Friedrich Nietzsche



[This document, which has been prepared by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC, has certain copyright restrictions.  For information, please consult Copyright.  Editorial comments and translations in square brackets and italics are by Ian Johnston; comments in normal brackets are from Nietzsche’s text.  Last revised in December 2013]

[Table of Contents for Beyond Good and Evil]




The will to truth, which is still going to tempt us to many a daring exploit, that celebrated truthfulness of which all philosophers up to now have spoken with respect, what questions this will to truth has already set down before us! What strange, sinister, dubious questions! There is already a long history of that—and yet does it not seem that this history has only just begun? Is it any wonder that at some point we finally become mistrustful, lose patience, and, in our impatience, turn ourselves around—that we learn from this sphinx to ask questions for ourselves? Who is really asking us questions here? What is it in us that really wants “the truth”? In fact, we paused for a long time before the question about the origin of this will—until we finally remained completely and utterly immobile in front of an even more fundamental question. We asked about the value of this will. Suppose we want truth. Why should we not prefer untruth? And uncertainty? Even ignorance? The problem of the value of truth stepped up before us—or were we the ones who stepped up before the problem? Who among us here is Oedipus? Who is the Sphinx?1 It seems to be a tryst between questions and question marks. And could one believe that we are finally the ones to whom it seems as if the problem has never been posed up to now, as if we were the first ones to see it, to fix our eyes on it, and to dare confront it? For there is a risk involved in this—perhaps there is no greater risk.


“How could anything arise out of its opposite? For example, truth out of error? Or the will to truth out of the will to deception? Or selfless action out of self-seeking? Or the pure sunny look of the wise man out of greed? Origins like these are impossible. Anyone who dreams about them is a fool, in fact, something worse. Things of the highest value must have another origin peculiar to them. They cannot be derived from this ephemeral, seductive, deceptive, trivial world, from this confusion of madness and desire! Their basis must lie, by contrast, in the womb of being, in the immortal, in the hidden god, in ‘the thing in itself’—their basis must lie there, and nowhere else!” This way of shaping an argument creates the typical prejudice which enables us to recognize once more the metaphysicians of all ages. This way of establishing value stands behind all their logical procedures. From this “belief” of theirs they wrestle with their “knowledge,” with something that is finally, in all solemnity, christened “the truth.” The fundamental belief of the metaphysicians is the belief in oppositions of values. Even the most careful among them has never had the idea of raising doubts right here on the threshold, where such doubts are surely most essential, even when they promised themselves “de omnibus dubitandum [one must doubt everything]. For we are entitled to doubt, first, whether such oppositions exist at all and, second, whether those popular ways of estimating worth and those oppositions of values on which the metaphysicians have impressed their seal are not perhaps only evaluations made in the foreground, only temporary perspectives, perhaps even a view from a corner, perhaps from underneath, a frog’s viewpoint, as it were, to borrow an expression familiar to painters. For all the value that the true, genuine, unselfish person may be entitled to, it might be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for everything in life must be ascribed to appearance, the will to deception, self-interest, and desire. It might even be possible that whatever creates the value of those fine and respected things exists in such a way that it is, in some duplicitous manner, related to, tied to, and intertwined with, perhaps even essentially the same as, those nasty, apparently contrasting things. Perhaps! But who is willing to bother with such dangerous Perhapses? For that we must await the arrival of a new style of philosopher, ones who have a different taste and inclination, the reverse of those so far—philosophers of the dangerous Perhaps, in every sense. And speaking in all seriousness, I see such new philosophers arriving on the scene.


After examining philosophers between the lines with a sharp eye for a sufficient length of time, I tell myself the following: we must still consider the greatest part of conscious thinking among the instinctual activities, even in the case of philosophical thinking. We must relearn here, in the same way we relearned about heredity and what is “innate.” Just as the act of birth merits little consideration in all the procedures and processes of heredity, so there is little point in setting up “consciousness” in any significant sense as something opposite to what is instinctual—most of the conscious thinking of a philosopher is led on secretly and forced into particular paths by his instincts. Even behind all logic and its apparent dynamic authority stand evaluations of worth or, putting the matter more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a particular way of life—for example, that what is certain is more valuable than what is uncertain, that appearance is of less value than the “truth.” Evaluations like these could, for all their regulatory importance for us, still be only foreground evaluations, a particular kind of niaiserie [foolishness] that may necessary for the preservation of beings precisely like us. That’s assuming, of course, that not just man is the “measure of things” . . .


