The advantages of psychological observation. That meditating on things
human, all too human (or, as the learned phrase goes, "psychological observation")
is one of the means by which man can ease life's burden; that by exercising
this art, one can secure presence of mind in difficult situations and entertainment
amid boring surroundings; indeed, that from the thorniest and unhappiest phases
of one's own life one can pluck maxims and feel a bit better thereby: this was
believed, known--in earlier centuries. Why has it been forgotten in this
century, when many signs point, in Germany at least, if not throughout Europe,
to the dearth of psychological observation? Not particularly in novels, short
stories, and philosophical meditations, for these are the work of exceptional
men; but more in the judging of public events and personalities; most of all
we lack the art of psychological dissection and calculation in all classes of
society, where one hears a lot of talk about men, but none at all about man.
Why do people let the richest and most harmless source of entertainment get
away from them? Why do they not even read the great masters of the psychological
maxim any more? For it is no exaggeration to say that it is hard to find the
cultured European who has read La Rochefoucauld1 and his spiritual
and artistic cousins. Even more uncommon is the man who knows them and does
not despise them. But even this unusual reader will probably find much less
delight in those artists than their form ought to give him; for not even the
finest mind is capable of adequate appreciation of the art of the polished maxim
if he has not been educated to it, has not been challenged by it himself. Without
such practical learning one takes this form of creating and forming to be easier
than it is; one is not acute enough in discerning what is successful and attractive.
For that reason present-day readers of maxims take a relatively insignificant
delight in them, scarcely a mouthful of pleasure; they react like typical viewers
of cameos, praising them because they cannot love them, and quick to admire
but even quicker to run away.
Objection. Or might there be a counterargument to the thesis that psychological
observation is one of life's best stimulants, remedies, and palliatives? Might
one be so persuaded of the unpleasant consequences of this art as to intentionally
divert the student's gaze from it? Indeed, a certain blind faith in the goodness
of human nature, an inculcated aversion to dissecting human behavior, a kind
of shame with respect to the naked soul, may really be more desirable for a
man's overall happiness than the trait of psychological sharpsightedness, which
is helpful in isolated instances. And perhaps the belief in goodness, in virtuous
men and actions, in an abundance of impersonal goodwill in the world has made
men better, in that it has made them less distrustful. If one imitates Plutarch's
2 heroes with enthusiasm and feels an aversion toward tracing skeptically
the motives for their actions, then the welfare of human society has benefited
(even if the truth of human society has not). Psychological error, and dullness
in this area generally, help humanity forward; but knowledge of the truth might
gain more from the stimulating power of an hypothesis like the one La Rochefoucauld
places at the beginning of the first edition of his Sentences et maximes
morales: "Ce que le monde nomme vertu n'est d'ordinaire qu'un fantôme
formé par nos passions, a qui on donne un nom honnête pour faire impunément
ce qu'on veut." 3 La Rochefoucauld and those other French masters
of soul searching (whose company a German, the author of Psychological Observations,
has recently joined)4 are like accurately aimed arrows, which hit
the mark again 'and again, the black mark of man's nature. Their skill inspires
amazement, but the spectator who is guided not by the scientific spirit, but
by the humane spirit, will eventually curse an art which seems to implant in
the souls of men a predilection for belittling and doubt.
Nevertheless. However the argument and counterargument stand, the present
condition of one certain, single science has made necessary the awakening of
moral observation, and mankind cannot be spared the horrible sight of the psychological
operating table, with its knives and forceps. For now that science rules which
asks after the origin and history of moral feelings and which tries as it progresses
to pose and solve the complicated sociological problems; the old philosophy
doesn't even acknowledge such problems and has always used meager excuses to
avoid investigating the origin and history of moral feelings. We can survey
the consequences very clearly, many examples having proven how the errors of
the greatest philosophers usually start from a false explanation of certain
human actions and feelings, how an erroneous analysis of so‑called selfless
behavior, for example, can be the basis for false ethics, for whose sake religion
and mythological confusion are then drawn in, and finally how the shadows of
these sad spirits also fall upon physics and the entire contemplation of the
world. But if it is a fact that the superficiality of psychological observation
has laid the most dangerous traps for human judgment and conclusions, and continues
to lay them anew, then what we need now is a persistence in work that does not
tire of piling stone upon stone, pebble upon pebble; we need a sober courage
to do such humble work without shame and to defy any who disdain it. It is true
that countless individual remarks about things human and all too human were
first detected and stated in those social circles which would make every sort
of sacrifice not for scientific knowledge, but for a witty coquetry. And because
the scent of that old homeland (a very seductive scent) has attached itself
almost inextricably to the whole genre of the moral maxim, the scientific man
instinctively shows some suspicion towards this genre and its seriousness. But
it suffices to point to the outcome: already it is becoming clear that the most
serious results grow up from the ground of psychological observation. Which
principle did one of the keenest and coolest thinkers, the author of the book
On the Origin of Moral Feelings, arrive at through his incisive and piercing
analysis of human actions? "The moral man," he says, "stands
no nearer to the intelligible (metaphysical) world than does the physical man."5
Perhaps at some point in the future this principle, grown hard and sharp by
the hammerblow of historical knowledge, can serve as the axe laid to the root
of men's "metaphysical need"6 (whether more as a
blessing than as a curse for the general welfare, who can say?). In any event,
it is a tenet with the most weighty consequences, fruitful and frightful at
the same time, and seeing into the world with that double vision which all great
How beneficial. Let us table the question, then, of whether psychological observation brings more advantage or harm upon men. What is certain is that it is necessary, for science cannot do without it. Science, however, takes as little consideration of final purposes as does nature; just as nature sometimes brings about the most useful things without having wanted to, so too true science, which is the imitation of nature in concepts, will sometimes, nay often, further man's benefit and welfare and achieve what is useful--but likewise without having wanted to. Whoever feels too wintry in the breeze of this kind of observation has perhaps too little fire in him. Let him look around meanwhile, and he will perceive diseases which require cold poultices, and men who are so "moulded" out of glowing spirit that they have great trouble in finding an atmosphere cold and biting enough for them anywhere. Moreover, as all overly earnest individuals and peoples have a need for frivolity; as others, who are overly excitable and unstable, occasionally need heavy, oppressive burdens for their health's sake; so should not we--the more intellectual men in an age that is visibly being set aflame more and more--reach for all quenching and cooling means available to remain at least as steady, harmless, and moderate as we now are and thus render service to this age at some future time as a mirror and self‑reflection of itself?
The fable of intelligible freedom.7 The history of those
feelings, by virtue of which we consider a person responsible, the so‑called
moral feelings, is divided into the following main phases. At first we call
particular acts good or evil without any consideration of their motives, but
simply on the basis of their beneficial or harmful consequences. Soon, however,
we forget the origin of these terms and imagine that the quality "good"
or "evil" is inherent in the actions themselves, without consideration
of their consequences; this is the same error language makes when calling the
stone itself hard, the tree itself green--that is, we take the effect to
be the cause. Then we assign the goodness or evil to the motives, and regard
the acts themselves as morally ambiguous. We go even further and cease to give
to the particular motive the predicate good or evil, but give it rather to the
whole nature of a man; the motive grows out of him as a plant grows out of the
earth. So we make man responsible in turn for the effects of his actions, then
for his actions, then for his motives and finally for his nature. Ultimately
we discover that his nature cannot be responsible either, in that it is itself
an inevitable consequence, an outgrowth of the elements and influences of past
and present things; that is, man cannot be made responsible for anything, neither
for his nature, nor his motives, nor his actions, nor the effects of his actions.
