Saturday 19 May 2007

A Different Theme, but Still Nietzche

While Zarathrustra has a little sleep and recovers from being so wise, Here's an idea of how Nietzche viewed Good and Evil. It may make some people from uncomfortable, but any intelligent person who read would have to admit, there is nothing in what Nietzche said that leads to the hostility his views on ethics often receives.

From 'The Genealogy of Morals'

Now, first of all, it’s obvious to me that from this theory the origin of the idea “good” has been sought for and established in the wrong place: the judgment “good” did not move here from those to whom “goodness” was shown! It is much more that case that the “good people” themselves, that is, the noble, powerful, higher-ranking, and higher-thinking people felt and set themselves and their actions up as good, that is to say, of the first rank, in contrast to everything low, low-minded, common, and vulgar. From this pathos of distance they first arrogated to themselves the right to create values, to stamp out the names for values. What did they care about usefulness!

In relation to such a hot pouring out of the highest rank-ordering, rank-setting judgments of value, the point of view which considers utility is as foreign and inappropriate as possible. Here the feeling has reached the opposite of that low level of warmth which is a condition for that calculating shrewdness, that calculation by utility—and not just for a moment, not for an exceptional hour, but permanently. The pathos of nobility and distance, as mentioned, the lasting and domineering feeling, something total and complete, of a higher ruling nature in relation to a lower nature, to a “beneath”—that is the origin of the opposition between “good” and “bad.” (The right of the master to give names extends so far that we could permit ourselves to grasp the origin of language itself as an expression of the power of the rulers: they say “that is such and such,” seal every object and event with a sound and, in the process, as it were, take possession of it.)

Given this origin, the word “good” was not in any way necessarily tied up with “unegoistic” actions, as it is in the superstitions of those genealogists of morality. Rather, that occurs for the first time with the collapse of aristocratic value judgments, when this entire contrast between “egoistic” and “unegoistic” pressed itself ever more strongly into human awareness—it is, to use my own words, the instinct of the herd which, through this contrast, finally gets its word (and its words). And even so, it took a long time until this instinct in the masses became master, with the result that moral evaluation got thoroughly hung up and bogged down on this opposition (as is the case, for example, in modern Europe: today the prejudice that takes “moralistic,” “unegoistic,” and “désintéressé” [disinterested] as equally valuable ideas already governs, with the force of a “fixed idea” and a disease of the brain).

Secondly, however, and quite separate from the fact that this hypothesis about the origin of the value judgment “good” is historically untenable, it suffers from an inherent psychological contradiction. The utility of the unegoistic action is supposed to be the origin of the praise it receives, and this origin has allegedly been forgotten: but how is this forgetting even possible? Could the usefulness of such actions at some time or other perhaps just have stopped? The case is the opposite: this utility has rather been an everyday experience throughout the ages, and thus something that has always been constantly re-emphasized. Hence, instead of disappearing out of consciousness, instead of becoming something forgettable, it must have pressed itself into the consciousness with ever-increasing clarity.

How much more sensible is the contrasting theory (which is not therefore closer to the truth), for example, the one which is advocated by Herbert Spencer: he proposes that the idea “good” is essentially the same as the idea “useful” or “functional,” so that in judgments about “good” and “bad” human beings sum up and endorse the experiences they have not forgotten and cannot forget concerning the useful-functional and the harmful-useless. According to this theory, good is something which has always proved useful, so that it may assert its validity as “valuable in the highest degree” or as “valuable in itself.” This path to an explanation is, as mentioned, also false, but at least the account itself is sensible and psychologically tenable.

My favourite of all Nietzche's works. Some of it can have uncomfortable overtones if one sees it through the prism of 1933, but we need to break free of that.

It's like viewing Jesus through the Inquisition.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I understood about half of that but my theory in what I understand exactly.
Did you read my murder vouchers post? This I actually really believe in.and I like the law in Canada that states that one can participate in their own murder dependant on thier actions which gave rise to it which gives a reduced sentence for the killer.
Ya know, sometimes ppl force you to kill them and I think killing is a basic instinct one supresses because of the immorality imposed on it.
However this is " good" for I would not be alive now, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

I think what Nietzche despised was the whole 'Eye for an eye' thing.
He called at a futile attempt to change the past.
You can't.
So seeing justice as a scales, just tries to make two wrongs into a right.

Here he has making the point tht primitive codes of morality exised to serve the needs of enabling that community survive, Morality evolves that way.
Yet we enter the third millenium with the moral baggage of iron age cultures.