The “revaluation of all values” is a core concept of Nietzschean philosophy. In the forward to Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche boldly declares the work to be “a grand declaration of war” and a “sounding-out of idols.” As the work’s title suggests, Nietzsche’s project in the book is to attack and eliminate the “idols” that he believes have transfixed and degraded society. “Idols,” as Nietzsche uses the term, refers to society’s ideals—the modes of behavior and being that society has identified as most beneficial to humanity. But how does society determine which ways of being are best? Historically, society has turned to morality to answer this question. In the section entitled “Morality as Anti-Nature,” Nietzsche condemns the Church—and, more broadly, Christian morality—for forcing people to conform to a standardized and unnatural (that is, against human instinct) mode of behavior. He argues that the Church creates arbitrary rules (i.e., Christian morality) about what people “shall” and “shall not” do to repress human pleasure (which the Church sees as sinful) and encourage self-hatred. Nietzsche thus condemns Christian morality as unnatural and designed to “attack life at its roots.”
In place of Christian morality (which Nietzsche blames for civilization’s decay), Nietzsche suggests that society should stop assigning arbitrary ideals to condemn or celebrate natural human instinct. To that end, it’s worth noting that a key Nietzschean concept is the notion of the Dionysian impulse, though Nietzsche only briefly explores this concept in Twilight of the Idols. Put simply, Dionysians live naturally and in harmony with their instincts. Nietzsche thinks we should aspire to this, and he attacks Christian morality for condemning life rather than affirming it. Furthermore, Christianity makes value judgements about life that it is incapable of making, since only those who have known another life (an afterlife, perhaps) can, by comparison, objectively assess humanity’s value. In place of Christian morality, Nietzsche advocates for immorality, which refers not to wickedness, but to the absence of a standard by which to judge or value behavior. In doing so, he sets forth a philosophy that accommodates multiple ways of being instead of unquestioningly conforming to Christian ideals, therefore embracing human instinct instead of condemning it as sinful.
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values” ThemeTracker
Christianity and the “Revaluation of All Values” Quotes in Twilight of the Idols
Nothing succeeds in which high spirits play no part.
Another form of recovery, in certain cases even more suited to me, is to sound out idols. …There are more idols in the world than there are realities: that is my ‘evil eye’ for this world, that is also my ‘evil ear’. … For once to pose questions here with a hammer and perhaps to receive for answer that famous hollow sound which speaks of inflated bowels—what a delight for one who has ears behind his ears—for an old psychologist and pied piper like me, in presence of whom precisely that which would like to stay silent has to become audible…
31. When it is trodden on a worm will curl up. That is prudent. It thereby reduces the chance of being trodden on again. In the language of morals: humility.
In every age the wisest have passed the identical judgement on life: it is worthless. … Everywhere and always their mouths have uttered the same sound—a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness with life, full of opposition to life.
Judgements, value judgements concerning life, for or against, can in the last resort never be true: they possess value only as symptoms, they come into consideration only as symptoms—in themselves such judgements are stupidities. One must reach out and try to grasp this astonishing finesse, that the value of life cannot be estimated.
All that philosophers have handled for millennia has been conceptual mummies; nothing actual has escaped from their hands alive.
To talk about ‘another’ world than this is quite pointless, provided that an instinct for slandering, disparaging and accusing life is not strong within us: in the latter case we revenge ourselves on life by means of the phantasmagoria of ‘another’, a ‘better’ life.
To exterminate the passions and desires merely in order to do away with their folly and its unpleasant consequences—this itself seems to us today merely an acute form of folly. We no longer admire dentists who pull out the teeth to stop them hurting.
But to attack the passions at their roots means to attack life at its roots: the practice of the Church is hostile to life…
All naturalism in morality, that is all healthy morality, is dominated by an instinct of life—some commandment of life is fulfilled through a certain canon of ‘shall’ and ‘shall not’, some hindrance and hostile element on life’s road is thereby removed. Anti-natural morality, that is virtually every morality that has hitherto been taught, reverenced and preached, turns on the contrary precisely against the instincts of life—it is a now secret, now loud and impudent condemnation of these instincts. By saying ‘God sees into the heart’ it denies the deepest and the highest desires of life and takes God for the enemy of life….The saint in whom God takes pleasure is the ideal castrate….Life is at an end where the ‘kingdom of God’ begins…
There is no more dangerous error than that of mistaking the consequence for the cause. I call it reason’s intrinsic form of corruption. None the less, this error is among the most ancient and most recent habits of mankind: it is even sanctified among us, it bears the names ‘religion’ and ‘morality’.
In physiological terms: in the struggle with the beast, making it sick can be the only means of making it weak. This the Church understood: it corrupted the human being, it weakened him—but it claimed to have ‘improved’ him…
‘Are there any German philosophers? are there any German poets? are there any good German books?’—people ask me abroad. I blush; but with the courage which is mine even in desperate cases I answer: ‘Yes, Bismarck!’
The most spiritual human beings, assuming they are the most courageous, also experience by far the most painful tragedies: but it is precisely for this reason that they honour life, because it brings against them its most formidable weapons.
An ‘altruistic’ morality, a morality under which egoism languishes—is under all circumstances a bad sign. This applies to individuals, it applies especially to peoples. The best are lacking when egoism begins to be lacking. To choose what is harmful to oneself, to be attracted by ‘disinterested’ motives, almost constitutes the formula for décadence.
For what is freedom? That one has the will to self-responsibility. That one preserves the distance which divides us. That one has become more indifferent to hardship, toil, privation, even to life. That one is ready to sacrifice men to one’s cause, oneself not excepted.
The criminal type is the type of the strong human being under unfavourable conditions, a strong human being made sick. What he lacks is the wilderness, a certain freer and more perilous nature and form of existence in which all that is attack and deference in the instinct of the strong human being comes into its own. His virtues have been excommunicated by society; the liveliest drives within him forthwith blend with the depressive emotions, with suspicion, fear, dishonour.
Ultimately my mistrust of Plato extends to the very bottom of him: I find him deviated so far from all the fundamental instincts of the Hellenes, so morally infected, so much an antecedent Christian—he already has the concept ‘good’ as the supreme concept—that I should prefer to describe the entire phenomenon ‘Plato’ by the harsh term ‘higher swindle’ or, if you prefer, ‘idealism’, than by any other.
Affirmation of life even in its strangest and sternest problems, the will to life rejoicing in its own inexhaustibility through the sacrifice of its highest types—that is what I called Dionysian, that is what I recognized as the bridge to the psychology of the tragic poet. Not so as to get rid of pity and terror, not so as to purify oneself of a dangerous emotion and through its vehement discharge—it was thus Aristotle understood it—: but, beyond pity and terror, to realize in oneself the eternal joy of becoming—that joy which also encompasses joy in destruction.