For us, the falsity of a judgment is still no objection to that judgment—that’s where our new way of speaking sounds perhaps most strange. The question is the extent to which it promotes and sustains life, maintains the species, perhaps even creates species. And, as a matter of principle, we are ready to assert that the falsest judgments (to which a priori synthetic judgments belong) are the most indispensable to us, that without our allowing logical fictions to count, without a way of measuring reality against the purely invented world of the unconditional and self-identical, without a constant falsification of the world through numbers, human beings could not live—that if we managed to give up false judgments, that would amount to a renunciation of life, a denial of life.2 To accept falsehood as a condition of life means, of course, taking a dangerous stand against the customary feelings about value, and, for this reason alone, a philosophy which dares to do so is already standing beyond good and evil.


What stimulates one to look at all philosophers in part suspiciously and in part mockingly is not that we find again and again how innocent they are—how often and how easily they make mistakes and get lost, in short, how childish and child-like they are—but that they are not honest enough in what they do, while, as a group, they make a huge, virtuous noise as soon as the problem of truthfulness is touched on, even remotely. Collectively they take up a position as if they had discovered and arrived at their real opinions through the self-development of a cool, pure, god-like, disinterested dialectic (in contrast to the mystics of all ranks, who are more honest than they are and more stupid with their talk of “inspiration”—), while basically they defend with reasons sought out after the fact an assumed principle, an idea, an “inspiration,” for the most part some heartfelt wish which has been abstracted and sifted. They are all advocates who do not want to call themselves that. Indeed, for the most part they are even mischievous pleaders for their own judgments, which they baptize as “truths,” and very remote from the courage of conscience which would admit this, even this, to itself, very remote from the courageous good taste which would concede as much, whether to warn an enemy or a friend, or whether to mock themselves as an expression of their own high spirits. That equally stiff and well-behaved Tartufferie [hypocrisy] of the old Kant with which he entices us onto the clandestine path of dialectic, leading or, more correctly, seducing us to his “categorical imperative”—this dramatic performance makes us discriminating people laugh, for it amuses us in no small way to keep a sharp eye on the sophisticated scheming of the old moralists and preachers of morality.3 Or that sort of mathematical hocus-pocus with which Spinoza presented his philosophy—in the last analysis “the love of his own wisdom,” to use the correct and proper expression—as if it were armed in metal and masked, in order in this way to intimidate from the start the courage of an assailant who would dare cast an eye on this invincible virgin and Pallas Athena—how much of his own shyness and vulnerability is betrayed by this masquerade of a solitary invalid!4


Gradually I have come to learn what every great philosophy has been up to now, namely, the self-confession of its originator and a form of unintentional and unnoticed memoir, and also that the moral (or immoral) intentions in every philosophy made up the essential living seed from which, on every occasion, the entire plant has grown. In fact, when we explain how the most remote metaphysical claims of a philosopher really arose, it’s good (and shrewd) for us always to ask first: What morality is it (is he—) aiming at? Consequently, I don’t believe that a “drive to knowledge” is the father of philosophy but that here, as elsewhere, knowledge (and misjudgment) have functioned only as a tool for another drive. But whoever explores the basic drives of human beings, in order to see in this particular place how far they may have carried their game as inspiring geniuses (or demons and goblins), will find that all drives have already practised philosophy at some time or another—and that every single one of them would all too gladly like to present itself as the ultimate purpose of existence and the legitimate master of all the other drives. For every drive seeks mastery and, as such, tries to practise philosophy. Of course, with scholars, men of real scientific knowledge, things may be different—“better,” if you will—where there may really be something like a drive for knowledge, some small independent clock mechanism or other which, when well wound up, bravely goes on working, without all the other drives of the scholar playing any essential role.5 The genuine “interests” of the scholar thus commonly lie entirely elsewhere, for example, in the family or in earning a living or in politics. Indeed, it is almost a matter of indifference whether his small machine is placed on this or on that point in science and whether the “promising” young worker makes a good philologist or expert in fungus or chemist—whether he becomes this or that does not define who he is. With a philosopher, by contrast, nothing at all is impersonal. And his morality, in particular, bears a decisive and crucial witness to who he is—that is, to the rank ordering in which the innermost drives of his nature are placed relative to each other.


How malicious philosophers can be! I know nothing more venomous than the joke which Epicurus permitted himself against Plato and the Platonists: he called them Dionysio-kolakes. The literal meaning of that, what stands in the foreground, is “flatterers of Dionysius,” hence accessories of tyrants and lickspittles.6 But the phrase says still more than that—“they are all actors, with nothing true about them” (for Dionysokolax was a popular description of an actor). And that last part is the real maliciousness which Epicurus hurled against Plato: the magnificent manners which Plato, along with his pupils, understood, the way they stole the limelight—things Epicurus did not understand!—that irritated him, the old schoolmaster from Samos, who sat hidden in his little garden in Athens and wrote three hundred books—who knows?—perhaps out of rage and ambition against Plato?—It took a hundred years until Greece came to realize who this garden god Epicurus was.—Did they realize?


