F.N. (1873): On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense
In some remote corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever animals invented Recognition. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but in any event it was never more than a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and thus the clever animals had to die. One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how pathetic, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary is this human intellect from the perspective of nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when the story of humankind and its intellect has gone to its end, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life. Rather, it is human, and only its possessor and begetter takes it seriously–as though the world’s axis turned in its midst. But if we could communicate with the gnat, we would learn that he likewise flies through the air with the same solemnity, that he feels the flying center of the universe within himself. There is nothing so reprehensible and unimportant in nature that it would not immediately swell up like a balloon at the slightest puff of this power of knowing. And just as every porter wants to have an admirer, so even the proudest of men, the philosopher, supposes that he sees on all sides the eyes of the universe telescopically focused upon his action and thought.