Nietzsche by Pyotr Semyonovich Kogan 1905


Written: 1905
First Published: 1905 in Essays on the History of Western European Literature, volume II, chapter 8, pg. 279-294 (in Ukrainian)
Source: Ukrainian original
Translated: by Anton P.

Nietzsche’s philosophy has deep roots in Germany. German society had, many times before Nietzsche, admired the proud preachers of unrestrained individualism. The main sentiments of which this philosophy consisted, are already present in the work of many gifted figures anticipating the author of Zarathustra. The rebellious geniuses of the Sturm und Drang era overturned authority and tradition with chaotic energy, longed for boundless space for the development of the human person, despised and hated social bonds. In the German Romantics we can find the will to transvaluation of morals, which found so brilliant substantiation in Nietzsche’s paradoxical book. Certainly the author of the book Beyond Good and Evil would have agreed to the words of Friedrich Schlegel: The first rule of morality is rebellion against positive laws, against the conditions of decency. There is nothing more foolish as moralists when they accuse you of selfishness. They are certainly wrong: what god can a person worship, besides being his own god? The dream of the Superman already appears in another phrase of the same author: A real person will become more and more a god. Be man and become a god: two identical manifestations. The same as in Nietzsche, contempt for the fleeting interests of the moment, the same impulse for the eternal and for beauty: Do not give your love and faith to world politicians, said Schlegel in the 1800s. For the same Schlegel, it was worth for the divine world of knowledge and art, to sacrifice the deepest feelings of your soul in the sacred, the fiery current of eternal perfection (Dr. Hans Landsberg, Friedrich Nietzsche und die deutsche Literatur, Leipzig, 1902, p. 57).

Heine, who created the most charming Romantic songs and together with them sang a funeral song to Romanticism, Heine, who intricately combined in his poetry the quirky whims of fantasy with strict requirements of socialism, all his life he was an aristocrat and individualist, and in his dream of the victory of justice, of improving the fate of the working class, often burst into the anxious thought of a time when “calloused hands” will break the “tinsel of art” and destroy everything that holds the illusion and the poetry of life.

Thus, Nietzsche’s philosophy did not appear ready-made like Athena from the head of Zeus. It was prepared throughout the 19th century. While the democratic idea has achieved its victories, and the selfish desires of the individual yielded to the interests of the masses, indignation boiled in the proud hearts of intellectual aristocrats against leveling trends of age; their minds could not reconcile with egalitarian aspirations, they longed for obedience from the weak and did not want to give up their birthright. In 1845 Max Stirner’s book Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (The Ego and his Own) appeared. In this work we can find the main ideas of the author of Zarathustra, and at the same time these ideas are expressed almost in the same way brightly, as in the works of Nietzsche (A. Lichtenberg, Nietzsches Philosophie, translated by Nevedomsky, p. 215). So, forty years before Zarathustra, the prophet Stirner rebelled against the religions of pity and against the idea of ​​equality; but on the eve of 1848 such a sermon could not be successful, the name of Max Stirner remained in oblivion, and only today the appearance of Nietzsche made us remember his forgotten predecessor.

Nietzsche himself was met with hostility by Germany; society does not wanted to see more heroes on stage since Marx announced that “it is not the genius and actions of the individual, but the mass and economic relations that determine the course of all events.” The older generation of the 1890s dried up on the immoral philosopher, which, in the words of William Jordan, destroyed all that remained “of faith in honor, in the value and responsibilities of man”. Wilbrand (in the novel Die Osterinsel, 1895. See Hans Landsberg, ibid., p. 38-39), misunderstanding Nietzsche, in one of his works gave the man a pen of a publicist and with secret consolation depicted the collapse of the plans of the philosopher Adler, who fled to a lonely island and dreamed to find there a country of new humanity. “Christianity is our great misfortune!” Adler quotes Nietzsche. “It transforms the world is a hospital for the insignificant, the sick and the frail, it wants to make us all brothers. It sings us a song about the valley of tears, instead of strengthening our vitality, earthly desire for creative work! Destroying Buddhists and pessimists of the world, it appears when nations lose a healthy rough strength, grow old and weaken. Mankind wants to move forward. It’s not a dream, not a dream!”

