In the second essay of On the Genealogy of Morality: Guilt, bad conscience and the like, 6, Nietzsche seems to defend the thesis that victims barter the damage they received with a violent feast to see the one who harmed them suffer in a feast. This violent feast is, according to him, part of our culture.

It is then in this sphere of the law of contract that we find the cradle of the whole moral world of the ideas of "guilt," "conscience," "duty," the "sacredness of duty,"—their commencement, like the commencement of all great things in the world, is thoroughly and continuously saturated with blood. And should we not add that this world has never really lost a certain savour of blood and torture (not even in old Kant; the[Pg 73] categorical imperative reeks of cruelty). It was in this sphere likewise that there first became formed that sinister and perhaps now indissoluble association of the ideas of "guilt" and "suffering." To put the question yet again, why can suffering be a compensation for "owing"?—Because the infliction of suffering produces the highest degree of happiness, because the injured party will get in exchange for his loss (including his vexation at his loss) an extraordinary counter-pleasure: the infliction of suffering—a real feast, something that, as I have said, was all the more appreciated the greater the paradox created by the rank and social status of the creditor. These observations are purely conjectural; for, apart from the painful nature of the task, it is hard to plumb such profound depths: the clumsy introduction of the idea of "revenge" as a connecting-link simply hides and obscures the view instead of rendering it clearer (revenge itself simply leads back again to the identical problem—"How can the infliction of suffering be a satisfaction?"). In my opinion it is repugnant to the delicacy, and still more to the hypocrisy of tame domestic animals (that is, modern men; that is, ourselves), to realise with all their energy the extent to which cruelty constituted the great joy and delight of ancient man, was an ingredient which seasoned nearly all his pleasures, and conversely the extent of the naïveté and innocence with which he manifested his need for cruelty, when he actually made as a matter of principle "disinterested malice" (or, to use Spinoza's expression, the sympathia malevolens) into a normal[Pg 74] characteristic of man—as consequently something to which the conscience says a hearty yes. The more profound observer has perhaps already had sufficient opportunity for noticing this most ancient and radical joy and delight of mankind; in Beyond Good and Evil, Aph. 188 (and even earlier, in The Dawn of Day, Aphs. 18, 77, 113), I have cautiously indicated the continually growing spiritualisation and "deification" of cruelty, which pervades the whole history of the higher civilisation (and in the larger sense even constitutes it). At any rate the time is not so long past when it was impossible to conceive of royal weddings and national festivals on a grand scale, without executions, tortures, or perhaps an auto-da-fé", or similarly to conceive of an aristocratic household, without a creature to serve as a butt for the cruel and malicious baiting of the inmates. (The reader will perhaps remember Don Quixote at the court of the Duchess: we read nowadays the whole of Don Quixote with a bitter taste in the mouth, almost with a sensation of torture, a fact which would appear very strange and very incomprehensible to the author and his contemporaries—they read it with the best conscience in the world as the gayest of books; they almost died with laughing at it.) The sight of suffering does one good, the infliction of suffering does one more good—this is a hard maxim, but none the less a fundamental maxim, old, powerful, and "human, all-too-human"; one, moreover, to which perhaps even the apes as well would subscribe: for it is said that in inventing bizarre[Pg 75] cruelties they are giving abundant proof of their future humanity, to which, as it were, they are playing the prelude. Without cruelty, no feast: so teaches the oldest and longest history of man—and in punishment too is there so much of the festive.

What made this idea come to his mind ? And why is it constitutive of our culture?

Does he refers to the public executions of the ancient times, was it a kind of modern catharsis? If so why and how have we shifted from this violent revenge feast to the nowadays culture of jail and fines ?

  • i think this has less to do with governance or politics and is more about how the weak harm the strong with hypocrisy and morality etc
    – user35983
    Feb 23, 2019 at 16:54
  • I voted for Brexit. It's been hilarious so far. I mean just the look on Camerons face the day after was almost.worth it. Of course the demise of Rees-Mogg is what i have the popcorn out for.. but every low level bullingdon club member that meets the pearl.handled revolver is just gravy... of course.. if we do actually brexit... it won't be Boris 'incompetence' Johnson that suffers... it'll be me.. my family.and friends... but... that would be true in any situation.. its a simple calculation really.
    – Richard
    Feb 23, 2019 at 20:51
  • 1
    i really don't think it's a good idea to turn to nietzsche for political advice. he was profoundly amoral as well as unconcerned for almost anyone else on earth... wasn't he?
    – user35983
    Feb 24, 2019 at 14:19
  • he's talking about the happiness of people like goethe and beethoven (and himself)...
    – user35983
    Feb 24, 2019 at 14:22
  • @confused Politics... especially.western politics is ethically dubious to.the point of immorality.. let alone amorality. One can argue at length.about the ethics of Machiavelli for example.. Nietzsche.. for all his flaws.. absolutley recognised the venal nature of statecraft.
    – Richard
    Feb 24, 2019 at 22:28


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .