Title page of first edition.
|Original title||Ein Buch für freie Geister|
|Preceded by||Untimely Meditations (1873–1876)|
|Followed by||The Dawn (1881)|
|Text||Human, All Too Human at Wikisource|
Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits (German: Menschliches, Allzumenschliches: Ein Buch für freie Geister) is a book by 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1878. A second part, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), was published in 1879, and a third part, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten), followed in 1880.
The book is Nietzsche's first in the aphoristic style that would come to dominate his writings, discussing a variety of concepts in short paragraphs or sayings. Reflecting an admiration of Voltaire as a free thinker, but also a break in his friendship with composer Richard Wagner two years earlier, Nietzsche dedicated the original 1878 edition of Human, All Too Human "to the memory of Voltaire on the celebration of the anniversary of his death, May 30, 1778." Instead of a preface, the first part originally included a quotation from Descartes's Discourse on the Method. Nietzsche later republished all three parts as a two-volume edition in 1886, adding a preface to each volume, and removing the Descartes quote as well as the dedication to Voltaire.
In 1876 Nietzsche broke with Wagner, and in the same year his increasingly bad health (possibly the early effects of a brain tumor) compelled him to request a leave of absence from his academic duties at the University of Basel. In the autumn of 1876 he joined his friend Paul Rée in Sorrento, at the home of a wealthy patron of the arts, Malwida von Meysenbug, and began work on Human, All Too Human.
Unlike his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, which was written in essay style, Human, All Too Human is a collection of aphorisms, a style which he would use in many of his subsequent works. The aphorisms of Human, All Too Human range from a few words to a few pages, but most are short paragraphs. The first installment's 638 aphorisms are divided into nine sections by subject, and a short poem as an epilogue. The phrase itself appears in Aphorism 35 (originally conceived as the first aphorism) "when Nietzsche observes that maxims about human nature can help in overcoming life's hard moments." Implicit also, is a drive to overcome what is human, all too human through understanding it, through philosophy.:xix The second and third installments are an additional 408 and 350 aphorisms respectively.
The genre of the aphorism was already well established at this time - in the German tradition Nietzsche's most important predecessor was a figure of the Enlightenment, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, whose writing Nietzsche greatly admired. Nietzsche's work is indebted also to Schopenhauer's, particularly his Aphorisms for Practical Wisdom, 1851. Above all is the "debt to the French tradition of the aphorism - for Nietzsche's work is a deliberate turn westward." Nietzsche cites the French aphorists Jean de La Bruyère and Prosper Mérimée, and in Aphorism 221 celebrates Voltaire. At the beginning of the second section Nietzsche mentions La Rochefoucauld - named here as a model, the epitome of the aphorist - and it is known that Nietzsche had a copy of La Rochefoucauld's Sentences et maximes (1665) in his library. He had been reading it shortly before beginning to write Human, All Too Human, - on the train ride to Sorrento in fact. More than that of the other French aphorists mentioned, it is La Rochefoucauld's work that lies behind that of Nietzsche. Nietzsche's work, however, "is unique; he covers a range of issues far greater than the social and psychological area of interest to La Rochefoucauld. To the cynicism typical of the genre, Nietzsche brings a new dimension by his combination of nihilistic energy with historical consciousness. Finally, he expands the genre to include not merely insights, but argument as well." The aphorism "allows for a loosely organised, shifting whole containing specific ideas but no iron-clad explanation for everything, - [it] constitutes the style that best represents his philosophy."
This book represents the beginning of Nietzsche's "middle period", with a break from German Romanticism and from Wagner and with a definite positivist slant. Reluctant to construct a systematic philosophy, this book comprises more a collection of debunkings of unwarranted assumptions than an interpretation and "contains the seeds of concepts crucial to Nietzsche's later philosophy, such as the need to transcend conventional Christian morality"; he uses his perspectivism and the idea of the will to power as explanatory devices, though the latter remains less developed than in his later thought.
In this first section Nietzsche deals with metaphysics, specifically its origins as relating to dreams, the dissatisfaction with oneself, and language as well.
At the waterfall. When we see a waterfall, we think we see freedom of will and choice in the innumerable turnings, windings, breakings of the waves; but everything is necessary; each movement can be calculated mathematically. Thus it is with human actions; if one were omniscient, one would be able to calculate each individual action in advance, each step in the progress of knowledge, each error, each act of malice. To be sure the acting man is caught in his illusion of volition; if the wheel of the world were to stand still for a moment and an omniscient, calculating mind were there to take advantage of this interruption, he would be able to tell into the farthest future of each being and describe every rut that wheel will roll upon. The acting man's delusion about himself, his assumption that free will exists, is also part of the calculable mechanism.
Nietzsche uses this section to denounce the idea of divine inspiration in art, claiming that great art is the result of hard work, not a higher power or "genius". This can be interpreted as a veiled attack on his former friend Wagner (a strong believer in genius), though Nietzsche never mentions him by name, instead simply using the term "the artist".
