Monday, October 31, 2016

Nietzsche's Genealogy: Feelings, Knowledge, and Beautiful Fictions

We resume my review of Christopher Janaway’s detailed analysis of On the Genealogy of Morals from his book Beyond Selflessness.  Here Janaway points out Nietzsche’s examination of the ascetic ideal as a manifestation of will to power, clarifying what he intends by the concept of will to power in a distinctive way.

“Will to power may manifest itself in healthy or unhealthy ways, creating either unity or conflict in the psyche. The ascetic is sick, because he is split against himself by his need to locate ultimate value in despising and denying himself.  Opposed to this are those ‘rare cases of powerfulness in soul and body, the strokes of luck among humans’ (GM II. 14), whom Nietzsche portrays as well-formed and healthy expressions of will to power. Yet Nietzsche’s thought tracks the intricacies of psychology with a subtlety that strains the boundaries of such classifications.

“Nietzsche calls the ascetic a paradox and a self-contradiction, meaning not that the ascetic in an impossibility, but that he genuinely grows in power (over himself) as he dissociates from and destroys his natural strength.  The ascetic ideal gives its proponent a unity of purpose and strength of will, so that there is a real ‘triumph’ and ‘victory’, not a mere illusion of one.” (page 146)

“…a general theory of will to power…consists in something’s ‘becoming lord over’ something else, it involves something’s giving meaning or ‘purpose’ to an extant thing, and it is ‘the essence of life’ that ‘plays itself out in all happening’.

“First, the will to power belongs to the nature of human beings; it belongs to them qua members of the ‘organic world’.  It is in our nature that we tend to act, think, and feel in ways which enhance mastery over something.  But secondly, our nature is continually reinterpreted by culture. Culture institutions of punishment, for example, are set up to fulfill diverse surface objectives, but can be explained more fundamentally by their function of providing opportunities to take pleasure in being master over someone on whom one can legitimately inflict suffering.” (page 148)

“The overwhelming evidence is that in his mature writings Nietzsche’s aim was to undermine the enterprise of transcendent metaphysics, conceived as knowledge of a real, enduring essence of the world that lies beyond its representation in experience. Nietzsche’s stance toward metaphysics is so forcibly presented in texts such as ‘On the Prejudices of the Philosophers’ (Part One of Beyond Good and Evil) and the section of Twilight of the Gods entitled ‘How the Real World Finally Became a Fable’ that anyone championing a literally meant Nietzschean metaphysics of the in-itself around the time of the Genealogy has a virtually impossible task.  We may proceed, then, on the assumption that the will to power is meant at most to be something empirical, something inhabiting ‘this’ (the observable, scientifically tractable) world, and playing some kinds of explanatory role in it.” (page 153)  

“The ascetic ideal requires the positing of objects whose value transcends that of one's own ordinary existence or of human existence in general. It involves a kind of self-denial or self-belittlement, in which one considers oneself of low worth by comparison with the external entity whose value is supposedly absolute and unconditional. But it also contains an aspiration to rise above oneself: provided that one operates a severe self-suppression, killing off many instincts and drives, one can improve upon the meager value of one’s existence and be brought closer to the thing that has transcendental value. Many apparently diverse cultural manifestations have, according to Nietzsche, been driven by a need thus to devalue ourselves by comparison with some ‘higher’ realm.” (pp. 165-166)

This clarification of Nietzsche's will to power leads to a utilitarian application when considering the fundamental meaninglessness of our humanity.  Will to power is the well-spring from which the "affective" meaning that "we fearless ones" create for our lives emerges within the residue of human feelings.

“Nietzsche claims to have enticed the reader into acknowledging an awful truth: that the real pain of suffering lies in the dread of its having no meaning. The reader is to be unsettled by the progress of this piece, into which Nietzsche transposes his struggle with the life denying philosophy of his ‘great teacher’ Schopenhauer, his disillusionment with the artistic genius and father figure Wagner, his isolation and exaltation in the ‘desert’ where the true philosopher belongs, his vivisection of the atheism and glorious scholarship that are his own inheritance.  On my view the treatise is about what is says it is about, the many guises and unique power of the ascetic ideal, and is at the same time the opportunity to demonstrate the art of exegesis, to show how ‘meaning’ emerges from a process of potentially endless diagnostic analysis.” (page 182)

“It is the affects – the very mental states that for the philosophical orthodoxy ‘twist, color, and distort’ judgment and perception – that Nietzsche portrays as enabling and expanding knowledge.  These points are hammered home in the last half-page of section 12: ‘To have one’s pro and contra on one’s power’ is to make one’s knowledge more ‘objective’; the plurality of affects, the greatest possible difference in affective interpretations, is ‘useful’ for knowledge and makes it more ‘complete’.

“What is an affect? At times, we have seen, Nietzsche talks simply of ‘inclinations and aversions’, ‘pro and contra’, or ‘for and against’ – descriptions that parallel Schopenhauer’s vocabulary and his view that all affects are positive or negative stirrings of the will. It seems that for Nietzsche too all affects are at bottom inclinations or aversions of some kind.  But their range is extensive.  In the Genealogy and Beyond Good and Evil alone he explicitly uses the term for the following: anger, fear, love, hatred, hope, envy, revenge, lust, jealousy, irascibility, exuberance, calmness, self-satisfaction, self-humiliation, self-crucifixion, power-lust, greed, suspicion, malice, cruelty, contempt, despair, triumph, feeling of looking down on, feeling of a superior glance towards others, desire to justify oneself in the eyes of others, demand for respect, feelings of laziness, feeling of command, and brooding over bad deeds.  Affects are, at the very least, ways in which we feel.” (pp. 205-206)

“Some affects are beneath accurate apprehension by ourselves, and some are unconscious.  But all seem to be feelings of one sort or another.  And if we respect the fact that Nietzsche gives such prominence to affects in his discussion of perspectival knowing, we shall have to surmise that for him the inbuilt constraint upon knowledge that makes it ‘only perspectival’ lies in the knowing subject’s affective nature.  So Nietzsche’s perspectivism about knowledge must involve two claims: (1) that there is only knowledge that is guided or facilitated by our feelings, and (2) that the more different feelings we allow to guide our knowledge, the better our knowledge will be.” (page 206)

Of course, this last important point about the growth of knowledge through the accumulation of diverse perspectives is a fundamental tenet of the mature Nietzsche and is echoed by Julian Young’s analysis in a previous post. For me, it is one of the distinctive qualities of the genealogy that merits its appreciation as an insightful work of both psychology and philosophy. It also humanizes Nietzsche because he is talking about human feelings. Rather than objects for control and sublimation, human feelings are the root of authentic human understanding.  This is a profound insight into the importance of the Genealogy

“For him, feelings make knowledge possible.  They are not ineliminable occupational hazards for the knower, but constitutively necessary conditions of the knower’s knowing anything at all.  We may recall that he decries the would-be pure, will-less subject of knowledge as a ‘contradiction’. ‘absurdity’, and ‘non-concept’ – something strictly impossible, not just practically unrealizable.  This strong reading of the first claim is also borne out by the fact of Nietzsche making the second claim, that multiplying different affects always improves knowing.” (page 212) 

Taken a step further, however, Nietzsche not only explores the accumulation of knowledge through feeling but he simultaneously shows us how an close examination of human feelings leads to a profound inquiry as to who we are as persons.  The short answer, as we have seen before, is that you and I are a collection of "drives and affects."

“But faced with the questions ‘Who knows?’, ‘Who thinks?’, ‘Who interprets?’ Nietzsche’s official position is that there is no such subject as ordinarily conceived.  He repeatedly urges that we should be suspicious towards the concept of a subject of ‘I’. The I is ‘just an assumption or opinion, to put it mildly’, it has ‘become a fairy tale, a fiction, a play on words’, and enjoys ‘a mere apparent existence’. Instead we are to think of ‘soul as subjective-multiplicity’, and view the self as a plurality of sub-personal elements in competitive interaction with one another, elements that, as we have seen, are well-like in character (‘’under-wills’ and under-souls’”).

