Good and Evil, Good and Bad
—These English psychologists whom we have to thank for the only attempts up to this point to produce a history of the origins of morality —in themselves they serve up to us no small riddle. By way of a living riddle, they even offer, I confess, something substantially more than their books—they are interesting in themselves! These English psychologists—what do they really want? We find them, willingly or unwillingly, always at the same work, that is, hauling the partie honteuse [shameful part]of our inner world into the foreground, in order to look right there for the truly effective and operative factor which has determined our development, the very place where man’s intellectual pride least wishes to find it (for example, in the vis inertiae [force of inertia] of habit or in forgetfulness or in a blind, contingent, mechanical joining of ideas or in something else purely passive, automatic, reflex, molecular, and fundamentally stupid)—what is it that really drives these psychologists always in this particular direction? Is it a secret, malicious, common instinct, perhaps one which cannot be acknowledged even to itself, for belittling humanity? Or something like a pessimistic suspicion, the mistrust of idealists who’ve become disappointed, gloomy, venomous, and green? Or a small underground hostility and rancour towards Christianity (and Plato), which perhaps has never once managed to cross the threshold of consciousness? Or even a lecherous taste for what is odd or painfully paradoxical, for what in existence is questionable and ridiculous? Or finally—a bit of all of these: a little vulgarity, a little gloominess, a little hostility to Christianity, a little thrill, and a need for pepper? . . . But I’m told that these men are simply old, cold, boring frogs,who creep and hop around and into people as if they were in their own proper element, that is, in a swamp. I resist that idea when I hear it. What’s more, I don’t believe it. And if one is permitted to hope where one cannot know, then I hope from my heart that the situation with these men might be reversed, that these investigators and the ones peering at the soul through their microscopes may be thoroughly brave, generous, and proud animals, who know how to control their hearts and their pain and who at the same time have educated themselves to sacrifice everything desirable for the sake of the truth, for the sake of every truth, even the simple, bitter, hateful, repellent, unchristian, immoral truth. . . . For there are such truths. —
So all respect to the good spirits that may govern in these historians of morality! But it’s certainly a pity that they lack the historical spirit itself, that they’ve been left in the lurch by all the good spirits of history! As a group they all think essentially unhistorically, in what is now the traditional manner of philosophers. Of that there is no doubt. The incompetence of their genealogies of morals reveals itself at the very beginning, where the issue is to determine the origin of the idea and of the judgment “good.” “People,” so they proclaim, “originally praised unegoistic actions and called them good from the perspective of those for whom they were done, that is, those for whom such actions were useful. Later people forgot how this praise began, and because unegoistic actions had, according to custom, always been praised as good, people then felt them as good—as if they were something inherently good.” We perceive right away that this initial derivation already contains all the typical characteristics of the idiosyncrasies of English psychologists—we have “usefulness,” “forgetting,” “habit,” and finally “error,” all as the foundation for an evaluation in which the higher man up to this time has taken pride, as if it were a sort of privilege of men generally. This pride is to be humbled, this evaluation of worth emptied of value. Has that been achieved? . . . Now, first of all, it’s obvious to me that from this theory the essential focus for the origin of the idea “good” has been sought for and established in the wrong place: the judgment “good” did not move here from those to whom “goodness” was shown! On the contrary, it was the “good people” themselves, that is, the noble, powerful, higher-ranking, and higher-thinking people who felt and set themselves and their actions up as good, that is to say, of the first rank, in opposition to everything low, low-minded, common, and vulgar. From this pathos of distance they first arrogated to themselves the right to create values, to stamp out the names for values. What did they care about usefulness! Particularly in relation to such a hot pouring out of the highest rank-ordering, rank-setting judgments of value, the point of view which considers utility is as foreign and inappropriate as possible. Here the feeling has reached the very opposite of that low level of warmth which is a condition for that calculating shrewdness, that reckoning by utility—and not just for a moment, not for an exceptional hour, but permanently. The pathos of nobility and distance, as mentioned, the lasting and domineering feeling, something total and fundamental, of a higher ruling nature in relation to a lower type, to a “beneath”—that is the origin of the opposition between “good” and “bad.” (The right of the master to give names extends so far that we could permit ourselves to grasp the origin of language itself as an expression of the power of the rulers: they say “that is such and such”; they seal every object and event with a sound, and in the process, as it were, take possession of it.) Given this origin, the word “good” is from the start in no way necessarily tied up with “unegoistic” actions, as it is in the superstition of those genealogists of morality. Rather, that occurs for the first time with the collapse of aristocratic value judgments, when this entire contrast between “egoistic” and “unegoistic” pressed itself ever more strongly into human awareness—it is, to use my own words, the instinct of the herd which, through this contrast, finally gets its word (and its words). And even then, it still takes a long time until this instinct in the masses becomes master, with the result that moral evaluation gets thoroughly hung up and bogged down on this opposition (as is the case, for example, in modern Europe: today the prejudice that takes “moralistic,” “unegoistic,” and “désintéressé” [disinterested]as equally valuable ideas already governs, with the force of a “fixed idea” and a disease of the brain).
Secondly, however, and quite separate from the fact that this hypothesis about the origin of the value judgment “good” is historically untenable, it suffers from an inherent psychological contradiction. The utility of the unegoistic action is supposed to be the origin of the praise it receives, and this origin has allegedly been forgotten:—but how is this forgetting even possible? Could the usefulness of such actions at some time or other perhaps just have stopped? The opposite is the case: this utility has rather been an everyday experience throughout the ages, and thus something that has always been constantly re-emphasized. Hence, instead of disappearing from consciousness, instead of becoming something forgettable, it must have pressed itself into the consciousness with ever-increasing clarity. How much more sensible is that contrasting theory (which is not therefore closer to the truth—) which is advocated, for example, by Herbert Spencer: he proposes that the idea “good” is essentially the same as the idea “useful” or “functional,” so that in judgments about “good” and “bad” human beings sum up and endorse the experiences they have not forgotten and cannot forget concerning the useful-functional and the harmful-useless.* According to this theory, good is something which has always proved useful, so that it may assert its validity as “valuable in the highest degree,” as “valuable in itself.” This path to an explanation is, as mentioned, also false, but at least the account is inherently sensible and psychologically tenable.
I was given a hint of the right direction by the question: What, from an etymological perspective, do the meanings of “Good” as manifested in different languages really mean? There I found that all of them lead back to the same transformation of ideas—that everywhere “noble” and “aristocratic” in a social sense is the fundamental idea out of which “good” in the sense of “spiritually noble,” “aristocratic,” “spiritually high-minded,” “spiritually privileged” necessarily develops, a process which always runs in parallel with that other one which finally transforms “common,” “vulgar,” and “low” into the concept “bad.” The most eloquent example of the latter is the German word “schlect”[bad] itself, which is identical with the word “schlicht” [plain]—compare “schlectweg”[simply] and “schlechterdings” [simply]—and which originally designated the plain, common man, still without any suspicious side glance, simply in contrast to the noble man. Around the time of the Thirty Years War approximately, hence late enough, this sense changed into the one used now.[1618-1648]* As far as the genealogy of morals is concerned, this point strikes me as a fundamental insight; that it was first discovered so late we can ascribe to the repressive influence which democratic prejudice in the modern world exercises concerning all questions of origin. And this occurs in what appears to be the most objective realm of natural science and physiology, a point which I can only hint at here. But the sort of mischief this prejudice can cause, once it has become unleashed as hatred, particularly where morality and history are concerned, is revealed in the well-known case of Buckle: the plebeian nature of the modern spirit, which originated in England, broke out once again on its home turf, as violently as a muddy volcano and with that salty, over-loud, and common eloquence with which all previous volcanoes have spoken.—*
With respect to our problem—which for good reasons we can call a quiet problem, which addresses in a refined manner only a few ears,— there is no little interest in establishing the point that often in those words and roots which designate “good” there still shines through the main nuance of what made the nobility feel they were men of higher rank. It’s true that in most cases they perhaps named themselves simply after their superiority in power (as “the powerful,” “the masters,” “those in command”) or after the most visible sign of their superiority, for example, as “the rich” or “the owners” (that is the meaning of arya [noble], and the corresponding words in Iranian and Slavic).But they also named themselves after a typical characteristic, and that is the case which is our concern here. For instance, they called themselves “the truthful,” above all the Greek nobility, whose mouthpiece is the Megarian poet Theogonis.