion, was that Christianity had already overcome the old religion ·
people no longer feared it, but availed themselves of the culture that
rested upon it. But the old German gods were feared.
A great superficiality in the conception of antiquity—little else than
an appreciation of its formal accomplishments and its knowledge—must
thereby have been brought about. We must find out the forces that stood
in the way of increasing our insight into antiquity. First of all, the
culture of antiquity is utilised as an incitement towards the acceptance
of Christianity · it became, as it were, the premium for conversion, the
gilt with which the poisonous pill was coated before being swallowed.
Secondly, the help of ancient culture was found to be necessary as a
weapon for the intellectual protection of Christianity. Even the
Reformation could not dispense with classical studies for this purpose.
The Renaissance, on the other hand, now begins, with a clearer sense of
classical studies, which, however, are likewise looked upon from an
anti-Christian standpoint: the Renaissance shows an awakening of honesty
in the south, like the Reformation in the north. They could not but
clash; for a sincere leaning towards antiquity renders one unchristian.[Pg 135]
On the whole, however, the Church succeeded in turning classical studies
into a harmless direction . the philologist was invented, representing a
type of learned man who was at the same time a priest or something
similar. Even in the period of the Reformation people succeeded in
emasculating scholarship. It is on this account that Friedrich August
Wolf is noteworthy he freed his profession from the bonds of theology.
This action of his, however, was not fully understood; for an
aggressive, active element, such as was manifested by the
poet-philologists of the Renaissance, was not developed. The freedom
obtained benefited science, but not man.
It is true that both humanism and rationalism have brought antiquity
into the field as an ally; and it is therefore quite comprehensible that
the opponents of humanism should direct their attacks against antiquity
also. Antiquity, however, has been misunderstood and falsified by
humanism · it must rather be considered as a testimony against humanism,
against the benign nature of man, &c. The opponents of humanism are
wrong to combat antiquity as well; for in antiquity they have a strong
It is so difficult to understand the ancients. We must wait patiently
until the spirit moves us. The human element which antiquity shows us
must not be confused with humanitarianism. This contrast must be
strongly emphasised: philology suffers by endeavouring to substitute the
humanitarian,[Pg 136] young men are brought forward as students of philology in
order that they may thereby become humanitarians. A good deal of
history, in my opinion, is quite sufficient for that purpose. The brutal
and self-conscious man will be humbled when he sees things and values
changing to such an extent.
The human element among the Greeks lies within a certain naiveté,
through which man himself is to be seen—state, art, society, military
and civil law, sexual relations, education, party. It is precisely the
human element which may be seen everywhere and among all peoples, but
among the Greeks it is seen in a state of nakedness and inhumanity which
cannot be dispensed with for purposes of instruction. In addition to
this, the Greeks have created the greatest number of individuals, and
thus they give us so much insight into men,—a Greek cook is more of a
cook than any other.
I deplore a system of education which does not enable people to
understand Wagner, and as the result of which Schopenhauer sounds harsh
and discordant in our ears . such a system of education has missed its
(The Final Draft of the First Chapter.)
Il faut dire la vérité et s'immoler—Voltaire.
Let us suppose that there were freer and more superior spirits who were
dissatisfied with the education now in vogue, and that they summoned it
to their tribunal, what would the defendant say to[Pg 137] them? In all
probability something like this: “Whether you have a right to summon
anyone here or not, I am at all events not the proper person to be
called. It is my educators to whom you should apply. It is their duty to
defend me, and I have a right to keep silent. I am merely what they have
These educators would now be hauled before the tribunal, and among them
an entire profession would be observed · the philologists. This
profession consists in the first place of those men who make use of
their knowledge of Greek and Roman antiquity to bring up youths of
thirteen to twenty years of age, and secondly of those men whose task it
is to train specially-gifted pupils to act as future teachers—i.e.,
as the educators of educators. Philologists of the first type are
teachers at the public schools, those of the second are professors at
The first-named philologists are entrusted with the care of certain
specially-chosen youths, those who, early in life, show signs of talent
and a sense of what is noble, and whose parents are prepared to allow
plenty of time and money for their education. If other boys, who do not
fulfil these three conditions, are presented to the teachers, the
teachers have the right to refuse them. Those forming the second class,
the university professors, receive the young men who feel themselves
fitted for the highest and most responsible of callings, that of
teachers and moulders of mankind; and these professors, too, may refuse
to have anything to do with young men who are not adequately equipped or
gifted for the task.[Pg 138]
If, then, the educational system of a period is condemned, a heavy
censure on philologists is thereby implied: either, as the consequence
of their wrong-headed view, they insist on giving bad education in the
belief that it is good; or they do not wish to give this bad education,
but are unable to carry the day in favour of education which they
recognise to be better. In other words, their fault is either due to
their lack of insight or to their lack of will. In answer to the first
charge they would say that they knew no better, and in answer to the
second that they could do no better. As, however, these philologists
bring up their pupils chiefly with the aid of Greek and Roman antiquity,
their want of insight in the first case may be attributed to the fact
that they do not understand antiquity, and again to the fact that they
bring forward antiquity into the present age as if it were the most
important of all aids to instruction, while antiquity, generally
speaking, does not assist in training, or at all events no longer does
On the other hand, if we reproach our professors with their lack of
will, they would be quite right in attributing educational significance
and power to antiquity; but they themselves could not be said to be the
proper instruments by means of which antiquity could exhibit such power.
In other words, the professors would not be real teachers and would be
living under false colours, but how, then, could they have reached such
an irregular position? Through a misunderstanding of themselves and
their qualifications. In order, then, that we may ascribe to
philologists their share in this bad educational system of the present
time, we may sum up the different[Pg 139] factors of their innocence and guilt
in the following sentence: the philologist, if he wishes for a verdict
of acquittal, must understand three things antiquity, the present time,
and himself · his fault lies in the fact that he either does not
understand antiquity, or the present time, or himself.
It is not true to say that we can attain culture through antiquity
alone. We may learn something from it, certainly; but not culture as the
word is now understood. Our present culture is based on an emasculated
and mendacious study of antiquity. In order to understand how
ineffectual this study is, just look at our philologists · they, trained
upon antiquity, should be the most cultured men. Are they?
Origin of the philologist. When a great work of art is exhibited there
is always some one who not only feels its influence but wishes to
perpetuate it. The same remark applies to a great state—to everything,
in short, that man produces. Philologists wish to perpetuate the
influence of antiquity and they can set about it only as imitative
artists. Why not as men who form their lives after antiquity?
The decline of the poet-scholars is due in great part to their own
corruption: their type is continually arising again; Goethe and
Leopardi, for example, belong to it. Behind them plod the
philologist-savants. This type has its origin in the sophisticism of the
second century.[Pg 140]
Ah, it is a sad story, the story of philology! The disgusting erudition,
the lazy, inactive passivity, the timid submission.—Who was ever free?
When we examine the history of philology it is borne in upon us how few
really talented men have taken part in it. Among the most celebrated
philologists are a few who ruined their intellect by acquiring a
smattering of many subjects, and among the most enlightened of them were
several who could use their intellect only for childish tasks. It is a
sad story · no science, I think, has ever been so poor in talented
followers. Those whom we might call the intellectually crippled found a
suitable hobby in all this hair-splitting.
The teacher of reading and writing, and the reviser, were the first
types of the philologist.