In every philosophy there is a point where the “conviction” of the philosopher steps onto the stage, or, to make the point in the language of an old mystery play:

The ass arrived
Beautiful and most valiant.


Do you want to live “according to nature”? O you noble Stoics, what a verbal swindle!8 Imagine a being like nature—extravagant without limit, indifferent without limit, without purposes and consideration, without pity and justice, simultaneously fruitful, desolate, and unknown—imagine indifference itself as a power—how could you live in accordance with this indifference? Living—isn’t that precisely a will to be something different from what this nature is? Isn’t living appraising, preferring, being unjust, being limited, wanting to be different? And if your imperative “live according to nature” basically means what amounts to “live according to life”—how could you not do that? Why make a principle out of what you yourselves are and must be? The truth of the matter is quite different: while you pretend to be in raptures as you read the canon of your law out of nature, you want something which is the reverse of this, you weird actors and self-deceivers! Your pride wants to prescribe to and incorporate into nature, this very nature, your morality, your ideal. You demand that nature be “in accordance with the Stoa,” and you’d like to make all existence merely living in accordance with your own image—as a huge and eternal glorification and universalizing of Stoicism! With all your love of truth, you force yourselves for such a long time and with such persistence and hypnotic rigidity to look at nature falsely, that is, stoically, until you are no long capable of seeing nature as anything else—and some abysmal arrogance finally inspires you with the lunatic hope that, because you know how to tyrannize over yourselves—Stoicism is self-tyranny—nature also allows herself to be tyrannized. Is the Stoic then not a part of nature? . . . . But this is an ancient, eternal story: what happened then with the Stoics is still happening today, as soon as a philosophy begins to believe in itself. It always creates a world in its own image. It cannot do anything different. Philosophy is this tyrannical drive itself, the most spiritual will to power, to a “creation of the world,” to the causa prima [first cause].


The enthusiasm and the subtlety—I might even say the cunning—with which people everywhere in Europe today go at the problem “of the real and the apparent world” make one think and listen—and whoever hears only a “will to truth” in the background and nothing else certainly does not enjoy the keenest hearing. In single rare cases such a will to truth, some extravagant and adventurous spirit, a metaphysician’s ambition to hold an isolated post, may really be involved, something which in the end continues to prefer a handful of “certainty” to an entire wagon full of beautiful possibilities. There may even be Puritan fanatics of conscience who would still rather lie down and die on a certain nothing than on an uncertain something. But this is nihilism and the indication of a despairing, deathly tired soul, no matter how brave the gestures of such virtue may look. But among stronger thinkers, more full of life, still thirsty for life, it appears to be something different. When they take issue with appearances and already in their arrogance mention the word “perspective,” when they determine that the credibility of their own bodies is about as low as they rank the credibility of visual evidence which asserts that “the earth stands still,” and, as a result, in an apparently good mood, let go of their surest possession (for nowadays what do we think is more secure than our bodies?), who knows whether they don’t, at bottom, want to win back something which people previously possessed with even more certainty, something or other of the old ownership of an earlier faith, perhaps “the immortal soul,” perhaps “the old god,” in short, ideas according to which life could be lived better, that is, more powerfully and more cheerfully than according to “modern ideas”? In this, there is a mistrust of these modern ideas, a lack of faith in everything which has been built up yesterday and today, and perhaps a slight mixture of aversion and scorn, which can no longer tolerate the bric-á-brac of ideas coming from very different places, of the sort so-called positivism brings to market these days, a disgust of the more discriminating taste with the fairground colourful patchiness of all these pseudo-philosophers of reality, in whom there is nothing new or genuine, other than these motley colours. In my view, we should, in these matters, side with today’s sceptical anti-realists and microscopists of knowledge: their instinct, which forces them away from modern reality, is unrefuted—what do we care about their retrogressive secret paths! The fundamental issue with them is not that they want to go “back,” but that they want to go away. With some more power, flight, courage, and artistry they’d want to move beyond—and not back!


