Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future is a book by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche
In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche accuses past philosophers of lacking critical sense and blindly accepting dogmatic premises in their consideration of morality. Specifically, he accuses them of founding grand metaphysical systems upon the faith that the good man is the opposite of the evil man, rather than just a different expression of the same basic impulses that find more direct expression in the evil man. The work moves into the realm "beyond good and evil" in the sense of leaving behind the traditional morality which Nietzsche subjects to a destructive critique in favour of what he regards as an affirmative approach that fearlessly confronts the perspectival nature of knowledge and the perilous condition of the modern individual.
The work consists of 296 numbered sections and an "epode" (or "aftersong") entitled "From High Mountains". The sections are organized into nine parts:
- Part One: On the Prejudices of Philosophers
- Part Two: The Free Spirit
- Part Three: The Religious Essence
- Part Four: Maxims and Interludes
- Part Five: On the Natural History of Morals
- Part Six: We Scholars
- Part Seven: Our Virtues
- Part Eight: Peoples and Fatherlands
- Part Nine: What is Noble?
In the opening two parts of the book, Nietzsche discusses, in turn, the philosophers of the past, who he accuses of a blind dogmatism plagued by moral prejudice masquerading as a search for objective truth; and the "free spirits", like himself, who are to replace them.
He casts doubt on the project of past philosophy by asking why we should want the "truth" rather than recognizing untruth "as a condition of life." He offers an entirely psychological explanation of every past philosophy: each has been an "involuntary and unconscious memoir" on the part of its author (§6) and exists to justify his moral prejudices, which he solemnly baptizes as "truths".
In one passage (§34), Nietzsche writes that "from every point of view the erroneousness of the world in which we believe we live is the surest and firmest thing we can get our eyes on." Philosophers are wrong to rail violently against the risk of being deceived. "It is no more than a moral prejudice that truth is worth more than appearance." Life is nothing without appearances; it appears to Nietzsche that it follows from this that the abolition of appearances would imply the abolition of "truth" as well. Nietzsche asks the question, "what compels us to assume there exists any essential antithesis between 'true' and 'false'?"
Nietzsche singles out the Stoic precept of "living according to nature" (§9) as showing how philosophy "creates the world in its own image" by trying to regiment nature "according to the Stoa." But nature, as something uncontrollable and "prodigal beyond measure," cannot be tyrannized over in the way Stoics tyrannize over themselves. Further, there are forceful attacks on several individual philosophers. Descartes' cogito presupposes that there is an I, that there is such an activity as thinking, and that I know what thinking is (§16). Spinoza masks his "personal timidity and vulnerability" by hiding behind his geometrical method (§5), and inconsistently makes self-preservation a fundamental drive while rejecting teleology (§13). Kant, "the great Chinaman of Königsberg" (§210), reverts to the prejudice of an old moralist with his categorical imperative, the dialectical grounding of which is a mere smokescreen (§5). His "faculty" to explain the possibility of synthetic a priori judgements is pejoratively compared to a passage from Molière's comedy Le Malade imaginaire in which the narcotic quality of opium is described in terms of a "sleepy faculty" – according to Nietzsche, both Kant's explanation of synthetic a priori judgments and Moliére's comedic description of opium are examples of redundant self-referring statements which do not explain anything. Schopenhauer is mistaken in thinking that the nature of the will is self-evident (§19), which is, in fact, a highly complex instrument of control over those who must obey, not transparent to those who command.
"Free spirits", by contrast to the philosophers of the past, are "investigators to the point of cruelty, with rash fingers for the ungraspable, with teeth and stomach for the most indigestible" (§44). Nietzsche warns against those who would suffer for the sake of truth and exhorts his readers to shun these indignant sufferers for truth and lend their ears instead to "cynics"—those who "speak 'badly' of man—but do not speak ill of him" (§26).
There are kinds of fearless scholars who are truly independent of prejudice (§6), but these "philosophical labourers and men of science in general" should not be confused with philosophers, who are "commanders and law-givers" (§211).
Nietzsche also subjects physics to critique. "Nature's conformity to law" is merely one interpretation of the phenomena which natural science observes; Nietzsche suggests that the same phenomena could equally be interpreted as demonstrating "the tyrannically ruthless and inexorable enforcement of power-demands" (§22). Nietzsche appears to espouse a strong brand of scientific anti-realism when he asserts that "It is we alone who have fabricated causes, succession, reciprocity, relativity, compulsion, number, law, freedom, motive, purpose