finding guilty

Twilight of the Idols

Twilight of the Idols (Götzen-Dämmerung) is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche, written in 1888, and published in 1889.


Twilight of the Idols was written in just over a week, between 26 August and 3 September 1888, while Nietzsche was on holiday in Sils-Maria. As Nietzsche's fame and popularity was spreading both inside and outside Germany, Nietzsche felt that he needed a text that was a short introduction to his work; Twilight of the Idols is his attempt at this. Originally titled A Psychologist's Idleness, it was renamed Twilight of the Idols; How One Philosophizes With a Hammer. The latter title, Götzen-Dämmerung in German, is a pun on the title of Richard Wagner's opera, Götterdämmerung, or 'Twilight of the Gods'.


Nietzsche criticizes German culture of the day as unsophisticated, and shoots some disapproving arrows at key French, British, and Italian cultural figures. In contrast to all these alleged representatives of cultural "decadence", Nietzsche applauds Caesar, Napoleon, Goethe, Dostoevsky, Thucydides and the Sophists as healthier and stronger types. The book states the transvaluation of all values as Nietzsche's final and most important project, and gives a view of antiquity wherein the Romans for once take precedence over the ancient Greeks.

He establishes early on in the section The Problem of Socrates, that the value of life cannot be estimated and any judgment concerning it only reveals the person's life-denying or life-affirming tendencies. He tries to show how philosophers from Socrates onwards were "decadents," employing dialectics as a tool for self-preservation as the authority of tradition breaks down. In the chapter The Four Great Errors, he suggests that people, especially Christians, confuse the effect for the cause, and that they project their ego, their subjectivity to other things, thereby creating the illusionary concept of being, and therefore also of God. He critiques the concept of accountability and will and suggests everything is necessary in a unity that can be neither judged nor condemned.

In suggesting that the concept of "free will" is an illusion, Nietzsche concludes that what people typically deem "vice" is in fact merely "the inability not to react to a stimulus". In this light, the concept of morality becomes purely a means of control: "the doctrine of will has been invented essentially for the purpose of punishment, that is of finding guilty".

Men were thought of as free so that they could become guilty: consequently, every action had to be thought of as willed, the origin of every action as lying in the consciousness... ...Today, when we have started to move in the reverse direction, when we immoralists especially are trying with all our might to remove the concept of guilt and the concept of punishment from the world and to purge psychology, history, nature, the social institutions and sanctions of them, there is in our eyes no more radical opposition than that of the theologians, who continue to infect the innocence of becoming with 'punishment' and 'guilt' by means of the concept of the 'moral world-order'. Christianity is a hangman's metaphysics. The Four Great Errors


  • "Foreword"
  • "Maxims and Arrows"
  • "The Problem of Socrates"
  • "Reason in Philosophy"
  • "How the Real World at Last Became a Myth"
  • "Morality as Anti-Nature"
  • "The Four Great Errors"
  • "The Improvers of Mankind"
  • "What the Germans Lack"
  • "Expeditions of an Untimely Man"
  • "What I Owe to the Ancients"
  • "The Hammer Speaks"


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