University of Tasmania
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An assessment of Nietzsche's attack on altruism, pity and sympathy

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posted on 2023-05-26, 17:37 authored by Heseltine, P
Said to be higher! - You say that the morality of pity is higher morality than that of Stoicism? Prove it! but note that 'higher' and 'lower' morality is not to be measured by a moral yardstick: for there is no absolute morality. So take your yardstick from elsewhere and - watch out! Nietzsche's challenge to traditional morality epitomises the rigorous and uncompromising approach he took towards the many philosophical issues he addressed. His concern with values and morality underpin most of his writings. The desire for a new approach to values impelled Nietzsche to mount a vigorous attack on value systems that he considered outmoded, harmful or irrelevant. His aim was to draw attention to the damage he believed ensued from modes of behaviour he considered antithetic to the affirmation of life. The intensity of his concern focussed on what he took to be the worst cases. Amongst those targeted as being particularly disastrous are pity, sympathy and altruism, which according to him, weaken both the giver and the recipient. They even threaten the viability of life as a whole. In The Antichrist, Nietzsche is uncompromising in his critique of Christianity, which he considers to be a major source of negative attitudes to life: Christianity is called the religion of pity.- Pity is opposed to the tonic passions which enhance the energy of the feeling of life: its action is depressing. A man loses power when he pities. By means of pity the drain on strength which suffering itself already introduces into the world is multiplied a thousandfold. He goes further when expressing his fear of the consequences should sympathy become the norm: Supposing the drive to attachment and care for others ('sympathetic affection') were twice as strong as it is, life on earth would be insupportable (Daybreak, Book II, 143, p. 91). The practice of altruism is also castigated in a work which undertakes to deconstruct conventional moral teachings: A Criticism of the Morality of Decadence.- An \altruistic' morality a morality under which selfishness withers is in all circumstances a bad sign. This is true of individuals and above all of nations (Skirmishes in a War with the Age35 p. 87 in 'The Twighlight of the Idols' in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche Levy). Nietzsche's revolutionary and determined approach merits a further consideration of his views. He acknowledges that he may not be giving the final word on these issues and shows that he wanted his views to be critically assessed. He saw himself as setting a trend in a motion to be taken up and developed by others: It might even be possible that what constitutes the value of those good and respected things consists precisely in their being insidiously related knotted and crocheted to these evil and apparently opposed things - perhaps even being essentially identical with them. Perhaps! But who wishes to concern himself with such dangerous \"Perhapses\"! For that investigation one must await the advent of a new order of philosophers such as will have other tastes and inclinations the reverse of those hitherto prevalent - philosophers of the dangerous \"Perhaps\" in every sense of the term. And to speak in all seriousness I see such new philosophers beginning to appear. One recent study of Nietzsche's revaluation project concurs with that view: What incompleteness there is in the execution of his enterprise is a challenge to go further.The intention of this essay is to try to go further and to reexamine the nature of pity sympathy and altruism. In keeping with Nietzsche's stipulation the yardstick will not be from morality but rather empirical evidence. Cases of pity sympathy and altruism will be examined with the aim of identifying both the motives of benefactors and the effects of their behaviour on beneficiaries. Long-term implications of their practice in society will be considered as will any wider effects on society as a whole. Consideration will then be given to the ramifications likely to occur should the presence of altruism pity and sympathy be increased in society. Finally a judgment will be made as to whether Nietzsche's revaluation is successful whether in fact the factors in question do imply a negative valuation of life. The study begins with two issues crucial to an understanding of the work's main focus firstly Nietzsche's own position and secondly the nature definition and clarification of the issues under scrutiny."


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Copyright 1995 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Cover title. Thesis (M.A.(Qual.))--University of Tasmania, 1995. Includes bibliographical references

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