In all seriousness, there is good reason to hope that all philosophical dogmatizing, however solemn, conclusive, or definite its manner, may have been nothing but the infantile high-mindedness of a beginner. And we may be very near to a time when people will be constantly recognizing anew what in fact it was that furnished the cornerstone for those lofty, unconditional philosopher’s edifices once built by the dogmatists: some folk superstition from time immemorial (such as the superstition about souls, which even today has not ceased to sow mischief as the superstition about subject and ego);* some play on words perhaps, some seductive aspect of grammar, or a daring generalization from very limited, very personal, very human, all-too-human facts.
It seems that in order to inscribe themselves into men’s hearts with eternal demands, all great things must first wander the earth as monstrous and fear-inducing caricatures: dogmatic philosophy has been such a caricature, the teachings of Vedanta in Asia, for example, or Platonism in Europe. Let us not be ungrateful towards them, even though we must certainly also admit that of all errors thus far, the most grievous, protracted, and dangerous has been a dogmatist’s error: Plato’s invention of pure spirit and of transcendental goodness.
In order to speak as he did about the spirit and the good, Plato had to set truth on its head and even deny perspectivity, that fundamental condition of all life
Having long kept a strict eye on the philosophers, and having looked between their lines, I say to myself: the largest part of conscious thinking has to be considered an instinctual activity, even in the case of philosophical thinking; we need a new understanding here, just as we’ve come to a new understanding of heredity and the ‘innate’. Just as the act of birth is scarcely relevant to the entire process and progress of heredity, so ‘consciousness’ is scarcely opposite to the instincts in any decisive sense-most of a philosopher’s conscious thinking is secretly guided and channelled into particular tracks by his instincts. Behind all logic, too, and its apparent tyranny of movement there are value judgements, or to speak more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a particular kind of life.
What provokes us to look at all philosophers with a mixture of distrust and contempt is not that we are always uncovering how guileless they are-how often and easily they lose their grasp or their way, in short how childish and childlike they are. It is rather that they are not honest enough, however loud and virtuous a racket they all make as soon as the problem of truthfulness is touched upon, even from afar. For they act as if they had discovered and acquired what are actually their opinions through the independent unravelling of a cold, pure, divinely unhampered dialectic (whereas mystics of every order, who are more honest, and more foolish, speak of ‘inspiration’); basically, however, they are using reasons sought after the fact to defend a pre-existing tenet, a sudden idea, a ‘brainstorm’, or, in most cases, a rarefied and abstract version of their heart’s desire. They are all of them advocates who refuse the name, that is in most cases wily spokesmen for their prejudices, which they dub ‘truths’; and they are very far from having a conscience brave enough to own up to it, very far from having the good taste to announce it bravely, whether to warn a foe or a friend, or simply from high spirits and self-mockery.
Beyond Good and Evil, Preface and Chapter 1.