After all, judgments and valuations
of life, whether for or against, cannot be true: their only value lies
in the fact that they are symptoms; they can be considered only as
symptoms,--_per se_ such judgments are nonsense. You must therefore
endeavour by all means to reach out and try to grasp this astonishingly
subtle axiom, _that the value of life cannot be estimated._ A living
man cannot do so, because he is a contending party, or rather the very
object in the dispute, and not a judge; nor can a dead man estimate
it--for other reasons. For a philosopher to see a problem in the value
of life, is almost an objection against him, a note of interrogation
set against his wisdom--a lack of wisdom. What? Is it possible that all
these great sages were not only decadents, but that they were not even
wise? Let me however return to the problem of Socrates.
To judge from his origin, Socrates belonged to the lowest of the low:
Socrates was mob. You know, and you can still see it for yourself,
how ugly he was. But ugliness, which in itself is an objection, was
almost a refutation among the Greeks. Was Socrates really a Greek?
Ugliness is not infrequently the expression of thwarted development,
or of development arrested by crossing. In other cases it appears
as a decadent development. The anthropologists among the criminal
specialists declare that I the typical criminal is ugly: _monstrum
in fronte, monstrum in animo._ But the criminal is a decadent?
Was Socrates a typical criminal?--At all events this would not clash
with that famous physiognomist's judgment which was so repugnant to
Socrates' friends. While on his way through Athens a certain foreigner
who was no fool at judging by looks, told Socrates to his face that
he was a monster, that his body harboured all the worst vices and
passions. And Socrates replied simply: "You know me, sir!"--
Not only are the acknowledged wildness and anarchy of Socrates'
instincts indicative of decadence, but also that preponderance of the
logical faculties and that malignity of the misshapen which was his
special characteristic. Neither should we forget those aural delusions
which were religiously interpreted as "the demon of Socrates."
Everything in him is exaggerated, _buffo,_ caricature, his nature is
also full of concealment, of ulterior motives, and of underground
currents. I try to understand the idiosyncrasy from which the Socratic
equation:--Reason = Virtue = Happiness, could have arisen: the
weirdest equation ever seen, and one which was essentially opposed to
all the instincts of the older Hellenes.
With Socrates Greek taste veers round in favour of dialectics:
It may even be added that it likewise conceals within itself an artistic element, one which, on aesthetic and ethical grounds, may be called imperatival--an element that acts in opposition to its purely scientific behaviour.Page 1
For opponents of this sort, however, philology is merely a useless, harmless, and inoffensive pastime, an object of laughter and not of hate.Page 2
From this point onwards we must take notice of a clearly determined and very surprising antagonism which philology has great cause to regret.Page 3
The entire scientific and artistic movement of this peculiar centaur is bent, though with cyclopic slowness, upon bridging over the gulf between the ideal antiquity--which is perhaps only the magnificent blossoming of the Teutonic longing for the south--and the real antiquity; and thus classical philology pursues only the final end of its own being, which is the fusing together of primarily hostile impulses that have only forcibly been brought together.Page 4
To explain the different general impression of the two books on the assumption that _one_ poet composed them both, scholars sought assistance by referring to the seasons of the poet's life, and compared the poet of the _Odyssey_ to the setting sun.Page 5
And then we meet with the weighty question: What lies before this period? Has Homer's personality, because it cannot be grasped, gradually faded away into an empty name? Or had all the Homeric poems been gathered together in a body, the nation naively representing itself by the figure of Homer? _Was the person created out of a conception, or the conception out of a person?_ This is the real "Homeric question," the central problem of the personality.Page 7
The first school, on the other.Page 8
All these schools of thought start from the assumption that the problem of the present form of these epics can be solved from the standpoint of an aesthetic judgment--but we must await the decision as to the authorised line of demarcation between the man of genius and the poetical soul of the people.Page 9
If we apply all these principles to the Homeric poems, it follows that we gain nothing with our theory of the poetising soul of the people, and that we are always referred back to the poetical individual.Page 10
The only path which leads back beyond the time of Pisistratus and helps us to elucidate the meaning of the name Homer, takes its way on the one hand through the reports which have reached us concerning Homer's birthplace: from which we see that, although his name is always associated with heroic epic poems, he is on the other hand no more referred to as the composer of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ than as the author of the _Thebais_ or any other cyclical epic.Page 11
It is, however, by no means affirmed against the poet of these epics that he was merely the imaginary being of an aesthetic impossibility, which can be the opinion of only very few philologists indeed.Page 12
We may even be ready to pronounce this synthetisation of great importance.Page 13
The decision on this point has already been given.Page 14
this statement was, unfortunately, not justified.Page 15
Now, therefore, that I have enunciated my philological creed, I trust you will give me cause to hope that I shall no longer be a stranger among you: give me the assurance that in working with you towards this end I am worthily fulfilling the confidence with which the highest authorities of this community have honoured me.