Nietzsche

Hello, everybody!

This post is primarily for members of the Phil 458/510 Fall 2008 course to continue their discussion outside of the classroom (and possibly share information that might be helpful for our upcoming papers?), but others are welcome to contribute their insight or expertise.

I created this post because I was having some difficulty keeping up with the questions and responses over email. However, I believe that the site will notify you if your comments receive responses.

In order to make this discussion as easy to follow as possible, I would like to suggest that we post our questions by topic; e.g., if I have questions and related subquestions on three different topics, I would make three different comments instead of one long comment. Also, when you want to reply to a specific topic, hit “reply” underneath the comment that you want to respond to.

I’ve started off the discussion below.

I look forward to your questions and responses!

Theresa

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36 thoughts on “Nietzsche”

  1. How do we reconcile (1) the view that human life is inevitably about exploitation, and that inflicting suffering is not only necessary but might even be celebrated, with (2) the view that those like Zarathustra want to experience a “down-going” to the people, and that the truly noble are compassionate and want to help others out of an over-abundance of energy? I know that we've discussed the extent to which exploitation/causing suffering is important in Nietzsche, but I think that whatever view you take—whether this suffering is the internal suffering of the artist, or rampant tyranny on a larger scale—the difficulty of placing (1) and (2) side by side remains.

        1. Exploitation, certainly. Cruelty, not so much these days in post-industrial societies. We are subject to a form of “soft” domination. We are disciplined and seduced into neo-liberal subjectivies.But tell us — who made the license plates for your car?

  2. I wish to express my concerns in regard to our discussion of nihilism in class. I agree with the way nihilism was explained in general, but have difficulty seeing Nietzsche as a nihilist (“active” or otherwise). His philosophy, as I understand it involves a “yes” saying–i.e. positive affirmation. As for my contention: that values (e.g. Kantian, Christian, etc.) are a form of nihilism. I was indeed wrong to call this active nihilism (WP 22). It is instead, I think, normative nihilism (WP 23). I offer these passages as support for why I think Kant, Mills, and Christianity are to be considered nihilistic by Nietzsche: WP 13 (notice his use of “thing-in-itself”), 17, 379, 435, 585 (there are others). It is important to keep in mind that Christianity, in Nietzsche’s eyes, is a denial of life—a no-saying, and that the enlightenment is an extension (perhaps even a systematic one) of this denial of life. Although Nietzsche admits to being a nihilist (WP 25), I take him to admit active nihilism as a means (WP 15 shows how) toward a place of “value-positing” (WP 19). Nihilism (as Tartuffery) is a force (like Will to Power?) that ultimately has to be overcome (WP 20). He is nihilistic in terms of how he goes about denying all metaphysics (I think (but have to ask: was he successful?)), but this perpetual denying is at the same time a positing of a way of living—an “attitude” or “mood”. See for example “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense”, but also Anti-Christ 6, for his application of “nihilistic values” where he contrasts nihilism to the will to power.I am aware of the problems with using The Will To Power for clarification of Nietzschean concepts (to the extent that this may even be possible) but the first part of the book is dedicated to Nihilism. If my understanding is correct, then all of On the Genealogy of Morals can be used to further understand how nihilism operates insofar as it would imply a depiction of ressentiment as being equivalent to nihilism and thereby a way of understanding the value of values on the basis of Genealogy. Does this make sense?

      1. I see Sartre as doing many of the things Nietzsche does as well but what are you referring to specifically (in regard to nihilism as it appears above)?

          1. Right. Nietzsche and Sartre both seem to be involved in a perpetual nihilation that affirms itself as a positive process. Sartre: a constant striping away of “bad faith” (identity as essential substructure/Ego) as a prereflexive free act; Nietzsche: a refusal to submit to the structures (foundational/essential) shaped out of “bad conscience” and “ressentiment” leading one to wage war against their accepted values (Ego/essential identity) that ends in full affirmation of action (for all eternity no les!).

    1. Will to PowerThe will to power is a force that is found in all living things. It is used in “going beyond ourselves” and has many parts, e.g., will to truth and will to love. The herd does not seem to utilize their will to power and instead follows the morality and ideas of the time. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche says that the ignorant place their will on a boat flowing down the river of becoming. They allow others to impose their will onto themselves (TSZ p. 270). But even in those who are not masters, they still have the desire to be master over those weaker than them. “The will of the weaker persuades it to serve the stronger; its will wants to be master over those weaker still: this delight alone it is unwilling to forgo” (TSZ p. 271). Nietzsche observes three important insights into living creatures: all living creatures are obeying creatures, those who cannot obey themselves will be commanded, and commanding is more difficult than obeying because the commander takes on risk and responsibilities (TSZ p. 271).However, the higher individuals utilize the will to power for self affirmation. They are in control of their lives and create themselves through their actions. “You want to create the world before which you can kneel: this is your ultimate hope and intoxication” (TSZ p. 270). Nietzsche says that we must constantly overcome ourselves and that we are in a constant state of becoming. Nietzsche points out that the 'will to existence' cannot be the highest will since it does not exist; something that does not exist cannot will. He goes on to say, “'The living creature values many things higher than life itself; yet out of this evaluation itself speaks – the will to power!'” (TSZ p. 271). The will to power is the strongest force and all other wills are variations of the will to power.Despite the superiority of the will to power, Nietzsche tells us to follow the will to truth whenever the will to truth and the will to power conflict. In cases where truth and truthfulness do not meet, we are to choose truth at all costs. (We discussed cases in class where people believe in a truth, yet do not abide by the truth and are thus not truthful, e.g., Susan Zontag and her desire to pretend as if she was not dying of cancer). Nietzsche tells us that this supposed contradiction is not a problem, since the will to power is constantly encountering obstacles and sorting through conflicting wills. Such an example only further displays the importance of the will to power and how one can utilize a strong will. I agree with how Nietzsche dismisses the problem of truth vs. truthfulness, but I am not yet satisfied. Below are the conflicting passages concerning the importance of the will to truth:”Really, why should we be forced to assume that there is an essential difference between 'true' and 'false' in the first place? Isn't it enough to assume that there are degrees of apparentness …” (BGE p. 329).” “Nothing is needed more than truth, and in relation to it everything else has only second-rate value. … “I will not deceive, not even myself”; and with that we stand on moral ground” (GS b.V p. 363).If we are to choose the will to truth over the will to power in cases such as these, then why is the will to truth not the superior will? I'm a little puzzled because in the Gay Science, Nietzsche seems to distinguish the will to truth as being something separate and more important than the will to power, since he says that “everything else has only second-rate value” to truth. To give a fair reading, I'll assume that nietzsche still intends for the will to truth to be a variant of the will to power.My opinion is that Nietzsche is choosing the will to truth over the will to power in these cases merely because he does not want to be deceived. Deceiving oneself is essentially willing to harm one's own will to power. Susan Zontag chose to deceive herself and thus weakened her will to power. All of her motivations aside, she ultimately manipulated her family members into acting out a play for her. She could have used her suffering to further her art or influence others in a positive way. Had she had a stronger will, she may have been able to artistically express herself, and at the very least, ease the suffering on her family. Deception and escapism does not solve problems, rather is makes one weak. The Overman would never choose self-deception.

    2. However one might try to interpret Nietzsche’s “will to power” it is clear that this “will” is a result of struggle and overcomings. The Overman, of course possess this “Will to Power”, but it can originate in all living creatures, even in a slave (TSZ, 271). Still, this notion of “Will to Power” is ambiguous as far as it being personal/creative or military. The Overman recognizes the force of will to power and can direct it towards himself as well as outward. One way to achieve it is through eternal reoccurrence. The Will to Power does not seem to be political or military; it is actually a universal psychological drive, therefore personal and creative. It appears that the will to power is required in order to be able to go beyond morality. Also, Nietzsche regards the will to power as crucial to being a leader as opposed to a follower. The slave/herd mentality does not utilize this will and instead finds comfort in not even addressing it, whereas the Overman, in order to even become “overman” would need the will to power. Nietzsche says that a living being wants to release strength and that life itself is the will to power where self-preservation is one of its consequences (BGE, 319). It is a living creature’s primary instinct. If the above were the case, then this makes me wonder how is it that so many individuals, such as the “herd” for instance, do not possess the will to power? Only very few, according to Nietzsche especially, are exercising this will.

    1. In my paper for 458 Prof. Prabhu asked whether The Overman is and ideal or condition. It would seem to me that the Overman represents an ideal towards which one must constantly strive. Unfortunately the requirement of constant destruction and recreation denies the Overman any satisfaction in his quest. Once the Overman assumes/presumes satisfaction he risks becoming the Ordinary or Lastman. When we discussed Sisyphus and his dilemma in class that dilemma seems to describe succinctly the Overman's plight. Yet, Nietzsche offers the Overman as humanity's hope. Enlighten me, please!

    1. I restrict myself to gathering and evaluating some substantive hypotheses about Nietzsche’s view of the nature of truth. When I first read section 34 of Beyond Good and Evil, I thought it could be summarized like this:‘Truth’ is a term that really signifies ‘degrees of apparentness’. (Or, perhaps, ‘high degrees of apparentness’.) Example, that Nietzsche is angry is trueis to be translated as it – to a (perhaps high) degree – appears that Nietzsche is angryI now think this read on section 34 doesn’t jell with the rest of Nietzsche. Why? I read Ken Gemes’ ‘Neitzsche’s Critique of Truth’ and Peter Poellner’s ‘Perspectival Truth’. (Both are in Richardson and Leiter (eds) Nietzsche. These two are a good read. 🙂 )After putting forth Gemes’ and Poellner’s view of Nietzsche on truth, I’ll tell you what I think.Gemes’ read of Nietzsche you might call the non-cognitivist or pragmatist read: Nietzsche wasn’t interested in theories of truth at all. He wasn’t even interested in truth, as you can tell from BGE section 4. He was interested in the cultivation of the elites, and lies might do that very well. This gets down to who we are as humans. We aren’t “cataloguers” of being (we don’t passively watch the universe and try to make what’s in our head match whatever is metaphysically there). Rather, we are “legislators” of becoming (we try to make things happen to attain ends we want). So what is Nietzsche doing in BGE 34 according to Gemes? He’s attacking a worldview in order to attain a certain end. That’s it. Poellner’s read of Nietzsche – by contrast – is a cognitivist read (Nietzsche does have a theory of truth)… call it the perspectival read: For Nietzsche, sure, there is truth. But check this: the apparent world is the real world. So ‘truth’ applies to perspectives, since the “apparent world” (i.e. the real world) is just a great big sum of lots of perspectives. (Huh, notice this doesn’t sound too crazy anymore. Think of Kant’s ‘things-in-themselves’… Husserl thought these ‘countersensical’, i.e. notions that we can’t in principle experience in any way. So (perhaps) we would do well to jettison them. Nietzsche is jettisoning them according to Poellner.) To fill out the basic approach a bit more, the perspectival theory of truth can be seen as the following two theses:(1) There aren’t any objects out there that lack characteristics that mark them out as represented. (I.e., some object that isn’t represented to somebody at some time… such objects don’t exist.)(2) What is represented to us is constrained by our dominant concerns. (I.e., objects we don’t care about we don’t notice, and what we don’t notice is never represented to us…hence such things don’t exist.)(1) and (2) fills out the thesis that the real world is the apparent world. Now, maybe (admits Poellner) Nietzsche isn’t committed to (1) and (2) all the time. In that case, Nietzsche may trade on a pragmatic approach to truth (analogous to Gemes’ conception). Here’s my take on the matter:Briefly, I think Nietzsche does have a theory of truth, and that it aligns with Poellner’s read. However, Nietzsche realizes that ‘truth’ usually isn’t used to pick out Nietzsche’s perspectival truth. Call ‘what it’s usually used to pick out’ absolute truth. So, sometimes Nietzsche talks about truth in a pragmatist non-cognitivist way – when he is talking about absolute truth. The reason Nietzsche is a pragmatic non-cognitivist about absolute truth is that he thinks it has absolutely nothing to do with our lives (besides the fact that Nietzsche probably doesn’t think absolute truth exists – because the apparent world is the real world). But, other times Nietzsche talks about truth in a not purely pragmatic and cognitive way – when he is talking about perspectival truth. The reason Nietzsche is non-pragmatic and cognitivist about perspectival truth is that he thinks it does have something to do with our lives.To sum up, I think that Nietzsche is aCognitivist (of the perspectival variety) about: perspectival truth Non-cognitivist (of the pragmatic variety) about: absolute truthHope this helps. Of course, you can challenge it too. 🙂

    1. Nietzsche posits “The Death of God” as an ineluctable reality that must be acknowledged and addressed, as he sees Western Europe in a decadent state. The foreign theologies/ideologies of Christianity and other religious and moral value systems for Nietzsche, has brought Europeans to a inferior state of being and has reduced them from their original “Master Morality,” down into a herd/slave morality.The Death of God on the surface seems to a basic atheistic argument in stating that God is does not exist, is dead or He must be killed, but upon critical assessment, one is able to grasp the deeper meaning. The death of God, for Nietzsche is the re-evaluation and seperation from all religious, moral values and ideologies that have been passed down and followed blindly. It is this blind “superterrestrial hope” that has caused man to become a dependant being, that looks outside of himself for meaning of his/her existence. For Nietzsche as other existentialist; life has no meaning or predestined outcomes and man creates his own meaning with his ability to choose, or what he calls “the will to power.” Being that nature is a perpetual state of flux according to Nietzsche, the dependance on or adherence to God or prescribed moral systems, are what causes the ability of man to become stagnant and mediocrity, along side complacency the order of the day.

