My rating: 88/100
See Book Notes for other books I have read. If you like my notes, go buy it!
- Independence of the soul … even one’s dearest friend one must be willing to sacrifice for it. … Nonconformity is the necessary condition of self-realization. … The powerful man is the rational man who subjects even his most cherished faith to the severe scrutiny of reason and is prepared to give up his beliefs if they cannot stand this stern test. He abandons what he loves most, if rationality requires it. He does not yield to his inclinations and impulses and is willing to give up even his relatives and friends, if intellectual integrity demands it. … Nietzsche says the most universal human characteristic is either fear or laziness. Both keep a man from realizing himself. For this reason Nietzsche opposed the State because it intimidates people into conformity.
- The will to a system [a philosophy or religion] is a lack of integrity. … Greatness would consist in “holding one’s own in an unfinished system with free, unlimited views” as Leonardo da Vinci did.
- Everybody knows that to be able to accept criticism is a high sign of culture. Some even know that the higher man invites and provokes criticism of himself to receive a hint about his injustices which are yet unknown to him.
- “The goal of humanity cannot lie in the End but only in its highest specimens“. Perhaps there is no more basic statement of Nietzsche’s philosophy in all his writings than this sentence.
- One brings about dislocation of one’s quanta of strength by imposing on oneself an especially difficult and exacting task or by subjecting oneself intentionally to a new stimulus or delight and thus diverting one’s thought and the play of physical forces into other channels.
- No man can live without bringing some order into this chaos. Bring chaos into order.
- The man who can develop his faculty of reason only by extirpating his sensuality has a weak spirit; a strong spirit need not make war on the impulses: it masters them fully and is – to Nietzsche’s mind – the acme of human power. The “unconsciousness” that N considers a sign of power is what one might call an attained unconsciousness and a state of perfect mastery. N considers both the man who acts on impulse and the man who deliberately counteracts his impulses inferior to the man who acts rationally on instinct.
- The powerful man is the rational man who subjects even his most cherished faith to the severe scrutiny of reason and is prepared to give up his beliefs if they cannot stand this stern test. He abandons what he loves most, if rationality requires it. He does not yield to his inclinations and impulses and is willing to give up even his relatives and friends, if intellectual integrity demands it.
- Great power reveals itself in great self-mastery. While a weak state may kill off all dissenters, a strong state should be able to tolerate them.
- The value of a human being … does not lie in his usefulness: for it would continue to exist even if there were nobody to whom he could be useful.
- N scorns any utilitarian or pragmatic approach to truth and insists that those who search for it must ask whether the truth will profit or harm them. Untruth, in short, is weakness; and truth is power – even if it spells death.
- Love can be fruitful if two persons strive together to perfect themselves and each other. Such a relationship seems to N the highest possible relationship between two human beings.
- The most spiritual men, as the strongest, find their happiness where others would find their destruction: in the labyrinth, in hardness against themselves and others, in experiments. their joy is self-conquest: asceticism becomes in them nature, need and instinct. Difficult tasks are a privilege to them; to play with burdens that crush others, a recreation. Knowledge – a form of asceticism. They are the most venerable kind of man: that does not preclude their being the most cheerful and the kindliest. (A 57)
- Nietzsche considered Goethe’s Conversations with Eckermann “the best German book.”
- In Walter Kaufmann’s opinion, Nietzsche’s most important works are The Case of Wagner, Gotzen-Dammerung, Antichrist, Ecce Homo, and Nietzsche Contra Wagner.
Preface to the Third Edition
this book differs from many other studies of Nietzsche. It is not a study of “Nietzsche and X” or a study of “Nietzsche as Y” but an attempt to do justice to Nietzsche’s thought as a whole.
Preface to the First Edition
ever more people seem to realize that their pleasures do not add up to happiness and that their ends do not give their lives any lasting meaning. Properly understood, Nietzsche’s conception of power may represent one of the few great philosophic ideas of all time.
Nietzsche became a myth even before he died in 1900, and today his ideas are overgrown and obscured by rank fiction.
Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche, became her brother chief apostle, and began to fashion the Nietzsche legend.