And thus we come to understand that the history of moral feelings is the history
of an error, an error called "responsibility," which in turn rests
on an error called "freedom of the will."
Schopenhauer, on the other hand, concluded as follows: because certain actions produce displeasure ("sense of guilt"), a responsibility must exist. For there would be no reason for this displeasure if not only all human actions occurred out of necessity (as they actually do, according to this philosopher's insight), but if man himself also acquired his entire nature out of the same necessity (which Schopenhauer denies). From the fact of man's displeasure, Schopenhauer thinks he can prove that man somehow must have had a freedom, a freedom which did not determine his actions but rather determined his nature: freedom, that is, to be this way or the other, not to act this way or the other. According to Schopenhauer, "operari" (doing), the sphere of strict causality, necessity, and lack of responsibility, follows from esse (being) the sphere of freedom and responsibility. The displeasure man feels seems to refer to "operari" (to this extent it is erroneous), but in truth it refers to esse, which is the act of a free will, the primary cause of an individual's existence. Man becomes that which he wants to be; his volition precedes his existence.8
In this case, we are concluding falsely that we can deduce the justification, the rational admissibility of this displeasure, from the fact that it exists; and from this false deduction Schopenhauer arrives at his fantastic conclusion of so-called intelligible freedom. But displeasure after the deed need not be rational at all: in fact, it certainly is not rational, for its rests on the erroneous assumption that the deed did not have to follow necessarily. Thus, because he thinks he is free (but not because he is free), man feels remorse and the pangs of conscience.
Furthermore, this displeasure is a habit that can be given up; many men do not feel it at all, even after the same actions that cause many other men to feel it. Tied to the development of custom and culture, it is a very changeable thing, and present perhaps only within a relatively short period of world history.
No one is responsible for his deeds, no one for his nature; to judge is to be unjust. This is also true when the individual judges himself. The tenet is as bright as sunlight, and yet everyone prefers to walk back into the shadow and untruth--for fear of the consequences.
The super‑animal.9 The beast in us wants to be lied
to; morality is a white lie, to keep it from tearing us apart. Without the errors
inherent in the postulates of morality, man would have remained an animal. But
as it is he has taken himself to be something higher and has imposed stricter
laws upon himself. He therefore has a hatred of those stages of man that remain
closer to the animal state, which explains why the slave used to be disdained
as a nonhuman, a thing.
The unchangeable character. In the strict sense, it is not true that
one's character is unchangeable; rather, this popular tenet10 means
only that during a man's short lifetime the motives affecting him cannot normally
cut deeply enough to destroy the imprinted writing of many millennia. If a man
eighty thousand years old were conceivable, his character would in fact be absolutely
variable, so that out of him little by little an abundance of different individuals
would develop. The brevity of human life misleads us to many an erroneous assertion
about the qualities of man.
Morality and the ordering of the good. The accepted hierarchy of the
good, based on how a low, higher, or a most high egoism desires that thing or
the other, decides today about morality or immorality. To prefer a low good
(sensual pleasure, for example) to one esteemed higher (health, for example)
is taken for immoral, likewise to prefer comfort to freedom. The hierarchy of
the good, however, is not fixed and identical at all times. If someone prefers
revenge to justice, he is moral by the standard of an earlier culture, yet by
the standard of the present culture he is immoral. "Immoral" then
indicates that someone has not felt, or not felt strongly enough, the higher,
finer, more spiritual motives which the new culture of the time has brought
with it. It indicates a backward nature, but only in degree.
The hierarchy itself is not established or changed from the point of view of morality; nevertheless an action is judged moral or immoral according to the prevailing determination.
Cruel men as backward. We must think of men who are cruel today as stages
of earlier cultures, which have been left over; in their case, the mountain
range of humanity shows openly its deeper formations, which otherwise lie hidden.
They are backward men whose brains, because of various possible accidents of
heredity, have not yet developed much delicacy or versatility. They show us
what we all were, and frighten us. But they themselves are as little
responsible as a piece of granite for being granite. In our brain, too, there
must be grooves and bends which correspond to that state of mind, just as there
are said to be reminders of the fish state in the form of certain human organs.
11 But these grooves and bends are no longer the bed in which the
river of our feeling courses.
Gratitude and revenge. The powerful man feels gratitude for the following
reason: through his good deed, his benefactor has, as it were, violated the
powerful man's sphere and penetrated it. Now through his act of gratitude the
powerful man requites himself by violating the sphere of the benefactor. It
is a milder form of revenge. Without the satisfaction of gratitude, the powerful
man would have shown himself to be unpowerful and henceforth would be considered
such. For that reason, every society of good men (that is, originally, of powerful
men) places gratitude among its first duties.
Swift remarked that men are grateful in the same proportion as they cherish revenge. 12
Double prehistory of good and evil. The concept of good and evil has
a double prehistory: namely, first of all, in the soul of the ruling clans and
castes. The man who has the power to requite goodness with goodness, evil with
evil, and really does practice requital by being grateful and vengeful, is called
"good." The man who is unpowerful and cannot requite is taken for
bad. As a good man, one belongs to the "good," a community that has
a communal feeling, because all the individuals are entwined together by their
feeling for requital. As a bad man, one belongs to the "bad," to a
mass of abject, powerless men who have no communal feeling. The good men are
a caste; the bad men are a multitude, like particles of dust. Good and bad are
for a time equivalent to noble and base, master and slave. Conversely, one does
not regard the enemy as evil: he can requite. In Homer, both the Trojan and
the Greek are good. Not the man who inflicts harm on us, but the man who is
contemptible, is bad. In the community of the good, goodness is hereditary;
it is impossible for a bad man to grow out of such good soil. Should one of
the good men nevertheless do something unworthy of good men, one resorts to
excuses; one blames God, for example, saying that he struck the good man with
blindness and madness.
Then, in the souls of oppressed, powerless men, every other man is taken for hostile, inconsiderate, exploitative, cruel, sly, whether he be noble or base. Evil is their epithet for man, indeed for every possible living being, even, for example, for a god; "human," "divine" mean the same as "devilish," "evil." Signs of goodness, helpfulness, pity are taken anxiously for malice, the prelude to a terrible outcome, bewilderment, and deception, in short, for refined evil. With such a state of mind in the individual, a community can scarcely come about at all--or at most in the crudest form; so that wherever this concept of good and evil predominates, the downfall of individuals, their clans and races, is near at hand.
Our present morality has grown up on the ground of the ruling clans and castes. 13
Pity more intense than suffering. 14 There are cases where
pity is more intense than actual suffering. When one of our friends is guilty
of something ignominious, for example, we feel it more painfully than when we
ourselves do it. For we believe in the purity of his character more than he
does. Thus our love for him (probably because of this very belief) is more intense
than his own love for himself. Even if his egoism suffers more than our egoism,
in that he has to feel the bad consequences of his fault more intensely, our
selflessness (this word must never be taken literally, but only as a euphemism)
is touched more intensely by his guilt than is his selflessness.
Hypochondria. There are people who become hypochondriacs out of compassion and concern for another; the kind of pity which results is nothing less than a disease. Similarly, there is a Christian hypochondria which befalls those lonely, religious‑minded people who continually visualize to themselves the suffering and death of Christ.
Economy of kindness. Kindness and love, the most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse, are such precious finds that one would hope these balsamlike remedies would be used as economically as possible; but this is impossible. Only the boldest Utopians would dream of the economy of kindness.
