Friedrich Nietzsche

Some might call Friedrich Nietzsche the antichrist. This is because he and Jesus took very different standpoints on compassion. Jesus is thought of as, among many other things, a teacher and supporter of compassion for the suffering. However, Nietzsche saw compassion and pity not as a supreme human value, but rather as something that should be controlled. “It must first be habitually sifted by reason; otherwise it is just as dangerous as any other affect. ” (Readings) Nietzsche sees it as a great human weakness. “It increases the amount of suffering in the world. ” (Readings)

One of the arguments that Nietzsche put forward is the ‘doubling of the ego. ‘ Nietzsche believed that to show compassion and pity towards another person is to take on their suffering or their ‘ego’. In other words, why should two people suffer something that needs only to be suffered by one person? Here, I believe that Nietzsche oversimplifies the situation. There are many other factors that play a part, for example love, loyalty, the moral good, and obligation. In the case of lovers, for example, they do not share each others pain out of compassion or pity but out of mutual feelings of closeness and dependency (love).

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Sharing somebody’s pain and offering support in turn makes their burden easier to bear alone (decreases its severity), and the person that is ‘taking on’ the other’s ego will never be as fully affected as the original sufferer by the circumstances because it is not actually happening to them. This consequently results in the pain and suffering resembling more closely a system of ‘spreading out’ rather than ‘doubling’. Nietzsche also believes that is the exceptional man’s duty to treat the lesser man with compassion.

To this I must ask, what difference does it make to a starving man if the hand that offers him a loaf of bread belongs to a rich or a poor man? Many, including myself, believe that we must treat each other the way that we would want to be treated, regardless of class, religion, race or gender. If a poor man then sees a rich man about to be brutalized, and the poor man could prevent this from happening, should he just stand by and let his fellow man be harmed? That is why I do not think that Nietzsche’s theory on the duties of the exceptional man is sound at all.

“(Nietzsche) meant that a great man should protect himself against pity, in order to better ‘serve humanity as a physician’… ” (Nicolas M. P, pg. 40) How can one protect themselves against pity? Or love? Or Anger? The only way to do so is to grow cold and detached, and to loose that which makes us fundamentally and ‘only human’. Nietzsche believes that you have to suffer to do anything worthwhile. This is clearly not true, as what is punishment or suffering for one may be pleasant for another. (Practicing a sport, for example. )

Also, “…according to Nietzsche, all superior culture ‘is made up of cruelty. ‘” (M. P. Nicolas, pg. 32. ) Nietzsche argues that all of mankind’s greatest improvements are caused by the ‘discipline’ of suffering. (Therefore we should let our fellow man suffer and not act on our pity. ) This may be true, but it also greatly depends on how far one is willing to take to definition of the word suffering. Say, for example, a modern invention like the dishwashing machine. Technically, it was invented because of the need to abolish the slight discomfort of washing dishes by hand.

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