Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
This work by the philosopher Neitzsche doesn’t quite live up to the promise, implied in its title, of providing a deep and coherent understanding of ethics that transcends the normal cateogories of good and evil. For its time, it was likely a revolutionary overturning of traditional Judeo-Christian values, but a lot of the content is rambling in nature, veering off into all sorts of peripheral avenues, including a large section on Neitzsche’s view of women – which is particularly hard to accept in today’s world. Nevertheless, the book had its moments of brilliance, and provided some very quotable quotes (some of which are darkly humourous):
Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule.
Not their love of humanity, but the impotence of their love, prevents the Christians of today – burning us.
Christianity gave Eros poison to drink; he did not die of it, certainly, but degenerated to Vice.
Neitzche views morality as man-made, consisting of master morality and slave morality – those who lead, making use of what he terms the Will to Power, and those who wish only to be led.
“Exploitation” does not belong to a depraved, or imperfect and primitive society. It belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary organic function, it is a consequence of the intrinsic Will to Power, which is precisely the Will to Life.
On whatever points we may disagree with Nietzche, he was clearly a very self-realised person, willing to look at human nature without masking it in self-delusion or wishful thinking. Not the best book I have read on ethics, but valuable nonetheless.