WHO IS TO BE MASTER OF THE WORLD?
An Introduction to the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
by Anthony M. Ludovici
Nietzsche: The Immoralist
[Delivered at the University of London on November 25th, 1908.]
I am going to speak to you of Friedrich Nietzsche - the Immoralist. A philosopher more difficult to understand, and yet more full of riches for those who do understand him, it would be hard to find.
Why should I wish to speak to you of Nietzsche? The literature which has grown round his name and philosophy is already enormous. If you have read a third of it, you are already informed concerning him.
Nietzsche died but eight years ago, and he is now one of the most striking figures of modern European philosophy. It is with the deepest regret, however, that the inquirer into his life and works, gradually realises how completely and often maliciously, he has been misinterpreted and misjudged; not only by ignorant commentators and by many of those learned professors who have been lured to the exposition of his works by the latter's inherent fascination, but even by his best and oldest friends as well.
That is why I wish to speak to you of Friedrich Nietzsche: because he has been misrepresented, and it were well for you to know him as he is; indeed, it is a pressing necessity that you should know him as he is.
"Mine enemies have grown strong and have distorted the face of my teaching," he says, "so that my dearest friends must be ashamed of the gifts I gave them" (Thus Spake Zarathustra, "The Child with the Looking-glass").
". . . like a wind I shall one day blow amidst them and take away their breath with my spirit; thus my future willeth it.
"Verily a strong wind is Zarathustra for all low lands; and his enemies and everything that spitteth and speweth he counselleth with such advice: Beware of spitting against the wind!" (Z., "Of the Rabble").
It is usual to begin a description, such as the one undertaken in this paper, with a word-portrait of the hero, or, at least, with a short biography. Now, the first, despite its severe difficulties, it might have been well to attempt, had there not been serious reasons for doubting the reliability of existing writers on the subject (This was written before Nietzsche's Ecce Homo had appeared); the second, however, the short biography, seemed to recommend itself to me even less than the first, and for the following reasons: the subject I have to treat is a big one, it would therefore have been necessary to compress the biography into a compass so small, that it could have proved little more than a wearisome chain of dates, and this thankless interruption I wished, if possible, to avoid.
In view of these considerations, I ventured to depart from the usual methods, and to proceed at once with the discussion of the main theme.
Some people think themselves justified in forming an impression of a man from his works. However deep-rooted this belief may be, which a moment's personal intercourse with any great man quickly proves to be pure superstition, in Nietzsche's case, it is completely upheaved. With him, as with most other authors, we must make the distinction between the man and the writer. He himself warns people against the error of neglecting to do so (G.E., p. 245. C.W., p. 86): he himself was the living refutation of that error.
The most that may be said in all security, at the present stage of our knowledge of him, is that he was a modern Heraclitus -- a resuscitated Heraclitus, who lived in Europe for fifty-six years of the nineteenth century, and who died at its close. Nietzsche himself would not have been averse to this comparison; he constantly speaks in high terms of the noble Ephesian, and sought to establish a not insignificant number of his doctrines. (See especially pp. 27-43, Vol. X. of Nietzsche's Complete Works, published by Naumann.)
Like Heraclitus, Nietzsche's muses were "Solitude and the beauty of Nature"; like Heraclitus, "he was a man of abounding pride and self-confidence who sat at no master's feet," and like him, too, he was a poet-philosopher whom we might surname "the Obscure."
Obscure why? What advantage does a philosopher derive from obscurity? Are not the mass of foolish books that have been written about him evidence enough of the futility -- nay, the positive danger of this very obscurity?
Mr Burnet, in his Early Greek Philosophers, says of Heraclitus: "Perhaps we may go so far as to admit that his contempt for the mass of mankind made him somewhat indifferent to the requirements of his readers." We shall see that Nietzsche speaks of himself in practically the same way: "I will have railings round my thoughts," he says, "and even round my words, that swine and enthusiasts may not break into my gardens" (Z., "Of the Three Evil Ones," 2).
"I draw around me circles and holy boundaries. Ever fewer mount with me ever higher mountains" (Z., "Of Old and New Tables," 19).
Nietzsche had little patience with the mass of mankind. The "many-too-many" "die viel-zu-vielen" the German called them. But it must not be supposed, as many have supposed, that these words express anything more than impatience. We constantly come across passages in his works wherein he most clearly emphasises the respect he felt for the mediocre, and for the necessity of mediocrity; and, in the Antichrist, he actually goes so far as to declare it unworthy of a deep mind to take any exception at all to mediocrity as mediocrity (C.W., p. 342). "A high civilisation," he says, "is a pyramid, it can only stand upon a broad basis; it has for a first pre-requisite a strongly and soundly consolidated mediocrity" (Ibid. pp. 341, 342).
In discussing a philosopher so many-sided as Nietzsche, who sinks with such precision to the very root of whatever subject he gives his attention to, the very utmost I can hope to do, in these lectures, is to rouse your curiosity as to his works, or incite you to a deeper study of them.
In attempting to do this, I shall endeavour, where possible to let him address you in his own words, that you may hear his views, free from the colouring an intermediary however unwillingly might lend them; and, also, that you may listen to his thoughts, expressed with as much of their original fire and beauty, as it was possible for a translation to retain.
It has been said by many -- more particularly by his fellow-countrymen -- that Nietzsche is too dogmatic; that he gives scarcely any reasons for his opinions, and that his philosophy therefore bears a dictatorial and unconvincing stamp.
The two following passages, one taken from The Twilight of the Idols, and the other from Thus Spake Zarathustra, will show us that Nietzsche was not only aware of this particular method in his works, but, also, had his reasons for it.
In the first we read:
"With Socrates Greek taste veers round in favour of dialectics. What really happens then? In the first place, superior taste is vanquished, the mob gets the upper hand along with dialectics. Previous to Socrates, dialectic manners were repudiated in good society: they were regarded as improper manners, they compromised. The youths were warned against them. Besides, all such modes of presenting reasons were distrusted. Honest things, like honest men, do not carry their reasons in their hands in such fashion. That which requires to be proved is little worth. All the World over, where authority still belongs to good usage, where one commands not demonstrates, the dialectician is a sort of buffoon: he is laughed at, he is not taken seriously.
"We choose dialectics when we have no other means. . . . Nothing is more easily wiped away than the effect of a dialectician: that is proved by the experience of every assembly where speeches are made. It can only be a last defence in the hands of such as have no other weapon left. It is necessary to have to extort one's right; otherwise one makes no use of dialectics" (C.W., pp. 110, 111).
In Thus Spake Zarathustra, we meet with another reason. One of his disciples has just asked him why he said that poets lie too much.
"Why," Zarathustra replies. "Thou askest why? I am not of those who may be asked for their whys."
"Is mine experience of yesterday, forsooth? It is long ago that I found by experience the reasons of mine opinions.
"Should I not require to be a very barrel of memory if perforce I must have my reasons with me?
"Even to keep mine opinions is too much for me; and many a bird flieth away" (Z., "Of Poets").
Thus, Nietzsche maintained, that to prove is to plead, to plead is to beg, and that he, at all events, did not wish to be a beggar.
Albeit, strictly as he adhered to this principle in the composition of Thus Spake Zarathustra, this book was so grossly misunderstood when its earlier parts appeared, that, in the end, he resolved partly to abandon the proud non-dialectic position for the semi-dialectic one adopted in his later works.
One may ask: why, as English people should we concern ourselves at all about this German philosopher?