Friedrich August Wolf reminds us how apprehensive and feeble were the
first steps taken by our ancestors in moulding scholarship—how even the
Latin classics, for example, had to be smuggled into the university
market under all sorts of pretexts, as if they had been contraband
goods. In the “Gottingen Lexicon” of 1737, J. M. Gesner tells us of the
Odes of Horace: “ut imprimis, quid prodesse in severioribus studiis
possint, ostendat."[Pg 141]
I was pleased to read of Bentley “non tam grande pretium emendatiunculis
meis statuere soleo, ut singularem aliquam gratiam inde sperem aut
Newton was surprised that men like Bentley and Hare should quarrel about
a book of ancient comedies, since they were both theological
Horace was summoned by Bentley as before a judgment seat, the authority
of which he would have been the first to repudiate. The admiration which
a discriminating man acquires as a philologist is in proportion to the
rarity of the discrimination to be found in philologists. Bentley's
treatment of Horace has something of the schoolmaster about it It would
appear at first sight as if Horace himself were not the object of
discussion, but rather the various scribes and commentators who have
handed down the text: in reality, however, it is actually Horace who is
being dealt with. It is my firm conviction that to have written a single
line which is deemed worthy of being commented upon by scholars of a
later time, far outweighs the merits of the greatest critic. There is a
profound modesty about philologists. The improving of texts is an
entertaining piece of work for scholars, it is a kind of riddle-solving;
but it should not be looked upon as a very important task. It would be
an argument against antiquity if it should speak less clearly to us
because a million words stood in the way![Pg 142]
A school-teacher said to Bentley, “Sir, I will make your grandchild as
great a scholar as you are yourself.” “How can you do that,” replied
Bentley, “when I have forgotten more than you ever knew?”
Bentley’s clever daughter Joanna once lamented to her father that he had
devoted his time and talents to the criticism of the works of others
instead of writing something original. Bentley remained silent for some
time as if he were turning the matter over in his mind. At last he said
that her remark was quite right; he himself felt that he might have
directed his gifts in some other channel. Earlier in life, nevertheless,
he had done something for the glory of God and the improvement of his
fellow-men (referring to his “Confutation of Atheism"), but afterwards
the genius of the pagans had attracted him, and, despairing of
attaining their level in any other way, he had mounted upon their
shoulders so that he might thus be able to look over their heads.
Bentley, says Wolf, both as man of letters and individual, was
misunderstood and persecuted during the greater part of his life, or
else praised maliciously.
Markland, towards the end of his life—as was the case with so many
others like him—became imbued with a repugnance for all scholarly
reputation, to such an extent, indeed, that he partly tore[Pg 143] up and
partly burnt several works which he had long had in hand.
Wolf says: “The amount of intellectual food that can be got from
well-digested scholarship is a very insignificant item.”
In Winckelmann’s youth there were no philological studies apart from the
ordinary bread-winning branches of the science—people read and
explained the ancients in order to prepare themselves for the better
interpretation of the Bible and the Corpus Juris.
In Wolf’s estimation, a man has reached the highest point of historical
research when he is able to take a wide and general view of the whole
and of the profoundly conceived distinctions in the developments in art
and the different styles of art. Wolf acknowledges, however, that
Winckelmann was lacking in the more common talent of philological
criticism, or else he could not use it properly: “A rare mixture of a
cool head and a minute and restless solicitude for hundreds of things
which, insignificant in themselves, were combined in his case with a
fire that swallowed up those little things, and with a gift of
divination which is a vexation and an annoyance to the uninitiated.”
Wolf draws our attention to the fact that antiquity was acquainted only
with theories of oratory and poetry which facilitated production,
τἑχναι and artes that formed real orators and poets, “while
at the present day we shall soon have theories upon[Pg 144] which it would be
as impossible to build up a speech or a poem as it would be to form a
thunderstorm upon a brontological treatise.”
Wolf’s judgment on the amateurs of philological knowledge is noteworthy:
"If they found themselves provided by nature with a mind corresponding
to that of the ancients, or if they were capable of adapting themselves
to other points of view and other circumstances of life, then, with even
a nodding acquaintance with the best writers, they certainly acquired
more from those vigorous natures, those splendid examples of thinking
and acting, than most of those did who during their whole life merely
offered themselves to them as interpreters.”
Says Wolf again · “In the end, only those few ought to attain really
complete knowledge who are born with artistic talent and furnished with
scholarship, and who make use of the best opportunities of securing,
both theoretically and practically, the necessary technical knowledge"
Instead of forming our students on the Latin models I recommend the
Greek, especially Demosthenes · simplicity! This may be seen by a
reference to Leopardi, who is perhaps the greatest stylist of the
“Classical education” · what do people see in it? Something that is
useless beyond rendering a period of military service unnecessary and
securing a degree!
When I observe how all countries are now promoting the advancement of
classical literature I say to myself, “How harmless it must be!” and
then, “How useful it must be!” It brings these countries the reputation
of promoting “free culture.” In order that this “freedom” may be rightly
estimated, just look at the philologists!
Classical education! Yea, if there were only as much paganism as Goethe
found and glorified in Winckelmann, even that would not be much. Now,
however, that the lying Christendom of our time has taken hold of it,
the thing becomes overpowering, and I cannot help expressing my disgust
on the point—People firmly believe in witchcraft where this “classical
education” is concerned. They, however, who possess the greatest
knowledge of antiquity should likewise possess the greatest amount of
culture, viz., our philologists; but what is classical about them?
Classical philology is the basis of the most shallow rationalism always
having been dishonestly applied, it has gradually become quite
ineffective. Its effect is one more illusion of the modern man.
Philologists are nothing but a guild of sky-pilots who are[Pg 146] not known as
such · this is why the State takes an interest in them. The utility of
classical education is completely used up, whilst, for example, the
history of Christianity still shows its power.
Philologists, when discussing their science, never get down to the root
of the subject . they never set forth philology itself as a problem. Bad
conscience? or merely thoughtlessness?
We learn nothing from what philologists say about philology: it is all
mere tittle-tattle—for example, Jahn's “The Meaning and Place of the
Study of Antiquity in Germany.” There is no feeling for what should be
protected and defended: thus speak people who have not even thought of
the possibility that any one could attack them.
Philologists are people who exploit the vaguely-felt dissatisfaction of
modern man, and his desire for “something better,” in order that they
may earn their bread and butter.
I know them—I myself am one of them.
Our philologists stand in the same relation to true educators as the
medicine-men of the wild Indians do to true physicians What astonishment
will be felt by a later age![Pg 147]
What they lack is a real taste for the strong and powerful
characteristics of the ancients. They turn into mere panegyrists, and
thus become ridiculous.
They have forgotten how to address other men; and, as they cannot speak
to the older people, they cannot do so to the young.
When we bring the Greeks to the knowledge of our young students, we are
treating the latter as if they were well-informed and matured men. What,
indeed, is there about the Greeks and their ways which is suitable for
the young? In the end we shall find that we can do nothing for them
beyond giving them isolated details. Are these observations for young
people? What we actually do, however, is to introduce our young scholars
to the collective wisdom of antiquity. Or do we not? The reading of the
ancients is emphasised in this way.
My belief is that we are forced to concern ourselves with antiquity at a
wrong period of our lives. At the end of the twenties its meaning begins
to dawn on one.
There is something disrespectful about the way in which we make our
young students known to the ancients: what is worse, it is
unpedagogical; or what can result from a mere acquaintance with[Pg 148] things
which a youth cannot consciously esteem! Perhaps he must learn to
"believe” and this is why I object to it.
There are matters regarding which antiquity instructs us, and about
which I should hardly care to express myself publicly.
All the difficulties of historical study to be elucidated by great
Why our young students are not suited to the Greeks.
The consequences of philology.
