WHO IS TO BE MASTER OF THE WORLD?
An Introduction to the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
by Anthony M. Ludovici
[Delivered at the University of London on December 2, 1908.]
It was found convenient to treat Nietzsche's doctrine of the Superman, next, in order, and for the reasons stated in the last paper. It will be remembered that moral values were there said to be quite pointless, which did not have the rearing of some particular type of man as their end, as their goal.
"Who is to be master of the world?" was the question which recurred in my last lecture; we saw that this was entirely a question of taste, and moreover, one left for us to decide. We saw, also, that in deciding it we involved ourselves in a still more intricate question, the question of morality, and that the one conditioned the other.
Taking Nietzsche's doctrine of Superman, his taste in regard to man, first, therefore, we shall be better prepared, when the time comes, to understand the morality with which he wishes to attain to it; this morality, as I have already informed you, I shall discuss in the last paper.
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Nietzsche speaks of himself as a firstling and he adds: "firstlings are ever sacrificed." To the old idols, on the altars of society's old idols, firstlings are ever sacrificed; they are young; their flesh is still tender; that tickleth old palates. How could firstlings help being sacrifices, since they excite old idol-priests? (Z., "Of Old and New Tables," vi).
Already in 1883, Nietzsche could speak in this way of himself and of those whom he wished to rally round him. Two parts of his Zarathustra had been written; five most original books had gone out to the world, and he was beginning to understand, from the reception these works were receiving, that his mouth was not for the ears of his time.
What people did not comprehend in him, they disliked; what was new and strange, proved irksome to them, and everything that threatened to disturb their smug ease, they did not hesitate to reject. In short, as he tells us, they sacrificed him, like a firstling, to the idols that still held sway over them.
Nietzsche made a special diagnosis of European culture, and he found it attacked by a terrible disease the "Paralysis of Will" (G.E., p. 145). He found Europe settling down smugly to a pitiable self-complacency, and it was the struggle of his lifetime to awaken her to a sense of her danger.
Indeed, so concerned was he, on her account, that he even wished her a formidable foe (Ibid., p. 146), that she might be compelled to make up her mind to become equally formidable. On the one hand there was a sort of Quietists who believed: "Everything is equal; nothing is worth while, the world is without sense, knowledge choketh"; on the other, were those who still clung fanatically to Christianity as the best alternative, the best opiate the softest couch; and there was yet another class which, although it remained apathetic concerning superterrestrial possibilities, was willing to embrace any cause or belief, provided its specific aim were to bear its adherents to the greatest remoteness from pain of any kind.
All these classes, however, were unanimous in this one idealisation of the notion Progress: that it meant that at some time or other -- to be made as proximate as possible, there would be nothing left to fear, nothing left to tremble at, in the whole of the civilised world (G.E., pp. 125, 126).
Everywhere, virtue was being associated and confounded with those qualities which lead to the greatest possible amount of ease. The most virtuous man was the tamest man, because he would be the least likely person to ruffle other people's feelings, or to make ripples upon the calm waters of peace and comfort.
Conformity with a given, harmless, domesticated type, uniformity of manners, views, and little desires; these were the ideals of Europe when Nietzsche focussed his attention upon it, and those Europeans who succeeded in realising these ideals really believed they had solved the problem of life.
With his vigorous and full-blooded teaching, Nietzsche disturbed the slumbers of the indifferent; he snatched the soft couches from under the religious ones, and to those who held, that the greatest good must be the total suppression of pain, he spoke thus: "What is good? ye ask. To be brave is good. Let the little girlies talk: To be good is sweet and touching at the same time. Ye say, a good cause will hallow even war?: I say unto you: a good war halloweth every cause.
"War and courage have done more great things than the love of one's neighbour" (Z., "Of War and Warriors").
Over the so-called virtuous, he lashed himself into a veritable fury. He told them they were a vulgar herd whose one preoccupation was the comforting and the fattening of that herd. "Everything that elevates the individual above the herd, and is a source of fear to the neighbour, ye call 'evil,'" he said; on the other hand, "the tolerant, unassuming, self-adapting, self-equalising disposition, the mediocrity of desires, attain to moral distinction and honour" among you (G.E., pp. 124, 125).
Is it a matter for surprise, that, speaking thus, he was reviled by a Europe that was steadily dozing off in smug content?
We read in Beyond Good and Evil: "It is difficult and painful for the ear to listen to anything new; we hear strange music badly. When we hear another language spoken, we involuntarily attempt to form the sounds into words with which we are more familiar and conversant it was thus, for example, that we modified" the French words crevisse and chausse into crayfish and causeway, and again the German weissager into wiseacre, because "our senses are . . . hostile and averse to the new" (G.E., p. 113).
On his own showing therefore, Nietzsche was not only disturbing, but also painful to the ears of his contemporaries. And among the people who wished, at any cost, to grasp him by identifying his philosophy with something they thought they already knew, we find those who call it Egoism) and Materialism (Dr Dolson, The Philosophy of F. Nietzsche, p. 100).
I hope to be able to show you it is neither the one nor the other. Dr Tienes, in an interesting little pamphlet calls Nietzsche the Evolutions-ethiker, the moral philosopher of Evolution, and the epithet is surely deserved (Nietzsche's Stellung zu den Grundfragen der Ethik genetisch dargestellt); but, as Spencer very rightly observed: "The doctrine of Evolution, under its purely scientific form, does not involve Materialism though its opponents persistently represent it as doing so" (On this point see Spencer's Collected Essays, Vol. I. p. 386).
When Zarathustra came to preach to men for the third time, he looked for changes in them; . . . "he wished to learn what in the meantime had gone on with man, whether he had become taller or smaller," and much that he says in this respect will remind English readers of Mr Kipling's profound lines in the song entitled "Chant-Pagan":
"I will trek South and make sure
If it's only my fancy or not
That the sunshine of England is pale
And the breezes of England are stale,
And there's something gone small with the lot."
Rudyard Kipling's The Five Nations, p. 162.
In the third book of Zarathustra's history we read the following account of his criticism:
"All hath become smaller!
"Everywhere I see lower doorways. He who is of my kin, can still pass through them, but he must stoop!
"I pass through these people and keep mine eyes open. They do not forgive me for not being envious of their virtues.
"They bite at me because I say unto them: 'For small people, small virtues are necessary,' and because it is hard for me to understand that small people are necessary!
"They cough when I speak; they are of opinion that coughing is an objection to strong winds.
"They divine nothing of the fury of my happiness!
"We have not yet time for Zarathustra! they say as an objection. But what matter about a time that hath 'no time' for Zarathustra?
"Unto small virtue they would fain allure and flatter me. To share the ticking of their small happiness, they would fain persuade my foot.
"I walk through these people and keep mine eyes open. They have become smaller and are becoming ever smaller. And the reason thereof is their doctrine of happiness and virtue.
"And they are modest even in their virtues; for they are desirous of ease. But with ease only modest virtue is compatible.
"Here is little of man; therefore women try to make themselves manly. For only he who is enough of a man will save the woman in woman.
"At bottom they desire plainly one thing most of all: to be hurt by nobody. Thus they anticipate the every wish of everyone and do well unto him.
"But this is cowardice; although it be called virtue.
"For them virtue is what maketh modest and tame. Hereby they made the wolf a dog and man himself, man's best domestic animal"(Z., "Of the belittling Virtue").
With the gravest misgivings, Nietzsche thus beheld the condition of the modern Europeans. He saw how unexhausted mankind still is for the greatest possibilities, and he wondered how the race could be directed into channels of thought and valuations which might lead it to a prouder, more dignified, and higher state. For this purpose, he declared new philosophers to be necessary, new commanders new valuers. Harder leaders than we have had heretofore must arise; their hearts must be of brass and their consciences of steel, that they may bear the almost crushing responsibility of directing a clever, crafty, surreptitious, comfort-loving and fearful crowd such as the present-day crowd of modern and satisfied Europeans. But such philosophers are certainly coming, they must come; he tells us their image hovers before his eyes!