She gained exclusive rights to all of her brother’s literary remains and then refusing to publish some of the most important among them, while insisting doubly on their significance.
The long delay of the publication of Ecce Homo was fateful because the book contains explicit repudiations of many ideas that were meanwhile attributed to Nietzsche and have been associated with him to this day.
Special emphasis will be placed on three points: the break with Wagner, which Nietzsche himself experienced as the capital event of his life and which crystalized his basic intentions; his relation to his sister which throws light both on Nietzsche’s thought and hon her interpretation of it; and finally the possible relation of his eventual insanity to his work – for one must know at the outset whether some of his writing ought to be discounted as the creations of a madman.
Part I Background
Chapter 1 Nietzsche’s Life as a Background of His Thought
… if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire. – letter to his sister, June 11, 1865.
Nietzsche was born in Rocken, in the Prussian province of Saxony, on October 15, 1844.
he was appointed a professor of classical philology at Basel. At Basel he taught for ten years, from 1869 till 1879, when he retired because of poor health.
In 1872 Nietzsche published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy.
Nietzsche considered it the best sign of Shakespeare’s genius that Shakespeare had realized how “the height at which he places Caesar is the finest honor which he could bestow on Brutus: thus alone he raises Brutus’ inner problem, no less than the spiritual strength which was able to cut this knot, to tremendous significance.” (FW 98) “Independence of the soul – this is at stake here! No sacrifice can then be too great: even one’s dearest friend one must be willing to sacrifice for it, though he be the most glorious human being embellishment of the world, genius without peer … ” (FW 98)
“My strongest characteristic is self-overcoming. But I also need it most.” (XXI 102)
Nietzsche loved [Zarathustra] more than any of his others.
These works, [The Case of Wagner, Gotzen-Dammerung, Antichrist, Ecce Homo, and Nietzsche Contra Wagner], which were the fruit of Nietzsche’s final efforts, are perhaps his most important.
Chapter 2 Nietzsche’s Method
Nietzsche objects to the failure to question one’s own assumptions.
The will to a system is a lack of integrity. (G 1 26)
The thinker who believes in the ultimate truth of his system, without questioning its presuppositions, appears more stupid than he is: he refuses to think beyond a certain point; and this is, according to Nietzsche, a subtle moral corruption.
Systems are neither unqualifiedly good nor entirely bad. No one system reveals the entire truth, but by surveying a number of them, we can educate our minds.
Nietzsche is, like Plato, not a system-thinker but a problem-thinker.
These “philosophers of the future,” and Nietzsche as their “herald and precusor” (J 44), would be more modest and less ambitious then Schopenhauer and his kind. Greatness would consist in “holding one’s own in an unfinished system with free, unlimited views” as Leonardo da Vinci did (XVI, 51 f.)
Questions permitting of experiment are, to Nietzsche’s mind, those questions to which he can reply: “Versuchen wir’s!” Let us try it! Experimenting involves testing an answer by trying to live according to it.
Questioning means experiencing fully, with an open mind and without reservations; and failure to question seems to Nietzsche more and more synonymous with the desire not to experience possible implications.
Chapter 3 The Death of God and the Revaluation
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!” — As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? — Thus they yelled and laughed.
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him — you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us — for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars — and yet they have done it themselves.
It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?” (FW 125; cf Z-V2)
Nietzsche felt the agony, the suffering, and the misery of a godless world so intensely, at the time when others were yet blind to its tremendous consequence, that he was able to experience in advance, as it were, the fate of a coming generation.
“Kant wanted to prove in a way that would dumfound the ‘common man’ that the ‘common man’ was right.” (FW 193)
Nietzsche vs. Kant pg 103
N develops his conception of the utmost that philosophers have achieved to date and can achieve now. The model philosopher is pictured as a physician who applies this knife of his thought “vivisectionally to the very virtues of the time.”
Zarathustra: “what is falling, that one should also push!”
Everybody knows that to be able to accept criticism is a high sign of culture. Some even know that the higher man invites and provokes criticism of himself to receive a hint about his injustices which are yet unknown to him. (FW 297) #openminded
Man often craves religious certainty in direct proportion to his profound and tormenting doubts.