“Nietzsche commonly calls such elements ‘drives’.  In the case of the philosopher, for example, who he is is equivalent to ‘what order of rank the innermost drives of nature’ stand in, and thinking itself is ‘only a relation between these drives’ (BGE 6, 36).  But it is evident that drives are closely related to affects, for he also says that the social construction that is the self is built out of ‘drives and affects’ (BGE 12), and talks elsewhere of ‘our drives and their for and against’.” (page 213)

“If the drives and the affects are all there is to the self, and if the self is to do anything called ‘knowing’, then drives and affects must be capable of representing something outside themselves.  Nietzsche appears to think that this can be achieved through a notion of willing (or striving) combined with one of resistance (or obstruction).  He thinks of will to power as expressing itself towards resistances, and illustrates the process with a model of the protoplasm sending out pseudopodia and feeling around for something it might assimilate into itself.  A sub-personal drive likewise comes up against something other than itself, which it feels as a resistance to its own activity.  It either overcomes the resistance or is overcome by it, giving rise to affects of (roughly) gratification, exhaustion, or reinvigoration – feelings of increase or diminution in power.” (page 217)

But here Janaway sees a “problem” for Nietzsche. “Although the ‘under-wills’ are not to be conceived as consciously willing or consciously representing, we must at least envisage a likeness in kind between the activity of the lower-level components of the multiple self and the states conventionally ascribed to subjects, such as believing, desiring, and feeling emotions.  But Nietzsche does little to enlighten us further on the nature of that likeness.” (page 218)

“A single drive can empower itself by subordinating many other drives to its own activity, and Nietzsche sees organization by a dominant drive as giving unity to one’s character and actions.  That I will to resist my addictive cravings is not ‘up to me’, is not the resolve of an ‘I’ that is external to the complex of drives and affects, but is itself the activity of a strong drive within me.  There is no controlling self that determines ex nihilo what my ends, purposes, and values are.  Fair enough.  But I have to be, in my own self-conception, a sufficiently unified self that I can ‘take sides’ between the various drives that (though I did not originally will them) I find within myself.” (page 220)

“This raises the prospect that Nietzsche’s eliminativist picture of the self may be out of step not only with his re-evaluative project, but also with his diagnosis of the origins of our metaphysical errors.  If only a unified self can make these metaphysical errors, and only a unified self can have the goals and perspectival adaptability that lead to healthier knowing and valuing, then, though we can learn not to think of ourselves as pure metaphysical subjects, Nietzsche’s philosophy as a whole demands that we do not regard ourselves only as complex hierarchies of drive and affects.” (page 221)

“…in support of the view that our interpretations are saturated and constituted by a plurality of feelings he dissolves the self into a multiplicity of affects and drives. But his aims of improving our capacity for knowing and skillfully using our affects demand more of a self than that: he needs his enquirer to be an active and sufficiently unified self that can represent its subject matter truly, that rides on top of the inner multiplicity, and that can self-consciously adopt attitudes towards it.” (page 222)

It is important to consider the basic important mechanical nature of drives in manifesting the will to power on this earth.  Whatever "the second revaluation" might become, it would be built out of the competition of human drives and out of our abilities to (like the ascetic) control our drives. Janaway highlights the fundamental contradiction of this situation for Nietzsche. We are a collection of drives and yet, somehow, we can come to control our drives. So, apparently, our ability to be self-aware and distinguish and address specific drives must reveal that we are something more than just a collection of drives.  He never resolved this circular philosophic quandary. We don’t even know if he thought the apparent contradiction even mattered.  

Near the end of his book, Janaway considers Nietzsche’s genealogy in the context of the ascetic person and human meaning and truth; while Nietzsche is critical of the aims of the religious ascetic, he nevertheless views the ascetic as an example of will to power in the world.

“We have seen that Nietzsche consistently laments the loss of vitality and self-affirmation, the waning of healthy, plural instincts that results from valuing selflessness, but is liable at the same time to admire certain successful transformations of values for their creativity, their impositions of new forms upon the material of humanity, in short their discharge of power and attainment of mastery. In the case of the ascetic priest the element of admiration is at its most intense, because the priest is a threefold embodiment of will to power.  He successfully overturns the prevailing tendency to value the simpler warrior-like virtues and creates new conceptions of the good, achieves command over the weak to whom his priestly interpretations minister, and (most impressively) gains mastery over himself.” (page 224)

“In unleashing such powerful counter-forces the priest makes an unparalleled achievement of the kind Nietzsche admires, yet the values created in the process are those of life-denial which Nietzsche decries as a decline into sickness.  This ambivalence, far from being a defect in Nietzsche’s positions, is close to being its central point.  He refers to the ascetic life as a ‘self-contradiction’, as ‘life against life’, an ‘incarnate will to contradiction and anti-nature’, ‘an attempt…to use energy to stop up the source of energy’.” (page 225)

From a will to power perspective, the ascetic is effective to the extent that he is able to create an illusion of control. It is the creative abilities of ascetic, rather than the specifics of what the ascetic believes or practices, that make him a useful example for the rest of us would-be "philosophers of the future." The bottom line is that we must not allow common morality to interfere with our free and creative discovery of a new (modern and relevant) basis for our personal system of values. 

“We could not live without carving up the world of our experience into causes and effects, measurable quantities, reidentifiable substances as opposed to properties, and so on.  To ask in what sense these categorizations are false raises difficult questions for Nietzsche interpreters….belief or judgments can be valuable ‘for life’ and for the various purposes of human beings, despite their being false; the truth or falsity of beliefs can matter less than what the holding of beliefs allows us to achieve.

“Another common thought in Nietzsche is that there is value in deliberately created fictions, false pictures that are valuable to us not despite, but in virtue of, their falsity.  An example is the well-known aphorism ‘Truth is ugly: we possess art lest we perish of the truth’.  In the Third Treatise, Nietzsche states that ‘art, in which precisely the lie hallows itself, in which the will to deception has good conscience on its side, is much more fundamentally opposed to the ascetic ideal than is science.’ (GM III. 25).” (pp. 232-233)

“Either we discover the truth that the world is nasty, uncaring, and destructive; or we discover the truth that what we are doomed to consider as the truth about the world is forever an illusion.  Both outcomes give rise to pessimism or disillusionment, one over the world’s value for us, the other over our own epistemic impotence.  The central idea either way is that the acquisition of truth needs to be tempered – on pain of despair – by the artistic fashioning of beautiful fictions.” (page 235)

“Only because our values have been and still remain moral ones can the drive to truth be strong enough to question our values.  So we find Nietzsche acknowledging not only that he is included in the ascetic truth-ideal, but that his own formation through the core values of morality itself is a prerequisite of his ability to call the value of moral values into question. Indeed Nietzsche appears here as the instrument of a process that morality is inflicting upon itself.

“If religion, morality, philosophy, academic learning, and science have all been re-formations of the same basic ascetic material, driven throughout by a need to devalue ourselves, to diminish our own particular, transient, and vulnerable existence by comparison with some superior and unconditionally valuable entity of state, the question arises: Why?  Nietzsche’s answer is, in short, that the ascetic ideal enables our existence to be meaningful.” (page 239)

“Where, then, is the arrow of Nietzsche’s longing directed? The close of the Genealogy is not explicit on this point. But his claim that the ascetic ideal is dominant ‘for want of anything better’ (faute de mieux) must surely provoke us to find a more positive alternative, an attitude to one’s existence that keeps the will alive without the self-destruction of willing nothingness.” (page 242) 

At root, Nietzsche’s genealogy elevates the value of the human "self."  For Nietzsche, it is unhealthy to attempt to deny or restrict or minimize the self. Rather, the self is elevated as something worthy of discovery and artistry and affirmation, not subdued or made compassionate (although sublimation and empathy are not strictly ruled out, only questioned.  It is the overman’s place to creatively find the balancing act of all things human, conflict and flow).  Our morality must be revalued for just this reason. We must affirm ourselves on our own terms and find meaning through self-affirmation. 

