Popular Science Monthly/Volume 67/December 1905/The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
|THE PHILOSOPHY OF FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.|
EVERY once in a while in the history of human thought a man arises who protests against the mass of tradition in custom, law, morality, science, philosophy and religion, and asserts his own individuality. In the presence of the accumulated acquisitions of human minds and human hands, he experiences a feeling of restraint and dependence, he finds his thought and action tied down on every side by the traditional theories and rules of past generations; the weight of ages rests as an incubus upon his soul and he longs for the free and untrammeled use of his head and heart and hands. Unable any longer to bear the burden of the past upon his shoulders, he casts it off, he declares his independence, he asserts his individuality. He wipes the slate clean, and begins to write upon it new thoughts, new values, new ideals, or at least what seem to him to be new thoughts, values and ideals.
Our present age is the historical age par excellence. It studies the past and shows us how the present has grown out of this past. It regards everything as the product of evolution, it tells us that we are what we are because our ancestors were what they were, that we do what we do because they did what they did; it traces the development of the thinker, the poet, the statesman, of law, morality, religion, art, literature and science; it justifies our conceptions and institutions on the ground that they have grown from simple beginnings and will develop in their own good time into more and more complex and perfect forms. The individual is the child of the past, in him our grandfathers are speaking to the present, in him their ideals and values are asserting themselves; they are the laws of the present, he is their mouthpiece. Against these conceptions and values a man of our time, Friedrich Nietzsche, has uttered his everlasting No. "Man alone," he says," finds himself so hard to bear. That is because he carries so many strange things upon his shoulders. Like the camel he kneels down and allows a heavy load to be placed on his back. Particularly, the strong, burden-bearing man, in whom reverence dwells: too many heavy strange words and values he loads upon his back—and now life seems to him a desert." He breaks the old tables of values and demands that new ones be set up in their stead. He is not content with studying the conditions that gave rise to the ideals which we now uphold; indeed, he regards the historic sense as the cause of the weakness of our times. We must cease feeling that we are epigoni. It is the function of the philosopher, in his opinion, to create new values, new ideals, a new civilization. "The real philosophers," he declares, "are commanders and legislators; they say: Thus shall it be; they alone determine the whither and wherefore of man; with creative hands they touch the future—their knowing is creation, their creation is legislation, their will for truth is—will for power." "Blessed it must seem to you to press your hands upon thousands of years as upon wax," says Zarathustra (in Nietzsche's book: 'Thus spake Zarathustra').
What our estimate of the world, of life and of our civilization will be must depend, of course, upon our values, upon our standards, upon our ideal, upon what we really prize. Hence, in order to understand our philosopher and his iconoclasm, we must understand his fundamental proposition, his basal thought, his ideal, the standard with which he approaches things. We shall then be prepared to understand why he objected so strenuously to our times, why he waged such a relentless war against his contemporaries, and earned for himself the title of a Kämpfer gegen seine Zeit. I shall not here attempt to trace the development of his ideas and to show how he gradually grew into them. Nor shall I attempt to point out the contradictions in his thoughts or even offer a criticism of them. It will be sufficient for my purpose to find the motif of his philosophy, to discover the fundamental principle upon which his thinking rests, and to show how his thoroughgoing opposition to the things around him more or less logically followed from it.
Schopenhauer teaches that the will is the fundamental principle of life. This will to be, this will to live, is a blind striving, a constant struggle for existence, a battle against death which we are bound to lose at last. "The life of most men is a weary yearning and torture, a dreamy tottering through the four ages toward death, with a series of trivial thoughts as an accompaniment. They are like a clock-work which is wound up and goes without knowing why; and every time a man is conceived and born, the clock of human life is wound up anew in order to grind out the same old hackneyed tune which it has played so many countless times before, measure for measure, beat for beat, with insignificant variations." It follows from the very nature of the human will that life should be full of pain and misery. And because it is full of pain, says Schopenhauer, it is bad, it is an evil, and not to be is better than to be. It also follows from the nature of the will that it is selfish and base. Men are knaves or fools or both. The end and aim of the average man's existence is to keep himself alive, and he will do anything he can to eke out his petty life. He is a cruel, unjust and cowardly egoist, whom fear makes honest and vanity sociable. And the only way to succeed in this world is to be as grasping and dishonest as the rest. Because the will is a selfish will, it is bad, and life is an evil, a curse. In order to be good the will must negate itself, it must give up its selfish strivings. When we feel the sufferings of others, when we pity them, when we see ourselves in them, when -we feel that we and they are one, then we are able to negate our selfish desires, we are delivered from the will to live, we are saved, we are at rest. The struggle ceases, we have denied ourselves, we have renounced the world, we are free, our selfish will is dead. Pity or love or sympathy, therefore, is the cause of this negation of will, and hence pity is the fundamental principle of all morality. Sympathy or pity is good because it leads to the negation of the will. The ideal is renunciation, ascetic self-denial; sympathy is the true moral motive, the sole source and standard of morality.
Nietzsche accepts the fundamental thought of Schopenhauer that the will is the principle of existence, but he draws wholly different consequences from this view. Yes, the real fact of our life is the fact of our will. The reality directly known to us is the world of our desires, the world of our instincts, the world of our will. Every living being desires life and desires it extravagantly; its instincts all aim at power and self-assertion. Life is essentially a striving for a surplus of power; all striving is nothing but a striving for power; the will for power is the root of all life and action. And this will for power, for more power, this intense, overflowing, bubbling, healthy, exuberant instinct is good: Alles Gute ist Instinkt. Everything that makes for life in this sense is good, everything that makes for power, that helps to realize this goal, is good. "What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will for power, power itself. What is bad? Everything that springs from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that a resistence is overcome; not contentment, but more power, not peace as such, but war, not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance style, moraline-free virtue)." "I say yes to everything that makes life more beautiful, more intense, more worthy of being lived. If illusion and error develop life, I say yes to them. If hardness, cruelty, strategy, disregard of others, love of struggle, can increase the vitality of man, I say yes to evil and sin. If I believe that suffering helps to educate the human race, I say yes to suffering. If science and morality diminish vitality, I say no to them."
