Monday, February 20, 2012

More Nietzsche

I often wonder how to square tough-mindedness and cool, clear deliberation with the passionate, quasi-religious attitude that is required to make and enjoy art. Nietzsche, who is known for his unforgiving clarity and contempt of sentimentality has a tidy solution: don't even try. Here is Aphorism #251 from Human, All Too Human (1878):

Future of Science. - To him who works and seeks in it, Science gives much pleasure, to him who learns its facts, very little. But as all important truths of science must gradually become commonplace and everyday matters, even this small amount of pleasure ceases, just as we have long ceased to take pleasure in learning the admirable multiplication table. Now if Science goes on giving less pleasure in itself, and always takes more pleasure in throwing suspicion on the consolations of metaphysics, religion and art, that greatest of all sources of pleasure to which mankind owes almost its whole humanity, becomes impoverished. Therefore a higher culture must give man a double brain, two brain chambers, so to speak, one to feel science and the other to feel non-science, which can lie side by side, without confusion, divisible, exclusive; this is a necessity of health. In one part lies the source of strength, in the other lies the regulator; it must be heated with illusions, one-sidedness, passions; and the malicious and dangerous consequences of overheating must be averted by the help of conscious Science. If this necessity of the higher culture is not satisfied, the further course of human development can almost certainly be foretold: the interest in what is true ceases as it guarantees less pleasure; illusion, error, and imagination reconquer step by step the ancient territory, because they are united to pleasure; the ruin of science: the relapse into barbarism is the next result; mankind must begin to weave its web afresh after having, like Penelope, destroyed it during the night. But who will assure us that it will always find the necessary strength for this?