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History Seminar 16: The Revolt against Reason

F Nietzsche, "Good and Evil," "Good and Bad"


[4.1] The signpost to the right road was for me the question: what was the real etymological significance of the designations for "good" coined in the various languages? I found they all led back to the same conceptual transformation -- that everywhere "noble," "aristocratic" in the social sense, is the basic concept from which "good" in the sense of "with aristocratic soul," "noble," "with a soul of a high order," "with a privileged soul" necessarily developed: a development which always runs parallel with that other in which "common," "plebeian," "low" are finally transformed into the concept "bad." The most convincing example of the latter is the German word schleeht [bad] itself: which is identical with schlicht [plain, simple] -- compare schlechteweg [plainly], schlechterdings [simply] -- and originally designated the plain, the common man, as yet with no inculpatory implication and simply in contradistinction to the nobility. About the time of the Thirty Years' War, late enough therefore, this meaning changed into the one now customary.

[4.2] With regard to a moral genealogy this seems to me a fundamental insight; that it has been arrived at so late is the fault of the retarding influence exercised by the democratic prejudice in the modern world toward all questions of origin. And this is so even in the apparently quite objective domain of natural science and physiology, as I shall merely hint here. But what mischief this prejudice is capable of doing, especially to morality and history, once it has been unbridled to the point of hatred is shown by the notorious case of Buckle; here the plebeianism of the modern spirit, which is of English origin, erupted once again on its native soil, as violently as a mud volcano and with that salty, noisy, vulgar eloquence with which all volcanoes have spoken hitherto.


[5.1] With regard to our problem, which may on good grounds be called a quiet problem and one which fastidiously directs itself to few ears, it is of no small interest to ascertain that through those words and roots which designate "good" there frequently still shines the most important nuance by virtue of which the noble felt themselves to be men of a higher rank. Granted that in the majority of cases, they designate themselves simply by their superiority in power ( as "the powerful," "the masters," "the commanders") or by the most clearly visible signs of this superiority, for example, as "the rich," "the possessors" (this is the meaning of arya; and of corresponding words in Iranian and Slavic). But they also do it by a typical character trait: and this is the case that concerns us here. They call themselves, for instance, "the truthful"; this is so above all of the Greek nobility, whose mouthpiece is the Megarian poet Theognis. The root of the word coined for this, esthlos, signifies one who is, who possesses reality, who is actual, who is true; then, with a subjective turn, the true as the truthful: in this phase of conceptual transformation it becomes a slogan and catchword of the nobility and passes over entirely into the sense of "noble." as distinct from the lying common man, which is what Theognis takes him to be and how he describes him -- until finally, after the decline of the nobility, the word is left to designate nobility of soul and becomes as it were ripe and sweet. In the word kakos, as in deilos (the plebeian in contradistinction to the agathos), cowardice is emphasised: this perhaps gives an indication in which direction one should seek the etymological origin of agathos, which is susceptible of several interpretations. The Latin malus (beside which I set melas') may designate the common man as the dark-coloured, above all as the black-haired man ( "hic niger est -- " ), as the pre-Aryan occupant of the soil of Italy who was distinguished most obviously from the blond, that is Aryan, conqueror race by his colour; Gaelic, at any rate, offers us a precisely similar case -- fin (for example in the name Fin-Gal), the distinguishing word for nobility, finally for the good, noble, pure, originally meant the blondheaded, in contradistinction to the dark, black-haired aboriginal inhabitants.

[5.2] The Celts, by the way, were definitely a blond race; it is wrong to associate traces of an essentially dark-haired people which appear on the more careful ethnographical maps of Germany with any sort of Celtic origin or blood-mixture, as Virchow still does: it is rather the pre-Aryan people of Germany who emerge in these places. (The same is true of virtually all Europe: the suppressed race has gradually recovered the upper hand again, in colouring, shortness of skull, perhaps even in the intellectual and social instincts: who can say whether modern democracy, even more modern anarchism and especially that inclination for "commune," for the most primitive form of society, which is now shared by all the socialists of Europe, does not signify in the main a tremendous counterattack -- and that the conqueror and master race, the Aryan, is not succumbing physiologically, too?

