To nothingness? It was precisely here I saw

To nothingness? It was precisely here I saw the beginning of the end, the standing
still, the backward-glancing exhaustion, the will turning itself against life, the final
illness tenderly and sadly announcing itself. I understood the morality of pity, which
was always seizing more and more around it, even the philosophers which it made
sick, as the most sinister symptom of our European culture, which itself had become
sinister, as its detour to a new Buddhism? to a European Buddhism? to nihilism? . . .
This modern philosophical preference for and overvaluing of pity is really something
new. Concerning the worthlessness of pity philosophers up to now were in agreement.
I name only Plato, Spinoza, La Rochefoucauld, and Kant—four spirits as different
from one another as possible, but united in one thing, in the low value they set on
This problem of the value of pity and of the morality of pity (I’m an opponent of the
disgraceful modern immaturity of feelings) appeared at first to be only something
isolated, a detached question mark. But anyone who remains there for a while and
learns some questions, will experience what happened to me—a huge new vista opens
up before him, a possibility grips him like an attack of dizziness, all sorts of mistrust,
suspicion, and fear spring up—his belief in morality, in all morality, starts to totter,
and finally he hears a new demand.
Let’s proclaim this new demand: we need a critique of moral values, and we must first
question the very value of these values. For that we need a knowledge of the
conditions and circumstance out of which these values grew, under which they have
developed and changed (morality as consequence, as symptom, as mask, as hypocrisy,
as illness, as misunderstanding—but also morality as cause, as means of healing, as
stimulant, as scruples, as poison), a knowledge of the sort which has not been there
until now, something which has not even been wished for.
People have taken the worth of these “values” as something given, as self-evident, as
beyond all dispute. Up until now people have also not had the least doubts about or
wavered in setting up “the good man” as more valuable than “the evil man,” of higher
worth in the sense of the improvement, usefulness, and prosperity of mankind in
general (along with the future of humanity). Now what about this? What if the truth
were the other way around? What if in the “good” there lay a symptom of regression,
something like a danger, a seduction, a poison, a narcotic, something which makes the
present live at the cost of the future? Perhaps something more comfortable, less
dangerous, but also on a smaller scale, something more demeaning? . . . So that this
very morality would be guilty if the highest possible power and magnificence of the
human type were never attained? So that this very morality might be the danger of all
For me it was enough that once this insight revealed itself to me, I had a reason to
look around for learned, bold, and hard-working comrades (today I’m still searching).
It’s a matter of traveling through the immense, distant, and so secretive land of the
morality which was really there, the land of really living morality, with nothing but new questions and, as it were, new eyes. Isn’t that almost like first discovering this
In this matter, I thought of, among others, the above-mentioned Dr. Rée, because I
happened to have no doubts at all that by the very nature of his questions he would be
driven to a more correct methodology in order to arrive at any answers. Have I
deceived myself in all this? At any rate, my desire was to provide a better direction
for such a keen and objective eye as his, a direction leading to a true history of
morality and to advise him in time against the English way of making hypotheses by
staring off into the blue.
For, indeed, it’s obvious which colour must be a hundred times more important for
someone seeking a genealogy of morals than this blue—namely, gray, in other words,
what has been documented, what can be established as the truth, what really took
place, in short, the long, difficult-to-decipher hieroglyphic writing of the past in
human morality. This was unknown to Dr. Rée. But he had read Darwin, so that to
some extent in his hypotheses the Darwinian beast and the most modern modest and
tender moral sensibility, which “no longer bites,” politely extend their hands to each
other in a way that is at least entertaining—with the latter bearing a facial expression
revealing a certain good-natured and refined indolence, in which is mixed a grain of
pessimism and exhaustion, as if it is really not worth taking all these things, the
problems of morality,


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