“Placing high value upon compassion, guilt, and the suppression of our more aggressively expansive instincts, believing everyone’s well-being to be of equal kind and importance, expecting everyone to be a subject of rational free choice capable of acting similarly and blamable for failure to do so – these are not absolute, eternal, or compulsory attitudes for human beings to hold, but attitudes invented and perpetuated to fulfill a host of functions and needs.” (page 246)

“But the Genealogy encourages us to think that there is an alternative: that we could in principle escape from these predispositions, and that, if we could arrive at a place where our attachment to morality was suspended and where we might choose it or not as our system of values, some of us at least might find other values more worthy of our allegiance.  The enormous challenge of finding a evaluative space outside morality itself is continually apparent to Nietzsche, as witness his evocations of the discomfort and danger, the ‘seasickness’ and ‘dizziness’ that his kind of enquirer should be expected to feel before the ‘immense new vista’ opened by his works.  Nietzsche is clear that such a revaluation demands a wholesale suspension of theory, intuition, and accustomed emotional polarities.  It may be that we would find this revaluation ultimately an undesirable or unbearable prospect, or one impossible for us to accomplish.  But to have raised the question of its possibility at all is already a powerful and original achievement.” (page 249) 

“…the goal of attaining a maximally positive attitude towards oneself as an individual, considered as standing apart from others.  Having no otherworldly characteristics and no otherworldly aspirations, Nietzsche’s individual would ideally find positive value in that totality of empirical acts, states, and drives that composes him-or herself.  But this kind of positive attitude, which in general we might call self-love, has two principal manifestations, which deserve separate consideration: they are self-affirmation, or saying yes to one’s life in its entirety and in every detail; and aesthetic (or quasi-aesthetic) self-satisfaction, the shaping of one’s character so that every part of it contributes to a meaningful whole in the manner of a work of art.” (pp. 253-254) 

“Nietzsche’s affirmative ideal is to ‘own’ oneself without remainder: to be so intimately attached to everything about oneself – for no other reason than its simply being oneself – that no imagined possibilities are wished for in preference to the actuality.” (page 259)

“But what is important for Nietzsche is not whether one ever reaches a point of absolute certainty concerning one’s well-dispossedness to oneself, rather that one longs for such a confirmation, aspires towards an ideal of self-affirmation in which one is able to affirm all of the particular parts of one’s life until these affirmations amount to an affirmation of it all.” (page 260)

“…Nietzsche is clear that what constitutes the individual is a composite of hierarchically related drives.  That is what I am, whether I like it or not…The process of ‘giving style to one’s character’ begins with something called ‘surveying all the strengths and weaknesses that one’s nature has to offer’.  This implies not only that there is a ‘pre-artistic’ self, a raw material waiting to be given form, but that, in order to highlight or disguise the elements in one’s character appropriately, one has to have apprehended a great deal (in principle everything) about one’s nature, knowing it accurately enough to grasp whether some particular part is a weakness, attractive or ugly, and if ugly, whether it will respond best to removal, concealment, or viewing from a distance.” (page 263) 

The Genealogy challenges us to transcend unquestioned assumptions regarding cultural values, to create our own foundations for what is 'good,' and to master the plurality of drives and affects thereby manifesting will to power in the world. This is the existential foundation for the "second revaluation" that Nietzsche believes is necessary to find relevant meaning in an otherwise meaningless and indifferent universe.

“A more Nietzschean position is that there is no ‘one way’ to value oneself: facing the truth about oneself has value in the quest for a positive meaning to individual existence, but so too does the fictionalizing or falsifying of self that can be learned from artists. The same duality accords well with Nietzsche’s perspectivism: it is fitting that one should, as it were, have in one’s power both one’s ability to confront oneself full-on and one’s artistry in falsifying oneself, and be able to shift in and out.” (page 264)

“Nietzsche has a radical message for philosophers and ‘scientific’ investigators: your conception of your own activity is at fault because you picture yourselves falsely. There is no primary drive towards knowledge and truth.  We philosophers are composed of many affects and drives, and the notion of a rational self or knowing subject engaged in a self-validating exercise of pure dialectical truth-seeking is as much an insidious illusion as the notion of a realm of timeless objects waiting to be discovered.  Disinterested, detached knowing is a fiction, but a persistently tempting one that we must struggle to guard ourselves against.” (page 265)  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nietzsche's Genealogy: Revealing "the inheritor of affects"

Of all the books regarding Nietzsche I have read and reread since beginning this blog, few have impressed me as much as Beyond Selflessness by Christopher Janaway.  The book is subtitled “Reading Nietzsche’s Genealogy” and offers some significant and precise insights into understanding not only Nietzsche’s great work but his philosophy as a whole.  It is so chocked full of insights into understanding Nietzsche that I will quote extensively from it in the next two posts.

In contextualizing On the Genealogy of Morals, Janaway writes: "...the work has come to be regarded, especially in the English-speaking world, as his most sustained philosophical achievement, his masterpiece, and the most vital of his writings for any student of Nietzsche, of ethics, or of the history of modern thought." (page 1)

"Nietzsche's genealogy is an attempt to explain our having those beliefs and feelings that constitute our moral values in the here and now, by tracing their casual origins to generic psychological states - typically drives, affects, inclinations, and aversions - that we reconstruct as having existed in certain types of human beings in the real past, and as having caused types of human being in the real past, and as having caused our present attitudes through the meditation of interpretations and conceptual innovations made by successive developments of culture." (Page 12)

Janaway points out how the polemic is not only against the origins of western morality but also against the, to Nietzsche, faulty analysis of morality specifically in the work of Paul Rée and Arthur Schopenhauer, two powerful figures in Nietzsche’s past who he had fallen out of respect for in his later years.  Most striking, perhaps, is the importance Nietzsche placed on applying his insights to human feelings, the emotive and instinctual aspects of living.

"His most fundamental point of disagreement with Rée is over the assumption Rée shares with Schopenhauer: that 'the unegoistic' is constitutive of morality and is something of positive value....Nietzsche charges such thinkers with allowing their inherited conception of value to govern their conception of method and their own self-understanding as enquirers." (page 40)

"It seems clear that the revaluation of values Nietzsche ultimately seeks is not just a change in judgments but a revision at the level of affects too. After we have learned not to make judgments using the standard vocabulary of 'good', 'evil', 'compassionate', and 'egoistic', we finally may come, says Nietzsche, to feel differently - an even more important attainment, it seems....If my understanding of the origins of my moral prejudices is to be genuinely transformative of my attitudes, it must proceed from and work upon my feelings, not consist in merely holding certain hypotheses about myself. But the arousal of affects could be even more embedded that this in Nietzsche's project.  It could be, I want to argue, that the very task of arriving at truths about the origin of my values demands activation of my own feelings." (page 48)

"So we have found two Nietzschean objections to Schopenhauer's morality of compassion that do not depend upon criticism of his metaphysics and cannot obviously be deflected by the charge that they attack only non-Schopenhauerian attitude of pity.  The two objections are: (1) that the morality of compassion is founded upon a questionable notion of a universal equality in value between individuals; (2) that feeling compassion is not in itself a good and beneficial attitude, because it can divert one from attending to one's own life and rob one of the sense of a right to one's own well-being." (page 67)

"Nietzsche's fundamental shift is towards differentiating concepts according to the individuals or classes who use them, and who thereby control and create values.  So Nietzsche alleges that 'the judgment "good" does not stem from those to whom "goodness" is rendered'.  Rather 'the noble, powerful, higher-ranking, and high minded' laid claim to the description of themselves as good, and by virtue of the 'pathos of distance' regarded as bad 'everything base, low-minded, common, and vulgar' (GM I. 2)" (page 81)

"Nietzsche's mature writings, and the Genealogy in particular, aim to release the reader from the 'illness' allegedly manifest in adhering to moral evaluations of a Christian or post-Christian nature. The first part of the therapeutic process is to diagnose the functions that such evaluations (concepts, beliefs, desires, emotional attachments, and aversions) fulfill for those who make them.  In describing these functions Nietzsche typically uses the terminology of drives and affects whose activity is furthered by the adoption of evaluation attitudes.  The second part of the therapeutic process is to overcome the need to hold the evaluation attitudes one has inherited, and to create new evaluations which are expressive of one's own strength, unity of character, or affirmation of life." (page 91)

The questioning of compassion and the elevation of the morality of the noble class are difficult to relate to with our contemporary democratic welfare-state ethics and values. But it is this difficulty that Nietzsche brilliantly guides the reader into the very frame of mind he wishes to invoke. His writing is intended to affect the reader.

