Why I am So Wise


The happiness of my existence, its unique character perhaps, lies in its fatefulness: expressing it in the form of a riddle, as my own father I am already dead, as my own mother I still live and, grow old. This double origin, taken as it were from the highest and lowest rungs of the ladder of life, at once a decadence and a beginning, this, if anything, explains that neutrality, that freedom from partisanship with regard to the general problem of life, which perhaps distinguishes me. I am more sensitive to the first indications of ascent and descent than any man that has yet lived. In this domain I am a master par excellence-I know both sides, for I am both sides. My father died in his thirty-sixth year: he was delicate, lovable, and morbid, like one fated for but a short life-a gracious reminder of life rather than life itself. In the same year that his life declined mine also declined: in my thirty-sixth year my vitality reached its lowest point-I still lived, but I could not see three paces before me. At that time-it was the year 1879-1 resigned my professorship at Base], lived through the summer like a shadow in St. Moritz, and spent the following winter, the most sunless of my life, like a shadow in Naumburg. I was then at my lowest ebb. The Wanderer and His Shadow was the product of this period. There is no doubt that I was familiar with shadows then. The following winter, my first winter in Genoa, brought with it that sweetness and spirituality which is almost inseparable from extreme poverty of blood and muscle, in the shape of The Dawn of Day. The perfect brightness and cheerfulness, the intellectual exuberance even, that this work reflects, coincide, in my case, not only with the most profound bodily weakness, but also with an excess of suffering. In the midst of the agony caused by a seventy-two hour headache and violent attacks of nausea, I was possessed of extraordinary dialectical clearness, and in utter cold blood I then thought out things, for which, in my more healthy moments, I am not enough of a climber, not subtle enough, not cold enough. My readers may know to what extent I consider dialectic a symptom of decadence, as, for example, in the most famous case of all-that of Socrates. All the morbid disturbances of the intellect, even that semi-stupor which follows fever, are to this day strangers to me; and to inform myself concerning their nature and frequency, I had to resort to learned works. My circulation is slow. No one has ever been able to detect fever in me. A doctor who treated me for some time as a nerve patient finally declared: "No! there's nothing the matter with your nerves; I myself am the nervous one." They have been unable to discover any local degeneration in me, or any organic stomach trouble, however much I may have suffered from profound weakness of the gastric system as the result of general exhaustion. Even my eye trouble, which at times approached dangerously near blinding, was only an effect and not a cause; for, with every improvement of my general bodily health came a corresponding increase in my power of vision. An all too long series of years meant recovery to me. But, sad to say, it also meant relapse, breakdown, periods of decadence. After this, need I say that I am experienced in questions of decadence? I know them inside and out. Even that filigree art of apprehension and comprehension in general, that feeling for nuances, that psychology of "seeing what is around the comer," and whatever else I may be able to do, was first learnt then, and is the specific gift of that period during which everything in me was subtilized-observation itself, together with all the organs of observation. To view healthier concepts and values from the standpoint of the sick, and conversely to view the secret work of the instinct of decadence out of the abundance and self-confidence of a rich life-this has been my principal experience, what I have been longest trained in. If in anything at all, it was in this that I became a master. To-day my hand is skillful; it has the knack of reversing perspectives: the first reason perhaps why a Transvaluation of all Values has been possible to me alone.


