Having read some Kant and written about his philosophy in previous posts, I have now The Gay Science from Friedrich Nietzsche on my bedside table. In his book Nietzsche opposes the norm, calls people to question current believes and to transcend mentally and intellectually. At the same time Nietzsche seems to ask us not to take anything too seriously so that we could stay playful, keep asking questions and look for answers instead of repeating predetermined dogma and falsified theories.
What strikes the eye of the modern reader is Nietzsche’s open critique of nationalities and religions, including Judaism and Islam, in a way that might be interpreted as nearing right-wing extremism. Granted, Nietzsche was of the era when nationalism was kept in high regard and the later oppression of Jews was forming. However, I think that Nietzsche can also be read as criticizing topics on a broad spectrum in general and using concrete examples merely as illustrations without providing any real opinions. This interpretation, on my opinion, provides a broader view, allowing us to question not only the things Nietzsche explicitly mentions, but also use his examples as analogies to take our thinking further. This interpretation is supported by the fact that in one paragraph Nietzsche might attack a religion just to defend it, or at least make us think again, in the next one. E.g. see paragraphs 131 and 132 on Christianity.
Nietzsche’s thoughts in the book are in the form of numbered aphorisms or short arguments to make a single point. Here I have collected some of the snappier and less subtle ones but I highly encourage you to read the book and think about his deeper messages. I am reading the Finnish translation from 1989 so the English translations below are my own. The italics are based on the Finnish translation.
163 After a great victory. – The best thing about a great victory is that it frees the victor from the fear of loss. “Why might I not lose for once?” – he says to himself: “I am now rich enough to bear it.”
191 Reproach against defense. – The most treacherous way to harm something is to defend it intentionally with false arguments.
195 Ridiculous. – Look! Look! He is running away from people: but they are following him because he is running in front of them, – to that extent they are a herd!
220 Sacrifice. – The animal being sacrificed has a different opinion on its fate than the spectators: but the animal never gets to speak.
222 Poets and liars. – A poet sees a liar as his brother whose share of breast milk he has drunk; therefore has one remained meager without even being able to acquire a good conscience.
230 Lack of silence. – His whole appearance is unconvincing, – this is because never has he left unmentioned a single good deed he has done.