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Williams College 

One of the most striking and pathetic figures of the nineteenth 
century was Friedrich Nietzsche. A radical aristocrat, a radical 
enemy of religion, a prophet, he shared the fate of the prophet 
and the radical man. He was a poet rather than a philosopher, 
not one calmly to weigh the issues of his mind. He was a 
zealot with a mission, a fiery genius, whose torch, unsteady at 
times, flared into madness in his latter years. So great was the 
strain of thought that his mind was literally consumed by his 
zeal for a vast, a revolutionary cause. 

The events of his life were few. A series of ministers' families 
had intermarried for two generations; Nietzsche's father was a 
minister, and his mother the daughter of a minister. As in the 
case of our own Emerson, the family of Friedrich Nietzsche was 
thus one in which the intellectual life had predominated for sev- 
eral generations. At Rocken, a little German town not far from 
the battlefield of Liitzen, on Oct. 15, 1844, Friedrich was born. 
His mother took complete charge of his instruction up to the time 
when he was sent to the so-called Fiirstenschule at Pforta in the 
Thuringian mountains. After graduation there he continued his 
studies for some years at the Universities of Bonn and Leipzig. 
Ritschl was the dominating factor in his life at Leipzig, as Heinze 
had been at Pforta. The latter, still professor of philosophy at 
Leipzig, told me that Friedrich Nietzsche excelled in what- 
ever field of work he set his heart on, though there was nothing to 
mark him as a genius save his taciturnity, his love of the beauti- 
ful, his hatred of the vulgar. 

As a student, he had already distinguished himself as a master 
of the ancient languages and as a musician, and by virtue of certain 
essays he had published while an undergraduate the University 


of Basel offered him an extraordinary-professorship of philology. 
He was then twenty-five. But languages were not his chief in- 
terest; and the publication of his first larger work on Greek trag- 
edy proved that he was destined to be a thinker on the ultimate 
problems of life. His ten years as professor at Basel (1869-1879) 
were a continuous inner struggle. The teaching of language 
militated against the will which bade him think upon subjects of 
life and death; ill health limited a pen which seemed inexhausti- 
ble; and among his one-time friends the feeling against his radi- 
cal theories left him standing more and more alone. The stu- 
dents worshipped him at first, but when they learned of his rev- 
olutionary principles, left him to lecture to vacant seats. He broke 
with his best friends — among whom was Richard Wagner — for 
the sake of his theories; and finally, well-nigh alone and friendless, 
broken in health at thirty-five, he resigned his professorship, ac- 
cepting, however, a pension from the University. From this date 
until his death eight years ago the story of his life is that of a wan- 
dering thinker — fugitivus errans he called himself — alone, save 
for his faithful dog; now on the heights of Swiss mountains, now 
among the Italian lakes, now in the misty north of Germany; in- 
defatigable, producing work after work with a golden pen, pro- 
phetic in tone, but, alas, often philosophically illogical, contradic- 
tory, absurd. 

A few of the more important of his writings may be mentioned 
here. First in point of significance is his Also sprach Zarathustra; 
ein Buck fur Alle und Keinen. Zarathustra is, of course, Zoro- 
aster, and the mouth-piece of the writer himself. The book is 
written in a style of rare beauty, very much in the tone of the 
Biblical prophets, only the call is to objects wholly earthly. Sec- 
ondly, Menschliches, allzu Menschliches; ein Buck fur freie Geister, 
which consists, as does Zarathustra, very largely of aphorisms. 
Morgenrote and Die frohliche Wissenschaft tell of the dawn of a 
new science and new values; while Jenseits von Gut und Bose, 
the most logical and consistent of the works I have read, seeks 
to advance, as the title indicates, beyond the concepts of a tradi- 
tional ethics. Der Antichrist summarizes in relatively the most 
connected manner his objections to the Christian religion. Theo- 
logians and metaphysicians alike are warred upon; the doctrines 


of the New Testament are discussed from a cultural, biological 
standpoint, and found wanting. Finally, Der Wille zur Macht, 
in which is contained a kind of will-metaphysic and a Pythago- 
rean theory of the eternal recurrence of what has been. Philos- 
ophy was to Nietzsche largely personal experience. And if our 
thinking, like our bodies, is subject to evolution, it must show 
a growth, an overcoming of the old self, a rising to a new and 
broader field of vision. Thus we may in a measure forgive many 
of the seeming inconsistencies. 

Ten years, then, as a professor in Basel, ten years as a wandering 
thinker, impelled as it were by fate, until, in 1889, he was picked 
up in the streets of Turin, hopelessly insane. He had overworked 
his brain in ceaseless thinking night and day, and to his death, 
in 1900, he had to be cared for by Christian charity — Christian 
charity, which in health had been the object of his bitterest attack. 
He was buried without funeral rites, save for one German student 
who came from afar and made an oration at his grave. 

