Beyond Good and Evil

Beyond Good and Evil

Prelude to a Future Philosophy


Friedrich Nietzsche

Translated by Ian Johnston

Translation copyright Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC

This web edition edited and published by Holtof Donné

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Table of Contents

  1. On the Prejudices of Philosophers
  2. The Free Spirit
  3. The Religious Nature
  4. Aphorisms and Interludes
  5. A Natural History of Morals
  6. We Scholars
  7. Our Virtues
  8. Peoples and Fatherlands
  9. What is Noble?
  10. Aftersong

The following translation retains Nietzsche’s short quotations and phrases in languages other than German and includes, immediately after such phrases, an English translation in the text, placed in italics within square brackets (e.g. [English translation] ). If the quotation is more than a few words long, the English version is included in the text, and Nietzsche’s original quotation appears in a note at the end of the translation. 

Sometimes, when there may be some ambiguity about the meaning of a word or phrase in the original, this text also includes in square brackets a term from Nietzsche’s German text.

The endnotes, which provide information about people or quotations mentioned in the text, have been provided by the translator.

Beyond Good and Evil, one of the most important works of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), was first published in 1886.

Friedrich NietzscheBeyond Good and Evil: Cover - Aphorism #016966 years, 3 months ago 


Suppose truth is a woman, what then? Wouldn't we have good reason to suspect that all philosophers, insofar as they were dogmatists, had a poor understanding of women, that the dreadful seriousness and the awkward pushiness with which they so far have habitually approached truth were clumsy and inappropriate ways to win over a woman? It's clear that truth did not allow herself to be won over. And every form of dogmatism nowadays is standing there dismayed and disheartened - if it's still standing at all! For there are mockers who assert that they've collapsed, that all dogmatisms are lying on the floor, even worse, that they're at death's door. Speaking seriously, there are good reasons to hope that every dogmatism in philosophy - no matter how solemnly, conclusively, and decisively it has conducted itself - may have been merely a noble and rudimentary childish game, and the time is perhaps very close at hand, when people will again and again understand just how little has sufficed to provide the foundation stones for such lofty and unconditional philosophical constructions of the sort dogmatists have erected up to now - any popular superstition from unimaginably long ago (like the superstition of the soul, which today, in the form of the superstition about the subject and the ego, has still not stopped stirring up mischief), perhaps some game with words, a seduction by some grammatical construction, or a daring generalization from very narrow, very personal, very human, all-too-human facts. The philosophies of the dogmatists were, one hopes, only a promise which lasted for thousands of years, as the astrologers were in even earlier times. In their service, people perhaps expended more work, gold, and astute thinking than for any true scientific knowledge up to that point. We owe to them and their "super-terrestrial" claims the grand style of architecture in Asia and Egypt. It seems that in order for all great things to register their eternal demands on the human heart, they first have to wander over the earth as monstrously and frighteningly distorted faces. Dogmatic philosophy has been such a grimace, for example, the Vedanta doctrine in Asia and Platonism in Europe. We should not be ungrateful for it, even though we must also certainly concede that the worst, most protracted, and most dangerous of all errors up to now has been the error of a dogmatist, namely, Plato's invention of the purely spiritual and of the good as such. But now that has been overcome, and, as Europe breathes a sigh of relief after this nightmare and at least can enjoy a more healthy sleep, those of us whose task it is to stay awake are the inheritors of all the forces which the fight against this error has fostered. To speak of the spirit and the good in this way, as Plato did, was, of course, a matter of standing truth on its head and even of denying the fundamental condition of all life, perspective . Indeed, one could, as a doctor, ask, "How did such a disease get to Plato, the most beautiful plant of antiquity? Did the evil Socrates really corrupt him? Could Socrates have been a corruptor of youth, after all? Did he deserve his hemlock?" But the fight against Plato, or, to put the matter in a way more intelligible to "the people," the fight against the thousands of years of pressure from the Christian church - for Christianity is Platonism for "the people"- created in Europe a splendid tension in the spirit, something unlike anything existing before on earth before. With such a tensely arched bow, from now on we can shoot for the most distant targets. Naturally, European man experiences this tension as a state of emergency. Already there have been two attempts in the grand style to ease the tension in the bow - the first time with Jesuitism, the second time with the democratic Enlightenment, through which, with the help of the freedom of the press and reading newspapers, a state might, in fact, be attained in which the spirit itself is not so easily experienced as "need"! (Germans invented gunpowder - all honour to them!- but they made up for that when they invented the printing press). But those of us who are neither Jesuits, nor Democrats, nor even German enough, we good Europeans and free, very free spirits - we still have the need, the entire spiritual need and the total tension of its bow! And perhaps we also have the arrow, the work to do, and - who knows?- the target...

