Friedrich Nietzsche

I have not done wrong, I have not done evil.

The "Negative Confession" or Protestation of Ani, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Book of Going Forth by Day, The Complete Papyrus of Ani, Featuring Integrated Text and Full-Color Images, translated by Dr. Raymond O. Faulkner [1994, 1998, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2008, Chapter 125, Plate 31], hieroglyphic transcription, E.A. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Papyrus of Ani [1895, Dover Publications, 1967, p.202] -- the 33rd Confession as translated, but the 10th in the order of the manuscript -- possibly a falsifying counterexample, depending on what the Egyptians meant by it, to Nietzsche's thesis that the Jews invented the idea of moral "evil" -- see the tale of "The Eloquent Peasant."

"...Let us face facts:  the people [das Volk] have triumphed -- or the slaves, the mob, the herd [»die Sklaven«, oder »der Pöbel«, oder »die Heerde«], whatever you wish to call them -- and if the Jews [die Juden] brought it about, then no nation ever had a more universal mission on earth. The lords [»die Herren«] are a thing of the past, and the ethics [die Moral] of the common man is completely triumphant. I don't deny that this triumph might be looked upon as a kind of blood poisoning [Blutvergiftung], since it has resulted in a mingling of the races, but there can be no doubt that the intoxication has succeeded. The 'redemption' of the human race (from the lords, that is) is well under way; everything is rapidly becoming Judaized, or Christianized, or mob-ized [verjüdelt oder verchristlicht oder verpöbelt] -- the word makes no difference...."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals, translated by Francis Golffing, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956, pp.169-170; Zur Genealogie der Moral, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.25 [the terms verjuden, "Judaize," and Verjudung, "Jewification," seem to have been coined by Richard Wagner].

Bei allem Werthe, der dem Wahren, dem Wahrhaftigen, dem Selbstlosen zukommen mag: es wäre möglich, daß dem Scheine, dem Willen zu Täuschung, dem Eigennutz und der Begierde ein für alles Leben höherer und grundsätzlicherer Werth zugeschrieben werden müßte.

Admitting all the value accorded to the true, the truthful, the selfless, it is nonetheless possible that a higher value should be ascribed to illusion, to the will to deception, to self-interest, to greed -- a higher and more fundamental value for all life.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan [Henry Regnery Company, 1955, pp.2-3, translation modified]; Jenseits von Gut und Böse [Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.8; daß restored for dass, müßte for müsste].

...wir vermeinen, daß Härte, Gewaltsamkeit, Sklaverie, Gefahr auf der Gasse und im Herzen, Verborgenheit, Stoicismus, Versucherkunst und Teufelei jeder Art, daß alles Böse, Furchtbare, Tyrannische, Raubtheir- und Schlangenhafte am Menschen so gut zur Erhöhung der Species »Mensch« dient, als sein Gegensatz...

We imagine that hardness, violence, slavery, peril in the street and in the heart, concealment, Stoicism, temptation, and deviltry of every sort, everything evil, frightful, tyrannical, brutal, and snake-like in man, serves as well for the advancement of the species "man" as their opposite.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan, Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.50; Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.51 [daß restored for dass], color added; for slavery, see here.

Men are qualified for civil liberties, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetities: in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity.

Edmund Burke

Nietzsche was the child of Darwin and the brother of Bismark.

It does not matter that he ridiculed the English evolutionists and the German nationalists:  he was accustomed to denounce those who had most influenced him; it was his unconscious way of covering up his debts.

The ethical philosophy of Spencer was not the most natural corollary of the theory of evolution. If life is a struggle for existence in which the fittest survive, then strength is the ultimate virtue, and weakness the only fault. Good is that which survives, which wins; bad is that which gives way and fails. Only the mid-Victorian cowardice of the English Darwinians, and the bourgeois respectability of French positivists and German socialists, could conceal the inevitableness of this conclusion. These men were brave enough to reject Christian theology, but they did not dare to be logical, to reject the moral ideas, the worship of meekness and gentleness and altruism, which had grown out of that theology. They ceased to be Anglicans, or Catholics, or Lutherans; but they did not dare cease to be Christians. -- So argued Friedrich Nietzsche.

Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosphers, Simon and Schuster, 1926, 1933, p.301 -- note that Spencer is often called a "Social Darwinist," but Nietzsche never.

The greatest irony of the post-modern Left is not just their incoherent marriage of Nihilism with intense moral indignation and self-righteousness, but their habit of hanging this mess on Nietzsche and Marx -- Nietzsche, who saw Nihilism as the greatest danger and challenge of the age and who dismissed "that cheapest of propaganda tricks, a moral attitude," and Marx, for whom moral scruples were artifacts of bourgeois consciousness and who would have despised the sneering bureaucratic elitism of the privileged and parasitic academic class that most assiduously promotes Marxism -- on top of Nietzsche again, who disparaged "the commune, the most primitive of all social forms."

What makes sense of this, however, and what the Left, Nietzsche, and Marx all have in common is clear enough:  the worship of power. A command economy appeals to those who believe they should govern everyone and everything with absolute power, who can then also say anything, however absurd or self-contradictory, and then simply require, by law and force, in the purest Orwellian fashion, as we already see nascent at American universities, that everyone believe it.

Ἐγκλινοβάραγγος (Enklinobarangus)

Will the progress of research prove that justice is worthless and mercy hateful?

Thomas Henry Huxley, The Nineteenth Century, November 1885, quoted by Stephen Jay Gould, Bully for Brontosaurus, W.W. Norton & Company, 1991, p.408

The aim of our government is to protect the weak -- to aid them to become strong.

Calvin Coolidge, as Governor of Massachusetts

There is no answer to the question, "Why not be cruel?" There is no noncircular theoretical backup for the belief that cruelty is horrible.

Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p.5

John Maynard Keynes... told how the Cambridge circle of his younger years, most of whose members later belonged to the Bloomsbury Group, 'entirely repudiated a personal liability on us to obey general rules', and how they were 'in the strict sense of the term, immoralists'. He modestly added that, at the age of fifty-five, he was too old to change would remain an immoralist.

F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit, The Errors of Socialism University of Chicago Press, 1988/1991, p. 57

Bumper Sticker from the 1960's

"Maia [the werewolf]," Simon [the vampire] corrected. She was standing a little ways away, wearing brown leather pants and a tight black T-shirt that said WHATEVER DOESN'T KILL ME... HAD BETTER START RUNNING.

Cassandra Clare, City of Glass, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009, 2015, p.411 -- a riff on Nietzsche's bon mot: Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker, "What does not kill me, makes me stronger" [aphorism #8, "Maxims and Arrows," Twilight of the Idols, 1888].

Was ist gut? -- Alles, was das Gefühl der Macht, den Willen zur Macht, die Macht selbst im Menschen erhöht.

What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Der Antichrist, Versuch einer Kritik der Christentums, Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1986, p.12; translation by Walter Kaufmann (1921-1980), The Portable Nietzsche, the Viking Press, 1954, 1965, "The Antichrist," p.570.

His twin, however, did not move. He spoke in German, his voice loud and clear: "Is this good?"

Alban laughed harshly and, in return, quoted Nietzsche: "What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself."

"That's sick," said his twin.

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Two Graves, Grand Central Publising, 2012, p.440

φημὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ εἶναι τὸ δίκαιον οὐκ ἄλλο τι ἢ τὸ τοῦ κρείττονος ξυμφέρον.
For I say the just is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger.

Thrasymachus, Republic 338c; Greek text, Republic I, translated by Paul Shorey, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1930, 1969, p.46; W.H.D. Rouse translation, Great Dialogues of Plato, Mentor Books, 1956, p.137, translation modified.

Bust of Schiller, Central Park, New York City
Will der Starke geliebt seyn, so mag er seine Überlegenheit durch Grazie mildern. Will der Schwache geachtet seyn, so mag er seiner Ohnmacht durch Würde aufhelfen...

Die bloß Macht, sey sie auch noch so furchtbar and grenzenlos, kann nie Majestät verleihen. Macht imponiert nur dem Sinnenwesen, die Majestät muß dem Geist seine Freyheit nehmen.

If the strong wishes to be loved, he must temper his superiority with grace. If the weak wants respect, he must supplement his impotence with dignity...

Simple power, however fearful and limitless, can never grant majesty. Power only impresses the creature of sense; majesty must grasp freedom from the intellect.

Friedrich van Schiller (1759-1805), Über Anmuth und Würde, "On Grace and Dignity," Schiller's "On Grace and Dignity" in Its Cultural Context, Essays and a New Translation, Edited by Jane V. Curran and Christophe Fricker, Camden House, 2005, pp.162,168,214,200.

πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι, πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς,
καὶ τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς ἔδειξε τοὺς δὲ ἀνθρώπους,
τοὺς μὲν δούλους ἐποίησε τοὺς δὲ ἐλευθέρους.

War is the father of all, and king of all;
and some it shows as gods, others as men;
some it makes slaves, others free.

Heraclitus of Ephesus, Fragment 215, The Presocratic Philosophers,
G.S. Kirk & J.E. Raven, Cambridge University Press, 1964, p.195.

ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ Θεός,
ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς,
καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ Θεός,
ἵνα καταισχύνῂ τὰ ἰσχυρά.

Sed quae stulta sunt mundi elegit Deus ut confundat sapientes,
et infirma mundi elegit Deus ut confundat fortia.

But God chose the follies of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak [ἀσθενές] of the world
to shame the strong [ἰσχυρόν].

1 Corinthians 1:27

There is no good and evil,
there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.

Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Scholastic Inc., 1999, p.291; this principle is now inerrant dogma in all of American "education," and dissent can be punished by suspension, firing, and/or mob violence from fanatics.

Several features of Nietzsche's thought have been treated elsewhere in these pages. Nietzsche's moral aestheticism is discussed in "Varieties of Moral Aestheticism", the confusion of aestheticism and moral aestheticism in his Birth of Tragedy, and Nietzsche's relation to Existentialism is considered there. A more general treatment, however, is in order.

The discussion of Existentialism treated Nietzsche as an Existentialist before his time, with the death of God producing the kind of nihilism characteristic of that movement. And, Nietzsche, for all his warnings about nihilism, does in the end seem to exemplify just the kind of nihilism that concerned him -- a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet Nietzsche thought he was offering an answer to nihilism. It is just that the cure is worse than the disease, and it gave far more comfort to nihilists in their nihilism than it did to anyone actually looking for a way out.

But Nietzsche, as it happens, rather than a full-bodied nihilist, is a kind of positivist instead -- that certain actual events and practices are the root of genuine value. It is just that Nietzsche's theory in this respect makes the real nihilists uncomfortable, since they are often, for all their violent rhetoric, no more than timid, politically correct academics (i.e. bureaucrats), who cower and flee at the prospect of a theory such as that proposed by Friedrich Nietzsche.

The events and practices used by Nietzsche's postivisim happen to be those of the most extreme 19th century Darwinian conception of nature. This very often sounds good, since Nietzsche sees himself, and can easily impress others, as simply making a healthy affirmation of life. Life for Nietzsche, however, is red in tooth and claw, and the most admirable and interesting form of life is the triumphant Darwinian predator, who in general is paradigmatic of beauty, grace, strength, intelligence, and activity, while living off of the less intelligent herds of herbivores, i.e. the dull and the bovine. In other words, this is "Social Darwinism," otherwise just used as a stick with which to beat capitalism (in terms that Nietzsche, with no real interest in economics, would nevertheless have found absurd). In The Genealogy of Morals, one of Nietzsche's latest works (1887), he lays this all out with great clarity and eloquence. It is a performance that is also appalling -- and horrifying in relation to the uses to which Nietzsche's ideas were later put, for which he cannot, and would not care to, escape blame.

Recent Nietzsche enthusiasts tend to ignore, as noted, Nietzsche's own solution to the problems of modernity. Instead, they ironically take heart from the very nihilism described with horror by Nietzsche. This nihilism is then used in the service of many other things that Nietzsche despised, like socialism, democracy, and the valorization of the common man. Of course, when the Left demands "true" democracy, what they really want is a political dictatorship run by themselves -- which is why Fidel Castro is still their idol. Nietzsche would not have been displeased with the naked power of a Stalin, and possibly even would have admired the cynicism of the empty Leftist rhetoric that he used to seize power. These ironies or paradoxes are discussed below. Before that, I will consider the embarrassing details of Nietzsche's own solution to nihilism.

First of all, Nietzsche's racism is unmistakable. The best way to approach this is to let Nietzsche speak for himself. In the quotes that follow, I will simply offer examples from The Genealogy of Morals alone, as translated by Francis Golffing (in the footnotes I have been adding some passages from Beyond Good and Evil for comparison -- and don't miss the Nietzsche Index of quotes, largely from Beyond Good and Evil below).

The Latin malus ["bad"] (beside which I place μέλας [mélas, Greek for "black"]) might designate the common man as dark, especially black-haired ("hic niger est"), as the pre-Aryan settler of the Italian soil, notably distinguished from the new blond conqueror race by his color. At any rate, the Gaelic presented me with an exactly analogous case:  fin, as in the name Fingal, the characteristic term for nobility, eventually the good, noble, pure, originally the fair-haired [Blondkopf] as opposed to the dark, black-haired native population. The Celts, by the way, were definitely a fair-haired race [eine blonde Rasse]; and it is a mistake to try to relate the area of dark-haired people found on ethnographic maps of Germany to Celtic bloodlines, as Virchow does. These are the last vestiges of the pre-Aryan population of Germany. (The subject races are seen to prevail once more, throughout almost all of Europe; in color, shortness of skull, perhaps also in intellectual and social instincts. Who knows whether modern democracy, the even more fashionable anarchism, and especially that preference for the commune, the most primitive of all social forms, which is now shared by all European socialists -- whether all these do not represent a throwback, and whether, even physiologically, the Aryan [master] race of conquerors is not doomed?) [The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956, p.164, boldface added; note the term "master" deleted in the Golffing translation; note]

Here we have an unmistakable racism:  the good, noble, and blond Aryans, contrasted with the dark and primitive indigenes of Europe. While Nietzsche's thought is often defended as unrelated to the racism of the Nazis, there does not seem to be much difference from the evidence of this passage. One difference might be Nietzsche's characterization of the "commune" as "the most primitive of all social forms." Nazi ideology was totalitarian and "social," denigrating individualism. Nietzsche would not have gone for this -- and the small, dark Hitler is certainly no Aryan -- but then many defenders of Nietzsche these days also tend to prefer a communitarian democracy, which means they might have more in common with the Nazis, despite their usual anti-racism, than Nietzsche himself. This is characteristic of the confusion of contemporary politics, let alone Nietzsche apologetics. The passage above, at least, provides as much aid and comfort for the Nazis as for any other interpretation or appropriation of Nietzsche.

We might wonder if Nietzsche's philological theory in The Genealogy of Morals, i.e. that Latin malus or German bös, both meaning "bad," originally referred to people or races rather than a moral quality, has any historical basis. Whether or not, twenty-two years before Nietzsche wrote this, we find Fustel de Coulanges saying something similar, but doing so by direct reference to a Greek poet, Theognis of Megara (c.540 BC), whose views differ little from Nietzsche's in tone or content:

The poet Theognis has given us a very clear idea of this revolution, and of its consequences. He tells us that in Megara, his country, there were two sorts of men. He calls one the class of the good, ἀγαθοί; this indeed is the name which they took in most of the Greek cities. The other he calls the class of the bad, κακοί; this, too, is the name by which it was customary to designate the inferior class. The poet describes the ancient condition of this class: "Formerly it knew neither tribunals nor laws;" this is as much as to say that it had not the right of the citizenship. These men were not even permitted to approach the city; "they lived without, like wild beasts." They took no part in the religious repasts; they had not the right to marry into the families of the good.

But how changed is all this! Rank has been overthrown; "the bad have been placed above the good." Justice is disturbed; the ancient laws are no more, and laws of strange novelty have replaced them. Riches have become the only object of men's desires, because wealth gives power. The man of noble race marries the daughter of the rich plebeian, and "marriage confounds the races." [Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, A Study of the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome, translated by Willard Small, 1874, Doubleday & Company, 1955, Dover Publications, 2006, pp.276-277; La cité antique, 1865; boldface added]

"Marriage confounds the races," the very evil that we find Nietzsche lamenting. We should note, however, that Nietzsche praises the Romans, as I consider below, without considering that the same social distinction as in Theognis existed among them, namely between the Patricians, the Senatorial class, and the Plebs, the ethnically mixed and parvenu "People." The vigor of the Roman Empire followed the political triumph of the Plebs, whose champion, Julius Caesar, was everything Nietzsche would have admired about anyone. But Nietzsche never pursues his theories, and certainly not that of The Genealogy of Morals, into this kind of awkward detail.

