Book Two: A Criticism of the Highest Values That Have Prevailed Hitherto
V: The Moral Ideal
§333 Ethics: or the “philosophy of desirability”. “Things ought to be otherwise”, “things ought to be different”: dissatisfaction would therefore seem to be the heart of ethics.
One could find a way out of it, first, by selecting only those states in which one is free from this feeling; secondly, by grasping the insolence and stupidity of this attitude of mind: for to desire that something should be otherwise than it is, means to desire that everything should be different — it involves a damaging criticism of the whole. But life itself consists in such desiring!
To ascertain what exists, how it exists — seems a much higher and more serious matter than every “thus it ought to be”, because the latter, as a piece of human criticism and arrogance, appears to be condemned as ludicrous from the start. It expresses a need which would want to have the organisation of the world correspond with our human well-being and which directs the will as much as possible towards the accomplishment of that relationship.
On the other hand, this desire, “thus it ought to be”, has only called forth that other desire to know what is. The desire of knowing what is, is already a consequence of the question, “how? Is it possible? Why precisely so”? Our wonder at the disagreement between our desires and the course of the world has led to our learning to know the course of the world. Perhaps the matter stands differently: maybe the expression, “thus it ought to be”, is the utterance of our desire to overcome the world -—