Nietzsche's only fear is, that these coming leaders may miscarry or degenerate; his one anxiety, his one gloom is, that they may miss, or deliberately abandon, their way, discouraged or overwhelmed by the colossal dimensions of the task that lies before them (G.E., pp. 129, 130).
"A single individual, alas, only a single individual am I," Nietzsche cries despairingly, "and this great forest, this virgin forest" of errors, of prejudices and of petty, myopic immediate-advantage-seeking principles! Oh, that I had dogs, assistants, scouts, to help me in my big hunt; but courage and sagacity are requisite for such a hunt, and scholars and all men who could assist me, are unused to danger nowadays. Where the great dangers commence, "it is precisely then that they lose their keen eye and nose" (Ibid., p. 64).
"To entice many from the herd that is why I have come. Folk and herd will be angry with me: a robber Zarathustra wisheth to be called by herdsmen.
"Herdsmen I call them, but they call themselves the good and the just. Herdsmen I call them, but they call themselves the fearful of the right belief.
"Lo, the good and just! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaketh to pieces their table of values, the breaker, the law-breaker: but he is the creator" (Z., Introductory Speech, 9).
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We have seen how, for hundreds of years, Christianity had been the philosophical birthright, so to speak, of all Europeans and of all people like them: we have seen how, even the clearest minds, owing to their having been born into it, were led to regard it pretty well as a modern town-child regards the pavement in the street, that is to say, as a thing that is, that always has been, and ever will be.
We know what it cost the bravest and deepest thinkers to oppose Christianity, and we have read how they struggled rather to uphold than to subvert the old faith, so tenacious are early and hereditary associations.
We have spoken of the many centuries, during which God was pictured as an autocratic power outside the world whose destiny he determined from second to second with all the caprice of a primitive tribal chieftain, and we watched the transformation of this idea into pantheism the belief which placed God in the world, which made the world a manifestation of God's being.
The relations between man and this new God of Pantheism, it is true, were not so familiar, not so confidential, as the previous ones had been; but men could still honour and respect Him, and that is all that this new teaching demanded of them.
Still, even this view, broad as it was, did not entirely satisfy natural scientists. It was the latter's ambition to ascribe all phenomena to natural law. The thought of an interfering deity's underlying the natural world was discomfiting to them; it rendered their generalisations problematic. Otherwise, however, they were not unfriendly to a notion of God, and they and their followers therefore circumvented the difficulty by means of this really creditable stratagem: God would still be upheld, and still be believed in, but He must be made innocuous in so far as their text-books were concerned; He must be placed outside the world again. It would be admitted that He had created it, and that its laws were divine laws; but on this condition: that it would be thoroughly understood that God ceased to take any active part in the proceedings, once He had established their fundamental laws. This was Deism.
This belief accorded perfectly with all the needs of the time. It allowed of scientists prosecuting their researches undisturbed by fears of incurring stigma, and it enabled those among the educated classes, who were inclined to lend a friendly ear to science, to read learned works with a clear conscience.
Such, roughly speaking, was the state of affairs, when Kant approached the question of General Metaphysics, and, in dealing with it, killed it. The very existence of the God, who had been given so many different interpretations, was shown by Kant to be not even demonstrable. Kant not only showed that the God of the Christians could not be proved; but that the proofs of all Gods, all Metaphysics, were imperfect, impossible impudent.
In morality, however, Kant granted an authority to human reason, which he denied it in metaphysics. Where morality is concerned, he believes in liberty, in the inexorable law of duty, in the necessary harmony between happiness and virtue, and, in this way, he practically committed himself to the re-establishment of those principles which the ones above imply, namely: the existence of God, and the immortality of the soul Metaphysics is not a possible science, let us, however, abide by what we have already been given in this respect. Revealed religion is already with us; it may be needful for us to have such a religion; in any case, it is a comfort: let us tolerate it!
Thus, Kant's uncompromising attitude towards Metaphysics, in theory, was followed by a compromise on his part, where practice was concerned, which materially weakened his position, and I hardly need tell you how eagerly thinking people availed themselves of Kant's high authority in order, once more, to give their whole minds and hearts up to the "right belief," as Nietzsche characterises it.
The flame of Christianity was fanned once more among the educated classes. And, in view of the eminent philosophical sanction it had suddenly acquired, was it not perfectly natural that it should as suddenly experience a period of enormous prosperity and support? Kant had shown that nothing could be certain in the realm of Metaphysics; why not, therefore, espouse the cause of that belief which had stood the test of years? Why not embrace the improbable provided it were superannuated?
This revival in the "true belief," however, proved to be but of a very transient nature. It gradually dawned upon Europe, that the blow levelled at Metaphysics was one that could be ill warded off, and a period of doubt soon superseded the inflamed return to Christianity. The belief in God, where it survived, was seen to have been considerably weakened, and hundreds of thousands had it no more.
It was then, according to Dr Ernst Horneffer, the late Director of the Nietzsche Archives, that a general discontent and hopelessness in the hearts of thinking Europeans, paved the way for what is now known as Pessimism. (See Vortrge ber Nietzsche, pp. 42, 43).
Sully, in his interesting work on the subject, rather seems to overlook the influence of godlessness upon the hearts of educated Europeans, in relation to the elaborate Pessimism which flourished in Europe in the early part of the nineteenth century and a little later (James Sully, Pessimism, p. 38).
There can, however, be little doubt, that the world without a God seemed strange and cold to those who were deep enough wholly to realise it in this altered aspect.
It will be said, perhaps, that Pessimism is as old as the ancient philosophers. This is perfectly true, and in the religion founded by Buddha, we have one of the most striking examples of early desperate views of life having been formulated into a system of Quietism, symbolised by the one doctrine of Nirvana. But the great pessimistic movement among Europeans of the nineteenth century certainly owes its origin to an impulse greater than that which can be sought in the influence of ancient melancholy. When, therefore, Dr Ernst Horneffer points to the cold and comfortless feeling of godlessness which sprung from Hume's, Kant's and their followers' teaching, I think we may safely go the whole way with him, more particularly when we remember, that Buddhism, itself, also denied the existence of a Creator and any absolute Being.
Now, as we have already observed, the world without a God seemed strange and cold, and men were unused to these conditions. They had become adapted to another environment, where prayers, hopes of after life, and fear of punishment after death, had reigned almost as fixed ideas. Suddenly bereft of these fixed ideas they had, as suddenly, become ill-adapted; and who means to doubt that Pessimism, in any form, is anything more than the expression of ill-adaptedness which does not recognise itself as such?
Responsibility had been laid on the shoulders of a divinity for centuries; it now seemed to lie very heavily indeed upon the shoulders of men. And, having relinquished all past interpretations of what people will persist irrationally in calling "the First Cause," they began to ask themselves: "What is this world? What is its object? What are we all driving at? If there be no God, no Heaven to go to, no Hell to which we may relegate our enemies; what, indeed, is the point of existence? Where, if you please, is the joke?"
It is no joke, Pessimism replied. It is a most ghastly reality, which we are here to endure, come what may. It is a most horrible torment which is in vain, which has no object, no sense, no explanation. It is the worst of all possible worlds, and in it we are suffering victims, without a hope, without an ideal, without even a justification for our pain! Godlessness is unspeakable hideous!
Byron in England, Schopenhauer in Germany, Leopardi in Italy, and Mme. Ackermann in France: each of these voiced the sentiments of those who were at their wits' end in a Godless world; while among those whose works, although not avowedly pessimistic, yet contain passages which betray a tincture of Pessimism, we find Lamartine, Heine and Carlyle.
There were many, however, who did not share these melancholy views. Although they had severed themselves from the Church, a large number, then as now, were totally and comfortably indifferent. Thousands smiled superciliously at Pessimism and lisped: "It will be all the same a hundred years hence!"
But the thinking world, the deep world, the world that looks for an object in existence, and will have an ideal after which it may strive -- this world was in despair!
Now, Schopenhauer spoke to this world and taught it a doctrine whereby it might defy its wretchedness and steel itself against life's horrors. He, too, saw in a Godless world a pointless abomination; he, too, could see no excuse for the prevailing pain, nor any justification for the misery of the subjected and oppressed, and, overcome by his loathing of life and the universe, he inveighs against both with a bitterness which throws all other pessimists into the shade.
Nietzsche describes how an accident revealed Schopenhauer's works to him. He tells us how he chanced one day to come across a copy of The World as Will and Idea, at the old Rohn curiosity shop in Leipzig, and how something urged him to buy it, despite the fact that he did not usually decide in a hurry concerning the purchase of any book. He goes on to describe, how, at home, immediately after the purchase, he dropped into a corner of a sofa, and began to let Schopenhauer's energetic and gloomy genius work upon him; he exclaims: "here every line cried out, renunciation, denial, resignation; here I saw a mirror in which I espied the world, life, and my own mind, depicted in frightful grandeur," and, he adds: "the need of knowing myself, yes, even of gnawing at myself, forcibly seized me" (Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsches by E. Foerster-Nietzsche, Vol. I. pp. 231, 232).
Nietzsche's sister, however, gives us the most striking description of her brother's attachment to Schopenhauer.
"Schopenhauer," she says, "was not a book for him, but a friend. The philosopher was already dead when my brother first became acquainted with his works, otherwise he would have journeyed to him immediately, in order to greet him as a friend and a father, for, throughout his childhood and youth, he had yearned for the fatherly friend whom he had missed so sorely, owing to our father's all too early death" (Ibid., p. 280).
But, we shall see that a radical and permanent change was very soon to manifest itself in Nietzsche's attitude towards his great teacher. Seeing, however, that he does not reject Schopenhauer's philosophy completely, but adopts all that he thinks is tenable in it, and thereon builds up his own teaching, a careful examination of Schopenhauer's views is now inevitable.
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In the year 1781, when Kant was well over fifty years of age, his world-renowned Critique of the Pure Reason was published. In this book, to the writing of which, as he himself assures us, he was incited by the scepticism of David Hume, he undertook the examination of the origin, extent, and limits of human knowledge, and unfolded his doctrine of the relativity of all knowledge. He tried to establish "the distinction between phenomena whose substance is given us through impressions on the senses, but whose form is a purely subjective product of the mind itself and real things or 'things-in-themselves,' which exists out of relation to time, space, or causality" (Ueberweg's History of Philosophy, translated by G. S. Morris, A. M., Vol. II, p. 160).
He shows us, in this Critique, that what we call external objects are really only mental representations resulting from the nature of our sensibility. To us they are mere appearances, the inner nature of which we can never ascertain. The appearance of the things we know the things-in-themselves, we do not and cannot know! Nevertheless, in opposition to Berkeley, Kant declares that although we do not know how, "we must assume that transcendental objects or things-in-themselves exist" (Ibid., p. 176).
Summing up the results of his demonstration of these views, in the General Observations on the Transcendental Aesthetic, Kant writes as follows: "That the things which we perceive are not what we take them to be nor their relations of such intrinsic nature as they appear to us to be; and that if we make abstraction of ourselves as knowing subjects, or even only of the subjective constitution of our senses generally, all the qualities, all the relations of objects in space and time, yes, and even space and time themselves, disappear, and that as phenomena they cannot exist really per se but only in us; what may be the character of things-in-themselves, and wholly separated from our receptive sensibility, remains wholly unknown to us" (Ueberweg's History of Philosophy, translated by G. S. Morris, A. M., Vol. II. p. 166).
Greatly admiring Kant, and adopting many of his first principles, Arthur Schopenhauer as a young man of twenty-six years of age, deeply versed in the lore of Hindu antiquity, took up Kant's doctrine of the relativity of our knowledge, and developed it in his principal work. The World as Will and Idea, by attempting to show that, although the world is only our notion our idea; if we regard another aspect of it, we can actually arrive at a knowledge of things in themselves; we can learn the inner nature of external objects.
In what concerns our perception of the outside world, he adopts Kant's view, that we are totally unable to derive from our mental representation of it any knowledge whatever of it as it really is. The inner nature of external objects, in the process of imaging them in our minds, completely eludes our perceptive powers. It must be clear to everyone, says Schopenhauer, "that what he knows is not a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, and a hand that feels an earth; that the world which surrounds him is there only as idea, i.e. only in relation to something else, the consciousness which is himself. (The World as Will and Idea, translated by R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp, Vol. I. p. 3).
"No truth, therefore, is more certain, more independent of all others, and less in need of proof than this, that all that exists for knowledge, and therefore this whole world, is only object in relation to subject, perception of a perceiver, in a word, idea" (Ibid).
But, he continues . . ." the inward reluctance with which anyone accepts the world as merely his idea, warns him that this view of it, however true it may be, is nevertheless one-sided (Ibid., p. 4).
"The consciousness of everyone is in general opposed to the explanation of objects as mere ideas (Ibid., p. 23). The objective world, the world as idea, is not the only side of the world, but merely its outward side; and it has an entirely different side the side of its inmost nature its kernel the thing-in-itself" (Ibid., p. 39).
How can we discover what this kernel, this thing-in-itself is? That was the problem Schopenhauer set himself to solve in his work The World as Will and Idea. We have seen that we cannot arrive at this real nature of things from without. But, says Schopenhauer, we are objects in nature, we are things among things (Ibid., p. 129), and of ourselves we have a special, second view which we cannot have of other things. Besides being an object of perception, the body of each individual is known to him in its inner nature; he knows its kernel immediately (The World as Will and Idea, translated by R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp, Vol. I. pp. 129, 130): and what is this kernel, Schopenhauer asks, which each can immediately perceive in himself? Is it not that which we call mind or spirit that embodiment of Feeling, Volition and Intellect, which some call soul?
In recognising these several attributes of mind which we call Feeling, Volition and Intellect, have we not perhaps brought ourselves into the presence of the whole of our inner nature, our kernel, our other aspect of the objects which we are?
Feeling, Volition and Intellect, however, are not the simplest expression of our inner nature. There is an attribute in us, which, according to Schopenhauer, must be the ultimate attribute. Let us examine Feeling, Volition and Intellect, under his guidance.
In the first place, he lets them fall into two distinct groups, of which Feeling and Volition are one, and Intellect and its derivative. Understanding, Reasoning and Thought are the other.
It used to be customary to allot Intellect the first place in a classification of our mental phenomena; but Schopenhauer denies its primitive importance. Again and again he tells us, "the intellect, like the claws and teeth, is nothing else than a weapon in the service of the will," it is "the lantern of the will," or "an assistant organ of the will" (Ibid., Vol. III. p. 166).
In every blind force of Nature, Schopenhauer sees a factor that cannot be accounted for by an appeal to intellect; in the early actions of animals as also in all functions of our body which are not guided by knowledge, a power is at work which has nothing in common with the Understanding or with Reason.
If we observe ourselves closely, we do, indeed, find that the distinction between the parts played by the group Feeling and Volition, and that played by Intellect, is more marked than we should at first suppose.
Examining Feeling and Volition, first, we are so struck by the way in which each of these necessitates the other, that we see no possibility of separating them. Every feeling we have involves an action of our will; for, if it be agreeable, we will have that which awakens it in us, whereas, if it be disagreeable, we will not have it active under any circumstances. Willing and feeling how can they be thought of apart? (The World as Will and Idea, translated by R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp, Vol. I. pp. 130, 131). From the very dawn of our lives, they, as one phenomenon infallibly guide us to perform life-preserving actions without the very slightest assistance from the Intellect, which can only act upon acquired knowledge.
