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Nietzsche on Ressentiment and Valuation Author(s): Bernard Reginster Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 57, No. 2 (Jun., 1997), pp. 281-305 Published by: International Phenomenological Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2953719 . Accessed: 25/01/2011 17:01
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Philosophyand Phenomenological Research
Vol. LVII, No. 2, June 1997
Nietzsche on Ressentiment and
The paper examines Nietzsche's claim that valuations born out of a psychological condition he calls "ressentiment" are objectionable. It argues for a philosophically sound construal of this type of criticism, according to which the criticism is directed at the agent who holds values out of ressentiment, ratherthan at those values themselves. After presentingan analysis of ressentiment,the paper examines its impact on valuation and concludes with an inquiry into Nietzsche's reasons for claiming that ressentiment valuation is "corrupt."Specifically, the paper proposes that ressentiment valuation involves a form of self-deception, that such self-deception is objectionable because it undermines the integrity of the self, and that the lack of such integrity ensnares the agent in a peculiar kind of practical inconsistency. The paper ends with a brief review of the problems and prospects of this interpretation.
I. INTRODUCTION In a well-known passage of the Preface to On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche writes that the book aims to answer two questions: "underwhat conditions did man devise these value judgments good and evil? and what value do they themselves possess?" (GM, Preface, 3).1 He also insists that determiningthe origin of moral values is only a "means"to addresshis "real concern," namely, "the value of morality"(GM, Preface, 5; cf. 6). In other
I will use the following standardabbreviationsto refer to Nietzsche's works: A = TheAntichrist BGE = Beyond Good and Evil
D = Daybreak EH = Ecce Homo GM = On the Genealogy of Morals GS = The Gay Science
HTH = Human,All Too Human WP = The Will to Power Z = Thus Spoke Zarathustra All the translationsare Walter Kaufmann's, except The Antichrist and Daybreak translated by R. J. Hollingdale.
ON AND VALUATION 281 NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT
Ressentiment. Nietzsche himself suggests. "Ressentiment"in Nietzsche. the normativedifficulties of a critique in terms of psychological origins in general. This is not to say that the notion of ressentimentitself has been completely overlooked in the literature. The present study will focus on the impact of ressentiment on valuation. Curiously enough. Schacht ed. of California Press: Berkeley. and of ressentiment in particular. III.2 Nietzsche's central claim is that moral values are born out of a peculiar It condition he calls "ressentiment.to which the book's first essay is devoted. 1994). it makes bold. 11). London. GM. the feeling of moral guilt. (U. 27-28 ).has been almost enI tirely neglected by his interpreters. sweeping claims about the history of Westernculture. 4-5. C IV. I. 2. given its centrality. he unequivocally maintainsthat the three central phenomenathat constitute. 11-12).England. II. modern moralitythe distinction between good and evil. Rudiger Bittner. 127- 282 BERNARD REGINSTER .words. 'On the Genealogy of Morals'. The Genealogy insistently calls for historical accuracy (see GM. pp. W. C II. though the actual history Nietzsche does in the Genealogy is of questionable value. however.Nietzsche's psychological critique of morality. My own tentative view is that. the genealogy is primarily a critique: it seeks to assess the value of moral value judgmentsby determiningtheirorigin. passim.and producesdocumentsand etymological analyses to support them (see GM. Preface. Morality. 15. Los Angeles. and the ascetic ideal-all have their origin in ressentiment (see. respectively.if at all.The most notable contributions are Max Scheler. W. 17n) or for major flaws in their historical methodology (see GM.-This book contains the first psychology of the priest. 1961). The Ethics of an Immoralist [HarvardUniversity Press: Cambridge. and castigates other historians of morality for their lack of "historical spirit" (see GM.Nevertheless." is hardto overestimatethe importanceof this notion in the Genealogy as a whole: althoughNietzsche does not always develop his views with the requiredclarity. 1961) and Gilles Deleuze. 7). III. 1995]. though I remain uncertain about Berkowitz's own proposal that Nietzsche "poeticizes" history in order to present essentially ethical views (Nietzsche. my emphasis) A genealogy of moral value judgmentsthus consists of an inquiryinto theirpsychological origin.Nietzsche's Voice (Cornell University Press: Ithaca. I agree with Peter Berkowitz that he must have had other objectives.Massachussets/London. Nietzsche et la Philosophie (PUF: Paris. At first sight. most of the (still few) studies of the notion of ressentiment fail to address adequately. (Schocken Books: New York. 1990). In more recent literature. his claim that it originatesin ressentiment. the fact that a genealogical critique has a historical character is of considerable significance." (EH. that this emphasis on history is somewhat misleading: the Genealogy's three essays are "studiesby a psychologist for a revaluationof all values. II. I. pp. We will see that the diagnosis of a condition like ressentimentwould simply be impossible without a history of the psychological development of the agent and of his/her value judgments. as there is such a great discrepancy between the historical documentation he calls for 'and the one he actually produces. Genealogy. R. 11. I.we find Henry Staten. the origins in which Nietzsche is interested are essentially historical.3 believe this negligence might be exIt is hard to believe that Nietzsche's insistence on historical scholarship in the Preface reflects his actual intentions. II. Holdheim trans. in his view. 4-5).
R. as there is significant (though not unambiguous) evidence that he ratherleaned towards non-cognitivism on this matter (see. Alexander Nehamas. a traitNietzsche regardsas essential to of "nobility" character. The psychological origin of a judgment permits no inference concerning the truth of its content or the scope of its validity. he questions the value of pity and of the democratic ideal of justice. Even if a psychological inquiry could establish that the belief in the value of pity originates in ressentiment. (Anchor Books: New York. that would still say nothing about whether or not pity is valuable. their truth or the scope of their validity. 95-126.See. then at what level does it operate?I will argue that Nietzsche's psychological critiqueof valuejudgmentsis ultimatelynot fallacious because it concerns not the value judgments themselvesbut the psychological state of the agent whose value judgments are born out of ressentiment. But if it does not pertain either to value theory or to metaethics. at least. such an agent-whom Nietzsche calls "the man of ressentiment"-is he "corrupted": lacks integrityof self. C VII.C. "One Hundred Years of Ressentiment: Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals" in Ibid. 1974). Solomon ed.C. 156-68. Nietzsche's psychological critiqueis deplorably wrongheaded. Number 11. Specifically. Massachusetts/London. Philippa Foot. it is downrightfallacious.. 38. for example. Nietzsche. A collection of critical essays. 1991). Truthand Value in Nietzsche (University Press of America:WashingtonD. Nietzsche challenges some of our most deeply held beliefs about what is valuable. and more recently in "Nietzsche's Immoralism"in The New YorkReview of Books (Vol. for instance. C I. After Virtue (U. pp. Indeed. C 9. if it is concerned with the value judgments themselves. he opposes widespreadviews concerningthe natureand the scope of validity of moraljudgments. 1985).plained by the fact that the very idea of a psychological critique of morality has caused commentatorsconsiderable philosophical embarrassment. 4 5 AND VALUATION NIETZSCHEON RESSENTIMENT 283 . 1973). 1981). Of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame.5Thus he arguesthat they have no legitimate claim to universalvalidity. Thus.. questionable. Robert Solomon. and whether or not it is a value for all people irrespective of their particular circumstances. England. seen as an instance of either one of them. emphasizes this aspect of Nietzsche's critique of morality in "Nietzsche: The Revaluationof Values" in Nietzsche.4For example. At the metaethical level. is This line of interpretation predominantin the literature. Alasdair MacIntyre. At the level of value theory.Nietzsche's attack on morality is customarilyseen as taking place at one or both of two levels.And this is. John Wilcox. XXXVIII. Life as Literature(HarvardUniversity Press: Cambridge. Admittedly. my diagnosis of the philosophical difficulty caused by Nietzsche's psychological critique as well as my proposed solution to it presuppose that he espouses a kind of cognitivism aboutmoraljudgments. The view that morality is objectionablebecause it originates in ressentiment does not fit well with either of these two familiar forms of criticism. pp.