Too high an esteem for reading and writing.
Estrangement from the nation and its needs.
The philologists themselves, the historians, philosophers, and jurists
all end in smoke.
Our young students should be brought into contact with real sciences.
Likewise with real art.
In consequence, when they grew older, a desire for real history would
Inhumanity: even in the “Antigone,” even in Goethe’s “Iphigenia.”
The want of “rationalism” in the Greeks.
Young people cannot understand the political affairs of antiquity.
The poetic element: a bad expectation.[Pg 149]
Do the philologists know the present time? Their judgments on it as
Periclean, their mistaken judgments when they speak of Freytag's
genius as resembling that of Homer, and so on; their following in the
lead of the littérateurs, their abandonment of the pagan sense, which
was exactly the classical element that Goethe discovered in Winckelmann.
The condition of the philologists may be seen by their indifference at
the appearance of Wagner. They should have learnt even more through him
than through Goethe, and they did not even glance in his direction. That
shows that they are not actuated by any strong need, or else they would
have an instinct to tell them where their food was to be found.
Wagner prizes his art too highly to go and sit in a corner with it, like
Schumann. He either surrenders himself to the public ("Rienzi") or he
makes the public surrender itself to him. He educates it up to his
music. Minor artists, too, want their public, but they try to get it by
inartistic means, such as through the Press, Hanslick, &c.
Wagner perfected the inner fancy of man . later generations will see a
renaissance in sculpture. Poetry must precede the plastic art.[Pg 150]
I observe in philologists ·
1. Want of respect for antiquity.
2. Tenderness and flowery oratory; even an apologetic tone.
3. Simplicity in their historical comments.
5. Under-estimation of the talented philologists.
Philologists appear to me to be a secret society who wish to train our
youth by means of the culture of antiquity · I could well understand
this society and their views being criticised from all sides. A great
deal would depend upon knowing what these philologists understood by the
term “culture of antiquity"—If I saw, for example, that they were
training their pupils against German philosophy and German music, I
should either set about combating them or combating the culture of
antiquity, perhaps the former, by showing that these philologists had
not understood the culture of antiquity. Now I observe:
1. A great indecision in the valuation of the culture of antiquity on
the part of philologists.
2. Something very non-ancient in themselves; something non-free.
3. Want of clearness in regard to the particular type of ancient culture
4. Want of judgment in their methods of instruction, e.g.,
5. Classical education is served out mixed up with Christianity.[Pg 151]
It is now no longer a matter of surprise to me that, with such teachers,
the education of our time should be worthless. I can never avoid
depicting this want of education in its true colours, especially in
regard to those things which ought to be learnt from antiquity if
possible, for example, writing, speaking, and so on.
The transmission of the emotions is hereditary: let that be recollected
when we observe the effect of the Greeks upon philologists.
Even in the best of cases, philologists seek for no more than mere
"rationalism” and Alexandrian culture—not Hellenism.
Very little can be gained by mere diligence, if the head is dull.
Philologist after philologist has swooped down on Homer in the mistaken
belief that something of him can be obtained by force. Antiquity speaks
to us when it feels a desire to do so, not when we do.
The inherited characteristic of our present-day philologists · a certain
sterility of insight has resulted, for they promote the science, but not
the philologist.[Pg 152]
The following is one way of carrying on classical studies, and a
frequent one: a man throws himself thoughtlessly, or is thrown, into
some special branch or other, whence he looks to the right and left and
sees a great deal that is good and new. Then, in some unguarded moment,
he asks himself: “But what the devil has all this to do with me?” In the
meantime he has grown old and has become accustomed to it all; and
therefore he continues in his rut—just as in the case of marriage.
In connection with the training of the modern philologist the influence
of the science of linguistics should be mentioned and judged; a
philologist should rather turn aside from it . the question of the early
beginnings of the Greeks and Romans should be nothing to him . how can
they spoil their own subject in such a way?
A morbid passion often makes its appearance from time to time in
connection with the oppressive uncertainty of divination, a passion for
believing and feeling sure at all costs: for example, when dealing with
Aristotle, or in the discovery of magic numbers, which, in Lachmann's
case, is almost an illness.
The consistency which is prized in a savant is pedantry if applied to
the Greeks.[Pg 153]
(The Greeks and the Philologists.)
||The Philologists are ·
|render homage to beauty,
develop the body,
are religious transfigurers of everyday occurrences,
are listeners and observers,
have an aptitude for the symbolical,
are in full possession of their freedom as men,
can look innocently out into the world,
are the pessimists of thought.
|babblers and triflers,
quibblers and scarecrows,
unfitted for the symbolical,
ardent slaves of the State,
Christians in disguise,
Bergk’s “History of Literature”: Not a spark of Greek fire or Greek
People really do compare our own age with that of Pericles, and
congratulate themselves on the reawakening of the feeling of patriotism:
I remember a parody on the funeral oration of Pericles by G. Freytag, in which this prim and strait-laced “poet” depicted the happiness now
experienced by sixty-year-old men.—All pure and simple carica[Pg 154]ture! So
this is the result! And sorrow and irony and seclusion are all that
remain for him who has seen more of antiquity than this.
If we change a single word of Lord Bacon’s we may say . infimarum
Græcorum virtutum apud philologos laus est, mediarum admiratio,
supremarum sensus nullus.
How can anyone glorify and venerate a whole people! It is the
individuals that count, even in the case of the Greeks.
There is a great deal of caricature even about the Greeks · for example,
the careful attention devoted by the Cynics to their own happiness.
The only thing that interests me is the relationship of the people
considered as a whole to the training of the single individuals · and in
the case of the Greeks there are some factors which are very favourable
to the development of the individual. They do not, however, arise from
the goodwill of the people, but from the struggle between the evil
By means of happy inventions and discoveries, we can train the
individual differently and more highly than has yet been done by mere
chance and accident. There are still hopes . the breeding of superior
The Greeks are interesting and quite disproportionately important
because they had such a host of great individuals. How was that
possible? This point must be studied.
The history of Greece has hitherto always been written optimistically.
Selected points from antiquity: the power, fire, and swing of the
feeling the ancients had for music (through the first Pythian Ode),
purity in their historical sense, gratitude for the blessings of
culture, the fire and corn feasts.
The ennoblement of jealousy: the Greeks the most jealous nation.
Suicide, hatred of old age, of penury. Empedocles on sexual love.
Nimble and healthy bodies, a clear and deep sense for the observation of
everyday matters, manly freedom, belief in good racial descent and good
upbringing, warlike virtues, jealousy in the ἁριστεὑειν,
delight in the arts, respect for leisure, a sense for free
individuality, for the symbolical.
The spiritual culture of Greece an aberration of the amazing political
impulse towards ἁριστεὑειν. The πὁλις utterly opposed
to new education; culture nevertheless existed.[Pg 156]
When I say that, all things considered, the Greeks were more moral than
modern men what do I mean by that? From what we can perceive of the
activities of their soul, it is clear that they had no shame, they had
no bad conscience. They were more sincere, open-hearted, and passionate,
as artists are; they exhibited a kind of child-like naiveté. It thus
came about that even in all their evil actions they had a dash of purity
about them, something approaching the holy. A remarkable number of
individualities: might there not have been a higher morality in that?
When we recollect that character develops slowly, what can it be that,
in the long run, breeds individuality? Perhaps vanity, emulation?
Possibly. Little inclination for conventional things.
The Greeks as the geniuses among the nations.
Their childlike nature, credulousness.