Goodwill. Among the small but endlessly abundant and therefore very
effective things that science ought to heed more than the great, rare things,
is goodwill. I mean those expressions of a friendly disposition in interactions,
that smile of the eye, those handclasps, that ease which usually envelops nearly
all human actions. Every teacher, every official brings this ingredient to what
he considers his duty. It is the continual manifestation of our humanity, its
rays of light, so to speak, in which everything grows. Especially within the
narrowest circle, in the family, life sprouts and blossoms only by this goodwill.
Good nature, friendliness, and courtesy of the heart are ever‑flowing
tributaries of the selfless drive and have made much greater contributions to
culture than those much more famous expressions of this drive, called pity,
charity, and self‑sacrifice. But we tend to underestimate them, and in
fact there really is not much about them that is selfless. The sum of
these small doses is nevertheless mighty; its cumulative force is among the
strongest of forces.
Similarly, there is much more happiness to be found in the world than dim eyes can see, if one calculates correctly and does not forget all those moments of ease which are so plentiful in every day of every human life, even the most oppressed.
Desire to arouse pity. 15 In the most noteworthy passage
of his self‑portrait (first published in 1658), La Rochefoucauld certainly
hits the mark when he warns all reasonable men against pity,16 when
he advises them to leave it to those common people who need passions (because
they are not directed by reason) to bring them to the point of helping the sufferer
and intervening energetically in a misfortune. For pity, in his (and Plato's)
17 judgment, weakens the soul. Of course one ought to express
pity, but one ought to guard against having it; for unfortunate people
are so stupid that they count the expression of pity as the greatest
good on earth.
Perhaps one can warn even more strongly against having pity for the unfortunate if one does not think of their need for pity as stupidity and intellectual deficiency, a kind of mental disorder resulting from their misfortune (this is how La Rochefoucauld seems to regard it), but rather as something quite different and more dubious. Observe how children weep and cry, so that they will be pitied, how they wait for the moment when their condition will be noticed. Or live among the ill and depressed, and question whether their eloquent laments and whimpering, the spectacle of their misfortune, is not basically aimed at hurting those present. The pity that the spectators then express consoles the weak and suffering, inasmuch as they see that, despite all their weakness, they still have at least one power: the power to hurt. When expressions of pity make the unfortunate man aware of this feeling of superiority, he gets a kind of pleasure from it; his self-image revives; he is still important enough to inflict pain on the world. Thus the thirst for pity is a thirst for self-enjoyment, and at the expense of one's fellow men. It reveals man in the complete inconsideration of his most intimate dear self, but not precisely in his "stupidity," as La Rochefoucauld thinks.
In social dialogue, three-quarters of all questions and answers are framed in order to hurt the participants a little bit; this is why many men thirst after society so much: it gives them a feeling of their strength. In these countless, but very small doses, malevolence takes effect as one of life's powerful stimulants, just as goodwill, dispensed in the same way throughout the human world, is the perennially ready cure.
But will there be many people honest enough to admit that it is a pleasure to inflict pain? That not infrequently one amuses himself (and well) by offending other men (at least in his thoughts) and by shooting pellets of petty malice at them? Most people are too dishonest, and a few men are too good, to know anything about this source of shame. So they may try to deny that Prosper Merimée is right when he says, "Sachez aussi qu'il n'y a rien de plus commun que de faire le mal pour le plaisir de le faire."18
How seeming becomes being. 19 Ultimately, not even the deepest
pain can keep the actor from thinking of the impression of his part and the
overall theatrical effect, not even, for example, at his child's funeral.20
He will be his own audience, and cry about his own pain as he expresses it.
The hypocrite who always plays one and the same role finally ceases to be a
hypocrite. Priests, for example, who are usually conscious or unconscious hypocrites
when they are young men, finally end by becoming natural, and then they really
are priests, with no affectation. Or if the father does not get that far, perhaps
the son, using his father's headway, inherits the habit. If someone wants to
seem to be something, stubbornly and for a long time, he eventually finds
it hard to be anything else. The profession of almost every man, even
the artist, begins with hypocrisy, as he imitates from the outside, copies what
is effective. The man who always wears the mask of a friendly countenance eventually
has to gain power over benevolent moods without which the expression of friendliness
cannot be forced--and eventually then these moods gain power over him, and
he is benevolent.
The point of honesty in deception. In all great deceivers there occurs a noteworthy process to which they owe their power. In the actual act of deception, among all the preparations, the horror in the voice, expression, gestures, amid the striking scenery, the belief in themselves overcomes them. It is this that speaks so miraculously and convincingly to the onlookers. The founders of religions are distinguished from those other great deceivers by the fact that they do not come out of this condition of self-deception: or, very infrequently, they do have those clearer moments, when doubt overwhelms them; but they usually comfort themselves by foisting these clearer moments off on the evil adversary. Self-deception must be present, so that both kinds of deceivers can have a grand effect. For men will believe something is true, if it is evident that others believe in it firmly.
Alleged levels of truth. One common false conclusion is that because someone is truthful and upright toward us he is speaking the truth. Thus the child believes his parents' judgments, the Christian believes the claims of the church's founders. Likewise, people do not want to admit that all those things which men have defended with the sacrifice of their lives and happiness in earlier centuries were nothing but errors. Perhaps one calls them levels of truth. Basically, however, one thinks that if someone honestly believed in something and fought for his belief and died it would be too unfair if he had actually been inspired by a mere error. Such an occurrence seems to contradict eternal justice. Therefore the hearts of sensitive men always decree in opposition to their heads that there must be a necessary connection between moral actions and intellectual insights. Unfortunately, it is otherwise, for there is no eternal justice.
The lie. Why do men usually tell the truth in daily life? Certainly
not because a god has forbidden lying. Rather it is because, first, it is more
convenient: for lies demand imagination, dissembling, and memory (which is why
Swift says that the man who tells a lie seldom perceives the heavy burden he
is assuming: namely, he must invent twenty other lies to make good the first).
Then, it is because it is advantageous in ordinary circumstances to say directly:
I want this, I did that, and so on; that is, because the path of obligation
and authority is safer than that of cunning.
If a child has been raised in complicated domestic circumstances, however, he will employ the lie naturally, and will always say instinctively that which corresponds to his interests. A feeling for truth, a distaste for lying in and of itself, is alien to him and inaccessible; and so he lies in complete innocence.
To suspect morality because of belief. No power can maintain itself
if only hypocrites represent it. However many "worldly" elements the
Catholic Church may have, its strength rests on those priestly natures, still
numerous, who make life deep and difficult for themselves, and whose eye and
emaciated body speak of nightly vigils, fasting, fervent prayers, perhaps even
flagellation. These men shock others and worry them: what if it were necessary
to live like that?--this is the horrible question that the sight of them
brings to the tongue. By spreading this doubt they keep reestablishing a pillar
of their power. Not even the most freeminded dare to resist so selfless a man
with the hard sense for truth, and say: "You who are deceived, do not deceive
Only a difference of insight separates them from this man, by no means a difference of goodness or badness; but if one does not like a thing, one generally tends to treat it unjustly, too. Thus one speaks of the Jesuits' cunning and their infamous art, but overlooks what self-conquest each single Jesuit imposes upon himself, and how that lighter regimen preached in Jesuit textbooks is certainly not for their own benefit, but rather for the layman's. Indeed, one might ask if we the enlightened, using their tactics and organization, would be such good instruments, so admirably self‑mastering, untiring, and devoted.
