Sunday, January 30, 2011

Power and Kindness

Nietzsche seems to have thought that genuine kindness is only possible for those who are powerful. He writes:

"Verily, I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they had no claws."

Nietzsche also implores the powerful to be kind. He writes:

"And there is nobody from whom I want beauty as much as from you who are powerful: let your kindness be your final self-conquest."

"Of all evil I deem you capable: therefore I want the good from you."

Is Nietzsche right to think that this relationship exists between power and kindness?

I certainly think that an act of kindness is more beautiful, more awe inspiring ( and tear-inducing) when performed by one who is strong, powerful and capable of real cruelty. Why should we praise an act of kindness performed by a person who could have done no other?

So, I ask, are you capable of genuine kindness?


  1. I agree with Nietzsche that slave morality is for the weak or enslaved. It is a reaction to a situation and therefore cannot be a free act. The humility of slaves is not an option; it is a requirement for survival. The kindness of slaves is thus a false kindness, a desperate kindness. And to "turn the other cheek" is the slave morality being adopted universally. It is not a show of freedom but an identification with slavery. True kindness is when you have nothing to gain from it. Slaves might gain another day of life by being humble and kind, but I am interested in the kindness that is not repaid.

  2. I agree with your interpretation of the quote and of Nietzsche's view on kindness. I was actually searching for this connection between power and kindness because this quote from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" is my absolute favorite. Thank you for posting this; it is cool.

  3. Wrong question. Question is why we should praise the tyrannical character type. Time to re-read the Gorgias.