Handbook of Inner Culture for External Barbarians

A short but sharply thought-provoking bit of Nietzsche, inspired by an excellent classroom discussion about On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life (1874) today:

That well known little people of a not too distant past, I mean just the Greeks, had stubbornly preserved its unhistorical sense in the period of its greatest strength; were a contemporary man forced by magic spells to return to that world he would presumably find the Greeks very “uneducated,” which would, of course, disclose the meticulously disguised secret of modern culture to public laughter: for from ourselves we moderns have nothing at all; only by filling and overfilling ourselves with alien ages, customs, arts, philosophies, religions and knowledge do we become something worthy of notice, namely walking encyclopedias, as which an ancient Hellene, who had been thrown into our age, might perhaps address us. The whole value of encyclopedias, however, is found only in what is written in them, the content, not in what is written on them or in what is cover and what is shell; and so the whole of modern culture is essentially internal: on the outside the bookbinder has printed something like “Handbook of Inner Culture for External Barbarians.”


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