Nietzsche's racism might be excused as typical of its age, and criticism of it anachronistic. However, the racism of Thomas Jefferson, a century earlier, involved an explicit denial that physical or intellectual differences between the races (about which Jefferson expressed no certainty) compromised the rights of the inferior races. To Nietzsche, however, the "subject races" have no "rights"; and domination, not to mention all the forms of "oppression" excoriated by the trendy Left, are positive and desirable goods.

Ein solches Hemmungsgefühl kann verschiedenster Abkunft sein: etwa als Folge der Kreuzung von zu fremdartigen Rassen (oder von Ständen -- Stände drücken immer auch Abkunfts- und Rassen-Differenzen aus: der europäiche »Weltschmerz«, der »Pessimismus« des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts ist wesentlich die Folge einer unsinnig plötzlichen Stände-Mischung).

This anxiety or distemper may be due to a variety of causes. It may result from a crossing of races too dissimilar (or of classes too dissimilar. Class distinctions are always indicative of genetic and racial differences:  the European Weltschmerz and the pessimism of the nineteenth century were both essentially the results of an abrupt and senseless mixing of classes)... [p.267; German text, Zur Genealogie der Moral, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.131; color added, note]

In the litany of political sins identified by the Left, "racism, classism, and homophobia" are the holy trinity -- with "classism," of course, as a codeword for the hated capitalism. Here we see that for Nietzsche racism and "classism" are identical:  the "subject races" form the subject classes. This is said to be good and noble. We also get another aspect of the matter, the "mixing" of races and classes is "senseless" and productive of the pessimism and social problems of modern society. In these terms, Nietzsche can only have approved of the Nazis laws against marriage or even sex between Aryans and Untermenschen.

The lack of rights for the dark underclasses brings us to the principal theme of The Genealogy of Morals:  The morality of "good and evil" (gut und bös) has been invented out of hatred and resentment by the defeated and subjugated races, especially the Jews. People who love Nietzsche for his celebration of creativity and his dismissal of the moralism of traditional religion, mainly meaning Christianity, usually seem to think of going "beyond good and evil" as merely legitimizing homosexuality, drugs, abortion, prostitution, pornography, and the other desiderata of progressive thinking.

They don't seem to understand that Nietzsche wasn't particularly interested in things like that, but, more to the point, legitimizing rape, murder, torture, pillage, domination, and political oppression by the strong. The only honest Nietzschean graduate student I ever met frankly stated, "To be creative, you must be evil." We get something similar in the recent Sandra Bullock movie, Murder by Numbers [2002], where the young Nietzschean student simply says, "Freedom is crime." The story of the movie is more or less that of Leopold and Loeb, the Chicago teenagers who in 1924 murdered a young boy (Bobby Franks) to prove that they were "beyond good and evil." Leopold and Loeb understood their Nietzsche far better than most of his academic apologists.

And we are the first to admit that anyone who knew these "good" ones [Güten, nobility] only as enemies would find them evil [böse] enemies indeed. For these same men who, amongst themselves, are so strictly constrained by custom, worship, ritual, gratitude, and by mutual surveillance and jealousy, who are so resourceful in consideration, tenderness, loyality, pride and friendship, when once they step outside their circle become little better than uncaged beasts of prey. Once abroad in the wilderness, they revel in the freedom from social constraint and compensate for their long confinement in the quietude of their own community. They revert to the innocence of wild animals:  we can imagine them returning from an orgy of murder, arson, rape, and torture, jubilant and at peace with themselves as though they had committed a fraternity prank [note] convinced, moreover, that the poets for a long time to come will have something to sing about and to praise. Deep within all the noble races there lurks the [blond] beast [Bestie] of prey, bent on spoil and conquest. This hidden urge has to be satisfied from time to time, the beast [Thier, modern spelling Tier] let loose in the wilderness. This goes as well for the Roman, Arabian, German, Japanese nobility as for the Homeric heroes and the Scandinavian vikings. The noble races have everywhere left in their wake the catchword "barbarian." .....their utter indifference to safety and comfort, their terrible pleasure in destruction, their taste for cruelty -- all these traits are embodied by their victims in the image of the "barbarian," and "evil enemy," the Goth or the Vandal. The profound and icy suspicion which the German arouses as soon as he assumes power (we see it happening again today [i.e. 1887]) harks back to the persistent horror with which Europe for many centuries witnessed the raging of the blond Teutonic [germanischen] beast (although all racial connection between the old Teutonic tribes [Germanen] and ourselves has been lost). [pp.174-175, cf. Zur Genealogie der Moral, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.30-31, boldface added; note the terms, "blond" and "German," deleted or altered in the Golffing translation]

The "noble races" -- Herren Rasse -- are thus ennobled by no restraint or consideration shown for the persons or possessions, let alone feelings, of those helpless strangers who come within their power. "Spoil and conquest," rape and torture, are fun. Kaiser Wilhelm got in the spirit of things by telling German troups to act like the "Huns of Attila" on their mission to Peking in 1900. No Nietzschean has any business, for example, damning Christopher Columbus for enslaving the Caribs.

While Nietzsche actually seems to think that the "blond Teutonic beast" was gone from Germany, and Hitler, as noted, hardly fills the bill, there is actually no lack of blonds in the "Nordic" nations, and Nietzsche himself here seems to have a relatively expansive notion of racial superiority. While he apparently thought of the Roman nobility as themselves of Aryan extraction, he can hardly have thought the same of the Arabians or Japanese. This acknowledgment would have been of material advantage in World War II, when many Arabs preferred the Germans to the British (or to the Zionist Jews of Palestine) -- while the Japanese, even today, often think of themselves as a pure and superior race. As actual German Allies in World War II, the Japanese were in close competition with Germany for atrocities against civilians and prisoners-of-war (though the Germans were relatively considerate of American and British prisoners, while brutal to Russians and others, as the Japanese were to all).

But, one might think, violence and oppression are unjust! How could any progressive person not see that expoitation and abuse are wrong! We have Nietzsche's answer:

No act of violence, rape, exploitation, destruction, is intrinsically "unjust," since life itself is violent, rapacious, exploitative, and destructive and cannot be conceived otherwise. Even more disturbingly, we have to admit that from the biological [i.e. Darwinian] point of view legal conditions are necessarily exceptional conditions, since they limit the radical life-will bent on power and must finally subserve, as means, life's collective purpose, which is to create greater power constellations. To accept any legal system as sovereign and universal -- to accept it, not merely as an instrument in the struggle of power complexes, but as a weapon against struggle (in the sense of Dühring's communist cliché that every will must regard every other will as its equal) -- is an anti-vital principle which can only bring about man's utter demoralization and, indirectly, a reign of nothingness. [p.208, boldface added]

Nietzsche is certainly life affirming, but then violence, rape, exploitation, and destruction are intrinsic to his view of life. Attempts to protect the weak, see that justice is done, and mitigate suffering are "anti-vital" projects that, being adverse to life itself, actually tend towards "a reign of nothingness." Thus, if we actually care about others and are not just interested in asserting power over them and using them for our own pleasure, then we can look forward to extinction.

The delicacy -- even more, the tartufferie -- of domestic animals like ourselves shrinks from imagining clearly to what extent cruelty [Gausamkeit] constituted the collective delight [Festfreude] of older mankind, how much it was an ingredient of all their joys [Freuden], or how naïvely they manifested their cruelty,
The First Stage of Cruelty
While various Scenes of sportive Woe,
The Infant Race employ,
And tortur'd Victims bleeding shew,
The Tyrant in the Boy.
Behold! a Youth of gentler Heart,
To spare the Creature's pain,
O take, he cries -- take all my Tart,
But Tears and Tart are vain.
Learn from this fair Example -- You
Whom savage Sports delight,
How Cruelty disgusts the view,
While Pity charms the sight.
William Hogarth (1697-1764), "The First Stage of Cruelty,"
The Four Stages of Cruelty, 1751
how they considered disinterested malevolence [Bosheit] (Spinoza's sympathia malevolens) a normal trait, something to which one's conscience could assent heartily.... To behold suffering gives pleasure, but to cause another to suffer affords an even greater pleasure [Leiden-sehn thut wohl, Leiden-machen noch wohler]. [pp.197-198, boldface added; German text, Zur Genealogie der Moral, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, pp.55-56]

Fast Alles, was wir »höhere Cultur« nennen, beruht auf der Vergeistigung und Vertiefung der Grausamkeit -- dies ist mein Satz; jenes »wilde Thier« ist gar nicht abgetödtet worden, es lebt, es blüht, es hat sich nur -- vergöttlicht.

Practically everything that we called "superior culture" rests on the intellectualization and deepening of cruelty: this is my proposition. This is the wild beast that was not slaughtered at all; it lives; it flourishes; it has only been -- deified.

[Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan, Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.156; Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.145; emphasis in German; Graus, "horror"; grausam, "cruel, inhuman, fierce, horrible, terrible, gruesome"; Grausamkeit, "cruelty, ferocity"].

A great part of the pleasure that we get, according to Nietzsche, from injustice to others is simply the pleasure of inflicting suffering. In this it is worth recollecting the feminist shibboleth that rape is not about sex, it is about power. Nietzsche would heartily concur. So much the better! And what is more, the value of rape is not just power, it is the chance to cruelly inflict suffering. The rapist who beats and mutilates, perhaps even kills, his victim, has done no evil, he is instead one of the heroes of true historic nobility. And people think that the droit de seigneur represents some "abuse" of power! No! It is the truly noble man as heroic rapist! Nietzsche would turn around Susan Brownmiller, who said that all men are rapists. No, it is just the problem that they are not. Nietzsche would regard most men as virtual castrati (domestic oxen, geldings) for not being rapists. should be clearly understood that in the days when people were unashamed of their cruelty life was a great deal more enjoyable than it is now in the heyday of pessimism.... -- the bog of morbid finickiness and moralistic drivel which has alienated man from his natural instincts... Nowadays, when suffering is invariably quoted as the chief argument against existence, it might be well to recall the days when matters were judged from the opposite point of view; when people would not have missed for anything the pleasure of inflicting suffering, in which they saw a powerful agent, the principal inducement to living. By way of comfort to the milksops, I would also venture the suggestion that in those days pain did not hurt as much as it does today; at all events, such is the opinion of a doctor who has treated Negroes for complicated internal inflammations which would have driven the most stoical Europeans to distraction -- the assumption here being that the negro represents an earlier phase of human development [der Neger (diese als Repräsentanten des vorgeschichtlichen Menschen genommen --)] (... For my part, I am convinced that, compared with one night's pain endured by a hysterical bluestocking, all the suffering of all the animals that have been used to date for scientific experiments is as nothing.) [pp. 199-200; German text, Zur Genealogie der Moral, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.58; color added]

In this passage, we should recall the quite recent popularity of public executions, especially the ones involving dismemberment, the bearbaiting, the cock fights, etc. etc. In the Greek Olympic games, a boxing match could go to the death, since it would not end until one boxer conceded. Such a death was regarded as noble and lucky. The occasional death in modern boxing is usually regarded as a good reason to end the sport altogether. This is before we even consider the Roman games. The mere fictional representation of such things in movies sparks endless debate about the propriety of even the fictional portrayal of the like. Usually, we would think of these increased sensitivities as evidence of increased civilization. To Nietzsche they are evidence of estrangement from life itself, of the truest failure of will, of spirit, of heart.

After all his assertions about the enjoyment of cruelty and "the pleasure of inflicting suffering," when Nietzsche saw a man beating a horse on January 3, 1889, in Turin, he rushed to embrace the horse in its suffering, and this occasioned a mental breakdown, from which he never recovered. As this was the last moment of his sane mental life, we are properly left to wonder what happened. Seeing actual cruelty, and experiencing the humane feeling of sympathy for the horse, this seems to have broken Nietzsche's mind. Is it that he could not live with this revelation of natural sentiment? Even if he was on the edge of insanity already, something here was the last straw. I wonder. What Will Durant called "the soul of a girl" in Nietzsche suddenly struck back, and the mind of Thrasymachus, that he had built up in all his philosophy, suddenly shattered. The Void swallowed him. The Nietzsche apologist should fear this. A single moment may have falsified all his philosophy.

According to Nietzsche, at the source of our pessimism and failure of will is the "slave revolt" in morals, the hateful and spiteful conspiracy of the impotent, to win by deceit what they could not win manfully and openly. While Nietzsche identifies the Jews as largely behind this, he must be aware that historically it is found elsewhere. The Egyptian Book of the Dead instructed the recently deceased to protest at their Judgment that they had never oppressed the widow or the orphan. Nietzsche would know that in nature the orphan would ordinarily get killed and the widow raped. Nietzsche certainly is aware that Buddhist and Chinese morals are not that different from what Nietzsche damns in Judaism. So what we get is a generalization of this sin to all priests. The Jews, as the Bible itself says, are a priestly people. Nietzsche's preoccupation with the Jews is their more direct role in the development of Western civilization, especially by perpetrating the greatest Trojan Horse of all, Christianity.

As we all know, priests are the most evil enemies to have [Die Priester sind, wie bekannt, die bösesten Feinde] -- why should this be so? Because they are the most impotent [ohnmächtigsten]. It is their impotence [Ohnmacht] which makes their hate [Haß] so violent and sinister, so cerebral and poisonous. The greatest haters in history -- but also the most intelligent haters -- have been priests. Beside the brilliance of priestly vengeance all other brilliance fades. Human history would be a dull and stupid thing without the intelligence furnished by its impotents. Let us begin with the most striking example. Whatever else has been done to damage "the noble" [»die Vornehmen«], "the mighty" [»die Gewaltigen«], "the masters" [»die Herren«], and "the rulers" [»die Machthaber«] of this earth seems trivial compared with what the Jews [die Juden] have done against them, that priestly people who succeeded in avenging themselves on their enemies and oppressors by radically inverting all their values, that is, by an act of the most spiritual vengeance. This was a strategy entirely appropriate to a priestly people in whom vindictiveness had gone most deeply underground. It was the Jews who, with frightening consistency, dared to invert the aristocratic value equations good = noble = powerful = beautiful = happy = favored-of-the-gods [gottgeliebt] and maintain, with the furious hatred of the underprivileged and impotent, that "only the poor, the powerless, are good; only the suffering, sick, and ugly, truly blessed. But you noble and mighty ones of the earth will be, to all eternity, the evil, the cruel, the avaricious, the godless, and thus the cursed and damned!" ... We know who has fallen heir to this Jewish inversion of values.... In reference to the grand and unspeakably disastrous initiative which the Jews have launched by this most radical of all declarations of war, I wish to repeat a statement I made in a different context (Beyond Good and Evil), to wit, that it was the Jews who started the slave revolt in morals [daß nämlich mit den Juden der Sklaven-aufstand in der Moral beginnt]; a revolt with two millennia of history behind it, which we have lost sight of today simply because it has triumphed so competely. [pp.167-168, translation modified, boldface & color added; Zur Genealogie der Moral, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, pp.22-23, Haß restored for Hass, daß for dass, color added; note]

I suspect that a major reason for the popularity of Nietzsche among trendy intellectuals of the last century has been his critique and dismissal of Christianity. However, it is clear here that Christianity was merely a cat's-paw for the concealed hatred, poison, and vindicitiveness of the Jew. Nietzsche's anti-Christian critique simply follows from his anti-Jewish critique. Trendy intellectuals, however, would never want to admit that Nazi anti-Semitism owed any genuine, rather than merely a confused and misrepresented, debt to Nietzsche. If this excuse could be maintained, however, they would have to show that his complaint against Christianity was independent of any complaint against Judaism. This is not the case, as we see here:

From the tree trunk of Jewish vengeance and hatred [aus dem Stamme jenes Baums der Rache und des Haßes, des jüdischen Haßes] -- the deepest and sublimest hatred, since it gave birth to ideals and a new set of values , the like of which has never been seen on earth [des tiefsten und sublimsten, nämlich Ideale schaffenden, Werthe umschaffenden Haßes, dessen Gleichen nie auf Erden degewesen ist] -- grew a branch that was equally unique:  a new love, the deepest and sublimest of loves. From what other trunk could this branch have sprung? But let no one surmise that this love represented a denial of the thirst for vengeance, that it contravened the Jewish hatred. Exactly the opposite is true. Love grew out of hatred as the tree's crown, spreading triumphantly in the purest sunlight, yet having, in its high and sunny realm, the same aims -- victory, aggrandizement, temptation -- which hatred pursued by digging its roots ever deeper into all that was profound and evil [böse]. Jesus of Nazareth, the gospel of love made flesh, the "redeemer," who brought blessing and victory to the poor, the sick, the sinner -- what was he but temptation in its most sinister and irresistible form, bringing men by a roundabout way to precisely those Jewish values and renovations of the ideal? Has not Israel, precisely by the detour of this "redeemer," this seeming antagonist and destroyer of Israel, reached the final goal of its sublime vindictiveness [seiner sublimen Rachsucht]? Was it not a necessary feature of a truly brilliant politics of vengeance, a farsighted, subterranean, slowly and carefully planned vengeance, that Israel had to deny its true instrument publicly and nail him to the cross like a mortal enemy, so that "the whole world" (meaning all the enemies of Israel) might naïvely swallow the bait? And could one, by straining every resource, hit upon a bait more dangerous than this? What could equal in debilitating narcotic power the symbol of the "holy cross," the ghastly paradox of a crucified god, the unspeakably cruel mystery of God's self-crucifixion for the benefit of mankind? One thing is certain, that in this sign [sub hoc signo] Israel [mit seiner Rache und Umwerthung aller Werthe bisher -- with its revenge and revaluation of all former values] has by now triumphed over all other, nobler values [Ideale]. [pp.168-169, boldface added, translation modified, deleted section restored; Haßes restored for Hasses]

Thus the vision of Constantine, "By this sign you will conquer," was not even addressed to him, but to the Jews. They conquer, secretly, indirectly, poisonously, and ironically, by way of the Cross. So the crucifixion of Jesus by the Jews (well, by the Romans, but because of the Jews) was a clever fraud, by which the gentile could be deceived into taking the bait. Actually, this is not unlike one way that Hinduism saw Buddhism. The Buddha is honored as an incarnation of the Hindu Vishnu, but his task was to destroy the demons by teaching a false and catastrophically destructive doctrine. In Nietzsche's own demonology, Jesus plays a similar role for Judaism.