Part II The Development of Nietzsche’s Thought
Chapter 4 Art and History
What does Nihilism mean? That the highest values devaluate themselves. The higher goal is lacking; the answer is lacking to our “Why?” (WM 1-2)
N was anti-romantic.
Nietzsche’s conception of Apollo vs Dionysus (my note: it is imperative to memorize these two figures if you want to understand Nietzsche):
Apollo represents … the power to create harmonious and measured beauty; the strength to shape one’s own character no less than works of art; the “principle of individuation” (GT 1); the form-giving force, which reach its consummation in Greek sculpture. Dionysus, in Nietzsche’s first book, is the symbol of that drunken frenzy which threatens to destroy all forms and codes; the ceaseless striving which apparently defies all limitations; the ultimate abandonment we sometimes sense in music. … In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche did not extol one at the expense of the other; but if he favors one of the two gods, it is Apollo.
We find that the creation of beauty is envisaged as the response of a fundamentally healthy organism to the challenge of disease.
What enraged N most was Strauss’ comfortable and untroubled renunciation of Christianity, coupled with an easy conviction that Darwin was one of mankind’s greatest benefactors and that – though Strauss gave no reasons for this – traditional values could of course be maintained.
pg 140 N finds Spinoza
“World history is not the ground of happiness. The periods of happiness are empty pages.” – Hegel
In The Birth of Tragedy, N emphasized the horrors of history as a challenge that may lead the weak to negate life, while it leads the strong to create the beautiful.
A people with absolutely no memory of their past would be unable to govern themselves successfully, to abide by a proven way of life, and to keep the law; a culture with no traditions, with no memory of past techniques or customs, would be similarly incapacitated. On the other hand, a people or culture without the ability to forget would be unable to make decisions, to act, and to be creative.
The “historical man” has faith in the future. The “supra-historical” man, on the other hand, is the one “who does not envisage salvation in the process but for whom the world is finished in every single moment and its End attained. What could ten new years teach that the past could not teach?
History does not reveal values in the sense that what succeeds is thereby proven to be valuable. Empirical facts do not seem to him to warrant the belief that history is a story of progress, that ever greater values are developed… “The goal of humanity cannot lie in the End but only in its highest specimens“. Perhaps there is no more basic statement of Nietzsche’s philosophy in all his writings than this sentence.
The conception of organizing the chaos turns out to be of the utmost significance … it remains one of the persistent motifs of Nietzsche’s thought.
N’s note … Sparta, where the invaders prohibited intermarriage with the native population, did not develop a great culture of her own: “Where races are mixed, there is the source of great cultures” (XVI 373)
epigoni – Greek myth; the descendants of the Seven against Thebes, who undertook a second expedition against the city and eventually captured and destroyed it.
tendentious – having or showing a definite tendancy, bias, or purpose.
My note: Goethe was not romantic
N declared flatly that he considered “the Conversations with Eckermann the best German book there is. … He associated with Goethe: the hardness of the creator who creates himself.
Chapter 5 Existenz Versus the State, Darwin, and Rousseau
N hesitates to decide which is the most universal human characteristic: fear or laziness. Both keep man from heeding the call to achieve culture and thus to realize himself. Men are afraid of social retaliation and do not dare be their own unique selves. It is for this reason that the State becomes the devil of N’s ethics: it intimidates man into conformity and thus tempts and coerces him to betray his proper destiny. PP Man’s task is simple: he should cease letting his “existence” be “a thoughtless accident”.
N suggests that perhaps the most revealing question is: “What have you really loved till now?” The answer will show you “your true self [which] does not lie deeply concealed within you but immeasurably high above you. … Contemplate the traits we have most loved and admired in our self-chosen educators … we envisage our true nature which we would realize if we were not too lazy and afraid.
My note: this is really great material for my annual review to spur on ideas and inspiration. I have added it as a prompt.
Goethe vs. Rousseau see pg 167
physis – the principle of growth or change in nature. Nature as the source of growth or change.
Nonconformity is the necessary condition of self-realization.
