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]




O sancta simplicitas [O blessed simplicity]! Human beings live in such a peculiarly simple and counterfeit way! Once a man develops eyes to see this wonder, he cannot check his amazement! How bright and free and light and simple we have made everything around us! How we have learned to give our senses free license for everything superficial, our thinking a divine craving for wanton leaps and erroneous conclusions! How we have learned ways, right from the start, to maintain our ignorance in order to enjoy a hardly conceivable freedom, carelessness, rashness, heartiness, and merriment in life—in order to enjoy life.  And only on this now firm granite foundation of ignorance could scientific knowledge up to now rise up, the will to know on the foundation of a much more powerful will, the will not to know, to uncertainty, to what is not true! Not as its opposite, but—as its refinement! For even if language, here as elsewhere, does not cast off its clumsiness and continues to speak about opposites where there are only degrees and many subtleties of gradation, and similarly if inveterate Tartufferie [hypocrisy] in morality, which nowadays belongs to our invincible “flesh and blood,” turns the words even of us knowledgeable people around in our mouths, here and there we understand that and laugh about how it’s precisely the best scientific knowledge that most wants to hold us in this simplified, completely artificial, appropriately created, and appropriately falsified world, and about how, willingly or unwillingly, it loves error, because, as something alive—it loves life!


After such a cheerful start, I’d like you to not to miss hearing a serious word: it’s directed at the most serious people. Be careful, you philosophers and friends, of knowledge—protect yourself from martyrdom! From suffering “for the sake of the truth”! Even from defending yourselves! That corrupts all the innocence and refined neutrality in your consciences. It makes you stubborn against objections and red rags; it dulls your minds, turns you into an animal and a brute, when, in the struggle with danger, slander, suspicion, expulsion, and even dirtier consequences of hostility, you finally have to play out your role as the defenders of truth on earth, as though “the truth” were such a harmless and clumsy character as to require defenders! And as for you, you knights with the most sorrowful countenances, my gentlemen loafers and spiritual cobweb spinners! Ultimately you yourselves know well enough that it really doesn’t matter if you are the ones who are proved right. You also know that up to now no philosopher has been proved right and that a more praiseworthy truthfulness could lie in every small question mark which you set after your favourite words and cherished doctrines (and occasionally after yourselves), than in all the ceremonial gestures and trump cards before prosecutors and courts of justice! Better to stand aside! Run off to some secluded place! And retain your masks and your subtlety, so that people confuse you with someone else—or fear you a little! And for my sake don’t forget the garden, the garden with the golden trellis! And have people around you who are like a garden—or like music over water in the evening, when the day is already becoming a memory. Choose good solitude, the free, high-spirited, easy solitude, which also gives you a right to remain, in some sense or other, still good yourselves! How poisonous, how crafty, how bad every long war makes us, when it does not let us fight with open force! How personal a long fear makes us, a long attention on our enemies, on potential enemies! These social outcasts, these men long persecuted and wickedly hunted down—as well as the compulsory recluses, the Spinozas or Giordano Brunos—in the end always become, even under the most spiritual masquerade and perhaps without realizing it themselves, sophisticated avengers and makers of poisons (just dig into the foundation of Spinoza’s ethics and theology)—to say nothing of the foolishness of moral indignation, which in a philosopher is the unmistakable sign that his philosophical humour has run away from him.1 The martyrdom of a philosopher, his “sacrifice for the truth,” brings forcefully to light how much of the agitator and actor he contains within himself. And if people have looked at him with only an artistic curiosity up to this point, then, in the case of several philosophers, we can naturally understand the dangerous wish to see him also in his degeneration (degenerated into a “martyr,” into a noisy troublemaker on the stage and in tribunals). But with such a wish, people must be clear about what they are going to see in every case—only a satyr play, only a farcical epilogue, only continuing proof that the long, real tragedy is over, assuming that every philosophy in its origin was a long tragedy.


Every special human being strives instinctively for his own castle and secrecy, where he is saved from the crowd, the many, the majority, where he can forget the ordinary “people” who are the rule [die Regel “Mensch”], for he is an exception to them—but for the single case where he is pushed by an even stronger instinct straight against this rule, as a person who seeks knowledge in a great and exceptional sense. Anyone who, in his intercourse with human beings, does not, at one time or another, shimmer with all the colours of distress—green and gray with disgust, surfeit, sympathy, gloom, and loneliness—is certainly not a man of higher taste. But provided he does not take all this weight and lack of enthusiasm freely upon himself, always keeps away from it, and stays, as mentioned, hidden, quiet, and proud in his castle, well, one thing is certain: he was not made for, not destined for, knowledge. For if he were, he would one day have to say to himself, “The devil take my good taste! The rule is more interesting than the exception—than I am, the exception!”—and he would make his way down and, above all, “inside.” The study of the average man—long, serious, and requiring much disguise, self-control, familiarity, bad company—all company is bad company except with one’s peers—that constitutes a necessary part of the life story of every philosopher, perhaps the most unpleasant, foul-smelling part, the richest in disappointments. But if he’s lucky, as is appropriate for a fortunate child of knowledge, he encounters real short cuts and people who make his task easier—I’m referring to the so-called cynics, those who, as such, simply recognize the animal, the meanness, the “rule” in themselves and, in the process, still possess that degree of spirituality and urge to have to talk about themselves and people like them before witnesses;—now and then they even wallow in books, as if in their very own dung. Cynicism is the single form in which common souls touch upon what honesty is, and the higher man should open his ears to every cruder and more refined cynicism and think himself lucky every time a shameless clown or a scientific satyr announces himself directly in front of him. There are even cases where enchantment gets mixed into the disgust: for example, in those places where, by some vagary of nature, genius is bound up with such an indiscreet billy-goat and ape—as in the Abbé Galiani, the most profound, sharp-sighted, and perhaps also the foulest man of his century—he was much deeper than Voltaire and consequently a good deal quieter.2 More frequently, as I have intimated, it happens that the scientific head is set on an ape’s body, a refined and exceptional understanding in a common soul—among doctors and moral physiologists, in particular, that’s not an uncommon occurrence. And wherever anyone speaks without bitterness and quite innocently of man as a belly with two different needs and a head with one, wherever someone constantly sees, looks for, and wants to see only hunger, sexual desire, and vanity, as if these were the real and only motivating forces in human actions, in short, wherever people speak “badly” of human beings—not even in a nasty way—there the lover of knowledge should pay fine and diligent attention; he should, in general, direct his ears to wherever people talk without indignation. For the indignant man and whoever is always using his own teeth to tear himself apart or lacerate himself (or, as a substitute for that, the world, or God, or society) may indeed, speaking morally, stand higher than the laughing and self-satisfied satyr, but in every other sense he is the more ordinary, the more trivial, the more uninstructive case. And no one lies as much as the indignant man.


It is difficult to be understood, particularly when one thinks and lives gangasrotogati [like the flow of the river Ganges], among nothing but people who think and live differently, namely kurmagati [like the movements of a tortoise] or, in the best cases “following the gait of frogs” mandeikagati—am I simply doing everything to make myself difficult to understand?—and people should appreciate from their hearts the good will in some subtlety of interpretation. But so far as “good friends” are concerned, those who are always too lackadaisical and believe they have a particular right as friends to a life of comfort, one does well to start by giving them a recreation room and playground of misunderstanding:—so one still has to laugh—or else to get rid of them altogether, these good friends—and to laugh then, as well!