Nevertheless. this would not. 284 BERNARD REGINSTER . that the validity of any judgment. I will suggest that integrity is not an externalvalue.I lay the groundwork an understanding Nietzsche's critique of morality. again. for example." "needs. which would constitute. but. 388) or.e. suggests precisely the interpretation I propose: Nietzsche's psychological critiqueof value judgmentsis directedtowardsthe agents who hold these judgments rather than towards the judgments themselves. desires or interests.see BGE.and that amountsto showing that there is something wrong with the agent's psyche. It is therefore always internal to the perspective of the agent who pursueshis needs. This. III. in a sense. will also limit myself to an analysis of the phenomenonof ressentiment and an examination of its impact on valuation. however.. if only implicitly. see also WP. VI. 373). I will say very 6 This is notably true. TI. affect the interpretation I propose. Nietzsche remindsus. "ressentiment" (GM. 260). 10) or "richness of personality" (WP. on the contrary. norms or values that transcend the perspective of the agent who espouses them. III. 16) or the self-interest of the weak (BGE. showing that the origin of a given value judgment is objectionable will not necessarily result in its wholesale rejection.g. is relative to the perspective formed by the "affects. in the thirdessay of the Genealogy.a value to which anyone who seeks to satisfy needs. the "origin" of these judgments. This line of interpretation. of the judgment that compassion is good: it might express genuine "nobility" (GM. I do not attemptto answer the furtherand difficult questions of whetherand why specificallymoral valuationsare inspiredby ressentiment. I think. 293. including presumablyany value judgment. 1). 481). But the view that ressentimentis objectionablebecause it undermines the integrity of the self (the interpretationI propose) seems to presuppose just such an external norm or value. desires or interestsis committed necessarily. To dispel this worry. The questions addressedin this paper logically precede these further ones." "desires" and "interests"of the agent who endorses it (GM. merely exposing what attitude a given judgment expresses will not amount to a critique of it. Furthermore. and they are difficultenough. 12. According to perspectivism. Before I begin. I limit myself to an examination of the psychological natureof this critiqueas it is directedagainstvaluationsmotivatedby ressentiment in general. there are no external norms or values. One must show what is wrong with this attitude. I. 18. For a general statementof this ambiguity.6 Hence. and only one. self-contempt (Z. WP. immediately generates another difficulty. I should mention some of the limitations of the present of for study. I Furthermore. psychological attitude which it is meant to express. that is. on the contrary. In this paper.Nietzsche certainly does not believe that any given value judgment is wedded to one. Even if moraljudgments are nothing more than the expression of psychological attitudes. II.
and I examine the peculiarnatureof Nietzsche's psychological criticism. I."and the "slave"which he introducedand developed in works priorto the Genealogy (HTH. but we will see that their valuing political power is not essential to their possessing a noble character. I do not believe it is impossible. I will therefore not attempt to assess the empirical correctness of Nietzsche's claim that Christianvalues actually are born out of ressentiment. namely a detailedanalysis of the phenomenonto be diagnosed. cf. 16]). 257-58). They are now sociopolitical categories. In the final section. the Genealogy adds a new crucial refinement:it suggests that. I. The paper comprises three main parts. BGE. 45. RESSENTIMENT 1. I will consider the categories of "noble"and "slave"in theirsocio-political sense as elements in the illustration of an essentially psychological view which makes use of the same notionsto denote specific charactertypes.little about the problems posed by the diagnosis of concrete cases of ressentiment.7 Accordingly. and consequently develop a pervasive 7 One consequence of this fact is worth noting. Nietzsche makes clear that nobility as a type of character is "the case that concerns us here"(GM. and now charactertypes. cf. We know from these early descriptionsthat the good life as the noble mastersconceive of it includes "political superiority": "the noble felt themselves to be men of a higher rank"(GM. two subgroups compete for political superiority. within the noble class. I. Nietzsche's use of the notions of "(noble) master"and "slave" is ambiguous. But it demands.what I endeavourto providehere. as well as the sources of its normativeforce. 260)."are defeated by the "powerful physicality" and "overflowing health" of the knights. The noble mastersvalue political supremacy qua noble in the socio-political sense. The socio-political predicament of the agent who exemplifies a character-typemight (but need not) contributeto his developing a characterof that type.as a necessarypropaedeutic. also 6. then turn to the impact of ressentiment on valuation. I will first propose an analysis of ressentiment. 5."Leaving aside the question of the historical plausibility of this example (Nietzsche alludes to the war between the Romans ("knights")and the Jewish ("priestly")people [GM. 5. 6). I want to draw out some of its psychological lessons. Although the task of diagnosis can often be difficult. namely the "knights"and the "priests." "noble. BGE. To the fundamentaldistinction between noble and slaves. A slave from the socio-political standpointmight well develop a noble character. I present the reasons why ressentiment valuation is essentially corrupt. who are physically "weak" and "unhealthy. The importantfact is that the priests. Mastersand Slaves Nietzsche startshis analysis of ressentimentby refininga distinctionbetween or the types of the "master. I. NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT VALUATION 285 ON AND .
in any case inferior in that respect to their rivals. 359. ibid. Though Nietzsche is unclear on this issue. the priests (GM. 7). From this overview of Nietzsche' s example.ratherthanphysical.The noble knights seem to be generally intellectually deficient. 286 BERNARD REGINSTER . I.) which arises out of the First. The priest's sickliness does not eradicate his "lust to rule. But this does not spawn a feeling of impotence because they do not see this deficiency as the incapacityto realize theirvalues-indeed they do not seem to regard it as a weakness at all. Second. This observationwill have important implications for our understandingof Nietzsche's psychological critique. common forms of moral criticism (see Op. the hatred the priest harborstowards his victorious rivals.in differentcircumstances. I. ing. instead of temporarilylacking the strengthhe customarilyhas. 7). 359). First. Some featuresof the example need to be emphasized.sense of "impotence"(GM. the feeling of impotence is not a temporarystate of mind caused by an accidentalreversal of fortune.Cit. GS. 52 ff. 6-7). I will argue that. for that very reason. the priest evidently refuses to accept. his impotence. the "manof ressentiment"desires to lead a certainkind of life. 6). the knights. I. What troubles them in cases where such a discrepancy occurs. The weakness of the priests creates their feeling of impotence only because they hold it responsible for the loss of their political supremacy. as it would in the case of resignation. is not the discrepancy itself.It must ratherhave become an essential featureof one's self-assessment:the agent sees himself as irremediablyweak. Accordingly. 6). on the contrary. But there is no reason to think that.8 Second. I. we can derive the fundamentalfeaturesof ressentiment. or resign himself to. "grows to monstrous and uncanny proportions"(GM.. WP. which he deems valuable: thus the priest. She remarks that philosophers such as Kant and Augustine are well-aware of the possibility of discrepancy between professed and actual motivations. Furthermore. but the presence of immoral motives. precisely result from intellectual impotence (see A.It is a state of "repressed vengefulness" combination of the following elements. 154). p. Finally. his analysis of ressentiment(as I understandit here) presupposes that the priest believes he has tried everything he could thinkof to regain power and failed. a member of the nobility. values a life that includes political supremacy. he comes to recognize his 8 Nietzsche explicitly suggests that certain forms of Christianity (presumably fideism). 22). the salience of physical strength and weakness is a purely contingent aspect of Nietzsche's example. which (see GS. but as evidence of his constitutional impotence (GM. "incurable" hibits any furtherattemptto recoverpolitical power.." but ratherthan subsidonly makes it "moredangerous"(GM.the feeling of impotencewould not be created by intellectual. I.he does not see his defeat as a fluke. (GM.Nietzsche is fundamentally concerned with the discrepancy. It thereforeinappearsto be. however. weakness. Philippa Foot assimilates it to older. which involve the condemnationof certainintellectualvirtues.
