Beyond Good and Evil (German: Jenseits von Gut und Böse; subtitled "Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future" (German: Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft)) is a book by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, first published in 1886. It takes up and expands on the ideas of his previous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but approached from a more critical, polemical direction.
In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche accuses past philosophers of lacking critical sense and blindly accepting Christian premises in their consideration of morality. The work moves into the realm "beyond good and evil" in the sense of leaving behind the traditional morality which Nietzsche subjects to a destructive critique in favour of what he regards as an affirmative approach that fearlessly confronts the perspectival nature of knowledge and the perilous condition of the modern individual.
The work consists of 296 numbered sections and an "epode" (or "aftersong") entitled "From High Mountains". The sections are organized into nine parts:
Part One: On the Prejudices of Philosophers
Part Two: The Free Spirit
Part Three: The Religious Essence
Part Four: Maxims and Interludes
Part Five: On the Natural History of Morals
Part Six: We Scholars
Part Seven: Our Virtues
Part Eight: Peoples and Fatherlands
Part Nine: What is Noble?
In the opening two parts of the book, Nietzsche discusses in turn the philosophers of the past, whom he accuses of a blind dogmatism plagued by moral prejudice masquerading as a search for objective truth; and the "free spirits", like himself, who are to replace them.
He casts doubt on the project of past philosophy by asking why we should want the "truth" rather than recognizing untruth "as a condition of life." He offers an entirely psychological explanation of every past philosophy: each has been an "involuntary and unconscious memoir" on the part of its author (§6) and exists to justify his moral prejudices, which he solemnly baptizes as "truths".
In one passage (§34), Nietzsche writes that "from every point of view the erroneousness of the world in which we believe we live is the surest and firmest thing we can get our eyes on". Philosophers are wrong to rail violently against the risk of being deceived. "It is no more than a moral prejudice that truth is worth more than appearance". Life is nothing without appearances; it appears to Nietzsche that it follows from this that the abolition of appearances would imply the abolition of "truth" as well. In an even more extreme leap of logic, Nietzsche is led to ask the question, "what compels us to assume there exists any essential antithesis between 'true' and 'false'?"
Nietzsche singles out the Stoic precept of "living according to nature" (§9) as showing how philosophy "creates the world in its own image" by trying to regiment nature "according to the Stoa". But nature, as something uncontrollable and "prodigal beyond measure", cannot be tyrannized over in the way Stoics tyrannize over themselves. Further, there are forceful attacks on several individual philosophers. Descartes' cogito presupposes that there is an I, that there is such an activity as thinking, and that I know what thinking is (§16). Spinoza masks his "personal timidity and vulnerability" by hiding behind his geometrical method (§5), and inconsistently makes self-preservation a fundamental drive while rejecting teleology (§13). Kant, "the great Chinaman of Königsberg" (§210), reverts to the prejudice of an old moralist with his categorical imperative, the dialectical grounding of which is a mere smokescreen (§5). His "faculty" to explain the possibility of synthetic a priori judgements is likened to the explanation of the narcotic quality of opium in terms of a "sleepy faculty" in Molière's comedy Le Malade imaginaire. Schopenhauer is mistaken in thinking that the nature of the will is self-evident (§19), which is in fact a highly complex instrument of control over those who must obey, not transparent to those who command.