Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
Beyond Good and Evil by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche discusses the theory of the “will to truth.” At the heart of Nietzsche’s argument is that a person must question everything in order to learn the truth. He believes that one should reexamine anything he or she has ever learned, and nothing is exempt from this self-interrogation, including self-perception, societal teachings, and religion. The author does not value those who do not have ambition to delve into their minds deeply enough to find out what’s true.
Nietzsche believes that his truth comes from the intensity of his education. He studied Ancient Greek and modern philosophers, but he thinks little of newer philosophers because their ideas are untried and untested.
Nietzsche’s main viewpoints in Beyond Good and Evil are the importance of intelligence and his opinion of women. He believes that people should use their intelligence to make informed decisions, even if they were raised in a certain way. Nietzsche also thinks that women aren’t as smart as men, so they need to be quiet and obey men.
Nietzsche points out that morality and immorality are opposites. However, he claims there’s no such thing as black or white; everything is a shade of gray. This argument forms the foundation for his discussion of religion, because faith requires you to sacrifice your truth. Therefore, Nietzsche says there’s only a shade of difference between atheists and believers in God.
In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche argues that blind faith is the enemy of truth. He also discusses tempo in language and how it affects interpretation. In fact, the English translation of Beyond Good and Evil has some inaccuracies, but whether or not they are due to tempo is unclear. If this were not an issue then other cultures would have a better understanding of both ancient and modern philosophies.
Nietzsche believes that intelligence is a process of discovering the truth about oneself and one’s beliefs. He thinks that people who are unwilling to do this are stupid or doltish, and he abandons friendships with others who possess these traits. In addition, he doesn’t think highly of those who aren’t German by heritage because they can never truly understand philosophical truths.
Friedrich Nietzsche was a famous philosopher, poet, cultural critic and philologist. He became the youngest-ever Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel when he was twenty-four years old. However, ten years later he had to resign due to illness and died eleven years after that in 1900. He suffered from migraines, near blindness and violent indigestion issues since his youth but experienced a mental breakdown after trying to save a horse from being flogged in 1889.
Nietzsche was influenced by ancient Greek philosophers including Plato and Heraclitus. He also enjoyed the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky.
Nietzsche’s works were not popular during his lifetime. However, after he died and people started to read them more widely, they gained a lot of popularity in some circles. In the US and France, many anarchists liked Nietzsche’s work because it was subversive. Conservatives didn’t like Nietzsche at all because his ideas challenged their views on religion and morality. Not everyone disliked him though; famous writers such as Yeats and Auden praised his work, but couldn’t get it into wider circulation due to its controversial nature. During World War I, German soldiers were given copies of Nietzsche’s books for inspiration while fighting on the front lines. His ideas about power helped inspire expressionism (art that shows distorted images), existentialism (philosophy that emphasizes individual existence over social conventions), post-modernism (ideas built around destruction rather than creation).
Friedrich Nietzsche was born in 1844. He grew up with his mother and sisters after the death of his father, a Lutheran minister. At the age of 24, he became a professor without writing a dissertation. His early philosophy was influenced by Kant and Schopenhauer, though he later criticized them both.
Nietzsche was a German philosopher who lived in the 19th century. He suffered from many diseases, including syphilis and eventually went blind. His philosophy is characterized by nihilism—the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing has any meaning or importance—and his desire to find new principles for humanity based on experience rather than religion. Nietzsche predicted that if this trend of nihilism continued, it would lead to some of the worst wars in history.
In his first book, Nietzsche drew inspiration from Richard Wagner to discuss the role of art in society. However, during this time period, their friendship was strained because they had different views on nationalism and religion. After that, he became an outspoken critic of anti-Semitism and other similar beliefs that were shared by his sister.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s most influential and popular works were written during a productive period that spanned from 1878 to 1885. He wrote the first three books of his mature period in ten day sessions while living a hermetic existence, battling with failing health. The four parts of Zarathustra were published separately over seven years after it was first completed. Ironically, despite its vitality and energy, Nietzsche was continually plagued by bouts of extreme misery and debilitating illness.
Nietzsche’s health was declining and he continued to write. He wrote Beyond Good and Evil, On The Genealogy of Morals, The Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, Ecce Homo,The Case of Wagner, and Nietzsche Contra Wagner between 1886-1888. In January 1889 he collapsed at the sight of a coachman whipping a horse. This caused him to suffer from mental breakdowns until his death in August 1900.
Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth, used his work after he died to promote her own agenda. She changed the way people thought about Nietzsche and distorted his theories so that they supported her own views. For a long time, Nietzsche was associated with Nazism even though he didn’t believe in it at all.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had a profound influence on twentieth-century thought. He was years ahead of his time and influenced almost every modern theoretical movement. Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw, W. B. Yeats and James Joyce are just some of the people who were affected by his ideas and methods.
In order to understand Nietzsche’s work, it is important to grasp his views on truth and language. He believed that the universe was in a constant state of flux, which led him to criticize anything that appeared fixed or stable. Furthermore, he felt that language and “truth” were often too rigid for human beings and could lead them astray from what is actually happening around them.
Language is fixed because it cannot be changed once it’s uttered. It also describes the world in a way that makes us think of facts as permanent and unchanging, which has led to our conception of truth and other absolutes such as God and morality.
Nietzsche believes that facts and things are not as rigid as we think they are. He is especially brilliant in analyzing morality, showing how our concept of “good” has had different meanings at different times. The underlying force driving all change is will, according to Nietzsche. In specific, all drives boil down to a will to power (a drive for freedom and domination over other things). Meaning and interpretation are merely signs that a will is operating on a concept.
Because facts and things depend on the will of people, there’s no absolute truth. Every viewpoint is influenced by someone’s will. Instead of trying to talk about a “truth,” we should try to be flexible and look at issues from many different perspectives. Nietzsche wanted philosophers in the future to see morality as a surface that has no inherent meaning; they should move beyond good and evil. Philosophers would also turn their wills against themselves, struggling constantly against their own prejudices and assumptions so they can overcome them.
Nietzsche’s unorthodox views on truth can help to explain his unusual style. He does not see the world as a two-dimensional picture, but rather three-dimensionally like a hologram. Each fragment of that hologram represents an approximation of Nietzsche’s complex worldview and we can read every aphorism as one different perspective from which to look at his philosophy. We end up with 9 big pieces and 296 smaller fragments, each representing Nietzsche’s perspectivism in practice: there is some sort of line we can trace, moving from perspective to perspective, but essentially we end up with Nietzsche’s philosophy in 9 big pieces and 296 smaller fragments. In this way he attempts to find the expression of his thoughts in language that best preserves their fluidity and three-dimensionality.
Nietzsche starts off by posing a provocative question: “What if truth is a woman?” What would it take to win her heart? Nietzsche suggests that the dogmatism of most philosophers is clumsy and ineffective. Philosophy has yet to conquer the truth, but there’s still time.
While dogmatism is serious, it’s also silly and superstitious. Even atheistic philosophies are based on childish beliefs or prejudices. They include the belief in a soul as well as the belief that there is an “I” which can be studied through science.
Dogmatism has been responsible for Plato’s ideals of pure spirit and the Form of the Good, which Nietzsche calls “the worst, most durable, and most dangerous of errors so far.” This dogmatism also created Christianity. Nietzsche suggests that there is a tension in European culture because people don’t want to feel this dogmatic thinking any longer. Jesuits and democrats are trying to ease this tension rather than feeling it as a need toward something better. That kind of thinking is valued by those who think like free spirits—good Europeans.
Nietzsche believed that dogmatism is when you take a claim as an absolute truth without justifying it. Philosophers believe they’re based in reason, but ultimately all philosophy is grounded on some sort of leap of faith. If we look at the building blocks of a system, we must eventually rely on foundational claims that can’t be justified by any other part of the system. So philosophers generally think their foundations are simple and indubitable truths, but Nietzsche thinks these foundations are just childish superstitions and prejudices. The philosopher operates under the maxim that something taken for granted may not actually be true or even rational;
Nietzsche gives the impression that he’s against any absolute truths, but his position is actually a form of perspectivism. This means that there are no absolute truths; there are only different perspectives from which we can view truth. Truth is like a sculpture; by looking at it from one angle, we don’t understand or appreciate its full beauty. We need to walk around it and look at it from all angles in order to fully grasp its meaning.
Nietzsche’s main issue with Platonism is that it limits what we can know and understand. It insists on a single truth, which makes it impossible for us to reason freely. Nietzsche advocates the ideal of free spirits who are not tied down by any one perspective or faith.
This passage is introducing the themes of the book. Nietzsche wants us to check our assumptions at the door and look at things with a clear mind.
1 – “On the Prejudices of Philosophers”
Nietzsche begins by questioning the will to truth that causes us to be so inquisitive. He questions why we are so curious, and then wonders about what the value of truth is.
Nietzsche challenges the idea that there are opposites in the world. He suggests that perhaps our truths are born out of falsehoods, and vice versa.
Nietzsche argues that conscious thinking is instinct-based. When we think about truth, it’s usually because our instincts are telling us something is true or false. Our instincts play a big part in what we believe to be true and how we live our lives. Philosophers like to claim they’re objective and independent thinkers, but their thinking is often driven by their prejudices. They base these beliefs on truths which have been passed down through the ages as “objective” values—when really, they’re just old philosophies that were built up over time to justify those values.
Nietzsche explains that philosophers in ancient Greece were not trying to create nature, but rather they wanted to change it. In other words, philosophy is the most spiritual will-to-power. All philosophers want to change things and make them better because of their strong desire for power.
Nietzsche also challenges anti-realism, Kantianism, and materialistic atomism. He argues that ##Kant## gives us circular reasons for believing in synthetic a priori judgments. But we need to believe in them even though they don’t exist.
Philosophers are also subject to their own biases. One of them is the belief in “immediate certainties.” René Descartes, for example, believed that he could not doubt his own existence because it was so clear and obvious to him. But this certainty comes from a lack of reflection on what exactly the phrase “I think” means. It’s easy to assume that I’m thinking when I hear a thought come into my mind or see an idea form itself in front of me. But how can I know without further assumptions or certainties that it’s really me who is thinking?
Nietzsche criticizes the concept of free will. He argues that it’s a mistake to think that our “I” is responsible for both commanding and obeying. It also misunderstands what causes events, as we could just as easily see nature as lawless rather than governed by laws.
While 1 + 1 = 2, it is a simple fact without any descriptions of who says or why. Philosophers like Nietzsche study the reasoning behind why people think things are true rather than what actually makes them true. What does it reveal about their will? A person’s perspective shows how powerful they may be if they’re able to influence so many others with just an idea or point of view.
Nietzsche was concerned with the influence that grammar has on philosophy. For instance, he felt that we misinterpret “I think” as implying an “I” who is a distinct entity and thinks. First of all, Nietzsche suggests, this “I” only appears to be stable but it’s actually composed of competing wills. Further, thoughts come to us rather than being created by us. It may be better to use a less simple sentence in place of “I think,” such as: “The will to think became dominant over other wills at such-and-such place and time.”
2 – “The Free Spirit”
Nietzsche suggests that our knowledge is based on a simplification of the truth. The will to knowledge is built upon and refined by the will to ignorance. Therefore, philosophers should not pose as defenders of truth or knowledge because they are just their own prejudices; no philosopher has even been proved right. Philosophers are at their best when questioning themselves and freeing their spirits from their prejudices.
Some people thrive on solitude and independence. They are free spirits who will pursue their own goals at the expense of socializing with others. This is a difficult life to live, because they face dangers that no one else understands or can relate to them. Their successes and failures cannot be shared with anyone, so they must deal with everything on their own. Because of this, it’s easy for other people to misunderstand what a free spirit is trying to say or do something stupid in response without realizing it.
Nietzsche talks about the value of an action. He says that in pre-moral societies, people judged actions based on their consequences. In modern society, we judge actions based on their origin or motives. We praise or blame a person’s intentions and motives more than the actual outcome of the action itself. However, Nietzsche thinks that there is an extra-moral world where people realize that the real value lies beyond conscious thought and beneath our motivations for doing things.
After a critical look at the value of thought, Nietzsche suggests that we admit nothing as “real” except our drives, desires, and passions. Thought is just the relation of our different drives to one another. Can we explain the workings of the mechanistic world using only these factors? If there’s only one agent–will–then we don’t need to look for additional causes.
We might look at the material world as a primitive form of organic life. It’s all part of the same system, and it can be viewed in terms of will to power.
Nietzsche’s philosophy is that the world is constantly changing, and he encourages people to be independent thinkers. People who are attached to things or ideas cannot be free spirits. Therefore, in order for one to truly think for himself/herself, they must not become attached to anything in life; this includes family, friends, countrymen and even their own personal beliefs. The only way a person can do this is by being an “attempter,” someone who does not accept dogmas but rather thinks independently.
3 – “What is Religious”
Nietzsche talks about the demands of Christianity. He says that it requires people to give up their freedom, pride and self-confidence. It also requires them to be humble, chaste and celibate. This ideal is best exemplified by priests who have given themselves over entirely to this ascetic life in order to attain power through humility. The author says that these saints are fascinating because they seem so powerful even though they’re submitting themselves willingly to such torture. They must know something we don’t know in order for them not only submit but do so with a smile on their faces!
