In Nietzsche's The Gay Science, §8 deals with that he calls "unconscious virtues":

Unconscious virtues. — All qualities of a person of which he is conscious — and especially those he supposes to be visible and plain to others also — are subject to laws of development entirely different from those qualities which are unknown or badly known to him, which conceal themselves by means of their subtlety even from the eye of a rather subtle observer and which know how to hide as if behind nothing at all.

Then at the end of the section, he states

At this point the friends of instinctive morality will say: 'Bravo! At least he considers unconscious virtues to be possible — and that's enough for us.' Oh, how little you are satisfied with!

Why does he mock those people? Is it because his "unconscious virtues" are wholly inaccessible to the human perception and thus useless as a moral guide? I guess the root of my confusion is that I don't fully grasp what he means by "unconscious virtues."

1 Answer 1


The unconscious or pre personal forces are for Nietzsche a base, vicious, heterogeneous battle, the reason he derides the idea of unconscious virtue is that thinking in accordance with his conception of these unconscious forces and saying something is an unconscious virtue, it would be a virtue that had a nature that was opposed to what contemporary thought in his day regarded as virtuous.

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