[5.3] I believe I may venture to interpret the Latin bonus as "the warrior," provided I am right in tracing bonus back to an earlier duonus (compare bellum = duellum = duen-lum, which seems to me to contain duonus). Therefore bonus as the man of strife, of dissension (duo), as the man of war: one sees what constituted the "goodness" of a man in ancient Rome. Our German gut [good] even: does it not signify "the godlike," the man of "godlike race"? And is it not identical with the popular (originally noble) name of the Goths? The grounds for this conjecture cannot be dealt with here. --


[6.1] To this rule that a concept denoting political superiority always resolves itself into a concept denoting superiority of soul it is not necessarily an exception (although it provides occasions for exceptions) when the highest caste is at the same time the priestly caste and therefore emphasises in its total description of itself a predicate that calls to mind its priestly function. It is then, for example, that "pure" and "impure" confront one another for the first time as designations of station; and here too there evolves a "good" and a "bad" in a sense no longer referring to station. One should be warned, moreover, against taking these concepts "pure" and "impure" too ponderously or broadly, not to say symbolically: all the concepts of ancient man were rather at first incredibly uncouth, coarse, external, narrow, straightforward, and altogether unsymbolical in meaning to a degree that we can scarcely conceive. The "pure one" is from the beginning merely a man who washes himself, who forbids himself certain foods that produce skin ailments, who does not sleep with the dirty women of the lower strata, who has an aversion to blood -- no more, hardly more! On the other hand, to be sure, it is clear from the whole nature of an essentially priestly aristocracy why antithetical valuations could in precisely this instance soon become dangerously deepened, sharpened, and internalised; and indeed they finally tore chasms between man and man that a very Achilles of a free spirit would not venture to leap without a shudder. There is from the first something unhealthy in such priestly aristocracies and in the habits ruling in them which turn them away from action and alternate between brooding and emotional explosions, habits which seem to have as their almost invariable consequence that intestinal morbidity and neurasthenia which has afflicted priests at all times; but as to that which they themselves devised as a remedy for this morbidity -- must one not assert that it has ultimately proved itself a hundred times more dangerous in its effects than the sickness it was supposed to cure? Mankind itself is still ill with the effects of this priestly naïveté in medicine! Think, for example, of certain forms of diet (abstinence from meat), of fasting, of sexual continence, of flight "into the wilderness" (the Weir Mitchell isolation cure -- without, to be sure, the subsequent fattening and overfeeding which constitute the most effective remedy for the hysteria induced by the ascetic ideal): add to these the entire antisensualistic metaphysic of the priests that makes men indolent and overrefined, their autohypnosis in the manner of fakirs and Brahmins -- Brahma used in the shape of a glass knob and a fixed idea -- and finally the only-too-comprehensible satiety with all this, together with the radical cure for it, nothingness (or God -- the desire for a unio mystica with God is the desire of the Buddhist for nothingness, Nirvana -- and no more!). For with the priests everything becomes more dangerous, not only cures and remedies, but also arrogance, revenge, acuteness, profligacy, love, lust to rule, virtue, disease -- but it is only fair to add that it was on the soil of this essentially dangerous form of human existence, the priestly form, that man first became an interesting animal, that only here did the human soul in a higher sense acquire depth and become evil -- and these are the two basic respects in which man has hitherto been superior to other beasts!


