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  • In dark, honest moments, we are liable to recognisewith considerable agonythat

  • there is so much missing from our lives. We have been unable to get quite the career we

  • wanted. Our partners leave us largely unfulfilled. We have made some catastrophic mistakes that

  • can never be corrected. Our appearance is shameful and in decline. And there is, correspondingly,

  • so much that we envy. No philosopher has ever taken envy more seriously than Friedrich Nietzsche.

  • The 19th-century German philosopher described it as the most important emotion at work in

  • individual and collective life. In his writings, he referred to it with a slightly unusual

  • word, the French term ressentimentwhich places emphasis on the humiliation we experience

  • in the face of what we desire but cannot have. In his book On The Genealogy of Morality,

  • published in 1887, Nietzsche presents us with a ground-breaking diagnosis of envy. He opens

  • with a speculative history of how our ideas of good and evil developedand the crucial

  • role of envy therein. In ancient times, Nietzsche argued, what counted as negative or positive

  • was defined in a rather direct and simple way by the powerful. Those who held military,

  • financial and political authority

  • got to decide what sort of actions and behaviours would be thought

  • admirable. Because of the aristocratsattachments and tastes, ‘goodcame to be synonymous

  • with aristocratic values like winning, making money, being confidently sexual, knowing a

  • lot and securing fame. Assured of their own virtue, the powerful in ancient times slept

  • soundly. But the aristocracy’s reign did not go on unchallenged. There were too many

  • weak, powerless and downtrodden people at large, a mass of men and women whom Nietzsche

  • alternately and with a dark playfulnessdeliberately designed to appall sensitivitiescalled

  • the slaves’, ‘the plebeiansorthe herd’. These people increasingly wanted

  • to avenge themselves against the powerful. At the same time, they lacked any practical

  • means of doing so, having no money or political leverage. Then they hit on an idea of genius:

  • They would fight back against the rich and the strong

  • with the weapon of guilt. They couldn’t attack the powerful physically, but they could

  • leave them unable to sleep well at night.

  • They would ruin them via their consciences. A central weapon in

  • this revenge attack wasfor Nietzschethe ideology we know today as Christianity.

  • Christianity was for the philosopher a brilliant, devilish instrument of revenge dreamt up by

  • the weak to make the strong feel guilty for their advantages. It was Christianity’s

  • strategy to relabel as bad everything once associated with aristocratic valuesand

  • to anoint with the term good everything with which theherdwas identified. So, in

  • the new Christian moral scheme, having no money was relabellednoble poverty’,

  • having no education was praised assincerity’, lacking sex was hailed aschastity’ – and,

  • as Nietzsche put it, ‘not-being-able-to-take-revengeturned intoforgiveness.’ Envious for

  • what they couldn’t have, Christians made the powerful feel untenably guiltyand

  • insisted that the kingdom of God belonged to the weak, the meek, the chaste, the poor

  • and the persecuted.

  • Nietzsche almost admired the audacity of this move but

  • at the same time held it to be responsible for an appalling bad faith and the degradation

  • of European civilisation. In a cantankerous tone, he wrote that: The man of ressentiment

  • is neither upright nor naïve, nor honest and straight with himself. His soul squints;

  • his mind loves dark corners, secret paths and back-doors. For Nietzsche, the psychological

  • health of a person or society depends on being able to resist denigrating what one wants

  • but can’t have. It involves resisting the urge to deny the gaps in one’s life for

  • the sake of inner convenience. It is, for Nietzsche, always better to say what one wishes

  • to be and have rather than to twist one’s entire personality to avoid discomfort. We

  • must, for the philosopher, be strong enough to face, and stay honest about, our own misfortunes.

  • Though Nietzsche spent a lot of time studying Christianity, he understood that the desire

  • to redraw values on the basis of repressed envy was a manoeuvre that could appear under

  • many guises. His attacks may seem harsh and potentially even an absurd defence of boorish

  • upper class set of values. But it’s important to remember that Nietzsche himself was no aristocrat:

  • he lacked money, sex, an audience, friendsbut he was committed to honesty with himself

  • and so didn’t shirk away from admitting that, in certain moods, he would dearly have

  • wished to be more heroic, fulfilled and brave, yet lacked the talent to be so. Nietzsche’s

  • message is that one of the most mature acts we are capable of is to admit to the strength

  • of our envyand the scale of our regretwithout falling prey to defensive philosophies

  • of denial, in all their many and ingenious disguises. Our Western Philosophy cards, features

  • 20 of the best ideas from Eastern philosophy. Click on the link on screen now to find out more.

In dark, honest moments, we are liable to recognisewith considerable agonythat

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尼采在。ENVY (Nietzsche on: ENVY)

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    林宜悉 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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