Having dismissed punishment as the origin of bad conscience, Nietzsche offers his own hypothesis: bad conscience came about with the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to permanent settlements. All our animal instincts of life in the wild became useless, and, in order to survive, we had to rely on our conscious mind rather than our unconscious instincts.
Nietzsche suggests that instincts that cannot be released outwardly must be turned inward. The instincts of hunting, cruelty, hostility and destruction that characterized our pre-historic lives had to be suppressed when we entered into society. As a result, we turned all this violence in toward ourselves, made ourselves a new wilderness to be struggled against and conquered. In so doing, we developed an inner life and bad conscience. Nietzsche characterizes the war we wage against our own instincts as "man's suffering of man, of himself," and sees in this struggle the suggestion that "man [is] not a goal but only a way, an episode, a bridge, a great promise."
This assessment relies on the assumption that the transition into settled communities was a violent one, that it was forced upon the majority by a tyrannical minority: the "social contract" is a myth. Deprived of freedom, the majority had to turn their instinct for freedom inward upon themselves, thus creating the bad conscience. In so doing, they also created the idea of beauty and developed selflessness as an ideal.
Next, Nietzsche traces the development of the bad conscience beginning with the sense of indebtedness early tribe members must have felt toward the founders of the tribe. As the tribe became increasingly powerful, there was an increasing debt that had to be paid to these revered ancestors. Given enough time, these ancestors came to be worshipped as gods. As "the maximum god attained so far," the Christian God also produces the maximum feeling of guilty indebtedness. This debt cannot possibly be repaid, and so we develop the concepts of eternal damnation and of all people being born with irredeemable original sin. The genius of Christianity is then to have God (as Christ) sacrifice himself in order to redeem all our sins: God, the creditor, sacrifices himself out of love for his debtor.
Nietzsche suggests that not all Gods serve to reinforce bad conscience. While the Christian God is the focal point of bad conscience, self- torture, and guilt, the Greek gods serve as a celebration of their animal instincts, as a force to ward off the bad conscience.
Nietzsche concludes by suggesting that there might be a way out of the past few millenia of bad conscience and self-torture. If the bad conscience could be turned not against our animal instincts, but against everything in us that opposes those instincts and turns against life itself, we could turn consciousness toward an affirmation of life and against the "illnesses" of Christianity and nihilism.
Nietzsche's New Morality as Reaction to the Old Essay
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Nietzsche's New Morality as Reaction to the Old
The purpose of Friedrich Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morals (1887) is to answer the following questions, which he clearly lays out in the preface: "under what conditions did man devise these value judgments good and evil? And what value do they themselves possess? Have they hitherto hindered or furthered human prosperity? Are they a sign of distress, of impoverishment, of the degeneration of life? Or is there revealed in them, on the contrary, a plenitude, force, and will of life, its courage, certainty, future?" (17). These questions come about from Nietzsche's rejection of the Darwinian-Spencerian-utilitarian explanation of morality, characterized by his portrayal of the…show more content…
They believe that natural selection promotes altruism because it favors the existence of society and the survival of groups. With principles of selection in mind, the "good" thus becomes what is socially useful while the "bad" becomes what is harmful to society and others. Soon one forgets why altruistic actions are good in the first place, but since this system of value is already so ingrained in one's mind, one continues acting out of altruism—what man always has done becomes what man always does.
Nietzsche certainly has in mind Paul Rée, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and other English utilitarian philosophers (Mill, Bentham et al) when he speaks of the "English psychologists." In fact he writes in the preface that Rée's book, The Origin of the Moral Sensations (1877), first gave him the impetus to publish his own origin of morality (17-18). Nietzsche refutes this genealogy of morals, however: