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24 April, 2011

Nietzsche: Part I, Section 10, of Genealogy of Morals [re-print]




The beginning of the slaves’ revolt in morality occurs when ressentiment itself turns creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of those beings who, denied the proper response of action, compensate for it only with imaginary revenge. Whereas all noble morality grows out of a tri- umphant saying ‘yes’ to itself, slave morality says ‘no’ on principle to everything that is ‘outside’, ‘other’, ‘non-self ’: and this ‘no’ is its creative deed. This reversal of the evaluating glance – this essential orientation to the outside instead of back onto itself – is a feature of ressentiment: in order to come about, slave morality first has to have an opposing, external world, it needs, physiologically speaking, external stimuli in order to act at all, – its action is basically a reaction. The opposite is the case with the noble method of valuation: this acts and grows spontaneously, seeking out its opposite only so that it can say ‘yes’ to itself even more thankfully and exultantly, – its negative concept ‘low’, ‘common’, ‘bad’ is only a pale con- trast created after the event compared to its positive basic concept, satu-rated with life and passion, ‘we the noble, the good, the beautiful and the happy!’ When the noble method of valuation makes a mistake and sins against reality, this happens in relation to the sphere with which it is not sufficiently familiar, a true knowledge of which, indeed, it rigidly resists: in some circumstances, it misjudges the sphere it despises, that of the common man, the  rabble; on the other hand, we should bear in mind that the distortion which results from the feeling of contempt, disdain and superciliousness, always assuming that the image of the despised person is distorted, remains far behind the distortion with which the entrenched hatred and revenge of the powerless man attacks his opponent – in effigy of course. Indeed, contempt has too much negligence, nonchalance, com-placency and impatience, even too much personal cheerfulness mixed into it, for it to be in a position to transform its object into a real carica-ture and monster. Nor should one fail to hear the almost kindly nuances which the Greek nobility, for example, places
in all words that it uses to distinguish itself from the rabble; a sort of sympathy, consideration and indulgence incessantly permeates and sugars them, with the result that nearly all words referring to the common man remain as expressions for‘unhappy’, ‘pitiable’ (compare deilo/v, dei/laiov, ponhro/v, moxqhro/v), the last two actually designating the common man as slave worker and beast of burden)–and on the other hand, ‘bad’, ‘low’ and ‘unhappy’ have never ceased to reverberate in the Greek ear in a tone in which ‘unhappy’ predominates: this is a legacy of the old, nobler, aristocratic method of valuation that does not deny itself even in contempt... The ‘well-born’ felt they were ‘the happy’; they did not need first of all to construct their happiness artifi-cially by looking at their enemies, or in some cases by talking themselves into it, lying themselves into it (as all men of ressentiment are wont to do); and also, as complete men bursting with strength and therefore necessar- ily active, they knew they must not separate happiness from action, – being active is by necessity counted as part of happiness (this is the ety- mological derivation of en’ pra/ttein)29  – all very much the opposite of‘happiness’ at the level of the powerless, the oppressed, and those rankled with poisonous and hostile feelings, for whom it manifests itself as essen-tially a narcotic, an anesthetic, rest, peace, ‘sabbath’, relaxation of the mind and stretching of the limbs, in short as something passive. While the noble man is confident and frank with himself (gennaiˆ ov,  ‘of noble birth’, underlines the nuance ‘upright’ and probably ‘naïve’ as well), the man of ressentiment is neither upright nor naïve, nor honest and straight with himself. His soul squints; his mind loves dark corners, secret paths and back-doors, everything secretive appeals to him as being his world, his security, his comfort; he knows all about keeping quiet, not forgetting, waiting, temporarily humbling and abasing himself. A race of such men of ressentiment will inevitably  end up cleverer than any noble race, and will respect cleverness to a quite different degree as well: namely, as a condi-tion of existence of the first rank, whilst the cleverness of noble men can easily have a  subtle aftertaste of luxury and refinement about it: – pre-cisely because in this area, it is nowhere near as important as the complete certainty of function of the governing unconscious instincts, nor indeed as important as a certain lack of cleverness, such as a daring charge at danger or at the enemy, or those frenzied sudden fits of anger, love, rev-erence, gratitude and revenge by which noble souls down the ages have recognized one another. When resentment does occur in the noble man himself, it is consumed and exhausted in an immediate reaction, and therefore it does not poison, on the other hand, it does not occur at all in countless cases where it is unavoidable for all who are weak and power- less. To be unable to take his enemies, his misfortunes and even his misressentiment – and here we have his deed, his creation: he has conceived of the ‘evil enemy’,  ‘the evil one’ as a basic idea to which he now thinks up a copy and counterpart, the ‘good one’ – himself ! . . .

24   ‘Oi’ is an interjection expressive of pain. A person whose life gives ample occasion for the 
use of this interjection is ‘oizuros’.
25   ‘not prosperous, unfortunate’.
26   ‘tle¯nai’ = to bear, endure, suffer. A person who must endure things is ‘tlemon’.
27   ‘to have bad luck’.
28   ‘accident, misfortune’.
29   This expression (eu prattein) has something like the ambiguity of the English ‘do well’ =
‘engage in some activity successfully’ or ‘fare well’. There is no expression in common use in