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   57. INTERCOURSE WITH ANIMALS   Next Section

Intercourse with Animals.  The origin of our morality may still be observed in our relations with animals.  Where advantage or the reverse do not come into play, we have a feeling of complete irresponsibility. For example, we kill or wound insects or let them live, and as a rule think no more about it.  For example, we kill or wound insects or let them live, and as a rule think no more about it.  We are so clumsy that even our gracious acts towards flowers and small animals are almost always murderous: this does not in the least detract from our pleasure in them.  Today is the festival of the small animals, the most sultry day of the year.  There is a swarming and crawling around us, and we, without intention, but also without reflection, crush here and there a little fly or winged beetle.  If animals do us harm, we strive to annihilate them in every possible way. The means are often cruel enough, even without our really intending them to be so — it is the cruelty of thoughtlessness.  The means are often cruel enough, even without our really intending them to be so — it is the cruelty of thoughtlessness.  If they are useful, we turn them to advantage, until a more refined wisdom teaches us that certain animals amply reward a different mode of treatment, that of tending and breeding.  Here responsibility first arises.  Torturing is avoided in the case of the domestic animal.  One man is indignant if another is cruel to his cow, quite in accordance with the primitive communal morality, which sees the commonwealth in danger whenever an individual does wrong.  He who perceives any transgression in the community fears indirect harm to himself Thus we fear in this case for the quality of meat, agriculture, and means of communication if we see the domestic animals ill treated.  Moreover, he who is harsh to animals awakens a suspicion that he is also harsh to men who are weak, inferior, and incapable of revenge.  He is held to be ignoble and deficient in the finer form of pride.  Thus arises a foundation of moral judgments and sentiments, but the greatest contribution is made by superstition.  Many animals incite men by glances, tones, and gestures to transfer themselves into them in imagination, and some religions teach us, under certain circumstances, to see in animals the dwelling place of human and divine souls: whence they recommend a nobler caution or even a reverential awe in intercourse with animals.  Even after the disappearance of this superstition the sentiments awakened by it continue to exercise their influence, to ripen and to blossom.  Christianity, as is well known, has shown itself in this respect a poor and retrograde religion.  
 

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