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Chapter IV
Nietzsche the Evolutionist

"Transvalue your values or perish!" This was the message of the hermit Nietzsche to the people inhabiting the valley into which he had descended. "Transvalue your values!" — that is to say, make them what they once were, noble, life-approving, virile! For two thousand years the roll of the world-wheel had been reversed — Stendhal had said that many years before Nietzsche lived — but it was left to Nietzsche, Stendhal's admirer and pupil, to teach and prove this fact. Stendhal, too, had cried out against the tameness, the lukewarmness, the effeminacy of society; but Nietzsche took up this cry with a voice more brazen than Stendhal's at a time when mankind was in much greater need of it. Stendhal had pointed enthusiastically to the sun and to the passion of the south, and had donned a moral respirator whenever he

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turned to face the grey and depressing atmosphere of northern ideas and northern tepidness. Nietzsche follows his master's hint with alacrity, but in doing so converts Stendhal's clarion notes into thunder, and the glint of Stendhal's rapier into strokes of lightning. 1
        When Nietzsche began to write Europe was suffering from the worst kind of spiritual illness — weakness of will. Everywhere comfort and freedom from danger were becoming the highest ideals; everywhere, too, virtue was being confounded with those qualities which led to the highest possible amount of security and tame, back-parlour pleasures; and man was gradually developing into a harmless domesticated type of animal, capable of performing a host of charming little drawing-room tricks which rejoiced the hearts of his womenfolk.
        Sleep seemed to be the greatest accomplishment. It had become all important to have a good night's rest, and everything was done to achieve this end. A man no longer asked his heart what it dictated, when he stood irresolute before a daring deed, he simply consulted Morpheus, who warned him that he could not promise him a soft pillow if he did anything

        1 G. E., Aphs. 254, 255, 256.

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that was ever so slightly naughty. In the end, Morpheus would prevail, and thus all Europe was beginning to snore peacefully the whole night through, with marvellous regularity, while manliness rotted and danger dwindled. 1
        Nietzsche protested against this state of affairs:— "What is good? ye ask. To be brave is good. Let the little schoolgirls say: To be good is sweet and touching at the same time. Ye say, a good cause will hallow even war? I say unto you: a good war halloweth every cause. War and courage have done greater things than love!" 2
        "I pass through this people and keep mine eyes open: they have become smaller, and ever become smaller: the reason thereof is their doctrine of happiness and virtue.
        "For they are moderate also in virtue — because they want comfort. With comfort, however, moderate virtue only is compatible.
        "Of man there is little here: therefore do their women make themselves manly. For only he who is man enough, will save the woman in woman.
        "In their hearts, they want simply one thing most of all: that no one hurt them.

        1 See Schopenhauer on The Vanity and Suffering of Life.
        2 Z., p. 52.

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        "That, however, is cowardice, though it be called virtue." 1
        Some there were, of course, who were conscious of the dreadful condition of things, and who deplored it, without, however, being able to put their finger on the root of the evil. Such people were most of them pessimists, and, at the time that Nietzsche lived, Schopenhauer was their leader.
        Sensitive, noble-minded, artistic people, deprived by rationalistic and atheistic teachers of the belief in God, felt the ignobleness of European hopes and aspirations, and knowing of no better creed and possessing the intelligence to see the hopelessness of things under the rule of the values which then prevailed, they succumbed to a mood of utter despair, subscribed to Schopenhauer's horror and loathing of the world, and regarded the very optimism of childhood with suspicion and scorn.
        For a while Nietzsche, too, was an ardent and devoted follower of Schopenhauer. Godlessness was bad enough to endure: but Godlessness in a world of un-pagan and effeminate manhood, was too much for the loving student of classical antiquity, and he turned to Schopenhauer as to one