complete inability to fulfill this aspiration:he becomes "inhibited"by his "weakness"or "impotence. and this is the thirdelement. I.The soul of the "manof ressentiment"is torn by a tremendoustension between his desire to live the life he values and his belief that he is unable to satisfy it. in addition. Expectations. an importantfeature of the priest's predicamentmakes resignation to political inferiority all but impossible. the priest expects to enjoy political superiority. 15. Such a resignationwould have to be quite radical:it would not simply consist in relinquishingone way of life he values but feels incapable of living to adopt anotherwhich he finds just as valuable. he also attached no other value to himself than his masters attachedto him" (BGE. neitherof which is chosen by the "manof ressentiment. I. This alone would offer a formidableincentive to resist resignation. it should be rememberedfeel "themselvesto be of a higherrank"(GM. Such is the attitude of the slave: "not at all used to positing values himself. the priests fundamentallyexpect to live the sort of life they find valuable. It is this thirdfeaturewhich distinguishes ressentimentfrom other related attitudes. his retains his or "arrogance" his "lust to rule" (GM. cf. a life that includes political superiority. as I understandthe notion in this context. Resignation. 261). 359). The attitudecharacteristic the slave is his resignationto a worthless way of life. and his "will to power" remains "intact" (GM. GS. whereby Nietzsche suggests that he maintains his commitmentto his original values. The noble. Thus the slave accepts his masters' high estimation of the noble life and theirlow estimationof himself.Accepting their impotence and inferiorityis all but im- AND VALUATION NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT ON 287 ." 2. The situationis quite differentwith the priests who belong-and we must underlinethis fact-to the nobility (GM. and refuses to accept his inability to realize them. Nietzsche suggests that. III. It is ratherthe renunciationof the kind of life he values most and the acceptanceof the unredeemable shame which goes with global failure.reflectiverevaluationand ressentiment First of all. 5). are essentially relative to the agent's estimation of himself. the agent who is convinced of his impotence could simply resign himself to it."Yet. Like other noble. or retains his original pretensions. 6-7). but unlike the slaves. in Nietzsche's example. But this tension may spawn a variety of different attitudes. I. As a member of the nobility. I can think of two obvious ways of alleviating such a tension. and thereforenever even forms the expecof tation to live the life his mastersvalue. An agent might believe that a certain sort of life is worth living and yet not expect to be able to live it because he has a very low estimationof himself. 6). of his abilities and standing. which is.At first blush.
Yet. since he accepts the noble conception of the "order of things. in Nietzsche's own example. cannot allethe viate the tension between his desire for political supremacy and his felt inability to fulfill it in any of the two obvious ways I just described. The agent's estimation of himself. that it does not have the value we hitherto attributedto it. The explanation for this might simply be that no betterway of life can present itself to his reflection. 5]) that the likelihood of its reflective rejection is very small: after all. it will usually be the standardfor the revision of other values found to be incompatiblewith it. upon reflection.9 Another obvious way to resolve the tension would be to abandon the values which we are unable to realize througha process I will call 'reflective revaluation. along with other similar ones.' We reflectively abandon a certain end when we realize.This observation. 7) 9 The notion of expectation is introducedto explain why the priest and the slave react differently to their inability to satisfy a desire they nonetheless share. The slave does not develop such an expectation precisely for the same reason. the "man of ressentiment. the distinctivemarkof nobility is to feel oneself "of a higher rank"[GM. What. For this alone was appropriateto a priestly people. for example. (GM. is left to the individualin the throes of ressentiment?The priests. For example.I. Presumably. does not reflectively abandon the values of the nobility. in opposing their enemies and conquerors were ultimately satisfied with nothing less than a radical revaluationof their enemies' values.possible for the priestsprecisely because it clashes with theirmost fundamental expectation. if possible. political superiorityis so central a value of noble morality (again. the people embodying the most deeply repressed priestly vengefulness. Reflective revaluation could be seen as starting with the discovery of an inconsistency in our system of values. an act of the most spiritual revenge. The "manof ressentiment. We might assume that." Unfortunately. I. it spurs growth and maturation. But our reflection soon turns out cases where suffering is actually good insofar as. might eventually lead us to conclude that alleviatingthe sufferingsof othersis not always good. the resolution of this inconsistency is ultimatelyguided by those values that are most centralto the system and therefore most costly to give up. Nietzsche writes. that is to say." The priest expects to share in the attributes of nobility because it is somehow in the "order of things" that he should. BERNARD REGINSTER 288 . is a valuable end because we assume that suffering in all its forms is bad.Nietzsche offers no account of the origin of this feeling of entitlement: he only distinguishespsychological types in terms of its presence or absence. eliminating the pain of those who suffer. we might think that alleviating or." the priest of the Genealogy. must be understoodin terms of a feeling of entitlement which is related to a general conception of an "orderof things. then. which fosters or undermines expectations." priest of Nietzsche's example.
I. in Beyond Good and Evil. 10). the "manof ressentiment" recourseto a quite peculiarform of revaluation which I will call 'ressentimentrevaluation. 186). 6-7). blindly accepts his masters' values-and this is. I believe that Nietzsche saw a profound affinity between the "priestlytype" and ressentimentfor a number of reasons of which I will mention only the most importantones. the slave does not create values. 7). a privilege which belongs exclusively to the masters(cf. Nevertheless. Nietzsche suggests. 10)." 289 AND VALUATION NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT ON . I.. RESSENTIMENT AND EVALUATION Someone who values political power above all but loses it through defeat will naturallyseek revenge as a way to restorehis challenged superiority. GM. I.what makes him a "slave" (in the psychological sense) in the first place. 7-8). 260). BGE.' Before I turn to the analysis of ressentiment revaluation.11 II. and so presumablyfavors the "slave"or the "commonman. is "the self-deception of impotence" 10 Nietzsche describes the account of master and slave moralities he offers in Beyond Good and Evil as a "typology" (BGE. The source of this repressionis the feeling of im"submerged" potence: ressentiment. These two notions are introducedtogether in the account of the Genealogy. in particularthe origin of slave morality. I. as Nietzsche repeatedly insists.g. Nietzsche appears to maintain that ressentiment revaluation is a "slave revolt" (e.Nietzsche writes. The so-called "slave morality"is not the system of values which the slave does create. or (GM. and not a "genealogy": it merely records the differences between the two moralities. but which he would create. I. they regard themselves as the "chosen people. but because it consists in negating "noble values" (see GM. arguably."But there is abundantevidence that the revolt was in fact lead by the (Jewish) priests. Nietzsche had alreadyoffered an account master and slave moralities from which both the notion of ressentiment of and the type of the priest are conspicuously absent (BGE. which suggests thatNietzsche sees an intimateconnectionbetween them. albeit an essentially one "unhealthy" (GM. The slave.10 Ressentiment revaluationcannot be the work of the slaves. 260). Ressentimentrevaluationis a "slave revolt" not because it was fomented by the slaves. on the mere "supposition"he were capable to do so (BGE. The choice of the Jewish people as a paradigmaticinstance of a "priestlypeople" makes the connection between priestliness and nobility particularlyevident.But in the "man of ressentiment" vengefulness is "repressed"(GM. for. after all. I should offer some supportfor my claim that Nietzsche's "priest"is the personificationof the "man of ressentiment."This is controversialbecause.has So. First. on more than one occasion. but does not explain their origin. The Jewish people share the noble feeling "to be of a higher rank"since.It is thus very temptingto considerthat both the notion of ressentiment and the type of the priest are introducedprecisely to provide such an explanation. 261). whom Nietzsche describes as a segment of nobility.