It strikes me that nowadays people everywhere are trying to direct attention away from the real influence Kant exercised on German philosophy and, in particular, prudently to overlook the value he ascribed to himself. Above everything else, Kant was, first and foremost, proud of his table of categories. With this table in hand, he said, “That is the most difficult thing that ever could be undertaken on behalf of metaphysics.”—But people should understand this “could be”! He was proud of the fact that he had discovered a new faculty in human beings, the ability to make synthetic judgments a priori. Suppose that he deceived himself here. But the development and quick blood of German philosophy depend on this pride and on the competition among all his followers to discover, if possible, something even prouder—at all events “new faculties”! But let’s think this over. It’s time we did. “How are synthetic judgments a priori possible?” Kant asked himself. And what did his answer essentially amount to? Thanks to a faculty [Vermöge eines Vermögens]. Unfortunately, however, he did not answer in four words, but so laboriously, venerably, and with such an expenditure of German profundity and flourishes that people failed to hear the comical niaiserie allemande [German foolishness]inherent in such an answer. People even got really excited about this new faculty, and the rejoicing reached its height when Kant discovered yet another additional faculty—a moral faculty—in human beings, for then the Germans were still moral and not yet all complete “political realists.” Then came the honeymoon of German philosophy. All the young theologians of the Tubingen seminary went off right away into the bushes—all looking for “faculties.” And what didn’t they find—in that innocent, rich, still youthful time of the German spirit, in which Romanticism, that malicious fairy, played her pipes and sang, a time when people did not yet know how to distinguish between “finding” and “inventing”! Above all, a faculty for the “super-sensory.” Schelling christened this intellectual intuition and, in so doing, complied with the most heartfelt yearnings of his Germans, whose cravings were basically pious.9—The most unfair thing we can do to this entire rapturously enthusiastic movement, which was adolescent, no matter how much it boldly dressed itself up in gray and senile ideas, is to take it seriously and treat it with something like moral indignation. Enough—people grew older—the dream flew away. There came a time when people rubbed their foreheads. People are still rubbing them today. They had dreamed: first and foremost—the old Kant. “By means of a faculty,” he had said, or at least meant. But is that an answer? An explanation? Or is it not rather merely a repetition of the question? How does opium make people sleep? “By means of a faculty,” namely, the virtus dormitiva [sleeping virtue], answers that doctor in Moliere.

Because it has the sleeping virtue
whose nature makes the senses sleep.

But answers like that belong in comedy, and the time has finally come to replace the Kantian question “How are synthetic judgments a priori possible?” with another question, “Why is the belief in such judgments necessary?”—that is, to understand that for the purposes of preserving beings of our type we must believe that such judgments are true, although, of course, they could still be false judgments! Or to speak more clearly, crudely, and fundamentally: synthetic judgments a priori should not “be possible” at all: we have no right to them. In our mouths they are nothing but false judgments. Only, of course, a belief in their truth is necessary as a foreground belief and appearance which belong in the perspective optics of living. In order finally to recall the immense influence which “German philosophy”—you understand, I hope, its right to quotation marks?—has exercised throughout Europe, there should be no doubt that a certain virtus dormitiva [virtue of making people sleep] was a part of that: people—among them noble loafers, the virtuous, the mystics, the artists, the three-quarter Christians, and political obscurantists of all nations—were delighted to have, thanks to German philosophy, an antidote to the still overpowering sensualism flowing over from the previous century into this one, in short—to have a “sensus assoupire” [way of putting the senses to sleep].


So far as materialistic atomism is concerned, it belongs with the most effectively refuted things we have, and perhaps nowadays in Europe no scholar remains so unscholarly that he still ascribes a serious meaning to it other than for convenient hand-and-household use (that is, as an abbreviated way of expressing oneself)—thanks primarily to that Pole Boscovich, who, together with the Pole Copernicus, has so far been the greatest and most victorious opponent of appearances.11 For while Copernicus convinced us to believe, contrary to all our senses, that the earth does not stand still, Boscovich taught us to renounce the belief in the final thing on the earth that “stood firm,” the belief in “stuff,” in “matter,” in what was left of the earth, in atomic particles. It was the greatest triumph over the senses ever achieved on earth so far. But we must go even further and also declare war, a relentless war to the bitter end, against the “atomistic need,” which still carries on a dangerous afterlife in places where no one suspects, like that more celebrated “metaphysical need.”—We must first of all get rid of that other and more disastrous atomism, as well, which Christianity has taught best and longest, the atomism of the soul. With this phrase let me be permitted to designate the belief which assumes that the soul is something indestructible, eternal, indivisible—like a monad, like an atomon. We should rid scientific knowledge of this belief! Just between us, it is not at all necessary here to get rid of “the soul” itself and to renounce one of the oldest and most venerable hypotheses, as habitually happens with the clumsiness of the naturalists, who hardly touch upon “the soul” without immediately losing it. But the way to new versions and refinements of the hypothesis of the soul stands open: and ideas like “mortal soul” and “soul as the multiplicity of the subject” and “soul as the social structure of drives and affects” from now on want to have civil rights in scientific knowledge. While the new psychologist is preparing an end to the superstition which so far has flourished with an almost tropical lushness in the way the soul has been imagined, at the same time he has naturally pushed himself, as it were, into a new desert and a new mistrust—it may be the case that the older psychologists had a more comfortable and happier time of it—; finally, however, he knows that in that very process he himself is also condemned to invent, and—who knows?—perhaps to discover.


