Wednesday, July 22, 2015

From The Foreword To Nietzsche's Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil)

Es scheint, dass alle grossen Dinge, um der Menschheit sich mit ewigen Forderungen in das Herz einzuschreiben, erst als ungeheure und furchteinflössende Fratzen über die Erde hinwandeln müssen: eine solche Fratze war die dogmatische Philosophie, zum Beispiel die Vedanta-Lehre in Asien, der Platonismus in Europa. Seien wir nicht undankbar gegen sie, so gewiss es auch zugestanden werden muss, dass der schlimmste, langwierigste und gefährlichste aller Irrthümer bisher ein Dogmatiker-Irrthum gewesen ist, nämlich Plato's Erfindung vom reinen Geiste und vom Guten an sich. Aber nunmehr, wo er überwunden ist, wo Europa von diesem Alpdrucke aufathmet und zum Mindesten eines gesunderen - Schlafs geniessen darf, sind wir, deren Aufgabe das Wachsein selbst ist, die Erben von all der Kraft, welche der Kampf gegen diesen Irrthum grossgezüchtet hat. Es hiess allerdings die Wahrheit auf den Kopf stellen und das Perspektivische, die Grundbedingung alles Lebens, selber verleugnen, so vom Geiste und vom Guten zu reden, wie Plato gethan hat; ja man darf, als Arzt, fragen: "woher eine solche Krankheit am schönsten Gewächse des Alterthums, an Plato? hat ihn doch der böse Sokrates verdorben? wäre Sokrates doch der Verderber der Jugend gewesen? und hätte seinen Schlierling verdient?" - Aber der Kampf gegen Plato, oder, um es verständlicher und für's "Volk" zu sagen, der Kampf gegen den christlich-kirchlichen Druck von Jahrtausenden - denn Christenthum ist Platonismus für's "Volk" - hat in Europa eine prachtvolle Spannung des Geistes geschaffen, wie sie auf Erden noch nicht da war: mit einem so gespannten Bogen kann man nunmehr nach den fernsten Zielen schiessen.

(It seems that all great things, in order to inscribe themselves upon our hearts, must first wander the Earth as monstrous and terrifying masks: dogmatic philosophy was such a mask, for example Vedantic philosophy in Asia, and Platonism in Europe. Let us not be ungrateful to them, as surely as it must be admitted that the worst, the longest-lasting and most dangerous of all errors so far has been an error of dogmatism: namely, Plato's invention of the pure spirit and of goodness as an eternal being. But now that it has been overcome, now that Europe has awoken from this nightmare and may enjoy at at least -- a healthier sleep; now we, whose task is wakefulness itself, have inherited all of the strength which grew big and strong in the struggle against the error. True, to speak of the spirit and goodness as Plato did would be to stand truth upon its head and to deny perspective, the basic condition of all life. As a physician, one may ask, "Why did this illness occur in the most beautiful creature of antiquity, in Plato? Did the evil Socrates in fact corrupt him? Was Socrates in fact the corrupter of youth, who deserved his hemlock?" -- But the struggle against Plato, or, to express it in terms easier for the "masses" to understand, the struggle against thousands of years' worth of Christian-ecclesiastical pressure -- for Christianity is Platonic philosophy for the "masses" -- has created, in Europe, a magnificent strength of the mind, never seen before on Earth: with a bow strung so tightly, one can now shoot at the farthest targets.)

So -- Christianity was a sort of sparring partner, and now -- or then, around 1885, when Nietzsche wrote that -- the previously-Christian European mind had grown so strong, just by surviving Christianity, that it could do great things.

A few minds have awoken from the Platonic nightmare -- his own mind certainly did -- and some are still sound asleep. Some have become atheists without shaking off one bit of the underlying Platonic sleep.

Shooting at the farthest targets. I think that clearly out-Nostradamuses Nostradamus in predicting space travel.

What would Nietzsche make of us, 130 years later? A woman's about to become President of the United States, Nietzsche wouldn't care for that at all. Germany has a female head of state. Britain's most butch head of state by far was a woman. Maybe certain realities would wake Nietzsche up from his deep sexist nightmare.

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