        1 Z., pp. 204, 205, 206.

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who, he thought, would understand how to steel his heart against life's misery.
        But this opiate did not maintain its sway over Nietzsche long. Our poet was of a type too courageous and too vigorous to he able to surrender himself so completely to sorrow and to Buddhistic consolations. Gradually he began to regard the humble and resigned attitude of the pessimist before life's hardships and modernity's greyness as unworthy of a spirited and active man. Slowly it dawned upon him that the root of the evil lay, not in the constitution of the earth, but in man himself, and in man's actual values. If man could be roused to pursue higher ideals; if he could be moved to kill the poisonous snake of ignoble values that had crawled into his throat and choked him while he was in slumber; 1 in fact, if man could surpass himself and regard the reversal of the world's engines, for the last two thousand years, as Stendhal had done — that is to say, as the grossest error and most ridiculous faux pas that had ever been made — then, Nietzsche thought, pessimism and Schopenhauer might go to the deuce, and conscious, sensitive, intellectual, and artistic Europe would once more be able to smile

        1 Z., pp. 192, 193.

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instead of shuddering at the thought of mankind's former qualities.
        Thus it was the condemnation of modern values, together with the thought of man's being able to surpass himself, which gave Nietzsche the grounds and the necessary strength for abandoning pessimism and embracing that wise optimism which characterises the whole of his works after The Joyful Wisdom.
        True, God was dead; but that ought only to make man feel more self-reliant, more creative, prouder. Undoubtedly God was dead: but man could now hold himself responsible for himself. He could now seek a goal in manhood, on earth, and one that was at least within the compass of his powers. Long enough had he squinted heavenwards, with the result, that he had neglected his task on earth. 1
        "Dead are all Gods!" Nietzsche cries, "now we will that Superman live!" 2
        We are now before Nietzsche the evolutionist, and we must define him, relatively to those other evolutionists with whom we, as English people, are already familiar.
        To begin with, then, let us dispose of the fundamental question: Nietzsche's concept of life.

        1 Z., p. 98 et seq.
        2 Z., p. 91.

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We have had life variously defined for us by our own writers, and perhaps one among Nietzsche's greatest contemporaries in England — Herbert Spencer — defined it in the most characteristically English fashion. Spencer said: "Life is activity," or "the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations." Now there is absolutely nothing in either of these definitions, no suggestion or hint, which would lead the most suspicious to conjecture what life really is. (Activity) reveals nothing of life's passions, its hate, its envy, its covetousness, its hard, inexorable principles; the process of the continual adjustments of internal relations to external relations might mean the serpent's digestion of its prey, or the training of an opera singer's voice, and it might also be a scientific formula for a "moral order of things." Both definitions are delightfully unheroic and vague; though they do not compromise the writer they compromise with everything else, and to start out with them is to shelve the question in a way which allows of our subsequently weaving all the romance and sweetness possible into life, and of making it as pretty as a little nursery story.
        Nietzsche, always eager for a practical and tangible idea, naturally could not accept these

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two definitions as expressing anything profound about life at all. Looking into the race of nature, and reading her history from the amoeba with its predatory pseudo-podia, to the lion with its murderous prehensile claws, he defined life practically, uprightly, and bravely, as "appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of its own forms, incorporation, and, at least, putting it mildest, exploitation." 1
        Thus, as we see, from the start Nietzsche closes his eyes at nothing, he does not want life to be a pretty tale if it is not one. He wants to know it as it is: for he is convinced that this is the only way of arriving at sound principles as to the manner in which human existence should be led.
        "Appropriation," then, he takes as a fact: he does not argue it away, any more than he tries to argue away "injury," "conquest of the strange and weak," "suppression," and "incorporation." These things are only too apparent, and he states them bravely in his definition. We know life is all this; but how much more comfortable it is, when we are sitting in our soft easy-chairs before our cheerful fires, to think that life is merely activity!

