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Book Summaries Philosophy

Beyond Good and Evil Summary (8/10)

In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche makes a powerful argument against the moral philosophers, the utilitarians, and the “pure” souls. There is no such thing as virtue, there is only the strong and the weak. Exploitation is not wrong, it is the essence of being alive. Being trampled on, being placid, being foolish – those are the vices that we should watch out for. Nietzsche is bored of being told about what’s right and wrong, when everything we know about history and human psychology point us towards the opposite direction, towards the real motivators of man.

Here are my favorite passages from the book.

Life itself is essentially a process of appropriating, injuring, overpowering the alien and the weaker, oppressing, being harsh, imposing your own form, incorporating, and at least, the very least,exploiting, – but what is the point of always using words that have been stamped with slanderous intentions from time immemorial? Even a bodywithin which (as we presupposed earlier) particular individuals treat each other as equal (which happens in every healthy aristocracy): if this body is living and not dying, it will have to treat other bodies in just those ways that the individuals it contains refrain from treating each other. It will have to be the embodiment of will to power, it will want to grow,spread, grab, win dominance, – not out of any morality or immorality, but because it is alive, and because life is precisely will to power. 


But there is no issue on which the base European consciousness is less willing to be instructed than this; these days, people everywhere are lost in rapturous enthusiasms, even in scientific disguise, about a future state of society where “the exploitative character” will fall away: – to my ears, that sounds as if someone is promising to invent a life that dispenses with all organic functions. “Exploitation” does not belong to a corrupted or imperfect,primitive society: it belongs to the essence of being alive as a fundamental organic function; it is a result of genuine will to power, which is just the will of life. – Although this is an innovation at the level of theory, – at the level of reality, it is the primal fact of all history. Let us be honest with ourselves to this extent at least!

If a person is powerful and dangerous, then you can appreciate it when they choose peace instead of war. But what about the person who is weak, harmless, and cowardly? Is he being virtuous when he preaches for peace, or when he avoids conflict? Nietzsche tells us that the weak man, the sufferer has no choice but to have sympathy, to be virtuous, to be meek. It is no testament to their character or their will or their intelligence if they display these attributes.


A man who says: “I like that, I’ll take it for my own and protect it and defend it against everyone”; a man who can conduct business, carry out a resolution, be faithful to a thought, hold on to a woman, punish and defeat someone for being insolent; a man who has his anger and his sword,and whom the weak, the suffering, the distressed, and even the animals like to come to and, by nature, belong to; in short, a man who is naturally master, – if a man like this has pity, well then! this pity is worth something!But what good is the pity of the sufferer! Or particularly, the pity of those who preach it!

“You wanna know the truth? Well, you can’t handle the truth!” Not everyone is ready to see reality for what it is. If you happen to see behind the facade, do not make the mistake of assuming that everyone else is willing to. Most people prefer to hide behind their delusions of reality – it is only the strong who want to know the truth and the wicked are those who often profit from it.

Happiness and virtue are not arguments. But we like to forget (even thoughtful spirits like to forget) that being made unhappy and evil are not counter-arguments either. Something could be true even if it is harmful and dangerous to the highest degree. It could even be part of the fundamental character of existence that people with complete knowledge get destroyed, – so that the strength of a spirit would be proportionate to how much of the “truth” he could withstand – or, to put it more clearly, to what extent he needs it to be thinned out, veiled over, sweetened up, dumbed down, and lied about. But there is no doubt that when it comes to discovering certain aspects of the truth, people who are evil and unhappy are more fortunate and have a greater probability of success (not to mention those who are both evil and happy – a species that the moralists don’t discuss). Perhaps harshness and cunning provide more favorable conditions for the origin of the strong, independent spirit and philosopher than that gentle, fine, yielding good nature and art of taking things lightly that people value, and value rightly, in a scholar.

This discussion of essentially two types of skepticism was interesting by Nietzsche, the one associated with weakness by the father, while the other, not yet known or familiar, but far more dangerous.