Chapter 6 The Discovery of the Will To Power
It is thus apparent that Nietzsche approached the conception of a will to power from two distinct points of view. First, he thought of it as a craving for worldly success, which he repudiated as harmful to man’s interest in perfecting himself. Secondly, he thought of the will to power as a psychological drive in terms of which many diverse phenomena could be explained; e.g. gratitude, pity, and self-abasement.
One strives for independence (freedom) for the sake of power, not the other way around. (IX 398)
The powerful … have no need to prove their might either to themselves or to others by oppressing or hurting others.
N, of course, does not say that the powerful should hurt others; he points out that if they hurt others they are not motivated by the wish to hurt.
… ascetic self torture is the source of the greatest possible feeling of power.
My note: True power is power that does not need enforcement.
The will to power is thus introduced as the will to overcome oneself.
N asserts that moral goodness consists in doing what is difficult.
Strength and reason reduce to a single, more fundamental force: the will to power.
Part 3 Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Power
All force strives forward to work far and wide
To live and grow and ever to expand;
Yet we are checked and thwarted on each side
By the world’s flux and swept along like sand:
In this internal storm and outward tide
We hear a promise, hard to understand:
From the compulsion that all creatures binds,
Who overcomes himself, his freedom finds.
– Goethe, The Mysteries
Chapter 7 Morality and Sublimation
The aphorism begins: “I find no more than six essentially different methods to fight the violence of a drive” – and in the end Nietzsche summarizes: PP Thus the dodging the opportunities [for its satisfaction], implanting regularity in the drive, generating overstauration and disgust with it, and bringing about its association with an agonizing thought – like that of disgrace, evil consequences, or insulted pride – then the dislocation of forces, and finally general [self] weakening and exhaustion – those are the six methods. (M 109)
One brings about dislocation of one’s quanta of strength by imposing on oneself an especially difficult and exacting task or by subjecting oneself intentionally to a new stimulus or delight and thus diverting one’s thought and the play of physical forces into other channels.
… (Mark 9:43 ff.) that if a part of your body “offend thee” you should “cut it off.” PP The logic is: the desires often produce great misfortune – consequently they are evil, reprehensible. A man must free himself from them: otherwise he cannot be a good man – This is the same logic as: “if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” In the particular case in which that dangerous “innocent from the country,” the founder of Christianity, recommended this practice to his disciples, that case of sexual excitation, the consequence is, unfortunately, not only the loss of an organ but the emasculation of a man’s character – And the same applies to the moralist’s madness that demands, instead of the restraining of the passions, their extirpation. Its conclusion is always: only the castrated man is a good man. (WM 383; cf. A 45)
in his last work, Nietzsche insisted once more that his point was merely that there was more hope for the man of strong impulses than for the man with no impulses.
Our impulses are in a state of chaos. We would do this now, and another thing the next moment – and even a great number of things at the same time. We think one way and live another; we want one things and do another. No man can live without bringing some order into this chaos. This may be done by thoroughly weakening the whole organism or by repudiating and repressing many of the impulses: but the result in that case is not a “harmony,” and the physis is castrated, not “improved.” Yet there is another way – namely, to “organize the chaos”: sublimation allows for the achievement of an organic harmony and leads to that culture which is truly a “transfigured physis.”
My note: Bring chaos into order.
Chapter 8 Sublimation, Geist, and Eros
The first question about self-overcoming has now been answered: Nietzsche pictured the triumph over the impulses in terms of sublimation.
[The will to power] is not, properly speaking, “irrationalism.” It is “irrationalistic” insofar as the basic drive is not reason.
Reason and the sex drive are both forms of the will to power. The sex drive, however, is an impulse, and in yielding to it in its unsublimated form, man is still the slave of his passions and has no power over them.
My note: What is genius when those who have it lack good judgement.
His entire attack on “systems” is based on his objection to the irrationality which he finds in the failure to question premises.
“The spiritualization of sensuality is called love: it is a great triumph over Christianity” (G V 3)
The man who can develop his faculty of reason only by extirpating his sensuality has a weak spirit; a strong spirit need not make war on the impulses: it masters them fully and is – to Nietzsche’s mind – the acme of human power.
