Is it good to crave knowledge? Nietzsche vs. Buddhism

April 17, 2008 | By | 4 Replies More

Should one actively crave knowledge? Here are two extreme opinions:

Oh, my greed! There is no selfishness in my soul but only an all-coveting self that would like to appropriate many individuals as so many additional pairs of eyes and hands—a self that would like to bring back the whole past, too, and that will not lose anything that it could possibly possess. Oh, my greed is a flame! Oh, that I might be reborn in a hundred beings!” –Whoever does not know this sigh from firsthand experience does not know the passion of the search for knowledge.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Aphorism #249

The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness.

The Second Noble Truth of Buddhism


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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Skblllzzzz says:

    #2 may be true, but if we don't want *anything*, we'd die out within one generation I guess. Sounds boring too.

    Probably it's best to be realistic/practical about what we want and maybe create room to chase some dreams while we're at it.

  2. Ben says:

    Both quotes have value. Budda seems a bit to relaxed, for my taste. Neechie (sp?) probably would have been more comfortable in this day and age.

  3. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    There is some validity to both views, The problem the confounds us most is the difficulty of recognizing the difference between want with need.

    We need food, We need shelter. Most of all, we need to feel secure and safe.

    Once the physical needs are met. we shoud be able to attain the emotional need for sense of security, but in a society that equates security with financial success, this cannot happen.

    Why? Because financial success decreases security.

    • Johnny Pavo says:

      I beg to differ. One must understand that each of these statements serves a specific purpose, and though the Buddhist sentiment seems to contradict Nietzsche’s, it actually doesn’t. Buddhists believe we came here to accomplish something specific, before we move on or up. Nietzsche is simply expressing his passion for all learning, and in doing so he reflects motion of a man who has found his calling, his rythmn, his primary reason to exist. While Buddhism does have Aristotilean reservations for all extreme swervings, it most definitely does not look down upon the person who has found their feet. And whether they would agree or not, any Buddhist who chooses monastic life has made an extreme pledge to become “selfless”. They may call this a misleading statement too, and I would reply, “But only if you are willing to label people like Nietzsche and myself as extreme for taking our academic responsibilities as seriously as you take your monastic ones.”

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