Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nietzsche, Friedrich - The Gay Science, Preface, Book V


In the preface Nietzsche explains the meaning of the "Gay Science." I will merely cite his explanation so as not to prejudice our understanding of this difficult work: "Gay Science": that signifies that saturnalia of a spirit who patiently resisted a terrible, long pressure - patiently, severely , coldly, without submitting, but also without hope - and who is now all at once attacked by hope, the hope for health, and the intoxication of convalescence...This whole book is nothing but a bit of merry-making after a long privation and powerlessness, the rejoicing of strength that is returning, of a reawakened faith in a tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, of a sudden sense and anticipation of a future, of impending adventures, of seas that are open again, of goals that are permitted again, believed again." (32)

It is evident though that Nietzsche see himself as articulating a perspective that is almost stoically realistic at the same time as it is joyous and characterized by the affirmation of life. Indeed, in the Preface, Nietzsche also offers a short criticism of philosophical and religious thinkers whose thought is characterized by the denial, or negation, of life along with the search for some transcendent "Apart, Beyond, Outside." Nietzsche, strikingly similar to William James, maintains that this search has more to do with psychological needs, in particular relief from a particular form of suffering, than with any 'objective' philosophical requirements. Nietzsche, thus, embodies philosophy, removing the distance between a philosophers 'thought' and his all too physical life. He writes "I have asked myself whether, taking a large view, philosophy has not been merely an interpretation of the body and a misunderstanding of the body." Importantly, Nietzsche points this out not reveal the biases of previous philosophers and get on with 'objective' philosophy. Rather, it seems that he thinks that philosophy will always be thus embodied, but that previous philosophers were suffering from a particular affliction and pursued a particular cure. A cure that Nietzsche thinks does not actually restore health. Seemingly speaking about himself, he writes that: "I am still waiting for a philosophical physician in the exceptional sense of the word - one who has to pursue that problem of the total health of a people, time, race of humanity." (35) The job of this philosophical physician is both to reveal the true embodied character of the thought of previous times and to articulate new health-restoring thoughts. Nietzsche believes that his own time of sickness, of gloominess and near-despair, allows him to articulate thoughts that are truly joyous, full of the affirmation of life, or gaiety. A crucial component of the recovery of this affirmation of life is the realization that the 'will to truth,' the desire for truth at all costs is a form of sickness. Instead, Nietzsche believes that a certain concern with sensuality and superficiality, out of profundity, is necessary. This view has interesting implications for his thoughts about historicism and religion.

Book V: We Fearless Ones

Nietzsche begins this chapter by explaining his declaration that "God is dead" as that "the Christian God has become unbelievable."
He believes that his undermines European's "ancient and profound trust" turning it into doubt. Furthermore, it serves to bring down European morality, which had been based upon it. Nietzsche maintains, however, that this is not a cause of gloominess or despair, rather for philosophers and 'free spirits" like himself it is cause of cheerfulness, amazement, and expectation.

Nietzsche, then, explore the complex relationship of science to personal convictions. On the one hand, convictions are only admissible in science if they give up being convictions and become hypotheses, subject to verification. On the other hand, science itself rests on an unsupported conviction or faith. This is that "nothing is needed more than truth, and in relation to it everything has only second-rate value." (281) Nietzsche then explores whether this 'will to truth' stems from prudence or some sort of self-applied moral maxim. He quickly concludes that it cannot have its roots in prudence, as it is clear that often the 'will to truth' is harmful for others and oneself. Instead he argues that the 'will to truth' is derivative from a moral obligation not to deceive anyone. It includes the injunction not to even deceive oneself. Following from this, Nietzsche argues that the 'will to truth' like many other European moral inclinations has its roots in world negating Christian religion. Science thus is a metaphysical faith, one that affirms that value of the 'Truth' over all worldly goods. Thus, another interesting interplay develops in which the 'will to truth' destroys its own foundations by exposing the Christian God as a lie.

