The foregoing review of “free human criticism” was written by bits immediately after the appearance of the books in question, as was also that which elsewhere refers to writings of this tendency, and I did little more than bring together the fragments. But criticism is restlessly pressing forward, and thereby makes it necessary for me to come back to it once more, now that my book is finished, and insert this concluding note.
I have before me the latest (eighth) number of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung of Bruno Bauer.
There again “the general interests of society” stand at the top. But criticism has reflected, and given this “society” a specification by which it is discriminated from a form which previously had still been confused with it: the “State,” in former passages still celebrated as “free State,” is quite given up because it can in no wise fulfil the task of “human society.” Criticism only “saw itself compelled to identify for a moment human and political affairs” in 1842; but now it has found that the State, even as “free State,” is not human society, or, as it could likewise say, that the people is not “man.” We saw how it got through with theology and showed clearly that God sinks into dust before Man; we see it now come to a clearance with politics in the same way, and show that before Man peoples and nationalities fall: so we see how it has its explanation with Church and State, declaring them both unhuman, and we shall see — for it betrays this to us already — how it can also give proof that before Man the “masses,” which it even calls a “spiritual being,” appear worthless. And how should the lesser “spiritual beings” be able to maintain themselves before the supreme spirit? “Man” casts down the false idols.
So what the critic has in view for the present is the scrutiny of the “masses,” which he will place before “Man” in order to combat them from the standpoint of Man. “What is now the object of criticism?” “The masses, a spiritual being!” These the critic will “learn to know,” and will find that they are in contradiction with Man; he will demonstrate that they are unhuman, and will succeed just as well in this demonstration as in the former ones, that the divine and the national, or the concerns of Church and of State, were the unhuman.
The masses are defined as “the most significant product of the Revolution, as the deceived multitude which the illusions of political Illumination, and in general the entire Illumination movement of the eighteenth century, have given over to boundless disgruntlement.” The Revolution satisfied some by its result, and left others unsatisfied; the satisfied part is the commonalty (bourgeoisie, etc.), the unsatisfied is the — masses. Does not the critic, so placed, himself belong to the “masses”?
But the unsatisfied are still in great mistiness, and their discontent utters itself only in a “boundless disgruntlement.” This the likewise unsatisfied critic now wants to master: he cannot want and attain more than to bring that “spiritual being,” the masses, out of its disgruntlement, and to “uplift” those who were only disgruntled, i.e. to give them the right attitude toward those results of the Revolution which are to be overcome; — he can become the head of the masses, their decided spokesman. Therefore he wants also to “abolish the deep chasm which parts him from the multitude.” From those who want to “uplift the lower classes of the people” he is distinguished by wanting to deliver from “disgruntlement,” not merely these, but himself too.
But assuredly his consciousness does not deceive him either, when he takes the masses to be the “natural opponents of theory,” and foresees that, “the more this theory shall develop itself, so much the more will it make the masses compact.” For the critic cannot enlighten or satisfy the masses with his presupposition, Man. If over against the commonalty they are only the “lower classes of the people,” politically insignificant masses, over against “Man” they must still more be mere “masses,” humanly insignificant — yes, unhuman — masses, or a multitude of un-men.
The critic clears away everything human; and, starting from the presupposition that the human is the true, he works against himself, denying it wherever it had been hitherto found. He proves only that the human is to be found nowhere except in his head, but the unhuman everywhere. The unhuman is the real, the extant on all hands, and by the proof that it is “not human” the critic only enunciates plainly the tautological sentence that it is the unhuman.
But what if the unhuman, turning its back on itself with resolute heart, should at the same time turn away from the disturbing critic and leave him standing, untouched and unstung by his remonstrance? “You call me the unhuman,” it might say to him, “and so I really am — for you; but I am so only because you bring me into opposition to the human, and I could despise myself only so long as I let myself be hypnotized into this opposition. I was contemptible because I sought my ‘better self’ outside me; I was the unhuman because I dreamed of the ‘human’; I resembled the pious who hunger for their ‘true self’ and always remain ‘poor sinners’; I thought of myself only in comparison to another; enough, I was not all in all, was not — unique.[“einzig”] But now I cease to appear to myself as the unhuman, cease to measure myself and let myself be measured by man, cease to recognize anything above me: consequently — adieu, humane critic! I only have been the unhuman, am it now no longer, but am the unique, yes, to your loathing, the egoistic; yet not the egoistic as it lets itself be measured by the human, humane, and unselfish, but the egoistic as the — unique.”
We have to pay attention to still another sentence of the same number. “Criticism sets up no dogmas, and wants to learn to know nothing but things.”
The critic is afraid of becoming “dogmatic” or setting up dogmas. Of course: why, thereby he would become the opposite of the critic — the dogmatist; he would now become bad, as he is good as critic, or would become from an unselfish man an egoist, etc. “Of all things, no dogma!” This is his — dogma. For the critic remains on one and the same ground with the dogmatist — that of thoughts. Like the latter he always starts from a thought, but varies in this, that he never ceases to keep the principle-thought in the process of thinking, and so does not let it become stable. He only asserts the thought-process against the thought-faith, the progress of thinking against stationariness in it. From criticism no thought is safe, since criticism is thought or the thinking mind itself.
Therefore I repeat that the religious world — and this is the world of thought — reaches its completion in criticism, where thinking extends its encroachments over every thought, no one of which may “egoistically” establish itself. Where would the “purity of criticism,” the purity of thinking, be left if even one thought escaped the process of thinking? This explains the fact that the critic has even begun already to gibe gently here and there at the thought of Man, of humanity and humaneness, because he suspects that here a thought is approaching dogmatic fixity. But yet he cannot decompose this thought till he has found a — “higher” in which it dissolves; for he moves only — in thoughts. This higher thought might be enunciated as that of the movement or process of thinking itself, i.e. as the thought of thinking or of criticism, for example.
Freedom of thinking has in fact become complete hereby, freedom of mind celebrates its triumph: for the individual, “egoistic” thoughts have lost their dogmatic truculence. There is nothing left but the — dogma of free thinking or of criticism.
Against everything that belongs to the world of thought, criticism is in the right, i. e., in might: it is the victor. Criticism, and criticism alone, is “up to date.” From the standpoint of thought there is no power capable of being an overmatch for criticism’s, and it is a pleasure to see how easily and sportively this dragon swallows all other serpents of thought. Each serpent twists, to be sure, but criticism crushes it in all its “turns.”
I am no opponent of criticism, i.e. I am no dogmatist, and do not feel myself touched by the critic’s tooth with which he tears the dogmatist to pieces. If I were a “dogmatist,” I should place at the head a dogma, i.e. a thought, an idea, a principle, and should complete this as a “systematist,” spinning it out to a system, a structure of thought. Conversely, if I were a critic, viz., an opponent of the dogmatist, I should carry on the fight of free thinking against the enthralling thought, I should defend thinking against what was thought. But I am neither the champion of a thought nor the champion of thinking; for “I,” from whom I start, am not a thought, nor do I consist in thinking. Against me, the unnameable, the realm of thoughts, thinking, and mind is shattered.
Criticism is the possessed man’s fight against possession as such, against all possession: a fight which is founded in the consciousness that everywhere possession, or, as the critic calls it, a religious and theological attitude, is extant. He knows that people stand in a religious or believing attitude not only toward God, but toward other ideas as well, like right, the State, law; i.e. he recognizes possession in all places. So he wants to break up thoughts by thinking; but I say, only thoughtlessness really saves me from thoughts. It is not thinking, but my thoughtlessness, or I the unthinkable, incomprehensible, that frees me from possession.
A jerk does me the service of the most anxious thinking, a stretching of the limbs shakes off the torment of thoughts, a leap upward hurls from my breast the nightmare of the religious world, a jubilant Hoopla throws off year-long burdens. But the monstrous significance of unthinking jubilation could not be recognized in the long night of thinking and believing.
“What clumsiness and frivolity, to want to solve the most difficult problems, acquit yourself of the most comprehensive tasks, by a breaking off!”
But have you tasks if you do not set them to yourself? So long as you set them, you will not give them up, and I certainly do not care if you think, and, thinking, create a thousand thoughts. But you who have set the tasks, are you not to be able to upset them again? Must you be bound to these tasks, and must they become absolute tasks?
To cite only one thing, the government has been disparaged on account of its resorting to forcible means against thoughts, interfering against the press by means of the police power of the censorship, and making a personal fight out of a literary one. As if it were solely a matter of thoughts, and as if one’s attitude toward thoughts must be unselfish, self-denying, and self-sacrificing! Do not those thoughts attack the governing parties themselves, and so call out egoism? And do the thinkers not set before the attacked ones the religious demand to reverence the power of thought, of ideas? They are to succumb voluntarily and resignedly, because the divine power of thought, Minerva, fights on their enemies’ side. Why, that would be an act of possession, a religious sacrifice. To be sure, the governing parties are themselves held fast in a religious bias, and follow the leading power of an idea or a faith; but they are at the same time unconfessed egoists, and right here, against the enemy, their pent-up egoism breaks loose: possessed in their faith, they are at the same time unpossessed by their opponents’ faith, i.e. they are egoists toward this. If one wants to make them a reproach, it could only be the converse — to wit, that they are possessed by their ideas.
Against thoughts no egoistic power is to appear, no police power etc. So the believers in thinking believe. But thinking and its thoughts are not sacred to me, and I defend my skin against them as against other things. That may be an unreasonable defense; but, if I am in duty bound to reason, then I, like Abraham, must sacrifice my dearest to it!
In the kingdom of thought, which, like that of faith, is the kingdom of heaven, every one is assuredly wrong who uses unthinking force, just as every one is wrong who in the kingdom of love behaves unlovingly, or, although he is a Christian and therefore lives in the kingdom of love, yet acts un-Christianly; in these kingdoms, to which he supposes himself to belong though he nevertheless throws off their laws, he is a “sinner” or “egoist.” But it is only when he becomes a criminal against these kingdoms that he can throw off their dominion.
Here too the result is this, that the fight of the thinkers against the government is indeed in the right, namely, in might — so far as it is carried on against the government’s thoughts (the government is dumb, and does not succeed in making any literary rejoinder to speak of), but is, on the other hand, in the wrong, to wit, in impotence, so far as it does not succeed in bringing into the field anything but thoughts against a personal power (the egoistic power stops the mouths of the thinkers). The theoretical fight cannot complete the victory, and the sacred power of thought succumbs to the might of egoism. Only the egoistic fight, the fight of egoists on both sides, clears up everything.
This last now, to make thinking an affair of egoistic option, an affair of the single person,[“des Einzigen”] a mere pastime or hobby as it were, and, to take from it the importance of “being the last decisive power”; this degradation and desecration of thinking; this equalization of the unthinking and thoughtful ego; this clumsy but real “equality” — criticism is not able to produce, because it itself is only the priest of thinking, and sees nothing beyond thinking but — the deluge.
Criticism does indeed affirm, e.g. that free criticism may overcome the State, but at the same time it defends itself against the reproach which is laid upon it by the State government, that it is “self-will and impudence”; it thinks, then, that “self-will and impudence” may not overcome, it alone may. The truth is rather the reverse: the State can be really overcome only by impudent self-will.
It may now, to conclude with this, be clear that in the critic’s new change of front he has not transformed himself, but only “made good an oversight,” “disentangled a subject,” and is saying too much when he speaks of “criticism criticizing itself”; it, or rather he, has only criticized its “oversight” and cleared it of its “inconsistencies.” If he wanted to criticize criticism, he would have to look and see if there was anything in its presupposition.
I on my part start from a presupposition in presupposing myself; but my presupposition does not struggle for its perfection like “Man struggling for his perfection,” but only serves me to enjoy it and consume it. I consume my presupposition, and nothing else, and exist only in consuming it. But that presupposition is therefore not a presupposition at all: for, as I am the Unique, I know nothing of the duality of a presupposing and a presupposed ego (an “incomplete” and a “complete” ego or man); but this, that I consume myself, means only that I am. I do not presuppose myself, because I am every moment just positing or creating myself, and am I only by being not presupposed but posited, and, again, posited only in the moment when I posit myself; i. e., I am creator and creature in one.
If the presuppositions that have hitherto been current are to melt away in a full dissolution, they must not be dissolved into a higher presupposition again — i.e. a thought, or thinking itself, criticism. For that dissolution is to be for my good; otherwise it would belong only in the series of the innumerable dissolutions which, in favor of others (e.g. this very Man, God, the State, pure morality, etc.), declared old truths to be untruths and did away with long-fostered presuppositions.