Passionate. Quite unconsciously they lived in such a way as to procreate
genius. Enemies of shyness and dulness. Pain. Injudicious actions. The
nature of their intuitive insight into misery, despite their bright and
genial temperament. Profoundness in their apprehension and glorifying of
everyday things (fire, agriculture). Mendacious, unhistorical. The
significance of the πὁλις in culture instinctively recognised,
favourable as a centre and periphery for great men (the facility of
surveying a community, and also the possibility of addressing it as a
whole). Individuality raised to the highest power through the πὁλις. Envy, jealousy, as among gifted people.[Pg 157]
The Greeks were lacking in sobriety and caution. Over-sensibility,
abnormally active condition of the brain and the nerves; impetuosity and
fervour of the will.
“Invariably to see the general in the particular is the distinguishing
characteristic of genius,” says Schopenhauer. Think of Pindar,
&c.—"Σωφροσὑιη,” according to Schopenhauer, has its roots in
the clearness with which the Greeks saw into themselves and into the
world at large, and thence became conscious of themselves.
The “wide separation of will and intellect” indicates the genius, and is
seen in the Greeks.
“The melancholy associated with genius is due to the fact that the will
to live, the more clearly it is illuminated by the contemplating
intellect, appreciates all the more clearly the misery of its
condition,” says Schopenhauer. Cf. the Greeks.
The moderation of the Greeks in their sensual luxury, eating, and
drinking, and their pleasure therein; the Olympic plays and their
worship . that shows what they were.
In the case of the genius, “the intellect will point out the faults
which are seldom absent in an instrument that is put to a use for which
it was not intended.”
“The will is often left in the lurch at an awkward moment: hence genius,
where real life is concerned,[Pg 158] is more or less unpractical—its
behaviour often reminds us of madness.”
We contrast the Romans, with their matter-of-fact earnestness, with the
genial Greeks! Schopenhauer: “The stern, practical, earnest mode of life
which the Romans called gravitas presupposes that the intellect does
not forsake the service of the will in order to roam far off among
things that have no connection with the will.”
It would have been much better if the Greeks had been conquered by the
Persians instead of by the Romans.
The characteristics of the gifted man who is lacking in genius are to be
found in the average Hellene—all the dangerous characteristics of such
a disposition and character.
Genius makes tributaries of all partly-talented people: hence the
Persians themselves sent their ambassadors to the Greek oracles.
The happiest lot that can fall to the genius is to exchange doing and
acting for leisure; and this was something the Greeks knew how to value.
The blessings of labour! Nugari was the Roman name for all the
exertions and aspirations of the Greeks.[Pg 159]
No happy course of life is open to the genius, he stands in
contradiction to his age and must perforce struggle with it. Thus the
Greeks . they instinctively made the utmost exertions to secure a safe
refuge for themselves (in the polis). Finally, everything went to
pieces in politics. They were compelled to take up a stand against their
enemies . this became ever more and more difficult, and at last
Greek culture is based on the lordship of a small class over four to
nine times their number of slaves. Judged by mere numbers, Greece was a
country inhabited by barbarians. How can the ancients be thought to be
humane? There was a great contrast between the genius and the
breadwinner, the half-beast of burden. The Greeks believed in a racial
distinction. Schopenhauer wonders why Nature did not take it into her
head to invent two entirely separate species of men.
The Greeks bear the same relation to the barbarians “as free-moving or
winged animals do to the barnacles which cling tightly to the rocks and
must await what fate chooses to send them"—Schopenhauer’s simile.
The Greeks as the only people of genius in the history of the world.
Such they are even when considered as learners; for they understand this
best of all, and can do more than merely trim and adorn themselves with
what they have borrowed, as did the Romans.
The constitution of the polis is a Phœnician invention, even this
has been imitated by the Hellenes. For a long time they dabbled in
everything, like joyful dilettanti. Aphrodite is likewise Phœnician.
Neither do they disavow what has come to them through immigration and
does not originally belong to their own country.
The happy and comfortable constitution of the politico-social position
must not be sought among the Greeks . that is a goal which dazzles the
eyes of our dreamers of the future! It was, on the contrary, dreadful;
for this is a matter that must be judged according to the following
standard: the more spirit, the more suffering (as the Greeks themselves
prove). Whence it follows, the more stupidity, the more comfort. The
philistine of culture is the most comfortable creature the sun has ever
shone upon: and he is doubtless also in possession of the corresponding
The Greek polis and the αἱεν ἁριστεὑειν grew up out of mutual
enmity. Hellenic and philanthropic are contrary adjectives, although the
ancients flattered themselves sufficiently.
Homer is, in the world of the Hellenic discord, the pan-Hellenic Greek.
The ἁγὡν of the Greeks is also manifested in the Symposium in
the shape of witty conversation.
Wanton, mutual annihilation inevitable: so long as a single polis
wished to exist—its envy for every[Pg 161]thing superior to itself, its
cupidity, the disorder of its customs, the enslavement of the women,
lack of conscience in the keeping of oaths, in murder, and in cases of
Tremendous power of self-control: for example in a man like Socrates,
who was capable of everything evil.
Its noble sense of order and systematic arrangement had rendered the
Athenian state immortal—The ten strategists in Athens! Foolish! Too big
a sacrifice on the altar of jealousy.
The recreations of the Spartans consisted of feasting, hunting, and
making war · their every-day life was too hard. On the whole, however,
their state is merely a caricature of the polls, a corruption of Hellas.
The breeding of the complete Spartan—but what was there great about him
that his breeding should have required such a brutal state!
The political defeat of Greece is the greatest failure of culture; for
it has given rise to the atrocious theory that culture cannot be pursued
unless one is at the same time armed to the teeth. The rise of
Christianity was the second greatest failure: brute force on the one
hand, and a dull intellect on the other, won a complete victory over the
aristocratic genius among the nations. To be a Philhellenist now means
to be a foe of brute force and stupid intellects. Sparta was the ruin of
Athens in so far[Pg 162] as she compelled Athens to turn her entire attention
to politics and to act as a federal combination.
There are domains of thought where the ratio will only give rise to
disorder, and the philologist, who possesses nothing more, is lost
through it and is unable to see the truth · e.g. in the consideration
of Greek mythology. A merely fantastic person, of course, has no claim
either · one must possess Greek imagination and also a certain amount of
Greek piety. Even the poet does not require to be too consistent, and
consistency is the last thing Greeks would understand.
Almost all the Greek divinities are accumulations of divinities . we
find one layer over another, soon to be hidden and smoothed down by yet
a third, and so on. It scarcely seems to me to be possible to pick these
various divinities to pieces in a scientific manner, for no good method
of doing so can be recommended: even the poor conclusion by analogy is
in this instance a very good conclusion.
At what a distance must one be from the Greeks to ascribe to them such a
stupidly narrow autochthony as does Ottfried Muller! How Christian
it is to assume, with Welcker, that the Greeks were[Pg 163] originally
monotheistic! How philologists torment themselves by investigating the
question whether Homer actually wrote, without being able to grasp the
far higher tenet that Greek art long exhibited an inward enmity against
writing, and did not wish to be read at all.
In the religious cultus an earlier degree of culture comes to light a
remnant of former times. The ages that celebrate it are not those which
invent it, the contrary is often the case. There are many contrasts to
be found here. The Greek cultus takes us back to a pre-Homeric
disposition and culture. It is almost the oldest that we know of the
Greeks—older than their mythology, which their poets have considerably
remoulded, so far as we know it—Can this cult really be called Greek? I
doubt it: they are finishers, not inventors. They preserve by means of
this beautiful completion and adornment.
