Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Nihilism or No?

Marx &
on the
not the 
no such 
thing as
only change.

  • Unpredicted consequences of democratization, industrialization, and urbanization of Europe
    • Utopian dreams of social progress & universal human enlightenment giving way in the face of
    • "unpredicted consequences -- the commercialization, vulgarization, and impersonalization of life." (Jones: 235)
  • Contrast & Comparison with Kierkegaard
    • Similarities
      • alienation from the contemporary culture
      • existential problem: of forging a meaningful existence for oneself 6  in the absence of 
        • natural sources of meaning & value: in a world that science portrays as "irrational, purposeless, and ultimately meaningless"7
        • societal sources of meaning & value 
          • tradition: 
            • established religion1
              • unbelievable2
              • outmoded & retro -- churches as mausoleums3
            • supporting outmoded & unbelievable moral precepts4
          • social science which "with perfect innocence accepts socially instilled "instincts of decay as the norm of sociological value judgments"5 
        • reason: no such thing as disinterested or objective reason8
    • Difference:
      • rejects Kierkegaard's personal religious solution a cowardly copout
      • meaning to be found "precisely in the hardness and courage" to face up to an otherwise meaningless existence
  • Cognition as an interpretive process
    • thought doesn't simply copy objective reality out there as it is
      • ideal of correspondence knowledge: depicting reality exactly as it
        • like a picture coming into closer and closer focus as science progresses
        • until precise correspondence is achieved
      • is an impossible useless ideal9
        • the precise correspondence would require seeing it all sub specie aeternitatus or with a "God's eye view"
        • "the view from nowhere" (Nagel 1975)
        • an impossible ideal: since it can't be attained
        • a useless ideal:  it can't even be approached
    • compare & contrast Kant10
      • K & N agree: cognition does not so much passively reflect reality as actively project it
      • Kant: it's a rational projection substantially alike for all rational beings
      • Nietzsche: it's an irrational projection substantially differing between different human individuals
  • Nihilism & Existentialism
    • Nihilism: the view that meaning and value do not exist.
    • Existentialism: the view that meaning and value exist only through subjective choices of individuals. 
  1. God is dead. (Gay Science §125)
  2. Whither is God? I will tell you. We have killed him - you and I. (Gay Science §125)
  3. The tremendous event is still on it's way, still traveling - it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars - and yet they have done it themselves. (Gay Science §125)
  4. How much must collapse now that this faith has been undermined because it was built upon this faith, propped up by it, grown into it; for example, the whole of our European morality. (Gay Science §343).
  5. My objection against the whole of sociology in England and France remains that it knows from experience only the forms of decay, and with perfect innocence accepts its instincts of decay as the norm of sociological value judgments.  The decline of life, the decrease in the power to organize, that is to tear open clefts, subordinate and superordinate -- all this has been formulated as the ideal in contemporary sociology. (Twilight of Idols)
  6. Duration in vain' without end or aim is the most paralyzing idea...." (Will to Power §55)
  7. If the world had a goal it must have been reached. (Will to Power §1063)
  8. "Disinterested contemplation" ... is a rank absurdity. (237)
  9. All seeing is essentially perspective, and so is all knowing. (237)
  10. [S]o little do we see a tree exactly and completely as to its leaves, branches, colors and forms. It is so much easier to imagine an approximation of a tree. ... We invent the largest part of the thing experienced and can hardly be compelled not to observe some process with the eyes of an "inventor". All this wants to say that we are from time immemorial accustomed to lying. Or to say it more virtuously and slyly, hence pleasantly: we are much greater artists than we know. (237-238)
Bases of
  • Interpretivism
    • our individual biases and perspectives shape our perceptions
    • and likewise shape our conceptions & opinions (compare Bacon)
    • unavoidably (contrast Bacon): resistance is futile (just another bias)8
  • Language: a body of congealed biases and preconceptions
    • Nietzchean "laziness": "the tendency, once we have achieved a concept or hypothesis, to persist in using it to interpret our experiences, even though it may no longer apply when circumstances change." (Jones: 239)
    • Leading philosophical concepts reflective or the grammatical and other categories of our language, not underlying structures of reality5
      • Example: "I think therefore I am"
        • there's this thinking activity Descartes introspects
        • grammar of his language says the verb (think) requires a subject (I, you, he, etc.)4
        • compare the it of it's raining2
      • Our most basic metaphysical & even scientific concepts are likewise linguistic artifacts1
        • subject -- the thinker/experiencer3
        • substance in all its guises -- e.g., as atoms or Kantian "thing-in-itself"
  • Psychological bases of thought
    • denial of the rational thinker behind the thought
      • the Cartesian "I" = reason
      • the Kantian transcendental ego
    • affirmation of the self as blind will (compare Schopenhauer)
      • biologically based urge to appropriate or will to power6
      •  reason is essentially rationalization
        • not a quest after Truth -- there is no Truth
        • but a kind of self-justifying self-imposition7
    • example: the concept of natural law so central to our science
      • "It is not a fact, not a "text" at all, but only a naive humanitarian arrangement and misinterpretation that you use for truckling to the democratic instincts of the modern soul."
