Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hollingdale's take on Nietzsche's "Genealogy"

R.J. Hollingdale ranks alongside Walter Kaufmann as among the foremost scholars on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Hollingdale's approach to Nietzsche's next great work, On the Genealogy of Morals, concentrates heavily on what the work says regarding the phenomenon of the "will to power" and "the master/slave morality" structure. This post extensively quotes from Hollingdale's philosophical biography of Nietzsche.  BGE is the abbreviation I use for Beyond Good and Evil.  GM stands for On the Genealogy of Morals.

"Beyond Good and Evil is devoted to an elaboration and explanation of theories put forward in Zarathustra, and Towards a Genealogy of Morals is described as performing the same service for Beyond Good and Evil, so the two books can best be considered together." (page 180)


"The first problem Nietzsche faces is the difficulty involved in saying that the will to power is 'true' if the search for truth is itself prompted by will to power....philosophy must be in some way a means to power and not primarily a means to truth: the philosopher must desire not merely a passive knowing but an active creation of knowledge:


"'...a philosophy...always creates the world after its own image: it cannot do otherwise; philosophy is this tyrannical impulse itself, the most spiritual will to power, to 'creation of the world', to causa prima. (BGE 10)


"'The task of philosophers is 'to create values'...their knowing is creating, their creating is law-giving, their will to truth is - will to power.' (BGE 211)


"Secondly, he appeals to the requirement of logic to recognize one kind of causality and to exploit it to the limit in an effort to make it responsible for every known effect. According to his own theory that the world is explicable in itself, that it 'works' without any contribution from 'outside', it must be possible to determine its 'intelligible character' - that is, understand it in the form in which it presents itself to our senses - by reference to a basic principle.  This principle, he suggests, is the will to power." (page 181)


"If it is proposed that will to power is the basic drive in all life, the question arises: what is the nature of the Will as such?  There still seem to be two forces at work: will, and that will which seeks power; the concept of 'will' still exists as a substratum, will in Schopenhauer's sense, a metaphysical basis for life. There is, (Nietzsche) says, no such thing as will. Just as the soul turns out on inspection to be a word for a complicated system of relationships and therefore cannot be said to exist, so the will has no discrete existence: there is no force emanating from within the body which can be identified as 'will'.  'Willing' is a product of a complex of sensations; and the sensation of willing is felt when the sensation of command succeeds in dominating the other sensations. What we recognize as 'will' is the act of commanding: there is no substratum of 'will-in-itself' which appears in the form of commands.  Nietzsche makes clear in the Genealogy what he means by denying that the will can exist as a separate entity:


"'To require of strength that it should not express itself as strength...is just as absurd as to require of weakness that it should express itself as strength...popular morality separates strength from expressions of strength, as if there were natural substratum behind the strong man...But there is no such substratum; there is no 'being' behind doing, working, becoming: the 'doer' is merely added to the deed - the deed is everything'. (GM I 13)" (page 182)


"'Willing seems to me to be above all something complicated...in every will there is, first of all, a plurality of sensations, namely the sensation of the condition we leave, the sensation of the condition towards which we go, the sensation of this 'leaving' and 'going' itself, and then the accompanying muscular sensation...will is not only a complex of feeling and thinking, but above all an emotion: and in fact the emotion of command.  What is called 'freedom of will' is essentially the emotion of supremacy in respect of him who must obey; 'I am free, "he" must obey' - this consciousness adheres to every will...A man who wills - commands something in himself which obeys or which he thinks obeys...inasmuch as in the given circumstances we at the same time command and obey,...'freedom of will'...is the expression for that complex condition of joy of the person who wills, who commands and at the same time identifies himself with the executor of the command...' (BGE 19)


"The nature of the will, then, is, in its 'intelligible character', will to power; it appears when a certain relation - the power relation - is established between the elements of a 'social structure', whether that structure be an individual, a nation, or the universe as a whole, life as such. This conclusion is consistent with Nietzsche's conclusion concerning the nature of morality - which he repeats in Beyond Good and Evil:


"'Every morality is...a piece of tyranny against 'nature', also against 'reason':...The essential and invaluable element in every morality is that it is a protracted constraint...The essential thing...seems to be...a protracted constraint...The essential thing...seems to be...a protracted obedience in one direction.' (BGE 188)


"In the Genealogy he draws a further conclusion that it is important in linking the theory of the will to power with the need to establish 'meaning' for life.  Just as life is will to power, so the 'meaning' of life is the feeling that the will to power is operative, that something is subject to the will - no matter what it may be: it is the fact of commanding which counts:


"'Apart from the ascetic ideal, man, the animal man, had no meaning.  His existence on earth contained no goal...This is precisely what the ascetic ideal means: that something was lacking, that man was surrounded by a fearful void - he did not know how to justify, to account for, to affirm himself, he suffered from the problem of his meaning...his problem was not suffering itself, but that there was no answer to the crying question 'why is there suffering?'...The meaninglessness of suffering, not suffering itself, was the curse which lay over mankind - and the ascetic ideal gave it meaning!...man was saved thereby...he could now /will/ something - immaterial to what end, why, with what he willed: the will itself was saved.' (GM III 28)"  (pp. 183-184)


"In this will he recognized the origin of nihilism: an individual, a nation, a civilization deprived of positive goals destroys itself by willing the last thing left in its power of will - its own destruction; and it will will rather than not will.  Nietzsche now gained the authority to distinguish between different victorious moralities: that a certain morality had established itself did not imply it was a movement for the enhancement of power - it might be a nihilistic morality, and its triumph the triumph of a will to nothingness.  He therefore began to speak of 'life-enhancing' or 'ascending' and life-denying' or 'declining' morality, and he was able to condemn the latter without self-contradiction." (page 184)


"Nietzsche re-emphasizes that conflict and contest are the basis of life, and that the good impulses derive from the bad:


"'All psychology has hitherto remained anchored to prejudice and timidities: it has not ventured on to the deep.  To conceive of psychology as the morphology and development-theory of the will to power, as I conceive it - has never yet entered the mind of anyone else:...The power of moral prejudices has penetrated deep into the intellectual world, which is apparently the coolest and least prejudiced:...A genuine physio-psychology has to struggle with unconscious resistance in the heart of the investigator; it has to struggle with unconscious resistance in the heart of the investigator; it has 'the heart' against it: even a theory of mutual dependence of the 'good' and the 'bad' impulses causes, as refined immorality, distress and aversion to a conscious still brave and strong - and even more theory of the deprivation of all good impulses from the bad.  When, however, one regards even the emotions of hatred, envy, covetousness, lust for power as life-conditioning emotions, as something which, in the total economy of life, must be present fundamentally and essentially, and which consequently must be furthered if life is to furthered - he suffers from this conclusion as from seasickness.' (BGE 23)" (page 185)


And with the aforementioned "power of moral prejudices" Nietzsche begins to shift his metaphysical focus into a thread that rides his "mature" (his middle and later works as opposed to early "positivist" works from Birth of Tragedy to Zarathustra) philosophical narrative.  The master and slave morality transcends race or class, arranging and critiquing society in a unique way.  This is an important point about Nietzsche.