"At least some of these uncomfortable passages are uncomfortable because the writing is openly concerned with probing the affects of the reader. To this end the literary violence is an effective means. Nietzsche's project of revaluing moral values contains as an essential part the uncovering of a multifarious affective life beneath our moral judgments. By provoking a range of affects in the reader, Nietzsche enables the reader to. Locate the target for revaluation, the 'morality' which comprises a complex of attitudes of his or her own, central to which are affective inclinations and aversions." (page 96)

"Earlier we saw that Nietzsche's end was to make us 'feel differently', changing or reversing our inclinations and aversions, losing our habitual or inherited attachment to the attitudes that comprise the morality of selflessness. How, then, would Nietzsche think that his envisaged end could be brought about, and how might his own writing contribute to that end? Here is a program that would at least make sense: Detach people from their practice of making moral judgments, thereby enabling them to feel non-moral inclinations and aversions.  How to detach people from making moral judgments? Show them the inherited affects of which these judgments are the ex post facto rationalizations. How to show people the affects they have inherited? Provoke affective responses in them, and invite them to reflect on the explanation for their having them." (page 99)

"The pair of concepts 'good' and 'bad' originally existed, forming the basis of a noble or aristocratic form of evaluation: the good are those who are capable, strong, powerful, those to be admired for what they have and are; the bad are simply those who no one would have wanted to be if he or she had the power - the weak, the incapable, the subservient.  In the story that Nietzsche tells morality was an invention in human history, and the driving force behind this invention was the class of people who were weak and marginal according to the aristocratic value system.  Morality resulted from the Judaeo-Christian 'slave revolt' which creatively fashioned a new pair of values, and finally convinced even the powerful that to exercise their power over others weaker than themselves was 'evil', and that to be powerless - not to exercise power - was 'good'." (page 99)

Janaway shows that Nietzsche used his writing style in the Genealogy to jolt and shock the reader with the specific intent of revealing to the reader, through style as much as words, where the reader’s morality resides within.  Thusly identified, Nietzsche proceeds to address morality as feeling and, having pointed out the location of such feelings, allows the reader to reflect upon what Nietzsche is saying in the context of their internal feelings.  This creative use of philosophical style is typical of Nietzsche, dating at least back to the “God is dead” proclamation of The Gay Science but it is perhaps expressed at its height within the Genealogy.

"Readers will be indignant about the nobles as Nietzsche describes them.  They will react with fear and disquiet, and moreover a disquiet that, on behalf of the imagined victims, gives rise to a desire to judge the nobles' behavior wrong.  Nietzsche must know this because he knows that the value system that originated with those who feared and recoiled from the nobles 'has become victorious' (GM I. 7)." (page 100)

"Thus Nietzsche prompts the reader to become conscious of himself or herself as an inheritor of affects whose origin is 'slavish'.  But he does not leave matters there.  In particular, note two further effects on the reader that he provides for in GM I: (1) The reader is given the opportunity to become conscious of himself or herself as the inheritor of some attitudes more in line with a noble mode of evaluation. (2) The reader is encouraged to recognize that slave morality shares the same ultimate origin as the noble mode of evaluation, and to reorient his or her feelings accordingly." (page 101)

"Section 14 of the First Treatise is a good example of Nietzsche's use of artistic methods in pursuit of his diagnostic and therapeutic aims.  He invents a character with whom the essay's narrative voice suddenly enters into comic dialogue.  It is like calling for a volunteer from the audience: 'Would anyone like to go down and take a look into the secret of how they fabricate ideals on earth? Who has the courage to do so?' The supposed volunteer is addressed as mein Herr Vorwitz und Wagehals - rendered by translators variously as Mr. Rash and Curious, Mr. mosey Daredevil, Mr. Daredevil Curiosity, or Mr. Wanton-Curiosity and Daredevil. The narrator affects to send this member of the public down into a fetid, cavernous workshop, reminiscent of Wagner's Nibelheim, where morality is cobbled together by shadowy, stunted creatures brimming with ressentiment. The authorial voice receives reports from the front-line emissary as if from the safety of surface daylight, goading him on until what he witnesses becomes unbearable and he demands to be returned to the open air.

"This is a striking, virtuosic piece of writing, but also perhaps a good example of the embarrassment commentators can feel through apparently having no purchase on why it might benefit Nietzsche to write in this way. I assume that virtually everyone who writes about Nietzsche, form undergraduates on, has read this passage. It has scathing humor, deadly similes, a novel dramatic structure, and great rhetorical power." (pp. 102 - 103) 

"I suggest (1) that Nietzsche here completes the transformation of his treatise from a past-directed enquiry into a critique whose focus is the here and now, the present attitudes of his reader; (2) that his emotive rhetoric aims at harnessing the reader's own disquiet over the untrammeled exercise of power by the overtly powerful - a disquiet he elicited and carefully nurtured earlier in the text - and converting it into a still greater disquiet over the covert desire to exercise power that drives Christianity and the post-Christian moral attitudes which are likely to persist in the reader. Nietzsche uses this dramatic characterization to enact disgust on the reader's behalf." (pp. 103 - 104)

"Nietzsche's thought is that prior to the invention of the idea that we are free to be other than we in fact are - that our essence resides elsewhere than in the sum of our behavior and underlying drives - we could not have believed in accountability or blame in the manner required to maintain the moral practice of judging actions good and evil.  The notion of a radically free subject of action is required in order to make human beings controllable, answerable, equal, and in particular to redescribe inaction as a virtue of which all are capable and dominant self-assertion as a wrong for which all are culpable. Note the role of feeling's in Nietzsche's explanation. It is the reactive affects of the weak, described as 'hiddenly glowing', that drive the need to assign blame and call to account.  This accords with the wider tendency of Nietzsche's genealogical explanations to trace moral beliefs and conceptual distinctions back to more basic feelings. Present-day adherents of morality have inherited affective habits because of the prevalence of the system of concepts good, evil, blame, guilt, and so on, and that system of concepts came to exist because of ressentiment, hatred, revenge, fear, joy in inflicting cruelty, at earlier historical stages." (pp. 112 - 113)

"The salient point is that the redescription of the agent as existing in isolation from the pressures of nature, culture, and circumstance is already a moralized description, one you would make only if you already thought in terms of moral goodness and responsibility, and hence sought a target for blame. The human being naturalistically described, as the product of actual physical and cultural forces, does not provide a proper target for blame, so we resort to metaphysics." (page 113)

"There is a vagueness in Nietzsche's evocations of what future values and future individuals will be once they have liberated themselves from moral self-descriptions.  We may excuse the vagueness to some extent: Nietzsche is writing of a mere aspiration that he thinks has rarely, if ever, been realized....the following is an approximation to Nietzsche's sovereign individual: someone who is conscious of the strength and consistency of his or her own character over time; who creatively affirms and embraces him - or herself as valuable, and who values his or her actions because of the degRée to which they are in character; who welcomes the limitation and discipline of internal and external nature as the true conditions of action and creation, but whose evaluations arise from a sense of who he or she is, rather than from conformity to some external or genetic code of values. This is a glimpse of the sense in which fRée will might be attained or regained for Nietzsche." (page 119)

The second treatise in the genealogy analyzes the place of guilt in human culture and experience and its relationship to human cruelty.  "...Nietzsche takes himself to have shown that guilt came to be regarded as a good in the Christian world-view because the conception of our natural instinctual selves as an ultimate transgression against God allowed us the most powerful guarantee of being able to vent our inbuilt drive towards cruelty upon ourselves. Nietzsche evaluates this state of self-torture as 'the most terrible sickness that has thus far raged in man' (GM II. 22). But then he offers us the healthy alternative, 'a reverse attempt...namely to wed to bad conscience the unnatural inclinations, all those aspirations to the beyond, to that which is contrary to the senses, contrary to the instincts, contrary to nature' (GM II. 24) - though he doubts that any but the most exceptional human being of the future, the redeeming, creative spirit of great health, will be able to accomplish this." (page 121)

"Feeling guilty is insidiously, incriminatingly, related to cruelty, and is even the same as it is essence.  The Second Treatise is structured around two central thoughts concerning cruelty and its 'turning back' against the self. The first, which Nietzsche calls 'an old powerful human-all-too-human proposition' (GM II. 6) might be put as follows: (A) Because of an instinctive drive, human beings tend to gain pleasure from inflicting suffering. 

