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]
Our virtues? It’s probable that we, too, still have our virtues, although it’s reasonable to think that they will not be those naive, four-square virtues for whose sake we respect our grandfathers, at the same time holding them somewhat at arm’s length. We Europeans of the day-after-tomorrow, we first-born of the twentieth century—with all our dangerous curiosity, our multiplicity and art of disguise, our tender and, so to speak, sweetened cruelty in spirit and sense—if we’re to have virtues, we’ll presumably have only those which have learned best how to tolerate our most secret and most heartfelt inclinations, our most burning needs. So then let’s look for them in our labyrinths!—where, as we know, so many different things get lost, so many different things disappear forever. And is there anything more beautiful than seeking out one’s own virtues? Doesn’t this already almost mean that one believes in one’s own virtues? But this phrase “believe in one’s own virtues”—isn’t that basically the same thing people in earlier times used to call their “good conscience,” that long worthy pigtail of an idea which our grandfathers hung behind their heads and often enough behind their understanding as well? Thus, it seems to follow that, no matter how little we may think of ourselves as old fashioned and as respectable as our grandfathers in other things, in one respect we are nonetheless the worthy grandsons of these grandfathers, we last Europeans with good consciences: we, too, still carry their pigtail.—Alas, if you knew how soon, how very soon—things will be otherwise! . . .
Just as it sometimes happens in the realm of the stars that two suns determine the orbit of a planet, and in some cases suns of different colours cast their lights around a single planet, sometimes red light, sometimes green light, and then again lighting it both at once, flooding it with many colours, in the same way we modern men, thanks to the complicated mechanics of our “starry heaven,” are determined by different moralities; our actions change their lights into different colours. They are rarely unambiguous—and there are enough cases where we carry out actions with many colours.
Love one’s enemies? I think that has been well learned. These days it happens thousands of times, in small and big things. In fact, now and then something even higher and more sublime takes place—we learn to despise when we love, and precisely when we love best: but all this is unconscious, without any fuss, without any pomp and circumstance, rather with that modesty and secret goodness which prohibit solemn words and virtuous formulas. Morality as a pose—that offends our taste nowadays. This is also a step forward, just as it was a step forward for our fathers when religion as a pose finally offended their taste, including hostility to and a Voltairean bitterness against religion (and everything that formerly went along with the sign language of free thinkers). It’s the music in our conscience, the dance in our spirit, that makes all puritanical litanies, all moral sermons and petty bourgeois respectability sound out of tune.
Be careful of those who set a high value on people’s ascribing to them moral tact and refinement in drawing moral distinctions! They never forgive us if they ever make a mistake in front of us (or evenagainst us)—inevitably they become people who instinctively slander and damage us, even when they still remain our “friends.”—Blessed are the forgetful, for they are “done” with their stupidities as well.
Psychologists in France—and where else nowadays are there still any psychologists?—have not yet stopped enjoying the bitter and manifold pleasure they get from bêtise bourgoise [bourgeois stupidity]. It’s as if—but enough, by doing that they are revealing something. For example, Flaubert, that worthy citizen of Rouen, finished up by seeing, hearing, and tasting nothing else any more.1 That was his kind of self-torture and more refined cruelty. Now, for a change—since this is becoming tedious—I recommend something else for our delight, and that is the unconscious shiftiness with which all good, thick, well-behaved, average spirits react to higher spirits and the work they do, that subtle, barbed, Jesuitical shiftiness, which is a thousand times more subtle than the understanding and taste of these middle-class people in their best moments—or even than the understanding of their victims as well. This is repeated evidence for the fact that “instinct” is the most intelligent of all forms of intelligence discovered so far. Briefly put, you psychologists should study the philosophy of the “rule” in its war against the “exception.” There you’ll see a drama good enough for the gods and divine maliciousness! Or, to put the matter still more clearly: practise vivisection on the “good person,” on the “homo bonae voluntatis” [man of good will]. . . on yourselves!
Moral judgment and condemnation are the favourite revenge of the spiritually limited against those who are less limited, as well as a form of compensation for the fact that nature has thought ill of them, and finally a chance to acquire some spirit and become refined:—malice spiritualizes. Deep in their hearts they feel good that there is a standard before which those plentifully endowed with spiritual wealth and privilege also stand, just like them:—they fight for the “equality of all before God” and almost require a faith in God just for that purpose. Among them are the most powerful opponents of atheism. Anyone who said to them “A high spirituality cannot be compared with any of the solidity and respectability of a man who is merely moral” would make them furious:—I’ll be careful not to do this. I’d much prefer to flatter them with my theory that a high spirituality itself arises only as the final offspring of moral qualities, that it is a synthesis of all those states which are ascribed to the “merely moral” man, after they have been acquired one by one through long discipline and practice, perhaps through an entire chain of generations, that high spirituality is simply the spiritualization of justice and of that kind severity which knows that its task is to maintain the order of rank in the world, not only among human beings, but even among things.
