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VII "Beyond Good and Evil"
Double purpose animated Nietzsche in his writing of "Beyond Good and Evil" ("Jenseits von Gut und B?se"). It is at once an explanation and an elucidation of "Thus Spake Zarathustra," and a preparatory book for his greatest and most important work, "The Will to Power." In it Nietzsche attempts to define the relative terms of "good" and "evil," and to draw a line of distinction between immorality and unmorality. He saw the inconsistencies evolved in the attempt to harmonise an ancient moral code with the needs of modern life, and recognised the compromises which were constantly being made between moral theory and social practice. His object was to establish a relationship between morality and necessity, and to formulate a workable basis for human conduct. Consequently "Beyond Good and Evil" is one of his most important contributions to a new system of ethics, and touches on many of the deepest principles of his philosophy. As it stands, it is by no means a complete expression of Nietzsche's doctrines, but it is sufficiently profound and suggestive to be of valuable service in an understanding of his later works. The book was begun in the summer of 1885 and finished the following winter. Again there was difficulty with publishers, and finally the book was issued at the author's own expense in the autumn of 1886.

[Pg 174]

Nietzsche opens "Beyond Good and Evil" with a long chapter headed "Prejudices of Philosophers," in which he outlines the course to be taken by his dialectic. The exposition is accomplished by two methods: first, by an analysis and a refutation of the systems of thinking made use of by antecedent doctrinaires, and secondly, by defining the hypotheses on which his own philosophy is built. This chapter is a most important one, setting forth, as it does, the rationale of his doctrine of the will to power. It has been impossible to make extracts of any unified sequence from this chapter because of its intricate and compact reasoning, and the student would do well to read it in its entirety. It establishes Nietzsche's philosophic position and presents a closely knit explanation of the course pursued in the following chapters. The relativity of all truth—the hypothesis so often assumed in his previous work—Nietzsche here defends by analogy and argument. Using other leading forms of philosophy as a ground for exploration, he questions the absolutism of truth and shows wherein lies the difficulty of a final definition. Here we become conscious of that plasticity of mind which was the dominating quality of his thinking. It is not, however, that form of plasticity which on inspection resolves itself into amorphic and unstable reasoning, but a logical, almost scientific, method of valuing. The mercurial habits of the metaphysicians who deny absolutism are nowhere discernible in Nietzsche's thought. His mind is definite without being static. The basis of his argumentation is what one might call floating. It rises and falls with the human tide of causation; yet the structure built upon it remains at all times upright and unchanged.

Nietzsche points out that the numerous "logical"[Pg 175] conclusions of philosophers have been for the most part a priori propositions, the results of prejudices or desires, and that the syllogistic structures reared to them came as explanations and defences, rather than as dialectic preambles. In their adopting a hypothetical truth as a premise, he sees only the advocacy for a point of view, arguing that in order to erect a system of logic the initial thesis must be proved. Therefore he questions the fundamental worth of certainty as opposed to uncertainty, and of truth as opposed to falsity, thus striking at the very foundations reared by those philosophers who have assumed, without substantiation, that only certainty and truth are valuable. Nietzsche calls these absolutists astute defenders of prejudices, and characterises the verbalistic prestidigitation of Kant as a highly developed form of prejudice-defending. Spinoza, with his mathematical system of reasoning, likewise falls in the category of those thinkers who first assume conclusions and then prepare explanations for them by a process of inverted reasoning. Nietzsche proceeds to pose the instinctive functions against conscious thinking. He asserts that the channels taken by thought are defined by the thinker's nature, and that even logic is influenced by physiological considerations. The whole fabric of philosophic thought is held up to the light of immediate necessity.

