procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Monday, January 05, 2009

8 - Nothin' Nietzsche couldn't teachya

Nietzsche: In what ways did Nietzsche disagree with most of what had gone before him?

The most overwhelming difference to those before Nietzsche was his foundation. Whereas they were interested in proofs for God, he had Zarathustra proclaim ‘God is dead’. Whereas they were interested in understanding why we think the way we do, he told us we thought wrong.

Born into the new era of an evolutionary understanding, he sought to apply this to religion, philosophy and logic. As such, he saw that humanity has been going about their business poisoned by Christianity. We had adopted a slave mentality, or herd mentality. We needed to rise above this, put off this pitiful state, and courageously take on our true nature – the mentality of the master or the nobleman. Indeed, Nietzsche saw those things inherited from Christianity not as the pinnacle of humanity, but as its lowest point, the point at which it began to fall below that of even the animals. His goal then was to shatter the idols that propped up the weak, that held us down in guilt.

He saw only a few in history to have risen above this guilt (such as Napoleon or Alexander the Great), and he calls this archetype der Übermensch. They were those who pursued their will to power, or to overpower. He saw this as our truest desire.
As regards teleology, he saw each one of us as having this overpowering as our goal, yet macro-history he saw as cyclical – if there were a goal, we surely would’ve reached it by now! Yet his nihilism means that there is no purpose for pursuing this course except for being honest to ourselves.

Uniquely among philosophers, Nietzsche ventures into realms previously only really entertained by theologians – dealing with questions of suffering, yet obviously from an atheistic perspective. His famous maxim that ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’ is of little comfort to those suffering, but like Machiavelli’s Prince, one wonders whether Nietzsche’s Übermensch should have any concern for such a soul.
Finally, one fascinating way Nietzsche stands apart from his forerunners is his absurdist view of his own discipline. The happy philosopher is the philosopher happy to rely on appearances – to go on instinct – he does not need to constantly justify everything or seek a higher status of affirmation than his own. What a truly emancipatory view of thought!

as hinted at last post, this is a part of my requirements for entering Philosophy 2. please feel free to comment, correct any assumptions i've made, suggest ways of clarifying my thinking.
oh, and very copywrite.

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Anonymous dave miers said...

good stuff so far.

but the key question worth thinking through:

Is Kanye West an Übermensch?

11:15 pm  
Blogger byron smith said...

Nice summary. A few thoughts.
a) Nietzsche was generally anti-foundationalist in his epistemology.
b) Nieztsche was certainly not the first atheist. Perhaps what was new(er) were his reasons for being so. It was no so much that God makes no sense or that there is no evidence for God, but that Nietzsche found the very idea of God distasteful. It makes you sick. It is on aesthetic (and ethical) grounds that Nietzsche rejects God. In the end, he refuses to think there is any need to justify his atheism; it is simply a matter of superior taste.
c) Perhaps you need a brief phrase explaining Zarathustra's relationship to Nietz.
d) Technically, I think N reserves the Overman as an eschatological figure (and it almost only ever appears on the lips of Zarathustra and in his unpublished work). The John-the-Baptist figures who precede (Napoleon, etc) he more usually calls "Free Spirits", or some such name.
e) Nietzsche would generally deny that we have a goal. The will to power is not a goal, but is simply the way things are.
f) Philosophers have long been interested in the question of suffering; this is not unique to Nietz.

Good work - keep it up. I hope these little essays are profitable for you!

11:59 pm  
Blogger psychodougie said...

Dave - the key question? really?
interesting post tho - i remember reading it some time ago. however i don't think his race would be a problem for him being the übermensch - it wasn't him so much as those who reappropriated his ideas (such as his sister who abridged his works) who brought any racist element to his philosophy.

6:50 pm  
Blogger psychodougie said...

Byron - thanks for your thoughtful comments. will be helpful in rethinking my answers.

a - good point. i'll word it differently.

b - yeah i really found this fascinating reading about him - even those who are fairly obviously atheists felt the need to tack on to their philosophy some sort of proof of God. they had these systems and rules and so on - he is uniquely completely free from this - it's really brave!

c - yep

d - that's really helpful. i wonder whether it's similar to the idea of the antichrist - there are antichrists and there is the eschatalogical Antichrist - would that same idea suit figures such as Napoleon et al? (although i take your technical correction on board - more a theoretical/correlative question)

e - ok. was trying to draw in other ideas but again showing my lack of primary source reading!

f - oh really? it seemed (from the summary books i listed) that suffering wasn't something philosophers ventured into. but see point e above!

thanks Byron - yeah, it was really good to do, especially trying to draw threads between them, see the family trees of thought etc. obviously not comparable to doing the whole course with DHö (let alone whatever you did in philosophy beforehand), but nonetheless good at consolidating random facts from the years.

7:10 pm  
Blogger byron smith said...

No problem. I'll stop nitpicking (soon).

Just one more: there is plenty of racist stuff in N, it is just not exclusively anti-Semitic (and he makes one comment criticising anti-Semitism in Germany). He has a go at pretty much every European nationality (and a few others). He saw himself as belonging to no country.

12:42 am  
Anonymous dave miers said...

Dave - the key question? really?

yes. THE key question. answer that and you will have sorted every other question out!

however i don't think his race would be a problem for him being the übermensch - it wasn't him so much as those who reappropriated his ideas (such as his sister who abridged his works) who brought any racist element to his philosophy.

aside from what fred, his sister and hitler have done with his work - kanye is his own man... he will apply it how he wants.

10:13 am  

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