Twilight of the Idols

by

Friedrich Nietzsche

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(470–399 B.C.E.) Socrates was an ancient Greek philosopher. One of Nietzsche’s central purposes in Twilight of the Idols is to challenge and discredit the philosophers, moralists, and ideals that history has placed on a pedestal, and Socrates receives the brunt of Nietzsche’s ire. Indeed, Nietzsche dedicates an entire section of the book, “The Problem of Socrates,” to airing his grievances against Socrates for introducing dialectics into western philosophy via the Socratic method, a form of intellectual investigation that draws on dialogue and discussion. Nietzsche believes that Socrates’s fixation on logic and rationality—which has shaped the trajectory of western philosophy—has allowed weaker philosophical positions to gain traction and, correspondingly, stifled more vital philosophical positions. Socratic philosophy has also instilled in humanity an immense skepticism toward the physical world, and Nietzsche believes that this skepticism has devalued human life and, as such, is to blame for the decadence and nihilism that characterizes modernity. He believes that a central flaw of Socratic philosophy (and its descendants) is its mistaken belief that logic—not instinct—causes happiness.

Socrates Quotes in Twilight of the Idols

The Twilight of the Idols quotes below are all either spoken by Socrates or refer to Socrates . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
).
The Problem of Socrates Quotes

In every age the wisest have passed the identical judgement on life: it is worthless. … Everywhere and always their mouths have uttered the same sound—a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness with life, full of opposition to life.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Judgements, value judgements concerning life, for or against, can in the last resort never be true: they possess value only as symptoms, they come into consideration only as symptoms—in themselves such judgements are stupidities. One must reach out and try to grasp this astonishing finesse, that the value of life cannot be estimated.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
“Reason” in Philosophy Quotes

All that philosophers have handled for millennia has been conceptual mummies; nothing actual has escaped from their hands alive.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

We possess scientific knowledge today to precisely the extent that we have decided to accept the evidence of the senses—to the extent that we have learned to sharpen and arm them and to think them through to their conclusions.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

To talk about ‘another’ world than this is quite pointless, provided that an instinct for slandering, disparaging and accusing life is not strong within us: in the latter case we revenge ourselves on life by means of the phantasmagoria of ‘another’, a ‘better’ life.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Plato, Socrates
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
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Socrates Character Timeline in Twilight of the Idols

The timeline below shows where the character Socrates appears in Twilight of the Idols. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Problem of Socrates
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Will to Power   Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
1. Throughout history, Nietzsche argues, the wisest people—even Socrates—have claimed that life is “worthless.” But what’s the point of this? Pessimistic followers of Schopenhauer... (full context)
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
2. Nietzsche considers Socrates and Plato to be symbols of a fallen ancient Greece. In particular, Nietzsche takes issue... (full context)
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
3. Socrates came from a lower social class, and he was ugly, too. Anthropologists and criminologists state... (full context)
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
4. It’s not just Socrates’s lustfulness that makes him decadent—it’s also his poor logic. Nietzsche strives to understand the origins... (full context)
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Will to Power   Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
5. Socrates brought dialectics—a method of intellectual investigation that draws on dialogue and discussion—to Greek philosophy. Nietzsche... (full context)
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Will to Power   Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
7. Nietzsche wonders whether Socrates used dialectics as an act of “revenge” against the aristocrats. Dialectics allow the dialectician to... (full context)
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Will to Power   Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
8. Socrates fascinated his contemporaries. He created “a new kind of agon” and transformed the practice of... (full context)
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Will to Power   Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
9. Socrates saw through the veneer of aristocratic Athens. He recognized that anarchy and rebellion were in... (full context)
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Will to Power   Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
10. In order “to make a tyrant of reason,” as Socrates did, an opposing threat must also exist. Thus, Nietzsche suggests, Socrates convinced the Greeks that... (full context)
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
11. Nietzsche explains the error of Socrates’s commitment to extreme rationality. He thinks that philosophers and moralists are fooling themselves if they... (full context)
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
12. Had Socrates realized his self-deception? After all, he “handed himself the poison cup,” which Nietzsche takes as... (full context)