"He never speaks of the master race, and clearly he never imagined one existing race to be superior to all others. (Even if he had, one may add in parentheses, he would hardly have designated the Germans that race.) He never uses the word in the sense of 'pure race': for Nietzsche a 'race' was a group of people who had lived together a long time and as a result had certain needs and certain characteristics in common; and it was in this sense that he looked forward to a 'European race', which he hoped might vie in achievement with the most celebrated of all 'mixed races', the Greeks.  But his opposition to racism was not merely temperamental bias, or an occasional expression of opinion.  Any philosophy which places conflict at the heart of things and sees it as a ladder to perfection must turn its back on 'pure race' as pure absurdity." (page 186)


"The concept 'master and slave morality' is an attempt to explain how antithetical moral judgments are possible. Before trying to see exactly what is implied in this passage, let us look at those passages in the Genealogy which are an elaboration and extension of it:


"'...the judgment 'good' did not originate with those to whom 'goodness' was shown! Much rather it was 'the good' themselves, that is to say, the noble, powerful, high-stationed and high-minded, who felt and established themselves and their actions as good, that is, of the first rank, in contradistinction to all the low, low-minded, common and plebeian.  It was out of this pathos of distance that they first seized the right to create values and to coin names for values: what had they to do with utility' (GM I 2)


"'...everywhere 'noble', 'aristocratic' in the social sense is the basic concept from which 'good' in the sense of 'with aristocratic soul' necessarily developed: a development which runs parallel with that other in which 'common', 'plebeian', 'low' are finally transformed into the concept of 'bad'...With regard to a genealogy of morals this seems to me a fundamental insight.' (GM I 4)


"'The slave-revolt in morals begins with resentment...becomes creative and gives birth to values...While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is 'outside', what is 'different', what is 'not itself': and this No is its creative act...its action is...reaction...The man of resentment...has conceived 'the evil enemy', 'the Evil One', and this is his basic idea, from which he then evolves, as a corresponding and opposing figure, a 'good one' - himself! (GM I 10)." (page 188)


"'One cannot fail to see at the core of all these noble races the animal of prey, the splendid blonde beast prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get out again and go back to the wilderness: the Roman, Arabian, Germanic, Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian Vikings - they all shared this need.  It is the noble races which have left behind them the concept 'barbarian' wherever they have gone.' (GM I 11)" (page 189)


"The first thing to note is that Nietzsche explains 'class' in terms of 'race'.  The ruling class, he thinks, are the descendants of the conquering race, the ruled, class of the conquered race; in time, racial differences vanished - partly through intermarriage, but mainly because 'race' is essentially a body of characteristics shared by people who have lived together in the same place for a long time - but the power relationship remained.  The aristocracy then became racially indistinguishable from the common people - they were, in fact, one race - and the concept of 'class' appeared to explain the power relationship between rulers and the ruled. It is by means of this power relationship that he seeks to explain the origin of opposite types of morality, 'soul', bad conscience, guilt feelings, and so on.  The aim is to employ the theory of will to power as that 'one kind of causality' demanded by logical method.


"Because slave morality is essentially a reaction against a life of suffering, against life conceived as suffering, it is a 'life-denying' morality; it is protective, it wards off, it reduces vitality; in an extreme form it becomes a Buddhistic flight from reality, a morbid sensitivity to pain that suffers from life as from an illness; he recognizes in Schopenhauer the philosopher who had taken this tendency to its furthest limits.  Against this tendency he sets an opposite ideal:


"'...the ideal of the most exuberant, most living and most world-affirming man, who has not only learned to compromise and treat with all that was and is but who wants to have it again as it was and is to all eternity, insatiably calling out da capo not only to himself but to the whole piece and play...' (BGE 56)" (page 190)


"'The essential thing in a good and healthy aristocracy is...that it does not feel itself to be a function (of a kingdom or of a commonwealth), but as the meaning and highest justification thereof - that it should therefore accept with a good conscience the sacrifice of innumerable men who, for its sake, have to be suppressed and reduced to imperfect men, to slaves and tools.  Its basic faith must be that society should not exist for the sake of society, but only as foundation and scaffolding upon which a select order of beings may rise itself to...a higher existence.' (BGE 258)


"The logic of this attitude, given all that has gone before, is inescapable; so unfortunately for Nietzsche, is its unreality. It is doubtful if he himself thought such an aristocracy was possible; certainly it is not presented as a picture of any actually existing aristocracy. The difficulty, however, is not insurmountable; it derives mainly from the archaic language which Nietzsche here employs, and the outmoded state of society which it calls to mind. The idea behind it is that which we have seen formed the basis of all his thought: that existence is in itself not significant, and mankind can derive no significance from being a function of it; mankind must become this significance and justification of existence. (pp. 191-192)


This last point is interesting because it reveals Nietzsche's distinctive "aristocracy" is something yet to be in the future, to be created by the values of the overmen as a "higher" society emerges completely supported by "herd" society, the mass of ordinary human beings.  It can seem idealistic to suppose such a culture-wide becoming is possible. But a look at the world view of current human events gives a great deal of credence to the idea that a power construct is working within a master-slave context for defining true (actualized) human morality.  


Three examples of how this "will to power" might be manifesting today within a "master-slave morality" construct: 1) The metaphysical clash that results in "income inequality." 2) The aggressive atheism that critiques mass religion. 3) The elitist pockets of society that reside in multiple countries, using their private jets within a global interplay of capitalism and art and dandyism. Whatever. Hollingdale's approach to Nietzsche highlights "the will to power" and "master-slave morality" as basic themes throughout On the Genealogy of Morals.

