Friedrich Nietzsche –
God’s murderer, Hitler’s forefather, misogynist, genius, lunatic, or what?
Nietzsche was profoundly abhorrent of the creed of higher values with which people manage to revere and condemn themselves and others, the mania of people who know themselves to be morally in the right and according to whom one can’t do anything right, the interpretation of this mania into a whole worldview in which Good and Evil conduct their fictitious fight – in short, of morality and religion. He so hated the hypocrisy of moralists and Christians that he set upon a polemic which in places is as informative as it is entertaining. Below are a few samples of it.
I. Analysis of the techniques of moral and religious self-deception
Nietzsche loathed the obtrusive habit of his morally thinking contemporaries, who confounded self-criticism with a bad conscience and who would rather have walked around feeling guilty rather than realize the errors of their ways and leave them behind. He did not at all regard this behavior as natural, but more as a “disease” of his time with which one better not get infected. As an historically educated person he understood that, to a pre-bourgeois consciousness, the punishment for an offense was no occasion to be ashamed of one’s will.(Slaves said) “not ‘I ought not to have done this’ – They submitted themselves to punishment, just as one submits one’s self to a disease, to a misfortune, or to death, with that stubborn and resigned fatalism . . .” (On the Genealogy of Morals, II, §15)
In contrast to this, bourgeois individuals consistently manage to condemn what they want and do. They know not only their own interests as a guideline for their actions, but call upon higher standards of right with which they want to conform, in which they measure their interest, and regard the deviations from those standards – which are due to happen over and over again – for their bad moral will. “In morality man does not consider himself as individuum but as dividuum.” (Human, All Too Human, §57) A bourgeois individual judges himself and his actions with a double standard: he wants something, knows and recognizes at the same time that it is not permitted, wants it nevertheless and thereby makes himself a conscience.
In this case, the punishment of the contrition follows the self-condemnation, and with remorse, internal righteousness is once again satisfied. Thus the bad conscience is the complicated way to a good one.
He who has thus arranged such a good conscience for himself knows he is in harmony with what decency and convention demand, and is therefore capable of the impertinences which make bourgeois everyday life, with its people abounding with virtuousness, so pleasant. To him it is not only regarded as natural that it is alright to step on others’ toes in the pursuit of his own interests. He functions as a model for humanity across the world and therefore for him it is almost a moral duty to lift himself up to be the judge of others; and as such, to sincerely wish the worst for all those who are not of the same moral grade.“There, for example, is an ill-constituted man, who does not possess enough of intellect to be able to take pleasure in it, and just enough of culture to be aware of the fact; . . . one who is thoroughly ashamed of his existence – perhaps also harboring some vices – . . . gets at last into a habitual state of vengeance and inclination for vengeance . . . What do you think he finds necessary, absolutely necessary in order to give himself the appearance in his own eyes of superiority . . . ? It is always morality that he requires, one may wager on it; always the big moral words, always the high-sounding words: justice, wisdom, holiness, virtue . . . and whatever else the idealist-mantle is called, in which the incurable self-despisers and also the incurable conceited walk about.” (The Gay Science, §359)
At the same time, Nietzsche had the deeper insight not to “expose” the phenomenon that people justify the most banal interests with appeals to the highest of all titles as double morality – i.e., to attribute it to an abuse of morality. He knew that this doubling inevitably belongs to morality because morality can not be had without calculation and hypocrisy:“The praise of the unselfish, self-sacrificing, virtuous person . . . this praise has in any case not originated out of the spirit of unselfishness! The ‘neighbor’ praises unselfishness because he profits by it! If the neighbor were ‘unselfishly’ disposed himself, he would reject that destruction of power, that injury for his advantage, he would thwart such inclinations in their origin, and above all he would manifest his unselfishness just by not giving it a good name! The fundamental contradiction in that morality which at present stands in high honor is here indicated: the motives to such a morality are in antithesis to its principle! That with which this morality wishes to prove itself, refutes it out of its criterion for what is moral! . . . As soon, however, as the neighbor recommended altruism on account of its utility, the precisely antithetical proposition, ‘Thou shalt seek thy advantage even at the expense of everybody else,’ was brought into use: accordingly ‘thou shalt,’ and ‘thou shalt not,’ are preached in one breath!” (The Gay Science, §21)
Here Nietzsche offers the discovery that the ideal of unselfishness, which still belongs to every moral self-representation, is one with which, in the right light, interests are always put forth; and he knows that this contradiction is necessary. That is, the purely negative imperative of unselfishness can not be practiced at all. So silly, how the moral-philosophical preachers of this ideal are never moralists that would declare their own interests as in principle as null and void. Therefore the advocates of this ideal, if they give reasons for it, require this contrary maxim – unselfishness is useful. However, this reason or “motive,” as Nietzsche says, puts the noble maxim in a dubious light. It is simply not a real motive – what really impels and compels people is another story. But it is a means of self-interpretation, moral self-aggrandizement for which a good dose of self-denial apparently delivers the “argument.”
