Saturday, July 3, 2010

Walter Kaufmann - Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist


1. Nietzsche's Life as Background of His Thought

1) 1872-76 - Early works dealing with the problem of values (Birth of Tragedy, Untimely Meditations)
2) 1876-82 - Psychological Inquiries leading to the Discovery of the Will to Power (Human All-too-Human, Dawn, Gay Science, Zarathustra)
3) 1882-88 - Return to value problem (Zarathustra on...)
4) 1889 = insane. 1888 was not insanity but free expression. Ecce Homo attests to his vitriolic denunciation of any Darwinistic construction of the overman, of racism, of German nationalism (56). After the collapse in the street, then everything starts to go downhill. Cannot get rid of any of N's works by referring to madness. Notes collected in "The Will to Power" are suggestive and interesting, but far overvalued as a result of his sister's propagandizing.

2. Nietzsche's Method

a) Aphorisms: we are confronted with a "pluralistic universe" in which each aphorism is itself a microcosm (62)
b) Style of Decadence: used to style of decadence to overcome Wagner's decadence (65).
c) Anti-system: N did not like systems because they could not question their own basis and thus limited critique. Building systems is childish. In the end, systems are good for the man who uses them intelligently, but bad for the philosopher who artificially imprisons his thought in one of them (67). N, like Plato, is not a system-thinker but a problem thinker (68). Whereas Hegel sought to say that all past systems are in part true, N had no love for all past systems (70).
d) Scientific Experimentalism: N's experimentalism -> philosopher must be willing to experiment. N wanted to be more scientific like Hegel, but his was not improved rigorousness of a system but the fearless experimentation of gay science (71).
e) Existentialism: To Hegel, N would say his questions are too abstract. Only problems which present themselves so forcefully that they threaten the thinker's present mode of life lead to philosophic inquiries -> existentialism. Necessity of "living through" problems. Convictions are only ways to make more hypotheses.

3. The Death of God and the Revaluation

In the parable of the madman (Gay Science), N imagines himself mad, having lost God (81). N wants to imagine the death of God not just as metaphysic speculation but as a diagnosis of contemporary civilization (84). "To escape nihilism - which sees involved both in asserting the existence of God and thus robbing this world of ultimate significance, and also in denying God and thus robbing everything of meaning and value - that is N's greatest and most persistent problem" (86). What is needed: a revaluation of all values.

Kant always assumed the possibility of synthetic judgments a priori, while N wanted to question precisely the value of those a priori judgments. Kant and Hegel are merely servants and laborers; N is a value-legislator (91). Philosopher is a surgeon (92).

N does not provide us with a comprehensive list of values, but he does praise honesty, courage, generosity, politeness and integrity. Really, revaluation means war against accepted valuations, not the creation of new ones (93). "The revaluation is the discovery that our morality is, by its own standards, poisonously immoral: that Christian love is the mimicry of impotent hatred; that most unselfishness is but a particularly vicious form of selfishness; and that ressentiment is at the core of our morals" (96).


4. Art and History

Crown of N's philosophy: overman and eternal recurrence. Key conception: will to power. Primary concern: values. What does nihilism mean? That the highest values disvalue themselves (103).

Birth of Tragedy (1872): The object of attack in N's early works is the State (103). In the Birth of Tragedy, only as an aesthetic phenomenon is life and the world justified eternally (104). In Schelling's later "positive" philosophy, he worried about the "ultimate despair" of the individual, which would interest both K and N. But N is closer to the Enlightenment than Schelling and K, who emphasize a leap into revealed religion (106). Key concepts in Birth of Tragedy are Apollinian (harmony, beauty, individuation) and Dionysian (drunken frenzy that destroys all forms). Culture is a contest between two violently opposed forces. The later Dionysus in N's work is a synthesis of Dionysus and Apollo from the Birth of Tragedy. N claims sickness as one of the great stimulants of life. Health is for him not an accidental lack of infection but the ability to overcome disease (111).

First Meditation - David Strauss, the Confessor and the Writer (1873): "The typical mediocrity, however, which most provokes N is the comfortable and untroubled renunciation of Christianity, coupled with an easy conviction that Darwin was one of mankind's greatest benefactors" (115). "The problem of the old faith and the new, the challenge of Darwin, and the sanction and derivation of moral values: these are the themes of most of N's later works" (116).

Second Meditation - On the Use and Abuse of History for Life (1874): Three key concepts are historical, unhistorical and suprahistorical (122). The study of history does not make us happy. "The unhistorical and the historical are needed equally for the health of an individual, a people and a culture" (123). Both are necessary, forgetting and remembering. What about suprahistorical? Historical man has faith in the future. The suprahistorical man 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?" (125). N specifically disagrees with the optimism of the Hegelians and the Darwinists. Empirical history not one of progress. The goal of humanity cannot lie in the end but only in its highest specimens (127). If man's value is zero, adding zeros won't add to his value. What comes later is not necessarily more valuable. The gulf which separates Plato from the average man is greater than the cleft between the average man and a chimpanzee (128). History is not a process but a timeless allegory. Historical events are looked to less with an eye to literal accuracy or correctness than to circumscribe an everyday melody, to elevate it, to intensify it into a comprehensive symbol of a timeless theme (130).

5. Existenz versus the State, Darwin and Rousseau

Third Meditation - Schopenhauer as Educator (1874): The consummation of N's early philosophy. Implicit distinction between man's true nature and man's nature (134). Man's fundamental problem is to achieve a true "existence" instead of letting his life be no more than just another accident. How does one become what one is? The State is depreciated here for preventing man from realizing himself. N in fact opposes any overestimation of the political. "The kingdom of God is in the hearts of men - and N accuses Christianity of having betrayed this fundamental insight from the beginning, whether by transferring the kingdom into another world, and thus depreciating this life, or by becoming political and seeking salvation through organizations, churches, cults, sacraments or priests" (141). Salvation is a question for the single one. N was woken from his dogmatic slumber by Darwin like Kant was by Hume. If we canot discover a new picture of man which will again give him a sense of essential dignity, the State will, in the hands of military despots (142).

Three conceptions of man: 1) Rousseau urges revolution and a return to nature. 2) Goethe's calm antithesis to the youthful cult of Rousseau's gospel. 3) Schopenhauer. This essay could have been called on the Use and Abuse of the Apollinian and the Dionysian (144). Rousseau = Dionysus. Three criticisms of Rousseau: 1) he contributed to formation of modern State, 2) against brotherhood of man, pro-individuation, 3) no return to nature, but to improve nature. Here N's the aim of culture and nature are the same: the aim of culture is the perfection of nature (147). Man must help nature work at its own perfection. N's early attempt at solving value problem breaks down when he cannot determine what specimens are the most valuable. How can he defend his assumption that artist, saint and philosophers are the highest forms of life? (152). The dichotomy between the two selves, an empirical self and a "true self," reappears in N's account of nature.

6. The Discovery of the Will to Power

With the discovery of the will to power, N's early dualistic tendencies reduced to manifestations of this basic drive. A reconciliation was finally effected between Dionysus and Apollo, nature and value, wastefulness and purpose, empirical and true self, and physis and culture (152). Life is not a struggle for survival but a will to power.

Will to power first appears in the late 1870's as one of two psychological phenomena: fear (negative) and will to power (positive). In the psychological studies Human All-too-Human and Dawn, he shows how valuations are rationalizations of more basic interests. Gratitude is a mild form of revenge, for instance. To want pity is to want others to suffer with us. Even apparent negations of the will to power are the will to power. Power is enjoyed only as more power. One enjoys not its possession but its increase: the overcoming of impotence (159). Eventually he decides fear is just the negative aspect of the will to power. Dawn is the final dress rehearsal for the will to power, The Gay Science for the eternal recurrence, and Zarasthustra their first performance. When N finally realized the Greeks were driven by the will to power, he completed his transition to monism. The will to power fro then on is envisaged as the basic drive of all human efforts (166). Both the weak and the powerful are imbued with the will to power, though they obviously manifest it in very different ways. "Qualitative differences between various modes of power are reducible to more basic quantitative differences; rationality is taken to be the mark of great power; and with this crucial "qualification," the quantitative degree of power is the measure of value" (173). The will to power is essentially the will to overcome oneself. In so defining it, N has to again rely on a distinction between power and true power, between Rousseau's nature and true nature. Philosophy is the most spiritual will to power, as evidenced by Hegel's "Gothic heaven-storming." But unlike Hegel, N did not think the world was ever quite so knowable. Later N will say that the will to power is not just self-overcoming but the basic principle of all life.


