HISTORY OF AN ERROR
The real world, attainable to the wise, the pious, the virtuous man — he dwells in it, he is it.
(Oldest convincing form of the idea, relatively sensible, simple, convincing. Transcription of the proposition ‘I, Plato, am the truth.’)
The real world, unattainable for the moment, but promised to the wise, the pious, the virtuous man (‘to the sinner who repents’).
(Progress of the idea: it grows more refined, more enticing, more incomprehensible — it becomes a woman, it becomes Christian . . .)
The real world, unattainable, undemonstrable, cannot be promised, but even when merely thought of a consolation, a duty, an imperative.
(Fundamentally the same old sun, but shining through mist and scepticism; the idea grown sublime, pale, northerly, Königsbergian.)
The real world — unattainable? Unattained, at any rate. And if unattained also unknown. Consequently also no consolation, no redemption, no duty: how could we have a duty towards something unknown?
(The grey of dawn. First yawnings of reason. Cock-crow of positivism.)
The ‘real world’ — an idea no longer of any use, not even a duty any longer — an idea grown useless, superfluous, consequently a refuted idea: let us abolish it!
(Broad daylight; breakfast; return of cheerfulness and bons sens; Plato blushes for shame; all free spirits run riot.)
We have abolished the real world: what world is left? the apparent world perhaps? . . . But no! with the real world we have also abolished the apparent world!
(Mid-day; moment of the shortest shadow; end of the longest error; zenith of mankind; INCIPIT ZARATHUSTRA)
— Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols
(tr. R. J. Hollingdale)