Random Quote #85 topic: nietzsche, We Philologists by Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900, translated by Kennedy, J. M.


Il faut dire la verite et s'immoler--VOLTAIRE.

Let us suppose that there were freer and more superior spirits who were
dissatisfied with the education now in vogue, and that they summoned it
to their tribunal, what would the defendant say to them? In all
probability something like this: "Whether you have a right to summon
anyone here or not, I am at all events not the proper person to be
called. It is my educators to whom you should apply. It is their duty to
defend me, and I have a right to keep silent. I am merely what they have
made me."

These educators would now be hauled before the tribunal, and among them
an entire profession would be observed . the philologists. This
profession consists in the first place of those men who make use of
their knowledge of Greek and Roman antiquity to bring up youths of
thirteen to twenty years of age, and secondly of those men whose task it
is to train specially-gifted pupils to act as future teachers--_i.e._,
as the educators of educators. Philologists of the first type are
teachers at the public schools, those of the second are professors at
the universities.

The first-named philologists are entrusted with the care of certain
specially-chosen youths, those who, early in life, show signs of talent
and a sense of what is noble, and whose parents are prepared to allow
plenty of time and money for their education. If other boys, who do not
fulfil these three conditions, are presented to the teachers, the
teachers have the right to refuse them. Those forming the second class,
the university professors, receive the young men who feel themselves
fitted for the highest and most responsible of callings, that of
teachers and moulders of mankind; and these professors, too, may refuse
to have anything to do with young men who are not adequately equipped or
gifted for the task.

If, then, the educational system of a period is condemned, a heavy
censure on philologists is thereby implied: either, as the consequence
of their wrong-headed view, they insist on giving bad education in the
belief that it is good; or they do not wish to give this bad education,
but are unable to carry the day in favour of education which they
recognise to be better. In other words, their fault is either due to
their lack of insight or to their lack of will. In answer to the first
charge they would say that they knew no better, and in answer to the
second that they could do no better. As, however, these philologists
bring up their pupils chiefly with the aid of Greek and Roman antiquity,
their want of insight in the first case may be attributed to the fact
that they do not understand antiquity, and again to the fact that they
bring forward antiquity into the present age as if it were the most
important of all aids to instruction, while antiquity, generally
speaking, does not assist in training, or at all events no longer does

On the other hand, if we reproach our professors with their lack of
will, they would be quite right in attributing educational significance
and power to antiquity; but they themselves could not be said to be the
proper instruments by means of which antiquity could exhibit such power.
In other words, the professors would not be real teachers and would be
living under false colours, but how, then, could they have reached such
an irregular position? Through a misunderstanding of themselves and
their qualifications. In order, then, that we may ascribe to
philologists their share in this bad educational system of the present
time, we may sum up the different factors of their innocence and guilt
in the following sentence: the philologist, if he wishes for a verdict
of acquittal, must understand three things antiquity, the present time,
and himself . his fault lies in the fact that he either does not
understand antiquity, or the present time, or himself.

-- Friedrich Nietzsche


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