the primacy of negation.he denies the value of political supremacyaltogether. Ressentiment At first glance. Repression must be carefully distinguishedfrom the control of this desire as it is commandedby its reflective revaluation. revengefulness. Nietzsche's emphasison the spiritualcharacter the priest's revenge might suggest that he imitates the fox.See op. the fox attemptsto get rid of its feeling of frustrationby persuadingitself that the grapes were sour and so were not what it of wantedanyway. ultimately. so not every form of power is 'real' power.hatred. nor would he believe he cannot.12 Unable to reach the grapes it covets.and from the renunciationin which the acceptance of one's inability to satisfy it consists. it might be illuminating to contrast it with a variety of phenomena that are closely related to it but from which it must carefully be distinguished. as Nietzsche appearsto understandit. 'sour grapes' revaluation. These are. But in fact the priest's revaluationis far more radical than the fox's. he is deceived about what will and will not satisfy it.and a word on the distinctionbetween ressentimentand the moral notion of resentment. I. As the notion of ressentiment revaluation is quite complex.. And by the same token he condemns all the attitudes that help to secure and sustainit.reflectiverevaluation. "becausethe physical power which sustains military superiorityis not a markof real power:real power lies exclusively in spiritualachievements. is the ultimate compromiseof the person who values a desire. envy. 13). I will conclude this section with a brief examinationof a salient featureof ressentimentevaluation.and finally psychological inertia and weakness of will. or perhaps rather its manifestation. the priest would not change his values. His revaluationwould only concern what will bring about that realization: as not all grapes are sweet. cit. believes he is unable to satisfy it. namely the lust to rule." In this case. He might tell himself that the military superiorityof the knights and their physical power do not constitute genuine power. 290 BERNARD REGINSTER . The consequence of this repression. Repression. As a result of his defeat at the hands of the warriors.(GM. Thoughhe is not deceived aboutwhat desire he wants to satisfy. is the "revaluation" the "man of ressentiment"of the values he feels unable to by realize. in the example we have been considering.a repressionof the desire for superiority. but neither (reflectively) abandons its value nor resigns himself to his impotence.and the like. arrogance." we might imagine him proclaiming. ressentiment revaluationmight seem akin to the revaluation illustratedby Aesop's famous fable of the fox and the sour grapes. respectively. C I. the values themselves 12 I am indebtedto Scheler for this comparison. "I do not wage war. The repression of vengefulness is in effect. In otherwords.realize them. and 'sourgrapes' 1.
the priest. and seduction"(GM. 13 This is the view (apparently)adoptedby RudigerBittnerin op. NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT ON AND VALUATION 291 . The priest professes to embrace values and ideals he deems incompatible with power and political superiority. GM. Though he is not deceived abouthow to satisfy his desires. The devaluationof power motivatedby ressentimentthus turnsout to be a last-ditch effort to gain it. But his unacknowledged wish is that his altruistic "good deeds. e. and the domination of his fellow humans.e. I must admit that some of Nietzsche's texts are plausibly interpretedin terms of 'sour grapes' revaluation(see. on this view of his revaluation. III. being useful. need no longer be deceived about what kind of power will satisfy his craving for superiority. 13) Nietzsche once uses to characterize ressentimentreflects the ambiguityof his view: on my overall interpretation.which he now regards as evil.g. that his defeat at the hands of the warriorsdoes not make him in any significant way inferior or "impotent. not about his own values. impotence is the cause of self-deception. 18). will bring him at last a taste of that power he still craves: "Thehappinessof 'slight superiority. I.13 On such an interpretation. Nietzsche writes: "Oneshould not imagine it grew up as a denial of that thirst for revenge. Nietzsche insists. spoil. I. on the Christianvaluation of love. cit. but not its object (i. he also fails to recognize that his devaluation of power is still motivated by his repressed but enduring desire for it. The phrase "self-deceptionof impotence"(GM.is the most effective means of consolation for the physiologically inhibited"(GM. He instead begins to preachthe value of neighborlylove and political equality.. 8). I. 11) are in fact pursuing the very same "goals . priest apparentlypersuadeshimthe self that the physical superiorityof the warriorsis not "real"power and. as the opposite of Jewish hatred!No.are changed." for example..it would have to say not that the grapes are sour but ratherthat sweetness itself is evil. 8). presumably. the reverse is true! That love grew out of it as its crown" (GM. I. accordingly. Nietzsche goes even further:the priest is not just deceived in failing to recognize the importancehe places on political power. whereason the readingI just sketched out. that about which the agent deceives himself).. He now judges power. Thus. The priests who so vehemently condemn the thirst for "spoil and victory" of the noble "blond beast" (GM.'involved in all doing good. Before I examine this importantlast claim in more detail. and rewarding.also its cause. If the fox were to emulate this revaluation. I must emphasize a point of some significance. helping.for he now persuadeshimself that his failure to gain it does not matterto him anymore. the priest deceives himself about the state of the world. an unworthy goal. I 10 & 13). is nevertheless still deceived: he is deceived about which desires he wants to satisfy."In this case. self-deceptionis the object of deceptionand. -victory. The priest.
II..on the other hand. namely good! And he is good who does not outrage."This desire in fact unconsciously motivates its own devaluation: You preachers of equality. who harmsnobody. the revaluationalso accommodates the "repressed"desire of the "man of ressentiment. The fox does not believe it is utterly unable to get sweet grapes altogether. Paradoxically. repressed envy . it would be good if we did nothingfor which we are not strong enough"(GM.really do not to have the value that was hithertoattributed them.like political supremacy. ressentiment revaluationis not motivated by the recognition that certain attributes. . 2. I believe that Nietzsche's considered view is that ressentiment revaluationis not simply a case of 'sour grapes' revaluation: it involves self-deception about the values themselves. By contrast. (Z. erupts from you as a flame and as the frenzy of revenge. ressentiment revaluation is predicated upon the unacknowledged hope that turningaway from the frustrated desires. 7) In the last analysis. Ressentimentrevaluationtakes on this radical characterfor the following reason. 13). On the one hand. Nietzsche's central insight consists in seeing ressentiment revaluation as the eminently paradoxical attemptto accommodatethis twofold refusal."-this. the priest appearsconvinced that he simply does not have what it takes to wrestle political power away from the knights whose superiorstrengthhe has experienced. who does not attack. Ressentimentrevaluation is ratherdriven by the way in which the "manof ressentiment"relates to the attributeswhose value he ostensibly denies: he still values them.. somehow will at last bring about the satisfaction of 292 BERNARD REGINSTER .we might imagine. It is the belief that political power is irretrievablybeyond his reach which forces him to his wholesale devaluation of it. and yet he refuses either to give up his desire for them or to accept his inability to acquire them. and pursuing the very opposite values. Aggrieved conceit. after all. downtrodden. Ressentimentrevaluationand reflectiverevaluation Unlike reflective revaluation. but feels unable to acquire them. really amountsto no more than: "we weak ones are. the tyrannomaniaof impotence clamors thus out of you for equality: your most secret ambitions to be tyrants thus shroud themselves in words of virtue.. the revaluationaccommodatesthe feeling of impotence of the "manof ressentiment"by exempting him from the pursuit of an ideal he regardshimself unableto realize: When the oppressed. weak.outraged exhort one anotherwith the vengeful cunning of impotence: "let us be different from the evil.. I. often enough to recognize his own constitutional weakness. and not just about the means to realize them.In spite of this ambiguity. listened to calmly and without previous bias.only the particularones that are out of its reach.