Nietzsche then discusses his approach to morality. He believes that part of the problem of past inquiries into morality was the scholars did not engage personally enough with the question. Instead, they merely struggled to provide foundations for generally accepted European-Christian morality. (Alasdair MacIntyre makes this point well in After Virtue, a work that is actually heavily indebted to Nietzsche for its criticisms). Previous thinkers have not engaged in a general critique of moral evaluation as such, nor have they explored the "history of the origins of these feelings and valuations." (284) Instead, they have criticized particular moral judgments. Or, if they embraced relativism, the have done so on the basis of the world-wide conflict among moral judgments. They have certainly not discussed the basic value of morality itself. According to Kaufmann, this means " question[ing] whether the effects of morality on those who are moral are beneficial." (285n16)

The question of whether morality is beneficial for man comes in connection with the realization that "God is dead." It has been revealed that the world itself is not rational, merciful or just. Thus shattering man's 'reverences.' Man is not something apart from the world as religion or rationalistic philosophy had maintained. He is under no obligation to divinely revealed or rationally imposed morality. Man is simply part of the world.

Nietzsche then discusses faith and the need for faith. According to him, faith or belief correlates with weakness. True fearlessness is the ability to face the absence of faith while still affirming life. More specifically, faith stems from a weakness of the will. When the will can no longer command, it desires someone else to command it. It does not have the strength or courage to act on its own command, so it needs to subject itself to someone's command. In contrast, Nietzsche puts forward his own ideal:"One could conceive of such pleasure and power of self-determination, such a freedom of the will that the spirit would take leave of all faith and every wish for certainty, being practiced in maintaining himself on insubstantial ropes and possibilities of dancing even near abysses. Such a spirit would be the free spirit par excellence." (290)

Nietzsche then engages in an interesting exploration of the social origins of scholars that impact that their origins have on them.
I actually found his discussion of 'Jewish' habits of scholarship interesting and highly apt. He is not the only one to point out the distinct place of Jewish intellectuals in European culture, as both insiders and outsiders, builders and underminers. In particular, his point about logic and 'compelling agreement by force of reasons' can be illustrated though the example of his contemporary, Hermann Cohen. It is hard to deny that one of things that attracted Cohen to Kant was his rationalism and thus democratic aspect. It was certainly what Cohen did with neo-Kantianism.

Nietzsche now turns to a discussion of what is really fundamental instinct of life. He contests the then widely accepted scholarly claim that it is the preservation of life. He agues that the desire to preserve oneself is only a symptom of distress. The really fundamental instinct of life is the expansion of power. This desire to expand power takes risks with life, thus working against the instinct for self-preservation. "The great and small struggle always revolves around superiority, around growth and expansion, around power - in accordance with the will to power which is the will of life." (292)

Returning to religion, Nietzsche divides the religious personality into two types, which are similar to, though different from, James's once-born and twice-born souls. On the one hand, there are familiar, ingenuous, and superficial individuals. On the other hand, there a re graver, deeper, more meditative, 'evil,' and suspicious individuals. Nietzsche identifies the former with northern Europe and Protestantism and the later with southern Europe and Catholicism. He also sees the former as more democratic, in the negative leveling sense of the term. The later, suspicious of the nature of man, is more elitist. Protestantism is thus a 'peoples rebellion' against the elitism of the Catholicism.

Nietzsche then compares the ideal human type revered by the philosophers and the common people. The philosopher's ideal type is one "who lives and must live continually in the thundercloud of the highest problems and the heaviest responsibilities (by no means as an observer, outside, indifferent, secure, and objective). (293). The ideal type of the common people is the sage. He is quiet, serious, and simpleminded. The sage is a figure to which one can confess one's sins to and thus get rid of them. The sage has faith, wisdom, and thus certain knowledge. The philosopher despises the sage. Philosophers do not believe in men of certain knowledge. To be a philosopher is to love and thus seek after sophia, not to certainly possess it.

Nietzsche now moves to discuss morality more directly. According to him, moral discourse is means of covering the nakedness of European man. The European has become sickly. He is a herd animal of profound mediocrity, timidity and boredom. If he were health, a beast of prey, he would not need morality. Morality is way of covering of his weakness. It makes himlook more noble, important, respectable, and divine.

Nietzsche now shifts back to discuss the origin of religions. He claims that the founders of religion engage in a two stage process: 1) They posit a particular form of life that disciplines the will and abolishes boredom. 2)They bestow on this life style an interpretation that makes it valuable and worth fighting for. Nietzsche then argues that in fact the second stage is more important. Most of the time, founders of religion do not create a form of life ex nihlo. Rather, they take an existing form of life and reify it through the second stage. Thus, the distinctive skill of a founder of a religion is to be able to see a group of average people enmeshed in a type of life style and being able to get them to recognize themselves as a distinctive group - sharing something important - a religion.

