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Now, applying the knowledge to man, what did Nietzsche find? He found there was also a war being waged between the different modes of conduct which now prevail among men, and that what one man sets up as good is called evil by another and vice vers. But of this he soon became convinced, that whenever and wherever good and evil had been set up as absolute values, they had been thus elevated to power with the view of preserving and multiplying one specific type of man.
All moralities, therefore, were but so many Trades Union banners flying above the heads of different classes of men, woven and upheld by them for their own needs and aspirations.
So far, so good. But then, if that were so, the character of a morality must be determined by the class of men among" whom it came into being.
We shall see that Nietzsche did not hesitate to accept this conclusion, and that if for a moment he declared: "No one knoweth yet what is good and what is evil!" the next minute he was asking himself this searching question: "Is our morality—that is to say, the particular table of values which is gradually modifying us—compatible with an ideal worthy of man's inheritance and past?"
If Nietzsche has been called dangerous, pernicious and immoral, it is because people have deliberately overlooked this last question of his. No thinker who states and honestly sets out to answer this question, as Nietzsche did, deserves to be slandered, as he has been slandered, by prejudiced and interested people intent on misunderstanding only in order that they may fling mud more freely.
Nietzsche cast his critical eye very seriously around him, and the sight of the modern world led him to ask these admittedly pertinent questions: "Is that which we have for centuries held for good and evil, really good and evil? Does our table of ethical principles seem to be favouring the multiplication of a desirable type?"
In answering these two inquiries, Nietzsche unfortunately stormed the most formidable strongholds of modern society—Christianity and Democracy; and perhaps this accounts for the fact that his fight was so uneven and so hopeless. The strength of modern Europe, if indeed there be any strength in her, lies precisely on the side of Christianity and Democracy, the grandmother and the mother of what is called "progress," "modernity"; and in assailing these, Nietzsche must have known that he was engaging in a hand-to-hand struggle with stony-hearted adversaries unaccustomed to giving quarter and unscrupulous in their methods.
Nietzsche clearly saw that if all moral codes are but weapons protecting and helping to universalise distinct species of men, then the Christian religion with its ethical principles could be no exception to the rule. It must have been created at some time and in some place by one who had the interests of a certain type of man at heart, and who desired to make that type paramount. Now if that were really so, the next question that occurred to Nietzsche's mercilessly logical mind was this: "Is the Christian religion, with its morality, tending to preserve and multiply a desirable type of man?"
To this last question Nietzsche replies most emphatically "No!"
But, before going into the reasons of this flat negative, let us first pause to consider the age and the circumstances in which our author wrote and thought.
Long before Nietzsche had reached his prime David Strauss had published his Life of Jesus; in 1863, when Nietzsche was still in his teens, Renan published his Vie de Jsus, and in the meantime Charles Darwin had given his Origin of Species to the world. These books had been read by a Europe that had already studied Hume and Lamarck, Kant and Schopenhauer, and in all directions a fine ear could not help hearing the falling timbers of Christian dogma.
In the midst of this general work of destruction it was almost impossible for Nietzsche to remain unmoved or indifferent, and very soon he found that he too was drawn into the general stream of European thought; but only to prove how completely he was independent of it, and in every way superior to it.
He contemplated the work of the destroyers for some time with amused interest; and then it suddenly occurred to him to inquire whether these zealous and well-meaning housebreakers were really doing any lasting good, or whether all their efforts were not perhaps a little misguided. True, they were pulling the embellishments from the walls and were casting the most cherished idols of the Christian Faith into the dust. But the walls themselves, the actual design of the edifice, remained untouched and as strong as ever. A few broken stones, a few complaints from the priestly archologists who wished to preserve them, and then all the noise subsided! Europe remained as it was before —that is to say, still in possession of a stronghold of Christianity, merely divested of its superfluous ornament.
Nietzsche soon perceived that, in spite of all the rubbish and refuse which such people as Kant, Schopenhauer, Strauss, Renan and others had made of Christian dogma, the essential core of Christianity, the vital organ of its body—its morality—had so far remained absolutely intact. Nay, he saw that it was actually being plastered up and restored by scholars and men of science who vowed that they could proffer reasonable, rationalistic, and logical grounds in support of it.
Just as Christian dogma and metaphysics had been rationalised and philosophically proved by the scholars of the Middle Ages, and even as late as Leibnitz; so, now, Christian morality was being presented in a purely philosophical garb by the intellects of Europe. Having relinquished the dogma as no longer tenable, all scholars and men of science were trying with redoubled vigour to bolster up Christian ethics with elaborate text-books and learned treatises. There were some who accepted it all as if it were innate in human nature, and attributed it to a "moral sense"; there were others—good-natured biologists—who were likewise desirous of leaving it whole, and who declared with conviction that it was the natural outcome of the feelings of pleasure and pain; and there were yet others who assumed that it must have been evolved quite automatically out of expediency and non-expediency.
Not one of these would-be rationalists, however, halted at the Christian terms "good" and "bad" themselves, in order to ask himself whether, like all the other notions of good and evil prevailing elsewhere under the shelter of other religions, these, the Christian notions, might not have been invented at some particular time by a certain kind of man, simply with the view of preserving and universalising his specific type. Breathless from their efforts at getting rid of the dogma, they did not dream that perhaps the most important part of the work still remained to be done.
Nietzsche went to the very foundation of the Christian edifice. He pointed to its morality and said: if we are going to measure the value of this religion, let us cease our petty quarrels concerning the truth or falsehood of such stories as the loss of the Gadarene swine, or the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and let us throw the whole of Christian morality into the scales and appraise its precise worth as a system of ethics. Nietzsche would have scorned to quarrel with the Church, as Huxley did; for much more important issues were at stake. The worth of a religion is measured by its morality; because by its morality it moulds and rears men and reveals the type of man who ultimately wishes to prevail by means of it.
With the metaphysics and the dogma of Christianity in ruins all around him, therefore, Nietzsche took a step very far in advance of the rationalistic iconoclasts of his age. He attacked Christian morals, and declared them to be, like all other morals, merely a weapon in the hands of a certain type of man, with which that type struggled for power.