This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!” Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?… Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?
We know some things for certain when we read through Nietzsche’s aphorisms. The first aphoristic compilation of Nietzsche is Human, All too Human and it is also one of those books of Nietzsche that deal with human psychology more than philosophy. If we go through The Birth of Tragedy we will be able to see how Nietzsche is madly inspired by Wagner. He cannot stop comparing Wagner to the Greeks who keep Homer’s contest alive in them and are Nietzsche’s favorite.
Aphorisms from Human, All too Human gradually unveil the break of Wagner and Nietzsche. He does not talk about Wagner in this book and focuses, instead, on human psychology, demonstrating slowly how he is breaking off and becoming a free spirit. Some of his aphorisms are about the “partyman” who starts to think for himself and parts ways. (Aph. 298, 597)
Here Nietzsche is talking about his new found love for individualism. This is even more apparent when in aphorism 146, the artist’s sense of truth he says “Regarding truths, the artist has a weaker morality than the thinker..” This statement shows us that the reason for their lost friendship had something to do with Wagner’s diversion towards Christianity.
He speaks of how an individual person is supposed to take power and control in his hands but fear makes people gather into groups with flawed moralities. We can see Nietzsche despises Asians when he speaks of them as people without reason and says the the Middle Ages was an era when European were most like Asians. The scientific method that Greek has given Europe makes Europe more superior to Asia.
We see Nietzsche criticizing Schopenhauer’s ideas when he says that drawing inference does not come naturally to everyone like Schopenhauer thought. It is apparent that Nietzsche is not stronger, independent, more mature and not influenced by anybody any more in his writings from 1878. We see him critiquing educators, schools and teachers from thus forth. Nietzsche uses the example of Socrates and explains how masters have narrow knowledge which makes them great in only one subject and they remain amateur in other subjects; this makes them poor masters. (Aph. 361)
Later in Human, All too Human, we can see Nietzsche is almost falling in love with a friend when he speaks of how conversation is most important in marriage. Then he explains girl’s psyche and woman’s psyche comparing them with their lives, houses, children, career, etc. (Aph. 380-424)
In his sequel to this book he writes another in 1979 called Mixed Opinions and Maxims. The few aphorisms that Kaufman has compiled from this book talk about the good things in life. They talk about the friendship in a master-student relationship and how every student becomes a master one day.
The final sequel released in 1880 was named The Wanderer and His Shadow. Nietzsche begins this book by mocking Christianity, conscience, the apostle Paul and educators. He says an educator is just a shopkeeper and his productivity goes down because he is more interested in money, time, admiration and other things. Therefore, a real thinker needs to self-educate because “on their (educators) account, one learns so little and so badly.” (Aph. 267 and 282)
We see that Nietzsche as an ardent observer tries to study the current political situation of his country which is divided between Jews and Anti-Jews, and also the situation of Europe where countries are all almost in the state of war with each other because of different competitions. He talks about the neighboring countries that enlarge their army because of mistrust. Nietzsche is pro-war and calls it the natural way but the way it is done in Europe is all because of fear and that is wrong.
The Daybreak or The Dawn is released in 1881, again, aphoristically composed. Nietzsche indulges in satire at the very begin where he mocks Paul by calling him the inventor of Christianity. Later, he indulges in the subject of adultery and justifies that only thinking evil makes adultery evil, there is nothing really evil about it. (Aph. 76)
He makes fun of Christianity and the believers of Christianity by saying that Christians declared the Old Testament as theirs and took it from Jews saying that it prophesizes for Christ. Everywhere tree, switch, wood, ladder, twig are mentioned in the Old Testament Christians call it the prophecy of the wood of the cross. Nietzsche thinks its funny and unbelievable. (Aph. 84)
He praises Hegel for his spirit and individuality but he blamed him and everyone of a particular fear that made them lose their individuality. He speaks of morals as if they are just something that make a group stick together and an individual has no concern with them. By the end he writes a few aphorisms about Jews which are clear indication of his acrimonious relation with his sister’s husband, who is looking forward to support Nazis. (Aph. 205)
Nietzsche believed in change and the shedding of one’s skin to adapt to the changing environment. (Aph. 573) For Nietzsche, corruption means to guide the youth to hate contrasting opinions and only welcome ones that are similar to theirs. (Aph. 297) So we see that by this time Nietzsche is not sure how individuality should be maintained by coping with the changing world.
Then comes The Gay Science in 1882; it is my favorite aphoristic compilation of Nietzsche. We see Nietzsche more mature and at the best of his philosophy in this part of life. The book has the best Madman aphorism that explains how man has killed God and now it is time to come out of the right and wrong established in the name of God. Nietzsche is urging people to look for right and wring in themselves and to become laws unto themselves because God is dead.
Then he mocks a philosopher, points his errors as usual; this time it is Kant. He says Kant was writing for the scholars but against them and in favor of the general opinion. (Aph. 193) He emphasizes on style and character in this book and also poetically describes a river that stopped flowing into the ocean but became a dam and rose higher. He wanted men to stop flowing in a god and only then will the rise.
In almost all his aphoristic compilations, Nietzsche praised Socrates and he did so in this one too. Another important aphorism is no.341 and it perhaps tells us the most important thing about Nietzsche. It tells us Nietzsche was not a nihilist. Some people thought he was but he was not because this aphorism shows us that Nietzsche thought there was a purpose to life, though he was going to write The Will to Power to make that more clear.