Beyond Good And Evil – Complete Summary / Philosophy Research Paper
Introduction – Beyond Good and Evil was written in 1885, immediately after Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Nietzsche conceived of it as a detailed and refined criticism of contemporary life. As such, it reflects and amplifies many of the chapters of Zarathustra in which society, politics, philosophy, art, and science are held up to the measure of the Superman, and found wanting. It was
Nietzsche’s profound conviction that the moral interpretation of the world, which he attacked with great acidity in Zarathustra, has entered into every phase of modern thought, with unfortunate and even disastrous effect.
His hope is to “pry loose” the courageous thinker from this clinging “prejudice.” His style, therefore, is vigorous, witty, touched with sarcasm, and often violent. He sometimes takes countermeasures which are so extreme that they do not truly represent his own final views; the intent is, rather, to shock the reader into reconsidering opinions which may have been taken for granted. The book is constructed of short, aphoristic passages, and there is not always a clear connection between them. This aphoristic construction reaches a peak in chapter four, “Apothegms and Interludes,” where each aphorism is a sentence or two in length. Since it is hardly possible to distill further that in which a maximum of purity has been reached, this chapter, a short one, is not treated here. The reader who has read and understood the remainder of the commentary, however, should have little difficulty in rooting out the meaning of the separate epigrams.
The title, Beyond Good and Evil, expresses the general theme: what results when the moral interpretation of the world is rejected? In part three of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the following passage may be found: “Almost in the cradle are we presented with heavy words and values: this dowry calls itself ‘Good’ and ‘Evil.’ For its sake we are forgiven for being alive.” These words, which occur in the section titled Of the Spirit of Gravity, express, Nietzsche’s conviction that the moral interpretation of the world is like a weight fastened about man, dragging him down into the abyss of nihilism – the conviction that life is absurd. Beyond Good and Evil is an investigation of the ways in which this burden manifests itself, and an attempt to explain the nature of the “free spirit” – man unfettered by the chains of morality.
It would be a great misunderstanding, however, to assume that Nietzsche advocates a life based upon impulse, arbitrary decision, and lack of responsibility. His own ideal, Zarathustra, is a man who struggles for self-control, love of mankind, and an overflow of benevolence. But Zarathustra must do this without the “crutch” afforded by a moral interpretation of things, and in the fact of that abiding nihilism which threatens at every turn to destroy those who attempt to walk free. Man must learn to live well without belief in an afterlife, in “absolutes,” in black-and-white contrasts. To do this, he must know himself, affirm himself, and overcome self-disgust. Only then will he extend his spirit “beyond good and evil.”
Nietzsche introduces several leading ideas: (1) There is no absolute truth; (2) Dogmatism in philosophy is coming to an end; (3) Certain “dogmas,” however, are still entrenched in our language, and therefore a part of our thought (for example, belief in an immortal soul); (4) The greatest, and worst, dogmatic view was Plato’s theory that there existed an Absolute Good and a “Pure Spirit”; (5) The essence of life is seeing things in perspective, and therefore the dogmatism of the Absolute goes contrary to the essence of life (since an “absolute” truth is one which holds good from all points of view, and therefore does not admit perspective); (6) The present state of European culture (1885) is one of tension, resulting from the downfall of dogmatism; (7) Neither an intensified religious feeling (Jesuitism) nor “Democracy” have released this tension; (8) There may be “Free Spirits” who have the ability to provide the needed redirection of social distress.
1 Prejudices Of Philosophers
1. The desire to obtain absolute truths, which Nietzsche calls “the will to truth,” eventually leads man to ask about the nature of truth itself. An even more basic and dangerous question is the following: what is the value of truth?
2. Philosophers, at least those who may be called “metaphysicians, have been possessed by a fundamental, but erroneous, assumption: “the belief in antitheses of values.”
This “prejudice” is, basically, the belief that anything which is unqualifiedly good must have an opposite, which is unqualifiedly bad. This belief includes the corollary that an impurity of the “good,” any mingling of it with the “bad,” corrupts and defiles it. This prejudice regarding the application of the terms “good” and “bad” has its metaphysical correlate (i.e., a related view about the nature of existence) in the view that there exist, in nature, sets of opposites. These opposites are sometimes referred to as opposed “realms of Being.” Examples are truth/error; objectivity/personal interest; the thing-in-itself/the world of “phenomena”; form/matter; “universals” /”individuals”; spirit/flesh; mind/body; the stable/the unstable; the theoretical/the practical. In general, philosophers (and societies) have attached a positive value, “good,” to the first members of these pairs, and a negative value, “bad,” to their opposites. (Nietzsche does not give all of these examples at this point.)
Connected with these two aspects (the moral and the metaphysical) of this prejudice is the belief that nothing can emerge from its opposite. Truth, for example, can never arise out of error, and Spirit can never emerge from mere Flesh. This philosophical “prejudice of opposites,” then, may be divided into three parts:
1. Whatever is good-without-qualification has, as its opposite, the bad-without-qualification (and vice versa).
2. There are kinds of existence (e.g., “Spirit”) which are entirely separate from an opposite kind of existence (e.g., “Flesh”).
3. Nothing ever arises out of its opposite.
Nietzsche attacks this threefold assumption, as an application of his principle that dogmatism is at an end. He suggests:
1. Perhaps such antitheses simply do not exist.
2. Even if they do exist, perhaps they are not absolutes, but are dependent upon one another:
a. The values assigned to them may be valid only from a certain point of view;
b. The value of one member of a pair may be derived from its relationship to the “opposite” member;
c. It is even possible that there are so-called “opposites” which are essentially identical, and that the value of one part lies in its basic identity with the opposite part (for example, “illusion” and “reality” may be, fundamentally, manifestations of the same thing-a view similar to that of the English philosopher Berkeley).
Nietzsche expresses his belief that philosophers are now developing in whom this prejudice will be overcome, and who will dare to investigate the alternatives he has suggested.
Historically speaking, Nietzsche’s account of the philosophical prejudice in favor of “opposites” goes back to the ancient Greek philosophers. Parmenides (ca. 510 B.C.) placed the highest reality (and the highest value) in stability, while his counterpart Heraclitus (ca. 500 B.C.) insisted that the world was in a constant state of change. It should be noted that philosophical monism (the belief that all reality is the manifestation of a single element, such as Spirit) is not necessarily free from the “prejudice of opposites.” The monist usually has accepted a set of opposites, but simply denied the existence of one in favor of the other.
In modern times, philosophical pragmatism follows Nietzsche’s hypothesis by denying absolute “dualisms” (represented by the sets of opposites) and asserting a continuity among all parts of nature. The American philosopher John Dewey, for example, feels that the value of theoretical activity (and thought in general) lies only in its intimate connection with practice and with practical matters. Nietzsche himself expresses his opposition to such dualisms, for example, in his book The Genealogy of Morals, in which he links psychological (i.e., mental) distress to physiological (i.e., physical) troubles, such as bad diet and disease.
3. Nietzsche attacks the view that conscious thought is opposed to instinctive behavior. Even the most well-thought-out and apparently objective logical conclusions of philosophers are, perhaps, heavily influenced by the instincts of the thinker. The subjective valuations of the philosopher, which may be fundamentally a matter of heredity or an expression of physiological needs, enter into his thought and direct its course.
The American philosopher William James has expressed this thought in classic form. He felt that the philosophical system supported by a given philosopher is largely a reflection of that philosopher’s temperament. Philosophers are either “tender-minded” or “tough-minded,” and their philosophical views tend to reflect their psychological disposition. There may also be a difference in the temper of social groups. When the degree of control of the changing aspects of the environment is low, or when wealth and food are scarce, the belief in an ideal spiritual realm may be more attractive than it would be, say, in a time of scientific achievement and bountiful crops. (William James (1842-1910) was a contemporary of Nietzsche.)
4. Nietzsche introduces a thesis which fully expresses his dissatisfaction with the traditional interpretation of “opposite.” He suggests that falsehood may be more valuable than truth. The test of value may be the usefulness of a thing (or belief), rather than its objectivity. Certain fundamental beliefs are nothing more than convenient “fictions.” For example, propositions which many philosophers have taken to be necessarily true, such as the “synthetic a priori” propositions that “every event has a cause” and “all colored objects have some spatial extent,” are not objectively founded. They are universally accepted only because they are “indispensable.” Nietzsche calls these propositions “logical fictions.” Such “untruth,” he says, is a “condition of life.”
Nietzsche’s use of the word “logical” here is not clear, but many modern philosophers have suggested that the apparently necessary truth of such propositions is a result of the structure of language. As such, these may be called “logically true” propositions, in a loose sense of the word “logical.” Since they are not absolutes, but depend upon the structure of language, they may be termed fictions. But it is clear that Nietzsche is not using the terms “fiction” and “untruth” in the ordinary sense of these words. At the least, he means simply nonabsolute truths (but if “truth” is thought of as something that must be absolute, then this expression is a contradiction in terms). What Nietzsche denies here is that there is any absolute truth or absolute error; instead, there are more or less valuable beliefs. If what is valuable changes, these beliefs may change. They are, therefore “untruths” in the strict sense.
5-8. Nietzsche repeats the view that systems held by philosophers are expressions of temperament. There is, he says, a certain hypocrisy in philosophers who fail to admit this, and who insist that their views are dictated by pure reasoning. This element of hypocrisy has led people to look upon them with a degree of distrust. Kant and Spinoza, he says, are good examples.