The same is true in the reverse case, in which a damage that someone has suffered is dishonestly presented as a generous act of this person.
* * *
This habit, to stylize oneself in the imagination as a self-confident subject of a condition whose subject one is obviously not, inspired Nietzsche above all else to a critique of religion and Christianity. The combination of voluntary self-abasement and self-righteousness which Christian people displayed was simply too much for him. Therefore he was not held up for long with the lame denial of the existence of God, which in any case only struggles to get rid of doubts which the Christians themselves nurse, but rather occupied himself with the content of the religious images themselves.
He regarded what Christians do with their mind as more or less the lowest form of actuating its intellect and its relation with the will, not at all far from stupefying it with drugs. Christians in their relation to the world master the trick of concocting their hardships as specially designed tests for them; thus they transform the real evil into a fictitious good:“When misfortune overtakes us we can either pass it over so lightly that its cause is removed, or so that the result which it has on our temperament is altered, through a changing, therefore, of the evil into a good, the utility of which is perhaps not visible until later on. Religion and art (also metaphysical philosophy) work upon the changing of temperament, partly by the changing of our judgment on events . . . , partly through the awakening of a pleasure in pain . . . The more a man is inclined to twist and arrange meanings the less he will grasp the causes of evil and disperse them; the momentary mitigation and influence of a narcotic, as for example in toothache, suffices him even in more serious sufferings. The more the dominion of creeds and all arts dispense with narcotics, the more strictly men attend to the actual removing of the evil . . .” (Human, All Too Human, §108)
Now the Christian stands there, before his test, and may boast on account of his misconduct:“It is a clever stroke on the part of Christianity to teach the utter unworthiness, sinfulness and despicableness of mankind so loudly that the disdain of their fellowmen is no longer possible. ‘He may sin as much as he likes, he is not essentially different from me – it is I who am unworthy and despicable in every way,’ says the Christian to himself. But even this feeling has lost its sharpest sting, because the Christian no longer believes in his individual despicableness; he is bad as men are generally, and comforts himself a little with the axiom, ‘We are all of one kind.’” (Human, All Too Human, §117)
The transition from the self-abasement to the self-righteousness of the Christian was therefore familiar to Nietzsche. It lies in the confession of one’s own sinfulness, with which Christians know themselves to be on the right path and rise above the rest of humanity. One can again read from Nietzsche what a deplorable character it delivers in the course of this confession. The contradiction of the standard of the anti-materialist afterlife being applied for dealing with the unholy life on Earth brings forth the everyday Christian, whose hypocrisy Nietzsche very logically saw as a stupidity all but unworthy of his criticism:“If Christianity were right, with its theories of an avenging God, of general sinfulness, of redemption, and the danger of eternal damnation, it would be a sign of weak character and lack of intellect not to become a priest, apostle or hermit, and to work only with fear and trembling for ones own salvation; it would be senseless thus to neglect eternal benefits for temporary comfort. Taking it for granted that there is belief, the commonplace Christian is a miserable figure, a man that really cannot add two and two together, and who, moreover, just because of his mental incapacity for irresponsibility, did not deserve to be so severely punished as Christianity has decreed.” (Human, All Too Human, §116)
* * *
And because he could not suffer these techniques of self-abasement and religious self-righteousness, Nietzsche also criticized the professional adulators of these habits. In his philosophizing peers he discovered the banal need to justify the attitude of humility practiced everywhere by means of scholarly phrases.“That which philosophers called ‘giving a basis to morality,’ and endeavoring to realize, has, when seen in a right light, proved merely a learned form of good faith in prevailing morality, a new means of its expression, consequently just a matter-of-fact within the sphere of a definite morality, yea, in its ultimate motive, a sort of denial that it is lawful for this morality to be called in question – and in any case the reverse of the testing, analyzing, doubting, and vivisecting of this very faith.” (Beyond Good and Evil, §186)