Agreed that I am a decadent, I am also the very reverse. Among other things there is this proof: I always instinctively select the proper remedy in preference to harmful ones; whereas the decadent, as such, invariably chooses those remedies which are bad for him. As a whole I was healthy, but in certain details I was a decadent. The energy with which I forced myself to absolute solitude, and to an alienation from my customary habits of life; the self-discipline that forbade me to be pampered, waited on, and doctored-all this betrays the absolute certainty of my instincts in regard to what at that time was most needful to me. I placed myself in my own hands, I restored myself to health: to do this, the first condition of success, as every physiologist will admit, is that the man be basically sound. A typically morbid nature cannot become healthy at all, much less by his own efforts. On the other hand, to an intrinsically sound nature, illness may even act as a powerful stimulus to life, to an abundance of life. It is thus that I now regard my long period of illness: it seemed then as if I had discovered life afresh, my own self included. I tasted all/ good and even trifling things in a way in which others could not very well taste them-out of my Will to Health and to Life I made my philosophy. . . . For I wish this to be understood; it was during those, years of most lowered vitality that I ceased from being a pessimist: the instinct of self-recovery bade a philosophy of poverty and desperation. Now, how are we to recognize Nature's most excellent human products? They are recognized by the fact that an excellent man of this sort gladdens our senses; he is carved from a single block, which is hard, sweet, and fragrant. He enjoys only what is good for him; his pleasure, his desire, ceases when the limits of what is good for him are overstepped. He divines remedies against injuries; he knows how to turn serious accidents to his own advantage; whatever does not kill him makes him stronger. He instinctively gathers his material from all he sees, hears, and experiences. He is a selective principle; he rejects much. He is always in his own company, whether his intercourse be with books, men or natural scenery; he honors the things he chooses, the things he acknowledges, the thing7s he trusts. He reacts slowly to all kinds of stimuli, with that tardiness which long caution and deliberate pride have bred in him-he tests the approaching stimulus - would not think of going toward it. He believes in neither "ill-fortune" nor "guilt"; he can digest himself and others; he knows how to forget-he is strong enough to make everything turn to his own advantage.

Lo then! I am the very reverse of a decadent, for he whom I have just described is none other than myself.


This double series of experiences, this means of access to two worlds that seem so far asunder, finds an exact reflection in my own nature-I have an alter ego: I have a "second" sight, as well as a first. Perhaps I even have a third sight. The very nature of my origin allowed me an outlook transcending merely local, merely national and limited horizons; it cost me no effort to be a "good European." On the other hand, I am perhaps more German than modern Germans-mere Imperial Germans - can possibly be-I, the last anti-political German. And yet my ancestors were Polish noblemen: it is owing to them that I have so much race instinct in my blood-who knows? perhaps even the liberum veto. When I think of how often I have been accosted as a Pole when traveling, even by Poles themselves, and how seldom I have been taken for a German, it seems to me as if I belonged to those who have but a sprinkling of German in them. But my mother, Franziska Oehler, is at any rate something very German; as is also my paternal grandmother, Erdmuthe Krause. The latter spent the whole of her youth in good old Weimar, not without coming into contact with Goethe's circle. Her brother, Krause, Professor of Theology in K6nigsberg, was called to the post of General Superintendent at Weimar after Herder's death. It is not unlikely that her mother, my great-grandmother, appears in young Goethe's diary under the name of "Muthgen." The husband of her second marriage was Superintendent Nietzsche of Eilenburg. On the 10th of October, 1813, the year of the great war, when Napoleon with his general staff entered Eilenburg, she gave birth to a son. As a Saxon, she was a great admirer of Napoleon, and perhaps I too am so still. My father, born in 1813, died in 1849. Before taking over the pastorship of the parish of R6cken, not far from Liltzen, he had lived for some years at the Castle of Altenburg, where he had charge of the education of the four princesses. His pupils are the Queen of Hanover, the Grand-Duchess Constantine, the Grand Duchess of Oldenburg, and the Princess Theresa Of Saxe-Altenburg. He was full of pious respect for the Prussian King, Frederick William the Fourth, from whom he obtained his living at Rocken; the events of 1848 caused him great sorrow. As I was born on the 15th of October, the birthday of the king above mentioned, I naturally received the Hohenzollern names of Frederick William. There was at all events one advantage in the choice of this day: my birthday throughout my entire childhood was a public holiday. I regard it as a great privilege to have had such a father: it even seems to me that this exhausts all that I can claim in the matter of privileges-life, the great yea to life, excepted. What I owe to him above all is this, that I do not need any special intention, but merely patience, in order to enter involuntarily into a world of higher and finer things. There I am at home, there alone does my profoundest passion have free play. The fact that I almost paid for this privilege with my life, certainly does not make it a bad bargain. In order to understand even a little of my Zarathustra, perhaps a man must be situated much as I am myself with one foot beyond life.