Life is good, the desire for power is good, yes power is the greatest good. If that is so, then the stronger, the intenser, the fuller this will or desire or instinct for power, the better it is. The ideal will, therefore, always be powerful men, a higher, stronger type of men, the overmen. "Mankind should constantly endeavor to produce great individuals—this and nothing else is our mission." The great men, the great personalities, the men of force and power, the few, are the ideal men, they alone are worth while; the little men, the weaklings, the many, the all-too-many, the mediocre, the half-and-half, the commonplace, every-day people, all these are worthless. "A time will come," says Nietzsche, "in which we shall no longer consider the masses, but again the individuals, who form a kind of bridge over the seething stream of becoming. These individuals are not continuers of a process; they live timeless-contemporaneous lives; thanks to history which allows such cooperation, they live as the republic of geniuses of whom Schopenhauer once said: One giant calls to the other through the intervening spaces of time; and undisturbed by the impish noisy pigmies that crawl at their feet, they continue their high intellectual converse.—No, the goal of humanity can not lie at the end, but only in its highest exemplars." "All civilization is the creation of great individuals and for them." "Everywhere among a people we find the traces of the lions of the intellect who have passed through it; in morals, in religion, everywhere the masses have bowed to the influence of individuals." "The great men are necessary, the times in which they appear are accidental." A people is only a roundabout way for producing a few great men. "Neither the state nor the people nor mankind exists for its own sake; the climaxes, the great individuals, are the goal—but this goal points far beyond mankind. From all this it is clear that the genius does not exist for the sake of mankind; he is the climax and final goal of mankind." "Such , such happy accidents, have always been possible and will perhaps always be possible. And even whole families, tribes and peoples may under certain circumstances be regarded as such prizes in the lottery of existence." But nature is surprised herself when she produces such a masterpiece; she is a spendthrift and wastes a lot of material. Mankind should try to produce these geniuses consciously and purposely. The purpose of civilization is to hasten the birth and the development of the philosophers, the artists and the saints within us and without us, and thus to cooperate in the highest perfection of nature. The young man should be taught to regard himself "as a failure of nature, as it were, but at the same time as an evidence of the greatest and most marvelous purposes of this artist; she did not succeed, he should tell himself, but I will honor her great purpose by placing myself at her service that she may have better success at some other time." "I do not look for happy periods in history," says our philosopher, "but for such as offer a favorable soil for the production of the genius. The greatest calamity that could befall mankind would be the failure to produce the highest types of life." "We can by happy inventions educate a wholly different and higher individual than the one thus far produced by accident. Here lie our hopes in the breeding of eminent human beings."
The goal, we see, is the overman, the genius, a higher, stronger, better kind of man than our every-day man. Now sometimes Nietzsche means what we have said above—the ideal or goal is the creation of great individuals. We have had such great personalities all through history and we shall always have them. Only, their appearance has been more or less accidental, and we should and can produce the conditions favorable to their appearance. At other times, however, our thinker means by the overman a new type of man, a new species in the Darwinian sense, as it were a higher, better, finer species. This type is to take the place of the man that is, just as the man that is has taken the place of the brute. "Man is a rope between the brute and the overman, he is not an end or goal, but a bridge. Upward goes our way, from the species to the over-species." "I teach you the overman," says Zarathustra. "Man is something that must be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? All beings thus far have created something beyond themselves, and you desire to be the ebb of this great flow and to return to the brute rather than to overcome man? What is the ape for man? A mockery and a painful shame. And just that, man shall be for the overman: a mockery and a painful shame. You have made the way from worm to man, and there is much of worm within you still. Once you were apes, and even now man is more of an ape than any ape. See, I teach you the overman. The overman is the purpose of the earth. May your will say: let the overman be the purpose of the earth." "My heart is wrapped up in the overman; he is my first and only care—and not man, not my neighbor, not the poorest one, not the great sufferer, not the best. Oh my brothers, what I can love in man is that he is a transition and will pass away."
Here the overman is conceived as a higher, grander, nobler race of men, in comparison with whom our present-day men are as pigmies to giants. Our task is to hasten the coming of the overman. The overman will come, the goal will be realized; only we must not leave his coming to chance. "Could you create a God?" Zarathustra asks. "Then do not talk to me about gods! But you could create the overman. Not you perhaps yourselves, my brothers. But you could transform yourselves into the fathers and forefathers of the overman: and let this be your greatest work."
The ideal then for Nietzsche is the will for power, the will for strong, healthy life as it manifests itself in the great individuals or in a strong race or type of future men. If that is our ideal, if that is what we desire, then we must also desire everything that this ideal implies. Now life is not an easy thing, it is fundamentally and necessarily hard. "Life," says Nietzsche, "is essentially appropriation, injury and overthrow of foreign and weaker elements, oppression, hardness, the forcing of one's own forms upon others, the incorporation and at least exploitation, to put it mildly, of foreign elements. Exploitation is not peculiar to a corrupt or imperfect and primitive society, it belongs to the very nature of living beings; as the fundamental organic function it is the consequence of the real will for power, which is simply the will for life." Life is in its very nature hard and fierce; you can not have life without injury and attack; to live means to appropriate, to assimilate, to exploit, to coerce, to annihilate other elements. Life, the will for power, means struggle, battle, war; it means the exploitation of the weaker by the stronger. From all this it follows that a philosophy that places peace above war is a symptom of decay. If life is hard and fierce, if it is impossible without all these ferocious elements, and if life and power is the ideal, then these things are good. "You shall seek out your foe," says Nietzsche, "you shall wage your war, and for your own ideas, too. And when your idea is vanquished, your integrity shall applaud the deed. You shall love peace as the means to new wars. And the short peace better than the long one. I do not counsel labor, but battle. Let your labor be a battle, let your peace be a victory. You say it is the good cause that justifies the war? I say unto you: it is the good war that justifies any cause. You should have foes only that you can hate, not foes that you despise. You must be proud of your foe, then the triumphs of your foe will also be your triumphs."