It is, as he states, a peculiar science which has morality as its object and denies itself the analysis of its object simply because it does not want to allow anything to shed a bad light on morality. The fact that they place the almighty in the stuff and try to lend morality an enormous importance, Nietzsche found rather ridiculous:“ . . . all systems of ethics hitherto have been foolish and anti-natural to such a degree that mankind would have been ruined by any one of them had it gotten the upper hand . . .” (The Gay Science, §1)
* * *
Some questions, though, might be raised by this time: what brings rational beings to such masterly achievements of stupidity, why moralists always judge using a double standard, why they want to allow their interests to be considered only under the condition of higher standards and then again apply these standards very self-confidently in accordance with their own interests. The resolution of these questions would have to further consider the contradiction with which Nietzsche boxed the ears of moralizing humankind: He regarded it as degrading and a disgrace that they argue for their own permission. Indeed, this contradiction is anything but a matter of course and also not laid out in human nature. It arises from a world in which a right-granting authority licenses the pursuit of private interests; in which the conditions which every private subject must recognize if he wants to pursue his interests are decreed by law; and therefore the question of permission is present in all considerations and gives the guiding principle according to which interests are justified. He who feels at home in these conditions also develops, with the will to deal with them, the appropriate understanding: He argues in the spirit of justification and self-confidently uses the standards of permission as if they were an offspring of his own mind. The real existing and the mere imaginary rights from now on are permanently confused, which however has no further importance because he is still practically compelled to adhere to the former and to fill his moral considerations only with the contents of self-deception developed for this purpose, the dependencies which he must satisfy would be based only on his own examination and he would follow them only in his own freedom. Such a reduction of the sphere of moral conceits to the terrain of facts has not at all occurred to the author of the “genealogy of morals.” In contrast to his findings about the strange behavior of his contemporaries, his explanation of morality roams entirely within the mindscape and conceits which make up the moral-philosophical image of man. So much for “beyond good and evil”!
II. Anti-morality – The contrast of reason and interest and vice versa
Where moral philosophy splits the person into a beast which pursues its low desires and a rational being who is capable of higher things; where Kant establishes as a “law of reason” that the person should act “not from inclination, but from duty”; in short: where the teachers of moral philosophy maintain a fundamental contrast between reason and interest and announce it with big boasts as its truth – there Nietzsche appears with the following point of view:“The falseness of an opinion is for us not any objection to it: it is here, perhaps, that our new language sounds most strangely. The question is, how far an opinion is life-furthering, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps species-rearing; and we are fundamentally inclined to maintain that the falsest opinions . . . are the most indispensable ones to us . . . To recognize untruth as a condition of life: that is certainly to impugn the traditional ideas of value in a dangerous manner, and a philosophy which ventures to do so, has thereby alone placed itself beyond good and evil.” (Beyond Good and Evil, §4)
Quite a rare thought to declare nonsense useful! Nietzsche’s question: “Granted that we want the truth: why not rather untruth? And uncertainty? Even ignorance?” (Beyond Good and Evil, §1) is not in particular so difficult to answer: He who does not understand the conditions in which he finds himself, and who is not even going to attempt to actuate them according to his own interest. He who prefers uncertainty, who can accompany his activity with pious wishes, and be surprised when they do not always come true. And he who can make up the balance of his disadvantages with false ideas. Nietzsche seems to have his doubts about these procedures. He poses the question of whether truth might not be hostile to life and perhaps therefore the falsest judgment could be much more beneficial. What he thinks of thereby is the “Truthfulness,” “of which all philosophers have hitherto spoken with respect”; their “Truthfulness” is consistently the standpoint of moral duty, the