Is it enough that many great men have found it worth their while to give him a respectful hearing, or that his countrymen are beginning to read and learn him in grim earnest? Is it enough that the enlightened Government of France thought it incumbent upon them to encourage the French translators of his works, by subscribing to that translation?
It is for you to decide whether these reasons are sufficient to urge you to turn to him.
Nietzsche says: "My philosophy reveals the triumphant thought through which all other systems of thought must ultimately go under. It is the great disciplinary thought: those races that cannot bear it are doomed; those which regard it as the greatest blessing are destined to rule" (Vol. XV. p. 403, Nietzsche's Complete Works, published by Naumann).
He here speaks of races; he realises that the consensus of public opinion constitutes the philosophy of a country, and guides that country's destinies; and he speaks so solemnly of the new teaching he offers us, that it may not be amiss to ask, whether this is precisely a time when a new philosophy, given to the world with words of such earnest warning, ought to be treated lightly or condemned unheard?
In Germany, Nietzsche was for years admired for his style alone. People did not take him seriously. They would speak of him as the great "Epigrammatist" or "Sentencer." If one ventured to make an inquiry concerning his Ethics, his Sociology or his Metaphysics, one was rebuked, and not always delicately; for his would-be critics did not refrain from pruning, what they held to be his most seditious paradoxes, of all their pregnant context, in order to carry their point. "It is for his style that we read Nietzsche," the Germans would say.
Things have changed.
They are now beginning to read him for other than "style" reasons. For years they refused to listen to what he told them in The Twilight of the Idols: "My ambition is to say in ten sentences what every one else says in a whole book, what everyone else does not say in a whole book." . . . (C.W., 221).
Now they are taking it to heart; they are beginning to see that his aphoristic style was but a form necessary to coping with the difficulties attendant on the distribution of his overwhelming riches; it was the cheque-book of the wealthy man who cannot spare the time to count out separate coins. But it was only a form, and, excellent though it undoubtedly is, the ideas to which it served but as a means, were ultimately recognised as the still more valuable end.
Germany is now studying Nietzsche, and, if we are to take his solemn note of warning seriously, is it not high time that we, in England, also began reading and learning him?
He was an earnest man. He took his calling very seriously. Like Heraclitus, he parted with his relatives and friends, and lived quite alone, that he might concentrate the whole of his thoughts upon the one problem: are we on the right road? Is our morality that is to say, the table of valuations which is gradually modifying us, compatible with an ideal worthy of man's inheritance and past? "I love men," said his second self Zarathustra, "I am bringing gifts unto men" (Z., Introductory Speech, 2).
Let us be satisfied, for the moment, to know that Nietzsche brings us something quite new something great and of paramount importance which is quite new, and let us turn to his teaching.
What was Nietzsche? Was he a philosopher? The orthodox world of philosophy says: "He brings us no system!" True, in the same class with Herbert Spencer we cannot classify the German Nietzsche. Nor can we include him in a group of his fellow-countrymen with Kant and Schopenhauer.
Seeing, however, that he not only assumes the authority of the philosopher, but again and again, in his works, also speaks of himself as one, it would be well for us to understand what the term "philosopher" means to him.
"A philosopher's mission," he says, "is to create new values," to give mankind new principles, new standards. The ascertaining and classifying of "many little common facts," is useful and meritorious work, (G.E., p. 212) but it is only the menial work which prepares the way for the philosopher.
"It may be necessary for the education of the real philosopher, that he himself should have once stood upon all those steps, upon which his servant, the scientific worker of philosophy, remains standing and must remain standing: he himself must perhaps have been critic, and sceptic, and dogmatist, and historian, and poet, collector, traveller, riddle-reader, moralist, seer and free-spirit besides. . . . But all these are only preliminary conditions for his mission; this mission itself is to create values"; to command arid to give laws. "Philosophers determine the 'Whither' and the 'Wherefore' . . . they snatch with creative hands at the future, and everything that is or has been, serves them as a means, as an instrument as a hammer" (Ibid., pp. 131, 152).
Are such philosophers to be found? Nietzsche asks. We shall see that he was one of them.
Before proceeding, and by way of further establishing our parallel, it is interesting to read how Professor Gomperz, in his Greek Thinkers, speaks of Heraclitus' mission. "Heraclitus," he says, "was not cast for the role of an exact investigator, his passions were too free, he lacked the requisite soberness and he was too prone to seek satiety in a debauch of metaphors; but he was admirably suited to be the herald of the new philosophy" (Vol. I. p. 73, Greek Thinkers, by Professor Th. Gomperz, translated by Laurie Magnus).
How perfectly these words express all a fair critic might say of Nietzsche!
In trying to account for the abusive language that has for years been levelled at his philosophy, no fact, I suppose, brings more enlightenment with it than this one: Nietzsche placed himself "Beyond Good and Evil."
To those who failed to understand even the motive which prompted him to take up this attitude, what course could have been more natural more obviously pre-determined than to dub all his works, "dangerous," "immoral "in its worst modern sense, and "seditious"; just as if he had written to release the pent passions of savages, or to cloy the libidinous appetites of satyrs. "The destroyer of morality I am called by the good and the just, my tale is immoral" (Z., "Of the Bite of the Adder").
Nietzsche looked solemnly around him, and an examination of the world led him to ask us the admittedly daring question: Is that which we have for centuries held for good and evil, really good and evil?
Do we understand the part these two terms have played in our history? Is morality, its raison d'tre and its mode of action comprehended at all? Nietzsche answers these questions with such originality and depth, that at first, willing as we may be to give him a friendly hearing, we are too shocked by the strangeness of his language to be conscious of anything at all, except excessive displeasure. "He will strike at the very heart of our hearts!" we protest indignantly. But if we say that, he is already there where he wants to be; that is to say. Beyond our Good and Evil.
To his mind, these concepts: good and evil, are but mere means, adopted by all in order to acquire power (Z., "Of Self-overcoming"). Power for what? Power to universalise their kind or make it paramount: power to enable their species, and their species alone, to preponderate or be supreme on earth.
"The refrain of my practical philosophy," he says, "is, Who is to be master of the world?" (Vol. XII. p. 208, Nietzsche's Complete Works, published by Naumann).
Morality decides this point. The morality which prevails bears its inventors and adherents along to victory with it. If we wish to answer Nietzsche's question: "Who is to be master of the world?" we must ask ourselves, first, what type is attaining to power under the morality which prevails in the civilised world to-day?
Does our table of ethical principles seem to be favouring the multiplication of a desirable type? Is a dignified or noble species tending to prevail by means of it, or is the case precisely the reverse?
Nietzsche challenges us to show that our way is the right way. He does not coerce us, he does not over-persuade; he simply says: "I am a law only for those who are mine, I am not a law for all (Z., "The Supper"). This is my way where is yours?" (Z., "Of the Spirit of Gravity," 2).
"Good and evil are the same," said Heraclitus. "Morality is just as 'immoral' as anything else on earth," says Nietzsche, "morality itself is a form of immorality" (Vol. XV. p. 192, Nietzsche's Complete Works).
"Verily, I say unto you: good and evil which would be imperishable do not exist" (Z., "Of Self-overcoming").
Nietzsche places himself "Beyond Good and Evil"; he undertakes to give us new values; he wishes to purge us of the old leaven. He does not merely destroy, and despoil us of, what we possess; he refills our emptied hands; he is an immoralist first; only, however, that he may be a moralist afterwards. And one more severe, or with a greater antipathy to looseness and laisser-aller, we could not hope to possess.
