Beyond Good and Evil

On morality and religion

In the "pre-moral period of mankind", actions were judged by their consequences. Over the past 10,000 years, however, a morality has developed where actions are judged by their origins (their motivations) not their consequences. This morality of intentions is, according to Nietzsche, a "prejudice" and "something provisional [...] that must be overcome" (§32).

Nietzsche criticizes "unegoistic morality" and demands that "Moralities must first of all be forced to bow before order of rank" (§221). Every "high culture" begins by recognizing "the pathos of distance"[1] (§257).

Nietzsche contrasts southern (Catholic) and northern (Protestant) Christianity; northern Europeans have much less "talent for religion" (§48) and lack "southern delicatezza" (§50). As elsewhere, Nietzsche praises the Old Testament while disparaging the New (§52).

Religion has always been connected to "three dangerous dietary prescriptions: solitude, fasting and sexual abstinence" (§47), and has exerted cruelty through demanding sacrifice according to a "ladder" with different rungs of cruelty, which has ultimately caused God Himself to be sacrificed (§55). Christianity, "the most fatal kind of self-presumption ever", has beaten everything joyful, assertive and autocratic out of man and turned him into a "sublime abortion" (§62). If, unlike past philosophers such as Schopenhauer, we really want to tackle the problems of morality, we must "compare many moralities" and "prepare a typology of morals" (§186). In a discussion that anticipates On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche claims that "Morality is in Europe today herd-animal morality" (§202)—i.e., it emanates from the ressentiment of the slave for the master (see also §260, which leads into the discussion in Genealogy, I).

Nietzsche argues that noble and base are distinguished by more than what they value as "good." Even where there is agreement over what is good, what men consider a sufficient sign of possessing what is good differs (§194). Nietzsche describes love as the desire to possess a woman. The most unrefined form of the desire is also the most readily identifiable as a desire to possess another: control over the woman's body. A subtler desire to possess her wants her soul, as well, and thus wants her to be willing to sacrifice herself for her lover. Nietzsche describes this as a more complete possession. A still more refined desire to possess her prompts a concern that she might be willing to sacrifice what she desires for a mistaken image of her lover. This leads some lovers to want their women to know them deep down so that their sacrifice really is a sacrifice for them. A similar rank-ordering applies to statesmen, the less refined not caring whether they attain power by fraud, the more refined not taking pleasure in the people's love unless they love the statesman for who he really is. In both cases, the more spiritualized form of the desire to possess also demands one possess what is good more completely.


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