[7.1] One will have divined already how easily the priestly mode of valuation can branch off from the knightly-aristocratic and then develop into its opposite; this is particularly likely when the priestly caste and the warrior caste are in jealous opposition to one another and are unwilling to come to terms. The knightly-aristocratic value judgements presupposed a powerful physicality, a flourishing, abundant, even overflowing health, together with that which serves to preserve it: war, adventure, hunting, dancing, war games, and in general all that involves vigorous, free, joyful activity. The priestly-noble mode of valuation presupposes, as we have seen, other things: it is disadvantageous for it when it comes to war! As is well known, the priests are the most evil enemies -- but why? Because they are the most impotent. It is because of their impotence that in them hatred grows to monstrous and uncanny proportions, to the most spiritual and poisonous kind of hatred. The truly great haters in world history have always been priests; likewise the most ingenious haters: other kinds of spirit 2 hardly come into consideration when compared with the spirit of priestly vengefulness. Human history would be altogether too stupid a thing without the spirit that the impotent have introduced into it -- let us take at once the most notable example. All that has been done on earth against "the noble," "the powerful," "the masters," "the rulers," fades into nothing compared with what the Jews have done against them; the Jews, that priestly people, who in opposing their enemies and conquerors were ultimately satisfied with nothing less than a radical revaluation of their enemies' values, that is to say, an act of the most spiritual revenge. For this alone was appropriate to a priestly people, the people embodying the most deeply repressed D priestly vengefulness. It was the Jews who, with awe-inspiring consistency, dared to invert the aristocratic value-equation (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = happy = beloved of God) and to hang on to this inversion with their teeth, the teeth of the most abysmal hatred (the hatred of impotence), saying "the wretched alone are the good; the poor, impotent, lowly alone are the good; the suffering, deprived, sick, ugly alone are pious, alone are blessed by God, blessedness is for them alone -- and you, the powerful and noble, are on the contrary the evil, the cruel, the lustful, the insatiable, the godless to all eternity; and you shall be in all eternity the unblessed, accursed, and damned!" . . . One knows who inherited this Jewish revaluation . . . In connection with the tremendous and immeasurably fateful initiative provided by the Jews through this most fundamental of all declarations of war, I recall the proposition I arrived at on a previous occasion (Beyond Good and Evil, section 195) -- that with the Jews there begins the slave revolt in morality: that revolt which has a history of two thousand years behind it and which we no longer see because it -- has been victorious.


[8.1] But you do not comprehend this? You are incapable of seeing something that required two thousand years to achieve victory? -- There is nothing to wonder at in that: all protracted things are hard to see, to see whole. That, however, is what has happened: from the trunk of that tree of vengefulness and hatred, Jewish hatred -- the profoundest and sublimest kind of hatred, capable of creating ideals and reversing values, the like of which has never existed on earth before -- there grew something equally incomparable, a new love, the profoundest and sublimest kind of love - and from what other trunk could it have grown?

[8.2] One should not imagine it grew up as the denial of that thirst for revenge, as the opposite of Jewish hatred! No, the reverse is true! That love grew out of it as its crown, as its triumphant crown spreading itself farther and farther into the purest brightness and sunlight, driven as it were into the domain of light and the heights in pursuit of the goals of that hatred -- victory, spoil, and seduction -- by the same impulse that drove the roots of that hatred deeper and deeper and more and more covetously into all that was profound and evil. This Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate gospel of love, this "Redeemer" who brought blessedness and victory to the poor, the sick, and the sinners -- was he not this seduction in its most uncanny and irresistible form, a seduction and bypath to precisely those Jewish values and new ideals? Did Israel not attain the ultimate goal of its sublime vengefulness precisely through the bypath of this "Redeemer," this ostensible opponent and disintegrator of Israel? Was it not part of the secret black art of truly grand politics of revenge, of a farseeing, subterranean, slowly advancing, and premeditated revenge, that Israel must itself deny the real instrument of its revenge before all the world as a mortal enemy and nail it to the cross, so that "all the world," namely all the opponents of Israel, could unhesitatingly swallow just this bait? And could spiritual subtlety imagine any more dangerous bait than this? Anything to equal the enticing, intoxicating, overwhelming, and undermining power of that symbol of the "holy cross," that ghastly paradox of a "God on the cross," that mystery of an unimaginable ultimate cruelty and self-crucifixion of God for the salvation of man?

