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Yes, what a difference an “i” makes.

Some people would read “resentment” and “ressentiment” as the same word – – – or seeing the difference but failing to look in the dictionary would take it to mean the same thing.

Not so!

Maybe the best way to explain the difference would be to look at some explanations.

Resentiment Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche,    “On the Genealogy of Morals/Ecce Homo”

“While the noble man lives in trust and openness with himself, the man of ressentiment is neither upright nor naive nor honest and straightforward with himself.  His soul squints; his spirit loves hiding places, secret paths and back doors, everything covert entices him as his world, his security, his refreshment; he understands how to keep silent, how not to forget, how to wait, how to be provisionally self-deprecating and humble.  A race of such men of ressentiment is bound to become eventually cleverer than any noble race; it will also honor cleverness to a far greater degree: namely, as a condition of existence of the first importance.”

“How much reverence has a noble man for his enemies!—and such reverence is a bridge to love.—For he desires his enemy for himself, as his mark of distinction; he can endure no other enemy than one in whom there is nothing to despise and very much to honor!  In contrast to this, picture ‘the enemy’ as the man of ressentiment conceives him—and here precisely is his deed, his creation: he has conceived ‘the evil enemy,’ ‘the Evil One,’ and this in fact is his basic concept, from which he then evolves, as an afterthought and pendant, a ‘good one’—himself!” 

Resentiment Kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard,    “Present Age”

“Thus ressentiment becomes the constituent principle of want of character, which from utter wretchedness tries to sneak itself a position, all the time safeguarding itself by conceding that it is less than nothing.  The ressentiment which results from want of character can never understand that eminent distinction really is distinction.  Neither does it understand itself by recognizing distinction negatively (as in the case of ostracism) but wants to drag it down, wants to belittle it so that it really ceases to be distinguished.  And ressentiment not only defends itself against all existing forms of distinction but against that which is still to come. The ressentiment which is establishing itself is the process of leveling.”

Kierkegaard argues that individuals who do not conform to the masses are made scapegoats and objects of ridicule by the masses, in order to maintain status quo and to instill into the masses their own sense of superiority.

Resentiment Formal Definition

Ressentiment: in philosophy and psychology, is a special form of resentment or hostility.

The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.

Ressentiment is not to be considered interchangeable with the normal English word “resentment”, or even the French “ressentiment”. While the normal words both speak to a feeling of frustration directed at a perceived source, neither speaks to the special relationship between a sense of inferiority and the creation of morality.

Resentiment Monthly

Can ressentiment be taught?




As I Wander Introduction 2

©W. Tomosky