As I understandit. a man is guilty of even emptierpride"(Book X.for example. If we are to avoid overintellectualizingthe process of revaluation. any action 14 For example. AND VALUATION 293 NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT ON . Ressentiment revaluation is thus the priest's way of securing the satisfaction of his desire in spite of his conviction that he does not have what it takes to satisfy it. unbeknownstto herself. though the effort to become humble always risks being recuperatedby it. But they no longer belong among the agent's values since she rejected them. there is no doubt of that. The "man of ressentiment" professes to act accordingto some ideals but he is in fact motivatedby desires he regards as incompatible with the realization of those ideals. R. The desires whose value is ostensibly denied by ressentimentrevaluation. the antithesis of this drive-" (WP. This phenomenon of is well documented.14 Remark. Pine-Coffin [Penguin Books. is only residual. 38). motivate her. in his Confessions (Trans. or of weakness of will. Though they have been rejected by reflection. Since the adoption of the new values is at bottom motivated by the (frustrated) desire to realize the old ones.those desires: "these weak people-some day or other they too intend to be strong. 179). Such a discrepancy between the values that appearto the agent to motivate him and the desires that really do need not be a manifestationof ressentiment:it could just as well be the result of psychological inertia. 15). Acutely aware of the difficulties of any such conversion. Ressentiment. by word and by deed. we must admit that the desires she has reflectively devaluated might occasionally. in narrations radicalmoralconversions. A brief comparativeanalysis of these phenomenashould strengthenour grasp of the distinctive featuresof ressentiment. They themselves(along with the feeling of impotence)motivate their own apparent rejection by the agent. or by a deeply entrenchedconditioning.psychological inertia and weaknessof will Consider first the case where the agent has reflectively abandonedold values and adoptednew ones.however. the old desires might occasionally still motivate the agent. that these old desires act ratherlike motivationalresidues: they derive their force from the psychological inertiaexercised by old habits. Saint Augustine recounts his efforts to strike down his pride in orderto devote himself humbly to the love of God. 1961]). some day their kingdom too shall come" (GM. the crucial featureof Augustine's example is that the reprehensiblemotive of personal glory. and they played no motivatingrole in this rejection. on the contrary. Nietzsche's central insight about ressentiment valuation is perhaps best summarizedin the following text: "Masterstroke: deny and condemn the to drive whose expression one is. by priding himself on his contempt for vainglory. It is not a case of ressentiment insofar as the very valuation of humility is not motivated by pride. There is temptationin the very process of self-reproach. he observes for example that "even when I reproach myself for it. to display continually.S. 3. the love of praise tempts me.for often. however powerful. remain actively and not just inertially motivational. I.
to acknowledge that his actual motivation is not his professed one. will refuse. I have already pointed out that this self-deception is indeed essential to the success of the implicit project of his revaluation: it still covertly aims to realize the values it denies in spite of the agent's conviction of his inabilityto do so. he becomes fundamentallyconfused about his values. sometimes to her own bafflement. so that relapsingin the old ways is a mere psychological accident. His professed values are merely apparentand adoptedas covert means to realize his repressed (real) desires. But unlike the weakwilled individual. the old values are genuinely abandoned in favor of the new ones. Nietzsche finds a confirmationof this discovery in reflecting on what he presents as a salient featureof ressentiment revaluation. 294 BERNARD REGINSTER . The distinctive feature of ressentiment revaluation is therefore the fact that it is motivated by the very desires it proclaims to condemn.performed in accordance with these new values is necessarily (really) motivated by the old ones. which actuallymotivate her actions. In the case of psychological inertia."1 Consider now the case of weakness of will. We must observe that weakness of will involves no confusion on the part to of the agent aboutthe desires she values: what is weak is her determination pursue them. Among the most interesting instances of weakness of will are varieties of self-destructive behaviour. but rather as the natural resistance of old habits to new ways. In those instances. and 'real' ones. won by those desires the agent does not value. "as a matterof principle"(WP. but not weakwilled. not because he lacks the will to pursue them. On Nietzsche's view. He is weak because he does not have what it takes to realize his values. We find again a discrepancy between 'apparent' desires.prodigiously strong. His will is. it already is pursuing the others. the agent knows what is good for her and even has the desire to do it. so strong indeed that it is not even altered by his conviction that he is too weak to fulfill its demands.namely the primacyof particularly negation. The weak-willed agent acts against her will: weakness of will is characterizedby a genuine conflict of desires. 15 The agent will also react very differently to the disclosure of his motivational deception.not a necessity. Nietzsche's priestspreachequalityand universallove-with a vengeance." by contrast. on the contrary. Hence. which relateto her professedvalues. In fact. she winds up doing something that conflicts with this desire. by contrast. The reflective agent (leaving aside the special case of the agent who takes excessive pride in his moral achievements) will accept the disclosure without difficulty. The "man of ressentiment. the "man of ressentiment"is weak. there is no real conflict between the apparentvalues and the real desires: pursuingthe ones does not require that one renounce pursuing the others.179). and yet. It is merely a mistake or an accidental relapse which he will not see as evidence of an essential weakness. it is precisely because there is no confusion at the level of values that it makes sense to speak of weakness of will.
it suggests that the difference between noble and ressentiment revaluationis the following: the latter form of valuation is thoroughly driven by old values whereas the former is inspired by radically new ones whose creation owes nothing to the older values. then by what? My (tentative)proposalis the following: the old values themselvesunderlietheir own negation. the primacy of negation in ressentimentvaluation is a primacy in motivation: what drives the valuation is not the affirmationof new values. Practical reflection cannot proceed without presupposing some standard of value under the guidance of which it is conducted. On the one hand. The problem with this sug- NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT ON AND VALUATION 295 . I. is of the essence of ressentiment"(GM. Theprimacy of negation Even though the priests belong to the nobility.' what is 'different.4. The inversion of the value-positing eye . but only the desire to 'deny older ones. opposite to itself comes only as "a by-product. the invention of "evil" is "the original thing.' what is 'not itself."Nietzsche writes. a contrastingshade"(GM. the distinctive deed in the conception of a slave morality" (GM. I suggest that. I. for Nietzsche. The negation of what is alien. 350). The creation of alternativevalues and ideals is secto ondaryand wholly subordinated this negativetask.. So what could this difference in priority possibly mean? The priorityof negation cannot simply be temporalpriority.There are all sorts of reasons other than ressentiment why an agent would want to proclaim which values he denies before divulging which values he affirms. 11). 260). On the other hand. Contraryto noble morality. the beginning. a side issue. 172.. 10. The distinctive feature of a morality born out of ressentiment is thus the priority given to the negation of other opposite values. the rejection of old ones would be groundless. "every noble morality develops from a triumphantaffirmationof itself' (GM. ressentimentvaluation is primarily the negation of the dominant code of values: "from the outset.And it cannot be priorityin the orderof practicalreflection either:without the (at least implicit) affirmation of some new values.We must examine this answercarefully. the form of revaluation in which they engage out of ressentimentdiffers from a typical noble creationof values in a numberof ways. 11). At first blush. Nietzsche describes a particularlysalient feature of this contrastas follows. It seems as if what is mattersmost to the "manof ressentiment" not the new values and ideals he brings into the world but the negationof those thatare alreadythere and dominant. BGE. I. But precisely this should arouse our suspicion: if the negation of old values is not motivated by new ones. see WP.' and this No is its creative deed. But both noble and ressentimentvaluations involve the affirmationof some values and the negation of others. I. 10. it "says no to what is 'outside.
the fundamentaldifference between ressentimentand resentment is that resentment appears to presuppose the condemnation of its object and constitutes a reaction of disapproval to its occurrence.In ressentimentrevaluation. The crucial differencelies in precisely which older values drive the revaluation. I. By contrast. Nietzsche attaches a particular importance to vengefulness 16 Notably. this is how the notion is used in the discussion of "reactiveattitudes"initiatedby Peter Strawson in his "Freedomand Resentment"in Proceedings of the British Academy.other forms of revaluation. hardly even intelligible as a picture of the creation of values. indeed. His defeat causes him shame because his fundamentalaspirationsinclude enjoying the political supremacyachieved by his victors (see GM. Ressentimentand resentment The English 'resentment'can be used to refer to the phenomenonNietzsche calls 'ressentiment.including presumably noble revaluation. On the contrary.retain some subset of the older values as providing the terms for rejectingthe rest. in completeindependencefrom the older values is ratherimplausible. vol. It is more plausible to see the new values as connected in some respect with the old ones: what basis do we have. it is also used in a more restricted moral sense. Political power would not be something they value so that lacking the ability to secure it would not be cause for shame. whereas ressentiment rests on the implicit endorsement of the very values embodied by those towards whom it is directed.' However. 13 & 14). to revise older values if it is not a subset of these older values themselves? This threatensto obscurethe contrastbetween noble valuationand ressentimentvaluation:they are now both found to rely on older values. 296 BERNARD REGINSTER . 15). Among the affects associated with ressentiment. they might rather judge the unbridledaggressiveness of the warriorsa markof moral weakness (see GM. In other words. The idea thatthey are createdex nihilo. I.' then the treatmentinflicted on them by the warriorsshould provoke their indignation. But indignationand resentmentare by no means the first reactions of the man of ressentiment to his defeat: shame and self-contempt are (GS. and not just indignationor (moral)resentment. 16 Moral resentmentmust be distinguishedfrom Nietzschean ressentiment since the latteris introducedto explain the origin of the morality which the formerpresupposes.gestion concerns the origin of the new values affirmedby the noble. xlviii (1962).I believe we should distinguishthem as follows.the values thatmotivate the denial are the very values one ostensibly rejects. 1-25. 359). It is because political power mattersto them thattheir defeat arouses ressentiment in the priests. If the priests truly believed that the political superiorityof the warriorsis 'evil. or their resentmentin the restrictedmoral sense. pp. 5.
