Beyond Good And Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future represented a shift in Nietzsche's basic goals as an author. "After the Yes-saying part of my task had been solved, the turn had come for the No-saying, No-doing part: the revaluation of our values so far, the great war..."
Nietzsche goes on to describe Beyond Good and Evil as a "critique of modernity." The modernity attacked includes culture broadly construed; but Nietzsche appears to be especially concerned with the direction of philosophy and its role in future history. Indeed, the subtitle is "Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future." The book opens with a Preface and first section that are often witty in criticizing traditional philosophy and its presuppositions. After the famous opening line about truth being a woman, Nietzsche asks, "Are there not grounds for the suspicion that all philosophers, insofar as they were dogmatists, have been very inexpert about women?"
Nietzsche attacks particularly the dogmatism of philosophers. Philosophers have typically regarded themselves as seekers of truth--but from the book's beginning, Nietzsche casts suspicion on their motives. Philosophers, he argues, have simply assumed that truth is valuable, without inquiring as to whether this is so. They have posed their conclusions as objective, while in fact "every great philosophy so far has been...the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir." Unwittingly, philosophers have sought to impose their own moral outlook on nature itself, and read into it what they have wanted to find.
Nietzsche proposes a reassessment of the way philosophy has been practiced in physiological and psychological terms, recognizing how much against the grain his approach will seem.
Nietzsche proposes a new direction for philosophy, and a different kind of person as philosopher. Philosophers, according to this view, should be free spirits and great experimentalists, as opposed to the mere "philosophical laborers" that are often thought to be the true philosophers. The philosopher has "the most comprehensive responsibility" and "the conscience for the over-all development of man," and should utilize religion, education and political suggestions, although it is more concerned to propose a type of political arrangement (like Plato advocating philosopher-kings) than to argue for specific policies.
Central to the agenda of Nietzsche's future philosophers is a reconsideration of the value of conventional morality from a physio-psychological perspective. For the first time, in Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche proposes to develop "a natural history of morals." He implies with this formulation that morality can be naturalistically described, that it is not a revelation from another, divine level of reality.
Nietzsche goes so far in employing naturalistic terms in his analysis that he describes the morality of his tradition as a "herd morality." In other words, people follow the same direction as others for the same reason that cows and sheep follow other cows and sheep. Nietzsche surely recognizes that many readers will find comparison between their moral beliefs and animal behavior offensive.
Nietzsche also suggests that multiple moralities have existed at the same time, and that they reveal their adherent's psychological perspective, which can be either healthy or not healthy. In particular, he suggests that master morality and slave morality are radically different in outlook. Master morality, typified by those in positions of power, involves a primary judgment of oneself as good, and a judgment of others in reference to one's own traits. Slave morality, by contrast, as the moral outlook of those who are oppressed, is primarily concerned with the reactions those in power might have to any contemplated act. Although slaves hate the master and everything the master represents, they still refer their behavior primarily to their master. Judging the master with hostility, they come to see him as evil, and only then come to judge themselves as relatively good. Nietzsche develops this account of master and slave morality much more thoroughly in Toward the Genealogy of Morals.
The concept of will to power appears prominently in Beyond Good and Evil. Again, Nietzsche takes issue with Schopenhauer's emphasis on will to life: "A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength--life itself is will to power; self preservation is only one of the direct and frequent results." Although emphatic in stressing will, Nietzsche is equally emphatic in denying freedom of the will. In fact, he considers the defense of freedom of will to be simply a manifestation of the asserters desire for power.
Will to power is also enlisted as a potential basis for explaining physiology and physiologically grounded behavior. Significantly, however, as in many other instances Nietzsche poses this "reduction" as a thought experiment.
Nietzsche's perspectivism, however, is discussed in more psychological terms elsewhere in Beyond Good and Evil. Nietzsche suggests that the perspective different individuals have of human reality depends on their relative stature as human beings. Nietzsche frequently adopts the image of height, describing those who see others from a higher vantage as having a more comprehensive view that is incommensurable with the perspective of those below them. Nietzsche emphasizes the importance of this order of rank, and he often claims that the human species consists of a proliferation of types, some of which are more valuable (or higher) than others. Of greatest importance for Nietzsche is the individual genius, upon whom culture most depends. Nietzsche's view on this matter is unrepentantly elitist: "For every high world one must be born; or to speak more clearly, one must be cultivated for it: a right to philosophy--taking that word in its great sense--one has by only virtue of one's origins; one's ancestors, one's 'blood' decide here, too."