Physiologists should think carefully about setting up the drive to preserve the self as the cardinal drive in an organic being. Above everything else, something living wants to release its power—living itself is will to power. Self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of that. In short, here as everywhere, beware of all extraneous teleological principles! The drive for self-preservation is one such principle (we have Spinoza’s inconsistency to thank for it—). For that is demanded by the method, which must, in essence, be economy of principles.


Nowadays in perhaps five or six heads the idea is dawning that even physics is only an interpretation and explication of the world (for our benefit, if I may be permitted to say so) and not an explanation of the world. But to the extent it rests upon a faith in the senses, it counts for more and must continue to count for more for a long time yet, that is, as an explanation. Physics has eyes and fingers on its side; it has appearance and tangibility on its side. That works magically on an age with basically plebeian taste—persuasively and convincingly—indeed, it follows instinctively the canon of truth of eternally popular sensualism. What is clear, what is “explained”? Only whatever lets itself be seen and felt—every problem has to be pushed that far. By contrast, the reluctance to accept obvious evidence of the senses constituted the magic of the Platonic way of thinking, which was a noble way of thinking—perhaps among human beings who enjoyed even stronger and more discriminating senses than our contemporaries have, but who knew how to experience a higher triumph in remaining master of these senses and to do this by means of the pale, cool, gray, conceptual nets which they threw over the colourful confusion of sense, the rabble of the senses, as Plato called them. That form of enjoyment in overcoming this world and interpreting the world in the manner of Plato was different from the one which today’s physicists offer us, as well as the Darwinists and anti-teleologists among the physiological workers, with their principle of the “smallest possible force” and the greatest possible stupidity. “Where human beings have nothing more to look at and to grip, there they have also no more to seek out”—that is, of course, an imperative different from the Platonic one, but nonetheless for a coarse, diligent race of mechanics and bridge builders of the future, who have nothing but rough work to do, it might be precisely the right imperative.


In order to carry on physiology in good conscience, people must hold to the principle that the sense organs are not phenomena in the sense of idealistic philosophy: as such they could not, in fact, be causes! And so sensualism at least as a regulative hypothesis, if not as a heuristic principle.—What’s that? And other people even say that the outer world is the work of our organs? But then our body, as a part of this outer world, would, in fact, be the work of our organs! But then our organs themselves would, in fact, be—the work of our organs. It seems to me that this is a complete reductio ad absurdum [absurd conclusion] provided that the idea of causa sui [something being its own cause] is fundamentally absurd. Consequently, is the exterior world not the work of our organs—?


There are still harmless observers of themselves who believe that there are “immediate certainties,” for example, “I think,” or that superstition of Schopenhauer’s, “I will,” just as if perception here were able to seize upon its object pure and naked, as the “thing in itself,” and as if there were no falsification either on the part of the subject or of the object.12 However, the fact is that “immediate certainty,” just as much as “absolute cognition” and “thing in itself,” contains within itself a contradictio in adjecto [contradiction in terms]. I’ll repeat it a hundred times: people should finally free themselves from the seduction of words! Let folk believe that knowing is knowing all of something. The philosopher must say to himself, “When I dismantle the process that is expressed in the sentence ‘I think,’ I come upon a series of daring assertions whose rational grounding is difficult, perhaps impossible—for example, that I am the one who thinks, that there must really be something that thinks, that thinking is an action and effect of a being who is to be thought of as a cause, that there is an ‘I’, and finally that it is already established what we mean by thinking—that I know what thinking is. For if I had not yet decided these questions in myself, how could I assess that what is now  happening might not perhaps be ‘willing’ or ‘feeling’?” In short, this “I think” presupposes that I compare my immediate condition with other conditions which I know in myself in order to establish what it is. Because of this referring back to other forms of ‘knowing,’ it certainly does not have any immediate ‘certainty’ for me.” Thus, instead of that “immediate certainty,” which people may believe in the case under discussion, the philosopher encounters a series of metaphysical questions, really essential problems of intellectual knowledge, as follows: “Where do I acquire the idea of thinking? Why do I believe in cause and effect? What gives me the right to speak of an ‘I,’ and indeed of an ‘I’ as a cause, finally even of an ‘I’ as the cause of thinking?” Anyone who ventures to answer those metaphysical questions right away with an appeal to some kind ofintuitive cognition, as does the man who says “I think and know that at least this is true, real, and certain”—such a person nowadays will be met by a philosopher with a smile and two question marks. “My dear sir,” the philosopher will perhaps give him to understand, “it is unlikely that you are not mistaken but why such absolute insistence on the truth?”—


So far as the superstitions of the logicians are concerned, I will never tire of emphasizing over and over again a small brief fact which these superstitious types are unhappy to concede—namely, that a thought comes when “it” wants to and not when “I” wish, so that it is afalsification of the facts to say that the subject “I” is the condition of the predicate “think.” It thinks: but that this “it” is precisely that old, celebrated “I” is, to put it mildly, only an assumption, an assertion, in no way an “immediate certainty.” After all, we’ve already done too much with this “it thinks”: this “it” already contains an interpretation of the event and is not part of the process itself. Following grammatical habits people conclude here as follows: “Thinking is an activity. To every activity belongs someone who does the action, therefore—.” With something close to this same pattern, the older atomism, in addition to the “force” which created effects, also looked for that clump of matter where the force is located, out of which it works—the atom. Stronger heads finally learned how to cope without this “remnant of earth,” and perhaps one day people, including even the logicians, will also grow accustomed to cope without that little “it” (to which the honest old “I” has reduced itself).