minimization of interests and a mindset hostile to life. Nietzsche refers to this moral-philosophical equalization of truth and hostility to life and comes to the resolution: “If this is the truth, I am against the truth and for life.” And this is quite uncritical for one who already makes fun of what philosophers recommend with their pathos of truth:“That which causes philosophers to be regarded half-distrustfully and half-mockingly, is not the oft-repeated discovery how innocent they are – how often and easily they make mistakes and lose their way, how childish and childlike they are – but that there is not enough honest dealing with them, whereas they all raise a loud and virtuous outcry when the problem of truthfulness is even hinted at in the remotest manner.” (Beyond Good and Evil, §5)
With his plea for life and against truth, Nietzsche shares the moral-philosophical lie that truth and life, reason and interest, constitute a contrast. He simply fights on the other side of the false contrast and this is not too clever, either:“Man has for too long regarded his natural proclivities with an ‘evil eye,’ so that eventually they have become in his system affiliated to a bad conscience. A converse endeavor would be intrinsically feasible – but who is strong enough to attempt it? Namely, to affiliate to the bad conscience all those unnatural proclivities, all those transcendental aspirations, contrary to sense, instinct, nature, and animalism – in short, all past and present ideals, which are all ideals opposed to life, and traducing the world.” (On the Genealogy of Morals, II, §24)“. . . we need a critique of moral values, the value of these values is for the first time to be called into question . . . The value of these values was taken as an indisputable fact, which was beyond all question. No one has, up to the present, exhibited the faintest doubt or hesitation in judging the ‘good man’ to be of higher value than the ‘evil man,’ of a higher value specifically with regard to human progress, utility, and prosperity generally, not forgetting the future. What? Suppose the converse were the truth! What? Suppose there lurked in the ‘good man’ a symptom of retrogression, such as a danger, a temptation, a poison . . . So that morality would really be saddled with the guilt, if the maximum potentiality of the power and splendor of the human species were never to be attained?” (On the Genealogy of Morals, Preface, §6)
This is supposed to be the counter to the anti-materialism of moral philosophy? With his “reevaluation of all values” Nietzsche remains right in the middle of the moral image of man. He casts his vote for the animal, the evil in the person and with it for those fictitious qualities which the moral philosophers attach to the person in order to “derive” therefrom the necessity of their moral imperatives. With the good, he wants to have seen through the fact that it belongs to the sphere of dishonest idealizations, but he holds the evil, the mere negative reflection of it, to be the real nature of man, which one better not suppress. And on top of all this he even takes from moral philosophy that this spiritual war between morality and evil determines the way the world turns and the destiny of mankind! In reality, though, the evil is no more real than the good. One gets the predicate “evil” if one offends against the generally recognized standards. However this is no judgment of an interest, but a condemnation: it’s bad manners. A comparison is made with a standard which should apply but doesn’t, and the divergence from it is subordinated to the “bad” will as an intention. At the same time, no crime has yet occurred from the motive to offend against the law. And where crimes are still judged in this manner, there is a legal fanaticism at work which knows absolutely no other criterion of judgment than the validity of the law. And Nietzsche wants to convert this spawn of moral paranoia into a reality. It may shock moralizing minds to be confronted with the phantoms of their own imagination, but this anti-morality of Nietzsche’s is also not to be confused with materialism. The figures which he paints for himself and chooses for his ideal are very intentionally traced from the current moral perceptions about what belongs to the categorically forbidden. Their activities don’t exactly testify to the fact that the irrationality of the bad person is the criticism of morality’s hostility to interests; it is no less and no more than the philistine conception of once-so-proper-to-let-it-all-hang-out that occurs to Nietzsche as an alternative to morality:
