Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The irreverent idea that the great sages are types of decline first occurred to me precisely in a case where it is most strongly opposed by both scholarly and unscholarly prejudice: I realized that Socrates and Plato were symptoms of degeneration, tools of the Greek dissolution, pseudo-Greek, anti-Greek (Birth of Tragedy, 1872). The consensus of the sages — I recognized this ever more clearly — proves least of all that they were right in what they agreed on: it shows rather that they themselves, these wisest men, shared some physiological attribute, and because of this adopted the same negative attitude to life — had to adopt it. Judgments, judgments of value about life, for it or against it, can in the end never be true: they have value only as symptoms, they are worthy of consideration only as symptoms; in themselves such judgments are meaningless. One must stretch out one's hands and attempt to grasp this amazing subtlety, that the value of life cannot be estimated. Not by the living, for they are an interested party, even a bone of contention, and not impartial judges; not by the dead, for a different reason. For a philosopher to object to putting a value on life is an objection others make against him, a question mark concerning his wisdom, an un-wisdom. Indeed? All these great wise men — they were not only decadents but not wise at all. But let us return to the problem of Socrates.