Given the present popular praise of the “disinterested person,” we must bring to mind, perhaps not without a certain danger, what it is that really interests the populace, and what, in general, are those things about which the common man is fundamentally and deeply concerned, including educated people, even scholars, and, unless all appearances deceive, perhaps philosophers as well. From that fact it turns out that the vast majority of what interests and charms more refined and more discriminating tastes and every higher nature appears completely “uninteresting” to the average man. Nonetheless, when he notices a devotion to these things, he calls it “désintéressé” [disinterested] and wonders to himself how it is possible to act “without interest.” There have been philosophers who have known how to confer a seductive and mystically transcendental form of expression upon this popular wonder (perhaps because in their own experience they knew nothing of higher nature?)—instead of presenting what’s reasonable—the honest naked truth that the “disinterested” action is a very interesting and interested action, provided . . . . “And love?”—What’s that! Is even an action done from love supposed to be “unegoistic”? You idiots—! “What about the praise for the person who makes a sacrifice?”—But anyone who has really made a sacrifice knows that he wanted and got something for it—perhaps something of himself in exchange for something of himself—he gave up here in order to have more there, perhaps in general to be more or at least to feel himself as “more.” But this is a realm of questions and answers in which a more discriminating spirit does not like to remain; here even truth finds it so very necessary to suppress her yawns when she is required to give an answer. In the last analysis, truth is a woman: we should not treat her with force.
It so happens, said a moralistic pedant and pettifogger, that I respect and honour a selfless man, not because he is unselfish but because he seems to me to have a right to be of use to another man at his own expense. All right, but it’s always a question of who he is and who the other is. For example, in a man who is marked out and made for command, self-denial and modest holding back would not be a virtue but a waste of virtue: that’s what it seems like to me. Every unegoistic morality which takes itself unconditionally and applies itself to everyone not only sins against taste; it also provokes sins of omission, one more seduction under the guise of philanthropy—and, in particular, a seduction for and injury to the higher, rarer, and privileged people. We must compel moralities first and foremost to give way before the order of rank. We must force into the conscience of moralities an awareness of their own presumption—until they finally are collectively clear about the fact that it is immoral to say “What is right for one man is fair to another.” As for my moralistic pedant and bonhomme [fine fellow]: does he deserve it when people laugh at him as he advises moralities in this way to become moral? But people should not be too much in the right if they want those who laugh on their side. A small grain of wrong is even a part of good taste.
Nowadays wherever people preach pity—and, if one listens correctly, there is now no other religion preached anymore—the psychologist should keep his ears open: through all the vanity, through all the noise characteristic of these preachers (like all preachers), he’ll hear a hoarse, moaning, genuine sound ofself-contempt. It’s part of that process of making Europe dark and ugly, which has been growing now for a hundred years (and whose first symptoms were already placed in the documentary record in a thoughtful letter from Galiani to Madame d’Epinay): unless it’s the cause of this development!2 The man of “modern ideas,” that proud ape, is uncontrollably dissatisfied with himself—that’s established. He’s suffering, and his vanity wants him only to suffer “with others” . . .
At any rate, the hybrid European—a reasonably ugly plebeian, all in all—needs a costume. He needs history as a storeroom of costumes. Naturally, he then notices that none of them fits his body properly—he changes and changes. Just take a look at the nineteenth century, at the rapid preferences and changes in the masquerades of style, along with the moments of despair over the fact that “nothing suits” us—. It’s no use presenting oneself romantically or classically or in a Christian or Florentine or Baroque or “national” manner in moribus et artibus [in customs and the arts]—it “doesn’t suit us”! But the “spirit,” in particular the “historical spirit,” also sees an advantage for itself even in this despair: over and over again a new piece of the past and of a foreign place is tested, put on, set aside, packed away, and above all studied:—we are the first age studious about the issue of “costume”: I mean in moralities, articles of faith, tastes in art, and religions, prepared as no other time ever was for a carnival in the grand style, for the most spiritual revelry of laughter and high spirits, for a transcendental height of the loftiest nonsense and Aristophanic mockery of the world.3 Perhaps this is the very place where we are still discovering the realm of our own inventiveness, that realm where we too can still be original as some sort of satirists of world history and God’s clowns—perhaps when nothing else today has a future, perhaps it’s our very laughter that still has one!
