Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nietzsche On Nietzsche

by Hanno

Nietzsche's metaphor of the lamb and the bird of prey, and his critique of morality as a mere perspective, one which need not be shared by everyone, seems to suggest that some people are exempt from morality: they are apart from, distinct from the herd, and do not share its morality. And cruel. We are cruel, too, we lambs. Just look at how we use morality to sit in judgment of others, how we use truth to be brutally honest, how we tease, and how we then turn our cruelty on ourselves, as we feel guilty about our cruelty. But they are cruel in an immoral way. If they are good, powerful, healthy, ought we put up with them? Ought we to become like them?

Nietzsche writes about his own work in various places. In Ecce Homo, he writes about the Genealogy of Morals, the work where he seems to praise the warrior the most. But he writes there that the first essay, where he describes the history of morality, as one where he shows Christianity is born out of the spirit of resentment. He does not even hint that the opposite, the noble value scheme, ought to be our own. This suggests that the point of the essay is not prescriptive in any way, but rather, is destructive: it wants above all to show that what we take to be universal values are not, what we take to be good was not always so. In short, writers about morality get it wrong because they did not understand the historical nature of all values. The third essay declares that man would rather will nothingness than not will. He means that our need for a reason why we suffer, why we live, is so great, we would rather accept a perspective that makes life itself a bad thing, a punishment, something to be accepted until something better comes our way, than live a life without meaning, without purpose. "A counterideal was lacking," he writes, "until Zarathustra." This counterideal can then not be the ideal of the noble warrior, since that existed before the Christian ideal. But the third essay, too, suggests nothing positive. It does not describe a counterideal, indeed, it is not mentioned until Nietzsche writes later about the third essay. It is not in the third essay at all.

Whatever this ideal is, or ought to be, it cannot be morality, it must be life affirming: this life, the life we live, is the point, and not the everlasting life here after. But what does this mean? And when we look at this, we will see the deeper critique of morality and Christianity.


ce said...

Whatever this ideal is, or ought to be, it cannot be morality, it must be life affirming: this life, the life we live, is the point, and not the everlasting life here after.

Is all morality life denying? That seems false. Certainly, Hume thought morality makes us happy. A care-based notion is not trying to deny human impulses, but to follow through on them. Isn't it a sign of weakness to deny our own impulses, just because it accommodates some Nietzschean ideal? Why should I, who am not Nietzsche, live as Nietzsche lives? That's bizarre.

Even wolves care for their young. And they're happy to do it. Perhaps, the guillotine chops off the head of universality. But if it's all just interpretations anyway, why can't I have a personal moral code of conduct? One which does affirm my life and makes me happy? That seems fine.

Not all morality is Judeo-Christian morality.

FJ said...

Spannungsbogen. Bring me the bow of Odysseus. Have YOU the strength to draw it?

Nietzsche, GoM Essay 2, #16 - ...A terrible heaviness weighed them down. In performing the simplest things they felt ungainly. In dealing with this new unknown world, they no longer had their old leaders, the ruling unconscious drives which guided them safely—these unfortunate creatures were reduced to thinking, inferring, calculating, bringing together cause and effect, reduced to their “consciousness,” their most impoverished and error-prone organ! I believe that never on earth has there been such a feeling of misery, such a leaden discomfort—while at the same time those old instincts had not all of a sudden stopped imposing their demands! Only it was difficult and seldom possible to do their bidding. For the most part, they had to find new and, as it were, underground satisfactions for themselves. All instincts which are not discharged to the outside are turned back inside—this is what I call the internalization [Verinnerlichung] of man. From this first grows in man what people later call his “soul.” The entire inner world, originally as thin as if stretched between two layers of skin, expanded and extended itself, acquired depth, width, and height, to the extent that what a person discharged out into the world was obstructed. Those frightening fortifications with which the organization of the state protected itself against the old instincts for freedom—punishments belong above all to these fortifications—brought it about that all those instincts of the wild, free, roaming man turned themselves backwards, against man himself. Enmity, cruelty, joy in pursuit, in attack, in change, in destruction—all those turned themselves against the possessors of such instincts. That is the origin of “bad conscience.” The man who, because of a lack of external enemies and opposition, was forced into an oppressive narrowness and regularity of custom impatiently tore himself apart, persecuted himself, gnawed away at himself, grew upset, and did himself damage—this animal which scraped itself raw against the bars of its cage, which people want to “tame,” this impoverished creature, consumed with longing for the wild, which had to create out of its own self an adventure, a torture chamber, an uncertain and dangerous wilderness—this fool, this yearning and puzzled prisoner, became the inventor of “bad conscience....”

