BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
[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]
At the risk that moralizing here also shows itself to be what it always has been—that is, an unabashed montrer ses plais [display of one’s wounds], as Balzac says—I’d like to dare to stand up against an unreasonable and harmful shift in rank ordering that nowadays, quite unnoticed and as if with the clearest conscience, threatens to establish itself between science and philosophy. I think that on the basis of our experience—experience means, as I see it, always bad experience?—we must have a right to discuss such a higher question of rank, so that we do not speak like blind people about colour or as women and artists do against science (“Oh, this nasty science!” their instinct and embarrassment sigh, “it always finds out what’s behind things”—). The declaration of independence of the scientific man, his emancipation from philosophy, is one of the subtler effects of the nature of and the trouble with democracy: today the self-glorification and self-exaltation of the scholar stand everywhere in full bloom and their finest spring—but that is still not intended to mean that in this case self-praise smells very nice. “Away with all masters!”—that’s what the instinct of the rabble wants here, too, and now that science has enjoyed its happiest success in pushing away theology, whose “handmaiden” it was for too long, it has the high spirits and stupidity to set about making laws for philosophy and to take its turn playing the “master” for once—what am I saying?—playing the philosopher. My memory—the memory of a scientific man, if you’ll permit me to say so!—is filled to bursting with the naiveté I have heard in arrogant remarks about philosophy and philosophers from young natural scientists and old doctors (not to mention from the most educated and most conceited of all scholars, the philologists and schoolmen, who are both of these thanks to their profession—). Sometimes it was a specialist and idler who in general instinctively resisted all synthetic tasks and capabilities; sometimes the industrious worker who had taken a whiff of the otium [leisure] and of the noble opulence within the spiritual household of the philosopher and, as he did so, felt himself restricted and diminished. Sometimes it was that colour blindness of the utilitarian man, who sees nothing in philosophy other than a series of refuted systems and an extravagant expense from which no one “receives any benefit.” Sometimes fear of disguised mysticism and of an adjustment to the boundaries of knowledge sprang up; sometimes the contempt for particular philosophers, which had unwittingly been generalized into a contempt for philosophy. Finally, among young scholars I most frequently found behind the arrogant belittlement of philosophy the pernicious effect of a philosopher himself, a man whom they had, in fact, generally ceased to follow, but without escaping the spell of his value judgments dismissing other philosophers—something which brought about a collective irritation with all philosophy. (For example, Schopenhauer’s effect on the most modern Germany seems to me to be something like this: with his unintelligent anger against Hegel he created a situation in which the entire last generation of Germans broke away from their connection to German culture, and this culture, all things well considered, was a high point in and a prophetic refinement of the historical sense.1 But Schopenhauer himself in this very matter was impoverished to the point of genius—unreceptive and un-German.) From a general point of view and broadly speaking, it may well have been, more than anything else, the human, all-too-human nature of the more recent philosophers themselves, in a word, their paltry spirit, which has most fundamentally damaged respect for philosophy and opened the gates to the instincts of the rabble. We should nonetheless acknowledge the extent to which the whole style of Heraclitus, Plato, Empedocles, and of whatever all those royal and splendid hermits of the spirit were called is absent from our modern world and how, given the sort of representatives of philosophy who nowadays, thanks to fashion, are just as much on top as at the bottom—in Germany, for example, the two lions of Berlin, the anarchist Eugen Dühring and the amalgamist Eduard von Hartmann—an honest man of science is entitled to feel that he is justifiably of a better sort, with a better descent. In particular, the sight of these mishmash philosophers who call themselves “reality philosophers” or “positivists” is capable of casting a dangerous mistrust into the soul of an ambitious young scholar: they are, in the best of cases, scholars and specialists themselves—that’s clear enough—they have been, in fact, collectively defeated and brought back under the rule of science.2 At some time or other they wanted more from themselves, without having any right to this “more” and to its responsibilities—and now, in word and deed, they represent in a respectable, angry, vengeful way the lack of faith [den Unglauben] in the ruling task and masterfulness of philosophy. But finally—how could it be anything different? Science nowadays is in bloom, its face is filled with good conscience, while what all recent philosophy has gradually sunk to—this remnant of philosophy today—is busy generating suspicion and ill humour against itself, if not mockery and pity. Philosophy reduced to “theory of knowledge” is, in fact, nothing more than a tentative epochism [Epochistik] and a doctrine of abstinence: a philosophy which does not venture one step over the threshold and painstakingly denies itself the right to enter—that is philosophy at death’s door, an end, an agony, something pitiful! How could such a philosophy—rule!3
To tell the truth, there are so many varied dangers for the development of a philosopher today that we may well doubt whether this fruit can, in general, still grow ripe. The scope and the tower-building of the sciences have grown into something monstrous, and with these the probability that the philosopher has already grown tired while he is still learning or lets himself stop somewhere and “specialize,” so that he no longer reaches his full height, that is, high enough for an overview, for looking round, for looking down. Or else he reaches that point too late, when his best time and power are already over, or have become damaged, coarsened, and degenerate, so that his glance, his comprehensive value judgment, means little any more. The very refinement of his intellectual conscience perhaps allows him to hesitate along the way and to delay. He is afraid of being seduced into being a dilettante, a millipede, something with a thousand antennae. He knows too well that a man who has lost respect for himself may no longer give orders as a man of knowledge, may no longer lead. At that point, he would have to be willing to become a great actor, a philosophical Cagliostro and spiritual Pied Piper, in short, a seducer. In the end it’s a question of taste, even if it were not a question of conscience. Moreover, by way of doubling once again the difficulty for the philosopher, it comes to this: he demands from himself a judgment, a Yes or No, not about the sciences but about life and the value of living—he learns with reluctance to believe that he has a right or even a duty to make this judgment and that must seek his own path to that right and that belief only through the most extensive—perhaps the most disturbing, the most destructive—experiences, often hesitating, doubting, and saying nothing. As a matter of fact, the masses have for a long time mistaken and misidentified the philosopher, whether with the man of science and ideal scholar, or with the religiously elevated, desensualized, “unworldly” enthusiast drunk on God. If we hear anyone at all praised nowadays on the ground that he lives “wisely” or “like a philosopher,” that means almost nothing other than “prudently and on the sidelines.” Wisdom: that seems to the rabble to be some kind of escape, a means and a trick to pull oneself well out of a nasty game. But the real philosopher—as we see it, my friends?—lives “unphilosophically” and “unwisely,” above all imprudently, and feels the burden and the duty of a hundred attempts and temptations of life—he always puts himself at risk. He plays the wicked game. . . .
In comparison with a genius, that is, with a being who either engenders or gives birth, taking both words in their highest sense—the scholar, the average scientific man, always has something of the old maid about him, for, like the old maid, he does not understand the two most valuable things men do. In fact, for both scholars and old maids we concede, as if by way of compensation, that they are respectable—in their cases we stress respectability—and yet having to make this concession gives us the same sense of irritation. Let’s look more closely: What is the scientific man? To begin with, a man who is not a noble type. He has the virtues of a man who is not distinguished, that is, a type of person who is not a ruler, not authoritative, and also not self-sufficient. He has diligence, a patient endorsement of his position and rank, equanimity about and moderation in his abilities and needs. He has an instinct for people like him and for what people like him require, for example, that bit of independence and green meadows without which there is no peace in work, that demand for honour and acknowledgement (which assumes, first and foremost, recognition and the ability to be recognized—), that sunshine of a good name, that constant stamp of approval of his value and his utility, which is necessary to overcome again and again the inner suspicion at the bottom of the hearts of all dependent men and herd animals. The scholar also has, as stands to reason, the illnesses and bad habits of a non-noble type: he is full of petty jealousy and has a lynx eye for what is base in those natures whose heights are impossible for him to reach. He is trusting, but only as an individual who lets himself go but does not let himself flow. Before a person who is like a great stream he just stands there all the colder and more enclosed—his eye is then like a smooth, reluctant lake in which there is no longer any ripple of delight or sympathy. The worst and most dangerous thing of which a scholar is capable he gets from his instinctive sense of the mediocrity of his type, of that Jesuitical mediocrity, which spontaneously works for the destruction of the uncommon man and seeks to break every arched bow or—even better!