The historical sense (or the ability to make quick conjectures about the rank ordering of value judgments according to which a people, a society, or a person has lived, the “instinct for divination” concerning the relations among these value judgments, for the connections between the authority of values and the authority of forces at work)—this historical sense which we Europeans claim as our distinctive characteristic, came to us as a consequence of the enthralling and wild semi-barbarianism into which Europe was plunged through the democratic intermixing of the classes and races—only the nineteenth century knows this sense as its sixth sense. The past of every form and manner of living, of cultures which earlier lay right alongside each other or over each other, flows, thanks to this intermixing, out into us “modern souls”; our instincts now run back all over the place; we ourselves are a kind of chaos. Finally “the spirit,” as I have said, sees an advantage for itself in this. Because of our semi-barbarism in body and desires we have secret entrances in all directions, in a way no noble age ever possessed, above all entrances to the labyrinth of unfinished cultures and to every semi-barbarism that has ever been present on earth. Inasmuch as the most considerable part of human civilization up to now has been semi-barbarism, the “historical sense” almost means the sense and instinct for everything, the taste and tongue for everything. And that establishes right away that it’s an ignoble sense. For example, we enjoy Homer again. It’s perhaps our happiest advance that we understand how to appreciate Homer, something which men of a noble culture do not know and did not know how to appropriate so easily and which they hardly allowed themselves to enjoy (for example, the French of the seventeenth century, like Saint Evremond, who criticized him for his esprit vaste [vast and all-encompassing spirit], and even Voltaire, their final chorus).4 That very emphatic Yes and No of their palate, their easily aroused disgust, their hesitant holding back with respect to everything strange, their fear of bad taste, even of lively curiosity, and, in general, that reluctance of every noble and self-satisfied culture to acknowledge a new desire, a dissatisfaction with what is its own, an admiration for something foreign; all this makes them hostile even to the best things of the world which are not their own property or could not become their plunder—and no sense is more incomprehensible to such people than the historical sense and its obsequious plebeian curiosity. The situation is no different with Shakespeare, that amazing Spanish-Moorish-Saxon synthesis of taste, who would have made an old Athenian, one of Aeschylus’ friends, laugh himself almost to death or irritated him. But we take up this wild display of colours, this confusion of the most delicate, coarsest, and most artificial things with a secret confidence and good will. We enjoy him as the very refinement of art saved especially for us and, in the process, do not allow ourselves to be disturbed at all by the unpleasant stink and the proximity of the English rabble, in which Shakespeare’s art and taste live, no more so than on the Chiaja in Naples, where we go on our way with all our senses enchanted and keen, no matter how much the sewers of the rabble’s quarter fill the air.5 We men of the “historical sense,” we have our corresponding virtues. That’s beyond dispute. We are undemanding, unselfish, modest, brave, full of self-control, full of devotion, very grateful, very patient, very obliging:—with all that we are perhaps not very “tasteful.” Let’s finally admit it to ourselves: what’s hardest for us men of “historical sense” to grasp, to feel, to taste, and to love, what we’re basically prejudiced against and almost hostile to is precisely the perfection and ultimate maturity in every culture and art, what is really noble in works or in men, the moment when their sea is smooth and they have halcyon self-sufficiency, the gold and the coolness displayed by all things that have perfected themselves. Perhaps the great virtue of the historical sense stands in a necessary opposition to good taste, at least to the very best taste, and we can reproduce in ourselves only with difficulty and hesitantly, only by forcing ourselves, the small, short, and highest strokes of happiness and transfigurations of human life, as they suddenly shine out here and there: those moments and miracles where a great force voluntarily remains standing before the boundless and unlimited—where an excess of sophisticated pleasure was enjoyed in sudden restraint and petrifaction, in standing firm and holding oneself steady on still trembling ground. Restraint is strange to us. Let’s admit that to ourselves. Our itch is the particular itch for the unlimited, the unmeasured. Like the rider on a steed snorting its way forward we let the reins fall before the infinite, we modern men, we half-barbarians—and reach our bliss only in a place where we are most—in danger.
Whether hedonism, pessimism, utilitarianism, or eudaimonism—all these ways of thinking which measure the value of things according to pleasure and pain, that is, according to attendant circumstances and secondary issues, are ways of thinking in the foreground and naiveté, which anyone who knows about creative forces and an artistic conscience will look down on, not without ridicule and not without pity. Pity for you!—that is, of course, not pity the way you mean the term: not pity for social “distress,” for “society” and its sick and unsuccessful people, for those depraved and broken down from the start—they’re lying on the ground all around us—even less is it pity for the grumbling oppressed, the rebellious slave classes, who strive for mastery—they call it “Freedom.” Our pity is a higher compassion which sees further—we see how man is making himself smaller, how you are making him smaller!—and there are moments when we look at your very pity with an indescribable anxiety, when we defend ourselves against this pity—when we find your seriousness more dangerous than any carelessness. You want, if possible—and there is no more fantastic “if possible”—to do away with suffering. What about us? It does seem that we would prefer it to be even greater and worse than it ever was! Wellbeing, the way you understand it—that is no goal. To us that looks like an end, a condition which immediately makes human beings laughable and contemptible—something which makes their destruction desirable! The discipline of suffering, of great suffering—do you not realize that up to this point it is only this discipline that has created every enhancement in man up to now? That tension of a soul in misery which develops its strength, its trembling when confronted with great destruction, its inventiveness and courage in bearing, holding out against, interpreting, and using misfortune, and whatever has been conferred upon it by way of profundity, secrecy, masks, spirit, cunning, and greatness—has that not been given to it through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering? In human beings, creature and creator are united. In man is material stuff, fragments, excess, clay, mud, folly, and chaos, but in man there is also creator, artist, hammer hardness, the divinity of the spectator and the seventh day—do you understand this contrast? And do you understand that your pity for the “creature in man” is for what must be formed, broken, forged, torn apart, burned, annealed, and purified—for what must necessarily suffer and should suffer? And our pity—do you not understand for whom our reverse pity matters, when it protects itself against your pity as against the most wretched of all mollycoddling and weakness?—And so pity against pity!—But, to say the point again, there are higher problems than all those of enjoyment, suffering, and pity, and every philosophy that leads only to these is something naive.—
We immoral ones!—This world which we are concerned with, in which we have to fear and love, this almost invisible and inaudible world of sophisticated commanding and sophisticated obeying, a world of “almost” from every way of looking at it—entangled, insidious, cutting, and tender—yes, this world is well defended against clumsy spectators and familiar curiosity! We have been woven into a strict yarn and shirt of duties and cannot get out of it—in that respect we are simply “men of duty,” we as well! Now and then, it’s true, we dance in our “chains” and between our “swords.” More often, it’s no less true, we gnash our teeth about it and are impatient with all the secret hardness of our fate. But we can do what we like: the fools and appearance speak against us: “They are men without duty.”—We always have fools and appearance against us!
