Nietzsche on Good and Evil

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“One loves ultimately one’s desires, not the thing desired.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Those who’ve taken a glimpse into Nietzsche’s philosophy are well aware of his distrust in morality. Nietzsche the morality that still weighs down on modern society as he felt it didn’t do the brain justice. Instead, morality was a ball and chain we carried around for the sake of our position in society [1].

Within his text Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche takes a deep look into the division he felt between new and old philosophers. As he saw it, old philosophers held conviction for traditions, such as:

  • Free-will
  • Knowledge
  • Self-consciousness
  • Truth

Whereas new philosophers would be more interested in:

  • Creation of values
  • Danger
  • Imagination
  • Originality
  • Self-assertion

Beyond Good and Evil is divided into nine parts and, throughout this article, we’re going to observe each of those for the sake of developing our own sense of morality and, potentially, good and evil. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.

Part One: On the Prejudices of Philosophers

“The Will to Truth, which is to tempt us to many a hazardous enterprise, the famous Truthfulness of which all philosophers have hitherto spoken with respect, what questions has this Will to Truth not laid before us!” Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Within this section, Nietzsche suggests that our truths may be misleading. That though we’re very much guided by our truths, we may be guided for the wrong reasons. But why?

Nietzsche was fond of something he calls “faith in opposite values.” This is the idea that people of the world are living in oppositions and it’s all due to their sense of truth and falsehood [2].

For example, a religious person’s truths are very much guided by the church while an atheist takes insight from various sources. Or, in another example, a conservative’s convictions are heavily guided by the Republican party while a liberal’s are placed in the direction of the Democratic party.

In either example, both people – though different – are living by their will to truth. And Nietzsche wanted to make it apparent how often our truths are products of our prejudices.

Distrust in Past Philosophy

Due to “faith in opposite values,” Nietzsche had a strong distrust for many highly acclaimed philosophers. As many of these thinkers believed we shall all be guided by our own truths.

With this, philosophers tend to develop many prejudices. Take the Stoics as an example. They believed people needed to live their lives in accordance with nature. Yet, the nature they discussed was often a product of their own desired image.

When speaking of philosophy, Nietzsche said:

“[It’s] the most spiritual will to power [that] always creates the world in its own image; it cannot do otherwise.”

Part Two: The Free Spirit

“In what strange simplification and falsification man lives! One can never cease wondering when once one has got eyes for beholding this marvel!” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Following the prejudices of philosophers, Nietzsche believed all great thinkers should put questions marks at the end of their favorite statements. This is for the sake of making sure their knowledge is not a product of ignorance.

As mentioned, many of us live in accordance with what we believe our truths to be. So, if philosophers are doing the same, then they’re basing their beliefs on a bias.

In order to avoid these circumstances, Nietzsche was interested in something known as “the will to power.” The idea that all people “strive instinctively” for the sake of personal gain, rising above the crowd and, eventually, forgetting the existence of normal people.

If you were to bring this idea up in conversation, it’ll naturally be backlashed with much controversy. However, one of the main reasons Nietzsche is fascinated by “the will to power” is he believes people as such are “higher men.” [3]

They’re fast-thinkers who never fall for clumsiness. They’re independent in thought and don’t let prejudice bound them to a conflict of ideas. They’re everything, as Nietzsche believes, we should strive to be.

“Independence is for the very few; it is a privilege of the strong.”

Freedom Doesn’t Need Morals

Before humans were “moralized”, every action they took was determined by the consequence that followed. If you played with fire and were burned, you took that as a note and didn’t play with fire again.

Nowadays (as in Nietzsche’s time), people’s actions determine their value. If you get a good education and a good career, you’re paid healthily and probably live in accordance.

In turn, many of our actions are determined by this kind of morality. Do good and receive good. Do bad and receive bad, rather than having the opportunity to grow and learn.

Nietzsche didn’t deny that many people were unaware of this kind of behavior. Yet, he found it strange we all lived in accordance with it. And that we let our lives become dictated by the fabrication of society.

In effect, the free spirit doesn’t go along with this absurd mentality.