“. . . they revert to the innocence of the beast-of-prey conscience, like jubilant monsters, who perhaps come about from a ghastly bout of murder, arson, rape, and torture, with bravado and a moral equanimity, as though merely some wild student’s prank had been played, perfectly convinced that the poets have now an ample theme to sing and celebrate. It is impossible not to recognize at the core of all these aristocratic races the beast of prey; the magnificent blonde brute . . . This audacity of the aristocratic races, mad, absurd, and spasmodic as may be its expression; the incalculable and fantastic nature of their enterprises . . . their nonchalance and contempt for safety, body, life, and comfort, their awful joy and intense delight in all destruction, in all the ecstasies of victory and cruelty . . .” (On the Genealogy of Morals, I, §11)
Excursus: Nietzsche and Hitler – an absurd comparison
The story of the “blonde brute,” his reveling in the image of the “master race” acquiring its full glory, his disdain for the Jews from whose morality he saw the world ruined – “everything is obviously becoming Judaized, or Christianized, or vulgarized” (Genealogy, I, §9) – all this has brought to Nietzsche the reproach, or at least the suspicion, of having been a sort of mental forefather of Hitler: “Thinker Nietzsche – Perpetrator Hitler” was once to be read in Der Spiegel. This comparison is absurd from both sides. Nietzsche would not be enthused for a state program which asks from the national subjects complete subordination and makes propaganda for this demand with the praise of all moral servant’s virtues. Nor did Hitler have a philosophy which preached the unleashing of the individual and his right to flout everything which the public spirit declares as holy. However, since the comparison is supposed to exist, we can look up what Hitler tells us about the master race:“The Aryan is not greatest in his mental qualities as such, but in the extent of his willingness to put all his abilities in the service of the community. In him the instinct of self-preservation has reached the noblest form, since he willingly subordinates his own ego to the life of the community and, if the hour demands, even sacrifices it. . . . In giving one’s own life for the existence of the community lies the crown of all sense of sacrifice.” (Mein Kampf)
The ideal character which Hitler stylized into the master race is the total subservient who rises up to the dedication of his life in the service of the state, for whom nothing need be promised because he understands his recklessness towards himself as his life’s meaning, a useful complete idiot who is probably still glad about it if his leader expresses the praise that he can be used for anything, and therefore generously forgives him with pleasure for his lack of intelligence. One cannot accuse Hitler of proceeding, with his heroic painting, even in the slightest contrast to the moral ideals which are familiar to everyone – the virtue of unselfishness, the value of the community from which one must not expect anything in return and the insight into the connection between a noble character and the willingness to sacrifice are extensively applied. Also, taking into consideration these “promises,” it really cannot be said that his actions did not correspond to what he had promised with the announcement of his moral intentions! Thus, so much for the “immorality” of the Third Reich and its Führer! Rather, it can already be studied in documents from this time, what can be “justified” with moral ideals. If Hitler nevertheless comes under the suspicion of having betrayed moral values, one can safely draw from it the teaching that a moral right extends precisely as far as the success of the thing which this right reinforces; and the fact that he lost is, for nationalists, the sole moral failing of Hitler.
But what does any of this have to do with Nietzsche? Firstly: nothing! Secondly, one can infer from the knockout argument “like Hitler!” what radicality upright moralists are capable of if somebody dares run down their morality. Thirdly, it is an entirely different matter to explain what induced Nietzsche to his racist failures. As everyone who feels completely entitled to all his pretensions towards his fellow citizens and therefore is convinced that everyone ought to comply with his standards, Nietzsche also bases his concept of human nature on his claims towards mankind. That is to say, whenever someone argues with “human nature,” its contents are always defined by the demands that are being incorporated in this concept. And with the characteristics of “the person” deduced in this manner, his qualities are first fixed to meet these claims. Thus the subsequent sorting of humanity according to these criteria into fellow human species and those who fall rather under the verdict of inhuman and degraded is only consistent, and the recommendation of a corresponding way of dealing with them is downright inevitable. In the end, the justification of this distinction is the entire content of the argument with the nature of man.