Adler’s attempts fail. For Nietzsche’s master morality the hero of Friedrich Spielhagen’s novel Faustulus also pays for his life. Swiss writer Otman spoke out against Nietzsche with a drama entitled, like the magnum opus of the philosopher: Beyond Good and Evil. Deception brings out the hero, who studied the history of the princely family of Malatesta di Rimini for a long time. These studies contributed to his fascination with the morality of the Renaissance, the principle of domination of power. One of the relatives of the hero expresses the main idea of ​​the drama: “Does a new man of the fin de siecle need a man of the Renaissance, a Machiavelli to raise to the level of theory the boundless selfishness that prevails nowadays? This is claimed by our own poets and philosophers, that for decades they have been trying to substantiate the moral a world based on strength and weakness instead of the former foundations of good and evil. They call it a reassessment of morality, as if more precious diamonds of the human race could be exchanged as a coin.” (Landsberg, ibid., p. 41). The end – in the end the hero returns again to the old principles thanks to sleep; he returns to the truths that have held the moral foundations of mankind for centuries, and once again learns that true heroism lies in the depths of a good heart.


This is how Nietzsche was greeted by the older generation that was brought up on democratic ideas of the 19th century, which gave its strength and talents for the service of exploited and suffering humanity. Newspapers and magazines shouted about the dangers of the new doctrine and warned young people against the fascination with preaching that so many spoke to a confused mind and ardent hearts.

However, this was not a completely reactionary doctrine. It was a sermon on individualism and aristocracy, but not on the aristocracy proclaimed by the Romantics, but on the aristocracy of the new, born after a century that recognized the cult of the masses. made strict demands on the person, made this person responsible for everything that happens. Nietzsche’s Superman is not selfish. However, he is cruel and does not know pity, he does not like crowds and despises them, he strives for self-determination and values ​​above all his own person, but he is not an Epicurean, he suffers a lot and sacrifices. If democratic morality required a person to sacrifice himself for the interests of the masses, then Nietzsche’s morality demanded from the person also a sacrifice in the name of a dream for a better future. An aristocrat born after the age of 1848 could not be comforted by the advantages of his position, he could no longer separate himself from the interests of mankind, and his very loneliness was the fruit of his passionate search for truth, the fruit of a painful thought about this humanity. The greatness of man is that he is a bridge, not a goal; a person can be loved precisely because he is a transitionary and mortal creature (Fr. Nietzsche, Also sprach Zaratustra, Leipzig, 1902, p. 16). This belief in the improvement of humanity, this ardent dream of the future never leaves Zarathustra, and in this light his cruel sermon takes on a softening color. “I love someone who works and thinks about building a structure for the Superman and prepares for him land, animals and plants; after all, in doing so, he wants his doom” (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 16). Just as a man looks at monkeys with contempt, in such a way will the future Superman despise today’s man. So the new aristocrat is not an aristocrat of the recent past who loves only his privileges and has forgotten his responsibilities. He has a big task. He remembers the best days of the aristocracy, not the dark obscurantist Middle Ages like the Romantics did, but the bright age of the Renaissance, and he tries to lead the masses to new large targets.

Zarathustra severely interrogates anyone who takes this path. “Do you want to follow the path of your sorrow, which is the path to yourself? So show me that you have the right and power to do so. Or is there a new power and a new right in you? – the first movement? – a wheel that rolls by itself? How many ambitious people rush to the heights. Prove that you belong to them” (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 91). So said Zarathustra, and in his words is revealed all the deep and significant meaning of this new will of the person. He is not the rebellious genius of the 18th century’s Sturm und Drang, who admires himself, proclaims his whim and instinct as the supreme law, removes from himself for the sake of whim social shackles. He knows that there are many people who, having thrown off the yoke of submission, relinquish their last dignity. He does not want to hear about liberation of man under the burden, and about his leading thoughts. Zarathustra does not care to what a person is free from, the important question for him is, for what he wants to be free (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 92). He loves one who sacrifices himself to the earth so that it may one day become the possession of a Superman (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 16). Man must tame himself, rule over his own feelings, over their virtues (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 102). Zarathustra requires the boundless will of the person, but this one will is given to the truly worthy. It is not a right, not senseless privilege, but a sacred duty, a heavy but glorious duty; this will is the yoke of a new form. It combines the ideals of the original aristocracy, when the leader of the wild horde did not know the reins for their own desires, and the requirements of the democratic and socialist age, when a prominent person is called to serve the masses. The life of this new leader is full of self-sacrifice. His will is only apparent; he can’t give complete space to his instincts. He is required to curb his instincts, to fight with himself by himself.

