Personal Questions

2002-07-21

I'm slowly working my way through all the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. So far this year I've read or re-read Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Twilight of the Idols, and Antichrist. I'm now reading Daybreak for the first time. Here's a passage from today's reading that struck me as especially valuable (section 196: a mini-dialogue that shows Nietzsche had full appreciation for dialectics, which in the previous section he had called "the fencing-art of conversation"):

The most personal questions of truth. -- 'What am I really doing? And why am I doing it?' -- that is the question of truth which one is not taught in our present system of education and that is consequently not asked; we have no time for it. On the other hand, to talk of buffooneries with children and not of the truth, to talk of compliments to women who are later to become mothers and not of the truth, to talk of their future and their pleasures to young people and not of the truth -- we always have time and inclinations for that! -- But what, after all, are seventy years! -- they run on and are soon over; it matters so little whether the wave knows how and whither it flows! Indeed, it could be a sign of prudence not to know it. -- 'Admitted: but not even to ask after it is not a sign of possessing much pride; our education does not make people proud.' -- So much the better. -- 'Really?'

(BTW, that is in the translation by R.J. Hollingdale from Cambridge University Press. I really must improve my German so I can at least verify the accuracy of the translations I read, as I do with material from Greek and Latin. Never trust translations -- even mine!)


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