Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Nietzsche as a Social Reformer, Or,
The Joys of Fleecing and Being Fleeced (S540: 1898)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A response to comments made by Thomas Common in The Eagle and the Serpent; comments and response appear together in the 15 April 1898 issue (along with those of George Bernard Shaw, incidentally). Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S540.htm


     [[p. 26]] Sir,--If Mr. Common's statement of Nietzsche's teaching and the social reforms at which he aims, are accurate, then, even though some of his methods of obtaining social reforms may be good, the reforms themselves seem to me to be both impracticable and worthless, if they are not even retrogressions. Mr. Common tells us that Nietzsche is the apostle of "a true aristocracy," and of apportioning "advantages and disadvantages respectively to merits and demerits." If by "advantages" he means material superiority or greater wealth, and that the aristocracy of merit claim this superiority as their right, that alone would, in my opinion, show that they were not a true "aristocracy" and that they did not really "merit" what they claimed. Again, what is merit, and who is to decide on the merits and demerits of individuals? If it means intellectual, moral, or physical, superiority, or any combination of them, and if these qualities are fully exerted for the benefit of society at large, those who possess and so use their superiority will, under any rational condition of society, receive the greatest reward men can receive--the respect, honour, and affection of their fellows. But such men can only prove that they possess such superior qualities and that they are worthy of the honour they will receive, by working and living under [[p. 27]] equal conditions and equal advantages with their fellows. Without this absolute "equality of opportunity," there can be no possibility of accurately determining "merit and demerit" as regards society; hence, I maintain that the only object worth working for, as the first and essential stage towards utilising all the best powers and faculties of a nation for the common good, is, to bring about this "equality of opportunity." This, however, is simple justice, as between man and man. It is a fundamental axiom of ethics. It is not an "esoteric" doctrine, and it does not need to be upheld by "falsehood," as apparently does Nietzsche's system of aristocracy--and from falsehood, esoteric teaching, and a ruling aristocracy, nothing that is of permanent good ever has arisen or can arise.

     I believe, absolutely, in truth, in justice, and in the free development of human nature, as the only and the essential methods leading to true social reform; and I therefore dissent as strongly as possible from Mr. Common's principles and methods.

Alfred R. Wallace.


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