* The word developed for this characteristic, esthlos[fine, noble] , indicates, according to its root meaning, a man who is, who possesses reality, who really exists, who is true. Then, with a subjective transformation, it indicates the true man as the truthful man. In this phase of conceptual transformation it became the slogan and catch phrase for the nobility, and its sense shifted entirely over to “aristocratic,” to mark a distinction from the lying common man, as Theogonis takes and presents him—until finally, after the decline of the nobility, the word remains as a designation of spiritual nobility and becomes, as it were, ripe and sweet. In the word kakos [weak, worthless], as in the word deilos [cowardly] (the plebeian in contrast to the agathos [good] man), the cowardice is emphasized. This perhaps provides a hint about the direction in which we have to seek the etymological origin for the multiple meanings of agathos. In the Latin word malus [bad] (which I place alongside melas [black, dark]) the common man could be designated as the dark-coloured, above all as the dark-haired (“hic niger est” [“this man is dark”]), as the pre-Aryan inhabitant of Italian soil, who stood out from those who became dominant, the blonds, that is, the conquering race of Aryans, most clearly through this colour. At any rate, Gaelic offers me an exactly corresponding example—the word fin (for example, in the name Fin-Gal), the term designating nobility and finally the good, noble, and pure, originally referred to the blond-headed man in contrast to the dusky, dark-haired original inhabitants. Incidentally, the Celts were a thoroughly blond race. People are wrong when they link those traces of a basically dark-haired population, which are noticeable on the carefully prepared ethnographic maps of Germany, with any Celtic origin and mixing of blood, as Virchow still does.* It is much rather the case that in these places the pre-Aryan population of Germany predominates. (The same is true for almost all of Europe: essentially the conquered races finally attained the upper hand for themselves once again in colour, shortness of skull, perhaps even in the intellectual and social instincts. Who can confirm for us whether modern democracy, the even more modern anarchism, and indeed that preference for the “Commune,” for the most primitive form of society, which all European socialists now share, does not indicate for the most part a monstrous counterattack— and that the ruling and master race, the Aryans, is not being defeated, even physiologically?). The Latin word bonus [good] I believe I can explicate as “the warrior,” provided that I am correct in tracing bonus back to an older word duonus (compare bellum [war] = duellum [war] = duen-lum, which seems to me to contain that word duonus). Hence, bonus as a man of war, of division (duo), as a warrior. We see what constituted a man’s “goodness” in ancient Rome. What about our German word “Gut” [good] itself? Doesn’t it indicate “den Göttlichen” [the god-like man], the man of “göttlichen Geschlechts” [“the generation of gods]”? And isn’t that identical to the people’s (originally the nobles’) name for the Goths? The reasons for this hypothesis do not belong here.—
To this rule that the concept of political superiority always resolves itself into the concept of spiritual superiority, it is not really an exception (although there is room for exceptions), when the highest caste is also the priestly caste and consequently for its total range of meanings prefers a rating which recalls its priestly function. So, for example, for the first time the words “pure” and “impure” appear as contrasting marks of one’s social position, and later a “good” and a “bad” also develop with a meaning which no longer refers to social position. Incidentally, people should be warned not to begin by taking these ideas of “pure” and “impure” too seriously, too broadly, or even symbolically. Instead they should understand from the start that all the ideas of ancient humanity, to a degree we can hardly imagine, are much more coarse, crude, superficial, narrow, blunt and, in particular, unsymbolic. The “pure man” is initially simply a man who washes himself, who forbids himself certain foods which produce diseases of the skin, who doesn’t sleep with the dirty women of the lower people, who has a horror of blood—no more, not much more! On the other hand, of course, from the very nature of an essentially priestly aristocracy it is clear enough how it’s precisely here that early on the opposition between different evaluations could become dangerously internalized and sharpened. And, in fact, they finally ripped open fissures between man and man, over which even an Achilles of the free spirit could not cross without shivering.* From the beginning there is something unhealthy about such priestly aristocracies and about the customary attitudes which govern in them, which turn away from action, sometimes brooding, sometimes exploding with emotion, as a result of which in the priests of almost all ages there have appeared almost unavoidably those debilitating intestinal illnesses and neurasthenia. But what they themselves came up with as a remedy for this pathological disease—surely we can assert that it has finally shown itself, through its effects, as even a hundred times more dangerous than the illness for which it was to provide relief. Human beings themselves are still sick from the after-effects of this priestly naivetein healing! Let’s think, for example, of certain forms of diet (avoiding meat), of fasting, of celibacy, of the flight “into the desert” (Weir-Mitchell’s isolation, but naturally without the fattening up cure and overeating which follow it, which constitutes the most effective treatment for all hysteria induced by the ascetic ideal)*: consider also the whole metaphysic of the priests, so hostile to the senses, making men lazy and sophisticated, the way they hypnotize themselves in the manner of fakirs and Brahmins—Brahmanism employed as a glass knob and a fixed idea—and finally the only too understandable and common dissatisfaction with its radical cure, with nothingness (or God—the desire for a uniomystica [mystical union] with God is the desire of the Buddhist for nothingness, nirvana—and nothing more!). Among the priests, everything simply becomes more dangerous—not only the remedies and arts of healing, but also pride, vengeance, mental acuity, excess, love, thirst for power, virtue, illness—although it’s fair enough also to add that on the foundation of this fundamentally dangerous form of human existence, the priestly, for the first time the human being became, in general, an interesting animal, that here the human soul first attained depth in a higher sense and became evil—and, indeed, these are the two basic reasons for humanity’s superiority, up to now, over other animals! . . .
You will have already guessed how easily the priestly way of evaluating can split from the knightly-aristocratic and then continue to develop into its opposite. Such a development receives a special stimulus every time the priestly caste and the warrior caste confront each other jealously and are not willing to agree amongst themselves about the winner. The knightly-aristocratic judgments of value have as their basic assumption a powerful physicality, a blooming, rich, even overflowing health, together with those things required to maintain these qualities—war, adventure, hunting, dancing, war games, and, in general, everything which involves strong, free, happy action. The priestly-noble method of evaluating has, as we saw, other preconditions: these make it difficult enough for them when it comes to war! As is well known, priests are the most evil of enemies—but why? Because they are the most powerless. From their powerlessness, their hate grows among them into something huge and terrifying, to the most spiritual and most poisonous manifestations. The really great haters in world history and the most spiritual haters have always been priests—in comparison with the spirit of priestly revenge all the remaining spirits are generally hardly worth considering. Human history would be a really stupid affair without that spirit which entered it from the powerless. Let us quickly consider the greatest example. Everything on earth which has been done against “the nobility,” “the powerful,” “the masters,” “the possessors of power” is not worth mentioning in comparison with what the Jews have done against them: the Jews, that priestly people, who knew how to get final satisfaction from their enemies and conquerors through a radical transformation of their values, that is, through an act of the most spiritual revenge. This was appropriate only to a priestly people with the most deeply repressed priestly desire for revenge. In opposition to the aristocratic value equations (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = fortunate = loved by god), the Jews, with a consistency inspiring fear, dared to reverse things and to hang on to that with the teeth of the most profound hatred (the hatred of the powerless), that is, to “only those who suffer are good; the poor, the powerless, the low are the only good people; the suffering, those in need, the sick, the ugly are also the only pious people; only they are blessed by God; for them alone there is salvation.—By contrast, you privileged and powerful people, you are for all eternity the evil, the cruel, the lecherous, the insatiable, the godless; you will also be the unblessed, the cursed, and the damned for all eternity!” . . . We know who inherited this Judaic transformation of values . . . In connection with that huge and immeasurably disastrous initiative which the Jews launched with this most fundamental of all declarations of war, I recall the sentence I wrote at another time (in Beyond Good and Evil, section 195)—namely, that with the Jews the slave rebellion in morality begins: that rebellion which has a two-thousand-year-old history behind it and which we nowadays no longer notice because it—has triumphed. . . .*
But you fail to understand that? You have no eye for something that needed two millennia to emerge victorious? . . . That’s nothing to wonder at: all lengthy things are hard to see, to assess. However,that’s what took place: out of the trunk of that tree of vengeance and hatred, Jewish hatred—the deepest and most sublime hatred, that is, a hatred which creates ideals and transforms values, something whose like has never existed on earth—from that grew something just as incomparable, a new love, the deepest and most sublime of all the forms of love: —from what other trunk could it have grown? . . . However, one should not assume that this love arose essentially as the denial of that thirst for vengeance, as the opposite of Jewish hatred! No. The reverse is the truth! This love grew out of that hatred, as its crown, as the victorious crown unfolding itself wider and wider in the purest brightness and sunshine, which, so to speak, was seeking for the kingdom of light and height, the goal of that hate, aiming for victory, trophies, seduction, with the same urgency with which the roots of that hatred were sinking down ever deeper and more greedily into everything that was evil and possessed depth. This Jesus of Nazareth, the living evangelist of love, the “Saviour” bringing holiness and victory to the poor, to the sick, to the sinners—was he not that very seduction in its most terrible and most irresistible form, the seduction and detour to exactly those Judaic values and innovations in ideals? Didn’t Israel attain, precisely with the detour of this “Saviour,” of this apparent enemy to and dissolver of Israel, the final goal of its sublime thirst for vengeance? Isn’t it part of the secret black art of a truly great politics of vengeance, a farsighted, underground, slowly expropriating, and premeditated revenge, that Israel itself had to disown and nail to the cross, like some mortal enemy, the tool essential to its revenge before all the world, so that “all the world,” that is, all Israel’s enemies, could then swallow this particular bait without a second thought? On the other hand, could anyone, using the full subtlety of his mind, even imagine in general a more dangerous bait? Something to match the enticing, intoxicating, narcotizing, corrupting power of that symbol of the “holy cross,” that ghastly paradox of a “god on the cross,” that mystery of an unimaginable and ultimate final cruelty and self-crucifixion of god for the salvation of mankind? . . . At least it is certain that sub hoc signo [under this sign] Israel, with its vengeance and revaluation of the worth of all other previous values, has triumphed again and again over all other ideals, over all nobler ideals.