The most difficult thing about translating one language into another is the tempo of its style, which is rooted in the character of the race—speaking more physiologically, in the average tempo of its “metabolism.” There are honestly intended translations that, as involuntarily coarse versions of the original, are almost misrepresentations, simply because its brave and cheerful tempo, which springs over and neutralizes everything dangerous in things and words, could not be translated. A German is almost incapable of presto [quick tempo] in his language and thus, as we can reasonably infer, is also incapable of many of the most delightful and most daring nuances of free and free-spirited thinking. Just as the buffo [comic actor or singer] and satyr are foreign to him, in body and conscience, so Aristophanes and Petronius are untranslatable for him. Everything solemn, slow moving, ceremonially massive, all lengthy and boring varieties in style are developed among the Germans in a lavish diversity. You must forgive me for the fact that even Goethe’s prose, with its mixture of stiffness and daintiness, is no exception, as a mirror image of the “good old time” to which it belongs, and as an expression of German taste in an age when there still was a “German taste,” a rococo taste in moribus et artibus [in customs and the arts].3 Lessing is an exception, thanks to his play-actor’s nature, which understood a great deal and knew how to do many things. He was not the translator of Bayle for nothing and was happy to take refuge in Diderot’s or Voltaire’s company—and even happier among the Roman writers of comic drama. In tempo, too, Lessing loved free-spiritedness, the flight from Germany. But how could the German language—even in the prose of a Lessing—imitate the tempo of Machiavelli, who in his Prince allows one to breathe the fine dry air of Florence and cannot help presenting the most serious affairs in a boisterous allegrissimo [very quick tempo], perhaps not without a malicious artistic feeling about what a contrast he is risking—long, difficult, hard, dangerous ideas, a galloping tempo, and the very best, most mischievous of moods.4 Finally, who could even venture a German translation of Petronius, who was the master of the presto—more so than any great musician so far—in invention, ideas, and words. Ultimately what is so important about all the swamps of the sick, nasty world, even the “ancient world,” when someone like him has feet of wind, drive, and breath, the liberating scorn of a wind which makes everything healthy, as he makes everything run! And so far as Aristophanes is concerned, that transfiguring, complementary spirit for whose sake we excuse all Hellenism for having existed, provided that we have understood in all profundity everything that needs to be forgiven and transfigured there;—I don’t know what makes me dream about Plato’s secrecy and sphinx-like nature more than that petit fait [small fact], which fortunately has been preserved, that under the pillow on his deathbed people found no “Bible,” nothing Egyptian, Pythagorean, or Platonic—but something by Aristophanes. How could even a Plato have endured life—a Greek life, to which he said no—without an Aristophanes!


It’s the business of very few people to be independent:—that is a right of the strong. And whoever attempts it—even with the best right to it, but without being compelled to—shows by that action that he is probably not only strong but exuberantly daring. He is entering a labyrinth; he is increasing a thousand-fold the dangers which life already brings with it, not the least of which is the fact that no one’s eyes see how and where he goes astray, gets isolated, and is torn to pieces by some cavern-dwelling Minotaur of conscience. Suppose such a person comes to a bad end, that happens so far away from men’s understanding that they feel nothing and have no sympathy:—and he cannot go back any more! He cannot even go back to human pity!5


Our loftiest insights must—and should!—ring out like foolishness, under certain circumstances like crimes, when in some forbidden way they come to the ears of those for whom they are not suitable and who are not predestined for them. The exoteric and the esoteric views, as people earlier differentiated them among philosophers, with Indians as with Greeks, Persians, and Muslims, in short, wherever people believed in a hierarchy of rank andnot in equality and equal rights—this differentiation does not arise so much from the fact that the exoteric philosopher stands outside and looks, assesses, measures, and judges from the outside, not from the inside: the more essential point is that the exoteric philosopher sees the matter looking up from underneath, but the esoteric one sees it looking down from above! There are heights of the soul viewed from which even tragedy ceases to work its tragic effect, and if we gathered all the sorrow of the world into one sorrow, who could dare to decide if a glance at it would necessarily seduce and compel us to pity and thus to a doubling of that sorrow? . . . What serves the higher kind of man as nourishment or refreshment must be almost poison to a very different and lower kind of man. The virtues of the common man would perhaps amount to vices and weaknesses in a philosopher; it could be possible that a higher kind of person, if he is degenerating and nearing his end, only then acquires characteristics for whose sake people in the lower world, into which he has sunk, would find it necessary to honour him as a saint from now on. There are books which have an opposite value for the soul and for health, depending on whether the lower soul, the lower vitality, or the higher and more powerful soul makes use of them: with the first group, the books are dangerous, shattering, and disintegrating; with the second group, they are a herald’s summons, which provokes the bravest to show their courage. Books for the whole world always smell foul: the stink of small people clings to them. Where the folk eat and drink, even where they worship, the place usually smells. One should not go into churches if one wants to breathe clean air.


