Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

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

The "Negative Confession" or Protestation of Ani, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Book of Going Forth by Day, The Complete Papyrus of Ani, Featuring Integrated Text and Full-Color Images, translated by Dr. Raymond O. Faulkner [1994, 1998, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2008, Chapter 125, Plate 31], hieroglyphic transcription, E.A. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Papyrus of Ani [1895, Dover Publications, 1967, p.202] -- the 33rd Confession as translated, but the 10th in the order of the manuscript.

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

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

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

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan, Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.50

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

Edmund Burke

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enklinobarangus ()

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

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

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

Calvin Coolidge, as Governor of Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

Bumper Sticker from the 1960's

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

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

"That's sick," said his twin.

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

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

The discussion of Existentialism treated Nietzsche as an Existentialist before his time, with the death of God producing the kind of nihilism characteristic of that movement. And, Nietzsche, for all his warnings about nihilism, does in the end seem to exemplify just the kind of nihilism that concerned him -- a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet Nietzsche thought he was offering an answer to nihilism. It is just that the cure is worse than the disease, and it gave far more comfort to nihilists in their nihilism than it did to anyone actually looking for a way out. But Nietzsche, as it happens, rather than an full-bodied nihilist, is a kind of positivist instead -- that certain actual events and practices are the root of genuine value. It is just that Nietzsche's theory in this respect makes the real nihilists uncomfortable, since they are often, for all their violent rhetoric, no more than timid, politically correct academics (i.e. bureaucrats), who cower and flee at the prospect of a theory such as that proposed by Friedrich Nietzsche.

The events and practices used by Nietzsche's postivisim happen to be those of the most extreme 19th century Darwinian conception of nature. This very often sounds good, since Nietzsche sees himself, and can easily impress others, as simply making a healthy affirmation of life. Life for Nietzsche, however, is red in tooth and claw, and the most admirable and interesting form of life is the triumphant Darwinian predator, who in general is paradigmatic of beauty, grace, strength, intelligence, and activity, while living off of the less intelligent herds of herbivores, i.e. the dull and the bovine. In other words, this is "Social Darwinism," otherwise used as a stick to beat capitalism with. In The Genealogy of Morals, one of Nietzsche's latest works (1887), he lays this all out with great clarity and eloquence. It is a performance that is also appalling -- and horrifying in relation to the uses to which Nietzsche's ideas were later put, for which he cannot, and would not care to, escape blame.

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

First of all, Nietzsche's racism is unmistakable. The best way to approach this is to let Nietzsche speak for himself. In the quotes that follow, I will simply offer examples from The Genealogy of Morals alone, as translated by Francis Golffing (in the footnotes I have been adding some passages from Beyond Good and Evil for comparison).

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

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

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

This anxiety or distemper may be due to a variety of causes. It may result from a crossing of races too dissimilar (or of classes too dissimilar. Class distinctions are always indicative of genetic and racial differences:  the European Weltschmerz and the pessimism of the nineteenth century were both essentially the results of an abrupt and senseless mixing of classes)... [p.267, boldface added, note]

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

The lack of rights for the dark underclasses brings us to the principal theme of The Genealogy of Morals:  The morality of "good and evil" (gut und bös) has been invented out of hatred and resentment by the defeated and subjugated races, especially the Jews. People who love Nietzsche for his celebration of creativity and his dismissal of the moralism of traditional religion, mainly meaning Christianity, usually seem to think of going "beyond good and evil" as merely legitimizing homosexuality, drugs, abortion, prostitution, pornography, and the other desiderata of progressive thinking. They don't seem to understand that Nietzsche wasn't particularly interested in things like that, but, more to the point, legitimizing rape, murder, torture, pillage, domination, and political oppression by the strong. The only honest Nietzschean graduate student I ever met frankly stated, "To be creative, you must be evil." We get something similar in the recent Sandra Bullock movie, Murder by Numbers [2002], where the young Nietzschean student simply says, "Freedom is crime." The story of the movie is more or less that of Leopold and Loeb, the Chicago teenagers who in 1924 murdered a young boy (Bobby Franks) to prove that they were "beyond good and evil." Leopold and Loeb understood their Nietzsche far better than most of his academic apologists.