7. Morality and Sublimation

Self-criticism is the core of man's morality; wherever he is found, he imposes restraints on himself. In terms of his early work, N might have said that reason needs to take control of the will to power, Apollo taking control of Dionysus. But now there is nothing but the will to power, so it must overcome itself (185). The process and control of the will to power that is not simply its rejection N calls sublimation. It was N who gave sublimation the meaning it has today. Sublimation could include substitute satisfactions, implanting regularity in the drive, generating oversaturation and disgust, associating it with an agonizing thought or dislocating its force. But it cannot include self-exhaustion or self-mortification. "This contrast of the abnegation, repudiation and extirpation of the passions on the one side, and their control and sublimation on the other, is one of the most important points in N's entire philosophy" (193). A man without impulses could not do good nor create the beautiful any more than a castrated man could beget children. He despises Christianity for suppressing rather than attempting to sublimate the drives. W can now understand what the early N meant by "organizing the chaos" and "transfigured physis" (196).

8. Sublimation, Geist, and Eros

N often used sublimation alongside spiritualization (Vergeistigung). After the discovery of the will to power, reason/spirit as well as our passions are both its derivatives. Rationality gives man mastery over himself and as the will to power is essentially the instinct of freedom (198). Reason is the "highest" manifestation of the will to power, in the distinct sense that through rationality it can realize its objective most fully. Reason gives us the skills to develop foresight and to give consideration to all the impulses, to organize their chaos, to integrate them into a harmony - and thus to give man power: power over himself and over nature (199). His attack on systems is based on the objection to the irrationality which he finds in the failure to question premises. Philosophy is the most spiritual will to power, and the spiritualization of sensuality is called love: it is a great triumph over Christianity. The truly rational man need not go to war against his impulses (203). The will to power is thus neither identical with reason nor opposed to it, but potentially rational.

N was a dialectical monist: like Hegel, he found a single word to epitomize the entire dialectic. Like Hegel's aufheben, N's sublimation is a simultaneous preserving, canceling and lifting up. Sublimation is possible only because there is a basic force (the will to power) which is defined in terms of an objective (power) which remains the same throughout all "metamorphoses." It is the very essence of the will to power to manifest itself in one way and then to sublimate its manifestations. Both Hegel and N rejected any monism that could not explain diversity better than Thales' principle of water. N's will to power differs from Schopenhauer's will, much as Hegel's Absolute differs from that of his predecessors, Schelling's, in particular (206). Both Hegel and N postulated a single basic force whose very essence it is to manifest itself in diverse ways and to create multiplicity - not ex nihilo, but out of itself (207). "The will to power is always at war with itself. The battle between reason and impulse is only one of countless skirmishes. All natural events, all history, and the development of every human being, consist in a series of such contests: all that exists strives to transcend itself and is thus engaged in a fight against itself. The acorn strives to become an oak tree, though this involves its ceasing to be an acorn and, to that extent, self-overcoming" (209). Differences with Hegel: 1) N more concerned with individual states of mind, 2) N more willing to emphasize suffering and cruelty, stressing the painful aspect of self-overcoming.

N called his principle the will to power rather than the instinct of freedom to emphasize that all living creatures strive to enhance themselves, to generate more life, not simply to exist freely. Both Freud and N preferred terms that shocked people, sex and power. But N was no more endorsing the will to power wholesale than Freud was endorsing sex.

It is of the very essence of the living that it denies itself the gratification of some of its impulses, even that it sacrifices life itself, for more life and power. The will to power is more important than the will to life. The powerful man is the creative man; but the creator is not likely to abide by previously established laws. Every creation is a creation of new norms (217). Great power reveals itself in great self-mastery. It is thus weakness either to give in to one's impulses and to be arbitrary and wild or to resort to the extirpation of the impulses. The asceticism of powerful men consists in the sublimation of their impulses, in the organization of the chaos of their passions, and in man's giving "style" to his own character (219).

