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 wish...to 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.

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