—to relax it. That is, to unbend it, with consideration, of course, naturally with a flattering hand—to unbend it with trusting sympathy: that is the essential art of Jesuitism, which has always understood how to introduce itself as a religion of pity.—
No matter how gratefully we may accommodate ourselves to the objective spirit—and who has never been sick to death of everything subjective and its damnable ipsissimosity [references to itself]!—we must ultimately also learn caution concerning this gratitude and stop the exaggeration with which in recent years we have celebrated the depersonalizing of the spirit, emptying the self from the spirit, as if that were the goal in itself, redemption and transfiguration.4 That’s what tends to happen, for example, in the pessimism school, which, for its part, has good reasons for awarding highest honour to “disinterested knowledge.” The objective man who no longer curses and grumbles like the pessimist, the ideal scholar, in whom the scientific instinct, after thousands of total and partial failures, all of a sudden comes into bloom and blossoms fully, is surely one of the most precious implements there are, but he belongs in the hands of someone more powerful. He is only a tool, we say. He is a mirror—he is no “end in himself.” The objective man is, in fact, a mirror: accustomed to submit before everything that wishes to be known, without any delight other than that available in knowing and “mirroring back”—he waits until something comes along and then spreads himself out tenderly so that even light footsteps and the spiritual essences slipping past are not lost on his surface and skin. What is still left of his “person” seems to him accidental, often a matter of chance, even more often disruptive, so completely has he himself become a conduit and reflection for strange shapes and events. He reflects about “himself” with effort and is not infrequently wrong. He readily gets himself confused with others. He makes mistakes concerning his own needs, and it is only here that he is coarse and careless. Perhaps he gets anxious about his health or about the pettiness and stifling atmosphere of wife and friends or about the lack of companions and society—indeed, he forces himself to think about his anxieties: but it’s no use! His thoughts have already wandered off to some more general example, and tomorrow he knows as little as he knew yesterday about how he might be helped. He has lost seriousness for himself—as well as time. He is cheerful, not from any lack of needs, but from a lack of fingers and handles for his own needs. His habitual concessions concerning all things and all experiences, the sunny and uninhibited hospitality with which he accepts everything which runs into him, his kind of thoughtless good will and dangerous lack of concern about Yes and No—alas, there are enough cases where he must atone for these virtues of his!—and as a human being he generally becomes far too easily the caput mortuum [worthless residue] of these virtues. If people want love and hate from him—I mean love and hate the way God, women, and animals understand them—he’ll do what he can and give what he can. But we should not be amazed when it doesn’t amount to much—when he reveals himself in these very matters as inauthentic, fragile, questionable, and rotten. His love is forced, his hate artificial, more a tour de force, a tiny vanity and exaggeration. He is genuine only as long as he is permitted to be objective: only in his cheerful comprehensiveness [Totalismus] is he still “nature” and “natural.” His mirror soul, always smoothing itself out, no longer knows how to affirm or deny. He does not command, and he does not destroy. “Je ne méprise presque rien” [There is almost nothing I despise]—he says with Leibnitz: we should not fail to hear and underestimate that presque [almost]!5 Moreover, he is no model human being. He does not go ahead of anyone or behind. He places himself in general too far away to have a reason to take sides between good and evil. When people confused him for such a long time with the philosopher, with the Caesar-like breeder and powerhouse [Gewaltmenschen] of culture, they held him in much too high honour and overlooked the most essential thing about him—he is an instrument, something of a slave, although certainly the most sublime form of slave, but in himself