The “unconsciousness” that N considers a sign of power is what one might call an attained unconsciousness and a state of perfect mastery. N considers both the man who acts on impulse and the man who deliberately counteracts his impulses inferior to the man who acts rationally on instinct.
Hegel’s “aufheben” (sublimation) … this word means both preserving and canceling; it also means lifting up.
N’s “sublimieren” … Latin sublimare … means – in German – aufheben … preserving, canceling, and lifting up.
The will to power is, as it were, always at war with itself.
My note: the following paragraph best describes N’s concept of sublimation
The acorn strives to become an oak tree, though this involves its ceasing to be an acorn and, to that extent, self-overcoming. Man desires to be perfect and to have complete mastery of himself, though this involves a measure of asceticism and self-denial, and thus a kinds of self-overcoming that seems essentially moral.
The powerful man is the rational man who subjects even his most cherished faith to the severe scrutiny of reason and is prepared to give up his beliefs if they cannot stand this stern test. He abandons what he loves most, if rationality requires it. He does not yield to his inclinations and impulses and is willing to give up even his relatives and friends, if intellectual integrity demands it.
The theme of the entire third part of Genealogy is that all truly worth-while human achievements so far, including most of art, religion, and philosophy, have involved asceticism and thus required man to be cruel toward himself and to suffer.
There are insects among which the male dies after the act of copulation. Instead of seeking to preserve his life, he spends it – as N would say – to enjoy the exercise of his potency and to gain immortality. This striving for immortality seemed important to N.
The powerful man is the creative man; but the creator is not likely to abide by previously established laws.
Great power reveals itself in great self-mastery. While a weak state may kill off all dissenters, a strong state should be able to tolerate them.
My note: This section reminds me of Pascal
… I have found strength where one does not look for it: in simple, mild, and pleasant people, without the least desire to rule – and, conversely, the desire to rule has often appeared to me a sign of inward weakness: they fear their own slave soul and shroud it in a royal cloak (in the end, they still become the slaves of their followers, their fame, etc.) The power natures dominate, it is a necessity, they need not life one finger. Even if, during their lifetime, they bury themselves in a garden house. (X 412)
To become powerful, to gain freedom, to master his impulses and perfect himself, man must first develop the feeling that his impulses are evil. … I am evil. At that point, man is divided against himself.
For everyone who does not know
How to control his inmost self would fain control
His neighbor’s will according to his own conceit.
– Goethe, Klassische Walpurgisnact (Faust II)
Chapter 9 Power Versus Pleasure
or: Power Ethics vs. Pleasure Ethics
Power Standards vs. Pleasure Principle
Will to Power vs. Hedonism
… pleasure is [dependent on] consciousness, while power may be spoken of even beyond this realm, N might have maintained that the feeling of pleasure is merely that conscious state which attends the possession of power.
The calculability of an event does not consist in the fact that a rule is followed or a necessity obeyed, or that a law of causality was projected by us into all that happens: it consists in the recurrence of “identical cases.” There is not, as Kant supposed, a sense of causality. One is surprised, one is disturbed – one desires something familiar one can hold on to. As soon as something old is pointed out in the new, we are calmed. The alleged instinct for causality is merely the fear of the unfamiliar and the attempt to discover something familiar in it – a search not for causes, but for the familiar. (WM 551)
N’s occasional insistence on a reversal of cause and effect.
The Four Great Errors. 1. Mistaking effects for causes – as when we say that a people perished on account of their vices, instead of considering their vices consequences of the decadence of which they died. 2. The assumption of a “false causality” such as “will,” “consciousness,” and “ego.” 3. “imaginary causes” such as suffering as a punishment for sins … Indian conception of karma or of the friends of Job who inferred that he must have sinned because they could not explain his affliction otherwise. 4. Assumption of “free will.” N considers the popular notion of causality untenable and is convinced that the assumption of free will depends on it.
N denied any complete schism of body and soul.