"We might call this the 'pleasure-in-cruelty' thesis. The second thought, which I shall state also in my own formulation, posits a psychological process which Nietzsche calls Verinnerlichung or internalization (see GM II. 16): (B) When the instinctive drives of a socialized human individual are prevented from discharging themselves outwardly, they discharge themselves inwardly, on the individual him- or herself

"Nietzsche's 'own hypothesis' concerning the origin of 'bad conscience', a pivotal hypothesis in the whole essay, makes use of both of these thoughts and might be expressed thus: (C) Because human beings have an instinctual drive that leads them to gain pleasure from inflicting suffering, human beings subjected to the restrictions of civilized society, and so constrained to internalize their instincts, satisfy their instinctive drive by inflicting suffering on themselves

"In Nietzsche's own words: 'Hostility, cruelty, pleasure in persecution, in assault, in change, in destruction - all of that turning itself against the possessors of such instincts: that is the origin of 'bad conscience' (GM II. 16)." (pp. 125-126)

"'The feeling of guilt...had its the oldest and most primitive relationship among persons there is, in the relationship between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor' (GM II. 8). One of the main sources of explanatory energy for the whole essay is the repeated play on Schuld, Schulden, Schuldner (guilt, debt, debtor), at its most salient in Nietzsche's thought that 'that central moral concept 'guilt' had its origins in the very material concept 'debt' (GM II. 4). But if this is the origin of the consciousness of guilt, why give us also the apparently quite separate hypothesis that consciousness of guilt originates in internalization of the instincts of hostility?" (page 132)

"...the consciousness of guilt is a means of punishing oneself, and punishment originates in the debtor-creditor relationship; hence it makes sense for Nietzsche to say that consciousness of guilt originates in the debtor-creditor relationship.  But self-punishment is also a form of self-cruelty or self-persecution, and outlet (or inlet) for the instinctive drive of living beings to dominate over something. Hence, if consciousness of guilt is a form of self-punishment, then Nietzsche can intelligibly claim both that it originates in internalization of the instincts and that it originates in the debtor-creditor relationship." (page 134)

"We are being cruel to ourselves because, given our instincts as living beings, we are driven to be cruel to something, but we interpret the self-cruelty as deserved and rightful, as punishment of ourselves by ourselves. We give ourselves permission to despise and maltreat ourselves. Why should we do this? Because of a further need thematized in the Genealogy as a whole, the need to give meaning to suffering." (page 135)

“It is, I suggest, the supposed goodness of feeling guilty that Nietzsche thinks requires metaphysical underpinning. This provides a clearer sense in which moralization of guilt presupposes an ‘entanglement with the concept of god’, as Nietzsche says in section 21.  It is a good thing to punish myself if I deserve punishment in principle and essentially. And the Christian conception of the self and its place in the world – the infinite all-valuable divine order and the pernicious animal self in perpetual transgression against it – provides the guarantee of punishments being wholly deserved.  Moralization is the elevation of feeling guilty into a virtue, it incorporation of the kind of person one should want to be, by means of the rationalizing metaphysical picture in which the individual’s essential instinctual nature deserves maltreatment, because it stands in antithesis to an infinite creditor.” (page 141 - 142)

“Without a doubt Nietzsche presents the nobles in the First Treatise as human animals instinctively striving for conditions in which to express their strength and gain a maximum feeling of power, and therefore as manifesting will to power.  And similarly in the Second Treatise cruelty represents a basic human tendency to release one’s power to the detriment of another and temporarily at least ‘become master’ over them.  But there is a shock in each essay: the salves’ invention of good-evil opposition and labeling of themselves as good is driven by the need to overpower the powerful in a more subtle and underhand way, and the imposition of guilty bad conscience on ourselves is an inward deflection of cruelty, the instinct to release at the expense of something else.” (page 144)

I will pick up with Janaway’s interpretation at this point in my next post and proceed through his analysis of the critical undercurrent of the will to power and personal “affects” to his work.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Second Revaluation

As usual, Julian Young offers unique insights in his analysis of Nietzsche's Genealogy. Like Hollingdale and Cate, he finds the work closely connected to Beyond Good and Evil (BGE). Somewhat unlike these other scholars, however, Young does not specially emphasize the "will to power" as contained in the work, he only acknowledges it as an underlying influence. Further, he stresses that the work is more polemic (its subtitle is "A Polemic") than BGE against the influence of Christian morality on western culture. 

According to Nietzsche, Christianity (and associated influences) revalued the morality of the ancient world. This sets up the potential for another change in valuation. The specifics of this change remain rather vague, however. Nietzsche builds his case for reevaluation without a specific program for replacing all the flaws he details in the work, though it seems the morality of the Greco-Roman world is a good, general model to use.

"The central aim of the Genealogy is to liberate Nietzsche's - as usual 'few' - proper readers from the power of Christian morality and point them towards a better morality.  As we shall see, it is definitive of the 'higher' type to whom the Genealogy is addressed that he is not completely taken in by received, Christian, morality but is, rather, the 'battleground' of a fight between it and the older, classical morality that it supplanted.  Nietzsche's aim is to bring into the open the subterranean battle between 'Rome' and 'Judea' and to make sure that 'Rome' comes out the victor." (page 460)

"The Genealogy's first essay is an expansion of Beyond Good and Evil's account of historical origins of Christian morality in the 'revolt' of the ancient world's slaves against the morality of their masters.

"'Slave morality' originated, says Nietzsche, with the enslaved Jews.  It was they who, out of 'unfathomable hatred', first conquered the nobles by bringing about the replacement of noble morality's equation, 'good = noble = powerful = beautiful = happy = blessed', with slave morality's 'good = suffering = poor = powerless = lowly'.  This is what Beyond Good and Evil called 'the first revaluation of values'." (page 461)

"Whereas with the nobles self-esteem is what creates, the slave revolt begins when 'ressentiment becomes creative'.  Whereas the noble says 'Yes' to himself, the slave says 'No' to the other.  So while master morality is self-focused slave morality is other-focused, reactive. This is why, while the focal word in noble morality is 'good' - 'bad' being just a pale and conceptually necessary contrast - the focal point in slave morality is the hate-filled 'evil' - 'good' being just its pale and necessary contrast.  Noble morality starts with the virtues and adds vices as an 'after-thought'; slave morality does the opposite.

"The second fundamental contrast is between the 'diseased' condition of the slaves and the psychological 'health' of the nobles.  Whereas the 'squinting' souls of the slaves, especially their priests, are disfigured, 'poisoned', and eaten away by cancerous 'worms' of ressentiment, the nobles are psychologically 'magnificent' - 'blond beasts of prey avidly prowling round for spoils and victory', for the exercise, that is, of their will to power." (page 463)

"Nietzsche thinks that, though slave morality is indeed dominant within our culture, there are still plenty of places where the 'battle' is undecided.  The 'well-being and the future of the human race', Nietzsche suggests, depends on a moral revolution which will bring about the 'unconditional rule of aristocratic vales, Roman values'." (page 464)

"What we need in place of Christian emasculation is Greek sublimation: we need not the abolition of Eris but the transformation of her 'bad' into their 'good' manifestations, the transformation of war into 'competition'.  We need to preserve war and the warrior instinct, but, to repeat, it should be 'war without gunpowder and smoke'.  In this way we avoid the Unmensch while not destroying the possibility of the Ubermensch, a being that will be 'beyond' the morality of good and evil though emphatically not beyond the morality of good and bad." (page 465)

In the Genealogy's second essay Nietzsche is perhaps more concrete and specific than in the other sections of the work when he attacks the affect of slave morality.  He uses guilt as a primary example of the first revaluation.  Guilt serves as an illustration of how slave morality "reversed" valuations and became a force in contemporary morality. The essay details why it is important to supplant guilt with a greater sense of self-esteem as a basis for living. 

"Over many millennia the enforcement of 'custom' ingrained the habit of 'responsibility', of fulfilling the implicit promise to obey the rules of custom.  Man became a being with an ingrained habit of being true to his commitments.  One day - Nietzsche makes no attempt to explain how those happens, there is just, in the language I have been using, a 'random mutation' - an individual arises in whom the habit of responsibility, the 'long, unbreakable will', fixes itself onto a new target: it's own standard of value.  The individual, while every bit as 'responsible' as the custom-driven person, becomes 'free', not, of course, in the sense of having an uncaused 'free will' (an illusion, Nietzsche consistently believes), but in the sense of 'autonomy', of being a self-driven rather than custom-driven individual. He becomes, in the language of The Gay Science, a 'free spirit', free to follow his own 'dominant instinct'. (page 466) 

"Having completed the discussion of the sovereign individual, Nietzsche finally gets to the point, the genealogy of Christian 'guilt'.  The inspiration for the genealogy is once again etymology: the fact that 'guilt (Schuld)' descends from the 'very material' concept of 'debt (Schuld)'.  This derivation is suggested by the fact that in modern German, Schuld (still) means both 'debt' and 'guilt'." (page 468)

"Nietzsche's counter-ideal will not simply replace Christianity with atheism but will offer something like an alternative religious outlook.  In order to glimpse something of this alternative 'ideal', let us return to the origins of religion in the sense of 'debt' to the powerful, transcendentalized ancestor. These origins, he points out, have nothing to do with 'piety': religion originates in 'fear'.