—”But what are you doing still talking about more noble ideals! Let’s look at the facts: the people have triumphed—or ‘the slaves,’ or ‘the rabble,’ or ‘the herd,’ or whatever you want to call them—if this has taken place because of the Jews, then good for them! No people ever had a more world-historical mission. ‘The masters’ have been disposed of. The morality of the common man has won. We may also take this victory as a blood poisoning (it did mix the races up together)—I don’t deny that. But this intoxication has undoubtedly been successful. The ‘Salvation’ of the human race (namely, from ‘the masters’) is well under way. Everything is visibly turning Jewish or Christian or plebeian (what do the words matter!). The progress of this poison through the entire body of humanity seems irresistible, although its tempo and pace may seem from now on constantly slower, more delicate, less audible, more circumspect—well, we have time enough. . . From this point of view, does the church today still have necessary work to do, does it generally still have a right to exist? Or could we dispense with it? Quaeritur [That’s a question to be asked]. It seems that it rather obstructs and hinders the progress of that poison, instead of speeding it up? Well, that just might be what makes the church useful . . . Certainly the church is something positively gross and vulgar, which a more delicate intelligence, a truly modern taste, resists. Shouldn’t the church at least be something more sophisticated? . . . Today the church alienates more than it seduces. . . . Who among us would really be a free spirit if the church were not there? The church repels us, not its poison. . . . Apart from the church, we even love the poison. . . .”— This is the epilogue of a “free thinker” to my speech, an honest animal, as he has richly revealed, and in addition he’s a democrat. He listened to me up to this point and couldn’t bear to hear my silence—since for me at this juncture there is much to be silent about.
The slave revolt in morality begins when the ressentiment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of those beings who are prevented from a genuine reaction, that is, something active, and who compensate for that with a merely imaginary vengeance.* While all noble morality grows out of a triumphant affirmation of one’s own self, slave morality from the start says “No” to what is “outside,” “other,” to “a not itself.” And this “No” is its creative act. This transformation of the glance which confers value—this necessary projection towards what is outer instead of back onto itself—that is inherent in ressentiment. In order to arise, slave morality always requires first an opposing world, a world outside itself. Psychologically speaking, it needs external stimuli in order to act at all—its action is basically reaction. The reverse is the case with the noble method of valuing: it acts and grows spontaneously. It seeks its opposite only to affirm its own self even more thankfully, with even more rejoicing— its negative concept of “low,” “common,” “bad” is merely a pale contrasting image after the fact in relation to its positive basic concept, thoroughly intoxicated with life and passion, “We are noble, good, beautiful, and happy!” When the noble way of evaluating makes a mistake and abuses reality, this happens with reference to the sphere which it does not know well enough, indeed, the sphere it has strongly resisted learning the truth about: under certain circumstances it misjudges the sphere it despises, the sphere of the common man, of the low people. On the other hand, we should consider that even assuming that the feeling of contempt, of looking down, or of looking superior falsifies the image of the person despised, such distortions will fall short by a long way of the distortion with which the suppressed hatred, the vengeance of the powerless man, assaults his opponent—naturally, in effigy. In fact, in contempt there is too much negligence, too much dismissiveness, too much looking away and impatience, all mixed together, even too much of a characteristic feeling of joy, for it to be capable of converting its object into a truly distorted image and monster. For example, we should not fail to hear the almost benevolent nuances which for a Greek noble lay in all the words with which he set himself above the lower people—how a constant form of pity, consideration, and forbearance is mixed in there, sweetening the words, to the point where almost all words which refer to the common man finally remain as expressions for “unhappy,” “worthy of pity” (compare deilos [cowardly], deilaios [lowly, mean], poneros [oppressed by toil, wretched], mochtheros [suffering, wretched]—the last two basically designating the common man as a slave worker and beast of burden)—and how, on the other hand, for the Greek ear the words “bad,” “low,” “unhappy” have never stopped echoing a single note, one tone colour, in which “unhappy” predominates. This is the inheritance of the old, noble, aristocratic way of evaluating, which does not betray its principles even in contempt. (—Philologists should recall the sense in which oizuros [miserable], anolbos [unblessed], tlemon[wretched], dystychein [unfortunate], xymfora [misfortune] were used). The “well born” simply felt that they were “the happy ones”; they did not have to construct their happiness artificially first by looking at their enemies, or in some circumstance to talk themselves into it, to lie to themselves (the way all men of ressentiment habitually do). Similarly they knew, as complete men, overloaded with power and thus necessarily active, that they must not separate action from happiness—they considered being active necessarily associated with happiness (that’s where the phrase eu prattein[do well, succeed] derives its origin)—all this is very much the opposite of “happiness” at the level of the powerless, the oppressed, those festering with poisonous and hostile feelings, among whom happiness comes out essentially as a narcotic, an anaesthetic, quiet, peace, “Sabbath,” relaxing the soul, and stretching one’s limbs, in short, as something passive. While the noble man lives for himself with trust and candour (gennaios, meaning “of noble birth,” stresses the nuance “upright” and also probably “naive”), the man of ressentiment is neither upright nor naive, nor honest and direct with himself. His soul squints. His spirit loves hiding places, secret paths, and back doors. Everything furtive attracts him as his world, his security, his refreshment. He understands about remaining silent, not forgetting, waiting, temporarily diminishing himself, humiliating himself. A race of such men of ressentiment will necessarily end up cleverer than any noble race. It will value cleverness to a completely different extent, that is, as a condition of existence of the utmost importance; whereas, cleverness among noble men easily acquires a delicate aftertaste of luxury and sophistication about it:—here it is simply less important than the complete functional certainty of the ruling unconscious instincts or even a certain lack of cleverness, something like brave recklessness, whether in the face of danger or of an enemy, or those wildly enthusiastic, sudden fits of anger, love, reverence, thankfulness, and vengeance, by which in all ages noble souls have recognized each other. The ressentiment of the noble man himself, if it comes over him, consumes and exhausts itself in an immediate reaction and therefore does not poison. On the other hand, in countless cases it just does not appear at all; whereas, in the case of all weak and powerless people it is unavoidable. Being unable to take one’s enemies, one’s misfortunes, even one’s bad deeds seriously for very long—that is the mark of strong, complete natures, in whom there is a surplus of plastic, creative, healing power, as well as the power to forget (a good example for that from the modern world is Mirabeau, who had no memory of insults and maliciousness people directed at him, and who therefore could not forgive, merely because he—forgot).* Such a man with a single shrug simply throws off himself the many worms which eat into other men. Only here is possible—provided that it is at all possible on earth—the real “love for one’s enemy.” How much respect a noble man already has for his enemies!—and such a respect is already a bridge to love. . . . In fact, he demands his enemy for himself, as his mark of honour. Indeed, he has no enemy other than one in whom there is nothing to despise and a great deal to respect! By contrast, imagine for yourself “the enemy” as a man of ressentiment conceives him—and right here we have his action, his creation: he has conceptualized “the evil enemy,” “the evil one,” and as a fundamental idea, from which he now also thinks his way to an opposite image and counterpart, a “good man”— himself! . . .