It may now be pertinent to ask, what the figure of Zarathustra means in Nietzsche's opus magnum, the book to which all his later works serve but as a commentary.
Why Zarathustra? Why should this ancient law-giver seem to Nietzsche the best suited to be his mouthpiece? He answers thus: "Zarathustra was responsible for the error 'morality'; consequently, he should be the first to perceive that error. Zarathustra was more truthful than any other thinker before or after him; in his teaching alone, do we meet with truthfulness upheld as the highest virtue, moreover he was braver than all other thinkers taken together. To speak the truth and to aim straight, that is the first Persian virtue. The overcoming of morality through truthfulness, the overcoming of the moralist by his opposite by me that is what the name Zarathustra means "in my mouth" (Vol. II. p. 430, Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsches, by Elizabeth Foerster Nietzsche).
In order to grasp how thoroughly and conscientiously he set about his task, it will be necessary to look back for a moment to see how he contemplated the mission he undertook. For Nietzsche preaches to us, it is true, from a hermit's cell; but he is standing on the shoulders of giants whose strength he has enlisted in his cause. Goethe, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Darwin, Herbert Spencer, are at his fingers' ends, and behind him lie the ancients in whose wisdom he is deeply versed.
Let us hear him describe how he became what he was:
"Three metamorphoses of the spirit I declare unto you; how the spirit becometh a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child.
"There are many things heavy for the spirit, the strong spirit, which is able to bear the load and in which reverence dwelleth: its strength longeth for the heavy for the heaviest.
"What is heavy? asks the spirit which is able to bear the load, and, dropping like a camel on its knees, wisheth to be well laden."
And then he describes how the spirit is laden with the wisdom of minds that have preceded it; how it takes up all the knowledge of the past and, under this weight, rises to depart on a voyage of discovery in the wilderness.
"But in the loneliest wilderness," Nietzsche continues, "cometh the second metamorphosis: there the spirit becometh a lion. Freedom it will take as its prey and be lord in its own wilderness.
"There it seeketh its last lord; to him and its last God, it seeketh to be a foe". . .
But in its way standeth the dragon "Thou shalt."
"Values a thousand years old are shining on its scales, and thus saith the mightiest of all dragons: 'The value of all things is shining on me.'
"My brethren, why is there need of the lion in the spirit? What can the lion do, that the camel the beast of burden cannot?
"Create new values that even the lion is not able to do, but create freedom for itself for fresh creations, that the lion can do.
"To create freedom for one's self -- and a holy Nay even towards duty; for this, my brethren, there is need of the lion.
"As its holiest, the spirit once loved 'Thou shalt,' now it must find illusion and arbitrariness even in the holiest, in order to capture for itself freedom from its love. The lion is needed for this capture.
"But say, my brethren, what can the child do which even the lion could not? Why hath the preying lion still to become a child?
"The child is innocence and oblivion, a new beginning, a game, a wheel rolling by itself, a prime motor, a sacred pronouncing of yea to life.
"Ay, for the game of creating, my brethren, a sacred pronouncing of yea is necessary; it is its own will the spirit now willeth, it is his own world the outcast wisheth for himself.
"Three metamorphoses of the mind I declared unto you; how the mind became a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child.
"Thus Spake Zarathustra" (Z., "Of the Three Metamorphoses").
Thus, before Nietzsche could give us new values, he had to attain to his second ingenuousness to the artlessness of a child; to do that he must have the freedom of a lion, and, before his mind could gain the freedom of the lion, like a beast of burden, it had first to bear the wisdom of the past.
In an early work, The Dawn of Day, he tells us something concerning this wisdom which he acquired, and why humanity seeks wisdom at all.
"Fear," he tells us, "has promoted our general knowledge of mankind more than love; for fear tries to ascertain who the other is, what he knows, what he wants, it were dangerous and detrimental to deceive one's self on this head" (D.D., p. 260). In order to guard against the danger of lightning, we must know its nature; if we wish to meet a foe with the hope of overcoming him, we must know his resources. Wisdom, like morality, therefore, is a means to power, it strengthens the species.
Another passage in the same book draws an inevitable conclusion from this idea: "Even the sense of truth, which is really the sense for security, man has in common with the animals: we will not allow ourselves to be deceived we will not allow ourselves to be misguided by ourselves; we listen with suspicion to the whisperings of our passions; we control ourselves and are on the qui-vive against ourselves; all these things the animal understands as thoroughly as men understand them; in the animal also, self-control develops out of a desire for the real -- for the unmistakable" (Ibid., p. 22).
Our hatred of falsehood, therefore, is but the outcome of our loathing of insecurity and its concomitant dangers. We will know everything, that we may be armed against everything. Truth therefore, or our notion of it, like wisdom and morality, is a weapon of power, it makes us and our kind more formidable.
Now, it is with this fearful eagerness for the truth that Nietzsche asks us: "Where is your way? Who is going to be master on earth?" It is out of a feeling of fear fear of the future that he tells us: "No one knoweth yet what is good and what is evil" (Z., "Of Old and New Tables," 2).
We are all travelling blindly towards a point which we do not know. The colours we fly, the standards of morality we sail under, were followed by a people who wished to attain to power. But these standards mean nothing to us now. We are so used to them, and their colours have got so blurred through wear and tear, that we do not even know out of which port we originally sailed.
"Lo," says Zarathustra, apostrophising the sun at the very beginning of his teaching, "I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too much honey, I need hands outstretched to take it.
"I would fain give away and distribute.
"To that end, must I descend into the deep, as thou dost in the evening, when sinking behind the sea, thou takest light to the nether world, thou glorious star!
"Like thee, I must go down, as men say, to whom I am about to descend.
"Then bless me, thou tranquil eye, that canst behold the greatest happiness without envy.
"Lo, this cup is about to be empty again, and Zarathustra will once more become a man.
"Thus began Zarathustra's descent" (Z., Intro. Speech, 2).
Like Heraclitus, Nietzsche is a poet as well as a philosopher, and, in these opening lines of Thus Spake Zarathustra, he will convey to us in what mood, with what depth of conviction, he began his teaching.
* * * * * * *
Looking back for a moment, that we may be in a position, fully to realise the magnitude, and great importance to us, of Nietzsche's achievement, let us recall, roughly, what has taken place in European thought since the birth of Christ.
We know now what the culture of the ancient Greeks was. We have learned to admire its character of extraordinary intellectual freedom, the like of which our continent was not to see again for centuries, and we know through what chapter of foolish accidents, it was buried completely buried alive by a more youthful and perhaps more implacable rival the culture of Christianity.
We have but to listen to Tacitus, in order to learn what it meant to the ancient world of thought, to see itself being ousted by the incoming philosophy. Paganism, however, fell, and Christianity rose in its stead.
The period of the Apostolic Fathers, during which Christianity was preached far and wide, was followed by that of a school of philosophy known by the name of "Patristic," to whose labours the establishment of the new faith upon a solid basis in the heart of the old culture is mainly due. The men whose work constituted this Patristic philosophy were chiefly engaged either in opposing paganism and the philosophy of the Greeks, or in rendering the latter harmless, in so far as opposition was concerned, by incorporating it in the teaching of the militant church.
Scholasticism followed, and philosophy was pursued in a still greater degree under the authority of theology. Its object being the enunciation of Christian dogma in its union with dialectics and reason.
Thomas Aquinas practically put the coping-stone on the Scholastic edifice.
Any further development of it could only lead to its transformation. Once reason and faith had each been allotted its precise role, and sphere of action, and reason had been enlisted in the cause of faith, to support and consolidate it, wherever it could do so; the aim of the schoolmen had practically been achieved, and their system of thought began to be superseded.
The other causes which occasioned its break-up, were the revival of learning and the re-awakening of the scientific spirit in man, which, resulting as it did in a deeper knowledge of mathematics and physics, ultimately altered the whole of man's attitude towards nature.
From the beginning of the fourteenth century, dates the gradual downfall of Scholasticism and the preparing of the ground for the Renaissance and the revival of learning, i.e. a revival, on a larger scale, of all the lofty and independent sentiments in which the people of antiquity had rejoiced, and which had lent their classical period its peculiarly practical character.
The germs of the Renaissance may, of course, be traced to a date much earlier than the one given; we see them already in the rationalism of the Averroists, in the cells of Gerbert and Roger Bacon, and in humanism.
But not until Petrarch, in the first half of the fourteenth century, introduced the new learning can the wonderful movement be said to have been really under way. With Petrarch, free thought was awakened, curiosity was encouraged, and liberty of action and conscience seemed to be established.
He dared to storm the strongholds of scholastic thought; he attacked the Church of Rome; working with his friend Boccaccio at the publication of MSS. He was practically the inaugurator of the Renaissance in Italy, and he never ceased, during the whole of his lifetime, to encourage and promote that interest in classic literature which he had done so much to awaken. The example he set was soon followed. Italy became a centre of learning and, as we know, in course of time, the languages of Greece and Rome were so completely acquired, that scholars once again handled both tongues in verse and prose. It is interesting for our purpose to note, that even the Church lent its influence to the classical revival. Popes Nicholas V. and Leo X. are examples of this.
At the close of the fifteenth century, the knowledge of Greece and Rome had been almost reappropriated, the dulness and obscurity of medieval modes of thinking were scorned and superseded the humanistic movement had actually triumphed.
The progress of the revival was amazing; with almost incredible speed, it passed northward from Italy to Germany, then on to the Netherlands, Spain, France and England; awakening geniuses wherever it made its influence felt, and sweeping away the intellectual cobwebs of centuries.
It is no part of our purpose to decide how far it led to the Reformation in Germany; let us rather hear Nietzsche's own words concerning this stage of European history.
"The Germans have caused Europe the loss of the last great harvest of civilisation that was to be garnered for Europe the Renaissance. Do we understand do we wish to understand what the Renaissance was? The transvaluation of Christian values, the attempt, undertaken with all means, with all instincts, with all genius, to bring about the triumph of the opposite values, the noble values. There has been no greater war, there has been no more decisive question than the Renaissance, my question is the question put by the Renaissance: neither has there ever been a form of attack more fundamental, more direct, more strenuously delivered with a whole front upon the centre of the enemy! To attack at the most decisive place, at the seat of Christianity itself, and here to set the noble values upon the throne, i.e. to introduce them into the most radical longings of those sitting there. . . . I see before me a possibility of a perfectly supernatural enchantment and colour-charm: it seems to me to gleam forth in all tremors of refined beauty, that there is an art at work in it, so divine, so devilishly divine, that one might seek for millenniums in vain for a second example of such a possibility; I see a spectacle so ingenious, so wonderfully paradoxical at the same time, that all Divinities of Olympus would have had an occasion for an immortal laughter Ceasar Borgia as Pope. . . . Am I understood? Well, that would have been the triumph for which I alone am longing at present Christianity would thereby have been done away with! What happened? A German monk, Luther, came to Rome. This monk with all the vindictive instincts of an abortive priest in his nature, became furious against the Renaissance in Rome. Instead of, with the profoundest gratitude, understanding the prodigy that had taken place, i.e. the overcoming of Christianity at its seat, his hatred knew only how to draw its nourishment from this spectacle. A religious person thinks only of himself. Luther saw the depravity of Popery, while the very reverse was palpable: the old depravity, the peccatum originale, Christianity, no longer sat on the throne of the Pope! But life! The triumph of life! The great yea to all things high, beautiful and daring! And Luther restored the Church once more: he attacked it. . . . The Renaissance became an event without meaning a great in-vain! Ah those Germans, what have they already cost us! In-vain that has ever been the work of the Germans. The Reformation; Leibnitz; Kant and so-called German philosophy; the wars of 'Liberation'; the Empire every time an in-vain for something that had already existed, for something irrevocable.
". . . They are my enemies, I confess it, these Germans: In despising them I despise every kind of uncleanliness in concepts and valuations, every kind of cowardice in presence of every straightforward ay and nay. They have tangled and confused for a thousand years almost, whatever they laid their fingers on, they have on their conscience all the half-measures, all the three-eighth measures from which Europe is sick, they have also on their conscience the foulest kind of Christianity, the most incurable, the most irrefutable that exists, Protestantism. If we do not see an end to Christianity, the Germans will be to blame for it" (C.W., pp. 350, 352).
The harvest of this movement, to which, as we see, Nietzsche grants so much importance, was to be reaped everywhere in the western countries of Europe, and even though some of the greater men came but a century later, the seeds of their wisdom can, without a doubt, be traced to the Renaissance. In this respect we have but to think of Bacon of Verulam, Galileo, Thomas Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, John Locke, etc. etc.
In this rapid survey of the progress of Europe's mind we have seen, that from the birth of Christ to the Renaissance, almost all the best available intellect was for centuries engrossed in the one theme the proving of Christianity to the pagans and the attempt to reconcile Christian doctrine with reason. This was the work of the later, Patristic philosophy and of Scholasticism. Then, suddenly, as if illumined by a propitious flash of understanding, the mind of Europe seemed to grow clearer; men appeared who were bent on breathing freer, fresher air. More liberty for brain and lungs, greater scope for thought and action, a keener asking of why and how, these were the ideals of the men whose struggles gave Europe the Renaissance.
Humanism woke, stretched itself, and breathed its quickening principles into the spirit of medieval Italy. It then seemed nonsense to continue proving what was generally regarded as an accepted truth; because that Christian metaphysics was then regarded as an almost unassailable certainty, scarcely need be mentioned. What was needed was research research which would lead to a broadening of the basis of knowledge.
Curiously enough, no one attempted yet to question Christian Dogma. It was still believed that God was a power outside the world he had created; that the world continued its existence under his supervision, and that he could, at will, interfere with its existence. Gradually, however, the first medieval scientists began to observe that things do not occur singly, that there is harmony in the phenomena of the universe. They began to see law and order in what had theretofore seemed chaos, and effects began to be traced to causes. A new notion of God was necessary to fit in with this new aspect of things, and a God was pictured, not outside the world, but in it.
God and the world stood or fell together; the one was a manifestation of the other. This was Pantheism. Bruno, and later Spinoza (in opposition to Descartes,) elaborated this view. Leibnitz, who wished to evade both of these men, followed with his Monadology. It is neither convenient nor necessary to describe this theory in detail; let it therefore suffice to say that it was the last attempt, on a large scale, philosophically to uphold Christian metaphysics.
