Thursday, March 17, 2011


Long live physics!— How many people know how to observe something! Of the few
who do—how many observe themselves! “Everybody is farthest away from
himself”—all who try the reins know this to their chagrin; and the maxim “know
thyself!” addressed to human beings by a god, is almost malicious. That the case of
self-observation is indeed as desperate as that is attested best of all by the manner in
which  almost everybody talks about the essence of moral actions, this quick, eager,
convinced, and garrulous manner with its expression, its smile, and its obliging ardor!
One seems to have the wish to say to you: “But my dear friend, precisely this is my
specialty! You have directed your question to the one person who is entitled  [darf] to
answer you: as it happens, there is nothing about which I am as wise about as this. To
come to the point: when a human being judges ‘this is right’ and then infers ‘therefore
it must be done!’ and then proceeds to  do what he has thus recognized as right and
designated as necessary,—then the essence of his action is moral.” But my friend, you
are speaking of three actions instead of one: when you judge “this is right,” that is an
action, too,—might it not be possible that one could judge in a moral and in an
immoral manner? Why do you consider this, precisely this, right?— “Because this is
what my conscience tells me; the voice of  conscience is never immoral, for it alone
determines what is to be moral!”— But why do you  listen to the voice of your
conscience? And what gives you the right to consider such a judgment true and
infallible? For this faith—is there no conscience for that? Have you never heard of an
intellectual conscience? A conscience behind your “conscience”? Your judgment “that
is right” has a prehistory in your instincts, likes, dislikes, experiences, and lack of
experiences. “How did it originate there?” you must ask, and then also: “What is it that
impels me to listen to it?” You can listen to its commands like a good soldier who
hears his officer’s command. Or like a woman who loves the man who commands. Or
like a flatterer and coward who is afraid of the commander. Or like a dunderhead who
obeys because no objection occurs to him. In short, there are a hundred ways in which
you can listen to your conscience. But that you take this or that judgment for the voice
of conscience, in other words, that you feel something to be right, may be due to the
fact that you have never thought much about yourself and simply have accepted
blindly that what you had been told ever since your childhood was right: or it may be
due to the fact that what you call your duty has up to this point brought you sustenance
and honors,—and you consider it “right” because it appears to you as your  own
“condition of existence” (and that you have a  right to existence seems irrefutable to
you!). For all that, the  firmness of your moral judgment could be evidence of your
personal abjectness, of impersonality, your “moral strength” might have its source in
your stubbornness—or in your inability to envisage new ideal! And, briefly: if you had
thought more subtly, observed better, and learned more, you certainly would not go on
calling this “duty” of yours and this “conscience” of yours duty and conscience: your
understanding  of the manner in which moral judgments have originated would spoil
these grand words,—for example, “sin,” “salvation of the soul,” “redemption” have
been spoiled for you.— And now don’t cite the categorical imperative, my friend!—
this term tickles my ear and makes me laugh despite your serious presence: it makes
me think of old Kant who had obtained the “thing in itself” by stealth—another very
ridiculous thing!—and was punished for this when the “categorical imperative” crept
stealthily into his heart and  led him astray back to “God,” “soul,” “freedom,” and
“immortality,” like a fox who loses his way and goes astray back into his cage:—yet it
had been  his strength and cleverness that had  broken open the cage!—What? You
admire the categorical imperative within you? This “firmness” of your so-called moral
judgment? This “unconditional” feeling that “here everyone must judge as I do”?
Rather admire your selfishness at this point! And the blindness, pettiness, and frugality
of your selfishness! For it is selfish to experience one’s own judgment as a universal
law; and this selfishness is blind, petty, and frugal because it betrays that you have not
yet discovered yourself nor created for yourself an ideal of your own, your very
own:—for that could never belong to somebody else and much less to all, to all!— —
Anyone who still judges “in this case everybody would have to act like this” has not
yet taken five steps toward self-knowledge: otherwise he would know that there neither
are nor can be actions that are the same,—that every action that has ever been done
was done in an altogether unique and irretrievable way, and that this will be true of
every future action,—that all regulations about actions relate only to their coarse
exterior (and even the most inward and subtle regulations of all moralities so far),—
that these regulations may lead to some semblance of sameness,  but really only to
some semblance,—that as one contemplates or looks back upon any action at all, it is
and remains impenetrable,—that our opinions about “good,” “noble,” “great” can
never be  proved true by our actions because every action is unknowable,—that our
opinions, valuations, and tables of what is good certainly belong among the most
powerful levers in the involved mechanism of our actions, but that in any particular
case the law of their mechanism is indemonstrable. Let us therefore limit ourselves to
the purification of our opinions and valuations and to the  creation of our own new
tables of values:—and let us stop brooding about the “moral value of our actions”!
Yes, my friends, regarding all the moral chatter of some about others it is time to feel
nauseous! Sitting in moral judgment should offend our taste! Let us leave such chatter
and such bad taste to those who have nothing else to do but drag the past a few steps
further through time and who never live in the present,—which is to say the many, the
great majority! We, however,  want to become who we are,—the new, unique,
incomparable ones, who give themselves their own laws, who create themselves! And
to that end we must become the best learners and discoverers of everything that is
lawful and necessary in the world: we must become physicists in order to be able to be
creators in this sense,—while hitherto all valuations and ideals have been based on
ignorance of physics or were constructed so as to  contradict it. Therefore: long live
physics! And even more so that which compels us to turn to physics,—our honesty!

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