What Nietzsche Taught

Page 62 of 74

The same criticism holds true to a large extent when we come to the second subdivision of the second section "A Criticism of Morality." In "The Genealogy of Morals" we have a discussion of practically all the subjects considered in the present notes, such as the origin of moral valuations, the basis of conscience, the influence of the herd, the dominance of virtue, the slander of the so-called evil man, and the significance of such words as "improving" and "elevating." However, there is sufficient new material in these notes to warrant a reading, for although, despite a few exceptions, there are no new issues posed, certain points which were put forth[Pg 280] only in a speculative and abridged manner in earlier books, are here enlarged upon. This is especially true in regard to the doctrine of rank. Nietzsche has been accused of advocating only an individualistic morality. But the truth is that he advanced two codes. He preached a morality for the herd, a definite system which suited the needs of the serving classes. For the superior individuals, on the other hand, he taught another code, one which fitted and met the needs of the rulers. The herd morality has always sought to create and maintain a single type of mediocre man. Nietzsche preached the necessity of the superior, as well as the inferior, type of man; and in his present notes he goes into this doctrine more fully than heretofore. Furthermore, he makes clear his stand in regard to the weak. On page 291 he states, "I have declared war against the anmic Christian ideal (together with what is closely related to it), not because I want to annihilate it, but only to put an end to its tyranny and clear the way for other ideals, for more robust ideals." It has been stated, even in quarters where we have a right to look for more intelligent criticism, that Nietzsche favoured the complete elimination of the weak and incompetent. No such advocacy is to be found in his teachings. To the contrary, as will be seen from the above quotation, he preached only against the dominance of the weak. He resented their supremacy over the intelligent man. Their existence, he maintained, was a most necessary thing. This belief is insisted upon in many places, and one should bear the point in mind when reading the criticisms of socialism to be found throughout the present volume.

Another new point to be found in these notes relates to the immoral methods used by the disseminators of[Pg 281] morals. From the passages in which these new points are raised I have taken the quotations which follow at the end of this chapter.

In the third and last subdivision of this second section, "Criticism of Philosophy," we have an extension of Chapter I in "Beyond Good and Evil," "Prejudices of Philosophers," and of the two chapters in "The Twilight of the Idols"—"The Problem of Socrates" and "Reason' in Philosophy." The notes (excepting a few pages of general remarks) occupy themselves with a criticism of Greek philosophy and with an analysis of philosophical truths and errors. These notes touch only indirectly on Nietzsche's doctrines, and may be looked upon as explanations of his intellectual methods.

Despite their fragmentariness, the notes in this volume, as I have said, permit one to gain an adequate idea of Nietzsche's purpose. In making my excerpts from this book, I have chosen those passages which will throw new light upon his philosophy rather than those statements of conclusions which have been previously encountered.


What does Nihilism mean?—That the highest values are losing their value. 8

Thorough Nihilism is the conviction that life is absurd, in the light of the highest values already discovered; it also includes the view that we have not the smallest right to assume the existence of transcendental objects or things in themselves, which would be either divine or morality incarnate.

This view is the result of fully developed "truthfulness": therefore a consequence of the belief in morality. 8

[Pg 282]

Moral valuations are condemnations, negations; morality is the abdication of the will to live. 12

All values with which we have tried, hitherto, to lend the world some worth, from our point of view, and with which we have therefore deprived it of all worth (once these values have been shown to be inapplicable)—all these values, are, psychologically, the results of certain views of utility, established for the purpose of maintaining and increasing the dominion of certain communities: but falsely projected into the nature of things. It is always man's exaggerated ingenuousness to regard himself as the sense and measure of all things. 15

Every purely moral valuation (as, for instance, the Buddhistic) terminates in Nihilism: Europe must expect the same thing! It is supposed that one can get along with a morality bereft of a religious background; but in this direction the road to Nihilism is opened. 19

Nihilism is not only a meditating over the "in vain"—not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one's shoulder to the plough; one destroys. 22

The time is coming when we shall have to pay for having been Christians for two thousand years: we are losing the equilibrium which enables us to live—for a long while we shall not know in what direction we are travelling. We are hurling ourselves headlong into the opposite valuations, with that degree of energy which could only have been engendered in man by an overvaluation of himself.

Now, everything is false from the root, words and nothing but words, confused, feeble, or overstrained. 25

Modern Pessimism is an expression of the uselessness[Pg 283] only of the modern world, not of the world and existence as such. 29

The "preponderance of pain over pleasure" or the reverse (Hedonism); both of these doctrines are already signposts to Nihilism....

For here, in both cases, no other final purpose is sought than the phenomenon pleasure or pain. 29

"Life is not worth living"; "Resignation"; "what is the good of tears?"—this is a feeble and sentimental attitude of mind. 29-30

People have not yet seen what is so terribly obvious—namely, that Pessimism is not a problem but a symptom,—that the term ought to be replaced by "Nihilism,"—that the question, "to be or not to be," is itself an illness, a sign of degeneracy, an idiosyncrasy.

The Nihilistic movement is only an expression of physiological decadence. 32

Decay, decline, and waste, are, per se, in no way open to objection; they are the natural consequences of life and vital growth. The phenomenon of decadence is just as necessary to life as advance or progress is: we are not in a position which enables us to suppress it. On the contrary, reason would have it retain its rights.

It is disgraceful on the part of socialist-theorists to argue that circumstances and social combinations could be devised which would put an end to all vice, illness, crime, prostitution, and poverty.... But that is tantamount to condemning Life. 33

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