Nietzsche, the Whiner

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[After reading this, be sure to visit my later post,Nietzsche Reconsidered. http://wp.me/p3LmG-2qt%5D

Time to put on my crank-curmudgeon hat. I must “rail against” Friederich Nietzsche (as Flaubert would have said.) Another thinker – yes, I’ll grant him that description – who is vastly overrated. Or at least, not worth the adulation and seriousness with which he is treated, I think.

I’m not going to lay at his feet the blame for the crimes of the Third Reich, or the disgusting propagandizing carried out for the Nazis by his sister, whom he despised, I believe. It all happened after he was long dead! No, I won’t even attack him for being a pitiless scourge of the humanitarians, a cynic, or a war monger. Nope, Fred was a whiner.

Look, I know that personal details of biography are not supposed to be the substance of intellectual critiques, but the fact is, a lot of intellectuals develop their complex systems to work out their personal problems. (Wittgenstein was another.) I suspect that for many, their intellectual systems compensate them in some way for something they feel they lack, but that’s my speculation. Some people compensate with serial murder, pedaphilia, adultery, greed, or generally unpleasant behavior: intellectuals do it with ideas.

Nietzsche, the son of a protestant pastor -That alone should give you a clue! Think of the literary figures, brilliant but a wee bit unbalanced that have come from that backgroud! (Samuel Butler comes to mind.) Why, I personally know a few such people myself, including one that was a radical underground figure of the 60s. Add to this the fact that he was extremely shy, sexually innocent, socially awkward, and that his romantic/sexual experiences are said by some to have been limited to one encounter in a brothel, from which, incidentally, he contracted the syphilis that killed him years later. Of course, he gradually went mad, and died in an insane asylum.

The man was a romantic, a dreamer, a scholar of ancient languages who felt out of place in the sordid hustle of industrial Europe. Nothing unusual there. So, he develops a philosophy that is really his poetical statement of his revulsion towards 19th century culture. (“They vomit their bile and call it a newspaper.”) His work is a song of yearning for a time long past, a time that probably never existed. The dream of a classics scholar, poring over Greek literature, enthralled by the heroic aesthetics of ancient civilization. (Sort of like the shrink in the play, Equus.) And what does he see around him? Commerce! So, he whines, and complains, and insults, and rants and raves, and dreams up the “superman” who is above all that. As he would be if he were not such a nebbish. Can you doubt that he really sees himself as Zarathustra: (“Lo, I am like a bee who hath gathered too much honey, and I need hands outstretched to take it” [his wisdom, that is])? That’s what his philosophy amounts to.

[Prendre le nectar de la pensée et en faire son miel personnel, c’est sa nature.  Pauvre Nietzsche!  Il n’est qu’un une fleur qui se prend pour une abeille.

Taking the nectar of thought and making one’s honey, that is his nature.  Poor Nietzsche!  He is just a flower who takes himself for a bee. 

4.20.10 apropos de Nietzsche et le demon de midi.]

Sure, I agree, his tirades are a “useful corrective” (as has been pointed out to me) to the dogmatic materialism and hypocrisy of 19th century bourgeois culture. Okay. And he could be pretty funny with his nasty, rapier thrusts, e.g., “The last Christian died on the cross.” He was right about the relativistic nature of all morals, but is that a great achievement – has nobody else mined that intellectual vein? His aesthetic sense was sharp, but that’s not why he’s remembered. All in all, a brilliant man, but a “Great Thinker?”

I recall my English class in high school when the teacher asked us who were the greatest thinkers of the 19th century – I believe he was looking for Darwin, Marx as the answers. I, enthused about Zarathustra and what I thought it pointed to in my future, ventured Nietzsche. His dry remark: “Well, there are thinkers and there are thinkers.”

Nietzsche, poet wannabee and whiner.

37 Responses to Nietzsche, the Whiner

  1. elberry says:

    Fair enough, he wasn’t a systematic philosopher in the Kantian mode. He was often wrong, contradicted himself, was over the top – though i’m told he doesn’t sound quite as bombastic in German.

    On the other hand how many sane, balanced, irreproachably mature writers are worth reading after 100 years? For example, let’s say you’re emotionally mature, balanced and wise enough that you can spit on Nietzsche and judge him, dismiss his entire philosophy as ‘whining’ with the implication that you are far superior to such a man – is it likely anything you write will be widely read and influential in 100 years?