But in this passage Nietzsche has been incautious in his use of his terminology. He says that the tree of Jewish vengeance was "digging its roots ever deeper into all that was profound and evil." But "evil" is the term used by Jews for their oppressors, not by anyone for them. To the oppressors the Jews are, as Nietzsche argues, merely "bad," schlecht, i.e. mean, ignoble, pathetic, nasty, etc. So if Nietzsche uses "evil," bös, for something about the Jews themselves, it must mean that Nietzsche...what...hates the Jews? Can it be that, after what the Jews have done to "damage the powerful and great," Nietzsche wouldn't mind some vengeance himself? This is an important question, since the best Nietzschean critique of the Nazis might be that they manifest a hatred of the Jews that violates Nietzsche's requirement for healthy and "triumphant self-affirmation":

The slave revolt in morals begins by rancor turning creative and giving birth to values -- the rancor of beings who, deprived of the direct outlet of action, compensate by an imaginary vengeance. All truly noble morality grows out of triumphant self-affirmation. Slave ethics, on the other hand, begins by saying no to an "outside," an "other," a non-self, and that no is its creative act. [pp.170-171]

So is Nietzsche himself touched by rancor? His situation does, after all, involve a certain kind of impotence, like his miserable but sublime priests. He was definitely someone "deprived of the direct outlet of action." The Nazis, on the other hand, to say the least, were not. Hitler believed in direct action more than was actually prudent. If he had not been so restless and impatient, he could have done better at key points in the War, like the bombing of England or the invasion of Russia. So I think we would have to say that Hitler may have been a better Nietzschean than Nietzsche. Indeed, what horrifies most people about Hitler, his manifest predation, his ruthlessness, his mercilessness, are things of nobility in Nietzsche -- and foolishly dashing into immediate action, even at the cost of failure, is itself praised in the manual of the Samurai ethic, Hagakure [1716].

There is nothing very odd about lambs disliking birds of prey, but this is no reason for holding it against large birds of prey that they carry off lambs. And when the lambs whisper among themselves, "These birds of prey are evil, and does not this give us a right to say that whatever is the opposite of a bird of prey must be good?" there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such an argument -- though the birds of prey will look somewhat quizzically and say, "We have nothing against these good lambs; in fact, we love them; nothing tastes better than a tender lamb." -- to expect that strength will not manifest itself as strength, as the desire to overcome, to appropriate, to have enemies, obstacles, and triumphs, is every bit as absurd as to expect that weakness will manifest itself as strength. [p.178]

One could hardly say that either Nietzsche or Hitler "love" the Jews the way that an eagle loves a small mammalian meal. Some have wondered, however, how much of Hitler's hatred was heartfelt and how much merely cynical. Albert Speer said that Hitler never talked about the Jews in private conversation. Was he really obsessed with them, or were they merely a device in his larger schemes of predation, in which whole nations could be thoughtlessly consumed and expended in the interest of Germany and himself? So much the better would this be, for Nietzsche. One thing must always be kept in view here:  Nietzsche provides a feel-good philosophy for predators. There is going to be no fault to find with Hitler if he merely destroys, uses, tortures, kills, etc. Nietzsche himself seems more at fault if the only real sin is impotent resentment and inactive rancor.

Nietzsche did not live to see the Nazis, but he knew of another power that had to deal with the Jews as an alien, hostile, and disruptive force:

Rom empfand im Juden Etwas wie die Widernatur selbst, gleichsam sein antipodisches Monstrum; in Rom galt der Jude »des Haßes gegen das ganze Menschengeschlect überführt«: mit Recht, sofern man ein Recht hat, das Heil und die Zukunft des Menschengeschlects an die unbedingte Herrschaft der aristokratischen Werthe, der römischen Werthe anzuknüpfen... Die Römer waren ja die Starken und Vornehmen, wie sie stärker und vornehmer bisher auf Erden nie dagewesen, selbst niemals geträumt worden sind.

(1) Rome viewed Israel as a monstrosity; the Romans regarded the Jews as convicted of hatred against the whole of mankind -- and rightly so if one is justified in associating the welfare of the human species with absolute supremacy of aristocratic values.... The Romans were the strongest and most noble people who ever lived.

(2) Rome saw the Jew as something contrary to nature, as though he were its polar opposite, a monster; in Rome, the Jew was looked upon as convicted of hatred against the whole of mankind: rightly, if one is right in linking the well being and future of the human race with the unconditional rule of aristocratic values, Roman values... So the Romans were the strong and noble, stronger and nobler than anybody hitherto who had lived or even dreamt of on earth. [(1) Golffing, p.185-186; (2) On the Genealogy of Morality, edited by Keith Ansell-Pearson, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 2004; pp.34-35; Zur Genealogie der Moral, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, pp.41-42; color added, note]

The Romans, of course, killed many Jews, and expelled them from Jerusalem and their Temple, but they did not actually try to exterminate them. Perhaps genocide would have been too much for Nietzsche. But exactly how would he object to it? He could not say that mass murder was intrinsically unjust, since that is absurd. The most he could do would be to say, "You're letting them get to you too much." But, Hitler might object, after 2000 (or 3000, who knows?) years of damage done by these people, why not just get rid of them? Couldn't Nietzsche just say, "Why not?" Is it really something to worry about so much? No. And, as Nietzsche says, the "welfare of the human species" may be at stake. [note]

...die letzte politische Vornehmheit, die es in Europa gab, die des siebzehnten und achtzehnten französischen Jahrhunderts brach unter den volksthümlichen Ressentiments-Instinkten zusammen... Wie ein litzter Fingerzeig zum aldern Wege erschien Napoleon, jener einzelnste und spätestgeborne Mensch, den es jemals gab, und in ihm das fleischgewordne Problem des vornehmen Ideals an sich...

...the last political nobility that there was in Europe, that of the French seventeenth and eighteenth-century, collapsed under the popular instincts of resentment... Like a last signpost to another way Napoleon appears, that most unique and anachronistic man, the problem of the noble ideal made flesh in him. [Golffing, pp.186-187; Ansell-Pearson, pp.35-36; translations modified]

Nietzsche didn't know Hitler, but he knew Napoleon, and here we have his judgment "the noble ideal made flesh." To be sure, Napoleon wasn't a mass murderer and genocide on a level with Hitler, but then, in Nietzsche's pantheon, it is not clear that this would be in his favor. Hitler always thought that Napoleon had failed for being insufficiently ruthless. Was Hitler's own failure the result of too little or too much ruthlessness? The only comparison we could make would be with Stalin, who was certainly at least as ruthless, but more patient and devious. "Patient and devious" would not be virtues for Nietzsche, nor would Stalin's communist ideology; but power and success are hard to argue with, especially for Nietzsche. Stalin's creation was more successful and more durable than either Napoleon's or Hitler's, and his own power more absolute and extensive. He got to kill more people and even died in bed.

At the end of the passage above, before the ones about Rome and Napoleon, what more we get is the idea that strength cannot but manifest itself as strength, i.e. there was no choice about the noble terror inflicted by Hitler, or any other predator.

A quantum of strength is equivalent to a quantum of urge, will, activity, and it is only the snare of language (of the arch-fallacies of reason petrified in language), presenting all activity as conditioned by an agent -- the "subject" -- that blinds us to this fact. does popular morality divorce strength from its manifestation, as though there were behind the strong a neutral agent, free to manifest its strength or contain it. But no such agent exists; there is no "being" behind the doing, acting, becoming; the "doer" has simply been added to the deed by the imagination -- the doing is everything. [pp.178-179]

So there is no self, no "neutral agent," of the predator, that is free to choose good or evil. The "doing" is all that there is. So not only cannot Hitler be blamed for being "evil," since that term is only used by the miserable, impotent, and mean, but he cannot even be said to have had a choice in the matter, since the idea of choice itself is an "arch-fallacy" perpetrated by the miserable, impotent, and mean just so that they can blame the strong for acting in their instinctively strong way.

Small wonder, then, that the repressed and smoldering emotions of vengeance and hatred have taken advantage of this superstition [i.e. the existence of an agent or "subject"] and in fact espouse no belief more ardently than that it is within the discretion of the strong to be weak, of the bird of prey to be a lamb. Thus they assume the right of calling the bird of prey to account for being a bird of prey. We can hear the oppressed, downtrodden, violated whispering among themselves with the wily vengefulness of the impotent, "Let us be unlike those evil ones. Let us be good. And the good shall be he who does not do violence, does not attack or retaliate, who leaves vengeance to God, who, like us, lives hidden, who shuns all that is evil, and altogether asks very little of life -- like us, the patient, the humble, the just ones." Read in cold blood, this means nothing more than "We weak ones are, in fact, weak...." [p.179]

This idea that there is no agent gifted with actual choice turns up in recent, trendy theory that the self is "socially constructed" and so represents no real ontological entity. Usually the context of this move is an attempt to remove the individual from political calculation and so make a totalitarian assimilation of the individual to the political whole obvious and natural, and to justify the use of police-state force to "reeducate" individuals and break the hold of "institutional" racism, classism, and heterosexism.

Nietzsche would not be interested in abolishing the individuality of the Übermensch, let alone the racism or classism, but it is also clear that individuality for the many -- which could only be defended with the individual rights of Classical Liberalism -- would have no place in Nietzsche's calculations. It thus may not be much of a stretch to see a connection between Nietzsche's despotic Übermensch and the despotism desired by trendy intellectuals with totalitarian hungers. They each are happy to eliminate the Kantian self which is the subject of rights and dignity for all persons, even the bovine masses.

Indeed, this connection would be the sort of folie à deux I have noted elsewhere between the Dionysian rejection of personal constraints and the rigidity and fascism that Camille Paglia identifies in the Apollonian temperament. "Dionysian" and "Apollonian" are of course Nietzsche's own terminology from The Birth of Tragedy (a much younger and perhaps saner Nietzsche) for the different sensibilities in Greek art. Where Nietzschean ruthlessness cooperates with Leftist ideology, as in the person of Stalin, it is the true and odd combination of everything of which Nietzsche approved with everything that he detested. Unlike Stalin himself, modern academics, perhaps following in the theoretical footsteps of people like Herbert Marcuse (the oxymoronic Freudian Marxist), can without hesitation embrace both.

Nietzsche's Darwinian affirmation of life seems to have its limits. As noted, Nietzsche himself would personally fall more in the impotent and resentful than the active and strong camp. Ending his days as the insane ward of his sister was much, much worse and miserable even than the imprisoned tiger of Napoleon on St. Helena or the suicide of Hitler in his Bunker. Also, the absolute Darwinian prerequisite of survival, reproduction, is a particular problem for a person with no intimate relations with the opposite sex. Nietzsche tries to makes a virtue of this:

(The path I am speaking of does not lead to "happiness" but to power, action, to the mightiest action, and in most cases to actual unhappiness [es ist nicht sein Weg zum »Glück«, von dem ich rede, sondern sein Weg zur Macht, zur That, zum mächtigsten Thun, und in den meisten Fällen thatsächlich sein Weg zum Unglück].) Thus the philosopher abhors marriage and all that would persuade him to marriage, for he sees the married state as an obstacle to fulfillment. What great philosopher has ever been married? Heracleitus, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Schopenhauer -- not one of them was married; moreover, it is impossible to imagine any of them married. I maintain that a married philosopher belongs in comedy, and as for that great exception, Socrates got married in a spirit of irony, precisely in order to prove that contention. Every philosopher would speak as Buddha spoke when he was told that a son had been born to him:  "Râhula has been born to me; a fetter has been forged for me" (Râhula means "little daemon" [Râhula bedeutet hier »ein kleiner Dämon«]). [Golffing, p.242; Ansell-Pearson, p.81; translation modified]

Curiously, we go from the lusty and rapacious barbarian, expressing the vital life force, to the ascetic Buddha, whose compassion for the Beings doesn't seem so different from the contemptible and dishonest "love" offered by Jesus. Perhaps Nietzsche would have been more comfortable with a relationship like The Story of O, or like the polygamy endorsed by Schopenhauer and practiced by Islâm:  Asceticism was alien to Islâm, and it is unlikely that Islâmic philosophers were as unmarried as Nietzsche's roster. Or maybe women just bothered him:

Man erkennt einen Philosophen daran, daß er drei glänzenden und lauten Dingen aus dem Weg geht, dem Ruhme, den Fürsten und den Frauen.

One can know a philosopher, that along the way he avoids three shiny and loud things, fame, princes, and women... [Golffing, p.245; Ansell-Pearson, p.84; translation modified]

Perhaps no one ever told or showed Nietzsche, growing up among women, that loud women can be shut up with a bit of the innocent violence of the wild animal. But then the delicacy of Nietzsche in his personal life is what contrasts with his fantasies of power and domination -- as Will Durant says, "...the soul of a girl under the armor of a warrior" [The Story of Philosophy, The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosphers, Simon and Schuster, 1926, 1933, p.305].

Unlike Heidegger, we cannot say that Nietzsche ever acted out the implications of his thought. His thought is just the kind of exercise in fantasy vengeance that he attributes to the Jews. This may make him a better person, in terms of action, but not in any way that he would have honored or admired himself. Since he didn't become a cheerleader for the German Empire or the typical anti-Semite of the age, he can be credited with a spurious moral discrimination. His objection to both, however, was their moral posturing and Christianity:

And I am equally out of patience with those newest speculators in idealism called anti-Semites, who parade as Christian-Aryan worthies and endeavor to stir up all the asinine elements of the nation by that cheapest of propaganda tricks, a moral attitude. [p.294]

"Christian-Aryan" will contain for Nietzsche the most antithetical of elements. Far better, indeed, would be the neo-paganism of Hitler -- who liked to invoke moral and Christian precedents or principles in public, but who was rightly suspected by all of putting these only to the most cynical use. A Germany free of Christian and Latin incrustations looks like what Hitler was aiming for, just as Heidegger reached back to the Greek Presocratics to inspire the Dasein of his own philosophical project, which he saw as part of the historic mission of Germany. In this case again, Nietzsche begins to look more conformable to the Nazis, just as Heidegger thought, than to the reasons the enlightened now would give for rejecting German nationalism or anti-Semitism.

