U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Two Quotes for Tuesday

On existential authenticity:

“It is commonly assumed that no art or skill is required in order to be subjective. To be sure, every human being is a bit of a subject, in a sense. But now to strive to become what one already is: who would take the pains to waste his time on such a task, involving the greatest imaginable degree of resignation? Quite so. But for this reason alone it is a very difficult task, the most difficult of all tasks in fact, precisely because every human being has a strong natural bent and passion to become something more and different. . . . Why can we not remember to be human beings?”

Soren Kierkegaard writing as Johannes Climacus in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to “Philosophical Fragments” in A Kierkegaard Anthology, Robert Bretall ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946), 208, 199.

“At this point the real answer to the question, how one becomes what one is, can no longer be avoided. And thus I touch on the masterpiece of the art of self-preservation–of selfishness. . . . I cannot remember that I ever tried hard–no trace of struggle can be demonstrated in my life; I am the opposite of a heroic nature. ‘Willing’ something, ‘striving’ for something, envisaging a ‘purpose,’ a ‘wish’–I know none of this from experience. At this very moment I still look upon my future–an ample future!–as upon calm seas: there is no ripple of desire. I do not want in the least that anything should become different than it is; I myself do not want to become different. . . . My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it–all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary–but love it. . . . in all seriousness: nobody before me knew the right way, the way up; it is only beginning with me that there are hopes again, tasks, ways that can be prescribed for culture–I am he that brings these glad tidings.–And thus I am also a destiny.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, trans. Walter Kaufmann (1908; New York: Vintage, 1967), 253, 255, 258, 315.