[8.3] What is certain, at least, is that sub hoc signo' Israel, with its vengefulness and revaluation of all values, has hitherto triumphed again and again over all other ideals, over all nobler ideals.


[9.1] "But why are you talking about nobler ideals! Let us stick to the facts: the people have won -- or 'the slaves' or 'the mob' or 'the herd' or whatever you like to call them -- if this has happened through the Jews, very well! in that case no people ever had a more world-historic mission. 'The masters' have been disposed of; the morality of the common man has won. One may conceive of this victory as at the same time a blood-poisoning (it has mixed the races together) -- I shan't contradict; but this in-toxication has undoubtedly been successful. The 'redemption' of the human race (from 'the masters,' that is) is going forward; everything is visibly becoming Judaised, Christianised, mob-ised (what do the words matter!). The progress of this poison through the entire body of mankind seems irresistible, its pace and tempo may from now on even grow slower, subtler, less audible, more cautious -- there is plenty of time. -- To this end, does the church today still have any necessary role to play? Does it still have the right to exist? Or could one do without it? Quaeritur. It seems to hinder rather than hasten this progress. But perhaps that is its usefulness. -- Certainly it has, over the years, become something crude and boorish, something repellent to a more delicate intellect, to a truly modern taste. Ought it not to become at least a little more refined. -- Today it alienates rather than seduces. -- Which of us would be a free spirit if the church did not exist? It is the church, and not its poison, that repels us. -- Apart from the church, we, too, love the poison. -- "

[9.2] This is the epilogue of a "free spirit" to my speech; an honest animal, as he has abundantly revealed, and a democrat, moreover; he had been listening to me till then and could not endure to listen to my silence. For at this point I have much to be silent about.


[10.1] The slave revolt in morality begins when ressentiment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of natures that are denied the true reaction, that of deeds, and compensate themselves with an imaginary revenge. While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is "outside," what is "different," what is "not itself"; and this No is its creative deed. This inversion of the value-positing eye -- this need to direct one's view outward instead of back to oneself -- is of the essence of ressentiment: in order to exist, slave morality always first needs a hostile external world; it needs, physiologically speaking, external stimuli in order to act at all -- its action is fundamentally reaction.

[10.2] The reverse is the case with the noble mode of valuation: it acts and grows spontaneously, it seeks its opposite only so as to affirm itself more gratefully and triumphantly -- its negative concept "low," "common," "bad" is only a subsequently-invented pale, contrasting image in relation to its positive basic concept -- filled with life and passion through and through -- "we noble ones, we good, beautiful, happy ones!" When the noble mode of valuation blunders and sins against reality, it does so in respect to the sphere with which it is not sufficiently familiar, against a real knowledge of which it has indeed inflexibly guarded itself: in some circumstances it misunderstands the sphere it despises, that of the common man, of the lower orders; on the other hand, one should remember that, even supposing that the affect of contempt, of looking down from a superior height, falsifies the image of that which it despises, it will at any rate still be a much less serious falsification than that perpetrated on its opponent -- in effigy of course -- by the submerged hatred, the vengefulness of the impotent. There is indeed too much carelessness, too much taking lightly, too much looking away and impatience involved in contempt, even too much joyfulness, for it to be able to transform its object into a real caricature and monster.

[10.3] One should not overlook the almost benevolent nuances that the Greek nobility, for example, bestows on all the words it employs to distinguish the lower orders from itself; how they are continuously mingled and sweetened with a kind of pity, consideration, and forbearance, so that finally almost all the words referring to the common man have remained as expressions signifying "unhappy," "pitiable" (campore deilos, deilaios, poneros, mochtheros, the last two of which properly designate the common man as workslave and beast of burden) -- and how on the other hand "bad," "low," "unhappy" have never ceased to sound to the Greek ear as one note with a tone-colour in which "unhappy" preponderates: this as an inheritance from the ancient nobler aristocratic mode of evaluation, which does not belie itself even in its contempt ( -- philologists should recall the sense in which oïzyros, anolbos, tlemon dystychein,' xymphora, are employed). The "well-born" felt themselves to be the "happy"; they did not have to establish their happiness artificially by examining their enemies, or to persuade themselves, deceive themselves, that they were happy (as all men of ressentiment are in the habit of doing); and they likewise knew, as rounded men replete with energy and therefore necessarily active, that happiness should not be sundered from action -- being active was with them necessarily a part of happiness (whence eu pratrein takes its origin) -- all very much the opposite of "happiness" at the level of the impotent, the oppressed, and those in whom poisonous and inimical feelings are festering, with whom it appears as essentially narcotic, drug, rest, peace, "sabbath," slackening of tension and relaxing of limbs, in short passively.