    1. Quick Summary of a Big Story (from the 1st essay of GM)Nietzsche denies moral objectivity. Instead, morality is a valuation scheme, an endeavor that reflects the personality of its creator, and the fact that people are inherently of different strength and ability. Master morality emerges from those who are powerful. Essentially, these masters are noble, and their resulting chivalric-aristocratic scheme posits that what is good is a result of this free-flowing power, a good that is natural, expressive, self-satisfied, self-glorifying, honest, and open. What is bad emerges secondarily as the negation of the good. The bad is what is slavishly weak, incapable, self-hating, self-doubting, and cautious. Dissatisfied with his position in society, a type of man who is slavishly weak, incapable, etc., but who also happens to be especially clever and greedy. So, this priestly fellow sets out to establish power for himself by rallying other weak men around a new value system (priestly-aristocratic) by evoking ressentiment, which is dangerous and powerful precisely because it emerges from an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and hatred. This system devalues what the nobles believe to be good, instead calling it “evil,” and so in this sense slave morality is a reaction to master morality. From there, it comes up with a new good, a religious good which is designed to be helpful and alleviates the suffering of the masses, which is why such a system is able to take hold. Now, what is good is useful, friendly, patient, humble, and complacent. Finally, the emergence and triumph of slave morality can be seen in the prominence of Christianity and democratic ideals. CommentsDoes Nietzsche view his description of the overthrow of master morality as a one-time event, or has this happened throughout history? Is it accurate to say that the slave and master refer to anybody across time? Think of the difficulty we had translating the master and slave into today’s terms. If various master and slave moralities have existed throughout history, but slave morality has almost inevitable prevailed, then maybe there is something that is fundamentally unsustainable about master morality. Does this undermine the claim that there will eventually be an Overman?

    1. Cruelty is a side effect of all endeavors insofar as all endeavors presume an underlying value system. To experience cruelty is to experience the world as it is—cruel. Such experience of the world is free of “unegoistic morality that takes itself for unconditional,” to experience cruelty is to experience the society without its “mask of philanthropy” (BGE “Our Virtues” 221). Such masks are produced through a spirit of deception because there is security behind masks. We can hide from cruelty behind masks. Consider people who might utter something as ridiculous as the following: “Now that we will have a black president the world can see that the US is free of its racist past” (actual words of an MSNBC pundit). So Nietzsche tells of a will to mere appearances, “to simplification, to masks. To cloaks, in short, to the surface—for every surface is a cloak—is countered by that sublime inclination of the seeker after knowledge who insists on profundity, multiplicity, and thoroughness, with a will which is a kind of cruelty of the intellectual conscience and taste. Every courageous thinker will recognize this in himself, assuming only that, as fit, he has hardened and sharpened his eye for himself long enough and that he is used to severe discipline, as well as severe words. He will say: ‘there is something cruel in the inclination of my spirit’; let the virtuous and kindly try to talk him out of that!” (BGE “Our Virtues” 230) The idea is that a child’s head being stomped in, though unsightly, is not as cruel as the society that would breed such an act. First we might think of Nazi’s right? But I saw this done by a police offer on the streets of San Francisco in 2001. Cruelty, a la Nietzsche, is turning a blind eye toward to the conditions of our society that would produce such an act. We point the finger at that person, those people, places, and never look at our institutional avocation/provocation for such acts. We fail to look at ourselves as the origin of these actions. So, by my estimation, cruelty has many faces. -social cruelty inflicted on the individual-cruelty the individual shows toward self -cruelty of individual toward society If cruelty is exalted by Nietzsche it is because it is real—it points toward who and what we are.

      1. When I read your first sentence I imagined that you were going somewhere else with this. Based on that projection, when I read your second sentence I thought you were taking a wrong turn. But the projection was toward what is otherwise an obvious point, that cruelty is an evaluative category and if we transvaluate the underlying value system then the world is not cruel at all but simply indifferent — which is to say that everything is surface and only we provide the depth. So the “cruelty of the intellectual conscience and taste” is only a relative cruelty.But on the whole I understand you here to be taking a political stand of sorts about where cruelty “really” lies, thereby supplanting one value system with another. It's a stand which may or may not be strictly educible from what Nietzsche says about cruelty as such, but it's is nonetheless faithful to the attitude he adopts vis-a-vis the prevailing value systems of society and what is thought to be cruel within those systems. So your understanding of Nietzshe on display here subsists on a more concrete, visceral level than what your professor and classmates are probably accustomed to — but it's all the more Nietzschean for that.