Diese Träger der niederdrückenden und vergeltungslüsternen Instinkte, die Nachkommen alles europäischen und nicht europäischen Sklaventhums, aller vorarischen Bevölkerung in Sonderheit -- sie stellen den Rückgang der Menschheit dar! Diese »Werkzeuge der Cultur« sind eine Schande des Menschen, und eher ein Verdacht, ein Gegenargument gegen »Cultur« überhaupt! Man mag im besten Rechte sein, wenn man vor der blonden Bestie auf dem Grunde aller vornehmen Rassen die Furcht nicht los wird und auf der Hut ist: aber wer möchte nicht hundertmal lieber sich fürchten, wenn er zugleich bewundern darf, als sich nicht fürchten, aber dabei den ekelhaften Anblick des Mißrathenen, Verkleinerten, Verkümmerten, Vergifteten nicht mehr los werden können? Und ist das nicht unser Verhängniss?

These carriers of the leveling and retributive instincts, these descendants of every European and extra-European slave-dom, and especially of the pre-Aryan populations, represent human retrogression most flagrantly. Such "instruments of culture" are a disgrace to man and might make one suspicious of culture altogether. One might be justified in fearing the blond beast lurking within all noble races and in being on one's guard against it, but who would not a hundred times prefer fear when it is accompanied with admiration, rather than not fear, to security accompanied by the loathsome sight of the miscarried, the stunted, the crooked, the contaminated? And is not the latter our destiny today? [Golffing, p.176; Ansell-Pearson, p.26; translations modified; Mißrathenen restored for Missrathenen; color added]

"Human retrogression"? Is our "destiny today" really "the miscarried, the stunted, the crooked, and the contaminated"? (Golffing had said, "perversion, dwarfishness" and "degeneracy," leaving out the fourth term.) For all the fevered hallucinations of leftists who find racism in every American heart and schoolhouse, and who demand that society spare no expense in accommodating every blind, deaf, deformed, and crippled person to the point where they can live like anyone else, the only place where Nietzsche's racism and contempt for the sick and suffering is read with pleasure, honor, and praise is in the most fortified strongholds of political correctness and "progressive" politics -- American universities.

All that prevents such people from becoming more honest Nietzscheans and following Heidegger down the path to something like the "inner truth and greatness" of National Socialism is fashion. Marxism still provides the rhetoric and paradigmata for contemporary "progressive" thought, but it should not be forgotten that the Italian "Futurists" of the 1920's were fascists. People whose every instinct is already totalitarian are vulnerable to who knows what kinds of whims. In a world where liberalism and democracies are now increasingly in violent geopolitical conflict with Islâmic Fascism, and trendy progressives despise liberal capitalism more than misogynistic Islâmic terrorists, the most surprising intellectual developments become possible. In such an ideological mix and ferment, one thing stands clear:  Nietzsche's contribution, a morally infantile fantasy of barbarism, will always be dangerous, destructive, and seductive to anyone whose moral maturity is no greater than his.

Editorial Note:

I should pay tribute to my former professor and advisor at UCLA (1968-1969) and the University of Hawai'i (1972-1974), Lenn Goodman (now at Vanderbilt University), who once made what I thought was the most acute observation about Nietzsche -- that he was simply not a morally mature person. I wonder if we can excuse Nietzsche because, after all, he was losing his mind. But this is not an excuse that will work, I hope, for most Nietzsche enthuasiasts.

While Professor Goodman displays exemplary judgment and insight with people like Nietzsche and the appalling Martin Heidegger, I have been alarmed and dismayed at the treatment of Rudolf Otto in his Judaism, A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation, and in his confused ideas about capitalism in references to Bernard Mandeville (also in the same book). He really needs to think better of his approach and understanding in those matters.

Nietzsche quotes on the present page are not indexed here.
Thus, the index contains no quotes about Jews or Romans,
which are given above or in the footnotes.
Nietzsche quote on Kant

Nietzsche quote on Moral Judgment

Nietzsche quote on Pleasure & Pain

Nietzsche quote on English Philosophers

Nietzsche quotes on Utilitarianism

Nietzsche quote on British Happiness

Nietzsche quote on "Modern Ideas"

Nietzsche quote on French Aristocracy

Nietzsche quote on Equality & Suffering

Nietzsche quote on Exploitation

Nietzsche quote on Individualism

Nietzsche quote on Women

Nietzsche quote on Women

Nietzsche quotes on Women

Nietzsche quote on Falsehood

Nietzsche quote on Democracy

Nietzsche quote on Socialism

Nietzsche quote on Philosophers

Nietzsche quote on Laughter

Nietzsche quotes on Racism

Nietzsche quote on France

Nietzsche quote on Napoleon

Nietzsche quote on Russia

Nietzsche quote on Buddhism

Nietzsche quote on Suffering

Nietzsche quotes on Slavery

Nietzsche quote on the "Basic Principle of Society" and the "Essence of Life"

Since many of these quotes are embedded in
essays against which they express a contrary
sentiment or claim, icons have been introduced
to indicate where Nietzsche's statements are
either alarming or such as to induce fear.
The icons derive from the essay on emotions.
Robert Solomon on Nietzsche

Philippa Foot on Nietzsche

John Romer "Likes" Nietzsche

Nietzsche and the Nazis, A Personal View by Stephen Hicks, Ph.D., 2006

More on Translating Nietzsche

Nietzsche's Madness

Aestheticism and Moral Aestheticism
in Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music

A Letter to The Wall Street Journal, "Thus Fakes Zarathustra,"
about a column by Robert P. Crease , October 26, 2018, page A13


Varieties of Moral Aestheticism


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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 1

A Nietzsche-sympathizing correspondent recently argued that the Francis Golffing translation of the Genealogy is not very good and, apparently, has been deceiving the gullible, like me, about Nietzsche's meaning. Well, I couldn't say why Golffing would want to mistranslate Nietzsche, or how Nietzsche's simple language, so unlike other Germans philosophers (such as Kant, Hegel, or Heidegger), is vulnerable to mistranslation. But, let's see. Here is the passage just quoted as it is in German:

Im lateinischen malus (dem ich μέλας zur Seite stelle) könnte der gemeine Mann als der Dunkelfarbige, vor allem als der Schwarzhaarige (»hic niger est --«) gekennzeichnet sein, als der vorarische Insasse des italischen Bodens, der sich von der herrschend gewordenen blonden, nämlich arischen Eroberer-Rasse durch die Farbe am deutlichsten abhob; wenigstens bot mir das Gälische den genau entsprechenden Fall, -- fin (zum Beispiel im Namen Fin-Gal), das abzeichnende Wort des Adels, zuletzt der Gute, Edle, Reine, ursprünglich der Blondkopf, im Gegensatz zu den dunklen, schwarzhaarigen Ureinwohnern. Die Kelten, beiläufig gesagt, waren durchaus eine blonde Rasse; man thut Unrecht, wenn man jene Streifen einer wesentlich dunkelhaarigen Bevölkerung, die sich auf sorgfältigeren ethnographischen Karten Deutschlands bemerkbar machen, mit irgend welcher keltischen Herkunft und Blutmischung in Zusammenhang bringt, wie dies noch Virchow thut: vielmehr schägt an diesen Stellen die vorarische Bevölkerung Deutschlands vor. (Das Gleiche gilt beinahe für ganz Europa: im Wesentlichen hat die underworfene Rasse schiesslich daselbst wieder die Oberhand bekommen, in Farbe, Kürze des Schädels, vielleicht sogar in den intellektuellen under socialen Instinkten: wer steht uns dafür, ob nicht die moderne Demokratie, der noch moderne Anarchismus und namentlich jener Hang zur »Commune«, zur primitivsten Gesellschafts-Form, der allen Socialisten Europa's jetzt gemeinsam ist, in der Hauptsache einen ungeheuren Nachschlag zu bedeuten hat -- und daß die Eroberer- und Herren Rasse, die der Arier, auch physiologisch im Unterliegen ist?...) [Zur Genealogie der Moral, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.19; daß restored for dass]

We can compare Golffing's translation with the one recommended by the correspondent, that of Carol Diethe (in Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, edited by Keith Ansell-Pearson, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 2004]:

In the Latin word malus (to which I juxtapose mélas) the common man could be characterized as the dark-skinned and especially the dark-haired ('hic niger est --'), as the pre-Aryan occupant of Italian soil who could most easly be distinguished from the blond race which had become dominant, namely the Aryan conquering race, by its colour; at any rate, I have found exactly the same with Gaelic peoples, -- fin (for example in Fin-gal), the word designating the aristocracy and finally the good, noble, pure, was originally a blond person in contast to the dark-skinned, dark-haired native inhabitants. By the way, the Celts were a completely blond race; it is wrong to connect those traces of an essentially dark-haired population, which can be seen on carefully prepared ethnological maps in Germany, with any Celtic descent and mixing of blood in such a connection, as Virchow does: it is more a case of the pre-Aryan population of Germany emerging at these points. (The same holds good for virtually the whole of Europe: to all intents and purposes the subject race has ended up by regaining the upper hand in skin colour, shortness of forehead and perhaps even in intellectual and social instincts: who can give any guarantee that modern democracy, the even more modern anarchism, and indeed that predilection for the "commune", the most primitive form of social structure which is common to all Europe's socialists, are not in essence a huge counter-attack -- and that the conquering master race, that of the Aryans, is not physiologically being defeated as well?...) [p.16]

The two translations differ in some emphasis, order, and literalness but generally are equivalent. We might accuse each of them of tidying up a few things. Golffing says "the Aryan race of conquerors," leaving out Herren, "Masters" (Herr, although used as "Mr." in modern German, originally meant a "lord" or seigneur) from Eroberer- und Herren Rasse. Diethe is a little more honest with "the conquering master race." So it is the older translation, not the new one, that leaves out something with Nazi overtones. At the same time, where Nietzsche says schwarzhaarig, "black-haired," twice, and dunkelhaarig, "dark-haired," once, Diethe translates all three as "dark-haired." Avoiding the word "black," I suspect, slightly disguises the racism. On the whole, however, given the sense of the passage, nothing can disguise the racism, except for those simply unwilling to believe it.

Die Eroberer- und Herren Rasse is an interesting phrase grammatically, the kind of thing that drove Mark Twain crazy about German. Eroberer, "Conqueror," is used with a hyphen because Nietzsche apparently had in mind that it was part of a larger word, Eroberer-Rasse, "Conqueror-race," which we see him use as such earlier in the text. German is free with such compounds, and does not generally use hyphens internally as does English (Nietzsche could have written Erobererrasse). But then we get Eroberer- und Herren. This is the most interesting thing about the construction. Herren is an inflected noun, with no hyphen; and -en is the plural ending, though it can indicate any of the four German cases, nominative, genitive, dative, or accusative. Since the subject of the sentence is Rasse, Herren is not nominative, nor is it the accusative object of any verb -- or the dative indirect object. My call then is that it is genitive, "of Masters." A much clearer case of this use and meaning is in a line from the hymn "Erhalt' uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort" ("Save us, Lord, by your word") by Martin Luther:  Der du Herr allen Herren bist, "You are the Lord of all Lords."

So the most literal translation of Die Eroberer- und Herren Rasse would be "the Conqueror-race of Masters." We could put this in Greek as ὁ κυρίων νικατορόγενος, ho kyríôn nikatorógenos. In Latin, without compounds or articles, we would get victorum dominorumque genus. In English we can't really say "the Conqueror- and of Masters race." Languages with inflected nouns, like German, Latin, and Greek, are more free with word order than English -- though German has more constraints than the others, perhaps because the inflections have become more ambiguous (-en goes with multiple cases, genders, numbers, and even verbs). Eroberer can be the plural (as Golffing translates it), so we could say "the race of Conquerors and Masters," but then Eroberer does have the hyphen, and so is not inflected (though in German, if not in Classical Greek, it can be).

Another good case to look at might be a line quoted next down the page above. In German we have Stände drücken immer auch Abkunfts- und Rassen-Differenzen aus [op.cit. p.131]. Golffing translates this as, "Class distinctions are always indicative of genetic and racial differences" [p.267]. Diethe says, "estates always indicate differences in descent and race as well" [p.102]. The most interesting point here is the translation of Stände, the plural of Stand, which can meaning "standing," "class," "rank," "estates of the realm," etc. Golffing thus offers a sharp and transparent translation. Diethe does not. In modern English, "estates" will tend to mean something to do with housing developments -- in the United States those perhaps of luxury gated communities, but in Brtain the opposite, "council estates" meaning the dismal and dangerous British version of public housing, called the "projects" in the U.S. This has nothing to do with Nietzsche's meaning. "Estates" in the sense of the "Estates" of the ancien régime French monarchy mean the social classes, indeed, of Mediaeval Europe -- the Nobility, the Clergy, and the Commons. A person aware of this can then reconstruct Nietzsche's meaning, which will then be equivalent to Golffing's translation. The effect of Diethe's translation is thus to soften, obscure, and perhaps misdirect the meaning. Why would he do that? Well, if Nietzsche is talking about class, the touchstone of Marxist social analysis, and connecting it to race, the touchstone of Nazi social analysis, he has flipped Marxism over into Naziism. This is plain enough that the only way around it is to obscure the statement. Maybe Nietzsche was talking about something else. So Diethe is the one trying to avoid the unpleasant implications of Nietzsche's ideas. Otherwise the translations are equivalent. For Abkunft, "descent, origin, parentage, breed, race," Diethe may be more literal, but "genetic" is etymologically the Greek equivalent, though it now also includes the modern biological meaning. But that is not inappropriate. In isolation, the verb in the sentence is ausdrücken, "express." The most literal and faithful translation might be, "Classes always also express differences of origin and race."

For those apologists who see Nietzsche as someone simply exposing Christian hypocrisy, or freeing the creative from the meangingless inhibitions of conventional morality, the difficulty is always going to be explaing why the Jews need to be an issue at all, especially in such vehement terms, and why we are getting all this stuff about the black-haired "subject races" and the Aryans. If Nietzsche is so innocent and benevolent, these things are out of place and irrelevant. And if Nietzsche is not really anti-Semitic, what are we to call someone for whom the Jews have ruined the place of the good and the noble out of their all-consuming hatred and vindictiveness? The very idea that the Jews and all their works are motivated by a "sinister" and "poisonous" hatred and an impotent, unmanly lust for vengeance would seem all of itself to be an essentially anti-Semitic, not to mention sinister and poisonous, view.

This is thin ice for Nietzscheans, for if it must be admitted that Nietzsche is both a racist and an anti-Semite, it is not going to be clear why he is not morally equivalent to the Nazis. The comparison with Heidegger is instructive. Heidegger was not a racist [at least, so I thought until recently], and was criticized by the Nazis themselves for that [they didn't understand his distinction between "biological" racism and his own "spiritual" racism -- see discussion elsewhere]. Nevertheless, it can hardly escape anyone's attention that Heidegger was a Nazi. What National Socialism meant to him was idiosyncratic; but the difficulty there is that the meaning was idiosyncratic precisely because it was based on his own philosophical ideas. It was not like some passing and unrelated enthusiasm, though apologists would like that to be the case. And there is no doubt that it was nationalistic. That was also part of Heidegger's philosophical system, where the German language holds a privileged position, second only to Greek -- and much of Heidegger's recent appeal is based on his views about language. Since 19th century nationalism was primarily based on language, we get a direct line from Heidegger's philosophy to the Nazis as the most extreme, irrational, and even mystical of German nationalists -- all characteristics agreeable to Heidegger. Whether Heidegger was anti-Semitic was long a matter of uncertainty. His undoubted moves against Jews, however, including his own students, and the clear anti-Semitic statements that have emerged have now settled the issue. However, there is no doubt that Heidegger's anti-Semitism was of a relatively superficial sort, both derived from simple German nationalism and from, perhaps, a prudent accommodation to Nazi ideology. This is hardly admirable, but it does not look as bad as Nietzsche's racism, where the Jews are inherently inferior as members of the "bad," short, dark, black-haired, "subject races," consumed with hatred for the noble and the good. The Nazis ate that up, even while they were perplexed by Heidegger's obscure "thinking."