As Hollingdale admits, none of this "aristocracy" suggests an actual "group."  So it is somewhat surprising to realize that Nietzsche's tangible aristocracy apparently "exists" only as isolated symptoms, fragmented aspects of culture dispersed throughout the spectrum of human culture. If we are to apply the weight of the course of human history since Nietzsche's death to Nietzsche's philosophical aspirations, then we must admit a singular higher culture does not exist, but characteristics of it do exist and have effect, deeds as Nietzsche would have it above. The deed is greater than the doer as manifested in culture. Perhaps the will to power only expresses itself through disconnected cultural drives (as deeds) and never coalesces into a culture. This is a possible interpretation of applying (re-valuating) Nietzsche today.  


When considered along with my previous mention of Nietzsche offering a psychological basis for his ideal "aristocracy" and of the influence of Prussian culture (see here and here) on Nietzsche's perspective, Hollingdale's analysis suggests that the idea of what a "society" is might need adjustment, in ways, I suggest, that accommodate Nietzsche's thought and yet are even more radical than Nietzsche's thinking. Namely, that the characteristics of the overman and of higher existence might be dispersed across multiple societies and not unified in any specific society. I will consider the ramifications of this in a future post.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The New Prefaces

"In this book you will discover a 'subterranean man' at work, one who tunnels and mines and undermines. You will see him - presupposing you have eyes capable of seeing this work in the depths - going forward slowly, cautiously, gently inexorable, without betraying very much of the distress which any protractors deprivation of light and air must entail; you might even call him contented, working there in the dark." So begins the new preface for Daybreak. Nietzsche makes it plain that he is critiquing his work and his working methods from the beginning, putting present context into his past thought in order to show an alleged progression to the point where he found himself in 1887.

In that year Nietzsche republished his initial works in two phases.  First came Daybreak and The Gay Science with its new Book Five.  Human, All-too-Human and The Birth of Tragedy followed a few months later. Each "new edition" of these works contained a new preface.  Each preface ended with a date and/or location.  The new preface for Human, All-too-Human was completed at Nice in the spring of 1886. The Birth of Tragedy's preface is dated August 1886, likely completed at Sils-Maria.  The new Daybreak preface ends: "Ruta, near Genoa, in the autumn of 1886," as does The Gay Science.

But the idea for new prefaces had occupied him for some time.  He actually made notes for a new preface to Human, All-Too-Human in 1885. These prefaces are generally Nietzsche's first attempt at the self-critique of his work.  As his "will to power" crystallized, he became increasingly aware of inconsistencies with his current philosophical explorations compared to his thinking prior to Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-1886).

In Ecce Homo (1888) he would become a master at (often sarcastic) self-evaluation and self-critique, but for now he seemed torn between an honest appraisal and a re-framing of original intentions that was sometimes disingenuous and somewhat apologetic in ways no different from most any other person who, in hindsight, attempts to say their changed perspective really isn't that different, just evolved.  These new prefaces show the extent to which Nietzsche himself was "human, all-too-human" as we have already seen at other times in his life, such as the Lou Salome affair.

All four books were re-bound from the bountiful stock of first editions that had gone unsold.  Only The Birth of Tragedy had seen a second printing (1872 and 1878) and its initial popularity waned as his friendship with Richard Wagner deteriorated.  Everything else Nietzsche had written had only sold, at most, a couple of hundred copies each, many of those were given away by Nietzsche personally.

It should be noted that the first three parts of Thus Spoke Zarathustra were published together for the first time by the end of 1886.  Nietzsche did not write a new preface for this new edition.  Perhaps this was because, unlike the other works, Zarathustra, being presented as a kind of parable, does not have a preface but rather a formal "prologue" instead.

According to Julian Young: "Nietzsche had several complimentary motives for this re-presentation of all his work to date.  Nietzsche hoped that rebinding the old copies with new prefaces would give them 'new wings' and so generate 'new interest, from a book-dealing point of view'. A second, less commercial, motive lay in Nietzsche's certainty that he was 'by far the most independent thinker of the present age, one who thinks far more than any other in the grand style'. A final motive was provided by the sense that he had reached a turning point in his career.  On completing the project of self-re-presentation he felt that 'a phase of my life has come to an end' so that 'now I have the whole, enormous task before me.  Before me and, still more, on top of me'.  As we know this enormous task, this work 'in the grand style' that would systematically sum up his entire philosophy, was to bear the grandiose title, The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of all Values." (page 437)

Of all the new prefaces, Nietzsche was probably most critical of The Birth of Tragedy whose subtitle he altered from reading "Out of the Spirit of Music" to "The Greek Spirit and Pessimism."  He began that new preface with: "Whatever might have been the basis for this dubious book, it must have been a question of the utmost importance and charm, as well as a deeply personal one.  Testimony to that effect is the time in which it arose (in spite of which it arose), that disturbing era of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. While the thunderclap of the Battle of Worth was reverberating across Europe, the meditative lover of enigmas whose lot it was to father this book sat somewhere in the corner of the Alps, extremely reflective and perplexed (thus simultaneously distressed and carefree) and wrote down his thoughts concerning the Greeks, the kernel of that odd and difficult book to which this preface (and postscript) should be dedicated."

Nietzsche was attempting to be honestly self-critical and to a large degree he succeeded.  This self-reflection on the evolution of his metaphysical thought reminds us that the act of self-critique became part of who Nietzsche was up to Ecce Homo.  But, as honest as he tries to be when commentating on his early thought, Julian Young finds Nietzsche's attempt at honest self-reflection is valid but with mixed results.

"...their point is to present 'a kind of narrative of spiritual development', a Bildungsroman, a story of his 'self-education' that will be exemplary for Germans (and Western modernity as a whole). In the prefaces Nietzsche seeks to present himself as a spiritual hero. But, as The Gay Science observes, to discover the hero that is 'concealed in everyday characters' one needs artistic 'distance' from one's subject matter to avoid losing the forest on account of the trees.  Aesthetic distance means, however, that 'there is a good deal one no longer sees, and much our eye has to add if we are to see anything at all'.  In a word, one needs to fake things a bit.  It follows, then, that we should not expect scholarly accuracy from the 1886 prefaces.  In order for him to present himself as a 'monumental', exemplary figure, the thinker he portrays has to be a certain degree, like all role models, an artistic fiction." (pp. 437-438)

The prefaces are Nietzsche's first serious attempt what we would term today as "branding" or "marketing" himself.  He seeks to steer the narrative of his published life toward his present thinking, sometimes in ways that are not completely accurate.

