Friedrich Nietzsche “Beyond Good and Evil” – quotes and comments

This was the first book of Nietzsche’s that I’ve ever read, although I have heard lots of him – and I think I also read some short extracts from Thus Spake Zarathustra. I decided in this particular case not to do a proper review. I read this book with a pencil in hand, and so I underlined many of the passages that I found intriguing. I’ve created a list of some of them. My notes are in bold. I was feeling a bit snarky.

On philosophy

Man could not live without accepting logical fictions, without measuring reality by the purely invented world of the unconditional (…) that to give up false judgements would be to give up life, to deny life. Admitting untruth as a condition of life: that means to resist familiar values in a dangerous way; and a philosophy that dares this has already placed itself beyond good and evil.

Note the mention of the title here. 10/10.

Little by little I came to understand what every great philosophy to date has been: the personal confession of its author, a kind of unintended and unwitting memoir.

It’s fairly certain that in the 21st century most of us think this way…

What does Europe owe to the Jews? Many things both good and bad, and one thing above all, at once the best and the worst: the grand moral style, the horror and the majesty of everlasting demands, everlasting meanings, the whole sublime romanticism of moral questions…

He’s not as antisemitic as you might think him. However, he does express the thought that Jews could take over Europe if they would like to, which I suspect was water to the mill for certain antisemitic people reading him…

There are truths best perceived by mediocre minds, because they are most suited to them (…) we are being forced just not to embrace this unpleasant tenet, ever since the spirit of respectable, but mediocre Englishmen (I am thinking of Darwin, John Stuart Mill, and Herbert Spencer) has begun to gain the upper hand in the middle region of European taste…

The English are just way too practical for my taste. 

A person of ability in the grand style, a creative person may have to be a person lacking in knowledge – while making scientific discoveries in the manner of Darwin, on the other hand, might require a certain narrowness, dryness and diligent meticulousness

This is Nietzsche really dissing Darwin, just in case you didn’t notice…

Or to ask it another way, ‘Why bother with knowledge? Everyone will ask us about it. And we, pressed in this way, we who have asked ourselves just the same thing a hundred times over, we have found no and do find no better answer(… ) 

(Section 231 begins) 

Learning transforms us: it acts as all nourishment does…” 

I don’t really think Nietzsche spends enough time on “Why bother with knowledge” in this book? After all there is no reason within his framework why bothering with knowledge would be superior to just spending one’s life watching reality TV. Or am I missing something?

General thoughts

Young people, with their characteristic anger and awe, seem to find no peace until they have neatly falsified people and things, so that they can vent their feelings on them.


It is therefore the modern, noisy, time-consuming, self-congratulatory, stupidly proud work ethic more than anything else that trains and prepares us for a ‘lack of faith’

Bourgeois bastards can’t even do atheism properly.

Anyone who fights with monsters should take care that he does not in the process become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes back into you.

 Sounds like a quote from an Avengers movie. I like it. 

And who knows whether the same process has not occurred in all the great cases: the crowd adored a god – and the ‘god’ was only a poor sacrificial animal! Success has always been the greatest liar – and the ‘work’ itself is a success; a great statesman, a conqueror, an explorer is disguised to the point of unrecognizability by his creations.

Never meet your heroes.

After we have finished building our house, we notice we have inadvertently learned something in the process, something that we absolutely should have known before we – began to build. The eternal, sorrowful ‘Too late!’

Always learning, but never on time.

On Europe – and some quotes I suspect the Nazis were rather fond of

For scepticism is the most spiritual expression of a certain complex physiological condition that in common parlance is called bad nerves or sickliness; it invariably presents itself whenever races or classes that have long been kept apart intermix significantly and suddenly.

Can’t let those damn immigrants in. (If that doesn’t sound sinister to you, I don’t know what does.) pt. 1

But what is prone most of all to illness and degeneracy in these mixed breeds is the will: they no longer understand how to make an independent decision (…) Our Europe of today, the scene of a ridiculously sudden experiment in the radical mixture of classes and therefore of races, is as a consequence thoroughly sceptical

Can’t let those damn immigrants in. (If that doesn’t sound sinister to you, I don’t know what does.) pt. 2

I am talking about an increase in the Russian threat so great that Europe would have to decide to be equally threatening, that is to make use of a new ruling caste in order to gain a will, a terrible long-lived will of its own that could set itself goals for millennia – so that the long-drawn out comedy of its small state system and likewise the multiple wills of its dynasties and democracies would finally come to an end. The time for petty politics is over: even by the next century, we will be battling for mastery over the earth…

Read Europe as America and Russia as China –  it sounds more or less like Trump’s America politics to me

Future Europeans will probably give the overall impression of being diverse, loquacious, weak-willed , and extremely handy worker who need a master, a commander, like their daily bread… the democratization of Europe is at the same type an involuntary contrivance for the breeding of tyrants

Rise of authoritarianism in our modern democratic world: are people simply unwilling to be free? 

In the past, every elevation of the type of ‘human being’ was achieved by an aristocratic society – and that will always be the case: by a society that believes in the great ladder of hierarchy and value differentiation between people and that requires slavery in one sense or another.

And (as always) Nietzsche doesn’t really care about the suffering of the enslaved, because they were made to suffer, and the suffering will make them noble anyways. Ahem.

To refrain from injuring, abusing, or exploiting one another… in a certain crude sense this can develop into good manners between individuals… But if we were try to take this principle further and possibly make it even the basic principle of society, it would be immediately be revealed for what it is: a will to deny life, a principle for dissolution and decline.

If I can’t hit you to get your candy, the world is fundamentally unjust. 

On suffering, cruelty and the will to power

But anyone who truly offered a sacrifice knows that he wanted something for it and got it – perhaps something of himself – that he gave up something (…) perhaps just to be more or at least to feel as he were ‘more’.

Our typical postmodern doubt about the possibility of selflessness. Thank Nietzsche for getting us started on this one. 

The discipline of suffering, great suffering- don’t you know that this discipline alone has created all human greatness to date? The tension of soul of unhappiness which cultivates its strength…

How does this work with an enslaved “lower” class and an privileged aristocracy? Are the lower class nobler for suffering more? Or are we going for – the lower class can’t really suffer, as I, the great wise man, can suffer? I suspect it’s the latter.  (Coughs)

Almost everything that we call ‘high culture’ is based on the deepening and spiritualizing of cruelty that is my tenet…

Sounds a tiny bit sadistic. Whatevs.

Exploitation is not part of a decadent or imperfect, primitive society: it is part of the fundamental nature  of living things, as its fundamental organic function: it is a consequence of the true will to power, which is simply the will to life… let us at least be honest with ourselves

Basically, in order to stop exploiting others, you will need to commit suicide. Hurray?  

A living being want above all else to release its strength; life itself is the will to power, and self-preservation is one of its indirect and most frequent consequences…

Life is destruction. Get over it. 

On women

When a woman has scholarly tendencies, there is usually something wrong with her sexuality.

Women shouldn’t read things. It makes them ugly.

What do women care about truth! From the beginning, nothing has been more alien to women, more repellent, more inimical than the truth- their great art is the lie, their highest concern is appearance and beauty.

Women can only possibly care about looking pretty.

We men now wish that women would stop compromising themselves by their enlightenment…

Women are talking about things I don’t understand now. It upsets me.

About Madame Roland, Madame de Staël, Monsieur George Sand “Men consider the above-named women the three comical females per se (nothing more!) , actually the best unwitting counter-argument to emancipation and female tyranny”

Actually, smart women are not proper women. I have solved it. 

A deep man (…) deep in both spirit and desire (…) can think about women only like an Oriental: he has to conceive of woman as a possession, as securable property, as something predetermined for service and completed in it.

Women are not even people, if you think about it.

On why Nietzsche is so much better than everybody else

Wherever our loftiest insights inadvertently reach the ears of people who are not constituted or destined to hear them, they must – and should! – sound foolish, or in some circumstances even criminal…. What serves to refresh the higher type of person must be almost poison to a very diverse and inferior type… Books for the masses are always bad-smelling books: the odour of little people clings to them. There is usually a stink wherever the common people eat and drink and even in their places of reverence

I’m way too smart, that’s why no-one understands me.

The greatest person should be the one who can be most lonely, most hidden, most deviant, the man beyond good and evil, the master of his virtues, abundantly rich in will.

Sounds like Dominic Cummings recruitment ad for Downing Street .

In a person created and destined to command, for example, self-denial or humble retreat would not be a virtue but rather the waste of virtue.

This is why I should eat all the chocolate now.

For it seems to be the rule that higher people come to ruin, that souls that are constituted differently are destroyed

I’m not “depressed”, I’m a higher person.

Every deep thinker is more afraid of being understood than of being misunderstood. In this latter case his vanity may suffer; but in the former it will be his heart, his sympathy, forever saying “Oh, why do all of you also want to have it as hard as I?”

Secretly, I’m really terrified I’m not that special after all. 

Why Nietzsche is still single

The more similar, the more common people: these have always been and continue to be at an advantage, while those who are more select, subtle, rare, harder to understand are readily left alone, come to harm in their isolation and rarely procreate.

Sure. That’s why…

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