For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits

by Nietzsche, Friedrich (1996)


This remarkable collection of almost 1,400 aphorisms was originally published in three instalments. The first (now Volume I) appeared in 1878, just before Nietzsche abandoned academic life, with a first supplement entitled The Assorted Opinions and Maxims following in 1879, and a second entitled The Wanderer and his Shadow a year later. In 1886 Nietzsche republished them together in a two-volume edition, with new prefaces to each volume. Both volumes are presented here in R. J. Hollingdale's distinguished translation (originally published in the series Cambridge Texts in German Philosophy) with a new introduction by Richard Schacht. In this wide-ranging work Nietzsche first employed his celebrated aphoristic style, so perfectly suited to his iconoclastic, penetrating and multi-faceted thought. Many themes of his later work make their initial appearance here, expressed with unforgettable liveliness and subtlety. Human, All Too Human well deserves its subtitle 'A Book for Free Spirits', and its original dedication to Voltaire, whose project of radical enlightenment here found a new champion.

Key Passage

170: Art in the age of work. -- We possess the conscience of an industrious age: and this conscience does not permit us to bestow our best hours and mornings on art, however grand and worthy this art may be. To us art counts as a leisure, a recreational activity: we devote to it the remnants of our time and energies. -- This is the most general circumstance through which the relationship of art to life has been altered: when it makes its grand demands on the time and energy of the recipients of art it has the conscience of the industrious and able against it, it is directed to the conscienceless and lazy, who, however, are in accordance with their nature unfavourably inclined precisely towards grand art and feel the claims it makes to be presumptuous. It may therefore be that grand art is facing its end from lack of air and the room to breathe it: unless, that is, grand art tries, through a kind of coarsening and disguising, to become at home in (or at least to endure) that other air which is in reality the natural element only of petty art, of the art of recreation and distraction. And this is now happening everywhere; artists of grand art too now promise recreation and distraction, they too direct their attentions to the tired and weary, they too entreat of them the evening hours of their working day -- just as do the artists of entertainment, who are content to have achieved a victory over the serious brow and the sunken eye. What artifices, then, do their greater comrades employ? They have in their dispensary the mightiest means of excitation capable of terrifying even the half-dead; they have narcotics, intoxicants, convulsives, paroxysms of tears: with these they overpower the tired and weary, arouse them to a fatigued over¬ liveliness and make them beside themselves with rapture and terror. On account of the perilousness of these means it employs, ought one to denounce grand art in the forms in which it now exists -- opera, tragedy and music -- as the most deceitful of sinners? Not at all: for it would a hundred times prefer to dwell in the pure element of the quietness of morning and address itself to the expectant, wakeful, energetic soul. Let us be grateful to it that it has consented to live as it does rather than flee away: but let us also admit to ourselves that an age which shall one day bring back true festivals of joy and freedom will have no use for our art.  (p.167)


Nietzsche, Trade, Art, Artistic Labour, Sicence, Laziness, Idleness, Work Hours, Industriousness


Vita Activa, Nietzsche Citations, Nietzsche Citations

Links to Reference


Hollingdale, R. J.



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