nothing—presque rien [almost nothing]! The objective man is an instrument, an expensive, easily damaged and blunted tool for measurement and an artful arrangement of mirrors, something we should take care of and respect. But he is no goal, no way out or upward, no complementary human being in whom the rest of existence is justified, no conclusion—and even less a beginning, a procreation and first cause. He is nothing strong, powerful, self-assured, something that wants to be master. He is much rather merely a delicate, inflated, sensitive, and flexible pot for forms, which must first wait for some content and meaning or other, in order to “give itself a shape” consistent with it—usually a man without form and content, a “selfless” man. And thus also nothing for women, in parenthesi [in parenthesis].—
When a philosopher nowadays lets us know he is not a sceptic—I hope people have sensed this from the description of the objective spirit immediately above?—the whole world is unhappy to hear it. People look at him with some awe and would like to ask so much, to question . . . in fact, among timid listeners—and there are hordes of them today—from that point on he is considered dangerous. For them it is as if in his rejection of scepticism they heard coming from far away some evil threatening noise, as if a new explosive was being tested somewhere, spiritual dynamite, perhaps a newly discovered Russian nihilin, a pessimism bonae voluntatis [of good will], which does not merely say No and will No but—terrible to imagine!—acts No!6 Against this form of “good will”—a will to a truly active denial of life—there is today, by general agreement, no better sleeping pill and sedative than scepticism, the peaceful, gentle, soporific poppy of scepticism, and even Hamlet is prescribed these days by contemporary doctors against the “spirit” and its underground rumblings. “Aren’t people’s ears all full enough already of wicked noises?” says the sceptic, as a friend of peace and quiet, almost as a sort of security police: “This subterranean No is terrifying! Be quiet at last, you pessimistic moles!” For the sceptic, this tender creature, is frightened all too easily. His conscience has been trained to twitch with every No, even with a hard, decisive Yes—to respond as if it had been bitten. Yes! And No!—that contradicts his morality. Conversely, he loves to celebrate his virtue with a noble abstinence, perhaps by saying with Montaigne, “What do I know?”7 Or with Socrates, “I know that I know nothing.” Or “Here I do not trust myself. There is no door open to me here.” Or “Suppose the door was open, why go in right away?” Or “What use are all rash hypotheses? Not to make any hypotheses at all could easily be part of good taste. Must you be so keen immediately to straighten something crooked? Or to stop up every hole with some piece of oakum? Isn’t there time for that? Doesn’t time have time? O you devilish fellows, can’t you wait, even for a bit? What is unknown also has its attraction—the Sphinx is a Circe, too, and Circe also was a philosopher.”8 In this way a sceptic consoles himself, and he certainly needs some consolation. For scepticism is the most spiritual expression of a certain multifaceted physiological condition which in everyday language is called weak nerves and infirmity. It occurs every time races or classes which have been separated from each other a long time suddenly and decisively cross breed. In the new generation, which has inherited in its blood, as it were, different standards and values, everything is restlessness, disturbance, doubt, experiment; the best forces have an inhibiting effect; even the virtues do not allow each other to grow and become strong; the body and soul lack equilibrium, a centre of gravity, a perpendicular self-assurance. But what is most profoundly sick and degenerates in such mixtures is the will. These people no longer know the independence in decision making, the bold sense of pleasure in willing—they have doubts about the “freedom of the will,” even in their dreams. Our Europe today, the scene of an insanely sudden attempt at radical mixing of classes and consequently of races, is as a result sceptical in all heights and depths, sometimes with that flexible scepticism which leaps impatiently and greedily from one branch to another, sometimes gloomy, like a cloud overloaded with question marks, and often sick to death of its will! Paralysis of the will—where nowadays do we not find this cripple sitting! And often how well dressed! In such a seductive outfit! This illness has the most beautifully splendid and deceitful clothing. For example, most of what presents itself in the display windows today as “objectivity,” “the practice of science,” “l’art pour l’art” [art for art’s sake], “purely disinterested knowledge” is only dressed up scepticism and paralysis of the will—I’ll stand by this diagnosis of the European disease. The sickness of the will has spread unevenly across Europe. It appears in its greatest