If we assume that honesty is a virtue of ours from which we cannot escape, we free spirits—well, we’ll want to work on it with all our malice and love and not grow tired of “making ourselves perfect” in ourvirtue, the only one which remains ours: may its brilliance one day remain lying like a gilded, blue, mocking evening light over this aging culture and its dull and dark seriousness! And if nonetheless our honesty one day grows tired and sighs and stretches its limbs and finds us too hard and would like to have things better, lighter, more loving, like a pleasing vice, let us remain hard, we final Stoics! And let us send her by way of help only what we have in us of devilry—our disgust with what is crude and approximate, our “nitimur in vetitum” [we seek what is forbidden], our courage as adventurers, our shrewd and discriminating curiosity, our most refined, most disguised, and most spiritual will to power and overcoming of the world which roams and swarms greedily around all realms of the future—let us come to the aid of our “god” with all our “devils”! It is likely that because of this people fail to recognize us and get us confused with others. What does that matter? People will say “Their ‘honesty’—that’s their devilry, nothing more than that.” What does that matter? Even if they were right! Haven’t all gods up to now been like that, devils who became holy by being re-christened? And what finally do we know about ourselves? And that spirit which guides us, what does it want to be called (it is a matter of names)? And how many spirits are we hiding? Our honesty, we free spirits—let’s take care that it does not become our vanity, our finery and splendour, our limit, our stupidity! Every virtue tends towards stupidity; every stupidity tends towards virtue: “stupid all the way to holiness” people say in Russia—let’s take care that we don’t end up becoming saints and bores through honesty! Isn’t life a hundred times too short to get bored with it? We would already have to believe in eternal life, in order to . . . .
I hope people forgive me the discovery that all moral philosophy so far has been boring and has belonged among things which send us to sleep—and that, in my eyes, “virtue” has been impaired by nothing so much as by this tediousness of its advocates. In saying this I still don’t wish to deny their general utility. A great deal rests on the fact that as few people as possible think about morality—and so it’s very important that morality does not one day become interesting! But that’s not something people should worry about! These days things still stand the way they always have stood: I do not see anyone in Europe who might have (or might provide) some idea about how reflecting on morality could be conducted dangerously, insidiously, and seductively—that there could be disaster in the process. People should consider, for example, the tireless unavoidable English utilitarians, how they wander around crudely and honourably in Bentham’s footsteps, moving this way and that (a Homeric metaphor says it more clearly), just as Bentham himself had already wandered in the footsteps of the honourable Helvetius (this Helvetius—no, he was no dangerous man!).6 No new idea, nothing of a more refined expression and bending of an old idea, not even a real history of an earlier thought: an impossible literature in its totality, unless we understand how to spice it up with some malice. For in these moralists as well (whom we really have to read with their ulterior motives in mind [mit Nebengedanken], if we have to read them—) that old English vice called cant and moral Tartufferie [hypocrisy], has inserted itself, this time hidden under a new form of scientific thinking. Nor is there any lack of a secret resistance against the pangs of conscience, something a race of former Puritans will justifiably suffer from in all its scientific preoccupations with morality. (Isn’t a moralist the opposite of a Puritan, namely, a thinker who considers morality something questionable, worth raising questions about, in short, as a problem? Shouldn’t moralizing be—immoral?). In the end they all want English morality to be considered right, so that then mankind or “general needs” or “the happiness of the greatest number”—no! England’s happiness—will be best served. They want to prove with all their might that striving for English happiness, I mean for comfort and fashion (and, as the highest priority, a seat in Parliament) is at the same time also the right path of virtue, in fact, that all virtue which has existed in the world so far has consisted of just such striving. Not one of all those ponderous herd animals with uneasy consciences (who commit themselves to promoting the cause of egoism as an issue of general welfare—) wants to know or catch a whiff of the fact that the “general welfare” is no ideal, no goal, not even a concept one can somehow grasp, but is only an emetic—that what is right for one man cannot in any way therefore be right for another, that the demand for a single morality for everyone is a direct restriction on the higher men, in short, that there is a rank ordering between man and man, as a result, also between morality and morality. These utilitarian Englishmen are a modest and thoroughly mediocre kind of human being and, as mentioned, insofar as they are boring, we cannot think highly enough of their utility. We should even encourage them, just as, to some extent, someone has tried to do in the following rhyme:
Hail to you, brave working lout,
“It’s always better when drawn out.”