9. Power versus Pleasure

Happiness is elastic, men can gain it in many ways. Happiness is not pleasure but power. Pleasure is coextensive with consciousness, while power does not necessarily require any conscious state or feeling. The striving for pleasure is simple an epiphenomenon of the will to power. The will to power is neither a being nor a becoming, but a pathos - it is the most fundamental fact from which becoming and affecting result (228). Hume is right that only habit leads us to causality. The alleged instinct for causality is merely the fear of the unaccustomed and the attempt to discover in it something that we are acquainted with - a search not for causes, but for what we are acquainted with (229).

In short, man by nature strives for something to which pleasure and pain are only incidental. What distinguishes N from Christianity is his naturalistic denial of the breach between flesh and spirit, his claim that self-sacrifice is the very essence of life, and his paradoxical assertion that man's attempts to sublimate his animal nature exemplify the very way of nature (235). He asserted that spirit cuts into life, and that is is its function to counteract man's tendency to yield to his impulses; but he considered it an instrument which life uses in its effort to enhance itself. Joy and pain are not opposites...whoever wants as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other. True happiness is the fusion of power and joy - and joy contains not only the ingredients of pleasure but also a component of pain. When the overcoming of suffering is not conceived in terms of one's own exertions, it is apt to take the form of one's own triumphant elevation over the suffering of others (239). Worldly power may clock the most abysmal weakness. At the top of the power scale are those who are able to sublimate their impulses, to organize their chaos and to give style to their character (243). The good man for Nietzsche is the passionate man who is the master of his passions. The apotheosis of joy = amor fati. He knows it when he says Yes to his own being and affirms the rest of the world in the process. Any affirmation of the present moment points far beyond the present. "My formula for the greatness of a human being is amor fati: that one would not have anything different - not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. No only to bear the necessary, even less to conceal it...but to love it" (246).

10. The Master Race

N looked to art, philosophy and religion - and not to race - to elevate man above the beasts. N did not join in with his contemporaries in developing the modern Nordic version of the master-race myth, like Wagner, Gobineau and Forster. He called anti-semitism "literary obscenity." N believed in Lamarckism and race mixture. He did hold up the Greeks as "the model of a race and culture that has become pure," i.e. a people who possessed the Apollinian power to organize the Dionysian chaos. Just because N attacked slave morality does not mean he identified with the masters (256). He always considered racism a maze of lies.

11. Overman and Eternal Recurrence

N's philosophy culminates in the dual vision of the overman and the eternal recurrence. Man is something that should be overcome in over-fullness, over-goodness, over-time, over-kind, over-wealth, over-hero, over-drinking (268). Man is a rope tied between beast and overman. Procreation need not be a senseless continuation of an essentially meaningless story and marriage can serve this purpose. The overman is the one who has transfigured his physis and acquired self-mastery (270). N repudiates the modern notion of progress in the very same breath in which he speaks of the overman - to say that he has existed many times in the past. Eternal recurrence like the supra-historical perspective, where one "does not envisage salvation in the process but...the world is finished in every single moment and its end attained" (276). It depends on N's denial of indefinite progress - of what Hegel called the bad infinite - and they suggest the possible infinite value of the moment and the individual (276). The overman would also realize how inextricably his own being was involved in the totality of the cosmos: and in affirming his own being, he would also affirm all that is, has been, or will be. The doctrine of the eternal recurrence is the most extreme repudiation of any deprecation of the moment, the finite, and the individual - the antithesis of any faith which pins its hopes on infinite progress. "I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth and do not believe those who speak to you of other-worldly hopes" (277). The eternal recurrence was less an idea than an experience - the supreme experience of a life unusually rich in suffering, pain and agony. "Not only to bear the necessary, even less to conceal it...but to love it" (279). The eternal recurrence means that all events are repeated endlessly, that there is no plan nor goal to give meaning to history or life, and that we are mere puppets in an absolutely senseless play (282). This is a synthesis of Heraclitus and Parmenides, of the dynamic and static world pictures, of being and becoming. Development is not a line but a circle which returns into itself (285).