Going further, he inquires into the "impulse to knowledge." He finds that a specific purpose has always been the actuating force of any philosophy, and that consequently philosophy, even in its most abstract form, has had a residuum of autobiography in it. In fine, that philosophy, far from being a search, has been an aim toward a definite preconceived result. The moral or[Pg 176] ethical impulse, being always imperious, has not infrequently resulted in philosophising, and in all such cases knowledge has been used as an instrument. Thus knowledge which led to a philosophical conclusion has been the outgrowth of a personal instinct. In those cases where an impersonal "impulse to knowledge" may have existed, it has led, not into philosophical channels, but into practical and often commercial activities. The scholar has ever remained personal in his quest for philosophical formulas. In Kant's "Table of Categories," wherein that philosopher claimed to have found the faculty of synthetic judgment a priori, Nietzsche finds only a circle of reasoning which begins and ends in personal instinct. And in Kant's discovery of a new moral faculty, Nietzsche sees only sophistical invention, and accounts for its widespread acceptance by the moral state of the Germans at that period. Ignoring the possibility of synthetic judgments a priori, Nietzsche advances the query as to their necessity, and lays stress on the impracticability of truth without belief. The inherent falsity or truth of a proposition has no bearing on philosophical doctrines so long as a contrary belief is present, a belief such as we exert toward the illusions of the world of reality when we make practical use of that world's perspective.

The schemes of personal philosophy, such, for instance, as we find in Schopenhauer, are dealt with by Nietzsche in a single paragraph: "When I analyse the process that is expressed in the sentence, 'I think,' I find a whole series of daring assertions, the argumentative proof of which would be difficult, perhaps impossible: for instance, that it is I who think, that there must necessarily[Pg 177] be something that thinks, that thinking is an activity and operation on the part of a being who is thought of as a cause, that there is an 'ego,' and finally, that it is already determined what is to be designated by thinking—that I know what thinking is. For if I had not already decided within myself what it is, by what standard could I determine whether that which is just happening is not perhaps 'willing' or 'feeling'? In short, the assertion 'I think,' assumes that I compare my state at the present moment with other states of myself which I know, in order to determine what it is: on account of this retrospective connection with further 'knowledge,' it has at any rate no immediate certainty for me." Thus the smug materialistic philosopher finds himself necessitated to fall back on purely metaphysical explanations for answers to the questions arising out of his definition of truth.

Locke falls under a critical survey in this chapter. In answer to this thinker's theory regarding the origin of ideas, Nietzsche names the great cycles of philosophical systems and calls attention to the similarity of processes in such cycles. Furthermore, he shows that the foundations of all previous philosophies are discoverable in the new styles of contemporaneous thought. And in those national schools of philosophy conceived in languages which stem from the same origin, he finds an undeniable resemblance. All of which leads to a conclusion incompatible with Locke's theory. Nietzsche attacks the conclusions of the physicists, denying them any place in philosophy because their research consists solely in interpretations of natural laws in accordance with their own prejudices and beliefs. The theories which might be[Pg 178] deduced from natural phenomena are not discoverable in their doctrines; their activities have consisted in twisting natural events to suit preconceived valuations.

Finally Nietzsche inquires into the habits and practices of psychologists. Not even among these workers does he find a basis for philosophy. Psychology, he argues, has been guided, not by a detached and lofty desire to ascertain truth in its relation to the human mind, but by prejudices and fears grounded in moral considerations. He finds a constant desire on the part of experimenters to account for "good" impulses as distinguished from "bad" ones. And in this desire lies the superimposing of moral prejudices on a science which, more than all others, deals with problems farthest removed from moral influences. These prejudices in psychology, as well as in all branches of philosophy, are the obstacles which stand in the way of any deep penetration into the motives beneath human conduct. Nietzsche, in his analyses and criticisms, is not solely destructive: he is subterraneously constructing his own philosophical system founded on the will to power. This phrase is used many times in the careful research of the first chapter. As the book proceeds, this doctrine develops.