How was it now that Nietzsche so soon became a leader, for 
many, indeed, a prophet ? How is it that no one who now con- 
siders problems of government, morality, or religion, can escape 

Let us examine the chief elements of his philosophy, present- 
ing so far as we may that which was true for him throughout, 
and more particularly his later thought. First, let us note that, 
as in the case of Socrates, Nietzsche's whole philosophy centres 
about ethics. The adage, yv5>0i a-eavrov, is again proposed, not 
through ethics to attain a new basis for philosophic thought, but, 
as it were, by ethics of a radical kind to rise superior to the ulti- 
mate problems which so trouble us. Man's concerns are of this 
earth; what has he to do with other worlds? Let him look to 
this life and make the most of it. The study of man is thus the 
paramount issue, to find in man himself not only the explanation 
of psychological fact, but a solution for all the phases of thought 
and action ; in other words, to explain the various systems of phi- 
losophy, the religions of mankind, as well as our own ideas and 
ideals of morality, by a scientific, historical, and psychological 
method; presuming nothing, and rigidly excluding what seems 
improbable in our own immediate personal experience. " All that 


we need is a chemistry of moral, religious, aesthetic concepts," 
says Nietzsche; and in an attempt to provide such an analysis 
he comes to the conclusion that metaphysics concerns itself with 
a world of dreams. Dreams are, indeed, sufficient to explain 
for him the origin of metaphysics. " Without dreams, one would 
never have found occasion to separate the real world from another 
world." So the division of human beings into body and soul — 
another dream — started the religious concepts of philosophy, and 
brought men from ghosts to spiritual essences, spiritual bodies, 
other lives than the present. Thus, as it were by inspiration, 
he tries to shut the gates of mercy on all metaphysics. He delib- 
erately denies the validity and significance of the very problems 
and concepts of transcendental philosophy. God is dead, he 
boldly exclaims, there are no things in themselves, souls, world 
orders, logoi, paracletes. These are none of them given in expe- 
rience; therefore they do not exist. 

What concerns us, then, is man as a developing being in the 
present, as possibly a higher type in future generations. Thus 
it came that Nietzsche's first investigations, growing out of his 
philological studies — principally Greek — were, broadly speaking, 
cultural, going back almost invariably to Greek ideals. The 
Greeks were pre-eminently the people of freedom, each man a 
positive force, every life its own life, every will its own. They 
rose to native dignity as men, a type with which no later civiliza- 
tion can be compared. Rejoicing in the present, physically and 
intellectually free spirits, without the shackles of any presuppo- 
sition or bias whatsoever, fearing nothing, with an art which as- 
suaged the soul by true nobility and rose to Dionysiac exaltation, 
to intoxication of beauty and delight. 

Nietzsche considers this an ideal to which we must return if 
the human race is to advance; and Schopenhauer, as the great 
exponent of dominant will, is to him the one who can teach men 
anew this principle of individuation, this positing of one's own 
will and carrying it through to the end. Schopenhauer, as is 
well known, found the principle at the basis of all being and action, 
not in intelligence and love, as the theologians maintained, but 
in a blind will, akin to the wills we find within ourselves. Find- 
ing all nature motived by this stupid, unreasoning, blind force, 


Schopenhauer proposed as man's best solution, in a world as 
miserable as a world could possibly be, the overcoming, the sub- 
jection of that force. Subjectively, Schopenhauer's solution, as 
we all know, was the ideal of negation, the Buddhist's Nirvana, 
the willing not to will. At this point Nietzsche breaks with his 
master. He is for overcoming a will which is blind — we can also 
say, a character which has no ends and aims — not for the purpose 
of attaining Nirvana, but, on the contrary, that we may develop 
our dead selves to stronger personalities by the effort and struggle 
to assert ourselves physically, intellectually, and morally as higher 
types of men. 

Here we meet with the central concept, the watchword of the 
Nietzschian philosophy, Superman, or Overman — Uebermensch. 
It was Goethe who coined the word, but Nietzsche has made it 
pregnant with possibility; indeed, it might well become the object 
of religion if we are eventually to be reduced to a merely moral 
religion, the positivist 's concept of a glorified humanity. 

Who, now, is the Overman? He is, as the word implies, a 
being higher than anything to which mankind has yet attained 
or will attain, physically, intellectually, and morally. He is the 
ever retreating limit of evolution. He is the sense and salt of the 
earth. He is the one for whom all mankind must live and die. 
He is the distinguished aristocrat, of extraordinary power and 
ability, who moulds the destiny of men at large. He gives tone, 
direction, dignity, and ends to society. He is the head, we are 
the members; and we exist only to further that head. 

But have we not leaders who give tone, direction, dignity, and 
ends to society? And is not mankind evolving from higher to 
higher planes? No, replies our philosopher, we are like sheep 
without a shepherd, without purposes and ends. Ask men what 
is the purpose of their lives, and see how many will find one there 
at all! Indeed, so wholly sapless and devoid of meaning seems 
this present life that they look to a future world to make up for 
the senselessness of earthly life. No, men are like sheep without 
a shepherd, says our philosopher; and, moreover, they will not 
have any shepherd. Let a man of higher type arise among them, 
a man physically and intellectually superior, what is the attitude 
of men at large toward him? Will they allow him to carry out 


exalted purposes, will they recognize his leadership? No, the 
whole tendency of our democratic times is to make men like one 
another, to look upon all men as equal, to keep all on the same 
level, and see to it that no man obtains predominating influence 
or expresses his genius. 

