(023) Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil”, One Paragraph at a Time

I’ve struggled immensely in all my attempts to read and comprehend Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil”. These blog posts are my attempt to better understand this material. I encourage any corrections or criticisms in the comments.

Chapter One: On the Prejudices of Philosophers

23. All psychology hitherto has run aground on moral prejudices and timidities, it has not dared to launch out into the depths. In so far as it is allowable to recognize in that which has hitherto been written, evidence of that which has hitherto been kept silent, it seems as if nobody had yet harboured the notion of psychology as the Morphology and DEVELOPMENT-DOCTRINE OF THE WILL TO POWER, as I conceive of it.

Nietzsche begins by explaining that, due to moral prejudices , the flagship science of psychology has not yet ventured into the depths of the human psyche. The “doctrine of the development of the will to power”, as Nietzsche conceived of it, has not found its way into the psychological studies of his contemporaries.

The power of moral prejudices has penetrated deeply into the most intellectual world, the world apparently most indifferent and unprejudiced, and has obviously operated in an injurious, obstructive, blinding, and distorting manner.

The “intellectual world”, whose scientific methodology is supposed to be indifferent and unprejudiced with regard to morality, has been overcome by a moral prejudice that has a distorting and blinding effect.

A proper physio-psychology has to contend with unconscious antagonism in the heart of the investigator, it has “the heart” against it even a doctrine of the reciprocal conditionalness of the “good” and the “bad” impulses, causes (as refined immorality) distress and aversion in a still strong and manly conscience — still more so, a doctrine of the derivation of all good impulses from bad ones.

To study physical psychology properly, one must contend with the inner moral antagonist who is being bound up in judgments derived from “good” and “bad” impulses. Even a strong and hearty conscience will suffer distress and weariness under the influence of such impulses.

If, however, a person should regard even the emotions of hatred, envy, covetousness, and imperiousness as life-conditioning emotions, as factors which must be present, fundamentally and essentially, in the general economy of life (which must, therefore, be further developed if life is to be further developed), he will suffer from such a view of things as from sea-sickness. And yet this hypothesis is far from being the strangest and most painful in this immense and almost new domain of dangerous knowledge, and there are in fact a hundred good reasons why every one should keep away from it who CAN do so!

Nietzsche believes himself to be entering into a new domain of “dangerous knowledge”, where he can devise a hundred good reasons why everyone should stay away.

Hatred, envy, covetousness, and imperiousness can be taken as life-conditioning emotions that are and must be present in all people. Should one take these emotional qualities as part and parcel of the general economy of life, one will suffer from such a view of things.

On the other hand, if one has once drifted hither with one’s bark, well! very good! now let us set our teeth firmly! let us open our eyes and keep our hand fast on the helm! We sail away right OVER morality, we crush out, we destroy perhaps the remains of our own morality by daring to make our voyage thither — but what do WE matter. Never yet did a PROFOUNDER world of insight reveal itself to daring travelers and adventurers, and the psychologist who thus “makes a sacrifice” — it is not the sacrifizio dell’ intelletto, on the contrary! — will at least be entitled to demand in return that psychology shall once more be recognized as the queen of the sciences, for whose service and equipment the other sciences exist. For psychology is once more the path to the fundamental problems.

Nietzsche believed psychology to be the Queen, or mistress, to the sciences. Being that the human psyche is a filter which all subjective experience must pass through, to study psychology is to study the fundamental phenomena that influences all of science.

Here Nietzsche sees an opportunity where the psychologist may venture out beyond the constraints of morality. Nietzsche rouses the exciting and frightening image of a sea-faring vessel, heading out beyond the breaker and into the darkening horizon.

Do you think Nietzsche’s call to action for psychologists to move out beyond the constraints of morality is justifiable or irresponsible?

Is there an implicit “greater good” at the root of Nietzsche’s argument for psychology to move beyond the constraints of morality?

If so, wouldn’t that value judgement contradict any notion of moving “Beyond Good and Evil”?

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