Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nietzsche on vanity

Vanity, trying to arouse a good opinion of oneself, and even to try to believe in it, seems, to the noble man, such bad taste, so self-disrespectful, so grotesquely unreasonable, that he would like to consider vanity a rarity. He will say, "I may be mistaken about my value, but nevertheless demand that I be valued as I value myself", but this is not vanity. The man of noble character must learn that in all social strata in any way dependent, the ordinary man has only ever valued himself as his master dictates (it is the peculiar right of masters to create values). It may be looked upon as an extraordinary atavism that the ordinary man is always waiting for an opinion about himself and then instinctively submitting to it; not only to a "good" opinion, but also to a bad and unjust one (think of all the self-depreciations which the believing Christian learns from his Church). It is "the slave" in the vain man's blood- and how much of the "slave" is still left in woman- which seeks to seduce to good opinions of itself; it is the slave, too, who immediately afterwards falls prostrate himself before these opinions, as though he had not called them forth. Vanity is an atavism.

— Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

(Yes, I know Nietzsche was a misogynist asshole. But his point is still fundamentally sound.)

[h/t to lenin]


  1. There's some disputation as to how much of a misogynist Nietzsche really was.

  2. True indeed. Still, it's hard to read a lot of his work without forming the impression that women were often not his favorite kind of human being.

  3. I don't see what this has to do with that though?


  4. I was referring specifically to this clause:

    It is "the slave" in the vain man's blood- and how much of the "slave" is still left in woman...

    I think Fred is wrong that there's a substantive difference between the slave mentality in men and women. If there were more slave mentality in women, it would be due to their far greater historical oppression, exploitation and degradation.

    1. I'm sure Nietsche would reconsider his ideas if he had known the prodigious you would disagree with him..!

  5. Very interesting quote. I think what Hegel showed, though, is how the master, too, is vain towards the slave, who is the mirror of his own values. If no one prostrates before him, he will always suffer anxiety in regard to those values.

    There really is no "over-man" in isolation I don't think. I suspect he has to exist in relation to the herd, and is constantly trying to control the herd in order to gain converts.

  6. Neitsche didn't hate women and he was not an asshole. His works association with the Nazi party was only by way of his sister who was married to a Nazi. He lost his wife to his best friend and still maintained only that women have given in the will of men and fail to unmask their potential as human beings. He acknowledges it as a consequence and identifies it as a problem. If he was wrong than why does he not contradict the values and beliefs of modern day feminists?

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