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    1 Kant, Immanuel: Conjectures on the Beginnings of Human History. In: R. Geuss and Q.

    Skinner (eds.): Kant: Political Writings. Cambridge 1970; p.223. I am indebted to Jonathan Lear,

    Brian Leiter, Alexander Nehamas, Michael Della Rocca, Werner Stegmaier, and a reading group

    consisting of Arash Abizadeh, Lori Gruen, Sankar Muthu, and Jennifer Pitts for discussion or

    comments on earlier versions. I use in general the Kaufmann translations (or Kaufmann and

    Hollingdale, for UM, A, TI, and D), except for GM, where I use Clark/Swensen; however, I have

    sometimes modified the translations and do not in general document precisely where.


    Origins ofRessentiment and Sources of Normativity

    Mathias Risse

    John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

    March 16, 2003

    But the outcome of that first experiment whereby man became conscious of hisreason as a faculty which can extend beyond the limits to which all animals areconfined was of great importance, and it influenced his way of life decisively.

    (Immanuel Kant, Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History)1

    1. Introduction

    1.1Ressentimentplays a crucial role in each treatise in Nietzsches Genealogy. In the first treatise

    Nietzsche claims that the slave revolt in morality occurs when ressentimentbecomes creative. In

    the second he offers an account of the development of guilt, a process to which the ascetic priest

    contributes significantly. This priest, in turn, is the subject of the third treatise, and is there

    characterized as leading a life of ressentiment without equal (GM III, 11). But how does

    ressentimentarise? That is the question explored in this study. This question may seem unmotivated

    since the occurrence ofressentiment does not appear puzzling: after all, slaves and priests are

    oppressed by the masters, and what more is required to explain their anger and resentment?

    However, the development ofressentimentdoes pose a puzzle. In GM II, Nietzsche develops a

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    2 This question may have been neglected because is arises clearly only once Nietzsches

    speculative anthropology in GM II is in sight; cf. Clark, Maudemarie: Nietzsches Immoralism

    and the Concept of Morality. In: Schacht, Richard (ed.): Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality.

    Berkeley 1994; and Risse, Mathias, The Second Treatise in On the Genealogy of Morality:Nietzsche on the Origin of the Bad Conscience. In: European Journal of Philosophy 9 (2002):

    pp.55-81. Williams raises the same question: The needs, demands, and invitations of the

    morality system are enough to explain the peculiar psychology of the will. But there is more that

    needs to be said about the basis of that system itself. Nietzsche himself famously suggested that a

    specific source for it was to be found in the sentiment ofressentiment a sentiment which itselfhad a historical origin, though hardly one that he locates very precisely (Williams, Bernard:

    Nietzsches Minimalist Moral Psychology. In: Schacht: Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality, loc.

    cit., p.244). My account differs from the brief one suggested by Williams, and is shaped by the

    concern to embed it into Nietzsches anthropology.


    sketch of a philosophical anthropology to trace guilt to its non-moral origins. Yet ressentimentis

    as complex a phenomenon, and, in view of the elaborate machinery used to explain how the mind

    comes to harbor guilt, cannot be left unexplained. Once Nietzsches speculative anthropology is

    in place, we must make sure that his remarks about ressentimentcan be derived from it, or are at

    least consistent with it. Otherwise they would remain unsubstantiated. Guided by the emotional

    lives we experience, we may or may not find the emergence ofressentimentpuzzling, but Nietzsche

    mustaccount for it. For one significant goal of the Genealogy is to develop the kind of animal

    psychology (GM III, 20) that explains why our emotions are what they are. Explanations must

    end somewhere, but Nietzsches cease too early if he cannot ground ressentiment within his

    anthropology. The secondary literature has not yet offered an account tracing the origins of

    ressentimentwithin Nietzsches anthropology and thus fails to investigate whether he is entitled

    to his claims about ressentimentand its importance for morality. This study attempts to close that


    My account of the origins of ressentiment ties those origins to the minds becoming

    conscious of itself and thus leads us to the contemporary debate about the sources of normativity.

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    5 Section 3 also sets the level of sophistication at which we discuss biological,

    psychological, and matters pertaining to the philosophy of mind. While parts of Nietzsches

    account lead into areas in which philosophers are not competent, we need to pursue his ideas

    where they lead if we are to take him seriously as the naturalist thinker I think he is. Yet I do not

    aim at any sophistication in those areas much beyond Nietzsches own. This move, however,

    should not deprive this inquiry of interest any more than the corresponding move would with

    regard to RousseausDiscourse on Inequality, Kants Conjectures on the Beginning of HumanHistory, and Freuds Civilization and Its Discontents.


    anthropology. The second criterion for an account of the origins ofressentimentis that it can be

    embedded into that anthropology.5 While GM discusses ressentimentas a sentiment individuals

    primarily have towards others, section 4 argues that Nietzsche also offers a recognizable and

    significant discussion ofressentimenttowards oneself. Discussing that aspect ofressentimentwill

    increase our understanding of the phenomenon Nietzsche tries to capture, but will also make our

    task of locating its origins more difficult. The third criterion of adequacy is that the account explain

    both the ascent ofressentiment towards others and ofressentiment towards oneself. Section 5

    presents the account itself. The core idea of this account of the origins ofressentimentis to connect

    anger and resentment with the development of the mind and to account for the origins of

    ressentimentin terms of a state of mind that arises when the mind becomes self-conscious while

    already filled with anger and resentment. Section 6 compares Nietzsches account with that of

    Korsgaards Kant.

    A methodological remark is in order. This essay is shaped by my view that Nietzsche (at

    least in the late 1880s) is a naturalist. Following Darwall, I define metaphysical naturalism as

    holding that nothing exists beyond what is open to empirical study; consequently, ethical thought

    and feeling are empirically ascertainable facts about the world. Among the metaphysical naturalists,

    the ethical naturalist is distinguished by his belief that value is an aspect of nature. I regard

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    6 See Darwall, Stephen: Philosophical Ethics: Oxford 1998, chapter 3. For discussions

    of naturalism, cf. also Railton, Peter: Naturalism and Prescriptivity. In Paul, Ellen/Miller, Fred

    Jr. (eds.): Foundations of Moral and Political Philosophy. Oxford 1990.

    7 See Leiter, Brian: Nietzsche on Morality. New York 2002. I agree with Leiters general

    approach to Nietzsche. I myself explore Nietzsches naturalism in Risse, Mathias, Nietzsches

    Joyous and Trusting Fatalism. Forthcoming in: International Studies in Philosophy 2003, and

    in particular in my forthcoming essay Nietzsches Naturalistic Ethics. For illuminating

    statements of Nietzsches naturalism, cf. BGE 230 and A 14; cf. also TI, Anti-Nature, 2 andSkirmishes 33; and EHDestiny 7. As Richardson notes, Nietzsches commitment to naturalismgoes at least as far back as 1872 (Homers Contest). (Cf. Richardson, Henry: Nietzsches

    System. Oxford 1996, p.46, note 59.)

    8 For a guide to publications on Nietzsches Genealogy in general and ressentimentinparticular as of 1994, with a special emphasis on publications drawing on the traditions of

    continental philosophy, see the bibliography in Stegmaier, Werner: Nietzsches Genealogie der

    Moral. Darmstadt 1994; for a bibliography that emphasizes approaches drawing on analytical

    philosophy, as of 2002, cf. Leiter: Nietzsche on Morality, loc. cit. The following contributions

    appeared after the publication of Stegmaiers book and are not listed in Leiters book, and thus

    should at least be mentioned here: Brusotti, Marco, Willen zum Nichts: Ressentiment, Hypnose,

    Aktiv, und Reaktiv in Nietzsches Genealogy der Moral. In: Nietzsche Studien 30 (2001):

    pp.107- 132; Joisten, Karen, Ressentiment. In: Filozofska Istrazivanja 15 (1995): pp.697-707;


    Nietzsche as an ethical naturalist.6 In keeping with this approach, I take it for granted that

    Nietzsches texts can be interpreted in accordance with criteria such as consistency and

    adequacy. I believe that, ultimately, this approach does most justice to his writings, and at the

    same time also establishes Nietzsche as a philosopher whose thought is of tremendous interest to

    contemporary ethics. While this essay is meant to illustrate these claims (progressing from an

    exegetical discussion to a contemporary debate), I cannot here defend these methodological

    assumptions; for a defense of this approach, readers may consult chapter 1 of LeitersNietzsche

    on Morality.7 Since I do not present a comparative discussion of different approaches to the

    Genealogy, the literature that I discuss has been included because it speaks to the issues at stake

    in this essay. Thus I neglect a fair amount of commentary on GM in what has come to be known

    as continental philosophy. The questions pursued here do not arise in many of these approaches.8

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    Joisten, Karen, Ressentiment: Nietzsches and Schelers Contribution to the Basic Condition of

    Mans Being. In: Synthesis Philosophica 11 (1996): pp.65-77; Nealon, Jeffrey, The Most

    Dangerous of All Explosives: Ressentiment. In: International Studies in Philosophy 31 (1999):

    pp.91-100; Siemens, Herman, Nietzsches Agon with Ressentiment: Towards a Therapeutical

    Reading of Critical Transvaluation. In: Continental Philosophy Review 34 (2001): pp.69-93;

    Small, Robin, Resentment, Revenge, and Punishment: Origins of the Nietzschean Critique. In:

    Utilitas 9 (1997): pp.39-58; Smith, Richard, Nietzsche: Philosopher of Ressentiment? In:

    International Studies in Philosophy 25 (1993): pp.135 - 143. Other secondary literature will be

    discussed as we go along.

