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


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Heseltine, P 1995 , 'An assessment of Nietzsche's attack on altruism, pity and sympathy', Unspecified thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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 Age, 35, p. 87,
in 'The Twighlight of the Idols' in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche,
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
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.

Item Type: Thesis - Unspecified
Authors/Creators:Heseltine, P
Keywords: Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900, Altruism, Sympathy
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Cover title. Thesis (M.A.(Qual.))--University of Tasmania, 1995. Includes bibliographical references

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