Human all too human: 44. The Twofold early history of good and evil.

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. The good are a class, the bad are a mass.

DSCF8665The history of good and evil is twofold: First in the soul of the ruling class, who can repay good with good and evil with evil is good, whoever cannot do this is bad. As a good person you belong to the “good” community because of the shared value of requital. The bad person belongs to the “bad” community that is filled with powerless people without shared values. The good are a class, the bad are a mass. Good and bad have for a long time meant the same thing as noble and base or master and slave. But remember that an enemy is not necessary bad, it is not the one who injures us, but the one who is despicable, who is called bad. Good is inherited in the good community, no bad man can come from it and if a good person does bad the excuse will be the will of a god for instance. – Secondly, in the community of the bad people all man are looked upon as hostile and cruel no matter what his rank is, evil is the word they use for all living creatures. The signs of goodness, helpfulness and pity, are looked upon with fear, interpreted as meanness, the prelude to a terrible result. With such a disposition in the individual a community could hardly exist, or at most it could exist only in its crudest form, so that in all places where this conception of good and evil reigns, the downfall of the single individuals, of their tribes and races, is at hand. Our present civilization has grown up on the bottom of the ruling tribes and castes. 


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

The conception of good and evil has a twofold early history, namely, once in the soul of the ruling tribes and castes. Whoever has the power of returning good for good, evil for evil, and really practises requital, and who is, therefore, grateful and revengeful, is called good ; The history of good and evil is twofold: First in the soul of the ruling class, who can requital or repay good with good and evil with evil is good, whoever is powerless, and unable to requite, is reckoned as bad. whoever cannot do this is bad. As a good man one is reckoned among the “good,” a community which has common feelings because the single individuals are bound to one another by the sense of requital. As a good person you belong to the “good” community because of the shared value of requital. As a bad man one belongs to the “bad,” to a party of subordinate, powerless people who have no common feeling. The bad person belongs to the “bad” community filled with powerless people without shared values. The good are a caste, the bad are a mass like dust. The good are a class, the bad are a mass. Good and bad have for a long time meant the same thing as noble and base, master and slave. Good and bad have for a long time meant the same thing as noble and base, master and slave. On the other hand, the enemy is not looked upon as evil, he can requite. In Homer the Trojan and the Greek are both good. It is not the one who injures us, but the one who is despicable, who is called bad. But remember that an enemy is not necessary bad, It is not the one who injures us, but the one who is despicable, who is called bad. Good is inherited in the community of the good ; it is impossible that a bad man could spring from such good soil. If, nevertheless, one of the good ones does something which is unworthy of the good, refuge is sought in excuses; the guilt is thrown upon a god, for instance ; it is said that he has struck the good man with blindness and madness.— Good is inherited in the good community, no bad man can come from it and if a good person does bad the excuse will be the will of a god. Then in the soul of the oppressed and powerless. Here every other man is looked upon as hostile, inconsiderate, rapacious, cruel, cunning, be he noble or base ; evil is the distinguishing word for man, even for every conceivable living creature, e.g. for a god ; human, divine, is the same thing as devilish, evil. In the community of the bad people all man are looked upon as hostile and cruel disregarding his rank, evil is the distinguishing word for all living creatures. The signs of goodness, helpfulness, pity, are looked upon with fear as spite, the prelude to a terrible result, stupefaction and out-witting,—in short, as refined malice. The signs of goodness, helpfulness and pity, are looked upon with fear as meanness, the prelude to a terrible result. With such a disposition in the individual a community could hardly exist, or at most it could exist only in its crudest form, so that in all places where this conception of good and evil obtains, the downfall of the single individuals, of their tribes and races, is at hand.—Our present civilisation has grown up on the soil of the ruling tribes and castes. With such a disposition in the individual a community could hardly exist, or at most it could exist only in its crudest form, so that in all places where this conception of good and evil obtains, the downfall of the single individuals, of their tribes and races, is at hand.—Our present civilisation has grown up on the soil of the ruling tribes and castes.


