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Human, All Too Human, A Book for Free Spirits by Friedrich Nietzsche is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post Series. The table of Links for this book can be found here. History of the Moral Feelings
Advantages of Psychological Observation.—That reflection regarding the human, all-too-human—or as the learned jargon is: psychological observation—is among the means whereby the burden of life can be made lighter, that practice in this art affords presence of mind in difficult situations and entertainment amid a wearisome environment, aye, that maxims may be culled in the thorniest and least pleasing paths of life and invigoration thereby obtained: this much was believed, was known—in former centuries. Why was this forgotten in our own century, during which, at least in Germany, yes in Europe, poverty as regards psychological observation would have been manifest in many ways had there been anyone to whom this poverty could have manifested itself. Not only in the novel, in the romance, in philosophical standpoints—these are the works of exceptional men; still more in the state of opinion regarding public events and personages; above all in general society, which says much about men but nothing whatever about man, there is totally lacking the art of psychological analysis and synthesis.
But why is the richest and most harmless source of entertainment thus allowed to run to waste? Why is the greatest master of the psychological maxim no longer read?—for, with no exaggeration whatever be it said: the educated person in Europe who has read La Rochefoucauld and his intellectual and artistic affinities is very hard to find; still harder, the person who knows them and does not disparage them. Apparently, too, this unusual reader takes far less pleasure in them than the form adopted by these artists should afford him: for the subtlest mind cannot adequately appreciate the art of maxim-making unless it has had training in it, unless it has competed in it. Without such practical acquaintance, one is apt to look upon this making and forming as a much easier thing than it really is; one is not keenly enough alive to the felicity and the charm of success. Hence present day readers of maxims have but a moderate, tempered pleasure in them, scarcely, indeed, a true perception of their merit, so that their experiences are about the same as those of the average beholder of cameos: people who praise because they cannot appreciate, and are very ready to admire and still readier to turn away.
Objection.—Or is there a counter-proposition to the dictum that psychological observation is one of the means of consoling, lightening, charming existence? Have enough of the unpleasant effects of this art been experienced to justify the person striving for culture in turning his regard away from it? In all truth, a certain blind faith in the goodness of human nature, an implanted distaste for any disparagement of human concerns, a sort of shamefacedness at the nakedness of the soul, may be far more desirable things in the general happiness of a man, than this only occasionally advantageous quality of psychological sharpsightedness; and perhaps belief in the good, in virtuous men and actions, in a plenitude of disinterested benevolence has been more productive of good in the world of men in so far as it has made men less distrustful.
If Plutarch's heroes are enthusiastically imitated and a reluctance is experienced to looking too critically into the motives of their actions, not the knowledge but the welfare of human society is promoted thereby: psychological error and above all obtuseness in regard to it, help human nature forward, whereas knowledge of the truth is more promoted by means of the stimulating strength of a hypothesis; as La Rochefoucauld in the first edition of his "Sentences and Moral Maxims" has expressed it: "What the world calls virtue is ordinarily but a phantom created by the passions, and to which we give a good name in order to do whatever we please with impunity." La Rochefoucauld and those other French masters of soul-searching (to the number of whom has lately been added a German, the author of "Psychological Observations") are like expert marksmen who again and again hit the black spot—but it is the black spot in human nature. Their art inspires amazement, but finally some spectator, inspired, not by the scientific spirit but by a humanitarian feeling, execrates an art that seems to implant in the soul a taste for belittling and impeaching mankind.
Nevertheless.—The matter therefore, as regards pro and con, stands thus: in the present state of philosophy an awakening of the moral observation is essential. The repulsive aspect of psychological dissection, with the knife and tweezers entailed by the process, can no longer be spared humanity. Such is the imperative duty of any science that investigates the origin and history of the so-called moral feelings and which, in its progress, is called upon to posit and to solve advanced social problems:—The older philosophy does not recognize the newer at all and, through paltry evasions, has always gone astray in the investigation of the origin and history of human estimates (Werthschätzungen). With what results may now be very clearly perceived, since it has been shown by many examples, how the errors of the greatest philosophers have their origin in a false explanation of certain human actions and feelings; how upon the foundation of an erroneous analysis (for example, of the so called disinterested actions), a false ethic is reared, to support which religion and like mythological monstrosities are called in, until finally the shades of these troubled spirits collapse in physics and in the comprehensive world point of view.
But if it be established that superficiality of psychological observation has heretofore set the most dangerous snares for human judgment and deduction, and will continue to do so, all the greater need is there of that steady continuance of labor that never wearies putting stone upon stone, little stone upon little stone; all the greater need is there of a courage that is not ashamed of such humble labor and that will oppose persistence, to all contempt. It is, finally, also true that countless single observations concerning the human, all-too-human, have been first made and uttered in circles accustomed, not to furnish matter for scientific knowledge, but for intellectual pleasure-seeking; and the original home atmosphere—a very seductive atmosphere—of the moral maxim has almost inextricably interpenetrated the entire species, so that the scientific man involuntarily manifests a sort of mistrust of this species and of its seriousness. But it is sufficient to point to the consequences: for already it is becoming evident that events of the most portentous nature are developing in the domain of psychological observation. What is the leading conclusion arrived at by one of the subtlest and calmest of thinkers, the author of the work "Concerning the Origin of the Moral Feelings", as a result of his thorough and incisive analysis of human conduct? "The moral man," he says, "stands no nearer the knowable (metaphysical) world than the physical man."19 This dictum, grown hard and cutting beneath the hammer-blow of historical knowledge, can some day, perhaps, in some future or other, serve as the axe that will be laid to the root of the "metaphysical necessities" of men—whether more to the blessing than to the banning of universal well being who can say?—but in any event a dictum fraught with the most momentous consequences, fruitful and fearful at once, and confronting the world in the two faced way characteristic of all great facts.
19"Der moralische Mensch, sagt er, steht der intelligiblen (metaphysischen) Welt nicht näher, als der physische Mensch."
To What Extent Useful.—Therefore, whether psychological observation is more an advantage than a disadvantage to mankind may always remain undetermined: but there is no doubt that it is necessary, because science can no longer dispense with it. Science, however, recognizes no considerations of ultimate goals or ends any more than nature does; but as the latter duly matures things of the highest fitness for certain ends without any intention of doing it, so will true science, doing with ideas what nature does with matter,20 promote the purposes and the welfare of humanity, (as occasion may afford, and in many ways) and attain fitness [to ends]—but likewise without having intended it.
20als die Nachahmung der Natur in Begriffen, literally: "as the counterfeit of nature in (regard to) ideas."
He to whom the atmospheric conditions of such a prospect are too wintry, has too little fire in him: let him look about him, and he will become sensible of maladies requiring an icy air, and of people who are so "kneaded together" out of ardor and intellect that they can scarcely find anywhere an atmosphere too cold and cutting for them. Moreover: as too serious individuals and nations stand in need of trivial relaxations; as others, too volatile and excitable require onerous, weighty ordeals to render them entirely healthy: should not we, the more intellectual men of this age, which is swept more and more by conflagrations, catch up every cooling and extinguishing appliance we can find that we may always remain as self contained, steady and calm as we are now, and thereby perhaps serve this age as its mirror and self reflector, when the occasion arises?
The Fable of Discretionary Freedom.—The history of the feelings, on the basis of which we make everyone responsible, hence, the so-called moral feelings, is traceable in the following leading phases. At first single actions are termed good or bad without any reference to their motive, but solely because of the utilitarian or prejudicial consequences they have for the community. In time, however, the origin of these designations is forgotten [but] it is imagined that action in itself, without reference to its consequences, contains the property "good" or "bad": with the same error according to which language designates the stone itself as hard[ness] the tree itself as green[ness]—for the reason, therefore, that what is a consequence is comprehended as a cause. Accordingly, the good[ness] or bad[ness] is incorporated into the motive and [any] deed by itself is regarded as morally ambiguous. A step further is taken, and the predication good or bad is no longer made of the particular motives but of the entire nature of a man, out of which motive grows as grow the plants out of the soil. Thus man is successively made responsible for his [particular] acts, then for his [course of] conduct, then for his motives and finally for his nature.