Thus Nietzsche was the arch-enemy of democratic institutions. 
For him, they detracted from the dignity of life, and reduced its 
higher values to mere commonplace, to vulgarity. One rabble 
beckons to another, and, though a god were to appear among them, 
they would still beckon one to the other, "We are all equal." 
They are flies in the market-place, exclaims Nietzsche, they suck 
the blood of him who comes from the mountains, they crucify 
him who speaks of higher values. There are no higher men, 
there can be no genius, say they who will not recognize the prin- 
ciple of distinguished leadership, who have lost all sense of per- 
sonality and individuality. Democracy can be but a spiritless 
dead level, a feeble mediocrity. 

It thus behooves the Superman and him who loves the Super- 
man to leave the market-place and find himself a higher sphere. 
Let the Superman assert his will and carry out his ends and pur- 
poses. Thus only can the dead level of mediocrity be overcome. 
May those who can, rise, and in the struggle let the strongest sur- 
vive; only thus can weakness be done away with ! In the strongest 
possible words Nietzsche calls upon his followers — of whom there 
were none at that time — to create some high purpose, some end 
for human life, something that shall arouse the enthusiasm of 
men and make them content with an earthly destiny. He believes 
the rearing of supermen to be the end in which all men should 
find their Dionysiac delight. Then would earth have a sense, a 

But how about those who are not supermen — how about us ? we 
instinctively inquire. Nietzsche's bold response is this: Every 
man his own neighbor. I am not my brother's keeper. Let 
every man work out his own salvation. Let us have the struggle 
and the combat. Then the weak will die, and those who yearn 
for other worlds. And yet all men should seek to foster that 
which might enslave them. Again instinctively we ask, Should 
not the Superman be bullet-proof? 


But perhaps we are too concrete here. It is in an ethical sense, 
primarily, that Nietzsche speaks to us; and his emphasis of the 
higher man, the man, that is, who asserts his individuality, is 
an attack upon traditional concepts of morality. He desires to 
present new tables of evolutionary law, at least to have them 
reckoned with, and so release mankind perhaps from the shackles 
of convention and mere tradition. His evolutionary law is indeed 
revolutionary law. For him moral sanctions become a function 
of will — individual will — the exact antipode of Kant's categorical 
imperative. Spinoza anticipates him here: "According to the 
highest right of Nature, it is permitted to every man uncondition- 
ally to do that which according to his judgment will result in his 
own benefit." 1 Again, "To attain that which will redound to our 
own salvation and peace, we have need of no other principle than 
that we consider well what redounds to our own advantage." 2 
And yet the deductions of Spinoza are quite different, as we shall 
see, since to him natural law and ethical law are both phases of 
the divine law. 3 

Nietzsche reasons thus: There was a time when men were 
physical slaves, bodily subject to masters. And though they 
overcame the fleshly bondage, they remained for many centuries 
intellectual slaves — scholastics of the Middle Age, bearing the yoke 
of a traditional philosophy. The time came when men awakened 
to find themselves free in mind as well — that was the renaissance 
of free thought, the dawning anew of a Greek ideal. But the pro- 
cess has not yet reached its conclusion; for we are still under the 
bondage of moral despotism, not having learned that our moral 
sanctions are themselves the products of our own minds. It is 
we ourselves who create the concepts good and evil. Therefore, 
they cannot have fixed values, and there are theoretically as many 
concepts, good and evil, as there are individuals. What, then, 
can hinder the establishment of new values for the categories good, 
right, etc. ? Why not overturn the old evaluations of men's ac- 
tions and set new standards, which may be more natural, and so 
contribute to the advancement of the race, particularly of its higher 

lEthica, Part iv, App. 8. 2 Concerning True Freedom. 

3 Of Natural Right. 


type? This "Umwertung alter Werte" is what Nietzsche then 
attempts to do, deliberately setting aside public opinion, and chal- 
lenging every ideal whatsoever, boldly proclaiming new standards 
and new ideals. The development of a higher type of man, and 
the overturning of what he is pleased to call this rabble-life of the 
present age, becomes for him a sort of holy zeal, a religion. 

We all know that his main object here was to overturn, if possi- 
ble, what he considered the effete ethical concepts of traditional 
Christianity. The system, he maintains, is one which grew out 
of Asiatic despotism, and contrasts with Greek enlightenment and 
the cultivation of virtue as its own filthy Jewish rags compare with 
the unspotted brightness of the unclouded heavens. The funda- 
mental fallacy of the Christian ethics is to him its negation of the 
individual, its denial of the essentially human. If virtue is but 
filthy rags, and there is no cleanliness in us, how can we exult in 
earth and sky and the free play of every bodily function ? If we 
must ever deny ourselves, how can the individual evolve? If 
our highest moral obligation becomes service, it cannot but 
result in servility, limitation, degradation. Altruism is thus a 
disease, and all its negative virtues are held to thwart the progress 
of evolution. The new and higher type of man will therefore 
never will to pity his fellow. 'Tis charity, and weakens him who 
gives and him who takes. The Superman will unlearn the idea 
of sacrifice, which degrades both giver and recipient. He, the 
rich in spirit, will not impoverish himself that the weak, the halt, 
the blind, the poor in spirit, the aimless, may drag themselves 
through an aimless existence. He will be strong and demand 
strength, thus inciting all to rouse themselves out of lazy weak- 
ness and moral beggary. He will resist evil — that is, whatever 
militates against his own higher development; never for one 
moment will he cease to raise himself, if possible, above his own 
dead self. Morally, then, the Superman will be his own self- 
sufficient arbiter, he will express his nature to the full, he will 
posit his own personality. He will posit his reason, and develop 
to the full every mental faculty. Here, too, he will rejoice in 
strength, he will accept no conditions, he will find that inner life 
and end in itself. Physically, he will strive to become like the 
"blonde Bestie" of the old German forests, with a body undaunted 


by heat and cold, at home on land or sea, exulting in every nat- 
ural function, every organ of his frame ruddy with life. 

Let me, at this point, quote from the Morgenrbte, by way of 
anticipating perhaps a serious criticism. The Superman as the 
type of the egoist, the " blond beast," who travels with inevitable 
will, devoid of sympathy or charity, with virtues all of his own 
making, has in him something to inspire fear. In justice to 
Nietzsche, however, we must remember that as a radical thinker 
he sought constantly to emphasize his thoughts by striking presen- 
tation. If, for instance, instead of calling the physical side of 
his Superman " die blonde Bestie" he had, with Hegel, spoken of 
an "approximate degree of bodily health which should enable 
a man to sustain a high degree of development, with consistent 
co-ordination of mind and physical functions," there would have 
been less discussion of the subject. Before we pass judgment, 
therefore, let us take into consideration Nietzsche's conception 
of the way the Superman would come to the end of his earthly 
course. He is comparing him with a bird of passage flying over 
the Western sea: 

All these keen birds that fly afar to the farthest coast, surely somewhere 
they will be able to go no more, and they will limp down upon a mast 
or some barren cliff and be thankful for the support. But who can say 
that ahead of them, beyond them, there is not a free, a boundless course 
— that they have flown as far as they can fly ? All our great masters and 
forerunners came to a stand, and it is not the noblest nor the most gracious 
mien with which fatigue stands still. So it will go with me and you. 
But how can that concern us? Other birds will fly beyond. And this 
our insight, our faith, flies in a race with them upwards and onwards; 
this our faith rises straight above our head and above its helplessness, 
it gazes out from thence into the distance and sees the hosts of far 
mightier birds, mightier than we are, who are going to strive for the 
same goal whither we sought to fly, and where all is yet sea, sea, sea. 

If now the question presents itself, How about the advent of 
a second Superman, or perhaps a confederation of weaker wills 
for self-protection? we shall have to make allowance for a 
measure of justifiable hyperbole. For Nietzsche speaks here of 
slaves and masters, and of a master-morality and a slave-morality. 


So great was his zeal for development that to him the Super- 
man becomes the goal to which all nature turns. As the human 
species, the highest exemplification of life, depends for its suste- 
nance upon the lower creation of animal and plant life, so it 
becomes a necessary correlate that the lower races of mankind 
should become subordinate to the purposes of those who stand for 
exalted ideals. The masses of mankind, the rabble, can be only 
a means to an end. And thus the beginning of a new era will 
see, first of all, a greater importance placed upon the highest 
types of men, and the factors that make for progress will not be 
sacrificed for the weak-minded, the mediocre, the halt, and those 
who possess a mere existence without a spark of the higher life. 
The Christian ethics and democracy are one in this emphasis 
of the commonplace, the lame, the passable, the merely existing, 
the many-too-many. They would be, nay, they are, the masters 
of human destiny, servants — they whose highest aim is a beggar's 
paradise, who " ask, and ask anew, how can a man keep on exist- 
ing best, how can he live longest and most pleasantly." 4 Demo- 
cracy has millions for reformatories, homes, asylums, and never 
once inquires whether its exalted spirits live or perish. Comfort, 
the external conveniences of life, the faint happiness of the great- 
est number, a mendicant mediocrity, the sacrifice of the truly 
distinguished for those who know not for what purpose they be, 
the supermen for slaves — such is for Nietzsche the spirit of our 
times. Yet in his prophetic exaltation he sees a better time to 
come. Then supermen will be the glory of the race, and the many 
will find their reason for existence in cherishing and sustaining 
the highest types of men. They will recognize the fact that they 
are properly slaves, without independent thought and initiative, 
and so properly under the direction of such as can provide form 
and dignity, ends and purposes, an upward and onward movement 
for all. 

Thus a double standard of morality results, one for supermen, 
another for those dependent upon their guidance. Manifestly, 
the virtues of exalted character positing its own law are other than 
those of obedience to authority. And there can be no hope for 
supermen if one slave equals one superman. Therefore, while 

i Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 419. 


the latter holds his intelligent will to be the only law, " everything 
being allowed while nothing is true" (nichts ist wahr, alles ist 
erlaubt), the dependent personality will still cherish the self-deny- 
ing, sacrificing, pitying, poor-in-spirit service-morality. 

Christianity, like democracy, makes the fundamental error of 
supposing all men to be equal. "Man is man before God, we 
are all alike," 5 says the Christian, and the principle is one which 
brings our philosopher to express himself as never man did before, 
to my knowledge, in the bitterest tones of derision and contempt 
for our most cherished hopes and beliefs. All religion he holds 
to be the fabric of dreams, even as pure philosophy arose from 
delusion and the failure to see distinctly. The other self appear- 
ing in dreams gave rise to the belief in souls and future existence. 
Cowardice and fear for moral principles started the fiction of re- 
wards and punishments and final judgments. All religious phe- 
nomena Nietzsche believes explicable as psychological aberra- 
tion and reading into experience what is not to be found there. 
Thus auto-suggestion produces the consciousness both of sin and 
deliverance from sin and of the efficacy of prayer. For Zara- 
thustra, who is of course Nietzsche himself, God is dead; God, too, 
was, and is, a delusion. Our philosopher, wandering through 
the earth, meets in a far-off wood a holy man who is singing praises 
to God as in loneliness he climbs his mountain-side. He is in- 
toning ancient psalms and muttering to himself. "Can it be," 
exclaimed Zarathustra, "this old saint has not yet heard in his 
wood that God is dead?" "Such are despisers of life," he con- 
tinues, " decaying men, such as have poisoned themselves, and of 
whom the earth is weary." " I beseech you, my brethren, remain 
true to earth, and do not believe such as speak of hopes for other 
worlds. They are poisoners, whether they know it or not." 6 
Thus our concerns are confined entirely to earth; and bitterly 
does our atheist curse those who yearn for other worlds. "May 
they pass hence, earth is weary of these weaklings; let them have 
their eternal reward," he cries in derision. "We," he calls to 
his disciples, of whom there were none at that time, "we shall 
be satisfied with earth," with its seas and skies and green grass, 
with its struggles and joys, and, best of all, its glorious end. 

5 Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 417. • Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 12. 


Christianity is for Nietzsche the very type of Asiatic despotism, 
which still holds sway over the minds of men like a blight. Its 
fabled concepts might, as such, be quite harmless if it were not for 
the fact that their moral influence is degrading to the personality, 
inasmuch as they set forth self-denial, self-sacrifice, humiliation, 
dependence, the delusion of sin, depravity, and the feeble yearn- 
ing for a world where there shall be a compensation for present 
weakness and meanness of spirit. He reviles the gentle carpen- 
ter's son who taught for the poor in spirit, the halt, the blind, 
babes and sucklings, and those who long for other worlds. 
"Strange," he exclaims, "that a crucified Jew these many centu- 
ries ago should have made so great a stir in the world." The 
time will come, Nietzsche maintains, when men will be brave 
enough to face the fact that our destiny is irretrievably bound up 
with earth, and that it is futile to hope for heaven, or a resurrec- 
tion, or the horror of everlasting life, or the justice of a God whom 
mankind have themselves created. The time will come when 
man himself, or rather the Superman, will become an object of 

This is the religion of the future, of which we hear so much 
in Germany today. "See, I teach you the Superman," says 
Nietzsche. "Man is something that must be overcome. What 
have you done to overcome him? All beings heretofore have 
created something higher than themselves, and would you be the 
ebb of this great flood and rather go back to the beast than over- 
come the human ? What is an ape to a man ? A derision or 
a poignant shame. Just that a man should be to the Superman — 
a derision or a poignant shame." Conversion to this evolution- 
ary religion is a sort of recognition of depravity, for " it is the hour 
of scorn, the hour in which your fortune becomes despicable, 
likewise your reason and your virtue. The hour in which you 
say, ' What is there in my fortune ? It is poverty and filth and a 
beggarly complacency.' The hour in which you say, 'What is 
there in my reason? Does it demand knowledge as the lion its 
food ? It is poverty and filth and a beggarly complacency.' The 
hour in which you say, ' What is there to my virtue ? It has not 
yet made me to exult with ecstasy. How weary am I of my Good 
and my Evil. All that is poverty and filth and beggarly compla- 


cency.' Have ye thus spoken? Have ye thus cried? Ah, that 
I had heard you crying thus! It is not your sin: it is your self- 
satisfaction which clamors to the heavens. Where is the light- 
ning that may lick you with its tongue? Where is the inner 
intoxication with which you may be inoculated? See, I teach 
you the Superman; he is this lightning, he is this inner intoxi- 
cation, he is the sense of the earth!" 

This is the kind of religion, this the style of its sacred book. 
Is it a wonder that in our age of transition both the ideas and the 
fervid diction should have fascinated all young Germany ? Before 
we consider Nietzsche's influence, however, let us examine the 
ideas more critically, and first of all ask ourselves the question, 
Upon what basis does the author frame his judgments ? Doubt- 
less it will be an interesting surprise to many American and English 
pragmatists to learn that Nietzsche has anticipated all their prin- 
cipal doctrines. He argues: 7 Formerly one asked how truth might 
be possible and knowledge attainable; the Sphinx's questions 
being meanwhile accepted as something original, absolute, and 
requiring no justification. He proposes to ask the Sphinx a ques- 
tion, namely, "Why answer your questions?" In other words, 
what is the cause of this desire for truth, and wherein lies the value 
of it? Why choose "truth" rather than "falsehood," and why 
not rather the latter than the former ? He finds them by no means 
opposites, since that which makes truth valuable is a quality which 
may be held in common by falsehood. For the criterion of value 
requires us to measure judgments from the standpoint of the fur- 
therance and maintenance of life, biologically speaking; and, 
psychologically, that which produces satisfaction is " true." With 
the knowledge of things, therefore, the "truth" has nothing to 
do. Indeed, Nietzsche maintains "that the falsest judgments 
(among which are synthetic judgments a priori) are most indis- 
pensable for us; that without granting the validity of logical 
fictions, or without measuring reality with a fancied world, the 
'equal to itself,' the 'absolute,' . . . life under the present condi- 
tions would not be possible, that a surrender of false judgments 
would be a surrender of life, a diminution of life"; and therefore 
"the falsity of a judgment is no objection to it." Life provides 

'Vol. -vii, pp. 9-22 (1884). 


for itself, and chooses the form of knowing which it needs. And 
thus it is a biological necessity for us to accept the space-time- 
cause character of our surroundings and the (possibly false) 
axiom that appearance is correlated with the laws of thought. 
The concept "truth" is therefore contradictory, since truth can- 
not extend to the relation of knowing to being, but is necessarily 
restricted to the relationships of the knowers to one another and 
to their presentations. In the sense of a correspondence of know- 
ing with reality, there is, then, for Nietzsche no truth. His " truth " 
becomes Schiller's practical value, utility, James's "what we 
want," Dewey's psychological satisfaction — that which furthers 
the life of the individual, the species, the race. What is inju- 
rious to life is false for us. And since life for Nietzsche is the 
"will for power," that which serves the latter is true. Similarly, 
the test of truth lies in the practical operation of it. " That by which 
I am thwarted or destroyed is not true for me. It means a false 
relationship of my being to other things. For there are only 
individual truths; an absolute relationship is nonsense." 8 Again, 
he emphasizes the social, linguistic, national, racial elements, 
which by utility determine the relative truth or falsity of judgments. 
Truth is a subconscious phenomenon — nothing more. 8 Nor is 
there need of an absolute truth; it will suffice for life that we believe 
ourselves in the possession of truth. Life requires illusions: 
man is not primarily a knowing being; his intellect is but a means 
for the maintenance of his life. 10 

We may say, therefore, that in so far as Nietzsche was a 
philosopher, he was a philosopher of culture. His judgments 
are largely aesthetic, biological, judgments of practical value; 
and concepts such as the " Wille zur Macht," the " Ewige 
Wiederhunjt," and other distinctly metaphysical theories seem 
incorporated in spite of himself. And, doubtless, in questions 
which are properly pragmatic, the only answer is the testing. 
So that culture does in reality become largely a function 
of the will. So far, then, Nietzsche was justified in striving 
to inspire enthusiasm for his ideal of the Superman. Only 
history would tell whether or not he were in the right. And criti- 
cism, from the very nature of the case, must needs be aesthetic 
or historical. 

s Vol. jri, Aphor. 6, 208. » Vol. x, p. 185. » Vol. x, pp. 161, 186. 


With reference, then, to the positing of individuality, the central 
doctrine in the "Umwertung aller Werte," and the desire of 
Nietzsche to inoculate modern life with more of the Greek spirit, 
those who are acquainted with its heritage will say that this was a 
laudable end. Yet he failed to see that his modification of Scho- 
penhauer's Will is quite at variance with Greek form, poise, self- 
restraint. With all the hundreds of personally striking men, 
individuals whose influence has spread throughout the world of 
European culture, I know of none, except perhaps Callicles as pre- 
sented in Plato's Gorgias, who deliberately inflicted his personal- 
ity upon his times. Among Athenian citizens, where were 
individual initiative, the liberty of mind and body, and the most 
favorable conditions the world has yet seen for the free exercise 
of activity, exulting in physical, intellectual, and artistic pursuits, 
the result was not the assertion of self, but the exact opposite, the 
mesotes, the happy mean, of Aristotle. Thus we have in Attic 
life, with all the intensity of that life, not supermen, consciously 
rejoicing in their strength, every man a would-be exponent of 
will, determined to assert himself, but rather a constant feeling 
of self-restraint in conduct, of modesty with reference to knowledge 
and ability, of form with reference to art. 

In a similar way we can prove upon historical grounds that 
master-and-slave morality, in the sense of license and submission, 
contains its own disintegrating factors. Prom the very nature of 
circumstances, our wills may no more be licensed than our heads 
may soar above our bodies. Nor have moral principles generally, 
any more than words and grammar, been the creations of strong 
wills who said, "Go to." Ethics, like language, is an absurdity 
when reduced to the individual, apart, of course, from religious pre- 
suppositions. The moral genius and the man of letters, great as 
their influence may be, are not the creators of language, nor of 
the sense of what is right. Nietzsche erred here through passion- 
ate enthusiasm for the Lord and Hero, and his moral liberty is 
but licensed anarchy. Grant, however, that as fellow-men we 
share our moral antecedents, and that if we live together we are 
bound to live as men, just as we communicate by means of common 
terms, then — stripped of hyperbole — supermen might well become 
saviours of society.* For, spiritually interpreted, this superior man, 


by positing ends and ideals, might help to overcome the rabble 
in the sense of mediocrity, vulgarity, and lust of material power. 
Dignity of life and institutions, the imperatives of evolution, 
all the elements which stimulate our aspirations for the higher 
values of thought and feeling, are largely a function of exalted 
leadership. That democracy stands in the way of evolution by 
conditioning these highest individuals is manifestly false where 
a free field and no favor obtains. Only a democracy in which 
material ends are the highest good profanes the individual. Two 
types of supermen should therefore be differentiated. If he whose 
aim is but to have and to hold is a danger in proportion to his 
power, he whose aristocracy consists of disinterested and pre- 
eminent ability is a public boon. Give us such supermen, and 
let them assume their proper sphere as leaders. Such are, in- 
deed, the only hope against rabble-democracy. 