"The problem is not that Nietzsche ungenerously lambastes the style of the book - 'badly written, clumsy, embarrassing, with a rage for imagery and confused in its imagery, emotional, here and there sugary to the point of effeminacy'.  It is rather that he tries to modulate a work which, as we saw, is every bit as committed to metaphysical idealism and to pessimism about human life as is Schopenhauer into a work whose true message is naturalism and life-affirmation.  That message, he claims, 'fundamentally ran counter to both spirit and taste of Kant and Schopenhauer' but was spoilt by the attempt to express it 'in Schopenhauerian and Kantian formulations'.  Trying, for the sake of his narrative, to paint a picture of the 'true' Nietzsche already present, in embryo, in The Birth, he gives a thoroughly unreliable account of its content. It is notable that the new Book 5 of The Gay Science, written at the same time but not under the same constraints, is much more accurate: 'It may be recalled, at least among my friends, that initially I approached the modern world (and in particular)...the philosophical pessimism of the nineteenth century as if it were a symptom of a higher force of thought'.

"Similarly, in the new preface to Human, All-too-Human' he seeks to suggest he was never really either a Schopenhauerian or a Wagnerian.  Lacking courage he later acquired to face up to the isolation of the radical thinker, he suggests, 'I knowingly-willfully closed my eyes before Schopenhauer's blind will....Likewise I deceived myself over Richard Wagner's incurable romanticism, as though it were a beginning and not an end'.

"Actually, though, Nietzsche's attitude to Wagner was much more nuanced than this.  Less than a month after writing this he wrote...Overbeck...affirming his continuing belief 'in the ideal in which Wagner believed' and saying that it was only the 'human-all-too-human' in Wagner over which he 'stumbled'.  In an important sense he never said farewell to Wagner. But the idea of a dramatic and total break makes a better story." (pp. 438-439)

By 1886, Friedrich Nietzsche had a clear vision of where he wanted to go.  It was a complicated goal and so he wrote hundreds of pages of notes about his multifaceted ideas surrounding the will to power.  He did not yet know how to express the full spectrum of his intent so he continued setting the table with Beyond Good and Evil (1886) and On the Genealogy of Morals (1887).  These works served as prologue for the core of his thought.  He had to articulate and project the fundamentals of his perspective before he could fully express his grand and "dangerous" ideas.

The new prefaces written for the new editions of his unsold books were an attempt to position Nietzsche's other fundamental tenets (the ├╝bermensch, amor fati, eternal recurrence, etc.) as assorted manifestations of the will to power. The past did not line up perfectly, but the single path of philosophical progression does make for the appearance of a consistent system and much of what Nietzsche wrote in these prefaces reflects a profound capacity for self-critique and depth of understanding about the implications of his earlier thought.  This is a distinctive aspect of Nietzsche's perspective and his way of thinking.

It is revealing to note that Nietzsche did not carry copies of his books around with him during his nomadic travels to the mountains in summer and to the sea in winter.  So most of these prefaces were written from memory, without the benefit of having the book in front of him as a reference. In 1886, perhaps his memory was good enough to recollect what he had previously written.  This was not the case in 1887 and 1888, the years leading up to his insanity. It is enough to make one wonder if his waning memory was symptomatic of the larger neurological issues he began to experience at this time.

Rudiger Safranski explains and offers some insight into Nietzsche's intimate connection with his life's work: "We need to keep in mind that Nietzsche, who spent much of his time traveling from place to place, had boxes of books shipped to him, but did not always have his own earlier books and often found that his memory of what he had written had faded. Sometimes Nietzsche shied away from reading his own writings. In 1886, the year in which he added a series of prefaces to his earlier books, he wrote to Gast: 'It seems lucky in retrospect that I had neither Human, All-too-Human nor The Birth of Tragedy on hand when I wrote those prefaces.  Just between us, I can no longer stand that stuff.' This remark was written in a fit of depression. Two years later, during his final autumn in Turin, when he was brimming with euphoria after reading his earlier works, he wrote to Gast: 'For the past four weeks, I have finally understood my own writings; not only that, I admire them.  In all seriousness, I really never knew what they signify.  I would be lying if I said that they (apart from Zarathustra) had impressed me' (Dec. 22, 1888). During the summer of that year, he asked Meta von Salis for a copy of On the Genealogy of Morals, which had been published the previous year.  Rereading this book, which was barely one year old, induced him to remark: 'I was astonished when I first looked at it....Essentially, I remembered only the titles of the three treatises; the rest, which is to say the content, had gone right out of my head' (Aug 22, 1888). The frequent repetitions in Nietzsche's works are partly attributable to the fact that he simply forgot what he had already written." (pp. 298-299)

With the prefaces written and the new editions available, Nietzsche completed his next great work, On the Genealogy of Morals. We will examine this book first from the perspective of R. J. Hollingdale. But Hollingdale requires us to initially look back at Beyond Good and Evil once again, as he considers the two books to be so closely related that one cannot be completely understood without the other.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

We Fearless Ones

Just after the publication of Beyond Good and Evil (BGE) in 1886, Nietzsche attempted what we would call today a "reboot" of his philosophical career. Having obtained the rights to all his previous works, he wrote new prefaces and rebound the ample supply of unsold copies as new editions. I will deal with these new prefaces in my next post.

Part of this reboot was an entirely new Book Five added on to the republished version of The Gay Science in 1887. With this section, Nietzsche stitched this earlier, brilliant work published in 1882 (prior to Thus Spoke Zarathustra) with his current thinking. Part Five allows us to see The Gay Science as the beginning of Nietzsche's mature philosophy, comparable with BGE.

The new section was entitled "We Fearless Ones" and it was Nietzsche's attempt to summarize the qualities necessary for an individual to thrive in society after the death of God. It involved a criticism of many aspects of western civilization but particularly of scientific materialism, democracy, and religion as forces in society.  Nietzsche was also erotic and sexist in many aphorisms, keeping with that strong thread from the previous four sections of the work.

