Like all other writings of Nietzsche this one is also random and complicated. One can even go so far as calling Beyond Good and Evil something pre-planned to be systematic but turned out just as much random. We see Nietzsche has categorized his aphorisms; they are not thrown into the book but they have been compiled under chapters. The subtitle of the book is Prelude to the Philosophy of the Future; it tells us much about the book. Nietzsche wanted his work to be read, he wanted an age of new philosophers who could come out of the mistakes of the old and his contemporary philosophers. He points out the problems of philosophy and urges the new generation to avoid them. Also, he is stressing on the philosophy of will to power instead of a philosophy of morals for the new generation.
The first chapter On the Prejudices of the Philosophers is all about Nietzsche’s contemporaries. He points out certain flaws in works of Kant, Descartes, Schopenhauer and other grand philosophers of his era. His main argument against his contemporaries is that their philosophy is full of their personal prejudice. The leap to immediate certainties and causal connection is an evidence to this fact. (Aph. 21) Even if these philosophers call themselves anti-platonic they are always on the look for the ultimate truth. He believes laws of nature are only interpretations and the physicists are wasting time looking for facts. Facts are nothing, there are only interpretations. (Aph. 22)
Nietzsche’s most important question in this part of the book is: what makes truth more important than false. (Aph. 8) Should false judgements not be just as important as any other because they too are a fundamental part of life? (Aph. 4) He calls stoicism self-tyranny because even though the stoics wanted to live according to nature, they were far away from nature according to Nietzsche. (Aph. 9) Life is will to power and nothing else, that is Nietzsche’s fundamental belief. (Aph. 13)
The opening sentence of the second chapter, The Free Spirit, is about simplicity and how man is too prone to it. We are always looking for simpler things and simpler solutions when in reality it is much more complex. (Aph. 24) This aphorism talks about language and its awkwardness as well. It says that language has been made simple which is why it deals with the world in opposites where in fact there should be a gradation of ranks.
The main idea of The Free Spirit is that a philosopher needs to strive and come out of his personal bias to work towards the truth. The truth needs to be free from the herd morality; it needs to be worked towards through the will to power. (Aph. 27) There was a time, Nietzsche tell us, when actions were judged by their consequences. But then in China they started to look upon the upbringing of children more closely and gathered that a child is only immoral if he is brought up negatively. They started giving importance to the action itself and the origin. Nietzsche calls it a step ahead and believes that someday man will pull himself out of the good and evil. (Aph. 32)
Nietzsche tells us that looking for moral certainties is again a mistake of philosophers. They must know the importance of appearances and false judgements. So he says in the aphorism no. 34 “This is nothing more than a moral prejudice that truth is worth more than semblance; it is, in fact, the worst proved supposition in the world.”
The next chapter is the The Religious Nature and it brings Nietzsche back to morality associated with Christianity. He calls religions cruel and associates it with a ladder that has many cruel rungs like prayer, fasting, sexual abstinence and sacrifice. He says religions demands too many sacrifices and no we have killed God. (Aph. 47). In the next aphorism, Nietzsche talks about how Catholics have a higher affinity for religion and the protestants are less inclined to religion.