In accordance with this general thesis, Nietzsche denies that the desire for knowledge is the basic motivation for philosophy. Instead, he is inclined to analyze the systems of famous philosophers in terms of their moral valuations. Any philosopher who might turn out to be truly concerned with knowledge and objectivity is probably not primarily a philosopher; his true inclinations must have some other outlet. A true philosopher always reflects his “deepest impulses” in his thought. Philosophers, in a sense, are “actors.” They are also like the beast of burden, the ass.
The general theme of these sections is expressed many times in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The use of the term “actors” in such a context occurs in Of the Flies of the Market Place (in part one of that book); the ass, also, becomes a symbol for philosophers who carry “the people’s cart” (the traditional morality), in Of the Famous Philosophers, and in part four (The Conversation with the Kings and The Awakening).
9. Nietzsche disagrees with philosophers who urge a return to “nature” (as the Greek Stoics, whose supreme rule was sequi naturam, to “follow nature”). The term “nature,” he points out, may have two meanings: the universe independent of the intrusion of human efforts, or the universe inclusive of men and their purposes. If the first is meant, then the rule “follow nature” is impossible to follow, for nature, in this sense, is everything that man cannot dare to be: boundless, purposeless, immoral, and irrational-in short, indifferent and unlimited. Man cannot exist without imposing boundaries, justice, and reason upon things. Virtue, for man, is just the opposite of nature, in this sense of the term. But in the second sense, the rule is meaningless, since man cannot do otherwise than “live according to life.”
Nietzsche sees a hidden motive in the Stoic doctrine. He feels that those who hold to a rule of this sort want to interpret nature in accordance with their own values, and then, apparently “finding” these values in nature, they insist that all men should follow them. This is, of course, erroneous, and is a special case of the construction of a metaphysics (theory of existence) that suits the values and temperament of the philosopher.
10. The interest of philosophers in the problem of the “real and the apparent world” (“opposites” whose relation to one another constitutes the “problem”) is partly due to the “will to truth.” For the most part, however, it is the result of a desire to return to the past. Philosophers who reject the apparent world and who may even doubt the existence of their own bodies (such as Descartes) may be seeking to return to the security of the older belief in the “immortal soul.” This m y be a sign of “good taste,” since present-day philosophy is too scattered and indiscriminate to offer a desirable alternative.
11. The philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) answered his most difficult question by a logical “trick.” When considering the question, “How are synthetic judgments a priori possible?”, he answered by proposing the existence of a “faculty” which makes such judgments possible. This, says Nietzsche, is no real explanation at all, but merely begs the question. It is the same as explaining the sleep-inducing properties of opium by appealing to a “power” of producing sleep (it produces sleep because it has a power to produce sleep).
“Synthetic judgments a priori” are judgments that appear to be necessarily true (true in all possible circumstances), whose truth does not require any experimental verification, but which “convey information” about the world in a way that definitions, for example, do not. Examples have been given in section 4 above. The English philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) had claimed that all propositions which convey information were only probable, but never absolutely certain. Kant held that this was not so.
Nietzsche criticizes German philosophers for falling into this logical blunder, and using Kant as a justification for the invention of even more spurious “faculties.” He repeats his view (in section 4) that the belief in “synthetic judgments a priori” is a false one, but a useful one which is necessary for the support of a certain (human) perspective. He does not, however, explain the nature of this “necessity” or the needs which it satisfies.
12. Nietzsche expresses his approval of the discrediting of the theory of materialistic atomism (the theory, stemming from the Greek Democritus, that everything is made up of indivisible and irreducible units of matter). But the tendency to postulate the existence of such ultimate indivisibles may still be an influence in maintaining the belief in a “soul-atom” – an indestructible, indivisible spiritual unit considered to be the source of all mental and emotional life. This influence should be rejected. Our view of the “soul” needs to be refined. Modern psychology should consider the soul as the result of an alteration of instincts by social structures (and as such, changeable).
13. The instinct of “self-preservation” is not the basic instinct of man.
The most fundamental instinct, according to Nietzsche, is the will to power.
Psychology should construct theories accordingly.
14. Natural philosophy (the natural sciences) does not provide an explanation of the world; it only describes it, and to an extent arranges it to suit our purposes. Being based upon a belief in the senses, however, it is readily taken to be an explanation (namely, a materialistic one). It also differs from Platonism, which rejects the world of the senses as a means to truth, and in this opposition to Platonism, natural philosophy is like a philosophic explanation of things. Platonism is a more refined, aristocratic view, but the scientific outlook has its practical value.
15. The belief in the reality of the world which is perceived by the senses, which natural science must take for granted, is not easily rejected. If it is held that we do not perceive the world as it really is, because our sense organs distort the impressions which we receive, it may be argued in return that our belief in the existence and nature of these very sense organs is derived from sense experience; the theory, therefore, is self-defeating.
16. In addition to the synthetic judgments a priori (see sections 4 and 11 above), which are always general in nature, there are certain other propositions which philosophers have held to be absolutely certain. These are the so-called “immediate certainties,” such as the proposition “I think.” Such propositions, are commonly supposed to be known by an act of perception, rather than by an intellectual process. Nietzsche denies that such propositions can be known to be certain in this way. The very expression “immediate certainty” seems to him to be a self-contradiction (he does not, however, support this view).
An analysis of “I think” reveals that it depends upon a number of assumptions which are not self-evident at all; something is happening, but in order to identify it as thinking, we must (1) know what thinking is, (2) determine whether or not the present occurrence is thinking (which involves comparison and is not immediate), (3) determine whether or not there must be a thing which does the thinking, and (4) identify this thing, if any, with “I.” These things cannot be determined by a direct perception.
Nietzsche refers to the thesis of the French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650), that “I think” cannot be doubted, and whose “I think, therefore I am” (“Cogito, ergo sum”) is famous. Nietzsche’s basic weapon in this attack upon the “rationalist” view of Descartes is his conviction that the “ego” (or the “I”) is a spurious entity, invested out of the necessity to provide a responsible agent for human acts. It is, then, a reflection of his denial of “soul-atomism” and his call for a new psychology of the soul in section 12. The next section is an elaboration of this theme.
17-19. The idea that thought requires a subject, “I,” which does the thinking, is one which derives from overattention to grammar. Since what happens in thinking is expressed by a sentence “I think,” it is assumed that the word “think” refers to the action, and the word “I” refers to an agent which carries out the action. But this may be a metaphysical error, just as the “atoms” were introduced to play the part of the substance within which “qualities” reside, under the influence of the subject-predicate formula, e.g., “It is red.” The belief in “free will” stems from a similar error – the free will is postulated as the “agent” of moral responsibility. Such theories may have retained their fascination simply because acute thinkers have found them challenging enough to use them as exercises.
Regarding this “free will,” however: popular grammar makes it relatively easy to fall into the trap of looking upon the moral agent (the free will) as a simple, uncomplicated unit. Actually it is a very complex matter, and we should not be misled by grammatical simplicity. An act of “free will” involves, for example:
1. a complex of sensations;
2. the operation of a multitude of habits;
3. an act of rational thought, or a process of deliberation, which is not mere “will”;
4. an emotion of “command”;
5. a corresponding feeling of “obedience”;
6. definite (but often overlooked) sensations of resistance (of habits, of muscles, of thought, of environment); and
7. an “elation” as a result of the feeling of power which ensues when the resistances are overcome.
In the presence of all these factors, it is folly to think that willing alone is sufficient for the carrying out of an action. Willing, as decision or wish, is only a part of a cooperative process, involving many parts of the soul (see the comment on the complexity of the soul in section 12). In fact, the complete human organism is a hierarchy of many “souls,” and an act of will involves relations of command and obedience among these “souls.” The study of morals is the study of the “relations of supremacy” among social groups; the study of the will, therefore, is included under the study of morals (Nietzsche has already suggested that the “soul” is a social function-section 12).
Nietzsche’s view here bears a strong resemblance to that expressed in one of John Dewey’s most influential books, Human Nature and Conduct (Monarch Study Guide No. 607). This book is guided primarily by the idea that habit and thought are not opposites (see section 3), but are functionally related. Dewey shares Nietzsche’s view that there are no metaphysical “opposites,” and that both habit and thought are conditioned by society.
20. Expanding upon his view that overattention to grammar may lead to philosophical error, sections 17-19, Nietzsche suggests that the grammar of an entire language may restrict and direct the philosophical thought undertaken by those who think and speak in it. From this it follows that philosophical ideas, within a given linguistic-cultural unit of society, are not separate from one another, but closely interlinked; even the philosophical alternatives which present themselves may be limited by the common language structure. Finally, it is possible that the structure of a language is reducible to the presence of common valuations, which Nietzsche links, as usual, to physiological needs.
This idea, that valuations, language, and philosophies are all interdependent and related to common social conditions, reflects Nietzsche’s view in Thus Spoke Zarathustra that the morality of a society may be inferred from its environmental conditions (see Of the Thousand and One Goals, in part one of that book). It has been anticipated here by the Comment in the Preface, where it is listed as item (3).
21. Nietzsche denies that there can be anything which is its own cause
(causa sui). The doctrine of free will, however, is based upon an acceptance of this self-contradiction. What may frighten some thinkers into entertaining this folly, he suggests, is their fear that a caused will (a will affected by causes other than itself) is a “nonfree” will, and hence the admission of external causes would render freedom of will impossible. But this reasoning, Nietzsche insists, rests upon a mistaken idea of “cause.” The cause does not force the effect; it is not a species of compulsion. This mistaken idea is the result of a “push and pull” doctrine of causality, which looks upon cause and effect in terms of the model of one thing pushing or pulling another, thereby compelling it to move. Actually, causality is just a part of the scientific organization of natural phenomena (see section 14). Cause and effect are “pure conceptions,” and do not represent any physical necessity. The “free will” is simply one which is relatively less obstructed by internal and external resistances (see section 19). Belief, or nonbelief, in freedom of the will is largely a reflection of the temperament of the individual.
22. The belief that causality is a relationship of necessity among events
(that events are “compelled” to take place by causal action) is partly the result of a misunderstanding of the expression “law of nature.”
The error lies in taking the word “law” in its prescriptive sense. In this sense, it refers to laws prescribed by social institutions and law courts. Those who violate prescriptive laws are subject to punishment. It is assumed, therefore, that “natural law” cannot be “violated” without some form of punishment. This “natural punishment” would be infallible, since nature itself is the judge and jury. Hence the often-held belief that natural law is only violable in special, “supernatural” cases, such as “miracles.” But in fact a “law” of nature does not represent an edict laid down by some inviolable authority, but is merely a statistical representation of observed patterns-a descriptive law – and it does not carry any necessity with it. For further discussion of this issue, see John Hospers, Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, Chapter 4.
23. Psychology, too, has been influenced by “moral prejudices.” The science of psychology must come to admit the important place in mental life of emotions and instincts which have been considered “bad.” The splitting of all instincts into “good” ones and “bad” ones must be abandoned; research should be “beyond good and evil,” abandoning the prejudice of moral opposites. Such a free psychology will be the “queen of the sciences.” (Compare this passage with Of the Tree on the Mountainside, from Thus Spoke Zarathustra, part one.)
The philosophical prejudices which Nietzsche has discussed in this first chapter may now be summarized:
1. The prejudice of opposites (section 2).
2. The tendency to introduce “faculties” as explanations (section 11).
3. The belief in absolute certainties, either intellectual (section 4) or intuitive (section 16).
4. The tendency to postulate the existence of “atom-like” entities as subjects in which qualities reside, or as agents for human actions (section 12).
5. The general tendency to be dominated and misled by grammar, supposing that the structure of the world must reflect the structure of grammar.
The last of these may be considered as primary. All the others are, in one way or another, manifestations of 5. If we go a step further, pointing out Nietzsche’s thesis that “grammar” is in turn reducible to “valuations,” then 1 through 4 above may be taken as an expression of the moral interpretations of the world; that is, they are metaphysical theories which are adopted because they conform to the values of the society.
Beyond Good And Evil: Parts 2 – 5
2 The Free Spirit
24. Man has the tendency to simplify the world, in order to obtain a certain degree of freedom from particular circumstances. Language is the primary structure through which this “simplification” is achieved-especially in its tendency to emphasize “opposites” where, according to Nietzsche, there are only “degrees and refinements of gradation.” This simplification is, in an absolute sense, a falsification. But it is necessary as a support for life.
The process of classification provides a simple example of this point. When we classify more than one animal as, say, “rabbit,” we exhibit a tendency to falsify by ignoring individual differences in favor of certain useful similarities. Classification is, then, both a falsification and a valuation. There was a time when whales, for example, were classified as fish, until it became more useful to classify them as mammals. In both cases, the classification minimizes certain real relationships in favor of others: it simplifies. Similarly, it is useful to “lump together” actions such as willing, feeling, and thinking, under one heading, “mental,” and to postulate a contrasting heading, “physical,” for a different group of activities. In this way, “opposites” arise. But for a more refined scientific method, these classifications may have to be modified greatly.
25-26. Nietzsche warns philosophers not to become martyrs for the sake of “truth.” He is especially concerned with agnostics who suspend all judgment until they are able to obtain certainty-which never comes. This long suspension of judgment can only lead to bad temper. Philosophers should seek out a “solitude” free from the prejudices represented by the “will to truth.” Only when he is free should the philosopher dare to study man. Cynics, who criticize humanity from a cool, even-tempered point of view, but who never become free from man themselves, are nevertheless valuable guides, because they represent a certain degree of honesty. They are better, in this respect, than those who engage in violent self-condemnation. (See Of Passing By, in part three of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.)
27-29. The German language, as a reflection of racial, social, and physiological conditions, is not easily suited for the rapidity of thought necessary for a “free spirit.” Nietzsche, who has (as a philologist) a certain freedom from this linguistic burden, often finds it difficult to express himself in German. Thought may be presto, lento, or staccato (rapid, slow, or choppy). German does not lend itself to thought which is presto. If the “free spirit,” to move “beyond and evil,” must transcend the natural rhythms of his language, he must therefore bear a certain degree of isolation from his fellows.
The free spirit is not only isolated, but he also has no place of refuge, since he can never return, entirely, to his original state. Further, he is beset by dangers. By attempting to overcome the simplifications which language introduces into things, he exposes himself to the uncertainties which this simplification serves to counteract. Since he cannot wholly deny his heritage, he is also subject to attacks of bad conscience and remorse.
30. Values depend upon one’s point of view. The values that suit a “lower order of human beings” may not be useful at all for a “higher order.” The perspectives from which a given mode of action may be weighed and valued are either exoteric (public) or esoteric (private). Certain beliefs and ideas, for example, may be extremely dangerous from a public point of view, but highly desirable from the point of view of the creative mentality. There is, in other words, a double standard of valuation.
31-33. The simplification of things into contrasting opposites which may be easily affirmed or denied, is a sign of youthful impetuosity. A more mature view, becoming at last aware of this oversimplification, must suffer through a period of self-distrust (when it is realized that what once seemed so clear and certain is not so, one’s judgment itself is called into question).
The advent of self-appraisal and thence self-control was taken by Nietzsche to be the essence of morality. His reference here to the development of an individual is a prelude to the consideration of a similar social development.
In the earliest times, men judged the worth of an action by referring to its results. “Success” and “failure” determined the attitude one might take toward an action. This period may be called the pre-moral era. The moral era was introduced when the value of an action came to be referred to its origin. The origin of an action, however, was taken to be an intention (on the part of a “free will”). This was a step forward, because it produced a certain degree of control and reflection, and an assumption of habits of individual self-criticism and responsibility. However, it rests upon the erroneous assumption that the origin of an action is an intention. A further stage, which may be called ultra-moral, is introduced by taking the intention as a mere symptom of the true origin of the action, and seeking the origin in the more complex factors of the personality (factors which a “free” psychology may discover). The morality of intentions leads to a blank wall of self-renunciation; this morality must be reappraised. Thus Nietzsche distinguishes three stages of morality: pre-moral, moral, and ultramoral.
34-38. Just as the youth may come to mistrust his judgment when he discovers his mistakes, thinkers may come to distrust all rational thought when they discover that it is inherently falsification. The philosopher must abandon belief in “certainties” and assume a distrustful attitude. But this is not cause for regret; the value of “certainty” has been overestimated. What is really valuable is that perspective which works best. Even the idea that a perceiver, the “subject,” provides a fixed point for knowledge, is questionable. The “subject” itself may be a fiction. The subject-predicate grammar misleads us here.
Both the subjective world and the objective world may be aspects of a single process – the action of will to power, represented by the complex, active interchange among organism and environment (“self-regulation, assimilation, nutrition, secretion, and change of matter”). The “objective world” is perhaps, simply a part of whatever enters into this process. But to say this is not to make the world “subjective,” as the philosopher Berkeley would have it-it is, rather, to deny the distinction between subject and object entirely. There is only the life-expanding process (will to power). This thesis does not deny the existence of spiritual values; it is not “materialistic” (section 37). We may have misunderstood ourselves and the nature of the world completely; but as we become aware of this misunderstanding, it becomes a thing of the past.
39-44. Truth is not necessarily limited to whatever brings about happiness. Truth is independent of pleasure and pain. The free spirit must have the strength to withstand the possible dangers of truth. That which serves the will to power and creativity does not necessarily bring pleasure or happiness.
The free spirit has a need to cast his deeper thoughts into a “mask” – sometimes even in a very coarse form, which is easily misunderstood. This is a psychological need, for his depth renders him vulnerable. The free spirit cannot open himself fully to others, because this renders him dependent upon them, in a way. But he cannot develop without criticism, so he must be self-testing. He has to avoid possible avenues of escape or rationalization, which threaten him by affording a way out of self-responsibility. He shuns extreme sympathy, involvement in a science, or setting up his own freedom or his own virtue as a fixed pursuit. His independence must be complete and free from “crutches.”
Nietzsche believes that philosophers who approach this ideal may now be developing. They will maintain a certain obscurity, and might be called “tempters.” They will, no doubt, still seek truth. But they will be independent and will reject dogmatism. Such free thinkers, however, must not be confused with philosophical “liberals,” socialists, democrats, or others who advocate equality of rights (these, it is true, may reject dogmatism-but only in order to defeat the forces presently in power; see Zarathustra, part two, Of the Tarantulas). By their very nature, doctrines of “equality” do not rise “beyond good and evil.”