Nietzsche's individual ethics thus becomes a possible school for 
dignity, if we distinguish rightly between license and liberty, be- 
tween libertines and lovers. The passionate poet of a higher hu- 
manity, arch-foe of weaklings, dependents, and pharisees, spake his 
Laconian nature in fire which is dangerous to our whole social 
structure. And yet the fire of this gentlest and kindest of men 
serves a purpose, if properly directed, on the hearthstone of our 
inner life. For our moral judgments are as much our own as are 
the apples of our eyes. And, after all, we are men, not cells; per- 
sons, not colonists, without dignity, undifferentiated. Nietzsche's 
revolt was against the modern volvox type of life, where men are 
mere cells in the communal lump. He prophesied for personal- 
ities, for independent thinkers, for men who feared no law as 
such, each imagination with its own Atlantis. And such can 
but add new values to our lives. 

The religion of the Superman will need no lengthy discussion. 
From Nietzsche's moral theory it would not be difficult to surmise 
that religion, in any phase whatsoever, was necessarily abhorrent 
to him as a form of slavery to transmitted ideas. So far did his 
absolute individuality carry him that, like Oscar Wilde, if he dis- 
covered his own thoughts held in common by others, he was loath 
to retain them. Thus arose the defiant atheism which saw in 
all religious experience a stupendous emotional delusion. With 


his positing of the individual, pious men must needs be to him 
like Don Quixote, who underestimated himself because he had 
constantly in mind the heroic deeds of the knights of romance. 
Thus, too, a fabled God whose essence was love and pure altru- 
ism, held up as a foil to man's necessarily egoistic actions, gave 
birth to feelings of shortcomings and distress, with the pangs of 
conscience and need of salvation. And similarly, if men could 
have realized that the concept of a being purely unegoistic is ab- 
surd (how could an ego act without an ego), — could men have 
compared themselves one with the other, and not with a thing more 
fabulous than the phoenix, they would have had a greater respect 
for themselves. Sin would be no more. And with the elimina- 
tion of responsibility could but come the philosophic conviction 
that every act is unconditionally necessary. Thus it was that this 
prophet of individualism sought to confine the interests of men to 
earth, and bade them boldly face extinction nor hope for other 

But let us for a moment inquire how a " false psychology, a fan- 
tastic explanation of motives and experiences," could have seduced 
and degraded even to pusillanimity a "necessarily egoistic" 
human nature. How came comparison with others and with 
the " fabled God " in a race where altruism is but a disease ? A 
"necessarily egoistic" nature must have found it equally neces- 
sary to compare itself with others and to adjust itself accordingly, 
for thence arose, we are told, our altruistic motives, our craving 
for the higher life beyond. And since our ancestors felt this need 
of a higher Being for their salvation and inner satisfaction, we have 
to deal with psychic facts as basic as any egoism. So that the 
question then becomes, Is the common yearning a disease, or 
may the isolated self -worship possibly be a form of egomania? 
"If there were gods, how could I endure it not to be one ? There- 
fore there are none!" is an individualist's argument, based upon 
at least an exalted opinion of one's self. It was to Nietzsche's 
inner satisfaction to find in whatever contributed to the "Wille 
zur Macht," to the will of the individual man, nothing but truth; 
and so whatever conditioned the progress of his assumed Super- 
man must of necessity be false. We need, therefore, fear no evil 
from his negation of religion. For, manifestly, where fundamen- 


tal concepts are not to be decided by approximation with reality, 
a counter-judgment of value will suffice for our satisfaction. So 
that we need but to render unto the pragmatist the things which 
are his to retain our logical self-respect. 

