On the Will in Nature/Conclusion


The undoubtedly striking confirmations recorded in this treatise, which have been contributed to my doctrine by the Empirical Sciences since its first appearance, but independently of it, will unquestionably have been followed by many more: for how small is the portion which the individual can find time, opportunity and patience to become acquainted with, of the branch of literature dedicated to Natural Science which is so actively cultivated in all languages! Even what I have here mentioned however, inspires me with confidence that the time for my philosophy is ripening; and it is with heartfelt joy that I see the Empirical Sciences gradually come forward in the course of time, as witnesses above suspicion, to testify to the truth of a doctrine, concerning which a politic, inviolable silence has been maintained for seventeen years by our "philosophers by profession" (some of them give them selves this characteristic name, nay even that of "philosophers by trade"); so that it had been left to Jean Paul, who was ignorant of their tactics, to draw attention to it. For it may have appeared to them a delicate matter to praise it, and, on due consideration, they may have thought it not altogether safe to blame it either, and may have judged it unnecessary besides to show the public, as belonging neither to the profession nor to the trade, that it is quite possible to philosophize very seriously without being either unintelligible or wearisome. Why compromise themselves therefore with it, since no one betrays himself by silence and the favourite secretive method was ready at hand, the approved specific against merit; this much was besides soon agreed upon: that, considering the circumstances of the times, my philosophy did not possess the right qualifications for being taught professionally. Now the true, ultimate aim of all philosophy, with them, is to be taught professionally,—so much and so truly is it so, that were Truth to come down stark naked from lofty Olympus, but were what she brought with her not found to correspond to the requirements called for by the circumstances of the times, or to the purposes of their mighty superiors, these gentlemen "of the profession and trade" would verily waste no time with the indecent nymph, but would hasten to bow her out again to her Olympus, then place three fingers on their lips and return quietly to their compendia. For assuredly he who makes love to this nude beauty, to this fascinating syren, to this portionless bride, will have to forego the good fortune of becoming a Government and University professor. He may even congratulate himself if he becomes a garret-philosopher. On the other hand, his audience will consist, not of hungry undergraduates anxious to turn their learning to account, but rather of those rare, select thinkers, thinly sprinkled among the countless multitude, who arise from time to time, almost as a freak of Nature. And a grateful posterity is beckoning from afar. But they can have no idea of the beauty and loveliness of Truth, of the delight there is in pursuing her track, of the rapture in possessing her, who can imagine that anyone who has once looked her in the face can ever desert, deny, or distort her for the sake of the venal approval, of the offices, of the money or the titles of such people. Better to grind spectacle-glasses like Spinoza or draw water like Cleanthes. Henceforth they may take whatever course they like: Truth will not change her nature to accommodate "the trade." Serious philosophy has now really outgrown Universities, where Science stands under State-guardianship. It may however some day perhaps come to be counted among the occult sciences; while the spurious kind, that ancilla theologiae in Universities, that inferior counterfeit of Scholasticism, for which the highest criterion of philosophical truth lies in the country catechism, will make our Lecture-halls doubly re-echo.—"You, that way: we, this way."—[1]

  1. Shakespeare, "Love's Labour's Lost."