3 The Religious Mood
45. Any unfettered research into man’s inner life, research which is free from philosophical and moral prejudices, must necessarily be the result of individual effort. This is an area where mutual cooperation is difficult, since it involves the soul of the investigator himself, and therefore, as a form of self-criticism, requires a strong nature. As Nietzsche said in section 23, such research “has the heart against it.” An honest investigation of the religious experience of man, therefore, has to be an individual effort. It requires an investigator who has himself experienced much of the religious life.
46-49. Christian faith is primarily a matter of sacrifice and subjection. Cruelty and pain are its basic attributes, and these arise from the imprisonment of the spirit. The Christian symbol of the crucified God represented, more than anything else, a destruction of previous, aristocratic ideals. Christianity, as a revolt of slaves against tyrants, was motivated primarily by the resentment which the slaves felt for their masters, because the aristocracy was indifferent to pain.
Religion, or the “religious neurosis,” as a form of institutionalized suffering, has generally been marked by the presence of sexual abstinence, fasting, and solitude. It is neither possible nor desirable to attempt to establish a causal connection between these ideals and religion. A more interesting question is: how is it possible to impose such stringent restrictions upon fundamental human instincts? This question reaches its height in the case of the saint, who achieves a sort of spiritual transformation as a result of extreme self-denial. This phenomenon has been widely regarded as miraculous or supernatural; but it may be that the reason for such an “explanation” is simply the inability to conceive of the possibility that a good thing can arise from a bad one-a form of the prejudice of moral opposites.
Southern, or Latin races, find it more difficult to tolerate religious unbelief, perhaps because the “spirit of the race” is religious, while northern races, with the possible exception of the Celts, are more instinctively barbarous. For the ancient Greeks, religion was marked originally by a feeling of gratitude, a sign of their racial vigor. Later on, this feeling was replaced by an attitude of fear (the result of the slave revolt). (See also the comment following section 3 above.)
50. The “passion for God” takes many forms: straightforward and peasantlike, refined exaltation, even tender and sensual. Nietzsche suggests that there may be a sexual element present in this sentiment.
51. The reason that even powerful rulers have respected the saint is that they have sensed the presence of power in such a man. His ability to subjugate himself is a sign of great strength, and they instinctively respect it just as they respect their own strength. Further, the willingness of the saint to subject himself to pain and deprivation arouses a suspicion that the saint knows of something to be gained, which he keeps secret. This may even produce a fear of the saint.
52. The Jewish “Old Testament” is a remarkable book, with a depth and breadth of experience which is unmatched even by Eastern religious texts. The New Testament, on the other hand, is poor and petty in spirit, not worthy of consideration alongside the other.
In The Genealogy of Morals, third essay, 22, Nietzsche attacks the New Testament as representative of a corruption of literary taste brought about by the ideals of asceticism.
53-55. The rise of atheism is not necessarily a sign of religious decline, but of the failure of the theistic interpretation of things. God as the father-figure and reward-giver has failed to manifest himself. Modern philosophy, also, has contributed to anti-Christian sentiment by attacking the idea of the “soul” on epistemological grounds (the soul cannot be known). But it is not thereby antireligious. (Kant held that a transcendent soul cannot be known to exist objectively, but he still supported religious values.)
Religious faith, as cruelty and sacrifice, has produced, perhaps, a significant tendency toward atheism. From the sacrifice of human beings to the sacrifice of their strongest instincts (through asceticism and antinaturalism), there may develop a third stage: the sacrifice of God Himself, as the dearest possession of man.
This passage affords grounds for looking upon “the ugliest man” in part four of Zarathustra, who admits to the “murder” of God, as representing atheism. However, it should be noted that it is not atheism that destroys God, but the death of God that produces atheism. In neither case is the religious neurosis destroyed.
56-57. Any serious inquiry into the nature of pessimism will reveal, as a result, the nature of the optimistic as well. The optimistic affirms the world as it is, with its possibilities for change. His affirmation reaches its peak when he is willing to accept the possibility of an eternal recurrence of all things, As man’s intellectual horizons expand, so does his world, and the views of the past appear small in contrast. It may be that the ideas of God and Sin will fade into insignificance at some future time. It is not necessary that the inclination to seek pain – the religious neurosis – will also disappear.
Nietzsche’s point, in the last few sections, should be clear: atheism and the religious attitude are not opposed to one another.
58-60. A certain inactivity, as far as external affairs are concerned, is necessary for the promotion of a religious life. Modern-day emphasis upon “busy-ness,” work, play, scholarship, and in a word, intense activity in all walks of life has a tendency to inhibit the growth of religious life.
Man instinctively has a fear of truth, and is inclined to falsify things as a means of avoiding truth. Philosophers who entertain the fantasy that the real world consists of “pure forms” are in this class. Artists, too, are inclined to oversimplify and distort reality as an escape from truth. Perhaps the highest manifestation of this inclination is the religious man. The religious interpretation of existence represents a deep fear that the truth will have no other result than pessimism and the destruction of man. The love of mankind for the sake of God, too, may reflect a fear that unassisted love will prove impossible.
61-62. The philosopher, in accepting responsibility for the improvement of man, should take into consideration the usefulness of religion. Religion has a fourfold utility:
1. It assists rulers, by establishing a common bond between them and their subjects.
2. It affords an institutionalized place of retreat for higher natures who desire a contemplative life.
3. It establishes a channel through which individuals in the lower classes may attain to intellectual development and command.
4. It extends a certain peace of mind to those masses whose lot it is in life to serve and to work.
However, this last, preservative characteristic of religion can also be a bad thing, because it can upset the natural progress of man by keeping sick elements in society alive, and by presenting a force which opposes the creative gestures of gifted and powerful individuals. In this respect, religion may be a factor in the deterioration of man.
4 Apothegms And Interludes
As explained in the Introduction, this section, which consists of brief, epigrammatic comments, will be omitted (sections 63-185). It is not difficult to relate these passages to the remainder of the book. For example, number 75, “The degree and nature of a man’s sensuality extends to the highest altitudes of his spirit,” may be readily associated with the thesis in number 50, that the passion for God has an element of sensuality in it. It is also related to Nietzsche’s general thesis that the spiritual and the physical are not opposites.
5 The Natural History Of Morals
186-187. Current attempts (1885) to construct a reasoned theory of morals are doomed to failure, because they do not have the meticulous and careful outlook which fits the extremely complex nature of the subject. Any theory of morals requires, first of all, a detailed study of the great variety of ways in which value manifests itself-a study of “distinctions of worth.” This is necessary only as a preparation. Present theory suffers from a lack of knowledge of the subject (and a consequent oversimplification). It presumes to provide a solid foundation for morals, without fully understanding the real problems which arise when many different moralities are brought to light. Current theories end up by merely supporting a simple version of the moral attitudes of the day.
It is always enlightening to seek out the source of a moral judgment in the temperament of the individual who proposes it. Systems of morals may reflect a desire for self-justification, for example, or a need for revenge, or for humility. Immanuel Kant, certainly, reflected a great inclination toward obedience. Moral “systems” may simply be a reflection of the emotional life of the system-builder.
In modern times, some philosophers have taken this idea of a relation between emotions and moral judgments to be defining. They hold that moral judgments are no more than an expression of emotion. An example of this point of view is to be found in Chapter 6 of Language, Truth and Logic, by A. J. Ayer (Dover Publications, New York.) Nietzsche, however, does not seem to be in agreement with this idea, as the following passages make clear.
188-189. The essential element in a true moral system is its imposition of discipline and restraint. Man’s “natural” state is not one of uninhibited freedom, but one in which an arbitrarily imposed control is accepted for the sake of a higher freedom.
Nietzsche means this quite literally. He associates the presence of such restraints with the natural conditions for the existence of a living organism. Further discussion of this point occurs in section 230 below.
The artist, for example, subjects himself to a complex set of rules, in order to achieve that power over a certain sphere which is his art. Only after a period of intense discipline is he able to “create” – to exhibit that creative flair which is called “freedom.” Where freedom of choice, responsibility, and spiritual creativity are concerned-in short, where morals are concerned, a disciplining with regard to human and social actions is necessary. Such a need for discipline is also “natural” in the sense that the medium in which it is to take place imposes its own laws, which govern the case (for example, freedom and wide range of ability in playing the guitar must derive from a strict observance of the qualitative character of vibrating strings). It is the same with social and spiritual freedom. The imposition of fasts and of abstinence from various forms of activity can result in a subsequent improvement of that activity, when it is resumed. Many “holidays” are really disguised fasts, after which the worker finds his skill refreshed. It is even possible that entire periods of history, during which strict moral restraints have been imposed, have functioned as fasting periods, after which the restrained instincts re-emerge in a higher form. The sublimation of sexual instincts into Christian love is an example.
This has a bearing on the question asked in section 47: “How is the saint possible?” The appearance of high spiritual qualities out of self-discipline is of the same order as the transformation of muscular activity into the beauty of the dance-both are accomplished by discipline and a lengthy period of restraint. The amazing bodily disciplines in Yoga, for example, appear to have a similar purpose.
