40 Belief-Shaking Remarks From a Ruthless Nonconformist

nietzsche

If there’s one thing Friedrich Nietzsche did well, it’s obliterate feel-good beliefs people have about themselves. He has been criticized for being a misanthrope, a subvert, a cynic and a pessimist, but I think these assessments are off the mark. I believe he only wanted human beings to be more honest with themselves.

He did have a remarkable gift for aphorism — he once declared, “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” A hundred years after his death, Nietzsche retains his disturbing talent for turning a person’s worldview upside-down with one jarring remark.

Even today his words remain controversial. They hit nerves. Most of his views are completely at odds with the status quo.

Here are 40 unsympathetic statements from the man himself. Many you’ll agree with. Others you will resist, but these are the ones to pay the most attention to — your beliefs are being challenged. It’s either an opportunity to grow, or to insist that you already know better. If any of them hit a nerve in you, ask yourself why.

***

1. People who have given us their complete confidence believe that they have a right to ours. The inference is false, a gift confers no rights.

2. He that humbleth himself wishes to be exalted.

3. The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

4. There are no facts, only interpretations.

5. Morality is but the herd-instinct in the individual.

6. No one talks more passionately about his rights than he who in the depths of his soul doubts whether he has any.

7. Without music, life would be a mistake.

8. Anyone who has declared someone else to be an idiot, a bad apple, is annoyed when it turns out in the end that he isn’t.

9. In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad.

10. The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.

11. A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.

12. We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the way in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.

13. No victor believes in chance.

14. Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.

15. Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself.

16. It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.

17. The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.

18. The future influences the present just as much as the past.

19. The most common lie is that which one tells himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.

20. I counsel you, my friends: Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.

21. Rejoicing in our joy, not suffering over our suffering, is what makes someone a friend.

22. God is a thought who makes crooked all that is straight.

23. Success has always been a great liar.

24. Nothing on earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment.

25. What do you regard as most humane? To spare someone shame.

26. Whatever is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil.

27. When a hundred men stand together, each of them loses his mind and gets another one.

28. When one has a great deal to put into it a day has a hundred pockets.

29. Whoever despises himself nonetheless respects himself as one who despises.

30. All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.

31. What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.

32. Fear is the mother of morality.

33. A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.

34. Everyone who has ever built anywhere a new heaven first found the power thereto in his own hell.

35. There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.

36. The mother of excess is not joy but joylessness.

37. The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart — not something that comes upon the earth or after death.

38. What is the mark of liberation? No longer being ashamed in front of oneself.

39. Glance into the world just as though time were gone: and everything crooked will become straight to you.

40. We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.

***

More of Nietzsche’s genius here.

R



Farid August 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

“What is the mark of liberation? No longer being ashamed in front of oneself.”

Some words ring truer than others. This sentence is buzzing my ear off!!
Thanks David.

Max Ingram August 24, 2012 at 7:45 pm

#2 is actually from the new testament; LUKE 14:11: “every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted”

R September 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Actually, you may want to read #2 again. It addresses the motivation and intent behind one humbling oneself, not the supposed inevitable return illustrated in Luke (though the belief in this inevitable return likely contributes to the truth of #2)

It seems to me that what is being said with #2 is that when one humbles oneself (especially in the witness of others), when one swallows ones pride or accepts deprecation over a recognized fault or even just acts/speaks in the opposite direction of self-glorification, that it is actually out of a desire to indeed be glorified.

I think most people are aware that bragging and self-inflating is not always successful in inspiring others to agree. People are often turned off by self-glorification, especially when they feel it is unwarranted, but there is often a knee-jerk instinct to compliment and honor one who does not give oneself enough credit.

Thus, one who humbles oneself in public may in fact be motivated by the desire to be exalted by others. It is a statement that would be comparable to the parable in Luke 14, if the wedding guest entered the banquet room, looked at the clamor of guests to find honored seats, and said to themself “ah, if I – who knows I am not the least honored guest – heads for the least honorable spot, the host will surely be moved to upgrade me to a place more honored – and likely above what I deserve in rewardance of my humility.” Which, would then not be a true act of humility as it is seeking exaltation through the back door.

Sam September 5, 2012 at 11:31 pm

I like this post! Also 40 belief shaking remarks… (for the most part).

Reading the comments (and responses), I identify with the unpleasant irate people. I only speak when provoked to irateness: in general, when words like religion are used, I distance myself and stay quiet (so I don’t get irate).

The problem: taking issue with things: for example when one uses different definitions for some word, requiring that all previously validated logical statements involving that word become invalidated: it’s difficult to have discussions involving such words when the two parties understand them to be different things, and midway through the discussion when it turns out they’re not the same things (and it appears, at least, that the other party is conflating different definitions of the same word, perhaps). That is the time when the entire conversation has to be revisited by the person who recognizes that there is a difference in definition being used. (Perhaps the person, seeing how much reparsing and thought there is to do to reevaluate statements in an abnormal definitional context, chooses not to revisit the conversation…)

So the cynical proselytizing remarks you received about truth, knowledge, proof, and beliefs are such things; and the comments are expressing that the commenter believes their usage of these words is very different from your usage of these words. And perhaps they are, and if so then perhaps these are fundamental worldviews being encapsulated in these words, or perhaps they are miscommunications.

