Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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The Theory of the Sense of Power.

We exercise our power over others by doing them good or by doing them ill - that is all we care for!  Doing ill to those on whom we have to make our power felt; for pain is a far more sensitive means for that purpose than pleasure: pain always asks concerning the cause, while pleasure is inclined to keep within itself and not look backward.  Doing good and being kind to those who are in any way already dependent on us (that is, who are accustomed to think of us as their raison d 'etre) - we want to increase their power because we thus increase our own, or we want to show them the advantage there is in being in our power. Thus they thus become more contented with their position, and more hostile to the enemies of our power and readier to contend with them.  If we make sacrifices in doing good or in doing ill, it does not alter the ultimate value of our actions; even if we stake our life in the cause, as martyrs do for the sake of our church : it is a sacrifice to our longing for power, or for the purpose of conserving our sense of power.  He who under these circumstances feels that he "is in possession of the truth” - how many possessions will he not give up in order to keep this feeling.  What does he not throw overboard, in order to keep himself "on top” - that is to say, above the others who lack "the truth”!  Certainly the condition we are in when we do ill is seldom so pleasant as that in which we practise kindness.  It is a sign that we we still lack power, or it betrays ill-humour at this defect in us; it brings with it new dangers and uncertainties as to the power we already possess, and clouds our horizon by the prospect of revenge, scorn, punishment and failure.  Perhaps only those most susceptible to the sense of power and eager for it, will prefer to impress the seal of power on the resisting individual.  Those to whom the sight of the already subjugated person as the object of benevolence is a burden and a tedium.  It is a question how a person is accustomed season his life; it is a matter of taste whether a person would rather have the slow or the sudden to safe or the dangerous and daring increase of power -he seeks this or that seasoning always according to his temperament.  An easy prey is something contemptible to proud natures; they have an agreeable sensation only at the sight of men of unbroken spirit who could be enemies to them, and similarly, also, at the sight of any not easily accessible possession; they are often hard toward the sufferer, for he is not worthy of their effort or their pride, but they show themselves so much the more courteous towards their equals, with whom strife and struggle would in any case be full of honour, if at any time an occasion for it should present itself.  It is under the agreeable feelings of this perspective that the members of the knightly caste have habituated themselves to exquisite courtesy toward one another.  Pity is the most pleasant feeling in those who have not much pride, and have no prospect of great conquests: the easy prey - and that is what every sufferer is - is for them an enchanting thing.  Pity is praised as the virtue of prostitues.  
 

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