What Nietzsche Taught

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A most important part of "The Antichrist" is that passage wherein Nietzsche defines his order of castes. Every healthy society, says he, falls naturally into three separate and distinct types. These classes condition one another and "gravitate differently in the psychological sense." Each type has its own work, its own duties, its own emotions, its own compensations and mastership. The first class, comprising the rulers, is distinguished by its intellectual superiority. It devolves upon this class "to represent happiness, beauty and goodness on earth." The members of this superior class are in the minority, but they are nevertheless the creators of values. "Their delight is self-mastery: with them asceticism becomes a second nature, a need, an instinct. They regard a difficult task as their privilege; to play with burdens which crush their fellows is to them a recreation." They are at once the most honourable, cheerful and gracious of all men. The second class is composed of those who relieve the first class of their duties and execute the will of the rulers. They are the guardians of the law, the merchants and professional men, the warriors and the judges. In brief, they are the executors of the race.[Pg 259] The third class is made up of the workers, the lowest order of man—those destined for menial and disagreeable tasks. "The fact," says Nietzsche, "that one is publicly useful, a wheel, a function, presupposes a certain natural destiny: it is not society, but the only kind of happiness of which the great majority are capable, that makes them intelligent machines. For the mediocre it is a joy to be mediocre; in them mastery in one thing, a specialty, is a natural instinct." The conception of these classes contains the nucleus of Nietzsche's doctrine. It embodies his whole idea of a natural aristocracy as opposed to the spurious European aristocracy of the present day, wherein the rulers are in reality merely members of the second class.

The charge is constantly brought against Nietzsche by the ecclesiastic dialecticians that his criticism of Christianity is fraught with the very nihilism against which he so eloquently argues. There is perhaps a slight basis for such a contention if we confine ourselves strictly to those of his utterances against the Jewish morality which appear in his previous books. But in "The Antichrist" this does not hold true even in the slightest manner. Nietzsche is constantly supplanting modes of action for every Christian virtue he denies. He is as constructive as he is destructive. "The Antichrist" contains, not only a complete denial of all Christian morality, but a statement of a new and consistent system of ethics based on the research of all his works.


What is good? All that enhances the feeling of power, the Will to Power, and power itself in man.[Pg 260] What is bad?—All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness?—The feeling that power is increasing,- that resistance has been overcome.

Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtu, free from all moralic acid). The weak and botched shall perish: first principle of our humanity. And they ought even to be helped to perish.

What is more harmful than any vice?—Practical sympathy with all the botched and the weak—Christianity. 128

We must not deck out and adorn Christianity: it has waged a deadly war upon this higher type of man, it has set a ban upon all the fundamental instincts of this type, and has distilled evil and the devil himself out of these instincts:—the strong man as the typical pariah, the villain. Christianity has sided with everything weak, low, and botched; it has made an ideal out of antagonism against all the self-preservative instincts of strong life: it has corrupted even the reason of the strongest intellects, by teaching that the highest values of intellectuality are sinful, misleading and full of temptations. 130

I call an animal, a species, an individual corrupt, when it loses its instincts, when it selects and prefers that which is detrimental to it. 131

Life itself, to my mind, is nothing more nor less than the instinct of growth, of permanence, of accumulating forces, of power: where the will to power is lacking, degeneration sets in. 131

Pity is opposed to the tonic passions which enhance the energy of the feeling of life: its action is depressing. A man loses power when he pities. By means of pity the[Pg 261] drain on strength which suffering itself already introduces into the world is multiplied a thousandfold. 131

On the whole, pity thwarts the law of development which is the law of selection. It preserves that which is ripe for death, it fights in favour of the disinherited and the condemned of life. 131-132

This depressing and infectious instinct thwarts those instincts which aim at the preservation and enhancement of the value of life: by multiplying misery quite as much as by preserving all that is miserable, it is the principal agent in promoting decadence. 132

That which a theologian considers true, must of necessity be false: this furnishes almost the criterion of truth. It is his most profound self-preservative instinct which forbids reality ever to attain to honour in any way, or even to raise its voice. Whithersoever the influence of the theologian extends, valuations are topsy-turvy, and the concepts "true" and "false" have necessarily changed places: that which is most deleterious to life, is here called "true," that which enhances it, elevates it, says Yea to it, justifies it and renders it triumphant, is called "false." 135

What is there that destroys a man more speedily than to work, think, feel, as an automaton of "duty," without internal promptings, without a profound personal predilection, without joy? This is the recipe par excellence of decadence and even of idiocy. 137

In Christianity, neither morality nor religion comes in touch at all with reality. Nothing but imaginary causes (God, the soul, the ego, spirit, free will—or even non-free will); nothing but imaginary effects (sin, salvation, grace, punishment, forgiveness of sins). Imaginary beings are supposed to have intercourse (God, spirits,[Pg 262] souls); imaginary Natural History (anthropocentric: total lack of the notion, "natural causes"); an imaginary psychology (nothing but misunderstandings of self, interpretations of pleasant or unpleasant general feelings; for instance of the states of the nervus sympathicus, with the help of the sign language of a religio-moral idiosyncrasy,—repentance, pangs of conscience, the temptation of the devil, the presence of God); an imaginary teleology (the Kingdom of God, the Last Judgment, Everlasting Life). 141-142

A proud people requires a God, unto whom it can sacrifice things.... Religion, when restricted to these principles, is a form of gratitude. A man is grateful for his own existence; for this he must have a God.—Such a God must be able to profit and to injure him, he must be able to act the friend and the foe. He must be esteemed for his good as well as for his evil qualities. 143

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