Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I'm reading The Birth of Tragedy.
It's alright so far, though supposedly not Nietzsche's best.
The edition I've got starts with his Attempt At A Self-Criticism, published sixteen years later, in which we find the passage below, which I really like. He's describing his mindset when he wrote The Birth of Tragedy, his first book, and implies that at least some aspects of his line of thinking at that time were foolish (I'm not familiar with Nietzsche's matured views on the subject, this will be the first work of his I've read), but I still think it's a beautiful and insightful piece of writing. (You might want to skip this post if you're Christian and sensitive about it; it's not my intention to attack or offend anyone here.)

"Perhaps the depth of this antimoral propensity is best inferred from the careful and hostile silence with which Christianity is treated throughout the whole book--Christianity as the most prodigal elaboration of the moral theme to which humanity has ever been subjected. In truth, nothing could be more opposed to the purely aesthetic interpretation and justification of the world which are taught in this book than the Christian teaching, which is, and wants to be, only moral and which relegates art, every art, to the realm of lies; with its absolute standards, beginning with the truthfulness of God, it negates, judges, and damns art. Behind this mode of thought and valuation, which must be hostile to art if it is at all genuine, I never failed to sense a hostility to life--a furious, vengeful antipathy to life itself: for all of life is based on semblance, art, deception, points of view, and the necessity of perspectives and error. Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life's nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in "another" or "better" life. Hatred of "the world," condemnations of the passions, fear of beauty and sensuality, a beyond invented the better to slander this life, at bottom a craving for the nothing, for the end, for respite, for "the sabbath of sabbaths"--all this always struck me, no less than the unconditional will of Christianity to recognize only moral values, as the most dangerous and uncanny form of all possible forms of a "will to decline"--at the very least a sign of abysmal sickness, weariness, discouragement, exhaustion, and the impoverishment of life. For, confronted with morality (especially Christian, or unconditional, morality), life must continually and inevitably be in the wrong, because life is something essentially amoral--and eventually, crushed by the weight of contempt and the eternal No, life must then be felt to be unworthy of desire and altogether worthless. Morality itself--how now? might not morality be "a will to negate life," a secret instinct of annihilation, a principle of decay, diminution, and slander--the beginning of the end? Hence, the danger of dangers?"

Christians write some okay things, too, though; I like this bit from Pascal:

"The present usually hurts us. We hide it from sight because it wounds us, and if it is pleasant then we are sorry to see it pass. We try to buttress it with the future, and think of arranging things which are not in our power for a time we cannot be at all sure of attaining . . . Past and present are our means, only the future is our end. And so we never actually live, though we hope to, and in constantly striving for happiness it is inevitable that we will never attain it."

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