Definitions, Limitations…Contemplations

It was the late 1800s in Germany. Automobiles that had internal combustion engines powered by gasoline started to take off. The Reinsurance Treaty between Germany and Russia was signed in the shadows. A particular manuscript was published at the personal expense of a renowned (and infamous during his time) philosopher. The year after it was published, this philosopher suffered a mental breakdown and the nation had just chosen a leader who will begin a reign of terror that will last decades.

Such was the environment for Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.

Published in 1886, Nietzsche presents a critique towards the philosophers before him. He charges them with merely following the “status quo” regarding morality. He charges them with basing their philosophical musings from religious dogma, a more traditional perspective of morality where good is the total opposite of evil. His premise in the book then is to create a morality that goes beyond such dogmatic limitations through a more “individualistic” perspective. It’s quite a lengthy document, spanning nine sections that further explore this premise. It is in these sections that he breaks down how the history of philosophy, for one, has been flawed into looking into what defines “good” and “bad” into what constitutes “good” and “evil,” a profound concept that is entirely different from just being “bad.” This continues into his exhortations of how science, European cultures and even religion have succumbed to what he believes is a “mistaken” view of how life is ordered. Though it is written in a scholarly fashion (meaning there are a lot of highfalutin phrases like “tyrannically ruthless and inexorable enforcement of power-demands” and “from every point of view the erroneousness of the world”), Nietzsche goes straight for the heart and rips off the aorta. He makes no qualms of his opinions and is clear on what needs to be changed. Most striking is this particular statement: “The time for petty politics is past: the very next century will bring with it the struggle for mastery over the whole earth.”

And this, I believe, is where he hits it. Many of the ideologies right now are mostly political in nature – a push-pull of influences and power-plays that, sadly, still exist today. For a lot of countries that are held under religious influences, the perspective of what is good and what is evil mostly remain the same. “Free spirits,” as Nietzsche calls them, are still few and far in between. Nevertheless, it’s slowly getting there.

If you would like to look at how Nietzsche thinks, this is a good starter. Too bad that a year after this was published, he began his mental breakdown until he finally needed assistance and eventually died from his mental condition. The world needs another Nietzsche.