[10.4] While the noble man lives in trust and openness with himself (gennaios "of noble descent" underlines the nuance "upright" and probably also "naïve"), the man of ressentimenf is neither upright nor naïve nor honest and straightforward with himself. His soul squints; his spirit loves hiding places, secret paths and back doors, everything covert entices him as his world, his security, his refreshment; he understands how to keep silent, how not to forget, how to wait, how to be provisionally self-deprecating and humble. A race of such men of ressentiment is bound to become eventually cleverer than any noble race; it will also honour cleverness to a far greater degree: namely, as a condition of existence of the first importance; while with noble men cleverness can easily acquire a subtle flavour of luxury and subtlety -- for here it is far less essential than the perfect functioning of the regulating unconscious instincts or even than a certain imprudence, perhaps a bold recklessness whether in the face of danger or of the enemy, or that enthusiastic impulsiveness in anger, love, reverence, gratitude, and revenge by which noble souls have at all times recognised one another. Ressentiment itself, if it should appear in the noble man, consummates and exhausts itself in an immediate reaction, and therefore does not poison on the other hand, it fails to appear at all on countless occasions on which it inevitably appears in the weak and impotent.

[10.5] To be incapable of taking one's enemies, one's accidents, even one's misdeeds seriously for very long -- that is the sign of strong, full natures in whom there is an excess of the power to form, to mould, to recuperate and to forget (a good example of this in modern times is Mirabeau, who had no memory for insults and vile actions done him and was unable to forgive simply because he -- forgot). Such a man shakes off with a single shrug many vermin that eat deep into others; here alone genuine "love of one's enemies" is possible -- supposing it to be possible at all on earth. How much reverence has a noble man for his enemies! -- and such reverence is a bridge to love. -- For he desires his enemy for himself, as his mark of distinction; he can endure no other enemy than one in whom there is nothing to despise and very much to honour! In contrast to this, picture "the enemy" as the man of ressentiment conceives him -- and here precisely is his deed, his creation: he has conceived "the evil enemy," "the Evil One," and this in fact is his basic concept, from which he then evolves, as an afterthought and pendant, a "good one" -- himself!


[11.1] This, then, is quite the contrary of what the noble man does, who conceives the basic concept "good" in advance and spontaneously out of himself and only then creates for himself an idea of "bad"! This "bad" of noble origin and that "evil" out of the cauldron of unsatisfied hatred -- the former an after-production, a side issue, a contrasting shade, the latter on the contrary the original thing, the beginning, the distinctive deed in the conception of a slave morality -- how different these words "bad" and "evil" are, although they are both apparently the opposite of the same concept "good." But it is not the same concept "good": one should ask rather precisely who is "evil" in the sense of the morality of ressentiment. The answer, in all strictness, is: precisely the "good man" of the other morality, precisely the noble, powerful man, the ruler, but dyed in another colour, interpreted in another fashion, seen in another way by the venomous eye of ressentiment.