and most varied forms where the culture has already been indigenous for the longest time, and it disappears to the extent that the “barbarian” still—or again—achieves his rights under the baggy clothing of Western culture. Thus, in contemporary France, we can conclude as easily as we can grasp it in our hands that the will is most seriously ill, and France, which has always had a masterful skill in transforming even the fateful changes in its spirit into something attractive and seductive, truly displays its cultural dominance over Europe today as the school and exhibition hall for all the charms of scepticism. The power to will and, indeed, to desire a will that lasts a long time, is already somewhat stronger in Germany, and in the north of Germany even more so than in the middle, but it’s significantly stronger in England, Spain, and Corsica. In Germany it’s bound up with apathy, and in those other places with hard heads—to say nothing of Italy, which is too young to know yet what it wants and which first must demonstrate whether it can will.—But it’s strongest and most amazing in that immense empire in between, where Europe, so to speak, flows back into Asia, that is, in Russia. There the power to will has for a long time lain dormant and built up, there the will waits menacingly—uncertain whether, to borrow a favourite phrase of our physicists today, it will be discharged as a will to negate or a will to affirm. It may require more than wars in India and developments in Asia for Europe to be relieved of its greatest danger; it will require inner revolutions, too, the breaking up of the empire into small bodies and, above all, the introduction of the parliamentary nonsense, along with every man’s duty to read his newspaper at breakfast. I’m not saying this because it’s what I want. The opposite would be closer to my heart—I mean such an increase in the Russian danger, that Europe would have to decide to become equally a threat, that is, it would have to acquire a will, by means of a new caste which would rule Europe, a long, fearful, individual will, which could set itself goals for thousands of years from now—so that finally the long spun-out comedy of its small states, together with its multiple dynastic and democratic wills, would come to an end. The time for petty politics is over. The next century is already bringing on the battle for the mastery of the earth—the compulsion to grand politics.
The extent to which the new warlike age into which we Europeans have evidently entered may perhaps also be favourable to the development of another and stronger variety of scepticism—on that point I’d like to state my views only provisionally through a parable which friends of German history will understand easily enough. That harmless enthusiast for good-looking, tall grenadiers, who, as King of Prussia, brought into being a military and sceptical genius—and in the process basically created that new type of German who has just recently emerged victorious—the questionable and mad father of Frederick the Great—in one respect himself had the grip and lucky claw of genius.9 He knew what Germany then needed, a lack which was a hundred times more worrisome and more urgent than some deficiency in culture and social style. His aversion to the young Frederick emerged from the anxiety of a profound instinct. What was missing was men. And he suspected to his most bitter annoyance that his own son might not be man enough. On that point he was deceived, but who in his place would not have been deceived? He saw his son decline into atheism, esprit, the pleasure-loving frivolousness of witty Frenchmen:—he saw in the background the great blood sucker, the spider of scepticism. He suspected the incurable misery of a heart that is no longer hard enough for evil and for good, of a fractured will that no longer commands, is no longer capable of commanding. But in the meantime there grew up in his son that more dangerous and harder new form of scepticism—who knows how much it was encouraged by that very hatred of his father’s and by the icy melancholy of a will pushed into solitude?—the scepticism of daring masculinity, which is most closely related to the genius for war and conquest and which, in the shape of Frederick the Great, first gained entry into Germany. This scepticism despises and nonetheless grabs hold. It undermines and takes possession. It does not believe, but in so doing does not lose itself. It gives the spirit a dangerous freedom, but it keeps a firm grip on the heart. It is the German form of scepticism, which, as a constant Frederickianism [Fridericianismus] intensified into the highest spirituality, has brought Europe for some time under the dominion of the German spirit and its critical and historical mistrust. Thanks to the invincibly strong and tenacious masculine character of the great German philologists and historical critics (who, if we see them properly, were collectively also artists of destruction and subversion), gradually