Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)

Beyond Good and Evil

The title of this book expresses Nietzsche’s interest in an extra-moral worldview. Concepts like good and evil come from a moral worldview, where we question people’s motives and judge them accordingly. However, as Nietzsche shows, our motives are themselves subject to analysis. For example, he criticizes the seemingly altruistic motives of Christian charity as a form of resentful vengeance by the powerless. Throughout the book, Nietzsche highlights the various drives and wills that lead us to adopt one or another moral worldview. In doing so, Nietzsche hopes to lead us to a point “beyond good and evil,” where we see moral concepts as manifestations of deeper drives. At this point, we will no longer judge an action based on its motives but will judge motives based on the spirit in which they were formulated. For example, we should not condemn a violent act for being violent; rather, we should inquire about the will behind it. If the violent act were motivated by a spiteful, resentful will, then the violent act is contemptible, but if it were motivated by a healthy will, guiltlessly claiming what it wants, then the violent act is acceptable. Nietzsche advocates for a strong and healthy will, which acts cheerfully, independently, and free from resentment.