We see exactly the opposite with the noble man, who conceives the fundamental idea “good” in advance and spontaneously, that is, from himself and from there first creates a picture of “bad” for himself! This “bad” originating from the noble man and that “evil” arising out of the stew pot of insatiable hatred—of these the first is a later creation, an afterthought, a complementary colour; by contrast, the second is the original, the beginning, the essential act of conception in slave morality—although the two words “bad” and “evil” both seem opposite to the same idea of “good,” how different they are! But it is not the same idea of “good”; it is much rather a question of who the “evil man” really is, in the sense of the morality of ressentiment. The strict answer to that is as follows: simply the “good man” of the other morality, the noble man, the powerful, the ruling man, only coloured over, only reinterpreted, only seen through the poisonous eyes of ressentiment. Here there is one thing we will be the last to deny: the man who gets to know these “good men” only as enemies, knows them also as nothing but evil enemies, and the same good men who are kept within strict limits by custom, honour, habit, thankfulness, even more by mutual protection, through jealousy inter pares [among equals] and who, by contrast, demonstrate in relation to each other such resourceful consideration, self-control, refinement, loyalty, pride, and friendship—towards the outside, where the strange world, the world of foreigners, begins, these men are not much better than beasts of prey turned loose. There they enjoy freedom from all social constraints. In the wilderness they make up for the tension which a long fenced-in confinement within the peace of the community brings about. They go back to the innocent consciousness of a wild beast of prey, as joyful monsters, who perhaps walk away from a dreadful sequence of murder, arson, rape, and torture with an exhilaration and spiritual equilibrium, as if they had merely pulled off a student prank, convinced that the poets now once again have something to sing about and praise for a long time to come. At the bottom of all these noble races we cannot fail to recognize the beast of prey, the blond beast splendidly roaming around in its lust for loot and victory. This hidden basis from time to time needs to be discharged: the animal must come out again, must go back into the wilderness,—Roman, Arab, German, Japanese nobility, Homeric heroes, Scandinavian Vikings—in this need they are all alike. It is the noble races which left behind the concept of the “barbarian” in all their tracks, wherever they went. A consciousness of and even a pride in this fact still reveals itself in their highest culture (for example, when Pericles says to his Athenians, in that famous Funeral Speech, “our audacity has broken a way through to every land and sea, putting up permanent memorials to itself for good and ill”). This “audacity” of the noble races, mad, absurd, sudden in the way it expresses itself, its unpredictability, even the improbability of its undertakings—Pericles emphatically praises the rayhumia [mental balance, freedom from anxiety] of the Athenians—their indifference to and contempt for safety, body, life, comfort, their fearsome cheerfulness and the depth of their joy in all destruction, in all the physical pleasures of victory and cruelty—everything summed up for those who suffer from such audacity in the image of the “barbarian,” of the “evil enemy,” of something like the “Goths” or the “Vandals.”* The deep, icy mistrust which the German evokes, as soon as he comes to power, once more again today—is always still an after-effect of that unforgettable terror with which for centuries Europe confronted the rage of the blond German beast (although there is hardly any idea linking the old Germanic tribes and we Germans, let alone any blood relationship). Once before I have remarked on Hesiod’s dilemma when he thought up his sequence of cultural periods and sought to express them as Gold, Silver, and Bronze.* But he didn’t know what to do with the contradiction presented to him by the marvellous but, at the same time, horrifying and violent world of Homer, other than to make two cultural ages out of one and then place one after the other—first the age of Heroes andDemi-gods from Troy and Thebes, just as that world remained in the memories of the noble families who had their own ancestors in it, and then the Bronze age as that same world appeared to the descendants of the downtrodden, exploited, ill treated, those carried off and sold—a Bronze age, as mentioned: hard, cold, cruel, empty of feeling and scruples, with everything crushed and covered over in blood. Assuming as true what in any event is taken as “the truth” nowadays, that it is the purpose of all culture simply to breed a tame and civilized animal, a domestic pet, out of the beast of prey “man,” then we would undoubtedly have to consider all those instincts of reaction and ressentiment with whose help the noble races and all their ideals were finally disgraced and overpowered as the essential instruments of culture—though to do that would not be to claim that the bearers of these instincts also in themselves represented culture. By contrast, the opposite would not only be probable—no! nowadays it is visibly apparent! These people carrying instincts of oppression and of a lust for revenge, the descendants of all European and non-European slavery, of all pre-Aryan populations in particular—they represent the regression of mankind! These “instruments of culture” are a disgrace to humanity, and more a reason to be suspicious of or a counterargument against “culture” in general! We may well be right when we hang onto our fear of the blond beast at the base of all noble races and keep up our guard. But who would not find it a hundred times better to fear if he could at the same time be allowed to admire, rather than not fear but in the process no longer be able to rid himself of the disgusting sight of the failures, the stunted, the emaciated, the poisoned? Is not that our fate? Today what is it that constitutes our aversion to “man”?—For we suffer from man. There’s no doubt of that. It’s not a matter of fear. Rather it’s the fact that we have nothing more to fear from man, that the maggot “man” is in the foreground swarming around, that the “tame man,” the hopelessly mediocre and unpleasant man, has already learned to feel that he is the goal, the pinnacle, the meaning of history, “the higher man,”—yes indeed, that he even has a certain right to feel that about himself, insofar as he feels separate from the excess of failed, sick, tired, spent people, who are nowadays beginning to make Europe stink, so that he feels at least relatively successful, at least still capable of life, of at least saying “Yes” to life.
—At this point I won’t suppress a sigh and a final confidence. What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air! It’s when something which has failed comes close to me, when I have to smell the entrails of a failed soul! . . . Apart from that what can we not endure by way of need, deprivation, bad weather, infirmity, hardship, loneliness? Basically we can deal with all the other things, born as we are to an underground and struggling existence. We come back again and again into the light, we live over and over our golden hour of victory—and then we stand there, just as we were born, unbreakable, tense, ready for something new, for something even more difficult, more distant, like a bow which all troubles only serve always to pull still tighter. But if there are heavenly goddesses who are our patrons, beyond good and evil, then from time to time grant me a glimpse, just grant me a single glimpse into something perfect, something completely developed, happy, powerful, triumphant, from which there is still something to fear! A glimpse of a man who justifies humanity, of a complementary and redeeming stroke-of-luck of a man, for whose sake we can hang onto a faith in humanity! . . . For matters stand like this: the diminution and levelling of European man conceal our greatest danger, for at the sight of him we grow tired . . . We see nothing today which wants to be greater. We suspect that things are constantly still going down, down into something thinner, more good-natured, more prudent, more comfortable, more mediocre, more indifferent, more Chinese, more Christian—humanity, there is no doubt, is becoming constantly “better.” . . . Europe’s fate lies right here—with the fear of man we also have lost the love for him, the reverence for him, the hope for him, indeed, our will to him. A glimpse at man nowadays makes us tired—what is contemporary nihilism, if it is not that? . . .We are weary of man. . . .
—But let’s come back: the problem with the other origin of the “good,” of the good man, as the person of ressentiment has imagined it for himself, demands its own conclusion.—That the lambs are upset about the great predatory birds is not a strange thing, and the fact that they snatch away small lambs provides no reason for holding anything against these large birds of prey. And if the lambs say among themselves, “These predatory birds are evil, and whoever is least like a predatory bird, especially anyone who is like its opposite, a lamb— shouldn’t that animal be good?” there is nothing to find fault with in this setting up of an ideal, except for the fact that the birds of prey might look down on them with a little mockery and perhaps say to themselves, “We are not at all annoyed with these good lambs. We even love them. Nothing is tastier than a tender lamb.” To demand from strength that it does not express itself as strength, that it does not consist of a will to overpower, a will to throw down, a will to rule, a thirst for enemies and opposition and triumph, is just as unreasonable as to demand from weakness that it express itself as strength. A quantum of force is simply such a quantum of drive, will, action—rather, it is nothing but this very driving, willing, acting itself—and it cannot appear as anything else except through the seduction of language (and the fundamental errors of reason petrified in it), which understands and misunderstands all action as conditioned by something which causes actions, by a “Subject.” For, in just the same way as people separate lightning from its flash and take the latter as an action, as the effect of a subject, which is called lightning, so popular morality separates strength from the manifestations of strength, as if behind the strong person there were an indifferent substrate, which is free to express strength or not. But there is no such substrate; there is no “being” behind the doing, acting, becoming. “The doer” is merely made up and added into the action—the act is everything. People basically duplicate the action: when they see a lightning flash, that is an action of an action: they set up the same event first as the cause and then yet again as its effect. Natural scientists are no better when they say “Force moves, force causes,” and so on—our entire scientific knowledge, for all its coolness, its freedom from feelings, still remains exposed to the seductions of language and has not gotten rid of the changelings foisted on it, the “Subjects” (the atom, for example, is such a changeling, like the Kantian “thing-in-itself”): it’s no wonder that the repressed, secretly smouldering feelings of rage and hate use this belief for themselves and basically even maintain a faith in nothing more fervently than in the idea that the strong are free to be weak and that predatory birds are free to be lambs:—in so doing, they arrogate to themselves the right to blame the birds of prey for being birds of prey. When the oppressed, the downtrodden, the conquered say to each other, with the vengeful cunning of the powerless, “Let us be different from evil people, namely, good! And that man is good who does not overpower, who hurts no one, who does not attack, who does not retaliate, who hands revenge over to God, who keeps himself hidden, as we do, the man who avoids all evil and demands little from life in general, like us, the patient, humble, and upright”—what that amounts to, coolly expressed and without bias, is essentially nothing more than “We weak people are merely weak. It’s good if we do nothing; we are not strong enough for that”—but this bitter state, this shrewdness of the lowest ranks, which even insects possess (when in great danger they stand as if they were dead in order not to do “too much”), has, thanks to that counterfeiting and self-deception of powerlessness, dressed itself in the splendour of a self-denying, still, patient virtue, just as if the weakness of the weak man himself—that means his essence, his actions, his entire single, inevitable, and irredeemable reality—is a voluntary achievement, something willed, chosen, an act, something of merit. This kind of man has to believe in the disinterested, freely choosing “subject” out of his instinct for self-preservation, self-approval, in which every falsehood is habitually sanctified. Hence, the subject (or, to use a more popular style, the soul) has up to now perhaps been the best principle for belief on earth, because, for the majority of the dying, the weak, and the downtrodden of all sorts, it makes possible that sublime self-deception which establishes weakness itself as freedom and their being like this or that as something meritorious.
