I need help understanding the last two paragraphs of the 25th section, third essay, which is provided below from the free link: http://home.sandiego.edu/~janderso/360/genealogy3.htm

Similarly who could now hold anything against the agnostics, if they, as admirers of what is inherently unknown and secret, worship the question mark itself as their God? (Xaver Doudan once spoke of the ravages brought on by “l’habitude d’admirer l’inintelligible au lieu de rester tout simplement dans l’inconnu” [the habit of admiring the unintelligible instead of simply staying in the unknown]; he claimed that the ancients had not done this).* If everything human beings “know” does not satisfy their wishes and, instead, contradicts them and makes them shudder, what a divine excuse to be allowed to seek the blame for this not in “wishes” but in “knowledge”! . . . “There is no knowledge. Consequently—there is a God”—what a new elegantia syllogismi [syllogistic excellence]! What a triumph of the ascetic ideal!

Is he saying here that these agnostics admire the unintelligible? Who are the unintelligible he's taking about? Also, is he saying that human beings would rather blame knowing than their wishes/desires when they realize their knowledge indicates their wishes can't be fulfilled? If so, how is this against the ascetic ideal when the ascetic ideal is one to repress wishes, more than knowledge?


Agnostics, understood today, are those who take certain doctrinal claims of divine reality as neither proveable, or unproveable (they would be theists, if they say they are; or atheists, if not); hence, they are

'simply staying in the unknown'

as per the quote by Doudan.

Nietzsche here, however seems to be tilting against at a different kind of agnostic, who:

worships the question mark itself as their god.

They can't remain at rest in the unknown; they make a thing out of the unknown and worship it.

Actually, here N uses the term 'unintelligible' - which has a specific meaning: it cannot, due to its own nature, be understood by the human intelligence, or perhaps any kind of intelligence - which should be distinguished from the mere unknown, which is a question of knowledge: it is unknown, it may become more known; and then, perhaps, completely known.

In contemporary accounts this might be called a form of mysticism; of which there are differing accounts: genuine mystics, such as Al-Ghazali or Meister Eckhart, say; or new-age, ersatz mysticism - a kind of pastiche.

So - it seems here, he is against mystics; more subtlety, he may be against various forms of negative theology.

  1. Agnostics. Agnostics assert certain claims cannot be know to be true or false. Nietzsche interprets this as admiring the unknown, the unintelligible. The unintelligible is not a person, not a who. They admire the fact (i.e. it is a fact for them) that certain claims are unknowable.

  2. The point about agnostics is a sidenote, I think. These final sentences seems to me to be the conclusion of the entire section III.25, which questions the claim that science is the opposite of the ascetic ideal.

    As usual with Nietzsche, it is not quite clear. Here is my stab at it: Human beings blame the lack of 'knowledge' (I guess: knowledge of the metaphysical, which is, of course, not really knowledge, therefore Nietzsche put quotes around it as 'knowledge') rather than their wishes, and from this lack of metaphysical knowledge they invent God. This is not against the ascetic ideal, on the contrary, it is a triumph of it.

    The suggestion is: they (we) should not blame the lack of metaphysical knowledge and invent God (or think science is the solution), but rather we should question our wishes. These wishes may well be "an impoverishment of life" (as he says above), a weak will to power. We should seek to overcome the weak wishes for the metaphysical knowledge, rather than think it is issue of knowledge or the lack thereof.

(the German source: http://www.nietzschesource.org/#eKGWB/GM-III-25)

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