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 2

A Nietzsche-sympathizing correspondent recently claimed that Nietzsche actually believed that the mixing of races resulted in something like what is called "hybrid vigor" in biology. Unfortunately for such a view, the brief comment in the Genealogy corresponds to a long passage, to the same racist effect, in Beyond Good and Evil:

Skepsis nämlich ist der geistigste Ausdruck einer gewissen vielfachen phyiologischen Beschaffenheit, welche man in gemainer Sprache Nervenschwäche und Kränklichkeit nennet; sie entsteht jedes Mal, wenn sich in entscheidender und plötzlicher Weise lang von einander abgetrennte Rassen order Stände kreuzen. In dem neuen Geschlechte, das gleichsam verschiedene Maaße und Werthe in's Blut vererbt bekommit, ist Alles Unruhe, Störung, Zweifel, Versuch; die besten Kräfte wirken hemmend, die Tugenden selbst lassen einander nicht wachsen und stark werden, in Leib und Seele fehlt Gleichgewicht, Schwergewicht, perpendikuläre Sicherheit. Was aber in solchen Mischlingen am tiefsten krank wird und entartet, das ist der Wille; sie kennen das Unabhängige im Entschluße, das tapfere Lustgefühl im Wollen gar nicht mehr, -- sie zweifeln an der »Freiheit des Willens« auch noch in ihren Träumen. Unser Europa von heute, der Schauplatz eines unsinnig plötzlichen Versuchs von radikaler Stände- und folglich Rassenmischung, ist deshalb skeptisch in allen Höhen und Tiefen... Willenslähmung: wo findet man nicht heute diesen Krüppel sitzen!

For skepticism is the spiritual expression of a certain, varied physiological quality which in common language is called nervous weakness or sickliness. It arises every time long separated races or classes are crossed in a decisive and sudden way. Everything is restiveness, doubt, experimentation in the resultant new generation whose blood inherits, as it were, different standards and different values. The best of their powers have a blocking effect on one another; even their virtues do not let one another grow and become strong; balance, ballast, and perpendicular stablility are lacking in body and soul. But it is the will that is most deeply sick and degenerated in such cross-breeds; they no longer know independence of decision, or the courageous pleasure that lies in willing; they doubt the "freedom of the will" even in their dreams. Our Europe of today, the scene of senselessly sudden experiment in class upheaval (and hence race upheadval), is for this reason skeptical in all its heights and depths... Paralysis of the will: this is the cripple one finds squatting everywhere today! [translated by Marianne Cowan, Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.127-128; Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.8; daß restored for dass, Maaße for Maasse or Masse ; Entschluß for Entschluss], color added.

The idea that virtues are inherited is something we see elsewhere in the same book:

One must be born to any superior world -- to make it plainer, one must be bred for it. One has a right to philosophy (taking the word in its greatest sense) only by virtue of one's breeding. One's ancestors, one's "blood" decides this, too. Many generations must have worked on the origin of a philosopher; each one of his virtues must have been separately earned, cared for, passed on, made flesh and blood. [ibid. p.139, boldface added; seen German text]

This seems to reflect a Lamarckian "acquired characteristics" view of evolution, that these virtues are "worked on" by one generation and then inherited by the next. Or, at need, Nietzsche could give a Darwinian twist to it, that those with the requisite virtues survive and reproduce more. Either way, these passages are music to the ears for the Nazi race laws (which prohibited Aryans from having sex with Jews, Slavs, etc.). And we see Nietzsche's essentially aristocratic and Mediaeval view of class structure in the "one has a right...only by virtue of one's breeding." This leaves ability aside in favor of simple inheritance. How Nietzsche enthusiasts can twist this into some kind of post-modernist Marxism just boggles the mind.

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 3

It should be noted that in the modern politically correct University, a "fraternity prank" is ranked at about the moral level of Auschwitz -- on the campuses where fraternities are even still tolerated. Since fraternities often lampoon feminism, politically correctness, or the image of favored minority groups, their actions, which can be expressed very crudely, are often particularly offensive to the Stalinist powers that be. At the same time, those sanctioned for such offenses have drawn legal support from civil rights organizations like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which targets civil liberties abuses in education. In at least one case, an administrator was ordered by a court to attend "sensitivity" training in the First Amendment.

Yet offenses against free speech are often committed by people who otherwise may be self-avowed partisans of Friedrich Nietzsche; and Nietzsche's examples here of "murder, arson, rape, and torture" remind us of contemporary accusations about the "Rape Culture" in modern education, and particularly about accusations of gang rape at fraternities -- cases that briefly create frenzies of self-righteouness in the press and among academics, intellectuals, and politicians but which have frequently turned out to be hoaxes or delusions. School administrators meanwhile constantly seek to evade adverse court rulings and negative publicity to restore oppressive policies on speech and association. Fraternity pranks against them would be an exemplary form of political speech.

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 4;
Robert Solomon on Nietzsche

Robert Solomon, University of Texas Philosophy Department picnic, 1977
With this first long passage that mentions the Jews, let me turn to the lectures given on Nietzsche by Robert Solomon (1942-2007) for the Teaching Company "
Great Courses" series. Solomon is familiar in these pages for his apologetic for Hegel.

In his course called "No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life," Solomon gives four half-hour lectures on Nietzsche. In none of them does he ever use the words "race," "Aryan," or "Jew." While he refers to Nietzsche's idea that people are born with their own fixed character (carried over from Schopenhauer), he does not express this in racial terms as Nietzsche does. And while he refers to the ancient "Hebrews" in connection with the slave revolt in morals -- der Sklaven-aufstand in der Moral -- he does not call them what Nietzsche does, i.e. "Jews" (Juden), nor does he mention Nietzsche's contemporary references to the Jews, or for the contemporary need for proper breeding, either involving the Jews or as a political problem for Europe.

Thus, Solomon has whitewashed and bowdlerized Nietzsche. We need an apologetic for Nietzsche's politically incorrect racism? Well, we'll just ignore it (while accusing everyone else of racism)! Those who, prepared by Solomon, sit down to actually read The Genealogy of Morals, are in for a surprise. Perhaps it is not surprising then to find Solomon protesting that Nietzsche was a "moral" person, despite his self-characterization as an "immoralist." He supplies for him an Aristotelian virtue ethics, whose sensible goal is "self-esteem," in line with Solomon's interpretation of Nietzsche's epistemology as "pragmatic."

I expect that Nietzsche would get a good laugh out of all this. More seriously, just as Solomon trivializes and dismisses the significance of Hegel's "Absolute Idea," he also presents a decidedly wimpy take on the Nietzschean Übermensch. Since he admits that Nietzsche has problems with free will (like Schopenhauer), and regards people as born with a fixed character, he properly dismisses the idea that anyone one of us, by an act of will, could become an Übermensch. Consequently, he regards this "next step in evolution" as an unattainable ideal and so doesn't need to worry about Nietzschean ideas like the "transvaluation of all values" into something "beyond good and evil."

By avoiding a discussion of race, Solomon has obviously missed the point that the Übermensch is something to be bred and/or evolved, just as the "aristocratic races" originally evolved and were reinforced by selective in-breeding -- as Nietzsche requires that philosophers be selectively bred. Solomon's misrepresenation of this not only gravely distorts the coherence of Nietzsche's thought but also erases issues that are starkly evident, not only in the use of Nietzsche by the Nazis, but in the whole eugenics movement of the early 20th century, which was very popular in the United States -- including (ironically) liberal saints like Margaret Sanger (18791966), whose promotion of birth control was eugenic in inspiration and which she continued in that vein even after World War II, when the whole business had become an acute embarrassment.

So Solomon presents a dumbed-down and whitewashed, if not neutered, picture of Nietzsche, with positive distortions and deletions of Nietzsche's philosophy. Nowhere is that more conspicuous than in his assertion that Nietzsche rejected Schopenhauer's pessimism. Au contraire. We know from the Birth of Tragedy that Nietzsche fully accepted the "hard" pessimism of the Greeks, the spirit in which those of the Trojan War went willingly to their deaths, even as he rejected happiness as the proper goal of life (it's something for the English). Nietzsche expected neither pleasure nor happiness. It was the "soft," enervating, passive, and impotent pessimism of the 19th century that Nietzsche dismissed. Power is the purpose of human activity, regardless of whether it makes you happy or not. But Solomon has decided that Nietzsche's philosophy is about "self-realization," the feel-good, self-indulgent lifestyle, the "delicacy -- even more, the tartufferie -- of domestic animals like ourselves," i.e. of Solomon's own class and time, which again, I think, would give Nietzsche, again, a good laugh.

Philippa Foot on Nietzsche

I have two essays about Nietzsche written by Philippa Foot (1920-2010). Foot is not an apologist for Nietzsche, the way Robert Solomon is, but the essays are, overall, soft, complacent, and perhaps even superficial about Nietzsche's thought.

The essays are, first, "Nietzsche: The Revaluation of Values," in Virtues and Vices, and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy [Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2002, 2009, pp.81-95]. This was originally published in Nietzsche, A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by no less than Robert C. Solomon [Anchor Press, 1973; University of Notre Dame Press, 1980].

The second essay is "Nietzsche's Immoralism," published in The New York Review of Books, June 13, 1991. I subscribed to the Review at the time and read that essay when it was published.

A striking feature of both essays is that, like Robert Solomon, Foot never uses the words "race," "Aryan," or "Jew." "Race" does occur once [Virtues and Vices, p.86], but in a neutral, general sense, without application to Aryans, Jews, or other genetic "races" that Nietzsche otherwise references. In one quote, we get the word "bred," referring to breeding [ibid., p.88], but there is no comment or discussion about this from Foot.

Now, in each essay Foot mentions the appropriation of Nietzsche by the Nazis:

It is true that Nietzsche's theories (or a travesty of them) played a brief and inglorious part on the world's stage when he was proclaimed as a prophet by the Nazis.... [ibid., p.82 -- page numbers are always to this essay]

In the second essay, the reference to the Nazis is in a longer passage that merits attention:

If this [i.e. Nietzsche's claim that there is nothing "good or evil" in itself] implies, as it seems, that not even the most flagrant acts of injustice can be called evil in themselves, then was Thomas Mann not perhaps right in saying that Nietzsche had not faced the reality of evil? Mann said in 1947,

How bound in time, how theoretical too, how inexperienced does Nietzsche's romanticizing about wickedness! We have learned to know it in all its miserableness.

Mann was writing, of course, soon after the facts about Belsen and Buchenwald, and their images, had come to haunt us. So however much the Nazis had had to distort Nietzsche in order to claim him as one of their prophets, Nazi actions and Nietzsche's reputation may be linked in the way suggested by Mann; that is, in the way his treatment of evil has to look to us in the light of what they did.

But, as we know, race was regarded by the Nazis as the basis of all their ideology. Nazi enthusiast Martin Heidegger was even criticized for not basing his own thought on race -- he chose (the German) language instead. Yet we hear nothing about race from Robert Solomon or Philippa Foot.

So, now, who is it that is guilty of a project to "distort" Nietzsche into a "travesty"? Do we have an honest presentation of Nietzsche by either if the issue of race is dropped, forgotten, and invisible? This is an act of dishonest apologists, even by Foot, who turns out not really to be an apologist. But she does give Nietzsche far too much credit as a philosopher, and she takes him far too seriously, once she has redacted the parts that were of particular interest to the Nazis. In the end, for all her criticisms, she is far too easy on him. It makes it look like the Nazis really knew their Nietzsche, while Solomon and Foot did not -- otherwise they would have said something about it. Or they are embarrassed and dishonest. Thus, Thomas Mann's realization of the import and implications of Nietzsche's thought is entirely proper; and even Foot, let alone Solomon, cannot admit how proper it is.

Some of what gets lost we see in Foot's reference to the "slave morality" in "Nietzsche: the Revaluation of Values" [op.cit., p.82]. In that essay, Foot mainly addresses Nietzsche's attack on "Christian morality" and, in the background, "all morality." Yet we never hear that Nietzsche regarded Christianity as little more than a cat's paw for the Jews. The "slave revolt in morals" was the revolt of Jews, not Christians, since it was the Jews who were the slaves, who upended aristocratic values, and who handed the fruit of their "malice" to the apparently clueless Christians who would spread the contagion among the gentiles.

Thus, it was more than a matter of Solomon and Foot just ignoring Nietzsche's racism: His anti-Semitism also gets erased. And, make no mistake about it: Nietzsche's "slave revolt in morals" is entirely anti-Semitic. Exhortations to compassion and justice by the Buddha or Confucius don't get considered by Nietzsche, let alone dismissed with contempt. It is all the doing of those Jews.

Foot's focus on Christianity really puts this absence into stark relief. But I don't think this is unusual in Nietzsche scholarship. The modern academic tends to despise Christianity, but it is dangerous for them to trace Nietzsche's own "genealogy" of Christian morals back to its Jewish origin. Those who are radical enough can shake off accusations of anti-Semitism -- they might be open anti-Semities themselves -- but most modern academics are not quite that debased -- although they have a more obvious difficulty with Nazi Party Member Martin Heidegger, whose apologetic will be more challenging.

Another issue with Philippa Foot might be the casual acceptance of Nietzsche's distinction between the "weak" and the "strong." This is an outrage in its own right; and Foot, as well as Nietzsche apologists, sweeps over it like it's no big deal. But the "weak" are human beings; and every reference by Nietzsche to them is itself a dismissal of the fact that human rights and moral consideration apply to them as fully and as completely as they apply to anyone else. But there are simply no human rights in Nietzsche's philosophy.

We might miss that in Foot's treatment because her concern is Nietzsche's condemnation of the Christian attitude of compassion or pity for the "weak." But it goes way beyond that. The "weak" are not just those for whom we might feel compassion or pity. They are every human being who does not fit into Nietzsche's categories of aristocracy or willfully "strong" characters. They are not always "suffering" in some way that warrants our attention. Instead, what they are means most of humanity. But for Nietzsche they all belong to the "degeneration of the human race" [ibid., p.85]. No Nietzschean reads a newspaper with breakfast.

And if we wonder what will happen to the "weak" in Nietzsche's Brave New World of the Übermenschen:

And it was in this context that Nietzsche spoke least ambiguously about the fate he envisaged for the weak. 'the weak and the failures shall perish; first principle of our love of man'. [p.86].

Thus, like many "progessives," Nietzsche has a "love of man" that refers to his imaginary future beings but not to the existing and living humans of the present. This sounds more like genocide than a condemnation of Christian pity or compassion -- and that is the sense in which the Nazis took it to heart and made it policy. It starts to sound like a lot of "Environmentalists" who obviously want most of humanity to die off, so that natural animals and forests can reclaim the Earth. If they would just start with themselves, I might be able to get behind it.

But Foot still doesn't get the target right:

It was no wonder then that Nietzsche had a special hatred of Christianity. He saw it as the religion of the weak designed for their protection and glorification, and he saw it as the most powerful influence for decadence and decline. [ibid.]

But from what Foot just quoted, Christianity and its attitudes are really irrelevant. Nietzsche has contempt for just about everyone, where the "everyman" is part of the "herd" mass of the "weak," as Nietzsche often refers to them. So, Foot disguises the harshness and misanthropy of Nietzsche's thought by missing the larger perspective implied by what he says. When apologists do that, it is a whitewash. When Foot does it, it tones down the force of the condemnation that she will apply herself, giving Nietzsche a philosophical dignity he does not deserve.

But perhaps Foot does catch up with Nietzsche by and by:

Nietzsche does not shrink from the conclusion that for some men ruthlessness may be the condition of health. It is the counterpart of his belief that 'everything evil, terrible, tyrannical in man, everything in him that is kin to beasts of prey and serpents, serves the enhancement of the species "man" as much as its opposite does'. If God is dead nothing guarantees that evil may not be the condition of good. [p.87]

The death of God for Nietzsche means that all value disappears from Western civilization. The result is Nihilism, and Nietzsche's solution to that is the Übermensch. But that is no solution to all of us "weak" folk who are just destined to "perish." And it all depends on the will of the "strong," who may weary of that after a while, and become Marxists, like Sartre, or Nazis, like Heidegger. So the Nihilism actually remains; and, indeed, Nietzsche apologists generally are pretty obviously nihilists themselves. It is the disease of the age, ironically diagnosed by Nietzsche himself -- a disease particularly contagious to Nietzscheans -- unless, like Robert Solomon, they cook up their own imaginary Nietzsche who just happens to be like the typical leftist bien pensant college professor and his snowflake students.

We see one quote by Foot with a solitary reference to Nietzsche's racial breeding ideas:

The problem I pose is... what type of men shall be bred, shall be willed, for being higher in value, worthier of life, more certain of a future. [p.88]

Since breeding and willing are two rather different things, some discussion by Foot about this might be appropriate; but we don't get it. Instead, Foot asks, "What does he mean when he speaks of the value of one type of man as greater than another?" [ibid.]. Although we do get discussion of this, we've seen the answer already: the "weak," who are less "worthy" of life, should just "perish."