It is exceedingly doubtful whether we should draw any conclusion in
regard to nationality and relationship with other nations from
languages. A victorious language is nothing but a frequent (and not
always regular) indication of a successful campaign. Where could there
have been autochthonous peoples! It shows a very hazy conception of
things to talk about Greeks who never lived in Greece. That which is
really Greek is much less the result of natural aptitude than of adapted
institutions, and also of an acquired language.[Pg 164]
To live on mountains, to travel a great deal, and to move quickly from
one place to another . in these ways we can now begin to compare
ourselves with the Greek gods. We know the past, too, and we almost know
the future. What would a Greek say, if only he could see us!
The gods make men still more evil; this is the nature of man. If we do
not like a man, we wish that he may become worse than he is, and then we
are glad. This forms part of the obscure philosophy of hate—a
philosophy which has never yet been written, because it is everywhere
the pudendum that every one feels.
The pan-Hellenic Homer finds his delight in the frivolity of the gods;
but it is astounding how he can also give them dignity again. This
amazing ability to raise one’s self again, however, is Greek.
What, then, is the origin of the envy of the gods? people did not
believe in a calm, quiet happiness, but only in an exuberant one. This
must have caused some displeasure to the Greeks; for their soul was only
too easily wounded: it embittered them to see a happy man. That is
Greek. If a man of distinguished talent appeared, the flock of envious
people must have become astonishingly large. If any one met with a
misfortune, they[Pg 165] would say of him: “Ah! no wonder! he was too frivolous
and too well off.” And every one of them would have behaved exuberantly
if he had possessed the requisite talent, and would willingly have
played the role of the god who sent the unhappiness to men.
The Greek gods did not demand any complete changes of character, and
were, generally speaking, by no means burdensome or importunate . it was
thus possible to take them seriously and to believe in them. At the time
of Homer, indeed, the nature of the Greek was formed · flippancy of
images and imagination was necessary to lighten the weight of its
passionate disposition and to set it free.
Every religion has for its highest images an analogon in the spiritual
condition of those who profess it. The God of Mohammed . the
solitariness of the desert, the distant roar of the lion, the vision of
a formidable warrior. The God of the Christians . everything that men
and women think of when they hear the word “love". The God of the
Greeks: a beautiful apparition in a dream.
A great deal of intelligence must have gone to the making up of a Greek
polytheism . the expenditure of intelligence is much less lavish when
people have only one God.
Greek morality is not based on religion, but on the polis.[Pg 166]
There were only priests of the individual gods; not representatives of
the whole religion . i.e., no guild of priests. Likewise no Holy Writ.
The “lighthearted” gods · this is the highest adornment which has ever
been bestowed upon the world—with the feeling, How difficult it is to
If the Greeks let their “reason” speak, their life seems to them bitter
and terrible. They are not deceived. But they play round life with lies:
Simonides advises them to treat life as they would a play; earnestness
was only too well known to them in the form of pain. The misery of men
is a pleasure to the gods when they hear the poets singing of it. Well
did the Greeks know that only through art could even misery itself
become a source of pleasure, vide tragœdiam.
It is quite untrue to say that the Greeks only took this life into
their consideration—they suffered also from thoughts of death and Hell.
But no “repentance” or contrition.
The incarnate appearance of gods, as in Sappho’s invocation to
Aphrodite, must not be taken as poetic licence · they are frequently
hallucinations. We conceive of a great many things, including the will
to die, too superficially as rhetorical.[Pg 167]
The “martyr” is Hellenic: Prometheus, Hercules. The hero-myth became
pan-Hellenic: a poet must have had a hand in that!
How realistic the Greeks were even in the domain of pure inventions!
They poetised reality, not yearning to lift themselves out of it. The
raising of the present into the colossal and eternal, e.g., by Pindar.
What condition do the Greeks premise as the model of their life in
Hades? Anæmic, dreamlike, weak . it is the continuous accentuation of
old age, when the memory gradually becomes weaker and weaker, and the
body still more so. The senility of senility . this would be our state
of life in the eyes of the Hellenes.
The naive character of the Greeks observed by the Egyptians.
The truly scientific people, the literary people, were the Egyptians and
not the Greeks. That which has the appearance of science among the
Greeks, originated among the Egyptians and later on returned to them to
mingle again with the old current. Alexandrian culture is an
amalgamation of Hellenic and Egyptian . and when our world again founds
its culture upon the Alexandrian culture, then....
The Egyptians are far more of a literary people than the Greeks. I
maintain this against Wolf. The first grain in Eleusis, the first vine
in Thebes, the first olive-tree and fig-tree. The Egyptians had lost a
great part of their mythology.
The unmathematical undulation of the column in Paestum is analogous to
the modification of the tempo: animation in place of a mechanical
The desire to find something certain and fixed in æsthetic led to the
worship of Aristotle: I think, however, that we may gradually come to
see from his works that he understood nothing about art, and that it is
merely the intellectual conversations of the Athenians, echoing in his
pages, which we admire.
In Socrates we have as it were lying open before us a specimen of the
consciousness out of which, later on, the instincts of the theoretic man
originated: that one would rather die than grow old and weak in mind.
At the twilight of antiquity there were still wholly unchristian
figures, which were more beautiful, harmonious, and pure than those of
any Christians: e.g., Proclus. His mysticism and syncretism were
things that precisely Christianity cannot reproach him with. In any
case, it would be my desire to live together[Pg 169] with such people. In
comparison with them Christianity looks like some crude brutalisation,
organised for the benefit of the mob and the criminal classes.
Proclus, who solemnly invokes the rising moon.
With the advent of Christianity a religion attained the mastery which
corresponded to a pre-Greek condition of mankind: belief in witchcraft
in connection with all and everything, bloody sacrifices, superstitious
fear of demoniacal punishments, despair in one’s self, ecstatic brooding
and hallucination, man’s self become the arena of good and evil spirits
and their struggles.
All branches of history have experimented with antiquity · critical
consideration alone remains. By this term I do not mean conjectural and
Antiquity has been treated by all kinds of historians and their methods.
We have now had enough experience, however, to turn the history of
antiquity to account without being shipwrecked on antiquity itself.
We can now look back over a fairly long period of human existence · what
will the humanity be like which is able to look back at us from an
equally long distance? which finds us lying intoxicated among the débris
of old culture! which finds its only consolation in “being good” and in
holding[Pg 170] out the “helping hand,” and turns away from all other
consolations!—Does beauty, too, grow out of the ancient culture? I
think that our ugliness arises from our metaphysical remnants . our
confused morals, the worthlessness of our marriages, and so on, are the
cause. The beautiful man, the healthy, moderate, and enterprising man,
moulds the objects around him into beautiful shapes after his own image.
Up to the present time all history has been written from the standpoint
of success, and, indeed, with the assumption of a certain reason in this
success. This remark applies also to Greek history: so far we do not
possess any. It is the same all round, however: where are the historians
who can survey things and events without being humbugged by stupid
theories? I know of only one, Burckhardt. Everywhere the widest possible
optimism prevails in science. The question: “What would have been the
consequence if so and so had not happened?” is almost unanimously thrust
aside, and yet it is the cardinal question. Thus everything becomes
ironical. Let us only consider our own lives. If we examine history in
accordance with a preconceived plan, let this plan be sought in the
purposes of a great man, or perhaps in those of a sex, or of a party.
Everything else is a chaos.—Even in natural science we find this
deification of the necessary.
