Schumm’s “Nietzsche on Egoism” from Liberty

1845-1945, George Schumm, Liberty / Monday, August 5th, 2019

The following translations by George Schumm of Nietzsche appeared in the April 1896 issue of Liberty (1881) (Volume 11, No.25, Whole No. 337). 1896 was the same year the first full volume translations of Nietzsche appeared, and Arthur Desmond, aka Ragnar Redbeard, arrived in America.

George Schumm was a long-time compatriot of Benjamin Tucker. He assisted in the translation of The Ego and His Own and published his own weekly journal in the 1880’s titled “Radical Review” (Chicago). Schumm also translated The Anarchists : A Picture of Civilization at the Close of the Nineteenth Century by John Henry Mackay.

You can learn more about the early Nietzscheans in Stand Alone (2016) journal issue: The Nietzsche Movement in England: A Retrospect, A Confession, and a Prospect by Oscar Levy.


Nietzsche on Egoism.

[Translated from the German by George Schumm.]

A good author who really has his cause at heart longs for someone to come and replace him by presenting the same cause more clearly and by more completely answering the questions raised by it. The loving girl longs to prove the devoted fidelity of her love through the infidelity of her lover. The soldier longs to die on the battlefield for his victorious coun­try; for in the victory of his country his highest aspirations are also victorious. The mother gives to her child what she denies to herself,—sleep, the best food, if need be her health, her property. But are all these unegoistic conditions? Are these actions of morality miracles because, in Schopenhauer’s language, they are “impossible and yet real”? Is it not clear that in all these cases a man loves some part of himself, a thought, a desire, a product, more than some other part of himself; that he thus divides his nature, and sacrifices the one part to the other? Is there anything essentially different in the declaration of an obstinate man: “I will rather be shot down than go a step out of the way of this fellow ”? There is, in all of the above cases, an inclination toward something (wish, im­pulse, desire); to yield to it, with all the consequences, is certainly not “unegoistic.”—Menscliliches Allzumenschliches.

There is no help: we must mercilessly put on trial and cross-question the sentiments of devotion, of self-sacrifice, the whole morality of unselfishness, as well as the aesthetic of “disinterested contemplation,” un­der which the emasculation of art seeks alluringly enough to create for itself a good conscience to-day. There is too much of moonshine and sugar in those sentiments, in this “for others,” in this “not for my­self,” so that there should be no need here of being doubly suspicious and of asking: “ Are they perhaps the language of the—seducer?” That they please—him who has them, and him who enjoys their fruits, also the mere spectator,—this furnishes no argument for them, but invites prudence. Let us be prudent, then!—Jenseits von Gut und Bose.

In listening to the now so popular phrase of the “ disinterested,” one must consider, perhaps not without some danger, in what the people really take an in­terest, and what are, in general, the things about which the common man concerns himself thoroughly and profoundly,—including the educated, even the savants, and, unless all signs mislead, almost also the philosophers. Thereby the fact is brought out that most of what interests and fascinates every superior nature appears to the average man as entirely “uninteresting if he, nevertheless, observes a devotion to it, he calls it “désintéressé,” and wonders how it is possible to act “disinterestedly.” There have been philosophers who knew how to invest this popular wonderment with an alluring and mystically other­worldly aspect (perhaps because they did not know the superior nature from experience?), instead of setting forth the plain and naked truth that the disinterested action is a very interesting and interested action, pro­vided. . . . “And love?” What! even love you would make out to be “unegoistic”? Dunces!

“And the praise of the self-sacrificing?” But whoso has really made sacrifices knows that he wanted and got something for them—perhaps something from him­self—that he gave here in order to have more there, perhaps in order generally to be more, or at any rate to feel himself as “more.” But this is a realm of questions and answers in which a pampered spirit does not like to tarry: so necessary is it here already for truth, if she must answer, to suppress yawning. And she is a woman: one must not do violence to her.Jenseits von Gut und Bose.

“Science” as Prejudice.—It follows from the laws of the order of rank (Rangordnung) that savants, in so far as they belong to the intellectual middle class, do not even see the truly great problems and question-marks: besides, their courage, and likewise their vision, do not reach so far,—above all, the need which makes of them investigators, their inner wish and anticipation that things might be ordered so and so, their fears and hopes, are too soon satisfied and set at rest. That, for instance, which makes the pedantical Englishman, Herbert Spencer, dream after his fashion, and causes him to draw a line of hope, a horizon-line of desirability, the final reconciliation of “egoism and altruism,” of which he fables, gives to persons of our kind almost a feeling of nausea; a humanity with such Spencerian perspectives as final perspectives would seem to us as worthy of contempt, of destruction! But already that something must be experienced by him as a highest hope which is, and rightly may be, to others, only a repulsive possibility, is a question-mark which Spencer could not have fore­seen. —Frohliche Wissenschaft.