  2. lichanos says:

    “On the other hand how …are worth reading after 100 years?”
    Lots! The libraries are full of them. David Hume, is only one. I won’t bore you with my favorite books list…

    I’m not saying I’m superior to him, spitting on him. or totally dismissing him. I’m saying I think he’s vastly overrated. He doesn’t deserve the prominence he is given. He speaks to an emotional need that many feel, and so does rock music. I like rock music, but I don’t think Bruce Springsteen is a revolutionary philosopher – that’s my 2 cents.

    “Is it likely anything you write will be widely read and influential in 100 years?”
    Certainly not! It isn’t even read now! So what? I can have my opinions, and I try to be fair and thoughtful about them.

  3. elberry says:

    My comment was a bit sour, my apologies, it’s your blog. Nietzsche…hmm, he’s interesting and inspiring but when he exerts influence it is often alarming.

    He must have had a hard time, with that huge ‘stache.

  4. lichanos says:

    Believe it or not, as a teenager, it was that moustache that made me read him…

  5. elberry says:

    Teenagers are often reckless.

  6. Thales says:

    ” There are still harmless self-observers who believe that there are ‘immediate certainties”; for instance, ‘I think,’ or as the superstition of Schopenhauer puts it, ‘I will”; as though cognition here got hold of its object purely and simply as ‘the thing in itself,’ without any falsification taking place either on the part of the subject or the object. I would repeat it, however, a hundred times, that ‘immediate certainty,’ as well as ‘absolute knowledge’ and the ‘thing in itself,’ involve a CONTRADICTIO IN ADJECTO; we really ought to free ourselves from the misleading significance of words! The people on their part may think that cognition is knowing all about things, but the philosopher must say to himself: ‘When I analyze the process that is expressed in the sentence, ‘I think,’ I find a whole series of daring assertions, the argumentative proof of which would be difficult, perhaps impossible: for instance, that it is I who think, that there must necessarily be something that thinks, that thinking is an activity and operation on the part of a being who is thought of as a cause, that there is an ‘ego,’ and finally, that it is already determined what is to be designated by thinking—that I KNOW what thinking is. For if I had not already decided within myself what it is, by what standard could I determine whether that which is just happening is not perhaps ‘willing’ or ‘feeling’? In short, the assertion ‘I think,’ assumes that I COMPARE my state at the present moment with other states of myself which I know, in order to determine what it is; on account of this retrospective connection with further ‘knowledge,’ it has, at any rate, no immediate certainty for me.’ ” – Beyond Good And Evil

    i suppose you can assume that he’s not a ‘thinker.’ – a way of ‘thinking’, as to your way of thinking defines your arrogance as your means to hide your ignorance, as well does any arrogance.

    Let’s just put this in perspective – Nietzschean perspective – to where 1. you either don’t have your own perspective 2. your confident with assuming other philosopher’s and their ‘ways of thinking’ are superior to any other 3. or you don’t have your own opinion and follow someone else’s example 4. you don’t know what to do with yourself when there’s somebody you don’t understand – “Arrogance on the part of the meritorious is even more offensive to us than the arrogance of those without merit: for merit itself is offensive.” – Nietzsche

    And as for being a whiner? he put everyone in their place. defining flaws from his perspective as to philosophers’ morality or ‘will to power’… or better yet, – their lack of will to power. i’m guessing you have no opinions of your own. and before you go defining someone else as to being a not so good ‘thinker’, perhaps you should be a little more introspective yourself, and figure out why you have a problem with other people.

  7. lichanos says:

    i suppose you can assume that he’s not a ‘thinker.’ –

    Well, what I said was:

    Another thinker – yes, I’ll grant him that description…

    Could I be any more clear?

    Rather stuck on Mr. N, aren’t you, Thales?

  8. Rags847 says:

    You can use a hammer to build a house or to bash an innocent person’s head in. The hammer itself is neither good nor bad. Nietzsche’s philosophy is such a tool.

    In fact, I view his work and his concept of the “will to power” as an understanding of what is, a revealing of reality. And nothing more. Just as Darwin did not create evolution and natural selection and Freud did not create the unconscious and its influence, rather they unveiled and explicated what was already there but had never before been fully apprehended by others.

