(031) Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil”, One Paragraph at a Time
I’ve struggled 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 Two: The Free Spirit
Nietzsche published these words at the age of 42.
31. In our youthful years we still venerate and despise without the art of NUANCE, which is the best gain of life, and we have rightly to do hard penance for having fallen upon men and things with Yea and Nay.
In youth, we are quick to make positive and negative judgments and throw ourselves into certainty about things because we lack the art of nuance. Later in life, at some point, we will be forced to repent for having made such judgments.
Everything is so arranged that the worst of all tastes, THE TASTE FOR THE UNCONDITIONAL, is cruelly befooled and abused, until a man learns to introduce a little art into his sentiments, and prefers to try conclusions with the artificial, as do the real artists of life.
A young person in their naivety has the freedom to simply reach other people’s conclusions rather than crafting their own like a “real artist”. This tendency causes young people to be “befooled and abused” and easily swept up in other people’s agendas.
The angry and reverent spirit peculiar to youth appears to allow itself no peace, until it has suitably falsified men and things, to be able to vent its passion upon them: youth in itself even, is something falsifying and deceptive.
Young people are often prone to zealousness and anger, which gets channeled at certain ideas and things. You could describe this as ideological possession to a certain extent.
Later on, when the young soul, tortured by continual disillusions, finally turns suspiciously against itself — still ardent and savage even in its suspicion and remorse of conscience: how it upbraids itself, how impatiently it tears itself, how it revenges itself for its long self-blinding, as though it had been a voluntary blindness!
But as time passes and children grow up, their view of the world becomes tested by reality itself. When a person grows up to find that reality doesn’t align with their inevitably naive conclusions about the world, one can expect to become disillusioned. Youthful blindness is something everyone has to overcome, it’s not something that happens voluntarily, but causes great pain and can cause one to cast suspicion and remorse upon one’s self.
In this transition one punishes oneself by distrust of one’s sentiments; one tortures one’s enthusiasm with doubt, one feels even the good conscience to be a danger, as if it were the self-concealment and lassitude of a more refined uprightness; and above all, one espouses upon principle the cause AGAINST “youth.”
— A decade later, and one comprehends that all this was also still — youth!
As we grow older we begin to mistrust and doubt our own sentiments and enthusiasm. Our conscience begins to seem dangerous to us as if it is getting in the way of our ability to be honest with ourselves. We begin taking sides against “youth”, only to realize that this whole process was “youth” all along.
There seems to be a kind of cyclical nature to growing up, both in terms of age and also the refinement of our ideas. What do you think Nietzsche is getting at here? Does this resonate with you?