Twilight of the Idols

by

Friedrich Nietzsche

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Twilight of the Idols: Morality as Anti-Nature Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nietzsche criticizes Christian morality, which calls for the elimination of all passions. He cites the Sermon on the Mount (from the New Testament) as an example of this type of morality (on sexuality, the Sermon states: “‘if thy eye offend thee, pluck it out.’”). The Church deals with passions by eliminating or “castrat[ing]” them rather than trying to see the good in them. Nietzsche suggests that attacking passions is “to attack life at its roots,” therefore “the practice of the Church is hostile to life…”
This section is titled “Morality as Anti-Nature,” but Nietzsche’s primary target is Christian morality, which condemns passions—human instincts—and tells its followers that they must exterminate passion to live a happy, fulfilled, and virtuous life. Nietzsche thinks Christianity is “hostile to life” because, as Nietzsche has already established, the only life humanity can know is the sensory life. So, by condemning the senses as sinful, the Church is arguing that life itself is sinful.
Themes
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The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
Quotes
2. The idea that a person can control their desires by eliminating them completely is for “weak-willed” people who can’t practice moderation. The Church holds that people who can’t control their desires are “degenerate.” And yet, Nietzsche notes (citing as examples the moral views of pleasure held by priests, philosophers, and artists), we may observe that anti-pleasure views come not from “the impotent, nor the ascetics,” but from people incapable of controlling their impulses. 
Nietzsche also dislikes the Church because it sells humans short—it thinks that they are incapable of moderating their instincts. Nietzsche thinks moralists who preach these claims are projecting their own base instincts—he implies that people who think that all sexuality is bad, for instance, are the ones who have issues controlling their own sexual urges. So Nietzsche condemns the Church not only for its hostility to life, but also for its hypocrisy. 
Themes
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Will to Power   Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
3. Nietzsche defines love as “the spiritualization of sensuality.” To Nietzsche, this formulation “is a great triumph over Christianity.” Another triumph is “our spiritualization of enmity.” Throughout history, the Church has sought to eliminate its enemies (the immoralists and non-Christians, for instance). But there’s an advantage to having an enemy: it gives a person meaning and purpose. Life would be boring and pointless if there were no conflict. This type of thinking is relevant to politics, too—there’s a “self-preserv[ing]” advantage to having an opposing party. For example, the newly formed Reich needs an enemy to make its existence necessary.
“The spiritualization of sensuality” means to elevate—rather than condemn—sensory experience. This is how humanity can undo the damage the Church has inflicted upon life—how humanity can reattach meaning to life on Earth. The “spiritualization of enmity” gestures toward another of Nietzsche’s core ideas: the will to power. Nietzsche thinks humans have an innate drive for power. And having an enemy to fight against in the battle for self-preservation fuels that instinct. 
Themes
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The Will to Power   Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
4. Nietzsche argues that “an instinct of life” propels “[a]ll naturalism in morality, that is all healthy morality.” This natural morality is a positive force  driven by the senses—by human instinct. By contrast, “anti-natural morality” (which encompasses nearly all commonly taught views of morality) views human instinct as sinful and ultimately places God as life’s enemy.
Nietzsche wants people to abandon the “anti-natural morality” that the Church teaches and replace it with a “natural” morality. It’s only through reassigning meaning and value to our sensory experiences that we can make life on Earth—the apparent life, and the only life we can truly know—meaningful.
Themes
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Will to Power   Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
Quotes
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5. To Nietzsche, Christian morality’s hostility toward life is laughable. For in order to say anything about the value of life, a person would need to have lived beyond life—which no living person who makes value judgments about life has done. An anti-nature view of morality (as espoused by Christianity and philosophers like Schopenhauer) that places God in opposition to life values a life that is “declining, debilitated, weary, [and] condemned.” In this way, anti-natural morality is “the instinct of décadence itself.”
Not only is Christianity’s hostility to life hypocritical (Christianity pretends to be about life and compassion, yet it condemns life and passion) but it’s also totally illogical. In order to make a comparison between the apparent world (earth) and the real/ideal world (Heaven) one would need to have gone to heaven. But no human moralist, theologian, or philosopher has done this, so their value judgements are illegitimate and biased.
Themes
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon
6. Nietzsche criticizes moralists’ insistence that people conform to a standardized mode of behavior that is unnatural and harmful to life. By contrast, immoralists are more accepting of variable behaviors and belief systems.
Nietzsche upends the conventional understanding that moralists are good and immoralists are bad. In reality, he sees that moralists are far less accepting of life since they have a very narrow, biased view of what kind of life is meaningful and good and a wide view of what kind of life is worthless and bad; by contrast, immoralists are more openminded to different behaviors and experiences.
Themes
History and the Decline of Civilization  Theme Icon
The Ideal vs. The Real  Theme Icon
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values”  Theme Icon