In their young years, people worship and despise still without that art of subtlety that constitutes the greatest gain in life. And it’s reasonable enough that they must atone, with some difficulty, for having bombarded men and things in such a way with Yes and No. Everything is arranged so that the worst of all tastes, the taste for the absolute, will be terribly parodied and misused until people learn to put some art into their feelings and even prefer risking an attempt with artificiality, as the real artists of life do. The anger and reverence typical of the young do not seem to ease up until they have sufficiently distorted people and things so that they can vent themselves on them.—Youth is in itself already something fraudulent and deceptive. Later, when the young soul, tortured by nothing but disappointments, finally turns back against itself suspiciously, still hot and wild, even in its suspicion and pangs of conscience, how it rages against itself from this point on, how it tears itself apart impatiently, how it takes revenge for its lengthy self-deception, as if it had been a voluntary blindness! In this transition people punish themselves through their mistrust of their own feeling; they torment their enthusiasm with doubt; indeed, they even feel good conscience as a danger, as a veiling of the self, so to speak, an exhaustion of their finer honesty. Above all, people take sides, on principle the side against “the young.”—A decade later, they understand that all this was also still—youth!


Throughout the lengthiest period of human history—we call it the prehistoric age—the value or the lack of value in an action was derived from its consequences. Thus, the action in itself was considered as insignificant as its origin, but, in somewhat the same way as even today in China an honour or disgrace reaches back from the child to the parents, so then it was the backward working power of success or failure which taught people to consider an action good or bad. Let’s call this period the pre-moralistic period of humanity: the imperative “Know thyself!” was then still unknown. In the last ten millennia, by contrast, people in a few large regions of the earth have come, step by step, to the point where they allow the value of an action to be determined, no longer by its consequences, but by its origin. On the whole, this was a great event, a considerable improvement in vision and standards, the unconscious influence of the ruling power of aristocratic values and of faith in “origins,” the sign of a period which one can designate moralistic in a narrower sense: with it the first attempt at self-knowledge was undertaken. Instead of the consequences, the origin: what a reversal of perspective! And this reversal was surely attained only after lengthy battles and fluctuations! Of course, in the process a disastrous new superstition, a peculiar narrowing of interpretation, gained control. People interpreted the origin of an action in the most particular sense as an origin from an intention. They became unanimous in believing that the value of an action lay in the value of its intention. The intention as the entire origin and prehistory of an action: in accordance with this bias people on earth have, almost up to the most recent times, given moral approval, criticized, judged, and also practised philosophy. But today shouldn’t we have reached the point where we must once again make up our minds about a reversal and fundamental shift in values, thanks to a renewed self-reflection and profundity in human beings? Are we not standing on the threshold of a period which we might at first designate negatively as outside morality: today, when the suspicion stirs, at least among us immoralists, that the decisive value of an action may lie precisely in what is unintentional in it and that all its intentionality, everything in it that we can see, know, and “are conscious of,” still belongs to its surface layer and skin,—which, like every skin, indicates something but conceals even more? In short, we believe that the intention is only a sign and a symptom, something still needing interpretation, and furthermore a sign that carries too many meanings and, thus, by itself alone means almost nothing. We think that morality, in the earlier sense, that is, a morality based on intentions, has been a prejudice, something rash and perhaps provisional, something along the lines of astrology and alchemy, but in any case something that must be overcome. The overpowering of morality, in a certain sense even the self-conquering of morality: let that be the name for the long secret work which remained reserved for the finest and most honest, and also the most malicious consciences nowadays, as living touchstones of the soul.


That is the only way: we must mercilessly put in question and bring before the court feelings of devotion, sacrificing for one’s neighbour, the entire morality of self-renunciation, and, in exactly the same way, the aesthetic of “disinterested contemplation,” according to which the emasculation of art seductively attempts these days to create a good conscience for itself. There is much too much magic and sweetness in those feelings “for others,” “not for myself,” for us not to find it necessary to grow doubly mistrustful here and to ask, “Are these not perhaps—seductions?”—The fact that those feelings please the person who has them and the one who enjoys their fruits, as well as the one who merely looks on—this still provides no argument for them. On the contrary, that demands immediate caution. So let’s be cautious!