    Nietzsche saw the age in which he lived clearer than anyone of his time, he laid out its reality, as well as the possibilities and the dangers implicit in our modern age. He rang the warning bells. Nothing more. He apprehended that the age of reason and science brought a seismic, world-historic paradigm shift, a new age after 2000 years of domination by the Christian worldview. What would result? What course would the future take? The wise could do much good with the new freedom, yet his eyes were open to the signs that a deadly nihilism (“God is dead”) was beginning to fill the void instead.

    Nietzsche wisely did not proscribe a philosophy of how to live. He wanted to make sure that those who had ears to hear would have the freedom to choose a way (philosophy of the future) that was higher than the nihilistic alternative. If he had proscribed a way to live, he knew it would just be another system of domination that would eventually need to be overcome inorder to make way for new developments and a higher reaching upward.

    In short, Nietzsche merely wanted to show you what should be obvious to you after he points it out (reality) and give you the freedom to obtain more pleasure and less pain and suffering. And the thanks he gets is that you and others bash him – irrationally (ad hominem nonsense!).

    Nietzsche is not a guru (never claimed to be). Just a seer and a liberator. The choice is still yours. That is, if you have the inner freedom to make a choice. He knew all did not and could not, by their very nature and constitution (hardwired). He was writing to the few and not to the masses. He was writing to the eagles and not the sheep.

    So, sheep. Don’t read Nietzsche. You were never meant to.

    Highly recommended (for eagles), R. J. Hollingdale’s biography, Nietzsche: The Man And His Philosophy. It really cuts through the nonsensical and worthless interpretations of Nietzsche and gets to the heart of it all. Wish I had read it years ago.

    Rags

  9. lichanos says:

    I didn’t intend to “bash” Nietzche – just bring him down a peg or too. I think I gave him his due as a social critic and thinker. You Nietzche fans seem pretty short on humor and irony.

    I read Hollingdale. Years ago.

    You say he’s not a “guru” and then you call him a “seer and a liberator.” Wow, seems like you’re a member of his cult.

    There are plenty of other smart dead white European males who made similar points without his bombast and self-aggrandizement, though I’ve read that he is, in his native German, a consumate stylist.

  10. Rags847 says:

    “There are thinkers and then there are thinkers,” eh?

    Well, you know there are knowers and then there are knowers. Surely, you’d agree.

    “I know that personal details of biography are not supposed to be the substance of intellectual critiques”

    You invalidate a line of argument and then knowingly plunge ahead, anyway. Well, I accept your first point that all that follows from you is invalid.

    “I didn’t intend to “bash” Nietzche”

    Well, there is knowing and then there is knowing. So, you were not conscious you were bashing Nietzsche when you wrote the following ad hominem phrases (that make no point whatsoever):

    “personal problems”
    “intellectual systems compensate”
    “son of a protestant pastor”
    “unbalanced”
    “extremely shy, sexually innocent, social awkward”

    Nope, no intention there.

    Given your line of thinking, one must conclude the only contributions to Western thought that you accept are one’s made by individuals free of neurosis. That squarely puts you back at the Stone Age, since by definition you must reject it all.

    “The man was a romantic, a dreamer”

    So, all thinkers who dreamed of the world being different from how they found it are invalid? Wait, they all did that. That is their defining characteristic, they imagined the world being different and made a contribution to that end.

    “poetical statement”

    Writing well and poetically invalidates ideas for you? Burn Shakespeare then.

    “His work is a song of yearning for a time long past”

    The present is the end-point for you? The ultimate utopia? Nothing to learn from history?

    “And what does he see around him? Commerce!”

    Really, Nietzsche was a business philosopher? Karl Marx II?

    “So, he … dreams up the “superman” who is above all that.”

    Let’s not aim high. Let’s wallow in filth. What a good point! Being above is nonsense.

    “As he would be if he were not such a nebbish.”

    So, he isn’t above commerce? That is your argument? He must have had a job on Wall Street.

    “Nietzsche, poet wannabee”

    Not a wannabe, he’s widely lauded as a master of German prose.

    “and whiner.”

    A whiner? The title of your piece and the crux of your argument.

    You call this man a whiner?

    1. Nietzsche suffered more than most of humanity in great physical anguish, year after year. Yet kept working.

    2. “What does not kill you makes you stronger” is the ultimate antithetical-to-whining statement ever made, which is why it has entered our vocabulary.

