From my understanding of the genealogy of all morals, Nietzsche claims that bad conscience is the greatest sickness of mankind. This is the feeling of guilt and shame that arises by obeying the christian morality and feeling sinful. I was wondering can the bad conscience be used for self improvement? i,e After someone has defined his own values of good and bad can according to Nietzsche one use bad conscience as means of self improvement? It would seem counterintuitive for me to feel no shame after one has defined values. For example if I value having great body and muscles, wouldn't I automatically feel shameful if my physical condition was extremely poor? Wouldn't that shame motivate me to work out and improve my self according to my self created values?

Nietzsche on the other hand has this quote which completely condemns bad conscience "The bite of conscience, like the bite of a dog into a stone, is a stupidity."

Any thoughts are highly appreciated

1 Answer 1


I've got two readings here, one is more straight-forward than the other.

The Simple Reading: Christian Conscience

As you said, Nietzsche is talking about the guilt and shame that come directly from Christian dogma about sin when he's talking about conscience. That's the simplest one I've got; he's explicitly referring to that kind of conscience.

The Fiddly Reading: Guilt and Shame are Unhealthy

I believe what Nietzsche was getting at is that conscience is neither correct nor sufficient.

Guilt and shame are not necessarily healthy drivers of behaviour, and poison you with very little gain. They are painful and undesirable. To give an example; the number of people who come out of religious educational institutions with warped views of their own sexuality.

Instead, the goal would be to pursue your values because they are your values. Feeling guilt and shame about letting yourself down is a waste of time that could be spent on pursuing those values.

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