Nietzsche on Morality


Let us finally consider how naive it is altogether to say: “Man ought to be such and such!” Reality shows us an enchanting wealth of types, the abundance of a lavish play and change of forms–and some wretched loafer of a moralist comments: “No! Man ought to be different.” He even knows what man should be like, this wretched bigot and prig: he paints himself on the wall and comments, “Ecce homo!” But even when the moralist addresses himself only to the single human being and says to him, “You ought to be such and such!” he does not cease to make himself ridiculous. The single human being is a piece of fatum from the front and from the rear, one law more, one necessity more for all that is yet to come and to be. To say to him, “Change yourself!” is to demand that everything be changed, even retroactively. And indeed there have been consistent moralists who wanted man to be different, that is, virtuous–they wanted him remade in their own image, as a prig: to that end, they negated the world! No small madness! No modest kind of immodesty!

Morality, insofar as it condemns for its own sake, and not out of regard for the concerns, considerations, and contrivances of life, is a specific error with which one ought to have no pity–an idiosyncrasy of degenerates which has caused immeasurable harm

We others, we immoralists, have, conversely, made room in our hearts for every kind of understanding, comprehending, and approving. We do not easily negate; we make it a point of honor to be affirmers. More and more, our eyes have opened to that economy which needs and knows how to utilize everything that the holy witlessness of the priest, the diseased reason in the priest, rejects–that economy in the law of life which finds an advantage even in the disgusting species of the prigs, the priests, the virtuous. What advantage? But we ourselves, we immoralists, are the answer.

Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

42 thoughts on “Nietzsche on Morality

  1. archaeopteryx1 says:

    And thus it is fair to say that we view the kaleidoscope that is humanity.

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  2. Mordanicus says:

    Nietzsche is hated by many, because he effectively destroyed the pretense of moral theory; whilst moralists since his days have failed to rebut Nietzsche. We now know that morality is a by-product of evolution, which helped a social species as ours to survive and flourish.

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    • makagutu says:

      Nietzsche was/ is to hate. He challenged very many things on religion and his attack on Christianity was incisive.
      I think most when they read his books are left with a bitter taste in the mouth, something they don’t know what to do with.

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      • Mordanicus says:

        Buddha told many thousands of years ago, that attachment, especially towards ideas, is the cause of suffering. Nietzsche did attack the ideas to which many are heavily attached and what he did is comparable to taking a way the favorite toy of an infant.

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        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, except with the word, “toy” – I see it as removing the hope of immortality, upon which the Judeo/Christian/Islamic religions depend, as the carrot on the stick.

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        • makagutu says:

          I was just reading something on Buddha last morning on his teachings on suffering, its causes and how to end suffering.
          Nietzsche came with a hammer to demolish many received opinions and I think in many ways he did a good job.

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          • archaeopteryx1 says:

            Not to gainsay the Buddha, but the Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran, tells us that joy and sorrow – which I must assume encompasses suffering – are inseparable. How should we know pleasure, if we have nothing with which to compare it?

            “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
            “Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
            “And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”

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  3. fojap says:

    When I told my mother that I was giving up morality, she expressed some nervousness, but I told her that nothing was likely to change. It hasn’t. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m starting to suspect that there is no objective morality, and that’s okay.

    We don’t go around killing each other because we’re social animals. We’re a bit more complicated, and definitely more flexible than, let’s say, bees, but there’s no more reason to think about morality regarding humans than to worry about it in cats.

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    • makagutu says:

      I agree with you, I don’t think there is any objective morality, whatever that maybe.

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    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      I’m curious about something, fojap, that admittedly is none of my business, and about which, I mean NO offense, but why did you feel it was important to tell your mother, if you knew she would find it disturbing? If, as you say, nothing changed, wouldn’t it have been kinder, to allow her to remain blissfully ignorant?

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      • fojap says:

        Oh, it was part of a larger conversation. I didn’t feel a need to tell her at all. We talk about all sorts of things.

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        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          Like I said, it was none of my business, I was just curious. Sometimes it’s kinder to just let them believe whatever they wish.

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          • fojap says:

            I don’t really think you understand what my mother’s like. Probably the only thing that would truly upset her is if I made grammatical errors. Now, that I have to hide.

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          • archaeopteryx1 says:

            Oh, one of those! You’re lucky – unless of course you’re prone to grammatical errors — 😀

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  4. Good old Nietzsche…
    Always angry and oftentimes unable to make the difference between a concept, its meanings and many details/angles, their complex effects all depending on the concept’s practical ripples in real life. With morality, he decided it’s altogether bad, even though all mammals have levels of morality, translated into acts which would usually qualify for common sense.
    Meanwhile, it is clear that his rant was aimed at the institutionalised morality as the subconsciously tolerated monopoly of religions, in which case he’s right. Nevertheless, neither his justified anger, nor his rage against the plain falsity of such “transcendent morality” should have been an excuse leading to the discarding of a philosophically vital concept, the individual level building block of ethics.
    It is very unfortunate that’s Nietzsche’s careless irresponsibility in what concerns the anger which blinded him from seeing the long-time effects of his sometimes poor choice of thought-expressing words…
    You know, “verba volant, scripta manent” and it can be misused with horrendous consequences, even if it may never have been the intent of the writer…

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    • makagutu says:

      Whatever his faults, I think on the question of morality, he gave it much thought starting from the history of morality as he understood it, which I think is still quite valid.

      And we agree his criticism of Christianity and by extension Judaism on the question of morality was and is spot on.

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      • Well you see, that’s exactly my point, “as he understood it…” which isn’t wrong, as we are all entitled to opinions, nevertheless, it is dogmatised opinion which causes trouble. It is most unfortunate when because of something sound someone may have said, followers will beatify him/her, creating “another” infallible cult. In his case, his clear insight against the ecclesiastical monopoly on morals, led him to demonize morality in itself, which I believe it’s utterly inappropriate.
        He wasn’t there along ages to witness morality in it’s development, relying on historical data which in itself is an interpretation, and further interpreted/evaluated it, arrived at conclusions valid from his religious angle, and decided to throw out the baby together with the tub.
        I will uphold this for as long as I live, that reaction to extremes should be cautious, as they tend to lead to mirrored, negated extremes, probably as harmful as what they were meant against, in the first place.

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        • makagutu says:

          I agree with your conclusion. Caution must be advised. Nietzsche says somewhere

          He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

          so in a sense I think he was aware of what you are saying.

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          • Wow, beautiful quote…
            As I said, Nietzsche was never my favourite, nevertheless as a product of his horrible own time, he shouted his anger, having felt, not only thought what he wrote.
            It’s hard to wage war with bandages only…

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  5. john zande says:

    Brilliant, and brilliantly timely.

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  6. Aquileana says:

    Witty Nietzsche… When I read him , I finish for haiting the world, the knowledge, God, Good, anything… Except music and greeks (not Socrates but mainly Dionisos …
    A brief note here: Freud must be thankful as this theory wouldn´t have exisetd if not for Nietzsche… And Nietzsche´s ideas wouldn´t have existed if not for Schopenhauer…

    Best wishes, Aquileana 🙂

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  7. aguywithoutboxers says:

    A very challenging and interesting topic and discussion thread here, buddy. A great subject! Thank you for offering this. You always manage to keep our thoughts lively. 🙂

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  8. “He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you”

    I have this quote on another site and I agree wholeheartedly with it and find it quite true from my immoral point of view. Morality is adaptable and utterly singular, hence the shear beauty of it.

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