Nietzsche then discusses self-consciousness and communication. Foreshadowing much of the thought of Wittgenstein, Sellars, and Brandom, Nietzsche argues that self-consciousness is not primary. Most of life would be possible without it. Rather, he argues that self-consciousness arises out of a need to communicate, the need to communicate distress to others. In order to communicate their distress, a human being needed to know what distresses him, how he feels, and what he thinks. Anticipating Freud as well, Nietzsche argues that much thought goes on in our thoughts without our being conscious of it. We are only aware of as much as is needed for this need-based communication.

Nietzsche argues that self-consciousness and language develop hand in hand. This has an interesting result. According to Nietzsche self-consciousness and language only develop as part of our social nature. Therefore, what is individual about us can never be understood self-consciously or expressed in language. Only our acts are individual. Consciousness levels everything it touches. The growth of consciousness is the growth of superficiality and generalization. Additionally, because self-consciousness and thus knowledge only arises out of our social needs, human beings only 'know' that which is useful in the interests of the 'human herd.'

After touching on the issue of knowledge, Nietzsche now turns to consider it more thoroughly . According to him, knowledge is the reduction of something strange to something familiar. The need for this reduction is human beings' instinct of fear and desire for security. In contrast, Nietzsche argues that what is most familiar is what we know the least because we are so blinded by our usual way of seeing it. In particular, he criticizes the mentalism of the philosophical tradition, which has claimed that self-consciousness is most familiar and thus most certain and knowable. In fact, it is most foreign to us.

Nietzsche now turns to discuss a general cultural phenomena of roles and what he calls role faith. He observes that in his age Europeans have become artistic, they have begun to confound themselves with the roles that they have played in their lives, with their vocations. In particular, the see themselves as akin to great artists who have cultivated their 'performance' in this role. They do this without realizing the other roles they could have played if things have turned out slightly differently. Nietzsche maintains that there is a spectrum of views that an individual can have about their relationship to their social roles. In the past, in the middle ages, individuals did not see their roles as roles as such. Rather, they saw themselves as in those positions, or professions by nature. In American and more and more frequently in Europe, he sees a growth of what he calls 'role faith.' This is the idea that an individual could play any role at all. The trouble with this is that the more an individual sees himself as playing a role, the more he becomes an actor. This leads to a growth in self-importance and lack of commitment; more specifically, the decline of the ability to sacrifice oneself in a great task that exceeds oneself. Indeed, Western man can no longer build a society that he can be committed to.

Nietzsche now explores the question of what is distinctive of Germanness. He does this through looking at great German philosophers and discussing what, if anything, is German about their thought. He finds something German in Leibniz , Kant, and Hegel. He then turns to the question of Schopenhauer with his pessimism about the value of existence. He does not find his insights particularly German. Instead, he think his atheistic pessimism is the universal fruit of European consciousness. The European 'will for truth' or 'discipline of truth' must eventually forbid itself the lie in faith in God, who might ensure the value of existence.

Nietzsche finally fully articulates the ironical result that the 'will for truth' has destroyed Christian religion. The 'will for truth' is a development out of Christian morality and its focus on truthfulness. The seeking out of consciousness in confession has been translated and sublimated into scientific conscience. Scientific conscience has destroyed our ability to see God-given meaning in nature, history, or own lives. This self-overcoming severity is the fulfillment of European consciousness, it is what makes us 'good Europeans.' Consequently, Schopenhauer's question, whether there is an meaning at all to existence, arises. Nietzsche believes that German philosophers have in general shied away from this truly deep question.

Nietzsche views Christianity as on the verge of collapse. He believes that this destruction began with the reformation. This is because the northern spirit of the Reformation could not understand the nature of a church. The northerners are too simple, not distrustful enough, to appreciate a church. Luther was the product of the common people, without an instinct for power. By opening the Bible to everyone and removing authority from church bodies, he initiated the leveling forces that would destroy the Christianity. Nietzsche very interestingly links confession and priestly celibacy. Confession could only be given to an individual that was not part of the common order to nature. Luther's abolishment of the priesthood is the rejection by a commoner of the elitism of the southern homines religioisi. Nietzsche believes that this leveling has the result of making the European spirit shallower and more 'good-natured.' He links this also with the growth of scientific scholarship as well as the lack shame and depth that characterizes this scholarship. In sum, the reformation was a leveling peasant rebellion against 'spiritual' elitism. It brought about the destruction of the church, which Nietzsche claims is "a structure for ruling that secures the highest rank for the more spiritual human beings and that believes in the power of spirituality to the extent of forbidding itself the use of all the cruder instruments of force." (313) He claims that a church is a more noble institution, on this account, than a state.

Nietzsche claims that the most avid advocates of morality are motivated by the ulterior motives of asserting their own superiority and their will to revenge on others. These individuals have 'turned out badly,' they have desires that society deems bad, but do not have the courage to act on them. They are also born into luxury and are thus bored with no work to do. They use morality in order to feel superior and to revenge themselves upon those that have the courage to act out their desires. He characterizes Augustine as among these individuals.

Nietzsche distinguishes between two causes for action. There is first and more primarily the discharging of dammed-up energy that must be released in some way. Second, there is the directing cause, that which directs this discharge of energy into some defined path or purpose. Nietzsche believes that the philosophical tradition has thought of the second as primarily when in fact it is random and arbitrary. The purpose is most often created post-hoc in order to rationalize the more primary discharge of energy.

Nietzsche now returns to discuss the actor, who had been discussed above in reference to the artistic nature of European society. An actor possess 'falseness with good conscience.' The ability to act develops as a result of being in the lower classes and having to accommodate oneself to circumstances beyond one's control. One thus learns how to play the role that is required. Diplomats ,Jews, and women have this capacity in particular.

Having mentioned women, Nietzsche discusses the different views that men and women have about love. He does not think that they have equal claims in love. Woman mean total devotion to a man by love. Man wants this type of love from woman, but does not offer it in turn. Indeed, Nietzsche claims that it is impossible for man to offer this same type of total devotion. There cannot be a reciprocal renunciation of self, otherwise there is a mere 'empty space.' Woman wants to totally renounce herself and become a possession of someone. In order for this to happen, the man cannot renounce himself, he needs to be around in order to take possession of the woman. Faithfulness is thus an essential part of woman's love, it might follow from a man's love, but it is not essential.

Nietzsche now discusses some issues relating to getting along with other people. The upshot is the most people are distasteful, associating with them requires forbearance and patience. Nietzsche also suggests that we must become 'posthumous persons,' dead to others. Once we do this we will be enter into true life. I am not entirely clear what he means by this.

Nietzsche then gives us advice about Dissertations. He says that one can always get a sense that book is 'too scholarly.' That it was written in cramped quarters, without wider concerns. That is author is a specialist, who overestimates the importance of his specialty. On the other hand, the 'man of letters' who has no specialty is cursed with superficiality, the 'jack of all trades, master of none.'

Nietzsche moves to give more consideration to art. He claims that all art can be divided into monological art and art before witnesses. He claims that the belief that prayer, of faith, is only considered an act in solitude, monological by unbelievers. In its native environment it is always preformed before witnesses.

Nietzsche now discusses the music of Wagner. He does not like Wagner's music by this point. He wants music that will give his body its own ease. Wagner is an actor, in the sense described above. There is something about this, apparently, that forecloses the possibility of his music providing the ease that Nietzsche is looking for. In general, he thinks of the theater as a place were one becomes part of the leveling heard.

Nietzsche also claims that the most productive artists are blessed with a certain lack of self-consciousness . They simply produce their art. They do not make it by comparing it with others and evaluating it. Thus, it is possible for a great artist to thoroughly misinterpret their own work.

Nietzsche now turns to discuss Romanticism. He returns to his early claim that all philosophy and art stems from an attempt to get along in life. Often philosophy and art have their origins in particular sufferings, as attempts, or hopes, to do away with this suffering. He then claims that there are two types of suffering and thus two types of art and philosophy. There is suffering from the over-abundance of life, which gives rise to Dionysian art and a tragic view of life. And there is suffering from impoverishment of life, which gives rise to a quest for rest and clam or, alternatively, anesthesia and madness . Romanticism is of this later type, it includes Schopenhauer and Wagner. This distinction between over-fullness of life and impoverishment of life stands behind many other distinctions for Nietzsche. It should be noted that Nietzsche does not reject all pessimism. In fact, he claims that there is Dionysian pessimism which is central to him, but he does not elaborate on it.

Nietzsche now turns to discusses the relationship between idealism and the senses. He claims that in his age all philosophers are believers in the senses in practice. He claims that earlier philosophers' opposition to the senses was a fear to be tempted by the world. The old philosophers, by eschewing the senses, become heartless, like philosophical vampires. Today, philosophers are afraid of being seduced by ideas instead.