Is there anyone who would like to take a little look down on and under that secret how man fabricates an ideal on earth? Who has the courage for that? . . . Come on, now! Here’s an open glimpse into this dark workshop. Just wait a moment, my dear Mr. Nosy and Presumptuous: your eye must first get used to this artificial flickering light. . . . So, enough! Now speak! What’s going on down there? Speak up. Say what you see, man of the most dangerous curiosity—now I’m the one who’s listening.—
—”I see nothing, but I hear all the more. It is a careful, crafty, light rumour-mongering and whispering from every nook and cranny. It seems to me that people are lying; a sugary mildness clings to every sound. Weakness is going to be falsified into something of merit. There’s no doubt about it—things are just as you said they were.”
—”And powerlessness which does not retaliate is being falsified into ‘goodness,’ anxious baseness into ‘humility,’ submission before those one hates to ‘obedience’ (of course, obedience to the one who, they say, commands this submission—they call him God). The inoffensiveness of the weak man—cowardice itself, in which he is rich, his standing at the door, his inevitable need to wait around—here acquires a good name, like ‘patience,’ and is called virtue itself. That incapacity for revenge is called the lack of desire for revenge, perhaps even forgiveness (‘for they know not what they do—only we know what they do!’). And people are talking about ‘love for one’s enemies’—and sweating as they say it.”
—”They are miserable—there’s no doubt about that—all these rumour-mongers and counterfeiters in the corners, although crouched down beside each other in the warmth—but they are telling me that their misery is God’s choice, His sign. One beats the dog one loves the most. Perhaps this misery may be a preparation, a test, an education, perhaps it is even more—something that will one day be rewarded and paid out with huge interest in gold, no, in happiness. They call that ‘blessedness’.”
—”Now they are letting me know that they are not only better than the powerful, the masters of the earth, whose spit they have to lick (not out of fear, certainly not out of fear, but because God commands that they honour all those in authority)—they are not only better than these, but they also are ‘better off,’ or at any rate will one day have it better. But enough! Enough! I can’t take it any more. Bad air! Bad air! This workshop where man fabricates ideals—it seems to me it stinks of nothing but lies.”
—No! Just one minute more! So far you haven’t said anything about the masterpiece of these black magicians who make whiteness, milk, and innocence out of every blackness:—have you not noticed the perfection of their sophistication, their most daring, most refined, most spiritual, most fallacious artistic attempt? Pay attention! These cellar animals full of vengeance and hatred—what exactly are they making out of that vengeance and hatred? Have you ever heard these words? If you heard only their words, would you suspect that you were completely among men of ressentiment? . . .
—”I understand. Once again I’ll open my ears (oh! oh! oh! and hold my nose). Now I’m hearing for the first time what they’ve been saying so often: ‘We good men—we are the righteous’—what they demand they don’t call repayment but ‘the triumph of righteousness.’ What they hate is not their enemy. No! They hate ‘injustice,’ ‘godlessness.’ What they believe and hope is not a hope for revenge, the intoxication of sweet vengeance (something Homer has already called ‘sweeter than honey’), but the victory of God, the righteous God, over the godless. What remains for them to love on earth is not their brothers in hatred but their ‘brothers in love,’ as they say, all the good and righteous people on the earth.”
—And what do they call what serves them as a consolation for all the suffering of life—their phantasmagoria of future blessedness which they are expecting?
—”What’s that? Am I hearing correctly? They call that ‘the last judgment,’ the coming of their kingdom, the coming of ‘God’s kingdom’— but in the meanwhile they live ‘in faith,’ ‘in love,’ ‘in hope.’”
In belief in what? In love with what? In hope for what?—There’s no doubt that these weak people—at some time or another they also want to be the strong people, some day their “kingdom” is to arrive—they call it simply “the kingdom of God,” as I mentioned. People are indeed so humble about everything! Only to experience that, one has to live a long time, beyond death—in fact, people must have an eternal life, so they can also win eternal recompense in the “kingdom of God” for that earthly life “in faith, in love, in hope.” Recompense for what? Recompense through what? . . . In my view, Dante was grossly in error when, with an ingenuity inspiring terror, he set that inscription over the gateway into his hell: “Eternal love also created me.”* Over the gateway into the Christian paradise and its “eternal blessedness” it would, in any event, be more fitting to let the inscription stand “Eternal hate also created me”—provided it’s all right to set a truth over the gateway to a lie! For what is the bliss of that paradise? . . . Perhaps we might have guessed that already, but it is better for it to be expressly described for us by an authority we cannot underestimate in such matters, Thomas Aquinas, the great teacher and saint: “In the kingdom of heaven” he says as gently as a lamb, “the blessed will see the punishment of the damned, so that they will derive all the more pleasure from their heavenly bliss.”* Or do you want to hear that message in a stronger tone, something from the mouth of a triumphant father of the church, who warns his Christians against the cruel sensuality of the public spectacles. But why? “Faith, in fact, offers much more to us,” he says (in de Spectaculis, c. 29 ff), “something much stronger. Thanks to the redemption, very different joys are ours to command; in place of the athletes, we have our martyrs. If we want blood, well, we have the blood of Christ . . . But what awaits us on the day of his coming again, his triumph!”—and now he takes off, the rapturous visionary:* “However there are other spectacles—that last eternal day of judgment, ignored by nations, derided by them, when the accumulation of the years and all the many things which they produced will be burned in a single fire. What a broad spectacle then appears!How I will be lost in admiration! How I will laugh! How I will rejoice! I will be full of exaltation then as I see so many great kings who by public report were accepted into heaven groaning in the deepest darkness with Jove himself and alongside those very men who testified on their behalf! They will include governors of provinces who persecuted the name of our Lord burning in flames more fierce than those with which they proudly raged against the Christians! And those wise philosophers who earlier convinced their disciples that God was irrelevant and who claimed either that there is no such thing as a soul or that our souls would not return to their original bodies will be ashamed as they burn in the conflagration with those very disciples! And the poets will be there, shaking with fear, not in front of the tribunal of Rhadamanthus or Minos, but of the Christ they did not anticipate!* Then it will be easier to hear the tragic actors, because their voices will be more resonant in their own calamity” (better voices since they will be screaming in greater terror). “The actors will then be easier to recognize, for the fire will make them much more agile. Then the charioteer will be on show, all red in a wheel of fire, and the athletes will be visible, thrown, not in the gymnasium, but in the fire, unless I have no wish to look at their bodies then, so that I can more readily cast an insatiable gaze on those who raged against our Lord. ‘This is the man,’ I will say, ‘the son of a workman or a prostitute’” (in everything that follows and especially in the well-known description of the mother of Jesus from the Talamud, Tertullian from this point on is referring to the Jews) “the destroyer of the Sabbath, the Samaritan possessed by the devil. He is the man whom you brought from Judas, the man who was beaten with a reed and with fists, reviled with spit, who was given gall and vinegar to drink. He is the man whom his disciples took away in secret, so that it could be said that he was resurrected, or whom the gardener took away, so that the crowd of visitors would not harm his lettuce.’ What praetor or consul or quaestor or priest will from his own generosity grant this to you so that you may see such sights, so that you can exult in such things?* And yet we already have these things to a certain extent through faith, represented to us by the imagining spirit. Besides, what sorts of things has the eye not seen or the ear not heard and what sorts of things have not arisen in the human heart?” (1. Cor. 2, 9). “I believe these are more pleasing than the race track and the circus and both enclosures” (first and fourth tier of seats or, according to others, the comic and tragic stages). Through faith: that’s how it’s written.*
Let’s bring this to a conclusion. The two opposing values “good and bad,” “good and evil” have fought a fearful battle on earth for thousands of years. And if it’s true that the second value has for a long time had the upper hand, even now there’s still no lack of places where the battle goes on without a final decision. We could even say that in the intervening time the battle has been constantly drawn to greater heights and in the process to constantly greater depths and has become constantly more spiritual, so that nowadays there is perhaps no more decisive mark of a “higher nature,” a more spiritual nature, than that it is split in that sense and is truly still a battleground for those opposites. The symbol of this battle, written in a script which has remained legible through all human history up to the present, is called “Rome Against Judea, Judea Against Rome.” To this point there has been no greater event than this war, this posing of a question, this contradiction between deadly enemies. Rome felt that the Jew was like something contrary to nature itself, its monstrous polar opposite, as it were. In Rome the Jew was considered “guilty of hatred against the entire human race.” And that view was correct, to the extent that we are right to link the health and the future of the human race to the unconditional rule of aristocratic values, the Roman values. By contrast, how did the Jews feel about Rome? We can guess that from a thousand signs, but it is sufficient to treat ourselves again to the Apocalypse of John, that wildest of all written outbursts which vengeance has on its conscience. (Incidentally, we must not underestimate the deep consistency of the Christian instinct, when it ascribed this very book of hate to the name of the disciple of love, the same man to whom it attributed that enthusiastic amorous gospel—: there is some truth to this, no matter how much literary counterfeiting may have been necessary for this purpose). The Romans were indeed strong and noble men, stronger and nobler than any people who had lived on earth up until then or even than any people who had ever been dreamed up. Everything they left as remains, every inscription, is delightful, provided that we can guess what is doing the writing there. By contrast, the Jews were par excellence that priestly people of ressentiment, who possessed an unparalleled genius for popular morality. Just compare people with related talents—say, the Chinese or the Germans —with the Jews, in order to understand what is ranked first and what is ranked fifth. Which of them has proved victorious for the time being, Rome or Judea? Surely there’s not the slightest doubt. Just think of who it is people bow down to today in Rome itself as the personification of all the highest values—and not only in Rome, but in almost half the earth, all the places where people have become merely tame or want to become tame—in front of three Jews, as we know, and one Jewess (in front of Jesus of Nazareth, the fisherman Peter, the carpet maker Paul, and the mother of the first-mentioned Jesus, named Mary). This is very remarkable: without doubt Rome has been conquered. It is true that in the Renaissance there was an incredibly brilliant reawakening of the classical ideal, the noble way of evaluating everything. Rome itself behaved like someone who had woken up from a coma induced by the pressure of the new Jewish Rome built over it, which looked like an ecumenical synagogue and was called “the church.” But Judea immediately triumphed again, thanks to that basically vulgar (German and English) movement of ressentiment, which we call the Reformation, together with what had to follow as a result, the re-establishment of the church—as well as the re-establishment of the old grave-like tranquillity of classical Rome. In what is an even more decisive and deeper sense than that, Judea once again was victorious over the classical ideal at the time of the French Revolution. The last political nobility which there was in Europe, in seventeenth and eighteenth century France, broke apart under the instincts of popular ressentiment—never on earth has there been heard a greater rejoicing, a noisier enthusiasm! It’s true that in the midst of all this the most dreadful and most unexpected events took place: the old ideal itself stepped physically and with unheard of splendour before the eyes and the conscience of humanity— and once again stronger, simpler, and more urgently than ever rang out, in opposition to the old lying slogan of ressentiment about the privileged rights of the majority, in opposition to that will for a low condition, for abasement, for equality, for the decline and extinguishing of mankind—in opposition to all that there rang out a fearsome and delightful counter-slogan about the rights of the very few! As a last signpost to a different road, Napoleon appeared, the most singular and late-born man there ever was, and in him the problem of the inherently noble ideal was made flesh—we should consider well what a problem that is: Napoleon, this synthesis of the inhuman and the superhuman. . . .