    3. Antithetical-to-whining: his challenge and thought-experiment of “eternal recurrence.”

    4. Antithetical-to-whining: his praise of Stoics.

    5. Antithetical-to-whining: his encouragement to overcome.

    6. Antithetical-to-whining: his acceptance of conflict, strife, and pain because they are inseparable from life and out of them can come good (new orders) and wisdom (new morals).

    He criticized the modern age. You say do not criticize it, that’s just whining. And since you are consistent in your thinking, you certainly call all who criticize, whiners, for not shutting up and taking it.

    “You Nietzche fans seem pretty short on humor and irony.”

    Which of your statements was intentionally cast in opposition to your true beliefs and are, therefore, ironic?

    “You say he’s not a “guru” and then you call him a “seer and a liberator.”

    Yes, I do. So what?

    A seer. That’s what every great thinker is. They saw something in a new way.

    A liberator. All new insight liberates one from old ways of thinking.

    A guru. Tells you how to live. A rigid system imposed. No freedom.

    “Wow, seems like you’re a member of his cult.”

    Ad hominem attack on me. Your favorite sophism.

    “There are plenty of other smart dead white European males who made similar points”

    Ah. So, you agree with them, and therefore you agree with Nietzsche as well? Good for you.

    To deny Nietzsche any originality and contribution is absurd.

    Well, thanks for the humanistic teaching that Nietzsche was a “whiner” and that people who suffer are incapable of valid ideas and that to believe that thus is so is not conscious bashing.

    Enlightening.

    Looking forward to your next post on Sigmund Freud – The Cigar-Smoking Whiner.

    Or will it be Barak Obama – The Whining Socialist?

  11. lichanos says:

    Rags847:

    You need to lighten up a bit. It would have helped Fred too.

    Obama the Whining Socialist?
    So…because I disagree with you about FN, I must hold all the wrong opinions? Actually, I voted for Obama and support him, as you can easily see from my blog.

    If you’re going to rant, try and at least be as amusing as Fred could be…

  12. Rags847 says:

    “So…because I disagree with you about FN, I must hold all the wrong opinions?”

    To disagree with me about FN, you must first be talking about FN.

    You fantasize a FN that never existed and then attack your caricature-image with smug, vacuous ad hominem claptrap.

    Not every statement is an opinion. To only argue fallaciously disqualifies your statements from being opinions. You don’t even reach the table where opinions are debated.

    Therefore, it is because you don’t argue cogently that your fututre posts promise to be just as enlightening.

  13. Pinwheel says:

    lichanos (and rags),
    Over the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with The Great Western Philosophers. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert (I haven’t even read Hollingdale), so I hope you eagles won’t jump on me too badly.

    I also have found Nietzche to have a somewhat petulant tone. His criticism, usually quite valid, is diminished by his anger. And there’s a definite streak of nostalgia, which always sets me on edge. The Good Old Days are a fantasy, then and now.

    This post is really quite entertaining, however, and enlightening to a beginner such as myself. Insults aside, you excercise some great points, and help me see this subject in a more fully-dimensional way than the dry commentary I’ve read to date. Thank you very much.

  14. Rags847 says:

    Pinwheel –

    Do yourself a favor and suspend judgment – and do that with any thinker. Many new ideas seem strange at first. One always has to learn about the larger context to understand what is going on in the page in front of you. View all of the Western canon as a table with a big long conversation going on. Each comes up to the table, listen for awhile, then speaks. There is always a context. With any thinker, get your hands on the best secondary material, literary criticism, works which will let you see what an author is really doing, who they are responding to, how there are layers you miss the first time reading a text.

    Keep an open mind. Don’t take things at face value. This applies to all approaching all writers. Don’t assume they are idiots. Often there is a reason they are doing what they are doing.

    Damn, Steven Crane’s Red Badge Of Courage is so hard to read. The guy can’t write, his prose sucks. — No, it was part of the design. He intended it to be difficult to read so you’d feel anxious and he’d drive home his main point that war is hell and true courage is feeling fear and plunging ahead anyway. How are you really going to understand unless you, the reader, feel uncomfortable, too?

    So, assume there are layers you don’t see at first. Keep asking yourself questions. What is the reason for this? Why is the author doing this? What purpose or function does it serve? Don’t just say, that seems stupid, only a moron would do that. How did this great mind even get through high school?

    Remember, “It is the question, Neo.”

