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“Is pessimism necessarily a sign of decline, decay, malformation, of tired and debilitated instincts…? Is there a pessimism of strength? An intellectual preference for the hard, gruesome, malevolent and problematic aspects of existence which come from a feeling of well-being, from overflowing of health from an abundance of existence?
…If the Greeks were pessimists and had the will to tragedy precisely when they were surrounded by the riches of youth…and if, on the other hand and conversely, it was precisely during their period of dissolution and weakness that the Greeks became ever more optimistic, more superficial, more actorly, but also filled with greater lust for logic and for making the world logical, which is to say both more ‘cheerful’ and more ‘scientific’ – could it then perhaps be the case, despite all ‘modern ideas’ and the prejudices of democratic taste, that the victory of optimism, the predominance of reasonableness, practical and theoretical utilitarianism, like its contemporary, democracy, is symptomatic of a decline in strength, of approaching old age, of physiological exhaustion? And that pessimism is precisely not a symptom of these things?”
“…modern man is beginning to sense the limits of the Socratic lust for knowledge…We should not now disguise from ourselves what lies hidden in the womb of this Socratic culture: an optimism which imagines itself to be limitless!…It should be noted than an Alexandrian culture needs a slave-class in order to exist in the long term; as it views its existence optimistically, however, it denies the necessity of such a class and is therefore heading toward horrifying extinction when the effects of its fine words of seduction and pacification, such as ‘human dignity’ and ‘the dignity of labor’, are exhausted. There is nothing more terrible than a class of barbaric slaves which has learned to regard its existence as an injustice and which sets out to take revenge, not just for itself but for all future generations.”
“The catastrophe slumbering in the womb of theoretical culture is gradually beginning to frighten modern man; in other words, he is beginning to suspect the consequences of his own existence…This insight marks the beginning of a culture which I now dare to describe as a tragic culture. Its most important feature lies in putting wisdom in the place of science as the highest goal. This wisdom is not deceived by the seductive distractions of the sciences; instead it turns its unmoved gaze on the total image of the world, and in this image it seeks to embrace eternal suffering with sympathetic feelings of love, acknowledging that suffering to be its own. Let us imagine a rising generation with this fearless gaze, with this heroic attraction to what is monstrous, let us imagine the bold stride of these dragon-killers, the proud recklessness with which they turn their backs on all the enfeebled doctrines of scientific optimism so that they may live resolutely, wholly and fully…”
–Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (1872)