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

  1. THE TWOFOLD EARLY HISTORY OF GOOD AND EVIL.—The conception of good and evil has a twofold early history, namely, once in the soul of the ruling tribes and castes. Whoever has the power of returning good for good, evil for evil, and really practises requital, and who is, therefore, grateful and revengeful, is called good ; whoever is powerless, and unable to requite, is reckoned as bad. As a good man one is reckoned among the “good,” a community which has common feelings because the single individuals are bound to one another by the sense of requital. As a bad man one belongs to the “bad,” to a party of subordinate, powerless people who have no common feeling. The good are a caste, the bad are a mass like dust. Good and bad have for a long time meant the same thing as noble and base, master and slave. On the other hand, the enemy is not looked upon as evil, he can requite. In Homer the Trojan and the Greek are both good. It is not the one who injures us, but the one who is despicable, who is called bad. Good is inherited in the community of the good ; it is impossible that a bad man could spring from such good soil. If, nevertheless, one of the good ones does something which is unworthy of the good, refuge is sought in excuses; the guilt is thrown upon a god, for instance ; it is said that he has struck the good man with blindness and madness.—Then in the soul of the oppressed and powerless. Here every other man is looked upon as hostile, inconsiderate, rapacious, cruel, cunning, be he noble or base ; evil is the distinguishing word for man, even for every conceivable living creature, e.g. for a god ; human, divine, is the same thing as devilish, evil. The signs of goodness, helpfulness, pity, are looked upon with fear as spite, the prelude to a terrible result, stupefaction and out-witting,—in short, as refined malice. With such a disposition in the individual a community could hardly exist, or at most it could exist only in its crudest form, so that in all places where this conception of good and evil obtains, the downfall of the single individuals, of their tribes and races, is at hand.—Our present civilisation has grown up on the soil of the ruling tribes and castes.

Menschliches allzu menschlich 1878/80

  1. Doppelte Vorgeschichte von Gut und Böse. – Der Begriff gut und böse hat eine doppelte Vorgeschichte: nämlich einmal in der Seele der herrschenden Stämme und Kasten. Wer die Macht zu vergelten hat, Gutes mit Gutem, Böses mit Bösem, und auch wirklich Vergeltung übt, also dankbar und rachsüchtig ist, der wird gut genannt; wer unmächtig ist und nicht vergelten kann, gilt als schlecht. Man gehört als Guter zu den “Guten”, einer Gemeinde, welche Gemeingefühl hat, weil alle Einzelnen durch den Sinn der Vergeltung mit einander verflochten sind. Man gehört als Schlechter zu den “Schlechten”, zu einem Haufen unterworfener, ohnmächtiger Menschen, welche kein Gemeingefühl haben. Die Guten sind eine Kaste, die Schlechten eine Masse wie Staub. Gut und schlecht ist eine Zeit lang so viel wie vornehm und niedrig, Herr und Sclave. Dagegen sieht man den Feind nicht als böse an: er kann vergelten. Der Troer und der Grieche sind bei Homer beide gut. Nicht Der, welcher uns Schädliches zufügt, sondern Der, welcher verächtlich ist, gilt als schlecht. In der Gemeinde der Guten vererbt sich das Gute; es ist unmöglich, dass ein Schlechter aus so gutem Erdreiche hervorwachse. Thut trotzdem Einer der Guten Etwas, das der Guten unwürdig ist, so verfällt man auf Ausflüchte; man schiebt zum Beispiel einem Gott die Schuld zu, indem man sagt: er habe den Guten mit Verblendung und Wahnsinn geschlagen. – Sodann in der Seele der Unterdrückten, Machtlosen. Hier gilt jeder andere Mensch als feindlich, rücksichtslos, ausbeutend, grausam, listig, sei er vornehm oder niedrig; böse ist das Charakterwort für Mensch, ja für jedes lebende Wesen, welches man voraussetzt, zum Beispiel für einen Gott; menschlich, göttlich gilt so viel wie teuflisch, böse. Die Zeichen der Güte, Hülfebereitschaft, Mitleid, werden angstvoll als Tücke, Vorspiel eines schrecklichen Ausgangs, Betäubung und Ueberlistung aufgenommen, kurz als verfeinerte Bosheit. Bei einer solchen Gesinnung des Einzelnen kann kaum ein Gemeinwesen entstehen, höchstens die roheste Form desselben: so dass überall, wo diese Auffassung von gut und böse herrscht, der Untergang der Einzelnen, ihrer Stämme und Rassen nahe ist. – Unsere jetzige Sittlichkeit ist auf dem Boden der herrschenden Stämme und Kasten aufgewachsen.

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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