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FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

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    2. FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE (,844-1900)

    3. His Life

    4. Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, pious and Puritan, chaste as i statue, to the last, was born «.t Rocken, Prussia, on October 15. 1344—which happened to be the birthday of the reigning Prus­sian King, Frederick William IV. His father, who had tutored several members of the royal family, rejoiced at this patriotic coincidence, and named the boy after the king. "There was at ail events an advan­tage in the choice of this day for my birth ; my birthday throughout the whole of my childhood was a day of public rejoicing."1

    5. His life was very simple. His father was a Protestant pastor, and his upbringing was very pious. The early death of his father left him a victim to the holy women of the household, who petted him into an almost feminine delicacy and sensibility. He disliked the bad boys of the neighbourhood, who robbed birds' nests, raided orchards, played soldier, and told lies. His schoolmates called him "the little minister", and one of them described him as "a Jesus in the Temple". It was his delight to seclude himself and read the Bible, or to read it to others so feelingly as to bring tears to their eyes. But there was a hidden nervous stoicism and pride in him : when his school-fellows doubted the story of Mutius Scaevola he ignited a batch of matches in the palm of his hand and let them lie till they were burnt out.' It w?s a typical incident: all his life­long he was to seek physical and intellectual means of hardening himself into an idealized masculinity. "What I am not, that for me is God and virtue."

    6. At the age of eighteen he lost his faith in the God of his fathers, and spent the remainder of his life looking for a new deity ; he thought he found one in the Superman. He said later that he had taken the change easily ; but he had the habit of easily deceiving himself, and is an unreliable autobiographer. He became cynical, like one who had staked all on a single throw cf the dice, and had lost; reli­gion had been the very marrow of his life, and now life seemed empty and meaningless.

    7. After three years, in 1865, he discovered Schopenhauer's World as Will and Idea, and found in it "a mirror in which I espied the world, life, and my own nature depicted with frightful grandeur." He took the book to his lodgings, and read every word of it hungrily. "It seemed as if Schopenhauer were addressing me personally. I felt his enthusiasm, and seemed to see him before me. Every line cried aloud for renunciation, denial, resignation."3 The dark colour of Schopenhauer's philosophy impressed itself permanently upon his thought: and not only when he was a devoted follower of "Schopen­hauer as Educator" (the title of one of his essays), but even when he came to denounce pessimism as a form of decadence, he remained at bottom an unhappy man, whose nervous system seemed to have been carefully designed for suffering, and whose exaltation of tragedy as the joy of life was but another self-deception. "Only Spinoza or Goethe," states Will Durant, "could have saved him from Schopen­hauer ; but though he preached acquanimitas and amor fait, he never practised them ; the serenity of the sage and the calm of the balanced mind were never his."

    8. At the age of twenty-three, Nietzsche was conscripted into military service, although he would have been glad to get exemption as be­ing near-sighted and the only son of a widow. However, a fall from a horse so wrenched his breast-muscles that the recruting sergeant was forced to yield up his prey. His military experience was so brief that he left the army with almost as many delusions about soldiers as he had had on entering it. From military life he passed to its antipodes—the academic life of a philologist; instead of becoming a

    9. soldier, he became a Ph.D.

    10. He proved a brilliant scholar at the university in classics and philology, so much so that in 1869, before he had taken his degree, he was offered a professorship of philology at Basel, which he accepted. His-health was never good, and after periods of sick leave he was obliged to retire finally in 1879. After this, he stayed in Switzerland and Italy ; in 1888, he became insane, and remained so until his death. He had a passionate admiration for Wagner, but' quarrelled with him, nominally over Parsifal, which he thought too Christian and too full of renunciation. After the quarrel he criticized Wagner savagely, and even went so far as to accuse bim of being a Jew. His general outlook, however, remained very similar to that of Wagner in the Ring ; Nietzsche's Superman is very like Siegfried except that he knows Greek. It is a fact that under the spell of the great composer, Nietzsche began to write his first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music (published in 1872), which was to begin with the Greek drama and end with The Ring of the Nibelungs, preaching Wagner to the world as the modern Aeschylus. He went up into the Alps to write in peace, far from the madding crowd ; and there, in 1870, came to him the news that Germany and France had gone to war.

    11. 3 Quoted by Mencken, p. 18-

    1. • The Philosophy of Friedrich Weuscke, Boston, 1913, p.



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    1. His Hellenic and Anti-romantic Outlook

    2. Nietzsche was not consciously a romantic. Indeed, he often severely criticized the romantics. Consciously his outlook was Hellenic, but with "the Orphic component omitted". He admired the pre-Socratics, except Phythagoras. He had a close affinity to Heraclitus. Aristotle's magnanimous man is very like what Nietzsche called the 'noble man', but in the main he considered the Greek philosophers from Socrates onwards inferior to their predecessors. He could not forgive Socrates for his humble origin ; he called him a roturier, and accused him of corrupting the noble Athenian youth with a democratic moral bias. Plato, especially, is condemned on account of his taste for edification. Nietzsche, however, obviously did not like condemning him, and suggested, to excuse him, that perhaps he was insincere, and only preached virtue as a means of keeping the lower classes in order.

    3. In spite of Nietzsche's criticism of the romantics, his outlook owed much to them ; it is "that of aristocratic anarchism, like Byron's, and one is not surprised to find him admiring Byron."' He attempted to combine two sets of values which are not easily harmonized : on the one hand he liked ruthlessness, war and aristocratic pride ; on the other hand, he loved philosophy and literature and the arts, especially music. Historically, these values co-existed in the Renaissance ; Pope Julius II, fighting for Bologna and employing Michelangelo, might be taken as the sort of man whom Nietzsche would wish to see in control of governments. It is natural to compare Nietzsche with Machiavelli, in spite of important differences between two men. As for the differences: Machia­velli was a man of affairs, whose opinions had been formed by close contact with public business, and were in harmony with his age ; he was not pedantic or systematic, and his philosophy of politics scarcely formed a coherent whole ; Nietzsche, on the contrary, was a professor, an essentially bookish man, and a philosopher in conscious opposition to what appeared to be the dominant political and ethical trends of his time. The similarities, however, go deeper. Nietzsche's political philosophy is analogous to that of The Prince (not The Discourse), though it is worked out and applied over a wider field. Both Nietzsche and Machiavelli had an ethic which aimed a* power and was deliberately anti-Christian, though Nietzsche was more frank in this respect. What Caesar Borgia was to Machiavelli, Napoleon was to Nietzsche : a great man defeated by petty opponents.

    4. Belief in Aristocratic Minority


      1. 4 Russell, B. : A History of Western Philosophy (George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1947), p, 789.

      Nietzsche strongly opposed the conventional virtue. True virtue, as opposed to the conventional sort, is not for all, but should remain



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    1. the characteristic of an aristocratic minority. Nietzsche admired certain qualities which he believed to be only possible for an aristo­cratic minority ; the majority, in his opinion, should be only means to the excellence of the few, and should not be regarded as having any independent claims to happiness or well-being. "We—immoralists," he cried, "we will go beyond moral good and evil, beyond right and wrong. We will speak of nobility and vulgarity, not of right and wrong, of gut und schtechi, not of gut und boese. Our standards are essentially aesthetic. What have we to do with the masses, the slaves ? Shall the artist turn nurse ? Shall we all share the air of the sick­room for the sake of a spiritual unity ? What would happen to beauty if we all turned missionaries to the barbarians ? Forget the masses and turn to beauty and power. Be a master, if you can—a Napoleon, a Beethoven, a Bismarck, a Wagner. It is these few who can give life its real worth."5 Politically the implications are, let those rule who real y can, in whom the Will to Power can effectively assert itself. A state i j judged by the masters it produces. The masses are mere instruments in producing them.

    2. Morality of the Superman


      1. Nietzsche : The Will to Power ; Beyond Good and Evil ; The Joyful Wisdom, etc.

      2. Beyond Good and £vtf(18S6), pp. 121-23.

      3. The Dawn of Day (1881), p. 232.

      Nietzsche hoped to destroy, in Beyond Good and Evil (1886) and The Genealogy of Morals (1887), the old morality, and prepare the way for the morality of the Superman. According to the old morality, which was brought to its peak by Jesus, every man was of equal worth, and had equal rights. Out of this doctrine came democracy, utilitarianism, socialism ; progress was now defined m terms of these plebeian philosophies, in terms of progressive equalization and vulgari­zation, in terms of decadence and descending life.* The final stage in this decay is the exaltation of pity and self-sacrifice, the sentimental comforting of criminals, "the inability of a society to excrete." Sympathy is legitimate if it is active ; but pity is a paralyzing mental luxury, a waste of feeling for the irremediably botched, the incompe­tent, the defective, the vicious, the culpably diseased and the irrevoc­ably criminal. There is a certain indelicacy and intrusiveness in pity ; "visiting the sick is an orgasm of superiority in the contemplation of our neighbour's helplessness."7 His main objection to Christianity or to the old morality was that it caused acceptance of what he called 'slave morality'. It is curious to observe the contrast between his arguments and those of the French philosophes who preceded the Revolution. They argued that Christian dogmas are untrue ; that Christianity teaches submission to what is deemed to be the will of God, whereas self-respecting human beings should not bow before any