Germany has become the breeding-place of this historical optimism; Hegel
is perhaps to blame for this. Nothing, however, is more responsible for[Pg 171]
the fatal influence of German culture. Everything that has been kept
down by success gradually rears itself up: history as the scorn of the
conqueror; a servile sentiment and a kneeling down before the actual
fact—"a sense for the State,” they now call it, as if that had still
to be propagated! He who does not understand how brutal and
unintelligent history is will never understand the stimulus to make it
intelligent. Just think how rare it is to find a man with as great an
intelligent knowledge of his own life as Goethe had . what amount of
rationality can we expect to find arising out of these other veiled and
blind existences as they work chaotically with and in opposition to each
And it is especially naive when Hellwald, the author of a history of
culture, warns us away from all “ideals,” simply because history has
killed them off one after the other.
To bring to light without reserve the stupidity and the want of reason
in human things · that is the aim of our brethren and colleagues.
People will then have to distinguish what is essential in them, what is
incorrigible, and what is still susceptible of further improvement. But
"Providence” must be kept out of the question, for it is a conception
that enables people to take things too easily. I wish to breathe the
breath of this purpose into science. Let us advance our knowledge of
mankind! The good and rational in man is accidental or apparent, or the
contrary of something very irrational. There will come a time when
training will be the only thought.[Pg 172]
Surrender to necessity is exactly what I do not teach—for one must
first know this necessity to be necessary. There may perhaps be many
necessities; but in general this inclination is simply a bed of
To know history now means · to recognise how all those who believed in a
Providence took things too easily. There is no such thing. If human
affairs are seen to go forward in a loose and disordered way, do not
think that a god has any purpose in view by letting them do so or that
he is neglecting them. We can now see in a general way that the history
of Christianity on earth has been one of the most dreadful chapters in
history, and that a stop must be put to it. True, the influence of
antiquity has been observed in Christianity even in our own time, and,
as it diminishes, so will our knowledge of antiquity diminish also to an
even greater extent. Now is the best time to recognise it: we are no
longer prejudiced in favour of Christianity, but we still understand it,
and also the antiquity that forms part of it, so far as this antiquity
stands in line with Christianity.
Philosophic heads must occupy themselves one day with the collective
account of antiquity and make up its balance-sheet. If we have this,
antiquity will be overcome. All the shortcomings which now vex us have
their roots in antiquity, so that we cannot continue to treat this
account with[Pg 173] the mildness which has been customary up to the present.
The atrocious crime of mankind which rendered Christianity possible, as
it actually became possible, is the guilt of antiquity. With
Christianity antiquity will also be cleared away.—At the present time
it is not so very far behind us, and it is certainly not possible to do
justice to it. It has been availed of in the most dreadful fashion for
purposes of repression, and has acted as a support for religious
oppression by disguising itself as “culture.” It was common to hear the
saying, “Antiquity has been conquered by Christianity.”
This was a historical fact, and it was thus thought that no harm could
come of any dealings with antiquity. Yes, it is so plausible to say that
we find Christian ethics “deeper” than Socrates! Plato was easier to
compete with! We are at the present time, so to speak, merely chewing
the cud of the very battle which was fought in the first centuries of
the Christian era—with the exception of the fact that now, instead of
the clearly perceptible antiquity which then existed, we have merely its
pale ghost; and, indeed, even Christianity itself has become rather
ghostlike. It is a battle fought after the decisive battle, a
post-vibration. In the end, all the forces of which antiquity consisted
have reappeared in Christianity in the crudest possible form: it is
nothing new, only quantitatively extraordinary.
What severs us for ever from the culture of antiquity is the fact that
its foundations have become too shaky for us. A criticism of the Greeks
is at[Pg 174] the same time a criticism of Christianity; for the bases of the
spirit of belief, the religious cult, and witchcraft, are the same in
both—There are many rudimentary stages still remaining, but they are by
this time almost ready to collapse.
This would be a task . to characterise Greek antiquity as irretrievably
lost, and with it Christianity also and the foundations upon which, up
to the present time, our society and politics have been based.
Christianity has conquered antiquity—yes; that is easily said. In the
first place, it is itself a piece of antiquity, in the second place, it
has preserved antiquity, in the third place, it has never been in combat
with the pure ages of antiquity. Or rather: in order that Christianity
itself might remain, it had to let itself be overcome by the spirit of
antiquity—for example, the idea of empire, the community, and so forth.
We are suffering from the uncommon want of clearness and uncleanliness
of human things; from the ingenious mendacity which Christianity has
brought among men.
It is almost laughable to see how nearly all the sciences and arts of
modern times grow from the scattered seeds which have been wafted
towards us from antiquity, and how Christianity seems to us here to be
merely the evil chill of a long night, a night during which one is
almost inclined to believe that all is over with reason and honesty
among men. The battle waged against the natural man has given rise to
the unnatural man.[Pg 175]
With the dissolution of Christianity a great part of antiquity has
become incomprehensible to us, for instance, the entire religious basis
of life. On this account an imitation of antiquity is a false tendency .
the betrayers or the betrayed are the philologists who still think of
such a thing. We live in a period when many different conceptions of
life are to be found: hence the present age is instructive to an unusual
degree; and hence also the reason why it is so ill, since it suffers
from the evils of all its tendencies at once. The man of the future .
the European man.
The German Reformation widened the gap between us and antiquity: was it
necessary for it to do so? It once again introduced the old contrast of
"Paganism” and “Christianity"; and it was at the same time a protest
against the decorative culture of the Renaissance—it was a victory
gained over the same culture as had formerly been conquered by early
In regard to “worldly things,” Christianity preserved the grosser views
of the ancients. All the nobler elements in marriage, slavery, and the
State are unchristian. It required the distorting characteristics of
worldliness to prove itself.
The connection between humanism and religious rationalism was emphasised
as a Saxonian trait by Kochly: the type of this philologist is Gottfried
I understand religions as narcotics: but when they are given to such
nations as the Germans, I think they are simply rank poison.
All religions are, in the end, based upon certain physical assumptions,
which are already in existence and adapt the religions to their needs .
for example, in Christianity, the contrast between body and soul, the
unlimited importance of the earth as the “world,” the marvellous
occurrences in nature. If once the opposite views gain the mastery—for
instance, a strict law of nature, the helplessness and superfluousness
of all gods, the strict conception of the soul as a bodily process—all
is over. But all Greek culture is based upon such views.
When we look from the character and culture of the Catholic Middle Ages
back to the Greeks, we see them resplendent indeed in the rays of higher
humanity; for, if we have anything to reproach these Greeks with, we
must reproach the Middle Ages with it also to a much greater extent. The
worship of the ancients at the time of the Renaissance was therefore
quite honest and proper. We have carried matters further in one
particular point, precisely in connection with that dawning ray of
light. We have outstripped the Greeks in the clarifying of the world by
our studies of nature and men. Our knowledge is much greater, and our
judgments are more moderate and just.[Pg 177]
In addition to this, a more gentle spirit has become widespread, thanks
to the period of illumination which has weakened mankind—but this
weakness, when turned into morality, leads to good results and honours
us. Man has now a great deal of freedom: it is his own fault if he does
not make more use of it than he does; the fanaticism of opinions has
become much milder. Finally, that we would much rather live in the
present age than in any other is due to science, and certainly no other
race in the history of mankind has had such a wide choice of noble
enjoyments as ours—even if our race has not the palate and stomach to
experience a great deal of joy. But one can live comfortably amid all
this “freedom” only when one merely understands it and does not wish to
participate in it—that is the modern crux. The participants appear to
be less attractive than ever · how stupid they must be!