Triumph of knowledge over radical evil. The man who wants to gain wisdom profits greatly from having thought for a time that man is basically evil and degenerate: this idea is wrong, like its opposite, but for whole periods of time it was predominant and its roots have sunk deep into us and into our world. To understand ourselves we must understand it; but to climb higher, we must then climb over and beyond it. We recognize that there are no sins in the metaphysical sense; but, in the same sense, neither are there any virtues; we recognize that this entire realm of moral ideas is in a continual state of fluctuation, that there are higher and deeper concepts of good and evil, moral and immoral. A man who desires no more from things than to understand them easily makes peace with his soul and will err (or "sin," as the world calls it) at the most out of ignorance, but hardly out of desire. He will no longer want to condemn and root out his desires; but his single goal, governing him completely, to understand as well as he can at all times, will cool him down and soften all the wildness in his disposition. In addition, he has rid himself of a number of tormenting ideas; he no longer feels anything at the words "pains of hell," "sinfulness," "incapacity for the good": for him they are only the evanescent silhouettes of erroneous thoughts about life and the world.
Morality as man's dividing himself. A good author, who really cares
about his subject, wishes that someone would come and destroy him by representing
the same subject more clearly and by answering every last question contained
in it. The girl in love wishes that she might prove the devoted faithfulness
of her love through her lover's faithlessness. The soldier wishes that he might
fall on the battlefield for his victorious fatherland, for in the victory of
his fatherland his greatest desire is also victorious. The mother gives the
child what she takes from herself: sleep, the best food, in some instances even
her health, her wealth.
Are all these really selfless states, however? Are these acts of morality miracles because they are, to use Schopenhauer's phrase, "impossible and yet real"? Isn't it clear that, in all these cases, man is loving something of himself, a thought, a longing, an offspring, more than something else of himself; that he is thus dividing up his being and sacrificing one part for the other? Is it something essentially different when a pigheaded man says, "I would rather be shot at once than move an inch to get out of that man's
The inclination towards something (a wish, a drive, a longing) is present in all the above‑mentioned cases; to yield to it, with all its consequences, is in any case not "selfless." In morality, man treats himself not as an "individuum," but as a "dividuum."
What one can promise. One can promise actions, but not feelings, for
the latter are involuntary. He who promises to love forever or hate forever
or be forever faithful to someone is promising something that is not in his
power. He can, however, promise those actions that are usually the consequence
of love, hatred, or faithfulness, but that can also spring from other motives:
for there are several paths and motives to an action. A promise to love someone
forever, then, means, "As long as I love you I will render unto you the
actions of love; if I no longer love you, you will continue to receive the same
actions from me, if for other motives." Thus the illusion remains in the
minds of one's fellow men that the love is unchanged and still the same.
One is promising that the semblance of love will endure, then, when without self‑deception one vows everlasting love.
Intellect and morality. One must have a good memory to be able to keep the promises one has given. One must have strong powers of imagination to be able to have pity. So closely is morality bound to the quality of the intellect.
Desire to avenge and vengeance. To have thoughts of revenge and execute them means to be struck with a violent--but temporary--fever. But to have thoughts of revenge without the strength or courage to execute them means to endure a chronic suffering, a poisoning of body and soul. A morality that notes only the intentions assesses both cases equally; usually the first case is assessed as worse (because of the evil consequences that the act of revenge may produce). Both evaluations are short-sighted.
The ability to wait. Being able to wait is so hard that the greatest
poets did not disdain to make the inability to wait the theme of their poetry.
Thus Shakespeare in his Othello, Sophocles in his Ajax,21 who, as
the oracle suggests, might not have thought his suicide necessary, if only he
had been able to let his feeling cool for one day more. He probably would have
outfoxed the terrible promptings of his wounded vanity and said to himself:
"Who, in my situation, has never once taken a sheep for a warrior? Is that
so monstrous? On the contrary, it is something universally human." Ajax
might have consoled himself thus.
Passion will not wait. The tragedy in the lives of great men often lies not in their conflict with the times and the baseness of their fellow men, but rather in their inability to postpone their work for a year or two. They cannot wait.
In every duel, the advising friends have to determine whether the parties involved might be able to wait a while longer. If they cannot, then a duel is reasonable, since each of the parties says to himself: "Either I continue to live, and the other must die at once, or vice versa." In that case, to wait would be to continue suffering the horrible torture of offended honor in the presence of the offender. And this can be more suffering than life is worth.
Reveling in revenge. Crude men who feel themselves insulted tend to assess the degree of insult as high as possible, and talk about the offense in greatly exaggerated language, only so they can revel to their heart's content in the aroused feelings of hatred and revenge.
The value of belittling. Not a few, perhaps the great majority of men, find it necessary, in order to maintain their self‑respect and a certain effectiveness in their actions, to lower and belittle the image they form of everyone they know. Since, however, the number of inferior natures is greater, and since it matters a great deal whether they have that effectiveness or lose it ....
Those who flare up. We must beware of the man who flares up at us as
of someone who has once made an attempt upon our life. For that we are
still alive is due to his lacking the power to kill. If looks could kill, we
would long ago have been done for. It is an act of primitive culture to bring
someone to silence by making physical savageness visible, by inciting fear.
In the same way, the cold glance which elegant people use with their servants is a vestige from those castelike distinctions between man and man, an act of primitive antiquity. Women, the guardians of that which is old, have also been more faithful in preserving this cultural remnant.
Where honesty may lead. Someone had the unfortunate habit of speaking out from time to time quite honestly about the motives for his actions, motives which were as good and as bad as those of all other men. At first, he gave offense, then he awoke suspicion, and at length he was virtually ostracized and banished. Finally, justice remembered this depraved creature on occasions when it otherwise averted or winked its eye. His want of silence about the universal secret, and his irresponsible inclination to see what no one wants to see--his own self--brought him to prison and an untimely death.
Punishable, never punished. Our crime against criminals is that we treat them like scoundrels.
Sancta simplicitas22 of virtue.. Every virtue has its privileges,
one being to deliver its own little bundle of wood to the funeral pyre of a
Morality and success. It is not only the witnesses of a deed who often
measure its moral or immoral nature by its success. No, the author of a deed
does so, too. For motives and intentions are seldom sufficiently clear and simple,
and sometimes even memory seems to be dimmed by the success of a deed, so that
one attributes false motives to his deed, or treats inessential motives as essential.
Often it is success that gives to a deed the full, honest lustre of a good conscience;
failure lays the shadow of an uneasy conscience upon the most estimable action.
This leads to the politician's well‑known practice of thinking: "Just
grant me success; with it I will bring all honest souls to my side--and
make myself honest in my own sight"
In a similar way, success can take the place of more substantial arguments. Even now, many educated people think that the victory of Christianity over Greek philosophy is a proof of the greater truth of the former--although in this case it is only that something more crude and violent has triumphed over something more spiritual and delicate. We can determine which of them has the greater truth by noting that the awakening sciences have carried on point for point with the philosophy of Epicurus ,23 but have rejected Christianity point for point.