Nietzsche believed that we are in a time of religious skepticism. We no longer believe in the God of our ancestors, but we still have faith in religion. However, modern philosophy has helped us to question whether there really is an “I” distinct from its predicates. In doubting the sovereignty of this “I,” we doubt the existence of the soul and therefore reject religion as well as other metaphysical beliefs like it. Religion demands that people look down on work because they should focus on spiritual matters instead; it’s not surprising then that this industrious age rejects religion altogether.
While Nietzsche believes that the modern age is an atheistic one, he thinks it has a religious spirit. This religion demands sacrifice and in primitive religions this was of loved ones or first borns. We sacrificed our will, freedom and strength to God. Christianity took it further by sacrificing God himself for us to worship rocks, gravity and “the nothing”. Instead we have traded God in for science which we now worship instead.
If we look at the pessimism and nihilism that has been permeating our culture recently, it is easy to see how religion can be used as a means of coping with this dark view. Religion has been used by people in power to maintain control over their subjects, while others use it to prepare for future leadership roles. The masses are taught that they need not strive for anything more than what they already have because God will take care of them. However, Christianity was created for its own purposes: primarily, the preservation and protection of human life on earth. Due to this focus on preserving the weak and sickly members of society, Christianity values weakness above all else; health is considered evil while suffering is good. This devaluation of noble instincts bred a mediocre Europe where everyone tries to live off other’s efforts rather than striving towards greatness themselves.
Nietzsche believed that most people were weak and sick because they had no way of directing their animal instincts outward. People who are poor slaves cannot express themselves, so they turn inward, developing resentment toward those who oppress them. Because the majority of us are unable to do this, Christianity offers a heaven where we can be rewarded for being humble and submissive in life.
This is the reason why Christianity has grown so popular in Europe. It encourages mediocrity and rewards weakness, which Nietzsche thinks we should try to overcome. This attitude has led to a European culture that embraces mediocrity as a goal worth pursuing.
It’s fashionable to see science as an antithesis of religion, because they’re both so different. However, Nietzsche believes that science is just a new form of religion. Science preaches the idea that nothing matters and there is no meaning in life—only matter and the laws of physics exist. This has led people to become more nihilistic than ever before; they have given up on God entirely. It’s dangerous for people to lose their faith in something greater than themselves; otherwise, they’ll give up on life altogether. (In another work by Nietzsche, he predicts that this will lead to wars unlike anything we’ve seen before.)
Nietzsche only briefly mentions the idea that he hopes will oppose nihilism. If we can see a universe of meaningless events following one after another, and this doesn’t bother us but rather makes us happy, then we have found affirmation in the emptiness of nihilism. This idea is called eternal recurrence and it’s considered Nietzsche’s greatest contribution to his philosophy. Nobody really knows what eternal recurrence is or what it means though.
Nietzsche’s philosophy is based on the idea that everything changes, and nothing stays the same. If we focus on change rather than permanence, we can accept this fact and stop looking for something constant to base our philosophies on. This will be a freeing experience because it takes away all dogmatic ideas and beliefs in things like God or morality.
Deleuze’s interpretation of the eternal recurrence is just one way to look at it. Walter Kaufmann suggests that the eternal recurrence means that events repeat themselves over and over without change. Despite many different interpretations, there seems to be a consensus that this part of Nietzsche’s philosophy rests on acceptance of life as it is without any belief in or hope for anything beyond this life.
4 – “Epigrams and Interludes”
This chapter is a collection of 122 short, insightful statements. There are many themes throughout the book that tie these statements together. The following passage will identify some of those themes and provide examples to further illustrate them.
Nietzsche focuses on the complexity of human beings. He challenges our assumption that we understand ourselves completely and says that we are made up of conflicting drives, which is why it’s difficult for us to be unbiased in our thinking. In section 158, he asserts that both reason and conscience bow toward the strongest drive within us (the tyrant).
Friedrich Nietzsche’s observations reveal our true selves. For example, we dislike others because it makes us feel better about ourselves; familiarity with those who are superior to us is embittered by the fact that they don’t return our feelings of friendship and respect. We also fail to recognize the darker motives behind many of our thoughts and actions: “I have done that,” my memory says, but my pride refuses to believe me. Eventually, pride yields in order for me not to see myself as I really am. However, a careful observer can catch hints about what lies beneath by watching how we unconsciously betray ourselves: “Even when the mouth lies, the way it looks still tells the truth.”