In short, life means war and struggle, war and struggle are necessary, inevitable. You can not live and will without asserting yourself, without fighting, without hurting somebody, without being hard. You are bound to be hammer or anvil, you must conquer or be conquered, you must push others to the wall or go to the wall yourself. Life is by its very nature a terrible thing; in order to realize the goal, to produce strong men, it can not but be terrible. "Every moment devours the preceding one, every birth is the death of countless beings; to procreate, to live and to murder are one. We may, therefore, compare glorious civilization to a bloody victor, who in his triumphal procession drags along with him as slaves the vanquished fettered to his chariot wheels." Civilization can not do without the dangerous, hostile and violent passions. "Let envy, hatred and rivalry consume and torture man, let them drive him to extremes. Then perhaps a spark of the terrible energy thus enkindled may fall by the wayside, and from it there may suddenly burst forth the light of genius." "The 'warm sympathetic heart' does not know what it asks when it demands the removal of this violent phase of life; its own warmth is the product of the fire of the very passions which it desires to have suppressed." Whoever affirms life must say yes to the dangerous, violent and hostile phases of it. "The diminution of the hostile instincts is only one of the consequences of the universal decline of vitality." "Hardness, violence, slavery, danger on the highway and in the heart—the fearful, tyrannical, ferocious, serpent-like elements in man help to improve man." "The serpent must first become a dragon in order that some one may become a hero through it." "Your wildcats must become tigers and your venomous toads crocodiles, for the good huntsman shall have a good chase."
We must make the strong stronger and the weak weaker. The misery of toiling men must even be increased in order to make possible a small number of Olympian men. Whatever will realize the goal is good. The weak must go to the wall, that is unavoidable. "We should not attempt to cure what can not be cured. What is falling we ought even to push down. The weaklings and the failures ought to perish. And we ought even to help them to perish." The world is not a hospital.
Oppression and slavery in some form or other are means to the desired end. "The perfection of the type man has thus far always been the work of an aristocratic society—and it will always be so, the work of a society that believes in a long scale of rank and in a great difference of value between man and man, and finds slavery in some form or other necessary."
Of course, all this means pain and suffering, but remember that happiness is not the end and pity is not a virtue. "My sorrow and my pity—what do I care for these? Am I craving for happiness? No, I am craving for my work." "There are higher problems than all pleasure-, pain-and pity-problems, and every philosophy that culminates in these is a naïve philosophy." "You desire if possible to do away with suffering; and we?—it seems: we desire to intensify it, even to make it worse than it was! Well-being as you understand it—why that is no goal, that seems to be an end!—The discipline of suffering, of great suffering—do you not know that this discipline alone has thus far been the cause of every advance toward perfection in man?" "Such human beings as are near to me I desire to experience suffering, neglect, sickness, ill-treatment, humiliation—I hope that they may become acquainted with extreme self-contempt, the torture of self-distrust, the misery of defeat. I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove in our day whether a man has worth or not—that he fight it out" "The most spiritual men also suffer by far the most painful tragedies; but for that very reason they honor life, because it places against them the greatest foes. It almost determines the scale of one's worth how deeply one can suffer." "The man who has become free, and much more the spirit that has become free, tramples under foot the despicable kind of well-being of which grocers, Christians, cows, women, Englishmen and other democrats dream. The free man is a warrior."
The fact is, man does not seek pleasure or happiness, nor does he avoid pain. What man wants, what the smallest part of a living organism wants, is more power. For what do the trees in the forest struggle with each other? Certainly not for happiness, but for power. Pain as an obstacle to man's will for power is a normal fact, the normal ingredient of every organic occurrence. Man does not avoid pain, he needs it; every victory, every feeling of pleasure, every occurrence, presupposes a resistance overcome. The psychologists have not distinguished between the pleasure of falling asleep and the pleasure of victory. The exhausted want rest, they want to stretch out their weary bones, they want peace and quiet—it is the happiness of the nihilistic religions and philosophies. The robust and active natures desire victory, they want to overcome opponents, to extend the feeling of power over wider areas than before. All healthy functions of the organism have this need—and the whole organism is such a complexus of systems striving for the increase of the feelings of power. "To be preoccupied with oneself and one's everlasting salvation is not the expression of a perfect and self-confident nature, for such a nature doesn't care a straw whether it is to be blessed or not—it has no such interest in happiness of any kind, it is power, action, desire—it puts its impress upon things."
Life in short is hard and cruel and can not help being so; it is full of suffering. But we must not only learn to suffer ourselves, we must learn to see others suffer, yes to make them suffer where it is necessary. "Who can achieve anything great unless he feels the power and the will in himself to inflict great pains? The ability to suffer pain is the very least; weak women and even slaves often become masters in this. But not to perish of grief and distrust when we inflict great suffering and hear the cry of anguish—that is great, that is a part of greatness."
We must not only bear suffering in ourselves and be brave enough to inflict it upon others; we must not pity it. Schopenhauer had made pity or sympathy the sole basis and standard of morality, because it is the negation of the selfish will to live. For that very reason Nietzsche repudiates pity. In the first place pity is by no means so disinterested and admirable a feeling as the moralists make it. The weakling pities those who are beneath him, who do not compete with him, whom he need not fear—it increases his self-love to pity. Pity is the virtue of mediocre souls. Pity is one of the saddest symptoms of decline. Moreover pity crosses the law of evolution which is the law of selection. It preserves what is ripe for destruction. Suffering itself becomes contagious through pity. It augments misery and preserves everything that is miserable, and so becomes the chief means for intensifying decadence. "What is falling we should even push down." "Oh my brothers, am I then cruel? But I say: what is falling we should even push down! All these things of to-day—they are all falling, they are all decaying; who would keep them from it? But—I would even push them. And him whom you do not teach to fly, why teach him—to fall faster!" "What is more harmful than any vice? Active pity with all failures and weaklings." "War and courage have done more great things than love of neighbor. Not your pity, but your courage, has saved the unfortunate thus far. What is good? To be brave is good. Let the little girls say: good is what is both pretty and touching." "There is a stage of morbid softness and effeminacy in the history of society at which it even takes the part of him who injures it, the criminal. To punish—that somehow seems unjust to it—it is certain that the notion of 'punishment' of a 'duty' to punish, causes it pain, terrifies it.—Is it not enough to render him harmless? Why punish anyhow? Punishment is so terrible."
