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Nietzsche's Theory of Education

Analyst: Richard D. Stoy


edited 8/18/11

I. Theory of Value

Your true educators and molders disclose the true original meaning and the basic material of your being, which is something quite incapable of being educated or molded, and to which access is in any case difficult since it is fettered and chained as it is. Your educators can be nothing more than your liberators. And that is the secret of all education: it does not provide artificial limbs, false noses or eye-glasses - on the contrary what could provide these is merely pseudo-education. Education is rather liberation, a rooting out of all weeds, rubbish and vermin from around the buds of the plants, a radiation of light and warmth, a loving, whispering fall of night rain; ... . (S5-6)

One maxim demands that the educator recognize the real strengths of his pupils at the outset and then direct all his skill, all the nourishment and sunshine, to the goal of helping that one excellence to attain real maturity and fruitfulness. On the other hand, the other maxim says that the educator should cultivate all existing abilities, tend them and establish a harmonious relationship between them. (S7-8)

Corruption. 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. (P91)

From a doctoral examination.
"What is the task of all higher education?" To turn men into machines.
"What are the means?" Man must learn to be bored.
"How is that accomplished?" By means of the concept of duty.
"Who serves as the model?" The philologist: he teaches grinding.
"Who is the perfect man?" The civil servant.
"Which philosophy offers the highest formula for the civil servant?" Kant's: the civil servant as a thing-in-itself raised up to be judge over the civil servant as phenomenon. (P532)

II. Theory of Knowledge

Against that positivism which stops before phenomena, saying "there are only facts," I should say: no, it is precisely facts that do not exist, only interpretations.... (P458)

The error of false causality. People have believed at all times that they knew what a cause is; but whence did we take our knowledge-or more precisely, our faith that we had such knowledge? From the realm of the famous "inner facts", of which not a single one has so far proved to be factual. ... (P494)

"All truth is simple." Is that not doubly a lie? (P467)

Enemies of truth. Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. (P63)

I mistrust all systematizers and I avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity. (P470)

I want, once and for all, not to know many things. Wisdom sets limits to knowledge too.

One day, when in the opinion of the world one has long been educated, one discovers oneself: that is where the task of the thinker begins; now the time has come to invoke his aid-not as an educator but as one who has educated himself and thus has experience. (P70)

... I am now concerned with something very comprehensible, namely, explaining how all of us, through Schopenhauer, can educate ourselves against our times-because we have the advantage of really knowing these times through him. (S34)

III. Theory of Human Nature

There are a thousand paths that have never been trodden - a thousand healths and hidden isles of life. Even now man and man's earth are unexhausted and undiscovered. (P189)

The better the state is established, the fainter is humanity. (P50)

Out of life's school of war. What does not destroy me, makes me stronger. (P467

... But he may console himself with these words, which Schopenhauer, his great educator once used: "A happy life is impossible: the highest obtainable by man is a heroic life." (S45)

And to say it one more. Public opinions-private lazinesses. (P63)

Help yourself, then everyone will help you. ... (P467)

Marriage as a long conversation. When marrying, one should ask oneself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this woman into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory, but most of the time during the association belongs to conversation. (P59)

Why beggars still live. If all alms were given only from pity, all beggars would have starved long ago. ... The greatest giver of alms is cowardice. (P70)

IV. Theory of Learning

... The three tasks for which educators are required: one must learn to see, one must learn to think, one must learn to speak and write: the goal in all three is a noble culture. (P51 1)

Learning to think: in our schools one no longer has any idea of this.

Even in the universities, even among the real scholars of philosophy, logic as a theory, as a practice, as a craft, is beginning to die out. One need only read German books: there is no longer the remotest recollection that thinking requires a technique, a teaching curriculum, a will to mastery.... (P512)

That educating philosopher of whom I dreamed would certainly not only discover the central strength, but would also prevent it from disrupting the other forces. The task of education for him, it seemed to me, would be to transform the whole man into a living, animated system of suns and planets and to discover the laws of this higher mechanism. (S8-9)

... Where among our contemporaries are the ethical models and distinguished people who might serve for us all, learned and unlearned, aristocratic and plebian alike, as the epitome of creative morality in our time? (SIO-11)

One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil. (P190)

To educate educators! But the first ones must educate themselves! And for these I write. (P50)

The dying Socrates. I admire the courage and wisdom of Socrates in everything he did, said-and did not say. This mocking and enamored monster and pied piper of Athens, who made the most arrogant youths tremble and sob, was not only the wisest talker whoever lived: he was just as great in his silence (P 10)

V. Theory of Transmission

What inadequate people are employed and approved of under the name of private tutor, even by our most cultured and educated people. How many Gymnasiums there are which are a hodgepodge of warped people and antiquated institutions and are nonetheless thought to be quite adequate! How inadequate to the task of making a human being are the highest institutes of learning, the universities, the leaders and the institutions with which we are content! (S9.10)