Friedrich NietzscheBeyond Good and Evil: Prologue - Aphorism #018746 years, 3 months ago 

Part One

On the Prejudices of Philosophers


The will to truth, which is still going to tempt us to many a daring exploit, that celebrated truthfulness of which all philosophers up to now have spoken with respect, what questions this will to truth has already set down before us! What strange, serious, dubious questions! There is already a long history of that - and yet it seems that this history has scarcely begun. Is it any wonder that at some point we become mistrustful, lose patience and, in our impatience, turn ourselves around, that we learn from this sphinx to ask questions for ourselves? Who is really asking us questions here? What is it in us that really wants "the truth"? In fact, we paused for a long time before the question about the origin of this will - until we finally remained completely and utterly immobile in front of an even more fundamental question. We asked about the value of this will. Suppose we want truth. Why should we not prefer untruth? And uncertainty? Even ignorance? The problem of the value of truth stepped up before us - or were we the ones who stepped up before the problem? Who among us here is Oedipus? Who is the Sphinx?1 It seems to be a tryst between questions and question marks. And could one believe that we are finally the ones to whom it seems as if the problem has never been posed up to now, as if we were the first ones to see it, to fix our eyes on it, and to dare confront it? For there is a risk involved in this - perhaps there is no greater risk.

1 . . . . Oedipus . . . Sphinx : In Greek mythology, the Sphinx was a monster who terrorized Thebes. The peril could only be averted by answering a riddle. Oedipus answered the riddle successfully and was made king of Thebes.
Friedrich NietzscheBeyond Good and Evil: Part I - Aphorism #146696 years, 3 months ago 


"How could something arise out of its opposite? For example, truth out of error? Or the will to truth out of the will to deception? Or selfless action out of self-seeking? Or the pure sunny look of the wise man out of greed? Origins like these are impossible. Anyone who dreams about them is a fool, in fact, something worse. Things of the highest value must have another origin peculiar to them. They cannot be derived from this ephemeral, seductive, deceptive, trivial world, from this confusion of madness and desire! Their basis must lie, by contrast, in the womb of being, in the immortal, in hidden gods, in 'the thing in itself'- their basis must lie there , and nowhere else!" This way of shaping an opinion creates the typical prejudice which enables us to recognize once more the metaphysicians of all ages. This way of establishing value stands behind all their logical procedures. From this "belief" of theirs they wrestle with their "knowledge," with something which is finally, in all solemnity, christened "the truth." The fundamental belief of the metaphysicians is the belief in the opposition of values . Even the most careful among them has never had the idea of raising doubts right here on the threshold, where such doubts are surely most essential, even when they promised themselves "de omnibus dubitandum " [one must doubt everything] . For we are entitled to doubt, first, whether such an opposition of values exists at all and, second, whether that popular way of estimating worth and that opposition of values, on which the metaphysicians have imprinted their seal, are perhaps only evaluations made in the foreground, only temporary perspectives, perhaps even a view from a corner, perhaps from underneath, a frog's viewpoint, as it were, to borrow an expression familiar to painters. For all the value which the true, genuine, unselfish man may be entitled to, it might be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for everything in life must be ascribed to appearance, the will for deception, self-interest, and desire. It might even be possible that whatever creates the value of those fine and respected things exists in such a way that it is, in some duplicitous way, related to, tied to, intertwined with, perhaps even essentially the same as those undesirable, apparently contrasting things. Perhaps!- But who is willing to bother with such a dangerous Perhaps? For that we must really await the arrival of a new style of philosopher, the kind who has some different taste and inclination, the reverse of philosophers so far, in every sense, philosophers of the dangerous Perhaps. And speaking in all seriousness, I see such new philosophers arriving on the scene.

Friedrich NietzscheBeyond Good and Evil: Part I - Aphorism #220926 years, 3 months ago 


After examining philosophers between the lines with a sharp eye for a sufficient length of time, I tell myself the following: we must consider even the greatest part of conscious thinking among the instinctual activities. Even in the case of philosophical thinking we must re-learn here, in the same way we re-learned about heredity and what is "innate." Just as the act of birth merits little consideration in the procedures and processes of heredity, so there's little point in setting up "consciousness" in any significant sense as something opposite to what is instinctual - the most conscious thinking of a philosopher is led on secretly and forced into particular paths by his instincts. Even behind all logic and its apparent dynamic authority stand evaluations of worth or, putting the matter more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a particular way of life - for example, that what is certain is more valuable than what is uncertain, that appearance is of less value than the "truth." Evaluations like these could, for all their regulatory importance for us , still be only foreground evaluations, a particular kind of niaiserie [stupidity], necessary for the preservation of beings precisely like us. That's assuming, of course, that not just man is the "measure of things" . . .

Friedrich NietzscheBeyond Good and Evil: Part I - Aphorism #315806 years, 3 months ago