Leben der Gattung  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Leben der Gattung" (Life of the species) is the 42nd chapter in Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation. The chapter is known for its dictum that Man is "concrete sexual desire" (konkreter Geschlechtstrieb).

Excerpt:

»Dem allen entspricht die wichtige Rolle, welche das Geschlechtsverhältnis in der Menschenwelt spielt, also wo es eigentlich der unsichtbare Mittelpunkt alles Tuns und Treibens ist und trotz allen ihm übergeworfenen Schleiern überall hervorguckt. Es ist die Ursache des Krieges und der Zweck des Friedens, die Grundlage des Ernstes und das Ziel des Scherzes, die unerschöpfliche Quelle des Witzes, der Schlüssel zu allen Anspielungen und der Sinn aller geheimen Winke, aller unausgesprochenen Anträge und aller verstohlenen Blicke, das tägliche Dichten und Trachten der Jungen und oft auch der Alten, der stündliche Gedanke des Unkeuschen und die gegen seinen Willen stets wiederkehrende Träumerei des Keuschen, der allezeit bereite Stoff zum Scherz, eben nur weil ihm der tiefste Ernst zum Grunde liegt. Das aber ist das Pikante und der Spaß der Welt, daß die Hauptangelegenheit aller Menschen heimlich betrieben und ostensibel möglichst ignoriert wird. In der Tat aber sieht man dieselbe jeden Augenblick sich als den eigentlichen und erblichen Herrn der Welt aus eigener Machtvollkommenheit auf den angestammten Thron setzen und von dort herab mit höhnenden Blicken der Anstalten lachen, die man getroffen hat, sie zu bändigen, einzukerkern, wenigstens einzuschränken und wo möglich ganz verdeckt zu halten oder doch so zu bemeistern, daß sie nur als eine ganz untergeordnete Nebenangelegenheit des Lebens zum Vorschein komme. — Dies alles aber stimmt damit überein, daß der Geschlechtstrieb der Kern des Willens zum Leben, mithin die Konzentration alles Wollens ist; daher eben ich im Texte die Genitalien den Brennpunkt des Willens genannt habe. Ja man kann sagen, der Mensch sei konkreter Geschlechtstrieb; da seine Entstehung ein Kopulationsakt und der Wunsch seiner Wünsche ein Kopulationsakt ist, und dieser Trieb allein seine ganze Erscheinung perpetuiert und zusammenhält. Der Wille zum Leben äußert sich zwar zunächst als Streben zur Erhaltung des Individuums; jedoch ist dies nur die Stufe zum Streben nach Erhaltung der Gattung, welches letztere in dem Grade heftiger sein muß, als das Leben der Gattung an Dauer, Ausdehnung und Wert das des Individuums übertrifft. Daher ist der Geschlechtstrieb die vollkommenste Äußerung des Willens zum Leben, sein am deutlichsten ausgedrückter Typus: und hiemit ist sowohl das Entstehn der Individuen aus ihm als sein Primat über alle andern Wünsche des natürlichen Menschen in vollkommener Übereinstimmung.« 
To all this corresponds the important role which the relation of the sexes plays in the world of men, where it is really the invisible central point of all action and conduct, and peeps out everywhere in spite of all veils thrown over it. It is the cause of war and the end of peace, the basis of what is serious, and the aim of the jest, the inexhaustible source of wit, the key to all allusions, and the meaning of all mysterious hints, of all unspoken offers and all stolen glances, the daily meditation of the young, and often also of the old, the hourly thought of the unchaste, and even against their will the constantly recurring imagination of the chaste, the ever ready material of a joke, just because the profoundest seriousness lies at its foundation. It is, however, the piquant element and the joke of life that the chief concern of all men is secretly pursued and ostensibly ignored as much as possible. But, in fact, we see it every moment seat itself, as the true and hereditary lord of the world, out of the fulness of its own strength, upon the ancestral throne, and looking down from thence with scornful glances, laugh at the preparations which have been made to bind it, imprison it, or at least to limit it and wherever it is possible to keep it concealed, or even so to master it that it shall only appear as a subordinate, secondary concern of life. But all this agrees with the fact that the sexual passion is the kernel of the will to live, and consequently the concentration of all desire ; therefore in the text I have called the genital organs the focus of the will. Indeed, one may say man is concrete sexual desire ; for his origin is an act of copulation and his wish of wishes is an act of copulation, and this tendency alone perpetuates and holds together his whole phenomenal existence. The will to live manifests itself indeed primarily as an effort to sustain the individual; yet this is only a step to the effort to sustain the species, and the latter endeavour must be more powerful in proportion as the life of the species surpasses that of the individual in duration, extension, and value. Therefore sexual passion is the most perfect manifestation of the will to live, its most distinctly expressed type; and the origin of the individual in it, and its primacy over all other desires of the natural man, are both in complete agreement with this.