    Nietzsche’s petulant tone, his anger, nostalgia you say? You have them all figured out with one reading? What questions can you come up with? You have to be a little Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud here and see behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain (I think I hit enough cultural references here). You really think he had no larger purpose? He couldn’t write straight, dry prose? This university professor in his 20s and trained philologist.

    There is excellent secondary material out there on Nietzsche that can give answers to those questions and more.

    And reading literary critics is really the way to go. I can hardly read a book without then reading what others had to say about it (after digesting it alone first). To read philosophy and never read any explanatory material related to it is like reading just half the book (half its depth) or seeing without eyeglasses on and getting half the picture.

  15. lichanos says:

    Pinwheel:

    I think you have taken my post in the spirit in which I offered it. I happen to have studied philosophy a lot for many years, but I’m not trying to offer a scholarly summation. Just one man’s opinion – a stimulating one, I hope. (Even irritation is a sort of stimulation.)

    Personally, I think that if an idea is good, and if a thinker has depth, he can express it clearly and simply, at least some of the time. Obscurity has its uses, but most of the time I’d just as soon skip it. I doubt that FN wanted to to do this.

    Rags…Stephen Crane is a great writer, but I wouldn’t call his prose difficult. A good example of my point above.

    Finally, I would agree with Rags that first impressions, first readings aren’t necessarily to be respected, but on the other hand, they aren’t necessarily wrong. If you have to work at a thinker to erase your bad impression of him, chances are you have some valid beefs with his ideas.

  16. Rags847 says:

    Cool.

    Only have time for a short reply:

    Well, if you are trying to overcome 2000 years of blind, unquestioning adherence to Christian morals and definitions of good and bad and you know the frightening degree to which they are deeply ingrained, you just might blush at the paltry weakness of a plan to pen a polite and neatly organized, mannered, dry, philosophical treatise to be lost among all the rest. After all, Christianity’s emotional hold on people is its whole game and it makes perfect symmetry and tactical sense to fight fire with fire.
    And given the history of German philosophy …
    And given the frustration of not capturing a reading audience (N only became widely read after his convalescence and death) …

    Any psychoanalyst knows people only change their convictions when they become convinced intellectually and emotionally. I think N’s emotional challenge is worth putting yourself through.

  17. lichanos says:

    I’ve always been an atheist.

  18. lichanos says:

    Oh, yeah, Rags, I forgot this:

    I said –

    Nietzsche, the son of a protestant pastor -That alone should give you a clue!

    You said –

    Christianity’s emotional hold on people is its whole game and it makes perfect symmetry and tactical sense to fight fire with fire.

    and…

    Any psychoanalyst knows people only change their convictions when they become convinced intellectually and emotionally.

    Seems to me you are supporting my point here, at least as regards FN’s style and tone.

  19. Pinwheel says:

    Rags –
    Thank you for taking the time to give me such a considered response.

    I certainly try to keep an open mind. But when I read something – anything, I get an opinion. It just happens.

    After I finish a Worthy Tome, I do go to secondary sources. It’s interesting to get other takes on a text, some history, motivation, gossip and various insights. But any book or treatise must be able to stand on its own strength, even if it is in direct response to another work.

    Nietzche is a great read. He’s passionate and sharp as an executioner’s axe. But is he above criticism?

    ~ with respect …

  20. dionysus says:

    nietzsche of course was heavily influenced by montaigne, pascal, voltaire – i believe his style is aphoristic, also between literal statement and metaphor. he does not INTEND it to be clear, as he says, an aphorism must be deciphered, not everyone is ‘entitled’ to it. therefore you have to set about reading him more than once, preferably MANY times. you have to begin a quite serious study of Nietszche to ever fully understand him. his melodrama is simply due to the man, the intellect – philosophy wasn’t passing, for him; he lived it – it is a sign of severe passion in regards to his subject. it may have been the severest passion ever engaged in thought.

    for me nietszche represents a great artist first of all and a great philosopher second. absurd, perhaps, considering he is clearly the truly GREAT modern philosopher. but ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’… it is a masterpiece. has anything else even approached that little book in terms of being lived, truly felt by its author? ‘Whence arise the highest mountains? i once asked. Then I learned they arise from the sea. This testimony is written into their stones and into the sides of their summits. The highest must arise to its height from the deepest…’ Considering such statements in light his philosophy of self-overcoming, ‘what doesn’t kill him, makes him stronger,’ the superman (overman) etc, and such statements abound in Zarathustra … it is something quite unique in form, positing nietszche as one of the great men of history; psychologist, philosoper, anti-christ… but also great poet, artist… Dionysian…

  21. dionysus says:

    and i defy the notion there is a more brilliant autobiography than ‘Ecce Homo’… anyone reasonably informed people looking to better understood Nietszche should begin there.