Always stiff in head and knee
Never funny, never keen,
Always sticking to the mean—
Sans genie et sans esprit.7
In these recent ages, which may be proud of their humanity, there remains so much fear, so much superstitious fear of the “wild cruel beasts,” animals which these more humane ages are particularly proud of having overcome, that even obvious truths remain unspoken for hundreds of years, as if by some agreement, because they look as if they might help those savage beasts, which have been finally slaughtered, come back to life again. Perhaps I am risking something if I allow one such truth to escape me: let others catch it again and give it so much “milk of the devout ways of thinking” to drink, that it lies still and forgotten in its old corner.—People should learn to think differently about cruelty and open their eyes. They should finally learn to get impatient, so that such presumptuous, gross errors no longer brazenly wander around as virtues—like those dealing with tragedy, for example, which have been fattened up by old and new philosophers. Almost everything we call “higher culture” rests on the spiritualization and intensification of cruelty—that’s my claim. The “wild beast” hasn’t been killed at all: it’s alive, it’s flourishing. Only it has turned itself into—a god. What constitutes the painful delight in tragedy is cruelty. What has a pleasing effect in so-called tragic pity, and basically even in everything awe-inspiring right up to the highest and most delicate shudders of metaphysics, gets its sweetness only from the ingredient of cruelty added to the mixture. What the Roman in the arena, the Christian in the raptures of the cross, the Spaniard at the sight of a burning at the stake or a bull fight, the Japanese today who crowds into tragedies, the Parisian suburban worker who feels nostalgic for a bloody revolution, the female fan of Wagner who, with her will unhinged, lets herself “submit to” Tristan and Isolde—what all these people enjoy and try to drink down with mysterious enthusiasm is the spicy liquor of the great Circe, “cruelty.” In saying this, we must of course chase off the foolish psychology of former times, which, so far as cruelty is concerned, knew only how to teach us that it arose at the sight of someone else’s suffering. There is a substantial, over-abundant enjoyment also with one’s own suffering, with making oneself suffer—and wherever people let themselves be convinced about self-denial in a religious sense or about self-mutilation, as with the Phoenicians and ascetics, or in general about depriving themselves of sensual experience and the flesh, about remorse, Puritan pangs of repentance, about a vivisection of the conscience, and about a Pascalian sacrifizio dell’intelletto [sacrifice of the intellect], they are secretly seduced and pushed on by cruelty, by that dangerous thrill of cruelty turned against themselves. Finally, people should consider that even the knowledgeable man, when he compels his spirit to acknowledge things against his spirit’s inclinations and often enough also against his heart’s desires—that is, to say No where he’d like to affirm something, to love, to worship—rules as an artist and transformer of cruelty. In fact, every attempt to be profound and thorough is a forceful violation, a willingness to do harm to the basic will of the spirit, which always wants what’s apparent and superficial—in all desire to know there is already a drop of cruelty.
Perhaps people don’t readily understand what I’ve said here about a “basic will of the spirit.” So permit me to offer an explanation.—The something which commands, which people call “the spirit,” wishes to be master in and around itself and to feel that it is the master. In its multiplicity it possesses the will to simplicity, a will which ties up, tames, desires to dominate and truly rule. Its needs and capabilities are in this respect the same as those which physiologists indicate belong to everything that lives, grows, and reproduces itself. The power of the spirit to appropriate other things for itself is revealed in its strong inclination to assimilate the new with the old, to simplify what is diverse, to ignore or push away what is totally contradictory, just as it arbitrarily and strongly emphasizes, brings out, and falsifies for its own purposes certain characteristics and lines in what is foreign, in every piece of the “outside world.” Its intention in so doing is the assimilation of new “experiences,” the organization of new things in an old series—and also for growth, or, to put the matter even more clearly, for the feeling of growth, for the feeling of increased power. An apparently contradictory spiritual drive serves this same will, a suddenly erupting decision in favour of ignorance, an arbitrary shutting out, a slamming of its window, an inner cry of No to this or that thing, a refusal to let something in, a kind of defensive condition against much that can be known, a satisfaction with the darkness, with the sealed-off horizon, an affirmation and endorsement of ignorance: all this is necessary in proportion to the degree of its appropriating power, its “power of digestion,” to speak metaphorically—“the spirit,” in fact, most closely resembles a stomach. With this also belongs the occasional will in the spirit to allow itself to be deceived, perhaps with a high-spirited premonition that something or other is not the case, that we simply allow something or other to be valid, a joy in all uncertainty and ambiguity, an exultant self-indulgence in the capricious narrowness and secrecy of some corner, in what is all too near at hand, in the foreground, in what is magnified or made smaller, in what has been shifted around or made more beautiful, a delight in the arbitrariness of all these expressions of power. Finally with these belongs that not unobjectionable willingness of the spirit to deceive other spirits and to play act in front of them, that constant urge and pressure of a creative, formative, changeable force: here the spirit enjoys its capacity for adopting multiple masks and shiftiness; it also enjoys the feeling of its security in this activity—precisely through its protean art is the spirit, in fact, best defended and hidden!