"As we have seen, the Greek gods, in Nietzsche's view, were glorified self-portraits, expressions of profound self-esteem. From this we can infer, yet again, that gods who promote, not human self-loathing, but rather human self-esteem will inhabit the 'shrine' that belongs to Nietzsche's ideal future. This is why he speaks of his ideal as the 'reverse' of Christianity: his second 'revaluation of values' is, in outline, simply the cancellation of the first." (page 470) 

The work's third essay begins with the rather brilliant acknowledgment that, since all human "knowledge" is a matter of "perspective", the more perspectives a human being is capable of "assimilating" the greater that individual's knowledge of things will be. Philosophy is uniquely qualified to prepare for this process of assimilation. Nietzsche then proceeds to attempt his own experiment in assimilation by taking a closer look at Christianity.  Ordinarily, he considers the religion a detriment to relevant modern living. But, he admits, it has a positive side from a historical perspective.  Nietzsche primarily focuses on how the "ascetic ideal" affected the basis for morality and how its residual effects fundamentally undermine the necessary elevation of self-esteem that is most needed in modern society.

"Having criticized the tradition of objectivity, he feels it incumbent on him to develop his own account. Rather than thinking of objectivity as disinterestedness, he suggests, we should think of it as 'having in our power our "fors" and "againsts" so that, with respect, precisely, to the difference in perspectives and affective interpretations, one knows how to make them useful from the point of view of knowledge'. Since there is only perspectival 'knowing', he continues, 'the more affects we allow to speak about a thing, the more eyes, various eyes we know how to bring to bear on the same thing, the more complete will be our 'concept' (Begriff) of the thing, our 'objectivity'.  But to eliminate the will completely and turn off the emotions without exception, assuming we could, would that not be to castrate the intellect?'

"The basic idea, then, is to admit the perspectival, interest-impregnated nature of knowing and then assemble as many perspectives as possible.  The big question is: how can a bunch of 'affective interpretations', perspectives, possibly end up producing something one could call 'objectivity'? How can adding a whole lot of, as one might again call them, 'spins', add up to something that is unspun?" (pp. 474-475)

"One of his great strengths as a philosopher, which coexists, paradoxically, with his taste for radically biased polemics, is his fair mindedness.  Consistently, his itemizing of the downside of, for example, Christianity is balanced, sooner or later, by admission of its upside.  Christianity gave us a meaning of life, made us more spiritual....The more aspects of Christianity one assembles the more 'complete' is one's knowledge of it and the better placed one is to decide whether it has been, on balance, a good thing or a bad thing." (p. 476)

"What is really going on, Nietzsche says, is that /'the ascetic ideal springs from the protective and healing instinct of a degenerate life'/.  He continues by saying that the priest's success in gaining widespread acceptance of the ascetic ideal 'reveals a major fact, the sickliness of the type of man who has lived up to now, at least of a tamed man.' The ascetic priest is the incarnation of his be elsewhere', his 'nausea' and 'fatigue'.  The ascetic priest makes himself the leader of the whole herd of failures, 'the disgruntled and underprivileged' and actually persuades them to 'retain their hold on life'.  He achieves this because the ascetic ideal's big 'No' brings with it a host of 'tender Yeses'." (page 477)

"So how, contrary to appearances, does the ascetic priest with his Christian propaganda, the ascetic ideal, preserve the life of the 'slave' classes? First, the priest defends the 'sick' against healthy nobles....Second, the priest protects the slaves against envy of the healthy (and so against the futility of a 'ghetto uprising'....Third, the ascetic priest defends the herd against 'anarchy and the ever-present threat of inner dissolution'.  The threat exists because, as Zarathustra puts it, 'the weak who have to serve the strong seek to be masters of the weaker still'.

"The fourth and, it seems to me, by far the most important life-preserving effect to the ascetic ideal, Nietzsche reserves, for dramatic effect, to the very end of the essay, section 28.  Whatever its downside, the ascetic ideal gave us a 'meaning' of life.  This meant that 'the will was saved', saved from 'non-meaning'. And the fact is that 'man would rather will nothingness that not will'. 'Any meaning', that is to say, 'is better than no meaning at all'." (pp. 477-478)

"The basic point, here, is that because we have retained Christian morality we have inevitably retained the thought of man as a flawed, sinful being. The gap between the Christian 'ought' and the natural 'is' is as large as ever.  But this, Nietzsche suggests, leaves post-metaphysical humanity even worse than before. We have retained the disease, the perceived need for 'redemption' from the flesh, but have lost the remedy.  The result is that any kind of an Eastern guru, or salvation-mongering artist like Wagner, has a ready market, since the will to abandon this world for a better one - life-denial, in other words, 'nihilism' in Nietzsche.s most fundamental use of the term - is the basic character of modernity." (pp. 478-479)

"What, actually, is wrong with the ascetic ideal? Nietzsche's fundamental objection is simple and has been with him since Human, All too Human: the priest, the 'doctor' to the sick who is sick himself, combats 'only the suffering itself, the discomfort of the sufferer...not its cause, not the actual state of being ill - this must constitute our most fundamental objection to priestly medication.  The main means  is to produce an 'excess of feeling', 'strong emotions', 'paroxysms of unknown happiness', which, when released, 'combat lethargy'.  Afterwards, however, like a 'narcotic', they only leave the sick sicker than they were before." (page 479)

Nietzsche outlandishly writes that the ascetic ideal and modern science ironically bring the same ultimate result - the will to power expressed as 'the will to truth'.  This is, according to Nietzsche, a distinctively modern idea.

"What we must now realize is that the will to truth is itself a 'problem'.  Thus, Nietzsche would say, by questioning the validity of the unconditional will to truth, he has raised himself out of the ascetic ideal. Having used the ladder of 'Christian' truthfulness to climb out of Christian metaphysics, he is now kicking it away beneath him. Notice, here, the plausibility...that Nietzsche is best seen as, not an opponent, but rather a radical continuation of the Protestant - Protest-ant - tradition in which he was brought up.  What overcomes, first Christian metaphysics, and then Christian morality, is Christian morality - Christian truthfulness - itself.

"What does 'questioning' the will to truth, turning it into an issue, mean for Nietzsche?  It means elevating life, healthy life, into a higher value than truth.  If self-deception, illusion, is what best promotes your psychic health that is what you should go for. Nth is, however, by no means represents the demise of the 'will to truth'..." (page 481)

"Nietzsche's language of 'rape', 'violation', and 'mastery' closely resembles that used by Martin Heidegger to describe the world of modern technology.  The difference, however, is that whereas Heidegger condemns modernity's unlimited will to power, here at least, Nietzsche endorses it.

"Living in the times that we do, we may well find ourselves agreeing with Heidegger's condemnation. We may find Nietzsche's approval of the unlimited will to power repellent, find it to be indeed hubris, the fateful recompense for which - the meltdown of our climate - we are now experiencing.  That, however, is something we have to live with.  For all his criticisms of the effects of modern technology, at least some of the time, Nietzsche inhabited the modernist spirit of the age that invented railways, electric power, the telephone, and the bureaucratic state, the age in which the world seemed technology's inexhaustible oyster. Perhaps the best that can be said for him is that if he were alive now he would certainly classify the unlimited will to power as one of those things that used to be considered 'good' but is now 'bad'." (page 483)

"The datum is a specific aspect of modern humanity's sickness, our 'bad conscience', lack of self-esteem. The question once again is, what has caused it? And the answer is that it originated in the internalized aggression of the human animal 'caged' behind the bars of civilization, an aggression that was then shaped, endorsed, and massively intensified by Christianity.  From this, Nietzsche concludes that Christianity is the major contributory cause for our current sickness.  His therapy is a morality that returns humanity to an esteem for its basic instinct for aggression, but one which has the same civilization-preserving /effect/ as Christian morality by endorsing cultural rather than natural, sublimated rather than crudely physical forms of it s expression.  Once again we are presented with a paradigm of 'medical' reasoning, a paradigm that contains not the slightest hint of the irrational or the merely polemical." (page 484) 

Put simply, for Young the Genealogy is a polemic regarding how the origins and development of Christian morality is a "sickness" in modern society, which can only be "healed" through a second revaluation of values that elevates the self-esteem of the individual instead of viewing our humanity as fundamentally flawed and "sinful." How this revaluation should take place involves multi-perspective assimilation and a deconstruction of values to reposition our humanity as a natural and inherently "good" part of the world without need for redemption. 

