Human, All Too Human – Appreciation of Simple Truths
Human, All Too Human, by Friedrich Nietzsche
Appreciation of Simple Truths.
It is the characteristic of an advanced civilization to set a higher value upon little, simple truths, ascertained by scientific method, than upon the pleasing and magnificent errors originating in metaphysical and æsthetical epochs and peoples. To begin with, the former are spoken of with contempt as if there could be no question of comparison respecting them, so rigid, homely, prosaic and even discouraging is the aspect of the first, while so beautiful, decorative, intoxicating and perhaps beatific appear the last named. Nevertheless, the hardwon, the certain, the lasting and, therefore, the fertile in new knowledge, is the higher; to hold fast to it is manly and evinces courage, directness, endurance. And not only individual men but all mankind will by degrees be uplifted to this manliness when they are finally habituated to the proper appreciation of tenable, enduring knowledge and have lost all faith in inspiration and in the miraculous revelation of truth.
The reverers of forms, indeed, with their standards of beauty and taste, may have good reason to laugh when the appreciation of little truths and the scientific spirit begin to prevail, but that will be only because their eyes are not yet opened to the charm of the utmost simplicity of form or because men though reared in the rightly appreciative spirit, will still not be fully permeated by it, so that they continue unwittingly imitating ancient forms (and that ill enough, as anybody does who no longer feels any interest in a thing). Formerly the mind was not brought into play through the medium of exact thought. Its serious business lay in the working out of forms and symbols. That has now changed. Any seriousness in symbolism is at present the indication of a deficient education. As our very acts become more intellectual, our tendencies more rational, and our judgment, for example, as to what seems reasonable, is very different from what it was a hundred years ago: so the forms of our lives grow ever more intellectual and, to the old fashioned eye, perhaps, uglier, but only because it cannot see that the richness of inner, rational beauty always spreads and deepens, and that the inner, rational aspect of all things should now be of more consequence to us than the most beautiful externality and the most exquisite limning.