[11.2] Here there is one thing we shall be the last to deny: he who knows these "good men" only as enemies knows only evil enemies, and the same men who are held so sternly in check interpares by custom, respect, usage, gratitude, and even more by mutual suspicion and jealousy, and who on the other hand in their relations with one another show themselves so resourceful in consideration, self-control. delicacy, loyalty, pride, and friendship -- once they go outside, where the strange, the stranger is found, they are not much better than uncaged beasts of prey. There they savour a freedom from all social constraints, they compensate themselves in the wilderness for the tension engendered by protracted confinement and enclosure within the peace of society, they go back to the innocent conscience of the beast of prey, as triumphant monsters who perhaps emerge from a disgusting procession of murder, arson, rape, and torture, exhilarated and undisturbed of soul, as if it were no more than a students' prank, convinced they have provided the poets with a lot more material for song and praise. One cannot fail to see at the bottom of all these noble races the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get out again and go back to the wilderness: the Roman, Arabian, Germanic, Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian Vikings -- they all shared this need.

[11.3] It is the noble races that have left behind them the concept "barbarian" wherever they have gone; even their highest culture betrays a consciousness of it and even a pride in it (for example, when Pericles says to his Athenians in his famous funeral oration "our boldness has gained access to every land and sea, everywhere raising imperishable monuments to its goodness and wickedness").This "boldness" of noble races, mad, absurd, and sudden in its expression, the incalculability, even incredibility of their undertakings -- Pericles specially commends the rhathymia of the Athenians -their indifference to and contempt for security, body, life, comfort, their hair-raising cheerfulness and profound joy in all destruction, in all the voluptuousness of victory and cruelty -- all this came together, in the minds of those who suffered from it, in the image of the "barbarian," the "evil enemy," perhaps as the "Goths," the "Vandals." The deep and icy mistrust the German still arouses today whenever he gets into a position of power is an echo of that inextinguishable horror with which Europe observed for centuries that raging of the blond Germanic beast (although between the old Germanic tribes and us Germans there exists hardly a conceptual relationship, let alone one of blood).

[11.4] I once drew attention to the dilemma in which Hesiod found himself when he concocted his succession of cultural epochs and sought to express them in terms of gold, silver, and bronze: he knew no way of handling the contradiction presented by the glorious but at the same time tenable and violent world of Homer except by dividing one epoch into two epochs, which he then placed one behind the other -- first the epoch of the heroes and demigods of Troy and Thebes, the form in which that world had survived in the memory of the noble races who were those heroes' true descendants; then the bronze epoch, the form in which that same world appeared to the descendants of the downtrodden, pillaged, mistreated, abducted, enslaved: an epoch of bronze, as aforesaid, hard, cold, cruel, devoid of feeling or conscience, destructive and bloody.

[11.5] Supposing that what is at any rate believed to be the "truth" really is true, and the meaning of all culture is the reduction of the beast of prey "man" to a tame and civilised animal, a domestic animal, then one would undoubtedly have to regard all those instincts of reaction and ressentiment through whose aid the noble races and their ideals were finally confounded and overthrown as the actual instruments of culture; which is not to say that the bearers of these instincts themselves represent culture. Rather is the reverse not merely probable -- no! today it is palpable! These bearers of the oppressive instincts that thirst for reprisal, the descendants of every kind of European and non-European slavery, and especially of the entire pre-Aryan populace -- they represent the regression of mankind! These "instruments of culture" are a disgrace to man and rather an accusation and counter-argument against "culture" in general! One may be quite justified in continuing to fear the blond beast at the core of all noble races and in being on one's guard against it: but who would not a hundred times sooner fear where one can also admire than not fear but be permanently condemned to the repellent sight of the ill-constituted, dwarfed, atrophied, and poisoned? e And is that not our fate? What today constitutes our antipathy to "man"? -- for we suffer from man, beyond doubt.

[11.6] Not fear; rather that we no longer have anything left to fear in man; that the maggot "man" is swarming in the foreground; that the "tame man," the hopelessly mediocre and insipid man, has already learned to feel himself as the goal and zenith, as the meaning of history, as "higher man" -- that he has indeed a certain right to feel thus, insofar as he feels himself elevated above the surfeit of ill-constituted, sickly, weary and exhausted people of which Europe is beginning to stink today, as something at least relatively well-constituted, at least still capable of living, at least affirming life.

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