Our inner life is like a battleground. Nietzsche writes, “Under peaceful conditions a warlike man sets upon himself” (76). If our drives can find nothing in the world to struggle against, they turn inward and struggle against themselves. Our reason, thoughts, morality, etc., are all just expressions of different drives. There is no will that is purely our own: “The will to overcome an affect is ultimately only the will of another or several other affects” (117). This inner struggle is a difficult one that only the strongest can cope with; we must not look into abysses too long because it might change us as well.
Nietzsche believes that morality is a result of our inner struggle. He suggests that we tend to want to see ourselves as being better than others, and therefore, we create rules for how people should act in order to make us look good. Morality does not exist outside of these rules; rather it’s just a way of interpreting the world.
The epigrams in this chapter talk about a variety of topics, including knowledge, the psychology of women (Nietzsche’s not so good at that), Christianity, sexuality, nationalism and teaching/learning.
5 – “Natural History of Morals”
Morality is as old as humanity, and different cultures have had their own moral codes. There are many philosophers who try to justify their morality with rational arguments, but they’re only looking at the world through the lens of their own culture’s morality. As a result, they can’t see that morality itself needs justification.
Great things are achieved and become possible through hard work. People who have done great things in the past or present have worked very hard to get where they are today. They’ve had to be disciplined and have been slaves to their work in order for them to achieve what they wanted. Nietzsche argues that we don’t see the world as it is; we only see a rough shape of an object, which our brain fills in with details later on. We also create ideas based on other ideas that we already know about something else, so we’re really just inventing new knowledge from scratch when we try to understand anything at all.
People have different views of what they want to possess. Some people feel it’s important to possess a woman if he can have sex with her, but others don’t feel that way unless the woman is willing to give up everything for him. The more deeply the man knows a woman, the more valuable his possession of her becomes. Nietzsche also mentions charity and education as means of possessing someone or something—in these cases, you make your student see things from your perspective so you “possess” their soul in some ways.
Nietzsche criticizes the slave morality, which considers those who are rich, violent and sensual to be evil. These days we consider all of these traits as pathological. He despises moralizers because they generalize about matters that depend on individuals. The majority has always been obedient, but this does not mean that it’s a good thing for everyone to obey. Today people who command others are almost ashamed of it and only do so in the name of God or law or democracy.
Nietzsche suggests that morality is born out of fear. In a community where there are no external threats, the aggressive members of that community become seen as a threat and thus morality condemns all things lively. This morality then proclaims itself as the true one and saves everyone else from being immoral.
Nietzsche worries that democratic thinking will make us all equal and mediocre. There’s no way out of this mediocrity, so he calls for a new kind of philosopher who can lead the way to overcome it.
Nietzsche believes that people who have the potential to be great are not following their will and instead trying to fit in with everyone else. These freer spirits, or geniuses, should not be held back by the masses. They shouldn’t follow the rules of society and democracy because those rules were created for a different purpose altogether: keeping these free spirits down.
While it’s easy for an atheist to agree with Nietzsche’s criticisms of Christianity and morality, they may be surprised by his criticism of democracy. He seemed to think that our society is too democratic. We have the freedom to do whatever we want, which makes us lazy and weak. Our consumer-driven society has made life easier for people than ever before. A sublimated will to power comes out when someone struggles against adversity in order to achieve something great.
6 – “We Scholars”
This chapter contrasts the views of real philosophers with scholars. Scholars focus on theory and science, while real philosophers should be able to rise above that. However, as our body of knowledge grows larger it becomes increasingly difficult for a philosopher to do so.
Nietzsche argues that objective spirit of modern scholars is harmful. It can be beneficial in that it helps us make sense of what we already know and thereby helps us to come to terms with and overcome our past. However, we should not see this objective spirit as an end in itself. Rather, it is a means that can be used by philosophers and artists to create something new. Nietzsche characterizes true genius as “one who either begets or gives birth,” and mockingly associates scholars with old maids: neither are self-sufficient or creative, they lack self-knowledge and strong passions, nor do they thrive on anything but mediocrity.
Nietzsche discusses two types of skeptics: mediocre and intrepid. Mediocre skeptics doubt everything, so they can never take action. By contrast, the intrepid ones are strong-willed and always question things, seeking answers to their questions.
Philosophers are different from scholars. While the former seek to understand the past, philosophers look to the future and try to change it for better. They challenge popular notions of their time and are often misunderstood by people around them. Socrates was a prime example of this: he challenged his aristocratic contemporaries by showing that they were no better than him in any way whatsoever. Philosophers today would probably rebel against democratic ideals, seeking solitude and difference as opposed to conformity.
Philosophers often think about their ideas. They are able to do this easily and without much effort. Most people find it difficult to carefully consider their thoughts, so they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them. Nietzsche believes that great minds need to be bred and cultivated in order to develop the strength and will required for deep thought.
The most notable characteristic of a Nietzschean philosopher is that such a philosopher must be a creator and legislator. This means, as we saw earlier, that there is no such thing as an objective standpoint. An interpretation of any fact (Nietzsche would ask, what is an uninterpreted fact?) indicates the will to power at work in the world. A philosophy must not just describe the world; it must also give meaning to it. Such creative acts are signs of strong and sublimated wills to power.
Nietzsche believed that a philosopher must “give meaning to the world” by interpreting it. This interpretation is an expression of one’s will to power, which can be sublimated in order to achieve a more sublime feeling of power. The creative instinct is the most deeply sublimated form of this will to power because it involves creating something and persuading others into sharing your point of view about what you’re doing.
Nietzsche believed that a philosopher should create values. He thought that philosophers could change the world by creating their own values and imposing those values on others.
Walter Kaufmann criticizes Nietzsche’s position on morality. First, he argues that all great moral philosophers have created a value system of sorts, and second, he argues that a legislator of values who does not also do the analysis and scholarly work of the “philosophical laborer” is not a philosopher. The first criticism is more apt than the second: Nietzsche admires Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who set up a new code of laws, but he does not consider Napoleon to be a philosopher. The second criticism is weaker; answering it would give us an idea about what Nietzsche means in his book Beyond Good and Evil.
Kant is different than Nietzsche because Kant believes in the morality of his time. He’s a traditionalist and doesn’t want to change anything. Nietzsche, on the other hand, wants to create new values for people so they can be free from their old ways of thinking.
When we try to imagine what a philosopher looks like, we realize that the only clear example is Socrates. He urged his fellow Athenians toward self-knowledge and a more rational way of thinking that relied on careful definitions as well as a recognition of one’s own ignorance. Beyond him, however, there is little clarity about what philosophers look like or how they act.
7 – “Our Virtues”
The author believes that there’s a ranking system in place for people and morals. People who are better at communicating ideas have stronger spirits than others, and those with weaker spirits hate them. The idea of divine justice was invented so that people can claim we’re all equal on a fundamental level when we aren’t.
Some philosophers suggest that there are no moral laws that are universally applicable. For example, self-effacement might be a virtue in some leaders but not others. In fact, it would be wrong to claim that what’s right for one person is fair for another.
Pity is a way of covering up one’s own self-contempt. People who feel pity for others are essentially feeling sorry for themselves and their suffering. Pity, like pleasure and pain, comes from our deeper drives that we may or may not understand. For example, some people believe that we should avoid suffering at all costs; however, Nietzsche believes that there is something to be gained by embracing it as part of the creative process in which humans make themselves greater than they were before. He feels only contempt for those who reject their inner creator in order to fit into modern society.
Nietzsche believes that cruelty is the foundation of all higher culture because we’ve taken our animal instincts and made them something more. We’ve turned those instincts against ourselves in order to get a better understanding of what’s really going on. For example, we like to think that we’re naturally superior beings, but then we learn that we are descended from apes, which makes us feel inferior.
Among the virtues of Nietzsche’s ideal philosophers, honesty is a key virtue. For him, scholars should be honest and not try to look at things with disinterest.
Even the most free-spirited of people have a set of core beliefs that make up their being. These fundamental truths are what Nietzsche calls “the great stupidity we are.” To prove this, he shares his own unshakeable convictions about women–that they’re pretty and superficial and at their best when using their charms to get men to take care of them. He mocks the feminist movement for trying to make women more like men. Some might argue that Nietzsche is saying that women should be locked in the kitchen, but he’s actually suggesting that while men should treat women as possessions, they also lack the subtlety and intelligence to make good cooks.
Nietzsche opens his essay with a disclaimer that he is biased against women. He has already mocked truth, and now he’s finding what there is in himself to laugh about. Clearly, Nietzsche acknowledges the bias against women is unreasonable, and he has greater courage than most of us in being able to admit it and even laugh at it.
Nietzsche talks about truth and prejudice. He says that one needs to be free from prejudice in order to see the world’s truths, but he also believes we’re all prejudiced in some way. It takes a lot of self-reflection to uncover our own prejudices.
Nietzsche’s views about women are similar to his views on other groups of people, such as Jews. He tends to see the world in terms of stereotypes and generalizations. For example, he often talks about “the Jews” or “women,” instead of talking about individual Jewish or female people. This criticism can also be applied to Nietzsche’s remarks on Christianity and democracy—he makes a lot of generalizing statements that could apply only to some Christians or democrats, not all Christians or democrats.
8 – “Peoples and Fatherlands”
This passage deals with nationalism and nationality. It suggests that people who are too nationalistic spend their whole life thinking about how much they love their country, even though this is a narrow-minded way of thinking. Even good Europeans do this sometimes because “it’s just the way we think.”
Nietzsche believes that the democratic movement in Europe will lead to a mixing of races, which will result in mediocre people. However, it will also create exceptional individuals.
This chapter discusses the different races of people and how they are all made up of a mixture of bloods. The Germans, in particular, have no “pure” blood because their ancestors were always mixed with other peoples’ genes. As a result, their spirit is complex and mysterious without any firm definition. Because they consider this complexity as profundity, the Germans are often considered to be profound people who like to see things from many perspectives.
Nietzsche criticizes German literature for its lack of rhythm and tempo. In the past, when people read out loud, the sound of a language was very important. Now that everyone reads silently, there are few writers who understand how to write in natural rhythm and tempo.
Nietzsche distinguishes between races that assimilate the force of other cultures and those who are creative. He argues that the Greeks, French, Romans and Germans are “feminine” because they absorb the force of others’ ideas into their own culture. The Jews have a particularly strong creative drive and therefore absorb all foreign influence into their culture to create something new.
Nietzsche believes that the Jews are among the strongest races in Europe. In fact, he thinks Germany’s anti-Semitism comes from an inability to handle Jewish strength. He also argues that Jews do not want to take over Europe; rather, they just want to be assimilated into European society and culture.
Nietzsche criticizes the English for being unphilosophical, shallow and relying on insipid Christian moralizing. He also criticizes their lack of music and dance. The best of England are mediocre men with good minds like Mill, Darwin or Herbert Spencer. Free spirits want to be something new by creating new values rather than simply dig up knowledge as these men do.
Nietzsche claims that the English are responsible for the democratic ideals of France, as well as its artistic and Mediterranean spirit.
Despite the anti-EU sentiments, Nietzsche believed that Europe would eventually unite. The most influential figures in 19th century Europe were not nationalistic but rather transcended their nationality to become European. Napoleon Bonaparte, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ludwig van Beethoven, Henri Beyle (Stendhal), Heinrich Heine and Arthur Schopenhauer are examples of these great leaders. Even Richard Wagner despite his personal failings was a great leader who could inspire people to do amazing things for the greater good of all Europeans.
If we want to be charitable, Nietzsche’s arguments about race are not meant to be taken literally. He writes in other places that a great thinker must use masks and rarely reveal his true colors. It seems he is using this chapter as an opportunity to mock the anti-Semitic Germans who were in power at the time by reversing their stereotypes of Jews being inferior and Aryans being superior. A critique of race may have gone over their heads, but if he praises the Jews while criticizing German racial purity, they will likely take notice. Of course, it is still unclear why he chose England for his example instead of Germany or France.
Nietzsche’s philosophy also supports the idea that there are no “pure” races or cultures. He believed in a unity of European culture, and he was not proud to be German. Rather, he felt that Europeans should look beyond their cultural nationalism and unite under one common rule. Nietzsche admired Napoleon for his vision of uniting Europe, which is why we see so much French influence on his writing style—he wanted to be read as a European writer rather than a German one. Joyce’s novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man shows how Joyce was influenced by Nietzsche: “When the soul is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight.” Even though these passages may seem like metaphors for racism and xenophobia, they’re actually quite anti-racist because they show us how people can transcend their own cultural limitations through education and exposure to other cultures.
Nietzsche’s point in this chapter is that English thinkers are too concerned with knowledge for its own sake and not enough about creating meaning. He praises the pursuit of knowledge as a worthy endeavor, but he also wants to make sure we don’t lose sight of how important it is to create meaning from that knowledge.
9 – “What is Noble”
Nietzsche believed that a social hierarchy was necessary for the greater good of humanity. Every society should have a group of people at the top who believe in their own superiority and are willing to exploit those below them for their own gain. Life is about gaining power, says Nietzsche, and one must be willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. All living things rely on some form of exploitation in order to survive, so trying to eliminate all forms of exploitation would not work out well for anyone.
Section 260 of Nietzsche’s book is about master and slave morality. The aristocratic masters see themselves as good, noble, and powerful. They look down on the slaves who are weak, poor, unhappy people. However, the slaves come to see their masters as evil because they oppress them. As a result, they develop a new concept called “good” in order to describe themselves–people who aren’t like their oppressive masters but instead strong and noble like themselves.
