As for Duhring's proposition that the home of justice is to be sought in the sphere of the reactive feelings, one is obliged for truth's sake to counter it with a blunt antithesis: the last sphere to be conquered by the spirit of justice is the sphere of the reactive feelings! (GM II:11)
One must be careful not to conflate envy and resentment. For resentment is a moral feeling. If we resent our having less than others, it must be because we think that their being better off is the result of unjust institutions, or wrongful conduct on their part. Those who express resentment must be prepared to show why certain institutions are unjust or how others have injured them . JOHN RAWLS , A Theory of Justice , p. 533
In the Nietzschean context, we are so accustomed to thinking of resentment in its seething, vicious, most nasty and "squinty" embodiment and expression that we fail to see that the same emotion invites a very different sort of interpretation. (Scheler, for instance, never took Nietzsche to task for being unfair to resentment; he only wanted to insist that Christianity and Christian morality were not necessarily based on this admittedly repulsive emotion.) Resentment is an extremely philosophical emotion. It is aware of the larger view. It has keen eyesight (the more Aristotelean analog of Nietzsche's much-celebrated sense of smell). It is quite conscious of not only how things are but of how they might be—and, most important, of how they ought to be. True, resentment always has a personal touch; one is always to some extent resentful for oneself . Yet resentment has not only the capacity but the tendency to open itself up to more general considerations-namely, those we call compassion (literally "feeling with," not just empathy). And, most important of all, it is the gateway to a sense of justice—or, more accurately, a sense of injustice—from which our sense of justice is derived. It is a harsh and one-sided analysis indeed that insists that the camaraderie of the resentful is only that of the "misery loves company" variety.
What is also true is that the sense of injustice is contagious, and that justice is a concept that is never merely personal. Miserable people made aware of the systematic structures of their oppression are bound to generalize, schematize, and conspire—not for the sake of mere commiseration but for the sake of corrective action. It is true that one all-too-familiar expression of resentment (much cited by Nietzsche) is mere Schadenfreude , the vicious delight in other people's misfortunes. But a very different expression of the same emotion can be a call to action combined with mutual support and solidarity ("fraternity" and "sisterhood" are common metaphors for a shared sense of oppression). Resentment is, above all, this sense of oppression and the renewed appreciation of politics and political strategy that goes along with it; and this presupposes, as a matter of strategy if
Was this article helpful?