Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Nietzsche on George Eliot

G. Eliot. -- They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. That is an English consistency; we do not wish to hold it against little moralistic females à la Eliot. In England one must rehabilitate oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe-inspiring manner what a moral fanatic one is. That is the penance they pay there.

We others hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one's hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows it. Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it has truth only if God is the truth--it stands and falls with faith in God.

When the English actually believe that they know "intuitively" what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion: such that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, such that the very conditional character of its right to existence is no longer felt. For the English, morality is not yet a problem.


Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols.

Although, to be fair to Eliot, she was largely following the Germans.

1 comment:

  1. van_fo3:43 PM

    Hard to understand for this reader. I can't get from the accusation of Eliot as a "little moralistic female" to the end part of "For the English, morality is not yet a problem." I appreciate reading bold commentary even if I find flaws in the analysis. But to me this thought sequence seems muddled. Eliot was not little. She was a giant and will remain one for some time in my opinion. Maybe Nietzsche felt threatened by her femininity and ability to embrace his native language so intimately?

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