Wisdom Books: Human, All Too Human by Friedrich Nietzsche


Written after Nietzsche had ended his friendship with Richard Wagner and had been forced to leave academic life through ill health, Human, All Too Human (1878) can be read as a monument to his personal crisis. It also marks the point when he matured as a philosopher, rejecting the German romanticism espoused by Wagner and Schopenhauer and instead returning to sources in the French Enlightenment. Here he sets out his unsettling views in a series of 638 stunning aphorisms – assessing subjects ranging from art to arrogance, boredom to passion, science to vanity and women to youth. This work also contains the seeds of concepts crucial to Nietzsche’s later philosophy, such as the will to power and the need to transcend conventional Christian morality. The result is one of the cornerstones of his life’s work.

The following passages are excerpts from the chapter ‘Man Alone with Himself’:



Traffic with one’s higher self. – Everyone has his good days when he dis-
covers his higher self; and true humanity demands that everyone be
evaluated only in the light of this condition and not in that of his
working-day unfreedom and servitude. A painter, for example, should
be appraised and revered in the light of the highest vision he is capable of
seeing and reproducing. But men themselves traffic in very various ways
with this higher self of theirs and are often actors of themselves, inas-
much as they afterwards continually imitate that which they are in those
moments. Many live in awe of and abasement before their ideal and
would like to deny it: they are afraid of their higher self because when it
speaks it speaks imperiously. It possesses, moreover, a spectral freedom
to come or to stay away as it wishes; on this account it is often called a gift
of the gods, whereas in reality it is everything else that is a gift of the gods
(of chance): this however is man himself.


Solitary men. – Some men are so accustomed to being alone with them-
selves that they do not compare themselves with others at all but spin out
their life of monologue in a calm and cheerful mood, conversing and
indeed laughing with themselves alone. If they are nonetheless con-
strained to compare themselves with others they are inclined to a brood-
ing underestimation of themselves: so that they have to be compelled to
acquire again a good and just opinion of themselves from others: and even
from this acquired opinion they will tend continually to detract and trade
away something. – We must therefore allow certain men their solitude
and not be so stupid, as we so often are, as to pity them for it.


Without melody. – There are people who repose so steadily within them-
selves and whose capacities are balanced with one another so harmon-
iously that any activity directed towards a goal is repugnant to them.
They are like music that consists of nothing but long drawn out harmoni-
ous chords, without even the beginning of a moving, articulated melody
making an appearance. Any movement from without serves only to
settle the barque into a new equilibrium on the lake of harmonious eu-
phony. Modern men usually grow extremely impatient when confronted
by such natures, which become nothing without our being able to say that
they are nothing. But in certain moods the sight of them prompts the un-
usual question: why melody at all? Why does the quiet reflection of life in
a deep lake not suffice us? – The Middle Ages were richer in such natures
than our age is. How seldom do we now encounter one able to live thus
happily and peaceably with himself even in the turmoil of life, saying to
himself with Goethe: ‘the best is the profound stillness towards the world
in which I live and grow, and win for myself what they cannot take from
me with fire and sword’.


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