II (Happiness vs Pleasure)
In his keen appreciation of suffering and all self-sacrifice as indispensable conditions of self-perfection, N seems more “Christian” than most philosophers. PP N differs with Christianity in his naturalistic denial of the breach between flesh and spirit, in his claim that self-sacrifice is the very essence of life, and in his paradoxical assertion that man’s attempt to sublimate his animal nature exemplify the very way of nature.
crepuscular – twilight; dim; indistinct
N contends that happiness is a creative activity and that there is “in every action an ingredient of displeasure“
line in Zarathustra: “What matters pleasure! … I do not covet … pleasure, I covet my work.”
If happiness is defined as the state of being man desires; if joy is defined as the conscious aspect of this state; and if pleasure is defined as the sensation marked by the absence of pain and discomfort; then N’s position can be summarized quite briefly: happiness is the fusion of power and joy – and joy contains not only the ingredients of pleasure but also a component of pain.
My note: Unconscious Incompetence > Conscious Incompetence > Conscious Competence > Unconscious Competence
The ascetic, though lacking scepter and crown, seemed one of the most powerful of men to N – but still more powerful is the man who need not resort to so radical a cure. One must consider the man who is strong enough to maintain his mastery in the face of vehement passions as being more powerful than the ascetic who suppresses or extirpates his impulses. At the top of the power scale are those who are able to sublimate their impulses, to “organize the chaos,” and to give “style” to their character. PP The Good Life is the powerful life, the life of those who are in full control of their impulses and need not weaken them, and the good man is for N the passionate man who is the master of his passions.
N frequently insists, those who are dissatisfied with themselves usually project their dissatisfaction upon the world.
My notes: A possible progression:
Unconscious dissatisfaction with self and conscious dissatisfaction with the world.
Conscious dissatisfaction with self and no remedial action.
Conscious dissatisfaction with self and failed/successful remedial action.
Conscious dissatisfaction with self and empathy for the world.
Healed self and empathy for the world.
Healed self and failed/successful remedial action to heal the world.
Healed self and healed world.
Chapter 10 The Master Race
One must yet have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. (Z-V 5)
physiologic – consistent with the normal functioning of an organism
It does not follow from Nietzsche’s “vivisection” of slave-morality that he identifies his own position with that of the masters.
Chapter 11 Overman and Eternal Recurrence
Nietzsche did not coin the word Ubermensche. The hyperanthropos is to be found in the writing of Lucian, in the second century A.D. – and N, as a classical philologist, had studied Lucian and made frequent reference to him in his philologica.
In the second Meditation, N had already declared: “The goal of humanity cannot lie in the end but only in its highest specimens“
The value of a human being … does not lie in his usefulness: for it would continue to exist even if there were nobody to whom he could be useful (WM 877)
What N admired in Napoleon were not his military triumphs or his imperial crown. He found in Napoleon the greatest modern symbol of his own ideal: the Good European.
The ideal is “the Roman Caesar with Christ’s soul” (WM 983)
in the Christian view, the contemplateion of the infinite has annihilated the finite; and life has become a world of shadows, life has become night. (246)
those who achieve self-perfection … do not deliberate, absurdly, how they should act to avoid unpleasant consequences.
Greeks enjoyed life, in spite of their suffering, as “at bottom … powerful and joyous” (GT 7)
the man who perfects himself and transfigures his physis achieves that happiness toward which all men grope, and feels a supreme joy which obviates any concern with the “justification” of the world: he affirms it forward, backward, and “in all eternity.” “Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it … but love it” (EH II 10)
How, if some day or night, a demon were to sneak after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life, as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh … must return to you – all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over and over – and you with it, a dust grain of dust!” Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god, and never did I hear anything more godlike!” If this thought were to gain possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you. The question in each and everything, “do you want this once more and innumerable times more?” would weigh upon your actions as the greatest stress. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation? (FW 341)
What is often overlooked – is that any such approach is one-sided and thoroughly misleading if not balanced by another idea.
Part 4 Synopsis
Chapter 12 Nietzsche’s Repudiation of Christ
In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. (A 39)
[There are] two major phases of Nietzsche’s critique of faith in Christ and to epitomize them briefly as faith versus action and faith versus reason.