    9 Reginster, Bernard, Nietzsche onRessentimentand Valuation. In: Philosophy andPhenomenological Research (LVII) 1997: pp.281-305, p.305. Poellner characterizes it as

    follows: Ressentimentis a condition in which an apparent good is desired by an individualavowedly for its own sake, but in fact in order to negate or denigrate something else which is

    perceived as hostile or oppressive to that individual (Poellner, Peter: Nietzsche and

    Metaphysics. Oxford 1995, p.7). May claims that Nietzsches ressentimentdiffers from ordinaryresentment in three ways: first, its object of hatred is universal in scope [...]; second, it

    thoroughly falsifies that object in order to render the latter inescapably blameworthy [...]; third,

    since such universal resentment is impossible to satisfy, its revenge must be, at least in part,

    imaginary (May, Simon: Nietzsches Ethics and His War on Morality. Oxford 1999, p.42/43).


    1.3 I conclude this introduction with two remarks. First, it is useful to relate my approach to recent

    characterizations ofressentiment. For instance, Reginster writes: Ressentiment[...] cuts off the

    conditions of satisfaction of a desire from the conditions of enjoyment of that satisfaction. [...]

    [T]he man ofressentiment is thus left pathetically hanging between the impossibility to enjoy the

    satisfaction of desires he does not really have, and the impossibility to enjoy the satisfaction of

    desires he has, but cannot embrace.9 Readers accustomed to thinking about ressentimentalong

    the lines suggested by Reginster and others may find my account of the origins of ressentiment

    strange at first. Yet taken by themselves, such characterizations are insufficient because they do not

    answer the crucial question of how ressentimentarises, and why Nietzsche might be entitled to give

    it such a prominent role. Taken by themselves, such accounts do not take seriously enough the

    speculative anthropology I take Nietzsche to develop in GM II. So I take no issue with Reginsters

    and similar characterizations of the phenomenology and the impact ofressentiment, but explore

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    10 So this piece should be understood as a companion piece to my earlier essay on GM II

    (Risse, Nietzsche on the Origin of the Bad Conscience, loc. cit.); cf. also section 3 of this essay.

    11 Although ressentiment is a French word (and thus missing from the Grimmsdictionary), the German educated elite had used it since the 17th century. The word was

    presumably adopted because German lacks a good word for the English resentment and the


    how such a frame of mind could arise within the confines of Nietzsches anthropology in the first

    place. In an earlier piece on GM II have argued that Nietzsche explains the bad conscience as we

    understand it nowadays (i.e., a feeling of guilt) by tracing it from an earlier from of the bad

    conscience, which at that stage is no more than an early form of the mind itself. I suggest that the

    account of the origins of ressentimentthat I propose in this essay be understood as relating to the

    account given by Reginster and others of the phenomenology ofressentiment in much the same

    way in which I suggested in my earlier essay that this early form of bad consciousness is related

    to the conscience as a feeling of guilt.10 Does this account respond to the question of what

    ressentiment actually is? It does, with the qualification that it answers that questionfrom the

    standpoint of Nietzschean animal psychology,which, again, is a standpoint from which it has not

    yet been discussed.

    Second, I need to clarify my usage of ressentiment, resentment, and anger. Our usage

    of terms for emotions is shaped by the complexity they have obtained through the process of

    socialization, while Nietzsches concern is to trace the origins of such emotions. The use of terms

    that denote emotions as we know them is therefore ill-suited for his purposes. One rationale for

    Nietzsches employing a French term that still pertained to the vocabulary of German-speaking

    readers of his time is to have a term related to anger and resentment as they (and also we)

    understand them while allowing for that term to be explicated by his anthropology, rather than by

    our intuitions, which are shaped by the emotional lives we experience.11 In this study, again, I stay

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    French ressentiment. (There is the word Groll, which, however, does not characterize a frameof mind or an attitude, but tends to arise with regard to a specific event or person.) At the same

    time, these words serve reasonably well as translations of each other, except that the French

    word seems to possess a stronger connotation with memory. Cf. de Gruyters 1977 Deutsches

    Fremdwrterbuch. Cf. also the usage in TI,Ancients, 4, where Nietzsche claims that Christianityis guilty ofressentimentagainst life. In this case, ressentiment just means resentment.Bittner distinguishes between a German word ressentiment and a French world ressentiment,

    which is spelled and pronounced alike and is the source of the former. He suggests the French

    word expresses a more straightforward annoyance, less of a grudge than the German word

    does. (Bittner, Rdiger: Ressentiment. In: Schacht: Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality, loc. cit.). I

    take this to be compatible with my suggestion above. Scheler remarks that he uses the word

    ressentiment because he could not translate it into German (Scheler, Max: Das Ressentiment

    im Aufbau der Moralen. In: Scheler: Vom Umsturz der Werte. Bern 1995, p.36); he emphasizesthat the word ressentiment denotes a repeated re-living and re-feeling of the past.

    12 TheNew Oxford American Dictionary defines anger as a strong feeling of annoyance,displeasure, or hostility, and resentment as bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.

    For a discussion of the contemporary understanding of anger and resentment cf. Solomon,

    Robert: The Passions. Emotions and the Meaning of Life. Indianapolis 1993.


    largely neutral with regard to the details of an account of the phenomenology and the impact of

    ressentiment(of the sort that Reginster and others offer), but offer an account of the physiological

    origins ofressentiment. To this end, I use anger and resentment along rather colloquial lines.

    Dictionary definitions will do for clarification.12

    2.Ressentimentin the First and Third Treatise of the Genealogy

    2.1 This section follows Nietzsches discussion of ressentiment in GM I and III, which treat

    ressentimentprimarily as a sentiment towards others. What remains puzzling is why it should be

    ressentiment, rather than other feelings, that evolves under the relevant circumstances. To resolve

    this puzzle, we resort to insights from Nietzsches anthropology, which appears in GM II and which

    we discuss in section 3.

    Two of the protagonists of GM gain center stage in Nietzsches statements about

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    13 While the priests are also discussed in theAntichrist, no new insights aboutressentimentarise there. My claim that both slaves and priests are characterized by resssentimentand that the slave revolt is their joint work is controversial. Reginster thinks that only the ascetic

    priests are characterized by ressentiment(cf. Ressentiment and Valuation, loc. cit.). Yet thisview is inconsistent with Nietzsches claim that the ascetic priest is the direction-changer of

    ressentiment forressentimentin that context is not his own, but pertains to the slaves (GM III,15). The priest must be related to the slaves (the herd) in appropriate ways to be their leader,

    and he is so related by sharing theirressentiment. Bittner tends to neglect the fact that the priestsalso have ressentimentand thus finds the slave revolt harder to explain than it is when explainedthrough the interaction between slaves and priests (cf. Bittner: Ressentiment, loc. cit.). The most

    extensive recent discussion of the characters in the Genealogy is Ridley, Aaron: NietzschesConscience. Six Character Studies from the Genealogy.Ithaca 1998. I cannot do justice to hisdiscussion here, but I should register disagreement with a few important claims he makes. To

    begin with, Ridley downplays the role of the priests for the slave riot, though he concedes that

    they might be credited with inspiring one phase of it (p.44). As Reginster points out,

    downplaying the role of the priests conflicts with Nietzsches insistence in BGE 261 that the

    slaves cannot be creative. (I suggest that we read that as the slaves by themselves.) Second,

    Ridley also downplays the similarity between the slaves and the priests. Discussing GM III, 15,

    he quotes Nietzsche as saying about the priest that [h]e must be himself sink, but as then

    retractingby saying that he must be profoundly related to the sick. Ridley claims that thepriests relation to the sick is one of imagination, imaginative identification (p.50). This,

    however, seems an odd reading of the relevant passage. Nietzsche does not seem to retract

    anything there, but further to explicate.


    ressentiment: priests and slaves.13 We say only as much about them as needed for the story of

    ressentiment. The priests are introduced in GM I, 6 and I, 7 as members of the highest caste and

    contrasted with the other members of that caste, knights or masters. Those knights are characterized

    by a powerful physicality, a blossoming, rich, even overflowing health, together with that which

    is required for its preservation: war, adventure, the hunt, dance, athletic contests, and in general

    everything which includes strong, free, cheerful-hearted activity (GM I, 7). As opposed to that,

    driven by powerlessness and hatred, the priests insist that the miserable alone are the good; the

    poor, powerless, lowly, alone are the good; the suffering, deprived, sick, ugly are also the only

    pious, the only blessed in God, for them alone is there blessedness. (Nietzsches example is

    Tertullian, quoted in GM I, 15.) The slaves (the herd) are introduced in GM I as the subjugated

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    14 It is in this derivative sense that ressentimentis present in GM also as a sentimentindividuals have towards themselves; but as we shall see in section 4, there is a different (non-derivative) sense in which that is also true, which is a sense neglected in GM.


    caste. In GM I, the slaves are discussed mostly in the context of the slave revolt, which starts when

    ressentimentbecomes creative (I, 10). Ressentimentcreates values, and is operative in individuals

    condemned to inactivity who resort to imaginary revenge. The person ofressentiment,

    is neither sincere, nor naive, nor honest and frank with himself. His soul looks obliquely at things; his spirit

    loves hiding places, secret passages and back doors, everything hidden strikes him as his world, his security,

    his balm; he knows all about being silent, not forgetting, waiting, belittling onself for the moment, humbling

    oneself. (GM I, 10)

    It is in the eyes of such a person that precisely the good one of the other morality, precisely the

    noble, the powerful, the ruling one comes to be regarded as evil (GM I, 11), and reversely, it is

    the person ofressentimentwho comes to be seen as good. The older master morality has been

    turned around, and the original distinction between good and bad, has given rise to the

    distinction between good and evil.

    GM III elaborates on the relationship between priests and slaves and the role ofressentiment

    in the revolt. We learn that the priests true feat (GM III, 15) is to be the direction-changer of

    ressentiment: they keep ressentimentfrom tearing apart the herd. They achieve this by re-directing

    ressentimentso that it targets the slaves themselves.14 While GM I introduces priests as members

    of the ruling class and emphasizes what they share with knights, GM III stresses their affinities with

    slaves, insisting that they must be sick in the same way as slaves to understand and rule them. (This

    contrast should not be overstated, though: already in GM I, 6 we learn that Nietzsche thinks of the

    priests as sick.) Thus priests emerge as intermediate figures between knights and slaves, sharing

    creativity and determination with the knights and powerlessness and frustration with the slaves.

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    15 Cf. Kant: The beginning of history does not have to be invented but can be deduced

    from experience, assuming that was experienced at the beginning of history was no better or

    worse than what was experienced now an assumption which accords with the analogy of nature

    and which has nothing presumptuous about it (loc. cit., p.221). Kant may be right that what was

    experienced at earlier stages was neither better nor worse than what is experienced, but it is

    notsafe to assume that our own emotional experiences provide good guidance.


    Putting together what we learn in GM I and III, we see that ressentimentaffects both priests and

    slaves; that it arises in response to their inferior status viz-a-viz the knights; that it cannot be

    discharged against knights and threatens to tear apart the herd; and that, in order to prevent this, the

    priest takes measures that cause the slaves to feel ressentimentagainst themselves, rather than

    against each other. The slave rebellion presumably occurs when the priests preach to the slaves the

    Christian metaphysical and ethical world order about which we say more in section 3. It is

    ressentimentthat motivates the priests and it is their hateful creativity that enables them to act, and

    it is ressentiment that makes the slaves receptive to their teachings. Thus the revolt is the joint

    accomplishment of slaves and priests driven by ressentimentin ways appropriate to each group.

    2.2 But how does ressentimentarise? GM I suggests an answer that is satisfactory as long as one

    considers that treatise in isolation: since slaves and knights relate to each other like lambs and birds

    of prey (GM I, 13), anger and resentment seem appropriate reactions for slaves. Similarly, priests

    share certain features with knights, but find themselves powerless; so again, anger and resentment

    seem appropriate. No further explanation seems needed, nor does Nietzsche offer one in GM I.

    However, he is not entitled to leaving the origins ofressentimentunexplained. For the purpose of

    his genealogical inquiries is to explain why our emotional lives are what they are. Thus appeals to

    what we find intuitively clear are illegitimate.15 Why does the role of knights in the lives of slaves

    lead to ressentiment rather than to some other emotion (resignation, sadness, euphoria,

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    16 This passage bears a curious similarity with WS 33, Nietzsches most extensive

    discussion ofrevenge. There he distinguishes between two kinds of revenge: one of them is a


    melancholia, apathy, or madness)? This question gains urgency once we have Nietzsches

    philosophical anthropology in place, which appears in GM II and which we discuss in section 3.

    For then answers to our questions about ressentimentmust be consistent with that account. If these

    questions cannot be answered within Nietzsches approach, he fails to account for the origins of

    the distinction between good and evil in ways compatible with his own anthropology.

    Suggesting a way of integrating ressentimentinto the philosophical anthropology of GM

    II, GM III offers potential for a more sophisticated account. Nietzsche begins to make a connection

    between ressentimentand his anthropology when he takes up the process of civilization, claiming

    that process entails diseasedness (GM III, 13). We have not yet introduced enough material to

    explain why Nietzsche thinks of the process of civilization as entailing diseasedness, and what sort

    of diseasedness that could be. Yet he emphasizes that this diseasedness is normal (GM III, 14).

    He presumably thinks of it as a disease in the same way in which he regards pregnancy as a disease

    (GM II, 19). These remarks take us to the point where Nietzsche makes the most significant

    statement about the origins ofressentimentin GM:

    It is here alone, according to my surmise, that one finds the true physiological causality of

    r e s s e n t i m e n t, of revenge, and of their relatives that is, in a longing for anesthetization of pain through

    affect this causality has been commonly sought, very mistakenly to me, in the defensive counterblow, a

    mere reactive protective measure, a reflex movement in the case of some sudden harm and endangerment,

    of the kind that a frog without a head still carries out in order to get rid of a corrosive acid. But the difference

    is fundamental: in the one case, one wishes to prevent further damage, in the other case, one wishes, by mean

    of a more vehement emotion of any kind, to anesthesize a tormenting, secret pain that is becoming unbearable

    and, at least for the moment, to put it out of consciousness (GM III, 15) [my emphasis].16

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    defensive mechanism, whereas the other one is a mechanism of restitution or restoration.

    17 For a more extensive development of Nietzsches account of guilt see Risse: Nietzsche

    on the Origin of the Bad Conscience, loc. cit.; see also Clark: Nietzsches Immoralism, loc. cit.

    18 In German-speaking countries, reference to theschlechtes Gewissen is more commonthan reference to the bad conscience in English-speaking countries. The term tends to be used in

    a quasi-institutional way, which suggests a translation into English with a direct article.


    So Ressentiment arises as a physiological reaction against the pain due to the process of

    civilization: ressentimentnumbs that pain. As will become clear later, this discussion goes a long

    way towards answering the questions of why ressentimentarises and why it is ressentimentthat

    numbs that pain rather than any othermechanism that might do so. Yet before we are in any

    position to present an account of the origins ofressentimentanswering those questions we must

    introduce Nietzsches philosophical anthropology, in section 3, and his discussion ofressentiment

    towards onself, in section 4. Suffice it to record for the time being that a satisfactory answer to

    those questions is a criterion of adequacy for the account of the origins ofressentimentto be

    developed in section 5.

    3. Nietzsches Philosophical Anthropology

    3.1 So far we have focused on GM I and III, which include most of Nietzsches statements on

    ressentiment, but now we must include GM II, which contains his speculative anthropology. 17

    While the declared subject of GM II is the bad conscience as a consciousness of guilt, it is by way

    of accounting for the bad conscience that Nietzsche develops this anthropology, including,

    crucially, his speculations about the origins of the mind.18 Nietzsches account of guilt contains

    three components: To begin with, there is an early form of the bad conscience, which has nothing

    to do with guilt but is an early form of consciousness, or the inner world (GM II, 16). The second

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    element is an indebtedness to ancestors and gods. This indebtedness shows first in rituals of

    worship, but is later transformed into a domineering feeling that turns into guilt. Nietzsche

    characterizes this transformation as a pushing-back of the indebtedness into the original form

    of the bad conscience, which is brought about by Christianity. So Christianity is the third

    component. While for us the early bad conscience is crucial, I also sketch the other components to

    develop both an account of Nietzsches anthropology and an example of how GM accomplishes

    one of its goals, namely, to provide pieces of animal psychology, that is, to trace moral emotions

    to their raw state (GM III, 20). Section 5 offers such an account ofressentiment.

    The early form of the bad conscience originates in people oppressed by the pack of blond

    beasts of prey, a conqueror- and master-race, which puts its terrible claws on a perhaps

    numerically vastly superior, but formless, still spreading population (GM II,17). Like in

    RousseausDiscourse on Inequality, individuals initially live without tight communal organization,

    following their instincts for food, shelter, sex, and their drives for aggression. Then more organized

    clans start oppressing less organized groups. The oppressed are prevented from letting their

    instincts act against others, in particular the aggressive instincts for enmity, cruelty, the lust for

    pursuit, for raid, for change, for destruction (GM II,16). Nietzsche calls this inward-direction of

    previously outward-directed instincts the internalization of man. He regards it as the origin of any

    form of mental life. The term bad conscience at this stage refers to a rudimentary form of the

    mind. Prior to the oppression, the inner world is merely thick as extended between two skins,

    but as a consequence of the oppression this inner world has spread and unfolded, has taken on

    depth, breadth, height to the same degree that mans outward discharging has been inhibited (GM

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    19 The image of the skins is curious. Clark/Swensen, suggest that one may think of two

    layers of an onion. It is important that Nietzsche assumes that there already is a small inner

    world. For that deprives him of the task to explain how there could be any form of inner life atall, as opposed to explaining how it could be expanded. (See Clark, Maudemarie/Swensen, Alan(eds): Nietzsches On the Genealogy of Morality. Cambridge 1998, p.147. Plausibly, Nietzsche

    thought this bit of the development of consciousness happened at a pre-social stage. For thedevelopment of consciousness under social pressure, cf. also GS 354, and see also BGE 19.

    20 Dostoevsky, Fyodor: Notes from the Underground. New York 1993, p.7.

    21 Compare Kant: He discovered in himself an ability to choose his own way of life

    without being tied to any single one like the other animals. (Conjectures, loc. cit., p.224).


    II, 16).19 This painful process leaves man in the position of an incarcerated animal that beats itself

    raw on the bars of its cage (GM II, 16). Nietzsche describes the evolution of this early form of the

    bad conscience and thus the development of the mind like the outbreak of a disease, just as

    Dostoevskis man from the underground states that not only too much consciousness but even

    any consciousness at all is a disease.20 This development also provides the foundations forself-

    consciousness. As Nietzsche puts it, it is only now that a person gives himself a shape and can

    envisage ideal and imaginative events (GM II,18) as part of a vision. Only when the appropriate

    kind of inner life exists can individuals thinkaboutthemselves and about themselves in relation

    to the world around them and others in it.21

    3.2 The second element in Nietzsches account is indebtedness towards ancestors and gods. One

    variant of this relationship is the debt (in the form of sacrifices) of offspring towards ancestors for

    their contributions to the flourishing of the tribe (GM II, 19). These debts grow the more the tribe

    succeeds; eventually, ancestors transfigure into gods. There is no element ofguilt in this

    indebtedness. Moralization occurs through the pushing-back of those notions into the conscience,

    or more specifically, through the involvement of the badconscience with the concept of God (GM

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    22 Cf. A 26: What does moral world order mean? That there is a will of God, once and

    for all, as to what man is to do and what he is not to do; that the value of a people, of anindividual, is to be measured according to how much or how little the will of God is obeyed; that

    the will of God manifests itself in the destinies of a people, of an individual, as the ruling factor,

    that is to say, as punishing and rewarding according to the degree of obedience.

    23 It is about that kind of guilt that Kierkegaard is then able to say that [t]he totality of

    guilt-consciousness in the single individual before God in relation to an eternal happiness is the


    II, 21). To explain this pushing back of the indebtedness, we need to introduce Christianity. As

    Nietzsche puts it in GM III, 20, only in the hands of the priest, this true artist of the feeling of

    guilt, did it take on form oh what a from! Sin for thus reads the priestly reinterpretation of the

    animals bad conscience cruelly turned backwards. The priest invents an ethical world order

    (sittliche Weltordnung; A 26), a divine order according to which all beings have their special place

    in the creation, and according to which character traits are good and actions right insofar as they

    are in harmony with the divine will. Many of mans natural instincts come to be seen as

    dispositions to violate this order, that is, assins (GM III, 20).22 The suffering the instincts cause

    through being dissatisfied and through their struggle with each other is explained as pain from the

    struggle of good inclinations against bad ones, or as preliminary punishment for bad dispositions.

    Christianity provides a meaning for misery by explaining why it is in order. The pushing back

    is a psychological consequence of accepting Christianity. Its endorsement generates a new

    sentiment,guilt, which is so strong that it generates a new kind of inner life (and which can only

    emerge because of the presence of the original form of the bad conscience). The original

    indebtedness turns into a deep sense of failure with respect to what one is first and foremost,

    namely, Gods creature: that is, indebtedness turns into guilt. The bad conscience then fixes itself

    firmly, eats into him [addition: the debtor, MR], spreads out, and grows like polyp in every breadth

    and depth (GM II, 21).23

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    religious (Kierkegaard, Sren: Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Two Volumes: eds. and

    trans. H. Hong and E. Hong. Princeton: 1992; Vol. 1, p.554; my emphasis).

    24 This aspect ofressentimenthas not been prominent in recent writings on ressentiment,but it needs to be appreciated for us to come to terms with the phenomenon Nietzsche was

    concerned with. On the other hand, this aspect ofressentimentappeared in discussions ofNietzsche influenced by Heidegger (see 4.5). Koecke distinguishes between ressentimentin thebroader sense and ressentiment in the narrower sense; in the narrower sense it is like theGerman word Grolland is directed against others, while in the broader sense it is directed alsoagainst onself (Koecke, Christian: Zeit des Ressentiments, Zeit der Erlsung. Berlin 1994; p.62



    Thus the consciousness of guilt has arisen from the interaction of components that have

    nothing to do with guilt. This discussion answers questions left open in section 2. In particular we

    can see now what pain ressentimentis supposed to numb: it is the pain arising in reaction to forced

    socialization. It is also this suffering for which the herd is in search of a meaning (GM III, 28).

    Most importantly, GM II offers the framework within which any account of the origins of

    ressentimentmust be embedded. It is our second criterion of adequacy for any such account that

    it be possible to embed it in this way.

    4. Resenting Oneself

    4.1 In GM, ressentimentappears primarily as a sentiment slaves and priests feel towards knights

    and thus towards others. Only when the priests redirect it does it becomes an emotion slaves have

    towards themselves. Yet inEcce Homo, Nietzsche also talks about ressentimenttowards ones own

    past, that is, towards oneself, and such ressentiment exists independently of any redirection

    orchestrated by the priests.24 This aspect ofressentimentand the corresponding contrast between

    the person ofressentimentand a character whom Nietzsche calls the person who turned out well,

    der Wohlgeratene, also appears in other writings, but Nietzsche does not use the term

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    26 Regarding the theme of not-getting-rid of anything, cf, also BGE 244, where Nietzsche

    discusses the Germans and says: The German drags his soul along: whatever he experiences he

    drags. He digests his events badly, he never gets done with them; German profundity is often

    merely a hard and sluggish digestion. On the subject of being sick of oneself see also GM

    III, 14, 16, 20, and see Koecke: Zeit des Ressentiments, loc. cit., p.67, for a list of references to

    passages where Nietzsche talks about the triumph of integrating ones past into ones life. The

    German expressions that Nietzsche uses in such contexts (such as mit etwas fertig werden) arenot as colloquial as English translations. The discussion ofressentimentin section 6 in Why I AmSo Wise is intertwined with a discussion of disease in general and Nietzsches own disease inparticular. The conflation of these two discussions culminates in the statement that disease is infact a form ofressentiment. It is interesting to compare this passage with an earlier fragment ofthis passage (see Nachlass1887/89, KSA 13, 24[1], p.617) from October or November 1888.There Nietzsche starts with a discussion of disease and then states how bad ressentimentis forone who is sick. So at this stage, the discussions are not as intertwined as they are in the

    published version. His decision to publish these thoughts in that intertwined manner may be

    interpreted as capturing his own struggle with harmful emotions in response to his illness.


    connection between the inability to get over anything and ressentimentdeserves investigation.26

    4.2 To see why the ability to get over things concerns Nietzsche, recall his discussion of memory

    in GM II. Forgetfulness, he claims, is mans natural state. [A] solitary human being who lives like

    a beast of preydoes not need consciousness (GS 354), nor does he need a memory. The creation

    of memory accompanies socialization, which requires man to become calculable, regular,

    necessary (GM II, 1). Socialization is painful. Memory, in particular, is created by cruel means,

    while forgetfulness is a bliss:

    To close the doors and windows of consciousness for a time; to remain undisturbed by the noise and struggle

    of our underworld of utility organs working with and against one another; a little quietness; a littlet a b u l a

    r a s aof the consciousness, to make room for new things, above all for the nobler functions and functionaries,

    for regulation, foresight, pre-meditation [...] that is the purpose of active forgetfulness, which is like a

    doorkeeper, a preserver of psychic order, repose, and etiquette: [...] there could be no happiness, no

    cheerfulness, no hope, no pride, nop r e s e n t, without forgetfulness. The man in whom this apparatus of

    repression is damaged and ceases to function properly may be compared [...] with a dyseptic he cannot have

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    27 While Nietzsche does not develop the theme of forgetting any further in GM, his

    discussion bears resemblance to his most extensive discussion of how to relate to the past, the

    discussion in the Second Untimely Mediation, On the Use and Disadvantages of History, of

    which we will hear more in 4.3. Cf. also BGE 217: Blessed are the forgetful: for they get over

    their stupidities, too. For Nietzsche on memory and forgetting, cf. WS 40, D 126, 167, 278, 312.28 For an illuminating and related discussion ofWohlgeratenheit, see also Nachlass1888,

    KSA 13, 15[39], p.432. Nietzsche praises this type of person not only for her ability to refrain

    from blame (she does not believe in guilt), but also for not acknowledging anything as a

    misfortune. Wohlgeratenheitalso appears in theAntichrist, in particular in the final section 62,where it is listed alongside health, beauty, courage, spirit, benevolence of the soul, and life itself


    done with anything. (GM II, 1)

    At the end of this quote we again encounter the inability to get rid of anything. As this passage

    suggests, the ascent of memory leads to a new mode of life: it compels individuals to live with their

    memories. Individuals may fail to integrate memories into their life in a healthy manner and find

    themselves unable to get over things: they cannot release themselves from the grip of memories

    and are incapable of giving a shape to their life that allows for an integration of the past without

    hampering the present or obstructing the future. Such persons are painfully tied up with the past:

    they keep re-feeling it, which is what re-sentire means literally in Latin and which is preserved in

    the French re-sentirmore than in the English resent. New events are seen from within this pattern

    of painful memories, and thus there are going to be ever more of them. A consequence of the

    inability to get over things is to develop the reactions Nietzsche mentions in section 6 of Ecce

    Home, Why I am so Wise the affects ofressentiment.27 Yet there are also those who turned out

    well (die Wohlgeratenen), as Nietzsche says inEcce Homo (Why I am so Wise, 2):

    He [addition: the well-turned-out person, MR] has a taste for what is good for him. [...] Instinctively, he

    collects from everything he sees, hears, lives through, h i s sum: he is a principle of selection, he discards

    much. [...] He believes neither in misfortune nor in guilt: he comes to terms with himself, with others; he

    knows how to f o r g e t -- he is strong enough; hence everything m u s t turn out for his best.28

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    as opponents of Christianity (cf. also A 24, A46, A52, and also TI,Errors, 2 ). For theconnection between Wohlgeratenheitand Nietzsches bermensch, see EH,Books, 1, whereNietzsche says that the latter just is a type of highest Wohlgeratenheit. EH,Destininy, 4, puts aparticular spin on Nietzsches use of that term: there he points out that he rejects the type of the

    Wohlwollenden and the Wohlttigen, which are the more traditional moral ideals of thebenevolent and the beneficent. The one who turned out well is supposed to replace those types.

    29 Dostoevskys Notes from the Underground capture the person ofressentimentwell,and the following passage in particular captures ressentimenttowards ones own past:

    There, in its loathsome, stinking underground, our offended, beaten-down, and derided mouse at once

    immerses itself in cold, venomous, and above all, everlasting spite. For forty years on end, it will recall its

    offense to the last, most shameful details, each time adding even more shameful details of its own,

    spitefully taunting and chafing itself with its fantasies. It will be ashamed of its fantasies, but all the same it

    will recall everything, go over everything, heap all sorts of figments on itself, under the pretext that they,

    too, could have happened, and forgive nothing. It may even begin to take revenge, but somehow in

    snatches, with piddling things, from behind the stove, incognito, believing neither in its right to revenge

    itself nor in the success of its vengeance, and knowing beforehand that it will suffer a hundred times more

    from all its attempts at revenge than will the object of its vengeance, who will perhaps not even scratch at

    the bite. On its deathbed it will again recall everything, adding the interest accumulated over all that time,

    and.... (p.11).

    For discussion of Dostoevskys novel in this context, see Sugarman, Richard: Rancor Against

    Time. The Phenomenology of Ressentiment. Hamburg: 1980; chapter 1. Recall the story that

    Rousseau relates of himself towards the end of the second book of his Confessions: Rousseau, asa young man, took a ribbon and accused a maid of stealing it. He says that not a single day

    passes without the memory of this offense returning to him. See also chapter 5 of Wollheim,

    Richard: The Thread of Life. New Haven 1984, which is aptly called The Tyranny of the



    Those who turned out well give unity and independence to their lives by dropping harmful

    memories. They do not resent their own past because they are not excessively caught up in it.29

    4.3 The idea ofressentimenttowards oneself and the contrast between the person ofressentiment

    and the person who turned out well can be traced through Nietzsches writings. An early and

    illuminating appearance is in the Second Untimely Meditation, On the Use and Disadvantages of

    History for Life. While Nietzsche does not use the term ressentiment there, that Meditation

    captures the distinction so lucidly that the relevant passages deserve quoting. In UM II, 1, Nietzsche

    discusses a character with obvious similarities to the person ofressentimentof his later works:

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    A human being who would like to feel historically through and through would resemble the one who would

    be forced to deprive himself of sleep, or resemble the animal that should live on ruminating and ever repeated

    ruminating. So: it is possible to live almost without memory, even to live happily, as the animal demonstrates;

    yet it is entirely impossible to live without forgetting. Or, to explain myself even simpler about my topic: there

    is a degree of sleeplessness, of ruminating, of historical sense, at which the living is harmed, and ultimately

    perishes, be it a human being or a people or a culture.

    The person ofressentimentdiscussed inEcce Homo is much the same character captured here. In

    particular, that character fails to integrate her memories into her life in a healthy manner. The

    contrast between the person ofressentimentand the person who turned out well is captured further

    down (where the strength is the strength to grow out of oneself in a characteristic way, to

    restructure and incorporate what is past and alien, heal wounds, replace what has been lost, to

    recreate broken forms out of oneself):

    There are human beings who possess this strength to such a small degree that bleed to death on a single event,

    on a single pain, often on a single tender injustice, as on a tiny bloody crack; on the other hand, there are those,

    who are touched by the wildest and most atrocious accidents of life and even acts of their own viciousness to

    such a small extent that in the midst of all that or briefly afterwards they achieve a decent well-being

    (Wohlbefinden) and a kind of calm conscience. The more stronger roots the inner nature of a person has, the

    more will he appropriate the past or force it to suit him. [...] What such a nature does not overpower, it knows

    how to forget; it is not there any more, the horizon is closed and completely so, and nothing manages to recall

    that beyond that same person there are passions, teachings, and ends. [...] Every living being can only be

    healthy, strong, and fertile within a horizon; if it is incapable of drawing a horizon around itself [...], it will

    fade away or rush into timely destruction.

    The similarity of these ideas to those expressed inEcce Homo is obvious. In particular the idea of

    a healthy living being as one who can draw a horizon around itself is useful: as opposed to the

    person who turned out well, the person ofressentiment cannot isolate himself from disturbing

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    30 This idea of an excessively other-directed life is also the key to the intriguing remarks

    that Nietzsche makes on the redeemer mentality in theAntichrist; see A 30-35 (cf. alsoNietzsches remarks about the physiological facts on which Buddhism rests in A 20).


    influences, including harmful memories. The person who turned out well, for Nietzsche, forms the

    individual counterpart to a people to whom one attributes a culture; such a people has to be a

    single living unity and not fall wretchedly apart into inner and outer, content and form(UM II, 4).