That completely unscrupulous devotee of tall, handsome grenadiers who, as king of Prussia, brought a military and skeptical genius into being (and with it, fundamentally, that new type of German which is only now approaching in triumph), the questionable,mad father of Frederick the Great,had the grasp and lucky claw of a genius too, although on one point only: he knew what was missing in Germany in those days, and which lack was a hundred times more urgent and anxiety-provoking than the lack of something like education or social decorum, – his dislike for young Frederick came from the anguish of a profound instinct. Men were lacking; and he suspected, to his most bitter distress, that his own son was not man enough. He was wrong about this, but who wouldn’t have been wrong in his place? He saw his son falling prey to atheism, esprit, and the entertaining, happy-go-lucky spirit of clever Frenchmen: he saw that enormous bloodsucker, the spider of skepticism, in the background, and he suspected the incurable misery of a heart that was no longer hard enough for evil or for good,of a shattered will that no longer commanded, that was no longer able to command. Mean-while, however, a harsher and more dangerous new type of skepticism was growing in his son (and who knows how much it was encouraged precisely by his father’s hatred and the icy melancholy of an isolated will?) – the skepticism of a bold masculinity, which is most closely related to the genius for war and conquest, and which first entered Germany in the shape of the great Frederick. This skepticism despises and nevertheless appropriates; it undermines and takes possession; it does not believe but does not die out on this account; it gives the spirit a dangerous freedom, but is severe on the heart.

Nietzsche’s description of a particular type of scholar.

But anyone who looks at people’s basic drives, to see how far they may have played their little game right here as inspiring geniuses (or daemons or sprites –), will find that they all practiced philosophy at some point, – and that every single one of them would be only too pleased to present itself as the ultimate purpose of existence and as rightful master of all the other drives. Because every drive craves mastery, and this leads it to try philosophizing. – Of course: with scholars, the truly scientific people, things might be different – “better” if you will –, with them, there might really be something like a drive for knowledge, some independent little clockwork mechanism that, once well wound, ticks bravely away without essentially involving the rest of the scholar’s drives. For this reason, the scholar’s real “interests”usually lie somewhere else entirely, with the family, or earning money,or in politics; in fact, it is almost a matter of indifference whether his little engine is put to work in this or that field of research, and whether the “promising” young worker turns himself into a good philologist or fungus expert or chemist: – it doesn’t signify anything about him that he becomes one thing or the other. In contrast, there is absolutely nothing impersonal about the philosopher; and in particular his morals bear decided and decisive witness to who he is – which means, in what order of rank the innermost drives of his nature stand with respect to each other.

To the real philosopher, whose wisdom is not an escape…

In the end, this is a question of taste, even if it is not a question of conscience. And just to double the philosopher’s difficulties again, there is the additional fact that he demands a judgment of himself, a Yes or a No, not about science but about life and the value of life. It is only with reluctance that he comes to believe he has a right or even a duty to render this sort of a judgment, and he has to draw on the most wide-ranging (and perhaps the most disturbing and destructive)experiences so that he can look – hesitantly, skeptically, silently – for a path to this right and this belief. In fact, the masses have misjudged and mistaken the philosopher for a long time, sometimes confusing him with the scientific man and ideal scholar, and sometimes with the religiously elevated, desensualized, desecularized enthusiasts and intoxicated men of God. If you hear anyone praised these days for living “wisely” or “like a philosopher” it basically just means he is “clever and keeps out of the way.” To the rabble, wisdom seems like a kind of escape, a device or trick for pulling yourself out of the game when things get rough. But the real philosopher (and isn’t this how it seems to us, my friends?) lives “un-philosophically,” “unwisely,” in a manner which is above all not clever,and feels the weight and duty of a hundred experiments and temptationsof life: – he constantly puts himself at risk, he plays the rough game . .