The “justification by faith” seems to Nietzsche an inversion of Jesus evangel. He never tires of insisting that the legacy of Jesus was essentially a practice.
Paul is for N “the first Christian” (meant in a negative sense, as opposed to Christ himself); the discoverer of faith as a remedy against the incapacity for what one deems to be right action; the man who made it possible for pagans the world over to persist in their own way of life while calling themselves Christians.
Paul had the same experience which Luther had centuries later when he realized his inability to “become the perfect man of the clerical ideal in his monastery” and “one day began to hate the clerical ideal and the pope, and the saints, and the whole clergy, with a true and deadly hatred, all the more less he could own it to himself” (M 68). This concomitance of “escape” and “revenge” – “faith” as a way out of one’s inability to “get rid of one’s sins” and faith as a screen for fanatical hatred – that seems to N the essence of the “Christianity of Paul, Augustine, and Luther” (XVI, 232 f.). And that is, to his mind, the most incredible inversion of the gospel.
N concludes that Paul alone made it possible for these resentful people to consider themselves Christians. Paul substituted faith in Christ for the Christlike life.
Instead of striving to become perfect here and now, as Jesus had exhorted them to do, they put their trust in the distant future.
… a deep conviction of Luther of their incapacity for Christian works, of action is not altogether sin and from the Devil: so that the value of existence is transferred to single high tension states of inactivity (prayer, effusion, etc.)
… the second major phase of N’s repudiation of faith in Christ: faith versus reason
… happiness and unhappiness are completely irrelevant to the truth of a proposition.
But if reason cannot decide the issue – is it not then “reasonable” to embrace that alternative which would be more conducive to our happiness? Says N: “Reason, the right of reason, does not extend that far.”
N doubts that there is any “pre-established harmony” between truth and pleasure: … What does it mean after all to have integrity in matters of the spirit?
According to N, utility, and even conduciveness to the preservation of life, is equally irrelevant to truth.
Thus N scorns any utilitarian or pragmatic approach to truth and insists that those who search for it must ask whether the truth will profit or harm them.
Untruth, in short, is weakness; and truth is power – even if it spells death.
What N is repudiating is that kind of neighbor-love which is only man’s “bad love of himself.” “You flee to your neighbor from yourselves and would like to make a virtue of that”; “you cannot stand yourselves and do not love yourselves enough.”
Love can be fruitful if two persons strive together to perfect themselves and each other. Such a relationship seems to N the highest possible relationship between two human beings.
The best that a friend can do for a friend is to help him to gain self-mastery.
Spare not the sick man, dear physician! Give
The medicine to him and do not think
If it be bitter. Whether he recover,
That do consider, good and clever friend!
The preachers of pity see only the “creature” in man, only his animal nature; they lack respect for man’s potential dignity, for the “creator” in him – and they have no notion either of perfecting themselves or of helping others to become strong and great.
The most spiritual men, as the strongest, find their happiness where others would find their destruction: in the labyrinth, in hardness against themselves and others, in experiments. their joy is self-conquest: asceticism becomes in them nature, need and instinct. Difficult tasks are a privilege to them; to play with burdens that crush others, a recreation. Knowledge – a form of asceticism. They are the most venerable kind of man: that does not preclude their being the most cheerful and the kindliest. (A 57)
… hardness against those who would not be able to stand such treatment is, says N, entirely unpardonable: “When the exceptional human being treats the mediocre more tenderly than himself and his peers, this is not mere courtesy of the heart – it is simply his duty. (A 57)
My note: Do not be hard on those who cannot bear it.
N attacks the state of mind that frequently hides behind the respectable façade of Christian virtue.
To be kindly when one is merely too weak and timid to act otherwise, to be humble when any other course would have unpleasant repercussions, and to be obliging when a less amiable gesture would provoke the master’s kick or switch – is the slave’s morality, making virtue of necessity.
The basic distinction here is that between two states of being: “overfullness of life” and the “impoverishment of life,” power and impotence.