12. Nietzsche's Repudiation of Christ

N distinguished both between contemporary Christianity and the original gospel, and between Jesus and Christ. More than anything he was interested in the psychology of Jesus. His true message has been twisted by the church: "What are the glad tidings? True life, eternal life has been found - it is not promised, it is here, it is in you: as a living in love, in love without subtraction and exclusion, without regard for station" (290). In contrast to Jesus the person, N completely repudiated Christ as the glorification of Jesus.

Faith v. Action: For N, Paul was the first Christian, who discovered faith as a remedy against the incapacity for what one deems to be right action (294). Escape and revenge -> faith, the most incredible inversion of the gospel. Paul made it possible for these resentful people to call themselves Christians. Jesus wanted people to become perfect here and now, and instead they put their trust in a distant future. The disvaluation of the secular leads to obedience to the State, which N also hated. In short, faith takes the place of action: instead of perfecting oneself, one has faith that Christ was perfect - and meanwhile there is a church which, instead of insisting that man leave father and mother and break with conformity, insists that man conform to the church in matters of faith and to the state in matters of action (296). Paul even pronounced charity is the greatest of faith, hope and charity, but Luther insisted on faith.

Faith v. Reason: Luther said "whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason" (300). N opposes any doctrine of double truth. Faith means a partial paralysis of reason. One should not have faith in one's convictions; courage is rather a matter of attacking one's convictions (303). The will to truth is clearly a Christian, moral, metaphysical faith, but it also spells the end of Christianity. When N describes the will to truth as a principle which is hostile to life and destructive, he is entirely consistent with his emphatic and fundamental assertion that man wants power more than life (308). Truth is power, untruth is weakness. As a devotee of truth, N rejects the Christian faith as incompatible with the moral demands of this vocation.

N concentrated his praise on friendship and repudiated neighbor-love and pity. His criticism of the Christian faith is of its weakness, how it avoids self-perfection and makes one flee from oneself. Pity does not help anyone toward self-perfection. In friendship, on the other hand, two people have a common thirst for a higher ideal. N thus renounced Christian love for Greek friendship. The best that a friend can do is to help him gain self-mastery. Pity, on the other hand, is our bad love of ourselves. In pity, the world becomes a large hospital and each will becomes the other's humane nurse.

The motive of Christian virtue = ressentiment (319). "I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they had no claws" (319). The difference between N's ethics and what he himself took to be Christian ethics is not ultimately reducible to different forms of behavior or divergent tables of virtues: it revolves primarily around the agent's state of mind or, yet more basically, his state of being" (321). Its the difference between someone who acts from the overfullness of life vs. the impoverishment of life. Christian morality, romanticism, anarchism, anti-semitism are all expressions of ressentiment.

Goethe was N's model of the "new barbarian," the overman with the Dionysian faith (325). N agreed with Goethe that romanticism is egoism + weakness. N agrees with Aristotle, who wrote "the good man ought to be a lover of self, since he will then act nobly, and so both benefit himself and aid his fellows; but the bad man ought not to be a lover of self, since he will follow his base passions, and so injure both himself and his neighbors" (327). Sickness, dearth and ressentiment = modern man, romanticism, Christianity.

13. Nietzsche's Admiration for Socrates

Socrates is celebrated as the first philosopher of life. Wisdom consists in seeing the limitations of one's own knowledge. Socrates considered it his mission to be a gadfly on the neck of man. Life without inquiries is no life. "Socrates, to confess it frankly, is so close to me that almost always I fight a fight against him" (340). Socrates is the highest ideal, a passionate man who can control his passions. The model philosopher is a physician, but the gadfly has turned into a vivesectionist. In an age in which there was nobility which deemed itself superior without living up to its exalted self-conception, one could emphasize equality. But today, equality is confused with conformity. Men today nurture a ressentiment against all that is distinguished, superior and strange (346).

My formula for the greatness of a human being is amor fati: that one would not have anything different - not forward, not backward, not in all eternity (348). The rebirth of Dionysus seemed to N a reaffirmation of life as "indestructible, powerful and joyous," in spite of suffering and death, while he construed the crucifixion as a "curse on life" (351). Goethe v. Christ, Dionysus v. the Crucified.


N opposed both the idolatry of the state and political liberalism because he was basically anti-political. It is sometimes as if he was swimming against the stream for its own sake. N desired to live for one's education free from politics, nationality and newspapers (357).

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