Only in the light of these high demands could Nietzsche’s philosophy be justified. He hates the democratic age. No shepherd, only a flock remained. Everyone wants equality in all levels. Zarathustra paints a sad picture of this victory of mediocrity. All high desires are gone, there comes a time when man cannot generate more stars when he no longer fires arrows whose desire is higher than man himself. Look! I’ll show you the last man, says Zarathustra. What is love? What is creativity? What is aspiration? Star? The latter asks man blinking. The earth has become small, and on it the last man jumps, making everything small. (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 19-20). There comes a kingdom of stagnation and civil peace. Quarrels still arise, but people are in a hurry to reconcile because quarrels spoil the stomach. The happiness of the crowd is a happiness of laziness and stupidity. Life is a source of comfort, but it is a source poisoned if touched by the unclean lips of the crowd. Never again has aristocracy climbed to its old inaccessible heights or fenced off its caste inviolability with such a high wall from the rest of humanity. Only the meager and insignificant, whom Zarathustra calls tarantulas, shouting for equality, they crave revenge and contempt for all which “does not look like them,” they shout against all that has power and strength (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 145). But life itself rushes to the heights, it needs height, and therefore, both degrees and contradictions of degrees and ascending are required; enmity is needed, because in this enmity the future is created. “People are not equal!” – so says Zarathustra’s sense of justice (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 146-147).

Nietzsche’s philosophy is an anti-democratic philosophy. Like every doctrine detached from life, every doctrine that speaks of ideals too far from modernity and alien to it, it is doomed to short-lived existence. The same mass that stands outside of Nietzschean teachings gives growth and vitality to ideas. Only blood kinship with the masses can provide the thinker with a spiritual immortality. Nietzsche’s success is the last bright flash of individualism before the final triumph of the social principle. Hence the cruel morality of this doctrine.

Among the many theories of morality, Nietzsche outlines two main types of morality: the morality of masters and the morality of slaves. The moral values always determined either the ruling tribe, which with a sense of satisfaction was aware of its differences from the subordinate tribe, or these values ​ determined the conquered, slaves and dependents of all degrees (Fr. Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Boese, Leipzig, 1894, p. 243). Noble and strong created a separate morality; they believed in virtue, strength and power; what was their difference property seemed to them absolutely good. They despised above all weakness, obedience and lying; they replaced the good and the bad with the opposition of the noble and the insignificant. The noble valued strength, they valued everything harsh and cruel. Nietzsche was far from that morality, which in pity, in activities for the benefit of others sees manifestation of moral feeling. He laughed at his helplessness (Selbstlosigkeit), he felt no pity (Jenseits von Gut und Boese, p. 245). Slaves have a different morality. Poor and powerless, they turned away from all that was considered virtue among the lords. They put forward and glorified those properties that should facilitate fate suffering; sorry, patience, sincerity, compassionate heart they are proclaimed virtues, because these qualities were for them the most useful properties and almost the only means to endure the oppression of existence. Thus, the morality of slaves is essentially morality of benefits. It was then that the glorious opposition of good and evil arose. Evil was nicknamed everything terrible, strong – everything that does not give self-despise. According to the morality of slaves, the evil causes fear, while the morality of the masters teaches what the good causes and wants to cause fear, and the bad person is the one who calls to self-contempt. He combines the slavish worldview with the notion of good, the idea of ​​security. The good must be good-natured, simple-minded, even perhaps stupid. Wherever slave morality prevailed, the language tends to bring closer the concept of good (gut) and dumb (dumm) (Jenseits von Gut und Boese, p. 246-247).

This doctrine of morality is in complete harmony with the doctrine about the Superman and with Nietzsche’s aristocracy. Egalitarian democratic tendencies of our time are based on the principle of pity and on the religion of humanity. Nietzsche sadly notes that the dominant morality of our time is the morality of slaves, not masters. He falls for the idea of ​​pity. Sympathize with your neighbor and pity him means to despise him. “Seeing a suffering man,” says Zarathustra, “I was ashamed of him, and helping him, I struck a blow to his pride.” It is necessary to destroy the beggars, sinners – all who have an unclean conscience (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 128). Pity makes the air suffocating for all free souls (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 273). Love of neighbor is selfishness: “I,” says Zarathustra, “prefer to run away from the neighbors and to love the distant” (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 88).