Here Nietzsche criticizes Darwin, as he frequently does, as naive and derivative of Hobbes and early English economists and without an account of life from the "inside." Consider in this light Darwin's own introduction to the first edition of Origin; also Nietzsche's critique to the effect that Darwinism, as typically understood, is trading in a new version of the Providential:
Wherever progress is to ensue, deviating natures are of greatest importance. Every progress of the whole must be preceded by a partial weakening. The strongest natures retain the type, the weaker ones help to advance it. Something similar also happens in the individual. There is rarely a degeneration, a truncation, or even a vice or any physical or "moral" loss without an advantage somewhere else. In a warlike and restless clan, for example, the sicklier man may have occasion to be alone, and may therefore become quieter and wiser; the one-eyed man will have one eye the stronger; the blind man may see deeper inwardly, and certainly hear better. To this extent, the famous theory of the survival of the fittest does not seem to be the only viewpoint from which to explain the progress of strengthening of a man or of a race.
(See Twilight of the Idols for more of Nietzsche's critique of Darwin.)
Nietzsche writes of the "free spirit" or "free thinker" (Freigeist), and his role in society, a sort of proto-Übermensch, forming the basis of a concept he extensively explores in his later work Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A free spirit is one who goes against the herd, and "onwards along the path of wisdom" in order to better society. "Better," for Nietzsche, appears to mean ordered toward the production of rare genius and is hardly to be confused with what "a newspaper reader," as Nietzsche might put it, would expect. The essential thing to keep in mind in considering Zarathustra, in particular, is that Nietzsche presents Zarathustra as failing.
These two sections are made up of very short aphorisms on men's, women's and the child's nature or their "evolution," in Nietzsche's subtle, anti-Darwinian sense.
Like sections six and seven, Nietzsche's aphorisms here are mostly short, but also poetic and at times could be interpreted as semi-autobiographical, in anticipation of the next volumes: "He who has come only in part to a freedom of reason cannot feel on earth otherwise than as a wanderer."
Nietzsche also distinguishes the obscurantism of the metaphysicians and theologians from the more subtle obscurantism of Kant's critical philosophy and modern philosophical skepticism, claiming that obscurantism is that which obscures existence rather than obscures ideas alone: "The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence."
Within his lifetime, prior to his mental breakdown in 1889, few of Nietzsche's books sold particularly well, and Human, All Too Human was no exception. The first installment was originally printed in 1,000 copies in 1878, and sold only 120 of these, and still less than half of these by 1886 when it was resold as the complete two-volume set. Though his friendship with Richard Wagner was nearly over, Wagner actually received a signed copy, though he never read it, saying Nietzsche would thank him for this one day. It was first translated into English in 1908 by Alexander Harvey, a Belgian-born American journalist, and was published in Chicago by C.H. Kerr, a small but notable publishing house of socially progressive literature. Following this, a 1909 translation by writer Helen Zimmern as part of a complete edition of Nietzsche's books in English, but was never translated by Walter Kaufmann when he translated most of Nietzsche's works into English in the 1950s and '60s. Finally, in the 1980s the first part was translated by Marion Faber and completely translated by R.J. Hollingdale the same decade. Marion Faber was critical of Zimmern's "antiquated Victorian style" which made Nietzsche "sound in her translation like a fusty contemporary of Matthew Arnold." Faber further noted errors in Zimmern's work (for example in Aphorism 61 where Schaf (sheep) is translated by Zimmern as fool where the reference is to Sophocles' play Ajax in which the hero charges a herd of sheep) and bowdlerizations.
Most notoriously, Human, All Too Human was used by archivist Max Oehler, a strong supporter of Hitler, as supposed evidence of Nietzsche's support for nationalism and anti-Semitism, both of which he writes against. Oehler wrote an entire book, Friedrich Nietzsche und die Deutsche Zukunft, dealing with Nietzsche and his connection to nationalism (specifically National Socialism) and anti-Semitism, using quotes from Human, All Too Human, though out of context. Nietzsche would speak against anti-Semitism in other works including Thus Spoke Zarathustra and, most strongly, in The Antichrist: "An anti-Semite is certainly not any more decent because he lies as a matter of principle." In Zarathustra, Nietzsche set up Wagner as a straw man, lampooning his anti-Semitism in the process.
Oehler also had control of Nietzsche's archive during the Nazis' rule, which he shared with Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, a Hitler supporter herself, until her death, when he took it over. It wasn't until much of Walter Kaufmann's work in the 1950s through the 1970s that Nietzsche was able to shed this connection with nationalism and anti-Semitism.
In late April , Schmeitzner issues FN's new book, Menschlisches, Allzumenschliches; Ein Buch für freie Geister. Dem Andenken Voltaires geweiht zur Gedächtnisfeier seines Todestages, den 30. Mai 1778 [Human, All Too Human; a Book for Free Spirits. Dedicated to the memory of Voltaire on the commemoration of the day of his death, 30 May 1778]