Yet, Part Five was infused with enthusiasm and confidence while also revealing the "darker" side of higher living - the use of others, slaves of a lower culture, in order to achieve a society based on principles that transcended both tradition and modernity.  Nietzsche advocated an experience of reality without culturally determined norms, without ordinary human needs, where the individual was free to discover whatever life might bring and to experience a grounded reality that was simultaneously challenging and inspiring.

"Indeed, at hearing the news that 'the old God is dead', we philosophers and 'free spirits' feel illuminated by a new dawn; our heart overflows with gratitude, amazement, forebodings, expectation - finally the horizon seems clear again, even if not bright; finally our ship may set out again, set out to face any danger; every daring of the lover of knowledge is allowed again; the sea, our sea, lies open again; maybe there has never been such an 'open sea'." (Aphorism 343)

Specific sections serve as details of Nietzsche's higher thinking with regard to many subjects. For example, he makes his case that human consciousness is almost entirely a social phenomena.  Further, this aspect of societal reality is driven linguistically.  A terrifically accurate insight, in my opinion.

"...consciousness in general has developed only under the pressure of the need to communicate; that at the outset, consciousness was necessary and useful, only between persons (particularly between those who commanded and those who obeyed); Consciousness is really just a net connecting one person with another - only in this capacity did it have to develop; the solitary and predatory person would not have needed it.  That our actions, thoughts, feelings, and movements - at least some of them - even enter into consciousness is the result of a terrible 'must' which has ruled over man for a long time..." (354)

With the sense of "must" just mentioned Nietzsche is considering society as an expression of the will to power, of other forces beyond the human horizon. This is brilliant writing.

...conscious thinking takes place in words, that is, in communication symbols; and this fact discloses the origin of consciousness.  In short, the development of language and the development of consciousness go hand in hand.  My idea is clearly that consciousness actually belongs not to man's existence as an individual but rather to the community - and herd-aspects of his nature;  that accordingly, it is finely developed only in relation to its usefulness to community or herd; and that consequently each of us, even with the best will in the world to understand ourselves as individually as possible, 'to know ourselves', will always bring to consciousness precisely that in ourselves which is 'non-individual', that which is 'average'; that due to the nature of consciousness - to the 'genius of the species' governing it - our thoughts themselves are continually as it were outvoted and translated back into the herd perspective.  At bottom, all our actions are incomparably and utterly personal, unique, and boundlessly individual, there is no doubt; but as soon as we translate them into consciousness, they no longer seem to be... This is what I consider to be true phenomenalism and perspectivism: that due to the nature of animal consciousness, the world of which we can become conscious is merely a surface - and sign-world, a world turned into generalities and thereby debased to its lowest common denominator - that everything which enters consciousness thereby becomes shallow, thin, stupid, general, a sign, a herd-mark;" (354)

Napoleon was often a Nietzschean example of a great human being.  The French Emperor was a warrior not only in the military sense but in the sense of higher being, broad-minded, a master of the military and a builder of society itself.

"...we have entered the classic age of war, of sophisticated yet popular war on the largest scale (in terms of weapons, talents, discipline); all coming ages will look back on this kind of war with envy and deep respect as someone perfect, for the national movement out of which this war glory is growing is merely the counter-shock against Napoleon and would not exist without Napoleon.  He should be credited one day for having enabled man in Europe to become the master over the businessman and the philistine - perhaps even over 'woman', who has been spoiled by Christianity and the enthusiastic spirit of the eighteenth century, and even more by 'modern ideas'. (362)

Nietzsche's inclusion of the following passage is interesting because it includes the strong undercurrent of eroticism (and sexism) so noticeable and noteworthy at this stage of his life's work.  Much of it is shallow and naive but it nevertheless reflects the sexual ingredient of the will to power.

"For man and woman have different conceptions of love - and it belongs to the conditions of love - and it belongs to the conditions of love in each sex that neither presupposes the same feeling, mother same concept of 'love' in the other.  What woman means by love is clear enough: total devotion (and not mere surrender) with soul and body, without any consideration or reserve, rather with shame and horror at the thought of a devotion that might be tied to special clauses or conditions.  In this absence of conditions her love is a faith: woman has no other. Man, when he loves a woman, wants precisely this love from her and is thus himself as far as can be from the presupposition of female love; supposing, however, that there should also be men to whom the desire for complete surrender is not alien, well, then they are - not men.  A man who loves like a woman becomes a slave, but a woman who loves like a woman becomes a more perfect woman...The passion of a woman, in its unconditional renunciation of her own rights, presupposes precisely that on the other side there is not an equal pathos, not an equal will to renunciation; for if both should renounce themselves for love, the result will be - well, I don't know, maybe an empty space? Woman wants to be taken, adopted as a possession, wants to be absorbed in the concept 'possession', 'possessed'; consequently, she wants someone who takes, who does not himself give or be made richer in 'himself' - through the increase in strength, happiness, and faith given him by the woman who gives herself." (364)

But this is only an aside to his main point.  Julian Young writes of "We Fearless Ones": "Nietzsche's ideal is set extraordinarily high: only  'Dionysian God or [super]man' can finally achieve it. Nonetheless, though it may seem on the verge of megalomania, it is based, I think, one quite familiar experiences.  When we are 'down' everything seems impossible, too hard, the whole world is against us.  We wish - 'romantically' - we were somewhere else.  But when we are 'up' nothing seems too difficult; the world is at our feet. We feel full of energy and confidence, confidence in our power to overcome the 'terrible and questionable'. And so we (we who are full of 'the power of positive thinking', another sub-Nietzschean concept) welcome the stressful in the way in which a mountain climber welcomes the challenge of the mountain.  And we feel this way not just about what lies within our own direct control but also about the world in general: that in one way or another, it will all work out for the best in the long run.  Nietzsche's ideal of spiritual health imagines this state of 'Dionysian' ecstasy as, not just a momentary condition, but as a permanent state." (page 447)

Book Five again: "But there are two types of sufferers: first, those who suffer from a superabundance of life - they want a Dionysian art as well as a tragic outlook and insight into life; then, those who suffer from an impoverishment of life and seek quiet, stillness, calm seas, redemption from themselves through art and insight, or else intoxication, paroxysm, numbness, madness.  All romanticism in art and in knowledge fits the dual needs of the later type, as did (and do) Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner, to name the most famous and prominent romantics that I misunderstood at the time - not, incidentally, to their disadvantage, one might in all fairness concede. Man who is richest in fullness of life, the Dionysian God and man, can allow himself not only the sight of what is terrible and questionable but also the terrible deed and every luxury of destruction, decomposition, negation; in his case, what is evil, nonsensical, and ugly almost seems acceptable because of an overflow I'm procreating, fertilizing forces capable of turning any desert into boundless farmland. Conversely, he who suffers most and is poorest in life would need mainly mildness, peacefulness, goodness in thought and in deed - if possible, also a God who truly would be a god for the sick, a 'savior'; as well as logic, the conceptual comprehensibility of existence - for logic soothes, gives confidence - in short, a certain warm, fear repelling narrowness and confinement to optimistic horizons....The desire for destruction, for change and for becoming can be the expression of an overflowing energy pregnant with the future (my term for this is, as is known, 'Dionysian'); but it can also be the hatred of the ill-constituted, deprived, and underprivileged one who destroys and must destroy because what exists, indeed all existence, all being, outrages and provokes him." (370)

This Dionysian ecstasy thrives on shifting foundations and change.  "We are misidentified - for we ourselves keep growing, changing, shedding old hides; we still shed our skins every spring; we become increasingly younger, more future-oriented, taller, stronger; we drive our roots ever more powerfully into the depths - into evil - while at the same time embracing the heavens ever more lovingly and broadly, and absorbing their light ever more thirstily with our sprigs and leaves." (371)

Julian Young again on Nietzsche's view of science and, of course, since Nietzsche makes everything so intimate in his philosophy, a critique of the scientist as a man. "Were he alive now he would surely target dogmatic materialists as Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins as prime examplars of unscientific science-worship.

"Nietzsche points out that the two elements of the absolutizer's position are both 'prejudices'.  Since we 'cannot look around a corner', cannot step outside our minds, we can have no certainty that any world-interpretation produced by our 'four-cornered little human reason' corresponds completely, or even partially, to reality.  And since we cannot be certain that our own interpretation grasps the world as it really is, we have no grounds to be dismissive of other interpretations: 'good taste' demands 'reverence for everything that lies beyond [one's own] interpretation'.

"Instead of scientific arrogance, the watchword for the truly scientific spirit is 'modesty'.  The very word 'philosophy', 'lover of wisdom', Nietzsche points out, was coined by modest Greeks who, apart from 'conceited' exceptions such as Pythagoras and Plato, never claimed to be wise or to know anything of real importance.  A truly scientific person is modest about his own world-interpretation - a modesty that requires 'sovereignty and strength'.  Every kind of 'fanaticism', whether it take the form of socialism, Russian nihilism, the 'realism' of Flaubert and Zola or the 'scientific-positivist' outlook of the present age, is actually a sign of a weak and timid will that lacks the courage to live in a world of uncertainty.  Lacking, as Nietzsche puts it, to dance 'beside abysses', the weak-willed fanatic needs to be 'commanded' by some prepackaged 'faith', needs to become a 'believer' in a 'single point of view'.

"Being a good scientist or philosopher is, then, as one might put it, a matter of being of good character. People who are of such character live, Nietzsche writes, in the awareness of a world which has 'become infinite': become infinite because, particularly when we take into account the possibility of world-perspectives belonging to non-human creatures, we see that there is no limit to the number of possible world-interpretations, each quite possibly, in its own way, as good as every other one."

Nietzsche in Book Five: "Thus, a 'scientific' interpretation of the world, as you understand it, might still be one of the stupidest of all possible interpretations of the world, i.e. one of those lacking in significance.  This to the ear and conscience of Mr. Mechanic, who nowadays likes to pass as a philosopher and insists that mechanics is the doctrine of the first and final laws on which existence may be built, as on a ground floor.  But an essentially mechanistic world would be an essentially meaningless world! Suppose one judged the value of a piece of music according to how much of it could be counted, calculated, and expressed in formulas - how absurd such a 'scientific' evaluation of music would be!" (373)

"We cannot look around our corner: it is a hopeless curiosity to want to know what other kinds of intellects and perspectives there might be; e.g. whether other beings might be able to experience time backwards, or alternately forwards and backwards (which would involve another direction of life and a different conception of cause and effect). But I think that today we are at least far away from the ridiculous immodestly of decreeing from our angle. Rather, the world has once again become infinite to us: insofar as we cannot reject the possibility that it includes infinite interpretations. Once again the great shudder seizes us - but who again would want immediately to deify in the old manner this monster of an unknown world?" (374)

Nevertheless, Nietzsche advances his specific perspective (while proclaiming the validity of completely relative "perspectivism") based upon the will to power among many other central concepts: free spirit, overman, eternal recurrence, amor fati. "We Fearless Ones" distances the insightful person from modernity and it's inevitable mediocrity.  He is a warrior without fear, without common principle, one who will enslave others to express his will in the world. Yet he remains highly spiritual in his patience and calm confidence about the future.

"We 'conserve' nothing; neither do we want to return to any past; we are by no means 'liberal'; we are not working for 'progress'; we don't need to plug our ears to the marketplace's sirens of the future: what they sing - 'equal rights', 'free society', 'no more masters and no servants' - has no allure for us.  We hold it absolutely undesirable that a realm of justice and concord should be established on earth (because it would certainly be a realm of the most profound leveling down to mediocrity and chinoiserie; we are delighted by all who love, as we do, danger, war, and adventure; who refuse to compromise, to be captured, to reconcile, to be castrated; we consider ourselves conquerors; we contemplate the necessity for new orders as well as for a new slavery - for every strengthening and enhancement of the human type also involves a new kind of enslavement - doesn't it?" (377)

"We fearless ones, however, we more spiritual men of this age, we know our advantage well enough to live without fear of this age precisely because we are more spiritual. We will hardly be decapitated, imprisoned, or exiled; not even our books will be banned or burned.  The age loves the spirit; it loves and needs us, even if we should have to make clear to it that we are artists of contempt; that every association with human beings makes us shudder slightly; that for all our mildness, patience, congeniality, and politeness, we cannot persuade our noses to give up their prejudices against the proximity of a human being; that we love nature the less humanly it behaves, and art if it is the artist's escape from man or the artist's mockery of man, or the artist's mockery of himself..." (379)

Nietzsche wanted to push boundaries, to redefine human existence in the context of a vast interplay of forces within the universal will to power, to embrace the adventure of discovering the possibilities of Being, to avoid the pitfalls of established thinking whether political, scientific, or religious.  The Dionysian element is fundamental to saying 'yes' to Being, and to actually enjoy the overcoming of difficulty and disruption.  Part Five clarifies the revised intent of The Gay Science as almost an introduction to BGE. Whatever comes next with human Being, individually and collectively, it will be reason to Be joyful and light in the face of the fully acknowledged weight of existence. There is no reason to fear the future, nor to fear our intimate lives.  We are the master morality.  Anything is possible.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

On Beyond Good and Evil: Part Two

Note: All quotes are from my slightly more modern translation of Beyond Good and Evil dated 1998. All quoted word emphasis is Nietzsche's.