We may take it, therefore, that our inner life consists of these two sharply-defined mental attributes: the Intellect with its derivatives: Understanding, Reasoning, and Thought, and the Will which, as we have seen, covers Feeling. (In support of this view see Spencer's Principles of Psychology, Vol. I. pp. 500-503).
Now, are Will and Intellect equally important to us? Could one be shown to be more primitive, to be more essential to us than the other? As we have already implied, Schopenhauer answers yes, in favour of Will.
The intellect is an instrument, a mere means in the service of the will. We desire, we want, we will have something, hence our intellect is employed, that this desiring, this wanting, this willing, may be stilled. Our passions, our love, hate, and physical appetites, are matters of feeling and will, and we certainly do make our intellect work, in order to find the means of ministering to them. But they are the primitive force, intellect is but their intermediary.
For a very long time, the intellect was thought to play the most important part in our lives. It is quite impossible, however, to retain that belief any longer. The ultimate factor in our existence, therefore, the thing-in-itself, which we have been seeking, is will (The World as Will and Idea, translated by R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp, Vol. I. p. 136); for we cannot avoid giving intellect a secondary place.
Schopenhauer then proceeds to invest everything about us with will. "It is the inmost nature, the kernel of every particular thing, and also of the whole" (Ibid., p. 143).
And what is this will, which is the hidden spring of all existence? Schopenhauer calls it the blind "Will to Live."
Everywhere, among creatures that are driven by this blind will, he sees warfare, oppression, suffocation, maiming, torture, misery. The weeds stifle the noble and useful plants, these again exhaust the nourishment of the weeds. A mighty oak is here fettered and interlaced by a gigantic, wild vine, in whose fatal embrace it at last withers as if choked (The World as Will and Idea, translated by R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp, Vol. I. p. 193). Elsewhere we see magnificent trees burgeoning and flourishing in the rays of the sun in spring, and preventing the quickening light from reaching struggling shrubs which try to eke out an existence at their feet (Ibid., p. 191).
"Everywhere, in Nature, we see strife, conflict and alternation of victory. This universal conflict becomes most distinctly visible in the animal kingdom . . . for each animal can only maintain its existence by the constant destruction of some other. Thus the will to live, everywhere preys upon itself, and in different forms is its own nourishment; till, finally, the human race, because it subdues all the others, regards Nature as a manufactory for its use" (Ibid., p. 192).
"But an optimist bids me open my eyes and look at the world, how beautiful it is in the sunshine, with its mountains and valleys, streams, plants, animals, etc. etc. . . . Is the world then a rare show? These things are certainly beautiful to look at, but to be them is something quite different (Ibid., Vol. III. p. 392).
"And, to this world," Schopenhauer exclaims, "to this scene of tormented and agonised beings, who can only continue to exist by devouring each other; in which, therefore, every ravenous beast is the living grave of thousands of others, and its self-maintenance is a chain of painful deaths; and in which the capacity for feeling pain increases with knowledge, and therefore reaches its highest degree in man, a degree which is the higher, the more intelligent the man is; to this world it has been sought to apply the system of optimism, and demonstrate to us that it is the best of all possible worlds! The absurdity is glaring!" (The World as Will and Idea, translated by R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp, Vol. III. p. 392).
Schopenhauer turns in horror from the world he thus depicts. This shambles in which the blind Will to Live reigns like an evil and blood-thirsty spirit, he cannot endure to contemplate. The sufferings of existence choke him; in the voice of Nature, he hears but an exasperated groan, in her smiles he reads deception, hoax, vanity. With man, he declares, the blind Will has reached self-consciousness. It is for man, therefore, to see that it may turn against itself in man neutralise itself in him. By means of renunciation, asceticism, and the negation of Will, Schopenhauer tells mankind, this abominable record of pain, iniquity and injustice, which we call Life, may be arrested. Man's highest aim, therefore, must, at all costs, be the destruction of the Will to Live in the midst of Life! the conversion of the shudder and quiver of agony into the stiff stillness of apathy, the transformation of misery into nothingness nonentity -- Nirvana!
* * * * * * *
As Schopenhauer turned in horror from the world he depicted, so Nietzsche ultimately turned in horror from Schopenhauer. Gradually he learned to regard the hopelessness, the unmanliness, the effeminate surrender to sorrow, and the cowardly despair under the weight of Godlessness, which underlay the philosophy of Germany's greatest pessimist, with indomitable hatred; nay nausea. Slowly it dawned upon him that Schopenhauer's Nihilism was no more than a short-sighted misrepresentation of facts, an attractive deception on a large scale, prepared only for the weak, the spiritless, and, above all, the ill-constituted.
Now, ready as we may be to grant, that God and the Christian Ideal had hitherto, perhaps, been mankind's greatest thought, we cannot help attributing much of the pessimism which invariably follows their withdrawal from men's hearts, to the complete failure of past iconoclasts in providing an adequate substitute for the idols which they destroyed. Nietzsche, who was the descendant of a long line of clergymen, and whose piety, as a boy, had been the delight of his relatives, knew as well as anyone could know, what Christianity means to those who sincerely profess it; he did not need to be told that he who attempts to destroy this powerful Faith, may find himself the indirect author of more errors and consequently more trouble than the Faith itself could ever account for. He knew, therefore, as perhaps few knew, that those who sally forth against Christianity with the sword of destruction in one hand, must also be prepared to wield the magic wand of construction pretty dexterously with the other. Something stupendous must be offered as a substitute, something equally capable of enthralling the minds of men and women. We must have a treasure for our riches.
Nietzsche knew the vast beauty and power of the substitute he had to offer, he knew he came loaded with gifts for men; hence his good cheer, his exaltation; hence, too, the laughter with which he would infect us.
"God is disproved," he says; "but why despair on that account?
"God is a supposition; but I would have your supposition reach no further than your creative will.
"God is a supposition; but I would have your supposing limited by conceivableness.
"God is a supposition; but who would drink all the pain of that supposition without dying?
"Creating -- that is the great salvation from suffering and alleviation of life.
"But what could be created, if there were Gods! (Z., "On the Blissful Islands").
"And when I cry: 'Curse all cowardly devils within yourselves who would fain whine and fold their hands and adore!' They cry: 'Zarathustra is ungodly!'
"And so chiefly their teachers of submission cry. But in their ears I rejoice to cry: 'Yea! I am Zarathustra the ungodly!'
"I am Zarathustra the ungodly. Where find I my like? And all those are my like who give themselves a will of their own and renounce all submission.
"Ye become ever smaller, ye small folk! ye comfortable ones, ye crumble away! One day ye will perish
"From your many small virtues, from your many small omissions, from your continual petty submission! (Z., "Of the belittling Virtue").
"I rejoice to cry: 'Yea, I am Zarathustra the ungodly!'"
Thus we see, that, far from deploring, Nietzsche actually applauds the news that God had been disproved. It might perhaps be said, speaking biologically, that he was one of the first among modern European thinkers, to become adapted to the idea of Godlessness, and therefore to feel hopeful, strong, nay creative under its influence. In any case, he leaves us in no doubt regarding his reasons for rejoicing. He says, at last, my eyes can turn towards mother-earth; and seek their hope there! The plans I make, the things I do, will be of the earth; they will belong to no back-world or beyond, towards which all humanity has been squinting for centuries, with the result that it has neglected its life here. "God is dead," man is now responsible for himself; he must seek a goal in manhood; he is left standing alone; the spirit of fight is kindled in him; the nymph of sport and of self-reliance, nudges him that he may notice her and make her his most faithful hand-maiden. He is now at liberty to find an ideal in this world, not in a back-world, a beyond; but here on earth, and this ideal he may now strive to realise and thereby improve his race. Odious comparisons are at last going to cease. This world, whatever its defects may be, is no more to be backbitten by people whose incredible lack of sporting instincts allow them to decry and calumniate the existing and the perceptible, in favour of the imaginary and imperceptible.