  22. lichanos says:

    Dionysus:

    An interesting post. A matter of taste here? I tend to prefer my philosophy straight. I am interested in what ‘artists’ have to say (outside of their ‘art’) but I take it with a bucket of salt. Old fashioned – keep the passions and reason related, but separate. (I don’t say deny passion, just keep it unconfused with reason.)

    I don’t put much value on writing that is NOT intended to be clear, but I recognize that this is a long intellectual tradition. Certainly not one of which Voltaire, Pascal, or Montaigne were a part!

    Thanks for your comment!

  23. mark says:

    Well, if we are talking great philosophers and stuff, I like Musil’s take on the subject:
    ‘Particularly deep philosophers are usually shallow thinkers. In literature talents just a very little above the average are what contemporaries take for greatness.’ 3.137
    and
    ‘…an author has to have a great many like-minded readers before he can pass as having an unusual mind.’ 2.84
    Really, doesn’t this fairly describe the Nietzsche cult, and many, or all others. It seems to me it’s mostly pretty ordinary stuff at heart.

  24. lichanos says:

    I like that second quotation from Musil! That certainly applies.

    therefore you have to set about reading him more than once, preferably MANY times. you have to begin a quite serious study of Nietszche to ever fully understand him.
    -Ahem…when I hear stuff like this, I feel like reaching for my revolver…eraser. How many intellectual systems are based on this sort of willful obfuscation!

    Clearly, many find Fred a very inspiring figure. That doesn’t make him rate as a thinker or a philosopher for me. Why he is so attractive to so many is an interesting question, and applies in the same way to Ayn Rand. I suspect their two followings overlap a lot.

    This post continues to get comments long after it was published, demonstrating a lot of free-floating interest in FN out there. I can’t say I find that reassuring or encouraging in any way.

    In Little Miss Sunshine, the silent brooding boy was a FN fan – sometimes artists – even popular ones – do hit the nail on the head!

  25. Rags847 says:

    ‘…an author has to have a great many like-minded readers before he can pass as having an unusual mind.’ 2.84

    Nietzsche barely had any readers while he was alive and publishing.
    The quote is illogical. One reader can conclude that an author saw something in a new way and, therefore, has an “unusual mind” – or 10,000 can. What can be debated is whether an author needs to be popular to be “great.” Some argue creative greatness is a social construct (Csikszentmihalyi), yet the counterargument would be that a work is great even before it is published and read.

    ‘Particularly deep philosophers are usually shallow thinkers.”
    Illogical, unless you read “deep” ironically.

    “In literature talents just a very little above the average are what contemporaries take for greatness.’ 3.137
    This is just a criticism of “popularity” and says nothing about true literary talents.

    I do not think Nietzsche isn’t rational or un-undertandable. Most of the misunderstandings are a result of selective reading, ripping a quote out of context. The context can be ascertained usually by reading the whole paragraph or whole section. A whole section of Nietzsche’s writing flows quite logically.

    What Nietzsche did do is brilliantly consider the emotions, as well as the reason, of the reader as pathways for inducing in them new insights and realizations.
    An excellent strategy. Not an either/or strategy (reason or emotion). As Kafka said, sometimes you need an ax to break through the ice.

    For example, the use of “war” and military language. You really have to rip Nietzsche out of context to portray him as a Bismark or Machiavelli and ignore the fact a few lines above or below that he was obviously talking about self-overcoming – a psychological war within.

    “It seems to me it’s mostly pretty ordinary stuff at heart.”

    Well, that is ripping Nietzsche’s entire thought out of historical context. Many things seem obvious today – the Earth is round, humans evolved from apes, our unconscious impacts our lives, truth is undefinable, etc (Galileo, Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche). The world we have today is the product of great, original minds. Don’t denigrate their contributions based on the all too easy reaction, “Ah, it’s so obvious, now.”