WtP 966 (1884) - In contrast to the animals, man has cultivated an abundance of contrary drives and impulses within himself: thanks to this synthesis, he is master of the earth.-- Moralities are the expression of locally limited orders of rank in his multifarious world of drives, so man should not perish through their contradictions. Thus a drive as master, its opposite weakened, refined, as the impulse that provides the stimulus for the activity of the chief drive.
The highest man would have the greatest multiplicity of drives, in the relatively greatest strength that can be endured. Indeed, where the plant "man" shows himself strongest one finds instincts that conflict powerfully (e.g., in Shakespeare), but are controlled.

WtP - 858 (Nov. 1887-March 1888)
What determines your rank is the quantum of power you are: the rest is cowardice.

FJ said...

Eros vs Thanatos.

w/o Thanatos, why would mankind ever strive to surpass himself?

WtP 488 (Spring-Fall 1887) -
Psychological derivation of our belief in reason.--The concept "reality", "being", is taken from our feeling of the "subject".

"The subject": interpreted from within ourselves, so that the ego counts as a substance, as the cause of all deeds, as a doer.

The logical-metaphysical postulates, the belief in substance, accident, attribute, etc., derive their convincing force from our habit of regarding all our deeds as consequences of our will--so that the ego, as substance, does not vanish in the multiplicity of change.--But there is no such thing as will.--

We have no categories at all that permit us to distinguish a "world in itself" from a "world of appearance." All our categories of reason are of sensual origin: derived from the empirical world. "The soul", "the ego"--the history of these concepts shows that here, too, the oldest distinction ("breath", "life")--

If there is nothing material, there is also nothing immaterial. The concept no longer contains anything.

No subject "atoms". The sphere of a subject constantly growing or decreasing, the center of the system constantly shifting; in cases where it cannot organize the appropriate mass, it breaks into two parts. On the other hand, it can transform a weaker subject into its functionary without destroying it, and to a certain degree form a new unity with it.

No "substance", rather something that in itself strives after greater strength, and that wants to "preserve" itself only indirectly (it wants to surpass itself--).

Hanno said...

The moral scheme Nietzsche is attacking is life denying, and he will throw in your search for Nirvana as well.

I think the Humean notion is oddly much more in line with where N is heading, but there will still be serious disagreements.

Hanno said...

But I also think it will be interesting to see *why* he thinks morality is life denying. then we can see just how true or false it is.

FJ said...

Twilight of the Idols

My demand upon the philosopher is known, that he take his stand beyond good and evil and leave the illusion of moral judgment beneath himself. This demand follows from an insight which I was the first to formulate: that there are altogether no moral facts. Moral judgments agree with religious ones in believing in realities which are no realities. Morality is merely an interpretation of certain phenomena--more precisely, a misinterpretation. Moral judgments, like religious ones, belong to a stage of ignorance at which the very concept of the real, and the distinction between what is real and imaginary, are still lacking; thus "truth," at this stage, designates all sorts of things which we today call "imaginings." Moral judgments are therefore never to be taken literally: so understood, they always contain mere absurdity. Semeiotically, however, they remain invaluable: they reveal, at least for those who know, the most valuable realities of cultures and inwardnesses which did not know enough to "understand" themselves. Morality is mere sign language, mere symptomatology: one must know what it is all about to be able to profit from it.

ce said...

The moral scheme Nietzsche is attacking is life denying, and he will throw in your search for Nirvana as well.

I would have to call that a misinterpretation. Nirvana/Nibbana is life-affirming, not life-denying. Nirvana is not achieved outside of samara, but within it. It's a mistake to think the two somehow exist independently, or that nirvana arises detached from samsara. The eye changes. The scenery does not.

The Buddha's belly was full of joy, thus the depictions. How is the joyful life, one which denies life? It embraces life. Buddha smiles and laughs. He doesn't grimace or bemoan his existence.

Of course, I'm not Theravadan. I've never liked the idea of setting samsara and nirvana in opposition to one another. It seems to run counter to the notions of right action, right compassion, and right livelihood, all of which surely must occur in the world. Using one as the antithesis to the other also makes vipassana extremely confusing. Why is insight into the world and into one's self (and surely, you are put into a worldly context) matter so much, if nirvana is somehow anti-world/anti-self? That's just odd.

But I'm probably being unduly harsh. I just don't get it.

Hanno said...

Lets just say there are some life-denying aspects to it, and leave it till next week for me to show it.