This arrogance, this deep conviction that the world must belong to the strong, is also manifest in Nietzsche’s views on women. As some biographers do not try (Lichtenberg, ibid., p. 11-12) to soften Nietzsche’s cruel thoughts about women, of deep contempt for the weak kind that underlies their thoughts, cannot fail to notice the listeners of Zarathustra. Nietzsche hates any attempt by a woman to break free from her traditional role of toys and dolls. If a woman has a penchant for science, she must have had some abnormalities in sexual life. Already the infertility of a woman gives a tendency to male preferences (Jenseits von Gut und Boese, p. 107). The slave and the tyrant have been hidden in the woman for too long. Therefore, a woman is incapable of friendship, she knows only love. A woman’s love is combined with injustice and blindness to everything she does not love. Women are like cats and birds, at best, cows (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 82). Nietzsche’s philosophy is seemingly misogynistic. The happiness of a man is expressed in the words: “I want”. The happiness of a woman: “he wants.” A man must educate himself for war, a woman for raising a warrior. The only purpose of a woman is childbirth. she should be a toy, clean and beautiful. She should like diamonds, sparkle with the virtues of a non-existent world. She must obey the man. The man is the ruler, but right women bring themselves as a gift to their master (Also sprach Zarathustra, p. 95-98).

Such is the moral of this philosophy. In an era of unprecedented development of social aspirations, among the preaching of equality and human solidarity, he calls for proud loneliness, asserts power and creates the ideal of a person who has abandoned public interests and looks to the distant future. Among the mighty movement in favor of the disadvantaged and helpless, it requires heartlessness and indifference, proclaims selfishness as a property of the elite. Nietzsche forgets that pity and altruism have not always been the morals of slaves, that those whom he calls masters, courageous and strong men, often took the initiative to help, gave up their own advantages and went to save the neglected. Throwing overboard those virtues, which he considered the properties of the weak, Nietzsche took away from humanity the best guarantee of cultural existence and turned the land into an arena of bloody struggle, into a dense forest, inhabited by predators. In an era when women started speaking in defense of their rights, Nietzsche demanded the legitimization of their disenfranchisement, turned a blind eye to the truly admirable, or, to use Nietzschean terms, truly masterful, deeds of the first heroines and martyrs of the women’s liberation movement, and continued to argue that nature itself made woman a slave to man. He destroyed the old world of relations, rejected what inhibited the progressive movement, but did not spare what was the key to a better future. Here’s why he, as correctly remarked by Gallwitz (Hans Gallwitz, Friedrich Nietzsche, Dresden. u. Leipz., 1898, p. 183) is “an unlucky rebuilder of this world”. A wonderful fate befell him: forever fighting against the current, he was picked up by the fashion trend and became a favorite of those “too many” (Vielzuvielen) that he had so despised their approval (Theobald Zigler, Fr. Nietsche, Berlin, 1900, p. 202).

However, in his anti-democratic philosophy and in his selfish morality Nietzsche had one bright trait – a passionate dream for an ideal, though vague and distant, but still high. This dream of a Superman gave his sermons a color of nobility and a certain charm. This ideal is not understood by those heroes who filled the German literature of the 1890s. All the literary heroes, whose images are inspired by the sermon of Zarathustra, from Erik Falk in Stanisław Przybyszewski’s Homo Sapiens, to Magda in Hermann Sudermann’s Homeland, to Meister Heinrich in Gerhard Hauptmann’s The Sunken Bell, in the end perish. This sermon was met with hostility. Democratic society saw the danger in the revival of aristocracy and individualism. Democratic bodies tried to protect young people from their influence. But Nietzsche’s conscious opponents did not deliver to his philosophy such a decisive blow as the writers who succumbed to the charms of his teachings. Not Spielhagen and Wiedemann, but the artistic images of Falk and Meister Heinrich proved insolvent the individualistic ideals and morals of masters; death told them about the power of the earth, about the power of conscience, about the instinct of human solidarity more than all anti-Nietzschean criticism. It was they who rushed to leave humanity, that in the end proved that only in merging with humanity you can draw strength for conscious work satisfactorily.