Foot then has a long paragraph quibbling over the meaning of "value" [pp.88-89]. What kind of achievement does the person "higher in value" have? Foot says that "the analogy with an aesthetic valuation should not be pressed too far." However, we have seen already, in The Birth of Tragedy that "I claimed that art, rather than ethics, constituted the essential metaphysical activity of man." Nietzsche's moral aestheticism simply replaces morality with aesthetics.

The "strong" man, "strong and exceptional," who rises above the herd of the "weak," is an aesthetic product, self-created. This can comprehend many things, but a domineering will with aristocratic sentiments, with the pride of a hidalgo, is essential to it. Foot seems to shy away from this. Part of that is mentioning alternative translations of Übermensch, as "'Overman' or 'Superman'," without actually addressing what this would be, especially in terms of being the Evolutionary successor to mere human beings. Again, this reminds me of Robert Solomon, who wished to dismiss the Übermensch as an unserious concept -- despite its being the prophetic central message of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

For consider what the implications would be were it to be discovered that the human race would become physically uglier if morality flourished, or that justice and kindness destroyed beauty of some other kind. [p.89]

Of course, this is exactly what Nietzsche believes. The morality of pity and compassion values the deformed, the crippled, the ugly, which are all more suitable targets of pity than healthy people. And this has evolutionary consequences. If the deformed and ugly reproduce, this will lead to the spread of these characteristics. If the "weak" perish, this removes them from the gene pool, producing beings "higher in value" than otherwise. But this would remind us of Nietzsche's racial and breeding ideas, which Philippa Foot ignores. It should also remind us of the programs put into effect by the Nazis, where mentally and physically "defective" persons would be euthanized. Removing them from the gene pool was the point. Eugenicists in the democracies, like Margaret Sanger, thought that sterilization would be sufficient. Either way, Philppa Foot isn't going to touch it with a ten foot pole.

Foot contrasts Christian morality with Aristotle, who certainly has no concern about pity or compassion [p.90]; and this seems to be her counter-example for Nietzsche's rejection of "all morality," but then the same cannot be said about the assimilation of Aristotelian ethics by Thomas Aquinas, who made it Christian (perhaps by simply adding the "theological virtues"), with which Foot was well acquainted. But we don't hear about that.

Foot reflects that there is no place for guilt in Nietzsche's ethics: "He saw efforts to make men feel guilty as expressions of malice," quoting him, "The bite of conscience is indecent!" But then she moves from this seemlessly to, what? praising Nietzsche that his superior man is, nevertheless, disciplined and self-disciplined [pp.90-91]. Of course, that is necessary if the goal of the Übermensch is power. You can't be a libertine without degrading all your virtues and becoming a helpless fool (something now promoted by the United States government, to which democracy is vulnerable).

From there we are back to Nietzsche's rejection of a single, universal morality, "good and evil, the same for all," which reminds us of Sartre's principle, "Without God, all is permitted." Yet Foot seems desperate to limit this. "No, no! Nietzsche's not that bad! He doesn't really want 'cruel monsters'!" After all, the Goths wrote poetry!

And as for the members of 'the herd' he said that he had no wish to change them: the spirit of the herd should rule within the herd. He is not, he insists, trying to preach his kind of virtue generally: it belongs only to the rare and exceptional man. [p.92]

This gravely complicates the picture we might have gotten of humanity's future. Instead of perishing, the "weak" will remain in their herd. So what would be their relationship to the Übermensch? Well, the "slave revolt in morals" began with slaves, the Jews, so if aristocratic values are restored, and the "rare and exceptional man" becomes the Napoleonic ruler, does that mean that the "herd" goes back to being slaves?

We know from elsewhere that Nietzsche sees slavery as part of advanced civilization. Philippa Foot, of course, doesn't mention that here; and she doesn't examine the implications of the idea that the "herd," rather than perishing, will somehow continue under the Übermenschen. But this would throw Nietzsche in too harsh a light, which Foot apparently does not want to do.

Before she takes some of it back, Foot does give us something like a final judgment about Nietzsche:

These considerations should, I think, incline us to the view that Nietzsche is an immoralist rather than a special kind of moralist. And one is led in the same direction by the fact that he was prepared to throw out rules of justice in the interests of producing a stronger and more splendid type of man. I suggested that this implied a quasi-aesthetic rather than a moral set of values. Morality is necessarily connected with such things as justice and the common good, and it is a conceptual matter that this is so. [p.92]

Of course, as I have noted, Nietzsche explicitly rejects morality in favor of aesthetics: nothing implicit or "quasi-" about it. Also, Nietzsche has his own idea of the "common good," which is a Darwinian expectation that a superior man, the Übermensch, will evolve. If the "weak" then do not simply perish, it looks like the "herd" will have the fate of the beings to whom that term is commonly applied, i.e the bovine, domesticated animals -- i.e. slaves -- in the service of their evolutionary masters.

But before Foot can go too far down the line with those considerations, she is at pains to salvage something of Nietzsche from the wreckage:

Why then should we still have a feeling, as I think we do, that Nietzsche has a great deal in common with the moralist and that he is not simply arguing from an incompatible and irreconcilable point of view? I think that this is due to the fact that in much of his work he can be seen as arguing about the way in which men must live in order to live well. [ibid.]

This is absurd. The editorial "we" here is not really appropriate. The "herd," the "weak," are not going to "live well," and it is ridiculous to say that at this point in Foot's argument. It is the "strong" who are going to "live well," and in great measure they will do so by victimizing and exploiting the "weak," a feature of all of this that Foot has ignored.

The conclusion of this discussion must be that Nietzsche's 'revaluation of values' is a most complex matter, and there is no single answer to the question as to what he was attacking or as to what the basis might be for the attack. It is not, therefore, surprising that we should shy away from the attempt to say whether he was right. [p.93]

This is nonsense. Where Nietzsche is coming from is as clear as it is with Thrasymachus in the Republic. The "weak" are miserable and contemptible, "villains" in the original sense, and there is no point and no reason for morality or "rights" trying to protect them. They exist for use by their betters. Foot's "complex matter" is simply confusion and obfuscation. What Nietzsche is attacking is crystal clear in the anti-Semitic theory of "the slave revolt in morals"; and why he is attacking is his contempt fot the "weak," and for the Jews. If Foot is going to "shy away" from an outright condemnation of this, it impeaches her own moral sense. To some extent she has been seduced by Nietzsche. Perhaps Hannibal Lecter comes next.

If his attack on Christian morality and on other moralities is going to be worth anything he has got to be right about the effect of teaching pity and justice -- that it merely hides the resentment of the weak while it does injury to the strong. [p.93]

Foot has paid no real attention to "other moralities," just mentioning Aristotle in passing. And are "pity and justice" the kinds of things to thus lump together? Aren't they rather different? Theories of moral obligation, whether from Kant to Bentham, generally don't start with pity. That is specific to Nietzsche's animus with Christianity. And who really cares about the "resentment of the weak"? Won't anyone feel rsentment if they are being oppressed and exploited by the strong? So what? Even with the Jews, the Biblical explanation for Jewish defeats is the punishment of God for their faithlessness to the Law. No resentment there for their conquerors -- conquerors they were still fiercely resisting as late as the Bar Kochba revolt, long after Christian morality had been formulated.

And what kind of "injury" is done to the strong if they are prevented from oppressing, exploiting, and victimizing others? There is nothing where "Nietzsche undoubtedly was right" in all of this. There is no "healthy egoism" beyond my concern for my own rights, interests, and dignity -- just what Nietzsche's "strong" won't concede to others, unless the others are strong enough to fight back as equal Übermenschen. It is Nietzsche's disregard for those who can't fight back that is the root of evil in his whole philosophy. There is little of the "brilliant psychologist" in all of that.

Foot's final actual criticism of Nietsche is:

But one could not see Nietzsche as one who had a great knowledge of life and of the human heart. He describes convincingly what he knew thoroughly, as he knew the life of the lonely genius, the creative artist or thinker. [p.94]

Poor Nietzsche! But I don't see how that explains his obvious contempt for the mass of humanity, or his fantasies of predation and domination. Those are pathologies, beyond what necessarily afflicts the "lonely genius." Foot even identifies the pathology:

...what he says about the conditions for this [the "strong noble"] man's health seems to stem largely from his belief that the overriding and underlying principle of human behaviour is the will to power.

Well, yes. That is the fantasy of predation and domination. At least Foot finally says:

How could one see the present dangers that the world is in as showing that there is too much pity and too little egoism around? One wonders what Nietzsche himself, in some ways a most humane man, would have said if he were living now, and could see inhumanity on its present scale, and in its present blatant forms.

The wish for the "weak" to just "perish" doesn't sound like something from "a most humane man." And here we have Foot's wishful thinking, even blindness, that Nietzsche will wake up to the horrors he was actually advocating and that were realized all too fully in the 20th century -- just as Thomas Mann came to understand. Yet Nietzsche was writing after Dostoyevsky had aleady explored, before its time, the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nietzsche would prove to be the living Raskolnikov, mercifully without the actual practice of crime. Did Nietzsche then not have the courage of his convictions? Was he not a kind of coward? Unlike Leopold and Loeb. Or did he have, as Will Durant would say, the "soul of a girl"? Does Philippa Foot's complacent regard for him reflect, say, actual pity for his lonely and tragic life? That would be the ultimate irony: Nietzsche, who lapsed into pathetic insanity, the object of pity.

Almost twenty years later, Philippa Foot's next essay about Nietzsche, "Nietzsche's Immoralism," would not be all that different from the first one, although perhaps a little sharper on some issues; and Foot does seem to make a less ambiguous rejection of Nietzsche's "immoralism" than before. Nevertheless, we still get a kind of ebb and flow between praise for Nietzsche and criticism. There is still nothing about Nietzsche's racism, anti-Semitism, or, for that matter, his misogyny -- despite Foot's particular concern and awareness for women in philosophy. Instead of a focus on direct criticism of Christianity, as before, the principal concern is that "Nietzsche thought he could discredit morality; and I want to ask 'Was he right?'."

Foot also reflects:

Why do so many contemporary moral philosophers, particularly of the Anglo-American anaytic school, ignore Nietzsche's attack on morality and just go on as if this extraordinary event in the history of thought had never occurred? [no pagination for Review essay]

Foot's explanation seems to be that Nietzsche simply did not think or write like an analytic philosopher. We might say he wasn't speaking the same language. That's true, but I don't think it is anywhere near the proper explanation. The alternatives are, I think, that, on the one hand, the premises of Nietzsche's philosophy are simply assumed.

The Nihilism diagnosed by Nietzsche dominates much recent philosophy and academic and public culture. This has really gotten worse and what it means now is a little different than in Foot's time. Contemporary Nihilism shares in the incoherence of Moralistic Relativism, where, on the one hand, there is no truth, morality, or standards, and anything goes -- men become women just by saying so and then are protected by civil rights laws for women -- but, on the other hand, leftist political orthodoxy dictates attitudes about everything, with dissent vilified and silenced.

No honest or conscientious mind can maintain such beliefs together; but then Nietzsche comes to the rescue: Only power counts, and absolutely anything can be said, or done, however incoherent or absurd, that sustains the favored, i.e. Leftist, forms of power. This ideology may constitute the greatest threat, not just to honest philosophy, to American politics, or even to Western civilization, but to world civilization, since there is nothing like it in traditional China, India, or ʾIslām.

But the Chinese Communist Party, and even radical ʾIslām, know a good ally when they see one -- anything that will destroy the strength and power of the West and its traditions. The Chinese must have a good laugh over the folly, cluelessness, and gullibility of the Western 白左, báizuǒ, "white leftists," who are destroying their own nation and civilization. And it is what is taught in the schools.

The triumphant insanity of all this is actually a form of what Foot calls Nietzsche's "rejection of gloomy nihilism." There is nothing "gloomy" about intellectual and literal anarchistic rioting, at least to the rioters. But its tone and value to anyone else, even Nietzsche, remains questionable.

On the other hand, much of academic philosophy, and particularly what continues of analytic philosophy, which may ostensively deal with traditional philosophical issues, including those of ethics, does so in a way that seems to deliberately render itself irrelevant to anyone with a natural and honest interest in philosophy. As Karl Popper said, analytic and linguistic philosophy represents a "concentration upon minutiae (upon 'puzzles') and especially upon the meanings of words; in brief .... scholasticism." Allan Bloom's judgment was that, "Professors of these schools [i.e. positivism and ordinary language analysis] simply would not and could not talk about anything important, and they themselves do not represent a philosophic life for the students."

Unfortunately, I would include Philippa Foot in this tradition; for, while she and colleagues like Elizabeth Anscombe and Iris Murdoch broke with the know-nothing-ism of Logical Postivism, in order to talk about ethics at all, they tended to do so with conscious revivals of Aristotle and St. Thomas, i.e. a literal revival of Scholasticism, with far too much credit given to Wittgenstein, who had simply continued the Positivist project of discrediting philosophical discourse in ethics and metaphysics. Sometimes I wonder if they really understood what he was doing. The mismatch between Anscombe's Catholicism and Thomism with Wittgenstein is particularly jarring -- even as Anscombe literally sat at Wittgenstein's feet when he visited and gave a talk at Oxford. Iris Murdoch once characterized her thought as "Wittgensteinian Platonism," which can hardly be other than oxymoronic -- anything like either Platonic knowledge or metaphysics is exactly what Wittgenstein excludes from philosophy.

In turn, Philippa Foot's treatment of Nietzsche often seems to be a version of damning with faint praise. She does not conclude that "he was right" in his project to discredit morality, but then, apart from the desconstruction of his arguments, we may be left wondering what the value is of his work, especially when she has systematically ignored what he says about race, the Jews, and women. There is something either dishonest or perhaps self-deceived in all that, and we may begin to suspect a form of daemonic seduction, as I have previously wondered. Unlike Anscombe, Foot's atheism may find a mischevious delight in Nietzsche's alternatively playful and bitter "God is dead" discourse. the long reign of Christianity the desire of the weak and "misbegotten" to brand themselves as "good" and those stronger characters, whom they fear, as "evil"; in modern Europe the longing of the mediocre "to look nobler, more important, more respectable, 'divne'." Throughout all these changes morality was, Nietzsche insisted, fundamentally a subterfuge by the weak -- the members of the herd -- tried to dress up their weakness and their fears as "goodness," a device by which they produced self-doubt and a bad conscience in those who, as nobles, had once unquestionably called themselves good. The "nobles," the type of the original barbaric Greek and the Renaissance Man, had called "inferior" men bad (schlecht) only by contrast to themselves. The "inferiors" on the other hand needed to see dangerous men as "evil" (böse) so as to see themselves as good.

The striking thing about this passage is that we must clarify for ourselves who Nietzsche is actually talking about. Who are the "weak" and the "misbegotten" here? Well, initially it was the Jews; and so here we see Foot concealing Nietzsche's anti-Semitism -- although "misbegotten" would seem to extend well beyond that and to mean, what? What constitutes "misbegotten" here? That is never explained. Nietzsche himself complains about the enervating nature of a random "mixing of the races." Perhaps that is what is "misbegotten." Now we might wonder that it might actually produce what is called "hybrid vigor," but Nietzsche doesn't think that way.

Beyond that, we can get the drift that Nietzsche is talking about the European nobility, the aristocracy. These are contrasted with the "weak" and the "herd." The odd thing, however, is that European peasants were not going to be literate. They cannot literally have been the ones "to dress up their weakness and their fears as 'goodness'." If Christianity was responsible for that, then it can only have been literate theologians of the Church responsible, but then most of them were aristocrats themselves, and not generally inclined to exalt the mass of peasants above themselves. If anything in history was paternalistic, it would have been the Mediaeval Roman Catholic Church -- with a few exceptions, like, say, St. Francis of Assisi.

Since Nietzsche regarded the European aristocracy as descendants of Aryan invaders, and the "weak" and "misbegotten" peasantry, the schlecht, as the remnants of the "black haired" racial subjects, all of this ends up as part of Nietzsche's racism, with the odd twist that only these aristocrats were going to be educated enough to actually formulate the ideology of "weakness" that Nietzsche describes. Thus, the idea that the "weak" created Christianity out of their own malice doesn't work. Just as it really didn't work with the Jews, since the Jews were not properly conquered until after Christianity came fully into being. So Nietzsche's whole "slave revolt in morals" theory is his own mythology.

If anyone in Mediaeval Europe would have the kind of envy and resentment that Nietzsche talks about, maybe that would have been the younger brothers and sisters who, under primogeniture, were left without inheritance or doweries and so were directed into the Church. Perhaps their resentment produced the "slave revolt," but then they weren't actually slaves; and that is not Nietzsche's theory anyway.

