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   34. THE VIRTUES THAT DAMAGE US   Next Section

The Virtues that Damage Us.  As members of communities we think we have no right to exercise certain virtues which afford us great honour and some pleasure as private individuals (for example, indulgence and favour towards miscreants of all kinds) — in short, every mode of action whereby the advantage of society would suffer through our virtue.  No bench of judges, face to face with its conscience, may permit itself to be gracious.  This privilege is reserved for the king as an individual, and we are glad when he makes use of it, proving that we should like to be gracious individually, but not collectively.  Society recognises only the virtues profitable to her, or at least not injurious to her — virtues like justice, which are exercised without loss, or, in fact, at compound interest.  The virtues that damage us cannot have originated in society, because even now opposition to them arises in every small society that is in the making.  Such virtues are therefore those of men of unequal standing, invented by the superior individuals; they are the virtues of rulers, and the idea underlying them is: "I am mighty enough to put up with an obvious loss; that is a proof of my power”.  Thus they are virtues closely akin to pride.  

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