Maxims and Interludes is all about random one liners that Nietzsche wrote in the hope of being remembered for them one day. They are different quotations one can quote in life and follow their lives by. They are based on many different themes like sexuality, marriage, women, countries, war, mad people, societies, good and evil, etc. Symbolically in one of his aphorisms Nietzsche talks about, again, the prejudices of the philosophers that salt their truths so badly that they cannot even quench thirst. (Aph. 81)
Nietzsche encourages philosophers to stick to a direction for a long time and talks about how enslavement and hardships can refine us. (Aph. 164) Nietzsche believes that his life has been full of sickness, hardships and it has only refined him and made him more stronger. He believes in the mental strength instead of the physical. He lingers back to his main argument of the book about his contemporaries who do not realize that morality is different in different parts of the world. And not just that, but through time morality has changed and when different settlements cross paths their moralities clash and new ones are formed. He believes that this is all because they are subjective and they are based on personal biases of human beings. A philosopher lets his personal bias influence him on his journey towards the ultimate truth. (Aph. 167)
Morality should be the subject of an individual but it has always been treated as one that is a subject of a group or a society and sometimes a religion. Good and bad must not come from god or from higher authorities in a society, or from the weak majority of the society. It should come from the individual. On the Natural History of Morals, Nietzsche also explains a little difference between evil and bad. He believes weakness of mind as bad and not evil. Evil is a part of human nature and it includes lying, cursing, contest, exploitation, selfishness, envy, vanity, etc. (Aph. 170) He speaks of herd morality and the morality that comes about due to fear of the mediocre man. He asks for a new age of philosophers who can look beyond herd morality.
The next chapter, We Scholars, is about the scholars and their skepticism. Nietzsche is in favour of a particular kind of skepticism and he looks down on another kind. He says the detrimental skepticism does nothing except leading into objectivity or will-less knowledge. The beneficial skepticism can lead to questioning and finding new and better answers. (Aph. 208) We know Nietzsche as the advocate of instinct, emotion and passion. He believes objectivity kills creativity and passion. (Aph. 207) Nietzsche also emphasizes on the importance of embracing the unusual.
Our Virtues is a chapter that talks about some of the same things again. He talks about biased virtues (Aph. 214) and about people from very different moralities. He believes that moral laws are not universal, unselfishness is a good quality in a natural leader. (Aph. 221) The next aphorism is a long one and looks down upon religions. He believes all religions of the world are based on pity and fellow-suffering, and pity is what advertises them. This is one of the ideas he stretches in his next book, The Genealogy of Morals. He talks about the writers of his age, like Shakespeare, who have built an unnatural picture of man and call it natural. He portrays man as kind, brave, innocent, caring and wonderful and calls these attributes natural but in fact they are not, Nietzsche thinks. (Aph. 224)
People and Fatherlands starts with praising Wagner and his new music but the very same aphorism ends in saying: “This kind of music expresses best what I think of the Germans: they belong to the day before yesterday and the day after tomorrow— THEY HAVE AS YET NO TODAY.” (Aph. 240) The rest of the chapter is all about Germans and their problems. They think they are superior and a pure race but they are also a mixed race. We can see Nietzsche is not very patriotic, though he thinks his homeland is better than many he also thinks it is flawed. He believes German language is weak too and compares Germany with a few other nations and areas of the world. He calls Germans mysterious and confused. (Aph. 243)
The last chapter entitled, What is Noble? asks a few very important questions that Nietzsche would like the new age of philosophers to keep in mind. He believes the society should be a ladder for the individual to grow to the greatness of his existence and society on its own is nothing. It is a platform to help individual growth. (Aph. 258) This is one of the aphorisms Nietzsche’s political philosophy revolves around. Nietzsche answers what is life by saying
“Life itself is ESSENTIALLY appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of peculiar forms, incorporation, and at the least, putting it mildest, exploitation. ‘Exploitation’ does not belong to a depraved, or imperfect and primitive society it belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary organic function.” (Aph. 260)
Nietzsche discusses slave morality and master morality. He believes slave morality is one that the society creates because of the mediocre mass and its fear. The people living in slave morality believe they will be rewarded in the hereafter and they live a modest life, helping each other, hating war, etc. Master morality is where a person understand his real nature which is contest, exploitation, selfishness, etc and he struggles in the way of will to power. (Aph. 273)
The problem with the philosophers like Nietzsche is that they call ultimate truth not important and that makes a contradiction towards their own philosophy. If there is no ultimate truth then Nietzsche fails to justify his philosophy of the will to power as true. The book is random and yet focussed; it an interesting read. Many ideas of this book are present in many other books of Nietzsche. His philosophy has more or less stayed the same over the ages even though he made up and broke away from many people throughout his life.