— Did that end it? Was that greatest of all opposition of ideals thus set ad acta [aside] for all time? Or was it merely postponed, postponed indefinitely? . . . Some day, after a much longer preparation, will an even more fearful blaze from the old fire not have to take place? More than that: wouldn’t this be exactly what we should hope for with all our strength? Even will it? Even demand it? Anyone who, like my readers, begins to reflect on these points, to think further, will have difficulty coming to a quick conclusion—reason enough for me to come to a conclusion myself, provided that it has been sufficiently clear for a long time what I want, precisely what I want with that dangerous slogan which is written on the body of my last book: “Beyond Good and Evil” . . . At least this does not mean “Beyond Good and Bad.”—
Note's on Nietzsche's Genealogy
A warning. There is much disagreement in Nietzsche scholarship. For example, some philosophers read him as often being ironic; these philosophers might then read The Genealogy of Morals as offering a kind of reductio ad absurdum of some of the claims he makes in that book. In these notes, I read Nietzsche "straight"--I do not interpret him as being ironic.
A Note on Some of Nietzsche's Common Themes
Nietzsche is not a systems-building philosopher. There are however some themes which unite his work and are common to much of it. These claims include:
- Nature is incomplete at least in the sense that it cannot alone provide purposes which are sufficient. Non-human animals are without worthy purposes, for example. Thus, from Schopenhauer as Educator:usually we fail to emerge out of animality, we ourselves are animals whose suffering seems to be senseless. (Hollingdale translation; 1997: 158)
- Some humans can create values which are worthy, in part by doing something uniquely human. Again, from Schopenhauer as Educator:man is necessary for the redemption of nature from the curse of the life of the animal, and... in him existence at last holds up before itself a mirror in which life appears no longer senseless but in its metaphysical signficance. (Hollingdale translation; 1997: 157)
- A special value would be to assert life -- even if your life were to repeat itself endlessly just as it is. That is, to be able to assert and endorse your life would be a triumph of a kind. (The man who creates ideals and can face the possibility of eternal return is the overman. Antithesis to the overman is the last man, who is comfortable with animal pleasures alone, and who does not bother to even care about these issues.)
- God is dead.
- Christianity is the morality of the slave: it degrades life and praises weakness.
- Democracy is like Christianity in being antithetical to the task of fostering the overman.
- Psychology is a fundamental science, and often our theories are expressions of unconscious motives and beliefs. Philosophical systems are often just expressions of the author's view, for example; and more often yet just expressions of the most pedestrian beliefs of one's time. (However, Nietzsche believes that philosophy has a great and important task: to create value. He only denigrates the idea tha philosophy is a rational, disinterested investigation of things, and also he denigrates philosophers who try to emulate scientists with their indifference to values.)
- The Will to Power is a fundamental drive that can explain much, perhaps all, human endeavors. This is a theme that Nietzsche does not do much to explain; he seems to have meant to work this out more but did not stay healthy long enough to do so.
Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals
Here, Nietzsche uses the term "genealogy" in its fundamental sense: an account (logos) of the genesis of a thing. He is going to offer a theory of the genesis of Christian morality, which he believes is also democratic morality.
His historical analysis is a radical attack on these morals, offering a kind of social and psychological account of why they arose, as a replacement for the Christian story of these ethics being grounded in the will of the Christian god. Nietzsche has an alternative theory of value, which is only implicit in this book, and arises from his views about the will to power. We will discuss this.
Note that Christians, and nearly all if not all theists, tend to implicitly accept what I have called Foundationalism about Purpose. The character of Ivan in Doestoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov expresses this sentiment clearly when he says that if (the Christian) God does not exist, then "all is lawful," by which he means that any old purpose will count as well as any other (which may, given some understandings of "purpose," be just to deny that there are purposes).
In these notes, and in the notes I write on other philosophers and artists, I will save time by sometimes taking N's point of view. This is not an endorsement of his view, but rather a shorthand way to avoid having to write "Nietzsche says..." a thousand times.
First Essay1. The English psychologists are perhaps men like Hobbes and Hume; or, since he is mentioned later in the book, Herbert Spencer. All these philosophers share that they wrote on the origin of morality in terms of historical development.Second Essay
2. N argues the English psychologists have a genealogy of the good that claims our ancestors found some unegotistical acts useful to themselves, and then later "forgot" this self-referring aspect of the usefulness, and just began to call unegotistical acts good. N instead begins with the claim that the concept of good started not as a label for unselfish acts, but rather as a label of distinguishing the noble (in various senses) from those to which the nobles considered themselves superior (N seems to be willing to say, that nobles were in fact superior). It is a later development to associate good with unegotistical acts, and his genealogy is largely concerned to trace this development.
3. N claims the English psychologists' notion that our ancestors "forgot" the self-benefitting aspect of unselfish is ridiculous -- the benefit of an action must be present at all times in order for us to form the habit of calling that action good.
4. N was a philologist (a scholar of languages and their development) by training and (for a short while) by profession. He claims that the etymology of the many various cognates in different languages for "good" all reveal an origin in some notion of being aristocratic and noble. N believes this is compelling evidence for his central claim.
5. N goes on to give some examples of etymological and philological speculations. For example, dark can mean bad and lower in Italy, and blond in Gaelic meant noble and good, because (he claims) the conquerors and rulers of these places at one time were blond haired. (N does not appear to mean to endorse the idea here that being blond is good, but rather just claims that it is a historical fact that these places -- during the relevant period in the development of these terms like "Fin" -- were conquered by blond people.)
6. N admits that good has also included often the concept of pure. He argues that the early rulers, for which the ancestral concepts of our "good" first applied, were sometimes priests. Priests are, N claims here, a bad thing -- they transform rulers into inactive and unhealthy people. But they do also ask interesting questions, and have therefore some benefit (as N implicit understands benefit).
7. Historically, however, there is a split between priest and warrior, and the priests are weak and impotent. As a result, they are overwhelmed with resentment and hate. This resentment and hate was in some ways beneficial, since it generated or allowed for many social and cultural creations (I believe that N's point here is that without this resentful attack on the noble warriors, those noble warriors would have happily spent the next two thousand years jousting and fighting and so on, as opposed to developing other aspects of society like art). He sees the Jews as the victors in a great inversion of values. They were oppressed by warrior nobles (e.g., Romans), and they created the ultimatum revenge of convincing people that warrior nobles and their values were bad, and that being priestly and weak are good.
8. Jesus is the culmination of this inversion of values. The victory of Christianity is the ultimate revenge of the weak over the strong, the slave over the noble, the priestly over the warrior.