Love and justice. Why do we overestimate love to the disadvantage of
justice, saying the nicest things about it, as if it were a far higher essence
than justice? Isn't love obviously more foolish? Of course, but for just that
reason so much more pleasant for everyone. Love is foolish, and possesses a
rich horn of plenty; from it she dispenses her gifts to everyone, even if he
does not deserve them, indeed, even if he does not thank her for them. She is
as nonpartisan as rain, which (according to the Bible24 and to experience)
rains not only upon the unjust, but sometimes soaks the just man to the skin,
Executions. How is it that every execution offends us more than a murder? It is the coldness of the judges, the painful preparations, the understanding that a man is here being used as a means to deter others. For guilt is not being punished, even if there were guilt; guilt lies in the educators, the parents, the environment, in us, not in the murderer--I am talking about the motivating circumstances.
Hope. Pandora brought the jar 25 with the evils and opened
it. It was the gods' gift to man, on the outside a beautiful, enticing gift,
called the "lucky jar." Then all the evils, those lively, winged beings,
flew out of it. Since that time, they roam around and do harm to men by day
and night. One single evil had not yet slipped out of the jar. As Zeus had wished,
Pandora slammed the top down and it remained inside. So now man has the lucky
jar in his house forever and thinks the world of the treasure. It is at his
service; he reaches for it when he fancies it. For he does not know that that
jar which Pandora brought was the jar of evils, and he takes the remaining evil
for the greatest worldly good--it is hope, for Zeus did not want man to
throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but
rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man
hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man's torment.
Degree of moral inflammability unknown. Whether or not our passions reach the point of red heat and guide our whole life depends on whether or not we have been exposed to certain shocking sights or impressions--for example a father falsely executed, killed or tortured; an unfaithful wife; a cruel ambush by an enemy. No one knows how far circumstances, pity, or indignation may drive him; he does not know the degree of his inflammability. Miserable, mean conditions make one miserable; it is usually not the quality of the experiences but rather the quantity that determines the lower and the higher man, in good and in evil.
The martyr against his will. In one party, there was a man who was too anxious and cowardly ever to contradict his comrades. They used him for every service; they demanded everything of him, because he was more afraid of the bad opinions of his companions than of death itself. His was a miserable, weak soul. They recognized this and on the basis of those qualities they made him first into a hero and finally into a martyr. Although the cowardly man always said "no" inwardly, he always said "yes" with his lips, even on the scaffold, when he died for the views of his party. Next to him stood one of his old comrades, who tyrannized him so by word and glance that he really did suffer death in the most seemly way, and has since been celebrated as a martyr and a man of great character.
Everyday rule-of-thumb. One will seldom go wrong to attribute extreme actions to vanity, moderate ones to habit, and petty ones to fear.
Misunderstanding about virtue. The man who has come to know vice in connection with pleasure, like the man who has a pleasure‑seeking youth behind him, imagines that virtue must be associated with displeasure. On the other hand, the man who has been greatly plagued by his passions and vices longs to find peace and his soul's happiness in virtue. Thus it is possible that two virtuous people will not understand each other at all.
The ascetic. The ascetic makes a necessity26 of virtue.
The honor of the person applied to the cause. We universally honor acts of love and sacrifice for the sake of one's neighbor, wherever we find them. In this way we heighten the value of the things loved in that way, or for which sacrifices are made, even though they are in themselves perhaps not worth much. A valiant army convinces us about the cause for which it is fighting.
Ambition as a surrogate for moral sense. Any character lacking in ambition must not be without a moral sense. Ambitious people make do without it, and have almost the same success. Thus the sons of humble families with no ambition will usually turn into complete cads very quickly, having once lost their moral sense.
Vanity enriches. How poor the human spirit would be without vanity! Instead it is like a warehouse, replete and forever replenishing its stock. It lures customers of every kind; they can find almost everything, have everything, assuming that they bring the right kind of coin (admiration) with them.
The old man and death. One may well ask why, aside from the demands of religion, it is more praiseworthy for a man grown old, who feels his powers decrease, to await his slow exhaustion and disintegration, rather than to put a term to his life with complete consciousness? In this case, suicide is quite natural, obvious, and should by rights awaken respect for the triumph of reason. This it did in those times when the leading Greek philosophers and the doughtiest Roman patriots used to die by suicide. Conversely, the compulsion to prolong life from day to day, anxiously consulting doctors and accepting the most painful, humiliating conditions, without the strength to come nearer the actual goal of one's life: this is far less worthy of respect. Religions provide abundant excuses to escape the need to kill oneself: this is how they insinuate themselves with those who are in love with life.
Misunderstanding between the sufferer and the perpetrator. When a rich
man takes a possession from a poor man (for example, when a prince robs a plebeian
of his sweetheart), the poor man misunderstands. He thinks that the rich man
must be a villain to take from him the little he has. But the rich man does
not feel the value of a particular possession so deeply because he is
accustomed to having many. So he cannot put himself in the place of the poor
man, and he is by no means doing as great an injustice as the poor man believes.
Each has a false idea of the other. The injustice of the mighty, which enrages
us most in history, is by no means as great as it appears. Simply the inherited
feeling of being a higher being, with higher pretensions, makes one rather cold,
and leaves the conscience at peace. Indeed, none of us feels anything like injustice
when there is a great difference between ourselves and some other being, and
we kill a gnat, for example, without any twinge of conscience. So it is no sign
of wickedness in Xerxes27 (whom even all the Greeks portray as exceptionally
noble) when he takes a son from his father and has him cut to pieces, because
the father had expressed an anxious and doubtful distrust of their entire campaign.
In this case the individual man is eliminated like an unpleasant insect; he
stands too low to be allowed to keep on arousing bothersome feelings in a world
ruler. Indeed, no cruel man is cruel to the extent that the mistreated man believes.
The idea of pain is not the same as the suffering of it. It is the same with
an unjust judge, with a journalist who misleads public opinion by little dishonesties.
In each of these cases, cause and effect are experienced in quite different
categories of thought and feeling; nevertheless, it is automatically assumed
that the perpetrator and sufferer think and feel the same, and the guilt of
the one is therefore measured by the pain of the other.
The skin of the soul. Just as the bones, flesh, intestines, and blood vessels are enclosed by skin, which makes the sight of a man bearable, so the stirrings and passions of the soul are covered up by vanity: it is the skin of the soul.
Sleep of virtue. When virtue has slept, it will arise refreshed.
Refinement of shame. Men are not ashamed to think something dirty, but they are ashamed when they imagine that others might believe them capable of these dirty thoughts.
Malice is rare. Most men are much too concerned with themselves to be malicious.
Tipping the scales. We praise or find fault, depending on which of the two provides more opportunity for our powers of judgment to shine.
Luke 18:14, 28 improved. He who humbleth himself wants to
Prevention of suicide. There is a justice according to which we take a man's life, but no justice according to which we take his death: that is nothing but cruelty.
Vanity. We care about the good opinion of others first because it is
profitable, and then because we want to give others joy (children want to give
joy to their parents, pupils to their teachers, men of good will to all other
men). Only when someone holds the good opinion of others to be .important without
regard to his interests or his wish to give joy, do we speak of vanity. In this
case, the man wants to give joy to himself, but at the expense of his fellow
men, in that he either misleads them to a false opinion about himself or aims
at a degree of "good opinion" that would have to cause them all pain
(by arousing their envy). Usually the individual wants to confirm the opinion
he has of himself through the opinion of others and strengthen it in his own
eyes; but the mighty habituation to authority (which is as old as man) also
leads many to base their own belief in themselves upon authority, to accept
it only from the hand of others. They trust other people's powers of judgment
more than their own.
In the vain man, interest in himself, his wish to please himself, reaches such a peak that he misleads others to assess him wrongly, to overvalue him greatly, and then he adheres to their authority; that is, he brings about the error and then believes in it.