So in the quoted paragraph, Philippa Foot has produced an evasive, superficial, and uncritical analysis, not realizing that what she says is actually ahistorical and incoherent. But, although this is a nice example of Nietzsche's division between the "weak" and the "strong," her focus here is actually on Nietzsche's "perspectivism," which is a nice way of saying a qualified relativism. The bottom line, however, is that "there are no moral facts." Reflecting on the "value of pity," which is a formal part of few, if any, systems of morality, including Christianity, Nietzsche thinks that one's "belief in morality, in all morality, falters." But protecting the "weak" from harm is not to pity them, it is to protect them. And if it means rescuing the Princess, some benefit may accrue.

A bit more strongly than in the previous essay, Foot characterizes the result as "a special kind of aestheticism." She does not distinguish, as few do, between aestheticism simpliciter, which is simply that aesthetic value is independent of moral value, and moral aestheticism, which is the replacement of morality with aesthetics. Nietzsche is in the camp of moral aestheticism.

What was to be seen as "good" was the "strong," "fine," "noble," "subtle" type of human being. This free and joyous spirit, subjecting himself to the sternest discipline but accepting no rule from others, was sometimes seen by Nietzsche as the "overmen," the superman of Nietzschean popular legend: that is as one who belongs to the future. But actual human beings might be seen as stepping stones or bridges on the way to this future. The important question to ask about any man was whether he represented an ascending or descending type. This was the profound classification, and determined the worth for the particular instance of those elements of character and action that moralists wrongly thought significant in themselves.

Of course, whether or not someone is a "joyous spirit" is irrelevant to any moral issues. But the minute such a person accepts "no rule from others" when it comes to action, this means they might, in principle, do anything. And that, indeed, is what we, and Nietzsche, expect from the Übermensch.

And here again we see Foot, after a fashion, downplaying or dismissing the Übermensch, which exists in "popular legend" -- as though Nietzsche, or his followers, had not meant it or discussed it seriously. Since super is Latin for "over" or "above," "superman" and "overman" are equivalent; and the only reason Nietzscheans don't like "superman" is that the name gets used for a comic book character, starting in 1938. But the form of the word was used long before the comic book, as we see in George Bernard Shaw's 1903 play, Man and Superman. But Foot's word games with "superman" and "overman" reflect a covert unease with the social Darwinism that underlies Nietzsche's own ideas and an intention to avoid admitting or discussing it.

But Foot must admit that Nietzsche thinks about the Übermensch, as did Shaw, as the next step in human evolution. Accepting "no rule from others" is the mark of the "ascending" type, who comes to dismiss "actual human beings" as weak, lowly, and contemptible, part of the "herd." That is where we cross the line from aestheticism to moral aestheticism -- as Foot herself says, "his shift from a moral to an aesthetic form of evaluation becomes clear" -- and the "joyous spirit" of the "ascending" being can contemplate, not just self-realization, but moral wrong and injustice -- i.e. the behavior of the irresponsible barbarians and aristocrats whom Nietzsche idealized.

Thus, Nietzsche saw the "common moral classifications as reflecting reality in a herdbased way that was deleterious to the exceptional man." But traditional moraltity, whether in Christendom, India, China, or Ancient Egypt was only "deleterious to the exception man" if the "exceptional man" wanted to oppress and exploit those who could not physically resist him. In this way, Nietzsche's aestheticism necessarily constitutes an assault on both morality and justice and a crime against the "weak." As I have said, it is a fantasy of predation -- in a man who did not have the makings for any of it. Nietzsche himself was among the "weak," and with just the kind of impotence that he identifies in "priestly people," like the Jews, actual priests, or, all so often, philosophers. Indeed, it often seems like a academic qualification.

There have been many attempts to see all this as an inspiring call to a kind of joyous paganism that would leave us with all that is best in morals. Can this be sustained? I think not, just because of Nietzsche's attack on the universalism in morality. He insists that there are no kinds of actions that are good or bad in themselves, and this has, it seems, a fatal implication for the teaching of justice. It is justice -- understood as one of the four cardinal virtues and as having to do with all that one person owes another -- that forbids such acts as murder, torture, and enslavement and brands them as evils, whoever carries them out. Nietzsche, on the other hand, says that there is nothing good or evil "the same for all," and he tells us we must look to see what kind of a person is doing an action before we can determine its "value."

Here Foot seems to be focused and on target. Evil can be allowed in Nietzsche's "ethics"; and this distinguishes Foot from Solomon's take on Nietzsche, which seems to be in the "joyous paganism" category.

A peculiarity of this paragraph is not Foot's invocation of justice, nor that Nietzsche allows violations of justice, but that Foot is preoccupied with justice as one of the "four cardinal virtues," whose status seems here to be irrelevant, and even a kind of "category" mistake.

Thus, we can say that a person is "just," and so possesses a virtue of justice, but this does not tell us why justice rules out "murder, torture, and enslavement." For that we need rules and principles of justice, which tell us about right and wrong, which are about kinds of actions, not kinds of virtues. We expect characteristic actions from the just person, but we need more to determine how those actions are right, in justice, or wrong, in injustice.

But we get this because of Foot's project of reviving Aristotelian or Thomist ethics. Aristotle did not provide rules for action, as would Kant or John Stuart Mill, but distinguished the structure of virtues only with his vague "golden mean" principle, which presupposes that we already know what the positive and negative extremes are of certain qualities, e.g. that "courage" is the mean between cowardice and rashness. This gives us little to go on, and really nothing to distinguish, say, between murder and justifiable homicide, as in self-defense, let alone further distinctions, as between murder and manslaugher. Actually, Roman law would take us much further in that direction than the Nicomachean Ethics would.

But we know why Aristotle wrote the way he did. You acquire virtues by imitation and by habit, which means that its forms are implicit, as is the grammar of a language as children are learning it. This allows for a great deal of vagueness, even while the "virtuous" one is expected to behave in characteristic ways. You will know it when you see it.

Nietzsche, in turn, might like vagueness; but a modern philosopher -- or, for that matter, Socrates -- is going want to pin him down. When Robert Solomon does that, the result is dishonest and absurd. When Philippa Foot does it, damning exposures come to light; and she must admit, perhaps relucantly, that "joyous paganism" is not going to be the result.

We have seen how Nietzsche's Superman would not be a libertine, but Foot argues that Nietzsche thinks that through "sublimation," sublimieren, "the 'drive' of cruelty could be turned into a desire for truth." On this page, however, I have featured several Nietzsche quotes about the place of cruelty in "higher" civilization, and the pleasure of inflicting suffering. For Foot's fix to work, there would need to be something in Nietzsche's ethics to prohibit cruelty; and there isn't.

But Foot continues trying to soften the blow. Nietzsche would have "welcomed such an accomodation," that "no one who truly embodied the Nietzschean ideal would ever find himself in such actions? Might the ideal of self-realization turn out in the end to be unshocking?" She tried to reinforce this by claiming that Cesare Borgia was "not a hero of his," and that Napoleon was "half superman half monster." Nietzsche's real hero was Goethe, who, while unhappy with legalizing Jewish intermarriage, otherwise had no real effect on public events.

However, we might wonder what version of Cesare Borgia we are talking about -- the one who Machiavelli says brought good government to Romagna, or the one rumored to have slept with his sister -- while we have already seen Nietzsche gushing over the wonderful example and inspiration of the advent of Napoleon. Is "half monster" really a rebuke in Nietzsche's universe? I don't think so.

Foot can't maintain an apologetic either:

Nevertheless there was a side of Nietzsche's deeply pathological psyche that seems to have gloried in the fact that his immoralism allowed, if done by certain people, even terrible deeds... He insists that he has set out on a journey over terrifying seas, and, from the time in the Eighties when he first started to attack morality, to the end of his working life, one can find passages that stress the fearfulness of his thought, and seem to license injustice.

So in the ebb and flow of the defense and critique of Nietzsche, Foot now seems to go beyond what she was willing to do in the 1973 essay. And I don't think she ever previously attributed to Nietzsche a "pathological psyche," which doesn't mean the insanity into which he finally fell -- although I often wonder if his fantasies of predation are already the Storm Petrels of his coming mental collapse.

Foot quotes Nietzsche:

Hatred, the mischievous delight in the misfortunes of others, the lust to rob and dominate, and whatever else is called evil belongs to the most amazing economy of the preservation of the species.

We have seen this kind of thing before, and Foot has more such quotes -- "when one makes men more evil, one makes them better." Nietzsche fully embraces the idea that "evil" is good for life as much as "good." And while Foot likes the idea that Hitler, a criminal far beyond Cesare Borgia or Napoleon, would not have been countenanced by Nietzsche, we might wonder how Nietzsche would argue that his evils were of a different, intolerable character, beyond the "evils" that he thinks actually are good for life. Indeed, in Nietzsche's aestheticism, the spectacle of the Third Reich is alive and well even in the aesthetic of hostile sources, like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [1989], where Steven Spielberg lovingly(!?) recreates the pageant of a Nazi Nuremburg rally.

Perhaps these passages are not absolutely decisive. Perhaps Nietzsche is talking about "drives" that might be "enhanced" and "strengthened" before being sublimated into harmless actions. But this does not seem at all plausible in the face of his insistence that his doctrine is a fearful one.

That might be a good point for Foot to bring up Nietzsche's racism, anti-Semitism, and misogyny; but she still ignores all that.

In any case I do not think it should be argued that the virtue of justice can be accommodated within Nietzsche's picture of splendid individuals finding each his own values and "his own way."

In the pantheon of the political demonology of the modern Left, Foot gives Nietzsche a pass on the supreme evil of racism, but she doesn't disguise the similar evil of "classism." Nietzsche exalts social class, which, of course, also goes back, when we trace it, to his racism, since classes are and have been determined by genetics and race. The "'higher type' of human being" arrogantly looks down on his "inferiors" who belong to the "herd"; and this is no different, of course, from the attitude of the Germanic invaders to their Roman subjects and of Mediaeval aristocrats, the successors of the invaders, to the peasants and serfs under them.

Nietzsche says at one point that contempt is better than hatred, and of course he thinks the idea of equality utterly despicable.

In the phenomenon of the modern popularity of Nietzsche, it is noticeable that the ruling class of academics, the cultural elite, the privileged Ivy League nepotism babies, the bureaucracy, and most career potiticians share what would be Nietzsche's contempt for most Americans, especially religious ones. The "working class," previously the heroes of the Democratic Party, was written off as politically hopeless by the Obama Administration, and now is all but ignored, except for politically allied union leadership, in Democrat politics.

"Blue collar" workers, especially white ones, and especially religious ones, know the contempt in which they are held. Republican political conventions usually are well populated with small business owners, while Democrat conventions are domination by the teachers unions -- which, having destroyed American education (betraying Black voters, especially Black parents, at every turn), now often object to the National Anthem or prayers being offered at the conventions. And when athletes, often millionaires, will not stand for the Anthem, or sing it, it is obvious where their true loyalties lie. It is not with America, or Americans.

Nietzsche's endless talk about inferiors and superiors, and the way he countenances some men looking down on others, together with his own readiness to sacrifice -- to write off -- the "mediocre," confirms the impression that justice gets short shrift in his scheme of things: that it is quite wrong to see his "aesthetic" as taking nothing we think precious from the morality he attacks.

Foot's extended discussion of Nietzsche's rejection of justice -- or, I might say, right and wrong -- drives home her willingness now to expose how bad Nietzsche's ethics is. But Foot continues by considering arguments in defense of Nietzsche, first that morality cannot be maintained with honesty: "For his contention is that morality is tainted by certain pious falsehoods that are necessary to it."

Nietzsche not only denies, as the first "pious falsehood," that there is free will, but is presented by Foot as denying that will exists at all -- only a "complex of sensations." This is an odd approach, since Nietzsche himself reduces human motivations to the Will to Power. How do we will power when there is no will? At a deeper level, Nietzsche neither proposes nor accepts any system of metaphysics, save what he seems to have inherited from Schopenhauer. And, as we know, the Will for Schopenhauer is the Kantian thing-in-itself. This is a perfect fit for Nietzsche's philosophy, which reduces to will. It does not even trouble Nietzsche that Schopenhauer's Will is the cause of suffering. That is just fine with Nietzsche, both for ourselves and, especially, for others.

So why would Nietzsche say anything so odd as that the will doesn't even exist? Of course, none of this needs to be consistent with the rest of Nietzsche's thought. Consistency would inhibit his style. But Foot quotes Nietzsche on what is probably the source of all this:

Man's complete lack of responsibility for his behavior and for his nature, is the bitterest drop which the man of knowledge must swallow if he had been in the habit of seeing responsibility and duty as humanity's claim to nobility... he may no longer paise, no longer blame, for it is nonsensical to praise and blame nature and necessity.

Of course, he blames the Jews for the "slave revolt in morals," but then, after a fashion, praises them too, since their malice "spiritualizes." We may get the drift that, while the Jews destroyed the old aristocratic values, when the values get transformed and restored again, their form and presence will be deeper, in a kind of Hegelian dialectic, after having been revived from the experience of Jewish vengeance.

But none of this makes much sense unless Nietzsche can recommend that actions be taken to revive aristocratic values. Yet, at the same time, it would enable us to say that Napoleon and, to be sure, even Hilter cannot be blamed for any so-called "crimes" that they may have committed. We have already seen that crime is just as good for life as anything called "good"; but now we get to add that they acted out of "nature and necessity" and so really didn't have any choice in the matter.

So this adds up to Nietzsche not really being able to exhort us to implement his program, but then we also don't need to worry about whether we've done it the right way or the wrong way, since we can't be praised or blamed for whatever we do.

Foot does dismiss most of this as not making a lot of sense, so I doubt we need to linger over it. But Foot also wants to use the concept of a "virtue" to encompass some kind of moral responsibility, despite that apparently being off the map for Nietzsche's thought. Foot's preoccupation with virtue is her own preference, but it seems like a reach to try and use it to retrieve Nietzsche's fortunes here. "Nietzsche's challenge to the possibility of distinctively moral evaluation may actually help us to see what it does and does not require." Indeed, thinking about something so wrong but so appealing to some, as Nietzsche's philosophy is, may help us clarify some matters, but it is not going to rescue a system that really justifies injustice and moral wrong. As I have noted, Foot's ideas about virtue don't get us very far in moral evaluation.

Foot moves on to Nietzsche's rejection of "good" and "bad," which we have seen already. First, we get the idea that "good" and "bad" do not refer to deeds, which can be judged by rules, but to persons, i.e. the "good" are the aristocrats, or the Übermensch, while the "bad" are the weak and miserable masses of the "herd." This is familiar territory.

Next, Foot considers that moral intentions are discredited by the deceptive and selfish motives of the agents. People are kind only to gain the good opinion of others. Of course, this diagnosis goes back to Jesus Christ, who has a fair amount to say about hypocrisy. So there is nothing original about Nietzsche's diagnosis, except that he wants to use the moral failures of some to discredit, not only everyone, but the very idea of good and bad.

Where moralists find altruism Nietzsche sees various kinds of egoism, self-mistrust, and fear...

Nietzsche said that Jesus was the last real Christian; but all this tells us is that Nietzsche moved in a fairly restricted social circle. Indeed, it is not clear that Nietzsche ended up in any social circle whatsoever and never met any sincere persons.

Nietzsche was a genius at finding hidden motivations, and it is not surprising that Freud found him so much of a kindred spirit and he deliberately avoided reading Nietzsche until his own work was well advanced.

Of course, if we stipulate that Nietzsche was right, and that people are only "good" out of covert self-interest, the Christian would say that this simply repeats a fundamental tenet of Christianity: We are all sinners. Because of that, and our helplessness in sin, this is why our only salvation is to believe and trust in Christ.

Obviously, that was not an avenue agreeable or open to Friedrich Nietzsche. Yet it does mean that the great psychological insight that Foot attributes to Nietzsche was not original at all but is actually fundamental to the Christian religion. Familiar with Aquinas, Foot sometimes verges on this recognition, despite her own atheism. Freud would not have been any different, and Foot overlooks that Freud was not going to be an advocate of "joyous paganism." Instead, Freud ended up with a pessimism that has justly been compared to Schopenhauer, and certainly not to Nietzsche.

Nevertheless, Foot thinks that "Nietzsche seems to be on strong ground in his psychology, even if mistaken about the import of his psychologial observations." This, of course, gives Nietzsche too much credit, as we have seen before; but that is the weakness of Foot's treatment, on top of ignoring the racism, etc., that is essential to Nietzsche's philosophy.

Foot's final examination of Nietzsche concerns the sort of "evil is good" stuff that we have seen already. Thus, Foot quotes Nietzsche as saying that we:

should regard even the affects of hatred, envy, convetousness, and the lust to rule as conditions of life, as factors which, fundamentally and essentially, must be present in the general economy of life (and must therefore be further enhanced if life is to be further enhanced).

This is old hat at this point, and Foot doesn't devote much attention to it, summarazing:

...but the truth is that he was partly a wonderful psychologist and partly a mere speculating philosopher far exceeding any plausible basis for his speculations.

Here we see that Foot is not an apologist for Nietzsche, which is good, but also where she goes too far with him, giving him too much credit as a "wonderful psychologist," which he was not. This reminds us again of the weaknesses of Foot's treatment.

Foot's conclusion to the essay is to ask, "Is there no part of Nietzsche's attack on morality, then, convincing?" To which she answers, "Probably not." But the "probably" there reminds us, again, of the weaknesses of her treatment.

As an atheist, I suspect she is stung by Nietzsche's use of his "God is dead" principle. Nietzsche rebukes atheists for still believing in morality. But Foot might note that morality would exist for Plato, because of the Forms, even if there were no God. The same could be said about Hinduism, where the Vedas are eternal and found the dharma, regardless of the nature or behavior of most Hindu gods. Rather than notice things like that in the history of philosophy, Foot tries invoking Wittgenstein, which only reminds us that Foot doesn't seem to understand that Wittgenstein represents a Nihilism not unlike that of Friedrich Nietzsche. can well believe that analytic philosophers must lose something if they do not study a philosopher as surpassingly bold and original as Nietzsche, if only because of his capacity to stretch our philosophical imagination.

This is misconceived. Foot herself refers to her own work, flawed as it is, in addressing Nietzsche. Indeed, she is worried that her work "leaves behind all the riches of Nietzsche's psychological insights and images":

So one feels rather like a surveyor reducing a glorious countryside to contours, or like someone telling the Sirens they are singing out of tune. But that is not to say that this rather dry philosophical work can be left undone, especially if, as I think, Nietzschean teaching is inimical to justice. His teaching has been sadly seductive in the past. Who can promise that it will never be seductive again?

The problem is that the seduction has continued and continues to get worse, not the least with Philippa Foot herself, whose obvious fascination with Nietzsche, and whose excuses and oversights with his thought are painful and that testify to the seduction that she has experienced herself, with a failure of her own "psychological insight" to recognize it in herself. In the end, Nietzsche must be studied mainly because of the threat, folly, and popularity that it represents -- as with apologists like Robert Solomon. Philippa Foot is some help in that regard, but with grave flaws.

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 5

Die Römer waren ja die Starken und Vornehmen,
wie sie stärker und vornehmer bisher auf Erden nie dagewesen,
selbst niemals geträumt worden sind.

The Romans were indeed the strong and noble,
just as those stronger and nobler hitherto on earth never existed,
never even would have been dreamt.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Zur Genealogie der Moral
[1887, Philipp Reclam Verlag, Stuttgart, 1988, p.42]

A case where I think Francis Golffing is too careless with the translation, though perhaps not to the point of misrepresentation, is with this passage. Obviously Golffing has left out a lot that Ansell-Pearson does translate. I would like to know what Golffing thought he was doing, even to the point of gratuitously leaving out "Roman values" as the equivalent of "aristocratic values." It does soften the impression we would get of Nietzsche. I am particularly interested in the statement Golffing translates as, "The Romans were the strongest and most noble people who ever lived" [p.186]. In German this is Die Römer waren ja die Starken und Vornehmen, wie sie stärker und vornehmer bisher auf Erden nie dagewesen, selbst niemals geträumt worden sind. Golffing has reduced 23 words to 12 and vastly reduced the construction and the meaning.

Ansell-Pearson translates the statement as, "So the Romans were the strong and noble, stronger and nobler than anybody hitherto who had lived or been dreamt of on earth." This, with exactly 23 words, also takes liberties with the construction and the meaning, since there really isn't a "than anybody" or "who" in German, and it otherwise has two words (nie and niemals) that mean "never," which don't get translated. Ansell-Pearson has made "Romans" the subject of the whole sentence, while in Nietzsche there are two subjects, the Romans first of all but then second the ones, who don't exist, who would have been stronger or nobler -- though in Ansell-Pearson we get the subject "anybody" in their own subordinate "who" clause.

It looks to me like the most literal translation would be:  "The Romans were indeed the strong and noble, just as those stronger and nobler hitherto on earth never existed, never even would have been dreamt" (25 words). This preserves Nietzsche's own phrase and grammatical structure.
A prince who is not wise himself cannot be wisely counseled...
che uno principe il quale non sia savio per sé stesso, non può essere consigliato bene...
Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, Daniel Donno translation, Bantam, 1981, p. 82; Italian text, Il Principe, Nuova edizione a cura di Giorgio Inglese, Giulio Einaudi editore s.p.a., Torino, 2013 e 2014, p. 171
Note that where the translation says "wisely counseled," the Italian only says "well counseled," consigliato bene. The translation is the more striking statement; but it is not what Machiavelli says.
It may be a little awkward, as can happen with literal translations; but we get a lot more of the flavor of the original. The most forceful statement is Golffing's, but there is no good reason for a translator to improve on the rhetoric of the text by sacrificing most of what it says. Ansell-Pearson has also improved the rhetoric, though less so. This is a grave temptation in
translation, and sometimes is irresitible (see the Machiavelli example at right), but it does mean that the translator "knows better" than the author. That can be true, but it works to conceal an honest representation of the author, which with Nietzsche may involve concealing or softening his most objectionable views.

Otherwise, why Nietzsche's condemnation of the Jews, by way of the Romans, is attenuated, is another question. We also might note that Golffing has substituted "Israel" for the "Jew," perhaps even as Robert Solomon says "Hebrews" and never says "Jews" even once in his lectures. This seems to go with the sense that calling someone a "Jew" is itself a kind of insult -- which Ben Stein discovered through his MS Word program. But this strange construction would not be inappropriate for the way Nietzsche himself uses Jude.

There are a number of cases, like this, where Golffing has left out words, or more. This may not misrepresent Nietzsche any more than Ansell-Pearson's choices do (which means some with both), but it does not strike me as good or "best" translation practices. Nietzsche's statement about the Romans loses much of its power and effect when it is cut down as Golffing does. The Romans were not just the strong and noble, not just stronger and nobler than any others, but even stronger and nobler than anyone we could even imagine or dream of. That is pushing them very high indeed.

Rome and Romania

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 6

Exhibit "A" for the case that Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite, and what the correspondent above apparently relies upon, may be a passage in Beyond Good and Evil. There he says "I have never yet met a German who liked Jews" [translated by Marianne Cowan, Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.185], which he attributes to the German character being "so weak and vague that it could easily be smudged out, even altogether wiped out, by a stronger race" [p.186]. Thus, he says, anti-Semitism goes along with "anti-French stupidity," or being "anti-Polish," or "by the Christian-Romantic disturbance," etc. [p.185]. This all apparently relfects a judgment that Germans have not found the proper "triumphant self-affirmation" that Nietzsche requires of his heroes. The Jews as a "stronger race," however, strikes a curious note. Indeed, Nietzsche says,

Die Juden sind aber ohne allen Zweifel die stärkste, zäheste und reinste Rasse, die jetzt in Europa lebt.

The Jews are beyond all doubt the strongest, toughest and purest race who now live in Europe. [immediately following the quote on p.186; Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.171].

If Nietzsche means this to be praise of the Jews, it takes a particularly ugly form. His racism shines through (although, oddly, we find Benjamin Disraeli saying similar things, in the spirit of the age). In fact the Jews are neither "pure" nor a "race" except in the fevered and poisonous calculations of the race theorist. This is a false step to take if Nietzsche is to build a case against anti-Semitism. Worse is to follow:

That the Jews could right now have the ascendency, in fact literally the supremacy, over Europe if they wanted it, or if they were forced to take it as the anti-Semites seem to be after, is certain. [p.187]

Nietzsche apparently is thinking that the hostility of the anti-Semites might force the Jews into taking over Europe. However, today it would be hard to imagine that anyone but an anti-Semite would imagine that the Jews were ever in a postion to have either ascendency or supremacy in Europe. This is a fantasy of their power and organization in the same league as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It is as damning of Nietzsche as any of the overtly hostile language of the Genealogy of Morals.

What is going on in all this is revealed by the passage that follows. Nietzsche acknowledges that in general the Jews wish for assimilation, although this "is perhaps in itself a withdrawing of the Jewish instincts" [p.187]. He suggests accommodating their desire:

The Jews should be met half way, with caution, with selectivity, approximately as the British aristocracy has done it. It is obvious that the stronger and more stable types among the modern Germans could do this with the least precariousness -- for example the officers of the Prussian landed gentry. It would be interesting from many points of view to see whether the hereditary art of command and obedience (for which the region in question is classical) could to be added to and interbred with the genius for finance and patience (and above all some intellectuality -- for utter lack of which this same region is notorious). [p.187]

Again, if we look for the distinguishing gulf between Nietzsche and the anti-Semites, a place where he is talking about interbreeding to combine certain virtues might not be the best venue. Indeed, the whole section ends with him saying, "the European problem as I understand it:  the breeding of a new caste which is to rule Europe" [p.188; an das »europäische Problem«, wie ich es verstehe, an die Züchtung einer neuen über Europa regierenden Kaste -- op cit., p.173]. Whether the Jews can or should be recruited into such a confused, appalling, and disgraceful goal depends on Nietzsche's ultimate assessment of their racial status; and in that matter Nietzsche appears to be of two minds. In this section of Beyond Good and Evil, the Jews are presented as strong and rather admirable, worthy enemies at least and perhaps even worthy allies at best. However, we know from elsewhere in that book, as examined above, and in the many passages cited from the Genealogy, that Nietzsche expects nothing good from a mixing of races, especially a mixing with the dark, subject races that come in for so much attention in the Genealogy.

So the ultimate question Nietzsche must ask himself is just who, or what, the Jews really are. Are they the worthy peers of the Prussian gentry, from whom a careful and selective interbreeding intelligence and facility with money (!) can be added to the Prussian genetic mix? Or are they one of the hopelessly weak and defeated dark races, consumed with vengeance and hatred, with whom intermarriage would produce the "blood poisoning," the sickliness and degneration that Nietzsche discerns in race (or class) mixing? In Beyond Good and Evil, to be sure, we do not get the Jews linked to his reflections on the harm of race mixing. In the Genealogy, however, that divide is crossed on a broad front. Although Jewish malice is indeed intelligent and "sublime," the place of the Jews as a "monstrosity" and as "haters" among the "black-haired" races is made perfectly clear.

Nietzsche is not a very systematic thinker or writer. Beyond Good and Evil itself is a collection of longer and shorter essays, sketches, and aphorisms where Nietzsche plays, teases, and hints, with explicit statements peeking out here and there. Some of his systematic ideas, like the metaphysics of the Eternal Recurrence (in Thus Spoke Zarathustra), hardly look like something to really be taken, or meant to be taken, seriously. The essay on "good and bad" in the Genealogy, however, is much more focused, as is the blast of accusations directed against the Jews. No intermarriage with Prussians suggested there. It has the look of Nietzsche having clarified his mind (or perhaps having lost his judgment with his approaching insanity). The only anti-Semites mentioned in the whole book are the Christians who have failed to realize that Christianity is Judaism's ultimate "stealth" weapon. The impression therefore is that the Nietzsche of Beyond Good and Evil can still view the Jews with some complacency, despite the distortions already inherent in his picture of them. In the Genealogy a pure animus has taken over. Nietzsche still might not have countenanced genocide, but the domination of his "new caste which is to rule Europe" would at the very least establish its tyranny and oppression over the Jews as over the other subject races and classes. Thus, whether Nietzsche can be called anti-Semitic (which alone might be settled by his characterization of the Jews as consumed by hatred), is something that really fades in terms of the considerations that he himself employs in contemplating the Jews. His consistent racism, his notion that virtues are going to be bred, and his ultimate goal of a "new caste" to rule Europe should convince anyone, and particularly any Jew, that we should have nothing to do with him. And there is no doubt that these very ideas fed directly into Nazi racial and political ideology.

The project of intermarrying Jews and Prussians and of breeding a new ruling caste is alluded to in a curious way by Yvonne Sherratt in Hitler's Philosophers [Yale, 2013, pp.229-263]:

Meanwhile, Elisabeth Nietzsche developed and maintained archives of her brother's work. She did this in the Villa Silberblick in Weimar, highlighting from among Nietzsche's known works the scribbled, dusty papers which were obscure and hidden under books and other published materials. Although these were mere casual jottings, Elisabeth selected, arranged and published them herself. They were deeply incriminating. They included Nietzsche's discussion on the possibilities of selective breeding and of educating a ruling caste, 'the masters of the earth,' 'tyrants who can work as artists on "man" himself'. [p.50]

Although the use of a word like "incriminating" makes this passage sound like an exposure of the worst of Nietzsche, the effect of this passage is actually softened when we realize that, in fact, the business about "selective breeding" and the "ruling caste" is already openly discussed in Beyond Good and Evil and does not merely occur in casual jottings that have been edited and redacted by Elisabeth Nietzsche. If it was only her doing, we could easily suspect that some distortion is involved, with the proper context, focus, or seriousness missing. So we might almost suspect an apologetic purpose in Sherrat's treatment.

I think the suspicion approaches a certainty when we move to the next page:

Elisabeth's Nietzsche seemed to supply most of the needs of the Third Reich -- there was a zeal for war, a dash of anti-Semitism, the 'Superman' and nationalism. However, like the German philosophers before him Nietzsche had merely displayed elements of militarism or anti-Semitism, dark strands fouling an otherwise great and magnificient project. [p.51]

Here the apologetic seems out in the open. Unlike the sometimes harsh remarks that Sherratt makes about anti-Semitism in Kant or Frege, we now learn that Nietzsche's "project" is "otherwise great and magnificient." But we are not exactly told why. Somehow, I doubt that the elmination of care for the weak, or notions such as the eagle only has "love" for the young lamb it is eating, are things that Yvonne Sherratt would endorse if starkly confronted with them. And, of course, since we know about the selective breeding and the ruling caste from Beyond Good and Evil, we cannot blame Elisabeth Nietzsche for promoting or concocting these "dark strands" of violence and evil.

We find a similar sort of misdirected apology in Dark Riddle: Hegel, Nietzsche, and the Jews, by Yirmiyahu Yovel [Pennsylvania State University, 1998]. Towards the end of the book, there is a section on "Nietzsche and his abusers," which begins, "Why has Nietzsche been abused more than any other philosopher?" [p.181]. What is that supposed to mean? Do philosophers commonly get critiques with "abuse" by other philosophers? Or is this a way of saying that there are no substantive criticisms of Nietzsche, only "abuse"? There is some of that, but, really, that is not really the issue with Nietzsche, where there are plenty of substantive problems. The reasons listed by Yovel for him then being "abused" are almost entirely irrelevant. Nietzsche's aphoristic style or carelessness with logic may be matters of critique in their own right, especially if they conceal his meaning; but they are actually rather entertaining, after the dull slog of a lot of philosophy, and it is a little strange to see them cited as matters of "abuse." But Yovel (like Sherratt) ignores the essential problem with Nietzsche, which is a theory of morality that eliminates essential features of morality, such as the principle, known even to Robocop, to "protect the innocent." As we know, the innocent are fodder for the predator, and this is good.

Oh, I see. Yovel says, "There is always some narrow path which Nietzsche traces within the cruder ordinary distinctions [like right and wrong?], a path which cannot always be defined conceptually but requires, he says, a certain personality to locate and identify" [p.182]. That's it. I don't have the right personality, and these things "cannot always be defined conceptually." That explains it. Nietzsche is careless with logic because he doesn't need to be coherent. On the other hand, this is the ultimate refuge of dishonesty, and it is a preposterous thesis. Nietzsche just can't say what he means. That, of course, is better than understanding the appalling nature of what Nietzsche clearly does mean and that people like Sherratt and Yovel perhaps don't want to acknowledge. What are they afraid of? That if they criticize Nietzsche their colleagues will think they are Republicans, or Christians, or something? It is not "cool" to affirm that the morality of good and evil exists? But why writers like this must make excuses for Nietzsche, I don't know.

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