II. 13 for the particular case of "ressentiment against life". I. III. Two observationsshould overcome this difficulty. it is not clear that the priest ever lost confidence in his abilities. however.' the priest really values and desires ostensibly the political power which his rivals the knights monopolize. the objection fails to establish that a valuation does not involve self-deception. But the feeling of impotence is an essential ingredient of ressentiment. 15. 7. EH. leaves out ressentiment altogether. 1. I. motivatedby ressentiment A more serious difficulty arises from Nietzsche's use of self-deception as the basis of his objection. Theproblem of self-deception Nietzsche's most common objection to ressentiment revaluation is that it (GM. moreover.. and more). 19. or involves "falsification. namely political power. Thus. But the purpose of revenge is not the punishment of a deed of which one disapproves. 10. IV.because it is the naturalreaction to failure of those who expect success. that it might even be a "conditionof life" (BGE." "mendaciousness" "counterfeit" 14.the priest's revenge remains ultimately driven by his craving for power. the priest seems quite clear about what he wants.. or the sense of his own power. I have already is suggested that the "manof ressentiment" self-deceived aboutthe values he embraces. 10. The scenario underlyingthis objection. the revaluation of noble values. see also III. Hence. then again in the closing sections of the Genealogy.If the revaluationis a piece of fully controlledself-conscious strategy. is bound to be profoundlyperplexed by the scathing indictment of self-deception in the latter book's first essay. First." "lie. Rather. political supremacy. 15. my revenge essentially aims to restore my challenged superiority. 2-3. 4). which includes the denial of the value of political power. In these texts.g.g. not by righteousindignation. 'deep down. if I have been defeated. 11. 16). A 55). see also. is but the central piece of a cunning strategy to confound his opponent-a strategywhich. III. first in Beyond Good and Evil. Accordingly. III.The readerof Nietzsche who learns. a brief examinationof Nietzsche's critique of the value of truthreveals that its aim is less to show that deception is good than to question our AND VALUATION NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT ON 297 AND INTEGRITY . 24-27). GM. e. but winds up convincing himself that it is not desirableafter all. turnsout to be largely successful (GM. But Nietzsche also believes that all these cases of deception are in fact cases of "self-deception" (see especially GM. that deception is not necessarily harmful (BGE. Preface. 26). cf. III. 13. GM. There is no self-deception involved here. Some of Nietzsche's texts might suggest the following objection to my interpretation (e. RESSENTIMENT 1. and no reason to reproachthe priest for having recourse to deception:it is a meansjustified by his ultimate end. I. A.
GS. exhilarated and undisturbedof soul" (GM. 5. In the broad sense. I.'7 2. "truthfulness" (GS. of the spirit"(A. Integrityin the narrowsense is "integrityin matters (GM. A. of and of which he apparentlyapproves. rape." I will argue that this latter phrase does not denote a lack of conscience or reflectiveness. Nobility and Integrity At the beginning of the Genealogy.the fundamentaltrait he wishes to isolate. deception about oneself). 2). 11). but ratherin(GM.e. 5). I. thoughone relativeto the realizationof an ideal is of integrity of self he associates with nobility of character. or believes. distinctive feature of nobility (GM. powerful"men are notoriously disturbing: monsters who perhaps emerge from a disgusting procession of murder. 257). I. 19). 5). Deception is a lack of knowledge. Nietzsche announcesthat he is interested in nobility not so much as a political or sociological concept. integrityis associated with a kind of "wholeness" for (BGE. 10. III. BGE. unlike self-deception. 50). Deception cuts the agent off from reality but. is that they do what they do "undisturbed soul.' one knows. while self-deception is a lack of acknowledgmentof what. if not the. The inspection of other texts makes clear that truthremains a fundamentalvalue for Nietzsche. to be true. 2. 2. but only to what he calls "dishonest lies. Nietzsche finds "disgusting".belief in the unconditionalvalue of truth. II. What Nietzsche finds troublingabout self-deceptionis precisely such a self-division. III."Truthfulness" a. powerful men do. . The early noble's sofar as it is a quality of "soul"or "character" ''predominancedid not lie mainly in physical strength but in strength of soul-they were more whole human beings" (BGE. which therefore standsout as a crucialfeatureof nobility of character. "autonomy"(GM. 2). Nietzsche appears to have both a narrow and a broad conception of integrity. is not just a case of deception (i.18 "Strength of soul" and "wholeness" evoke a certain notion of integrity. and proceedto ask what aboutit is objectionable. Second. a sense of "responsibility" oneself II. Self-deception. I. 257). ar"triumphant son. Some of Nietzsche's depictions of the "noble. cf. contains subtle importantclues: what the noble. 'deep down. 19).Nietzsche's own conclusion is not that truthhas no value at all but that it has no unconditional value (GM. those who are self-deceived (GM. it causes no split within the agent's self. 50): it consists of the possession of qualities like "honesty" (GM. but rathera kind of psychic harmony. it should be pointed out. Even such an apparentlyunredeemabletext. 17 18 Nietzsche himself draws a stark contrastbetween deception and self-deception when he makes it clear that he does not object to lies as such. to believe thatNietzsche's condemnationof self-deceptionrelates directly to the value of truthand knowledge would be misguided. 24 & 27). III. I. or "intellectual conscience" (GM. and torture. however. We may thus safely assume that the self-deceptioncreatedby ressentimentis objectionable for Nietzsche." the lies of those who cannot "open their eyes to themselves"-namely. 272).
BGE. therefore. it knows itself to be that which first'accords honor to things. and thereforereflection. Valuationsare thus reflective endorsementsof desires. it does not need approval.(BGE. he appears to believe that an agent genuinely endorses a desire only if he acknowledges the other desires which conflict with the one he chooses. in other words. IV. an agent must meet specific exactingrequirements. II. "whatis harmfulto me is harmfulin itself'. (EH. Nietzsche says thathe is fundamentally"corrupted" As Nietzsche conceives of it. 7). 104 ff. I am here considering only one necessary condition of it which self-deceived agents cannot meet. By contrast. 260): it expresses her own view of what sort of life is worth living. it certainly designates a privileged relationship between an agent and her values: they are genuinely her own. I. Nietzsche warns against supposing that selfaffirmationin the creation of values amounts to capriciously declaring good whatever desire happens to be.lacks integrityin both senses. even if. An agent lacks integrity. Though Nietzsche does not make this perfectly clear.Nietzsche tends to identify nobility with integrityin the broad sense.choice. 188). 260) Whatever else might be involved in the idea of creation of values (and much is involved indeed). as I will argue shortly. the strongest. and rejection. 3. The question of what makes a valuationgenuinely one's own is extremely complex. BGE. in Nietzsche's words. The creation of values is.it judges.the "manof ressentiment. 10. as Nietzsche believes.). 359). it is value-creating. published some seven years before the Genealogy. the integrity (in the broad sense) of the noble person is a quality of her relationto her values: The noble type of man experiences itself as determiningvalues. 19 These ideas cut to the heart of Nietzsche's philosophical psychology. one must desire something to value it. cf." as well as the idea that to create and live by values that are genuinely one's own is most demandingand consequently very rare (see D. truthfulness(or integrity in the narrowsense) is a necessary condition of integrity in the broad sense. he already introducedand developed the distinction between values that are merely "adopted" and those that are truly one's "own" or "original. A painful and protracted trainingin self-controland self-knowledgeis necessary "to possess the right to affirmoneself (GM. The idea of valuation actually evokes a discriminationamong one's desires. But he insists that the noble person is also truthful because. if her professed values are not genuinely her own: she proclaimsto embracecertainvalues and to act accordingto them while she is inspired not by the recognition of their value but by "ulteriormotives" (GS. In Daybreak.19 One o4 those requirementsis of particular importancehere. AND VALUATION ON NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT 299 . It seems clear that to value something is differentthan to desire it." who is self-deceived and thereforenot truthful. at the moment. the agent's "selfaffirmation"(GM. To be entitled to claim her values as her own creation.
