Home The Four Great Errors

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in his work Twilight of the Idols, perhaps primarily known for the immortal maxim: "Out of life's school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.", pointed out the four great errors which we constantly use to misinterpret reality and thus create many illusions that are used to show the world in a more convenient light for us.

The first error, which is also the most dangerous one, is mistaking the cause and effect, or in another words, mistaking the effect for the cause; an error that is the most recent and yet the most ancient habit of humankind, as Nietzsche says. This error is even praised by people as religion and morality, which always try to limit them with encouragement or prohibition of certain actions. Religion and morality supposes that man is, for example, ruined by certain vices like luxury or alcoholism and regard them as the cause of his downfall. But that is actually only the effect of his psychological deterioration, because he didn't have the strength to overcome or resist the hardships in life which he faced, so he instead turned to stronger and more frequent bodily stimulations to avoid confrontation with them. This inability to handle the unpleasant things in life is really the cause of his state of mind, and those vices are merely the effects, i.e. the actual representations of the cause.

The second error is that of a false causality. People, in their insecurity about themselves when compared to a far more greater and intricate system in which they live in, tend to invent causes that they think are behind their actions. This is especially evident in the "inner facts", as Nietzsche called them, which include the will, the ego and the spirit. Nietzsche argued that there are no mental causes whatsoever (causes that originate from will) and opposed the above mentioned human tendency which viewed the world through mental causes. With these "inner facts" humans project their subjectivity onto the world through the multitude of subjects (doers) from which every doing follows. This has led them to consider ego as the concept of being (thus creating the illusion of "being") and they have put spirit as the cause, instead of reality, thus establishing a measure for that reality, calling it "God".

Instead of courageously going into the unknown and facing whatever lies there, we invent imaginary causes in order to feel better about ourselves and to drive away anything that could shake our familiar and boring shell of existence, but at the same time destroy any excitement and adventure in life.

The third error is the error of imaginary causes, which originates from one of the strongest and oldest emotions known to man: fear of the unknown. It is this fear that forces people to always try to explain everything that happens around them as something they have control of. When faced with something that has an unknown cause, we immediately draw from our memory some earlier familiar cause and apply it to the current situation, thus making the unknown into familiar, and since we have been doing it for so long, this application of imaginary causes became habitual process which obstructed the exploration of the real causes. Nietzsche explains this as our psychological need to drive away anything unknown which could force us to doubt our current mindset and start looking at things from a new perspective. This gives us comfort, feeling of relief, happiness and power as well. We don't want to be confronted with things that could shake our beliefs so we look for the easiest method for getting rid of them. That which is unknown is not considered as the cause, instead we convert it into a familiar imaginary cause which over time becomes dominant and turns into a system of beliefs, dogma, i.e. morality and religion. These imaginary causes conveniently explain "bad" things as death, pain, suffering as punishment for not comforming with the rest of the herd, and the "good" things are considered as "faith in God" and "a good conscience". So Nietzsche concludes that morality and religion constantly confuse cause and effect; truth is confused as the supposedly true effect and the state of consciousness is confused with its causes.

The fourth error is the error of free will. Nietzsche argues that the concept of the free will is an illusion, "the foulest of all theologians' artifices", as he said and that it was only established (invented) for imposing guilt on somebody, i.e. for the purpose of punishment, which morality and religion so zealously use as means of control. This is the psychology of making humans "responsible" and therefore punishable according to the ways of the priests, which act as God's hand on this world.

Nietzsche in the end concludes that the human being cannot be separated from the world, i.e. from the whole and completely rejected the idea that humans are something that came from some "special cause" in order to attain "the ideals of happiness, humanity and morality"; he thought that such devolving of human being to a certain goal or end (which was invented) was absurd and stood for the idea of unity, the idea of the whole, in which nothing can be judged, measured, compared or sentenced. Humans have always been over-subjective about the world they live in because of their uniqueness, thus they considered themselves detached and superior from it and thought that the world existed exclusively as a mean for their invented ends, and the clash of their illusions with reality was inevitable. We must always keep in mind that there is no world and man beside it, only the world and man within it.

November 11, 2007

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