Pity therefore is bad because it hinders the realization of the ideal: the development of the will for power, the creation of strong men, of great individuals, of powerful personalities. It is not an admirable quality, but characteristic of base, petty souls, of weaklings and decadents. It increases misery and suffering, and diminishes life-energy, and by so much weakens the desire for life and power. It hinders the weak from being eliminated as they ought to be, and so interferes with the proper working of the law of life: the destruction of everything that is not worth saving. Yes, it even preserves the sick, the weak, the failures, the decadents, the degenerates, and makes the world uglier, an eye-sore to the strong and efficient. Pity is a temptation and a danger. "We should put the rein to our hearts; for when we let them go, how they run away with our heads. Alas! where in the world do greater follies happen than among those who pity? And what in the world has caused more suffering than the follies of the pitying?—Myself I sacrifice to my love and my neighbor as myself—that is the word of all creators. All creators, however, are hard."
Egoism is worth just as much as the person is physiologically worth who has it. Every individual represents the whole line of development. If he is an advance on this line, then his value is extraordinary, and the care for his preservation and for favorable conditions of his growth may be extreme. But if he represents a retrogression, decay, chronic disease, he has little value, and it is only fair that he take away as little elbow-room and power and sunshine from the sound and healthy ones as possible. In this case society has for its task the repression of egoism. From this point of view a doctrine and religion of love, of repression of egoism, of forbearance, of resignation, can have the highest value because it teaches the weak and sick to keep out of the way of the strong, to let themselves be ruled by the strong. But it must not be forgotten that altruism is a symptom of weakness; the weak and feeble preach love of neighbor and benevolence because they need help themselves. The worship of altruism is a form of egoism; it is the egoism of the failures.
We see, Nietzsche portrays the world as a terrible thing. Life is full of danger and battle and pain and cruelty. In this he agrees with Schopenhauer. He is not an optimist in the sense of finding everything pleasant and easy and good; it is not a world of sunshine and perpetual joy in which we are living, but a battlefield, a terrible battlefield reeking with blood. But Nietzsche does not conclude from this that we should therefore negate life, that we should fly from it, that we should renounce the world, that we should throw down our arms and give up the fight. All pessimism is a sign of decadence, the expression of a weak will, of a degenerate instinct. The strong and healthy man wills to live—in spite of all suffering and sorrow he wills to live, yes, as we have seen, these very sorrows he makes the means of an intenser, fuller life. "Praised be what makes us hard! I do not praise the land where milk and honey flow" Nietzsche's pessimism is a spur to the will; "with this will in our breast we do not fear the terrible and questionable in all existence, we seek it out." "How did I endure it" he asks, "how did I recover from such wounds? How did my soul again rise up out of these graves? Yea, there is something in me that can not be wounded, that can not be buried, something that can move mountains: that is my will.—Yea, thou art still the destroyer of all my graves: Hail to thee my will! And only where there are graves can there be resurrections."
And because the desire for life and power means self-assertion, willaction, the realization of instincts, asceticism or renunciation or the suppression of instinct is bad. Non-being can not be the goal. Asceticism is a symptom of exhaustion, of weakness of will and degeneracy. There are many forms of asceticism, but all of them ask man to negate his natural instincts, to cease desiring or willing, to do the very thing which according to our philosopher will hinder the realization of life and the higher type of man. "That, however, the ascetic ideal has meant so much for man is an expression of the fundamental fact of the human will: its horror vacui; it needs a goal—and it would rather will the nothing than not to will at all." But deliverance from life, negation of the will, nirvana, is not the goal, but life, more life. Only when asceticism furthers life, when it makes the will stronger, when it serves as a gymnastic of will, is it good.
Let us now turn to Nietzsche's anti-democratic teachings and see how they follow from his fundamental principle. If life and power are the ideal, then the strong wills, the great personalities, the higher types of man, the happy few, are better than the many, the masses, the weaklings, the failures, the degenerates. Men are not equal, and it is impossible for them to be made equal. The democratic ideal of equality is a dream. "There is no more venomous poison than the doctrine of equality, for it seems to be preached by justice itself when in fact it is the end of all justice." The equality-theory would make of man a dwarf-animal of equal rights and privileges. The herd, of course, is hostile to gradations of rank; its instinct is in favor of leveling and against the strong individuals, the sovereigns. But, as we have already seen, life is so constituted that some must rule and some must be ruled. The leveling mania is the result of the hatred of the weak for the strong; it means the destruction of power, of will, of individuality. "You preachers of equality, the tyrant's fury of impotence cries out of you for equality; your most secret tyrant-lusts thus masquerade in words of virtue. Offended arrogance, suppressed envy, perhaps your fathers' arrogance and envy: out of you it breaks forth as a flame and as the fury of revenge." The strong man, the genius, should not be sacrificed for the masses. Nay the reverse is true, the masses should be sacrificed for the genius. "The greatness of an advance is measured by what had to be sacrificed for it. Humanity, as a mass, sacrificed to the welfare of a single stronger species man, that would be an advance." "The essential characteristic of every good and healthy aristocracy is that it does not regard itself as the function of the community, but as its aim and highest justification, that it accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of a countless number of human beings who must for its sake be degraded into incomplete men, slaves, tools." Therefore all democratic, socialistic, communistic and anarchistic dreams are idle, nay, hostile to life. If men are not equal, they should not be treated as equal. "Equality of rights leads to equality of wrongs. Every right is a privilege." "Equal rights to equals—unequal ones to unequals, that would be the true doctrine of justice: and what follows from it—never to make the unequal equal." All attempts to make the masses, the laborers, equal to the leaders must fail and ought to fail. "For my brothers: the best shall rule and the best will rule! And where the teaching is otherwise, there are no best." We need men who will carry out the behests of the leaders, we need executives for the choicest spirits, we need hewers of wood and drawers of water, and there never will be a condition of society when this will not be the case. "Oh my brothers, I consecrate you and point you to a new nobility: you are to be producers and propagators and sowers of the future—verily not to a nobility that you can buy like shop-keepers and with shop-keeper's gold; for little value has everything that has its price.—Oh my brothers, not backwards shall your nobility gaze, but beyond! Ye shall be driven out of all father-and forefather-lands. Your children-land shall ye love: this love be your new nobility—the undiscovered land in the farthest sea: to that I bid ye stretch your sails." An aristocratic society of this kind is a necessity of nature, the best must rule, and such an aristocracy makes slavery in some form or other necessary. And, after all, our laborers are no happier than the slaves of Pericles. The original state of nature was not an age of equality, as Rousseau taught, but an age of inequality, and the distance between man and man will be greater instead of less in the future. The state was in its beginnings probably a terrible tyranny which a of mighty beasts of prey combining for rapine and plunder forced upon a peaceful, but poorly organized mass. The modern state, the so-called ideal or paternal state, the idol of the age, is opposed by Nietzsche because it endangers the individuality of creative minds. The ideal state of the socialists is really hostile to life, it is the destroyer of man, it is a crime against the future of man, a sign of exhaustion, a stealthy path to nothingness. It corrupts the soil on which genius grows, it would make humanity tame and uninteresting and happy.
But Nietzsche does not oppose the state as such, he is not an anarchist. He believes in authority, indeed he maintains that healthy vigorous life is not possible without authority. The rabble ought to be made to understand that there are sacred things which they ought not to touch, in the presence of which they ought to take off their shoes and from which they ought to keep their unclean hands. "The society of men is an experiment, a long search; but it searches for the ruler." This ruler is not a brutal arbitrary tyrant, he is strict with himself and gentle with the weak and suffering. He is a man who says: "This pleases me, this I shall take and defend against everyone," "a man who can lead a cause, carry out a resolve, be loyal to an idea, hold fast a woman, punish and overthrow a rascal; a man who has his anger and his sword, and to whom the weak and suffering and oppressed and even animals gladly turn and naturally belong, a man in short who is by nature a lord—if such a man has pity, very well! This pity has value. But what care we for the pity of those who suffer. Or of those who even preach pity."
For the same reason that Nietzsche opposes the modern democratic tendencies he is against the so-called emancipation of women. The sexes are not equal. Man's strongest instinct is the desire for power; woman's whole life is love, which is merely an episode in man's. "The happiness of man is: This is my will. The happiness of woman is: This is his will." She is made to love and obey, he is made to rule and protect. "Man should be trained for war, and woman for the recreation of the warrior: everything else is foolishness." Where this natural and healthy relation is perverted, where the man is effeminate and the woman masculine, we have decay. "There is too little of the man around here," says Zarathustra, "therefore their women become mannish. For only one who is man enough will deliver the woman in woman."
We are now prepared for a discussion of Nietzsche's conception of morality, one of the most important phases of his teaching. Nietzsche declares that thus far no one has dared to make morality a problem, to criticize it, to call it in question. "The value of these values (those expressed in the moral laws) has been accepted as a matter of fact, as beyond all dispute. In the entire science of morality so far the problem of morality itself has been absent, even the suspicion has been wanting that there was anything problematical about it. What the philosophers call explanation of morality is merely only a learned form of the firm belief in the prevailing morality, nay, even a kind of denial that morality can be conceived as a problem." But we must examine, the prevailing morality; if it really is morality, there will be no danger in such an investigation: whatever can not stand the test must go.
Now such an examination reveals to Nietzsche the perversity of traditional morality. Schopenhauer teaches that pity or sympathy is the basis and standard of morality. Yes, says Nietzsche, pity is the basis of our traditional morality, and therefore our traditional morality is bad. Pity is the negation of healthy egoism, the negation of the desire for life and power; it means renunciation of self, self-denial, self-sacrifice, the suicide of our life-preserving instincts, and therefore pity is bad, and the morality that is based on pity is a symptom of decline. Take out pity and the whole structure of our traditional morality crumbles to pieces. Pity is not a good, as we have already been told, pity is not good because it violates the fundamental principle of existence, the desire for life, the desire for power, and hinders the realization of the true goal: the development of strong men. The morality that is based on pity has corrupted humanity; it teaches men to despise the basal instincts of life, it sets the highest value on unselfishness, the typical goal of decline. "Entselbstungsmoral is the typical decadence-morality par excellence." The desire for life, for more life, the strong affirmation of life, is the basal law of existence; the production of strong individuals or a strong species the goal, the ideal to be realized, the highest good, the value of values. On this principle our new morality must be based; we must create new values in the light of the highest value; we must transform or re-value, reevaluate, the old values, reform the traditional morality. Not sympathy-morality, but will-morality, instinct-morality, that is the end.
Our present morality, our pity-morality, is the morality of slaves, the true morality, the will-morality, is the morality of lords, Herren-moral. The slave-morality, the pity-morality, represents the ideals of the weak and oppressed, it incorporates the rules which they desire to be followed in order that they may live their paltry lives in peace. Virtue is for these little people what makes men tame and modest; in this way they have changed the wolf into a dog and have transformed man himself into man's best domestic animal. It is based on their hatred and fear of the lords, the strong, the aristocrats; it represents the instincts of the herd against the strong and independent, the instincts of the sufferers and the failures against those who have succeeded, the instincts of the mediocre, of the average, against the exceptions. These little people call pity of the weak good because they are weak themselves and need protection; they call the healthy egoism of the lords bad because the lords push them so hard. Their morality is the morality of gregarious animals, Heerdentiermoral, it is the morality of the timid, weak and sick; their virtues are the virtues of the herd, and these are praised because they preserve the herd.
