I have started reading Nietzsche's books and I come across a quote that resonates with me personally as probably with other people and I am curious if someone would like to attempt to further explain the quote or direct me to useful sources.

Beyond Good and Evil, chapter # 4:

133. He who cannot find the way to HIS ideal, lives
more frivolously and shamelessly than the man without an

I have also looked into "Nietzsche's Task: An Interpretation of Beyond Good and Evil" and "A Beginner's Guide to Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil" but could not find a satisfying answer that explains this specific aphorism.

Here is a question that has been asked in this forum too: "Interpretation of Nietzsche's aphorisms in Beyond Good And Evil"

  • My interpretation is something like this: Many people go about professing all kinds of ideals (especially of the "moral" kind that Nietzsche is concerned with) and yet never manage to live according to them. The example I have in mind is the clergy of the pre-medival period. His point is that these hypocrites are in fact less scrupulous than those who are simply "amoral" in some sense. Its as if having the intention to act morally gives license for the complete opposite.
    – M. le Fou
    Nov 4, 2019 at 5:37
  • So, by the virtue of knowledge you are saying that those with "moral/virtue" and not living up to the desired morality are deprived of living a satisfying life compared with the ignorants i.e., a man without virtue.
    – Rick
    Nov 6, 2019 at 15:15
  • why not look at the aphorisms before and after it?
    – user38026
    Dec 3, 2019 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


I think someone else mentioned this also, but my interpretation is why chase something that only leads to disappointment when you cannot reach that goal. Like in Buddhism, they don't believe in the concept of 'Chasing happiness' as this only leads to you being unhappy. In addition, by living shamelessly I guess he is getting at the idea that if to avoid that disappointment of not reaching your goal, man will do anything to get to it no matter who or what that might hurt - touching upon the will to power.

Instead, having no goals, but becoming more open minded, not believing in set truths, and allowing change to happen and take it as it comes is a better way in which to live.

Buut like others have also mentioned here, Nietszche is more than capable of shutting his own thoughts down in other comments - but I would argue that is philosophy, and they show his thoughts and process to getting to his final answer


Personally I don't understand why Nietszche has such a remarkable reputation as a philosopher. This aphorism is nothing more the standard idea that to have something to live upto is a good thing. Given how N is determined to tear down all ideals by which people had lived by, it's a little rich coming from him to give such bog-standard advice...

  • While I agree with the general sentiment, I think there is something more to this particular extract. Its not just that its good to have something to live up to, but more than that - he's saying better to have no ideals at all, than to have ones you cannot achieve.
    – M. le Fou
    Nov 4, 2019 at 5:30
  • @M. Le Fou: That's just nonsense. If you look at the aphorism immediately preceding this you will note he says 'people should be punished for their virtues'. Why do you think he says that? Nov 4, 2019 at 11:27
  • 1
    You might disagree with my interpretation but surely its not "nonsense". Nietzsche's writing is not known for its logical consistency, so two contradictory aphorisms in the same book wouldn't surprise me. But in fact the obvious reading of the other one you mention is entirely consistent with my interpretation of the first. "People should be punished for their virtues", and "its better to have no ideals [i.e. virtues] at all than to have them without achieving them". What do you see as being inconsistent?
    – M. le Fou
    Nov 5, 2019 at 0:17
  • 1
    Dear @MoziburUllah, first of all, everyone is entities of their own opinion and has the right to express their belief the way the desired, but name-calling, e.g., "bog-standard" is not an intellectual way of expression. My question was bout the meaning of aphorism, not to evaluate the work of one of the most recognized philosophers; I respect that you totally disagree with that!
    – Rick
    Nov 6, 2019 at 15:39
  • 1
    @MoziburUllah Second, I do not know where got this 'people should be punished for their virtues.'? What I have in the book is the following: "One is punished best for one’s virtues." The way it read to me is that having standard/morality is a burden upon the person because it dictates that the agent-the person possesses the knowledge, has to act on them which means that the person is limited to his/her virtue.
    – Rick
    Nov 6, 2019 at 15:39

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