As I understand it, Fredrich Nietzsche-- at least in the latest works he had scribed before his death-- was neither an advocate of antisocial nor prosocial passions. How he professes this position is vague, but the general idea seems to be this: he opposes not necessarily prosocial attitudes, but rather morality.

He believes that prosocial attitudes and morality can be separated, and that it is possible for a human to be morally antisocial and yet instinctively prosocial. He believes that any prosocial attitude, as long as it is not completely artificial (e.g., altruism), can be transformed into something that he would approve of.

For example, Nietzsche thought that compassion (which is merely to lower oneself to others more pathetic than you) can be replaced with something that, while it still helps the pathetic and is therefore still compassion in a technical sense, will also help the pathetic become less pathetic, and therefore, help them desire less compassion. Here's a probable depiction of what Nietzsche was trying to talk about, adapted and modified from 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra':

A shepherd has a snake stuck around his throat. The shepherd is unable to tug it himself, for his limbs are not physically strong enough, and it has a tight grasp.

A regular antisocial would show no compassion, laugh at the shepherd, call him pathetic and watch him struggle-- or perhaps even die. This action is what many would call sociopathic.

A typical prosocial would yank the snake from his throat and refrain from calling him pathetic for being unable to defend himself. If unsuccessful, a knife would have been used with gentle care. This is a typical demonstration of compassion found today in modern societies; to Nietzsche, it does not help the shepherd become any less pathetic, but rather praises pathetic standards and therefore denies life.

Nietzsche would too show compassion, but it would be a different one from what the typical prosocial demonstrates. Nietzsche would not be afraid to call out the shepherd's weaknesses, and instead of yanking the snake, he would teach the shepherd how to bite the snake's head swiftly, cautiously, and furiously, teaching him to combat his weaknesses so that he can become less pathetic, therefore becoming less inclined to need any sort of help and compassion to aid him, and therefore less in the need to create any sort of morality.

Back to the main question, I hope that I understand what he means at all, and if I do, my inquiry is: are there any direct precursors in literature (or other cultural artifacts) to Nietzsche's advocation for a 'morally antisocial, instinctively prosocial' way of life? Is there a non-philosophical equivalent in the cultural lexicon of societies today?

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    Perhaps it is basically a Stoic stance of learning to be self-reliant, which is good as far as it goes. But the analogy of the snake, while it does make the point, seems so contrived as to be unrelatable, at least to me. What actual situations would he give advice about? I would like more examples. As it stands, helping people become less 'pathetic' reminds me of Ayn Rand, except that she expected everyone to have already improved themselves.
    – Scott Rowe
    Sep 24, 2022 at 3:07
  • Great profile pic, by the way.
    – Scott Rowe
    Sep 24, 2022 at 3:14
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    Seems the sherperd snake metaphor may be ambiguous for his point, for example what if the snake is attacking so violently that there's not enough time to teach him self-defense? Btw this is similar to allegories such as give fish vs teach fishing in some cultures... Sep 24, 2022 at 4:13
  • Once again, I could be in the use of a better example of his 'life-affirming compassion' and 'warrior-virtue' of 'giving gifts'. The example I gave is somewhat too goofy to consider in a realistic aspect, and indeed, it is very ambiguous. Nietzsche's intent here is that the shepherd will here become something beyond human and full of life, but that is the only thing that can be inferred. Whereas the common problem of Nietzsche is that his ideas are unclear and up to interpretation, mine is different: His ideas are clear, but his examples are not. This is for the worst, and probably the best.
    – Jackson
    Sep 29, 2022 at 16:46


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