On psychology, the fickle men of war, the poets that emulate them, and love…

The more a psychologist – a born and inevitable psychologist and analyst of the soul – turns himself towards exceptional examples and human beings, the greater the danger to him of suffocation from pity. He has to be hard and cheerful, more so than another man. For the corruption and destruction of loftier men, of the stranger type of soul, is the rule: it is terrible to have such a rule always before one’s eyes. The multifaceted torture of the psychologist who has uncovered this destructiveness, who once discovers and then almost always rediscovers throughout all history this entire inner “hopelessness” of the loftier people, this eternal “too late!” in every sense, can perhaps one day come to the point where he turns with bitterness against his own lot and attempts self-destruction – where he “corrupts” himself. With almost every psychologist we will see a revealing inclination for and delight in associating with ordinary and well-adjusted people: that indicates that he always needs healing, that he requires some sort of refuge and forgetting, far from what his insights and incisions, his “trade,” has laid on his conscience. Fear of his memory is characteristic of him. He is easily reduced to silence before the judgments of others; he listens with an unmoving face as people revere, admire, love, and transfigure where he has seen, or he even hides his silence, while he expressly agrees with some foreground point of view or other. Perhaps the paradox of his situation gets so terrible that the crowd, the educated, and the enthusiasts learn great admiration precisely where he has learned great pity as well as great contempt – the admiration for “great men” and miraculous animals for whose sake people bless and honour the fatherland, the earth, the value of humanity, and themselves, those to whom they draw the attention of the young and whom they use as role models in their education . . . And who knows whether in all great examples up to this point the very same thing has not happened: the crowd worshipped a god – and the “god” was only a poor sacrificial animal! Success has always been the greatest liar, and the “work” itself is a success; the great statesman, the conqueror, the discoverer is disguised in his creation to the point where he is unrecognizable; the “work” of the artist and the philosopher first invents the man who has created it or is supposed to have created it; the “great men,” as they are honoured, are small inferior works of fiction in the background; in the world of historical values counterfeit is king. These great poets, for example, this Byron, Musset, Poe, Leopardi, Kleist, Gogol (I don’t dare mention greater names, but I have them in mind) – perhaps have to be the way they are now: men of the moment, enthusiastic, sensuous, childish, careless and sudden with trust and mistrust; with souls in which some fracture or other normally has to be concealed; often taking revenge in their works for an inner slur, often seeking with their flights upward to forget some all-too-true memory, often lost in the mud and almost infatuated, until they become like will o’ the wisps around a swamp and pretend that they are stars – then the populace may well call them idealists – often struggling against a long disgust, with a recurring ghost of unbelief which makes them cold and forces them to yearn for gloria [glory] and to gobble up “belief in themselves” from the hands of intoxicated flatterers – what torture are these great artists and the loftier human beings in general for the man who has once guessed who they are! It is so understandable that these artists should so readily experience from woman – who is clairvoyant in the world of suffering and who unfortunately also seeks to help and to save far beyond her powers – those eruptions of unlimited and most devoted pity which the crowd, above all the worshipping masses, does not understand and which it showers with curious and complacent interpretations. This pity regularly deceives itself about its power; woman may believe that love can do everything – that’s a belief essential to her. Alas, anyone who knows about the heart can guess how poor, stupid, helpless, presumptuous, mistaken, more easily destroyed than saved even the best and most profound love is! It is possible that beneath the sacred story and disguise of the life of Jesus there lies hidden one of the most painful examples of the martyrdom of knowledge about love: the martyrdom of the most innocent and most desiring heart, which was never satisfied with any human love, which demanded love, to be loved and nothing else, with hardness, with madness, with fearful outbreaks against those who denied him love; the history of a poor man unsatisfied and insatiable with love, who had to invent hell in order to send there those who did not wish to love him – and who finally, having grown to understand human love, had to invent a God who is entirely love, who is capable of total love – who takes pity on human love because it is so pathetic, so unknowing! Anyone who feels this way, who knows about love in this way – seeks death. – But why dwell on such painful things? Assuming we don’t have to.-

Why people write books….

The hermit does not believe that a philosopher – given that a philosopher was always a hermit first – has ever expressed his actual and final opinions in books:don’t people write books precisely to keep what they hide to themselves?In fact, he will doubt whether a philosopher could even have “final and actual” opinions, whether for a philosopher every cave does not have,must not have, an even deeper cave behind it – a more extensive, stranger,richer world above the surface, an abyss behind every ground, under every“groundwork.”Every philosophy is a foreground philosophy – that isa hermit’s judgment: “There is something arbitrary in his stopping here,looking back, looking around, in his not digging any deeper here, and putting his spade away – there is also something suspicious about it.”Every philosophy conceals a philosophy too: every opinion is also a hiding place, every word is also a mask.

Aphorisms

In peaceful conditions, the warlike man will attack himself.
People use their principles to try to tyrannize or justify or honor or insult or conceal their habits: two people with the same principles will probably want utterly different things from them.


We do not hate what we accord little value, but only what we consider equal or superior.


In the end, we love our desires and not the thing desired.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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