While, however, Descartes, Spinoza and Leibnitz were engaged upon metaphysical research, while they were speculating as to the beginning and end of things, our philosophers. Bacon, Hobbes and Locke, more prosaic than idealistic, more calculating than speculative in fact more English than continental were breaking the road to what is now called Empiricism, the philosophy based on experience, experiment, induction. The philosophy which was to influence Voltaire, Condillac, and many other French and German writers, and which was ultimately to make Nietzsche exclaim:
"European ignobleness, the plebeianism of modern ideas, is England's work and invention" (G.E., p. 213).
All these men, however, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, and later Hume, although prosecuting the search after truth in two totally different directions, aimed no decisive blow at Christian metaphysics, and this despite the fact that Hobbes' views favoured atheism and that Hume was openly anti-theological. The definite step in this direction was left to Kant, who, incited chiefly by Hume's scepticism, constructed his Critical Philosophy.
Although Kant's chief merit as a philosopher lies in his examination of the worth of our knowledge and the value of our means of acquiring it, the agnostic element in his later works gave a turn to modern thought, which was so new, and freed the human intellect so successfully from all theological bias, that, in the light of recent philosophical speculation, it might well be given a more important position.
"Kant terms every philosophy which transcends the sphere of experience without having previously justified this act by an examination of the faculty of knowledge, a form of 'Dogmatism.' He says it is impossible to prove that there is a God. All proofs hitherto adduced are false. The attitude assumed towards religion by Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer was thus foreshadowed by Kant, who, as we know, in the end, dealt a heavy blow at Christian metaphysics. In his heart of hearts, though, he believed in God and the immortality of the soul and it is of importance to us to observe, that Christian morality had a sacredness for him which made him quite irrational. His reason partly gets the better of his heart, however, in his writings; and, although he never casts any doubt upon Christian morality, he destroys the highest hopes and the cruellest fears of the Christian religion. Like Spencer, Kant had no special argument against Christianity, he simply urged that all metaphysics are pointless -- impossible!"
Freedom of thought was now secured. Kant had swept away old systems of philosophy as untenable; now, among his countrymen, appeared creators of new metaphysics. Hegel came with his system of Absolute Idealism. Philosophy to him is the science of the absolute. He bases his philosophy upon mankind -- upon history. Schopenhauer followed with a doctrine which may be described as "a transitional form from the idealism of Kant to the prevalent realism of the present day." He supersedes Hegel in reputation and in the number of his adherents.
Inasmuch as I shall be able to discuss his view of life only in my next lecture, let it suffice to record here that he left Christian morality practically unaffected. This point is important, more particularly as morality was a subject to which he paid considerable attention.
With Schopenhauer's philosophy, Christian metaphysics may perhaps be said to have received its coup de grâce. Nevertheless, just as in the Middle Ages Christian metaphysics had not been treated as a problem but as an already accomplished fact which needed but the support of reason, -- just as, immediately previous to Kant, philosophers had begun energetically to criticise Christian metaphysics, although always hoping to hold by it, so now (that is to say in the first half of the nineteenth century) Christian morality had not yet become a problem.
Is it distinctly understood what the term "Christian morality" covers? Some of us may protest that we are not Christians. The term Christian morality, in Nietzsche's philosophy, means that morality which reigns as an ideal of conduct in the most civilised parts of the world at the present day. It is the moral philosophy we inherit and try to make our own without a question, despite the fact that we may be agnostics, or atheists, or completely indifferent to any form of belief or disbelief.
Now this morality, with its values "good" and "evil," has often enough been called upon to answer for itself. Doubting the likelihood of its having had a divine origin, moralists have not refrained from assigning to it other sources more or less plausible. And the labour expended in doing this has been enormous. Precisely what happened to Christian metaphysics also happened to Christian morality. The question was: could it be made compatible with reason? Could sceptics who had parted with the old Faith, still, by means of reason, be made to abide by Christian morality?
Blindly seizing upon the Christian notions of good and evil, as foregone conclusions, these men, many of whom, remember, were the most rampant unbelievers, consumed all their energy in trying to establish upon rational and scientific principles the moral values current in a creed which they had rejected!
The authority for the old morality was sought by some in a "moral sense," by others in the feelings of pleasure and displeasure, by yet others in law, or in expediency and non-expediency, and by one in a Categorical Imperative.
No one, however, seemed to halt at the terms "good" and "evil" themselves, in order to ask himself: what these words meant: "seen through the glasses of life!"
It will be seen that the step taken by these moral philosophers was only the first of a long series of steps, which led to a much more pressing and fundamental question. This question was, are the concepts of good and evil which reign at the present day to be adhered to at all? Whatever their respective sources or authorities may be, is not the relation of good and evil to human life still a debatable point? or are the existing valuations understood in spite of the fact that they have been reft of their superterrestrial warrant?
All the philosophers since the Renaissance had left the morality of the old religion practically where it was; nay, many as we have seen, had sought to fix it where it was with reason; that is to say, had tried to rebuild it upon science, in the hope of making it more compatible with the views of a world that was inclining ever more and more confidently towards a scientific grasp of things in general.
As Nietzsche observes, in every discourse upon morals that had appeared before his time, the problem of morality itself had been lacking, the suspicion that morality was something problematic, at all, appeared to be entirely absent (G.E., p. 104).
To put it in Lecky's words, philosophers had been satisfied to hold that: "The business of a moral philosophy is to account for and justify our moral sentiments, or, in other words, to show how we came to have our notions of duty, and to supply us with a reason for acting upon them" (History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne). In short, taking our concepts "good" and "evil" for granted, the question which always occupied them was, how could these best be justified, or made compatible with reason.
* * * * * * *
We are now prepared to understand how it was, that the world suddenly stood aghast, when a man appeared, who towered as completely above these moral compromisers and cutters of misfits, as Kant had towered above the metaphysicians who preceded him.
We can almost sympathise with the "start" Europe must have been given when, above the muddled murmurs over morality, a roaring voice suddenly announced, amid a veritable hail of epigrams: "No one knoweth yet what is good and evil!"
"No one knoweth? Why, a moment ago we all knew!" (G.E., p. 104). This was the cry of the Europe that was baffled and startled, of the Europe that was convinced that Nietzsche must be raving mad!
What is the net result of your giving "a basis to morality?" Nietzsche asked of the moralists at his back. It is simply this, that we have the learned expression of your good faith in that morality which happens to be prevalent in your quarter of the globe at the present day. But I tell you, speaking in your own language, that "life itself is something essentially immoral!" (Birth of Tragedy [German Edition], p. 10).
"Life is appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of its own forms, incorporation, and at least, putting it mildest, exploitation" (G.E., p. 226).
We know it is all this; but at the present day we should like to believe that it is not so. We know it is all this: but we prefer to blind ourselves to the real facts, and to say with Spencer simply: "Life is activity!" (Principles of Biology, Vol. I. p. 113. Principles of Ethics, Vol. I. p. 485).
Activity may mean anything, harmless or harmful. We must therefore define our word. What do the evolutionists say? The activity they speak of is the "struggle for life."
Nietzsche says this definition is inadequate. He warns us not to confound Malthus with nature (C.W., p. 177). There is something more than a struggle for life, between the organic beings of this earth (On this point see some interesting remarks by W. H. Rolph, pp. 94, 95 of his Biologische Probleme. [Edit. 1884.]); want which is supposed to bring this struggle about, is not so common as is supposed; some other force must be operative. Is there no aggression without the struggle for existence? Nietzsche answers in the affirmative, and his reason is, that life is not "activity" striving after survival alone, but after power. Not Schopenhauer's will to live, but Will to Power is the motive force behind all living phenomena; the instinct of "self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results thereof" (G.E., p. 20). Every species of organic being behaves as if its kind alone should ultimately become paramount upon earth, and whether it attempt to achieve this end by open aggression or cowardly dissimulation, the motive in both cases is the same.