Unfortunately, "Our Virtues," a splendid section of Nietzsche's great work, ends with several misogynistic pages.  Nietzsche believed that it was virtuous of creative free spirits (who were male) to keep women in their rightful (secondary) place.  He prefaces the section as follows: "...perhaps I may be allowed to enunciate some truths about 'women', assuming henceforth people will know form the start how much these are simply - my truths." (231) So he at least qualifies these sexist remarks as being rather personal ones.  He proclaims that autonomy for women is the equivalent of the "uglification" of Europe.  To enlighten a woman is to compromise woman's very being. Women should fear men, this allows their natural instincts to work properly, which ultimately makes them "competent for their first and last profession, the bearing of healthy children."  This is a low point in Nietzsche's philosophic quest and is reason enough for many to consider him as a light-weight or misguided mind.  While I disagree with this brief portion of his work it does not diminish for me the previous remarkable insights and I offer this ridiculousness in passing for the sake of completeness to his biography.  It is what it is.  Nietzsche was a misogynist who was most attracted to feisty feminist women.  Perhaps this fundamental contradiction was symptomatic of whatever it was that drove him mad. But I don't think so.


Similarly, the next section, "Peoples and Fatherlands," is filled with questionable critiques of German, French, and English culture.  There is also a great deal mentioned about classical music, beginning with praise for Richard Wagner's Meistersigner Overture.  In a more prophetic moment, however, Nietzsche argues in this section that the European democratic movement will ultimately breed tyrants - which is precisely what happened when Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin came along about four decades or so after this text was published, after various democratic movements had emerged as forces in European politics. How much "democratization" had to do with the rise of dictatorships is debatable, however.  This is the weakest section of the work and it could have been edited out entirely without any of Nietzsche's principle arguments suffering at all.


Finally, we come to the section which attempts to answer "What is Noble?"  This is a kind of summation of the critically important aspects for the entire work. "In the past, every elevation of the type 'human being' was achieved by an aristocratic society - and this will always be the case: by a society that believes in the great ladder of hierarchy and value differentiation between people and that requires slavery in one sense or another.  Without the grand feeling of distance that grows from inveterate class differences, from the ruling caste's constant view downwards onto its underlings and tools, and from its equally constant practice in obeying and commanding, in holding down and holding at arms length - without this grand attitude, that other, more mysterious attitude could never exist, that longing for ever greater distances within the soul itself, the development of ever higher, rarer, more far-flung, extensive, spacious inner states, in short, the elevation of the type 'human being', the continual 'self-overcoming of the human', to use a moral formula in a supra-moral sense." (257)


"The crucial thing about a good and healthy aristocracy, however, is that it does not feel that it is a function (whether of monarchy or community) but rather its essence and highest justification - and that therefore it has no misgivings in condoning the sacrifice of a vast number of people who must for its sake be oppressed and diminished into incomplete people, slaves, tools. Its most fundamental belief must simply be that society can not exist for its own sake, but rather only as a foundation and scaffolding to enable a select kind of creature to ascend to its higher task and in general to its higher existence..." (258)


"We must...resist all sentimental frailty: life itself in its essence means appropriation, injuring, overpowering those who are foreign and weaker; oppression, harshness. Forcing one's own forms on others, incorporation, and at the very mildest, exploitation..." (259). Nietzsche is all about the confident, powerful, and self-assertive nature of a higher class of value creators and exploiters of those who fail to participate in this psychological form of ethical, moral and aesthetic creativity.  These creative free spirits that force their own forms on others thereby revealing "...the will to power incarnate, it will want to grow, to reach out around itself, pull towards itself, gain the upper hand - not out of some morality or immorality, but because it is alive, because life simply is the will to power."  This is "the fundamental nature of living things, as its fundamental organic function; it is the consequence of the true will to power, which is simply the will to life." (259)


Master and slave moralities emerge out of this interplay of forces or drives in the expression of the will to power in human form.  But the truly noble person is a creator and a master not a whiner and a dependent.  "'We truthful ones' - that is what the Ancient Greek nobility called themselves. It is obvious that moral value distinctions everywhere are first attributed to people and only later and in a derivative fashion applied to actions: for that reason most historians commit a crass error by starting with questions such as: 'Why do we praise an empathetic action?' The noble type of person feels himself as determining value - he does not need approval, he judges that 'what is harmful to me is harmful per se', he knows that he is the one who causes things to be revered in the first place, he creates values. The noble person reveres the power in himself, and also his power over himself, his ability to speak and to be silent, to enjoy the practice of severity and harshness towards himself and to respect everything that is severe and harsh." (260). This last quote represents Nietzsche defining precise character traits that make up a noble person.  The foundation of these traits, and indeed the whole point of this last section of Beyond Good and Evil, is reverence for the experience and expression of a well-lived life. Reverence takes the form of self-control, articulation, tactfulness, an uncompromising personality embracing hardship.


