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Beyond Good and Evil


4 - "Epigrams and Interludes"

Summary 4 - "Epigrams and Interludes"


This section is a return to the style of some of Nietzsche's earlier writings. Human, All-Too-Human,The Dawn, and The Gay Science are all collections of aphorisms and epigrams on various themes, not arranged in any particular order. Given that Beyond Good and Evil presents a far more cohesive philosophy than those earlier works, we might ask what purpose these "interludes" serve.

The subject matter of this chapter is also more akin to these earlier books. They were laden with disconnected series of witty and insightful psychological and other observations. These observations served as the raw data from which Nietzsche built his mature philosophy. From these observations he inferred the will to power as the underlying drive that motivates all things, and developed his conception of the overman and the eternal recurrence, which were introduced in ##Thus Spoke Zarathustra##. Starting with Zarathustra, Nietzsche's thought took on a more cohesive and directed shape. For instance, in Beyond Good and Evil we get not a disconnected series of aphorisms, but aphorisms organized into chapters, building upon themes, and developing the major conclusions of Nietzsche's mature period.

If Beyond Good and Evil is to present Nietzsche's thought in its completeness, however, it must also present the psychological and other observations upon which his more organized thoughts were built. This chapter does largely that. The other chapters play upon themes that took shape with the advent of Nietzsche's mature philosophy. Because these observations are the basis for, and not the result of, Nietzsche's mature philosophy, they lack the shape and direction of the thoughts developed in the other chapters.

Nietzsche's view of psychology has been touched upon earlier. He battles against the conception of the human mind and will as being unified and transparent. If it were, it would be static: such dynamic processes as thought and conscience could not exist. That we even have an inner life suggests that there are multiple drives competing within us for dominance. If we see our mind as a battlefield of competing drives, we can no longer assume that we can take an unbiased look at ourselves. What we think of ourselves is always biased by the perspective of whatever drive is dominant at a particular time, and does not represent the whole complex of drives that make us up. Nietzsche often refers to our vanity or our pride convincing us that our motives or feelings are different than they are. Self- deception is a concept that is only possible when the "self" can be divided into deceiver and deceived.

This view of psychology then informs much of Nietzsche's criticism. In particular, morality is no longer seen as a simple and rational matter, but comes to represent the competing drives within us and their drive to remake our view of the world in the image they desire.

Much of what Nietzsche says here is more comprehensible and agreeable to us in the post-Freudian world. When Nietzsche was writing, the idea of the unconscious had not been introduced, and the prevailing theme in Western philosophy of mind was a Cartesian rationalism that saw the mind as an open book, the one thing that could be known with certainty. We could see Nietzsche in some ways as a precursor to Freud, and indeed, Freud acknowledged a great debt to Nietzsche.

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