I want to talk about an interesting concept in Nietzsche’s philosophy in this passage, that is the concept of horizon. I will divide my work into two parts: first of all, I will try to figure out what does the concept horizon mean in Nietzsche’s philosophy, then I want to find out what role does the concept play in Nietzsche’s philosophy.
1,The concept of horizon
What is man’s horizon? According to Nietzsche, man’s horizon is constituted by his fundamental set of assumptions about all things, by what he considers as the absolute truth that he can not question. Man lives historically, animal don’t. To live historically means man remembers things that passed by but animals don’t. Animals are unhistorical living things that they forget each moment as soon as it passes. That is why man rises above animal and becomes man, but the dark side of this coin is that man is born to suffers his awareness of the past and the passing of time, if we believe in Nietzsche that happiness is based on the ability to forget and to surrender completely to the present. Why is that? Cause a man who could forget nothing would only see fluxes and changes and would have no fixed points by which to take his bearings. So it is of great importance to balance the remembering and forgetting. That is to say, to live historically and unhistorically at the same time, one should only remember the things that he can digest, and the dividing line between historical and unhistorical is the organism’s horizon.
2,horizon and historicism
Nietzsche asserting that, it is a universal law that a living things can only be healthy, strong and productive within a certain horizon. If the point is true, one can only be healthy, strong and productive within a certain horizon, then what are the things that would make one’s balanced horizon in danger? Most of all, the danger comes from a kind of historical fever, the representative of this illness is Hegelianism, which believe that historical process is rational and has ended in an absolute moment at the zenith of Hegel’s time, his Berlin existence. This kind of historicism understand history itself as scientific and objective. Nietzsche asserts that historical process neither is nor can be finished, the finished of history is impossible and also undesirable, for it would only lead to a degeneration of man. Here we should mention that Nietzsche is especially concerned with the ennoblement of man. The process of history can not be rational, too. Actually it is full of blindness, madness and injustice.
Nietzsche believes that his time is to be suffered from a malignant historical fever, that is to say people are exposed to too much historical knowledge that can not serve their lives. In his essay the use and abuse of history, Nietzsche admits that there are uses as well as abuses of history. He classifies three kinds of history that can serve life. Monumental history provides the man of action with models of greatness, antiquarian history imbues man with a salutary love of the tradition, critical history brings to light injustices surviving from past so that they can be abolished in the interest of the present. But he is quick to points out how these kinds of histories can be abused at the same time. Monumental history’s models of greatness of the past can be erected to hinder the immergence of present greatness, antiquarian history foresters the reverence of the past often stultifies the present, and there is always a danger that the critical history would uproot more about the past than deserve to be uprooted. He comes to a conclusion that useful history can not be scientific history. Since scientific history is motivated by the desire to know rather than the desire to serve life. In fact, Nietzsche thinks at that point, history no longer serve life but only disrupts life, for it forces on the attention of historical knowledge than he can digest. That would be one way to put a balanced horizon in danger.
3,Horizon and illusion
Since man’s horizon is constituted by his fundamental set of assumptions about all things, by what he considers as the absolute truth that he can not question, his historical knowledge must be surrounded by an unhistorical atmosphere of darkness which limits the historical sense of man. If human life can only thrive within a certain horizon which men believe to be the absolute truth, but which in reality is merely one of many possible horizons, then life is in need of illusions, and the truth exposes the horizon as the mere horizon is deadly. There is, then, a conflict between truth and life, or between life and wisdom. However, it is impossible to accept the illusions which life demands if they are known to be illusions. So myths are useful only so long as they are mistaken for the truth. In this sense, human’s horizon is his most comprehensive myth that enable one to live because he thinks of it as the truth. But if there is a tension between wisdom and life, it can not be resolved by the preference for life., though one may argue that there can be life without wisdom but there can be no wisdom without life, but if so, we are losing the pride as human beings, what’s the difference between human and animal then? We have mentioned that Nietzsche is especially concerned with the ennoblement of man.
There is no permanent horizon of man as man, man’s fundamental assumptions about things are unevident,unsupported,historically variable and historically determined, but the historicism wouldn’t think that way. According to historicism,all human’s horizons share same characters, man is subjected to the hopeless waves of an infinite skepticism. But Nietzsche professes to sight land:man can recovery from “the malady of history”. Such a recovery is only possible if historicism is proved to be untrue or at least not completely true. How to prove that? Nietzsche tries to overcome and transcend the historicist’s insight. First of all, Historicism is a theoretical assertion based upon an examination of historical phenomena,and Nietzsche questions whether historical phenomena can be understood by objective and scientific history and historians. History is made by historical actors,the great men,the history-making men are dedicated men having a commitment to a cause. Of course they act with a horizon of commitment,unhistorically believing the absolute validity of their attempt. And the great men of the history are the great creators,facing the future and devoting themselves to that which was to be. The great creators are those who create horizons within which future men will live. The very characteristic of the great men are that they create these horizons unconsciously and under the illusion that they are merely discovering the truth. Secondly,objective history stands or falls by its fidelity to its object,by its ability to present the past as it really was,it deludes itself into thinking that it is not interpret the past but only to describe it. That is an illusion which lurks in the word “objectivity”,cause any statement about the facts is an interpretation of facts. Even the very selection data from an infinity of data is already an interpretation. Thus ultimately there is not a choice between objective and subjective history but a choice between a noble,rich interpretation and a base,impoverished interpretation about the past.
4,The death of God and the new horizon
Nietzsche believes that everyone lives under his own illusions which he believes as the absolute truth,but not everyone can realize that he can be the creator of his own horizon.value,morality are created,thus changeable according to Nietzsche,even god,too,is man’s own creation. Nietzsche asserts that there are two kings of moralities,master-morality and slave-morality. Master-morality is the affirmation of strength by the strong,a celebration of the vigorous and active life by those who are possessed of vigor and capable of action. The strong do not repress the instincts but glorifies them. Masters are cruel but they are innocently cruel. They identify the good with powerful,and the dismiss the weak with contempt,calling it bad. Conversely, slave-morality is the rejection of strength by the weak. Whereas masters distinguish between good and bad,slaves distinguish between good and evil. What the master affirms as good the slave rejects as evil. There is a excellent example:eagles can not help being eagles,and lambs can not being lambs,but the lambs pretend-and must pretend-that their weakness is voluntary,just as the strength of the eagles is voluntary and can therefore be condemned. Nietzsche tends to use the term slave-morality and priest-morality interchangeably. The priests are members of the ruling herds but weak and decadent ones,they are the inventors of the Christianity,though Christianity they connive to effect a transvaluation of all values. They succeed:humanity becomes a virtue and pride a vice. Master-morality is stood on its head. Christianity makes life soft by slapping its vigor. Christianity prepares the way for egalitarianism by holding all men to be equal in decisive respects:they have,in God,a common father,and they are all sinners. According to Nietzsche,God is cerated in this way. The death of God comes about when men realize that god is his own creation. The descendants of the man who create God now murder God. But with the death of the Christian God at the hands of Christian morality, Christian morality renders itself baseless. Christian morality can not survive the death of God. Devotion to the truth of devotion to anything now becomes problematical:all visons and aspirations are exposed as arbitrary and unsupported. The death of God is the death not only of Christian morality but of all traditional moralities.
With the death of god man finds himself in a desert which is the total crisis of Nietzsche’s time. Men are progressively less able to believe in anything. There is no longer a horizon to give life meaning,men no longer believe in anything strongly enough to fight for it.The crisis is total and the situation can not endure.
But ,The death of god is also the discovery of man’s creativity. Knowing that horizons are his own creations,he is more aware of his own power.,if nothing is true,everything is possible. Man has become man by unconsciously projecting horizons,with the conscious projection of horizons,man can become more than man. Since man is revealed as the animal who is able to create horizons,for the first time he can create his horizon consciously:could not a consciously created horizon be the most glorious horizon yet created by man?