With the transvaluation of values, Friedrich Nietzsche demonstrates how all morality is partisan: how any logic of the cosmos arises upon the basis of myth, and how that myth serves to control the will. In Part II of Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche addresses ressentiment, the font of mythos.

Ressentiment is "the spirit of revenge": the drive that festers in the weak who seek vengeance against the strong and noble. Ressentiment is what leads priests and wise men to create values that negate life. This leads to "bad conscience" and the reversal, or inversion, of noble values. "The slave revolt in morals begins by rancour turning creative and giving birth to values--the rancour of beings who, deprived of the direct outlet of action, compensate by an imaginary vengeance." (Genealogy of Morals, 1.10). While noble morality celebrates self-affirmation, slave morality "begins by saying no to an "outside," an "other," a non-self, and that no is a creative act" (Genealogy of Morals 1.10). Decadence and fear of the past leads the creative will to fall sick with revenge. The will's ill will is directed originally, but only originally, against the "it was" that it cannot control, powerless against that which has been done, against accident that has become necessity. Its very nature is thwarted by the sheer givenness and pastness of the past, of which it is not just the spectator, but the "angry spectator" who sees the past as in glass coffins unreachable by the will. Askesis drives the will to legislate values that it itself will undermine.

Ressentiment is the will to power as revenge: revenge for driving the creative will mad in its prison of time. 'The will cannot stop willing, even if this means its negation: it would rather will nothingness than not will' (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 233).

Slave ethics, while "low", are not "base". Rather, in keeping with Nietzsche's respect for his enemies, the triumph of slave ethics represents an intellectual feat; it took a strong will to engender the transvaluation of noble values. The creation of a wrong-headed value system is still, after all, a creation of sorts. "Man would sooner have the void for his purpose than be void of purpose" (Genealogy of Morals, III.28). In the chapter of Zarathustra titled "On Self-Overcoming" we can see this will in action; here Zarathustra reveals that the priest's redemption and the philosopher's "will to truth" are one and the same, the will to power.

A will to the thinkability of all things: this I call your will. You want to make all things thinkable, for you doubt with well-founded suspicion that it is already thinkable.... That is your whole will, you who are wisest: a will to power--when you speak of good and evil too, and of valuations. (Thus Spoke Zarathustra p. 225)

In his lectures Zarathustra / Nietzsche uses the dragon as the symbol for the denial of the "I will", exemplified best by the authoritarianism of priests and moralisers such as Kant and Spinoza, who dress up moral beliefs, intuitions and desires in rational argument. Like the idea of redemption, the "will to truth" is a devaluation of the transitory and deceptive world of nature. If, as Kant maintains, God and the soul cannot be known, as they are outside of sensory experience, then the "spirit" is severed from what can be known, just as Kant severs us from our animal nature; just as priests seek redemption through denial of our passions. "With your values and words of good and evil you do violence when you value; and this is your hidden love and the splendor and trembling and overflowing of your soul" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra p. 228). Pious or passive self-overcoming mugs our true nature: slavishness leads us to rationalize our misfortune and repress our natural instincts.

The will to transcend slave morality requires going "beyond good and evil". Recognizing that the world is alterable begins the negation of the negation. "Verily, I say unto you, good and evil that are not transitory, do not exist" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 228). Zarathustra, a victory-lover, must turn into a lion and destroy this fallacy, by taking upon himself the creation of a new will to power over all humans: this is what the overman (superman; ubermensch) represents. The challenge in this is the idea of the eternal recurrence: that overcoming is a continuous process. We must overcome again and again. Life says to Zarathustra: "I am that which much always overcome itself" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 227). This riddle, like nature, is so simple it cannot be understood at face value. We can only understand what we do in reaction to Life. Having crept into the heart of life, Zarathustra can creep into the heart of the highest form of life, the wisest, and see the force and violence of the legislation of values by these "value assessors". Life is malleable to the highest spirit, that of the overman. One needs only assert this truth to negate the negation of self-overcoming.

I led you away from these fables when I taught you, "The will is a creator." All 'it was' is a fragment, a riddle, a dreadful accident-- until the creative will says to it, 'But thus I will it; thus I shall will it” (Z 253).

All other truths lead to reverence, whether in the worship of a Christian God or toward a reverence of "justice" and "equality" as seen in modern democratic movements. To Nietzsche, reverence is decadence, and the Last Man's feeble attempts to escape the clutches of godly morality is to revere the morass of nihilism.

As Whywait? mentioned in his writeup, the men of ressentiment are the negation of the powerful, and since they resent this, they begin to create a system of thinking that puts down the strong and glorifies their weak nature. From the point of view of ressentiment, you take the person who you're feeling inferior to as not being strong at all. If the men of ressentiment are incapable of acting strongly, then they will say that acting violently is evil, and that self-restraint is good. We are strong, they are weak. We get heaven and get to watch them burn because we have self-control.

The men of ressentiment then create a system of values that takes whatever is weak (in Nietzsche's eyes) and makes it strong. Suddenly, non-violence is to be praised. It is the meek who are the important people. Sound familiar? Nietzsche feels this is a perversion of the human spirit, and detests this for the damage he sees it will do.

It is with this in mind, then, that I found this writeup on the Wired webpage sometime in April 2001. It is scary how much it illustrates what Nietzsche was saying. (Note: I'm not making any value judgments, just linking the two together.)


A new Christian computer game eschews gore for evangelical zeal. "Catechumen" casts players as muscle-bound persecuted Christians who rescue fellow devotees by "converting" -- rather than killing -- Roman soldiers. Characters are armed with "faith" and a "spiritually charged sword" to accomplish their mission. In the final battle of the game, the hero confronts Satan. "We intended to show the children that being a Christian is not a position of weakness but one of strength," said Ralph Bagle, chief executive of Christian software company N'Lightening, which developed the game. Catechumen was the name given to Christians of the early Church who were undergoing instruction prior to baptism. --Wired 4/2001

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