History of an Error
1. The real world attainable for the wise man, the pious man, the virtuous man—he lives in it, he is it.
(Most ancient form of the idea, relatively clever, simple, convincing. Paraphrase of the proposition: ‘I, Plato, am the truth.’)
2. The real world unattainable for now, but promised to the wise man, the pious man, the virtuous man (‘to the sinner who repents’).
(Progress of the idea: it becomes more cunning, more insidious, more incomprehensible—it becomes a woman, it becomes Christian…)
3. The real world unattainable, unprovable, unpromisable, but the mere thought of it a consolation, an obligation, an imperative.
(The old sun in the background, but seen through mist and scepticism; the idea becomes sublime, pale, Nordic, Königsbergian.)
4. The real world—unattainable? At any rate unattained. And since unattained also unknown. Hence no consolation, redemption, obligation either: what could something unknown oblige us to do? …
(Break of day. First yawn of reason. Cock-crow of positivism.)
5. The ‘real world’—an idea with no further use, no longer even an obligation—an idea become useless, superfluous, therefore a refuted idea: let us do away with it!
(Broad daylight; breakfast; return of bon sens and cheerfulness; Plato’s shameful blush; din from all free spirits.)
6. The real world—we have done away with it: what world was left? the apparent one, perhaps? … But no! with the real world we have also done away with the apparent one!
(Noon; moment of the shortest shadow; end of the longest error; pinnacle of humanity; INCIPIT ZARATHUSTRA.)