A few words will have to suffice with reference to Nietzsche's 
influence. The sudden expansion of the cult was and is one which 
well justifies the call of conservative meu for "police, colleagues, 
government authorities." The spread of the theories which I 
have attempted to describe among the educated classes in Ger- 
many and France is comparable only to that of their opposite, 
socialism, among the third estate. France had, indeed, antici- 
pated the Titan man and his individuality. La Rochefoucauld, 
long before, deprived Nietzsche of a possible claim to originality, 
and Renan was as much a hater of the dead level as ever man was. 
The factors which explain the sudden fashion into which Nietzsche 
sprang about 1890 are thus very complex. Among them we may 
note, in the first place, Schopenhauer's fundamental pessimism, 
crabbed and relentless, softened, indeed, in certain quarters by 
von Hartmann's rose-water, but generally despairing of any good 
in civil, educational, religious institutions; a spirit which revolts, 
to quote Otto Ludwig, against "our time of levelling, when every- 
one fears to show himself different from the others, when in reality 
the law of necessity prevails, since from childhood up the passions 
are deadened, and there are fast-bound arrangements with police 
on every hand . . . when individual intentions are adjusted to those 
of the common average man . . . and character shows itself only 
in its effects." Natural enough, with such a view of affairs, that 
individuality should seek to avenge itself. And in Germany it 
had been seeking to do so, according to Karl Lamprecht, 11 for 
sixty years or more of the " subjektivistische Periode." The age 
of Bismarck, Moltke, blood-and-iron, was culminating, and giv- 
ing increased zeal to both socialist and Titan-man. Both were, 
and are, dissatisfied with aught but radical measures. There 
must be revolutionary readjustments, though the state be removed 
for the individual (Paul Heyse), or the higher classes be despoiled 
for the third estate (Karl Marx). The explosive violence and pas- 
sionate diction of our poet well suited such a time. I think it 

11 Deutsche Geschichte, xi, p. 310. 


no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of young men in 
Germany today who echo the sentiment of their master, "If 
there were gods, how could I endure it not to be one?" At the 
universities, courses of lectures are now devoted to this philoso- 
pher. The publications of the Archiv at Weimar, in large and 
expensive editions, are sold in very unusual numbers. In addi- 
tion to the exhaustive life published by his sister, a dozen men 
might be named who have written biographical works concerning 
him. The number of those who have written about his philos- 
ophy is legion; and almost without exception these books have 
been published since 1895. Hoffding's and Windelband's His- 
tories of Philosophy — the former published in 1900, the latter 
in 1891 — never so much as mention his name. Yet Friedrich 
Nietzsche is now the prophet of a new age; Also sprach Zarathustra 
is to be its Bible. "Young Germany" finds the Fatherland in 
a condition of rapid decay; the new life will be for them the basis 
of a new culture. A new art, a new state or none, a new faith, 
a rejuvenation of the native spirit of the people — all these are 
supposed to be a function of the development of personality. 
Weinberg, Langbehn, Stephen George, Scharf, Conradi — such 
are, in varying degrees of intensity, supermen. In the winter of 
1905, 1 attended a series of lectures given by Dr. Ernest Horneffer 
in Albert Hall, Leipzig. Thousands assembled there to listen 
to lectures and discussions on Nietzsche, and the meetings lasted 
usually from eight in the evening till midnight or later. In that 
hall one night, as the clock was striking twelve, the lecturer sent 
forth the following challenge, "Let those who no longer find the 
idea, God, necessary, rise to their feet, and so declare their native 
dignity as men." The scene which followed was tragic. Per- 
haps two thousand declared by stamping of feet and shouting and 
waving of hands that they approved of the speaker's proposi- 

In art it would be by no means difficult to show the relation 
between Richard Strauss's deliberate infliction of unmitigated 
perversity and Young Germany's "Express thyself uncondition- 
ally." Nor can there be another motive, it seems to me, when 
Max Klinger paints "Die blaue Stunde" — a blue seashore, blue 
rocks, girl -forms by no means beautiful, nude and blue, blue fire; 


it is, indeed, the expression of individuality. But we cannot go 
afield here. Suffice it that by way of example in literature we 
characterize Ludwig Scharf and his Lieder eines Menschen. His 
battle is against reality, he will have his " Beyond Good and Evil " 
applied there. He rages against the thousand-year -old prejudice 
— morality — and insists that the common right of man permits 
him to enjoy whatever his heart desires — after us the flood! So 
he is determined with clenched fist to declare the evil of religion, 
of any cult whatsoever, of any state, of any occupation, of any civil- 
ization. He will express himself once for all, and enjoy himself. 
We can hear plainly enough the cause of all this bitterness and 
revolt. If it had been possible for him, for his pure ego and for 
no one else, to sit comfortably in his chariot and be drawn in tri- 
umph by his contemporaries, if his individuality could but have 
been recognized, all would have been otherwise. And it is not 
difficult to see that it is only his tragic want of energy which con- 
ditions his practical exemplification of the Superman. And 
Scharf feels it plainly enough, but he will not know it, he will 
not admit it. Ab uno disce ceteros. 

Max Nordau considers all this one of twenty-five or more insan- 
ities; Raoul Richter, clear-headed professor of philosophy at 
Leipzig, finds Nietzsche the Dionysiac embodiment of a coming 
Weltanschauung; Doctor Rudolf Eisler, of Vienna, sees in him 
a naturalistic pantheist, who might well be the John the Baptist 
for a voluntaristic panhentheist; Arthur Moeller-Bruck speaks of 
him as the candala Nietzsche; Professor Karl Lamprecht recog- 
nizes in him the culmination of the Carlyle-Emerson hero-worship, 
the destruction of pessimism by joyful affirmation of this life and 
of creative will, the turning-point to a new religion of yearning for 
higher values and eternal life through the course of nature and 
will. As for us, when this age of transition is past, let us hope 
that there may be more religion, less individuality, greater con- 
sistency, and, if possible, greater love of the beautiful, than are 
found in the works of Friedrich Nietzsche.