Lady Jane's Reviews > Human, All Too Human

Human, All Too Human by Friedrich Nietzsche
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Oct 01, 2011

it was amazing
Read from October 01 to 14, 2011

Allegedly, Nietzsche wrote this piece after he broke his friendship with Wagner, the musician Nietzsche formerly idolized; soon after he began to break away from his fondness for the romanticism of music and art. This shift in attitude is strongly conveyed in this amazing work, Human, All Too Human. As Marion Faber writes in the introduction, "Judging from its sour title, it would certainly be a book which differed from its visionary and utopian predecessors. 'Human, all too human' is kind of a sigh in the face of the intractability of the human material to the projects of human sublimity." Indeed, it is neither a critical judgment of nature nor a defense; it is simply a forthright and unaffected analysis of the human condition and through the ages and stages under various passions and conditions.

“Human, All Too Human” is a collection of 638 aphorisms divided into nine categories in which Nietzsche reveals his observations of human nature and exposes common misunderstandings humans have regarding philosophy, religion, art, morality, society, relationships, men and women.

The book is divided into nine sections: 1) "Of First and Last Things," which deals primarily with ontology, epistemology, and miscellaneous metaphysical concepts. 2) "On the History of Moral Feelings," in which the author analyses the emotions and conditions that lead to the inventions and vacillations of morals and man-made rules in the social contract. 3) "Religious Life," in which he describes the different mental states and emotions revolving the human predisposition to inventing deities. 4) "From the Soul of Artists and Writers," in which he cynically critiques the so-called primitive euphoric states that artists and lovers of the arts undergo in this realm. 5) "Signs of Higher and Lower Culture," in which he defines and speculates on the two. 6) "Man In Society," in which he conducts further speculation of man in the social contract. 7) "Woman and Child," which is a collection of aphorisms that relate to the subject of relationships, marriage, and progeny. 8) "A Look At The State," in which Nietzsche describes his views on politics and power. Last but not least, 9) "Man Alone With Himself," in which he meditates and exposes man’s nature as an individual.

One of my favorite parts of the book is found in the first section and it is passage number two. In this passage, Nietzsche states that the congenital defect of the philosopher is a lack of historical sense. Nietzsche states that “Everything the philosopher asserts is basically no more than a statement about man within a very limited time span…. They will not understand that man has evolved, that the faculty of knowledge has also evolved, while some of them even permit themselves to spin the whole world from out of this faculty of knowledge…. The philosopher sees ‘insticts’ in present-day man, and assumes that they belong to the unchangeable facts of human nature, that they can, to that extent, provide a key to the understanding of the world in general. This entire teleology is predicated on the ability to speak about man of the last four thousand years as if he were eternal, the natural direction of all things in the world from the beginning. But everything has evolved; there are no eternal facts, nor are there any absolute truths. Thus historical philosophizing is necessary henceforth, and the virtue of modesty as well.” This is very significant not only to the entire branch of metaphysics, but also as an introduction to the book because Nietzsche admits that in the human condition that he has in common with the rest of us, even the most seemingly insightful speculations are based only on what we can see of the iceberg—namely, only about as far back as four thousand years from which we have found some evidence. The rest of our history is merely suspicion and nobody can possibly ascertain what the behaviors and thoughts were back then. Worse even, that most people do not even study the history that is available to us, and judge everything based on the even shorter time span that they know--- which can be a couple of centuries, or not even that; the simple-minded unread judge only by their own time period. In conclusion to this realization, one must accept that there are no absolute truths, for the “truths” do not last more than a few centuries, at most. They always change along with human whim and evolution of the mind and taste.

One of my favorite sections is the last one, "Man Alone With Himself," because Nietzsche provides insightful musings on the natural state of the individual and his motives, psychology, etc. Some of my favorite passages are as follows:


"Enemies of truth: Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies."


"Topsy turvy world: We criticize a thinker more sharply when he proposes a tenet that disagreeable to us; and yet it would be more reasonable to do this when we find his tenet agreeable."


"Not too deep: People who comprehend a matter in all its depth seldom remain true to it forever. For they have brought its depths to the light; and then there is always much to see about it that is bad."


"Idealists' delusion: All idealists imagine that the causes they serve are significantly better than the other causes in the world; they do not want to believe that if their cause is to flourish at all, it needs exactly the same foul-smelling manure that all other human undertakings require."


"The right profession: Men seldom endure a profession if they do not believe or persuade themselves that it is basically more important than all others. Women do the same with their lovers."


"Everyone superior in one thing: In civilized circumstances, everyone feels superior to everyone else in at least one way; this is the basis of the general goodwill, inasmuch as everyone is someone who, under certain conditions, can be of help, and need therefore feel no shame in allowing himself to be helped."


"Value of a profession: A profession makes us thoughtless: therein lies its greatest blessing. For it is a bulwark, behind which we are allowed to withdraw when qualms and worries of a general kind attack us."


"The age of arrogance: The true period of arrogance for talented men comes between their twenty-sixth and thirtieth year; it is the time of first ripeness, with a good bit of sourness still remaining. On the basis of what one feels inside himself, one demands from other people, who see little or nothing of it, respect and humility; and because these are not at first forthcoming, one takes vengeance with a glance, an arrogant gesture, or a tone of voice. This a fine ear and eye will recognize in all the products of those years, be their poems, philosophies, or paintings and music. Older, experienced men smile about it, and remember with emotion beautiful time of life, in which one is angry at his lot of having to be so much and seem so little. Later, one really seems to be more-- but the faith in being much has been lost, unless one remain throughout his life vanity's hopeless fool."

I enjoyed aphorisms from many other sections as well.

From 18

"The first stage of logic is judgment, whose essence consists, as the best logicians have determined, in belief. All belief is based on the feeling of pleasure or pain in relation to the feeling subject. A new, third feeling as the result of two preceding feelings is judgment in its lowest form."

From 70

"How is it that every execution offends us more than a murder? Is it the coldness of the judges, the painful preparations, the understanding that a man is here being used as a means to deter others. For guilt is not being punished, even if there were guilt; guilt lies in the educators, the parents, the environment, in us, not in the murderer-- I am talking about the motivating circumstances.


"Luke 18:14, improved: He who humbleth himself wants to be exalted."


"'Man always acts for the good:' We don't accuse nature of immorality when it sends us a thunderstorm, and makes us wet: why do we call the injurious man immoral? Because in the first case, we assume necessity, and in the second a voluntarily governing free will. But this distinction is in error. Furthermore, even intentional injury is not called immoral in all circumstances: without hesitating, we intentionally kill a gnat, for example, simply because we do not like its buzz; we intentionally punish the criminal and do him harm, to protect ourselves and society. In the first case it is the individual who does harm intentionally, for self-preservation or simply to avoid discomfort; in the second case, the state does the harm. All morality allows the intentional infliction of harm for self defense; that is, when it is a matter of self-preservation! But these two points of view are sufficient to explain all evil acts which men practice against other men; man wants to get pleasure or resist unpleasure; in some sense it is always a matter of self-preservation. Socrates and Plato are right: whatever man does, he always acts for the good; that is, in a way that seems to him good (useful) according to the degree of his intellect, the prevailing measure of his rationality."

There are so many more passages that I underlined and that I deemed worth sharing. However, if I were to share all of my favorite passages, I might as well copy the entire book!

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message 1: by Darius (new)

Darius Liddell great review. you picked some good choices to showcase. which translation did you read? I'm deciding between Faber/Leiter and Hollingdale/Schacht. It might not matter much, but I really want to get the best translation. BG&E and GS are the only one's I've read so far, but I've perused HATH and Daybreak a lot online

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