9. Christian churches are almost irrelevant now in the spread of this inverted morality, it is so pervasive.
10. "Ressentiment" is N's special or technical term for the resentful, spiteful morality of the slave. He argues that the resentful measure themselves always against others, especially against the nobles. They are reactive, and because they are impotent they harbor festering hatreds. Nobles instead, he claims, are so full of life and purpose that they don't have time to measure themselves against others. Nor do they harbor hatreds -- they act on insults immediately or are too busy accomplishing things to hold onto hatreds. (I find this section problematic. On the one hand, many of us know people who are full of energy and life and plans, and as a result are generous and never petty. Many of us know people who are petty and mean precisely because they really have no good purpose and are jealous of others who do. On the other hand, nobles -- and all human beings, one might suppose -- likely measure themselves against others. Consider: can there be a world where everyone is -- in N's sense of the word -- noble? If N's concept of nobility is essentially comparative, and the noble are those who are better than others, then the nobles are just as externally oriented as the resentful. What is unclear here is whether everyone can be noble -- and, to refer to another concept of Nietzsche's, whether everyone can be a super(wo)man. One way out of this problem for N might be to argue that the features that were recognized as noble are only contingently features of nobility, and rather arise from being independent, self-willed, autonomous, etc. Then they would be elitist features but not necessarily measured against others.)
11. The noble conceive only as an afterthought of "bad," and it plays a minor role in their view. The resentful develop the concept of evil, and it is essential to everything they do. Bad and evil are both the opposite of "good," but bad and evil are different. How is this? One notion of good is the noble. This was the old or original notion. "Bad" refers to its opposite. Another notion, the resentful or slave's notion of good, is weak, unselfish, unassertive. Its opposite is the noble (the other notion of good!), which the weak call "evil." N also argues that the noble are terrible when they leave the bounds of their own society. They are "blond beasts" (Kaufmann argued that Nietzsche meant by this term a lion): they rape, kill, despoil. But this does not mean that the resentful slave morality is beneficial because it cages this blond beast. Rather, we should be willing to live with danger in order to have something noble.
(Sympathetic philosophers have argued that Nietzsche sees the great artist as the best example of the new possible noble. If this is correct, it is unfortunate that his example here of allowing some alternative to a resentful culture is to allow the danger of raping, killing, and pillaging. It may be that Nietzsche's rhetorical style sacrifices precision for flourish and effect. However, in his notes published as The Will to Power, he seems more explicitly to endorse violence as a necessary feature of the great; furthermore, if we set aside the works on Wagner, Nietzsche's praise of warriors far, far outweighs his mention or praise of artists. This makes me suspicious of those who want to make Nietzsche seem nicer than he sounds.)
12. Nietzsche is aware that he will be accused of nihilism (since he denies the values that most hold dear). Here, he argues that there is a nihilism that is growing out of the culture that the resentful slaves have created. This culture suppresses the will to power that he believes creates values.
13. N believes that there is a confusion in much theorizing, in which we posit a reality behind appearance when it is unnecessary to do so. Also, he believes the strong man is the one who does things that require strength. The resentful claim instead that the strong man is capable of doing things that require strength, and can choose not to do them. This is a contradiction for N, but it also allows the resentful to claim that the strong choose to do the things that require strength, and therefore can be said to be accountable for those things. Also, they are thus allowing that they can call someone who never does anything strong, "strong." One might thus claim the weak are somehow "strong." N rejects this. Similarly, the weak adopt the false consciousness that their weakness is a merit. But really, to be weak is to be unable to do things requiring strength. How can this inability be a merit?
14. Nietzsche imagines a kind of festering dark basement of the collective unconscious, where in bad faith the resentful values are made. Here, weakness is called merit, inability to revenge is called forgiving, suffering is called bliss, subjection is called obedience, the longing for retaliation is called longing for justice, and the inability to create a better life here is assuaged with the claim that there is a better life after this one.
15. The gate to Dante's hell is inscribed, "I too was created by eternal love," meaning God's love created even hell, presumably for our benefit. Nietzsche claims the gate to heaven should read, "I too was created by eternal hate," since heaven and the victory of the Christian God over the strong is all the product of the hateful spite of the weak. As evidence of this claim, he offers a disturbing phrase from Saint Thomas: "the blessed in heaven will see the punishment of the damned in order that their bliss may be more great." He then quotes at great length from Tertullian. This passage from Tertullian is very striking in light of Nietzsche's earlier claims. We might, of course, doubt: that the passage is representative of Christian morality; whether Tertullian was a typical Christian; or that Tertullian had or otherwise was influenced by a resentful slave mentality. Tertullian's early writings, including this one, are widely considered by scholars of Catholicism to be orthodox, acceptable, important early Christian works.
16. The battle of the resentful and the noble is the battle of the Judaic heritage against the Romans, and the Romans lost.
17. Nietzsche's book prior to this one was Beyond Good and Evil, and we are to note here that this is not to say beyond good and bad (that is, not: beyond the noble and the ignoble), but rather beyond the resentful opposition of the weak (who call themselves "good") to the strong (which the weak call "evil").1. Humans are unique because they have the ability to plan for the future, and so to make promises. Related to this is having the ability to forget. Here N precedes Freud, and it is not hard to see why Freud greatly respected N: the idea of active forgetting is the predecessor to the Freud's idea of sublimation, of people actively suppressing parts of themselves (though I am not claiming N is a Freudian!).Third Essay
2. The arising of the ability to make promises required, N claims, a kind of predictability and regularity to human beings. Today, we express a similar notion by saying the evolution of social coordination requires the arising of certain conventions; driving on the right side of the road, for example. But then N goes farther: he argues that the free man is the one who doesn't just blindly follow conventions, but rather one who can chose to obey some norm or covenant. This makes some sense: there is no promise given in acting habitually. The smoker does not promise to smoke. But problematic is N's notion of "will." This is an essential part of Christian metaphysics, and N tries to seize and transmute it into a fundamental principle. I'm not sure how to reconcile it with his comments in Part I section 13 -- to be strong is to do strong things, not to have something that causes or "lies behind" those events, such as a strong will.
3. Conscience is the awareness by the free man of his will power and his "dominating instinct" (the drive of will to power). N sees a historical question in how conscience and the ability to keep promises arose. He speculates that pain is important to this, since pain helps us form memories -- we can read him here I think as saying something rather common-sensical: that pain conditions us. But he suggests also that a civilized society has then a history of pain and punishment. Today, prison and other punishments are "present realities," that is current threats, which are necessary to motivate the weak (the "slave of momentary affect [emotion] and desire").
4. We think today that people are punished because they could have done otherwise. But this is a late concept, N claims. Rather, punishment arose as a kind of economic-style exchange. One was hurt, and then paid back that hurt in kind.
5. But what is exchanged, what is the payment given, in recompense for some wrong? The wronged person gets to enjoy the pleasure of being cruel, arising from the pleasure of being (for a short while, perhaps) of seeming higher status than the sufferer.
6. All civilization is based on this principle, N claims. We enjoy seeing, and causing, suffering. It is essential to festival.
7. But N thinks our time, not the past in which cruelty was nakedly enjoyed, is the worse time. He sees in our time a dislike of life and living -- it seems here he means that in denouncing cruelty, since cruelty is part of life and civilization, we are denouncing living. (I find this unconvincing romanticism of the gladiatorial ring.) OK, so there is a part here that appears disgraceful. Kaufmann and others attempt vigorously to argue N is not a racist (few deny he was sexist). Here, N's defenders will likely say that he does not really endorse the view that he articulates regarding "negroes" as "representatives of prehistoric man." You judge.
We may not like suffering, but we feel compelled to give it sense. One classical way to do this was to interpret suffering as having purpose for the causer or viewer (it pleases them). For this reason, we invented the gods so that they observe every instance of suffering without a human viewer or cause, and thus make it sensible: it was caused or at least observed by a god.
8. N claims exchange, buying and selling, is the most primitive form of human interaction, and that other (later) forms are shaped by it if not sprung from it.
9, 10. Communities punish malefactors because they harm the community. But as communities grow more stable, they are less violent in this punishment, since they are less threatened by it. This is why punishments grow less severe over time. Mercy then in a sense transcend, is "beyond," the law.
11. Contrary to what some have argued, the law and punishment do not arise from ressentiment. The most lawful have been the strong, who are also people who most lack ressentiment. (One might suppose that N is thinking here of the ancient Romans.) Ressentiment does motivate anti-semites and anarchists. Justice arises after law.
12. This is a very rich section and much can be said about it. Ostensibly, it is about how we must separate the purpose of punishment from its origin. And Nietzsche's point here is very insightful: he observes that either a custom or an organ can have a purpose quite different than the purpose it originally (that is, first) served.
This is quite interesting because it appears that only much more recently has this kind of claim been well understood about evolution (I may be wrong, and would appreciate being set aright: was exaption widely recognized in N's time?). Our best biological theory of the bones in the mammal ear, for example, is that they were part of the jaw of a common ancestor. Pointing to these bones and saying that they are for chewing food (perhaps their original purpose) would be obviously to miss their purpose now. And N is making this very point -- although he is not concerned to defend or take this as part of evolutionary theory. His attack here on Herbert Spencer (a philosopher who tried to apply evolutionary theory very broadly, leading him to endorse for example eugenics) shows his impatience at least with the most simplistic kind of philosophical use of evolutionary theory.