Full text[1]

IN the preceding chapter it was called to mind that the (Platonic) Ideas of the different grades of beings, which are the adequate objectification of the will to live, exhibit themselves in the knowledge of the individual, which is bound to the form of time, as the species, i.e., as the suc cessive individuals of one kind connected by the bond of generation, and that therefore the species is the Idea (6/809, species) broken up in time. Accordingly the true nature of every living thing lies primarily in its species : yet the species again has its existence only in the indi viduals. Now, although the will only attains to self-con sciousness in the individual, thus knows itself immediately only as the individual, yet the deep-seated consciousness that it is really the species in which his true nature objectifies itself appears in the fact that for the individual the concerns of the species as such, thus the relations of the sexes, the production and nourishment of the offspring are of incomparably greater importance and consequence than everything else. Hence, then, arises in the case of the brutes, heat or rut (an excellent description of the vehemence of which will be found in Burdach's " Physiology," vol. i. 247, 257), and, in the case of man, the careful and capricious selection of the other individual for the satisfaction of the sexual impulse, which can rise to the height of passionate love, to the fuller investigation of which I shall devote a special chapter : hence also, finally the excessive love of parents for their offspring.


3io FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XLIL

In the supplements to the second book the will was compared to the root and the intellect to the crown of the tree; and this is the case inwardly or psychologically. But outwardly or physiologically the genitals are the root and the head the crown. The nourishing part is certainly not the genitals, but the villi of the intestines : yet not the latter but the former are the root ; because through them the individual is connected with the species in which it is rooted. For physically the individual is a production of the species, metaphysically a more or less perfect picture of the Idea, which, in the form of time, exhibits itself as species. In agreement with the relation expressed here, the greatest vitality, and also the decrepi tude of the brain and the genital organs, is simultaneous and stands in connection. The sexual impulse is to be regarded as the inner life of the tree (the species) upon which the life of the individual grows, like a leaf that is nourished by the tree, and assists in nourishing the tree ; this is why that impulse is so strong, and springs from the depths of our nature. To castrate an individual means to cut him off from the tree of the species upon which he grows, and thus severed, leave him to wither : hence the degradation of his mental and physical powers. That the service of the species, i.e., fecundation, is followed in the case of every animal individual by momentary exhaustion and debility of all the powers, and in the case of most insects indeed by speedy death, on account of which Celsus said, "Seminis emissio est partis animae jactura; " that in the case of man the extinction of the generative power shows that the individual approaches death ; that excessive use of this power at every age shortens life, while, on the other hand, temperance in this respect increases all the powers, and especially the muscular powers, on which account it was part of the training of the Greek athletes ; that the same restraint lengthens the life of the insect even to the following spring; all this points to the fact that the life of the individual is


THE LIFE OF THE SPECIES. 311

at bottom only borrowed from the species, and that all vital force is, as it were, force of the species restricted by being clammed up. But this is to be explained from the fact that the metaphysical substratum of life reveals itself directly in the species and only by means of this in the individual. Accordingly the Lingam with the Yoni, as the symbol of the species and its immortality, is worshipped in India, and, as the counterpoise of death, is ascribed as an attribute to the very divinity who presides over death, Siva.

But without myth or symbol, the vehemence of the sexual impulse, the keen intentness and profound serious ness with which every animal, including man, pursues its concerns, shows that it is through the function which serves it that the animal belongs to that in which really and principally its true being lies, the species; while all other functions and organs directly serve only the indivi dual, whose existence is at bottom merely secondary. In the vehemence of that impulse, which is the concentra tion of the whole animal nature, the consciousness further expresses itself that the individual does not endure, and therefore all must be staked on the maintenance of the species, in which its true existence lies.