        1 G. E., p. 226.

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        To believe that there is a moral order in the universe is to believe that these unpleasant things in Nietzsche's definition will one day be overcome. This was the position Christianity assumed from the start. Put, though it was excusable in a religion fighting for power, and compelled to use nice and attractive words for its followers, to suppose that all the misery on earth will one day be transformed by God's wisdom into perfect bliss; such an attitude is quite unpardonable in the case of a philosopher or even of a poet. When Browning chanted smugly: "God's in His heaven: All's right with the world," he confessed himself a mediocre spirit with one stroke of the pen. And when Spencer wrote that the blind process of evolution "must inevitably favour all changes of nature which increase life and augment happiness," he did the same. We may now perhaps understand Nietzsche's impatience of his predecessors and contemporaries, who refused to see precisely what he saw in the face of nature.
        But even in his extended definition of life, the modern biologist brings himself no nearer to Nietzsche's honest standpoint, and for the following reasons:—
        The modern biologist says, this "activity" he speaks of has a precise meaning. It connotes

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"the struggle for existence," or in other words "self-defence." (Again he is looking at life through moral or Christian glasses; because if every thing on earth is done in self-defence, even the devil himself is argued out of existence, and God remains creator of the "good" alone.) Nietzsche replies by denying this flatly. He says that the definition is again inadequate. He warns us not to confound Malthus with nature. 1 He admits that the struggle occurs, but only as an exception. "The general aspect of life is not a state of want or hunger; it is rather a state of opulence, luxuriance, and even absurd prodigality — where there is a struggle, it is a struggle for power." Will to power and not will to live is the motive force of life.
        "Wherever I found living matter," he says, "I found will to power, and even in the servant I found the yearning to be master.
        "Only where there is life, there is will: though a not will to live, but thus I teach thee — WILL TO POWER." 2
        Is there no aggression without the struggle for existence? Is there no voluptuousness in a position of power for us own sake? Of course

        1 Twilight of the Idols, Part 9, Aph. 14.
        2 Z., pp. 136, 137.

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there is! And one wonders how these English biologists could ever have been schoolboys without noticing these facts. As Nietzsche points out, however, they are every one of them labouring under the Christian ideal still — in spite of all their upsetting of the first chapter of Genesis, and in spite of all their blasting of the miracles. Put, if life is the supreme aim of all, how is it that many things are valued higher than life by living beings? If the will to live sometimes finds itself overpowered by another will — more particularly in great warriors, great prophets, great artists, and great heroes — what is this mightier force which thus overpowers it? We have heard what Nietzsche calls it — it is the Will to Power.
        "Psychologists should bethink themselves before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength — life itself is Will to Power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results thereof." 1
        In spite of everything we have already said, Nietzsche's disagreement with our own biologists may still seem to many but a play upon words. A moment's meditation, however — more particu-

        1 G. E., p. 20.

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larly over the passage just quoted — will show that it is really much deeper than this. It is one thing to regard an animal as a mere automaton, prowling around to satisfy its hunger, and happy to remain inactive when the sensation of hunger is appeased, and quite another to regard an animal as a battery of accumulated forces which must be discharged at all costs (and for good or evil), with only temporary lapses of purely self-preservative desires and self-preservative actions. All the different consequences of these two views will occur to the thinker in an instant.
        Upon this basis, then, the Will to Power, Nietzsche builds up a cosmogony which also assumes that species have been evolved; but again, in the processes of that evolution he is at variance with Darwin and all the natural-selectionists.
        Nietzsche cannot be persuaded that "mechanical adjustment to ambient conditions," or "adaptation to environment" — both purely passive, meek, and uncreative functions — should be given the importance, as determining factors, which the English and German schools give them. With Samuel Butler, he protests against this "pitchforking of mind and spirit out of the universe," and points imperatively to an inner creative will

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in living organisms, which ultimately makes environment and natural conditions subservient and subject. In the Genealogy of Morals 1 he makes it quite clear that he would ascribe the greatest importance to a power in the organism itself, to "the highest functionaries in the animal, in which the life-will appears as an active and formative principle," and that even in the matter of the mysterious occurrence of varieties (sports) he would seek for inner causes. Darwin himself threw out only a hint in this direction; that is why it is safe to suppose that, if Nietzsche and Darwin are ever reconciled, it will probably be precisely on this ground. In the Origin of Species, speaking of the causes of variability, Darwin said: ". . . There are two factors, namely the nature of the organism, and the nature of the conditions. The former seem to be much the more important, 2 for nearly similar variations sometimes arise under, as far as we can judge, dissimilar conditions; and on the other hand, dissimilar variations arise under conditions which appear to be uniform."
        Thus differing widely from the orthodox school of evolutionists, Nietzsche nevertheless believed