For the sake of his generation and the future, therefore, Nietzsche bravely denounced the friend and teacher, who had been all to him; the pessimistic point of view, even in a godless world, was distasteful to him, and he began a campaign against Schopenhauer's teaching, which, for bitterness and implacability, has perhaps never yet been equalled in the annals of philosophical enmity.
But he never forgot the debt he owed to the man he was opposing, and in Volume X. of his Complete Works we find the following tribute to Schopenhauer's memory:
"Far be it from me to believe that I ever properly understood Schopenhauer; but through him I learnt to know myself a little better, and for this reason, alone, he has my deepest gratitude."
It must be remembered, that Nietzsche was not fighting Schopenhauer and his disciples alone; he was fighting an indifferent and sluggish Europe, which, he declared, was reclining and decaying lazily in a fool's paradise. People then, as now, were adopting and practising so-called virtues, not because they were the means to what he regarded as a higher development of society, not because they would lead to an ideal caste of men; but because they were wretchedly comfortable, above all, safe and, in any case, not discordant with the views of the majority.
In the midst of this expedient morality which was devoid of any noble character, Schopenhauer's interpretation of Buddhistic Quietism had gradually begun to flourish "with almost tropical luxuriance"; the youth of Germany, in Nietzsche's time, mustered in thousands beneath Schopenhauer's banner, and the whole of Western Europe seemed to be a victim of the one monomania: that of seeking ease -- smug ease, at any cost, to the neglect of all higher and worthier aims.
The view of life held by a very large class of Europeans of that time, whether they knew of Pessimism or did not, is admirably summed up by Schopenhauer in a discourse upon the Vanity and sufferings of Life. Here he tells us: "Whatever one may say, the happiest moment of the happy man is the moment of his falling asleep, and the unhappiest moment of the unhappy that of his waking" (Vol. III. p. 389, The World as Will and Idea. Haldane and Kemp's translation).
This resigned doctrine revolted Nietzsche. In spite of there being no God, as we have seen, he recognised an aim, a worthy object in life. He saw noble goals which men could reach, without straining after the debatable requirements of a back-world, and without competing for very doubtful rewards. He therefore turned round upon the teacher to whom he owed most; because he had something better, greater and nobler to teach than Quietism. He had to show us that life had sense, significance and worth.
* * * * * * *
Nietzsche adopts Schopenhauer's metaphysics and builds his teaching upon it.
He also regards blind Will as the motive force of the universe; but he does not think this will is a will to life, but, as we have already heard, a Will to Power.
"Wherever I found living matter," he says, "I found will for power, and even in the servant I found the yearning to be a master.
"Only where there is life, there is will: though not will to live, but thus I teach thee -- will to power.
"Many things are valued higher by living things than life itself; but even out of valuing speaketh will unto power! ("Of Self-overcoming").
"Psychologists should bethink themselves, before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength -- life itself is Will to Power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results thereof" (G.E., p. 20).
Now upon this base, "the Will to Power," Nietzsche constructs a philosophy which, unlike Schopenhauer's, says "Yea" to life and blesses it; -- a philosophy which presents us with an ideal compatible with man's great record, and one which gives us something worthy of acceptance in exchange for what it takes away.
Nietzsche is not blind to the suffering in this world, on the contrary, he sees even more deeply into it than his predecessors; but he is pleased with it; he blesses it too; for, in pain he sees the greatest educating and ennobling force of Nature. He who was a continual sufferer from cruel disorders, who had served in a German ambulance during the Franco-German war, and who, as a boy at school, had twice sought to temper his playmates' admiration for Mucius Scaevola, by severely burning his own hand in their presence (Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsches, by E. Foerster-Nietzsche, Vol. I. pp. 105, 106), was not the kind of man to meditate poetically about pain. What he says about it we can listen to with attention, we know it to be more than idle theorising. Now, again and again, in his later works, we find Nietzsche laying stress upon the value and necessity of pain; and it is not improbable, that passages of the kind I refer to (more particularly pp. 74, 75, 76 in Genealogy of Morals) must have gone a long way, when misunderstood, towards earning the reputation of brutality for his philosophy, which so many in Germany, England and France are trying their utmost to keep alive.
"The discipline of suffering, of great suffering," says Nietzsche, "know ye not that it is only this discipline that has produced all the elevations of humanity hitherto? The tension of soul in misfortune which communicates to it its energy, its shuddering in view of rack and ruin, its inventiveness and bravery in undergoing, enduring, interpreting, and exploiting misfortune, and whatever depth, mystery, disguise, spirit, artifice, or greatness has been bestowed upon the soul, has it not been bestowed through the discipline of great suffering?(G.E., p. 171). Profound suffering makes noble, it separates" (Ibid., p. 248).
Elsewhere he rebukes all those who would fain attain to "the universal green-meadow happiness of the herd, together with security, safety, comfort, and alleviation of life for everyone," and who regard suffering "as something which must be done away with. We opposite ones," he adds, "who have opened our eyes and conscience to the question how and where the plant 'man' has hitherto grown most vigorously, believe that this has always taken place under the opposite conditions, that for this end the dangerousness of his situation had to be increased enormously, his inventive faculty and dissembling power (his 'spirit') had to develop into subtlety and daring under long oppression and compulsion" (G.E., p. 59. Compare also Heraclitus, who says: "Homer was wrong in saying, 'would that strife might perish from among Gods and men!' He did not see that he was praying for the destruction of the universe; for if his prayer were heard all things would pass away").
The fear and hatred of pain is paralysing, it checks the adventurous spirit. Just as the fear of losing may keep the vain man from playing a game, so the fear of suffering may keep many from playing a bold part in the game of life. But there are other reasons behind Nietzsche's praise of suffering.
How many among you have not already sought, feverishly sought, perhaps, to understand the Hedonists those who attempt to base our morality, our good and evil, upon the feelings "pleasure" and "pain." Those of you who have done so, who have read, among other books, Sidgwick's somewhat tedious work The Methods of Ethics (For a very interesting criticism of this work see Alfred Fouille's Critique des Systmes de Morale Contemporains, pp. 36-38), his puzzling attack on Herbert Spencer's Hedonism, and Spencer's equally puzzling reply; those of you, I say, who have done this, must very often have despaired of ever coming to a solution of the vexed question. (See W. H. Rolph's interesting attack upon Spencer in reference to the same subject in Biologische Probleme [Edit. 1884], pp. 50, 51.)
It is remarkable, that once an idea like that of Hedonism becomes thoroughly appropriated by one or two philosophers, it is almost certain to get buried and completely hidden from the view of the lay-excursionist into philosophy, thanks to the mountain of words with which those who are supposed to elucidate it, systematically smother it.
Any layman to-day, who, with the ingenuousness which characterises his kind, happens to inquire, "What is Hedonism?" or "Where is Hedonism?" will be told: "It belongs to Messrs So-and-So the Philosophers," or "Messrs Thingumbob the Logicians," as a matter of fact, though, only the mountain concealing the subject belongs to these gentlemen.
What is Hedonism? We may well ask: Why is Nietzsche so unfriendly to it (See G.E., pp. 118, 119, 170), and why does he speak so reverently of pain? Turning to an ordinary dictionary of the English language, after having laid philosophical treatises aside, it is quite a relief to find it described in one line, as "the doctrine, in ethics, that happiness is the greatest good."
Now, if we understand what is meant by happiness here, it looks as if we knew all we wanted to know. How should we define happiness in this case? Happiness roughly speaking means that state to which we have attained, when we perform those actions which we are best apt to perform; in fact we cannot do better than to say, it means complete adaptation, it means that state to which an organism arrives, when it is in complete harmony with its environment. What happiness then means to the individual, may be still further denned; but, as this definition could answer no purpose here, we are glad to escape from the need of attempting it.
To proceed, and not forgetting that Herbert Spencer is careful to admit, that although happiness cannot perhaps be made the immediate, it may be made the ultimate aim of an action, let us turn to Nietzsche, and see what he says.