"...belief in ourselves, pride in ourselves, a fundamental hostility and irony towards 'selflessness' - these are surely a part of a noble morality as caution and a slight disdain towards empathetic feelings and 'warm hearts'.  It is the powerful who understand how to revere, it is their art form, their realm of invention. Most of all, however, the master morality is foreign and embarrassing to current taste because of the severity of its fundamental principle: that we have duties only towards our peers, and that we may treat those of lower rank, anything foreign, as we think best or 'as our heart desires' or in any event 'beyond good and evil' - and pity and the like should be thought of in this context." (260)


"Assuming that the raped, the oppressed, the suffering, the shackled, the weary, the insecure engage in moralizing, what will their moral value judgments have in common? They will probably express pessimistic suspicion about the whole human condition, and they might condemn the human being along with his condition.  The slave's eye does not readily apprehend the virtues of the powerful: he is skeptical and distrustful, he is keenly distrustful of everything that the powerful revere as 'good' - he would like to convince himself that even their happiness is not genuine....this is where pity, a kind, helpful hand, a warm heart, patience, diligence, humility, friendliness are revered - for in this context, these qualities are most useful and practically the only means of enduring an oppressive existence.  Slave morality is essentially a morality of utility." (260)


While the slave morality articulates victimization and oppression and compassion, the master morality emphasizes creativity, reevaluation, and leveraging power as a means to greatness and, fundamentally, self-reverence. "The dangerous and sinister point is reached where the greater, more differentiated, richer life survives beyond the old morality; the 'individual' is left standing, forced to be his own lawgiver, to create his own arts and wiles of self-preservation, self-advancement, self-redemption." (262)


"...there is a joy in the nuances of reverence that hints at a noble origin and habits.  The subtlety, kindness, and greatness of soul are dangerously tested when it encounters something of the first rank, but as yet unprotected by awe of authority against crude, intrusive poking; something unmarked, undiscovered, tentative, perhaps capriciously cloaked or disguised, going its way like a living touchstone. A person who has taken upon himself...to establish the ultimate value of a soul, it's irrevocable, inherent hierarchical position, will make manifold of one particular art among all others: he will test the soul for its instinct for reverence." (263)


In the slave morality the human ego is conflicted and muted and trivialized.  In the master morality, selfish intent emerges out of reverence for the self in creative action within society. "Running the risk of displeasing innocent ears, I would assert that egoism is part of the nature of noble souls - I mean that steadfast belief that other beings must naturally submit to 'our' kind of being and sacrifice themselves to it.  The noble soul accepts its egotistic condition without any sort of question mark, also without any feeling of harshness, coercion, or willfulness, but rather as something that may be based in the primeval law of things...This is one more aspect of the soul's egoism, this subtle self-limitation in the society of its equals (every star is this kind of egoist): in these equals and in the rights that it yields to them, it revers itself;  it has no doubt that mutual reverence and rights are the essence of all society and also part of the natural state of things.  The noble soul gives as it takes, from out of the passionate and excitable instinct of requital that is at its core.  The concept of 'mercy' has no meaning inter pares, no aroma..." (265)


Use of others to achieve one's revered goals is a given in master morality.  "A person striving for great things will regard anyone he meets upon his path either as a means or as a postponement and an obstacle - or else as a temporary resting place. His particular, characteristic, highly constituted kindness to his fellow humans is possible only when he has reached his highest level and is in command. Impatience and his awareness that he is meanwhile condemned to play-acting ruins all company for him: this kind of person knows solitude and knows the most poisonous thing about it." (273)


The noble person is first and foremost a master of himself. "To go through life with tremendous, proud calmness; always beyond...To feel or not to feel our emotions, our Pros and Cons, as we see fit, to condescend to them for hours at a time; to sit upon them, as we do upon a horse, and often an ass - for we need to know how to capitalize on their stupidity as well as their fire.  To hold on to our three hundred foreground reasons; also our dark glasses, for there are times when no one may look into our eyes, and even less into our 'reasons'.  And to choose to keep company with that roguish and cheerful vice Courtesy. And to remain master of our four virtues: courage, insight, sympathy, solitude.  For we think solitude is a virtue, a sublime, exceeding need for cleanliness, born from knowing what unavoidably unclean things must transpire when people touch one another ('in company').  Somehow, somewhere, sometime, every commonality make us - 'common'." (284)


"What is noble?  What meaning does the word 'noble' still have for us today?  As the rule of the rabble begins, under this heavy, cloudy, sky that makes everything opaque and leaden, how is a noble person revealed, by what do we recognize him?  It is not his actions that identify him (actions are always ambiguous, always unfathomable).  Nor is it his 'works'.  There are plenty of artists and scholars these days whose works reveal that they are motivated by a great desire to be noble: but just this very need for nobility is fundamentally different from the needs of the noble soul itself, and virtually the eloquent and dangerous sign of its absence.  It is not works, it is faith that is decisive here and establishes a hierarchy, to take up an old religious formula again in a new and deeper sense: some fundamental certainty of a noble soul about itself, something that cannot be sought or found or, perhaps, lost. The noble soul revers itself." (287)


So, add narcissistic to misogynistic as a criticism of Nietzsche. Many also criticize Nietzsche in terms of being a sociopath or psychopath, incapable of empathy and and abhorring pity.  Certain passages from Beyond Good and Evil lend themselves to this interpretation.  But, as this blog as attempted to show over and over again, Nietzsche's actual living of life, even among his few friends and others during this semi-reclusive time, is in no way psychotic. He enjoyed his friendships and he got along very well with a number of people, often being described as humorous, gentle, and a good listener. His teachings are sometimes sensationally abrasive, but so are those of many other philosophical and religious teachers, as Kaufmann previously pointed out.  (In fairness, he exhibits a much more pronounced neurotic pathology by 1888, but that comes later in this blog.)


Do not reduce the Nietzsche of 1886 to his weaknesses. He is tempered thereby but not extinguished.  What he is boldly pointing out is that humility, compassion, and beauty should be subject to critique as much as anything else and that power is a honest basis for human understanding and relationships. Nobility reveres itself precisely to the degree that it expresses power, the ennobled human Being.  You and I might disagree with this assessment but that does not dismiss the perspective. Happiness and peace of mind are an insufficient rebuttal to the ways of power within the human condition.


Confidence, calm, goal-oriented, sociable but with a preference for solitude, intimately insightful and selectively sympathetic, inherently joyful and passionate about life, adventurous, harsh and firm toward oneself and toward others, seeking uncommon persons and things, seeking to make use of the common person, an artistic commitment to creative originality, a respect for hierarchy and power, with a deep and fundamental sense of appreciation and reverence for the experience of it all, that is what Nietzsche classifies and distinguishes as higher human Being in the section "What Is Noble?"  Despite the obvious weaknesses, this central Nietzschean nobility is something worthy of rank alongside any other human spirituality.