No matter what philosophical standpoint people may adopt nowadays, from every point of view the falsity of the world in which we think we live is the most certain and firmest thing our eyes are still capable of apprehending:—for that we find reason after reason, something that might well to entice us into conjectures about a deceitful principle in the “essence of things.” But anyone who makes our very thinking, that is, “the intellect,” responsible for the falsity of the world—an honourable solution which every conscious or unconscious advocatus dei [pleader for god] uses—: whoever takes this world, together with space, time, form, and movement as a false inference, such a person would at least have good ground finally to learn to be distrustful of all thinking itself. Would it not be the case that thinking has played the greatest of all tricks on us up to this point? And what guarantee would there be that thinking would not continue to do what it has always done? In all seriousness: the innocence of thinkers has something touching, something inspiring reverence, which permits them even today still to present themselves before consciousness with the request that it give them honest answers: for example, to the question whether it is “real,” and why it really keeps itself so resolutely separate from the outer world, and similar sorts of questions. The belief in “immediate certainties” is amoral naiveté which brings honour to us philosophers—but for once we should not be “merely moral” men! Setting aside morality, this belief is a stupidity that brings us little honour! It may be the case that in bourgeois life the constant willingness to suspect is considered a sign of a “bad character” and thus belongs among those things considered unwise. Here among us, beyond the bourgeois world and its affirmations and denials—what is there to stop us from being unwise and saying that the philosopher has an absolute right to a “bad character,” as the being who up to this point on earth has always been fooled the best—today he has the duty to be suspicious, to glance around maliciously from every depth of distrust. Forgive me the joke of this gloomy grimace and way of expressing myself. For a long time ago I myself learned to think differently and to make different evaluations about deceiving and being deceived, and I keep ready at least a couple of digs in the ribs for the blind anger with which philosophers themselves resist being deceived. Why not? It is nothing more than a moral prejudice that truth is worth more than appearance. That claim is even the most poorly demonstrated assumption there is in the world. People should at least concede this much: there would be no life at all if not on the basis of appearances and assessments from perspectives. And if people, with the virtuous enthusiasm and clumsiness of some philosophers, wanted to do away entirely with the “apparent world,” assuming, of course, you could do that, well then at least nothing would remain any more of your “truth” either! In fact, what compels us generally to the assumption that there is an essential opposition between “true” and “false”? Is it not enough to assume degrees of appearance and, as it were, lighter and darker shadows and tones for the way things appear—different valeurs [values], to use the language of painters? Why could the world about which we have some concern—not be a fiction? And if someone then asks “But doesn’t an author belong to a fiction?” could we not bluntly answer: Why? Doesn’t this “belong to” perhaps belong to the fiction? Is it then forbidden to be a little ironic about the subject as well as about the predicate and the object? Is the philosopher not permitted to rise above a faith in grammar? All due respect to governesses, but might it not be time for philosophy to renounce faith in governesses?—


O Voltaire! O humanity! O nonsense! There’s something about the “truth,” about the search for truth. And when someone goes after it in far too human a way—il ne cherche le vrai que pour faire le bien” [he seeks the truth only to do good]—I’ll wager he comes up with nothing!


If we assume that nothing is “given” as real other than our world of desires and passions and that we cannot access from above or below any “reality” other than the direct reality of our drives—for thinking is only a relationship of these drives to each other—are we not allowed to make the attempt to ask the question whether this given is not sufficient also for understanding, on the basis of things like it, the so-called mechanical (or “material”) world. I don’t mean to understand it as an illusion, an “appearance,” an “idea” (in the sense of Berkeley and Schopenhauer), but as having the same degree of reality as our emotions themselves have—as a more primitive form of the world of emotions, in which everything is still combined in a powerful unity, which then branches off and develops in the organic process (also, as is reasonable, gets softer and weaker—), as a form of instinctual life in which the collective organic functions, along with self-regulation, assimilation, nourishment, excretion, and metabolism, are still synthetically bound up with one another—as an early form of life?6 In the end making this attempt is not only permitted but is also demanded by the conscience of the method. Not to assume various forms of causality as long as the attempt to manage with a single one has not been pushed to its furthest limit (—all the way to nonsense, if I may say so): that is a moral of the method which people nowadays may not evade;—as a mathematician would say, it is a consequence “of its definition.” In the end the question is whether we really acknowledge the will as something efficient, whether we believe in the causal properties of the will. If we do—and basically our faith in this is simply our faith in causality itself—then we must make the attempt to set up hypothetically the causality of the will as the single causality. Of course, “will” can work only on “will”—and not on “stuff” (not, for example, on “nerves”—). Briefly put, we must venture the hypothesis whether in general, wherever we recognize “effects,” will is not working on will—and whether every mechanical event, to the extent that a force is active in it, is not force of will, an effect of the will.—Suppose finally that we were to succeed in explaining our entire instinctual life as a development and branching off of a single fundamental form of the will—that is, of the will to power, as my proposition asserts—and suppose we could trace back all organic functions to this will to power and also locate in it the solution to the problem of reproduction and nourishment—that is one problem—then in so doing we would have earned the right to designate all efficient force unambiguously as will to power. Seen from inside, the world defined and described according to its “intelligible character” would be simply “will to power” and nothing else.—


