Friedrich Nietzsche had a lot to say about some of society’s most important and valued ideas and institutions— from the church to ideas about power, morality, art, knowledge, and many others. The quotes entered in this section offers a condensed snapshot of some of these ideas which have found their way into the thoughts and ideas of different individuals throughout the ages.
The Will to Power
What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself.The Antichrist
Contrary to prevailing contemporary moral categorizations, Freidrich Nietzsche contended somewhat radically that goodness is defined by the instincts that drive humans toward consolidating power. Nietzsche seemed to believe that all creatures aim at the enhancement of their power—and then further, that this fact entails that enhanced power is good for us.
This power is not necessarily so much about the physical domination of others and accumulation of means as it is about self-mastery. Nietzsche intended his theory to be placed as a counterpoint to Arthur Schopenhauer’s ‘Will to live’ that anticipates an ultimately frustrating end to our striving, desiring nature. Nietzsche on the other hand proposes that this nature of ours can be harnessed to a productive and worthwhile end.
Man, in his highest and most noble capacities, is wholly nature and embodies its uncanny dual character. Those of his abilities which are awesome and considered inhuman are perhaps the fertile soil out of which alone all humanity … can grow.Homer’s Contest
This quote reflects Nietzsche’s radical attempt to reevaluate contemporary moral standards away from its prejudice against man’s natural instincts. Here he is suggesting that natures which are now considered base, primal, and inhuman, are in need of an objective reevaluation because perhaps their encouragement represents humanity’s best chance for progress.
Truth and Honesty
How much truth does a spirit endure, how much truth does it dare? More and more that became for me the real measure of value.Ecce Homo
As this quote suggests, for Nietzsche, honesty is one of the truest tests of a man’s value, of his depth, the greatness of soul, and of his strength. He criticized Christianity as the religion of the weak precisely because its adherents decided to find comfort in comfortable postulations and doctrines that are then shielded from normal standards of critical inquiry through the institution of belief and faith.
The likes of Martin Luther and Saint Paul advocated for blind belief because they could not justify these beliefs otherwise. The truth of the claim is not self-evident or verifiable. But because the Christian lacks the strength to confront reality and accept it, he settles for and holds tight to these comfortable beliefs.
I do not want to believe it although it is palpable: the great majority of people lacks an intellectual conscience. … I mean: the great majority of people does not consider it contemptible to believe this or that and live accordingly, without having first given themselves an account of the final and most certain reasons pro and con, and without even troubling themselves about such reasons afterward.”Gay Science
Following Nietzsche’s high premium on the truth and honesty, it is not surprising that he is surprised and disappointed at humanity’s capacity to lie to itself or to accept postulations, doctrines, and ideas without thorough evaluation. This leads to Nietzsche’s pessimistic attitude towards the constitution of the human mind and his strength.
In Christianity neither morality nor religion has even a single point of contact with reality. Nothing but imaginary causes, “God,” “soul,” “ego,” “spirit,” “free will”—for that matter “unfree will,” nothing but imaginary effects (“sin,” “redemption,” “grace,” “punishment,” “forgiveness of sins”).The Antichrist
Here Nietzsche notes religion’s focus on abstract concepts that do not maintain any remote hold on reality. Unlike Buddhism, Christianity does not equip the individual adherent with the tools to confront the realities of his environment.
Only in Christendom did everything become punishment, well-deserved punishment: it also makes the sufferer’s imagination suffer, so that with every misfortune he feels himself morally reprehensible and cast out.The Antichrist
Nietzsche believes that Christianity’s tendency to see suffering, rather than as being natural and necessary, but as a form of punishment is damaging to the individual. This conception of suffering limits the individual’s ability to adequately access the real source of his troubles and to adequately tackle it. It damages his self-worth and makes him feel like a cast out.
There is only a perspectival seeing, only a perspectival “knowing”; and the more affects we allow to speak about a matter, the more eyes, different eyes, we know how to bring to bear on one and the same matter, that much more complete will our “concept” of this matter, our “objectivity”, be.Geneaology of morals
Nietzsche is an advocate for a theory of knowledge that emphasizes a correlation between the expansiveness of our evaluation of a concept to our knowledge of that concept. In other words, the more perspective which we can approach a subject from, the more eyes through which we see it, the more well-rounded or objective our conception of that subject would be.
We [contemplatives] … are those who really continually fashion something that had not been there before: the whole eternally growing world of valuations, colors, accents, perspectives, scales, affirmations, and negations. … Whatever has value in our world now does not have value in itself, according to its nature—nature is always value-less—but has been given value at some time, as a present—and it was we who gave and bestowed it. Only we have created the world that concerns man!Gay Science
For Nietzsche, nothing has any inherent, objective value asides from that which we bestowed on it. This conception of value differed from prevailing philosophical thought that holds that some things have inherent, objective value.
This ties in well with Nietzsche’s disdain for “objective” moral categories that expounds on some higher, noble concept that has no bearing on reality. This is the philosophical predisposition underpinning his opposition to religious altruism as well as Kant’s Categorical Imperative.
The offhand dismissal of some of humanity’s core traits and inclinations as undesirable and things in need of exorcism did not sit well with Nietzsche who instead advocated for a more individualist approach to morality.