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

The "noble races" -- Herren Rasse -- are thus ennobled by no restraint or consideration shown for the persons or possessions, let alone feelings, of those helpless strangers who come within their power. "Spoil and conquest," rape and torture, are fun. Kaiser Wilhelm got in the spirit of things by telling German troups to act like the "Huns of Attila" on their mission to Peking in 1900. No Nietzschean has any business, for example, damning Christopher Columbus for enslaving the Caribs. While Nietzsche actually seems to think that the "blond Teutonic beast" was gone from Germany, and Hitler, as noted, hardly fills the bill, there is actually no lack of blonds in the "Nordic" nations, and Nietzsche himself here seems to have a relatively expansive notion of racial superiority. While he apparently thought of the Roman nobility as themselves of Aryan extraction, he can hardly have thought the same of the Arabians or Japanese. This acknowledgment would have been of material advantage in World War II, when many Arabs preferred the Germans to the British (or to the Zionist Jews of Palestine) -- while the Japanese, even today, often think of themselves as a pure and superior race. As actual German Allies in World War II, the Japanese were in close competition with Germany for atrocities against civilians and prisoners-of-war (though the Germans were relatively considerate of American and British prisoners, while brutal to Russians and others, as the Japanese were to all).

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

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

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

The delicacy -- even more, the tartufferie -- of domestic animals like ourselves shrinks from imagining clearly to what extent cruelty constituted the collective delight of older mankind, how much it was an ingredient of all their joys, or how naïvely they manifested their cruelty, how they considered disinterested malevolence (Spinoza's sympathia malevolens) a normal trait, something to which one's conscience could assent heartily.... To behold suffering gives pleasure, but to cause another to suffer affords an even greater pleasure [Leiden-sehn thut wohl, Leiden-machen noch wohler]. [pp.197-198, boldface added]

A great part of the pleasure that we get, according to Nietzsche, from injustice to others is simply the pleasure of inflicting suffering. In this it is worth recollecting the feminist shibboleth that rape is not about sex, it is about power. Nietzsche would heartily concur. So much the better! And what is more, the value of rape is not just power, it is the chance to cruelly inflict suffering. The rapist who beats and mutilates, perhaps even kills, his victim, has done no evil, he is instead one of the heroes of true historic nobility. And people think that the droit de seigneur represents some "abuse" of power! No! It is the truly noble man as heroic rapist! Nietzsche would turn around Susan Brownmiller, who said that all men are rapists. No, it is just the problem that they are not. Nietzsche would regard most men as virtual castrati (domestic oxen, geldings) for not being rapists.

...it should be clearly understood that in the days when people were unashamed of their cruelty life was a great deal more enjoyable than it is now in the heyday of pessimism.... -- the bog of morbid finickiness and moralistic drivel which has alienated man from his natural instincts... Nowadays, when suffering is invariably quoted as the chief argument against existence, it might be well to recall the days when matters were judged from the opposite point of view; when people would not have missed for anything the pleasure of inflicting suffering, in which they saw a powerful agent, the principal inducement to living. By way of comfort to the milksops, I would also venture the suggestion that in those days pain did not hurt as much as it does today; at all events, such is the opinion of a doctor who has treated Negroes for complicated internal inflammations which would have driven the most stoical Europeans to distraction -- the assumption here being that the negro represents an earlier phase of human development (... For my part, I am convinced that, compared with one night's pain endured by a hysterical bluestocking, all the suffering of all the animals that have been used to date for scientific experiments is as nothing.) [pp. 199-200, boldface added]

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

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

As we all know, priests are the most evil enemies to have -- why should this be so? Because they are the most impotent. It is their impotence which makes their hate so violent and sinister, so cerebral and poisonous. The greatest haters in history -- but also the most intelligent haters -- have been priests. Beside the brilliance of priestly vengeance all other brilliance fades. Human history would be a dull and stupid thing without the intelligence furnished by its impotents. Let us begin with the most striking example. Whatever else has been done to damage the powerful and great of this earth seems trivial compared with what the Jews have done, that priestly people who succeeded in avenging themselves on their enemies and oppressors by radically inverting all their values, that is, by an act of the most spiritual vengeance. This was a strategy entirely appropriate to a priestly people in whom vindictiveness had gone most deeply underground. It was the Jew who, with frightening consistency, dared to invert the aristocratic value equations good/noble/powerful/beautiful/ happy/favored-of-the-gods and maintain, with the furious hatred of the underprivileged and impotent, that "only the poor, the powerless, are good; only the suffering, sick, and ugly, truly blessed. But you noble and mighty ones of the earth will be, to all eternity, the evil, the cruel, the avaricious, the godless, and thus the cursed and damned!" ... We know who has fallen heir to this Jewish inversion of values.... In reference to the grand and unspeakably disastrous initiative which the Jews have launched by this most radical of all declarations of war, I wish to repeat a statement I made in a different context (Beyond Good and Evil), to wit, that it was the Jews who started the slave revolt in morals; a revolt with two millennia of history behind it, which we have lost sight of today simply because it has triumphed so competely. [pp.167-168, boldface added, note]