It’s true that the fact that a theory can be disproved is not the least of its charms: that’s precisely what attracts more sophisticated minds to it. Apparently the theory of “free will,” which has been refuted hundreds of times, owes its continuing life to this very charm alone—again and again someone or other comes along and feels he’s strong enough to refute it.


Philosophers customarily speak of the will as if it were the best-known thing in the world. Indeed, Schopenhauer let it be known that the will is the only thing really known to us, totally known, understood without anything taken away or added. But still, again and again it seems to me that Schopenhauer, too, in this case has only done what philosophers just do habitually—he’s appropriated and exaggerated a popular opinion. Willing seems to me, above all, something complicated, something that is unified only in the word—and popular opinion simply inheres in this one word, which has overmastered the always inadequate caution of philosophers. So if we are, for once, more careful, if we are “un-philosophical,” then let’s say, firstly, that in every act of willing there is, to start with, a multiplicity of feelings, namely, the feeling of the condition away from which, a feeling of the condition towards which, the feeling of this “away” and “towards” themselves, then again, an accompanying muscular feeling which comes into play through some kind of habit, without our putting our “arms and legs” into motion, as soon as we “will.” Secondly, just as we acknowledge feelings, indeed many different feelings, as ingredients of willing, so we should also acknowledge that thinking is an ingredient as well. In every act of will there is a commanding thought, and people should not believe that this thought can be separated from the “will,” as if then the will would still be left over! Thirdly, the will is not only a complex of feeling and thinking but, above all, an affect, and, indeed, an affect of the command. What is called “freedom of the will” is essentially the feeling of superiority with respect to the one who has to obey: “I am free; ‘he’ must obey”—this awareness inheres in every will, as does that tense attentiveness, that direct gaze fixed exclusively on one thing, that unconditional value judgment “Do this now—nothing else needs to be done,” that inner certainty about the fact that obedience will take place, and everything else that accompanies the condition of the one issuing commands. A person who wills—gives orders to something in himself that obeys or that he thinks obeys. But now observe what is the strangest thing about the will—about this multifaceted thing for which the people have only a single word: insofar as we are in a given case the one ordering and the one obeying, both at the same time, and as the one obeying we know the feelings of compulsion, of pushing and pressing, resistance and movement, which usually start right after the act of will, and insofar as we, by contrast, have the habit of disregarding this duality and of deceiving ourselves, thanks to the synthetic idea of “I,” a whole series of mistaken conclusions and, consequently, of false evaluations of the will itself has attached itself to the act of willing, in such a way that the person doing the willing believes in good faith that willing is sufficient for action. Because in the vast majority of cases a person wills something only where he may expect his command to take effect—that is, in obedience and action—what is apparent has translated itself into a feeling, as if there might be some necessary effect. In short, the one who is doing the willing believes, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that will and action are somehow one thing—he ascribes his success, the carrying out of the willing, to the will itself and, in the process, enjoys an increase in that feeling of power which all success brings with it. “Freedom of the will”—that’s the expression for the multifaceted condition of enjoyment in the person willing, who commands and, at the same, identifies himself with what is carrying out the order. As such, he enjoys the triumph over things which resist him, but within himself is of the opinion that it is his will by itself which really overcame this resistance. The person doing the willing thus acquires the joyful feelings of the successful implements carrying out the order, the serviceable “under-wills” or under-souls—our body is, in fact, merely a social construct of many souls—in addition to his joyful feeling as the one who commands. L’effet c’est moi [The effect is I]. What happens here is what happens in every well-constructed and happy community—the ruling class identifies itself with the successes of the community. All willing is simply a matter of giving orders and obeying, on the basis, as mentioned, of a social construct of many “souls”: for this reason a philosopher should arrogate to himself the right to include willing as such within the field of morality: morality, that is, understood as a doctrine of the relationships of dominance under which the phenomenon “living” arises.


