Nietzsche begins the second essay, which is an exploration of the origins of guilt and morality, by presenting the problem of humankind: breeding an animal with the ‘prerogative to promise’. Humans must actively forget things in order to cope with life – without doing this we could not have mental order or any semblance of happiness. Forgetting things, then, is a strength, but is also the natural tendency of our minds. Memory is not the passive retention of impressions that many believe it to be, but rather an active desire not to let something go – to suspend forgetfulness. We need to be able to do this in order to make promises and thus have control over the future. It is important for man to anticipate the future and calculate what may happen – to develop reliability and regularity so that he can be answerable for his own future.
Nietzsche goes on to explore the eventual end of man in light of the origins of responsibility. In order to for man to have the right to promise, he must be predictable, so that he can be assured in keeping his promise. Society and morality perform this role, and will eventually produce the sovereign individual – one who is free from the morality of custom. This individual will be autonomous and above ethics because he will have his own will: he will have the right to promise. This man will be aware of his own power, freedom and superiority over others and will merit mastery over all others’ without as strong a will as his. He will respect others whose word can be relied upon, and willing to punish those who make promises without having the right, and those who break their word. The sovereign individual is conscious of his own responsibility – his freedom and power – and this conscience becomes his dominant instinct.
Nietzsche then goes on to tackle the history of the conscience. The oldest psychology on earth posits that in order for something to remain in the memory, it must hurt. The most effective aid to...
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