Tag Archives: Vastness

An Exercise in Delusion

Nietzsche says that thinkers who think they are in a position to reveal truth about human being are destined to fail and have always failed. Any philosopher’s perspective is so impossibly small in the great picture of human development:

 “They (philosophers) will not learn that man has become, that the faculty of cognition has become; while some of them would have it that the whole world is spun out of this faculty of cognition. Now, everything essential in the development of mankind took place in primeval times, long before the 4,000 years we more or less know about; during these years mankind may well not have altered very much. But the philosopher here sees ‘instincts’ in man as he now is and assumes that these belong to the unalterable facts of mankind, and to that extent could provide a key to the understanding of the world in general: the whole of teleology is constructed by speaking of the man of the last four millennia as of an eternal man towards whom all things in the world have had a natural relationship from the time he began. But everything has become: there are no eternal facts, just as there are no absolute truths. “

(HA 2)

A philosopher’s perspective is typically not seen as an obstacle to be overcome, his eye is fixed on a goal – to understand the world.   In this he is blind before he opens his eyes. He stumbles more emphatically than those who have never known the light.

 “To solve everything at a stroke, with a single word- that was the secret desire. (…) ‘There is a riddle to be solved’: thus did the goal of life appear to the eye of the philosopher; the first thing to do was to find the riddle and to compress the problem of the world into the simplest riddle-form. The boundless ambition and exultation of being the ‘unriddler of the world’ constituted the thinker’s dreams: nothing seemed worthwhile if it was to the means of bringing everything to a conclusion for him!” (D 547)

Nietzsche is pointed in a direction that few philosophers have dared to go. Instead of seeing man as the focus, the center, the brain of the universe, he is imagining the most real possibility that man is but a dot – an unknowing dot – in the vast (O so vast!) cosmos. Not only does he intellectualize this possibility, but he feels it, he breathes it, his heart beats it. Maybe, even likely, the history of Western thinking has been a great exercise in delusion, in sealing humanity in a warm air-tight balloon that protects us from the raw, brute, simple fact of our being. To imagine what he is saying about traditional philosophy (and religion) is perhaps the most difficult thing to grasp with Nietzsche. But we must grasp it first – now – in order to see what his vision is all about. Continue reading An Exercise in Delusion