Thus the danger arises that knowledge may avenge itself on us, just as
ignorance avenged itself on us during the Middle Ages. It is all over
with those religions which place their trust in gods, Providences,
rational orders of the universe, miracles, and sacraments, as is also
the case with certain types of holy lives, such as ascetics; for we only
too easily conclude that such people are the effects of sickness and an
aberrant brain. There is no doubt that the contrast between a pure,
incorporeal soul and a body has been almost set aside. Who now believes
in the immortality of the soul! Everything connected with blessedness or
damnation, which was based upon certain erroneous physiological
assumptions, falls to the ground as soon as these[Pg 178] assumptions are
recognised to be errors. Our scientific assumptions admit just as much
of an interpretation and utilisation in favour of a besotting
philistinism—yea, in favour of bestiality—as also in favour of
"blessedness” and soul-inspiration. As compared with all previous ages,
we are now standing on a new foundation, so that something may still be
expected from the human race.
As regards culture, we have hitherto been acquainted with only one
complete form of it, i.e., the city-culture of the Greeks, based as it
was on their mythical and social foundations; and one incomplete form,
the Roman, which acted as an adornment of life, derived from the Greek.
Now all these bases, the mythical and the politico-social, have changed;
our alleged culture has no stability, because it has been erected upon
insecure conditions and opinions which are even now almost ready to
collapse.—When we thoroughly grasp Greek culture, then, we see that it
is all over with it. The philologist is thus a great sceptic in the
present conditions of our culture and training · that is his mission.
Happy is he if, like Wagner and Schopenhauer, he has a dim presentiment
of those auspicious powers amid which a new culture is stirring.
Those who say: “But antiquity nevertheless remains as a subject of
consideration for pure science, even though all its educational purposes
may be disowned,” must be answered by the words, What is pure science
here! Actions and characteristics must be judged; and those who judge
them must stand[Pg 179] above them: so you must first devote your attention to
overcoming antiquity. If you do not do that, your science is not pure,
but impure and limited . as may now be perceived.
To overcome Greek antiquity through our own deeds: this would be the
right task. But before we can do this we must first know it!—There is
a thoroughness which is merely an excuse for inaction. Let it be
recollected how much Goethe knew of antiquity: certainly not so much as
a philologist, and yet sufficient to contend with it in such a way as to
bring about fruitful results. One should not even know more about a
thing than one could create. Moreover, the only time when we can
actually recognise something is when we endeavour to make it. Let
people but attempt to live after the manner of antiquity, and they will
at once come hundreds of miles nearer to antiquity than they can do with
all their erudition.—Our philologists never show that they strive to
emulate antiquity in any way, and thus their antiquity remains without
any effect on the schools.
The study of the spirit of emulation (Renaissance, Goethe), and the
study of despair.
The non-popular element in the new culture of the Renaissance: a
The worship of classical antiquity, as it was to be seen in Italy, may
be interpreted as the only earnest, disinterested, and fecund worship
which has yet fallen to the lot of antiquity. It is a splendid[Pg 180] example
of Don Quixotism; and philology at best is such Don Quixotism. Already
at the time of the Alexandrian savants, as with all the sophists of the
first and second centuries, the Atticists, &c., the scholars are
imitating something purely and simply chimerical and pursuing a world
that never existed. The same trait is seen throughout antiquity · the
manner in which the Homeric heroes were copied, and all the intercourse
held with the myths, show traces of it. Gradually all Greek antiquity
has become an object of Don Quixotism. It is impossible to understand
our modern world if we do not take into account the enormous influence
of the purely fantastic. This is now confronted by the principle · there
can be no imitation. Imitation, however, is merely an artistic
phenomenon, i.e., it is based on appearance . we can accept manners,
thoughts, and so on through imitation; but imitation can create nothing.
True, the creator can borrow from all sides and nourish himself in that
way. And it is only as creators that we shall be able to take anything
from the Greeks. But in what respect can philologists be said to be
creators! There must be a few dirty jobs, such as knackers’ men, and
also text-revisers: are the philologists to carry out tasks of this
What, then, is antiquity now, in the face of modern art, science, and
philosophy? It is no longer the treasure-chamber of all knowledge; for
in natural and historical science we have advanced greatly beyond it.
Oppression by the church has[Pg 181] been stopped. A pure knowledge of
antiquity is now possible, but perhaps also a more ineffective and
weaker knowledge.—This is right enough, if effect is known only as
effect on the masses; but for the breeding of higher minds antiquity is
more powerful than ever.
Goethe as a German poet-philologist; Wagner as a still higher stage: his
clear glance for the only worthy position of art. No ancient work has
ever had so powerful an effect as the “Orestes” had on Wagner. The
objective, emasculated philologist, who is but a philistine of culture
and a worker in “pure science,” is, however, a sad spectacle.
Between our highest art and philosophy and that which is recognised to
be truly the oldest antiquity, there is no contradiction: they support
and harmonise with one another. It is in this that I place my hopes.
The main standpoints from which to consider the importance of antiquity:
1. There is nothing about it for young people, for it exhibits man with
an entire freedom from shame.
2. It is not for direct imitation, but it teaches by which means art has
hitherto been perfected in the highest degree.
3. It is accessible only to a few, and there should be a police des
mœurs, in charge of it—as there should be also in charge of bad
pianists who play Beethoven.
4. These few apply this antiquity to the judgment of our own time, as
critics of it; and they judge antiquity by their own ideals and are thus
critics of antiquity.
5. The contract between the Hellenic and the Roman should be studied,
and also the contrast between the early Hellenic and the late
Hellenic.—Explanation of the different types of culture.
The advancement of science at the expense of man is one of the most
pernicious things in the world. The stunted man is a retrogression in
the human race: he throws a shadow over all succeeding generations The
tendencies and natural purpose of the individual science become
degenerate, and science itself is finally shipwrecked: it has made
progress, but has either no effect at all on life or else an immoral
Men not to be used like things!
From the former very incomplete philology and knowledge of antiquity
there flowed out a stream of freedom, while our own highly developed
knowledge produces slaves and serves the idol of the State.
There will perhaps come a time when scientific work will be carried on
by women, while the men will have to create, using the word in a
spiritual sense: states, laws, works of art, &c.
People should study typical antiquity just as they do typical men:
i.e., imitating what they under[Pg 183]stand of it, and, when the pattern
seems to lie far in the distance, considering ways and means and
preliminary preparations, and devising stepping-stones.
The whole feature of study lies in this: that we should study only what
we feel we should like to imitate; what we gladly take up and have the
desire to multiply. What is really wanted is a progressive canon of the
ideal model, suited to boys, youths, and men.
Goethe grasped antiquity in the right way · invariably with an emulative
soul. But who else did so? One sees nothing of a well-thought-out
pedagogics of this nature: who knows that there is a certain knowledge
of antiquity which cannot be imparted to youths!
The puerile character of philology: devised by teachers for pupils.
The ever more and more common form of the ideal: first men, then
institutions, finally tendencies, purposes, or the want of them. The
highest form: the conquest of the ideal by a backward movement from
tendencies to institutions, and from institutions to men.
I will set down in writing what I no longer believe—and also what I do
believe. Man stands in the midst of the great whirlpool of forces, and
imagines that this whirlpool is rational and has a rational aim in
view: error! The only rationality that we know is the small reason of
man: he must exert it to the utmost, and it invariably leaves him in the
lurch if he tries to place himself in the hands of “Providence.”
Our only happiness lies in reason; all the remainder of the world is
dreary. The highest reason, however, is seen by me in the work of the
artist, and he can feel it to be such: there may be something which,
when it can be consciously brought forward, may afford an even greater
feeling of reason and happiness: for example, the course of the solar
system, the breeding and education of a man.