Nietzsche declares that there is a tremendous assumption underlying all Hedonism, and it is this: that the urging of a perfectly possible, complete adaptation to any environment, presupposes that this particular environment is a desirable one to become adaptated to. He points out that an environment may be unworthy of one's adaptating one's self to it; consequently, that complete adaptation to it would be a mistaken rather than a justified step. His attitude towards Hedonism is the attitude of the parent towards the lazy schoolboy. "Is it not too early in your life to be lazy?" the parent asks the lazy schoolboy. "Is it not too early, yet, to preach Hedonism?" is Nietzsche's question to us, and with it he practically states his objection to the teaching. ("Will it not always be too early to preach Hedonism?" is really his implied question; for there is no reason to believe that his Superman is intended by him to be the very ultimate development: hence, even complete adaptation, if it were possible, under Superman, will not be strictly in harmony with Nietzschean philosophy) Complete adaptation to our present environment, if it were possible, would undoubtedly, I suppose, lead to happiness; what has to be decided first, though, is whether we actually have an environment which really corresponds to the highest possibilities we are capable of, whether our environment is a desirable one, at all, to become adapted to.
Nietzsche's attitude towards pain is now, in a measure, explained.
Pain, as a rule, means adaptation which is faulty, incomplete or totally lacking. He conjures us, therefore, not to go out of the way of pain any more; nor to lose our patience under it; for, if we should do these things in spite of his warning, the catastrophe he most wishes to avert, might occur we might become adapted.
The heroic attitude assumed in all his books is now more easily understood. His life, too, appears more transparent, if we wish to read this new meaning into it. But, what, above all, is understood, is his doctrine of the Superman; and with this word, we come to the fundamental question of his philosophy.
Of course, we know that this doctrine is purely hortatory; but what is its purpose? Its purpose is to give us the picture of a type to which we might attain, to which it is possible for us to attain, and after which he would have us strive. Its incidental purpose is to show us by comparison that our present ideals of manhood and womanhood are mean, unworthy of our great past, and certainly quite unworthy of all the powers which are still unexhausted in us.
The possibility of attaining to the Superman, is to be our warrant for pain; it is to be the significance of our refusing to adapt ourselves to existing conditions. Hitherto, we have had no meaning for pain. Superman is to be that meaning. Nietzsche had this one great advantage over his eminent teacher, Schopenhauer, namely, that when he approached the problem of the universe, Europe was already in possession of Darwin's great bookThe Origin of Species.
It may be even said, that Nietzsche actually returned critically to Schopenhauer with the theory of Evolution as his scalpel. And he saw, then, what Schopenhauer could not very well have seen: That this long and cruel process of evolution, impelled by the blind Will to Power which spurs on all things, gave a meaning and an importance to life, which the notion of unalterable Being could not offer. He saw hope and promise in the thought that this world is a Becoming and not a Being, and, in revaluing Schopenhauer's Will to Live as Will to Power, he also revalued the Pessimistic Weltanschauung into one of the most thorough-going optimistic philosophies that has ever yet been taught.
Recognising, like Heraclitus, the eternal flux of things, Nietzsche says:
"Everything goeth, everything returneth. For ever rolleth the wheel of existence. Everything dieth, everything blossometh again. For ever runneth the year of existence" (Z., "The Convalescent One," 2).
Nietzsche in one sense was a Darwinian. All his later works bear the unmistakable stamp of the Theory of Evolution as taught by our most celebrated naturalist; but, although Darwin's teaching as to the "Descent of Man," with all its consequences, moral and physical, meets with Nietzsche's partial assent, the two philosophers differ seriously in respect of the question of means, in respect of the question of the lines upon which the process of evolution worked. Nietzsche, however, is not alone in finding fault with Darwin's demonstration of the laws governing evolution, and, although he only transformed the "Struggle for existence" into the "Struggle for power," the alteration is one of such far-reaching importance and involves so many new aspects of the Development Hypothesis, that, as we have already seen, whether it be right or wrong, we cannot dispose of it at a breath, as a mere play upon words.
Evolution, therefore, in the widest possible sense of the term, Nietzsche accepted conditionally, as an explanation of the origin of species; but he did not halt where most naturalists have halted. He by no means regarded man as the highest possible being which evolution could arrive at. If the process be a fact; if things have become what they are, and were not always so; then, he contends, we may describe no limit to the aspirations of man. If it were possible for him to struggle up from barbarism, and still more remotely from the lower Primates, then, says Nietzsche, his ideal, his ambition should be to surpass man himself and reach Superman.
The raising of society to a higher level is Nietzsche's aim, the most profound Optimism is his philosophy.
"Dead are all Gods," he cries, "now we will that Superman live" (Z., "Of the Giving Virtue," 3).
He implores us to turn our thoughts from a Back-world, from a Beyond. He points to a task on earth, our ideal lies in manhood itself, we must aspire to the excellence of man.
"I conjure you, my brethren, remain faithful to earth and do not believe those who speak to you of superterrestrial hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not.
"Despisers of life are they, decaying and themselves poisoned, of whom earth is weary, begone with them!
"Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy, but God died, so that this kind of blasphemy died also. Now, the most terrible of things is to blaspheme the earth and to rate the importance of the unknowable higher than the significance of the earth" (Z., Introductory Speech, 3).
Nietzsche teaches us a new will, a will for the improvement of our race. Hitherto the ideal of most philosophers had been the happiness of the greatest number; Nietzsche rebukes those of his predecessors who held this view, and points out very reasonably that our aim should be the perfection of society, and that our morality and religion, if we have any, should be calculated to achieve that end.
"A new will I teach men: to will that way that man hath gone blindly and to call it good and no longer to slink aside from it like the sickly and the dying (Z., "Of Back-Worldsmen").
"The most careful ask to-day: 'How is man preserved?' But Zarathustra asketh as the only and first one: 'How is man surpassed?'
"All beings [in your genealogical ladder] have created something beyond themselves, and are ye going to be the ebb of this great tide?
"Behold, I teach you Superman!" (Z., Intro. Speech, 3).
The word "Superman," "Uebermensch," and the notion underlying it, were not quite new, when they appeared in Nietzsche's teaching (Z., "Of Higher Man," 3). Novalis, Heine, Holderlin, Goethe, and others, had already made use of the word, while Wilhelm Jordan, in his song entitled "Die Nibelunge," and Madame Ackermann, in a short and brilliant poem, "La Nature a l'Homme," written in 1876, are among the most striking examples of those in whom the notion of a superior being's superseding man, was a cherished ideal.
In addition to these, we have good grounds for supposing that even Charles Kingsley "believed that man, as we know him, is by no means the highest creature that will be evolved" (Herbert Spencer's Autobiography, Vol. I. p. 408); but whether he expresses the idea anywhere in his works, I am afraid I am incompetent to say.
It is Nietzsche's undeniable merit, however, as Dr Alexander Tille observes, to have led this new moral ideal to a complete victory.
Nietzsche puts the question to us very pointedly. He asks us what right we have, in the face of the Evolution Hypothesis, to regard ourselves as the summum bonum of humanity. Has Development come to a standstill with us? No, that is impossible. But there is such a thing as retrograde development; there is an ascending and a descending line of life; are we certain which line our race is following?
"Mankind does not manifest a development to the better, the stronger, or the higher in the manner in which it has at present believed. 'Progress' is merely a modern idea, i.e. a false idea. The European of the present day is, in worth, far below the European of the Renaissance; onward development (progress, as it is understood to-day) is by no means, by any necessity, elevating, enhancing, strengthening" (C.W., p. 243, 4).
The law that "the fittest" survive in a given environment, does not by any means imply that the stronger or the better will survive, and our authorities for this apparently heterodox doctrine are no less than Prof. Huxley and Herbert Spencer. (See also George J. Romanes' paper on "Darwin's Latest Critics," Nineteenth Century, May 1890). I say "heterodox doctrine," because I am speaking popularly, and because I know that a very large number of people (the late Dr James Martineau was among them), who have not gone below the surface of the Evolution Hypothesis, believe most fervently that the survival of the fittest must mean the survival of the better and stronger. But perhaps it would be as well to make the matter quite clear by referring to Herbert Spencer's and Huxley's actual words.
The former tells us in Vol. I. p. 379 of his Collected Essays, where he is replying to an attack made by Dr Martineau, upon the hypothesis of General Evolution:
". . . The law is not the survival of the 'better' or the 'stronger,' if we give to those words anything like their ordinary meaning. It is the survival of those which are constitutionally fittest to thrive under the conditions in which they are placed; and very often that which, humanly speaking, is inferiority, causes the survival. Superiority, whether in size, strength, activity or sagacity is, other things equal, at the cost of diminished fertility; and where the life led by a species does not demand these higher attributes, the species profits by decrease of them, and accompanying increase of fertility. This is the reason why there occur so many cases of retrograde metamorphosis this is the reason why parasites, internal and external, are so commonly degraded forms of higher types. Survival of the 'better' does not cover these cases, though survival of the 'fittest' does; and, as I am responsible for the phrase, I suppose I am competent to say the word 'fittest' was chosen for this reason. When it is remembered that these cases outnumber all others it will be seen that the expression 'survivorship of the better' is wholly inappropriate."
And now turning to Professor Huxley's Romanes Lecture, we find these words:
"there is another fallacy which appears to me to pervade the so-called 'ethics of evolution.' It is the notion that because, on the whole, animals and plants have advanced in perfection of organisation by means of the struggle for existence and the consequent 'survival of the fittest,' therefore men in Society, men as ethical beings, must look to the same process to help them towards perfection. I suspect that this fallacy has arisen out of the unfortunate ambiguity of the phrase 'survival of the fittest.'" (See the Romanes Lecture, "Evolution and Ethics," by T. H. Huxley, Ed. 1903, p. 32).
Now what implied fact is common to the three passages I have just quoted from Nietzsche, Spencer and Huxley respectively? Nietzsche says:
"Progress is by no means, by any necessity, elevating, enhancing, strengthening." Spencer says, "the survival of the fittest under the conditions in which they are placed, does not by any means necessarily signify that the better and the stronger will survive," and Huxley tells us, we look in vain to the struggle for existence, and the consequent survival of the fittest, to help us towards perfection.
Is it not quite clear from these three statements that the environment is the determining factor? If the environment is best met by mean, emasculated, puny and rickety beings, it follows that those men will be the fittest to survive who are mean, emasculated, puny and rickety.
The parasites in all their loathsomeness, we are told, are examples of the survival of the fittest, but were not those creatures much nobler, from which they were derived, and who unlike them were overcome in the struggle for existence? Is this point quite clear? Is it quite understood, that we may be the "fittest" and yet still degenerate, provided our environment be such that only degenerate beings may survive in it?
Nietzsche points to the moral inexorably. He shows us that our environment is not conducing to an elevation of man; on the contrary, the man who survives to-day, that is to say the average man who is happy and almost adapted to-day, must have qualities which promise nothing for the future of his race, except its belittlement. In the modern man, Nietzsche sees a sort of "Tomlinson" Mr Rudyard Kipling's famous creation in the "Barrack-room Ballads": and, writing in very much the same spirit as that in which "the sublime Longinus" wrote in the third century A.D., and actuated by similar motives; at a time, too, when Europe seemed to be showing the same symptoms of degeneracy which his great Greek predecessor saw in his contemporaries of the Roman Empire, Nietzsche denounces and condemns "the pigmies" with whom, he says, he is "fatally contemporaneous"; he cannot regard them as the crowning glory of Evolution, and, with the words Mme. Ackermann put into Nature's mouth, he might well have sung to man:
"Non, tu n'est pas mon but, non, tu n'est ma borne.
A te franchir déjà je songe en te créant;
Je ne viens pas du fond de l'éternité morne
Pour n'aboutir qu'a ton néant.
* * * * * * *
"Toi même qui te crois la couronne et le fate
Du monument divin qui n'est point achevê,
Homme, qui n'es au fond que l'bauche imparfaite
Du chef-d'uvre que j'ai rêve,
"A ton tour, a ton heure, il faut que tu prissesprisses.
Ah! ton orgueuil a beau s'indigner et souffrir,
Tu ne seras jamais dans mes mains creatrices
Que de l'argile a repétrir."
(See Petite Bibliothque Littraire: Oeuvres de Mme. Ackermann, Posies.)
With terrible earnestness, Nietzsche exclaims:
"I teach you the Superman. Man is a something that must be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass him?" (Z., "Intro. Speech," 3).
Like the true Evolutionist that he was, Nietzsche would have us alter our environment; he would make it harder for us.
We are in the dangerous position of being, to a certain extent, able to create our own environment. This is the great temptation, the greatest temptation, perhaps, man has ever had -- the temptation of making life too easy for himself, before he is sure that his unexhausted powers do not render it imperative that he should aim at a still higher development. The Hedonistic schoolboy who creeps like a snail unwillingly to school, does not know that there are latent powers in him, which it is the business of his education to draw out; consequently, his superiors, who know this, force him to adopt the less pleasant course, and to work. But we who know, who have no excuse for our Hedonism, who have, rather, every reason to believe that Superman is within our power; we have but one course, any other means that we are deliberately shirking our work and blinding ourselves to our duty.
Let us try to rid ourselves of the superstition that lamp-posts have grown in the street, where morals are concerned. Let us take our stand Beyond Good and Evil. The truth in Morality, like the truth in everything else, what does it mean to Nietzsche? It is this way he replies: "Truth to me is what elevates man!" (Nietzsche's Complete Works, published by Naumann, Vol. XV. p. 153).
"Over ye virtuous, my beauty laughed to-day. And thus came its voice unto me: 'They wish to be paid in addition!'
"Ye wish to be paid in addition, ye virtuous!
"Ye wish reward for virtue, heaven for earths, and eternity for your to-day?
"And now ye are angry at my teaching that there is no rewarder nor pay-master.
"Nay I do not even teach that virtue is its own reward.
"Ye love your virtue as the mother does her child; but did anybody ever hear of a mother wishing to be paid for her love?
"It is your dearest self, your virtue. . . .
"But, to be sure, there are men who call the agony under the whip virtue; and ye have hearkened too much unto their crying.
"And there are others who call the stultification of their vices virtue.
. . ." Others who walk about heavily and creaking like waggons carrying stones down hill, talk much of dignity and virtue, their skid they call virtue.
"And there are others who are wound up like everyday watches; they go on ticking and wish that ticking to be called a virtue.
"Verily, these are mine entertainments. Wherever I find such watches, I shall wind them up with my mocking; and they shall even click at that.
"And again there are others who sit in their mudbaths [in their ruts] and thus speak out of their bulrushes: 'Virtue that meaneth to sit still in the mudbath.'
"We bite nobody, and go out of the way of him who seeketh to bite; and in all things we have the opinions we are given.
"And in this way almost all believe they share in virtue. At any rate every body would have himself to be an expert as to 'good and evil.'
"Zarathustra hath not come to say unto all these liars and fools: 'What know ye of virtue! What could ye know of virtue!'
"But that ye, my friends, may become weary of the old words which ye have heard from fools and liars" (Z., "Of the Virtuous").
The modern European, this "gregarious animal," this "ludicrous species," this "something obliging, sickly" and "mediocre," this modern European; a man of Progress and of "modern ideas," the fittest surviving, because he is small and debased and bereft of all nobility: this man fills Nietzsche with the gravest misgiving. He cannot think without terror of the individual that will ultimately be the fittest to survive in the conditions which we have created for ourselves, and to which we may yet become adapted, led thereto by a Hedonistic philosophy. Something tame, soft and sensitive, something harmless with a keen but timid "eye to the main chance," some abortion of man it will be; Nietzsche sees the day coming and its approach is only made the more probable, seeing that it is taking place under the cover of such veneering terms as Progress, Modernity, "equality before God," etc. . . .
