On Calculation By Friedrich Nietzsche: Reading and Meditation

July 12, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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On Calculation, Friedrich Nietzsche


How often are our actions the product of self-serving calculation? The common nature, Nietzsche maintains, “unflinchingly keeps sight of its advantage.” There are, Nietzsche suggests, two consequences to the momentum of the self-serving soul. First, this common nature invariably distrusts the motives of others—it is suspicious of the noble, of actions not motivated by selfish gain. It cannot believe the magnanimous feelings of others. Second, the lens of rational self-protection obscures our own impulse to altruism. The common nature cannot believe its own magnanimous feelings and so betrays “its strongest drives”—it views its own drive to selfless action as “inexpeditious”.

In a world rife with cynicism, is our first impulse one of suspicion or of cautious trust? Are we inclined to accept others’ magnanimity, or do we dismiss their noble feelings as madness or stupidity? Can we set aside our own calculations to embrace in ourselves the deeper reasons of the magnanimous soul?


Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado

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