anew idea of the German spirit established itself, in spite of all the Romanticism in music and philosophy, an idea in which the characteristic of manly scepticism stepped decisively forward: it could be, for example, a fearlessness in the gaze, courage and hardness in the dissecting hand, a tough will for dangerous voyages of discovery, for expeditions to the spiritual North Pole under bleak and dangerous skies. There may well be good reasons why warm-blooded and superficial humanitarians cross themselves when confronted with this particular spirit: Michelet, not without a shudder, calls it cet esprit fataliste, ironique, méphistophélique [this fatalistic and ironic Mephistophelean spirit].10 But if we want to sense how distinctive this fear of the “man” in the German spirit is, through which Europe was roused out of its “dogmatic slumber,” we might remember the earlier idea which it had to overthrow—and how it is still not so long ago that a masculine woman could dare, with unrestrained presumption, to recommend the Germans to the sympathy of Europe as gentle, good-hearted, weak-willed, poetical idiots.11 Finally, we should understand with sufficient profundity Napoleon’s surprise when he happened to see Goethe: that reveals what people had thought about the “German spirit” for centuries. “Voilá un homme!” [There is a man!]—which is, in effect, saying: “That is really a man! And I had expected only a German!”—
Assuming, then, that in the image of the philosophers of the future there is some characteristic which raises the question whether they would not perhaps have to be sceptics, in the sense indicated immediately above, that would, nonetheless, indicate only one thing about them—and not what they themselves were. With just as much justification they could let themselves be called critics, and it’s certain they will be people who experiment. In the names with which I have ventured to christen them, I have already particularly emphasized experiments and their enjoyment in attempting experiments. Did I do this because, as critics in body and soul, they love to use experiments in a new, perhaps broader, perhaps more dangerous sense? In their passion for knowledge, will they have to go further with daring and painful experiments, than could be considered appropriate by the soft-hearted and mollycoddled taste of a democratic century? There is no doubt that these coming philosophers will be least of all able to rid themselves of those serious and not unobjectionable characteristics which separate the critic from the sceptic—I mean the certainty in the measure of value, the conscious use of a unity of method, the shrewd courage, the standing alone, and the ability to answer for themselves. In fact, they confess that they take delight in saying No and in dissecting things and in a certain thought-out cruelty, which knows how to guide the knife surely and precisely, even when the heart is still bleeding. They will be harder (and perhaps not always only on themselves) than humane people might wish; they will not get involved with the “truth,” so that the truth can “please” them or “elevate” them and “inspire” them:—by contrast, they will have little faith that the truth itself brings with it such emotional entertainment. They will smile, these strict spirits, if someone should declare in front of them, “That idea elevates me: how could it not be true?” or “That work delights me: how could it not be beautiful?” or, “That artist enlarges me; how could he not be great?”—Perhaps they are prepared not only to smile at but also to feel a genuine disgust for everything equally enthusiastic, idealisic, feminine and hermaphroditic. Anyone who knew how to follow them right into the secret chambers of their hearts would hardly find there any intention to reconcile “Christian feelings” with “the taste of antiquity” or even with “modern parliamentarianism” (a reconciliation which is said to be taking place even among philosophers in our very uncertain and therefore very conciliatory century). These philosophers of the future will demand not only of themselves critical discipline and every habit which leads to purity and strictness in things of the spirit: they could show them off as their own kind of jewellery—nonetheless, for all that they still do not wish to be called critics. It seems to them no small insult inflicted on philosophy when people decree, as they are so fond of doing today, “Philosophy itself is criticism and critical science—and nothing else!” This evaluation of philosophy may enjoy the applause of all French and German positivists (—and it’s possible that it would have flattered even the heart and taste of Kant: we should remember the title of his major works—): our new philosophers will nonetheless affirm that critics are the tools of the philosopher and for that very reason, the fact that they are tools, are still a long way from being philosophers themselves! Even the great Chinaman of Königsberg [Kant] was only a great critic.