—Working against this will to appearances, to simplification, to masks, to cloaks, in short, to the surface—for every surface is a cloak—is that sublime tendency of the person looking for knowledge who grasps and wants to grasp things thoroughly in their profundity and multiplicity, as a kind of cruelty of the intellectual conscience and taste, which every bold thinker will recognize in himself, provided that he, as is appropriate, has hardened and sharpened his eye for himself long enough and has grown accustomed to strict discipline and to stern language. He’ll say, “There’s something cruel in my spiritual inclination”—let the virtuous and charming try to persuade him that’s not so! In fact, it would sound better if, instead of cruelty, people talked of or whispered about or credited us free, very free spirits as having “excessive honesty”—and perhaps that’s how it will really ring out one day—our posthumous reputation? In the meantime—for there is plenty of time until then—we ourselves may well be the least inclined to dress ourselves up in the finery of these sorts of moralistic word sequins and shawls: our entire work so far spoils for us this very taste and its merry opulence. These are the beautiful, sparkling, jingling, festive words: honesty, love of truth, love of wisdom, sacrifice for knowledge, heroism of the truthful—there is something in them that makes a person’s pride swell up. But we hermits and marmots, we persuaded ourselves long ago, with all the secrecy of a hermit’s conscience, that this worthy verbal pomp also belongs with the old lying finery, rubbish, and gold dust of unconscious human vanity, and that underneath such flattering colours and repainted surfaces we must once again recognize the terrifying basic text of homo natura [natural man]. In fact, to translate men back into nature, to master the many vain and effusive interpretations and connoted meanings which so far have been scribbled and painted over that eternal basic text of homo natura, to see to it that in future man stands before man in the same way he, grown hard in the discipline of science, already stands these days before the rest of nature, with the fearless eyes of Oedipus and the blocked ears of Odysseus, deaf to the seductive enticements of the old metaphysical bird-catchers, who for far too long have been piping at him, “You are more! You are higher! You are of a different origin!”—that may be a peculiar and mad task, but it is a task—who wants to deny that? Why did we choose it, this mad task? Or, to put the question differently, “Why knowledge at all?”—Everyone will ask us about that. And we, pressured like this, we, who have already asked ourselves that very question a hundred times, we have found and find no better answer . . .
Learning changes us. It achieves what all feeding does which does not merely “preserve,”—as a physiologist knows. But deep in us, really “down there,” is naturally something uneducable, a granite of spiritual fatum [fate], of predetermined decision and answer to predetermined selected questions. In every cardinal problem a steadfast “That’s what I am” speaks out. About men and a women, for example, a thinker cannot learn to think differently; he can only complete his learning—only finally discover how things “stand with him” on this question. Sometimes we find certain solutions to problems which create a strong faith in us in particular. Perhaps from then on we call them our “convictions.” Later we see in them mere footsteps to self-knowledge, signposts to the problem which we are—or, better, to the great stupidity which we are, to our spiritual fatum [fate], to the uneducable part way “down there.” After this rich civility I have just displayed with respect to myself, perhaps there’s a better chance that I’ll be allowed to speak out a few truths about “woman as such,” so long as from now on people realize at the start just how much these are simply my truths.
Woman wants to become independent—and for that reason she is beginning to enlighten men about “woman as such”—that is among the most deleterious developments in the general process of making Europe ugly. For what must these crude attempts of female scientific thinking and self-exposure bring to light! Woman has so many reasons for shame; hidden in women is so much pedantry, superficiality, so many characteristics of the school teacher, petty arrogance, petty indulgence, and petty immodesty—just look at the way she interacts with children!—Up to now basically these qualities have best been kept repressed and controlled by fear of man. Woe when the “eternally boring in woman”—she is rich in that!—is first allowed to venture out, when she begins thoroughly and in principle to forget her shrewdness and art, her qualities of grace, of play, of driving cares away, of mitigating troubles and taking things lightly, as well as her delicate skill with agreeable pleasures! Nowadays we can already hear women’s voices which—by holy Aristophanes!—are frightening. They utter threats with medical clarity about what woman wants from man, from start to finish. Is it not in the very worst taste for woman to prepare like this to become scientific? So far, enlightening has fortunately been a man’s business, a man’s talent—in the process we remained “among ourselves.” In dealing with everything which women write about concerning “woman,” we may finally retain a healthy mistrust whether woman really wants enlightenment about herself—or is capable of wanting it. . . . Unless a woman by doing this is seeking some new finery for herself—so I do think that dressing herself up belongs to the eternally feminine?—well, by doing this she does want to arouse fear of herself:—in that way perhaps she wants to dominate. But she does not want the truth. What does a woman have to do with truth? From the very beginning nothing is stranger, more unfavourable, or more hostile to women than truth—her great art is the lie, her highest concern appearance and beauty. We men should admit it—we honour and love precisely this art and this instinct in woman, we who have a hard time of it and are happy to get our relief by associating with beings under whose hands, looks, and tender foolishness our seriousness, our gravity and profundity, seem almost silly. Finally I put the question: Has a woman ever herself conceded that a woman’s head is profound, that a woman’s heart is just? And is it not true that, speaking generally, “woman” up to this point has been held in contempt mostly by woman herself—and not at all by us? We men want a woman not to continue compromising herself by enlightenment, just as it was masculine care and consideration for woman that made the church decree mulier taceat in ecclesia [let a woman be silent in church]! It was an advantage for woman, when Napoleon let the all-too-eloquent Madame de Staël understand: mulier taceat in politicis [let women be silent in politics]!—And I think that a true friend of women is the person who nowadays shouts out to them: mulier taceat de muliere [let woman be silent about women]!