One must admit, then, that vain men want to please not only others, but also themselves, and that they go so far as to neglect their own interests thereby; for they are often concerned to make their fellow men ill-disposed, hostile, envious, and thus destructive toward them, only for the sake of having pleasure in themselves, self-enjoyment.
Limit of human love. Any man who has once declared the other man to be a fool, a bad fellow, is annoyed when that man ends by showing that he is not.
Moralité larmoyante.29 How much pleasure we get from morality!
Just think what a river of agreeable tears has flowed at tales of noble, generous
actions. This one of life's delights would vanish away if the belief in complete
irresponsibility were to get the upper hand.
Origin of justice. Justice (fairness) originates among approximately
equal powers, as Thucydides (in the horrifying conversation between the
Athenian and Melian envoys)30 rightly understood. When there is no
clearly recognizable supreme power and a battle would lead to fruitless and
mutual injury, one begins to think of reaching an understanding and negotiating
the claims on both sides: the initial character of justice is barter.
Each satisfies the other in that each gets what he values more than the other.
Each man gives the other what he wants, to keep henceforth, and receives in
turn that which he wishes. Thus, justice is requital and exchange on the assumption
of approximately equal positions of strength. For this reason, revenge belongs
initially to the realm of justice: it is an exchange. Likewise gratitude.
Justice naturally goes back to the viewpoint of an insightful self‑preservation, that is, to the egoism of this consideration: "Why should I uselessly injure myself and perhaps not reach my goal anyway?"
So much about the origin of justice. Because men, in line with their intellectual habits, have forgotten the original purpose of so called just, fair actions, and particularly because children have been taught for centuries to admire and imitate such actions, it has gradually come to appear that a just action is a selfless one. The high esteem of these actions rests upon this appearance, an esteem which, like all estimations, is also always in a state of growth: for men strive after, imitate, and reproduce with their own sacrifices that which is highly esteemed, and it grows because its worth is increased by the worth of the effort and exertion made by each individual.
How slight the morality of the world would seem without forgetfulness! A poet could say that God had stationed forgetfulness as a guardian at the door to the temple of human dignity.
The right of the weaker. If one party, a city under siege, for example,
submits under certain conditions to a greater power, its reciprocal condition
is that this first party can destroy itself, burn the city, and thus make the
power suffer a great loss. Thus there is a kind of equalization, on the
basis of which rights can be established. Preservation is to the enemy's advantage.
Rights exist between slaves and masters to the same extent, exactly insofar as the possession of his slave is profitable and important to the master. The right originally extends as far as the one appears to the other to be valuable, essential, permanent, invincible, and the like. In this regard even the weaker of the two has rights, though they are more modest. Thus the famous dictum: "unusquisque tantum juris habet, quantum potentia valet"31 (or, more exactly, "quantum potentia valere creditur").32
The three phases of morality until now. The first sign that an animal has become human is that his behavior is no longer directed to his momentary comfort, but rather to his enduring comfort, that is, when man becomes useful, expedient: then for the first time the free rule of reason bursts forth. A still higher state is reached when man acts according to the principle of honor, by means of which he finds his place in society, submitting to commonly held feelings; that raises him high above the phase in which he is guided only by personal usefulness. Now he shows--and wants to be shown--respect; that is, he understands his advantage as dependent on his opinion of others and their opinion of him. Finally, at the highest stage of morality until now, he acts according to his standard of things and men; he himself determines for himself and others what is honorable, what is profitable. He has become the lawgiver of opinions, in accordance with the ever more refined concept of usefulness and honor. Knowledge enables him to prefer what is most useful, that is, general usefulness to personal usefulness, and the respectful recognition of what has common, enduring value to things of momentary value. He lives and acts as a collective-individual.
Morality of the mature individual. Until now man has taken the true sign of a moral act to be its impersonal nature; and it has been shown that in the beginning all impersonal acts were praised and distinguished in respect to the common good. Might not a significant transformation of these views be at hand, now when we see with ever greater clarity that precisely in the most personal respect the common good is also greatest; so that now it is precisely the strictly personal action which corresponds to the current concept of morality (as a common profit)? To make a whole person of oneself and keep in mind that person's greatest good in everything one does--this takes us further than any pitying impulses and actions for the sake of others. To be sure, we all still suffer from too slight a regard for our own personal needs; it has been poorly developed. Let us admit that our mind has instead been forcibly diverted from it and offered in sacrifice to the state, to science, to the needy, as if it were something bad which had to be sacrificed. Now too we wish to work for our fellow men, but only insofar as we find our own highest advantage in this work; no more, no less. It depends only on what ones understands by his advantage. The immature, undeveloped, crude individual will also understand it most crudely.
Mores and morality.33 To be moral, correct, ethical means
to obey an age-old law or tradition. Whether one submits to it gladly or with
difficulty makes no difference; enough that one submits. We call "good"
the man who does the moral thing as if by nature, after a long history of inheritance--that
is, easily, and gladly, whatever it is (he will, for example, practice revenge
when that is considered moral, as in the older Greek culture). He is called
good because he is good "for" something. But because, as mores changed,
goodwill, pity, and the like were always felt to be "good for" something,
useful, it is primarily the man of goodwill, the helpful man, who is called
"good." To be evil is to be "not moral" (immoral), to practice
bad habits, go against tradition, however reasonable or stupid it may be. To
harm one's fellow, however, has been felt primarily as injurious in all moral
codes of different times, so that when we hear the word "bad" now,
we think particularly of voluntary injury to one's fellow. When men determine
between moral and immoral, good and evil, the basic opposition is not "egoism"
and "selflessness," but rather adherence to a tradition or law, and
release from it. The origin of the tradition makes no difference, at
least concerning good and evil, or an immanent categorical imperative;.34
but is rather above all for the purpose of maintaining a community, a
people. Every superstitious custom, originating in a coincidence that is interpreted
falsely, forces a tradition that it is moral to follow. To release oneself from
it is dangerous, even more injurious for the community than for the individual
(because the divinity punishes the whole community for sacrilege and violation
of its rights, and the individual only as a part of that community). Now, each
tradition grows more venerable the farther its origin lies in the past, the
more it is forgotten; the respect paid to the tradition accumulates from generation
to generation; finally the origin becomes sacred and awakens awe; and thus the
morality of piety is in any case much older than that morality which requires
Pleasure in custom. An important type of pleasure, and thus an important source of morality, grows out of habit. One does habitual things more easily, skillfully, gladly; one feels a pleasure at them, knowing from experience that the habit has stood the test and is useful. A morality one can live with has been proved salutary, effective, in contrast to all the as yet unproven new experiments. Accordingly, custom is the union of the pleasant and the useful; in addition, it requires no thought. As soon as man can exercise force, he exercises it to introduce and enforce his mores, for to him they represent proven wisdom. Likewise, a community will force each individual in it to the same mores. Here is the error: because one feels good with one custom, or at least because he lives his life by means of it, this custom is necessary, for he holds it to be the only possibility by which one can feel good; the enjoyment of life seems to grow out of it alone. This idea of habit as a condition of existence is carried right into the smallest details of custom: since lower peoples and cultures have only very slight insight into the real causality, they make sure, with superstitious fear, that everything take the same course; even where a custom is difficult, harsh, burdensome, it is preserved because it seems to be highly useful. They do not know that the same degree of comfort can also exist with other customs and that even higher degrees of comfort can be attained. But they do perceive that all customs, even the harshest, become more pleasant and mild with time, and that even the severest way of life can become a habit and thus a pleasure.
