Nietzsche on the narrow chamber of human consciousness

From the Third Treatise: What Do Ascetic Ideals Means of On The Genealogy of Morality:

Much more frequent than this sort of hypnotic general suppression of sensitivity, of susceptibility to pain – which presupposes even rarer forces, above all courage, contempt of opinions, “intellectual stoicism” – is the attempt at a different kind of training against conditions of depression, one that is in any case easier: mechanical activity. That this relieves a suffering existence to a not inconsiderable degree is beyond all doubt: today this fact is called, somewhat dishonestly, “the blessing of work.” The relief consists in this: that the interest of the sufferer is thoroughly diverted from the suffering – that is continually doing and yet again only doing that enters into consciousness and, consequently, that little room remains in it for suffering: for it is narrow, this chamber of human consciousness! Mechanical activity and that which belongs to it – like absolute regularity, punctual unreflected obedience, one’s way of life set once and for all, the filling up of time, a certain permission for, indeed discipline in “impersonality,” in self-forgetfulness, in “incur Sui”-: how thoroughly, how subtly the ascetic protest knew how to use these in the battle with pain.

Today we see mechanical activity pursued with even greater vigour, heavily individualised though no less regimented. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to express in the last few years in my writing on cognitive triage: how we embrace the narrowness of the cognitive chamber, losing ourselves in movement in order to blot out the existential challenges which otherwise impinge involuntary upon our consciousness.

(Translated by Maudemarie Clark and Alan Seensen in a 1998 Hackett Publishing edition)

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2 Comments

  1. I thought that he was expressing the relief of suffering upon the realization that the suffering is not due to some sort of moral lack, Or better that morality is not attached to whatever sufferingis going on. Like he is indicating that suffering is basically a self-centeredness, in so much of self-centeredness is based on the idea that consciousness is some based in some sort of transcendence, some sort of essential beyond human Ness. The discomfort is then just take it in stride because one knows that it is an automatic feature of ones being for that period or the moment. One realizes that whatever thinking is going on could not have been any other way and neither could any sort of suffering occur in any other way. It is a contradiction but I think he was really talking with in contradiction, not rejection of it. Within the contradiction of suffering lies no suffering.

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