That individual philosophical ideas are not something spontaneous, not things which grow out of themselves, but develop connected to and in relationship with each other, so that, no matter how suddenly and arbitrarily they may appear to emerge in the history of thought, they nevertheless belong to a system just as much as do the collective members of the fauna of a continent, that point finally reveals itself by the way in which the most diverse philosophers keep filling out again and again a certain ground plan of possible philosophies. Under an invisible spell they always run around the same orbit all over again: they may feel they are still so independent of each other with their critical or systematic wills, but something or other inside leads them, something drives them in a particular order one after the other, namely, that inborn structural arrangement and relationship of ideas. Their thinking is, in fact, much less a discovery than a recognition, a remembering, a return journey back home into a distant primordial collective household of the soul, out of which those ideas formerly grew. To practise philosophy is to this extent a form of atavism of the highest order. The strange family similarity of all Indian, Greek, and German ways of practising philosophy can be explained easily enough. It’s precisely where a relationship between languages is present we cannot avoid the fact that, thanks to the common philosophy of grammar—I mean thanks to the unconscious mastery and guidance exercised by similar grammatical functions—everything has been prepared from the beginning for a similar development and order of philosophical systems, just as the road to certain other possibilities of interpreting the world seems sealed off. There will be a greater probability that philosophers from the region of the Ural-Altaic languages (in which the idea of the subject is most poorly developed) will look differently “into the world” and will be found on other pathways than Indo-Germans or Muslims: the spell of particular grammatical functions is, in the final analysis, the spell of physiological judgments of value and racial conditions.—So much for the repudiation of Locke’s superficiality in connection with the origin of ideas.13 


The causa sui [something being its own cause] is the best self-contradiction that has been thought up so far, a kind of logical rape and perversity. But the excessive pride of human beings has worked to entangle itself deeply and terribly with this very nonsense. The demand for “freedom of the will,” in that superlative metaphysical sense, as it unfortunately still rules in the heads of the half-educated, the demand to bear the entire final responsibility for one’s actions oneself and to relieve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society of responsibility for them, is really nothing less than this very causa sui and a pulling oneself into existence out of the swamp of nothingness by the hair, with more audacity than Munchhausen. Suppose someone in this way gets behind the boorish simplicity of this famous idea of the “free will” and erases it from his head, then I would invite him now to push his “enlightenment” still one step further and erase also the inverse of this non-idea [Unbegriffs] of “free will” from his head: I refer to the “un-free will,” which amounts to an abuse of cause and effect. People should not mistakenly reify “cause” and “effect,” the way those investigating nature do (and people like them who nowadays naturalize their thinking—), in accordance with the ruling mechanistic foolishness which allows the cause to push and shove until it “have an effect.” People should use “cause” and “effect” merely as pure ideas, that is, as conventional fictions to indicate and communicate, not as an explanation. In the “in itself” there is no “causal connection,” no “necessity,” no “psychological un-freedom,” no “effect following from the cause”; no “law” holds sway. We are the ones who have, on our own, made up causes, causal sequences, for-one-another, relativity, compulsion, number, law, freedom, reason, and purpose, and when we fabricate this world of signs inside things as something “in itself,” when we stir it into things, then we’re once again acting as we have always done, namely, mythologically. The “un-free will” is a myth: in real life it’s merely a matter of strong and weak wills.—It is almost always already a symptom of something lacking in a thinker himself when he senses in all “causal connections” and “psychological necessity” some compulsion, necessity, requirement to obey, pressure, and un-freedom. That very feeling is a tell-tale giveaway—the person is betraying himself. And if I have seen things correctly, the “un-freedom of the will” has generally been viewed as a problem from two totally contrasting points of view, but always in a deeply personal way: some people are not willing at any price to let go of their “responsibility,” their belief in themselves, their personal right to their merits (the vain races belong to this group—); others want the reverse: they do not wish to be responsible for or guilty of anything, and demand, out of an inner self-contempt, that they can shift blame for themselves somewhere else. People in this second group, when they write books, are in the habit nowadays of taking up the cause of criminals; a sort of socialist pity is their most attractive disguise. And in fact, the fatalism of those with weak wills brightens up amazingly when it learns how to present itself as “la religion de la souffrance humaine” [the religion of human suffering]—that’s its “good taste.”


People should forgive me, as an old philologist who cannot prevent himself from maliciously setting his finger on corrupt methods of interpretation—but “nature’s conformity to law,” which you physicists talk about so proudly, as if—it exists only thanks to your interpretation and bad “philology”—it is not a matter of fact, a “text, but instead nothing but a naively humanitarian emendation and distortion of meaning, with which you make ample concessions to the democratic instincts of the modern soul! “Equality before the law everywhere—in that respect nature is no different and no better than we are”: a charming ulterior motive, in which once again lies disguised the rabble’s hostility to everything privileged and autocratic, as well as a second and more sophisticated atheism. Ni dieuni maître [neither god nor master]—that is how you want it, too, and therefore “Up with natural law!” Isn’t that so? But, as mentioned, that is interpretation, not text, and someone could come along who had an opposite intention and style of interpretation and who would know how to read out of this same nature, with a look at the same phenomena, the tyrannically inconsiderate and inexorable enforcement of power claims—an interpreter who set right before your eyes the unexceptional and unconditional quality in all “will to power,” in such a way that almost every word, even that word “tyranny,” would finally appear unusable or an already weakening metaphor losing its force—as too human—and who nonetheless in the process finished up asserting the same thing about this world as you claim, namely, that it has a “necessary” and “calculable” course, but not because laws rule the world but because there is a total absence of laws, and every power draws its final consequence in every moment. Granted that this also is only an interpretation—and you will be eager enough to raise that objection?—well, so much the better.