    4.4 So the idea ofressentiment towards oneself and the opposing character of the person who

    turned out well are important for Nietzsche long before he starts using the word ressentiment. It

    is striking that the work in which he arguably found his own voice captures the same distinction

    he still draws in his autobiography written right before his collapse. It should be clear also that,

    indeed, this form ofressentimentdoes not arise because ressentimenttowards others is redirected,

    but is a phenomenon sui generis. This discussion, then, looks at the person ofressentimentfrom

    a different angle from the story of slaves, priests, and masters in GM. The person ofressentiment

    as he emerges in this discussion lacks unity and independence of character: a person unable to come

    to terms with the influences of his environment and the memories of his past, or unable to overcome

    the inner turmoil of instincts and inclinations to build her character into a unified self; a person who

    cannot close herself off sufficiently much to become whole. Instead, unable to rest in herself, the

    person ofressentiment lives both an excessively retrospective and an excessively other-directed

    life.30 Let us look at two examples of persons who Nietzsche (at the respective time) believed

    turned out well. We will return to both of these examples in the remainder of this study. Consider

    first the following remark about Wagner:

    The dramatic element in Wagners development is quite unmistakable from the moment when his ruling

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    31 Cf. TI, Socrates, 11: to have to fight instincts is the formula for decadence: while life is

    rising, happiness equals instincts. Cf. BGE 200, BGE 208. BGE 258 describes as corruption theexpression of a threatening anarchy within the instincts. A 6 states that an animal, an species,

    an individual is corrupt if it loses its instincts, if it chooses what is detrimental.

    32 The passage from EH, Wise, 2 at the end of 4.2 provides a third example; as Nietzschesays at the very end of that section (which I think is one of Nietzsches most beautiful), he is

    describing himself. That passage has strong similarities in particular with the Goethe passage.


    passion became aware of itself and took his nature in its charge: from that time on there was an end to

    fumbling, straying, to the proliferation of secondary shoots, and within the most convoluted courses and often

    daring trajectories assumed by his artistic plans there rules a single inner law, a will by which they can be

    explained. (UM IV, 2)

    By way of contrast with such self-mastery, note what we read in the Twilight about the

    degeneration Socrates finds in Athens: no one was any longer master over himself, the instincts

    turned against one another (TI, Socrates, 9).31 The Twilightalso contains the other passage I would

    like to discuss:

    G o e t h e not a German event, but a European one [...] He bore the strongest instincts within himself: the

    sensibility, the idolatry of nature, the anti-historic, the idealistic, the unreal and revolutionary (the latter being

    merely a form of the unreal). He sought help from history, natural science, antiquity, and also Spinoza, but,

    above all, from practical activity [...] What he wanted wast o t a l i t y; he fought the mutual extraneousness

    of reason, senses, feeling, and will (preached with the most abhorrent scholasticism by Kant, the antipode of

    Goethe); he disciplined himself to wholeness, he c r e a t e d himself. (Skirmishes, 49)32

    These passages throw light on the counter part of the person ofressentimentin a context different

    from the slave/master stories of GM. The person who turned out well is a person with the unity and

    independence of character the person ofressentimentlacks. We can now see why the characters

    Nietzsche admires include artists like Goethe and Wagner, on the one hand, and the masters of GM

    I, on the other. Both types are more whole human beings (BGE 257) than the person of

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    33 Richardson: Nietzsches System, loc. cit., p.62.

    34 Cf. also GS 294: Noble individuals are not afraid of themselves, so Nietzsche tells us.

    The noble are the one who come to terms with their past; see BGE 211 and BGE 287. Nietzsche

    creates no illusions about the masters of the first treatise: Roman, Arabian, Germanic, Japanesenobility, Homeric heroes, Scandinavian Vikings, they are not much better than uncaged beasts

    of prey in the world outside where the strange, the foreign, begin (GM I, 11).

    35 See also the Tarantula passage in part II; Nietzsche says there: For that man bedelivered from revenge, that is for me the bridge to the highest hope, and a rainbow after long

    storms. The tarantula is the spirit of revenge.


    ressentiment, but in different ways. One way of being more whole than a tormented character is not

    to have been exposed to the process leading to the inner turmoil (and one difference between

    masters and slaves, as Richardson says, is that masters can act on their instincts, whereas slaves


    another way is having overcome and mastered that turmoil.34

    In light of these insights

    about ressentimentthat become visible only if once focuses on ressentimenttowards oneself, we

    need to formulate a third criterion of adequacy for our account of the origins of ressentiment,

    namely, that it illuminate both ressentimenttowards others and ressentimenttowards onself.

    4.5 We cannot leave the subject ofressentimenttowards oneself without drawing attention to the

    reception this problem has received within the Heidegger-inspired discussion of Nietzsche and thus

    to a passage in Zarathustra, which also bears on the subject of ressentiment towards onself.

    Specifically, the problem that has received such attention is that of a persons resentment towards

    his own finitude and temporality, or, to use the title of Sugarmans book on that subject, herrancor

    against time. Relevant passages for this discussion are inZarathustra, especially in the section

    onRedemption in Part II:35

    To redeem those who lived in the past and to recreate all it was into a thus I willed it that alone should

    I call redemption. Will that is the name of the liberator and joy-bringer [...] Willing liberates; but what is it

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    36 Heidegger, Martin: What is Thinking? New York 1954; and Heidegger: Who is

    Nietzsches Zarathustra? In: D. Allison (ed.):The New Nietzsche. New York 1977.


    Sugarman, Rancor Against Time, loc. cit., p.97.38 For more discussion, see Sugarman, Rancor Against Time, loc. cit.; Koecke, Zeit des

    Ressentiments, loc. cit.; Mller-Lauter, Wolfgang: Der Geist der Rache und die Ewige

    Wiederkehr Zu Heideggers Spter Nietzsche-Interpretation. In: F. W. Korff: Redliches

    Denken, Stuttgart 1981, and references therein. Cf. also the end of chapter 2 of Staten, Henry:Nietzsches Voice. Ithaca 1990.


    that puts even the liberator himself in fetters? It was that is the name of the wills gnashing of teeth and

    most secret melancholy. Powerless against what as been done, he is an angry spectator of all that is past. [...]

    This, indeed this alone, is what revenge is: the wills ill will against time and its it was.

    Heidegger dwells a lot on this and adjacent passages, in particular in his essay Who is Nietzsches

    Zarathustra? and his lectures on What is Called Thinking? 36While it is obvious that the theme

    of rancor against time was of interest to Heidegger, we cannot pursue this theme and its connection

    to other topics (e..g., eternal recurrence). Yet we should briefly address one claim that has been

    made in this context: the claim that Nietzsche asserted that the ultimate ground of ressentiment

    was mans relation to his own finitude and temporality. 37 On this reading, ressentimentoriginated

    in rancor against time, and ressentimenttowards others derives from it. Yet there does not seem

    to be any textual evidence that Nietzsche thought that rancor against time was the ultimate

    ground ofressentiment. At any rate, this seems rather implausible. However, it will be easier to

    say why after we have presented an account of the origins ressentiment. Let us proceed to that

    account, then, without further ado.38

    5. The Origins ofRessentiment

    5.1 This section presents an account of the origins ofressentimentthat meets the three criteria of

    adequacy: it answers the question of why it is ressentiment, rather than any other emotion, that

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    39 On the general subject of proposing conjectural history, consider Kants introductory

    words to his Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History, which are relevant here:To introduce conjectures at various points in the course of an historical account in order to fill gaps in the

    record is surely permissible. [...] But to base a historical account solely on conjectures would seem little

    better than drawing up a plan for a novel. Indeed, such an account could not be described as a conjectural

    history at all, but merely as a work of fiction. Nevertheless, what may be presumptuous to introduce in the

    course of a history of human actions may well be permissible with reference to the first beginnings of thathistory, for if the beginning is a product of nature, it may be discoverable by conjectural means (emphases

    omitted). Kant: Conjectures, loc. cit., p.221)

    Note that Kant presupposes that human beings are fully developed to trace what is relevant in

    human history for ethical purposes (p.223). He also assumes that there is a natural sense of

    decency, an inclination to inspire respect in others by good manners ( pp.224/25). What Kant

    takes as given is what for Nietzsche does all the work.


    arises within Nietzsches story; it is embedded into Nietzsches anthropology developed in GM II;

    and it explains why both ressentimenttowards others and ressentimenttowards oneself arise. While

    this section bears on issues in the philosophy of mind and in biology and psychology, the level of

    sophistication at which we pursue them will not transcend that of section 3. As is customary in such

    reconstructions motivated by normative concerns, we make the undefended assumption that, in

    principle, it is possible to translate this discussion into those terms. The account is not only

    speculative in the sense in which Nietzsches anthropology is; it is speculative also in the sense that

    what I can show is that this account is consistent with what Nietzsche says and kept in that spirit.