“What’s that? Doesn’t that mean in popular language that God is disproved, but the devil is not—?” On the contrary, on the contrary, my friends! And in the devil’s name, who is forcing you to speak such common language?


What happened only very recently, in all the brightness of modern times, with the French Revolution, that ghastly and, considered closely, superfluous farce, which, however, noble and rapturous observers from all Europe have been interpreting from a distance for so long and so passionately according to their own outrage and enthusiasm that the text disappeared under the interpretation, in the same way a noble posterity could once again misunderstand all the past and only by doing that perhaps make looking at that past tolerable.—Or rather, hasn’t this already happened? Have we ourselves not been—this “noble posterity”? And, to the extent that we understand this point, is not this the very moment when—it is over?


No one will readily consider a doctrine true simply because it makes us happy or virtuous, except perhaps the gentle “idealists,” who go into raptures about the good, the true, and the beautiful and allow all sorts of colourful, clumsy, and good-natured desirable things to swim around in confusion in their pond. Happiness and virtue are no arguments. But people, even judicious spirits, do like to forget that causing unhappiness and evil are by the same token no counterarguments. Something could well be true, although it is at the same time harmful and dangerous to the highest degree. In fact, it could even be part of the fundamental nature of existence that people are destroyed when they fully understand it—so that the strength of a spirit might be measured by how much it could still endure of the “truth,” or stated more clearly, by the degree it would have to have the truth diluted, masked, sweetened, muffled, and falsified. But there is no doubt about the fact that evil and unhappy people are more favoured and have a greater probability of success in discovering certain parts of the truth, to say nothing of the evil people who are happy—a species that moralists are silent about. Perhaps toughness and cunning provide more favourable conditions for the development of the strong, independent spirit and the philosopher than that gentle, refined, conciliatory good nature and that art of taking things lightly which people value in a scholar, and value rightly. If we assume, first of all, that the notion of a “philosopher” is not restricted to the philosopher who writes books—or even puts his own philosophy into books! —A final characteristic in the picture of the free-spirited philosopher is provided by Stendhal. Because of German taste I don’t wish to overlook emphasizing this trait:—for it goes against German taste. This last great psychologist states the following: “To be a good philosopher it is necessary to be dry, clear, without illusions. A banker who has made a fortune has one part of the character required to make discoveries in philosophy, that is to say, to see clearly into what is.”7


Everything profound loves the mask. The most profound things of all even have a hatred for image and comparison. Shouldn’t the right disguise in which the shame of a god walks around be something exactly opposite? A questionable question: it would be strange if some mystic or other had not already ventured something like that on his own. There are processes of such a delicate sort that people do well to bury them in something crude and make them unrecognizable. There are actions of love and of extravagant generosity, after which there is nothing more advisable than to grab a stick and give an eyewitness a good thrashing:—in so doing we cloud his memory. Some people know how to befuddle or batter their own memories in order at least to take revenge on this single witness:—shame is resourceful. It is not the worst things that make people feel the worst shame. Behind a mask there is not only malice—there is so much goodness in cunning. I could imagine that a person who had something valuable and vulnerable to preserve might roll through life as coarse and round as an old green wine barrel with strong hoops. The delicacy of his shame wants it that way. For a person whose shame is profound encounters even his fate and delicate decisions on pathways which few people ever reach and of whose existence those closest to him and his most intimate associates are not permitted to know. His mortal danger hides itself from their eyes, just as his confidence in life does, once he regains it. A person who is concealed in this way, who from instinct uses speaking for silence and keeping quiet and who is tireless in avoiding communication, wants and demands that, instead of him, a mask of him wanders around in the hearts and heads of his friends. And suppose he does not want that mask: one day his eyes will open to the fact that nonetheless there is a mask of him there—and that that’s a good thing. Every profound spirit needs a mask; even more, around every profound spirit a mask is continuously growing, thanks to the constantly false, that is, shallow interpretation of every word, every step, every sign of life he gives.—