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    1. higher power ; and that the Christian Churches have become the allies of tyrants, and are helping the enemies of democracy to deny liberty and continue to grind the faces of the poor. Nietzsche was not interested in the metaphysical truth of either Christianity or any other religion ; being convinced that no religion is really true, he judged all religions entirely by their social effects. He agreed with the philosophes in objecting to submission to the supposed will of God, but he would substitute for it the will of earthly 'artist-tyrants'. Submission is right, except for these supermen, but not submission to the Christian God. Anti-christianity Attitude

    2. Christianity, he argued, aims at taming the heart in man, but this is a mistake. A wild beast has a certain splendour, which it loses when it is tamed. The criminals with whom Dostoevsky associated were better than he was, because they were more self-respecting. Nietzsche was nauseated by repentance and redemption, which he called a folie circulaire. It is difficult for us to free ourselves from this way of thinking about human behaviourwe are heirs to the con­science-vivisection and self-crucifixion of two thousand years." There is a very eloquent passage about Pascal, which deserves quotation, because it shows Nietzsche's objections to Christianity at their best.

    3. "What is it that we combat in Christianity ? That it aims at destroying the strong, at breaking their spirit, at exploiting their moments of weariness and debility, at converting their proud assur­ance into anxiety and conscience-trouble; that it knows how to poison the noblest instincts and to infect them with disease, until their strength, their will to power, turns inwards, against themselves —until the strong perish through their excessive self-contempt and self-immolation ; that gruesome way of perishing, of which Pascal is the most famous example."*

    4. Christianity, Nietzsche thought, is responsible for human decay. And the formula for decay, according to him, is that the virtues proper to the herd infect the leaders, and break them into common clay. "Moral system must be compelled first of all to bow before the gradations of rank ; their presumption must be driven home to their conscience—until they thoroughly understand at last that it is immoral to say that 'what is right for one is proper for another." Different functions*require different qualities ; and the 'evil' virtues of the strong are as necessary, in a society as the 'good' virtues of the weak. Severity, violence, danger, war, are as valuable as kindliness and peace ; great individuals appear only in times of danger and violence and merciless necessity. The best thing in man is strength of will, power and permanence of passion ; without passion one is mere muck, incapable of deeds. Greed, envy, even hatred, are indis-

    5. 8 Quoted from A History of Western Philosophy by B. Russell, p. 794,



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    1. pensable items in the process of struggle, selection and survival. Evil is to good as variation to heredity, as innovation and experiment to custom ; there is no development without an almost-criminal viola­tion of precedents and 'order'. If evil were not good it would have disappeared. We must beware of being too good ; "man must be­come better and more evil."*

    2. Biological Superiority ajsd Superman

    3. The ultimate ethic is biological; we must judge things according to their value for life ; we n.'ed a physiological "transvaluation of all values." The real test of a mm, or a group, or a species, according to Nietzsche, is energy, capacity, power. In the same way, he con­sidered force as the basis of the state, and obedience to it a matter of compulsion rather than of co-operation.

    4. Now the question arises as to what Nietzsche meant by 'biologi­cally superior'. We shall mean, when interpreting him (Nietzsche), that individuals of the superior race, and their descendants, are more likely to be 'noble*. They will have more strength of will, more courage, more impulse towards power, but less sympathy, less fear, and less gentleness. According to Nietzsche, victors in war, and their descendants, are usually biologically superior to the vanquished. It is, therefore, desirable that they should hold all the power, and should manage affairs exclusively in their own interests.

    5. Just as morality lies not in kindness but in strength, so the goal of human effort should be not the elevation of all but the develop­ment of finer and stronger individuals. "Not mankind, but super­man is the goal." The very last thing a sensible man would under­take would be to improve mankind : mankind does not improve, it does not even exist—it is an abstraction ; all that exists is a vast ant­hill of individuals. The aspect of the whole is much more like that of a huge experimental workshop where some things in every age succeed, while most things fail ; and the aim of all the experiments is not the happiness of the mass but the improvements of the type. Better that societies should come to an end than that no higher type should appear. Society is an instrument for the enhancement of the power and personality of individual; the group is not an end in it­self. "To what purpose then are the machines, if all individuals are only of use in maintaining them ? Machines"—or social organiza­tions—"that are ends themselves—is that the Umana Comedia ?"10


      1. 9 Beyond Good and Evil, p. 165. 10 The mil to Power (1889), ii, 387, 135 ; Human All Too Human (1876-80), i, 375.

