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Wednesday, January 27, 2010



Friedrich Nietzsche
(October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900)

In Daybreak Nietzsche begins his "Campaign against Morality". He calls himself an "immoralist" and harshly criticizes the prominent moral schemes of his day: Christianity, Kantianism, and utilitarianism. However, Nietzsche did not want to destroy morality, but rather to initiate a re-evaluation of the values of the Judeo-Christian world. He indicates his desire to bring about a new, more naturalistic source of value in the vital impulses of life itself.

In both these works, Nietzsche's genealogical account of the development of master-slave morality occupies a central place. Nietzsche presents master-morality as the original system of morality—perhaps best associated with Homeric Greece. Here, value arises as a contrast between good and bad, or between 'life-affirming' and 'life-denying': wealth, strength, health, and power (the sort of traits found in a Homeric hero) count as good; while bad is associated with the poor, weak, sick, and pathetic (the sort of traits conventionally associated with slaves in ancient times).

Slave-morality, in contrast, comes about as a reaction to master-morality. Nietzsche associates slave-morality with the Jewish and Christian traditions. Here, value emerges from the contrast between good and evil: good being associated with other-worldliness, charity, piety, restraint, meekness, and submission; evil seen as worldly, cruel, selfish, wealthy, and aggressive. Nietzsche sees slave-morality born out of the resentment of slaves. It works to overcome the slave's own sense of inferiority before the (better-off) masters. It does so by making out slave weakness to be a matter of choice, by, e.g., relabeling it as "meekness."

Nietzsche sees the slave-morality as a source of the nihilism that has overtaken Europe. In Nietzsche's eyes, modern Europe, and its Christianity, exists in a hypocritical state due to a tension between master and slave morality, both values contradictorily determining, to varying degrees, the values of most Europeans (who are "motley"). Nietzsche calls for exceptional people to no longer be ashamed of their uniqueness in the face of a supposed morality-for-all, which Nietzsche deems to be harmful to the flourishing of exceptional people. However, Nietzsche cautions that morality, per se, is not bad; it is good for the masses, and should be left to them. Exceptional people, on the other hand, should follow their own "inner law." A favorite motto of Nietzsche, taken from Pindar, reads: "Become what you are" (cf. to Kierkegaard's assertion, in Vol. 2 of Either/or, that in aesthetics you become what you become, whereas in ethics you are what you are).
[edit] Death of God, nihilism, perspectivism
Main articles: God is dead, nihilism, and perspectivism

The statement "God is dead," occurring in several of Nietzsche's works (notably in The Gay Science), has become one of his best-known remarks. On the basis of it, most commentators regard Nietzsche as an atheist; others (such as Kaufmann) suggest that this statement reflects a more subtle understanding of divinity. In Nietzsche's view, recent developments in modern science and the increasing secularization of European society had effectively 'killed' the Christian God, who had served as the basis for meaning and value in the West for more than a thousand years.

Nietzsche claimed the death of God would eventually lead to the loss of any universal perspective on things, and along with it any coherent sense of objective truth. Instead we would retain only our own multiple, diverse, and fluid perspectives. This view has acquired the name "perspectivism".

Alternatively, the death of God may lead beyond bare perspectivism to outright nihilism, the belief that nothing has any importance and that life lacks purpose. As Heidegger put the problem, "If God as the suprasensory ground and goal of all reality is dead, if the suprasensory world of the Ideas has suffered the loss of its obligatory and above it its vitalizing and upbuilding power, then nothing more remains to which man can cling and by which he can orient himself."[46] Developing this idea, Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra, therein introducing the concept of a value-creating Übermensch. According to Lampert, "the death of God must be followed by a long twilight of piety and nihilism (II. 19; III. 8). [...] Zarathustra's gift of the superman is given to a mankind not aware of the problem to which the superman is the solution."
Main article: Will to power

An important element of Nietzsche's philosophical outlook is the "will to power" (der Wille zur Macht), which provides a basis for understanding motivation in human behavior. But this concept may have wider application, as Nietzsche, in a number of places, also suggests that the will to power is a more important element than pressure for adaptation or survival.[48] In its later forms Nietzsche's concept of the will to power applies to all living things, suggesting that adaptation and the struggle to survive is a secondary drive in the evolution of animals, less important than the desire to expand one’s power. Nietzsche eventually took this concept further still, and transformed the idea of matter as centers of force into matter as centers of will to power. Nietzsche wanted to dispense with the theory of matter, which he viewed as a relic of the metaphysics of substance.[49] One study of Nietzsche defines his fully-developed concept of the will to power as "the element from which derive both the quantitative difference of related forces and the quality that devolves into each force in this relation" revealing the will to power as "the principle of the synthesis of forces."

Nietzsche's notion of the will to power can also be viewed as a response to Schopenhauer's "will to live." Writing a generation before Nietzsche, Schopenhauer had regarded the entire universe and everything in it as driven by a primordial will to live, thus resulting in all creatures' desire to avoid death and to procreate. Nietzsche, however, challenges Schopenhauer's account and suggests that people and animals really want power; living in itself appears only as a subsidiary aim—something necessary to promote one's power. In defense of his view, Nietzsche appeals to many instances in which people and animals willingly risk their lives in order to promote their power, most notably in instances like competitive fighting and warfare. Once again, Nietzsche seems to take part of his inspiration from the ancient Homeric Greek texts he knew well: Greek heroes and aristocrats or "masters" did not desire mere living (they often died quite young and risked their lives in battle) but wanted power, glory, and greatness. In this regard he often mentions the common Greek theme of agon or contest.

In addition to Schopenhauer's psychological views, Nietzsche contrasts his notion of the will to power with many of the other most popular psychological views of his day, such as utilitarianism, which claims that all people fundamentally want to be happy (Nietzsche responds that only the Englishman wants that), and Platonism, which claims that people ultimately want to achieve unity with the good or in Christian neo-Platonism, with God. In each case, Nietzsche argues that the "will to power" provides a more useful and general explanation of human behavior.
[edit] Übermensch
Main article: Übermensch

Another concept important to an understanding of Nietzsche's thought is the Übermensch. While interpretations of Nietzsche's overman vary wildly, here are a few of his quotes from Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Prologue, §§3–4):

    I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? ... All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to overman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.... The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth.... Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss ... what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end."
Liberal Fascism Page 266-267
   -Nietzsche himself had pointed the way- [For Eugenics to give a scientific rationale for Romantic German Cultural yearnings]. -In 1880 he wrote, “The tendency must be towards the rendering extinct of the wretched, the deformed, the degenerate.” Reproduction, Nietzsche argued, needed to be taken out of the hands of the masses so that “race as a whole [no longer] suffers.” “The extinction of many types of people is just as desirable as any form of reproduction.” Marriage itself Nietzsche argued, must be more scrupulously regulated by the state. “Go through the towns and ask yourselves whether these people should reproduce! Let them go to their whores!”-


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