A person has to test himself to see that he is meant for independence and command—and he must do this at the right time. He should not evade his tests, although they are perhaps the most dangerous game he can play, tests which in the end are made only with ourselves as witnesses and with no other judges. Not to get stuck on a single person:—not even on the someone one loves the most. Every person is a prison—a cranny as well. And not to remain stuck on one’s fatherland:—not even if it is enduring the greatest suffering and in the greatest need of assistance—it is less difficult to disentangle one’s heart from a victorious fatherland. Not to be stuck on pity, even in the case of higher men whose rare torment and helplessness some fortuitous circumstance has allowed us to see. Not to be stuck on a science, not even if it tempts us with the most precious discoveries apparently reserved explicitly for us. Not to get stuck on one’s own detachment, on that sensual distancing and strangeness of a bird constantly soaring further up into the heights in order always to see more beneath it:—the danger of the man in flight. Not to get stuck on our own virtues and let our totality become a sacrifice to some particular detail in us, for example, our “hospitality,” the danger of dangers for lofty and rich souls, who spread themselves around lavishly, almost indifferently, and push the virtue of liberality into a vice. One must know how to preserve oneself: the sternest test of independence.


A new sort of philosopher is emerging: I venture to baptize them with a name that is not without danger. As I figure them out—to the extent that they let themselves be figured out, for it belongs to their type to want to remain something of an enigma—these philosophers of the future may have a right, perhaps also a wrong, to be described as attempters. This name itself is finally merely an attempt and, if you will, a temptation.8


Are they new friends of the “truth,” these emerging philosophers? That seems plausible enough: for all philosophers up to this point have loved their truths. But they certainly will not be dogmatists. It must go against their pride as well as their taste if their truth is still supposed to be some truth for everyman: and that has been the secret wish and deeper meaning of all dogmatic efforts up to now. “My judgment is my judgment: someone else has no casual right to it”—that’s what such a philosopher of the future will perhaps say. One must rid oneself of the bad taste of wanting to agree with many. “Good” is no longer good when one’s neighbour utters it. And how could there even be a “common good”! That expression contradicts itself: whatever can be common always has only little value. In the end things must stand as they stand and have always stood: great things remain for the great, the abysses for the profound, sensitivity and shudders for the refined, and, to sum up all this in brief, everything rare for the rare.—