There are two types of morality in the world, and they’re both found in today’s society. For example, our concept of vanity is a combination of masters’ inclination to think well of themselves and slaves’ sense that their worth is determined by others. Thus, vanity attempts to get others to have a good opinion about oneself so as to convince oneself that this view is true.
Nietzsche believes that a person’s character is mostly determined by the circumstances of their ancestors. In other words, some people are born into noble families while others aren’t.
According to Nietzsche, the normal is always dominant. The majority of people believe that whatever represents what everyone else thinks and believes (i.e. the typical opinion) is truthful and therefore “correct.” Thus anything outside the norm, i.e., extraordinary or unique, will be hard for others to accept as true because they can’t comprehend it through language alone since they don’t share this thought themselves; thus, we say such thoughts are “uncommon” or exceptional. Furthermore those who think in an uncommon manner experience all kinds of difficulty expressing their ideas because doing so requires them to build elaborate sentences; furthermore, these great thinkers must do everything they can to protect themselves from anyone who might want pity on them—if that happens then not only do these exceptional souls have grief to deal with but also someone else’s gratitude that rightfully should go elsewhere!
Nietzsche also notes that people who are better than others often feel lonely. To such people, companionship is only a means to an end until they reach their goal. Nietzsche suggests that perhaps it’s not genius but the opportunity to take advantage of one’s genius that is rare. A noble person has more self-respect than commoners do and therefore feels superior to them.
Nietzsche rhapsodizes to his god, Dionysus. He expresses despair that he can’t find adequate expression for his thoughts in words. His thoughts are free and light, but when they’re put into words they become dull and solemn. Language captures only the most rigid of ideas.
Nietzsche is most abrasive in this chapter. He argues that life is all about exploitation, but we can’t really agree with him because he doesn’t offer any evidence to support his argument. The will to power does involve some form of exploitation, which involves dominating one group over another. However, at its best the will to power involves self-overcoming and turning our instincts for cruelty upon ourselves. This kind of self-overcoming isn’t always exploitative; it just depends on what you’re trying to achieve by overcoming yourself.
Nietzsche defends the aristocracy’s exploitation of the commoners by saying that it is a result of their will to power. He also says that there are no clear distinctions between people, and that true greatness can’t be recognized anyway.
“From High Mountains”: Aftersong
The speaker calls out to his friends, urging them to join him as he climbs high up in the mountains. When they arrive, however, they hardly recognize him. He has changed so much that it seems like a different person is speaking. The speaker explains that this change was brought about by living with himself and fighting against his own nature. He learned how to survive in inhospitable climates and trained himself for great feats of strength through constant struggle with himself. His friends can’t live here on the mountain: They’re not strong enough for it yet; they haven’t gone through what he’s been through and survived it all. The speaker has become a hunter who shoots arrows from an impossibly far distance using a bow that bends backwards towards itself so much that the ends touch each other when ready to fire an arrow (a “wicked archer”).
The speaker’s friends start to leave, and he feels sad. He decides that he should let his old friends go because they’re not the same people anymore—they’ve grown older while he hasn’t changed at all. Now that there’s a distance between him and his former friends, he can sit alone and wait for new friends to arrive.
The speaker finishes by saying that the song of longing for friendship is now over. It’s time to celebrate and have a feast, laugh, and be happy with Zarathustra, the guest of guests. They can begin “the wedding” between dark and light.
Nietzsche was very ill during the 1880s and found relief in the clean air of mountains. He spent a lot of time there, writing some of his greatest works. It’s no wonder that he associated freedom with heights and mountains in particular.
Nietzsche used the image of a bow being bent to describe inner struggle. He argued that this tension is necessary and improves our performance, but he criticized democrats and Jesuits for trying to “unbend” it. The bow also represents humans as a bridge between animal and overman. We are not ends in ourselves, merely means to an end — the ultimate goal of becoming like the overman.
Nietzsche also talks about youth and wickedness. He mentions that his thoughts were wicked in the last chapter, which suggests that he’s a free spirit who doesn’t like to be restricted or tied down. A free spirit is someone who has overcome their own limitations and can think freely without being stuck in one place. The speaker of this passage has grown up chronologically but is still young spiritually because he overcame himself as a younger person by not staying fixed to one way of thinking.
Nietzsche had very few friends in his life, and those he did have were mostly admirers. He longed for a friend who could challenge him intellectually while also respecting him as an equal. Unfortunately, Nietzsche’s new friends never arrived, and he lived out the rest of his life alone with only admirers to keep him company.