Beyond Good And Evil Summary

Friedrich Nietzsche

Beyond Good And Evil

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Beyond Good And Evil Summary

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Beyond Good and Evil by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche discusses the theory of the “will to truth.” At the heart of Nietzsche’s argument is the idea that to learn the truth, a human being must question everything. Everything she or he has ever learned or observed must be reexamined. Nothing is free from this self-interrogation, and that includes self-perception, societal teachings, and religion. Nietzsche proposes that any human being has the capability to do this, but most do not because they lack the ambition to dig through everything they have ever learned to question its validity. Nietzsche does not value those who have not the desire to delve into the deepest areas of their mind to find the truth.

So where does Nietzsche get his truth from? He writes that his theories are a result of the intensity of his education, particularly the study of Ancient Greek and modern philosophers. However, he thinks little of newer philosophers. While he believes they may raise unique and interesting points, he believes them to be untried and untested.

Two of Nietzsche’s main viewpoints rise to the surface in Beyond Good and Evil. The first topic that is near and dear to him is that of intelligence. He makes the effort to highlight the foolishness of humans throughout history. He insists that a person’s upbringing is no excuse for not pursuing or using intelligence. The second topic which heavily permeates this book is Nietzsche’s opinion of women. His opinion is not generous, as he believes that females are incompetent and should simply be quiet and do as men tell them to do. He does not believe women have the mental capacity to grasp knowledge, therefore, they must rely solely on instinct.

Though Nietzsche points out that morality and immorality are polar opposites, he paradoxically insists that nothing can be split into black and white–there exist only shades of gray. This argument, in particular, forms the foundation for his discussion of religion. He proposes that faith requires one to sacrifice one’s truth. This is where he says that there are only shades of gray between the faithful and the atheist.

In Beyond Good and Evil, blind faith is the enemy of the will to truth. He also discusses what he believes is the importance of tempo in language. He suggests that a misunderstanding of tempo leads to inaccuracies in translation. In fact, the translation of Beyond Good and Evil into English has some inaccuracies, but whether or not they are due to tempo is not clear. Nietzsche believes that if this were not an issue, then other cultures would have a better understanding of both ancient and modern philosophies.

Getting further into Nietzsche’s ideals of intelligence, he believes that anyone who is unwilling to cast off the traditions of their faith, what they have learned from parents and society, and what they think they know to be true in order to discover their real truth, is stupid or doltish. He has no time for these individuals and even discusses how he abandons friendships if he discovers the other party to possess this doltish quality. He also thinks that anyone who is not of German heritage is subject to this classification, since he believes that only the German language provides an understanding of philosophical truth.

Friedrich Nietzsche was not only a philosopher, but also a poet, cultural critic, and philologist. When he was twenty-four years old, he became the youngest-ever Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. This happened in 1869, and he took great pride in his position, in teaching, and in continuing his own studies. Ten years later, he was forced to resign due to illness, and he died eleven years after that, in 1900. He was prone to illness since his youth, and suffered severe migraines, near blindness, and violent indigestion issues. In 1889, he experienced a mental breakdown after reportedly trying to save a horse from being flogged.

Nietzsche’s primary influences were the Ancient Greek philosophers, including but not limited to Plato and Heraclitus. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevksy were among other writers he admired and read.

His works did not reach a broad audience during much of his lifetime and active career. However, after Nietzsche’s death, he was more widely read. His work was met with mixed reception. At the turn of the twentieth century, his ideas were thought of as aligned with anarchy in the United States and in France. For their subversive nature, many of his works were out of favor with German conservatives. Not everyone disliked his work though. Famous writers such as Yeats and W.H. Auden praised Nietzsche’s ideas and tried to spread them. During World War I, Nietzsche’s works were standard issue in the German army. His ideas help formed the foundations for expressionism, existentialism, and post-modernism.