  3. ETERNAL RECURANCEDEFFINITION: The Nietzschean notion of eternal recurrence states, all events that have occurred in the universe at one time, will continue to reoccur infinitely. Nietzsche introduced eternal recurrence in one of his earlier writings, “The Gay Science,” where initially, the notion of eternal recurrence was a horrifying and paralyzing idea. (Pgs. 236-237, Section #341, Lines 1-15). In his later writing, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,“ the prophet Zarathustra, dreaded the notion to infinitely relive his existence amongst humdrum “rabble,” dreary, mentally sleep walking individuals was an awful burden: the “heaviest weight” imaginable. (Pg. 276 Lines 20-24 & 39-44.)Crucially, in “Notes from 1881,” Nietzsche redefined this burdensome weight as a “weight of importance;” this is because the “infinite importance of knowing, erring our habits, ways of living for all that is to come.” (pg. 238 Outline Section #5 Lines 1-6) This is illustrated in the end of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” when Zarathustra’s final step in becoming an overman, was to embrace and welcome the eternal return of all events; because in doing so, he marks the ultimate affirmation of life. As an overman, Zarathustra can look at his past (and himself) as something entirely willed by himself; and be delighted by the thought that this process (which includes the infinite possibility of changes) will recur forever. SYNOPSIS: Ultimately, for Nietzsche, to comprehend eternal recurrence is not to dread, despise or accept it, it but to embrace it, requires a love of fate: to not want anything different, nothing forward or backward, because all idealism is mendacious, before the TRUE destined path is revealed; and it is precisely this true path that catapults the individual to heights beyond himself. (pg. 229 Sec# 289 L 1-7)Paradoxically, the overman’s love of eternal recurrence or love of fate also suggests a possibility that those who choose the path of the overman were ultimately destined to become masters of their destiny all along and thus naturally destined to become overman. We begin to understand why Nietzsche so regularly talks about the struggle, suffering, and self-overcoming necessary for becoming an overman. Progress toward the overman demands a constant struggle, where a new self overcomes an old one. the overman’s welcoming of eternal recurrence is an accepted existence of the low while still recognizing it as the low; (page 240 Sec 11/158 & 11/159 Lines 1-8) It suggests that one must have the continual, evolving strength of overcoming to master eternal recurrence. The overman could observe the continuously changing “slave/herd” behavior and use these observations as the “eternally recurring standards” of which to overcome. (pg. 239 L 2-11)It takes a great deal of flexibility of mind to then question these rules, to push on them, and to break free from the influence of one's teachers. It is much easier to rest content with what one knows than to be always dissatisfied with it, always looking for something better and newer. (pg. 239 L 26-30) We master the technical aspects of an art form only by learning the rules and the ways that people have done things in the past. This practice is a nihilistically creative practice because he must shed himself of old values and beliefs, yet still remaining “attached to the earth.” Eternal recurrence becomes an overman’s aspiration because it demonstrates the dissipation of “menial lower” in whatever form it may come about: he overcomes his “past” and lives for the future; no historical figures have ever been an overman, and so still represents a certain potentiality of what an individual can become. (pg. 234, Sec 11/165 & 11/213, L 1- 9)ALL REFERANCES ARE FROM THE NIETZSCHE READER: PG., SEC#’S, & LINE #’S.

  4. These are a few questions and concerns regarding Nietzsche's later writings (and some of B. Williams' synthesis in Introduction to the Gay Science) as we wind down towards the end of the class. If anybody can weigh in on any of this stuff that would be helpful, or at least interesting. On 'All good things come from bad things:'In Bernard Williams' Introduction to The Gay Science, he brings up an integral question in Nietzsche's writing – “a question that cannot, Nietzsche supposed, simply be ignored: whether it has all been worth it.” This “it” is the sufferings, the “bad things” that impart the good things of this world. This “fact” of suffering is a thought that “no HONEST understanding of the world could evade.” The world's greatest joys and achievements – “cannot in common honesty be separated from the knowledge of the horrors that have been involved in bringing these things about…”Whether you agree with Nietzsche on this point or not you must admit that there are tremendous and apparent “horrors,” as we understand them, in this world. Alongside whatever. But I find this to be an excellent question for anyone in the class as to, “whether it has all been worth it?” Or, what could make it all worth it?B. Williams touches on some other thinkers' answers to this question for perspective; LEIBNITZ deemed this “the best of all possible worlds” and believed in a “cosmic cost-benefit analysis which would vindicate God's mysterious management.” HEGEL believed in a “progressive metaphysical story of the historical development of freedom and reason, which represented the horrors as all dialectically necessary to the eventual outcome, so that we could be sure that none of them (the horrors) was meaningless.”…Are these both unreasonable fantasies as Nietzsche thought? But Nietzsche also thought one could not take a negative answer to this question seriously either, like SCHOPENHAUER – No, it has not all been worth it. Or, at least, life is not good enough and that nothingness is preferable. The inevitable case of cultural nihilism, according to Nietzsche, produced in the wake of the death of God, and Meaning with a big M, led to Nietzsche's great “thought experiment.” The Eternal Recurrence “tests your ability to not be overcome by the world's horror and meaninglessness.” Williams then moves on to DAVID HUME. Hume reacts to the problem of life's value, or the question of whether it is all worth it, or what makes it all worth it, by saying that 'carelessness and inattention' are “the only remedy for sceptical doubts.” Williams likens this to Tom and Daisy in The Great Gatsby who “retreated back into their money and their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that held them together.” And Williams calls this the remedy of the 'last man.' (However, Hume thought that sceptical doubts were “unreal.” Can anyone help explain this, or draw it out for me a little more? What did Hume mean by claiming these sceptical doubts that plague us are “unreal?”)Of course Nietzsche bashes this 'last man' tactic to deal with life's sufferings because, as we've discussed, he holds a special place for an honest relationship with life, and demands a kind of truthfullness. “Nietzsche knew that the considerations we all forget were not unreal (as he contends against Hume), and he held obstinately to an idea of truthfulness that would not allow us to falsify them.” I wonder, why is “carelessness” and self-deception, or naive distraction and ignorance, not a viable way to go about a fulfilling life? Why must we hold steadfast to an idea of truthfulness – is this merely a philosopher's prejudice, or bias of philosophy, to seek truth at all costs… (One Nietzschean answer to this question that comes intuitively to me, is that a person properly enlightened to this 'truthfulness' could not possibly ignore their very doubts about this world? – That illusions of meaning are dismissed by their apparent falsehood, bringing about these undeniable doubts, unless this person were weak and not up to the challenge. According to Williams, Nietzsche did take it to be an ethical necessity, “at least among thoughtful people,” to “not to esteem these illusions” any longer. But this obviously begs, what constitutes a 'thoughtful person,' and what then is the standard for 'truthfulness?')And so, how do you answer the question whether it has all been worth it? How do you explain the horrors of the world? Do you side with Nietzsche, with Schopenhauer (nothingness would be preferable, or life is not worth it), or Tom and Daisy, or…?Williams on the Eternal Recurrence:B. Williams brings up another valid question concerning the Eternal Recurrence when he asks, “why would willing one recurrence not be enough?” My own take on this is that everyday life and its tasks have an endless affect on us (not unlike an analogous explanation of endless, meaningless repetition, i.e. Sisyphus). Only one recurrence would imply a goal, and an end, effectively defeating the experiment's purpose. The idea, for me, is that we embrace this endless feeling. Yes, there will be an end, yes, we will die, but to fall into a mindset of living for death, for an end to this suffering, is nihilism and obviously life-denying. On agency and responsibility in On the Genealogy of Morals:Finally, I struggle with Nietzsche's conception of free will, agency, and responsibility. I found this to be one of his more ambiguous subjects, one that he almost dismisses as a silly question to begin with.For one example, in Essay II of GM, section 2, p. 409 – Nietzsche seems to believe responsibility is merely a device “bred” by man as a coping fiction for life. But then why bother criticizing anyone, or bother praising Napoleon? Are great humans merely charmed vessels, of some amorphous power? Where exactly is the agency, if at all, in Nietzsche's philosophy? Does anyone have a more coherent take on this?

    1. Concerning life, whether it has all been worth it?Nietzsche does make this incredibly brief remark in the Twilight of the Idols – The Problem of Socrates – Section 2.“Judgments, judgments of value about life, for it or against it, can in the end never be true: they have value only as symptoms, they are worthy of consideration only as symptoms; in themselves such judgments are meaningless. One must stretch out one's hands and attempt to grasp this amazing subtlety, that the value of life cannot be estimated”

      1. “(However, Hume thought that sceptical doubts were “unreal.” Can anyone help explain this, or draw it out for me a little more? What did Hume mean by claiming these sceptical doubts that plague us are “unreal?”)”From what I remember of Hume, he says that skeptical doubts are “unreal” because these kinds of doubts are contrary to our nature, e.g., we are naturally inclined to the beliefs that both our body and the material world exists. How else would we be processing these impressions and where else would these ideas be coming from? Skeptical doubts are “unreal” because they doubt, or get rid of, the very world in which they are formed.”I wonder, why is “carelessness” and self-deception, or naive distraction and ignorance, not a viable way to go about a fulfilling life? Why must we hold steadfast to an idea of truthfulness – is this merely a philosopher's prejudice, or bias of philosophy, to seek truth at all costs… “I think Hume would be in favor of naive distraction to some extent. I remember him saying that at the end of a long day, when he has finished writing about skeptical doubts in his study, he desires nothing more than to fix himself a drink and to make “conversation with modest women.” He goes as far as to point out the skeptical doubts, yet he retreats at the end of the day and sticks to what he wants to maintain as 'real'.”According to Williams, Nietzsche did take it to be an ethical necessity, “at least among thoughtful people,” to “not to esteem these illusions” any longer. But this obviously begs, what constitutes a 'thoughtful person,' and what then is the standard for 'truthfulness?')And so, how do you answer the question whether it has all been worth it? How do you explain the horrors of the world? Do you side with Nietzsche, with Schopenhauer (nothingness would be preferable, or life is not worth it), or Tom and Daisy, or…?” As for Nietzsche's response, I think that you're right in pointing out the difference between those with weak wills and those with strong wills. The standard for truthfulness is set by the Overman. The Overman would always choose truth over deception. And if we higher individuals are utilizing our will to power properly then truth and truthfulness should match each other and not be a problem. The fact that we may sometimes encounter conflicting wills is all a part of the will to power.I found the Twilight of the Idols quote helpful.”For one example, in Essay II of GM, section 2, p. 409 – Nietzsche seems to believe responsibility is merely a device “bred” by man as a coping fiction for life. But then why bother criticizing anyone, or bother praising Napoleon? Are great humans merely charmed vessels, of some amorphous power? Where exactly is the agency, if at all, in Nietzsche's philosophy? “I'm not sure that I have a coherent take on this, but I think Nietzsche gives more to clarify what he means further down on pg. 409, “The 'free' man, the possessor of a durable, unbreakable will, thus has his own standard of value: in the possession of such a will: viewing others from his own standpoint, he respects or despises; and just as he will necessarily respect his peers, the strong and the reliable (those with the right to give their word)…”An individual with a strong will has “superiority” over those with weak and less durable wills. The higher individuals have responsibility over the herd insofar as they make decisions for them. My understanding is that, once we create our own set values, we then are able to criticize and evaluate others. Nietzsche praises Napoleon's strong use of will and despises most other people for their lack of will. But let me know if I'm missing the point of your question.

  5. Concerning Free Will:I understand this passage to express Nietzsche's hostility towards the development of the notion of free will for the sole purpose of establishing responsibility to a pre-existing standard of values. For the morality of custom to oblige anyone, it posits your will free because it cannot otherwise obligate you to uphold an agreement if you could not possibly consent to it. This also requires the breeding of a uniform man who can become something one could predict, something bound by regular rules, even in the way he imagined himself to himself, so that finally he is able to act like someone who makes promises and be held accountable to this contract. Thus, you are permitted to apply your free will, only to submit to another’s standard of values. On the other hand, he holds the sovereign individual as a master of his will who enters into promises with his own standard of values. Though not exactly a metaphysical claim as much as a psychological one, our will is free when we take responsibility for all off it and make promises on our own behalf.

