Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches), subtitled A Book for Free Spirits (Ein Buch für freie Geister).

First published in 1878.   A second part, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), was published in 1879, and a third part, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten), followed in 1880.

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Previous Section   96. CUSTOM AND MORALITY   Next Section

CUSTOM AND MORALITY.  To be moral, correct, and virtuous is to be obedient to an old established law and custom.  Whether we submit with difficulty or willingly is immaterial, enough that we do so.  He is called "good" who, as if naturally, after long precedent, easily and willingly, therefore, does what is right, according to whatever this may be (as, for instance, taking revenge, if to take revenge be considered as right, as amongst the ancient Greeks).  He is called good because he is good "for something"; but as goodwill, pity, consideration, moderation, and such like, have come, with the change in manners, to be looked upon as "good for something”, as useful, the good natured and helpful have, later on, come to be distinguished specially as "good".  (In the beginning other and more important kinds of usefulness stood in the foreground.)  To be evil is to be "not moral" (immoral), to be immoral is to be in opposition to tradition, however sensible or stupid it may be; injury to the community (the "neighbour" being understood thereby) has, however, been looked upon by the social laws of all different ages as being eminently the actual "immorality” so that now at the word "evil" we immediately think of voluntary injury to one's neighbour.  The fundamental antithesis which has taught man the distinction between moral and immoral, between good and evil, is not the "egoistic" and "unegoistic” but the being bound to the tradition, law, and solution thereof.  How the tradition has arisen is immaterial, at all events without regard to good and evil or any immanent categorical imperative, but above all for the purpose of preserving a community, a generation, an association, a people; every superstitious custom that has arisen on account of some falsely explained accident, creates a tradition, which it is moral to follow; to separate one's self from it is dangerous, but more dangerous for the community than for the individual (because the Godhead punishes the community for every outrage and every violation of its rights, and the individual only in proportion).  Now every tradition grows continually more venerable, the farther off lies its origin, the more this is lost sight of; the generation paid it accumulates from generation to generation, the tradition at last becomes holy and excites awe; and thus in any case the morality of piety is a much older morality than that which requires un egoistic actions.  

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