Part Three: The Religious Essence

“The human soul and its limits, the range of man’s inner experiences hitherto attained the heights, the depths, and distances of these experiences…” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

As is no surprise, Nietzsche resented any religious beliefs. Going as far as to call it “continual suicide of reason.” He believed Catholicism was “a sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of the spirit; at the same time, enslavement and self-mockery, self-mutilation.”

To put it simply, Nietzsche felt as though religion was kept a man from his free spirit. That it was a “denial of the world and will.”

Furthermore, Nietzsche didn’t believe morality should be defined by religion. Our current standard of morality, even in modern society, is based upon religious teachings – namely from Christianity. Though some of these morals make sense, such the perception the bible holds towards murder or rape, other of these moralities are questionable. Such as remaining celibate before marriage.

The main purpose of “The Religious Essense” is to get the reader to question which moral obligations s/he runs under. From there, to see how those moral obligations are preventing him/her from freedom.

Part Four: Apophthegms and Interludes

“He who is a thorough teacher takes things seriously – and even himself – only in relation to his pupils.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Within this part of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche sums up what he has to say through 125 aphorisms (concise statements). Each of these is divided into the following:

  • On Love – The idea that love is only for the sake of others.
  • On the Unconscious Mind – “When we are awake we also do what we do in our dreams: we invent and make up the person with whom we associate – and immediately forget it.”
  • On the Will to Power – The conception of an individual’s drive being a force similar to that of war. The only difference is it’s taken under peaceful circumstances.
  • On Morality: The idea that morals don’t exist.

“Apophthegms and Interludes” really ties Beyond Good and Evil together for its way of taking what Nietzsche discussed earlier and throwing it towards the second half of the book.

We know Nietzsche doesn’t believe in morality and that is stunts both the will to power and philosophy as a whole. We know Nietzsche is pessimistic towards religious views particularly for locking people down from who they truly. And we start to get a sense of his feelings towards love.

Admittedly, Nietzsche was potentially just as pessimistic towards women as he was towards religion (this may have to do with the lack of women he had).

“Comparing man and woman on the whole, one may say: woman would not have the genius for finery if she did not have an instinct for a secondary role.”

Part Five: On the Natural History of Morals

“The moral sentiment in Europe at present is perhaps as subtle, belated, diverse, sensitive, and refined, as the ‘Science of Morals’ belonging thereto is recent, initial, awkward, and coarse-fingered: -an interesting contrast which sometimes becomes incarnate and obvious and the very person of a moralist.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Nietzsche here makes note how morality is different throughout history and different cultures. Yet, we as individuals seem to not be able to see other people’s morality. We only see that of ours and those physically around us.

Furthermore, this kind of mentality causes people to do less for themselves. Nietzsche believes that the greatest of life’s accomplishments only happen over a long period of time. Such as landing your dream job or making a great piece of art.

When one works towards these accomplishments, they constantly work on discipline and making themselves better. When one works on morality, they’re constantly working on not doing the wrong thing.

From this idea, Nietzsche leads us into what he calls the “slave revolt morality”. The idea that the rich are evil and the poor are sacred. He goes as far as to consider this idea as dangerous as it creates a “herd” mentality where happiness is determined by our sacredness. If this is true, then we avoid what the evil rich do in order to remain holy.

Part Six: We Scholars

“At the risk that moralizing may also reveal itself as which it has always been – namely, resolutely montrer ses plaies, according to Balzac – I would venture to protest against an improper and injurious altercation of rank…” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Going back to Nietzsche’s problems with philosophy, he felt as though a philosopher shouldn’t let sciences and scholars lower their ideals. Instead, he believed philosophers should go as far as to rise above science.

To put this in other words, Nietzsche took notice that most modern scholars looked deeply into history and developed an understanding of life through this. Whether this is where to continue in the future or where not. However, they tend to stop there.

Nietzsche felt as though a true genius would bring up new ideas – new philosophies – to benefit the future. Yet, in order to have a clear enough thought to do so, we must wipe away our conception of morality.