      Energy, intellect, and pride—these make the superman. But they must be harmonized : the passions will become powers only when they are selected and unified by some great purpose which moulds a chaos of desires into the power of a personality. "Woe to "the thinker



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    1. who is not the gardener but the soil of his plants !" Who is it that follows his impulses ? The weakling : he lacks the power to inhabit; he is not strong enough to say No ; he is a discord, a decadent. To discipline one's self—that is the highest thing. "The man who does not wish to be merely one of the mass only needs to cease to be easy on himself." To have a purpose for which one can be hard upon others, but above all upon one's self: to have a purpose for which one will do almost anything except betray a friend—that is the final patent of nobility, the fast formula of the superman.11

    2. Only by seeing such a man as the goal and reward of our labours can we love life and live upward. "We must have an aim for whose sake we are all dear to one another."12 Let us be great, or servants and instruments to the great; what a fine sight it was when millions of Europeans offered themselves as means to the ends of Bonaparte, and died for him gladly, singing his name as they fell ! Perhaps those of us who understand can become the prophets of him whom we cannot be, and can straighten the way for his coming ; we indifferent of lands, indifferent of times, can work together, however separated, for this end. Zarathustra will sing, even in his suffering, if he can but hear the voices of these hidden helpers, these lovers of the higher man. "Ye lonely ones of today, ye who stand apart, ye shall one day be a people ; from you who have chosen yourselves, a chosen people shall arise ; and from it the superman."18

    3. Against Democracy and Mass Morality


      1. The Dawn of Day, 295.

      2. Salter's Nietzsche the Thinker (N. Y., 1917), 446.

      3. Thus Spake Zarathustra, p. 107.

      Nietzsche was a passionate believer in the hero. He did not like democratic form of government as'he did not likoherd'or mass morality. He considered democracy, like Christianity, responsible for national decay. Both believe in mass morality, which Nietzsche hated and abhorred. Democracy, he explained, means drift; it means permission given to each part of an organism to do just what it pleases ; it means the lapse of coherence and interdependence, the enthronement of liberty and chaos. It means the worship of mediocrity, and the hatred of excellence. It means the impossibility of great men—how could great men submit to the indignities and indecencies of an election ? What chance would they have ? "What is hated by the people, as a wolf by the dogs, is the free spirit, the enemy of all fetters, the not-adorer," the man who is not a "regular party-member". How can the superman arise in such a soil ? And how can a nation become great when its greatest men lie unused, discouraged, perhaps un­known ? Such a society loses character ; imitation is horizontal in­stead of vertical—not the superior man but the majority man becomes the ideal and the model; everybody comes to resemble everybody

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    1. else ; even the sexes approximate—the men become women and the women become men.14 As such Nietzsche held democracy a wretched experience in human history which gives birth to timidity, irresponsi­bility and, above all, to feminism. And with feminism, he said, come socialism and anarchism. Ail of them, he explained, are of the litter of democracy ; if equal political power is just, why not equal economic power ? Why should there be leaders anywhere ? There are socialists who will admire the book of Zarathustra ; but their admiration is not wanted. "There are some that preach my doctrine

    2. of life but at the same time are preachers of equality I do not

    3. wish to be confounded with these preachers of equality. For within me justice saith, 'Men are not equal'." "We wish to possess nothing in common." "Ye preachers of equality, the tyrant-insanity of impo­tence thus crieth out of yourselves for equality." Nature abhors equality ; it loves differentiation of individuals and classes and species. Socialism is antibiological : the process of evolution involves the utili­zation of the inferior species, race, class, or individual by the superior ; all life is exploitation, and subsists ultimately on other life ; big fishes catch little fishes and eat them, and that is the whole story. Socialism is envy : "they want something which we have." It is not the leaders that must be feared, but those lower down who think that by a revolution they can escape the subordination which is the natu­ral result of their incompetence and sloth. Rule of Superior Ability


      1. The Will to Power (1889), i, 382-84 ; ii, 206.

      2. Anti-Christ (1669), pp. 219-20.

      Nietzsche also warned us against the tendency of putting the political power into the hands of the business class. He said that the problem of politics is to prevent the businessman from ruling. For a man has the short sight and narrow grasp of a politician, not the long view and wide range of the born aristocrat trained to statesman­ship. The finer man has a divine right to rule—i. e., the right of superior ability. The simple man has his place, but it is not on the throne. In his place the simple man is happy, and his virtues are as necessary to society as those of the leader; "it would be absolutely unworthy of a deeper mind to consider mediocrity in itself as an objec­tion." Industriousness, thrift, regularity, moderation, strong convic­tion—with such virtues the mediocre man becomes perfect, but perfect only as an instrument. "A high civilization is a pyramid ; it can stand only upon a broad base ; its prerequisite is a strongly and soundly consolidated mediocrity." Always and everwhere, some will be leaders and some followers ; the majority will be compelled, and will be happy, to work under the intellectual direction of higher men.1* "Wherever I found living things, there also I heard the speech of obedience. All living things are things that obey. And this is the second : he is commanded who cannot obey his own



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