After all this do I still need expressly to state that they will also be free, very free spirits, these philosophers of the future—although it’s also certain that they will not be merely free spirits but something more, higher, greater, and fundamentally different that does not wish to be misunderstood and confused with something else? But as I say this, I feel a duty almost as much to them as to us who are their heralds and precursors, we free spirits!—the duty to blow away an old stupid prejudice and misunderstanding about us both, something which for too long has made the idea “free spirit” as impenetrable as fog. In all the countries of Europe and in America as well there is now something which drives people to misuse this name, a very narrow, confined, chained-up type of spirit which wants something rather like the opposite of what lies in our intentions and instincts—to say nothing of the fact that, so far as those emerging new philosophers are concerned, such spirits definitely must be closed windows and bolted doors. To put the matter briefly and seriously, these falsely named “free spirits” belong with the levellers, as eloquent and prolific writing slaves of democratic taste and its “modern ideas”: collectively people without solitude, without their own solitude, coarse brave lads whose courage or respectable decency should not be denied. But they are simply unfree and ridiculously superficial, above all with their basic tendency to see in the forms of old societies up to now the cause for almost all human misery and failure, a process which turns the truth happily on its head! What they would like to strive for with all their powers is the universal, green, pasture-happiness of the herd, with security, absence of danger, comfort, an easing of life for everyone. The two songs and doctrines they sing most frequently are called “equality of rights” and “pity for all things that suffer”—and they assume that suffering itself is something we must do away with. We who are their opposites, we who have opened our eyes and consciences for the question of where and how up to now the plant “man” has grown most powerfully to the heights, we think that this has happened every time under the opposite conditions, that for this to happen the danger of his situation first had to grow enormously, his power of invention and pretence (his “spirit”—) had to develop under lengthy pressure and compulsion into something refined and audacious, his will for living had to intensify into an unconditional will to power:—we think that hardness, violence, slavery, danger in the alley and the heart, seclusion, stoicism, the art of the tempter, and devilry of all kinds, that everything evil, fearful, tyrannical, predatory, and snake-like in human beings serves well for the ennobling of the species “man,” as much as its opposite does:—in fact, when we say only this much we have not said enough, and we find ourselves at any rate with our speaking and silence at a point at the other end of all modern ideology and things desired by the herd, perhaps as their exact opposites? Is it any wonder that we “free spirits” are not exactly the most communicative spirits? That we do not want to give away every detail of what a spirit can free itself from and where it will then perhaps be driven? And as far as the meaning of the dangerous formula “beyond good and evil” is concerned, with which we at least protect ourselves from being confused with others, we are something different from “libres-penseurs,” “liberi pensatori,” “freidenker,” [free thinkers] and whatever else all these good advocates of “modern ideas” love to call themselves. Having been at home or at least a guest in many countries of the spirit, having slipped away again and again from the musty comfortable corners into which preference and prejudice, youth, descent, contingencies of men and books, or even exhaustion from wandering around seem to have banished us, full of malice against the enticement of dependency, which lies hidden in honours, or money, or offices, or sensuous enthusiasm, thankful even for distress and the frequent vicissitudes of sickness, because they always freed us from some rule or other and its “prejudice,” thankful to god, devil, sheep, and worm in us, curious to a fault, researchers all the way to cruelty, with fingers spontaneously working for the unimaginable, with teeth and stomachs for the most indigestible things, ready for any job which demands astuteness and keen senses, ready for any exploit, thanks to an excess of “free will,” with front-souls and back-souls whose final intentions  no one can easily see, with foregrounds and backgrounds that no foot may move through to the end, hidden under cloaks of light, conquerors, whether we appear like heirs and spendthrifts, stewards and collectors from dawn to dusk, miserly with our wealth and our crammed drawers, economical in learning and forgetting, resourceful in coming up with schemes, sometimes proud of tables of categories, sometimes pedants, sometimes night owls at work, even in broad daylight, in fact, when necessary, even scarecrows—and nowadays that’s necessary: that is, to the extent that we are born the sworn jealous friends of solitude, of our own most profound, most midnight, and most noontime solitude:—we are that kind of men, we free spirits! And perhaps you also are something like that, you who  are coming, you new philosophers?



1Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), an Italian philosopher who defended the theories of Copernicus (among other things), and was burned at the stake for heresy. Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), a Dutch philosopher, was constantly attacked for his heretical views. [Back to Text]

2Ferdinand Galiani (1728-1787), an Italian philosopher. Voltaire: pen name of Francois Marie Arouet (1694-1778), a very important and famous French Enlightenment writer. [Back to Text]

3Aristophanes (456-386 BC), foremost writer of Old Comedy in classical Athens; Petronius (27-66 AD), a famous Roman satirist. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), Germany’s greatest man of letters and literary artist. [Back to Text]

4Gotthold Ehraim Lessing (1729-1781), an important German dramatist. Bayle: Marie Henri Bayle (1783-1842), a well-known French novelist who wrote under the pen name Stendhal. Denis Diderot (1713-1784), French philosopher and writer, a major figure in the Enlightenment. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian diplomat, dramatist, and political philosopher. [Back to Text]

5Minotaur: in Greek mythology a monster, part man, part bull, living in the middle of the Labyrinth in Cnossus in Crete. [Back to Text]

6George Berkeley (1685-1753), Irish bishop and philosopher. [Back to Text]

7Stendhal: the pen name of the French novelist Marie Henri Bayle (1783-1842).  Nietzsche quotes from the French: “pour être bon philosopheil faut être sec, clair, sans illusion. Un banquier, qui a fait fortune, a une partie du caractère requis pour faire des découvertes en philosophiec’est-á-dire pour voir clair dans ce qui est.” [Back to Text]

8Nietzsche’s word Versucher means both attempter and experimenter. The very similar word Versuchung means temptation. [Back to Text]


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