Nietzsche explicitly distinguishes between the cases where the values bring about the "control"of the desires.. He does not simply ignore the presence of desires incompatiblewith the values he proclaimsto embrace. without integrity in the narrow sense (honesty and truthfulness). she might profess to embrace the value of equality and understandthat it prohibitsthe monopolizationof power. We have genuinely endorsed our professed values if a conflict between them and incompatible desires results in a selfconscious control of the latter. 384.. To acknowledgethe presenceof conflictingdesiresand to acceptthe fact thatthey have to be left unsatisfied demands unflinchinghonesty with ourselves. In addition. if she does-i. but it demands a particularattitudetowards it.. WP. and conse20 The acceptance condition does not necessarily eliminate all conflict between values and desires. But the required honesty is precisely what the "man of ressentiment" lacks: "While the noble man lives in trust and openness with himself . legitimate questionsmust be raised aboutwhetherand to what extent she genuinely endorsesthe value of equality. she must naturallyalso remain aware that she has any of those desires herself.I. without the acknowledgment of those of our desires which conflict with its realization.moreover.ratherthan in their repression. & 928. to accept the implicationsof this knowledge for her own life. but she fundamentally unable.. But if the price of her continuing commitment to the value of equality is that she must repress or deceive herself abouther craving for power and the significance it has in her life. But this knowledge cannotbe sufficient:even the most self-deceived agent might know which desires her values condemn to frustrationand yet unwitthese desires.thatthe "manof ressentiment" peculiarlyself-deceived. which means that they are still active but beyond her control. she must not be deceived about herself. 10). 870. or is that these values means frustrating desire. Hence. she knows that following refuses.20 There is no genuine endorsement of a value. the man of ressentiment is neither uprightnor naive nor honest and straightforward with himself. See. a person cannot regard her values as genuinely her own creation. For example. Obviously it involves the knowledge that the satisfaction of certain desires is incompatible with the realization of the chosen value. she ultimately rejects the values themselves. If the agent does not know that a value precludes the fulfillment of certain desires. Nietzsche tingly pursue their satisfaction. she does not really understand the value and therefore cannot genuinely embrace it.e. And in rejecting the implications of her professed values for her own life.The nature of this acknowledgment is very complex. therefore. is Remember.but he also ignores the fact that he is actually motivated to embrace those values by the very desires they condemn. She only "represses" suggests. and the the cases where the values "inhibit"or "extirpate" desires. In repressing a desire which conflicts with her values. His soul squints"(GM. e.g. 300 BERNARD REGINSTER .
for example. 7). althoughNietzsche deploresthe self-deceptioncreated by ressentiment. in Daniel Conway. is ultimately relative to the perspectiveformed by the affects. Though I believe that Nietzsche's psychological critiqueis 'internal. On this version of his view. Nietzsche himself need not think that these desires are objectionable. Nietzsche signals his commitmentto the value of integrity. R. I discuss this point in my "Review of Nietzsche.which specifies what is so valuable about it. III. ressentimentcorruptsor dis-integratesthe self. Nietzsche's psychological critiqueof value judgmentsthus depends on his valuation of the integrity of the self. needs. "Genealogy and Critical Method" in Nietzsche. desires and beliefs of the agent who adopts it (see GM. AND VALUATION NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT ON 301 . and in more detail in "Perspectivism.The first version goes roughly as follows. frequently. The Value of Integrity I remarkedearlierthat. To detect ressentiment at the root of certain valuationsis to show that they are actually motivated by the very desires they condemn. But we still need an explanationof the value of integrity. Genealogy. By creating and fostering self-deception. needs.21 Nietzsche's writings initially hint at two more or less obvious versions of this attempt.and SpiritualFreedom"(forthcoming).'I do not think it can be so for the reasons advancedby Conway (and. Morality. including beliefs about norms and values. it has been proposedto construe Nietzsche's criticisms of other views (including his psychological criticisms) as a kind of internal critique. 12.e. Perspectivismis the view that every belief. By an external norm. Schacht ed. both of which. We now see that their value depends on the integritywhich they make possible.Criticism. namely nobility itself (see EH. 2. January 1996. one that relies exclusively upon the perspective (and therefore the affects. 3. 2). of California Press: Berkeley. are ultimately unsatisfactory. Ressentiment generates a particularrelation between an agent and his (Verderbvalues which is objectionablebecause it amounts to a "corruption or of (Entpersbnlichung)" en). The view that ressentimentis objectionablebecause it underminesthe integrity of the self seems to presuppose an external norm of the very sort which perspectivism prohibits. IV. and shows how it is compatiblewith Nietzsche's perspectivism about values. in-other words.but the agent whose values are in21 This view is articulated. Los Angeles. I will argue. he also denies the absolute value of truthand truthfulness.i. London. WP. 6. by others as well). 481). For that reason.quently lacks integrity in the broad sense. I. Morality" in Ethics." "unselfing(Entselbstung)" "depersonalization that agent (EH. 318-33. (U. Genealogy. By associating it to nobility of character. desires and beliefs which constituteit) of the agent who accepts those views. I will first examine what sort of constraints Nietzsche's perspectivism places on his psychological critiqueof valuejudgments. Vol. 1994). I mean a norm which transcendsthe perspective of the agent. pp.
if unconscious.it could still be true that equality is good and thatthe quest for it should not be given up altogether. 7 & 16). accordingly. as is often supposed"(WP.is not a groundfor rejecting it because. the objection I raise holds for this reading as much as for my own: one cannot object to the revenge motivated by since its success turns out to be ressentiment on the groundsthat it is merely "imaginary" very real. timent revaluationis motivated by the desires it condemns because it constitutes an elaborate. It is not clear whether Geuss argues that the agent with objectionablemotivations should cease holding the belief altogether or cease holding the belief on the basis of these motivations. succeed in bringingaboutthe satisfactionof the desires that secretly motivate it. By encouragingthe agent to turnaway from his real desires (which he feels he could not satisfy otherwise). The motivation for adoptinga certainvalue. 1981). The two things do not coincide. in preaching equality and neighbourlylove. this version of the critiquecannot be his considered view. 225). I. the psychological origin of a valuation has no bearing on its truth-value:"Originand critique of moral valuations. 7). Thus.On this interpretation. II.should give up his valuations altogether. Thus. Here. accordingly. that "theorigin of moral values is the work of immoral affects and considerations"(WP. the priests would not really recover the superiority they lost to their rivals. even if the priest's endorsement of the value of equality is motivated by his desire for superiority."not real (GM. the priests' devaluationof political power did actually restoretheir supremacy(see GM. the priest persuades himself that the physical superiority of the warriors is not "real" power and. and does. realign his motivationswith his values.we seem to have exhausted the most promising possibilities offered by the text. however. 302 BERNARD REGINSTER . I must admit. as I indicated earlier. Unfortunately. or. If the latter. or even self-defeating.compatible with them must do so and. see also HTH. 266). Their "revenge"would be merely "imaginary. pp. I.23 This interpretationis untenable.e. that his defeat at the hands of the warriorsdoes not make him in any significant way inferior or "impotent. as when he argues. as Nietzsche makes it unequivocallyclear that ressentimentrevaluation can.22 Nietzsche occasionally seems to espouse such a view. Yet. One remaining possible interpretation exploits the 22 23 This line of interpretation nicely summarizedby RaymondGeuss in The Idea of a Critiis cal Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Geuss's view is closer to my own. in particular. Nietzsche's objection would be that such a strategy is ineffective. 43-44. strategy to bring about their satisfaction. the knights.in general terms. that GM. We thus need to look for another construal of Nietzsche's criticism. however objectionable. I."Nevertheless. The priests' revenge is "imaginary"in the sense in which the fox's conviction that he did not miss an opportunityfor sweet grapes is imaginary. as he insists quite explicitly. The second version of internal criticism exploits in a different way the ressenparadoxicalnatureof ressentiment revaluation.Thus. 10 is plausibly interpretedin terms of 'sour grapes' revaluation. ressentimentrevaluation makes it in effect impossible to secure their satisfaction. 69n. 10).that the valuationof equalityis motivatedby a desire for superiority(Z. i. Thus.