Happiness lies in rapidity of feeling and thinking: everything else is
slow, gradual, and stupid. The man who could feel the progress of a ray
of light would be greatly enraptured, for it is very rapid.
Thinking of one’s self affords little happiness. But when we do
experience happiness therein the reason is that we are not thinking of
ourselves, but of our ideal. This lies far off; and only the rapid man
attains it and rejoices.
An amalgamation of a great centre of men for the breeding of better men
is the task of the future. The individual must become familiarised with
claims that, when he says Yea to his own will, he also says Yea to the
will of that centre—for example, in reference to a choice, as among
women for marriage, and likewise as to the manner in which his child
shall be brought up. Until now no single individuality, or only the very
rarest, have been free: they were influenced by these conceptions, but
likewise by the bad and contradictory organisation of the individual
Education is in the first place instruction in what is necessary, and
then in what is changing and inconstant. The youth is introduced to
nature, and the sway of laws is everywhere pointed out to him; followed
by an explanation of the laws of ordinary society. Even at this early
stage the question will arise: was it absolutely necessary that this
should have been so? He gradually comes to need history to ascertain how
these things have been brought about. He learns at the same time,
however, that they may be changed into something else. What is the
extent of man’s power over things? This is the question in connection
with all education. To show how things may become other than what they
are we may, for example, point to the Greeks. We need the Romans to show
how things became what they were.
If, then, the Romans had spurned the Greek culture, they would perhaps
have gone to pieces completely. When could this culture have once again
arisen? Christianity and Romans and barbarians: this would have been an
onslaught: it would have entirely wiped out culture. We see the danger
amid which genius lives. Cicero was one of the greatest benefactors of
humanity, even in his own time.
There is no “Providence” for genius; it is only for the ordinary run of
people and their wants that[Pg 186] such a thing exists: they find their
satisfaction, and later on their justification.
Thesis: the death of ancient culture inevitable. Greek culture must be
distinguished as the archetype; and it must be shown how all culture
rests upon shaky conceptions.
The dangerous meaning of art: as the protectress and galvanisation of
dead and dying conceptions; history, in so far as it wishes to restore
to us feelings which we have overcome. To feel “historically” or “just"
towards what is already past, is only possible when we have risen above
it. But the danger in the adoption of the feelings necessary for this is
very great . let the dead bury their dead, so that we ourselves may not
come under the influence of the smell of the corpses.
The Death Of the old Culture.
1. The signification of the studies of antiquity hitherto pursued:
2. As soon as they recognise the goal they condemn themselves to death ·
for their goal is to describe ancient culture itself as one to be
3. The collection of all the conceptions out of which Hellenic culture
has grown up. Criticism of religion, art, society, state, morals.
4. Christianity is likewise denied.
5. Art and history—dangerous.
6. The replacing of the study of antiquity which has become superfluous
for the training of our youth.
Thus the task of the science of history is completed[Pg 187] and it itself has
become superfluous, if the entire inward continuous circle of past
efforts has been condemned. Its place must be taken by the science of
“Signs” and “miracles” are not believed; only a “Providence” stands in
need of such things. There is no help to be found either in prayer or
asceticism or in “vision.” If all these things constitute religion, then
there is no more religion for me.
My religion, if I can still apply this name to something, lies in the
work of breeding genius . from such training everything is to be hoped.
All consolation comes from art. Education is love for the offspring; an
excess of love over and beyond our self-love. Religion is “love beyond
ourselves.” The work of art is the model of such a love beyond
ourselves, and a perfect model at that.
The stupidity of the will is Schopenhauer’s greatest thought, if
thoughts be judged from the standpoint of power. We can see in Hartmann
how he juggled away this thought. Nobody will ever call something
This, then, is the new feature of all the future progress of the world ·
men must never again be ruled over by religious conceptions. Will they
be any worse? It is not my experience that they behave well and
morally under the yoke of religion; I am not on the side of
Demopheles The fear of a beyond, and then again the fear of divine
punishments will hardly have made men better.
Where something great makes its appearance and lasts for a relatively
long time, we may premise a careful breeding, as in the case of the
Greeks. How did so many men become free among them? Educate educators!
But the first educators must educate themselves! And it is for these
that I write.
The denial of life is no longer an easy matter: a man may become a
hermit or a monk—and what is thereby denied! This conception has now
become deeper . it is above all a discerning denial, a denial based upon
the will to be just; not an indiscriminate and wholesale denial.
The seer must be affectionate, otherwise men will have no confidence in
him · Cassandra.
The man who to-day wishes to be good and saintly has a more difficult
task than formerly . in order to be “good,” he must not be so unjust to
knowledge as earlier saints were. He would have to be a knowledge-saint:
a man who would link love with knowledge, and who would have nothing to
do with gods or demigods or “Providence,” as the Indian saints likewise
had nothing to do with them. He should also be healthy, and should keep
himself so, otherwise he would necessarily become distrustful of
himself. And perhaps he would not bear the slightest resemblance to the
ascetic saint, but would be much more like a man of the world.
The better the state is organised, the duller will humanity be.
To make the individual uncomfortable is my task!
The great pleasure experienced by the man who liberates himself by
Spiritual heights have had their age in history; inherited energy
belongs to them. In the ideal state all would be over with them.
The highest judgment on life only arising from the highest energy of
life. The mind must be removed as far as possible from exhaustion.
In the centre of the world-history judgment will be the most accurate;
for it was there that the greatest geniuses existed.
The breeding of the genius as the only man who can truly value and deny
Save your genius! shall be shouted unto the people: set him free! Do all
you can to unshackle him.
The feeble and poor in spirit must not be allowed to judge life.
[Pg 190]I dream of a combination of men who shall make no concessions, who
shall show no consideration, and who shall be willing to be called
"destroyers”: they apply the standard of their criticism to everything
and sacrifice themselves to truth. The bad and the false shall be
brought to light! We will not build prematurely: we do not know, indeed,
whether we shall ever be able to build, or if it would not be better not
to build at all. There are lazy pessimists and resigned ones in this
world—and it is to their number that we refuse to belong!
1 No doubt a reminiscence of the “Odyssey,” Bk. ix—Tr.
2 Formal education is that which tends to develop the
critical and logical faculties, as opposed to material education, which
is intended to deal with the acquisition of knowledge and its valuation,
e.g., history, mathematics, &c. “Material” education, of course, has
nothing to do with materialism—Tr.
3 The reference is not to Pope, but to Hegel.—Tr.
4 Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824), the well-known classical
scholar, now chiefly remembered by his “Prolegomena ad Homerum."—Tr.
5 Students who pass certain examinations need only serve one
year in the German Army instead of the usual two or three—Tr.
6 Otto Jahn (1813-69), who is probably best remembered in
philological circles by his edition of Juvenal.—Tr.
7 Gustav Freytag at one time a famous German novelist—Tr.
8 A well-known anti-Wagnerian musical critic of Vienna.—Tr.
9 See note on p 149.—Tr.
10 Karl Ottfried Muller (1797-1840), classical archæologist,
who devoted special attention to Greece—Tr.
11 Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker (1784-1868), noted for his
ultra-profound comments on Greek poetry—Tr.
12 “We shall once again be shipwrecked.” The omission is in the original—Tr.
13 Johann Gottfried Jakob Hermann (1772-1848), noted for his works on metre and Greek grammar.—Tr.
14 A type in Schopenhauer’s Essay “On Religion.” See “Parerga and Paralipomena"—Tr.