    Nietzsche saw the time in which he lived in, the course the modern world was taking, clearer than any 19th century thinker. No revisionist history from Nietzsche-bashers will ever change that.

    – Thus Spoke Rags

  26. Rags847 says:

    From Brain Leiter’s (an N. scholar) excellent blog on Nietzsche.

    “Far more satisfying (at least for the reader interested in Nietzsche) is the essay on “Thucydides, Nietzsche, and Williams,” in which, among other things, Geuss gives an excellent account of the “optimism” of philosophers (since Socrates) that Nietzsche rejects:

    ‘First of all, traditional philosophers assumed that the world could be made cognitively accessible to us without remainder….Second, they assumed that when the world was correctly understood, it would make moral sense to us. Third, the kind of “moral sense” which the world made to us would be one that would show it to have some orientation toward the satisfaction of some basic, rational human desires or interests, that is, the world was not sheerly indifferent to or perversely frustrating of human happiness. Fourth, the world is set up so that for us to accumulate knowledge and use our reason as vigorously as possible will be good for us, and will contribute to making us happy. Finally, it was assumed that there was a natural fit between the excericse of reason, the conditions of healthy individual human development, the demands of individuals for satisfaction of their needs, interests, and basic desires, and human sociability. Nature, reason, and all human goods, including human virtues, formed a potentially harmonious whole. (p. 223)
    Geuss suggests that “the basic structure of a philosophy centered around the claim of a harmonious fit between what is rational, what is good for us, and what is good for our society has been very widely retained” in philosophy (p. 224), and that Nietzsche’s rejection of this structure figures in why he prefers Thucydides to Plato. This account strikes me as both right and illuminating. (I touched on these themes as well in my Nietzsche on Morality (pp. 47-53).)

    http://brianleiternietzsche.blogspot.com/2007/10/geuss-on-nietzsche-two-quotes.html

    So, Nietzsche did put truth and reason to question. For him art was a useful, necessary little lie (absolute truth can never be known) much better than the big, 2000 year old lie of Christianity. Janaway made this point about N. and art on Philosophy Bites:
    http://philosophybites.libsyn.com/index.php?post_category=Christopher%20Janaway

  27. Rags847 says:

    Actually the Janaway program is an excellent discussion of the purpose and use of Nietzsche’s emotion-inducing rhetoric.

    The Ridley program discusses Nietzsche and art, truth and illusion and their uses.

    Aaron Ridley on Nietzsche on Art and Truth
    Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas about art and truth run through much of his philosophical writing, but are most apparent in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy. In this episode of Philosophy Bites Nigel Warburton interviews Aaron Ridley about this topic.

    http://philosophybites.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=369088

  28. Rags847 says:

    It makes sense that a philosopher/psychologist/literary artist who questioned the notions of truth and free-will would craft a philosophy that also aimed deeper than the conscious, surface level of argumentation and reasoning, at effecting change in the unconscious, emotional levels that have such an impact on our seemingly conscious behavior, thoughts, beliefs, actions and sensations of free-will. People are attracted to reading and re-reading Nietzsche because they sense they are being transformed at a deep level into someone stronger.

    This is what Leiter is getting at in the conclusion to his paper, excerpted below.

    “Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Action”

    Download entire paper free @:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1430615

    “Typical of Nietzche’s persuasive definitions of freedom is this passage:

    ‘[W]ar educates for freedom. For what is freedom? That one has the will to assume responsibility for oneself. That one maintains the distance which separates us. That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself. That one is prepared to sacrifice human beings for one’s cause, not excluding oneself. Freedom means that the manly instincts which delight in war and victory dominate over other instincts, for example, over those of ‘happiness.’ The human being who has become free—and much more the spirit who has become free—spits on the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats. The free man is a warrior.’

    This bracing statement of a “noble” ideal of the person equally plainly has nothing to do with any notion of freedom, free will, or moral responsibility that has engaged any philosopher in the entire tradition of Western philosophy. That should not surprise, since Nietzsche’s aims are polemical and rhetorical: a persuasive definition of a concept like freedom, which enjoys such authority in Western culture, is one way to cause an affective response in some readers, which might lead to a transformation of their consciousness. But such a transformation is, itself, a causal process in which free choice is irrelevant, but evaluative, i.e., emotional, excitation is key (Leiter 2002: 91-101, 157-158).”