These two passages (188-189) contain some of Nietzsche’s most interesting insights. They are among the first hints that the human phenomenon of the ability to learn-to transform natural habit patterns by learning to act and react according to rules-is of great importance to moral theory. The suggestion that the principles which govern learning discipline are derived, in part at least, from the natural conditions of the medium, (in morals, the social medium), is a viewpoint which goes counter to the historical idea that moral principles are derived from external standards. It is also a reflection of the impact of scientific method, which derives its principles from the observed behavior of its subject matter. For further research, see R. M. Hare, The Language of Morals (chapter, “Moral Reasoning,” reprinted in Knowledge and Value, ed. Sprague and Taylor; Harcourt, Brace and World, New York, 1959).
190-191. The Socratic view that the source of evil is error, since no man really desires to injure himself (and all evil is ultimate self-injury), is a form of Utilitarianism, the moral theory which places pursuit of happiness uppermost. Such theories of avoidance of pain and pursuit of pleasure are derived from the sentiments of the general public, the “followers” rather than the “leaders.” Theories of morality which place the origin of value in a rational standard, rather than in irrational instinct (reason rather than faith), also reflect public sentiment, because reason is developed with a view to utility and goal-seeking. Plato, who observed that valuations have an irrational element, sought at least to prove that the rational and the irrational would lead to the same conclusion. Hence, he identified the “true” and the “good.” Descartes, on the other hand, denied the instinctual entirely, and placed his confidence in reason alone.
192-193. The development of any science shows that even simple observation is largely structured by our predispositions and beliefs. In a sense, we see only what we want to see – the faculty of perception is not a cold mirror of events, but a “mirror” whose curves are introduced by emotion and valuation. What we observe is often simplified, and so falsified, by our habits (new sciences are often forced to overcome this observational impediment before they can progress). Even our dream experiences are capable of altering our waking perceptions.
194-196. A simple itemization of the things that people find desirable is
not a sufficient guide to their values; there is a question remaining, namely:
what do they mean by “having,” or “possessing,” those things? The meaning of
these terms is not always clear, nor is it always the same
For example, it may be said that a people desires “freedom”; but until their conception of what it would be like to have freedom is revealed, we know very little. Nietzsche here exhibits his philological background, by showing sensitivity to the importance of crucial terms-a habit which has become highly developed in modern times. He concludes section 194 with a detailed discussion of the meaning of “possession.” His main emphasis, however, is upon morals: the real nature of a value system is only revealed by its practice (what the possession of the valued things is like), rather than by its theory.
The slave revolt in morals, which Nietzsche attributes to the Jews, was an inversion of previous values. Things which had been considered “good,” such as riches, became “evil” instead. Even the word “world” became a term of negative import. The significance of this inversion of values is not to be looked for “on the surface” (any more than a term like “freedom” can be understood, in the mouth of another, until his behavior is observed). Nietzsche therefore begins a detailed investigation of what he terms the “morals of timidity.”
197-199. Moralists who condemn the violent and commanding elements of nature, including the powerful man (such a man as Caesar Borgia), reveal a misunderstanding of nature itself. Their standard of value lies in the temperate and the mediocre; particularly, in the happiness of the masses. Such theories are a manifestation of fear, and a reflection of the presence of outside dangers. They are poor, theoretically, because they attempt to apply a single standard to all members of society, and even to all societies; something that cannot really work. They ignore, suppress, or otherwise channel the emotions, merely as a matter of freedom and expediency.
In human societies, there has always been a distinction between the larger, obedient masses – the “herd” – and those who are leaders. The masses, of course, are the larger group, and their chief characteristics is obedience. The habit of obedience, as a result, has stamped itself upon mankind to the extent that the need for it is almost an instinct. Nietzsche is of the opinion that man has not progressed as far as he might have, and one of the reasons, he believes, is that the instinct for obedience is more readily perpetuated than the instinct to command (see section 62 for the role of religion in this connection).
This instinct to obey, Nietzsche speculates, may grow to the point where even the leaders are under its sway. At this point, they will attempt to make their leadership seem as if it is a form of obedience; a subordination, for example, to a constitution, or to the will of the people. Those qualities that are highly prized by the masses, such as public spirit and modesty, will also become virtues in the leader. An ultimate development of this tendency is the replacement of leaders by groups of nonleaders, whose joint decision will be governing. Napoleon was a refreshing exception to this trend.
200. In conjunction with his view that there can be an “inherited” instinct for obedience, Nietzsche expresses the notion that moral sentiments in general may be transmitted by heredity, even as a racial characteristic. In the man of mixed race, he suggests, there may occur a psychological conflict, owing to the presence of conflicting moral sentiments which derive from his mixed origin. Such conflict generally produces a weak individual, who may sieze upon “happiness” as a way out. It can, however, produce the opposite – the powerful man, whenever there is also present an inherited ability of self-mastery.
201. The utilitarian quality of the “morals of timidity” is directed toward a single end, the preservation and contentment of the group. As long as this is the case, the ideal of “love of one’s neighbor” cannot be truly achieved. At first, sympathetic tendencies toward other members of the group are simply accepted, not valued in a moral sense. As the group becomes secur the primary emotion governing human relations becomes fear. The characteristics of the fighting man, developed as part of the protection of the group, become a source of internal insecurity. A new moral perspective arises, one which condemns elements of power and creativity, since these shake the confidence of the community in its stability. In contrast, all moderate elements become praiseworthy. This stage, again, is dominated by fear, not by love. As this trend continues, eventually violence even in the prosecution of the law becomes a source of disturbance. Severe punishments are avoided, and criminals receive the benefit of increasing support on the part of the legal system.
The account of these stages in the development of the “morals of timidity” is expanded in The Genealogy of Morals (second essay, sections 7-10).
202. Nietzsche makes it clear that his use of the term “herd” in referring to the utilitarian moral system is not intended as a metaphor, but is meant to express his general belief that human social systems are not fundamentally separate from those of animals. The unanimity of moral sentiment throughout Europe, the certainty that the knowledge of good and evil is complete, can only be described, he says, as a development of the herd instinct. Other moralities are possible, but the herd morality defends itself by laying claim to the final truth. Religion has assisted this, and democratic social systems have resulted.
Even anarchism (which supports the abolition of any formal government), as it presents itself today, is not really removed from the influence of this herd morality. The anarchist, in supporting rule of the individual by the individual, seems to be opposed to socialists and “equalizers”; but in fact both factions are agreed in that they are antagonistic toward class distinctions; they oppose special privileges; they share an aversion for legal punishment; they value sympathy; and they fear suffering.
203. If it is accepted that democratic political systems are basically a weakening influence, where is a strong counterforce to be found? Nietzsche places his hope in the emergence of the new philosopher. Such men, he hopes, will introduce a new order of values; they will emphasize man’s responsibility for his own future. Above all, they will attempt to free man from submission to historical accident, which has been the governing factor in his progress so far. In the next chapter, Nietzsche deals with the new philosopher in greater detail.
Beyond Good And Evil: Parts 6 and 7
6 We Scholars
204-206. The man of science is not to be placed above the philosopher in order of rank. Scientists, under the influence of the democratic spirit which demands freedom from all masters, has declared its separation from religion, and now wishes to take the place of philosophy as the highest discipline. It is not difficult, indeed, to construct “insolent” criticism of philosophy. The philosopher does not appear to be a hard worker; the history of philosophy appears to be a history of failures; philosophy may even be mistaken for a form of mysticism. Those who reject the views of a particular philosopher may be led to reject philosophy as a whole, especially if they agreed with that philosopher’s own criticism of others. This, however, is merely the result of the weaknesses of present-day philosophy, which has been reduced to mere scholarship, specialization, and overconcern with the theory of knowledge.
It is not easy for the philosopher to achieve a position of prominence. Science, which grows larger and larger, overshadows him with a great body of knowledge. His best way out is specialization, but this is fundamentally opposed to the philosophical instinct. The philosopher is committed to judgments regarding life, and this imposes upon him a duty to seek out depth of experience. The public is often misled by this trait; they identify anyone who lives apart, such as the scientist, scholar, or priest, with the philosopher. But the real philosopher is not of this stamp at all-he seeks experience, and therefore does not live “prudently,” but in great spiritual danger, for he questions even himself.
The scientific man differs from the creative genius. He rules out sensual pleasure and the virtues of command, and instead glorifies the mediocre values of industry, adaptability, and moderation. He is in constant need of self-justification, which stems from the distrust and envy characteristic of all dependent classes (see section 260).
207-209. The objective point of view is valuable, but there is a danger in taking it as an end, and not as a means. The scientist, by his very nature, deals in generalities. This isolation from the concrete case makes it difficult for him to affirm or deny personal values. His emotions suffer, as a result, and he can neither love nor hate without restraint. He is, in other words, removed from questions of value: his function is therefore instrumental, and does not reach into deep human issues.
The philosopher who does not advocate some form of scepticism is the unusual case, and people may fear him, because he is difficult to understand. In the presence of widespread nihilistic feeling, scepticism is one of the best “sedatives.” The sceptical point of view permits a suspension of judgment, and thereby protects the sceptic from the responsibility of affirming or denying values.