Now, at last, is it discovered that this nature, even, cannot be responsible, inasmuch as it is only and wholly a necessary consequence and is synthesised out of the elements and influence of past and present things: therefore, that man is to be made responsible for nothing, neither for his nature, nor his motives, nor his [course of] conduct nor his [particular] acts. By this [process] is gained the knowledge that the history of moral estimates is the history of error, of the error of responsibility: as is whatever rests upon the error of the freedom of the will. Schopenhauer concluded just the other way, thus: since certain actions bring depression ("consciousness of guilt") in their train, there must, then, exist responsibility, for there would be no basis for this depression at hand if all man's affairs did not follow their course of necessity—as they do, indeed, according to the opinion of this philosopher, follow their course—but man himself, subject to the same necessity, would be just the man that he is—which Schopenhauer denies. From the fact of such depression Schopenhauer believes himself able to prove a freedom which man in some way must have had, not indeed in regard to his actions but in regard to his nature: freedom, therefore, to be thus and so, not to act thus and so.
Out of the esse, the sphere of freedom and responsibility, follows, according to his opinion, the operari, the spheres of invariable causation, necessity and irresponsibility. This depression, indeed, is due apparently to the operari—in so far as it be delusive—but in truth to whatever esse be the deed of a free will, the basic cause of the existence of an individual: [in order to] let man become whatever he wills to become, his [to] will (Wollen) must precede his existence.—Here, apart from the absurdity of the statement just made, there is drawn the wrong inference that the fact of the depression explains its character, the rational admissibility of it: from such a wrong inference does Schopenhauer first come to his fantastic consequent of the so called discretionary freedom (intelligibeln Freiheit). (For the origin of this fabulous entity Plato and Kant are equally responsible). But depression after the act does not need to be rational: indeed, it is certainly not so at all, for it rests upon the erroneous assumption that the act need not necessarily have come to pass. Therefore: only because man deems himself free, but not because he is free, does he experience remorse and the stings of conscience.—Moreover, this depression is something that can be grown out of; in many men it is not present at all as a consequence of acts which inspire it in many other men. It is a very varying thing and one closely connected with the development of custom and civilization, and perhaps manifest only during a relatively brief period of the world's history.—No one is responsible for his acts, no one for his nature; to judge is tantamount to being unjust. This applies as well when the individual judges himself. The proposition is as clear as sunlight, and yet here everyone prefers to go back to darkness and untruth: for fear of the consequences.
Above Animal.—The beast in us must be wheedled: ethic is necessary, that we may not be torn to pieces. Without the errors involved in the assumptions of ethics, man would have remained an animal. Thus has he taken himself as something higher and imposed rigid laws upon himself. He feels hatred, consequently, for states approximating the animal: whence the former contempt for the slave as a not-yet-man, as a thing, is to be explained.
Unalterable Character.—That character is unalterable is not, in the strict sense, true; rather is this favorite proposition valid only to the extent that during the brief life period of a man the potent new motives can not, usually, press down hard enough to obliterate the lines imprinted by ages. Could we conceive of a man eighty thousand years old, we should have in him an absolutely alterable character; so that the maturities of successive, varying individuals would develop in him. The shortness of human life leads to many erroneous assertions concerning the qualities of man.
Classification of Enjoyments and Ethic.—The once accepted comparative classification of enjoyments, according to which an inferior, higher, highest egoism may crave one or another enjoyment, now decides as to ethical status or unethical status. A lower enjoyment (for example, sensual pleasure) preferred to a more highly esteemed one (for example, health) rates as unethical, as does welfare preferred to freedom. The comparative classification of enjoyments is not, however, alike or the same at all periods; when anyone demands satisfaction of the law, he is, from the point of view of an earlier civilization, moral, from that of the present, non-moral. "Unethical" indicates, therefore, that a man is not sufficiently sensible to the higher, finer impulses which the present civilization has brought with it, or is not sensible to them at all; it indicates backwardness, but only from the point of view of the contemporary degree of distinction.—The comparative classification of enjoyments itself is not determined according to absolute ethics; but after each new ethical adjustment, it is then decided whether conduct be ethical or the reverse.
Inhuman Men as Survivals.—Men who are now inhuman must serve us as surviving specimens of earlier civilizations. The mountain height of humanity here reveals its lower formations, which might otherwise remain hidden from view. There are surviving specimens of humanity whose brains through the vicissitudes of heredity, have escaped proper development. They show us what we all were and thus appal us; but they are as little responsible on this account as is a piece of granite for being granite. In our own brains there must be courses and windings corresponding to such characters, just as in the forms of some human organs there survive traces of fishhood. But these courses and windings are no longer the bed in which flows the stream of our feeling.
Gratitude and Revenge.—The reason the powerful man is grateful is this. His benefactor has, through his benefaction, invaded the domain of the powerful man and established himself on an equal footing: the powerful man in turn invades the domain of the benefactor and gets satisfaction through the act of gratitude. It is a mild form of revenge. By not obtaining the satisfaction of gratitude the powerful would have shown himself powerless and have ranked as such thenceforward. Hence every society of the good, that is to say, of the powerful originally, places gratitude among the first of duties.—Swift has added the dictum that man is grateful in the same degree that he is revengeful.
Two-fold Historical Origin of Good and Evil.—The notion of good and bad has a two-fold historical origin: namely, first, in the spirit of ruling races and castes. Whoever has power to requite good with good and evil with evil and actually brings requital, (that is, is grateful and revengeful) acquires the name of being good; whoever is powerless and cannot requite is called bad. A man belongs, as a good individual, to the "good" of a community, who have a feeling in common, because all the individuals are allied with one another through the requiting sentiment. A man belongs, as a bad individual, to the "bad," to a mass of subjugated, powerless men who have no feeling in common. The good are a caste, the bad are a quantity, like dust. Good and bad is, for a considerable period, tantamount to noble and servile, master and slave. On the other hand an enemy is not looked upon as bad: he can requite. The Trojan and the Greek are in Homer both good. Not he, who does no harm, but he who is despised, is deemed bad. In the community of the good individuals [the quality of] good[ness] is inherited; it is impossible for a bad individual to grow from such a rich soil.
If, notwithstanding, one of the good individuals does something unworthy of his goodness, recourse is had to exorcism; thus the guilt is ascribed to a deity, the while it is declared that this deity bewitched the good man into madness and blindness.—Second, in the spirit of the subjugated, the powerless. Here every other man is, to the individual, hostile, inconsiderate, greedy, inhuman, avaricious, be he noble or servile; bad is the characteristic term for man, for every living being, indeed, that is recognized at all, even for a god: human, divine, these notions are tantamount to devilish, bad. Manifestations of goodness, sympathy, helpfulness, are regarded with anxiety as trickiness, preludes to an evil end, deception, subtlety, in short, as refined badness. With such a predisposition in individuals, a feeling in common can scarcely arise at all, at most only the rudest form of it: so that everywhere that this conception of good and evil prevails, the destruction of the individuals, their race and nation, is imminent.—Our existing morality has developed upon the foundation laid by ruling races and castes.
Sympathy Greater than Suffering.—There are circumstances in which sympathy is stronger than the suffering itself. We feel more pain, for instance, when one of our friends becomes guilty of a reprehensible action than if we had done the deed ourselves. We once, that is, had more faith in the purity of his character than he had himself. Hence our love for him, (apparently because of this very faith) is stronger than is his own love for himself. If, indeed, his egoism really suffers more, as a result, than our egoism, inasmuch as he must take the consequences of his fault to a greater extent than ourselves, nevertheless, the unegoistic—this word is not to be taken too strictly, but simply as a modified form of expression—in us is more affected by his guilt than the unegoistic in him.
Hypochondria.—There are people who, from sympathy and anxiety for others become hypochondriacal. The resulting form of compassion is nothing else than sickness. So, also, is there a Christian hypochondria, from which those singular, religiously agitated people suffer who place always before their eyes the suffering and death of Christ.