I have never understood the art of arousing antagonism (and for this, too, I may thank my incomparable father), even when it seemed to me most ,worth while to do so. However unchristian it may seem, I do not even bear any ill-feeling towards myself. Examine my life as you may, you will find but seldom-perhaps indeed only once-any trace of some one's having shown me ill-will; but you might perhaps discover too many traces of good-will. My experiences even with those with whom every other man's relations have been disastrous, speak without exception in their favor; I tame every bear, I can make even clowns behave well. During the seven years in which I taught Greek to the upper class of the College at Basel, I never had occasion to administer a punishment; even the laziest youths were diligent in my class. Accident has always found me ready for it; I must be unprepared in order to keep my self-command. I could take any instrument, even if it be as out of tune as only the instrument "man" can possibly be and - except when I was ill-I could always succeed in coaxing from it something worth hearing. And how often have I not been told by the "instruments" themselves, that they had never before heard such utterances. . . . Perhaps the most charming expression of this feeling was that of young Heinrich von Stein, who died at such an unpardonably early age, and who, after having considerately secured permission, once appeared in Sils-Maria for a three days' stay, explaining to every one there that he had not come because of the Engadine. This excellent person, who with all the impetuous simplicity of a young Prussian nobleman, had waded deep into the Wagnerian swamp (and into that of Duhringism besides! ), seemed during these three days almost transformed by a hurricane of freedom, like one who has been suddenly raised to his full height and given wings. Again and again I told him that this was merely the result of the bracing air; everybody felt the same - one could not stand 6ooo feet above Bayreuth without feeling it - but he would not believe me. All this notwithstanding, if I have been the victim of many a small or even great offense, it was not "will," least of all ill-will, that caused it; rather, as I have already indicated, it was good-will that gave me cause to complain, that goodwill which is responsible for no small amount of mischief in my life. My experience gave me a right to feel suspicious in regard to all so-called "unselfish" tendencies, in regard to the whole of "neighborly love" which is ever ready and waiting with deeds or with advice. It seems to me that they are signs of weakness, examples of the inability to withstand an incitement-it is only among decedents that this pity is called a virtue. What I reproach the pitiful with is, that they are too ready to forget modesty, reverence, and the delicacy of feeling which knows how to keep at a distance; they forget that this sentimental pity stinks of the mob, and that it is but a step removed from bad manners-that pitiful hands may be thrust with destructive results into a great destiny, into a wounded isolation, and into the privileges that go with great guilt. The overcoming of pity I reckon among the noble virtues. In the "Temptation of Zarathustra" I have imagined a case, in which he hears a great cry of distress, in which pity swoops down upon him like a last sin, seeking to make him break faith with himself. To remain in aster over one's self in such circumstances, to keep the sublimity of one's mission free from the many ignoble and more short-sighted impulses which so-called unselfish actions excite-this is the test, the last test perhaps, which a Zarathustra has to undergo-the real proof of his power.


In yet another respect I am simply my father over again, and as it were the continuation of his life after an all-too-early death. Like every man who has never been able to meet his equal, and to whom the notion of "retaliation" is just as incomprehensible as the notion of "equal rights," I have forbidden myself all measures of security or protection and also, naturally, of defense and "justification" in all cases where I have encountered foolishness, whether trifling or very great. My form of retaliation is this: as soon as possible I follow up my encounter with stupidity with a piece of cleverness; by this means perhaps one may still overtake it. To use an image: I swallow a pot of jam in order to get rid of a sour taste. . . . just let anybody give me offense-I shall "retaliate," he may be assured of That: before long I shall find an opportunity of expressing my thanks to the "offender" (among other things even for the offense)-or of asking him for something, which can be more courteous even than giving. It also seems to me that the rudest word, the rudest letter, is more good-natured, more honest, than silence. Those who keep silent are almost always lacking in delicacy and refinement of heart; silence is an objection; to swallow a grievance necessarily produces a bad temper-it even upsets the stomach. All silent people are dyspeptic. You may note that I do not care to see rudeness undervalued; it is by far the most humane form of contradiction, and, amid modern effeminacy, it is one of our first virtues. If one is sufficiently rich for it, it may even be a joy to be wrong. A god descending to this earth could do nothing but wrong -for to take upon one's self guilt, not punishment, is the first sign of divinity.


