Section 257 through 261 appear in Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, written in 1886. translation by Walter Kaufmann
Every enhancement of the type “man” has so far been the work of an aristocratic society – and it will be so again and again – a society that believes in the long ladder of an order of rank and differences in value between man and man, and that needs slavery in some sense or other. Without that pathos of distance which grows out of the ingrained difference between strata – when the ruling caste constantly looks afar and looks down upon subjects and instruments and just as constantly practices obedience and command, keeping down and keeping at a distance – that other, more mysterious pathos could not have grown up either – the craving for an ever new widening of distances within the soul itself, the development of ever higher, rarer, more remote, further-stretching, more comprehensive states – in brief, simply the enhancement of the type “man,” the continual “self-overcoming of man,” to use a moral formula in a supramoral sense.
To be sure, one should not yield to humanitarian illusions about the origins of an aristocratic society (and thus of the presupposition of this enhancement of the type “man”): truth is hard. Let us admit to ourselves, without trying to be considerate, how every higher culture on earth so far has begun. Human beings whose nature was still natural, barbarians in every terrible sense of the word, men of prey who were still in possession of unbroken strength of will and lust for power, hurled themselves upon weaker, more civilized, more peaceful races, perhaps traders or cattle raisers, or upon mellow old cultures whose last vitality was even then flaring up in splendid fireworks of spirit and corruption. In the beginning, the noble caste was always the barbarian caste: their predominance did not lie mainly in physical strength but in strength of the soul – they were more whole human beings (which also means, at every level, “more whole beasts”).
Corruption as the expression of a threatening anarchy among the instincts and of the fact that the foundation of the affects, which is called “life,” has been shaken: corruption is something totally different depending on the organism in which it appears. When, for example, an aristocracy, like that of France at the beginning of the Revolution, throws away its privileges with a sublime disgust and sacrifices itself to an extravagance of its own moral feelings, that is corruption; it was really only the last act of that centuries-old corruption which had led them to surrender, step by step, their governmental prerogatives, demoting themselves to a mere function of the monarchy (finally even to a mere ornament and showpiece). The essential characteristic of a good and healthy aristocracy, however, is that it experiences itself not as a function (whether of the monarchy or the commonwealth) but as their meaning and highest justification-that it therefore accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of untold human beings who, for its sake, must be reduced and lowered to incomplete human beings, to slaves, to instruments. Their fundamental faith simply has to be that society must not exist for society’s sake but only as the foundation and scaffolding on which a choice type of being is able to raise itself to its higher task and to a higher state of being-comparable to those sun-seeking vines of ]ava – they are called Sipo Matador – that so long and so often enclasp an oak tree with their tendrils until eventually, high above it but supported by it, they can unfold their crowns in the open light and display their happiness.
Refraining mutually from injury , violence, and exploitation and placing one’s will on a par with that of someone else – this may become, in a certain rough sense, good manners among individuals if the appropriate conditions are present (namely, if these men are actually similar in strength and value standards and belong together in one body). But as soon as this principle is extended, and possibly even accepted as the fundamental principle of society, it immediately proves to be what it really is – a will to the denial of life, a principle of disintegration and decay.
Here we must beware of superficiality and get to the bottom of the matter, resisting all sentimental weakness: life itself is essentially appropriation, injury , overpowering of what is alien and weaker; suppression, hardness, imposition of one’s own forms, incorporation and at least, at its mildest, exploitation-but why should one always use those words in which a slanderous intent has been imprinted for ages?
Even the body within which individuals treat each other as equals, as suggested before – and this happens in every healthy aristocracy – if it is a living and not a dying body, has to do to other bodies what the individuals within it refrain from doing to each other: it will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant – not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power. But there is no point on which the ordinary consciousness of Europeans resists instruction as on this: everywhere people are now raving, even under scientific disguises, about coming conditions of society in which “the exploitative aspect” will be removed – which sounds to me as if they promised to invent a way of life that would dispense with all organic functions. “Exploitation” does not belong to a corrupt or imperfect and primitive society: it belongs to the essence of what lives, as a basic organic function; it is a consequence of the will to power, which is after all the will of life.
If this should be an innovation as a theory – as a reality it is the primordial fact of all history: people ought to be honest with themselves at least that far.
