Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most famous philosopher there is, if not nowadays the most famous. Known for introducing that ‘God is dead’, the will to power and the rise of the Superman, Nietzsche has been used to fuel many ideologies of the 20th century for better or for worse (mostly for worse). Beyond Good and Evil goes deeper into our values. Where do the concepts of good and evil come from? Are they rationally based? And what is beyond those concepts? These are some of the questions Nietzsche asks himself in this book.
What is it in us that tries to achieve truth? Why don’t we strive towards the untrue? According to Nietzsche we never come closer to the truth. Philosophers believe that you can achieve the truth by the method of the dialectic, where you have a thesis, then an antithesis, which then results into a synthesis. Religious people use ‘inspiration’ to achieve truth. For Nietzsche these are just the same thing. They are both desires of the heart. We use knowledge to try to achieve something. It isn’t truth we try to achieve, rather we want to use the truth to achieve something else. Maybe power, wealth, status, etc.
Obviously, Nietzsche also takes a critical point of view towards Christianity and religion in general. He sees the Bible as the greatest sin on the history of literature. Christianity is a reactive religion. The people who follow it need to be submissive in nature. Christianity asks for great sacrifices, but that doesn’t make a person moral, according to Nietzsche. The person who makes himself necessary is the person who is moral. These are the successful people, those who are in power. To strive towards this is to have the will to power.
Morality tries to strife towards the never being afraid of something anymore. Nowadays, says Nietzsche, the morality is a herd morality. What does the majority of the people think that is moral? It is the majority which decides what is moral. And people try to give arguments in order to build a strong moral foundation, but in the end, it is all based on instinct. Morality always suppresses nature. That is because we don’t discover moral values in the essence of nature. No, we construe our moral values and they are inherently against nature. It is nature that scares us, the chaos which lies there, and it is morality that should make it less scary.
These are just some of the themes which Nietzsche covers in this packed book. The style of writing can be a bit daunting. Nietzsche almost never gives arguments for his claims, but instead tries to dissect what we think about the concepts of Good and Evil. He does this in a beautiful way with magnificent prose. But his thoughts are scrambled, and this might make it hard to understand at first.
If you’re trying to read Nietzsche, I would recommend reading an introductory book first. If you know some of his concepts, it will be easier to understand and to actually find. He gives some critiques to some other philosophical movements and famous philosophers. If you don’t mind doing some research, then I would really recommend starting with this book. Though complicated, it really stands on its own. If you want that little good taste of Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil would be your best pick. If you don’t understand everything of it, that doesn’t really matter (I don’t understand it fully as well, probably nothing of it), just go along for the ride. ‘The charm of knowledge would be small if do much shame did not have to be overcome on the road to it.’