What I Learned From Beyond Good & Evil By Friedrich Nietzche

Date Read: 05/15/2018

How strongly I recommend it: 7/10

Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future is a book by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, first published in 1886. It draws on and expands the ideas of his previous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but with a more critical and polemical approach. 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 favor of what he regards as an affirmative approach that fearlessly confronts the perspectival nature of knowledge and the perilous condition of the modern individual.
Basically as I go through any book that I read, I underline interesting ideas/quotes/paragraphs and then later come back through the book to get the lessons gleaned from these underpinnings and try to figure out what they mean to me and apply them to my own life.
Here were the most interesting lessons in the book for me:
*Don’t Trust The Majority: We all know the countless quotes about truth being found more often in one than in the many, the craziness of crowds etc. The misfits, the innovators, the one’s who the majority doesn’t agree with in the beginning end up being the ones who propel the world forward. Nietzsche quotes a Dr. Stockman and says “the most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom among us—is the compact majority. Yes, the damned, compact, liberal majority.” He says a truth lasts about 17-18 years and only at the tail end of the cycle this turn lives does the majority adopt it, “only when the truth becomes shaky” and is on it’s way out.
*Rational Thinking Isn’t So Rational: When we sit back and consciously think of things, we tend to think it’s the opposite of our instincts, it’s the “rational” side of us, but Nietzsche argued “most of the conscious thinking of a philosopher is secretly guided and forced into certain channels by his instincts.” This has me acting more humble with my thoughts and trying on a few opinions before I whole-heartedly defend my single ‘truth’ that has come of a consequence of conscious thinking. Reason isn’t this perfect, cold, ‘pure’ thing as we think it is, we ought to question it more by ourselves and with others.
*Be Okay With Being Misunderstood: Although we celebrate the ‘rebels’ or the ‘nonconformists’ of our society, we still feel odd within ourselves when we go against the grain and people point out how odd we are, how different we seem to be. But Nietzsche’s words are comforting as he says of course “it is hard to be understood, especially when one thinks and lives among men who think and live differently.” Of course you’ll be considered ‘weird’ or odd when you’re thinking completely different thoughts than other people, and if you’re not thinking completely different thoughts ask yourself why if you are a different person than everyone around you would you have all the same beliefs as those people except for the fact that you are simply adopting someone else’s belief. Nietzsche also says “our highest insights must—-and should—-sound like follies and sometimes like crimes when they are heard without permission by those who are not predisposed and predestined for them.”
*We Never Feel Like We’re Enough: Nietzsche says “discovering that one is loved in return really ought to disenchant the lover with the beloved. What? This person is modest enough to love even me? Or stupid enough? Or-or—“ How many times have we all felt this whether it be in a new relationship, or even a new job when a great place hires us and we feel like we’re an impostor and if only they knew the real us they wouldn’t want us. It’s this silly game we all play in our own heads, we never feel we’re enough.
*Be Careful Fighting Monsters: Nietzsche says “whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” We’ve all seen this, one person, out to prove how much of a monster someone else is, ends up becoming the same thing they despise. Be very careful in going against the corrupt politician that you don’t become corrupt yourself. Be very careful in going against the lying businessman, that you don’t become a liar yourself. It’s happened before, and will happen in the future, don’t let it be you. Know where your line is.
*How Will The Future See Us?: It’s funny how every society thinks they’re the ones who magically figured out this morality thing. Nietzsche says “what a time experiences as evil is usually an untimely echo of what was formerly experienced as good.” Think of how past society behaved and how wrong we see the way people were treated. How will future societies see us? It’s a good thought experiment to write down 10 possible things the future will look back at us for and think “what savages!” This isn’t meant to be a moral argument, just a thought experiment to examine our own actions as we all should consistently so we don’t get trapped in one way of thinking our entire life.
*The Vanity Of Others: This is probably my favorite idea because I never thought of it before. Nietzsche says “the vanity of others offends our taste only when it offends our vanity.” Meaning when someone else’s vanity hurts our vanity, when it makes us feel less than. We condemn the vanity of others on a moral ground as ‘wrong’ when really it’s just our vanity. Someone’s ridiculous house making our house feel small, someone’s flashy beautiful clothing making us feel dull, someone’s extreme attention to their appearance making us feel ugly. Think about a time you’ve called someone out for their vanity, and if you’re truly honest with yourself it may be just because your vanity was struck.


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