It follows that the one thing we should not do to the men and women of past time, and particularly if they ghost through to us as larger than life, is to take them out of their historical contexts. To do so is to run the risk of turning them into monsters, whom we can denounce for our (frequently political) motives—an insidious game, because we are condemning in their make-up that which is likely to belong to a whole social world, the world that helped to fashion them and that is deviously reflected or distorted in them. Censure of this sort is the work of petty moralists and propagandists, not historians (p. 5).
My unlucky star had destined me to be born when there was much talk about morality and, at the same time, more murders than in any other period. There is, undoubtedly, some connection between these phenomena. I sometime ask myself whether the connection was a priori, since these babblers are cannibals from the start - or a connection a posteriori, since they inflate themselves with their moralizing to a height which becomes dangerous for others.However that may be, I was always happy to meet a person who owed his touch of common sense and good manners to his parents and who didn't need big principles. I do not claim more for myself, and I am a man who for an entire lifetime has been moralized at to the right and the left - by teachers and superiors, by policemen and journalists, by Jews and Gentiles, by inhabitants of the Alps, of islands, and the plains, by cut-throats and aristocrats - all of whom looked as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths.