Name: Fredrich Nietzsche
Translator: Walter Kaufmann
Title: Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future
Pub. Date: 1989
1) Synopsis: A historical critique which refutes that there is no single truth or authority of traditional power; there are only interpretations. There is no definitive version of truth in philosophy, religion, language, or science. Thus the Socratic quest for some way was/is futile.
2) Thesis: The "will to power" is the most basic instinct that an individual maintains. It is that will which incites one’s desire for self-preservation and allows superiority over weaker individuals. Ultimately the claim for "truth" is masked by the history of the life of the person proposing that particular "truth". It is the will to abound in self definition and seek out truth within the moment, one which is always evolving.
3) Key Words
1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Will to Power, Existentialism, Perspectivism, Zarathustra, Self-realization, Sublimation, Nihilism
1. Existentialism - the desire to make rational decisions despite the existence of an irrational universe. The human desires for logic and immortality are futile, therefore humans are forced to individually define meaning.
2. Response to:
(a) Socrates – Search for truth; all men are equal in their search for living a moral and humble life.
(b) Kant - Empiricism and rationalism; knowledge is transmitted through the organization of space, time, and sensation. The search for absolute truth.
(c) Schopenhauer - Idealism; reality is a representation of the will and self-preservation.
(d) Hegel - German Idealism; recognition of consciousnesses through the recognition of mutual and distinct patterns.
5) Context: Beyond Good and Evil is Nietzsche’s attempt to summarize his philosophy of life. Nietzsche’s voice is very straightforward and often sarcastic, which can make this text at times confusing. One is often turned into thinking that Nietzsche is contradicting himself when really he is portraying a caustic view of another. The texts and its subdivisions are reliant upon each preceding section, therefore a careful read and a return to previous sections is helpful so as not to get lost in the underlying current of the moment that Nietzsche is attempting to capture. Throughout the text Nietzsche attacks Western morality and the interpretations of outward appearances. Vowing instead that humanity’s sensibility lies within its “will to power.” That is the shifting power that allows individuals to define everything for themselves. One truly fails to live if own does not take that risk or attempt to seize that recurring moment. Humans should cultivate the strong of will, becoming better and going beyond what it is at present. The only boundaries are those made by the past through enslavement to prescribed morality. The new philosopher is free from these bindings and seeks out its own truths.
The text is broken down into 9 core sections:
1. On the Prejudices of Philosophers – “…every great philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir.” (p.13)
2. The Free Spirit - “Independence”: free spirit “is for the very few; it is a privilege of the strong.” It is “daring to the point of recklessness.” (p.41)
3. What is Religious - “The philosopher as we understand him, we free spirits—as the man of the most comprehensive responsibility who has the conscience for the over-all development of man—this philosopher will make use of religions for his project of cultivation and education, just as he will make use of whatever political and economic states are at hand.” (p.72)
4. Epigrams and Interludes – “The sage as astronomer.—As long as you still experience the stars as something “above you” you lack the eye of knowledge.” (p.81)
5. Natural History of Morals – Every morality is against nature since “one is accustomed to lying.” “…one is much more of an artist than one knows.” (p.105)
6. We scholars – “The objective man is an instrument… a mirror …that awaits content and substance in order to take ‘shape’.” (p.128)
7. Our Virtues – “As men of historical sense…we modern men, like semi-barbarism—and reach our bliss only where we are most—in danger.” (p. 153) “Our honesty, we free spirits—let us see to it that it does not become our vanity.” (p.156) (Side note: Some disparaging comments on the role and function of women; she is not “retrogressing”.)
8. Peoples and Fatherlands – “Perhaps Wagner’s strangest creation is inaccessible, inimitable, and beyond the feelings of the whole, so mature, Latin race, not only today but forever.”(p.198)
9. What is Noble – “The noble human being honors himself as one who is powerful, also as one who has power over himself.”(p.205) Self-preservation, Self enhancement, self-redemption. The Dionysian philosopher, who longs to reduplicate himself “trying to immortalize what cannot live and fly much longer—only weary and mellow things.”(p.237)
1. The role of the philosopher
2. Christian and Enlightenment social and moral systems
3. Religion and the “Death of God”
4. Socratic philosophy
5. Perspectivism and a look at meaning of truth
7) Other Works:
1. The Birth of Tragedy, Essay: 1872, (English, 1968)
2. Human, All Too Human, Essay: 1878
3. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Essays: 1883-1892, (English, 1961)
4. Beyond Good and Evil, Essay: 1886
5. On the Genealogy of Morals, Essay: 1887
6. Ecce Homo, Essay: 1888
7. Twilight of the Idols, Essay: 1889
8. The Anti-Christ, Essay: 1895
9. The Will to Power, Essay: 1901, (English, 1967)