Beyond this, however, the "prescription" Dr. Nietzsche offers contemporary society in the Genealogy is rather vague.  In other works Nietzsche stresses the importance of creative expression as a source of (the will to) power in a (naturally good) person’s life. The commitment to discovering one’s ‘style’ in The Gay Science and to creative living in BGE are examples. But that is not the concern of his Genealogy, a work many feel is his most impressive philosophical achievement.  Since this work is a polemic, Nietzsche is more interested in diagnosing an illness than he is on expounding about the cure.

The exact nature of a second revaluation of values remains elusive.  As I have suggested before, Nietzsche never got around to crystallizing this revaluation. We have only fragments and isolated sections written in his own hand regarding the revaluation’s nature and qualities. Apparently, he simply became distracted with his thoughts in his last works. While brilliant in sections or in concept, the post-Genealogy Nietzsche never advanced the revaluation the way, say, BGE did as prelude to whatever never came next, the philosophy of the future.

Who knows?  Maybe Fritz got distracted by the implications of his own thought. And his mind wandered away from the revaluation project even as he was about to go insane.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Triumph of Judea

Curtis Cate's analysis of On the Genealogy of Morals (GM) does not stress the "will to power" to the extent that Hollingdale did (see previous post).  Instead he emphasizes other strands of Nietzsche's thought (amor fati and various positions first enunciated in his "Untimely Meditations", for example) threaded into the work.  Cate agrees with Hollingdale, however, that GM is an extension and clarification of Beyond Good and Evil.  Let's begin with an understanding of how spontaneously Nietzsche completed the core of the work, indicative of his writing style since the first part of Zarathustra was completed four years earlier.

"On July 17, barely two weeks after beginning, Nietzsche informed Naumann, who must have been astonished by the 'half-blind' professor's prolixity, that he had completed a small Streitschrift (polemic pamphlet) intended to amplify and elucidate Beyond Good and Evil.  The title he had chosen was Zur Genealogie der Moral (On the Genealogy of Morals).

"More compact, strictly disciplined, and less diffuse than any of the books he had written since the four 'Untimely Meditation', the text Nietzsche now sent to Naumann consisted of two essays, each composed of a number of sections.  At the risk of being simplistic - all too easy in analyzing Nietzsche's writings - one could say that the first, titled 'Good and Evil, Good and Bad', was essentially an exercise in linguistic etymology applied to moral values, while the second essay, 'Guilt, Bad Conscience, and the Like', was an attempt to develop an 'anthropology of morals'.

"Nietzsche began, in the first essay, by expressing a grudging admiration for 'English psychologists' - by whom he meant Hebert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, and other proponents of 'Utilitarianism' - who had at least tried to bring notions like 'good' and 'bad' down to earth from imaginary empyrean where they had been placed by Plato and after him by Christian theologians. But these would-be 'historians of morality' had arbitrarily decided that the notion if 'good' from the point of view of those who benefited from them. But in so doing, Nietzsche argued, these British 'psychologists' were yielding to sentimentality. In reality the criterion of what is 'good' was not based on 'others', on those to whom 'goodness' is shown.  It was invented by a dominant caste, imbued with the 'pathos of distinction and distance', in contradistinction to what members of the dominant caste regarded as 'bad' - as low-minded, mean and 'vulgar' (in German, pobelhaft, 'rabble-like' - a favorite word with Nietzsche, the pejorative force of which is attenuated by the usual English translation of 'plebeian'.)  What is 'good', in those distant times, was what the ruling caste decided was 'good' and imposed on the rest of society.  Only when aristocratic values began to lose their force and were challenged by the 'herd-instinct' of the ruled, did 'good' come to be associated with 'unselfish', 'unegotistical', and the term 'bad' with 'selfishness'.

Nietzsche draws upon his expertise as a former professor of philology to make assertions about morality as revealed in the roots of various languages. For him, language is a key revelation into the evolution of basic human moral expression.  He then parlays this linguistic exploration to make some highly conjectural thought experiments into the nature of "good" and "bad", relying heavily on an examination of ancient Greece and Rome and Judaism. 

"This was followed by a fascinating etymological analysis (sections 4 and 5) of various adjectives invented by aristocratic ruling classes to distinguish the 'good', the 'noble', the 'brave' - the Sanskrit arya the Greek esthlos and agathos the Latin bonus, the German gut, the Gaelic fin - from their 'bad', 'common', 'craven' opposites: the German schlecht (bad), the Greek words kakos and deilo (the 'vile' or 'craven' antithesis of agathos, the Latin malus (derived from the Greek melas, meaning 'dark' or 'black', an adjective applied to the blond conquerors to the darker-skinned, darker haired inhabitants of pre-Aryan Italy) etc.

"How then did the term 'good' closely associated with nobility and courage, come to have an entirely different connotation?  Nietzsche's answer (section 6) was that this semantic transformation was essentially the work of priests, and in particular of triumphant priesthoods, for whom robust manliness, virility and courage were less important than 'cleanliness' and 'purity'.  There was always, he claimed, something unhealthy in such priestly aristocracies. The 'cures' - everything from avoidance of meat, fasting and sexual abstinence to the autohypnosis of fakirs and Buddhistic concentration on nothing - were more dangerous than the 'maladies' they were supposed to cure." (pp. 499 - 500) 

"Now applying the criterion of 'underdog' or 'slave resentment' which he had unveiled in Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche went on to contrast the 'knightly-aristocratic' mode of valuation - with its healthy love of war, adventure, hunting, dancing and war-games - with the sickly ethos of priests, born of hatred and a sense of impotence.  For, he declared roundly, 'the truly great haters in the history of the world have always been priests, and likewise the most ingenious haters'.  Already, in Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche had called the Jews 'great haters,' but now, throwing caution to the winds with an intrepidity  that was to earn him the title of the 'Thunderer of Sils-Maria', he went much further:

"'All that has been done on earth against 'the nobles', 'the mighty', 'the overlords', 'the power-wielders' is as nothing compared to what the Jews did against them: the Jews, the priestly people who were only able to obtain satisfaction against their enemies and conquerors through a radical revaluation of the latter's values, that is, by an act of the most spiritual revenge.  This befitted a priestly people, this people of the most deeply repressed priestly vengefulness. It was the Jews who with awe-inspiring logical consistency dared to invert the aristocratic value-equation (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = beloved of God) and who clung to it with the teeth of the most abysmal hatred (the hatred of impotence), saying 'the wretched alone are the good ones; the poor, the helpless, the lowly are alone the good ones; the sufferers, the have-nots, the sick, the ugly are also the only devout ones, the only God-blessed, for them alone is blessedness - whereas you, you who are powerful and noble, are to all eternity the evil ones, the cruel, the lustful, the insatiable, the godless, and forever will you be the unblessed, the accused and the damned!'

"In short, as he has already pointed out in section 195 of Beyond Good and Evil, it was with the Jews that there began the 'slave revolt in morality', a revolt with 2,000 years of history behind it which had gradually vanished from sight precisely because it had ended up victorious." (pp. 500 - 501)

"Indeed, Nietzsche fearlessly and, it must be said, recklessly added that underlying all noble races one could not but recognize 'the beast of prey, the magnificent blond beast lustily prowling in search of spoils and victory; from time to time an explosion is needed from this inner core, the animal must break out again, must return to the wilderness - the Roman, Arabic, Germanic, Japanese aristocracies, Homeric heroes, Scandinavian Vikings were all alike in [satisfying] this need.'

