Nietzsche next gives us more autobiography, partially fictionalized. He has told us that Human, All Too Human was begun in Sorrento in the winter of 1876-7. We now read that a stimulus for his work was The Origin of the Moral Sensations by Paul Ree. The text does not reveal that Ree was Nietzsche's close friend and associate at that time, nor that they spent five months together in Sorrento with another friend, Albert Brenner, engaged in shared intellectual enquiry. This intense collaboration, idealized as a kind of monastic 'college for free spirits', was unparalleled in Nietzsche's career. It issued in Human, All Too Human and Ree's aforementioned book, changed the direction of Nietzsche's philosophy, and lost him former friends, in particular the Wagners. Here Nietzsche manages to acknowledge a debt to Reee, but with carefully contrived dismissive rhetoric. The reader would not guess that Ree in his gratitude had referred to Nietzsche as the father of his own book (and to himself as its mother), nor that when both books appeared their publisher deemed it appropriate to describe Human, All Too Human as continuing the work begun by Ree," nor that it was Ree who two years earlier had begun writing in an aphoristic style consciously influenced by that of La Rochefoucauld, not only in its tone, but also in its intent to debunk the pretensions of so-called moral behaviour—a tone and intent that Nietzsche had followed in Human, All Too Human, in clear contrast to his previous published writings.
Thinking back to the tree metaphor and the idea of an 'a priori' imperative, we can now see both as imparting a face-saving 'spin' on Nietzsche's career: as if it could not have been because of anyone's influence that Nietzsche started on his course of questioning the value of our moral values, because it was already deep in his character to do so. In the intervening years Nietzsche had fallen out with Ree both personally and intellectually, and is set on claiming every 'fruit' as uniquely his own. Reee is conceded worth only as the antipode, or opposite, on which Nietzsche's own energy can feed (the same kind of role in which he also cast his former heroes Schopenhauer and Wagner"). Ree's is an 'overly smart little book', for which Nietzsche fabricates an instrumental use: that he could negate everything it contained. Although such wholesale negation falsifies the initially fertile relationship between the two, Nietzsche concludes this section by documenting with some accuracy how his Sorrento-inspired book did indeed diverge from Ree's. Nietzsche's self-reference here becomes inter-textual, and quite demanding: to appreciate his points we must consult nine passages in Human, All Too Human (including its final part, here called simply the 'Wanderer'), and one in his next book,
13 See Small (2001: 184; 2003, pp. xiii-xiv; 2005: 33; Donnellan (1982, esp. 595-601, 607-8); also Nietzsche's letters to Erwin Rohde, 16 June 1878 (SB v. 333), and to Ree, June 1877 (SB v. 246). 14 See NcW, 'We Antipodes'; EH, 'The Birth of Tragedy', 1.
Daybreak. Nietzsche may disparage the habits of scholarship sometimes, but he still demands them in his reader."
For Ree the judgement of actions as 'good' and 'bad', the feeling of conscience, and the institutions of punishment all had a single analysis, which went, briefly, as follows. In a distant human past there was utility-value in linking egoistic behaviour with disapproval and unegoistic behaviour with approval; natural selection favoured communities whose members made these associations and thereby attained internal peace. This situation persists more or less ahistorically, the only change being that, through the process of relentless repetition and the habitual formation of feeling-associations, we have forgotten the original link between approbation and utility. Once reminded of that link, however, we can demystify morality and see plainly what value our moral concepts and practices really have. Nietzsche was already doubting whether our moral feelings have any positive value at all. But this doubt was allied to an incipient suspicion about the naivety of the method of 'English genealogy' Ree practised. Nietzsche already realized that we are strangers to ourselves in ways that his colleague could not see. Ree did not suspect that there was a complex history of power-relations, reinterpretations, and ambivalent feelings packed into the words we use to describe our moral attitudes and into those attitudes themselves, or that deciphering them would be an intricate and taxing exercise requiring severe self-examination and a radical departure from established methods of enquiry.
15 Following the scholarly trail Nietzsche lays for us (through HA I. 45, 96, 99, 136; II/i. 89, 92; II/2. 26; D 112) we find the following early divergences from Ree: (1) Ree treats human communities as if they were homogeneous and not characterized by different perspectives and internal power relations. But terms such as 'good' and 'bad' had a different significance in different sections or castes of ancient communities: the noble and powerful were 'good' by nature, while the oppressed classes understood the terms according to what was harmful to them. (2) The naturalistic approach to morality (of which Ree is self-consciously a proponent) has not begun to explain the phenomena of asceticism and saintliness which attach to Christian morality, and should do so. (3) Ree proceeds as if'moral' means 'unegoistic'; he ignores a more ancient form of morality that consists simply in adherence to a community's established tradition or law. The attaching of'good' and 'evil' to the egoistic and the unegoistic comes later, and is not fundamental to all conceptions of the moral. (4) The administering of justice is in origin not—contrary to Ree—a means of deterring people from future egoistic actions that are detrimental to social peace. It has little to do with egoism or altruism, and is rather a means of regulating power relations, as an exchange or equilibrium between roughly equal parties. (5) Punishment has a different and more complex origin than in Ree's account: 'terrorizing' agents out of their egoistic tendencies is 'neither essential nor present at the beginning' in the history of punishment. Punishing a transgression is originally restoring a power equilibrium. It enacts a form of regulated retribution, by treating the punished party as no longer equal or equivalent to others.
Nietzsche describes his early opposition to Ree not as 'refutation' but as 'putting in place of the improbable the more probable, sometimes in place of one error another one'. In isolation it is easy to read this as saying that whether or not his own genealogical claims were true, and whether or not Ree's were false, was of little or no importance to him. But then unless he were concerned with truth and falsehood, what could it mean to describe himself as 'emphatically saying ''no''' to Ree's book, 'proposition by proposition, conclusion by conclusion'? This apparent contradiction is diminished by a close look at the German text. Kaufmann's translation serves us well here, with Nietzsche saying that he never encountered any other book 'to which I would have said to myself No'." By contrast, he says that in his book (Human, All Too Human) he referred to Ree's propositions, not to show them false but in the spirit of increasing probability and perhaps committing his own errors. This contrivance forms another part of Nietzsche's retrospective face-saving strategy in the Preface. The posture is that, while his earlier book was not wholly free of Ree's influence and did not publicly engage in refuting Ree's claims, in his heart he already regarded them as false."
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