What Nietzsche Taught

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The research work in the present book differs from that contained in previous volumes. Heretofore Nietzsche indulged in inquiry without speculation; he dealt mainly with generalities. His analyses were along broad lines of human conduct. He confined himself for the most part to principles. But in "The Dawn of Day" these principles are balanced with existent morality. Specific modes of moral and ethical endeavour are weighed against expediency. Nietzsche presents a diagnosis of the fundamental nature of society to-day, and discovers many contradictions and inconsistencies between modern social needs and those virtues held in the highest reverence. He finds that deportmental means made use of by weak and subjugated peoples of ancient times to protect themselves against hostile invaders, are retained and practised to-day by nations whose position has been reversed to one of domination. In short, he points out that certain moralities have, by the alteration of national and racial conditions, become irrelevancies. Consequently there is often a compromise between ethical[Pg 93] beliefs and ethical practices—a compromise made necessary by the demands of social intercourse. Even when the practice of these ancient moralities is conscientiously indulged in, Nietzsche denies their adequacy in coping with modern conditions, pointing out specific instances in which necessity and habit are constantly impinging. For instance, the softer virtues of a democratic and socialistic morality are shown to be desirable only in weakened nations where the hardier virtues of egotism, cruelty, efficiency, hard-mindedness, selfishness and retaliation would work directly against preservation.

Out of these conclusions grows a plea for individualism, and out of this individualism the superman can be seen rearing his head above the horizon of present-day humanity. The qualities of this man of the future are defined, and a finger is pointed along the necessary lines of racial culture. Nietzsche's first definite voicing of marriage ideals follows in the train of the superman's appearance, and the first comments of this philosopher in his criticism of woman are set down. In this latter regard Nietzsche has been unfairly interpreted by those who have considered his attitude toward woman superficially or without relating it to his general theories. It would be well therefore for the student to withhold judgment in this particular until the various elements of Nietzsche's philosophical system have been co-ordinated and understood. Woman plays an important, if small, part in his writings, and his passages dealing with women should be carefully weighed in conjunction with his theory of the superman.

In "The Dawn of Day" Nietzsche's conception of class distinction is defined and related to his later teachings. Throughout his analyses runs a subtle undercurrent[Pg 94] of his doctrine, of social segregation which finds definite expression toward the end of the volume where modern socialism, with its altruism and philanthropy, is traced to its birth in Nazarene morality. In place of this present popular form of ethics Nietzsche proposes a social rgime in which aristocratic culture will be set apart from mere utilitarian culture by very definite boundaries. He argues that not only is this disassociation in accord with the instincts of mankind, but that, as a workable theorem, it adequately answers the needs of present conditions. The slave-morality and the master-morality which he develops in his later works are defined tentatively and suggested by inference in many of the aphorisms. Out of this conception grew his dominant principle of the "will to power," and in "The Dawn of Day" we find this principle set forth in adequate definition for the first time, although the development of the idea is left till later. However, Nietzsche makes clear its point of divergence from the Schopenhauerian theory of the "will to live" as well as from the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest.

But it is not alone abstract theory that occupies the pages of this book. Nietzsche is never the mere metaphysician battling in an unreal world. There are few dark closets and secret passageways in his thought. Beyond a metaphysical hypothesis he does not go. He adheres to demonstrable formulas, and reasons along lines of strictest reality. The practical man he holds in high esteem, and constantly praises the advance of science. He devotes pages to the blowing to pieces of metaphysical air-castles. But, as I have previously pointed out, he is in no sense of the word a materialist; nor is his assumption of the world that of the realists. Life to Nietzsche[Pg 95] is an eternal struggle toward—no goal. The lessons the world has to teach are as so much false doctrine. The meaning of life—the so-called absolute truth—is but a chimera. Intelligence is a process, not an ultimatum. The truth is mobile and dual, dependent on varying causes. In accepting the material world, Nietzsche does not grant it. In assuming natural laws, he denies them. In his adherence to logic and to the processes of cause and effect, he is accepting phantoms and inconsistencies, and yet it is along these lines that the race progresses.

In "The Dawn of Day" Nietzsche makes use of the same aphoristic style as that employed in "Human, All-Too-Human." (This broken, staccato form he uses throughout the remainder of his works, except in certain parts of "Thus Spake Zarathustra.") Each paragraph is captioned and deals with a specific phase of morality or with a definite critical attitude toward human conduct. Some of these paragraphs are scarcely a line in length—mere definitions or similes. Others extend over several pages. But they always pertain to a single idea. Occasionally they are in the form of a brief conversation; at other times they are short queries. One of these aphorisms is entitled "The Battle Dispensary of the Soul," and this is what follows: "What is the most efficacious remedy? Victory." That is all—brief, and perhaps, on first reading, inconsequent. But study it a moment, and you will find in it the nucleus of a great revolutionary doctrine. On the other hand, turn to aphorism 142, called "Sympathy," and you will discover several pages of flashing commentary. Out of the chaos of his style springs a feeling of plastic form. These brief paragraphs are not detached and desultory. They are[Pg 96] pyramided on one another, and beneath them runs an undercurrent of unified thinking. When the end of the book is reached we have a carefully fabricated edifice, and we realise that each paragraph has been some necessary beam or decoration in its construction.


Morality is nothing else (and, above all, nothing more) than obedience to customs, of whatsoever nature they may be. But customs are simply the traditional way of acting and valuing. Where there is no tradition there is no morality; and the less life is governed by tradition, the narrower the circle of morality. The free man is immoral, because it is his will to depend upon himself and not upon tradition: in all the primitive states of humanity "evil" is equivalent to "individual," "free," "arbitrary," "unaccustomed," "unforeseen," "incalculable." In such primitive conditions, always measured by this standard, any action performed—not because tradition commands it, but for other reasons (e.g., on account of its individual utility), even for the same reasons as had been formerly established by custom—is termed immoral, and is felt to be so even by the very man who performs it, for it has not been done out of obedience to tradition. 14-15

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