It reveals a corruption of the instincts—quite apart from revealing bad taste—when a woman makes a direct reference to Madame Roland or Madame de Staël or Mr. George Sand, as if by doing so they had something to prove in favour of the “woman as such.” Among men those names are the three comical woman as such—nothing more!—and the very best unintentional counter-arguments against emancipation and female high handedness.8
Stupidity in the kitchen, woman as cook, the ghastly absence of intelligent thought in taking care of the nourishment of the family and the master of the house! Woman understands nothing about what food means, and she wants to be the cook! If woman were a thinking creature, then, as cook for thousands of years, she’d surely have found out the most important physiological facts, while at the same time she’d have had to take ownership of the art of healing! Because of bad female cooks and the complete lack of reason in the kitchen, the development of human beings has been held up for the longest time and suffered the worst damage. Even today things are little better. A speech for fashionable young ladies.
There are expressions and successful projections of the spirit; there are aphorisms, a small handful of words, in which an entire culture, an entire society, suddenly crystallizes. Among these belongs that casual remark Madame de Lambert made to her son: “Mon ami, ne vous permettez jamais que de folies, qui vous feront grand plaisir” [My dear, never allow yourself any follies but those which will bring you great pleasure]—which is, by the way, the most motherly and cleverest remark that has ever been directed to a son.
What Dante and Goethe believed about women—the former when he sang, “Ella guardava suso, ed io in lei” [She looked upward and I at her] and the latter when he translated this passage as “the Eternally Feminine draws us upward”—I have no doubt that every more aristocratic woman will resist this faith, for that is exactly what she believes about the Eternally Masculine. . . .
Seven Short Maxims About Women
How the longest boredom flees—when man crawls to us on his knees!
Old age, alas, and science, too, give strength to even weak virtue.
Dressed in black and speaking never—every woman then looks clever.
When things go well, my gratitude goes—to God and the woman who cuts my clothes.
When young, a flowery cavern home—when old, a dragon on the roam.
A noble name, legs are fine—a man as well—would he were mine!
Brief in speech, the sense quite nice—a female ass on treacherous ice!
Up to now women have been treated by men like birds which have strayed down to them from some high place or other, like something finer, more sensitive, wilder, stranger, sweeter, and with more soul—but like something which man must lock up so that it does not fly away.
To grasp incorrectly the basic problem of “man and woman,” to deny the most profound antagonism here and the necessity for an eternally hostile tension, perhaps in this matter to dream about equal rights, equal education, equal entitlements and duties—that’s a typical sign of a superficial mind. And a thinker who has shown that he’s shallow in this dangerous place—shallow in his instincts!—may in general be considered suspicious or, even worse, betrayed and exposed. Presumably he’ll be too “short” for all the basic questions of life and of life in the future, and he’ll be incapable of any profundity. By contrast, a man who does have profundity in his spirit and in his desires as well, together with that profundity of good will capable of severity and hardness and easily confused with them, can think about woman only in an oriental way: he has to grasp woman as a possession, as a property which he can lock up, as something predetermined for service and reaching her perfection in that service. In this matter he must take a stand on the immense reasoning of Asia, on the instinctual superiority of Asia: just as the Greeks did in earlier times, the best heirs and students of Asia, who, as is well known, from Homer to the time of Pericles, as they advanced in culture and in the extent of their power, also became step by step stricter with women, in short, more oriental. How necessary, how logical, even how humanly desirable this was: that’s something we’d do well to think about for ourselves!