To illustrate what has been said, let us now imagine a brute in rut, and in the act of generation. We see a seriousness and intentness never known in it at any other time. Now what goes on in it ? Does it know that it must die, and that through its present occupation a new individual, which yet entirely resembles itself, will arise in order to take its place ? Of all this it knows nothing, for it does not think. But it is as intently careful for the continuance of the species in time as if it knew all that. For it is conscious that it desires to live and exist, and it expresses the highest degree of this volition in the act of generation ; this is all that then takes place in its consciousness. This is also quite sufficient for the permanence of the kind ; just because the will is the


312 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XL1I.

radical and knowledge the adventitious. On this account the will does not require to be guided by knowledge throughout; but whenever in its primitive originality it has resolved, this volition will objectify itself of its own accord in the world of the idea. If now in this way it is that definite animal form which we have thought of that wills life and existence, it does not will life and existence in general, but in this particular form. Therefore it is tlie sight of its form in the female of its species that stimu lates the will of the brute to the act of generation. This volition of the brute, when regarded from without and under the form of time, presents itself as such an animal form maintained through an infinite time by the con stantly repeated replacement of one individual by another, thus by the alternation of death and reproduction, which so regarded appear only as the pulse-beats of that form (tSea, et So?, species) which endures through all time. They may be compared to the forces of attraction and repulsion in which matter consists. That which is shown here in the brute holds good also of man ; for although in him the act of generation is accompanied by complete knowledge of its final cause, yet it is not guided by this knowledge, but proceeds directly from the will to live as its concentra tion. It is accordingly to be reckoned among instinctive actions. For in reproduction the brute is just as little guided by knowledge of the end as in mechanical in stincts; in these also the will manifests itself, in the main, without the mediation of knowledge, which here, as there, is only concerned with details. Reproduction is, to a certain extent, the most marvellous of all instincts, and its work the most astonishing.

These considerations explain why the sexual desire has a very different character from every other ; it is not only the strongest, but even specifically of a more powerful kind than any other. It is everywhere tacitly assumed as necessary and inevitable, and is not, like other desires, a matter of taste and disposition. For it is the desire which


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even constitutes the nature of man. In conflict with it no motive is so strong that it would be certain of victory. It is so pre-eminently the chief concern that no other plea sures make up for the deprivation of its satisfaction ; and, moreover, for its sake both brute and man undertake every danger and every conflict. A very naive expression of this disposition is the well-known inscription on the door of ihefornix at Pompeii, decorated with the phallus : " Heic habitat felicitas : " this was for those going in naive, for those coming out ironical, and in itself humorous. On the other hand, the excessive power of the sexual passion is seriously and worthily expressed in the inscription which (according to Theon of Smyrna, De Musica, c. 47), Osiris had placed upon the column he erected to the eternal gods : " To Eros, the spirit, the heaven, the sun, the moon, the earth, the night, the day, and the father of all that is and that shall be;" also in the beautiful apostrophe with which Lucretius begins his work :

" jffineadum genetrix, hominum divomque voluptas, Alma Venus cet."

To all this corresponds the important rdle which the relation of the sexes plays in the world of men, where it is really the invisible central point of all action and conduct, and peeps out everywhere in spite of all veils thrown over it. It is the cause of war and the end of peace, the basis of what is serious, and the aim of the jest, the inexhaustible source of wit, the key to all allusions, and the meaning of all mysterious hints, of all unspoken offers and all stolen glances, the daily medita tion of the young, and often also of the old, the hourly thought of the unchaste, and even against their will the constantly recurring imagination of the chaste, the ever ready material of a joke, just because the profoundest seriousness lies at its foundation. It is, however, the piquant element and the joke of life that the chief con cern of all men is secretly pursued and ostensibly ignored


3M FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XL/7.

as much as possible. But, in fact, we see it every moment seat itself, as the true and hereditary lord of the world, out of the fulness of its own strength, upon the ancestral throne, and looking down from thence with scornful glances, laugh at the preparations which have been made to bind it, imprison it, or at least to limit it and wherever it is possible to keep it concealed, or even so to master it that it shall only appear as a subordinate, secondary concern of life. But all this agrees with the fact that the sexual passion is the kernel of the will to live, and consequently the concentration of all desire ; therefore in the text I have called the genital organs the focus of the will. Indeed, one may say man is concrete sexual desire ; for his origin is an act of copulation and his wish of wishes is an act of copulation, and this tendency alone perpetuates and holds together his whole phenomenal existence. The will to live manifests itself indeed pri marily as an effort to sustain the individual ; yet this is only a step to the effort to sustain the species, and the latter endeavour must be more powerful in proportion as the life of the species surpasses that of the individual in duration, extension, and value. Therefore sexual passion is the most perfect manifestation of the will to live, its most distinctly expressed type; and the origin of the individual in it, and its primacy over all other desires of the natural man, are both in complete agreement with this.

One other remark of a physiological nature is in place here, a remark which throws light upon my fundamental doctrine expounded in the second book. As the sexual impulse is the most vehement of desires, the wish of wishes, the concentration of all our volition, and accord ingly the satisfaction of it which exactly corresponds to the individual wish of any one, that is, the desire fixed upon a definite individual, is the summit and crown of his happiness, the ultimate goal of his natural endeavours, with the attainment of which everything seems to him to


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have been attained, and with the frustrating of which everything seems to him to have been lost : so we find, as its physiological correlative, in the objectified will, thus in the human organism, the sperm or semen as the secretion of secretions, the quintessence of all animal fluids, the last result of all organic functions, and have in it a new proof of the fact that the body is only the objectivity of the will, i.e., is the will itself under the form of the idea.

With reproduction is connected the maintenance of the offspring, and with the sexual impulse, parental love ; and thus through these the life of the species is carried on. Accordingly the love of the brute for its young has, like the sexual impulse, a strength which far surpasses that of the efforts which merely concerns itself as an individual. This shows itself in the fact that even the mildest animals are ready to undertake for the sake of their young even the most unequal battle for life and death, and with almost all species of animals the mother encounters any danger for the protection of her young, nay, in many cases even faces certain death. In the case of man this instinctive parental love is guided and directed by reason, i.e., by reflection. Sometimes, how ever, it is also in this way restricted, and with bad charac ters this may extend to the complete repudiation of it. Therefore we can observe its effects most purely in the lower animals. In itself, however, it is not less strong in man ; here also, in particular cases, we see it entirely overcome self-love, and even extend to the sacrifice of life. Thus, for example, the French newspapers have just announced that at Cahors, in the department of Lot, a father has taken his own life in order that his son, who had been drawn for military service, should be the eldest son of a widow, and therefore exempt (Galignanis Mes senger of 22d June 1843). Yet in the case of the lower animals, since they are capable of no reflection, the in stinctive maternal affection (the male is generally ignorant


316 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XLIL

of his paternity) shows itself directly and unsophisticated, and therefore with perfect distinctness and in its whole strength. At bottom it is the expression of the conscious ness in the brute that its true being lies more immediately in the species than in the individual, and therefore, when necessary, it sacrifices its life that the species may be main tained in the young. Thus here, as also in the sexual impulse, the will to live becomes to a certain extent transcendent, for its consciousness extends beyond the individual, in which it is inherent, to the species. In order to avoid expressing this second manifestation of the life of the species in a merely abstract manner, and to present it to the reader in its magnitude and reality, I will give a few examples of the extraordinary strength of instinctive maternal affection.

The sea-otter, when pursued, seizes its young one and dives with it ; when it comes up again to take breath, it covers the young one with its body, and receives the harpoon of the hunter while the young one is escaping. A young whale is killed merely to attract the mother, who hurries to it and seldom forsakes it so long as it still lives, even although she is struck with several harpoons (Scoresby s " Journal of a Whaling Voyage ; " from the English of Kreis, p. 196). At Three Kings Island, near New Zealand, there are colossal seals called sea-elephants (phoca proboscidea). They swim round the island in regu lar herds and feed upon fishes, but yet have certain terrible enemies below water unknown to us, by whom they are often severely wounded ; hence their swimming together requires special tactics. The females bring forth their young upon the shore ; while they are suckling them, which lasts from seven to eight weeks, all the males form a circle round them in order to prevent them, driven by hunger, from entering the sea, and if this is attempted they pre vent it by biting. Thus they all fast together for between seven and eight weeks, and all become very thin, simply in order that the young may not enter the sea before they


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are able to swim well and observe the necessary tactics which are then taught them with blows and bites (Frey- cinet, Voy. aux, teives Avstrales, 1826). We also see here how parental affection, like every strong exertion of the will (cf. chap. xix. 6), heightens the intelligence. Wild ducks, white-throats, and many other birds, when the sportsman comes near their nest, fly in front of him with loud cries and flap about as if their wings were injured, in order to attract his attention from their young to themselves. The lark tries to entice the dog away from its nest by exposing itself. In the same way hinds and does induce the hunter to pursue them in order that their young may not be attacked. Swallows have flown into burning houses to rescue their young or perish with them. At Delfft, in a great fire, a stork allowed itself to be burnt in its nest rather than forsake its tender young, which could not yet fly (Hadr. Junius, Descriptio Hollandice). Mountain-cocks and woodcocks allow themselves to be taken upon the nest when brooding. Muscicapa tyrannus protects its nest with remarkable courage, and defends itself against eagles. An ant has been cut in two, and the fore half been seen to bring the pupse to a place of safety. A bitch whose litter had been cut out of her belly crept up to them dying, caressed them, and began to whine violently only when they were taken from her (Burdach, Physiologie aLt Erfahrungswissenschaft, vol. ii. and iii).





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