Moreover there are many things valued higher than life itself by living beings (Z., "Of Self-overcoming"); the Will to Live, therefore, often finds itself opposed to a still higher Will. What, then, is this mightier force to which the will to live sometimes has to submit? We have heard what Nietzsche calls it it is the Will to Power.
Nietzsche now goes to the root of the matter, by applying this doctrine to man, and the morality of man. He says, before we justify or account for our modern European morality, are we certain that the values "good" and "evil" which it gives us are to be upheld or retained at all? Are we clear as to what they mean?
But, above all, are we clear as to what morality means? How does it appear "seen through the glasses of life?"
If we turn to Nature, we find every species of organic being instinctively adopting and practising those acts which most conduce to the prevalence or supremacy of its kind. If it fail to discover that conduct which will bear its kind to power, either by aggression or by dissimulation, then, the chances are, that it will be exterminated: those animals are already doomed to become extinct that cannot select that order of conduct which is best calculated to make them overcome, either numerically, strategically, or by sheer physical strength, the will to power of other species. But, once that order of conduct is found, proved efficient and established, it becomes the ruling morality of the species that adopts it, and bears them along to victory with it. That is all perfectly clear.
The animal world, therefore, is the scene of an uninterrupted war the war of modes of conduct. If a devouring species ever adopted the system of valuing, current among the species devoured, it would thereby achieve its own extinction, and vice versa. The lion's "good" is what is good for him. It may be the antelope's notion of "evil," in fact it generally is, and if the antelope's notion of "good" were ever adopted by lions, these would have to cease their slaughter among the antelopes.
With the help of the evidence afforded by biology, Nietzsche therefore inquires whether it is sufficiently recognised that concepts of good and evil are originally only a means to an end, that they are only the expedient of a species to acquire power power to become paramount?
The fact that the war of conducts which now especially concerns us, is a war carried on among men, does not in the least alter the first principles of the question. Wherever we find "good" or "evil" used to designate one or another mode of conduct, we may be sure that one particular species of man is there attempting to ensure his supremacy under the cover of these values.
So far, therefore, Nietzsche merely takes up the position of the relativist with regard to morality. Good and evil, he says, are relative values. They are a question of point of view. Absolute good and absolute evil are myths.
"Many lands were seen by Zarathustra, and many peoples: thus he discovered the good and evil of many peoples. No greater power on earth was found by Zarathustra than good and evil.
"No people could live that did not in the first place value; if it would maintain itself, however, it must not value as its neighbour doth.
"Much that one people called good, was regarded with scorn and contempt by another: thus I found it. Much I found named evil here, and there decked with purple honours.
"A table of values hangeth over each people. Lo! It is the table of their triumphs, behold it is the voice of its will unto power.
"Whatever enableth a people to dominate and conquer and shine to the horror and envy of its neighbour, that is regarded as the high, the first, the standard, the significance of all things.
"Verily men have made for themselves all their good and evil. Verily, they did not take it, they did not find it, it did not come down as a voice from heaven.
"Values were only assigned unto things by man in order to maintain himself he it was who gave significance to things, a human significance. Therefore he calleth himself man, i.e. the valuing one" (Z., "Of a Thousand and One Goals").
Every moral principle which Nietzsche saw exercising power in this world, he attributed to the will of some species of being, which therewith desired to attain to ascendency over his fellow beings.
From the ichneumon fly, which has to regard as "good" the laying of its eggs inside the skin of an unsuspecting caterpillar which is afterwards devoured alive by the hatched brood, to the action of the cannibal who thinks he must eat his enemy that he may acquire something of the latter's prowess and ferocity, the basis of every action to be witnessed on this earth seemed to Nietzsche the instinct of self-universalisation or self-enhancement, led by the thirst for power.
This doctrine was a revelation. All the difficulties attendant on the absolute view of good and evil, seemed to vanish in the light of Nietzsche's discovery. We could now group together the thousand and one different concepts of "good" distributed over the man-inhabited parts of the world, and understand their origin at a glance; indeed, with Nietzsche's view of the meaning of good and evil before us, we should even have felt some surprise at finding but one notion of good ruling everywhere. Nations, like species of animals, must value differently, otherwise they cannot resist each other.
Reasonable as this aspect of morality may appear to us now, however, we can readily understand why (when it was first put before the world, that is to say, at a time when people had scarcely digested Darwin), it seemed to all but a few, little short of dangerous madness.
The Christian notions of good and evil, having grown, so to speak, into the modern, civilised man's blood, he had come to regard them even as the moral philosophers had done, that is to say, as facts which needed but to be accounted for; and, although the evidence that other moralities flourished and protected people elsewhere, proved rather a "stumper" to him; still he believed that his particular notion of good would ultimately become universal and thus clear up the vexed question. (For a remarkable confirmation of this statement see Sidgwick's The Methods of Ethics, p. 14. Here, although not speaking as a Christian, Sidgwick actually expresses the hope that all "methods" may ultimately coincide).
A conclusion so profound as that of Nietzsche's was, of course, not the work of a day or of a year of days. Indeed it might be looked upon as the result of his life's study. He tells us that as early as his thirteenth year the origin of evil haunted him. "A little historical and philological schooling," he continues, "together with an inborn and delicate sense regarding psychological questions, changed my problem in a very short time into that other one: under what circumstances and conditions did man invent the evaluations good and evil? And what is their own specific value?" (G.M., p. 4).
It was only in the summer of 1864, however, when he was in his twentieth year, that he began to approach a solution of the difficulty, and in the following manner: He was expected to do some work during his holidays, and it was to consist of a Latin thesis upon some optional subject. He chose Theognis, and, it was while studying the latter's works, that he was struck with the author's use of the words "good" and "bad" as synonyms of aristocratic and plebeian (Deussen, Erinnerungen an Friedrich Nietzsche, p. 11).
This was the first hint that put him on the right track. With it he grew more than ever convinced that there could be no absolute or universal Good and Bad; that different modes of valuing conduct must be just as instinctively adopted and adhered to by different classes of men as they are adopted and adhered to by different classes of beasts, and when Theognis, in the sixth century B.C. spoke of the democrats as "bad," and of his party as "good," at a time when the fall of Theagenes, tyrant of Megara, had brought about a struggle between the oligarchy and the democracy, the fact that was plainly to be read from the particular use of these two words, was, in Nietzsche's opinion, that Theognis and his party, wishing to maintain their power, had to regard any force which threatened to thwart that very natural desire as bad, "bad" in the sense of "unfriendly to their particular mode of power."
From that time forward, Nietzsche began to regard our modem values "good" and "evil" with ever-increasing suspicion, and literally did not rest until he had formulated the theory expounded in his latter works.
Of course we had had moralists, or preferably immoralists, who, without offering a substitute, had attacked the Christian values. French books had been plentiful, and Stirner in modern times had presented us with a strikingly original and very deep work on the subject (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum). But the only favourable comment we find concerning any modern school of ethics, in Nietzsche's works, relates to Herbert Spencer. The position Spencer assumes, although not sanctioned by Nietzsche, is nevertheless declared to be "psychologically tenable" (G. M., p. 20).
With the metaphysics of Christianity in ruins behind him, it will be seen that Nietzsche took a step as bold and stupendous as Kant's, and as necessary; but against that remnant of Christianity which his great predecessor and the orthodox world perhaps cherished as even more sacred than the metaphysics.
Nietzsche attacked Christian morals. He declared them to be, like all other morals, merely an expedient for lending power to, or universalising, a certain type of man. His courage was unprecedented, his wickedness, of course -- terrible!
Conceiving all moralities to be but codes adopted by various peoples in order to perpetuate their kind or make it alone paramount, we have seen that he had to face the disconcerting corollary that all kinds of men, like all kinds of animals, must at some time or other have taken to moralising. Conflicting moral codes were, therefore, nothing but the conflicting weapons of different species of men. Thus, the important question to be answered was, not so much, what class of man now believes in such and such a moral principle and tries to act upon it? but in what class of mind must it have originated? for then it would be made clear what type would ultimately owe its preservation to it.
What sort of morality shall we now allow to rule? The solution of that problem will determine who, ultimately, will be master on earth!
We know that Christianity has come forward for two thousand years with its solution of the problem. Let us pause to ask ourselves, says Nietzsche, who is tending to attain to power under it?
We can understand now, how it was he said: "Good and evil themselves are but intershadows and damp afflictions and wandering clouds" (Z., "Before Sunrise").
And we can follow him when he exclaims: "When I came unto men, I found them sitting on an old conceit. All of them thought they had known long what was good and evil unto man.
"All speech about virtue appeared unto them an old weary thing, and he who wished to sleep well, still spoke of 'good' and 'evil' before going to bed.
"This sleeping I disturbed when teaching that no one knoweth yet what is good and evil!" (Z., "Of Old and New Tables," 2).
I warned you that it was time we began reading and learning Nietzsche in England. I think you will now be willing to grant, that the importance of his philosophy warranted my words of warning. With the religious sanction destroyed, and moral valuations shown to be but the self-enhancing expedients of a species, morality derives this enormous advantage, namely: it is freed from all taint of morality! virtue or vice in the old sense. It becomes an adjustable instrument in the hand of the moralist wherewith he can rear a species -- a world-conquering species, provided the code he writes be calculated to make such a type thrive.
"With your values and words of good and evil, ye exercise power, ye valuing ones" (Z., "Of Self-overcoming").
"No greater power on earth was found by Zarathustra than good and evil" (Z., "Of a Thousand and One Goals").
These values are things to be juggled with for our highest ideals. Not what the past has cherished and revered as good and evil is the question; but what notions of good and evil are we going to allow to persist?
That good and evil, we are now at liberty to choose, we have now a perfect right to determine. The yoke of tradition has been lifted from our necks. Too long had we ascribed to the inventiveness of an all too officious divinity, the laws which are purely human in origin. Nietzsche and Herbert Spencer are here in perfect agreement, as are also most modern ethicists outside the church and chapel.
"Who is to be master of the world?" This is of unparalleled importance; this is moreover a question beset with considerable difficulties; for, like all really important questions, it is solely and purely a matter of taste.
Morality is ultimately, and through and through, a matter of taste. With our choice of moral valuations, we betray our choice in regard to man; we divulge our taste in regard to what species of man we would see attain to power.
Nietzsche knew perfectly well, that to break all tables of good and evil, and then to construct a new table compatible with his ideal of man, meant abandoning his position as a relativist; hence his emphatic acknowledgment of the fact that there are other ways than his (Z., "The Spirit of Gravity," 2; On this point see Dr A. Tille's Von Darwin bis Nietzsche, p. 238), hence, too, his definite utterance concerning his attitude towards morality in these words:
"No good, no bad, but my taste, for which I have neither shame nor concealment" (Z., "The Spirit of Gravity," 2).
The first problem that faces us, however, on the new road, is this: We are in a world already possessed of moral values, are these existing values to be wholly discarded? How can we select from among the values of the past, those we still hold to be compatible with our ideal, compatible with the man whose kind we would see paramount?
Nietzsche gives us the clue; but along with it, curiously enough, comes that part of his moral philosophy which accounts for probably three-quarters of his bitterest enemies.
He says (G.E., p. 227 et seq.) he has investigated the finer and coarser moralities which have hitherto prevailed or still prevail on earth, and in them all has found certain traits recurring so regularly together, that, at last, he was obliged to recognise two fundamental types two distinct classes of morality which appear to be in a state of perpetual conflict on earth. In mankind, there is a continual war between the powerful, the noble, the strong and the well-constituted on the one side, and the impotent, the mean, the weak, and the ill-constituted on the other. The war is a war of values; occasionally, as history shows, it becomes a war of grapeshot and guillotines a war to the knife; but the values that are fought for are always the values of a master-morality on the one hand and of a slave-morality on the other.
Nietzsche recognises a fact that is mostly overlooked by those who declare the self-preservative instinct to be the prime motor of organic life.
"A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength" (G.E., p. 20), he says.
The natural function of the strong, of the exuberant, is to discharge their strength and to spend their energy. "To demand of strength that it should not manifest itself as strength, that it should not be a will to overpower, to subdue, to become master of, that it should not be a thirst for enemies, resistance, and triumphs, is just as absurd as to demand of weakness that it should manifest itself as strength" (G.M., p. 44).
The strong will and must discharge their strength, and in doing so, the havoc they may make of other beings in their environment is purely incidental. There is a superfluity of energy in them, an excess, which is neither claimed nor availed of, by any circumstance in their lives. This superfluity, this excess, is the pressure in them which accounts for their acts of destruction for destruction's sake; it is the motive force which explains their will to overpower, to create or destroy above their immediate needs, to create at all, and to sing, shout, spring, play, romp, kill, oppress, and seek danger. These natural functions of the strong, the hale and the hearty, like all natural functions, were perforce regarded as "good" by those who possessed them. Valuing as all must value, who wish to maintain their power, these strong ones, the natural masters of any community in which the qualities they possessed meant self-aggrandisement, declared that to be good which was their good; bad, to them, meant all that which was unlike them, the despicable, the weak and the ill-constituted.
But, curiously enough, there is one trait common to both masters and slaves, which is, that both, somehow, desire to make their species paramount, and, if possible, to attain to supremacy. What, then, could be more self-evident, more pre-determinated, than that the natural slaves, that is to say: the mean, the weak, and the ill-constituted, should also moralise? They must also have a concept of "good," and that concept must likewise be a self-enhancing concept; it must be their good, and everything that thwarts it must be their evil. Do we find the weak and the ill-constituted moralising thus? Nietzsche craves attention; he says they do.
He illustrates his meaning by declaring the master-morality to be that which, standing above, looks downwards, thus obtaining its own peculiar perspective; and the slave-morality to be that which, standing below looks upwards, thereby obtaining a perspective quite its own (G.E., pp. 43, 44, 241).
In the first, the master-morality, it is the eagle which, looking down from a ledge of rock upon a browsing lamb, contends that "eating lamb is good." In the second, the slave-morality, it is the lamb which, looking up from the sward and espying the eagle, bleats dissentingly: "eating lamb is evil."
We know that these two classes exist everywhere on earth. Mankind, irrespective of racial distinctions, does fall into the two broad classes already described. We are moreover compelled to admit that both classes moralise, are forced to moralise, in order to meet that ever-pressing desire to acquire power for their species; but, when we have acknowledged this we have done all that Nietzsche wishes of us; for it is the key to the whole question of morals to-day; it is the clue to the answer of Nietzsche's haunting question: "Who is to be master of the world?"