For example, respectively, truth, knowledge, proof, and belief make me think: “relative”, “collection of statements in contexts and their context”, “logical (eg, mathematical) derivations from (hopefully) trivial axioms”, and “validation of axioms, statements, or knowledge by an epistemology, or truth”.

Many times I have written irate comments too. But it takes quite a lot to express these things!

john September 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm

God is dead.

Jesse September 30, 2012 at 11:56 am

Not true at all, I only declare someone an idiot out of frustration, mostly based on their refusal or inability to be honest with themselves. Nothing makes me happier then to have this turned around and my judgment made in frustration proven to be wrong. His tone tells me Nietzche wishes he had been wrong about many of the points he made.

Religion is pointless, manipulation to control the weak. Give them the security they need to get out of bed by telling them they have purpose and meaning. It also has no impact on our daily lives. If there is a God, this life is pointless, our only purpose being abstinence from earthly pleasure in order to attain eternal happiness. If there is no God again, this life is pointless, albeit slightly more of a miracle, unless you realize time doesnt exist. Then life is inevitable. Why is so much more important then who though. I look at religion as a way to keep alive those who are needed to keep the world running and remain blissfully ignorant. Again I would love to be wrong, waking up in the morning and knowing everything will be ok because God loves you? Hell i’d pay for that lol.

autumn October 26, 2012 at 1:55 am

I can understand his perspective and why he holds these things to be true, but some of the quotations can be interpreted in more than one way.

“God is a thought who makes crooked all that is straight.”

I t feels like he means it in a negative way when he calls God a ‘thought’ and his use of the contrast between straight and crooked always on the surface looks like a bad thing. But to really make something ‘straight’, you have to have the patience to understand the complexity, or “crookedness” that lies behind the much more simple veneer. In referring to God as someone/something that creates complexity where it doesn’t have to exist, provides some insight into how a person perceives God.

It is true that God is complex, and the concepts of faith and belief in God are complex. Believing in God changes a person’s world because it changes the way a person thinks, sees, and perceives things. When someone develops a belief in God that person begins to see the world from a totally new vantage point. Every circumstance is now complex, there are so many factors one begins to take into account. What originally seemed cut and dry now is anything but that.

A lot of people get frustrated by it because they have to admit to themselves that they didn’t know as much as they believed they did. It pricks the ego, which is the catalyst for defiance when faced with choosing to accept the fact that human control is limited. It was always limited, but not having to see or acknowledge that truth is a great defense mechanism to keep you from having to feel afraid of such truth.

Without even being cognizant that one has been offended by the idea, that’s usually what occurs. And then if pride is too great one forfeits God and those complexities for the much simpler and straight forward way of life. That way of life, though, is a facade; its all surface. There is so much that exists beneath the surface of ordinary life, but one has to be willing to access it. It’s complex, but it is the most beautiful and wondrous thing.

Trae November 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I’m curious, if one believes there to be no truth, what are you expecting to find? Why do you find purpose in searching if you cannot reach an end?

Ryan November 26, 2012 at 1:34 pm

It is funny to think how reading something like this, or any other philisophical work, and it can seem life changing and seem like the real and absolute truth and the real way and order of the world, but in the end, its just someone’s opinion

Bengt Dirks December 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Very interesting points, though I don’t understand them all yet. My mind is still too young.

Ty March 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Nietzsche isn’t perfect, but has very strong and relevant points to bring up.

Here I use the word strong because. Its strong in a different way, in a challenging and unique way. Its hard to outright deny since it inherently shows denial is not the way for truth. It forces you to play a better hand than you would have without it. So perhaps its not strong, perhaps its wise.

rob z March 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

cant believe everything he says. the man isnt perfect either

Yall actually believe this? April 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm

There are no facts, only interpretations.

Oh tell me then? Is that a statement of fact Friedrich?

Adam - Tropical Nomad June 23, 2013 at 3:24 am

#40 – Everybody should jump out of bed and into a Party Rock Shuffle :)

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Philip Wardlow July 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Living life like its supposed to be lived is a feeling that feels just right with no pretense of ego or fear behind it.

CLOT GOD August 7, 2013 at 6:01 am

Beliefs are nothing more than opinions.
And opinions are like assholes everyone’s got one, and everyone’s stinks.

Eve August 26, 2013 at 2:10 am

What if none of them hit a nerve? Each remark rang true in my mind. Not sure what it signifies, if it means anything at all.

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John October 29, 2013 at 4:23 am

nothing profound or insightful here just the ramblings of a man of average intellect trying to be witty

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