"Reason in the schools." The schools have no more important task than to teach rigorous thinking, cautious judgment, and consistent inference; therefore they should leave alone what is not suitable for these operations: religion, for example. After all, they can be sure that later on man's fogginess, habit, and need will slacken the bow of all-too-taut thinking. But as far as the influence of the schools reaches, they should enforce what is essential and distinctive in man: "reason and science, man's very highest power" - so Goethe, at least, judges. (P57)

There are no educators. As a thinker, one should speak only of self-education. The education of youth by others is either an experiment, conducted on one as yet unknown and unknowable, or a leveling on principle, to make the new character, whatever it may be, conform to the habits and customs that prevail: in both cases, therefore, something unworthy of the thinker-the work of parents and teachers, whom an audaciously honest person has called nos ennemis naturels. (P70)

The teacher as a necessary evil . .... One should consider the teacher, no less than the shopkeeper, a necessary evil, an evil to be kept as small as possible. If the trouble in the German situation today has perhaps its main reason in the fact that too many people live by trade and want to live well . ...then one can certainly find a main reason for the spiritual troubles in the surplus of teachers: on their account, one learns so little and so badly. (P71)

VI. Theory of Society

Here we experience the consequence of a doctrine which has been preached from all of the housetops: that the State is the highest goal of humanity and that there are no higher duties for a man than to serve the State. I see in this a regression not to paganism but to stupidity. It may be that a man who sees his highest duty in the service of the State actually knows no higher duties; but there are beyond this, other men and other duties - and one of these duties, which for me, at any rate, is more important than service to the State, calls on one to destroy stupidity in every form, including this particular stupidity. (S36)

As little state as possible. (P82)

The State is never concerned with the truth, but only with the truth which is useful to it, or to be more precise, with anything which is useful to it whether it is truth, half-truth, or error. (S104)

... German Universities: what an atmosphere prevails among their scholars, what desolate spirituality-and how contented and lukewarm it has become! It would be a profound misunderstanding if one wanted to adduce German science against me-it would also be proof that one has not read a word that I have written. For seventeen years I have never tired of calling attention to the despiritualizing influence of our current science- industry. The hard serfdom to which the tremendous range of sciences condemns every scholar today is a main reason why those with a fuller, richer, profounder disposition no longer find a congenial education and congenial educators. (P507)

VII. Theory of Opportunity

The entire system of higher education in Germany has lost what matters most: the end as well as the means to the end. That education, that Bildting, is itself an end-and not "the Reich"-and that educators are needed to that end, and not secondary- school teachers and university scholars-that has been forgotten. Educators are needed who have themselves been educated, superior, noble spirits, proved at every moment, proved by words and silence, representing culture that has grown ripe and sweet-not the learned louts whom secondaryschools and universities today offer our youth as "higher wet nurses". Educators are lacking, not counting the most exceptional of exceptions, the very first condition of education: hence the decline of German culture.

What the "higher schools" in Germany really achieve is a brutal training, designed to prepare huge numbers of young men, with as little loss of time as possible, to become usable, abusable, in government service. "Higher Education" and huge numbers-that is a contradiction to start with. All higher education belongs only to the exception: one must be privileged to have a right to so high a privilege. All great, all beautiful things can never be common property: pulchrum est paucorum hominum. What conditions the decline of German culture? That "higher education" is no longer a privilege-the the democratism of Bildung, which has become "common"-too common. Let it not be forgotten that military privileges really compel an all-too-great attendance in the higher schools, and thus their downfall.

In present day Germany no one is any longer free to give his children a noble education: our "higher schools" are all set up for the most ambiguous mediocrity, with their teachers, curricula, and teaching aims. And everywhere an$ indecent haste prevails, as if something would be lost if the young man of twenty-three were not yet "finished", or if he did not yet know the answer to the "main question": which calling? . . . Our overcrowded secondary schools, our overworked, stupified second ary- school teachers, are a scandal: for one to defend such conditions, as the professors at Heidelberg did recently, there may be perhaps causesreasons there are none. (P509-511)

... If one wants an end, one must also want the means: if one wants slaves, then one is a fool if one educates them to be masters. (545)

VIII. Theory of Consensus

Rule? Press my type on others? Dreadful. Is not my happiness precisely the sight of many who are different? (P441)

What? You search? You would multiply yourself by ten, by a hundred? You seek followers? Seek zeros! (P468)

Not suitable as a party member. Whoever thinks much is not suitable as a party member: he soon thinks himself right through the party. (P63)

The most dangerous party member. In every party there is one member who, by his all-too-devout pronouncement of party principles, provokes the others to apostasy. (P58)

Being nationalistic in the sense in which it is now demanded by public opinion would, it seems to me, be for us who are more spiritual not mere insipidity but dishonesty, a deliberate deadening of our better will and conscience. (P442)

One must be skilled in living on mount ai ns - seei ing the wretched ephemeral babble of politics and national self-seeking beneath oneself. ... (P568)



(S) Schopenhauer as Educator, by Friedrich Nietzsche, (1874) Translated by J. W. Hillesheim and M. R. Simpson, Gateway Editions, Henry Regnery Company, Chicago (1965)

(P) The Portable NIETZSCHE, by Walter Kaufmann, (1954) The Viking Press, New York