In no age has the weak sex been treated with such respect on the part of men as in our time—that’s part of the tendency and basic taste of democracy, just like the disrespect for old age. Is it any wonder that this respect immediately leads to abuse? People want more; people learn to make demands. They finally find this toll of respect almost insulting and would prefer a competition for rights, in fact, a completely genuine fight. Briefly put, woman is losing her shame. Let’s add to that at once that she is also losing her taste. She is forgetting how to be afraid of man. But the woman who “forgets how to fear” is abandoning her most womanly instincts. The fact that woman dares to come out when that part of men which inspires fear—let’s say it more clearly—when the man in men—is no longer wanted and widely cultivated—is reasonable enough, even understandable enough. What’s more difficult to grasp is that in this very process—woman degenerates. That’s happening today: let’s not deceive ourselves about it! Wherever the industrial spirit has triumphed over the military and aristocratic spirit, woman now strives for the economic and legal independence of a clerk: “woman as clerk” stands written on the door of the modern society which is now developing. As she thus empowers herself with new rights and strives to become “master” and writes the “progress” of woman on her flags and banners, it becomes appallingly clear that the opposite is taking place: woman is regressing. Since the French Revolution the influence of woman in Europe has grown smaller in proportion to the increase in her rights and demands, and the “Emancipation of Woman,” to the extent that that is desired and demanded by women themselves (and not just by superficial men), has as a result shown itself to be a remarkable symptom of the growing weakening and deadening of the most feminine instincts. There is stupidity in this development, an almost masculine stupidity, about which a well-adjusted woman—who is always an intelligent woman—would have to feel thoroughly ashamed. To lose the instinct for the ground on which one is surest to gain victory, to neglect to practice the art of one’s own true weapons, to allow oneself to let go before men, perhaps even “in a book,” where previously one used discipline and a refined cunning humility, to work with a virtuous audacity against man’s faith in a fundamentally different ideal concealed in woman, some eternally and necessarily feminine, with constant chatter to talk men emphatically out of the idea that woman, like a delicate, strangely wild, and often pleasing domestic animal, must be maintained, cared for, protected, and looked after, the awkward and indignant gathering up of everything slavish and serf-like that has inherently belonged to the position of women in the social order up to this point and that still does (as if slavery were a counter-argument and not rather a condition of every higher culture, of every enhancement of culture)—what does all this mean, if not a crumbling away of feminine instinct, a loss of femininity? Of course, there are enough idiotic friends of women and corruptors of women among the scholarly asses of the male sex who counsel woman to defeminize herself in this manner and to imitate all the foolish things which make the “man” in Europe and European “manliness” sick—people who want to bring woman down to the level of a “common education,” perhaps even to reading newspapers and discussing politics. Here and there they even want to make women into free spirits and literati: as if a woman without piety were not something totally repulsive or ridiculous to a profound and godless man. Almost everywhere people ruin woman’s nerves with the most sickly and most dangerous of all forms of music (our most recent German music) and make her more hysterical every day and more incapable of her first and last profession, giving birth to strong children. They want to make her in general even more “cultivated” and, as they say, make the “weak sex” strong through culture, as if history did not teach us as emphatically as possible that “cultivating” human beings and making them weak—that is, enfeebling and fracturing the power of the will and making it sick—have always gone hand in hand and that the most powerful and most influential women of the world (in most recent times Napoleon’s mother) can thank the force of their own particular wills—and not their school masters!—for their power and predominance over men. The thing in woman that arouses respect and often enough fear is her nature, which is “more natural” than man’s nature, her genuine predatory and cunning adaptability, her tiger’s claws under the glove, the naiveté of her egotism, her uneducable nature and inner wildness, the incomprehensibility, breadth, and roaming of her desires and virtues. . . . With all this fear, what creates sympathy for this dangerous and beautiful cat “woman” is that she appears to suffer more, to be more vulnerable, more in need of love, and more condemned to suffer disappointment than any other animal. Fear and pity: with these feelings man has stood before woman up to this point, always with one foot already in tragedy, which tears to pieces while it delights. How’s that? And has this now to come to an end? Is the magic spell of woman in the process of being broken? Are women slowly being made boring? O Europe! Europe! We know the horned animal which has always been most attractive to you. Its danger still constantly threatens you! Your old fable could still at some point once again become “history”—once again a monstrous stupidity could gain mastery of you and drag you away! And no god is hiding underneath it, no, only an “idea,” a “modern idea”!9
1Gustave Flaubert (1820-1880), well known French novelist. [Back to Text]
2Abbé Ferdinand Glaini (1728-1787), an Italian cleric and philosopher; Madame d’Épinay: Louise d’Épinay (1726-1783), a French writer. [Back to Text]
3Aristophanes (456-386 BC), a major dramatist in classical Athens, the foremost writer of Old Comedy. [Back to Text]
4Charles de Marguetel de Saint-Denis de Saint Evremond (1610-1703), French soldier and writer; Voltaire: pen name of Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), an enormously influential and popular French philosopher and writer. [Back to Text]
5Chiaja: an urban district in central Naples. [Back to Text]
6Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), English utilitarian philosopher and social reformer; Claude Helvétius (1715-1771), French philosopher, condemned by the pope and the government for his godlessness. The mention of a Homeric metaphor may be a reference to the shuffling around of cattle (a description which occurs in the Iliad). The German edition of 1900 contains an additional phrase in the parenthetic remark describing Helvetius: “this sénateur Pococurante, to use Galiani’s expression!” (Senateur Pococurante, a character in Voltaire’s Candide, sets impossibly high standards for everything and thus finds nothing to admire or enjoy). [Back to Text]
7The French in the last line means: “Without genius and without wit.” [Back to Text]
8Madame Roland (1754-1793), French historian and writer; George Sand: pen name for Amandine Aurore Dupin (1804-1876), French novelist. [Back to Text]
9In Greek mythology, the young girl Europa was carried off from Asia Minor across the sea by the god Zeus, who had transformed himself into a beautiful bull. [Back to Text]