  6. Will to PowerThe will to power is a force that is found in all living things. It is used in “going beyond ourselves” and has many parts, e.g., will to truth and will to love. The herd does not seem to utilize their will to power and instead follows the morality and ideas of the time. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche says that the ignorant place their will on a boat flowing down the river of becoming. They allow others to impose their will onto themselves (TSZ p. 270). But even in those who are not masters, they still have the desire to be master over those weaker than them. “The will of the weaker persuades it to serve the stronger; its will wants to be master over those weaker still: this delight alone it is unwilling to forgo” (TSZ p. 271). Nietzsche observes three important insights into living creatures: all living creatures are obeying creatures, those who cannot obey themselves will be commanded, and commanding is more difficult than obeying because the commander takes on risk and responsibilities (TSZ p. 271).However, the higher individuals utilize the will to power for self affirmation. They are in control of their lives and create themselves through their actions. “You want to create the world before which you can kneel: this is your ultimate hope and intoxication” (TSZ p. 270). Nietzsche says that we must constantly overcome ourselves and that we are in a constant state of becoming. Nietzsche points out that the 'will to existence' cannot be the highest will since it does not exist; something that does not exist cannot will. He goes on to say, “'The living creature values many things higher than life itself; yet out of this evaluation itself speaks – the will to power!'” (TSZ p. 271). The will to power is the strongest force and all other wills are variations of the will to power.Despite the superiority of the will to power, Nietzsche tells us to follow the will to truth whenever the will to truth and the will to power conflict. In cases where truth and truthfulness do not meet, we are to choose truth at all costs. (We discussed cases in class where people believe in a truth, yet do not abide by the truth and are thus not truthful, e.g., Susan Zontag and her desire to pretend as if she was not dying of cancer). Nietzsche tells us that this supposed contradiction is not a problem, since the will to power is constantly encountering obstacles and sorting through conflicting wills. Such an example only further displays the importance of the will to power and how one can utilize a strong will. I agree with how Nietzsche dismisses the problem of truth vs. truthfulness, but I am not yet satisfied. Below are the conflicting passages concerning the importance of the will to truth:”Really, why should we be forced to assume that there is an essential difference between 'true' and 'false' in the first place? Isn't it enough to assume that there are degrees of apparentness …” (BGE p. 329).” “Nothing is needed more than truth, and in relation to it everything else has only second-rate value. … “I will not deceive, not even myself”; and with that we stand on moral ground” (GS b.V p. 363).If we are to choose the will to truth over the will to power in cases such as these, then why is the will to truth not the superior will? I'm a little puzzled because in the Gay Science, Nietzsche seems to distinguish the will to truth as being something separate and more important than the will to power, since he says that “everything else has only second-rate value” to truth. To give a fair reading, I'll assume that nietzsche still intends for the will to truth to be a variant of the will to power.My opinion is that Nietzsche is choosing the will to truth over the will to power in these cases merely because he does not want to be deceived. Deceiving oneself is essentially willing to harm one's own will to power. Susan Zontag chose to deceive herself and thus weakened her will to power. All of her motivations aside, she ultimately manipulated her family members into acting out a play for her. She could have used her suffering to further her art or influence others in a positive way. Had she had a stronger will, she may have been able to artistically express herself, and at the very least, ease the suffering on her family. Deception and escapism does not solve problems, rather is makes one weak. The Overman would never choose self-deception.

  7. Master-slave moralityQuick Summary of a Big Story (from the 1st essay of GM)Nietzsche denies moral objectivity. Instead, morality is a valuation scheme, an endeavor that reflects the personality of its creator, and the fact that people are inherently of different strength and ability. Master morality emerges from those who are powerful. Essentially, these masters are noble, and their resulting chivalric-aristocratic scheme posits that what is good is a result of this free-flowing power, a good that is natural, expressive, self-satisfied, self-glorifying, honest, and open. What is bad emerges secondarily as the negation of the good. The bad is what is slavishly weak, incapable, self-hating, self-doubting, and cautious. Dissatisfied with his position in society, a type of man who is slavishly weak, incapable, etc., but who also happens to be especially clever and greedy. So, this priestly fellow sets out to establish power for himself by rallying other weak men around a new value system (priestly-aristocratic) by evoking ressentiment, which is dangerous and powerful precisely because it emerges from an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and hatred. This system devalues what the nobles believe to be good, instead calling it “evil,” and so in this sense slave morality is a reaction to master morality. From there, it comes up with a new good, a religious good which is designed to be helpful and alleviates the suffering of the masses, which is why such a system is able to take hold. Now, what is good is useful, friendly, patient, humble, and complacent. Finally, the emergence and triumph of slave morality can be seen in the prominence of Christianity and democratic ideals. CommentsDoes Nietzsche view his description of the overthrow of master morality as a one-time event, or has this happened throughout history? Is it accurate to say that the slave and master refer to anybody across time? Think of the difficulty we had translating the master and slave into today’s terms. If various master and slave moralities have existed throughout history, but slave morality has almost inevitable prevailed, then maybe there is something that is fundamentally unsustainable about master morality. Does this undermine the claim that there will eventually be an Overman?

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