Pleasure and social instinct. From his relationship to other men, man gains a new kind of pleasure, in addition to those pleasurable feelings which he gets from himself. In this way he widens significantly the scope of his pleasurable feelings. Perhaps some of these feelings have come down to him from the animals, who visibly feel pleasure when playing with each other, particularly mothers playing with their young. Next one might think of sexual relations, which make virtually every lass seem interesting to every lad (and vice versa) in view of potential pleasure. Pleasurable feeling based on human relations generally makes man better; shared joy, pleasure taken together, heightens this feeling; it gives the individual security, makes him better‑natured, dissolves distrust and envy: one feels good oneself and can see the other man feel good in the same way. Analogous expressions of pleasure awaken the fantasy of empathy, the feeling of being alike. Shared sorrows do it, too: the same storms, dangers, enemies. Upon this basis man has built the oldest covenant, whose purpose is to eliminate and resist communally any threatening unpleasure, for the good of each individual. And thus social instinct grows out of pleasure.
Innocence of so-called evil actions. All "evil" actions are
motivated by the drive for preservation, or, more exactly, by the individual's
intention to gain pleasure and avoid unpleasure; thus they are motivated, but
they are not evil. "Giving pain in and of itself" does not exist,
except in the brain of philosophers, nor does "giving pleasure in and of
itself" (pity, in the Schopenhauerian sense). In conditions preceding
organized states, we kill any being, be it ape or man, that wants to take a
fruit off a tree before we do, just when we are hungry and running up to the
tree. We would treat the animal the same way today, if we were hiking through
Those evil actions which outrage us most today are based on the error that that man who harms us has free will, that is, that he had the choice not to do this bad thing to us. This belief in his choice arouses hatred, thirst for revenge, spite, the whole deterioration of our imagination; whereas we get much less angry at an animal because we consider it irresponsible. To do harm not out of a drive for preservation, but for requital--that is the result of an erroneous judgment, and is therefore likewise innocent. The individual can, in conditions preceding the organized state, treat others harshly and cruelly to intimidate them, to secure his existence through such intimidating demonstrations of his power. This is how the brutal, powerful man acts, the original founder of a state, who subjects to himself those who are weaker. He has the right to do it, just as the state now takes the right. Or rather, there is no right that can prevent it. The ground for all morality can only be prepared when a greater individual or collective‑individual, as, for example, society or the state, subjects the individuals in it, that is, when it draws them out of their isolatedness and integrates them into a union. Force precedes morality; indeed, for a time morality itself is force, to which others acquiesce to avoid unpleasure. Later it becomes custom, and still later free obedience, and finally almost instinct: then it is coupled to pleasure, like all habitual and natural things, and is now called virtue.
Shame. Shame exists wherever there is a "mysterium"; this
is a religious concept that was widely prevalent in the older period of human
culture. Everywhere there were circumscribed areas, to which divine right forbade
entrance, except under certain conditions: at first these were spatial areas,
in that certain places were not to be trodden upon by the foot of the unconsecrated,
who would feel horror and fear in their vicinity. This feeling was frequently
carried over to other relationships, to sexual relationships, for example, which
were to he removed from the eyes of youth (for its own good), as a privilege
and sacred mystery of the more mature. Many gods were thought to be active in
protecting and furthering the observance of these relationships, watching over
them as guardians in the nuptial chamber. (This is why this chamber is called
Harem, "sanctuary," in Turkish, which is the same word commonly used
for the vestibules of mosques.)35 Likewise kingship, as a center
radiating power and splendor, is to the humble subject a mysterium full of secrecy
and shame; it has many aftereffects, which can still be felt in peoples who
are otherwise in no way ashamed. In the same way, that whole world of inner
states, the so‑called "soul," is still a mysterium to all non-philosophers
since from time immemorial it was thought worthy of divine origin, divine intercourse:
thus it is a sacred mystery and awakens shame.
Judge not.36 When we consider earlier periods, we must be
careful not to fall into unjust abuse. The injustice of slavery, the cruelty
in subjugating persons and peoples, cannot be measured by our standards. For
the instinct for justice was not so widely developed then. Who has the right
to reproach Calvin of Geneva for burning Dr. Servet?37 His was a
consistent act, fl owing out of his convictions, and the Inquisition likewise
had its 'reasons; it is just that the views dominant then were wrong and resulted
in a consistency that we find harsh, because we now find those views so alien.
Besides, what is the burning of one man compared to the eternal pains of hell
for nearly everyone! And yet this much more terrible idea used to dominate the
whole world without doing any essential damage to the idea of a god. In our
own time, we, treat political heretics harshly and cruelly, but because we have
learned to believe in the necessity of the state we are not as sensitive to
this cruelty as we are to that cruelty whose justification vie reject. Cruelty
to animals, by children and Italians, stems from ignorance; namely, in the interests
of its teachings, the church has placed the animal too far beneath man.
Likewise, in history much that is frightful and inhuman, which one would almost like not to believe, is mitigated by the observation that the commander and the executor are different people: the former does not witness his cruelty and therefore has no strong impression of it in his imagination; the latter is obeying a superior and feels no responsibility. Because of a lack of imagination, most princes and military leaders can easily appear to be harsh and cruel, without being so.
Egoism is not evil, for the idea of one's "neighbor" (the word has a Christian origin38 and does not reflect the truth) is very weak in us; and we feel toward him almost as free and irresponsible as toward plants and stones. That the other suffers must be learned; and it can never be learned completely.
"Man always acts for the good."39 We don't accuse
nature of immorality when it sends us a thunderstorm, and makes us wet: why
do we call the injurious man immoral? Because in the first case, we assume necessity,
and in the second a voluntarily governing free will. But this distinction is
in error. Furthermore, even intentional injury is not called immoral in all
circumstances: without hesitating, we intentionally kill a gnat, for example,
simply because we do not like its buzz; we intentionally punish the criminal
and do him harm, to protect ourselves and society. In the first case it is the
individual who does harm intentionally, for self‑preservation or simply
to avoid discomfort; in the second case the state does the harm. All morality
allows the intentional infliction of harm for self-defense; that is,
when it is a matter of self-preservation! But these two points of view
are sufficient to explain all evil acts which men practice against other
men; man wants to get pleasure or resist unpleasure; in some sense it is always
a matter of self‑preservation. Socrates and Plato are right: whatever
man does, he always acts for the good; that is, in a way that seems to him good
(useful) according to the degree of his intellect, the prevailing measure of
Harmlessness of malice. Malice does not aim at the suffering of the
other in and of itself, but rather at our own enjoyment, for example, a feeling
of revenge or a strong nervous excitement.
Every instance of teasing shows that it gives us pleasure to release our power on the other person and experience an enjoyable feeling of superiority. Is the immoral thing about it, then, to have pleasure on the basis of other people's unpleasure? Is Schadenfreude40 devilish, as Schopenhauer says? Now, in nature, we take pleasure in breaking up twigs, loosening stones, fighting with wild animals, in order to gain awareness of our own strength. Is the knowledge, then, that another person is suffering because of us supposed to make immoral the same thing about which we otherwise feel no responsibility? But if one did not have this knowledge, one would not have that pleasure in his own superiority, which can be discovered only in the suffering of the other, in teasing, for example. All joy in oneself is neither good nor bad; where should the determination come from that to have pleasure in oneself one may not cause unpleasure in others? Solely from the point of view of advantage, that is, from consideration of the consequences, of possible unpleasure, when the injured party or the state representing him leads us to expect requital and revenge; this alone can have been the original basis for denying oneself these actions.
