Grand Error

When I was eleven, my parents took me to the Grand Canyon. I said, “It looks like Disneyland!”

In Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche writes about the great error of confusing cause and effect.

“There is no more dangerous error than that of mistaking the consequence for the cause: I call it reason’s intrinsic form of corruption. Nonetheless, this error is among the most ancient and most recent habits of mankind.” For Nietzsche, religion and morality are results of this confusion.

One day, perhaps a parent will show a child a book and the child will say, “It looks like a Kindle”?


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2 thoughts on “Grand Error

  1. Z says:

    And yet Nietzsche also tells us “When you look for beginnings, you become a crab. Historians look back­wards; and they end up believing backwards too” (Twilight, “Arrows and Epigrams” §24). And consider, in connection, Book I, §34 of The Gay Science: “Every great human being exerts a *retroactive* force: for his sake all of history is put on the scale again”. Is it rather that we could not understand the Grand Canyon until the age of the themepark, or that the Book was only in embryo until the advent of electronic ink? Such retroactive storytelling is sometimes disparaged as “Whig history”, but perhaps there are many ways to confuse causes and effects. For some effects bring to light causes which would never have been called such — before the effect.

    • Thanks so much for your astute response and pertinent mention of other passages from Nietzsche! One of the things that fascinates me so much about Nietzsche’s work is the way he problematizes the very possibility of causal relation (or at least our knowledge of it, in a kind of Kantian vein– though Nietzsche’s position is far more radical than Kant’s in this sense). Nietzsche does not merely help us to realize that what we often take for causes may in fact be effects, though I focused on that aspect in my post, but also to question the very nature of causation, which it seems to me your comment is drawing out!

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