Nietzsche's best definition of what he calls the "free spirit," namely: the thinking man, the intellectual aristocrat, the philosopher and ruler, is contained in the twenty-six pages of the second chapter of "Beyond Good and Evil." In a series of paragraphs—longer than is Nietzsche's wont—the leading characteristics of this superior man are described. The "free spirit," however, must not be confused with the superman. The former is the "bridge" which the present-day man must cross in the process of surpassing himself. In the delineation[Pg 179] and analysis of him, as presented to us here, we can glimpse his most salient mental features. Heretofore, as in "Thus Spake Zarathustra," he has been but partially and provisionally defined. Now his instincts and desires, his habits and activities are outlined. Furthermore, we are given an explanation of his relation to the inferior man and to the organisms of his environment. The chapter is an important one, for at many points it is a subtle elucidation of many of Nietzsche's dominant philosophic principles. By inference, the differences of class distinction are strictly drawn. The slave-morality (sklavmoral) and the master-morality (herrenmoral), though as yet undefined, are balanced against each other; and the deportmental standards of the masters and slaves are defined by way of differentiating between these two opposing human factions. While the serving class is constantly manifesting its need of a guiding dogma, the ruling class is constantly approaching the state wherein the arbitrary moral mandates are denied. Nietzsche sees a new order of philosophers appearing—men who will stand beyond good and evil, who will be not only free spirits, "but something more, higher, greater, and fundamentally different." In describing these men of the future, of which the present free men are the heralds and forerunners, Nietzsche establishes an individualistic ideal which he develops fully in later chapters.

A keen and far-reaching analysis of the various aspects assumed by religious faith constitutes a third section of "Beyond Good and Evil." Though touching upon various influences of Christianity, this section is more general in its religious scope than even "The Antichrist," many indications of which are to be found here. This chapter has to do with the numerous inner experiences of man,[Pg 180] which are directly or indirectly attributable to religious doctrines. The origin of the instinct for faith itself is sought, and the results of this faith are balanced against the needs of the individuals and of the race. The relation between religious ecstasy and sensuality; the attempt on the part of religious practitioners to arrive at a negation of the will; the transition from religious gratitude to fear; the psychology at the bottom of saint-worship;—to problems such as these Nietzsche devotes his energies in his inquiry of the religious mood. The geographical considerations which enter into the character and intensity of religious faith form an important basis for study; and the differences between Comte's sociology and Sainte-Beuve's anti-Jesuit utterances are explained from a standpoint of national influences. Nietzsche examines the many phases of atheism and the principal anti-Christian tendencies of all philosophy since Descartes. There is an illuminating exposition of the important stages in religious cruelty and of the motives underlying the various forms of religious sacrifices. Again we run upon the doctrine of eternal recurrence, but here, as elsewhere, it may be regarded, not as a basic element in Nietzsche's philosophical scheme, but as a by-product of his thought. Nietzsche emphasises the necessity of idleness in all religious lives, and shows how the adherence to the religious mood works against the activities, both of mind and of body, which make for the highest efficiency.

A very important phase of Nietzsche's teaching is contained in this criticism of the religious life. The detractors of the Nietzschean doctrine, almost without exception, base their judgments on the assumption that the universal acceptation of his theories would result in social chaos. As I have pointed out before, Nietzsche desired[Pg 181] no such general adoption of his beliefs. In his bitterest diatribes against Christianity, his object was not to shake the faith of the great majority of mankind in their idols. He sought merely to free the strong men from the restrictions of a religion which fitted the needs of only the weaker members of society. He neither hoped nor desired to wean the mass of humanity from Christianity or any similar dogmatic comfort. On the contrary, he denounced those superficial atheists who endeavoured to weaken the foundations of religion. He saw the positive necessity of such religions as a basis for his slave morality, and in the present chapter he exhorts the rulers to preserve the religious faith of the serving classes, and to use it as a means of government—as an instrument in the work of disciplining and educating. In paragraph 61 he says: "The selecting and disciplining influence—destructive as well as creative and fashioning—which can be exercised by means of religion is manifold and varied, according to the sort of people placed under its spell and protection." Not only is this an expression of the utilitarian value of religious formulas, but a definite voicing of one of the main factors in his philosophy. His entire system of ethics is built on the complete disseverance of the dominating class and the serving class; and his doctrine of "beyond good and evil" should be considered only as it pertains to the superior man. To apply it to all classes would be to reduce Nietzsche's whole system of ethics to impracticability, and therefore to an absurdity.

Passing from a consideration of the religious mood, Nietzsche enters a broader sphere of ethical research, and endeavours to trace the history and development of morals. He accuses the philosophers of having avoided[Pg 182] the real problem of morality, namely: the testing of the faith and motives which lie beneath moral beliefs. This is the task he sets for himself, and in his chapter, "The Natural History of Morals," he makes an examination of moral origins—an examination which is extended into an exhaustive treatise in "The Genealogy of Morals." However, his dissection here is carried out on a broader and far more general scale than in his previous books, such as "Human, All-Too-Human" and "The Dawn of Day." Heretofore he had confined himself to codes and systems, to acts of morality and immorality, to judgments of conducts. In "Beyond Good and Evil" he treats of moral prejudices as forces working hand in hand with human progress. In addition, there is a definite attitude of constructive thinking here which is absent from his earlier work. He outlines the course to be taken by the men of the future, and points to the results which have accrued from the moralities of modern nations. He offers the will to power in place of the older "will to belief," and characterises the foundations of acceptance for all moral codes as "fictions" and "premature hypotheses." He defines the racial ideals which have grown up out of moral influences, and, applying them to the needs of the present day, finds them inadequate and dangerous. The conclusion to which his observations and analyses point is that, unless the rulers of the race take a stand beyond the outposts of good and evil and govern on a basis of expediency divorced from all moral influences, the individual is in constant danger of being lowered to the level of the gregarious conscience.

In the chapter, "We Scholars," Nietzsche continues his definition of the philosopher, whom he holds to be the highest type of man. Besides being a mere description[Pg 183] of the intellectual traits of this "free spirit," the chapter is also an exposition of the shortcomings of those modern men who pose as philosophers. In the path of these new thinkers Nietzsche sees many difficulties both from within and from without, and points out methods whereby these obstacles may be overcome. Also the man of science and the man of genius are analyzed and weighed as to their relative importance in the community. In fact, we have here Nietzsche's most concise and complete definition of the individuals upon whom rests the burden of progress. These valuations of the intellectual leaders are important to the student, for by one's understanding them, along with the reasons for such valuations, a comprehension of the ensuing volumes is facilitated. Nietzsche hereby establishes the qualities of those entitled to the master-morality code; and, by thus drawing the line of demarcation in humanity, he defines at the same time that class whose constitutions and predispositions demand the slave-morality. In addition, he affixes, according to his philosophical formula, a scale of values to such mental attributes as objectivity, power to will, scepticism, positivity and constraint.

Important material touching on many of the fundamental points of Nietzsche's philosophy is embodied in the chapter entitled "Our Virtues." The more general inquiries into conduct and the research along the broader lines of ethics are supplanted by inquiries into specific moral attributes. The current virtues are questioned, and their historical significance is determined. The value of such virtues is tested in their relation to different types of men. Sacrifice, sympathy, brotherly love, service, loyalty, altruism and similar ideals of conduct are examined, and the results of such virtues are shown to be[Pg 184] incompatible with the demands of modern social intercourse. Nietzsche poses against these virtues the sterner and more rigid forms of conduct, pointing out wherein they meet with the present requirements of human progress. The chapter is a preparation for his establishment of a new morality and also an explanation of the dual ethical code which is one of the main pillars in his philosophical structure. Before presenting his precept of a dual morality, Nietzsche endeavours to determine woman's place in the political and social scheme, and points out the necessity, not only of individual feminine functioning, but of the preservation of a distinct polarity in sexual relationship.

In the final chapter many of Nietzsche's philosophical ideas take definite shape. The doctrine of slave-morality and master-morality, prepared for and partially defined in preceding chapters, is here directly set forth, and those virtues and attitudes which constitute the "nobility" of the master class are specifically defined. Nietzsche designates the duty of his aristocracy, and segregates the human attributes according to the rank of individuals. The Dionysian ideal, which underlies all the books that follow "Beyond Good and Evil," receives its first direct exposition and application. The hardier human traits such as egotism, cruelty, arrogance, retaliation and appropriation are given ascendency over the softer virtues such as sympathy, charity, forgiveness, loyalty and humility, and are pronounced necessary constituents in the moral code of a natural aristocracy. At this point is begun the transvaluation of values which was to have been completed in "The Will to Power." The student should read carefully this chapter, for it is an introduction as well as an explanation[Pg 185] for what follows, and was written with that purpose in view.


To recognise untruth as a condition of life: that is certainly to impugn the traditional ideas of value in a dangerous manner, and a philosophy which ventures to do so, has thereby alone placed itself beyond good and evil. 9

Psychologists should bethink themselves before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength—life itself is Will to Power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results thereof. 20

It is the business of the very few to be independent; it is the privilege of the strong. And whoever attempts it, even with the best right, but without being obliged to do so, proves that he is probably not only strong, but also daring beyond measure. 43

The virtues of the common man would perhaps mean vice and weakness in a philosopher; it might be possible for a highly developed man, supposing him to degenerate and go to ruin, to acquire qualities thereby alone, for the sake of which he would have to be honoured as a saint in the lower world into which he had sunk. 44

Books for the general reader are always ill-smelling books, the odour of paltry people clings to them. Where the populace eat and drink, and even where they reverence, it is accustomed to stink. One should not go into churches if one wishes to breathe pure air. 44

"Will" can naturally only operate on "will"—and[Pg 186] not on "matter" (not on "nerves," for instance): in short, the hypothesis must be hazarded, whether will does not operate on will wherever "effects" are recognised—and whether all mechanical action, inasmuch as a power operates therein, is not just the power of will, the effect of will. Granted, finally, that we succeed in explaining our entire instinctive life as the development and ramification of one fundamental form of will—namely, the Will to Power, as my thesis puts it; granted that all organic functions could be traced back to this Will to Power, and that the solution of the problem of generation and nutrition—it is one problem—could also be found therein: one would thus have acquired the right to define all active force unequivocally as Will to Power. The world seen from within, the world defined and designated according to its "intelligible character"—it would simply be "Will to Power," and nothing else. 52

Happiness and virtue are no arguments. It is willingly forgotten, however, even on the part of thoughtful minds, that to make unhappy and to make bad are just as little counter-arguments. A thing could be true, although it were in the highest degree injurious and dangerous; indeed, the fundamental constitution of existence might be such that one succumbed by a full knowledge of it—so that the strength of a mind might be measured by the amount of "truth" it could endure—or to speak more plainly, by the extent to which it required truth attenuated, veiled, sweetened, damped, and falsified. 53-54

Everything that is profound loves the mask; the profoundest things have a hatred even of figure and likeness. Should not the contrary only be the right disguise for the shame of a God to go about in? 54-55

One must renounce the bad taste of wishing to agree[Pg 187] with many people. "Good" is no longer good when one's neighbour takes it into his mouth. And how could there be a "common good." The expression contradicts itself; that which can be common is always of small value. In the end things must be as they are and have always been—the great things remain for the great, the abysses for the profound, the delicacies and thrills for the refined, and, to sum up shortly, everything rare for the rare. 57-58

In every country of Europe, and the same in America, there is at present ... a very narrow, prepossessed, enchained class of spirits.... Briefly and regrettably, they belong to the levellers, these wrongly named "free spirits"—as glib-tongued and scribe-fingered slaves of the democratic taste and its "modern ideas"; all of them men without solitude, without personal solitude, blunt honest fellows to whom neither courage nor honourable conduct ought to be denied; only, they are not free, and are ludicrously superficial, especially in their innate partiality for seeing the cause of almost all human misery and failure in the old forms in which society has hitherto existed—a notion which happily inverts the truth entirely. 53-59

We believe that severity, violence, slavery, danger in the street and in the heart, secrecy, stoicism, tempter's art and revelry of every kind,—that everything wicked, terrible, tyrannical, predatory, and serpentine in man, serves as well for the elevation of the human species as its opposite.... 59

The Christian faith from the beginning, is sacrifice: the sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of spirit; it is at the same time subjection, self-derision, and self-mutilation. 65

The mightiest men have hitherto always bowed reverently before the saint, as the enigma of self-subjugation[Pg 188] and utter voluntary privation.—Why did they thus bow? They divined in him—and as it were behind the questionableness of his frail and wretched appearance—the superior force which wished to test itself by such a subjugation; the strength and love of power, and knew how to honour it: they honoured something in themselves when they honoured the saint.... The mighty ones of the world learned to have a new fear before him, they divined a new power, a strange, still unconquered enemy:—it was the "Will to Power" which obliged them to halt before the saint. 7............
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