Wandering through the many subtler and coarser moralities which have so far been prevalent on earth, or still are prevalent, I found that certain features recurred regularly together and were closely associated – until I finally discovered two basic types and one basic difference.
There are master morality and slave morality – I add immediately that in all the higher and more mixed cultures there also appear attempts at mediation between these two moralities, and yet more often the interpretation and mutual misunderstanding of both, and at times they occur directly alongside each other-even in the same human being, with a single soul.
The moral discrimination of values has originated either among a ruling group whose consciousness of its difference from the ruled group was accompanied by delight-or among the ruled, the slaves and dependents of every degree.
In the first case, when the ruling group determines what is “good,” the exalted, proud states of the soul are experienced as conferring distinction and determining the order of rank. The noble human being separates from himself those in whom the opposite of such exalted, proud states finds expression: he despises them. It should be noted immediately that in this first type of morality the opposition of “good” and “bad” means approximately the same as “noble” and “contemptible.” (The opposition of “good” and “evil” has a different origin.) One feels contempt for the cowardly, the anxious, the petty , those intent on narrow utility; also for the suspicious with their unfree glances, those who humble themselves, the doglike people who allow themselves to be maltreated, the begging flatterers, above all the liars: it is part of the fundamental faith of all aristocrats that the common people lie. “We truthful ones” – thus the nobility of ancient Greece referred to itself.
It is obvious that moral designations were everywhere first\applied to human beings and only later, derivatively, to actions. Therefore it is a gross mistake when historians of morality start from such questions as: why was the compassionate act praised? The noble type of man experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, “what is harmful to me is harmful in itself”; it knows itself to be that which first accords honor to things; it is value-creating. Everything it knows as part of itself it honors: such a morality is self-glorification. In the foreground there is the feeling of fullness, of power that seeks to overflow, the happiness of high tension, the consciousness of wealth that would give and bestow: the noble human being, too, helps the unfortunate, but not, or almost not, from pity, but prompted more by an urge begotten by excess of power. The noble human being honors himself as one who is powerful, also as one who has power over himself, who knows how to speak and be silent, who delights in being severe and hard with himself and respects all severity and hardness. ” A hard heart Wotan put into my breast,” says an old Scandinavian saga: a fitting poetic expression, seeing that it comes from the soul of a proud Viking. Such a type of man is actually proud of the fact that he is not made for pity, and the hero of the saga therefore adds as a warning: “If the heart is not hard in youth it will never harden.” Noble and courageous human beings who think that way are furthest removed from that morality which finds the distinction of morality precisely in pity , or in acting for others, or in desinteressement; faith in oneself, a fundamental hostility and irony against “selflessness” belong just as definitely to noble morality as does a slight disdain and caution regarding compassionate feelings and a “warm heart.”
It is the powerful who understand how to honor; this is their art, their realm of invention. The profound reverence for age and tradition – all law rests on this double reverence-the faith and prejudice in favor of ancestors and disfavor of those yet to come are typical of the morality of the powerful; and when the men of “modern ideas,” conversely, believe almost instinctively in “progress” and “the future” and more and more lack respect for age, this in itself would sufficiently betray the ignoble origin of these “ideas.”
A morality of the ruling group, however, is most alien and embarrassing to the present taste in the severity of its principle that one has duties only to one’s peers; that against beings of a lower rank, against everything alien, one may behave as one pleases or ”as the heart desires,” and in any case “beyond good and evil” – here pity and like feelings may find their place. The capacity for, and the duty of long gratitude and long revenge – both only among one’s peers-refinement in repaying, the sophisticated concept of friendship, a certain necessity for having enemies (as it were, as drainage ditches for the affects of envy , quarrelsomeness, exuberance-at bottom, in order to be capable of being good friends): all these are typical characteristics of noble morality which, as suggested, is not the morality of “modem ideas” and therefore is hard to empathize with today, also hard to dig up and uncover .
