Nietzsche’s philosophy ‘beyond good and evil’ is a refusal of religious thought and of what he calls ‘slave morality’. Last week I defined ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in Spinozian terms, which already are beyond good and evil. Now we will contemplate: Can the mind venture beyond good and bad, too?
Let us being with Ethica, pars IV prop. LXVIII:
Si homines liberi, nascerentur, nullum boni, & mali formarent conceptum, quamdiu liberi essent.
which translates into:
If men were born free, they would, so long as they remained free, form no conception of good and bad.
Thus, total freedom is a state even beyond good and bad.
Obviously, this is not a very practical state to be in, for so long as we have to evaluate options, make decisions, and draw boundaries in life, we cannot help but to make judgments of good and bad.
But how often do we judge goodness and badness on a given day, compared to the frequency of our actual decision-making?
We could argue that this ratio (amount of real-life decisions divided by number of ‘good/bad’ judgments) reflects the degree of our freedom of mind:
- The closer the ratio is to 0, the more our mind is cluttered by vain judgments of no practical significance.
- As the ratio approaches 1, we become increasingly productive and our mind becomes cooler. Ideally, we weigh our options for action and judge solely the expected outcome (more precisely, we evaluate the joint function of probability and utility over of all viable actions).
- Depending on how we think about decisions, we may even surpass a ratio of 1, namely, when our spontaneous intuition alone manages to keep us on a rational path and when our judgments merely exist as unconscious implications of our decisions.
- Someone who reduces his number of judgments to 0, causing the ratio to collapse (as division by 0 is not allowed), may be called ‘perfectly free’ or ‘enlightened’, or perhaps ‘fraudulent’.
When we look closely, we can find the aim of maximizing the decisions:judgments ratio in many wisdom traditions, from Stoic and Eastern ideals to the Serenity Prayer. A large ratio signifies that we are both effective and non-judgmental; it signifies that we are at peace with ourselves and the world.