Nietzsche sees this as part of the will to power. If we read N biologically, then this suggests an overlooked and very tidy interpretation of power (which is a very mysterious thing in Nietzsche). Power might be the name we (should) give to the state in which some purposes are subject to others. Thus, if Jones does the things he does because it serves the purposes of Smith (perhaps Jones is a slave, or is paid a wage), then Smith has power (over Jones) because it is his purposes, and not those of Jones, that are determining why the relevant activities occur. Something similar could be said for organs -- if the purpose of these special jaw bones was once to chew food, any such function it might have done is long subservient to the purpose of hearing. Power could then be defined as the ordered relation between purposes: those purposes which are fulfilled only to serve some other purpose are less powerful than those purposes they serve.
But N is not defending (at least, not here) a biological view. He insists that the will to power is a metaphysical principle (we can understand this to mean at least that the principle applies more broadly than any biological claims do -- for example, things other than the organisms studied in biology might exhibit the will to power). Later we will discuss Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche. There, Heidegger reads the will to power as a fundamental feature of all Being (and Nietzsche sometimes says things like this).
I remain tempted to read this semi-biologically: the will to power might be some metaphysical, almost logical (by which I mean, having to do with the fundamental possible structure of things), principle -- but still best understood in biological terms. One might say, our universe is structured in such a way that complex things exhibit purposes (living things are the prime example), and these purposes can be related through relations of power, and that the will to power is the tendency of things with purposes to have also the purpose of having more power.
13. Punishment evolved as a social custom for many different reasons, and so today any justification of punishment is going to be ad hoc, coming along after the fact that we have this institution, and defending it with various made-up reasons. N gives a list of reasons that have been offered to justify punishment -- none is "right" or "best," he is arguing.
14. Punishment does not succeed (at least, not well) in instilling bad conscience, or the sense of guilt.
15. Punishments tames men.
16. Here N proposes ideas which, again, influenced (or miraculously predict) Freud. He supposes that our purposes which are suppressed by society still have a kind of force, and this force must "turn inward." This is what we now call the soul: the hostility we show to our own unsocial urges. (I find N's claims that this is unique unconvincing, however. Many kinds of social animals exist -- surely they all have inhibitions which exercise on them. Watch wolves to find many examples.)
17. N rejects contract theory as sentimental: the state began with "blond beasts," conquerors subjecting another people. The subjected retain their instinct for freedom, and they ultimately "discharge it" upon themselves through the bad conscience.
18. Something new arises out of this self-subjection, however. Artists treat themselves as something to be shaped. They assert their freedom through control over themselves. But selflessness then is the old delight in cruelty over others, turned now into delight in cruelty against one's self.
19-23. N offers some anthropological speculation. The ancients understood debt, and felt a debt that only grew for their ancestors. This debt ultimately is realized by seeing the ancestors as gods or God.
24-25. Here the hint of the Ubermensch, the overman, that N hopes will arise and which is discussed most extensively in Thus Spake Zarathustra. The overman will be able to escape the problems of theism while still asserting values (escaping nihilism).....
A Few Notes about the Will to Power, The Overman, Eternal Return, and the Aesthetic Reading of Nietzsche
The Genealogy is an accessible work by N, and one that is not too long to squeeze in before Being and Time, but it does leave unstated two important elements of N's thought: the concept of the will to power, of the Ubermensch, and of eternal return.
Before we turn to those, let me point out something useful that Heidegger (in his lectures on Nietzsche) observes, and that may be helpful if you read more Nietzsche. First, it is important to understand that Nietzsche often uses the term "truth" to mean the other "real" world that Plato and then Christianity posited. For Plato or a Christian, the everyday world is a kind of deception, and another immutable world that we fail to see is the true world. Nietzsche denies this, but he sometimes does so by saying that he rejects "truth." Second, Nietzsche sometimes uses the term "morality" in a similar way. It is not quite clear to me what Nietzsche's morality is, but he certainly is not rejecting the idea of morality in the broadest sense of the word (this we know, for example, because he accepts that there can be purpose, and some morals follow directly from any purpose). So, when he opposes "morality" he is rejecting Christian and related moralities, especially when they are based upon the idea of a "true" world behind this false world of appearance. He may also be rejecting anything like the traditional notions of morality, as complete and final sets of rules for living.
- Will to Power. Nietzsche's Theory of Value.
One of N's most difficult concepts is "will to power." He sees all of life as characterized by will to power -- by the seeking to realize goals and to dominate others if necessary to better realize these goals. Also, N often talks of this in biological terms -- he wants a "physiological" approach, he is fond of saying in his notes The Will to Power.
This will to power is not only essential to life, but it also is the source of all values. Values don't come from god (god is dead, N famously proclaimed) or from pleasure (N has infinite contempt for John Stuart Mill) or from another "true" world beyond this one or from any of the other places philosophers have argued it comes from. Rather, values are just the expression of will to power. Thus, if we are to have values, we must have and express our will to power.
Furthermore, Nietzsche believes that our current "morality" is false: it is the false cover we put on the will to power that we have which is primarily a fundamental biological drive. That is what we saw in N's history in The Geneology of Morals: the weak acted out of ressentiment, out of a desire to find some way to assert themselves over the great, and that is the source of Christianity and its ethics. This is crucial: before we can question N's ethic, before we can ask what does N offer in place of our ethics, we must recognize that he is not criticizing our ethics as inferior or otherwise flawed. He is rather saying our ethics is misleading. It does not require defense because no one in a position to properly defend it believes it or acts on it. Those who are moved by it are slaves -- those who made it, manipulators grasping for power.
The overman is the man who knows that will to power produces all our values, and sees also the lie in our "moralities," and aggressively seeks to express his will to power in a creative and novel way, creatin something uniquely personal, uniquely human, and which can give value to others. (I say "man" because N's sexism is so complete as to be ridiculous.) N clearly means that the overman will do great, unusual, difficult things. His ideal then is that there will be a few people (he appears to believe that there can never be more than a few), a kind of elite or nobility, that transforms the world by giving it great purposes (it may be that the rest of us will simply follows these purposes, grateful to have purposes, and we will call these purposes "virtue" or "morality," never admitting their true origin or motivation).
- Eternal Return.
Christianity says "no" to this world -- it posits another "true" world behind this one. We escape this world if we die and are saved, and then we see all that is false in this world, and we see why there is evil, and so on. But N denies this, and wants to assert an alternative. He conceives this alternative as saying "yes" to this world -- this sensual, "false" world.
His radical way to do this is the concept of eternal return. (Nietzsche tries to argue that eternal return is a real possibility, but I think he did not need that -- his point is sufficient as a thought experiment.) Imagine that this universe is all there is, and that it repeats itself endlessly: at the end of time there is the beginning of time, and all happens again exactly as before. There is no escaping this world, no "true" world behind it. If you can say "yes" then to your life, knowing that it will happen forever the same way again and again, knowing there is nothing behind or beyond it, then you will be (or, at least, you'll be on the way to being) the overman, the one who can say yes to this world and assert values in it.
- Is Nietzsche still a Foundationalist about Purpose? Aesthetics.
For the philosopher, this raise the question: does N believe it is possible to rank values? (And thus, ultimately, to offer some as the "right" way to live?) Now, it is very important to be clear that I don't mean that N does not explain why Christian values are not better than other values. N believes he has deflated Christian values by showing both that they are false (god is dead) and that they are resentment cloaked in fake but attractive metaphysics. But we might still offer alternatives. To keep the case simple: what if we believe that people are better off if everyone gets to exercise their will to power? Why can't there be a socialist/democratic will-to-power ethic? (N hated both socialism and modern democracy, seeing them as the expressions of the herd instinct.) Why are the great purposes of the overman better than (N does not say they are, but he clearly believes they are) the trivial purposes of the last man? It is not enough to say they are difficult and unique and authentic and challenging and can give purpose to many others -- why are these properties better than the alternatives?
N has several values he encourages us to share: that we should seek to be honest (to have authenticity) and thus unique; that we should strive to do what only humans can do (and thus be more than "mere animals." He rejects modern democracy because he believes the state grows in power and exerts a homogenizing influence, thus undermining authenticity and striving.
I believe that N gives us a kind of portrait of his vision and his hopes for human purpose, and though he may be able to consistently reject (in some sense) some values by arguing that they are fake ("morality"), he still seems to be a foundationalist about purpose.
Now, in at least one place in The Will to Power, N suggests that choosing his ethic is just a matter of aesthetics -- that he is merely encouraging us to see things his way. In the world of the overman that he imagines, things will be more diverse, more daring and bold -- and doesn't that sound more beautiful? If that is the sum of his value theory, then we might say that he has rejected foundationalism about purpose -- or, instead, we might say he has accepted it, concluded there is no foundation, and so offered in its stead something similar to but distinct from traditional, foundationalist value theory. I'm not sure which to conclude.
Regardless, Nietzsche always seems to believe that the loss of our traditional foundations is a great challenge, if not a catastrophe.
Nietzsche, F. (1997) Schopenhauer as Educator, in Untimely Meditations. Edited by Daniel Breazeale, and translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.