Economy of Blessings.—The advantageous and the pleasing, as the healthiest growths and powers in the intercourse of men, are such precious treasures that it is much to be wished the use made of these balsamic means were as economical as possible: but this is impossible. Economy in the use of blessings is the dream of the craziest of Utopians.
Well-Wishing.—Among the small, but infinitely plentiful and therefore very potent things to which science must pay more attention than to the great, uncommon things, well-wishing21 must be reckoned; I mean those manifestations of friendly disposition in intercourse, that laughter of the eye, every hand pressure, every courtesy from which, in general, every human act gets its quality. Every teacher, every functionary adds this element as a gratuity to whatever he does as a duty; it is the perpetual well spring of humanity, like the waves of light in which everything grows; thus, in the narrowest circles, within the family, life blooms and flowers only through this kind feeling. The cheerfulness, friendliness and kindness of a heart are unfailing sources of unegoistic impulse and have made far more for civilization than those other more noised manifestations of it that are styled sympathy, benevolence and sacrifice. But it is customary to depreciate these little tokens of kindly feeling, and, indeed, there is not much of the unegoistic in them. The sum of these little doses is very great, nevertheless; their combined strength is of the greatest of strengths.—Thus, too, much more happiness is to be found in the world than gloomy eyes discover: that is, if the calculation be just, and all these pleasing moments in which every day, even the meanest human life, is rich, be not forgotten.
21Wohl-wollen, kind feeling. It stands here for benevolence but not benevolence in the restricted sense of the word now prevailing.
The Desire to Inspire Compassion.—La Rochefoucauld, in the most notable part of his self portraiture (first printed 1658) reaches the vital spot of truth when he warns all those endowed with reason to be on their guard against compassion, when he advises that this sentiment be left to men of the masses who stand in need of the promptings of the emotions (since they are not guided by reason) to induce them to give aid to the suffering and to be of service in misfortune: whereas compassion, in his (and Plato's) view, deprives the heart of strength. To be sure, sympathy should be manifested but men should take care not to feel it; for the unfortunate are rendered so dull that the manifestation of sympathy affords them the greatest happiness in the world.—Perhaps a more effectual warning against this compassion can be given if this need of the unfortunate be considered not simply as stupidity and intellectual weakness, not as a sort of distraction of the spirit entailed by misfortune itself (and thus, indeed, does La Rochefoucauld seem to view it) but as something quite different and more momentous.
Let note be taken of children who cry and scream in order to be compassionated and who, therefore, await the moment when their condition will be observed; come into contact with the sick and the oppressed in spirit and try to ascertain if the wailing and sighing, the posturing and posing of misfortune do not have as end and aim the causing of pain to the beholder: the sympathy which each beholder manifests is a consolation to the weak and suffering only in as much as they are made to perceive that at least they have the power, notwithstanding all their weakness, to inflict pain. The unfortunate experiences a species of joy in the sense of superiority which the manifestation of sympathy entails; his imaginationis exalted; he is always strong enough, then, to cause the world pain. Thus is the thirst for sympathy a thirst for self enjoyment and at the expense of one's fellow creatures: it shows man in the whole ruthlessness of his own dear self: not in his mere "dullness" as La Rochefoucauld thinks.—In social conversation three fourths of all the questions are asked, and three fourths of all the replies are made in order to inflict some little pain; that is why so many people crave social intercourse: it gives them a sense of their power. In these countless but very small doses in which the quality of badness is administered it proves a potent stimulant of life: to the same extent that well wishing—(Wohl-wollen) distributed through the world in like manner, is one of the ever ready restoratives.—But will many honorable people be found to admit that there is any pleasure in administering pain? that entertainment—and rare entertainment—is not seldom found in causing others, at least in thought, some pain, and in raking them with the small shot of wickedness? The majority are too ignoble and a few are too good to know anything of this pudendum: the latter may, consequently, be prompt to deny that Prosper Mérimée is right when he says: "Know, also, that nothing is more common than to do wrong for the pleasure of doing it."
How Appearance Becomes Reality.—The actor cannot, at last, refrain, even in moments of the deepest pain, from thinking of the effect produced by his deportment and by his surroundings—for example, even at the funeral of his own child: he will weep at his own sorrow and its manifestations as though he were his own audience. The hypocrite who always plays one and the same part, finally ceases to be a hypocrite; as in the case of priests who, when young men, are always, either consciously or unconsciously, hypocrites, and finally become naturally and then really, without affectation, mere priests: or if the father does not carry it to this extent, the son, who inherits his father's calling and gets the advantage of the paternal progress, does.
When anyone, during a long period, and persistently, wishes to appear something, it will at last prove difficult for him to be anything else. The calling of almost every man, even of the artist, begins with hypocrisy, with an imitation of deportment, with a copying of the effective in manner. He who always wears the mask of a friendly man must at last gain a power over friendliness of disposition, without which the expression itself of friendliness is not to be gained—and finally friendliness of disposition gains the ascendancy over him—he is benevolent.
The Point of Honor in Deception.—In all great deceivers one characteristic is prominent, to which they owe their power. In the very act of deception, amid all the accompaniments, the agitation in the voice, the expression, the bearing, in the crisis of the scene, there comes over them a belief in themselves; this it is that acts so effectively and irresistibly upon the beholders. Founders of religions differ from such great deceivers in that they never come out of this state of self deception, or else they have, very rarely, a few moments of enlightenment in which they are overcome by doubt; generally, however, they soothe themselves by ascribing such moments of enlightenment to the evil adversary. Self deception must exist that both classes of deceivers may attain far reaching results. For men believe in the truth of all that is manifestly believed with due implicitness by others.
Presumed Degrees of Truth.—One of the most usual errors of deduction is: because someone truly and openly is against us, therefore he speaks the truth. Hence the child has faith in the judgments of its elders, the Christian in the assertions of the founder of the church. So, too, it will not be admitted that all for which men sacrificed life and happiness in former centuries was nothing but delusion: perhaps it is alleged these things were degrees of truth. But what is really meant is that, if a person sincerely believes a thing and has fought and died for his faith, it would be too unjust if only delusion had inspired him. Such a state of affairs seems to contradict eternal justice. For that reason the heart of a sensitive man pronounces against his head the judgment: between moral conduct and intellectual insight there must always exist an inherent connection. It is, unfortunately, otherwise: for there is no eternal justice.
Falsehood.—Why do men, as a rule, speak the truth in the ordinary affairs of life? Certainly not for the reason that a god has forbidden lying. But because first: it is more convenient, as falsehood entails invention, make-believe and recollection (wherefore Swift says that whoever invents a lie seldom realises the heavy burden he takes up: he must, namely, for every lie that he tells, insert twenty more). Therefore, because in plain ordinary relations of life it is expedient to say without circumlocution: I want this, I have done this, and the like; therefore, because the way of freedom and certainty is surer than that of ruse.—But if it happens that a child is brought up in sinister domestic circumstances, it will then indulge in falsehood as matter of course, and involuntarily say anything its own interests may prompt: an inclination for truth, an aversion to falsehood, is quite foreign and uncongenial to it, and hence it lies in all innocence.
Ethic Discredited for Faith's Sake.—No power can sustain itself when it is represented by mere humbugs: the Catholic Church may possess ever so many "worldly" sources of strength, but its true might is comprised in those still numberless priestly natures who make their lives stern and strenuous and whose looks and emaciated bodies are eloquent of night vigils, fasts, ardent prayer, perhaps even of whip lashes: these things make men tremble and cause them anxiety: what, if it be really imperative to live thus? This is the dreadful question which their aspect occasions. As they spread this doubt, they lay anew the prop of their power: even the free thinkers dare not oppose such disinterestedness with severe truth and cry: "Thou deceived one, deceive not!"—Only the difference of standpoint separates them from him: no difference in goodness or badness. But things we cannot accomplish ourselves, we are apt to criticise unfairly. Thus we are told of the cunning and perverted acts of the Jesuits, but we overlook the self mastery that each Jesuit imposes upon himself and also the fact that the easy life which the Jesuit manuals advocate is for the benefit, not of the Jesuits but the laity. Indeed, it may be questioned whether we enlightened ones would become equally competent workers as the result of similar tactics and organization, and equally worthy of admiration as the result of self mastery, indefatigable industry and devotion.
Victory of Knowledge over Radical Evil.—It proves a material gain to him who would attain knowledge to have had during a considerable period the idea that mankind is a radically bad and perverted thing: it is a false idea, as is its opposite, but it long held sway and its roots have reached down even to ourselves and our present world. In order to understand ourselves we must understand it; but in order to attain a loftier height we must step above it. We then perceive that there is no such thing as sin in the metaphysical sense: but also, in the same sense, no such thing as virtue; that this whole domain of ethical notions is one of constant variation; that there are higher and deeper conceptions of good and evil, moral and immoral.
Whoever desires no more of things than knowledge of them attains speedily to peace of mind and will at most err through lack of knowledge, but scarcely through eagerness for knowledge (or through sin, as the world calls it). He will not ask that eagerness for knowledge be interdicted and rooted out; but his single, all powerful ambition to know as thoroughly and as fully as possible, will soothe him and moderate all that is strenuous in his circumstances. Moreover, he is now rid of a number of disturbing notions; he is no longer beguiled by such words as hell-pain, sinfulness, unworthiness: he sees in them merely the flitting shadow pictures of false views of life and of the world.
Ethic as Man's Self-Analysis.—A good author, whose heart is really in his work, wishes that someone would arise and wholly refute him if only thereby his subject be wholly clarified and made plain. The maid in love wishes that she could attest the fidelity of her own passion through the faithlessness of her beloved. The soldier wishes to sacrifice his life on the field of his fatherland's victory: for in the victory of his fatherland his highest end is attained. The mother gives her child what she deprives herself of—sleep, the best nourishment and, in certain circumstances, her health, her self.—But are all these acts unegoistic? Are these moral deeds miracles because they are, in Schopenhauer's phrase "impossible and yet accomplished"? Is it not evident that in all four cases man loves one part of himself, (a thought, a longing, an experience) more than he loves another part of himself? that he thus analyses his being and sacrifices one part of it to another part? Is this essentially different from the behavior of the obstinate man who says "I would rather be shot than go a step out of my way for this fellow"?—Preference for something (wish, impulse, longing) is present in all four instances: to yield to it, with all its consequences, is not "unegoistic."—In the domain of the ethical man conducts himself not as individuum but as dividuum.
What Can be Promised.—Actions can be promised, but not feelings, for these are involuntary. Whoever promises somebody to love him always, or to hate him always, or to be ever true to him, promises something that it is out of his power to bestow. But he really can promise such courses of conduct as are the ordinary accompaniments of love, of hate, of fidelity, but which may also have their source in motives quite different: for various ways and motives lead to the same conduct. The promise to love someone always, means, consequently: as long as I love you, I will manifest the deportment of love; but if I cease to love you my deportment, although from some other motive, will be just the same, so that to the people about us it will seem as if my love remained unchanged.—Hence it is the continuance of the deportment of love that is promised in every instance in which eternal love (provided no element of self deception be involved) is sworn.
Intellect and Ethic.—One must have a good memory to be able to keep the promises one makes. One must have a strong imagination in order to feel sympathy. So closely is ethics connected with intellectual capacity.
Desire for Vengeance and Vengeance Itself.—To meditate revenge and attain it is tantamount to an attack of fever, that passes away: but to meditate revenge without possessing the strength or courage to attain it is tantamount to suffering from a chronic malady, or poisoning of body and soul. Ethics, which takes only the motive into account, rates both cases alike: people generally estimate the first case as the worst (because of the consequences which the deed of vengeance may entail). Both views are short sighted.
Ability to Wait.—Ability to wait is so hard to acquire that great poets have not disdained to make inability to wait the central motive of their poems. So Shakespeare in Othello, Sophocles in Ajax, whose suicide would not have seemed to him so imperative had he only been able to cool his ardor for a day, as the oracle foreboded: apparently he would then have repulsed somewhat the fearful whispers of distracted thought and have said to himself: Who has not already, in my situation, mistaken a sheep for a hero? is it so extraordinary a thing? On the contrary it is something universally human: Ajax should thus have soothed himself. Passion will not wait: the tragic element in the lives of great men does not generally consist in their conflict with time and the inferiority of their fellowmen but in their inability to put off their work a year or two: they cannot wait.—In all duels, the friends who advise have but to ascertain if the principals can wait: if this be not possible, a duel is rational inasmuch as each of the combatants may say: "either I continue to live and the other dies instantly, or vice versa." To wait in such circumstances would be equivalent to the frightful martyrdom of enduring dishonor in the presence of him responsible for the dishonor: and this can easily cost more anguish than life is worth.
Glutting Revenge.—Coarse men, who feel a sense of injury, are in the habit of rating the extent of their injury as high as possible and of stating the occasion of it in greatly exaggerated language, in order to be able to feast themselves on the sentiments of hatred and revenge thus aroused.
Value of Disparagement.—Not a few, perhaps the majority of men, find it necessary, in order to retain their self esteem and a certain uprightness in conduct, to mentally disparage and belittle all the people they know. But as the inferior natures are in the majority and as a great deal depends upon whether they retain or lose this uprightness, so—
The Man in a Rage.—We should be on our guard against the man who is enraged against us, as against one who has attempted our life, for the fact that we still live consists solely in the inability to kill: were looks sufficient, it would have been all up with us long since. To reduce anyone to silence by physical manifestations of savagery or by a terrorizing process is a relic of under civilization. So, too, that cold look which great personages cast upon their servitors is a remnant of the caste distinction between man and man; a specimen of rude antiquity: women, the conservers of the old, have maintained this survival, too, more perfectly than men.
Whither Honesty May Lead.—Someone once had the bad habit of expressing himself upon occasion, and with perfect honesty, on the subject of the motives of his conduct, which were as good or as bad as the motives of all men. He aroused first disfavor, then suspicion, became gradually of ill repute and was pronounced a person of whom society should beware, until at last the law took note of such a perverted being for reasons which usually have no weight with it or to which it closes its eyes. Lack of taciturnity concerning what is universally held secret, and an irresponsible predisposition to see what no one wants to see—oneself—brought him to prison and to early death.
Punishable, not Punished.—Our crime against criminals consists in the fact that we treat them as rascals.
Sancta simplicitas of Virtue.—Every virtue has its privilege: for example, that of contributing its own little bundle of wood to the funeral pyre of one condemned.
Morality and Consequence.—Not alone the beholders of an act generally estimate the ethical or unethical element in it by the result: no, the one who performed the act does the same. For the motives and the intentions are seldom sufficiently apparent, and amid them the memory itself seems to become clouded by the results of the act, so that a man often ascribes the wrong motives to his acts or regards the remote motives as the direct ones. Success often imparts to an action all the brilliance and honor of good intention, while failure throws the shadow of conscience over the most estimable deeds. Hence arises the familiar maxim of the politician: "Give me only success: with it I can win all the noble souls over to my side—and make myself noble even in my own eyes."—In like manner will success prove an excellent substitute for a better argument.
To this very day many well educated men think the triumph of Christianity over Greek philosophy is a proof of the superior truth of the former—although in this case it was simply the coarser and more powerful that triumphed over the more delicate and intellectual. As regards superiority of truth, it is evident that because of it the reviving sciences have connected themselves, point for point, with the philosophy of Epicurus, while Christianity has, point for point, recoiled from it.
Love and Justice.—Why is love so highly prized at the expense of justice and why are such beautiful things spoken of the former as if it were a far higher entity than the latter? Is the former not palpably a far more stupid thing than the latter?—Certainly, and on that very account so much the more agreeable to everybody: it is blind and has a rich horn of plenty out of which it distributes its gifts to everyone, even when they are unmerited, even when no thanks are returned. It is impartial like the rain, which according to the bible and experience, wets not alone the unjust but, in certain circumstances, the just as well, and to their skins at that.
Execution.—How comes it that every execution causes us more pain than a murder? It is the coolness of the executioner, the painful preparation, the perception that here a man is being used as an instrument for the intimidation of others. For the guilt is not punished even if there be any: this is ascribable to the teachers, the parents, the environment, in ourselves, not in the murderer—I mean the predisposing circumstances.
Hope.—Pandora brought the box containing evils and opened it. It was the gift of the gods to men, a gift of most enticing appearance externally and called the "box of happiness." Thereupon all the evils, (living, moving things) flew out: from that time to the present they fly about and do ill to men by day and night. One evil only did not fly out of the box: Pandora shut the lid at the behest of Zeus and it remained inside. Now man has this box of happiness perpetually in the house and congratulates himself upon the treasure inside of it; it is at his service: he grasps it whenever he is so disposed, for he knows not that the box which Pandora brought was a box of evils. Hence he looks upon the one evil still remaining as the greatest source of happiness—it is hope.—Zeus intended that man, notwithstanding the evils oppressing him, should continue to live and not rid himself of life, but keep on making himself miserable. For this purpose he bestowed hope upon man: it is, in truth, the greatest of evils for it lengthens the ordeal of man.
Degree of Moral Susceptibility Unknown.—The fact that one has or has not had certain profoundly moving impressions and insights into things—for example, an unjustly executed, slain or martyred father, a faithless wife, a shattering, serious accident,—is the factor upon which the excitation of our passions to white heat principally depends, as well as the course of our whole lives. No one knows to what lengths circumstances (sympathy, emotion) may lead him. He does not know the full extent of his own susceptibility. Wretched environment makes him wretched. It is as a rule not the quality of our experience but its quantity upon which depends the development of our superiority or inferiority, from the point of view of good and evil.
The Martyr Against His Will.—In a certain movement there was a man who was too cowardly and vacillating ever to contradict his comrades. He was made use of in each emergency, every sacrifice was demanded of him because he feared the disfavor of his comrades more than he feared death: he was a petty, abject spirit. They perceived this and upon the foundation of the qualities just mentioned they elevated him to the altitude of a hero, and finally even of a martyr. Although the cowardly creature always inwardly said No, he always said Yes with his lips, even upon the scaffold, where he died for the tenets of his party: for beside him stood one of his old associates who so domineered him with look and word that he actually went to his death with the utmost fortitude and has ever since been celebrated as a martyr and exalted character.
General Standard.—One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit and mean actions to fear.
Misunderstanding of Virtue.—Whoever has obtained his experience of vice in connection with pleasure as in the case of one with a youth of wild oats behind him, comes to the conclusion that virtue must be connected with self denial. Whoever, on the other hand, has been very much plagued by his passions and vices, longs to find in virtue the rest and peace of the soul. That is why it is possible for two virtuous people to misunderstand one another wholly.
The Ascetic.—The ascetic makes out of virtue a slavery.
Honor Transferred from Persons to Things.—Actions prompted by love or by the spirit of self sacrifice for others are universally honored wherever they are manifest. Hence is magnified the value set upon whatever things may be loved or whatever things conduce to self sacrifice: although in themselves they may be worth nothing much. A valiant army is evidence of the value of the thing it fights for.
Ambition a Substitute for Moral Feeling.—Moral feeling should never become extinct in natures that are destitute of ambition. The ambitious can get along without moral feeling just as well as with it.—Hence the sons of retired, ambitionless families, generally become by a series of rapid gradations, when they lose moral feeling, the most absolute lunkheads.
Vanity Enriches.—How poor the human mind would be without vanity! As it is, it resembles a well stacked and ever renewed ware-emporium that attracts buyers of every class: they can find almost everything, have almost everything, provided they bring with them the right kind of money—admiration.
Senility and Death.—Apart from the demands made by religion, it may well be asked why it is more honorable in an aged man, who feels the decline of his powers, to await slow extinction than to fix a term to his existence himself? Suicide in such a case is a quite natural and due proceeding that ought to command respect as a triumph of reason: and did in fact command respect during the times of the masters of Greek philosophy and the bravest Roman patriots, who usually died by their own hand. Eagerness, on the other hand, to keep alive from day to day with the anxious counsel of physicians, without capacity to attain any nearer to one's ideal of life, is far less worthy of respect.—Religions are very rich in refuges from the mandate of suicide: hence they ingratiate themselves with those who cling to life.
Delusions Regarding Victim and Regarding Evil Doer.—When the rich man takes a possession away from the poor man (for example, a prince who deprives a plebeian of his beloved) there arises in the mind of the poor man a delusion: he thinks the rich man must be wholly perverted to take from him the little that he has. But the rich man appreciates the value of a single possession much less because he is accustomed to many possessions, so that he cannot put himself in the place of the poor man and does not act by any means as ill as the latter supposes. Both have a totally false idea of each other. The iniquities of the mighty which bulk most largely in history are not nearly so monstrous as they seem. The hereditary consciousness of being a superior being with superior environment renders one very callous and lulls the conscience to rest. We all feel, when the difference between ourselves and some other being is exceedingly great, that no element of injustice can be involved, and we kill a fly with no qualms of conscience whatever. So, too, it is no indication of wickedness in Xerxes (whom even the Greeks represent as exceptionally noble) that he deprived a father of his son and had him drawn and quartered because the latter had manifested a troublesome, ominous distrust of an entire expedition: the individual was in this case brushed aside as a pestiferous insect. He was too low and mean to justify continued sentiments of compunction in the ruler of the world. Indeed no cruel man is ever as cruel, in the main, as his victim thinks. The idea of pain is never the same as the sensation.
The rule is precisely analogous in the case of the unjust judge, and of the journalist who by means of devious rhetorical methods, leads public opinion astray. Cause and effect are in all these instances entwined with totally different series of feeling and thoughts, whereas it is unconsciously assumed that principal and victim feel and think exactly alike, and because of this assumption the guilt of the one is based upon the pain of the other.
The Soul's Skin.—As the bones, flesh, entrails and blood vessels are enclosed by a skin that renders the aspect of men endurable, so the impulses and passions of the soul are enclosed by vanity: it is the skin of the soul.
Sleep of Virtue.—If virtue goes to sleep, it will be more vigorous when it awakes.
Subtlety of Shame.—Men are not ashamed of obscene thoughts, but they are ashamed when they suspect that obscene thoughts are attributed to them.
Naughtiness Is Rare.—Most people are too much absorbed in themselves to be bad.
The Mite in the Balance.—We are praised or blamed, as the one or the other may be expedient, for displaying to advantage our power of discernment.
Luke 18:14 Improved.—He that humbleth himself wisheth to be exalted.
Prevention of Suicide.—There is a justice according to which we may deprive a man of life, but none that permits us to deprive him of death: this is merely cruelty.
Vanity.—We set store by the good opinion of men, first because it is of use to us and next because we wish to give them pleasure (children their parents, pupils their teacher, and well disposed persons all others generally). Only when the good opinion of men is important to somebody, apart from personal advantage or the desire to give pleasure, do we speak of vanity. In this last case, a man wants to give himself pleasure, but at the expense of his fellow creatures, inasmuch as he inspires them with a false opinion of himself or else inspires "good opinion" in such a way that it is a source of pain to others (by arousing envy). The individual generally seeks, through the opinion of others, to attest and fortify the opinion he has of himself; but the potent influence of authority—an influence as old as man himself—leads many, also, to strengthen their own opinion of themselves by means of authority, that is, to borrow from others the expedient of relying more upon the judgment of their fellow men than upon their own.—Interest in oneself, the wish to please oneself attains, with the vain man, such proportions that he first misleads others into a false, unduly exalted estimate of himself and then relies upon the authority of others for his self estimate; he thus creates the delusion that he pins his faith to.—It must, however, be admitted that the vain man does not desire to please others so much as himself and he will often go so far, on this account, as to overlook his own interests: for he often inspires his fellow creatures with malicious envy and renders them ill disposed in order that he may thus increase his own delight in himself.
Limits of the Love of Mankind.—Every man who has declared that some other man is an ass or a scoundrel, gets angry when the other man conclusively shows that the assertion was erroneous.
Weeping Morality.—How much delight morality occasions! Think of the ocean of pleasing tears that has flowed from the narration of noble, great-hearted deeds!—This charm of life would disappear if the belief in complete irresponsibility gained the upper hand.
Origin of Justice.—Justice (reasonableness) has its origin among approximate equals in power, as Thucydides (in the dreadful conferences of the Athenian and Melian envoys) has rightly conceived. Thus, where there exists no demonstrable supremacy and a struggle leads but to mutual, useless damage, the reflection arises that an understanding would best be arrived at and some compromise entered into. The reciprocal nature is hence the first nature of justice. Each party makes the other content inasmuch as each receives what it prizes more highly than the other. Each surrenders to the other what the other wants and receives in return its own desire. Justice is therefore reprisal and exchange upon the basis of an approximate equality of power. Thus revenge pertains originally to the domain of justice as it is a sort of reciprocity. Equally so, gratitude.—Justice reverts naturally to the standpoint of self preservation, therefore to the egoism of this consideration: "why should I injure myself to no purpose and perhaps never attain my end?"—So much for the origin of justice. Only because men, through mental habits, have forgotten the original motive of so called just and rational acts, and also because for thousands of years children have been brought to admire and imitate such acts, have they gradually assumed the appearance of being unegotistical. Upon this appearance is founded the high estimate of them, which, moreover, like all estimates, is continually developing, for whatever is highly esteemed is striven for, imitated, made the object of self sacrifice, while the merit of the pain and emulation thus expended is, by each individual, ascribed to the thing esteemed.—How slightly moral would the world appear without forgetfulness! A poet could say that God had posted forgetfulness as a sentinel at the portal of the temple of human merit!
Concerning the Law of the Weaker.—Whenever any party, for instance, a besieged city, yields to a stronger party, under stipulated conditions, the counter stipulation is that there be a reduction to insignificance, a burning and destruction of the city and thus a great damage inflicted upon the stronger party. Thus arises a sort of equalization principle upon the basis of which a law can be established. The enemy has an advantage to gain by its maintenance.—To this extent there is also a law between slaves and masters, limited only by the extent to which the slave may be useful to his master. The law goes originally only so far as the one party may appear to the other potent, invincible, stable, and the like. To such an extent, then, the weaker has rights, but very limited ones. Hence the famous dictum that each has as much law on his side as his power extends (or more accurately, as his power is believed to extend).
The Three Phases of Morality Hitherto.—It is the first evidence that the animal has become human when his conduct ceases to be based upon the immediately expedient, but upon the permanently useful; when he has, therefore, grown utilitarian, capable of purpose. Thus is manifested the first rule of reason. A still higher stage is attained when he regulates his conduct upon the basis of honor, by means of which he gains mastery of himself and surrenders his desires to principles; this lifts him far above the phase in which he was actuated only by considerations of personal advantage as he understood it. He respects and wishes to be respected. This means that he comprehends utility as a thing dependent upon what his opinion of others is and their opinion of him. Finally he regulates his conduct (the highest phase of morality hitherto attained) by his own standard of men and things. He himself decides, for himself and for others, what is honorable and what is useful. He has become a law giver to opinion, upon the basis of his ever higher developing conception of the utilitarian and the honorable. Knowledge makes him capable of placing the highest utility, (that is, the universal, enduring utility) before merely personal utility,—of placing ennobling recognition of the enduring and universal before the merely temporary: he lives and acts as a collective individuality.
Ethic of the Developed Individual.—Hitherto the altruistic has been looked upon as the distinctive characteristic of moral conduct, and it is manifest that it was the consideration of universal utility that prompted praise and recognition of altruistic conduct. Must not a radical departure from this point of view be imminent, now that it is being ever more clearly perceived that in the most personal considerations the most general welfare is attained: so that conduct inspired by the most personal considerations of advantage is just the sort which has its origin in the present conception of morality (as a universal utilitarianism)? To contemplate oneself as a complete personality and bear the welfare of that personality in mind in all that one does—this is productive of better results than any sympathetic susceptibility and conduct in behalf of others. Indeed we all suffer from such disparagement of our own personalities, which are at present made to deteriorate from neglect. Capacity is, in fact, divorced from our personality in most cases, and sacrificed to the state, to science, to the needy, as if it were the bad which deserved to be made a sacrifice. Now, we are willing to labor for our fellowmen but only to the extent that we find our own highest advantage in so doing, no more, no less. The whole matter depends upon what may be understood as one's advantage: the crude, undeveloped, rough individualities will be the very ones to estimate it most inadequately.
Usage and Ethic.—To be moral, virtuous, praiseworthy means to yield obedience to ancient law and hereditary usage. Whether this obedience be rendered readily or with difficulty is long immaterial. Enough that it be rendered. "Good" finally comes to mean him who acts in the traditional manner, as a result of heredity or natural disposition, that is to say does what is customary with scarcely an effort, whatever that may be (for example revenges injuries when revenge, as with the ancient Greeks, was part of good morals). He is called good because he is good "to some purpose," and as benevolence, sympathy, considerateness, moderation and the like come, in the general course of conduct, to be finally recognized as "good to some purpose" (as utilitarian) the benevolent man, the helpful man, is duly styled "good". (At first other and more important kinds of utilitarian qualities stand in the foreground.) Bad is "not habitual" (unusual), to do things not in accordance with usage, to oppose the traditional, however rational or the reverse the traditional may be. To do injury to one's social group or community (and to one's neighbor as thus understood) is looked upon, through all the variations of moral laws, in different ages, as the peculiarly "immoral" act, so that to-day we associate the word "bad" with deliberate injury to one's neighbor or community. "Egoistic" and "non-egoistic" do not constitute the fundamental opposites that have brought mankind to make a distinction between moral and immoral, good and bad; but adherence to traditional custom, and emancipation from it. How the traditional had its origin is quite immaterial; in any event it had no reference to good and bad or any categorical imperative but to the all important end of maintaining and sustaining the community, the race, the confederation, the nation. Every superstitious custom that originated in a misinterpreted event or casualty entailed some tradition, to adhere to which is moral. To break loose from it is dangerous, more prejudicial to the community than to the individual (because divinity visits the consequences of impiety and sacrilege upon the community rather than upon the individual). Now every tradition grows ever more venerable—the more remote is its origin, the more confused that origin is. The reverence due to it increases from generation to generation. The tradition finally becomes holy and inspires awe. Thus it is that the precept of piety is a far loftier morality than that inculcated by altruistic conduct.
Delight in the Moral.—A potent species of joy (and thereby the source of morality) is custom. The customary is done more easily, better, therefore preferably. A pleasure is felt in it and experience thus shows that since this practice has held its own it must be good. A manner or moral that lives and lets live is thus demonstrated advantageous, necessary, in contradistinction to all new and not yet adopted practices. The custom is therefore the blending of the agreeable and the useful. Moreover it does not require deliberation. As soon as man can exercise compulsion, he exercises it to enforce and establish his customs, for they are to him attested lifewisdom. So, too, a community of individuals constrains each one of their number to adopt the same moral or custom. The error herein is this: Because a certain custom has been agreeable to the feelings or at least because it proves a means of maintenance, this custom must be imperative, for it is regarded as the only thing that can possibly be consistent with well being.
The well being of life seems to spring from it alone. This conception of the customary as a condition of existence is carried into the slightest detail of morality. Inasmuch as insight into true causation is quite restricted in all inferior peoples, a superstitious anxiety is felt that everything be done in due routine. Even when a custom is exceedingly burdensome it is preserved because of its supposed vital utility. It is not known that the same degree of satisfaction can be experienced through some other custom and even higher degrees of satisfaction, too. But it is fully appreciated that all customs do become more agreeable with the lapse of time, no matter how difficult they may have been found in the beginning, and that even the severest way of life may be rendered a matter of habit and therefore a pleasure.