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

From the tree trunk of Jewish vengeance and hatred [der Rache und des Hasses, des jüdischen Hasses] -- the deepest and sublimest hatred in human history, since it gave birth to ideals and a new set of values -- grew a branch that was equally unique:  a new love, the deepest and sublimest of loves. From what other trunk could this branch have sprung? But let no one surmise that this love represented a denial of the thirst for vengeance, that it contravened the Jewish hatred. Exactly the opposite is true. Love grew out of hatred as the tree's crown, spreading triumphantly in the purest sunlight, yet having, in its high and sunny realm, the same aims -- victory, aggrandizement, temptation -- which hatred pursued by digging its roots ever deeper into all that was profound and evil [böse]. Jesus of Nazareth, the gospel of love made flesh, the "redeemer," who brought blessing and victory to the poor, the sick, the sinner -- what was he but temptation in its most sinister and irresistible form, bringing men by a roundabout way to precisely those Jewish values and renovations of the ideal? Has not Israel, precisely by the detour of this "redeemer," this seeming antagonist and destroyer of Israel, reached the final goal of its sublime vindictiveness [seiner sublimen Rachsucht]? Was it not a necessary feature of a truly brilliant politics of vengeance, a farsighted, subterranean, slowly and carefully planned vengeance, that Israel had to deny its true instrument publicly and nail him to the cross like a mortal enemy, so that "the whole world" (meaning all the enemies of Israel) might naïvely swallow the bait? And could one, by straining every resource, hit upon a bait more dangerous than this? What could equal in debilitating narcotic power the symbol of the "holy cross," the ghastly paradox of a crucified god, the unspeakably cruel mystery of God's self-crucifixion for the benefit of mankind? One thing is certain, that in this sign [sub hoc signo] Israel [mit seiner Rache und Umwerthung aller Werthe bisher -- with its revenge and revaluation of all former values] has by now triumphed over all other, nobler values [Ideale]. [pp.168-169, boldface added, deleted section restored]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rome viewed Israel as a monstrosity; the Romans regarded the Jews as convicted of hatred against the whole of mankind -- and rightly so if one is justified in associating the welfare of the human species with absolute supremacy of aristocratic values.... The Romans were the strongest and most noble people who ever lived. [p.185-186, boldface added, note]

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

For then the last political nobleness Europe had known, that of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France, collapsed under the weight of vindictive popular instincts... Like a last signpost to an alternative route Napoleon appears, most isolated and anachronistic of men, the embodiment of the noble ideal. [pp.186-187]

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

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

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

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

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

This idea that there is no agent gifted with actual choice turns up in recent, trendy theory that the self is "socially constructed" and so represents no real ontological entity. Usually the context of this move is an attempt to remove the individual from political calculation and so make a totalitarian assimilation of the individual to the political whole obvious and natural, and to justify the use of police-state force to "reeducate" individuals and break the hold of "institutional" racism, classism, and heterosexism. Nietzsche would not be interested in abolishing the individuality of the Übermensch, let alone the racism or classism, but it is also clear that individuality for the many -- which could only be defended with the individual rights of Classical Liberalism -- would have no place in Nietzsche's calculations. It thus may not be much of a stretch to see a connection between Nietzsche's despotic Übermensch and the despotism desired by trendy intellectuals with totalitarian hungers. They each are happy to eliminate the Kantian self which is the subject of rights and dignity for all persons, even the bovine masses. Indeed, this connection would be the sort of folie à deux I have noted elsewhere between the Dionysian rejection of personal constraints and the rigidity and fascism that Camille Paglia identifies in the Apollonian temperament. "Dionysian" and "Apollonian" are of course Nietzsche's own terminology from The Birth of Tragedy (a much younger and perhaps saner Nietzsche) for the different sensibilities in Greek art. Where Nietzschean ruthlessness cooperates with Leftist ideology, as in the person of Stalin, it is the true and odd combination of everything of which Nietzsche approved with everything that he detested. Unlike Stalin himself, modern academics, perhaps following in the theoretical footsteps of people like Herbert Marcuse (the oxymoronic Freudian Marxist), can without hesitation embrace both.