Scepticism is a form of physiological weakness. It is exemplary of the weakness of will which results from the blending of classes and races, with its consequent confusion of moral instincts. The power of will is weakest in France, stronger in Germany and England; it is strongest in Russia. Europe will need a powerful antidote in order to compete with Russia for future supremacy. The twentieth century will witness a great struggle in world politics, a struggle for world dominion on the part of a new ruling class. There is, however, a stronger form of scepticism-a “masculine” scepticism-which is German in character. This is a fatalistic acceptance of a lack of values, coupled with aggressive tendencies, which produces a certain freedom and will to conquest. This warlike German scepticism is a factor which must be appreciated.
210-211. But the new philosophers will not be sceptics, in either sense. They might better be called critics. The critic differs from the sceptic in his affirmative spirit toward value standards, his experimental attitude (which is a form of courage), and his ability to accept responsibility. The new philosopher will not love truth for the sake of pleasure or spiritual enrichment; he will not identify the true with the beautiful or the “good.” Such a view is foolish romanticism. The philosopher’s concern with truth is, rather, a direct expression of the will to power, and nothing else. “Knowing,” for him, is the same as “creating.” Nor will the new philosopher concern himself with a reconciliation of conflicting value systems.
But although the philosopher will require great critical ability, he will not consider himself only a critic. Criticism is itself an instrument. The primary task of the philosopher is the creation of values. Even those who formulate systems of values which are simply formalizations of previous value systems, are merely philosophical “workers” and not true philosophers. True philosophy creates new values, and this is the highest expression of the will to power.
Although Nietzsche’s tone here is militant and impassioned, and his use of the term “power” increases the impression of an arbitrary attitude, his insight is a valuable one. The basic element of theory here is the conviction that values are not discovered, but created. The basis for valuation is not to be found in metaphysical structures which are independent of man, but in the actions and nature of man himself. The philosopher, then, must not engage in a fruitless search for some mysterious order of the cosmos upon which values are to be based. He must, instead, study man and the experience of man.
Nietzsche’s emphasis upon values as a reflection of command, emotion, temperament, physiology, and environmental conditions is not at all strange or arbitrary. It is the keynote of a large part of modern philosophical research, undertaken with the purpose of obtaining a clear understanding of the connection between moral judgments and imperative sentences, expressions of emotion, and the psychology of habit and learning. His view also has an effect upon notions of responsibility. If values are creations and not discoveries, man must accept responsibility for values “on his own”; he can no longer lean upon a supposed “universal order” for support. Because he has this responsibility, and because social and physical conditions change, there can be no fixed order of values. This sense of “abandonment” and lonely responsibility has been a major concern of modern existentialism. Man, however, has developed an almost instinctive belief in the necessity of fixed values. The conscious recognition that there are none does not wipe out this instinctive pattern, and the result of the ensuing conflict between old habit and conscious belief is a tendency toward pessimism. Scepticism, as Nietzsche describes it above, is one way of “hiding one’s head in the sand,” refusing to face this conflict. The philosopher must accept man’s responsibility, and face it without submitting to pessimism.
212-213. As a creator of values, the philosopher often finds himself in conflict with accepted standards. For example, in this age of specialization and cooperation, he will be inclined to assert the importance of adaptibility, confidence in personal decisions, and comprehensiveness.
What a philosopher is cannot be learned easily; it requires experience. The philosopher must achieve the difficult goal of blending boldness with caution. The scholarly ideal emphasizes only the latter of these. Artists, perhaps, come closest to the kind of experience with permits an understanding of the philosophical temperament. In the artist, “necessity” and “freedom of the will” are simply two sides of the same coin. Physiology, temperament, and instinct are as important as intellect in the development of philosophers. Consequently, such men will have to be the product of many generations of development.
Nietzsche’s account of the place of necessity in artistic creation was elaborated in sections 188-189. It is to be noted that his view here, that necessity and free will are not opposed, is another application of his antagonism toward the prejudice of opposites (section 2).
7 Our Virtues
214-217. The spirit of the modern age is one of conflict and indecision. Our virtues, therefore, if we have any, are not to be found as readily as those of our forefathers. Modern man is the inheritor of more than one morality; the moral quality of his actions is often many-sided and unclear. “Love of one’s enemies,” for example, seems to have developed into a moral standard, but even this operates on an unconscious level, and not as conscious “attitude.” This, however, is a superior stage since conscience now comes into play (compare section 32). Those who demand a conscious recognition of their “goodness” are dangerous, because they cannot withstand embarrassment, which they may answer with revenge.
218-219. The best “intelligence” lies on the level of instinct. The internalization of standards (conscience) is more thorough and functional than a continual necessity for conscious referral to standards. Psychologists would do better to study the lower classes, in whom morality has become almost instinctive, than to study superficial “upper-middle-class” behavior.
The conscious exercise of moral condemnation is merely a form of revenge, and reveals the shallow quality of the person who habitually does so. It is really a compensation for poor temperament, but it can be developed into the very opposite (a high spiritual quality) if carried to its utmost. Spirituality develops out of its opposite, shallowness, only through the intervention of a long period of self-imposed moral restraint. Spirituality is, in fact, the opposite side of a continuum, at the other end of which lies justice as a form of revenge. It is, then, the sublimation of revenge; the transformation of a destructive impulse into an ennobling one.
The function of moral restraint in producing spiritual qualities is discussed in sections 188-189. The passage above, regarding justice and revenge, is a short expression of the main thesis in The Genealogy of Morals, second essay.
220-222. The objective spirit, which praises “disinterestedness,” is misleading. Disinterested action is not a virtue in itself. It takes on moral quality only as an instrument of an intense interest. The key to the value of disinterestedness lies in a study of what interests higher men. The idea that love should be divorced from egoism is an absurd one, and represents the mistake carried to its extreme. The daring philosopher of the “perhaps” (section 2) may even suppose that “unselfishness” is valuable only as an expression of selfishness, for example, when it is exercised as a right on the part of a powerful individual; he can afford unselfishness, because of his richness. On the other hand, a weaker ego cannot withstand this procedure, and what is good in the former case is evil in the latter. Values differ according to the order of rank. (Note, however, that what establishes this order is just the degree of ability to bestow without losing oneself in the process-see Thus Spoke Zarathustra; part one, The Bestowing Virtue.)
Modern man is marked by self-dissatisfaction. His desire to be a “fellow sufferer” is a sign of self-contempt and vanity.
223-225. The ambiguity of modern man regarding value systems, which results from his “hybrid” breeding (see section 214), has caused him to develop a historical sense. He looks eagerly into history in a restless search for a “form” which may be given his unformed morality. At the same time, he has attained a perspective regarding historical moralities, such that he is able to take them with a grain of salt, even laugh at them.
This historical sense shows itself in the increasing ability to understand literature embodying a variety of moral sentiments. Modern appreciation of Homer (ca. 850 B.C.) exemplifies this. We can also “stomach” a confusing synthesis of tastes, as is plainly evident in our appreciation of Shakespeare. This historical sense is one of our great virtues; it carries with it hostility to “finished” cultures, and an experimental attitude. There is a certain affirmation of the unmeasurable or unfixed, which may constitute a force opposed to the traditional over-valuation of certainty and stability.
This experimental, “open-ended” attitude is a dangerous one, but it is also a welcome one; it accepts the danger which is a part of all true creativity. Systems which avoid danger and seek pleasure or well-being are destructive to the creative spirit. Man is both a creature (something passive because created: creat-ure) and a creator. As a creature, he desires well-being; but as a creator, he must not turn away from suffering.
226-228. Those who think and work “beyond good and evil,” and who may be called “immoralists,” have their own sense of duty. Honesty, perhaps, is their inescapable virtue. Free spirits should perfect their honesty, if they cannot avoid it, but they must not let it become a wearisome burden.
Until now, moral philosophy has been noncreative. The English Utilitarians (for example, John Stuart Mill) contribute nothing original. They do not even take proper care in inspecting the history of moral sentiments. They merely rationalize the attempt to dictate English morality to the world as a whole. This morality, with its emphasis upon well-being, provides no positive goals. It is essentially a prohibitive morality, not a creative one.
229-231. However frightening it may be, one must acknowledge the base origins of humanity; the wild beast is still present in man. The desire for cruelty, which stems from enjoyment taken in the suffering of others and even of oneself, has not been eradicated from man’s soul. It has simply been transformed, and is represented, for example, in “culture” by the aesthetic pleasure of the tragic drama. Religious self-denial and the rigorous self-discipline of the scientist are other manifestations of this sublimation of cruelty. Cruelty, in turn, is one aspect of the will to power, as it appears in every living thing. This will may be analyzed in the following manner:
1. Growth. The living thing assimilates alien factors in the environment, rejecting that which it finds inimical or inconsequential, and accepting the useful. It orders and arranges things according to the most useful scheme. This ordering is the prototype of that falsification and simplification which in man is language and science (see section 24).
2. Defense. The negative side of this arbitrary arrangement of things is a system of prohibitions, the refusal to admit variations beyond certain limits. The spirit resembles the “stomach,” which will only digest certain things, allowing others to pass by untouched and unrecognized.
3. Deception. In social contexts, where other creatures are involved, this self-deception (in 2 above) becomes a deception of others, for the sake of the security which this provides.
4. Cruelty. Since severe discipline is a necessary condition for ability to arrange things freely and creatively (sections 24 and 188), a certain self-restriction (and even group restriction), which is a form of cruelty, is also a part of the pattern of life. Man gives this aspect high-sounding titles, such as “sacrifice for knowledge,” but these highest things are rooted in falsification and cruelty.