With all the energy of his being, Nietzsche raises his voice against this degeneration of man; he calls to us earnestly to transvalue our values and change our conditions, that another kind of creature may survive in the "struggle for power."
"I teach you Superman. Man is something that must be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass him?
"What is the ape unto man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. Man shall be the same for Superman, a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.
"Ye have made your way from worm to man and much within you is still worm.
"He who is the wisest among you is but a hidden mutiny and a hybrid of plant and ghost. But, do I order you to become ghosts or plants?
"Behold, I teach you Superman!" (Z., "Int. Speech," 3).
But Superman must take a very heavy load upon his shoulders; a load of filth mostly; for, during our tenancy of the World, we have not helped to make it spick-and-span. He will have to have a healthy stomach too, this higher individual, that it may not turn when he looks back and contemplates our filthiness; when he looks back and tries to bury our filthiness!
"Verily a muddy stream is man. One must be at least a sea to be able to absorb a muddy stream without becoming unclean.
"Behold, I teach you Superman: he is that sea, in him your great contempt can sink.
"Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is that insanity with which ye ought to be inoculated?
"Behold, I teach you Superman: he is that lightning, he is that insanity" (Ibid., 3).
Nietzsche perceived "all that could still be made out of man, through a favourable accumulation and augmentation of human powers and arrangements;" he knew "how unexhausted man still is for the greatest possibilities, and how often in the past, the type man has stood at mysterious and dangerous crossways, and has launched forth upon the right or the wrong road, impelled merely by a whim, or by a hint from the giant 'Chance.'" He knew what trifling obstacles have often shattered "promising developments of the highest rank," and owing to what quibbles, saviours of mankind have often been sacrificed. "The universal degeneracy of mankind," he adds, "to the level of the 'man of the future' as idealised by the Socialistic fools and shallow-pates this degeneracy and dwarfing of man to an absolutely gregarious animal (or as they call it, to a man of 'free society,') this brutalising of man into a pigmy with equal rights and claims, is undoubtedly possible! He who has thought out this possibility to its ultimate conclusions, knows another loathing unknown to the rest of mankind, and perhaps also, a new mission!" ( G.E., pp. 130,131).
But disciples of Nietzsche may ask, who is this Superman? What is he like? How are we to picture this ideal after which we are to strive? Nietzsche cannot hope to describe and does not attempt to give us, any definite image of the Superman. He is to be an evolution of the higher men of the present day, he is a prophecy that Nietzsche bade the world strive to realise, he is a promise which Nietzsche exhorted us to keep for him.
How could he describe a development not yet reached? Here and there in his works we get glimpses of what Superman was to his imagination, and, by analogy of the past, he certainly could claim to form some rough sort of notion of the kind of being his table of morals and his principles of Sociology would rear. An excellent and tentative analysis of his forerunner's necessary attributes, which I regret to say I cannot quote here, occurs in the Winter Number 1906 of Mr Thomas Common's brilliant little Quarterly, The Good European Point of View. In any case, we may say that the Superman's first virtues must be uprightness and truthfulness; he must be courageous to the point of hardness, and his giving, if he give at all, his charity, if he be charitable, must not be the outcome of pity, but the consequences of an impulse generated by a superabundance of power.
Gifted with a sublime intellect (C.W., p. 340), and free -- free in the sense that he have the Will to be responsible for himself (Ibid., p. 202) he will be able to rule, not because he will but because he must (Ibid., p. 341), he will be possessed of the "genius of the heart, which imposes silence and attention on everything loud and self-conceited, which smooths rough souls and makes them taste a new longing to lie placid as a mirror that the deep heavens may be reflected in them; the genius of the heart, which teaches the clumsy and too hasty hand to hesitate and to grasp more delicately; which scents the hidden and forgotten treasure, the drop of goodness and sweet spirituality under thick dark ice, and is a divining-rod for every grain of gold, long buried and imprisoned in mud and sand; the genius of the heart, from contact with which everyone goes away richer; not favoured or surprised, not as though gratified and oppressed by the good things of others; but richer in himself, newer than before, broken up, blown up, and sounded by a thawing wind; more uncertain perhaps, more delicate, more fragile, more bruised, but full of hopes which as yet lack names, full of a new will and current, full of a new ill-will and counter current" (G.E., pp. 260, 261).
This possible demi-god, leading men because he is a leader, and followed by men loyally, without a murmur of "why" or "how," because they cheerfully acknowledge, not only that some are born to follow, but that unlimited confidence is the highest form of reverence for one who deserves reverence at all; this knight of intellect and will, regarding the interests, the true interests, of his fellows, as more sacred than his own, and determined that errors of thought and judgment will no more be allowed to return, in order, for the thousandth time, to botch the figure "Man"; this "world-approving, exuberant and vivacious man, who has not only learnt to compromise and arrange with that which was and is, but wishes to have it again, as it was and is, for all eternity insatiably calling da capo, not only to himself, but to the whole piece and play" (Ibid., p. 74): this, if I am not mistaken, is a faint forecast of Nietzsche's Superman; it was with this ideal in his thoughts that he called our present state the momentous Noon the great Mid-day of man; it was for this belief that he would have us live and die.
Naturally, he looks upon us as but very remote steps to this ideal; but he conjures us not to think meanly of our position and its heavy responsibility.
"Man is a rope slung between animal and Superman, a rope over an abyss
"A dangerous crossing, a dangerous half-way station, a dangerous looking backward, a dangerous shivering and halting.
"What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what can be loved in man is that he is a transition and a destruction (Z., "Int. Speech," 4).
"It is time for man to mark out his goal. It is time for man to plant the germ of his highest hope.
"His soil is still rich enough for that purpose. But one day that soil will be impoverished and tame, no high tree being any longer able to grow from it." (Ibid., 4, 5).
He was only too well aware of the impossibility of appealing to the many with a doctrine such as this. "They understand me not," he says, "I am not the mouth for these ears." Hedonism is far more to their taste, much more simple, and above all, much more pregnant with immediate advantages.
Nietzsche professes to appeal to those deep ones, whose ears are delicate enough to hear a jarring note in the sensational music of modern progress; to those who are discerning enough to guess at the humbug underlying the tinsel of "modern ideas"; in short he would fain appeal to those deep and refined ones, who constitute the few and the select, and who already know, in their innermost hearts, that all is not above-board with man.
"A thousand paths there are which have never yet been walked, a thousand salubrities and hidden islands of life. Unexhausted and undiscovered, are still man and man's world.
"Awake and listen, ye lonely ones! From the future winds are coming with a gentle beating of wings, and there cometh good tidings for fine ears.
"Ye lonely ones of to-day, ye who stand apart, ye shall one day be a people: from you who have chosen yourselves, a chosen people shall arrive: and from it Superman.
"Verily, a place of healing shall earth become! And already a new odour lieth around it, an odour which bringeth salvation and a new hope." ("Of the Giving Virtue," 2).
"Never yet Superman existed. I have seen them, both naked, the greatest and the smallest man.
"Much too like are they still unto each other. Verily even the greatest one I found to be -- much too human" (Z., "Of Priests").
To men Nietzsche cried: "Superman is the significance of this earth. Your will shall say: Superman shall be the significance of this earth" (Z. "Int. Speech," 3).
To women, he said: "Let a ray of starlight shine in your love! Let your hope be: 'Would that I might give birth to Superman!'" (Z., "Of Little Women, Old & Young").
And in this last passage, where Nietzsche tells us in a simile, what he was and how we are to regard him, we get in a poetical form his concept of his mission.
"I love all those who are like heavy drops falling one by one from the dark cloud lowering over men: they announce the coming of the lightning and perish in the act.
"Behold, I am an announcer of the lightning and a heavy drop from the clouds: that lightning's name is, Superman" (Z., "Int. Speech," 4).
ANTHONY J. LUDOVICI