Study Guide

Beyond Good and Evil

by Friedrich Nietzsche

Beyond Good and Evil Essay - Critical Essays

Moral Analysis

Nietzsche argues that the study of moral and religious phenomena can never be the work of a day or a brief season. Modern thinkers can hope only to assemble the necessary evidence, slowly and painstakingly. Their first concern is the statement of a morphology of morality rather than the former ambitious attempt to give a philosophical justification of the derivation of a morality. Only “the collection of the material, the conceptual formalization and arrangement of an enormous field of delicate value-feelings and value-differences that are living, growing, generating others, and perishing” is possible at the present time along with some observations about recurrent features of these value growths. Investigators must know where to look for the proper evidence. For this task, the scientific person lacks the capacities needed for directing the investigations. The scientific person functions best as an instrument—an enormously valuable one. Yet the instrument “belongs in the hands of one who has greater power”—one who commands what uses the instrument shall be put to. Most philosophers also fail to qualify for this kind of moral analysis. The reason is that they have reduced philosophizing to theory of knowledge, which produces a value skepticism when what is required is action—value commanding and value judging.

The whole problem of understanding moral valuations is reminiscent of the older faith-versus-reason controversy in theology. Does “instinct” (the tendency to act creatively without always knowing how to give reasons for one’s actions) hold a more important place in the subject matter of moral analysis than reasoning (the capacity to give reasons for one’s valuations)? This problem emerges early in the character of Socrates—a philosopher whom Nietzsche admires for his magnificent irony and dialectical skills even though Nietzsche denounces “Socratism,” the dogma that beliefs are valuable only insofar as they are capable of logical justification. Nietzsche considers Socrates a much greater figure than Plato. Socrates knew how to laugh at himself, realizing that his superior powers failed to discover the means by which to justify many beliefs he held important. Plato was more naïve than Socrates. Plato left a moral prejudice that Nietzsche simply rejects: the view that instinct and reason ultimately seek the same end—”God” or “the Good.” Plato, in thus dissolving all that Nietzsche finds fascinating in the faith-reason controversy, made possible a later Christian institutionalization of herd-morality.

Fundamentally, Nietzsche distrusts individuals who...

(The entire section is 1072 words.)