Thoughts Out of Season, Part II

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 9

should
the endless rush of events not bring satiety, surfeit, loathing? So
the boldest of us is ready perhaps at last to say from his heart with
Giacomo Leopardi: "Nothing lives that were worth thy pains, and the
earth deserves not a sigh. Our being is pain and weariness, and the
world is mud--nothing else. Be calm."

But we will leave the super-historical men to their loathings and
their wisdom: we wish rather to-day to be joyful in our unwisdom and
have a pleasant life as active men who go forward, and respect the
course of the world. The value we put on the historical may be merely
a Western prejudice: let us at least go forward within this prejudice
and not stand still. If we could only learn better to study history
as a means to life! We would gladly grant the super-historical people
their superior wisdom, so long as we are sure of having more life
than they: for in that case our unwisdom would have a greater future
before it than their wisdom. To make my opposition between life and
wisdom clear, I will take the usual road of the short summary.

A historical phenomenon, completely understood and reduced to an item
of knowledge, is, in relation to the man who knows it, dead: for he
has found out its madness, its injustice, its blind passion, and
especially the earthly and darkened horizon that was the source of
its power for history. This power has now become, for him who has
recognised it, powerless; not yet, perhaps, for him who is alive.

History regarded as pure knowledge and allowed to sway the intellect
would mean for men the final balancing of the ledger of life.
Historical study is only fruitful for the future if it follow a
powerful life-giving influence, for example, a new system of culture;
only, therefore, if it be guided and dominated by a higher force, and
do not itself guide and dominate.

History, so far as it serves life, serves an unhistorical power, and
thus will never become a pure science like mathematics. The question
how far life needs such a service is one of the most serious
questions affecting the well-being of a man, a people and a culture.
For by excess of history life becomes maimed and degenerate, and is
followed by the degeneration of history as well.


II.

The fact that life does need the service of history must be as
clearly grasped as that an excess of history hurts it; this will be
proved later. History is necessary to the living man in three ways:
in relation to

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Text Comparison with Early Greek Philosophy & Other Essays Collected Works, Volume Two

Page 1
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