Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten).

The Wanderer and his Shadow, the second supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1880.


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Previous Section   181. VANITY AS THE GREATEST UTILITY   Next Section

Vanity as the Greatest Utility.  Originally the strong individual uses not only Nature but even societies and weaker individuals as objects of rapine.  He exploits them, so far as he can, and then passes on.  As he lives from hand to mouth, alternating between hunger and superfluity, he kills more animals than he can eat, and robs and maltreats men more than is necessary.  His manifestation of power is at the same time one of revenge against his cramped and worried existence.  Furthermore, he wishes to be held more powerful than he is, and thus misuses opportunities; the accretion of fear that he begets being an accretion of power.  He soon observes that he stands or falls not by what he is but by what he is thought to be.  Herein lies the origin of vanity.  The man of power seeks by every means to increase others' faith in his power.  The thralls who tremble before him and serve him know, for their part, that they are worth just so much as they appear to him to be worth, and so they work with an eye to this valuation rather than to their own self satisfaction.  We know vanity only in its most weakened forms, in its idealisations and its small doses, because we live in a late and very emasculated state of society.  Originally vanity is the great utility, the strongest means of preservation.  And indeed vanity will be greater, the cleverer the individual, because an increase in the belief in power is easier than an increase in the power itself, but only for him who has intellect or (as must be the case under primitive conditions) who is cunning and crafty.  

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