This modernity was our sickness: lazy peace, cowardly compromise, the whole virtuous uncleanliness of the modern Yes and No … Rather live in the ice than among modern virtues and other south winds! (A 1)
“You should love peace as a means to new wars – and the short peace more than the long,” has often been cited out of context to show that N was a fascist. N, however, is surely not speaking of “war” in the literal sense any more than he is speaking of soldiers. It is the quest for knowledge that he discusses, and he evidently believes that it need not be an entirely private affair: it can be a contest, as it was in Socrates’ day, and the goal might be truth rather than winning an argument.
… he points out that men “throw themselves with delight into the new danger of death because they think that in the sacrifice for the fatherland they have at long last that long sought permission – the permission to dodge their goal: war is for them suicide, but a detour with a good conscience (FW 338)
In the end, Nietzsche … hopes that the vast wars to come will bring to an end nationalism and “the comedy” of the existence of many states: he envisages “such an increase of the menace of Russia” that Europe will be forced, in self-defense, to become “One Europe” (FW 362; J 208)
In friendship man can sublimate his jealousy into a keen spiritual competition, and the friends may vie with each other to make something of themselves that will delight, inspire, and spur on the other.
The man who has perfected himself has more to offer others than riches: he can give himself.
Chapter 13 Nietzsche’s Admiration for Socrates
N claims that Socrates was a pessimist who “suffered life” as a disease. This is what must be overcome.
Ecce Homo was Nietzsche’s last work and in many ways the culmination of his philosophy. Much of it can be understood only in terms of a juxtaposition which we have previously encountered: Christ versus Socrates. [N] reveres the life and death of Jesus – but instead of interpreting it as a promise of another world and another life, and instead of conceding the divinity of Jesus, N insists: Ecce Homo! Man can live and die in a grand style, working out his own salvation instead of relying on the sacrifice of another.
The genius of the heart, as that great hidden one has it … the Pied Piper … whose voice knows how to descend into the depths of every soul … The genius of the heart … who teaches one to listen, who smooths rough souls and lets them taste a new yearning … The genius of the heart … who divines the hidden and forgotten treasure, the drop of goodness … under the … thick ice … The genius of the heart from whose touch everyone goes away richer, not having found grace nor amazed, not as blessed and oppressed by the goods of another, but richer in himself … opened up … less sure perhaps … but full of hopes that as yet have no name. (J 295)
Epilogue: Nietzsche’s Heritage
N opposed both the idolatry of the State and political liberalism because he was basically “antipolitical” (EH 1, 3) and, moreover, loathed the very idea of belonging top any “party” whatever.
John Stuart Mill in his essay On Liberty: “if there are any persons who contest a received opinion, … let us thank them for it, open our minds to listen to them, and rejoice that there is some one to do for us what we otherwise ought, if we have any regard for either the certainty or the vitality of our convictions, to do with much greater labor for ourselves.”
Some “great things” may have issued from wars; but “the greatest events” are the experiences of those stillest hours when we are creative, absorbed, and heedless of society. Rembrandt painting one of his self-portraits has no thought of his neighbor; he neither loves him nor plots against him – he is a creator.
One thing is needful. “Giving style” to one’s character – a great and rare art! It is exercised by those who see all the strengths and weaknesses of their own natures and then comprehend them in an artistic plan until everything appears as art and reason, and even weakness delights the eye. Here a large mass of second nature has been added; there a piece of original nature has been removed: both by long practice and daily labor. Here the ugly that could not be removed is hidden: there it has been reinterpreted and made subline … It will be the strong and domineering natures who enjoy their finest gaiety in such compulsion, in such constraint and perfection under a law of their own; the passion of their tremendous will relents when confronted with stylized, conquered, and serving nature; even when they have to build palaces and lay out gardens, they demur at giving nature a free hand. Conversely, it is the weak characters without power over themselves who hate the constraint of style … they hate to serve. Such spirits … are always out to interpret themselves and their environment as free nature – wild, arbitrary, fantastic, disorderly … only in this way to they please themselves. For one thing is needful: that a human being attain his satisfaction with himself … only then is a human being at all tolerable to behold. Whoever is dissatisfied with himself is always ready to revenge himself therefor; we others will be his victims … (FW 290)
N considered Goethe’s Conversations with Eckermann “the best German book.”