Justice and Gift-Giving in Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Vanessa Lemm

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This final chapter analyzes the relation between gift-giving and justice in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It argues that the gift-giving virtue stands at the centre of a new idea of justice which has gift-giving as its source. The intimate relationship between gift-giving and justice is contained in the meaning of the term rechtschaffendes Gastgeschenk used by Nietzsche in ‘The Welcome’ scene of Z. It conveys the idea that justice is a gift-giving virtue and, conversely, that gift-giving is justice. A rechtschaffendes Gastgeschenk is a gift that creates justice, schafft Recht; it hosts, accommodates, and receives the other justly.

In accordance with this view, justice as gift-giving presupposes not only that one has something to give but also that one desires not to keep it. Justice as gift-giving thus needs to be distinguished from the Christian practices of charity and alms giving for they are, according to Nietzsche, based on poverty and a lack of genuine generosity. Charity and alms giving are practices which ‘poison’ both the one who gives and the one who receives insofar as they bind them in a hierarchical relationship of domination which not only reinforces dependency and injustice but also stirs feelings of resentment and revenge (AOM 224; BGE 168). Gift-giving, by contrast, promotes freedom and justice: it has a liberating effect on both the one who gives and the one who receives.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Before Sunrise
PublisherContinuum International Publishers
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781847062215
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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