Why what is closest grows more and more distant. The more we think about all that has been and will be, the paler grows that which is. If we live with the dead and die with them in their death, what are our ‘neighbours’ to us then? We grow more solitary and we do so because the whole flood of humanity is surging around us. The fire within us, which is for all that is human, grows brighter and brighter and that is why we gaze upon that which immediately surrounds us as though it had grown more shadowy and we had grown more indifferent to it. But the coldness of our glance gives offence!
— Nietzsche, Daybreak
Of course, this shrinking from the brutal vivacity and brutal variety of common men is a perfectly reasonable and excusable thing as long as it does not pretend to any point of superiority. It is when it calls itself aristocracy or aestheticism or a superiority to the bourgeoisie that its inherent weakness has in justice to be pointed out. Fastidiousness is the most pardonable of vices; but it is the most unpardonable of virtues. Nietzsche, who represents most prominently this pretentious claim of the fastidious, has a description somewhere–a very powerful description in the purely literary sense–of the disgust and disdain which consume him at the sight of the common people with their common faces, their common voices, and their common minds. As I have said, this attitude is almost beautiful if we may regard it as pathetic. Nietzsche’s aristocracy has about it all the sacredness that belongs to the weak. When he makes us feel that he cannot endure the innumerable faces, the incessant voices, the overpowering omnipresence which belongs to the mob, he will have the sympathy of anybody who has ever been sick on a steamer or tired in a crowded omnibus. Every man has hated mankind when he was less than a man. Every man has had humanity in his eyes like a blinding fog, humanity in his nostrils like a suffocating smell. But when Nietzsche has the incredible lack of humour and lack of imagination to ask us to believe that his aristocracy is an aristocracy of strong muscles or an aristocracy of strong wills, it is necessary to point out the truth. It is an aristocracy of weak nerves.
— G. K. Chesterton, “On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family”
The spiritual haughtiness and nausea of every man who has suffered profoundly – it almost determines the order of rank how profoundly human beings can suffer – his shuddering certainty, which permeates and colors him through and through, that by virtue of his suffering, he knows more than the cleverest and wisest could possibly know, and that he knows his way and has at once been “at home” in many distant, terrifying worlds of which “you know nothing” – this spiritual and silent haughtiness of the sufferer, this pride of the elect knowledge, of the “initiated,” of the almost sacrificed, finds all kinds of disguises necessary to protect itself against contact with obtrusive and pitying hands and altogether against everything that is not equal in suffering. Profound suffering makes noble; it separates.
…In all kinds of injury and loss the lower and coarser soul is better off than the nobler one: the dangers for the latter must be greater; the probability that it will come to grief and perish is actually, in view of the multiplicity of the conditions of its life, tremendous. In a lizard a lost finger is replaced again; not so in man.
— Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
In his views on matters of fact Nietzsche, as becomes the naive egotist, was quite irresponsible. If he said the course of history repeated itself in cycles, it was because the idea pleased him; it seemed a symbol of self-approval on the world’s part. If he hailed the advent of a race of men superior to ourselves and of stronger fibre, it was because human life as it is, and especially his own life, repelled him. He was sensitive and, therefore, censorious. He gazed about him, he gazed at himself, he remembered the disappointing frailties and pomposity of the great man, Wagner, whom he had once idolised. His optimism for the moment yielded to his sincerity. He would sooner abolish than condone such a world, and he fled to some solitary hillside by the sea, saying to himself that man was a creature to be superseded.
— George Santayana, The German Mind: A Philosophical Diagnosis
For my part I suffer terribly when I lack sympathy; nothing can compensate me, for instance, for the fact that for the last few years I have lost Wagner’s friendly interest in my fate. How often do I not dream of him, and always in the spirit of our former intimate companionship! No words of anger have ever passed between us, not even in my dreams—on the contrary, only words of encouragement and good cheer, and with no one have I ever laughed so much as with him. All this is now a thing of the past—and what does it avail that in many respects I am right and he is wrong? As if our lost friendship could be forgotten on that account! And to think that I had already suffered similar experiences before, and am likely to suffer them again! They constitute the cruellest sacrifices that my path in life and thought has exacted from me—and even now the whole of my philosophy totters after one hour’s sympathetic intercourse even with total strangers! It seems to me so foolish to insist on being in the right at the expense of love, and not to be able to impart one’s best for fear of destroying sympathy. Hinc meae lacrimae.
— Nietzsche, Letter to Peter Gast, August, 1880
Nietzsche was personally more philosophical than his philosophy. His talk about power, harshness, and superb immorality was the hobby of a harmless young scholar and constitutional invalid. He did not crave in the least either wealth or empire. What he loved was solitude, nature, music, books. But his imagination, like his judgment, was captious; it could not dwell on reality, but reacted furiously against it. Accordingly, when he speaks of the will to be powerful, power is merely an eloquent word on his lips. It symbolises the escape from mediocrity. What power would be when attained and exercised remains entirely beyond his horizon. What meets us everywhere is the sense of impotence and a passionate rebellion against it.
The phrases in which Nietzsche condensed and felt his thought were brilliant, but they were seldom just. We may perhaps see the principle of his ethics better if we forget for a moment the will to be powerful and consider this: that he knew no sort of good except the beautiful, and no sort of beauty except romantic stress. He was a belated prophet of romanticism. He wrote its epitaph, in which he praised it more extravagantly than anybody, when it was alive, had had the courage to do.
— George Santayana, The German Mind: A Philosophical Diagnosis
To explore the whole sphere of the modern soul, to have sat in its every nook — my ambition, my torture, and my happiness.
— Nietzsche, The Will to Power