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

(The path I am speaking of does not lead to "happiness" but to power, to the most energetic activity, and in a majority of cases to actual unhappiness.) Thus the philosopher abhors marriage and all that would persuade him to marriage, for he sees the married state as an obstacle to fulfillment. What great philosopher has ever been married? Heracleitus, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Schopenhauer -- not one of them was married; moreover, it is impossible to imagine any of them married. I maintain that a married philosopher belongs in comedy, and as for that great exception, Socrates got married in a spirit of irony, precisely in order to prove that contention. Every philosopher would speak as Buddha spoke when he was told that a son had been born to him:  "Râhula has been born to me; a fetter has been forged for me" (Râhula means "little daemon"). [p.242]

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

It is easy to tell a philosopher:  he avoids three shiny, loud things -- fame, princes, and women... [p.245]

Perhaps no one ever told or showed Nietzsche, growing up among women, that loud women can be shut up with a bit of the innocent violence of the wild animal. But then the delicacy of Nietzsche in his personal life is what contrasts with his fantasies of power and domination -- as Will Durant says, "...the soul of a girl under the armor of a warrior" [The Story of Philosophy, The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosphers, Simon and Schuster, 1926, 1933, p.305]. Unlike Heidegger, we cannot say that Nietzsche ever acted out the implications of his thought. His thought is just the kind of exercise in fantasy vengeance that he attributes to the Jews. This may make him a better person, in terms of action, but not in any way that he would have honored or admired himself. Since he didn't become a cheerleader for the German Empire or the typical anti-Semite of the age, he can be credited with a spurious moral discrimination. His objection to both, however, was their moral posturing and Christianity:

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

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

These carriers of the leveling and retributive instincts, these descendants of every European and extra-European slave-dom, and especially of the pre-Aryan populations, represent human retrogression most flagrantly. Such "instruments of culture" are a disgrace to man and might make one suspicious of culture altogether. One might be justified in fearing the wild beast lurking within all noble races and in being on one's guard against it, but who would not a thousand times prefer fear when it is accompanied with admiration to security accompanied by the loathsome sight of perversion, dwarfishness, degeneracy? And is not the latter our predicament today? [p.176, boldface added]

"Human retrogression"? Is our "predicament today" really "perversion, dwarfishness" or "degeneracy"? For all the fevered hallucinations of leftists who find racism in every American heart and schoolhouse, and who demand that society spare no expense in accommodating every blind, deaf, deformed, and crippled person to the point where they can live like anyone else, the only place where Nietzsche's racism and contempt for the sick and suffering is read with pleasure, honor, and praise is in the most fortified strongholds of political correctness and "progressive" politics -- American universities. All that prevents such people from becoming more honest Nietzscheans and following Heidegger down the path to something like the "inner truth and greatness" of National Socialism is fashion. Marxism still provides the rhetoric and paradigmata for contemporary "progressive" thought, but it should not be forgotten that the Italian "Futurists" of the 1920's were fascists. People whose every instinct is already totalitarian are vulnerable to who knows what kinds of whims. In a world where liberalism and democracies are now increasingly in violent geopolitical conflict with Islâmic Fascism, and trendy progressives despise liberal capitalism more than misogynistic Islâmic terrorists, the most surprising intellectual developments become possible. In such an ideological mix and ferment, one thing stands clear:  Nietzsche's contribution, a morally infantile fantasy of barbarism, will always be dangerous, destructive, and seductive to anyone whose moral maturity is no greater than his.

Editorial Note:

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

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

Nietzsche and the Nazis, A Personal View by Stephen Hicks, Ph.D., DVD, Ockham's Razor Publishing, 2006

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 2


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

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

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

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

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

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 3


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

Yet offenses against free speech are often commited by people who otherwise may be self-avowed partisans of Friedrich Nietzsche -- while they constantly seek to evade adverse court rulings and negative publicity to restore their oppressive policies. Fraternity pranks aginst them would be an exemplary form of political speech.

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 4


With this first long passage that mentions the Jews, let me turn to the lectures given on Nietzsche by Robert Solomon for the Teaching Company "Great Courses" series. Solomon is familiar in these pages for his apologetic for Hegel. In his course called "No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life," Solomon gives four half-hour lectures on Nietzsche. In none of them does he ever use the words "race," "Aryan," or "Jew." While he refers to Nietzsche's idea that people are born with their own fixed character, he does not express this in racial terms as Nietzsche does. And while he refers to the ancient "Hebrews" in connection with the slave revolt in morals, he does not call them what Nietzsche does, i.e. "Jews," nor does he mention Nietzsche's contemporary references to the Jews, or for the contemporary need for proper breeding, either involving the Jews or as a political problem for Europe.