It is quite paltry to discover his racism not in his mode of argumentation, but to want to expose it in his use of words like “race,” “Jew,” and so forth – as if the races themselves and not the apologetic dealing with them were a product of racism – and promptly fail to recognize it elsewhere when a moral philosopher or a politician of today invokes human nature.
* * *
Thus it is not surprising that also with Nietzsche the actual racist has not at all been brought into disrepute. The uncompromising critic of the lack of character of Christians and moralists argues all the same very naturally with the stuffy moral philosophers’ image of humanity. They see human nature as determined by a conflict between the noble moral Shall and vexatious propensities which always get in the way of this Shall. So does Nietzsche, who just provides this conflict with the opposite significance.
III. Psychology of morality – all just a question of self-confidence
Everything Nietzsche takes note of, what he criticizes and what he recommends as due corrections, occurs at the level of self-confidence, the idealizing picture which mankind makes of itself from its real goings-on.
If Nietzsche talks about factory work, it is found thereby that people are exploited there and that this is no good for them – but for him this is most uninteresting; what he criticizes therein is the lack of character with which the exploited revise their damage into a virtue. If he comes to speak on the state, the purposes and means of this supreme power are not at all primary – the objection is that it is a disgrace for ingenious people such as Nietzsche. And with marriage only quite vulgar pictures of man and woman occur to him, according to which are invoked the strong guardian who protects house and family, and a tender being suited for submission.
He explains everything psychologically: If one doesn’t matter much in real life, then that’s because he has degraded himself and has therefore deserved nothing better. He who on the contrary makes a grab at something, thereby proves his powers of assertion and has character. In both cases the dishonest self-justification, the subsequent idealistic explanation of failure and success, turns out as the real reason for how an individual is able to assert himself. Both cornerstones of his psychological theory are exactly the same as they are in moral philosophy: What is here called natural selfishness which should be restricted by virtue, is with Nietzsche “the will to power,” which has to make sure that it is not impeded by the pitfalls of moral advances. The explanatory power of this theory is not exactly beyond measure. It does itself in with the tautological information that a self does not get a chance as long as it denies itself, and Nietzsche finds the latter so utterly human and understandable that he can only imagine the overcoming of the habits of moral self-denial as an act of extraordinary effort of will, of which only a few strong minds, but not the mass of weaklings, are capable. Nietzsche so heavily hangs on morality, and so his critique of morality is not much good.
* * *
His categorical imperative is: “More backbone, people!” – it requires honesty and a will which is not ashamed of itself but stands up for what it has resolved to do:“While the aristocratic man lived in confidence and openness with himself . . ., the resentful man, on the other hand, is neither sincere nor naive, nor honest and candid with himself.” (On the Genealogy of Morals, I, §10)
Nietzsche does not bid farewell to the spirit of justification, with its double-standard of volition and permission, whose mendacity had struck him so unpleasantly. His “aristocratic man” embodies pure ideals which themselves belong to the vindicatory thoughts: The hypocrisies of morality in the end want to be believed; sincerity and honesty are its dishonest ideals. In their names Nietzsche begins justifying: He who speaks out openly of what he wants and stands for, can permit himself everything:“ . . . the sovereign individual, that resembles only himself, that has got loose from the morality of custom, the autonomous ‘super-moral’ individual (for ‘autonomous’ and ‘moral’ are mutually exclusive terms) – in short, the man of the personal, long, and independent will, competent to promise – and we find in him a proud consciousness (vibrating in every fibre) of what has been at last achieved and become vivified in him, a genuine consciousness of power and freedom, a feeling of human perfection in general. And this man who has grown to freedom, who is really competent to promise, this lord of the free will, this sovereign – how is it possible for him not to know how great is his superiority over everything incapable of binding itself by promises, or of being its own security, how great is the trust, the awe, the reverence that he awakes – he ‘deserves’ all three – not to know that with this mastery over himself he is necessarily also given the mastery over circumstances, over nature, over all creatures with shorter wills, less reliable characters?” (On the Genealogy of Morals, II, §2)