but cannotembrace. cuts off the conditions of satisfactionof a desire from the conditions of enjoyment of that satisfaction. however. Ressentiment does not just generate a conflict between professed values and actual motivations." It is crucial to understand exactly what the corruptionof integrityamounts to. an enterprisehe judges radically opposed in value to the struggle for power. the "man of ressentiment"could not wholeheartedly enjoy it. Suppose he does succeed in improving the well-being of others. 135. This should 24 25 As I use the terms here. 'enjoyed' when the agent experiences pleasure at the state of affairs that has come into existence. last-ditch attempt to satisfy those desires. is that helping or assisting others. this one considers squarely Nietzsche's insistence that ressentiment"unselfs"or "corrupts" integrity the of the self. The "man of ressentiment" is thus left pathetically hanging between the impossibility to enjoy the satisfaction of desires he does not really have.. a desire is 'satisfied' when the state of affairs it intends comes to obtain. His unacknowledgedhope. WP. in orderto enjoy their satisfactionwholeheartedly. the problem is that. Ressentiment. will at last earn him the power he craves but feels unable to secure.suggestion that ressentiment revaluationis a self-defeating strategy. ON NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT AND VALUATION 303 . but it creates a highly paradoxical state of mind in which the very adoption of new values is motivatedby the desires they condemn.g. Consideronce more Nietzsche's example. I submit. is not that the "man of ressentiment" cannot satisfy his real desires by devaluating them. This satisfaction is. Unlike the two interpretationsjust mentioned. and the impossibility to enjoy the satisfaction of desires he has.would remove the very condition of a satisfaction he is convinced he could not obtain otherwise. The "manof ressentiment"is thus divided between two sets of desires (andvalues):the apparentdesires(andvalues) which he has as a result of his revaluation. The phrase is Nietzsche's: see. the "manof ressentiment"believes 'deep down' that he succeeded in satisfying his real desires precisely by turning away from them. and the real desires (and values) which are "repressed" nonethelesscovertly motivatehis revaluation. Unable to secure the superiority he desires. I thereforesubmit that ressentimentrevaluationis self-defeating in a very peculiar way which must be related to the claim that ressentiment "unselfs. in other words. but The problem. Embracing those desires again. were he to obtain this satisfaction.and presents problems of its own. the priest devaluates it and devotes his energies to the pursuit of equality and neighbourly love.24According to the "psychological logic"25of ressentiment. It also admittedly involves some extrapolation. and the pursuitof the new values is an unconscious. but does not enhance his political status. e. in turn. for example. as I argued earlier. Rather.
satisfy.26 Suppose now that his altruisticgood deeds do bring him power: for example. For example. the fulfillment of the ulteriormotives as well. under a 26 27 The psychological phenomenon I have in mind is. this phenomenon can receive a variety of explanations: it might be. It makes no sense for an individualto pursuethe satisfactionof his desire in a way that makes him unable to enjoy it. more precisely. for example. He cannot wholeheartedlyenjoy it. at a deeper level. or. and I will not pursue them here. others feel grateful or indebted. Unfortunately. I. not just because he believes it is worthless or contemptible.The relation is conditional if the satisfaction of the apparentdesire affords its own sui generis enjoyment. Such questions are not addresseddirectly by Nietzsche. is the relation between the 'real' and the 'apparent' desires purely 'instrumental'or 'conditional'? The relation is instrumentalif the satisfaction of the apparentdesire is only a means to satisfy the real one. I believe. 8). But it might also be that this inability is evidence that the object of the desire we do satisfy is not. 359)-other desires whose satisfaction we pursue. On Freud's view. Admittedly. Hence. he would have to embrace his desire for it. this interpretationpresents two significant philosophical problems. agents who sublimate their sexual impulses into artisticor intellectualpursuitscan enjoy the satisfaction of those impulses vicariously.whoever seeks to satisfy a desire wants ipso facto to enjoy that satisfaction. and do. because he 'believes' it is precisely renouncinghis desire for power that broughtabout its satisfaction. but embracing that desire. A complete treatmentof this issue would have to addressa number of other questions. it is at least questionable whether an agent in the situation of the "manof ressentiment"cannot wholeheartedlyenjoy the satisfaction of his 'real' desire for power: he only has to be deceived aboutthe source of this enjoyment. that the costs of the satisfactionwere so high as to undermineour enjoyment of it. and willingly submit to his governance. The explanation for our inability to enjoy wholeheartedlythe satisfaction of the latterdesire is that it fails to bring about. so that the latter satisfaction is the source of the enjoyment of the former. invites a comparison with the Freudian doctrine of vicarious satisfaction. by his own lights. in fact. but. under the guise or disguise of the desire we ostensibly seek to. I am indebtedto Jason Kawall for this observation. in describing ressentimentrevaluationas a kind of "sublimation" (e. To enjoy it. animatedby "ulterior motives" (see GS. undeniable: it consists in finding ourselves unable to enjoy the satisfaction of what we believe to be our desire. GM. as they are desires he does not really have or can no longer embrace.would in effect remove the very condition of its satisfaction-power would again deserthim. we might be. however. the "manof ressentiment" ought to abandon his peculiar revaluation since it compels him to pursuedesires whose satisfactionhe cannot enjoy. but where this enjoyment is nevertheless conditioned by the satisfaction of the real desire. First.hardly satisfy him.. The normativeforce of integrityis internal since it wholly depends on desires which the agent actually has and seeks to satisfy. or be accompaniedby. Specifically.27 Nietzsche himself. in such cases. 304 BERNARD REGINSTER .g. Presumably. for a number of possible reasons. since improving the lives of others is not what he really wants. what we really want.
only under a different description. it is not necessarily so. AND VALUATION NIETZSCHE RESSENTIMENT ON 305 . and how the appeal to this value in a critique of morality is compatible with Nietzsche's perspectivism about values. my proposal also rested on the assumption that to seek the satisfactionof a desire is ipsofacto to seek the enjoymentof that satisfaction. But they do affect the view I have advanced of the value of such integrity. 6. of people who sacrificetheirlife out of a desire to ensure the safety of a loved one. in op. for example. ch. Second. GarrettDeckel. the man of ressentiment could wholeheartedly enjoy the satisfaction of desires he condemns.29 28 29 Alexander Nehamas. as well as audiences at Columbia University's BarnardCollege and Brown University.. These are large issues.differentdescription. The shortcomings of this last line of interpretationleave us with some problems and prospects. Think. Likewise. whose examination must be deferred to another occasion. and that this self-deception itself is to be the deploredfor undermining integrityof the self. I also wish to thank Lanier Anderson and Wolfgang Mann. These shortcomingsdo not seem to affect two main that points of the interpretation: ressentimentis to be deplored for creating a peculiar kind of self-deception. Although this assumption is true in many cases. cit. draws that very sort of connection.28 But then. for helpful discussions on various aspects of the paper. An alternative avenue of interpretation might be opened by drawing a connection between the notion of integrity of self and Nietzsche's ideal of self-creation. however.. I benefited from the comments and suggestions Alexander Nehamas. what is valuable about creating oneself. we must show what relation self-creation bears to integrity. Jay Wallace and Louke Van Wensveen Siker made on earlier drafts. In writing this paper. and offers a detailed examinationof it.
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