But all that is perverse; the traditional pity-morality is a degeneracy. Life, the affirmation of life, the exercise of healthy robust instincts, is good. Life, more life, intenser, fuller life, is the demand. This is clearly brought out in the relations which the states assume to one another; societies do not follow the pity-morality in their treatment of other societies, they are not altruistic towards each other. The study of society is so valuable because man as society is much more naive than man as individual. Society has never looked upon virtue as anything but a means of power, strength and order. Outwardly, in its dealings with other collective bodies, the herd is hostile, selfish, merciless, greedy for rule, full of distrust.
The lord, or strong man, the aristocrat, feels that life is good, and calls everything that makes for his ideal good. He and his equals, the robust natures, are good; their self-assertion, their self-glorification, their love of life, their will for power, their desire for struggle, that is good. The strong and noble despise the weaklings, the slaves; these are schlecht, low, base, plebeian, vulgar. The very word schlecht means low, base, common, of low descent, despicable. It expresses certain incapacities which are physiologically connected with the type of degeneracy: e. g., weakness of will, vacillation, inability to check the reaction to a stimulus and to control oneself, lack of freedom in the presence of any kind of suggestion on the part of another's will. Fear, cowardice, flattery, baseness, humility, mendacity and weakness are the qualities of the base-born.
Whatever tends to preserve and develop the robust men, the great individuals, the higher type, is good, whatever tends to hinder the realization of this end is bad. The qualities which make for the preservation of the good type are good, whatever acts and qualities tend to keep the stock pure are right. Hence the lords have no duties to their inferiors, but only to their equals. Indeed, the massess are merely so much food for the geniuses, the necessary background and instrument for the higher types. They do not count. The aristocrat fixes the values, and he values himself alone.
It is not correct to say that Neitzsche is a moral nihilist, that he repudiates all morality. He does repudiate the traditional morality, but sets up in its stead a new morality, the Herrenmoral, which, as he believes, is the morality of health and power, the original morality, which was displaced by the slave-morality, a heritage of the Jews. Indeed, the main thing for him after all is the principle that should underlie all morality, the principle of the higher type. "I do not denyn" he says, "that many acts which are called immoral are to be avoided and combatted, likewise that many which are called moral ought to be performed and encouraged—but I think these acts ought to be performed or avoided for different reasons from those given hitherto." Nor does Nietzsche preach a code of license and caprice. His ideal man is not a man of license, an unrestrained force, a wild and lawless savage. He does not wish to bring back the 'blonde beast' of early times, the 'human beast of prey,' the tyrant, the despot, the usurper. "The noble man," he says, "honors in himself the man of power, the man also who has power over himself, the man who can speak and keep silent, who delights in being strict and hard with himself and has respect for strictness and hardness everywhere. Confidence in oneself, pride in oneself, belong to aristocratic morality." "As soon as the noble or aristocratic soul is clear on the question of rank, he moves among his equals and those having equal privileges with the same confidence and gentle reverence which he reveals in his intercourse with himself—he honors himself in them and in the rights which he grants them, he does not doubt that the exchange of honors and rights constitutes the essence of all intercourse and the natural condition of things." What is freedom? "That we have the will to take responsibility. That we keep the distance which separates us. That we become more and more indifferent to toil, hardness, privation, yes even to life itself. That we be ready to sacrifice to our cause human beings, ourselves not excluded. Freedom means that the manly, the warlike and the triumphant instincts dominate the other instincts, for example, the instincts for 'happiness.' "The ideal of personality can only be realized by self-discipline. All morality is a long compulsion. "You ought to obey some one or other and for a long time, otherwise you will go to pieces and lose your self-respect." When you obey yourself, when you are a law unto yourself, then you are a free man. Your act should be your act, the expression of your personality, your self ought to be in it as the mother is in her child. Those are commanded who can not obey themselves, who can not control themselves. "Alas! there is so much lust for fame! There are so many convulsions of ambition! Show me that you are not one of the lustful and ambitious! Alas! there are so many big ideas, they do nothing but inflate like bellows: they blow up and make more empty. You call yourself free? Your controlling idea let me hear and not that you have shaken off a yoke. Are you one of those who had the right to throw off the yoke? There is many a man who threw away his last worth when he threw away his obedience. Free from what? What does Zarathustra care for that! Clearly however your eye shall tell me: Free for what?"
A great man, a heroic man, a good man, is better than a weakling, a decadent and a fool. "From time to time," exclaims Nietzsche, "grant me but one look upon something that is complete, something that is finished, something perfect, mighty, triumphant, something in which there is still something to fear. Upon a man who justifies mankind, upon a complementary and redeeming accident of man, for whose sake we can hold fast to our belief in mankind." That nature can produce a single man of this type is a consolation to Nietzsche, is enough to fill him with admiration and joy. He would agree with old Heraclitus: "To me one man is ten thousand if he be the best."