I insist on the following point: people should finally stop confusing philosophical labourers and scientific people in general with philosophers—in this particular matter we should strictly assign “to each his due” and not give too much to the former and much too little to the latter. It may be that the education of a real philosopher requires that he himself has once stood on all of those steps where his servants, the scientific labourers in philosophy, remain—and must remain. Perhaps he must himself have been critic and sceptic and dogmatist and historian and, in addition, poet and collector and traveller and solver of riddles and moralist and prophet and “free spirit” and almost everything, in order to move through the range of human worth and feelings of value and to be able to look with a variety of different eyes and consciences from the heights into every distance, from the depths into every height, from the corners into every expanse. But all these things are only preconditions for his task: the task itself requires something different—it demands that he create values. Those philosophical labourers on the noble model of Kant and Hegel have to establish some large collection of facts concerning estimates of value—that is, earlier statements of value, creations of value that have become dominant and for a while have been called “truths”—and press them into formulas, whether in the realm of logic or politics (morality) or art. The task of these researchers is to make everything that has happened and which has been valued up to now clear, easy to imagine, intelligible, and manageable, to shorten everything lengthy, even “time” itself, and to overpower the entire past, a huge and marvellous task, in the service of which every sophisticated pride and every tough will can certainly find satisfaction. But the real philosophers are commanders and lawgivers: they say “That is how it should be!” They determine first the “Where to?” and the “What for?” of human beings, and, as they do this, they have at their disposal the preliminary work of all philosophical labourers, all those who have overpowered the past—they reach with their creative hands to grasp the future. In that process, everything that is and has been becomes a means for them, an instrument, a hammer. Their “knowing” is creating; their creating is establishing laws; their will to truth is—will to power.—Are there such philosophers nowadays? Have there ever been such philosophers? Is it not necessary that there be such philosophers? . . . .
It is increasingly apparent to me that the philosopher, who is necessarily a man of tomorrow and the day after, has in every age found and had to find himself in contradiction to his today: his enemy every time was the ideal of the day. Up to now all these extraordinary promoters of humanity whom we call philosophers and who themselves seldom felt that they were friends of wisdom but rather embarrassing fools and dangerous question marks, have discovered that their work, their hard, unsought for, inescapable task—but finally the greatness of their work—was for them to be the bad conscience of their age. By applying the knife of vivisection directly on the chest of the virtues of the day, they revealed what their own secret was—to know a new greatness for man, to know a new untrodden path to increasing his greatness. Every time they exposed how much hypocrisy, laziness, letting oneself go, and letting oneself fall, how many lies lay hidden under the most highly honoured type of their contemporary morality, how much virtue was out of date; every time they said, “We must go there, out there, where you nowadays are least at home.” Faced with a world of “modern ideas” that would like to banish everyone into a corner and a “specialty,” a philosopher, if there could be a philosopher these days, would be compelled to establish the greatness of mankind, the idea of “greatness,” directly on the basis of man’s range and multiplicity, of his integrated totality in the midst of diversity. He would even determine value and rank according to how much and how many different things one person could endure and take upon himself, how far he could extend his own responsibility. Today contemporary taste and virtue weaken and dilute the will; nothing is as topical as the weakness of the will. Thus, in the ideal of the philosopher it is precisely the strength of will, hardness, and the ability to make lengthy decisions that must be part of the idea “greatness”—with just as much justification as the opposite doctrine and the ideal of a stupid, denying, humble, selfless humanity was appropriate to an opposite age, one which suffered, like the sixteenth century, from the bottled-up energy of its will and from the wildest torrents and storm tides of selfishness. At the time of Socrates, among nothing but men of exhausted instincts, among conservative old Athenians, who allowed themselves to go “for happiness,” as they said, and for pleasure, as they did, and who, in the process, still kept mouthing the old splendid words to which their lives no longer gave them any right, perhaps irony was essential for greatness in the soul, that malicious Socratic confidence of the old doctor and member of the rabble, who sliced ruthlessly into his own flesh, as into the flesh and heart of the “noble man,” with a look which spoke intelligibly enough “Don’t play act in front of me! Here—we are the same!” By contrast, today, when the herd animal in Europe is the only one who attains and distributes honours, when “equality of rights” all too easily could get turned around into equality of wrongs—what I mean is into a common war against everything rare, strange, privileged, the higher man, the higher soul, the higher duty, the higher responsibility, the creative fullness of power and mastery—these days the sense of being noble, of willing to be for oneself, of being able to be different, of standing alone, and of having to live by one’s own initiative—these are part of the idea “greatness,” and the philosopher will reveal something of his own ideal if he proposes “The man who is to be the greatest is the one who can be the most solitary, the most hidden, the most deviant, the man beyond good and evil, lord of his virtues, a man lavishly endowed with will—this is precisely what greatness is to be called: capable of being as much an integrated totality as he is something multifaceted, as wide as he is full.” And to ask the question again: today—is greatness possible?