It is different with the second type of morality, slave morality. Suppose the violated, oppressed, suffering, unfree, who are uncertain of themselves and weary , moralize: what will their moral valuations have in common? Probably, a pessimistic suspicion about the whole condition of man will find expression, perhaps a condemnation of man along with his condition. The slave’s eye is not favorable to the virtues of the powerful: he is skeptical and suspicious, subtly suspicious, of all the “good” honored there – he would like to persuade himself that even their happiness is not genuine. Conversely, those qualities are brought out and flooded with light which serve to ease existence for those who suffer: here pity , the complaisant and obliging hand, the warm heart, patience, industry , humility , and friendliness are honored – for here these are the most useful qualities and almost the only means for enduring the pressure of existence. Slave morality is essentially a morality of utility.
Here is the place for the origin of that famous opposition of “good” and “evil”: into evil one’s feelings project power and dangerousness, a certain terribleness, subtlety, and strength that does not permit contempt to develop. According to slave morality, those who are “evil” thus inspire fear; according to master morality it is precisely those who are “good” that inspire, and wish to inspire, fear, while the “bad” are felt to be contemptible.
The opposition reaches its climax when, as a logical consequence of slave morality, a touch of disdain is associated also with the “good” of this morality – this may be slight and benevolent-because the good human being has to be undangerous in the slaves’ way of thinking: he is good-natured, easy to deceive, a little stupid perhaps, un bonhomme (meaning “a good human being). Wherever slave morality becomes preponderant, language tends to bring the words “good” and “stupid” closer together.
One last fundamental difference: the longing for freedom, the instinct for happiness and the subtleties of the feeling of freedom belong just as necessarily to slave morality and morals as artful and enthusiastic reverence and devotion are the regular symptom of an aristocratic way of thinking and evaluating.
This makes plain why love as passion – which is our European specialty – simply must be of noble origin: as is well known, its invention must be credited to the Provencal knight-poets, those magnificent and inventive human beings of the “gai saber” (meaning “gay science”) to whom Europe owes so many things and almost owes itself.
Among the things that may be hardest to understand for a noble human being is vanity: he will be tempted to deny it, where another type of human being could not find it more palpable. The problem for him is to imagine people who seek to create a good opinion of themselves which they do not have of themselves-and thus also do not “deserve” – and who nevertheless end up believing this good opinion themselves. This strikes him half as such bad taste and lack of self-respect, and half as so baroquely irrational, that he would like to consider vanity as exceptional, and in most cases when it is spoken of he doubts it.
He will say, for example: “I may be mistaken about my value and nevertheless demand that my value, exactly as I define it, should be acknowledged by others as well – but this is no vanity (but conceit or, more frequently, what is called ‘humility’ or ‘modesty’).” Or: “for many reasons I may take pleasure in the good opinion of others: perhaps because I honor and love them and all their pleasures give me pleasure; perhaps also because their good opinion confirms and strengthens my faith in my own good opinion; perhaps because the good opinion of others, even in cases where I do not share it, is still useful to me or promises to become so – but all that is not vanity.”
The noble human being must force himself, with the aid of history to recognize that, since time immemorial, in all somehow dependent social strata the common man was only what he was considered: not at all used to positing values himself he also attached no other value to himself than his masters attached to him (it is the characteristic right of masters to create values).
It may be understood as the consequence of an immense atavism that even now the ordinary man still always waits for an opinion about himself and then instinctively submits to that-but by no means only a “good” opinion; also a bad and unfair one (consider, for example, the great majority of the self-estimates and self-underestimates that believing women accept from their father confessors, and believing Christians quite generally from their church).
In accordance with the slowly arising democratic order of things (and its cause, the intermarriage of masters and slaves), the originally noble and rare urge to ascribe value to oneself on one’s own and to “think well” of oneself will actually be encouraged and spread more and more now; but it is always opposed by an older, ampler, and more deeply ingrained propensity – and in the phenomenon of “vanity” this older propensity masters the younger one. The vain person is delighted by every good opinion he hears of himself (quite apart from all considerations of its utility, and also apart from truth or falsehood), just as every bad opinion of him pains him: for he submits to both, he feels subjected to them in accordance with that oldest instinct of submission that breaks out in him.
It is “the slave” in the blood of the vain person, a residue of the slave’s craftiness–and how much “slave” is still residual in woman, for example! – that seeks to seduce him to good opinions about himself; it is also the slave who afterwards immediately prostrates himself before these opinions as if he had not called them forth.
And to say it once more: vanity is an atavism.