Traditional morality is repudiated by Nietzsche because and in so far as it contradicts the principle of life. For the same reason he rejects religion, particularly the Christian religion. The leading religions, he thinks, cause the race to deteriorate, they preserve too much of what ought to perish. Christianity, especially, is a crime against life. It falsifies, negates and depreciates reality. It preaches asceticism, the denial of life, pessimism, pity, effeminacy, contempt for the world, peace, non-resistance, opposition to struggle, equality and original sin. It is hostile to nature and the natural healthy instincts, calling them sinful; it glorifies the weak and sick and would have them rule over the strong; it tries to make the unequal equal; it destroys man's pleasure in himself and in the world; it is the religion of the decadent, of the played out, of the unnerved. In short, it condemns and negates this life, and points us in its stead to fictions of another world: to God, an immortal soul, a future life and a free will. It has nothing but imaginary causes (God, soul, ego, spirit, free will); nothing but imaginary effects (sin, redemption, grace, punishment, forgiveness of sins); an intercourse between imaginary beings (God, spirits, souls); an imaginary natural science (anthropocentric: complete absence of natural causes); an imaginary psychology (repentance, pangs of conscience, temptation of the devil, the proximity of God); an imaginary teleology (the kingdom of God, the last judgment, eternal life). This entire world of fictions has its root in Christianity's hatred of the natural (the reality), it is the expression of a profound contempt for reality. But that explains everything. Who alone has reason to lie himself out of reality? He who suffers from it. But to suffer from reality is to be a failure of reality. The surplus of the pain-feelings over the pleasure-feelings is the cause of that fictitious morality and religion—such a surplus, however, represents the formula of decadence. Christianity is the insurrection of the failures; it is the religion of the lower classes, women, slaves and plebeians. "Every philosophy that places peace above war, every ethics that gives the notion of happiness a negative form, every metaphysics that makes a state of equilibrium and final rest the goal of development, every esthetic, ethical or religious yearning for a better world, for some 'hereafter' or other, is radically, perhaps nothing but a symptom of degeneracy."
His own religious feeling Nietzsche expressed in what he called amor fati, the love of fate. "My formula for the greatness of a man," he says, "is amor fati: that he desire to have nothing except what he has, not in the future nor in the past nor for all eternity. Not only to submit to necessity, least of all not to hide it from himself—for idealism is falsehood, mendacity in the presence of necessity—but to love it." "Verily through many souls have I passed and through hundreds of cradles and pains of labor. Many a farewell have I spoken; I know the heart-breaking last hours. But my creative will, my fate wills it so. Or to put it more honestly: such a fate is just what my will desires. Will is a deliverer, that is the true doctrine of will and freedom." "A new pride my I has taught me and that I teach men: no longer to hide my head in the sand of heavenly things, but to carry it freely, a head of earth, which realizes the purpose of the earth. A new will I teach men: to desire this path which man has blindly trod, and to call it good and no longer to steal away from this path like the sick and dying."
Nietzsche's estimate of the intellect, of knowledge, of philosophy and science, of truth, is based on the same fundamental thought. The will for power, the desire for life is what counts. Instinct, desire, will, are better than knowledge or intelligence as such, or conscious intelligence rather. The mind or intellect is merely an instrument in the hands of instinct, of the will for life and power. "Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, stands a mighty ruler, an unknown sage—and his name is self. He dwells in your body, he is your body." Your intellect or mind is the 'little reason' it is the tool of your body—the creating body created the mind as a hand of its will—your body and its instincts is the 'big reason.' "I am wholly body and nothing else; and soul is but a word for something belonging to the body." "There is more reason in your body than in your wisest wisdom." Mind or knowledge has value only in so far as it makes for life, in so far as it helps you. Now truth does not always help you, it is sometimes harmful; illusion sometimes helps you. If illusion helps us, we want illusion. Nietzsche even goes so far in his opposition to the popular view as to say that illusion is as necessary as truth. "The falseness of a judgment," he says, "is no objection against a judgment. The question is how far it preserves and promotes life, preserves the species, perhaps even develops the species, and we are inclined to assert on principle that the falsest judgments are the most indispensable ones for us, that without assuming logical fictions man could not live, that to give up false judgments would be to give up life, to negate life."
It is a prejudice of the philosopher that truth is more valuable than error. To put truth above error and illusion, to love truth for its own sake instead of as a means of life, is turning things upside down, is a diseased instinct. Indeed this ideal of truth for truth's sake is only another form of asceticism, it is a denial or negation of life for something else.
Besides, Nietzsche goes on to tell us, there is notruth anyhow, there are no eternal truths, no truths accepted by all. The propositions that have been offered as truths are errors. Thinking is really inaccurate perception, it looks for similarities and overlooks differences, thereby producing a false picture of reality. There is no such thing as substance, there is nothing permanent; there is no universal causal nexus; there is no purpose in nature, no definite goal. The universe does not care for our happiness of morality, there is no divine power outside that can help us. Our vanity of course hinders us from accepting the view that there is no purpose, no goal in the universe. "The total character of the universe is for all eternity chaos, not in the sense that necessity is wanting in it, but in the sense that it is without order, organization, beauty, form, wisdom and whatever else our esthetic anthropomorphism may put into it. Judged by our reason the misses are the rule, the exceptions are not the secret goal, and the whole play eternally repeats its air which can never be called a melody; and finally the expression unlucky throw or miss, is a human way of talking which implies reproach. But how can we either praise or blame the All?" "Man is a little exaggerated animal that—fortunately—has had its day; life on the earth is only a moment, an episode, an exception without consequence, something that has almost no significance for the total character of the earth; the earth itself, like every star, is a hiatus between two nothings, an event without plan, reason, will, self-consciousness, the worst kind of necessity, stupid necessity. Against this view something in us protests; the serpent vanity persuades us: 'all that must be false for it makes us indignant. Could it not all be mere semblance?'"
All these propositions, then, that have been accepted as universal truths are merely errors and illusions, phantoms of the imagination; the belief in a God and in a supersensuous world, in an abiding world, is an illusion. Knowledge is a tool for power. The utility for preservation is the motive behind the development of the organs of knowledge. We arrange the world so in our thoughts as to make our existence possible; hence we believe in something permanent and regularly recurring. We reduce the confused plurality of experiences offered to us, to a rational and manageable scheme by means of formulas and signs which we invent; the purpose being to deceive ourselves in a useful way. In this sense the will for truth is the will to become master of the plurality of sensations—to string the phenomena on certain categories. A species understands so much of reality as is necessary to master it. Hence logic and the categories of reason are simply a means of arranging the world for utility purposes, of arranging it so that we can handle it. But the philosophers have made the mistake of regarding these categories, these formulas, these handy forms, as criteria of truth, as criteria of reality; they have naïvely made this human way of looking at things for the sake of preservation, this anthropocentric idiosyncracy, the measure of things, the standard of the 'real' and 'unreal.' And in this way it came to pass that the world was divided into a real world and a seeming world, and that the very world to live in which man had. invented his reason, this world of change, of becoming, plurality, opposition, contradiction, war, was discredited and calumniated, that it, the real world, was called a world of semblance, a mere appearance, a false world, and that the invented fictitious world, the alleged world of permanence, the unchanging, supersensuous world, the false world, was enthroned as the true world.
