Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nietzsche on Unconscious Influences of Philosophy

After such self-questioning, self-temptation, one acquires a subtler eye for all philosophizing to date; one is better than before at guessing the involuntary detours, alleyways, resting places, and sunning places of thought to which suffering thinkers are led and misled on account of their suffering; one now knows where the sick body and its needs unconsciously urge, push, and lure the mind – towards sun, stillness, mildness, patience, medicine, balm in some sense. Every philosophy that ranks peace above war, every ethic with a negative definition of happiness, every metaphysics and physics that knows some finale, a final state of some sort, every predominantly aesthetic or religious craving for some Apart, Beyond, Outside, Above, permits the question whether it was not illness that inspired the philosopher. The unconscious disguise of physiological needs under the cloaks of the objective, ideal, purely spiritual goes frighteningly far – and I have asked myself often enough whether, on a grand scale, philosophy has been no more than an interpretation of the body and a misunderstanding of the body. Behind the highest value judgments that have hitherto guided the history of thought are concealed misunderstandings of the physical constitution – of individuals or classes or even whole races. All those bold lunacies of metaphysics, especially answers to the question about the value of existence, may always be considered first of all as symptoms of certain bodies [....] I am still waiting for a philosophical physician in the exceptional sense of the term – someone who has set himself the task of pursuing the problem of the total health of a people, time, race or of humanity – to summon the courage at last to push my suspicion to its limit and risk the proposition: what was at stake in all philosophizing hitherto was not at all 'truth' but rather something else – let us say health, future, growth, power, life... [...]

A philosopher who has passed through many kinds of health, and keeps passing through them again and again, has passed through an equal number of philosophies; he simply cannot but translate his state every time into the most spiritual form and distance – this art of transfiguration just is philosophy. We philosophers are not free to separate soul from body as the common people do; we are even less free to separate soul from spirit. We are not thinking frogs, no objectifying and registering devices with frozen innards – we must constantly give birth to our thoughts out of our pain and maternally endow them with all that we have of blood, heart, fire, pleasure, passion, agony, conscience, fate, and disaster. Life – to us, that means constantly transforming all that we are into light and flame, and also all that wounds us; we simply can do no other.


Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, ed. by Bernard Williams, trans. by Josefine Nauckhoff (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 5–6.

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