Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

4 Sep

I love Nietzsche’s ideas, and he doesn’t fail to shock and impress in this book.

He says that these ideas are not for everybody and he’s certainly right on that front. A lot of people I know wouldn’t be able to take on board some of his ideas as they push at our notions of right and wrong, society, power and fairness. Not to mention his strong sexism and stereotyping of nationalities. That’s not to say there is not truth in his ideas simply because they push against what is considered right and wrong in our current moral framework.

This version, translated a century ago by Helen Zimmern, is difficult to read. Logorrheic sentences that last a whole page mean the text is hard to comprehend. The way French, Latin and other languages are thrown in willy-nilly also detracts from an easy understanding. I’d be surprised if there’s not a better translation out there.

Here are some of his ideas that really struck home:

Morality is about maintaining power. People say that the morality of the average Joe Bloggs tends to be more democratic, more meritocratic, and so on, whereas those with power and control see this morality with disdain, almost don’t comprehend the point of it; their morals lead them to maintain their position. The morality of both parties is about increasing their power.

It’s all about one of Nietzsche’s favourite concepts: Will To Power. We talk about fighting for freedom (as currently seen in the Middle East), but it is often the case that freedom is a synonym for power.

He is scathing in his attacks on philosophers and, I presume by ironic extension, on himself. He says that philosophers have ideas, prejudices and beliefs and their philosophy is less about finding truth, and more about proving their own truth, more about finding justifications for their views. He goes on to say their philosophy is a confession, or an unconscious autobiography.

One of his more shocking assertions is worth quoting directly “The falseness of an opinion is not for us 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 (to which the synthetic judgments a priori belong), are the most indispensable to us, that without a recognition of logical fictions, without a comparison of reality with the purely IMAGINED world of the absolute and immutable, without a constant counterfeiting of the world by means of numbers, man could not live—that the renunciation of false opinions would be a renunciation of life, a negation of life. TO RECOGNISE 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.

And here is a taster of his apophthegms:

Woman learns how to hate in proportion as she forgets how to charm.

What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil” i.e. any moral framework goes out of the window when love is the motivation.

I could go on. Suffice to say, a recommended read for those able to take such a strong questioning of many fundamentals.


4 Responses to “Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche”

  1. alistairmacben March 24, 2018 at 2:53 pm #

    I am currently engrossed in Beyond Good and Evil and its a very intriguing read. Could you help me out in understanding the statement- “the falseness of an opinion is not for us any objection…..”

    • 5i5i March 24, 2018 at 3:45 pm #

      Hi Alistair,
      He’s saying we don’t strive for truth. We humans are more interested in arguments that further our own success, our own advantage.
      Others have argued that we have evolved not to reason towards the truth, but to find arguments for our own beliefs; you can see how this makes sense, as it is advantageous to be able to convince others to support us.
      What do you think?

      • alistairmacben March 24, 2018 at 3:59 pm #

        What staggers me most about this book is how is shatters the ground works of my earlier learnings and makes me reconsider every single thing from the ground up. Your reply helped me understand it a lot better. Thanks mate. What I made out of the said paragraph was that:
        It is not efficient to judge an opinion and throw is away because it is not “true” . The value of a said opinion is based on how much even the falsest one can help preserve and further our lives as a species. To take up this school of thought and validating ideas through this prism is a very dangerous one, one beyond good and evil. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      • 5i5i March 24, 2018 at 4:08 pm #

        Wow. That sounds like this book is affecting you significantly!
        I guess the question then is, can we avoid confirming our biases, when searching for the truth?
        The answer is easy: present our arguments for other people to critique.

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