    I claim my account is Nietzschean in just that way; I do not claim it is Nietzsches, strictly

    speaking. I do not take that to be a problem.39

    Ressentimentoriginates in a state of mind that arises when the mind becomes conscious of

    itself under circumstances in which deep-rooted anger and resentment are already present in the

    mind. Anger and resentment arise because the mind evolves in response to the oppression of

    aggressive instincts. For the mind to become conscious of itself means for it to become able to refer

    to and reflect upon itself, perhaps by forming representations of itself or beliefs, emotions, or other

    entities inside or constitutive of it, perhaps in other, non-representational ways. Once the mind

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    40 A remark on my talk about origins ofressentiment is appropriate at this stage. What Iam trying to identify is a physiological state that accounts for the phenomenology of

    ressentimentprominent throughout the Genealogy, that is consistent with the speculativeanthropology I ascribe to Nietzsche, and that also explains how there is both ressentimentwithregard to others and with regard to oneself. (These are the three criteria of adequacy.) Depending

    on ones views on mental ontology, one may think of that physiological state as the origin of

    ressentiment, or its physiological root, or as ressentiment, as understood from a physiologicalpoint of view, or as understood from the standpoint of animal psychology. So does this account

    provide an answer to the question of what ressentimentactually is? It does, in the sense that itassesses what ressentimentis, again, from the standpoint of Nietzschean animal psychology.


    is capable of referring to itself, anger and resentment find targets inside the mind, becoming

    directed against the mind itself. Nietzsche may say ofressentimentwhat he says of guilt: that it

    fixes itself firmly, eats into him, spreads out, and grows like a polyp in every breadth and depth

    (GM II, 21). It is through ressentiment(as much as through guilt) that the human soul became d

    e e p (GM I, 6) a remark that has a peculiar literalness to it.40

    5.2 To see what this means and how it may be plausible, let us elaborate on what it is for a mind

    to become conscious of itself. The character of the mental changes in response to the internalization

    (cf. section 3). While Nietzsche does not explain this development in any detail, it is plausible that

    the process of the mind becoming conscious of itself brings about a perception of itself as persisting

    through time, and thus as accumulating memories of itself developing, on the one hand, and as

    being different from other external entities, such as persons and objects, on the other hand. This

    claim can be spelled out in different ways, depending on whether one is willing to talk about

    selves and depending on how one understands the embeddedness of the mind both within a

    chronological sequence of stages of itself (past, present, future) and within an external

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    41 This paragraph touches on many issues. To mention just one careful discussion of these

    matters, cf. Taylor, Charles: Sources of the Self. Cambridge 1989, part 1, and references therein.


    environment.41 All we need for present purposes is that we understand the emergence of the minds

    awareness of itself as its forming a conception of itself by becoming able to identify itself through

    time and by being able to demarcate itself from other entities.

    This elaboration on the nature of self-consciousness provides a framework to offer a

    proposal for the development of (first) anger and resentment and (then) ressentiment. Plausibly,

    anger and resentment arise in response to the oppression of instincts. Those sentiments, or

    rudimentary forms thereof, emerge in virtue of the nature of what is being oppressed, namely,

    aggressive instincts. Nietzsches image of the animal that finds itself incarcerated and bites itself

    raw on the bars of its cage is helpful (cf. GM II, 16): where previously instincts could be

    discharged against other animals, anger and resentment grow. Contrary to Aristotles classic

    account in theRhetoric (1378a34), this kind of anger is not directed against any specific individual,

    any more than the aggression of the earlier instincts was directed against anybody in particular

    (except in the sense that they would be targets). Once the mind becomes conscious of itself,

    something new happens: anger and resentment resulting from the oppression of instincts are now

    directed against mental representations of the mind itself. While any representation in the mind

    provides internal targets for anger and resentment replacing the former external targets of

    aggressive instincts now beyond reach, the minds becoming self-conscious increases the range of

    such internal targets by including representations of the mind itself, including memories of its

    development. Since the mind is from the beginning on an angry and resentful mind, anger and

    resentment now spread and start referring to whatever the mind itself is capable of referring. My

    suggestion is to refer to the state of mind arising in this way as the physiological origin of

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    43 Persons of ressentimentand those who turned out well do not constitute disjointgroups; rather, those notions denote somewhat abstract types, in the spirit of BGE 260, where

    Nietzsche claims that slave and master morality can occur in the same individual. As Nietzsche

    says, a distinguishing feature of the higher nature, the more spiritual nature, is to be [...] a

    battle ground for these opposites (GM I, 16). In GM I, 10, Nietzsche explicitly acknowledges

    that ressentimentmay appear in the noble man, but then it consummates and exhausts itself inan immediate reaction, and therefore does not poison. See the beginning of chapter 2 of Staten,

    Nietzsches Voice, loc. cit., for an illuminating discussion of anger that cannotbe acted on innobles in the Iliad. Also, it has been objected that, ifressentimentis tied to self-consciousness inthe manner I suggest, it becomes rather puzzling how anybody could turn out well. However,

    my account tells a causal story about this connection, and none that rules out the existence of

    exceptions. And clearly, individuals unaffected by ressentimentare quite exceptional.


    in such a way that it is not dominated by internal turmoil. This second manner of being a person

    who turned out well is particularly significant to Nietzsche, and both the quote about Wagner and

    the quote about Goethe above describe persons who turned out well in this sense.43

    5.3 This account leaves questions open, but what is crucial does not stand and fall with the details.

    Crucial is that the mind is a product of socialization; that the development of the mind is a painful

    process set in motion by the violent oppression of aggressive instincts, so that pain, anger, and

    resentment are present in the mind from the beginning on and thus when the self-conscious mind

    develops; and that anger and resentment are directed against the mind itself when it becomes self-

    conscious. Nietzsches account constitutes the same sort of speculation about socialization and its

    impact on individuals that Rousseau develops in hisDiscourse on the Origin of Inequality, Kant

    in his Conjectures on the Beginnings of Human History, and Freud in Civilization and Its

    Discontents, despite all the differences.

    Why is it appropriate to regard this account as Nietzschean? I argue this in two stages, first

    by suggesting that Nietzsches claims about ressentimentand its impact in GM can be developed

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    44 The same is true for the phenomenology ofressentimentcaptured by Scheler:Ressentiment, loc. cit.

    45 In the background of this statement is what I take to be a statement of Nietzsches

    explanatory methodology in the Genealogy:Every animal [...] instinctively strives for an optimum of favorable conditions in which fully to release his

    power and achieve his maximum feeling of power; every animal abhors equally instinctively, with an acute

    sense of smell higher than all reason, any kind of disturbance and hindrance which blocks or could block

    his path to the optimum (GM III, 7).


    based on this account of the origins ofressentiment,44 and then by showing that this account meets

    our three criteria of adequacy. As far as the first point is concerned, I only offer a rough sketch.

    Recall the slaves and the priests. Persons ofressentiment, they lack the self-assuredness and

    healthy kind of self-centeredness of the person who turned out well. (BGE 265 points out that

    egoism is a feature of the noble soul.) They become excessively other-directed. The priests are

    energetic and creative types who nevertheless have failed to turn out well: neither are they in any

    position to keep discharging their instincts, nor have they mastered their own inner life in the

    manner of Wagner or Goethe. For these reasons they feel driven to assert their will to power by

    developing stories depicting a world different from the actual one; a world in which they are

    successful.45 One such story is the Christiansittliche Weltordnung. Slaves share with priests the

    ressentiment, but unlike the priests, they are weak and uncreative. However, they are only too

    willing to endorse the story the priests tell. For it is a story in which their existence obtains a

    meaning that in their own perception it fails to have. At the same time, slaves provide the following

    the priests want so badly. Living in a state ofressentiment, slaves and priests suffer from reality

    (A 15), and are trying to lie themselves out of reality. What we have identified as the origins of

    ressentiment is what Nietzsche might call the physiological root of morality. Morality arises

    because of the ensuing interaction between the two types of persons affected by ressentiment, on

    the one hand, and between the persons ofressentimentand those who turned out well, on the other.

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    46 This is argued in Risse, Nietzsche on the Origin of the Bad Conscience, loc. cit.

    47 In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud writes that the sense of guilt is the mostimportant problem in the development of civilization and that the price we pay for our advance

    in civilization is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt (Freud,

    Sigmund: Civilization and Its Discontents. New York 1961, p.97). What is unclear is whether the

    kind of guilt Nietzsche thought can be overcome coincides with what Freud thought of as the

    price of civilization.