Thus, Solomon has bowdlerized Nietzsche. We need an apologetic for Nietzsche's politically incorrect racism? Well, we'll just ignore it! Those who, prepared by Solomon, sit down to actually read The Genealogy of Morals, are in for a surprise. Perhaps it is not surprising then to find Solomon protesting that Nietzsche was a "moral" person, despite his self-characterization as an "immoralist." He supplies for him an Aristotelian virtue ethics, whose sensible goal is "self-esteem," in line with Solomon's interpretation of Nietzsche's epistemology as "pragmatic." I expect that Nietzsche would get a good laugh out of all this. More seriously, just as Solomon trivializes and dismisses the significance of Hegel's "Absolute Idea," he also presents a decidedly wimpy take on the Nietzschean Übermensch. Since he admits that Nietzsche has problems with free will, and regards people as born with a fixed character, he properly dismisses the idea that anyone one of us, by an act of will, could become an Übermensch. Consequently, he regards this "next step in evolution" as an unattainable ideal and so doesn't need to worry about Nietzschean ideas like the "transvaluation of all values" into something "beyond good and evil."

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

So Solomon presents a dumbed-down and whitewashed, if not neutered, picture of Nietzsche, with positive distortions of Nietzsche's philosophy. Nowhere is that more conspicuous than in his assertion that Nietzsche rejected Schopenhauer's pessimism. Au contraire. We know from the Birth of Tragedy that Nietzsche fully accepted the pessimism, even as he rejected happiness as the proper goal of life. Nietzsche expected neither pleasure nor happiness. Power is the purpose of human activity. But Solomon has decided that Nietzsche's philosophy is about "self-realization," which again, I think, would give Nietzsche good laugh.

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 5


A case where I think Golffing is too careless with the translation, though not to the point of misrepresentation, is the statement he translates as, "The Romans were the strongest and most noble people who ever lived" [p.186]. In German this is Die Römer waren ja die Starken und Vornehmen, wie sie stärker und vornehmer bisher auf Erden nie dagewesen, selbst niemals geträumt worden sind [op.cit., p.42]. Golffing has reduced 23 word to 12 and vastly reduced the construction and the meaning. Ansell-Pearson translates the statement as, "So the Romans were the strong and noble, stronger and nobler than anybody hitherto who had lived or been dreamt of on earth" [op.cit.,p.35]. This, with exactly 23 words, also takes liberties with the construction and the meaning, since there really isn't a "than anybody" or "who" in German, and it otherwise has two words (nie and niemals) that mean "never," which don't get translated. Ansell-Pearson has made "Romans" the subject of the whole sentence, while in Nietzsche there are two subjects, the Romans first of all but then second the ones, who don't exist, who would have been stronger or nobler -- though in Ansell-Pearson we get the subject "anybody" in their own subordinate "who" clause.

It looks to me like the most literal translation would be:  "The Romans were indeed the strong and noble, just as those stronger and nobler hitherto on earth never existed, never even would have been dreamt" (25 words). This may be a little awkward, as can happen with literal translations. The most forceful statement is Golffing's, but there is no good reason for a translator to improve on the rhetoric of the text by sacrificing most of what it says. Ansell-Pearson has also improved the rhetoric, though less so.

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Note 6


Exhibit "A" for the case that Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite, and what the correspondent above apparently relies upon, may be a passage in Beyond Good and Evil. There he says "I have never yet met a German who liked Jews" [translated by Marianne Cowan, Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.185], which he attributes to the German character being "so weak and vague that it could easily be smudged out, even altogether wiped out, by a stronger race" [p.186]. Thus, he says, anti-Semitism goes along with "anti-French stupidity," or being "anti-Polish," or "by the Christian-Romantic disturbance," etc. [p.185]. This all apparently relfects a judgment that Germans have not found the proper "triumphant self-affirmation" that Nietzsche requires of his heroes. The Jews as a "stronger race," however, strikes a curious note. Indeed, Nietzsche says, "And the Jews are beyond doubt the strongest, toughest and purest race now living in Europe" [immediately following the quote on p.186]. If Nietzsche means this to be praise of the Jews, it takes a particularly ugly form. His racism shines through. In fact the Jews are neither "pure" nor a "race" except in the fevered and poisonous calculations of the race theorist. This is a false step to take if Nietzsche is to build a case against anti-Semtism. Worse is to follow:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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