A very similar account of such a “pattern” occurs in John Dewey’s book, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, in the chapter entitled “The Biological Matrix of Inquiry.”
All adaptation, learning, and growth, however, has a center, a core, which does not alter. Our firmest convictions are more valuable as revelations of our own deepest emotional temper than they are as truths (see section 187). Convictions are merely symptoms of our valuations; and it is our valuations which tell us what we truly are.
This view, that there is a relatively fixed temperament underlying external behavior, should not be confused with the belief in a soul. Nietzsche has rejected the latter idea (section 12).
232-239. Nietzsche concludes with a discussion of woman. He does not approve of the “democratic” tendency to intellectualize woman. She is not a thinker; she has always avoided truth-her greatest skill is that of ornamentation. Intellectual women are merely “comical.” Ornament is the means which woman employs toward her primary end: this is, man (but in Zarathustra, Nietzsche stated that man was the means to the end, which was pregnancy). The real basis for the male-female relationship is antagonism. Woman is the possession, man the possessor; woman must be kept, like a fragile bird-man is the keeper. If woman loses her fear of man, she will lose all femininity. Man, also, has a certain fear of woman, for she represents the irrational, the unpredictable. The breakdown of these basically instinctive relations is a sign of the degeneracy introduced by the democratization of Europe.
Beyond Good And Evil: Parts 8 and 9
8 Peoples And Countries
240-243. Germany today exhibits a certain two-sided character, as a nation and a race. Just as German music is both ancient and modern in feeling, so the German spirit is both young and old. There is a lack of definiteness, but a great potentiality. The German spirit also exhibits a certain element of deliberate clumsiness, a lack of “southern” gracefulness.
There is a tendency for Europeans to be seized by moments of petty and narrow patriotism. But beneath external affairs, there is a growing tendency toward the development of a supernational sort of man. The mixing of races and moralities produces a type of man independent of the cultural and environmental conditions which are characteristic of nations and races. As a result of this process, conditions are favorable for the appearance of men of exceptional character, as well as those of mediocre ability. The tyrant, as well as the slave, can be the result of “democratic” mixing of races (see section 200). The key to this possibility of opposites arising from the same source is the great adaptibility which the supernational man must have.
244. Germans have been thought of as a “deep” race. What does this
“depth” amount to? As has been said, the German spirit has a “mixed” source, and because of this it is difficult to define the German. The keynote of the German character is development. As a race and as a nation, Germany is in a period of transition. The rumor of German “depth” is partly an expression of this fact. Germans are also slow and clumsy, and they take a long time to “digest” anything. This characteristic is also a source of the idea of German “depth.” It is well, however, for a people to have a public “face”; development takes place under such deception (see sections 223 and 240).
245. Regarding German music: Beethoven represents the transition of
Germany, the middle ground between light classicism (Mozart) and the music of modern youthfulness. In Beethoven, there is a feeling of both loss and hope-loss of an older taste, hope for the new. Romanticism after Beethoven was a superficial interlude, in which Felix Mendelssohn was a rare brightness. The music of Robert Schumann is simply something that is best left behind, for it is not sufficiently supernational. (For Nietzsche, Richard Wagner approached this supernational ideal. See sections 255 and 256.)
246-247. Regarding the German language: Germans have not generally come to an understanding of the way in which writing can express rhythm and tempo (see sections 27-28). But such an understanding is really necessary for an understanding of the meaning of sentences. A tasteful literature must harmonize meaning with tempo. A sign that Germans do not understand this is the general tendency to read silently, and to separate the spoken style from the written style. This was not the case in ancient times. In present-day Germany, the nearest approximation to the ancient ideal, in which breath and thought are in harmony, is to be found in the church. The German Bible (Luther’s Bible) is, perhaps, the “best German book.”
248-249. Just as there are active and passive creative men (see the Comment following the Dance Song in Thus Spoke Zarathustra), there are also active and passive nations. Some bring forth new things (the Greeks, the French) and others form the material for later development (the Jews, Romans, and perhaps the Germans). Often nations do not recognize their own role, because they have a tendency to take superficial characteristics too seriously.
250-251. Regarding the Jews: Europe owes the Jews a great debt of gratitude, if only because they originated the powerful, disciplinary moral spirit. Anti-Semitism in Europe is a folly, a lapse similar to the “patriotism” mentioned in section 241. These “follies” are difficult to avoid, because they depend upon temperament, and it is not likely that Germans will ever be able to overcome them. The Jews are a tremendously strong race, and there is a natural fear of them among weaker Europeans. Both the Jews and the Russians have a capacity for slow adaptation which is an integral part of their strength. Their powerful nature could give them the control of Europe, but they do not desire this, whatever anti-Semites, may say. Europe could benefit more from the Jews, and it might be a good idea to put an end to anti-Semitism.
252-253. Regarding England: The English are not a creative philosophical race. They are too mechanical. English music reflects this; it never “gets off the ground.” Only the most mediocre European intellects can be taken in by English thought, and it has some influence upon middle-class taste in Europe. This is not a bad thing, because it stimulates a certain amount of detail work which can be helpful to the genuine creator. Real creators will not be such “workers” (see section 211), and they may even be “ignorant” in strictly scientific matters.
254-255. Regarding France: Although France presents a rather crude face to modern Europe, it is still the heart of the most refined culture. The French, however, cannot avoid pessimism, and German thought, especially that of Schopenhauer, has a great influence in France. The French have a great amount of artistic sentiment, a refined psychological insight, and a blending of northern and southern temperaments which permits depth without gloominess. The music of Bizet expresses this southern character. German music, with its antagonism to southern lightness, is dangerous; if it were released from its extreme northern iciness, a truly super-European music might arise.
256. The influence of nationalism in Europe obscures the real tendency of Europe to become a single unit. But the greater men of the century, such as Napoleon, Goethe, and Beethoven, were preparations for the coming unity. Richard Wagner, himself, reflects this; his work is not nationalistic, and has a strong French influence. These great men are the prototypes of the European to come.
9 What Is Noble?
257-259. The “elevation” of man is dependent entirely upon the existence of aristocratic societies, in which there is an order of rank among the populace, and a servile class at the bottom. Out of the sense of separation of class from class (a “pathos of distance”), there may arise a sense of “distance” within the soul, a desire for “higher states.” Under the influence of this desire, man finds a way to mount higher and higher, through self-overcoming. The unpleasant truth of the matter is that such aristocratic societies have only resulted from the conquering of a weaker race by a stronger.
The ruling class must not consider itself as a servant of the state, but rather as the very goal of the state. Society exists only as a means for the production of higher men. Only a corrupt aristocracy considers itself subordinate to the ruling body. The healthy ruling class maintains an aloof autonomy. Any society which takes equality of privilege and will as its basic rule, denies a characteristic of life itself. The essence of life is a kind of exploitation of the weaker by the stronger. This “exploitation” is not an evil, but simply a fact of existence, a “primary organic function,” and it is a part of the will to power (see section 230).
260-261. There are two main types of morality: the slave-morality and the master morality.
The Master Morality. The noble man possesses, above all, a proud state of mind, and this pride expresses itself in his active dislike of certain characteristics of the slave class. In this morality, “good” is associated with “noble,” and “bad” simply means that which is despised (by the nobles). Cowardice, timidity, overattention to utility, distrustfulness, self-abasement, and dishonesty are all despised by the noble, and are therefore “bad”. The noble creates values, and he honors in others those qualities which he himself praises. He may help those of lesser status, but always out of an overflow of his own power, never out of pity. He admires discipline and severity. His primary rule is “faith in oneself.” “Duty,” for the noble, is not a word which applies equally to all men. He has duties only to those of equal rank.
The Slave Morality. This morality is characterized by a lack of faith in mankind-a pessimistic view of the world. The primary articles of value are those which eliminate as much pain from life as possible; it is, therefore, the morality of utility. Instead of the distinction “good” and “bad”, this morality substitutes the distinction “good” and “evil.” What is good is what serves to keep suffering at a minimum; what is evil is the power of the ruling class, together with all the qualities which characterize the rulers, such as lack of humility.
To the noble man, vanity is an alien thing. He is careful to estimate his own worth accurately, and to ask of others only this same estimate. The praise of others is valued by him only because he honors them. He does not seek a place in the order of rank that is due to external circumstance or “position.” The servile class, on the other hand, accepts outward signs of status as definitive. This is due to their inability to create values. The slave does not form value judgments-he must always have a standard supplied by others. While the vain individual loves to hear good things said of himself, and is hurt by bad comments, the noble man is inclined to reject overestimates of his value, and to appreciate bad opinionseas an aid to self-improvement.
262. Society passes through several stages in developing the “morals of timidity” (section 197). (1) Under an aristocratic rule, conditions are generally hard; the society has to meet external danger. This severity in the face of external dangers requires a certain uniformity of behavior, and a lack of tolerance for variations. (2) As the society becomes secure, conditions favorable for the appearance of originality and variation develop (it is the experience of animal breeders, says Nietzsche, that security and abundant food stimulate variations). (3) The strength which was generated by the old “hard” life is now channeled into social dissent, and the old morality will no longer serve as a restraint, since the dangers under which it arose have been removed. (4) This internal dissent presents a new danger, and a new morality is needed to meet it. (5) The new morality will praise the mediocre and will elevate moderation to a position of importance, in order to counteract the effect of internal variation.
