Read the following passages.
1. Under each paragraph, paraphrase each passage in your own words.
2. What is Nietzsche arguing in these passages as a whole?
3. Do you think Nietzsche belongs to a specific school in metaethical theory (realism, rationalism, voluntarism, naturalism)? What evidence do we have associate him with that school?
To breed an animal that is entitled to make promises—surely that is the essence of the paradoxical task nature has set itself where human beings are concerned? Isn’t that the real problem of human beings? The fact that this problem has largely been resolved must seem all the more astonishing to a person who knows how to appreciate fully the power which works against this promise-making, namely forgetfulness. Forgetfulness is not merely a vis inertiae [a force of inertia], as superficial people think. Is it much rather an active capability to repress, something positive in the strongest sense (II.1).
Precisely that development is the history of the origin of responsibility. The task of breeding an animal with a right to make promises contains within it, as we have already grasped, as a condition and prerequisite, the more urgent prior task of making a human being necessarily uniform to some extent, one among many other like him, regular and consequently predictable. The immense task in what I have called the “morality of custom” (cf. Daybreak, p. 7, 13, 16), the essential work of a man on his own self in the longest-lasting age of the human race, his entire pre-historical work, derives its meaning, its grand justification, from the following point, no matter how much hardship, tyranny, monotony and idiocy it also manifested: with the help of the morality of custom and the social strait jacket, the human being was rendered truly predictable (II.2).
His conscience? To begin with, we can conjecture that the idea of “conscience,” which we are encountering here in its highest, almost perplexing form, already had a long history and developmental process behind it. To be entitled to pledge one’s word, to do it with pride, and also to say “yes” to oneself—that right is a ripe fruit, as I have mentioned, but it is also a late fruit. For what a long stretch of time this fruit must have hung tart and sour on the tree! And for an even longer time it was impossible to see any such fruit. It would appear that no one would have been entitled to make promises, even if everything about the tree was getting ready for it and was growing right in that direction(II.3).
But then how did that other “gloomy business,” the consciousness of guilt, the whole “bad conscience” come into the world? With this we turn back to our genealogists of morality. I’ll say it once more—or perhaps I haven’t said it at all yet—they are useless. With their own purely “modern” experience extending only through five periods, with no knowledge of or any desire to know the past, and even less historical insight, a “second perspective”—something so necessary at this point—they nonetheless pursue the history of morality. That must inevitably produce results which have a less than tenuous relationship to the truth (II.4).
It’s true that recalling this contractual relationship arouses, as we might expect from what I have observed above, all sorts of suspicion of and opposition to primitive humanity which established or allowed it. It’s precisely at this point that people make promises. Here the pertinent issue is that the person who makes a promise has to have a memory created for him, so that precisely at this point, we can surmise, there exists a site for what is hard, cruel, and painful (II.5).
In this area, that is, in the laws of obligation, the world of moral concepts “guilt,” “conscience,” and “sanctity of obligations” was conceived. Its beginnings, just like the beginnings of everything great on earth, were watered thoroughly and for a long time with blood (II.6).
At this point, I can no longer avoid setting out, in an initial, provisional statement, my own hypothesis about the origin of “bad conscience.” It is not easy to get people to attend to it, and it requires them to consider it at length, to guard it, and to sleep on it. I consider bad conscience the profound illness which human beings had to come down with, under the pressure of the most fundamental of all the changes which they experienced—that change when they found themselves locked within the confines of society and peace. Just like the things water animals must have gone though when they were forced either to become land animals or to die off, so events must have played themselves out with this half-beast so happily adapted to the wilderness, war, wandering around, adventure—suddenly all its instincts were devalued and “disengaged” (II.16).
Inherent in this hypothesis about the origin of bad conscience is, firstly, the assumption that this change was not gradual or voluntary and did not manifest an organic growth into new conditions, but was a break, a leap, something forced, an irrefutable disaster, against which there was no struggle nor any resentment. Secondly, it assumes that the adaptation of a populace which had hitherto been unchecked and shapeless into a fixed form was initiated by an act of violence and was carried to its conclusion by nothing but sheer acts of violence, that consequently the very oldest “State” emerged as a terrible tyranny, as an oppressive and inconsiderate machinery and continued working until such a raw materials of people and half-animals finally were not only thoroughly kneaded and submissive but also given a shape (II.17).
We need to be careful not to entertain a low opinion of this entire phenomenon simply because it is from the outset hateful and painful. Basically it is the same active force which is at work on a grander scale in those artists of power and organization and which builds states. Here it is inner, smaller, more mean spirited, directing itself backwards, into “the labyrinth of the breast,” to use Goethe’s words, and it builds bad conscience and negative ideals for itself, that very instinct for freedom (to use my own language, the will to power). But the material on which the shaping and violating nature of this force directs itself is man himself, all his old animal self, and not, as in that greater and more striking phenomenon, on another man or on other men (II.18).
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