Nietzsche – The problem of Socrates


” To live means to be sick for a long time: I owe a bird to the saviour Asclepius.” Socrates.

No doubt I am a pessimist, but I’d never give up questioning! In all through my life, I was in the search of finding answers and with every step, I had to suffer more and my pain increased.

There I have understood that there is no knowledge without pain, but I am happy to suffer than be ignorant!


And I’m honoured to have such as great companions.


Now let’s read this wonderful post by SearchingTheMeaningOfLife about one of the greatest philosopher of all time by another greatest one. I try to translate from Greek. with thanks 🙏

The wisest people of all time have come to the same conclusion about life: it’s worth nothing … Everywhere and always one hears the same sound from their mouths – a sound full of doubt, of melancholy, of tiredness of life, of resistance to Zoe. Even Socrates said when he died: ” To live means to be sick for a long time: I owe a bird to the saviour Asclepius.” Even Socrates was tired of life. – But what does this prove? What does it mean?

  • Sometimes one would say (oh, it has been said, and even loudly, and especially by our pessimists!): “Something like that must be true! The Consensus Sapientium (consent of wise) indicates the truth. ” – Can we talk like that today? Should we talk like that? “Something like that must be sick,” we answer: we must scrutinize these wisest people of all time! Did they not get on their feet well? Were they late? deceivers? decadents; Does wisdom on earth appear as the crow that the odour draws from the crow?

This perverse thought that the great wise men are types of decadence was born in exactly one case where the prejudice of both intellectuals and others is very strong: I saw Socrates and Plato as symptoms of degeneration, as instruments of Greek disintegration, as Pseudo-Greeks, as anti-Greeks (Birth of Tragedy, 1872). This consensus sapientium – as time goes by I understand it better – does not prove at all that they were right in agreeing: it seems rather that they themselves, the wisest of men, were in some natural agreement and so they had – they had to take – the same negative attitude towards life. Judgments, judgments about life, for or against, can never be true: they only have value as symptoms, they deserve attention only as symptoms; We need to stretch our fingers and try to grasp this amazing finesse (finesse of character, refinement) that says he can not estimate the value of life. It cannot be appreciated by a living person because he is an interested party or an apple of contention rather than a judge – not even a dead man, for other reasons. Seeing a philosopher as a problem in the value of life is, therefore, an objection to himself, a question mark for his wisdom, a complete lack of wisdom. – How? And were all these great wise men not only decadents but also no wise men at all? – But I return to the Socrates problem.

By Socrates’ descent, he belonged to the lower people: he was a virtuous man. We know, we can still see, how ugly he was. But the ugliness, in itself, was a defect for the Greeks, almost a denial. So was or not Socrates Greek? Ugly is often the expression of a junction, a junction fractured by evolution. In other cases, it appears as a downward trend. Those who are anthropologists forensics tell us that the typical criminal is ugly: monstrum in front, monstrum in Animo (Animus). ” But the criminal is a decadent. Was Socrates a typical criminal? – At least that would not disprove the famous judgment of the physiognomist who so badly sounded at Socrates’ friends. A stranger who knew how to read physiognomy, he once passed through Athens and told Socrates how he was a monstrum – that he hid all the bad appetites and appetites within him. And Socrates simply replied, “You know me very well sir!”

The decline in Socrates is not only indicated by the admitted Achaemenidism and anarchy of his instincts, but also by the hypertrophy of logical ability and the malice of the militant that distinguishes him. Let us also not forget those acoustic hallucinations that, as a “demon of Socrates,” were interpreted religiously. Everything in it is overdone, buffo, caricature – at the same time everything is hidden, post-bulky, hypochondriac.

I try to understand what temperament gives this Socratic equation of rationality, virtue, and happiness: this equation the most curious of all, which has, in addition, all the instincts of the older Greeks against it.

With Socrates, Greek tastes turn to dialectics: so what exactly happened? First of all, a gentle taste was lost – with the dialectic the blade rises to the top. Before Socrates, dialectical ways were rejected by good society: they were considered bad ways, they were dangerous. They were warning young people about these ways. They also distrusted those who presented their arguments in such ways. Honest things, like honest people, do not offer their arguments manually. It is inappropriate to point at all five fingers. It is not worth much to prove it first. Everywhere where authenticity is still a part of good behaviour, wherever one develops arguments but gives orders, the dialectic is a kind of a jerk: they laugh at him, they don’t take him seriously. Socrates was the jerk who managed to take him seriously: so what happened then?

One only chooses dialectics when he has no other means. He knows that this causes distrust, that he is not very convincing. Nothing is easier to erase than the resonance of the dialect: it is demonstrated by the mere observation of each meeting that is being discussed. The dialectic can only be self-defence in the hands of those who no longer have any other weapons. One has to reinforce his law: once he succeeds, he no longer uses it. The Jews were dialectic for this reason Reineke Fuchs was dialectic: how? Was Socrates dialectical too?

Is Socrates’ irony an expression of rebellion? Disillusioned? Does he, as an oppressor, enjoy his own wilderness with the knives of his reasoning? Is he revenging the nobles whom he charmed? – As a dialectic one holds a ruthless tool in his hands; he can become a tyrant thereby endangering those he conquers. The dialectician leaves to his opponent the care to prove that he is not an idiot: he leaves the other angry and at the same time helpless. The dialectic renders his opponent’s intelligence invalid. – How? Is Socrates’ dialectic just a form of revenge?

I have given you an insight into how Socrates could be disliked: that is why it is now more than necessary to explain his charm. Here’s the first reason: he discovered a new kind of struggle and became his first teacher in the noble circles of Athens. He was fascinated by irritating the racing impetus of the Greeks – introduced a variation on the boxing match between young men and teenagers. Socrates was also great in eroticism.

Socrates, however, fought even harder. He looked behind his noble Athenians; he realized that his case, his temper, was no longer an exception. The same kind of degeneration was developing silently everywhere: old Athens had come to an end. – And Socrates understood that the whole world needed him – they needed his means, his healing, his own art of self-preservation … Everywhere the instincts were in anarchy; everywhere everyone was five steps from exaggeration: the monstrum in Animo was common danger. “The impulses want to become a tyrant we must find a stronger anti-tyrant” … When the physiognomist revealed to Socrates what it was – a cave full of bad appetites – the great ironic let another word that was key to his character escape. “This is true,” he said, “but I control them all.” How could Socrates become the master of himself? – In-depth his case was merely the extreme case, just the most striking example of what was beginning to become a common concern: no one was master of himself anymore, the instincts were turning against each other. Socrates was fascinated by the extreme case; his dreadful ugliness made it known to all eyes: it is obvious that he was still fascinated by the answer, the solution, the apparent cure for this case.

‘When one finds it necessary, as Socrates has done, to turn the rational into a tyrant, there is little risk that something else will become a tyrant. Then rationality was discovered as a saviour neither Socrates nor his “patients” were free to choose rationality: this became “de rigueur”, their last refuge. The fanaticism in which all Greek thought is cast into rationality betrays the existence of a hopeless situation; there was danger, there was only one choice: either to lose or to become unreasonably rational … Greek morality is pathologically defined, as is their appreciation of dialectics. The equation rational = virtue = happiness simply means: one has to imitate Socrates and permanently set against the dark appetites daylight – the daylight of the rational. One has to be in every way intelligent, clear, brilliant: every concession to instincts, to the unconscious, leads downwards …

I explained how Socrates was fascinated: he seemed to be a doctor, a saviour. Do we still need to point out the mistake he made in his belief in “rationality in every way”? Philosophers and moralists deceive themselves when they believe that they are free from decline by simply declaring war on it. Discharge is beyond their power: what they choose as a means, as salvation, is but another expression of decline – they change its expression but are not discharged from the decline itself. Socrates was a misunderstanding of the whole morality of improvement, including Christianity, was a misunderstanding … The most glaring daylight – rationality in every way life, brilliant, cold, careful, conscious, without instinct, contrary to the instincts – all this was just another illness, another illness, and no return to “virtue”, “health”, happiness … The obligation to fight instincts – this is the recipe for the decline: as long as life sustains one on the upward path, happiness is identified with esteem etc.

Didn’t Socrates, the smartest of all those who fooled themselves, realize this? Did he finally confess it in the wisdom of his courage before death? Oh, Socrates wanted to die: the Cone chose him and not Athens; he forced Athens to condemn him to death … “Socrates is not a doctor,” he said in silence: “here the doctor is only death … Socrates was just sick for a long time! “ (or of a long Life!)

~ from Nietzsche’s book Twilight of the Idols


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