"These dangerous words, which certain Nazis were to take quite literally as a philosophical justification for their bestial behavior, were written at Sils-Maria during the month of July 1887.  And the question that arises is why Nietzsche felt the need to hammer home this point (in the crucial 11th section) and even to repeat the expression 'blond-Bestie' a little further on, in referring to the 'deep, icy mistrust that the German arouses as soon as he comes to power', this being the psychological aftermath of 'that inextinguishable horror with which for centuries Europe watched the raging of the blond Germanic beast'.  Clearly embarrassed, Walter Kaufmann, in commenting on this passage in his book on Nietzsche, claimed that the 'blondness' here was not derived from any notion of Aryan racial superiority - Nietzsche regarded such theories as socio-historical claptrap - but referred to the tawny 'blondness' of the Lion, the animal chosen in Zarathustra's first speech to symbolize the second, essentially destructive stage in human development, in which necessary destruction precedes a new creativity.  The association of 'blond' color and tawny beast may well have existed in Nietzsche's mind; but the point he was stressing here concerned historical facts, at any rate as he interpreted them, with relation to what most interested him: the past, present, and future of Europe." (pp. 502 - 503)

"This brings us back to Nietzsche's concept of amor fati (love of fate), first enunciated in the fourth part of The Joyous Science, as a wise encouragement to accept the world as it is and not as we would like it to be, or to have been.  What we experience as 'the world' of 'life' is not simply the fleeting present;  it is also the remembered past, which alone offers us a reliable guide for the future - provided that its 'lessons' are properly interpreted and not distorted by visionary fantasies or moral prejudices.  In Zarathustra II Nietzsche had denounced the tendency to reinterpret and rewrite the 'savage' in accordance with standards of a soft, squeamish, effeminate and not least of all revolutionary pseudo-Christian 'morality'. The feudal order, based on 'outrageous inequalities' and 'injustice', was for these reasons fundamentally 'evil', 'unprogressive'.  The turbulent fifth to eighth centuries AD, when the lawlessness was at it height, had accordingly been denigrated as the 'Dark Ages'.  Nothing was more childish and insidiously pernicious than this peremptory condemnation of the past by 'modern' and thus 'superior' human beings for not having seen what it should have been (a smug, self-righteous sitting in judgment on the past which Nietzsche has criticized in his second 'Untimely Meditation').

"That the Jacobin revolutionaries of 1789 who had destroyed the ancien regime in France were hate-filled 'men of ressentiment' hardly needed to be proved.  Still draped in the sacred garments of pious hypocrisy, on the other hand, was the popular illusion that Christianity was still, as it had always been, a religion founded on Faith, on Love, on Hope. 'In faith of what?  In love of what?  In hope of what?' Nietzsche asked, in a section (15) whose ferocity matched his devastating critique of St. Paul in Morgenrote.

"In the millennial struggle between Rome and Judea, Judea had triumphed.  Centuries later, at the time of the Renaissance, it looked for a moment as though the miraculous had occurred and that the old Roman virtues were about to be resurrected.  But once again Judea triumphed - thanks to that fundamentally vulgar, plebeian German and English movement of ressentiment known as the 'Reformation'. This, however, was merely a foretaste of what was to come.  For, as Nietzsche concluded, Judea triumphed yet again, and in a deeper and more decisive sense, with the French Revolution.

"In the second essay Nietzsche set out to do what Paul Ree had failed to achieve with a short book published in 1885: provide a rational explanation for the historical origins of two related sentiments - the sense of 'guilt' and that of 'bad conscious' - which had played such a paramount role in the development of modern man.  This anthropological explanation for such deeply rooted sentiments was totally at variance with the prevailing belief, popularized by Christianity, that human beings, from the time of Creation on, were all born with innate 'conscience' and instinctive notion of 'good' and 'bad'." (pp. 504 - 505)

"Nietzsche's 'pre-historical' investigation was greatly influenced by the German word for 'guilt' (Schuld), which also means 'debt'.  One of his theses - for as usual there were many separate strands, tied into a bundle - was that the notion of 'guilt' in primitive societies was intimately associated with the notion of indebtedness, not only towards human 'creditors' but also towards one's ancestors and gods.

"Let us, for the sake of brevity, concentrate on this single strand of thought, arbitrarily disregarding the many interesting things Nietzsche had to say on the nature, necessity, efficacy and ineffectiveness of punishment, and not least of all self-punishment (essential to the development of culture - a fascinating anticipation of Freud's famous essay on Civilization and its Discontents.  In primitive societies punishment was not meted out to the committer of the crime because he was deemed 'guilty'; it was meted instinctively, much as an angry parent slaps a child.  The wrong committed was thus righted.  The notion of 'personal responsibility' - meaning the wrong-doer was 'free' and could have acted differently - appeared fairly late in the development of primitive societies (section 4)....As communities grew more secure, the collective wrath against malefactors became accentuated.  Out of this there grew a system of 'justice' and a penal system based on compositio - the settlement of grievances between the offended party and the 'offender'." (page 506)

"In primeval times all tribal communities tended to revere their ancestors and in particular the 'founders' of their tribe.  They felt that they owed them a debt of thanks for having displayed their heroism and tenacity needed to survive (section 13).  These debts were settled through various sacrifices: offerings of food, the slaughtering of animals, even human sacrifices.  As the tribe grew stronger, so did the stature of their legendary 'founders', whose prestige kept growing until they became colossal figures, demigods, and finally gods.  Along with basic concepts such as 'good' and 'bad', which were imposed on them by the master-caste of 'rulers', the great majority of subjects inherited this sense of indebtedness to certain deities and, finally, after the establishment of empires (like those of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar) to a single, autocratic God." (page 507)

"In Human, All Too Human Nietzsche had already declared that the notion of 'sin' was a pernicious invention of semitic thought.  Now he claimed that the ancient, 'lion-hearted' Greeks had kept this inhibiting, tormenting, joy-destroying notion of 'bad conscience' at arm's length by having their gods regard the misdeeds of mortals not as 'sinful' but as acts of foolishness, of momentary 'disturbances of the mind'. In this way the ancient Greek gods had helped to exonerate the misdeeds of human beings, being themselves the causes of evil and thereby assuming responsibility not for the punishment but - something far nobler and more distinguished - for the guilt.

"Exactly when 'modern man' would finally put an end to this 'conscience-vivisection', to this self-inflicted 'cruelty to human animals', Nietzsche could not say. But in the culminating section (24), which rose to a Zarathustran crescendo, he expressed his sublime conviction that one day a new savior, a 'redeeming man of great love and scorn', would surely appear to deliver mankind from 'the great disgust, the will to nothingness, nihilism'; and at the 'bell-stroke of midday and the great decision' he would 'restore its goal to the earth and hope to Man, this anti-Christian and anti-nihilist, this victor over God and nothingness' - yes, 'he must one day come'. (pp. 507 - 508)

Nietzsche engages in pure conjecture throughout much of GM.  There is little in the way of truly "scientific" (archaeological, anthropological, etc.) in his writing here. As such we might be tempted to dismiss his reasoning as overly speculative. Nevertheless, the basic premises of the work reveal themselves in our current world, so we must avoid the temptation to discredit them outright.  As with Hollingdale's analysis in the prior post, Cate affords us a basis for evaluating the validity of Nietzsche's ideas as the modern world has evolved in the past century since his death. 

Today we can easily see the legitimacy of Nietzsche's critique of "ressentiment" (resentment) in our absurd culture of political correctness.  The number of "victims" of society is ever-growing.  What is more, being a democratic society (something Nietzsche rightly appraised as herd-like), the victims validate one another through the political process.  Slave morality has never been stronger.  Master morality, while still expressing itself in ways mentioned at the conclusion of the previous post in addition to elitist forms of art and music and "high" or exclusive memberships, clubs and culture, is an accepted target of slave revolt. "Privilege" is fair-game for attacks and condemnation by mediocrity; it is seen in classic slave morality as a great "No" - the fullness of human potential and its resulting expression of elitism is damned by the mainstream perspective.  So, while Nietzsche's interpretation of how the Master-Slave Morality might have worked through history seems a bit sketchy, there is little denying that it is working today just as Nietzsche describes in GM.

The difficulty comes with Nietzsche's "faith" that some "redeeming savior" will emerge to address the unnatural imbalance created by slave morality over master morality. This strikes me as highly "romantic" in its logic, showing that Nietzsche could not escape the essence of his times no matter how radical his ideas seemed.  In the unfolding reality of current events, there is no indication that the question of morality will be readdressed by any forthcoming "master" or morality.  Instead, as before with Hollingdale, it seems to me that the "savior" is a dispersed force within a multitude cultural expressions.  Again, my examination of this possibility awaits a future post.