Pleasure and Social Instinct.—Through his relations with other men, man derives a new species of delight in those pleasurable emotions which his own personality affords him; whereby the domain of pleasurable emotions is made infinitely more comprehensive. No doubt he has inherited many of these feelings from the brutes, which palpably feel delight when they sport with one another, as mothers with their young. So, too, the sexual relations must be taken into account: they make every young woman interesting to every young man from the standpoint of pleasure, and conversely. The feeling of pleasure originating in human relationships makes men in general better. The delight in common, the pleasures enjoyed together heighten one another. The individual feels a sense of security. He becomes better natured. Distrust and malice dissolve. For the man feels the sense of benefit and observes the same feeling in others. Mutual manifestations of pleasure inspire mutual sympathy, the sentiment of homogeneity. The same effect is felt also at mutual sufferings, in a common danger, in stormy weather. Upon such a foundation are built the earliest alliances: the object of which is the mutual protection and safety from threatening misfortunes, and the welfare of each individual. And thus the social instinct develops from pleasure.
The Guiltless Nature of So-Called Bad Acts.—All "bad" acts are inspired by the impulse to self preservation or, more accurately, by the desire for pleasure and for the avoidance of pain in the individual. Thus are they occasioned, but they are not, therefore, bad. "Pain self prepared" does not exist, except in the brains of the philosophers, any more than "pleasure self prepared" (sympathy in the Schopenhauer sense). In the condition anterior to the state we kill the creature, be it man or ape, that attempts to pluck the fruit of a tree before we pluck it ourselves should we happen to be hungry at the time and making for that tree: as we would do to-day, so far as the brute is concerned, if we were wandering in savage regions.—The bad acts which most disturb us at present do so because of the erroneous supposition that the one who is guilty of them towards us has a free will in the matter and that it was within his discretion not to have done these evil things. This belief in discretionary power inspires hate, thirst for revenge, malice, the entire perversion of the mental processes, whereas we would feel in no way incensed against the brute, as we hold it irresponsible.
To inflict pain not from the instinct of self preservation but in requital—this is the consequence of false judgment and is equally a guiltless course of conduct. The individual can, in that condition which is anterior to the state, act with fierceness and violence for the intimidation of another creature, in order to render his own power more secure as a result of such acts of intimidation. Thus acts the powerful, the superior, the original state founder, who subjugates the weaker. He has the right to do so, as the state nowadays assumes the same right, or, to be more accurate, there is no right that can conflict with this. A foundation for all morality can first be laid only when a stronger individuality or a collective individuality, for example society, the state, subjects the single personalities, hence builds upon their unification and establishes a bond of union. Morality results from compulsion, it is indeed itself one long compulsion to which obedience is rendered in order that pain may be avoided. At first it is but custom, later free obedience and finally almost instinct. At last it is (like everything habitual and natural) associated with pleasure—and is then called virtue.
Shame.—Shame exists wherever a "mystery" exists: but this is a religious notion which in the earlier period of human civilization had great vogue. Everywhere there were circumscribed spots to which access was denied on account of some divine law, except in special circumstances.At first these spots were quite extensive, inasmuch as stipulated areas could not be trod by the uninitiated, who, when near them, felt tremors and anxieties. This sentiment was frequently transferred to other relationships, for example to sexual relations, which, as the privilege and gateway of mature age, must be withdrawn from the contemplation of youth for its own advantage: relations which many divinities were busy in preserving and sanctifying, images of which divinities were duly placed in marital chambers as guardians. (In Turkish such an apartment is termed a harem or holy thing, the same word also designating the vestibule of a mosque). So, too, Kingship is regarded as a centre from which power and brilliance stream forth, as a mystery to the subjects, impregnated with secrecy and shame, sentiments still quite operative among peoples who in other respects are without any shame at all. So, too, is the whole world of inward states, the so-called "soul," even now, for all non-philosophical persons, a "mystery," and during countless ages it was looked upon as a something of divine origin, in direct communion with deity. It is, therefore, an adytum and occasions shame.
Judge Not.—Care must be taken, in the contemplation of earlier ages, that there be no falling into unjust scornfulness. The injustice in slavery, the cruelty in the subjugation of persons and peoples must not be estimated by our standard. For in that period the instinct of justice was not so highly developed. Who dare reproach the Genoese Calvin for burning the physician Servetus at the stake? It was a proceeding growing out of his convictions. And the Inquisition, too, had its justification. The only thing is that the prevailing views were false and led to those proceedings which seem so cruel to us, simply because such views have become foreign to us. Besides, what is the burning alive of one individual compared with eternal hell pains for everybody else? And yet this idea then had hold of all the world without in the least vitiating, with its frightfulness, the other idea of a god. Even we nowadays are hard and merciless to political revolutionists, but that is because we are in the habit of believing the state a necessity, and hence the cruelty of the proceeding is not so much understood as in the other cases where the points of view are repudiated. The cruelty to animals shown by children and Italians is due to the same misunderstanding. The animal, owing to the exigencies of the church catechism, is placed too far below the level of mankind.—Much, too, that is frightful and inhuman in history, and which is almost incredible, is rendered less atrocious by the reflection that the one who commands and the one who executes are different persons. The former does not witness the performance and hence it makes no strong impression on him. The latter obeys a superior and hence feels no responsibility. Most princes and military chieftains appear, through lack of true perception, cruel and hard without really being so.—Egoism is not bad because the idea of the "neighbor"—the word is of Christian origin and does not correspond to truth—is very weak in us, and we feel ourselves, in regard to him, as free from responsibility as if plants and stones were involved. That another is in suffering must be learned and it can never be wholly learned.
"Man Always Does Right."—We do not blame nature when she sends a thunder storm and makes us wet: why then do we term the man who inflicts injury immoral? Because in the latter case we assume a voluntary, ruling, free will, and in the former necessity. But this distinction is a delusion. Moreover, even the intentional infliction of injury is not, in all circumstances termed immoral. Thus, we kill a fly intentionally without thinking very much about it, simply because its buzzing about is disagreeable; and we punish a criminal and inflict pain upon him in order to protect ourselves and society. In the first case it is the individual who, for the sake of preserving himself or in order to spare himself pain, does injury with design: in the second case, it is the state. All ethic deems intentional infliction of injury justified by necessity; that is when it is a matter of self preservation. But these two points of view are sufficient to explain all bad acts done by man to men. It is desired to obtain pleasure or avoid pain. In any sense, it is a question, always, of self preservation. Socrates and Plato are right: whatever man does he always does right: that is, does what seems to him good (advantageous) according to the degree of advancement his intellect has attained, which is always the measure of his rational capacity.
The Inoffensive in Badness.—Badness has not for its object the infliction of pain upon others but simply our own satisfaction as, for instance, in the case of thirst for vengeance or of nerve excitation. Every act of teasing shows what pleasure is caused by the display of our power over others and what feelings of delight are experienced in the sense of domination. Is there, then, anything immoral in feeling pleasure in the pain of others? Is malicious joy devilish, as Schopenhauer says? In the realm of nature we feel joy in breaking boughs, shattering rocks, fighting with wild beasts, simply to attest our strength thereby. Should not the knowledge that another suffers on our account here, in this case, make the same kind of act, (which, by the way, arouses no qualms of conscience in us) immoral also? But if we had not this knowledge there would be no pleasure in one's own superiority or power, for this pleasure is experienced only in the suffering of another, as in the case of teasing. All pleasure is, in itself, neither good nor bad.