263-265. Some individuals have a natural ability to discern the order of rank. Each individual has an innate value, and this can be often discerned by observing how reverent the individual can be. The vulgar tend to blindness, when a beautiful or noble thing is placed before them (like the Bible). The higher individual, on the other hand, shows his appreciation in the presence of such things. The development of noble sentiments depends partly upon an imposed, authoritarian demand that such valuable things be regarded with reverence.
Long-standing ancestral habits cannot be discounted in understanding the behavior of present generations. Ancestry shows itself in the disposition and talents of the young. Democratic education, which attempts to ignore and even eliminate innate (racial) differences, is essentially a deception. The simultaneous praise of truth and “individuality” is hypocritical and contradictory.
A certain egoism is a natural inheritance of the noble soul, and the noble exercises his superiority without evil intent, merely as a form of natural “justice”. At the same time, he recognizes his duty to his equals, also as a natural pattern of behavior. He has a deep instinct for maintaining a balance of obligation among those of the same rank. The morality of obligation is not accepted by him as an imposition, but as a right. (Regarding egoism, see also Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo, Chap. III, 5.)
266-269. Both the self-seeking man and the self-abasing man are distasteful to the noble. What does the opposite, ignobility, really stand for? Above all, it stands for the common. There is a natural tendency in men to evolve toward the common. Language, as a mark of national or racial unity, is itself a powerful factor in promoting a commonality among men, for it depends upon the establishment of a common ground of experience and need. Once again, Nietzsche presents his view that language “falsifies” (compare section 24). As far as survival is concerned, the common people have all the advantage; even language works for them.
It is difficult for a psychologist to study the uncommon cases, because of the danger of being overcome by sympathy. Higher individuals are always “desperate,” always faced with destruction. Because of his insight into the nature of the higher man, the psychologist is inclined to view with sympathy and disgust those same men who are often held in reverence by the multitude. The face which the great man presents to popular view is never a true one.
Even love is not a sufficient remedy for the inner torment of the great man. The inadequacies of human love, in fact, may have led to the “invention” of the Christian God of pure love.
270-274. Depth of suffering separates the higher man from others, and he protects his position by “disguising” himself in various ways. Apparent attention to pleasure and moderation (Epicureanism), follies, and “science,” have all been “masks” by which the higher man conceals himself. The higher man has a sense of “purity” which, in its ultimate form, is holiness. His sensitivity to a lack of purity in others separates him from them. The saint pities those who are less pure; he who is higher than the saint considers even pity an impurity. The higher man does not share his duties with others-what is an obligation for him need not be one for another. Again, this separates him from others. The man who seeks higher things must also consider others as a means, not as a goal. Solitude is the consequence of these isolating factors – and solitude can be toxic. The higher man is not only alone; he also waits, like a pregnant woman, for the chance set of conditions which will best release his powers. Sometimes he is forced to wait too long, until he becomes too weary to act.
275-279. Those who look only for the worst in a man show a lack of noble sensibility. The noble man, however, requires a complex set of conditions for his very existence. For this reason, lesser men have a better chance of survival. Also, the complexity of the process of self-development, undertaken by the creative spirit, makes it all the more probable that something will be omitted – and therefore be lacking when needed. The extreme sensitivity which the higher man has to his own weaknesses, and his precarious position, forces him to take up an appearance of stability. Noble men often appear to be too happy.
These are the qualities which Nietzsche has attributed to the noble man:
a deep capacity for reverence, continual suffering, inner purity, a sense of duty, loneliness and solitude, constant waiting, complexity, and the ever-present “mask.”
280-282. Even Nietzsche’s own apparent aggressiveness and extreme views are a kind of “mask,” necessary for the maintaining of his inquiring spirit. He himself often has doubts and is severely self-critical, but he continues to search out every possibility-to be a philosopher of the “perhaps.” It is not easy to maintain personal integrity in the face of all that is lacking in the world. Disgust with the state of things can catapult a man unexpectedly into madness.
283-286. It is better to praise those with whom one disagrees than to praise one’s own views in others. Praise, for the higher man, should not necessarily mean agreement. This, however, requires a great deal of self-control. The higher man must have command of his emotions; he has four virtues: courage, insight, sympathy, and solitude. His most important contributions may be misunderstood for generations, and the virtues of the higher man are designed to take this into account. The greatness of a man, indeed, might be measured by the time it takes for him to be understood. The great man looks down from a height, both of space and time.
287-291. The noble soul is not characterized primarily by actions or “works,” but by a deep “reverence for itself.” The mask which the noble presents to the world takes many forms. The instinctive intellectual may hide his intellectuality by means of outward “enthusiasm.” But what he does does not reveal what he is; his solitude itself prevents him from attempting seriously to communicate with the masses. The written opinions of a philosopher, in fact, may conceal his true nature, rather than reveal it. In a way, he would rather be misunderstood. Man is, after all, extremely complex, and the simplicity of his works is necessarily unfaithful to their origin. “Good conscience” is an invention that has the character of a simple mask, and morality itself is a vast simplification, which attempts to reduce the complexity of human relationships to a common formula (see also section 19, on the complexity of the will).
292. The philosopher, who seeks unusual and varied experiences, is under the influence of the conflicting motives of fear and curiosity. Fear may cause him to avoid himself, but curiosity brings him back again.
293. Sympathy is a virtue in the higher nature, but it is a vice in the mediocre man, who sympathizes only to ease his suffering. Only the man who is a master, who has some real control and possession of things and of himself, can exercise a true sympathy-one which is not self-seeking.
294. In spite of the fact that some philosophers, like Thomas Hobbes
(1588-1679), have cast doubt upon the value of laughter, it is probable that laughter, and even an ability to ridicule the most serious things, is a mark of the truly philosophical spirit.
295. Nietzsche concludes by reaffirming his admiration for the god
Dionysos, whom he had praised, as representative of the irrational well-springs of creativity in man, in The Birth of Tragedy. In his later book, Ecce Homo, he refers to this passage as an example of psychological analysis (Ecce Homo, Chap. III, 6). The god Dionysos is the “genius of the heart,” who perpetually requires that a man look into himself for that which is there, but unrecognized and perhaps unformed. As such, this god is the source of self-renewal, even as he is associated with the ceremonies of spring.
Nietzsche’s description of the god, here, however, is somewhat different from that given in his earlier book. There, Dionysos represented mystical contact with the metaphysical roots of Being, and a meeting with Dionysos was characterized by a loss of individuality. Here, Dionysos is called a “philosopher,” and some have understood Nietzsche as meaning to modify his previous view by adding a Socratic element, an element of rationality, to the former picture of the god. This “god,” it is suggested, is a combination of the old Dionysos of pure irrational Being, and the Socrates of critical thought. However, Nietzsche also says here that the role of “investigator” is spurned by Dionysos as simply another “mask,” by means of which humans give him a form. The significance, then, of Nietzsche’s allusion to Dionysos as a “philosopher” is not entirely clear. It seems certain, however, that Dionysos represents a principle which can urge a man toward that self-criticism which brings him to self-knowledge. When Nietzsche called this passage a kind of psychological analysis, he had at least this much in mind.
The characteristics which he attributes here to Dionysos are of some further interest. The god (1) can reach into the depths of a soul, (2) always has an element of motive associated with his appearance, (3) never appears “as he is,” (4) condemns superficiality, (5) teaches hesitance and delicacy, and (6) leads to self-enrichment through self-renewal.
Of these, (2) is of particular note. It suggests an element of ego or self, which is contrary to the notion of Dionysos as an embodiment of mystical selflessness. The passage, however, is poetic and even ambiguous; but in section 231, Nietzsche suggested that there is in every man an inner core of self, which lies unchanging at the bottom of all convictions, and which is “unteachable.” If this core is that which Dionysos reaches for, it may be speculated that Nietzsche meant to replace the generalized notion of an all-embracing metaphysical “Being” by an individualized core of Being; a pluralistic view, then, instead of a monistic one: the universe contains many Dionysiac “Beings,” rather than one. This, however, is only an hypothesis. For the student who is interested in pursuing this further, it may be mentioned that Nietzsche’s doctrine that no individual is wholly free from hereditary racial patterns of behavior is relevant to the thesis that each individual has his own inner core of temperament. It means that this “core,” while individual, must still partake of as generality, which is the element of racial unity. In section 257, Nietzsche introduces the idea of an “ever new widening of distance within the soul,” which he associates with a social structure. There is no doubt that the sum of passages like these leads toward psychological theories such as those of the psychologist C. G. Jung (1875-1961), whose concept of the “collective unconscious” comes particularly close to Nietzsche’s thought. (See C. G. Jung, Aion; in Psyche and Symbol, ed. V. Laszlo, Anchor Books, New York, 1958).
296. Nietzsche’s final comment is an impassioned expression of the fleeting inadequacy of thought and language. His own ideas, like “sudden sparks and marvels,” are no sooner expressed, than they are extinguished. Like all art, the work itself captures no eternal truths, but only brilliant moments in the never-ending rush of time. Yet they are not, for all that-less beloved.