All we do know directly is the world of our desires and instincts, and all our instincts may be reduced to the fundamental instinct—the will for power. Every living being strives to increase its power by vanquishing other beings; this is the law of life. Indeed, every specific body strives to become master of the whole of space and to extend its force (its will for power), and to repel everything that resists its extension. But it constantly meets with similar strivings of other bodies and ends by falling in line ('uniting') with those that are sufficiently related to it—and they then conspire for power together. The world is a monster of force without beginning or end, a fixed iron quantity of power which does not become greater or less, which is not used up, but transformed, a household without income or outgo. And this world repeats itself forever and forever. All things return eternally, Nietzsche teaches, and we ourselves with them; we have been here before an infinite number of times and all things with us; and we and all things shall come again eternally, shall live over again the same lives even to the smallest details. The knot of causes returns in which I am tied—that will create me again. I shall come again, with this sun, with this earth, with this eagle, with this serpent—not to a new life or a better life or to a similar life, but to this same life. "And this slow spider which is crawling along in the moon-light, and this moon-light itself and I and you in the doorway whispering to each other, whispering about eternal things—must we not all have been here before? and must we not all come back again, and walk in that highway of eternity stretched out there before us, in that long and hideous high-way must we not return eternally."
These are the fundamental ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche. As we have seen there is a central thought running through his entire work, an ideal, that is they key to his whole philosophy of life and helps us to understand this remarkable thinker and his opposition to our age. The will for power is the fundamental human instinct, the fundamental human fact. The goal is the creation of a higher type of men, of a race of heroes, as it were. Life in the real sense of the term is impossible without struggle, it is a struggle for existence. Hence war is preferable to peace, indeed peace is a sign of death. War and struggle of course are hard, they bring out the stern elements in man, they can not be carried on without injury, pain and suffering, without hurting the weak. But since all these things are inevitable, since no strong race can be produced without the desire for power, which implies war, struggle, pain, suffering, injury to the weak, they are good and their opposites bad. We must fight, we must inflict injury, we must suffer our pain, because life is impossible without these things. "It is customary nowadays" he says, "even under the guise of science to prate about coming conditions of society which shall be lacking in the ferocious features. That sounds to my ears as though it were intended to invent a life that dispensed with all organic functions." We are not here for our pleasure, for our happiness, we are not here for any purpose, but being here we must hold our own, we must assert ourselves, or go clown. Therefore pity is bad, it injures him that gives and him that takes. It saps the strength of the race, it weakens both the strong and the weak, and is bad.
It is true that life is terrible, but that is no reason for pessimism. Indeed, pessimism, renunciation, is impossible except in a diseased and degenerate race, for the desire for life is too strong in a healthy mind to be overcome by pain and battle. Again, life is struggle, it means victory for the strong and defeat for the weak; somebody must win and somebody must lose. It is an experiment, a sifting process in which the sheep are separated from the goats. It is selective, aristocratic. It brings out the inequalities in human nature, it shows that men are not equal. Some men are better than others, stronger in body and mind. The better men, the natural-born aristocrats, should have more privileges because they have more duties than the plebeians, the rabble. The best men should rule. Hence democracy, socialism, communism, anarchism are all impossible, they all contradict the ideal, they all make impossible the development of strong individuals. Slavery in some form or other has always existed and will always exist. The modern laborer has simply taken the place of the ancient slave. Nor can women have the same rights as men because they are not equal to men in initiative, in energy, in will. Our greatest danger to-day lies in the mania for equality. "For thus it stands," says our thinker, "the dwarfing and leveling of the European man constitutes our gravest danger, for this outlook wearies us. We see nothing to-day that promises to become greater, we are vaguely suspicious that things are going down, down, that everything is becoming thinner, more good-natured, more prudent, more comfortable, more mediocre, more indifferent, more Chinese, more Christian—man, there is no doubt, is becoming 'better' and 'better.' Just here lies Europe's danger: with our fear of man we have also lost our love for him, our reverence for him, our hope in him, yes our desire for him. The sight of man now wearies us—what is nihilism to-day if it is not that? We are weary of man."
"We have invented happiness, say the last men and blink their eyes. They have left the regions where life was hard, for they need warmth. They still love their neighbors and rub themselves on them, for they need warmth. To become sick and to be distrustful they regard as sinful, they walk circumspectly. A fool who still stumbles over stones or men: A little poison now and then, that makes pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end, for a pleasant death. They still work, for work is a source of amusement. But care is taken that the amusement be not too severe. They no longer grow rich or poor; it is too troublesome. Who is willing to govern? Who is willing to obey? All that is too troublesome. No shepherd and one flock. Everybody desires the same, everybody is equal: whoever thinks otherwise voluntarily goes to the insane-asylum. Once the whole world was insane, say the choicest and blink their eyes. They are wise and know everything that has happened; so they go on mocking. They still quarrel with each other, but they soon become reconciled—otherwise it would spoil their digestion. They have their little pleasures by day and their little pleasures by night; but they take care of their health. We have invented happiness say the last men and blink their eyes."
Our traditional morality is also rejected by Nietzsche because it is based on pity and favors the weak and decadent against the strong. Religion, too, particularly Christianity, is repudiated for the same reason and his contempt for science and philosophy is to be explained in the same way—by his glorification of the will for power. Peace, happiness, pity, self-denial, contempt of the world, effeminacy, nonresistence, socialism, communism, equality, religion, philosophy and science, are all rejected because they contradict life, and all systems of thought and all institutions which regard these things as valuable and worthy to be sought after for their own sakes are symptoms of decadence.