    Next I show that this account meets the three conditions of adequacy. The first criterion is

    satisfied straightforwardly. It is anger and resentment rather than other emotions that emerge

    because of the oppression of instincts. Anger and resentment arise when aggressive instincts are

    pushed back into the early and rudimentary form of the mind (cf. GM, II, 21). The intimate

    connection ofressentimentwith socialization also explains why ressentimentis the basic notion

    of GM, prior both to the notion of guilt and to the emergence of ascetic ideals. Guilt, for Nietzsche,

    can be overcome.46 Yet since aggressive instincts characterize human beings as they are by nature,

    anger and resentment are typical phenomena accompanying civilization, and it is bound to be the

    exception that an individual has overcome or avoided the tormented state thus produced. Pace

    Freud, Nietzsche thinks that ressentiment, rather than guilt, is the price of civilization.47

    The second criterion is also satisfied: our account proceeds within the confines set and the

    language provided by Nietzsches anthropology. Anger and ressentimentare explained within that

    model, just as guilt was earlier. The basic, unexplained component of Nietzsches speculative

    anthropology is the aggressive instincts. The mind and emotions such as guilt and ressentimentare

    among the explananda of his genealogy. This account of the origins ofressentimentis therefore

    fully embedded into Nietzsches attempt to provide an animal psychology (cf. GM III, 20) and

    thus justifies the prominence that he assigns to ressentimentin GM. Finally, the third criterion is

    satisfied as well. By tying ressentiment to the emergence of self-consciousness, the account

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    48 It has been objected that this account does not explain

    49 Korsgaard: Sources of Normativity, loc. cit., p.158.


    explains why Nietzsche thinks ofressentimentas directed both against others and against oneself.

    Ressentimentis directed against others from the beginning on, simply because anger and resentment

    derive from aggressive instincts.Ressentimentbecomes directed against oneself as soon as the mind

    becomes capable of reflecting on itself. We can now also see why it is implausible to think of

    rancor against time as the ultimate ground ofressentiment, as Sugarman suggests. For the starting

    point of our account must be the oppression of instincts, which is the seminal event in the

    development of the mind and in the process of civilization. But since those instincts are other-

    directed from the beginning on, it would be implausible if, after their oppression, a form of

    ressentimenttowards oneselfwould be fundamental for the development ofressentimenttowards

    others. Suggesting this means misunderstanding what is explanans and what is explanandum in the


    6. Sources of Normativity and Unity of Agency

    6.1 Exploring the origins ofressentiment, we have arrived at the debate about the sources of

    normativity, that is, about what justifies moral claims. In a seminal contribution to this debate,

    Korsgaard argues that Nietzsches views are harmonious with hers, taking this as providing

    support for her account.49 Yet while both Korsgaards Kant and Nietzsche tie morality to the

    emergence of self-consciousness, GM is an exercise in animal psychology detached from the

    endeavor to deduce the moral law. Thus some clarification of the relationship between the accounts

    is in order. This discussion further illuminates the nature of Nietzsches account and the contrast

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    50 As I pointed out in section 1, in this study, we are not concerned with questions of Kant

    scholarship. So we will simply take Korsgaards reading of Kants Groundworkfor granted.


    between the person ofressentimentand the person who turned out well; it also brings to bear our

    discussion on a debate in contemporary ethics.50

    The guiding idea of Korsgaards account is that the capacity to value is grounded in the

    reflective nature of the mind: what the mind can and must value is constrained thereby. In virtue

    of being reflective human beings must view desires and impulses from a position of deliberative

    detachment and decide which ones to act on. To be able to make such choices and thus to be able

    to act for reasons presupposes some conception under which the agent finds life worth living.

    Without such a conception she does not know how to choose to act on some desires rather than any

    others. This conception constitutes the agents practical identity. While his reasons express an

    agents identity, obligation stems from what is inconsistent with it. For such an identity to belong

    to a unified decision-maker there must be a principle governing her choices to guarantee that she

    makes similar choices under similar circumstances. Otherwise, her choices would merely constitute

    a set of disconnected phenomena. Thus the reflective nature of the agents consciousness forces

    her choices to be governed by a law. So far we have disregarded other agents. To make the

    connection, note that these considerations aim to show that agents have a practical identity in virtue

    of being animals capable of reflection, which makes them human. Our humanity, then, is the

    source of our ability to bestow value: we must value our humanity if we are to value anything. But

    since we must value our humanity, we must also value it in others. This entails that no rational

    being should ever be used merely as a means, and not as an end. For suppose any rational being is

    used merely as a means. Then he would be used merely as a means to something that has value

    only because rational agency confers it. This is a practical perversity at best, and possibly even a

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    51 This is the Formula of Humanity version of the Categorical Imperative; cf. Korsgaard,

    Christine: Creating the Kingdom of Ends. Cambridge 1996, chapter 4, and also Wood, Allen:

    Kants Ethical Thought. Cambridge 1999, chapter 4. Many details remain to be filled in here.

    But the subsequent discussion does not turn on such details.


    kind of contradiction. Moral agency, on the Kantian view, is shaped by consistency


    6.2 While both Korsgaards Kant and Nietzsche tie morality to the emergence of self-

    consciousness, the differences between their accounts are formidable. To begin with, self-

    consciousness enters the accounts in drastically different ways. For Kant, the self-conscious mind

    (reason) must decide which desires become reasons for acting: the mind enters that account as

    executing an activity. Yet on our Nietzschean account, reflectivity never occurs as an activity

    beyond mere self-referentiality. Self-consciousness enters only to explain how anger and

    resentment turn against the agent herself. Nietzsches report on Wagner discussed above

    demonstrates the functioning of the mind:

    The dramatic element in Wagners development is quite unmistakable from the moment when his ruling

    passion became aware of itself and took his nature in its charge: from that time on there was an end to

    fumbling, straying, to the proliferation of secondary shoots (my emphasis). (UM IV, 2)

    So Nietzsche and Kant agree that the outcome of that first experiment whereby man became

    conscious of his reason as a faculty which can extend beyond the limits to which all animals are

    confined was of great importance, and it influenced his way of life decisively (which is the quote

    from Kants Conjectures at the beginning of this essay). Yet they differ in what this amounts to.

    A second contrast stands out. Since the Kantian account grounds morality in reflectivity, a rational

    agent by herself can reconstruct the shape of morality by deducing the moral law. The social

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    52 Schacht argues for a thoroughly social interpretation of normativity according to

    Nietzsche (Schacht, Richard: Nietzschean Normativity. In Schacht (ed.): Nietzsches

    Postmoralism, Cambridge 2001.) While I agree with much of his discussion, I think the

    development of the mind needs to be integrated more than Schacht allows. Note also that

    Nietzsches account is developed in an entirely different argumentative genre from Korsgaards.

    Nietzsches account is an exercise in animal psychology, consisting of conjectural natural

    history. Nietzsche is concerned to detach certain inquiries from philosophical a priori

    investigation and move them into the realm of empirically-minded inquiries. (As he says in BGE

    19, morality (Moral) is to be understood as the theory of the conditions of power under whichthe phenomenon life arises.) As opposed to that, Korsgaards is a transcendental argument,

    exploring what is conceptually involved in a rational agents reflectivity.


    context becomes important only (possibly) by furnishing facts to which the law must be applied,

    or (ideally) by facilitating obedience to it. On our Nietzschean account, morality is a social

    phenomenon shaped by the interaction between the types ofressentimentand those who turned out

    well. The evolution of the different kinds of mind these types possess is only part of that account.52

    While these differences may suggest that there is no fruitful engagement between those accounts,

    they do engage more than this comparison seems to allow. For both Nietzsche and Korsgaards

    Kant endorse an ideal ofunity of agency. For Korsgaard, obligation stems from what the agents

    practical identity forbids: violating obligations is jeopardizing ones unity through acting contrary

    to how one must conceive of oneself in virtue of being a reflective agent. In particular, one

    jeopardizes this unity by valuing any other rational agents humanity less than ones own. Yet

    Nietzschecontrasts the person responsible for morality (the person ofressentiment) with the person

    characterized by wholeness and unity (the person who turned out well). While for Kant moral

    agency is constitutive of unity of agency, for Nietzsche those two come apart. Exploring the

    discrepancies between these ideals is our final task. Since Korsgaards picture has gained much

    visibility, our goal is to make Nietzsches ideal intelligible and to suggest that it is defensible and

    philosophically interesting.

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    53 Note EHs insistence on those physiological matters see, e.g., EH, Clever, 1 and 10.


    6.3 What characterizes unity for Nietzsche is the ability to maintain a healthy self-centeredness and

    self-assuredness, the ability to draw a horizon around oneself (cf. UM I, 1). Too much

    recognition of others undermines an agents unity. The practical identity of a person who turned

    out well is shaped by physiological facts about himself, facts that determine what actions are

    beneficial to him. As far as Nietzsche himself is concerned,Ecce Homo abounds in such facts.53

    And in a passage in theAntichristthat is unusually informative about his views on Kant, Nietzsche


    One more word against Kant as moralist. A virtue must be o u r o w n invention, o u r most necessary self-

    expression and self-defense: any other kind of virtue is merely a danger. Whatever is not a condition of our

    life h a r m

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