Friedrich Nietzsche: Twilight of the Idols (excerpt, part 4)

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Whether we have become more moral. -- Against my conception of "beyond good and evil" -- as was to be expected -- the whole ferocity of moral hebetation, mistaken for morality itself in Germany, as is well known, has gone into action: I could tell fine stories about that. Above all I was asked to consider the "undeniable superiority" of our age in moral judgment, the real progress we have made here: compared with us, a Cesare Borgia is by no means to be represented after any manner as a "higher man," a kind of Overman. A Swiss editor of the Bund went so far that he "understood" the meaning of my work -- not without expressing his respect for my courage and daring -- to be a demand for the abolition of all decent feelings. Thank you! In reply, I take the liberty of raising the question whether we have really become more moral. That all the world believes this to be the case merely constitutes an objection.

We modern men, very tender, very easily hurt, and offering as well as receiving consideration a hundredfold, really have the conceit that this tender humanity which we represent, this attained unanimity in sympathetic regard, in readiness to help, in mutual trust, represents positive progress; and that in this respect we are far above the men of the Renaissance. But that is how every age thinks, how it must think. What is certain is that we may not place ourselves in Renaissance conditions, not even by an act of thought: our nerves would not endure that reality, not to speak of our muscles. But such incapacity does not prove progress, only another, later constitution, one which is weaker, frailer, more easily hurt, and which necessarily generates a morality rich in consideration. Were we to think away our frailty and lateness, our physiological senescence, then our morality of "humanization" would immediately lose its value too (in itself, no morality has any value) -- it would even arouse disdain. On the other hand, let us not doubt that we moderns, with our thickly padded humanity, which at all costs wants to avoid bumping into a stone, would have provided Cesare Borgia's contemporaries with a comedy at which they could have laughed themselves to death. Indeed, we are unwittingly funny beyond all measure with our modern "virtues."

The decrease in instincts which are hostile and arouse mistrust -- and that is all our "progress" amounts to -- represents but one of the consequences attending the general decrease in vitality: it requires a hundred times more trouble and caution to make so conditional and late an existence prevail. Hence each helps the other; hence everyone is to a certain extent sick, and everyone is a nurse for the sick. And that is called "virtue." Among men who still knew life differently -- fuller, more squandering, more overflowing -- it would have been called by another name: "cowardice" perhaps, "wretchedness," "old ladies' morality."

Our softening of manners -- that is my proposition; that is, if you will, my innovation -- is a consequence of decline; the hardness and terribleness of morals, conversely, can be a consequence of an excess of life. For in that case much may also be dared, much challenged, and much squandered. What was once the spice of life would be poison for us.

To be indifferent -- that too is a form of strength -- for that we are likewise too old, too late. Our morality of sympathy, against which I was the first to issue a warning -- that which one might call l'impressionisme morale -- is just another expression of that physiological overexcitability which is characteristic of everything decadent. That movement which tried to introduce itself scientifically with Schopenhauer's morality of pity -- a very unfortunate attempt! -- is the real movement of decadence in morality; as such, it is profoundly related to Christian morality. Strong ages, noble cultures, all consider pity, "neighbor-love," and the lack of self and self-assurance as something contemptible. Ages must be measured by their positive strength -- and then that lavishly squandering and fatal age of the Renaissance appears as the last great age; and we moderns, with our anxious self-solicitude and neighbor-love, with our virtues of work, modesty, legality, and scientism -- accumulating, economic, machinelike -- appear as a weak age. Our virtues are conditional on, are provoked by, our weaknesses. "Equality" as a certain factual increase in similarity, which merely finds expression in the theory of "equal rights," is an essential feature of decline. The cleavage between man and man, status and status, the plurality of types, the will to be oneself, to stand out -- what I call the pathos of distance, that is characteristic of every strong age. The strength to withstand tension, the width of the tensions between extremes, becomes ever smaller today; finally, the extremes themselves become blurred to the point of similarity.

All our political theories and constitutions -- and the "German Reich" is by no means an exception -- are consequences, necessary consequences, of decline; the unconscious effect of decadence has assumed mastery even over the ideals of some of the sciences. My objection against the whole of sociology in England and France remains that it knows from experience only the forms of social decay, and with perfect innocence accepts its own instincts of decay as the norm of sociological value-judgments. The decline of life, the decrease in the power to organize -- that is, to separate, tear open clefts, subordinate and superordinate -- all this has been formulated as the ideal in contemporary sociology. Our socialists are decadents, but Mr. Herbert Spencer is a decadent too: he considers the triumph of altruism desirable.


My conception of freedom. -- The value of a thing sometimes does not lie in that which one attains by it, but in what one pays for it -- what it costs us. I shall give an example. Liberal institutions cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: later on, there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedom than liberal institutions. Their effects are known well enough: they undermine the will to power; they level mountain and valley, and call that morality; they make men small, cowardly, and hedonistic -- every time it is the herd animal that triumphs with them. Liberalism: in other words, herd-animalization.

These same institutions produce quite different effects while they are still being fought for; then they really promote freedom in a powerful way. On closer inspection it is war that produces these effects, the war for liberal institutions, which, as a war, permits illiberal instincts to continue. And war educates for freedom. For what is freedom? That one has the will to assume responsibility for oneself. That one maintains the distance which separates us. That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself. That one is prepared to sacrifice human beings for one's cause, not excluding oneself. Freedom means that the manly instincts which delight in war and victory dominate over other instincts, for example, over those of "pleasure." The human being who has become free -- and how much more the spirit who has become free -- spits on the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats. The free man is a warrior. How is freedom measured in individuals and peoples? According to the resistance which must be overcome, according to the exertion required, to remain on top. The highest type of free men should be sought where the highest resistance is constantly overcome: five steps from tyranny, close to the threshold of the danger of servitude. This is true psychologically if by "tyrants" are meant inexorable and fearful instincts that provoke the maximum of authority and discipline against themselves; most beautiful type: Julius Caesar. This is true politically too; one need only go through history. The peoples who had some value, who attained some value, never attained it under liberal institutions: it was great danger that made something of them that merits respect. Danger alone acquaints us with our own resources, our virtues, our armor and weapons, our spirit, and forces us to be strong. First principle: one must need to be strong -- otherwise one will never become strong.

Those large hothouses for the strong -- for the strongest kind of human being that has so far been known -- the aristocratic commonwealths of the type of Rome or Venice, understood freedom exactly in the sense in which I understand it: as something one has and does not have, something one wants, something one conquers.

TheHammer Speaks

"Why so hard?" the kitchen coal once said to the diamond. "After all, are we not close kin?"

Why so soft? O my brothers, thus I ask you: are you not after all my brothers?

Why so soft, so pliant and yielding? Why is there so much denial, self-denial, in your hearts? So little destiny in your eyes?

And if you do not want to be destinies and inexorable ones, how can you one day triumph with me?

And if your hardness does not wish to flash and cut through, how can you one day create with me?

For all creators are hard. And it must seem blessedness to you to impress your hand on millennia as on wax.

Blessedness to write on the will of millennia as on bronze -- harder than bronze, nobler than bronze. Only the noblest is altogether hard.

This new tablet, O my brothers, I place over you: Become hard!

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