Freedom from resentment and the understanding of resentment-who knows after all how greatly I am indebted to my long illness for these things? The problem is not exactly simple: a man must have experienced through both his strength and his weakness. If we are to bear any grudge against illness and weakness, it is the fact that along with it there decays the very instinct of recovery, which is the instinct of defense and of war in man. He does not know how to get rid of anything, how to finish anything, how to cast anything behind him. Everything wounds him. People and things obtrude too closely, all experiences strike too deep, memory is a festering sore. Illness is a sort of resentment in itself. Against it the invalid has only one great remedy-I call it Russian fatalism, that unrebellious fatalism with which the Russian soldier, when a campaign becomes unbearable, finally lies down in the snow. To accept nothing more-to cease entirely from reacting. The high sagacity of this fatalism, which is not always mere courage in the face of death, but which in the most dangerous circumstances may work toward self-preservation, is tantamount to a reduction of activity in the vital functions, the slowing down of which is like a sort of will to hibernate. A few steps farther in this direction we have the fakir, who will sleep for weeks in a tomb. . . . Since one would be used up too quickly if one reacted, one no longer reacts at all: this is the principle. And nothing consumes a man more quickly than the emotion of resentment. Mortification, morbid susceptibility, the inability to revenge oneself, the desire, the thirst for revenge, the concoction of every kind of poison-for an exhausted man this is surely the most injurious manner of reacting. It involves a rapid using up of nervous energy, an abnormal increase of harmful secretions, as, for instance, that of bile into the stomach. Resentment should above all be forbidden the sick man -it Is his special danger: unfortunately, however, it is also his most natural propensity. This was perfectly understood by that profound physiologist Buddha. His "religion," which it would be better to call a system of hygiene, to avoid confounding it with so wretched a thing as Christianity, depended for its effect upon the triumph over resentment: to free the soul from it-that was the first step towards recovery. "Not through hostility does hostility end; through friendship does hostility end": this stands at the beginning of Buddha's teaching this is not the voice of morality, but of physiology. Resentment born of weakness is harmful to no one more than to the weak man himself-conversely, with a fundamentally rich nature, resentment is a superfluous feeling, which, if one remains master of it, is almost a proof of riches. Those readers who know the earnestness with which my philosophy wages war against the feelings of revenge and rancor, even to the extent of attacking the doctrine of "free will" (my conflict with Christianity is only a particular instance of it), will understand why I wish to emphasize my own personal attitude and the certainty of my practical instincts precisely in this matter. In my decadent period, I forbade myself these feelings, because they were harmful; but as soon as my life had recovered enough riches and pride, I still forbade myself them, but now because they were beneath me. That "Russian fatalism" of which I spoke manifested itself in me in such a way that for years I clung tenaciously to almost unbearable conditions, places, habitations, and companions,

once chance had placed them in my way-it was better than changing them, than feeling that they could be changed, than revolting against them. He who disturbed this fatalism, who tried by force to awaken me, seemed to me then a mortal enemy in fact, there was danger of death each time this was done. To think of one's self as a destiny, not to wish one's self "different"-this, in such circumstances, is the very highest wisdom.


But war is another thing. I am essentially a warrior. To attack is instinctive with me. To be able to be an enemy, to be an enemy-this, perhaps, presupposes a strong nature; in any case it is bound up with all strong natures. They need resistance, accordingly they seek for it: the pathos of aggression belongs of necessity to strength as much as the feelings of revenge and rancor belong to weakness. Woman, for instance, is revengeful; her weakness involves this passion, just as it involves her susceptibility to others' distress. The strength of the aggressor is in a manner determined by the opposition he needs; every increase of strength betrays itself by a search for a more formidable opponent - or problem: for a philosopher who is combative will challenge even problems to a duel. The task is not to overcome opponents in general, but only those against whom one must pit all one's strength, skill, and swordsmanship-opponents who are one's equals. To be the equal of the enemy-this is the first condition of an honorable duel. Where one despises, one cannot wage war. Where one commands, where one sees something beneath one, one ought not to wage war. My war tactics are comprised in four principles: First, I attack only things that are triumphant-if necessary I wait until they become so. Secondly, I attack only those things against which I find no allies, against which I stand alone-against which I compromise only myself. . . . I have never publicly taken a single step which did not compromise me: that is my criterion of the proper mode of action. Thirdly, I never attack persons-I make use of a personality merely as a powerful magnifying-glass,, by means of which I render a general, but elusive and hardly tangible, evil more visible. In this way I attacked David Strauss, or more exactly the successful reception given to a senile book by the cultured classes of Germany thereby catching this culture red-handed. In this way I attacked Wagner, or more exactly the falsity or mongrel instincts of our "culture" which confounds super-refinement with abundance, and decadence with greatness. Fourthly, I attack only those things from which all personal differences are excluded, in which any background of disagreeable experiences is lacking. Indeed, attacking is to me a proof of good-will and, in certain circumstances, of gratitude. By means of it, I honor a thing, I distinguish a thing; it is all the same to me whether I associate my name with that of an institution or a person, whether I am against or for either. If I wage war against Christianity, I do so because I have met with no fatalities and difficulties from that quarter-the most earnest Christians have always been favorably disposed to me. 1, personally, the severest opponent of Christianity, am far from holding the individual responsible for what is the inevitable outcome of long ages.


