Human all too human: 42. The order of possessions and morality.

Reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Human all too human

Read the introduction here You can read the aphorism I discuss here in English and German below the main article.

My take on it/synopsis.

  1. Morality is determined by the culture one lives in.

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The accepted order of things according to the level of desire, decides what is moral or immoral. Desiring physical pleasure over health or luxury over liberty is for instance immoral. This hierarchy is not fixed in time, choosing vengeance over justice was moral one times but not anymore. To be immoral means that one is not tuned to the new culture one lives in, but this person is only gradually backwards. The order of desirable things is not changed according to a moral point of view, but when it is fixed it will then determine if an action is moral or immoral. 


Text from the translation by Helen Zimmern and my take on it

The once-accepted hierarchy of possessions, according as this or the other is coveted by a lower, higher, or highest egoism, now decides what is moral or immoral. The once accepted order of things according to the level of desire, decides who is moral. To prefer a lesser good (for instance, the gratification of the senses) to a more highly valued good (for instance, health) is accounted immoral, and also to prefer luxury to liberty. Desiring physical pleasure over health or luxury over liberty is for instance immoral. The hierarchy of possessions, however, is not fixed and equal at all times ; This hierarchy is not fixed in time.  if any one prefers vengeance to justice he is moral according to the standard of an earlier civilisation, but immoral according to the present one. Choosing vengeance over justice was moral in other times but not anymore. To be ” immoral,” therefore, denotes that an individual has not felt, or not felt sufficiently strongly, the higher, finer, spiritual motives which have come in with a new culture ; To be immoral means that one is not tuned to new culture one lives in, it marks one who has remained behind, but only according to the difference of degrees. that person is only gradually backward. The order of possessions itself is not raised and lowered according to a moral point of view ; but each time that it is fixed it supplies the decision as to whether an action is moral or immoral. The order of desirable things is not changed according to a moral point of view, but when it is fixed it will then determine if an action is moral or immoral.


Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I translated by Helen Zimmern 1909

  1. THE ORDER OF POSSESSIONS AND MORALITY.—The once-accepted hierarchy of possessions, according as this or the other is coveted by a lower, higher, or highest egoism, now decides what is moral or immoral. To prefer a lesser good (for instance, the gratification of the senses) to a more highly valued good (for instance, health) is accounted immoral, and also to prefer luxury to liberty. The hierarchy of possessions, however, is not fixed and equal at all times ; if any one prefers vengeance to justice he is moral according to the standard of an earlier civilisation, but immoral according to the present one. To be ” immoral,” therefore, denotes that an individual has not felt, or not felt sufficiently strongly, the higher, finer, spiritual motives which have come in with a new culture ; it marks one who has remained behind, but only according to the difference of degrees. The order of possessions itself is not raised and lowered according to a moral point of view ; but each time that it is fixed it supplies the decision as to whether an action is moral or immoral.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Die Ordnung der Güter und die Moral. – Die einmal angenommene Rangordnung der Güter, je nachdem ein niedriger, höherer, höchster Egoismus das Eine oder das Andere will, entscheidet jetzt über das Moralisch-sein oder Unmoralisch-sein. Ein niedriges Gut (zum Beispiel Sinnengenuss) einem höher geschätzten (zum Beispiel Gesundheit) vorziehen, gilt als unmoralisch, ebenso Wohlleben der Freiheit vorziehen. Die Rangordnung der Güter ist aber keine zu allen Zeiten feste und gleiche; wenn jemand Rache der Gerechtigkeit vorzieht, so ist er nach dem Maassstabe einer früheren Cultur moralisch, nach dem der jetzigen unmoralisch. “Unmoralisch” bezeichnet also, dass Einer die höheren, feineren, geistigeren Motive, welche die jeweilen neue Cultur hinzugebracht hat, noch nicht oder noch nicht stark genug empfindet: es bezeichnet einen Zurückgebliebenen, aber immer nur dem Gradunterschied nach. – Die Rangordnung der Güter selber wird nicht nach moralischen Gesichtspuncten auf- und umgestellt; wohl aber wird nach ihrer jedesmaligen Festsetzung darüber entschieden, ob eine Handlung moralisch oder unmoralisch sei.

Sources:

I will read a Dutch translation that is based on the work of researchers Colli and Montinari. I also use a translation from R.J.Hollingdale and the Gary Handwerk translation from the Colli-Montinari edition. Both are more modern than the copyright free translation I use here. This is a translation from 1909 by Helen Zimmern, who knew Nietzsche personally, but there was no critical study of Nietzsche’s work done back then and this translation suffers from that. The same goes for the translation from Alexander Harvey. My German is not good enough to pretend that I can translate it better than the professionals do but I will use the original as a referee.

  1. Menselijk al te menselijk een boek voor vrije geesten, translated by Thomas Graftdijk, 2000. Buy it here
  2. Human, all too human a book for free spirits, translated by R.J.Hollingdale, 1986
  3. Human, all too human a book for free spirits I V3, translated by Gary handwerk 1997
  4. Human, all too human a book for free spirits Part I, translated by Helen Zimmern 1909. Read it  here
  5. Human, all too human a book for free spirits, translated by Alexander Harvey, 1908. Read it here
  6. Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80. Read it here

 

 

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