Thoughts on Nietzsche vs Kant

On Nietzsche …

  • Nietzsche published The Gay Science in 1882, and again in 1887.
  • The madman parable I mention in the above post is from The Gay Science, but the specific madman mentioned actually is a character from his piece Thus Spoke Zarathustra, published in 1883-85.
  • Nietzsche further expanded his thoughts on morality in On the Genealogy of Morals in 1887. His motive was to address morality with natural means, but he could not pass up the opportunity to attack obligation and duty along with Immanuel Kant (Fundamental Principles published in 1785). I could be wrong, of course, but it seems to me that Nietzsche gets pleasure from attacking Kant’s categorical imperative and a priori considerations. Kant coined the term “a priori” to indicate the natural status of man before he is exposed to experience. Nietzsche does not trust Kantian thought, and he questions everything that the philosopher said. One of his reasons for this is due to Kant’s metaphysical ties, and I feel that another is due to language choice. Nietzsche’s pieces are highly intelligent, no doubt, but he writes in short sentences, easily getting to his point, and one does not read a sentence that looks like a paragraph (compare their voices below).

Kant vs. Nietzsche:

  • “The pre-eminent good which we call moral can therefore consist in nothing else than the conception of law in itself, which certainly is only possible in a rational being, in so far as this conception, and not the expected effect, determines the will” (Kant 6).
  • “Morality is herd-instinct in the individual” (Nietzsche 116).
  • “Finally, there is an imperative which commands a certain conduct immediately, without having as its condition any other purpose to be attained by it. This imperative is categorical. It concerns not the matter of the action, or its intended result, but its form and the principle of which it is itself a result; and what is essentially good in it consists in the mental disposition, let the consequence be what it may. This imperative may be called that of morality. … Counsels, indeed, involve necessity, but one which can only hold under a contingent subjective condition, viz., they depend on whether this or that man reckons this or that as part of his happiness; the categorical imperative, on the contrary, is not limited by any condition, and as being absolutely, although practically, necessary, may be quite properly called a command” (Kant 18).
  • “The new, immoral, or at least “amoral” “a priori” and that “categorical imperative” which has its voice (but oh! How hostile to the Kantian article, and how pregnant with problems!), to which since then I have given more and more attention… I soon learned to separate theological from moral prejudices, and I gave up looking for a supernatural origin of evil” (Nietzsche Genealogy xix).

What was the beef between Kant and Nietzsche? Many things, no doubt, but I think the most crucial was Kantian ascription to duty while Nietzsche left more room for experience – also key is the place and value of religion with consideration for deity. Nietzsche wanted man to be permitted to be the natural creature that he was, independent of supernatural means. And he looked to the actions and contemplation of mankind to reveal an individual’s motivation for completing said action. Kant held that people had a natural duty to maintain society, but Nietzsche questions that “natural motivation,” seeing it as a requirement for society to function…morality, then, is means to the end and not Kant’s end in itself.


Works Cited

Kant, Immanuel. Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals.

Lexington, Kentucky: Made in the USA, 10 May 2014.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Ed. Bernard Williams. Trans.

Josefine Nauckhoff and Adrian del Caro. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

On the Genealogy of Morals. Ed. Costica Bradatan. Trans. Horace B.

Samuel. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006.


Perfect picture this time! Many thanks to:


Leave a reply...Share your thoughts on my thought:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s