Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil by Acampora Christa Davis Ansell-Pearson Keith

Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil by Acampora Christa Davis Ansell-Pearson Keith

Author:Acampora, Christa Davis,Ansell-Pearson, Keith
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Published: 2011-08-14T16:00:00+00:00



In this chapter Nietzsche continues his dissection of morality and focuses on the question of virtues. He also deals importantly with the “order of rank.” There are interesting links between many of the sections that compose it, and the chapter reaches a climax with section 230 on the “fundamental will of the spirit.” Section 231 provides a pause for the reader and then sections 232–9 present Nietzsche’s notorious “truths” about woman. One task is to work out why this treatment of woman appears, in this concentrated form, at this particular point in the book.

Aristotle is perhaps the most influential classical source for a moral philosophy of virtues in which a fulfilled life is one lived in accordance with virtue, that is, one in which specifically human capacities are put to their best use. Aristotle groups virtues into two main classes: virtues of character (moral virtues) and virtues of the mind (intellectual virtues). At the start of the second book of his Ethics Aristotle makes it clear that moral goodness is the result of habit (it is connected to the word ethos) and that none of the moral virtues are engendered in us by nature. We cannot train a stone to rise or fire to burn downwards. Although we are constituted to receive moral virtues by nature, their full and actual development is due to habit. With the title of his chapter Nietzsche is making it clear he wishes to address what, if any, are the specific virtues of modern Europeans. Do we have virtues? If we do, what are they? And if the question is a complex one for us to address as moderns why is this? In fact, it becomes clear as the chapter unfolds that the “our” in Nietzsche’s title refers to two groups: the free spirits and modern Europeans.


Section 214 begins by immediately signaling the difficulty we face in considering the question of our virtues. Nietzsche concedes “it is probable” we still have our virtues but they don’t have the character of our forebears, specifically they are not “simpleminded and four-square.” We hold our forebears in honor for their simpleminded virtues but also at arm’s length. We cannot be like them. This is because of what modern Europeans are: dangerously curious, multiple with an “art of disguises,” and with a mellow and sweetened cruelty in spirit and senses. So, if it turns out that we have virtues they will be those qualities or attributes—dispositions and habits—which are congruent with our “most secret and cordial inclinations” and our “most ardent needs.” We will find them in our labyrinth. For Nietzsche, then, we moderns live a labyrinthine existence, an image conjured at the beginning of part III and with which the book ends. Already in D Nietzsche had noted that in comparison with earlier cultures and ages, such as the Greeks, our souls are labyrinthine: “If we desired and dared an architecture corresponding to the nature of our soul . . . our model would have to be the labyrinth!” (D 169).


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