Friedrich Nietzsche, "We Scholars" from Beyond Good and Evil (1886)

These excerpts are mounted as part of the History of English Studies Page (Rita Raley)


At the risk that moralizing will here, too, turn out to be what it has always been -- namely, according to Balzac, an intrepid montrer ses plaies -- I venture to speak out against an unseemly and harmful shift in the respective ranks of science [scholarship] and philosophy, which is now threatening to become established, quite unnoticed and as if it were accompanied by a perfectly good conscience. I am of the opinion that only experience -- experience always seems to mean bad experience? -- can entitle us to participate in the discussion of such higher questions of rank, lest we talk like blind men of colors -- against science the way women and artists do ("Oh, this dreadful science!" sigh their instinct and embarrassment; "it always gets to the bottom of things!").

The scholar's declaration of independence, his emancipation from philosophy, is one of the more refined effects of the democratic order and disorder: the self-glorification and self-exaltation of scholars now stand in full bloom, in their finest spring , everywhere--which is not meant to imply that in this case self-praise smells pleasant. "Freedom from all masters!" that is what the instinct of the rabble wants in this case, too; and after science has most happily rid itself of theology whose "handmaid" it was too long, it now aims with an excess of high spirits and a lack of understanding to lay down laws for philosophy and to play the "master" herself-what am I saying? the philosopher.

My memory-the memory of a scientific man, if you'll forgive me--is bulging with naivetes of overbearing that I have heard aobut philosophy and philosophers from the lips of young natural scientists and old physicians (not to speak of the most learned and conceited of all scholars, the philolgists and schoolmen, who are both by profession). Sometimes it was the specialist and nook dweller who instinctively resisited any kind of synthetic enterprise and talent; sometimes the industrious worker who had got a whiff of otium and the noble riches in the psychic economy of the philosopher which ha dmade him feel defensive and small. Sometimes it was that color blindness of the utility man who sees nothing in philosophy but a series of refuted systems and a prodigal effort that "does nobody any good." Sometimes the fear of masked mysticism and a correction of the limits of knowledge leaped forward; sometimes lack of respect for individual philosophers that had involuntarily generalized itself into lack of respect for philosophy.

Most frequently, finally, I found among young scholars that what lay behind the arrogant contempt for philosophy was the bad aftereffect of -- a philosopher to whom they now denied allegiance on the whole without, however, having broken the spell of his cutting evaluation of other philosophers -- with teh result of an over-all irritation with all philosophy. (Schopenhauer's aftereffect on our most modern Germany, for example, seems to me to be of this kind: with his unintelligent wrath against HEgel he has succeeded in wrenching the whole last generation of Germans out of the context of German culture -- a culture that was, considering everything, an elevation and divinatory subtlety of the historical sense. But precisely at this point Schopenhauer was poor, unreceptive, and un-German to the point of genius.)

Altogether, taking a large view, it may have been above all what was human, all too human, in short, the wretchedness of the most recent philosophy itself that most thoroughly damaged respect for philosophy and opened the gates to the instinct of the rabble. Let us confess how utterly our modern world lacks the whole type of a Heraclitus, Plato, Empedoclkes, and whatever other names these royal and magnificent hermits of the spirit had; and how it is with considerable justification that, confronted with such representatives of philosophy as are today, thanks to fashion, as much on top as they are really at the bottom -- in Germany, for example, the two lions of Berlin, the anarchist Eugen Duhring and the amalgamist Eduard von Hartmann -- a solid man of sciece may feel that he us if a better type and descnet. It is especially the sight of those hodgepodge philosophers who call themselves "philosophers of reality" or "positivists" that is capable of injecting a dangerous mistrust into the soul of an ambitious young scholar: these are at best scholars and specialists themselves -- that is palpable -- they are all losers who have been brought back under the hegemony of science, after having desired more of themselves at some time without having had the right to this "more" and its responsibilities -- and who now represent, in word and deed, honorably, resentfully, and vengefully, the uneblief in the masterly task and masterfulness of philosophy.

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