All psychology so far has remained hung up on moral prejudices and fears. It has not dared to go into the depths. To understand it as the morphology and doctrine of the development of the will to power—the way I understand it—no one in his own thinking has even touched on that, insofar, that is, as one is permitted to recognize in what has been written up to now a symptom of what people so far have kept silent about. The power of moral prejudices has driven deep into the most spiritual, the most apparently cool world, the one with the fewest assumptions, and, as is self-evident, in a way that damages, limits, blinds, and distorts. A true physical psychology has to fight against an unconscious resistance in the heart of the researcher. It has “the heart” against it. Even a doctrine of the mutual interdependence of the “good” and the “bad” drives creates, as a more sophisticated immorality, distress and aversion in a still powerful and hearty conscience—even more so a doctrine of how all the good drives are derived from the bad ones. But assuming that someone takes the affects of hate, envy, greed, and desire to rule as the affects which determine life, as something that, in the whole balance of life, have to be present fundamentally and essentially, and, as a result, have to be enhanced if life is to be further enhanced—he suffers from an orientation in his judgment as if he were seasick. Nevertheless, even this hypothesis is not nearly the most painful or the strangest in this immense and still almost new realm of dangerous discoveries;—and, in fact, there are a hundred good reasons why everyone should stay away from it, anyone who can! On the other hand, if someone aboard ship wanders here at some point—well, then! Come on! Now’s the time to keep one’s teeth tightly clenched, one’s eyes open, and one’s hand firm on the tiller!—We’re moving away directly over morality, and in the process, as we dare make our way there, we’re overwhelming, perhaps smashing apart, what’s left of our morality,—but what do we matter! Never before has a more profound world of insights revealed itself to venturesome travellers and adventurers: and the psychologist who in this manner “makes a sacrifice”—it is not the sacrifizio dell’intelletto [sacrifice of the intellect], quite the opposite—will for that reason at least be permitted to demand that psychology is recognized again as the mistress of the sciences, with the other sciences there to prepare things in her service. For from now on psychology is once more the route to fundamental problems.



1In Greek mythology, the Sphinx was a monster which terrorized Thebes. The peril could only be averted by answering a riddle. Oedipus answered the riddle successfully and was made king of Thebes. [Back to Text]

2a priori synthetic judgments: a central claim of Kant’s theory of knowledge, these are judgments which do not arise from experience (i.e., they are innate) but which reveal knowledge of experience (like deductively argued mathematically based scientific laws). [Back to Text]

3Categorical imperative: the key phrase in Kant’s morality, the idea that moral action consists of acting upon a principle which could become a rational moral principle without creating a moral contradiction (“Act so that the maxim [which determines your will] may be capable of becoming a universal law for all rational beings.” Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was an enormously influential German Enlightenment philosopher. [Back to Text]

4Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), an important and controversial Dutch philosopher; Pallas Athena: the Greek goddess of wisdom. [Back to Text]

5Nietzsche’s words Wissenschaft and wissenschaftlich, translated as science and scientific, refer to scholarship or academic research methods and activities in general. Their meaning is by no means confined to natural science. [Back to Text]

6Dionysius (432 to 367 BC), tyrant of Syracuse. [Back to Text]

7Nietzsche quotes the Latin: “adventavit asinuspulcher et fortissimus.” [Back to Text]

8The Stoics: a Greek philosophical school (founded in 306 BC) teaching patient endurance and repression of the emotions. [Back to Text]

9Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775-1854), a German philosopher. [Back to Text]

10Nietzsche quotes the Latin, “Quia est in eo virtus dormativa/ Cujus est natura sensus assoupire.” Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673) was a famous French playwright. [Back to Text]

11Roger Boscovich (1711-1787), a Jesuit philosopher and an important scientific thinker, denied material substance to atoms. His ethnic identity is contested. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), Polish monk and astronomer, offered a scientific theory for a sun-centred solar system. [Back to Text]

12Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), an important German philosopher whose work had a significant influence upon Nietzsche. [Back to Text]

13John Locke (1632-1704), a very influential English philosopher, proposed that the mind at birth was a blank slate, without innate ideas. [Back to Text]


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