This reversal of the double standard – that permission should not justify the volition, but volition the permission – is an unusually stupid alternative to the established morality which does not suit Nietzsche. In the end, his maxim “I may, because I want” is nothing but the refusal to examine the reasonableness of a will and the usefulness of its actions. Thus every absurdity is permitted if it is merely willful and every damage is in order if “the sovereign individual” has decided on it. The irrational construct of the bad guys, with which Nietzsche wanted to wake humanity from its moral consciousness, has already been discussed. But what does his aristocrat man, finally freed from the “chains” of morality, do if he acts out his nobility and freedom? He chooses . . . duties:“Signs of nobility: never to think of lowering our duties to the rank of duties for everybody; to be unwilling to renounce or to share our responsibilities; to count our prerogatives, and the exercise of them, among our duties.” (Good and Evil, §272)
That same thing that with the moralist should have spoken for his human unworthiness, his subservience, his cowering under duties, distinguishes the person if he “understands” it as his freely elected privilege. And where previously compassion was castigated as a downright nauseating bad habit of interpersonal contact, now sympathy counts as a sign of a noble character:“A man who says: ‘I like that, I take it for my own, and mean to guard and protect it from everyone’; a man who can conduct a case, carry out a resolution, remain true to an opinion, keep hold of a woman, punish and overthrow insolence; a man who has his indignation and his sword, and to whom the weak, the suffering, the oppressed, and even the animals willingly submit and naturally belong; in short, a man who is master by nature – when such a man has compassion, well! That compassion has value! But of what account is the compassion of those who suffer! Or of those even who preach compassion!” (Beyond Good and Evil, §293)
* * *
The disparity to the usual moralist, which is of such a crucial importance to Nietzsche that he can imagine no larger contrast, does not at all constitute a refusal of the contents of morality, to the duties and regulations to which the person is supposed to submit. It rather consists in the self-confidence with which the duties are accepted and the subordination takes place. And even this difference exists only in Nietzsche’s imagination – but for that he has also created:
IV. Conceits for the conceited
It is namely not so that only Mr. Nietzsche and his “sovereign individual” would be capable of this act of freedom. Even the most dutiful moral philosopher recommends not the subjugation of humanity, but the freedom of the will in which he sees the ability to recognize duties and submit to them. And one does not need to be educated in order to submit to his duties with the consciousness of freedom. The joke in the self-denial and self-degradation, which Nietzsche could suffer so little from the moralists and Christians, exists precisely in the “self-”. The moral individual does not just proceed directly into the practical subordination under the material compulsions of moneymaking and the power of the law. He renders an interpretation of his subordination, manages to pose good reasons for everything he must do and thus disposes over a worldview in which everything that he encounters inspires the appearance that it is an offspring of his insight. Nothing at all changes in his condition; nevertheless in his imagination he plays the master of his condition. The fact that with morality it is a matter of consciousness of subjection is easily inferred from the contents of these conceits – hence the double standard of volition and permission; but it is a false consciousness of this subjection in which the dependent variable feigns as a sovereign over his subjection: He himself decides what is permitted and forbidden, lets nothing dictate anything except his free examination into its necessity. His will cannot be bent, but he knows how to enumerate a whole slat of higher values before which he degrades himself. This stupidity constitutes the consciousness of his freedom and this is what Nietzsche regards of all things as contrary to the hypocrisy of morality:“The proud knowledge of the extraordinary privilege of responsibility, the consciousness of this rare freedom, of this power over himself and over fate . . .” (On the Genealogy of Morals, II, §2)
Still, one difference should not be ignored. Nobody has the nerve to boast with this stupidity so snootily, aristocratically and in such an elitist manner as does Nietzsche. However, the reason for this is not a critique of his arguments, but in the fact that “the herd” would make a fool of themselves with such swaggering. Here, as elsewhere, success and the position one occupies in real life prove decisive. The zeal to judge, in terms of taste, the mental attitudes belonging to it – whether one makes pleas for mercy and compassion, or another swears by his powers of self-assertion – belongs to the lowest instincts of which bourgeois individuals dispose.