Whence comes the conviction that one should not cause pain in others in order to feel pleasure oneself? Simply from the standpoint of utility, that is, in consideration of the consequences, of ultimate pain, since the injured party or state will demand satisfaction and revenge. This consideration alone can have led to the determination to renounce such pleasure.—Sympathy has the satisfaction of others in view no more than, as already stated, badness has the pain of others in view. For there are at least two (perhaps many more) elementary ingredients in personal gratification which enter largely into our self satisfaction: one of them being the pleasure of the emotion, of which species is sympathy with tragedy, and another, when the impulse is to action, being the pleasure of exercising one's power. Should a sufferer be very dear to us, we divest ourselves of pain by the performance of acts of sympathy.—With the exception of some few philosophers, men have placed sympathy very low in the rank of moral feelings: and rightly.
Self Defence.—If self defence is in general held a valid justification, then nearly every manifestation of so called immoral egoism must be justified, too. Pain is inflicted, robbery or killing done in order to maintain life or to protect oneself and ward off harm. A man lies when cunning and delusion are valid means of self preservation. To injure intentionally when our safety and our existence are involved, or the continuance of our well being, is conceded to be moral. The state itself injures from this motive when it hangs criminals. In unintentional injury the immoral, of course, can not be present, as accident alone is involved. But is there any sort of intentional injury in which our existence and the maintenance of our well being be not involved? Is there such a thing as injuring from absolute badness, for example, in the case of cruelty? If a man does not know what pain an act occasions, that act is not one of wickedness. Thus the child is not bad to the animal, not evil. It disturbs and rends it as if it were one of its playthings. Does a man ever fully know how much pain an act may cause another? As far as our nervous system extends, we shield ourselves from pain. If it extended further, that is, to our fellow men, we would never cause anyone else any pain (except in such cases as we cause it to ourselves, when we cut ourselves, surgically, to heal our ills, or strive and trouble ourselves to gain health). We conclude from analogy that something pains somebody and can in consequence, through recollection and the power of imagination, feel pain also. But what a difference there always is between the tooth ache and the pain (sympathy) that the spectacle of tooth ache occasions!
Therefore when injury is inflicted from so called badness the degree of pain thereby experienced is always unknown to us: in so far, however, as pleasure is felt in the act (a sense of one's own power, of one's own excitation) the act is committed to maintain the well being of the individual and hence comes under the purview of self defence and lying for self preservation. Without pleasure, there is no life; the struggle for pleasure is the struggle for life. Whether the individual shall carry on this struggle in such a way that he be called good or in such a way that he be called bad is something that the standard and the capacity of his own intellect must determine for him.
Justice that Rewards.—Whoever has fully understood the doctrine of absolute irresponsibility can no longer include the so called rewarding and punishing justice in the idea of justice, if the latter be taken to mean that to each be given his due. For he who is punished does not deserve the punishment. He is used simply as a means to intimidate others from certain acts. Equally, he who is rewarded does not merit the reward. He could not act any differently than he did act. Hence the reward has only the significance of an encouragement to him and others as a motive for subsequent acts. The praise is called out only to him who is running in the race and not to him who has arrived at the goal. Something that comes to someone as his own is neither a punishment nor a reward. It is given to him from utiliarian considerations, without his having any claim to it in justice. Hence one must say "the wise man praises not because a good act has been done" precisely as was once said: "the wise man punishes not because a bad act has been done but in order that a bad act may not be done." If punishment and reward ceased, there would cease with them the most powerful incentives to certain acts and away from other acts. The purposes of men demand their continuance [of punishment and reward] and inasmuch as punishment and reward, blame and praise operate most potently upon vanity, these same purposes of men imperatively require the continuance of vanity.
The Water Fall.—At the sight of a water fall we may opine that in the countless curves, spirations and dashes of the waves we behold freedom of the will and of the impulses. But everything is compulsory, everything can be mathematically calculated. Thus it is, too, with human acts. We would be able to calculate in advance every single action if we were all knowing, as well as every advance in knowledge, every delusion, every bad deed. The acting individual himself is held fast in the illusion of volition. If, on a sudden, the entire movement of the world stopped short, and an all knowing and reasoning intelligence were there to take advantage of this pause, he could foretell the future of every being to the remotest ages and indicate the path that would be taken in the world's further course. The deception of the acting individual as regards himself, the assumption of the freedom of the will, is a part of this computable mechanism.
Non-Responsibility and Non-Guilt.—The absolute irresponsibility of man for his acts and his nature is the bitterest drop in the cup of him who has knowledge, if he be accustomed to behold in responsibility and duty the patent of nobility of his human nature. All his estimates, preferences, dislikes are thus made worthless and false. His deepest sentiment, with which he honored the sufferer, the hero, sprang from an error. He may no longer praise, no longer blame, for it is irrational to blame and praise nature and necessity. Just as he cherishes the beautiful work of art, but does not praise it (as it is incapable of doing anything for itself), just as he stands in the presence of plants, he must stand in the presence of human conduct, his own included. He may admire strength, beauty, capacity, therein, but he can discern no merit. The chemical process and the conflict of the elements, the ordeal of the invalid who strives for convalescence, are no more merits than the soul-struggles and extremities in which one is torn this way and that by contending motives until one finally decides in favor of the strongest—as the phrase has it, although, in fact, it is the strongest motive that decides for us. All these motives, however, whatever fine names we may give them, have grown from the same roots in which we believe the baneful poisons lurk. Between good and bad actions there is no difference in kind but, at most, in degree. Good acts are sublimated evil. Bad acts are degraded, imbruted good. The very longing of the individual for self gratification (together with the fear of being deprived of it) obtains satisfaction in all circumstances, let the individual act as he may, that is, as he must: be it in deeds of vanity, revenge, pleasure, utility, badness, cunning, be it in deeds of self sacrifice, sympathy or knowledge. The degrees of rational capacity determine the direction in which this longing impels: every society, every individual has constantly present a comparative classification of benefits in accordance with which conduct is determined and others are judged. But this standard perpetually changes. Many acts are called bad that are only stupid, because the degree of intelligence that decided for them was low. Indeed, in a certain sense, all acts now are stupid, for the highest degree of human intelligence that has yet been attained will in time most certainly be surpassed and then, in retrospection, all our present conduct and opinion will appear as narrow and petty as we now deem the conduct and opinion of savage peoples and ages.—To perceive all these things may occasion profound pain but there is, nevertheless, a consolation. Such pains are birth pains. The butterfly insists upon breaking through the cocoon, he presses through it, tears it to pieces, only to be blinded and confused by the strange light, by the realm of liberty. By such men as are capable of this sadness—how few there are!—will the first attempt be made to see if humanity may convert itself from a thing of morality to a thing of wisdom. The sun of a new gospel sheds its first ray upon the loftiest height in the souls of those few: but the clouds are massed there, too, thicker than ever, and not far apart are the brightest sunlight and the deepest gloom.
Everything is necessity—so says the new knowledge: and this knowledge is itself necessity. All is guiltlessness, and knowledge is the way to insight into this guiltlessness. If pleasure, egoism, vanity be necessary to attest the moral phenomena and their richest blooms, the instinct for truth and accuracy of knowledge; if delusion and confusion of the imagination were the only means whereby mankind could gradually lift itself up to this degree of self enlightenment and self emancipation—who would venture to disparage the means? Who would have the right to feel sad if made aware of the goal to which those paths lead? Everything in the domain of ethic is evolved, changeable, tottering; all things flow, it is true—but all things are also in the stream: to their goal. Though within us the hereditary habit of erroneous judgment, love, hate, may be ever dominant, yet under the influence of awaking knowledge it will ever become weaker: a new habit, that of understanding, not-loving, not-hating, looking from above, grows up within us gradually and in the same soil, and may, perhaps, in thousands of years be powerful enough to endow mankind with capacity to develop the wise, guiltless man (conscious of guiltlessness) as unfailingly as it now developes the unwise, irrational, guilt-conscious man—that is to say, the necessary higher step, not the opposite of it.
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This book is part of the public domain. Nietzsche, Friedrich. (November 26, 2011). HUMAN, ALL TOO HUMAN, A BOOK FOR FREE SPIRITS. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved JUNE 2022, from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38145/38145-h/38145-h.htm#HISTORY_OF_THE_MORAL_FEELINGS
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