What a philosopher is, that’s difficult to learn because it cannot be taught: one must “know” it out of experience—or one should have the pride not to know it. But the fact that these days the whole world talks of things about which it cannot have any experience holds true above all and in the worst way for philosophers and philosophical situations: very few people are acquainted with them and are allowed to know them, and all popular opinions about them are false. And so, for example, that genuine philosophical association of a bold, exuberant spirituality, which speeds along presto, with a dialectical strictness and necessity which takes no false steps is unknown to most thinkers and scholars from their own experience, and hence, if someone wishes to talk about it in front of them, they find it implausible. They take the view that every necessity is an affliction, a painful requirement they must follow, a compulsion, and thinking itself they consider something slow, hesitant, almost laborious, and often enough “worth the sweat of the noble”—but under no circumstances something light, divine, closely related to dancing and high spirits! “Thinking” and “taking an issue seriously,” “considering it gravely”—among them these belong together: that’s the only way they have “experienced” thinking. In such matters artists may have a more subtle sense of smell. They know only too well that at the very moment when they no longer create “voluntarily,” when they make everything by necessity, their sense of freedom, refinement, authority, of creative setting up, disposing, and shaping is at its height—in short, that necessity and the “freedom of the will” are then one thing for them. Ultimately there is a rank ordering of spiritual conditions, with which the rank ordering of problems is consistent, and the highest problems shove back without mercy anyone who dares approach them without having been predestined to solve them with the loftiness and power of his spirituality. What help is it if nimble heads of nondescript people or, as happens so often these days, clumsy honest mechanics and empiricists with their plebeian ambition press forward into the presence of such problems and, as it were, up to the “court of courts”! But on such carpets crude feet may never tread: there is still a primeval law of things to look after that: the doors remain closed to these people who push against them, even if they bang or crush their heads against them! One must be born for every lofty world: to put the matter more clearly, one must be cultivated for it: one has a right to philosophy—taking the word in its grand sense—only thanks to one’s descent, one’s ancestors; here, as well, “blood” decides. For a philosopher to arise, many generations must have done the preparatory work. Every single one of his virtues must have been acquired, cared for, passed on, assimilated, and not just the bold, light, delicate walking and running of his thoughts, but, above all, the willingness to take on great responsibilities, the loftiness of the look which dominates and gazes down, the feeling of standing apart from the crowd and its duties and virtues, the affable protecting and defending of what is misunderstood and slandered, whether god or devil, the desire for and practice of great justice, the art of commanding, the breadth of will, the slow eye that seldom admires, seldom looks upward, seldom loves. . . .
1Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), important German idealist philosopher. [Back to Text]
2Eugen Dühring (1833-1921) and Eduard von Hartmann (1842-1906): two well-known philosophers in Nietzsche’s day. [Back to Text]
3Epochism means dividing time or history up into epochs. [Back to Text]
4Nietzsche coined the word Ipsissimosität from the Latin ipsissima meaning very own. [Back to Text]
5Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716), German philosopher, diplomat, and mathematician. [Back to Text]
6nihilin: a word Nietzsche invents to designate some new form of strong pessimism discovered like some as yet unknown chemical. [Back to Text]
7Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), French diplomat and writer. [Back to Text]
8Circe: a goddess in Homer’s Odyssey who has magical powers to turn men into swine. [Back to Text]
9Frederick the Great (1712-1786), son of Frederick William I, King of Prussia. Through his military and political skill he greatly enlarged Prussian territory. [Back to Text]
10Jules Michelet (1798-1874), a French historian. Mephistopheles is the chief agent of the Devil in Goethe’s Faust. [Back to Text]
11The woman is Madame de Staël, a French writer who produced a book about German and the Germans in 1810. [Back to Text]