As he moves towards the end of the chapter, Nietzsche returns to the theme with which he opened - "Science as a prejudice." He claims that scholars, due to the social background from which they arise, are incapable of getting a glimpse of the real questions and visions. He then applies this to materialistic scientists. The vision that there method expresses, a universe that can be examined and entirely understood, is disgusting. It destroys the existence of ambiguity in the world as well anything that might evoke awe and reverence. Additionally, there is something narcissistic in viewing the world in a certain way because it lets one go about one's own work productively. Further, it is possible that what can be grasped first, the material aspect of the world, is not the deepest understanding of the world. Imagine claiming to grasp a piece of music by providing complete measurement of its acoustics. Moreover, this materialistic understanding of the world entirely divests the world of meaning.

Nietzsche now discusses one of the most important aspects of his thought - his perspectivalism. He claims that we cannot determine whether there is any existence without interpretation, whether it is interpretation all the way down. When engaged in this question the human intellect cannot get out of its own particular perspective. In a way, then, the world has become infinite again, there are an infinite possible interpretations of the world. The difference between this new infinite and the old infinite, is that the old infinite was divine, this new infinite, in contrast, is self-consciously human, some possibilities are full of human stupidity and folly.

On a related point, Nietzsche now discusses why modern men are opposed to about ultimate convictions. Partially, this is the result of the disappointment of not finding any certainty. But, it is also merely a result of the desire to swing to the opposite side from which one used to be. Having been fixated by certainty and ultimacy, modern man luxuriates in being 'free as such.'

Nietzsche claims that those who appreciate his Gay Science are homeless in modern European society. They disfavor any particular ideals that might provide them with a home. They see society coming apart of its own and therefore cannot dwell in it. Nietzsche and those like him do not want to return to a past age. But they do not feel at home in this age, which sees itself as the most humane age. They see its humanity as a mask for its weakness and sickness. They desire a time of action and adventure. As good Europeans in the sense discussed above, they are spurred on to become homeless and negate allegiance to creed or nation. This is not done in the name of unbelief, but is rather based on particular type of faith. Faith in truth. Nietzsche also makes it clear that he despises the cult of Germaness that typifies Germany of his day.

Very interestingly, Nietzsche discusses how his work will be interpreted. He acknowledges that people will interpret him badly, but also asserts that his thought will always become 'bright again.'

Nietzsche then returns to his much earlier discussion of the critique of morality. He claims that in order to understand one's own morality one must go outside of it, go beyond it. If this is possible, one can compare one's previous morality, say European morality, with other moralities, thus gaining a better understanding of them both. In order to be able to attain this position, one must work hard on oneself, eliminating not only he prejudices that one has received from one's time and culture, but also those reactive-oppositions that one has towards one's time and culture. A failure to eliminate these reactive-oppositions will lead to romanticism.

Nietzsche now returns to discuss how he will be received. He claims that it is not a weakness of his writing that he deals with major philosophical questions quickly and briefly. He claims that it is a mere superstition to believe that problems cannot be dealt in this way. Further, he sees it as a bulwark against corrupting innocents. He also laments his lack of knowledge. In a comment that we can all sympathize with, he bemoans the growth of information and how impossible it is to know all that is out there. But he also thinks it is a problem to know to much, to be to scholarly, in the sense described above.

Nietzsche claims that he and those like him require a new great health. This is not a health that one merely has, rather it is one that "one acquires continually , and must acquire because one gives it up again and again, and must give it up." (346) Nietzsche now finally articulates his Dionysian ideal. "The ideal of a spirit that plays naively - that is not deliberately but from overflowing power and abundance - with all that was hitherto called holy, good, untouchable, divine; for whom those supreme things that people naturally accept as their value standards, signify danger, decay, debasement, or at least recreation, blindness, and temporary self-oblivion; the ideal of a human, superhuman well-being and benevolence that will often appear inhuman - for example, when it confronts all earthly seriousness so far, all solemnity in gesture, word, tone, eye, morality, and task so far, as if it were their most incarnate and involuntary parody - and in spite of this, it is perhaps only with him that great seriousness really begins, that the real question is posed for the first time, that the destiny of the soul changes, the hand moves forward, the tragedy begins." (347)

Nietzsche then closes with a consideration of the difficulty of the dialectic of despair and gaiety, superficiality and depth that he has expressed.