  29. lichanos says:

    ‘[W]ar educates for freedom. … That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself. That one is prepared to sacrifice human beings for one’s cause, not excluding oneself. …The human being who has become free—and much more the spirit who has become free—spits on the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats. The free man is a warrior.’

    Wonderful. Freedom is jihad. Just what the world needs – another fanatic.

    And for the record, I don’t spit on women, or even Englishmen. Oh, yes, he was being ironic and speaking in secret code that is hard to understand. Yes, yes, out of context, but I’ve read him, and it seems pretty typical to me.

    I’ll take a nation of cows, consumers, and shopkeepers any day. At least they won’t be trying on their smart uniforms and thinking about who to massacre next, in the name of all that is best in humanity, of course.

  30. Rags847 says:

    You are ridiculous. Willfully stupid. At least there are other who will stumble across this blog and appreciate the interesting ideas I contributed in the above posts.

    “Freedom is jihad.” Liar.
    “Just what the world needs – another fanatic.” Liar.
    “I don’t spit on women, or even Englishmen.” Liar.
    “speaking in secret code” Liar.
    “thinking about who to massacre next” Liar.

    “spits on the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of” Spits on a bad idea, not on people. Obviously.

    Since your so proudly literal, I’m sure you become offended when somebody says to you:

    “Knock ’em dead.”
    “Break a leg.”
    “When he throws the pitch, murder it and knock it outta the park.”
    “I’d kill to get an ‘A’ on that paper.”
    “She’s got looks that kill.”
    “They have an axe to grind.”
    “I love her to death.”
    “He fucked her brains out.”
    “Push has come to shove.”
    “He’s just killing time.”
    “She got away with murder.”

    Life must be a pretty confusing place for you if Nietzsche is so far above your head.

  31. lichanos says:

    Life must be pretty hard for you without a sense of humor or irony.

  32. Rags847 says:

    Some Nietzsche myth-busting for those interested and able:

    Fri, 25 September 2009

    Brian Leiter on Nietzsche Myths

    Friedrich Nietzsche has been seen as the philosopher of the Overman, an anti-semite, and a precursor of postmodernist views about truth. But was he any of these? Brian Leiter explores these questions in conversation with Nigel Warburton in this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast.

    Direct download: Brian_Leiter_on_Nietzsche_Myths.mp3

    Category: podcasts — posted at: 6:35 AM

    http://philosophybites.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=530203Brian

    http://cdn1.libsyn.com/philosophybites/Brian_Leiter_on_Nietzsche_Myths.mp3?nvb=20091004193401&nva=20091005194401&t=040d88f2f798230867d6b

  33. Carrie says:

    Actually I give you props for having the guts to put this essay up. Nietzsche made some good points, but some of his beliefs creep the Hell out of me…

    Compassion, love, empathy and pity are evil and wrong? It’s better to bring suffering and cruelty? Elites should have their own rules while everyone else is supposed to kiss their butts? True some of these things can make you stronger, but that is not a world I want to live in. These traits he despises are also things that make us human, can enrich our lives and help advance society. For example: we wouldn’t have a number of our medical advances if people had no concern for others (wanting to save lives and alleviate pain) and thought suffering, evil and pain were preferable.

    Also a lot of inventions and improvements on them probably wouldn’t exist because those inventors wanted to improve society, do good and make things easier. Band-aids, sewing machines, cars, etc. were not brought into the world to hurt others and bring suffering. Even the guillotine was invented to be a “more humane” means of execution.

    As for criticizing religion, I prefer Ingersol.

    • lichanos says:

      Thanks, but I don’t think my anonymous postings take much in the way of guts.

      I was unaware of Ingersol until I read about him in Susan Jacoby’s informative book, Freethinkers.

      Also a lot of inventions … probably wouldn’t exist because those inventors wanted to improve society, do good …
      You can always save the argument by saying that such people are ‘elite intellectual warriors’ committed to their own visision, etc. etc. After all, Fred was always complimentary about Jesus.

      …that is not a world I want to live in.
      That’s pretty much the final test when you’re examining ethical positions, isn’t it?

      Thanks for your comments!

  34. Anonymous says:

    what a load of drivel.

  35. greybuscat says:

    The actual paper in question is interesting enough, but I’m more impressed by the restraint and good humor you demonstrated while dealing with Rags847.

    I wonder if he’s still a frustrated and angry person, 6 1/2 years later.

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