Category Archives: morality

No One is Such a Liar as the Indignant Man

“For the indignant man, and he who perpetually tears and lacerates himself with his own teeth (or, in place of himself, the world, God, or society), may indeed, morally speaking, stand higher than the laughing and self-satisfying satyr, but in every other sense he is the more ordinary, more indifferent, and less instructive case. And no one is such a LIAR as the indignant man.”
The above is a quote from Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (chapter 2.26) and it vaguely reminds me of an Ani Difranco song, Glass House:
Life just keeps getting harder
Keeps getting harder to hide
Darker it is around me
Easier it is to see inside
And outside the glass
The whole world is magnified
And it’s half an inch
From here to the other side
Guess that push has come to this
So I guess this must be shove
But before you throw those stones at me
Tell me what’s your house made of?
The usual way I have seen the above quote analyzed (Nietzsche, not Ani), depicts a reading of man in general as amoral, while trying to outwardly demonstrate morality by looking down upon those who openly partake in what is considered sinful behavior. Well, yes, that is exactly what it says. Hide your own sin and then judge others to make yourself feel and appear better.
But I think there is more to it.
First, an infamous quote by Thomas Hobbes: “… the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”
While Hobbes is at the extreme of the spectrum in terms of opinions on man, the general idea remains, especially in conjunction with Nietzsche’s ideas on philosophers who constantly seek truth.
Nietzsche condemns the majority of philosophers as seekers of truth connected to the greater good, constantly searching out a definite, irrefutable good at the core of humanity, led to believe that this is the only truth and anything else is a false image that needs to either be mediated, remedied, or simply glossed over for some higher meaning.
As he later states, this is nonsense at its best.
The indignant men aren’t only hypocritically indignant at others specifically, but rather indignant at the idea that such vices occurs (quite regularly at that). Speech without indignation is not hypocritical in that it allows for an understanding that vice exists, and is not necessarily bad, but simply is. To be indignant is to refute basic human nature. And those who assert an impervious belief in some superior virtuous truth while denying every other state of man, are liars.
They either can’t see the truth of reality, which is much more in line with Hobbes’s sharp observation, or they purposely obfuscate it, indignant at the idea that it should prevail.
Further, even those who are not in fact hypocrites, and practically self lacerate themselves in order to live up to the standards of this better good, serve no purpose to the larger humanity as they are unable to function. They are “less instructive” because through their goodness, have learned no life lessons to impart onto others. Mind you, these life lessons need not be on morality or avoidance of vice, but simply lessons in general. Unfortunately, when it comes to such worldly matters, these people are “indifferent,” mainly because they have no answers to offer.
Which really brings me back to the previous point. Abstaining from offering advice, whether you have any or not, does not negate your conscious knowledge of the situation, which in this case is the human condition, imperfect, flawed, instinctual, etc. Avoidance does not negate awareness. Therefore, “no one is such a LIAR as the indignant man.”