Nietzsche concludes that he doesn’t believe most people have what it takes for this kind of thinking. But those who do should remain skeptical of many of modern society’s ideals, including the sciences.

Part Seven: Our Virtues

“It is probably that we, too, still have our virtues, although naturally they are not those sincere and massive virtues on account of how we hold our grandfathers in esteem and also at a little disgrace from us.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

When it comes to society, it seems as though many aspects of our existence are determined by rank. If we’re rich, we can afford any meal in town. If we’re poor, we can only afford the meal within our price limit. Nietzsche believed this rank took hold of a person’s morality.

In an example, a person who’s really driven to – let’s say – become a political leader would feel it’s immoral not to consistently work towards that position. Yet, for the architect designing floor plans for an apartment complex, such immorality doesn’t exist. Instead, s/he feels moral value towards his line of work.

To take this further, there are those who feel a sense of morality in specific emotions, such as self-contempt. In this regard, similarly to how a driven person follows their morality, the person who feels sorry for themselves will seek out other people with similar ideas.

Yet, Nietzsche was quite against the idea for people who felt self-contempt. Namely due to the fact that it’s an effort to escape suffering. As Nietzsche saw it, humans need to suffer in order to create. Therefore, the person who’s driven by passion embraces his/her suffering while the person lost in self-contempt attempts to avoid it.

This shows how much morality can vary from person to person. And ultimately, morality is determined by our virtues.

Part Eight: Peoples and Fatherlands

The purpose of this chapter is to explore nationalism. While most of what Nietzsche has to say here is criticism for specific races and nationalities, he had an idea which may have planted the seed in one of the most hated men in all of existence.

Nietzsche felt that we need to find the good qualities of each nationality and use that as a means of selective breeding. For example, take the femininity of France and the masculinity of Germany and, together, you can produce something quite exquisite.

Through this idea, Nietzsche is certain Europe wants to be a united nation rather than multiple different ones.

Considering Adolf Hitler was a fan of Nietzsche, this may be where he received some of his ideas for a “master race”. However, it’s worthy to note, Nietzsche claims the Jewish people were the most remarkable of all European races.

Part Nine: What is Noble?

“Every elevation for the type of ‘man,’ has hitherto been the work of an aristocratic society and so it will always be…” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Have you ever wondered what the end goal of our society is? What is the overall purpose of human progress? Or, is there even an end goal, to begin with?

According to Nietzsche, there was. He believed humans are destined to become greater than they currently are. To become, as he dubbed in later works, superhuman.

Within the current state of society, the overall purpose is to develop exceptional people who have a strong impact on the world. Think Beethoven or Charlie Chaplin. People who leave behind a legacy for the majority.

However, in order for these legacies to exist, they must overcome morality in a way illustrated throughout Beyond Good and Evil.

Final Thoughts

This blog by no means covered everything there is to Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. In fact, in many regards, we’ve only touched upon the tip of the iceberg. For those seeking a deeper understanding of what was discussed within this blog, it’s absolutely necessary to pick up a copy for yourself and explore the thoughts of this great thinker.

Still, the purpose of this blog wasn’t to sell you on Nietzsche. It was to give you insight as to how others view the world. To open you up to the possibility that morality might just be a figment of our imagination. And that there are certain things we wish to accomplish in life which moral thinking gets in the way of.

A topic as such shouldn’t be considered lightly. In fact, Nietzsche himself took a great deal of time to understand the concept themselves. It’s not that he wanted (what’s currently considered as) evil around society. Rather, he wanted us to become our best selves. To rise above our current state and transcend into his eventual dream of the superhuman.

We suggest you take all this into your own consideration. Whether you agree with Nietzsche or not, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Your Questions

Still have questions concerning Nietzsche’s beliefs surrounding good and evil?

We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have more knowledge on this topic, we’d also love to hear from you.

We try to reply to each legitimate comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources

[1] Web Archives: Nietzsche: On the Genealogy of Morals

[2] HMC: Reading Notes for Nietzsche

[3] Journal of the History of Philosophy: Nietzsche’s Free Spirit

Featured Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Abraham’s Sacrifice. Etching and drypoint on paper, 1655.

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