Pity does not aim at the pleasure of others any more than malice (as we said above) aims at the pain of others, per se. For in pity at least two (maybe many more) elements of personal pleasure are contained, and it is to that extent self‑enjoyment: first of all, it is the pleasure of the emotion (the kind of pity we find in tragedy) and second, when it drives us to act, it is the pleasure of our satisfaction in the exercise of power. If, in addition, a suffering person is very close to us, we reduce our own suffering by our acts of pity.
Aside from a few philosophers, men have always placed pity rather low in the hierarchy of moral feelings‑and rightly so.
Self‑defense. If we accept self‑defense as moral, then we must also accept nearly all expressions of so‑called immoral egoism; we inflict harm, rob or kill, to preserve or protect ourselves, to prevent personal disaster; where cunning and dissimulation are the correct means of self‑preservation, we lie. To do injury intentionally, when it is a matter of our existence or security (preservation of our well-being) is conceded to be moral; the state itself injures from this point of view when it imposes punishment. Of course, there can be no immorality in unintentional injury; there coincidence governs. Can there be a kind of intentional injury where it is not a matter of our existence, the preservation of our well‑being? Can there be an injury out of pure malice, in cruelty, for example? If one does not know how painful an action is, it cannot be malicious; thus the child is not malicious or evil to an animal: he examines and destroys it like a toy. But do we ever completely know how painful an action is to the other person? As far as our nervous system extends, we protect ourselves from pain; if it extended further, right into our fellow men, we would not do harm to anyone (except in such cases where we do it to ourselves, that is, where we cut ourselves in order to cure ourselves, exert and strain ourselves to be healthy). We conclude by analogy that something hurts another, and through our memory and power of imagination we ourselves can feel ill at such a thought. But what difference remains between a toothache and the ache (pity) evoked by the sight of a toothache? That is, when we injure out of so‑called malice, the degree of pain produced is in any case unknown to us; but in that we feel pleasure in the action (feeling of our own power, our own strong excitement) the action takes place to preserve the well‑being of the individual and thus falls within a point of view similar to that of self-defense or a white lie. No life without pleasure; the struggle for pleasure is the struggle for life. Whether the individual fights this battle in ways such that men call him good or such that they call him evil is determined by the measure and makeup of his intellect.
A rewarding justice. The man who has fully understood the theory of complete irresponsibility can no longer include the so called justice that punishes and rewards within the concept of justice, if that consists in giving each his due. For the man who is punished does not deserve the punishment: he is only being used as the means to frighten others away from certain future actions; likewise, the man who is rewarded does not deserve this reward; he could not act other than as he did. Thus a reward means only an encouragement, for him and others, to provide a motive for subsequent actions: praise is shouted to the runner on the track not to the one who has reached the finish line. Neither punishment nor reward are due to anyone as his; they are given to him because it is useful, without his justly having any claims on them. One must say, "The wise man rewards not because men have acted rightly," just as it was said, "The wise man punishes not because men have acted badly, but so they will not act badly." If we were to dispense with punishment and reward, we would lose the strongest motives driving men away from certain actions and toward other actions; the advantage of man requires that they continue; and in that punishment and reward, blame and praise affect vanity most acutely, the same advantage also requires that vanity continue.
At the waterfall. When we see a waterfall, we think we see freedom of will and choice in the innumerable turnings, windings, breakings of the waves; but everything is necessary; each movement can be calculated mathematically. Thus it is with human actions; if one were omniscient, one would be able to calculate each individual action in advance, each step in the progress of knowledge, each error, each act of malice. To be sure, the acting man is caught in his illusion of volition; if the wheel of the world were to stand still for a moment and an omniscient, calculating mind were there to take advantage of this interruption, he would be able to tell into the farthest future of each being and describe every rut that wheel will roll upon. The acting man's delusion about himself, his assumption that free will exists, is also part of the calculable mechanism.
Irresponsibility and innocence. 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. All his judgments, distinctions, dislikes
have thereby become worthless and wrong: the deepest feeling he had offered
a victim or a hero was misdirected; he may no longer praise, no longer blame,
for it is nonsensical to praise and blame nature and necessity. Just as he loves
a good work of art, but does not praise it, because it can do nothing about
itself, just as he regards a plant, so he must regard the actions of men and
his own actions. He can admire their strength, beauty, abundance, but he may
not find any earned merit in them: chemical processes, and the clash of elements,
the agony of the sick man who yearns for recovery, these have no more earned
merit than do those inner struggles and crises in which a man is torn back and
forth by various motives until he finally decides for the most powerful--as
is said (in truth until the most powerful motive decides about us). But all
these motives, whatever great names we give them, have grown out of the same
roots which are thought to hold the evil poisons. Between good and evil actions
there is no difference in type; at most, a difference in degree. Good actions
are sublimated evil actions; evil actions are good actions become coarse and
stupid. The individual's only demand, for self-enjoyment (along with the fear
of losing it), is satisfied in all circumstances: man may act as he can, that
is, as he must, whether in deeds of vanity, revenge, pleasure, usefulness, malice,
cunning, or in deeds of sacrifice, pity, knowledge. His powers of judgment determine
where a man will let this demand for self-enjoyment take him. In each society,
in each individual, a hierarchy of the good is always present, by which man
determines his own actions and judges other people's actions. But this standard
is continually in flux; many actions are called evil, and are only stupid, because
the degree of intelligence which chose them was very low. Indeed, in a certain
sense all actions are stupid even now, for the highest degree of human
intelligence which can now be attained will surely be surpassed. And then, in
hindsight, all our behavior and judgments will appear as inadequate and
rash as the behavior and judgments of backward savage tribes now seem to us
inadequate and rash.
To understand all this can cause great pain, but afterwards there is consolation. These pains are birth pangs. The butterfly wants to break through his cocoon; he tears at it, he rends it: then he is blinded and confused by the unknown light, the realm of freedom. Men who are capable of that sorrow (how few they will be!) will make the first attempt to see if mankind can transform itself from a moral into a wise mankind. In those individuals, the sun of a new gospel is casting its first ray onto the highest mountaintop of the soul; the fog is condensing more thickly than ever, and the brightest light and cloudiest dusk lie next to each other. Everything is necessity: this is the new knowledge, and this knowledge itself is necessity. Everything is innocence: and knowledge is the way to insight into this innocence. If pleasure, egoism, vanity are necessary for the generation of moral phenomena and their greatest flower, the sense for true and just knowledge; if error and confusion of imagination were the only means by which mankind could raise itself gradually to this degree of self-illumination and self-redemption--who could scorn those means? Who could be sad when he perceives the goal to which those paths lead? Everything in the sphere of morality has evolved; changeable, fluctuating, everything is fluid, it is true: but everything is also streaming onward--to one goal. Even if the inherited habit of erroneous esteeming, loving, hating continues to govern us, it will grow weaker under the influence of growing knowledge: a new habit, that of understanding, non-loving, non-hating, surveying is gradually being implanted in us on the same ground, and in thousands of years will be powerful enough perhaps to give mankind the strength to produce wise, innocent (conscious of their innocence)41 men as regularly as it now produces unwise, unfair men, conscious of their guilt42--these men are the necessary first stage, but not the opposite of those to come.