Of course, as we are told in Beyond Good and Evil, in all higher and mixed civilisations, attempts have now been made to reconcile the two moralities; at present, they are seldom found juxtaposed in sharp contrast. They are more often found confused and mingled in one community, in one man; yea, often in one soul.
But, that we may trace, and know how to distinguish, them, when we meet with them, we have only to think of what probably took place when the ruling caste and the ruled class took to moralising.
Taking the ruling caste first, it is clear that they must have posited the proud and exalted states of the soul as "good," as also all that is strength, power, health, well-constitutedness, happiness and awfulness; the antithesis "Good" and "Bad" to this first class meant the same as "noble" and "despicable." Even our word "noble," which was originally expressive of social status, shows us, when we apply it to character, who they must have been who first appropriated it as a designation of their caste (On this point see Spencer's Sociology [1st Edit.], Vol. I. p. 687).
"Bad," in the master-morality, must have been applied to the coward, to the over-anxious and niggling one, to the man with "the eye to the main chance," as also to the distrustful one with the stealthy glances, the self-abasing one, the dog-like kind of man who submits to being mishandled, to the mendicant flatterer, and above all to the liar. It is a fundamental belief in all aristocratic communities, that the mob consists of liars. "We, truthful ones," thus spake the noble Greeks of themselves and their equals.
With the second type, the slave-morality, the case is different. There, inasmuch as the community is an oppressed, suffering, unemancipated, and weary one, all that will be held to be good which alleviates the state of suffering. Pity, the obliging hand, the warm heart, patience, industry, humility and a sneaking friendliness towards honours, -- these are unquestionably the qualities which we shall here find flooded with the light of approval and admiration, because they are the most useful qualities; they make life endurable. To this class, all that is awful, instead of being regarded as good, as it was in the morality of the ruling caste, will be precisely the evil par excellence, quite the worst kind of evil, because it cuts at the very roots of the community's existence. Strength, health, superabundance of animal spirits, and antagonistic power of any sort whatever, are regarded with hate, suspicion and fear by the ruled class. To them the virtues of their rulers are vain, pointless, evil. Even the happiness of those above them, they would fain regard as delusive and spurious. He is accounted "good" amongst them, who is harmless, good-natured, easily-gulled, and perhaps a little foolish; -- in short, a good sort of fellow (G. E., pp. 227-232).
Now, in this rough analysis of the two fundamental types of morality, we have our touchstone for the work of selection which lies before us; for unless we are quite apathetic, we must know that the process which is most needful at the present day, is that of selection: not alone in morality, but perhaps in every department of our social life.
As it went with Nietzsche, so it will go with us. We shall find the master- and the slave-morality everywhere mingled and confused, sometimes beyond recognition. We must not be surprised to find, here and there, men like harlequins, patched by lord and serf. In certain parts of the world, and not necessarily far from home, we may find the slave-morality triumphing over the other kind, and we may there observe what type of man is tending to dominate under the existing conditions. Before determining what our good and evil are going to be in the future, the results of such observations must be duly weighed in our minds. That is what Nietzsche means when he bids us take our stand beyond good and evil; that is the position he would have all new philosophers assume; it is, at the same time, the position which has earned for him the titles "dangerous," "vicious," and "iniquitous," from the courteous lips of "the good and just."
"There is an old illusion called good and evil," Zarathustra declares. "Round fortune-tellers and astrologers, hitherto, the wheel of that illusion hath turned.
"Once the folk believed in fortune-tellers and astrologers, and therefore they believed: 'All is fate. Thou shalt for thou must.'
"Then, at another time, they mistrusted fortune-tellers and astrologers, and therefore they believed: 'All is freedom. Thou canst for thou wilt!'
"O my brethren, as to the stars and the future, there hath only been illusion, not knowledge. And therefore, as to good and evil, there hath also been illusion, not knowledge!" (Z., "Of Old and New Tables," 9).
This roughly speaking terminates the account of his analysis of the past in morality. The questions of conscience and the sense of guilt, as treated by Nietzsche, ought, strictly speaking, to be dealt with now. Seeing, however, that this could not be done adequately, and that they both deserve very serious attention, it is perhaps best to avoid them altogether here, though not without a hope, that I may be able to treat of them later.
As we have already seen, Nietzsche was a moralist as well as an immoralist. He destroyed, only in order to be able to construct afresh. "He who must be a creator in good and evil," he says, "verily, he must first be a destroyer, and break values into pieces" ( Z., "Of Self-overcoming").
Having shown us that morality is merely a matter of taste, Nietzsche proceeds to divulge his taste in regard to the all-important subject.
Every notion of good and evil, which we cherish, Nietzsche, like a numismatist, takes up and examines, and, before he estimates its worth, inquires in what class of mental mint the coin originated. This question, and the relentless way in which he puts it and answers it, during his examination of modern European values, practically constitutes the nutshell of his ethics.
The moral code he offers us, in exchange for the one he would see us partly abandon, and the high ideal to which it is intended to attain, I cannot now consider with you. In my next lecture, when I shall treat of Superman, I will describe Nietzsche's ideal, that is to say, the Man of his taste, and, in the last one, "Nietzsche the Moralist," I shall attempt to deal with the constructive side of his moral philosophy.
Let it now suffice, to perceive, that the slate is clean, and that we have been warned concerning the blood of old laws and principles which may crave a place upon our new tables of commandments.
Morality is a problem which we are left to solve for ourselves. We must, henceforth, determine our good and evil. The good and evil of past peoples, races and tribes, has not been utterly condemned, it has merely lost the whole of its authority.
Now, since moral valuations are pointless unless they have a goal in view (Herbert Spencer, Vol. I. p. 33, Principles of Ethics: ". . . the notion of perfection, like the notion of goodness, can be framed only in relation to ends"), unless they are the expedient to the enhancement of a certain species of man, it is obvious that our duty is to decide what this species of man is going to be, and then to determine our good and our evil accordingly. (See Von Darwin bis Nietzsche (by Dr A. Tille), pp. 19, 22.)
The responsibility thrown upon us is enormous; we are all put upon our mettle; our taste becomes our prime monitor, and we betray our taste to the world, when we declare what our ideal, our good and bad, is going to be, -- when we declare whom we would make master upon earth.
I need hardly to tell you how deeply Nietzsche was conscious of the responsibility he threw upon our shoulders when he invited us to reconsider our position. The following lines from Zarathustra are evidence enough of his earnestness, and with them I shall conclude:
"O my brethren, when I bade you break the good and the tables of the good -- it was then only that I put man on board ship for the high sea.
"Only now cometh the great terror unto him, the great look round, the great illness, the great loathing, the great sea-sickness.
"False shores and false securities ye were taught by the good. In the lies of the good ye were born and hidden. Through the good, everything hath become deceitful and crooked from the root.
"But he who discovered the land 'man' discovered also the land 'human future.'
"Now ye shall be unto me sailors, brave, patient ones!
"Walk upright betimes, O my brethren, learn how to walk upright! The sea stormeth, many wish to raise themselves with your help.
"The sea stormeth. Everything is in mid-sea. Right away! Come on ye old sailor hearts!" (Z., "Of Old and New Tables," 28).
THE END OF LECTURE I
ANTHONY J. LUDOVICI