May I venture to indicate one last trait of my nature, which has caused me no little difficulty in my intercourse with men? I am gifted with an utterly uncanny instinct of cleanliness; so that I can ascertain physiologically-that is to say, smell-the proximity, I may say, the inmost core, the "entrails" of every human soul. . . . This sensitiveness has psychological antennae, with which I feel and handle every secret: the hidden filth at the base of many a human character which may be the result of base blood, but which may be superficially overlaid by education, is revealed to me at the first glance. If my observation has been correct, such people, unbearable to my sense of cleanliness, also become conscious, on their part, of the cautiousness resulting from my loathing: and this does not make them any more fragrant. A rigid attitude of cleanliness towards myself is the first condition of my existence; I would die in unclean surroundings-and so I have always accustomed myself to swim, bathe, and splash about, as it were, incessantly in water, in any kind of perfectly transparent and shining element. That is why social intercourse is no small trial to my patience; my humanity does not consist in the fact that I sympathize with the feelings of my fellows, but that I can endure that very sympathy. . . . My humanity is a continual self-mastery. But I need solitude-that is to say, recovery, return to myself, the breathing of free, light, bracing air. . . . The whole of my Zarathustra is a dithyramb of solitude, or, rightly understood, of purity. Fortunately, it is not one of "pure foolery"! He who has an eye for color will call- them diamonds. The loathing of mankind, of the rabble, was always my greatest danger. . . . Would you hearken to the words in which Zarathustra speaks concerning deliverance from loathing?

"What hath happened unto me? How have I freed myself from loathing? Who hath rejuvenated mine eye? How have I flown to the height, where no rabble any longer sit at the wells?

"Did my loathing itself create for me wings and fountain-divining powers? Verily to the loftiest height had I to fly, to find again the well of delight!

"Oh, I have found it, my brethren! Here, on the loftiest height bubbleth up for me the well of delight. And there is a life at whose waters none of the rabble drink with me!

"Almost too violently dost thou flow for me, thou fountain of delight! And often emptiest thou the goblet again in wanting to fill it

"And yet must I learn to approach thee more modestly: far too violently doth my heart still flow towards thee:-

"My heart, on which my summer burneth, my short, hot, melancholy, over-happy summer: how my summer heart longeth for thy coolness

"Past, the lingering distress of my spring! Past, the wickedness of my snowflakes in June! Summer have I become entirely, and summer-noontide!

"A summer on the loftiest height, with cold fountains and blissful stillness: oh, come, my friends, that the stillness may become more blissful!

"For this is our height and our home: too high and steep do we here dwell for all uncleanly ones and their thirst.

"Cast but your pure eyes into the well of my delight, my friends! How could it become turbid thereby! It shall laugh back to you with its purity.

"On the tree of the future build we our nest; eagles shall bring us lone ones food in their beaks!

"Verily, no food of which the impure could be fellow-partakers! Fire would they think they devoured and bum their mouths!

"Verily, no abodes do we here keep ready for the impure! An ice-cave to their bodies would our happiness be, and to their spirits!

"And as strong winds will we live above them, neighbors to the eagles, neighbors to the snow, neighbors to the sun: thus live the strong winds.

"And like a wind will I one day blow amongst them, and with my spirit, take the breath from their spirit: thus willeth my future.

"Verily, a strong wind is Zarathustra to all low places; and this counsel counseleth he to his enemies and to whatever spitteth and speweth: 'Take care not to spit against the wind!'"

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