Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak:  Reflections on Moral Prejudice. Morgenröte: Gedanken über die moralischen Vorurteile (also could be translated as The Dawn).

Written and published in 1881.

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In comparison with the present mode of life of whole millennia of mankind we present—day men live in a very immoral age: the power of custom is astonishingly enfeebled and the moral sense so rarefied and lofty it may be described as having more or less evaporated.  That is why the fundamental insights into the origin of morality are so difficult for us latecomers and even when we have acquired them we find it impossible to enunciate them because they sound so uncouth or because they seem to slander morality!  This is for example already the case with the chief proposition: morality is nothing other (therefore no more!)  than obedience to customs of whatever kind they may be; customs however are the traditional way of behaving and evaluating.  In things in which no tradition commands there is no morality; and the less life is determined by tradition the smaller the circle of morality.  The free human being is immoral because in all things he is determined to depend upon himself and not upon a tradition: in all the original conditions of mankind "evil" signifies the same as "individual" "free" "capricious" "unusual" "unforeseen" "incalculable.  " Judged by the standard of these conditions if an action is performed not because tradition commands it but for other motives (because of its usefulness to the individual for example) even indeed for precisely the motives which once founded the tradition it is called immoral and is felt to be so by him who performed it: for it was not performed in obedience to tradition.  What is tradition?  A higher authority which one obeys not because it commands what is useful to us but because it commands.  What distinguishes this feeling in the presence of tradition from the feeling of fear in general?  It is fear in the presence of a higher intellect which here commands of an incomprehensible indefinite power of something more than personal—there is superstition in this fear.  Originally all education and care of health marriage cure of sickness agriculture war speech and silence traffic with one another and with the gods belonged within the domain of morality: they demanded one observe prescriptions without thinking of oneself as an individual.  Originally therefore everything was custom and whoever wanted to elevate himself above it had to become a lawgiver and medicine man and a kind of demi—god: that is to say he had to make customs—a dreadful mortally dangerous thing!  Who is the most moral man?  First he who obeys the law most frequently: who like the Brahmin bears a consciousness of the law with him everywhere and into every minute division of time so that he is continually inventive in creating opportunities for obeying the law.  Then he who obeys it even in the most difficult cases.  The most moral man is he who makes the greatest sacrifices to morality; but what are the greatest sacrifices?  In answering this question several different kinds of morality will be developed: but the distinction between the morality of the most frequent obedience and the morality of the most difficult obedience is of the greatest importance.  Let us not be deceived as to the motives of that moral law which requires as an indication of morality obedience to custom in the most difficult cases!  Self-conquest is required not by reason of its useful consequences for the individual; but that custom and tradition may appear to be dominant in spite of all individual counter desires and advantages.  The individual shall sacrifice himself—so demands the morality of custom.  On the other hand those moralists who following in the footsteps of Socrates offer the individual a morality of self-control and temperance as a means to his own advantage as his personal key to happiness are the exceptions—and if it seems otherwise to us that is because we have been brought up in their after effect: they all take a new path under the highest disapprobation of all advocates of the morality of custom—they cut themselves off from the community as immoral men and are in the profoundest sense evil.  Thus to a virtuous Roman of the old stamp every Christian who "considered first of all his own salvation" appeared—evil.  Wherever a community exists and consequently also a morality of custom the feeling prevails that any punishment for the violation of a custom is inflicted above all on the community: this punishment is a supernatural punishment the manifestations and limits of which are so difficult to understand and are investigated with such superstitious fear.  The community can compel any one member of it to make good either to an individual or to the community itself any ill consequences which may have followed upon such a member's action.  It can also call down a sort of vengeance upon the head of the individual by endeavouring to show that as the result of his action a storm of divine anger has burst over the community—but above all it regards the guilt of the individual more particularly as its own guilt and bears the punishment of the isolated individual as its own punishment—" Morals" they bewail in their innermost heart "morals have grown lax if such deeds as these are possible.  " Every individual action every individual mode of thought arouses dread; it is impossible to compute what precisely the rarer choicer more original spirits in the whole course of history have had to suffer through being felt as evil and dangerous indeed through feeling themselves to be so.  Under the dominion of the morality of custom originality of every kind has acquired a bad conscience; the sky above the best men is for this reason to this very moment gloomier than it need be.  
 

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