        1 Second Essay, Aph. 12.
        2 The italics are mine. — A. M. L.

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their hypothesis to be sound; but once more he has an objection to raise. Why did they halt where they halted?
        If the process is a fact, if things have become what they are, and have not always been so; then why should we rest on our oars? If it was possible for man to struggle up from barbarism, and still more remotely from the lower Primates, and reach the zenith of his physical development; why, Nietzsche asks, should he not surpass himself and attain to Superman by evolving in the same decree volitionally and mentally?
        "The most careful ask to-day: 'How is man preserved?' But Zarathustra asketh as the only and first one: 'How is man surpassed?' 1
        "All beings (in your genealogical ladder) have created something beyond themselves, and are ye going to be the ebb of this great tide?
        "Behold I teach you Superman!" 2
        And now, again, at the risk of being monotonous, I must point to yet another difference between Nietzsche and the prevailing school of evolutionists. Whereas the latter, in their unscrupulous optimism, believed that out of the chaotic play of blind forces something highly desirable and "good" would ultimately be evolved;

        1 Z., p. 351.
        2 Z., p. 6.

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whereas they tacitly, though not avowedly, believed that their "fittest" in the struggle for existence would eventually prove to be the best — in fact that we should "muddle through" to perfection somehow, and that something really noble and important would be sure to result from John Brown's contest with Harry Smith for the highest place in an insurance office, for instance; Nietzsche disbelieved from the bottom of his heart in this chance play of blind and meaningless tendencies. He said: Given a degenerate, mean, and base environment and the fittest to survive therein will be the man who is best adapted to degeneracy, meanness, and baseness — therefore the worst kind of man. Given a community of parasites, and it may be that the flattest, the slimiest, and the softest, will be the fittest to survive. Such faith in blind forces Nietzsche regarded merely as the survival of the old Christian belief in the moral order of things, fogged out in scientific apparel to suit modern tastes. He saw plainly, that if man were to be elevated at all, no blind struggle in his present conditions would ever effect that end; for the present conditions themselves make those the fittest to survive in them who are persons of absolutely undesirable gifts and propensities.

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        He declared (and here we are in the very heart of Nietzscheism) that nothing but a total change in these conditions, a complete transvaluation of all values, would ever alter man and make him more worthy of his past. For it is values, values, and again values, that mould men, and rear men, and create men; and ignoble values make ignoble men, and noble values make noble men! Thus it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, truth without end — for men.
        Nietzsche realised "all that could still be made out of man, through a favourable accumulation and augmentation of human powers and arrangements"; he knew "how unexhausted man still is for the greatest possibilities, and how often in the past the type man has stood in mysterious and dangerous crossways, and has launched forth upon the right or the wrong road, impelled merely by a whim, or by a hint from the giant Chance." 1 And now, he was determined that, whether man wished to listen or not, at least he should be told of the ultimate disaster that awaited him, if he continued in his present direction. For, there was yet time!
        It is to higher men that Nietzsche really makes his appeal, the leaders and misleaders of

        1 G. E., p. 130.

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the mob. He had no concern with the multitude and they did not need him. The world had seen philosophies enough which had advocated the cause of the "greatest number" — English libraries were stacked with such works. What was required was, to convert those rare men who give the direction — the heads of the various throngs — the vanguard.
        "Awake and listen, ye lonely ones! From the future, winds are coming with a gentle beating of wings, and there cometh good tidings for fine ears.
        "Ye lonely ones of to-day, ye who stand apart, ye shall one day be a people: from you, who have chosen yourselves, a chosen people shall arise and from it Superman." 1

        1 Z., p. 89.



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