      • "`Everywhere equality before the law -- and nature is no better off than we are' -- surely a fine arrière pensée."
      • just a liberal-democratic interpretation8
  1. For all its detachment and freedom from emotion, our science is still the dupe of linguistic habits; it has never got rid of those changelings called "subjects." The atom is one such changeling, another is the Kantian "thing-in-itself." (241)
  2. But no such agent exists; there is no "being" behind the doing, acting, becoming; the "doer" has simply been added to the deed by the imagination - the doing is everything. (241)
  3. A thought comes when "it" will and not when "I" will. Thus it is a falsification of the evidence to say that the subject "I" conditions the predicate "think." (241)
  4. It is thought, to be sure, but that this "it" should be that old famous "I" is, to put it mildly, only a supposition, an assertion. Above all it is not an "immediate certainty." ... Our conclusion is here formulated out of our grammatical custom: "Thinking is an activity; every activity presumes something which is active, hence ...." (241)
  5. And when we mix up this world of symbols with the world of things as though the symbols existed "in themselves," then we are merely doing once more what we have always done: we are creating myths. (243)
  6. Even behind logic and its apparent sovereignty of development stand value judgments, or, to speak more plainly, physiological demands for preserving a certain type of life. (242)
  7. Gradually I have come to realize what every great philosophy up to now has been: the personal confession of its originator, a type of involuntary and unawares memoirs. (242)
  8. [S]omeone might come along who, with opposite intention and interpretive skill, might read out of the same phenomena quite another thing: a tyrannical, inconsiderate, relentless enforcement of claims to power. ... Let us admit that this, too, would be only an interpretation -- and you will be eager enough to make this objection! Well, all the better! (243)
and other
  • Consciousness
    • not the crown of creation but a biological tool
      • life is not for the sake of consciousness
      • consciousness is for the sake of life1
    • a tool of weakness, moreover2
      • strength: forthrightly takes
      • weakness: reasons, wheedles, & connives
      • "The weak in courage are strong in cunning." (Blake)
    • it's fundamentally misrepresentative nature fits it for being the instrument of trickery and deceit it is
      • ignores differences & 
      • reifies its idealizations3
      • while pretending that's not what it's doing4
  • Conscience: idealization of "right" & "wrong" under the impetus of socialization5
    • need to repress our instincts in order to live in society
    • perverts natural aggression: "The fox condemns the trap, not himself." (Blake)
      • normally directed outward against impediments to our will6
      • now directed inward against ourselves7
    • resulting in self-loathing8 from
      • boredom & self-doubt
      • escapism
      • Thoreau's "quiet desperation"
      • self-destructive behaviors
      • depression & suicide
  • Jones' Criticisms (247)
    1. "using empirical evidence one would conclude that consciousness is more life-preservng than instinct"
    2. on his own interpretation, "The conclusion that consciousness is in fact destructive -- if this indeed is the conclusion that the evidence seems to call for -- is itself an interpretation, not a text."B8
  1. [H]ow wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no further mission that would lead beyond human life. (243)
  2. The intellect, as a means for the preservation of the individual, unfolds its chief powers in simulation; for this is the means by which the weaker, less robust individuals preserve themselves .... (243)
  3. Every concept originates through our equating what is unequal. No leaf ever wholly equals another, and the concept "leaf" is formed through an arbitrary abstraction iron these individual differences, through forgetting the distinctions; and now it gives rise to the idea that there is something besides the leaves which would be "leaf" ....
  4. [T]ruths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are .... (244)
  5. I take bad conscience to be a deep-seated malady to which man succumbed under the pressure of the most profound transformation he ever underwent - the one that made him once and for all a sociable and pacific creature. (245)
  6. All instincts that are not allowed free play turn inward. (245)
  7. Man ... invented bad conscience in order to hurt himself, after the blocking of the more natural outlet of his cruelty. (246)
  8. Also [conscience is] the generator of the greatest and most disastrous of maladies, of which humanity has not to this day been cured: his sickness of himself, brought on by the violent severance from his animal past .... (245)
The Will
to Power
  • Criticism of the then basic scientific interpretation: the atomistic "billiard-ball" model of Newtonian mechanics
    • not incontrovertible truth but liberal-democratic interpretation -- an  afterthought, "`Everywhere equality before the law -- and nature is no better off than we are'"
    • "involves the `lazy' fiction of encapsulated, enduring things." (Jones: 248)
    • inapplicable to biological & social sciences anyhow -- commits us to dualism
    • unifying biologically based2 alternative: change or interpretation to view nature as a realm of forces not things -- wherein every kind of force is basically "will to power."1 
  • Morality: noble & slave3
    • aristocratic "truly noble morality" of "triumphant self-expression"
      • outgoing & spontaneous
      • honest & forthright
      • "incapable of divorcing happiness from action
    • slave morality -- for the masses & preached by those who would control the masses
      • in-turning & inhibited4
      • dishonest & self-deceived5
      • their happiness is "drugged tranquility"6
  • Accompaniments (symptoms) of slave morality: to "battle against anxiety" and "combat depression" "battle against a& symptoms
    • asceticism (self-denial) to "reduce the vital energy to its lowest point"
      • by products: "mental disorders"
      • asceticism induced visions = hallucinations & delusions interpreted "as a return to the ground of being, a deliverance from all illusion"
      • "Though it goes without saying that the subjects' own explanations of these phenomena have always been extravagantly false, we cannot fail to notice the sincere gratitude that makes them want to give explanations of this kind." (251)
    • habitual mechanical activity: the so-called "the blessing of labor"
    • emotional debauch: "any strong emotion will do -- rage, fear, lust, vengeance, hope, triumph, despair, cruelty -- provided it has sudden release." (251)
      • sex & violence in entertainment, nowadays
      • mass movements based on race hate & other strong emotions
      • sex, drugs, & rock-n-roll
  • Religion as an adjunct of slave morality
    • sides with the defectives: says it's good to be lowly, meek, & mild7
    • escape
      • from empty denatured "life"
      • into delusions & even hallucinations8
  1. Assuming, finally, that we succeeded in explaining our entire instinctual life as the development and ramification of one basic form of will (the will to power, as I hold); assuming that one could trace back all the organic functions to this will to power, including the solution to the problem of generation and nutrition (they are one problem) -- if this were done, we should be justified in defining all effective energy unequivocally as will to power. (249)
  2. Life itself is assimilation, injury, violation of the foreign and the weaker, suppression, hardness, the forcing of one's forms upon something else, ingestion and -- at least in its mildest form - exploitation. (249)
  3. That lambs dislike great birds of prey does not seem strange: only it gives no ground for reproaching these birds of prey for bearing off little lambs. And if the lambs say among themselves: 'these birds of prey are evil; and whoever is least like a bird of prey, but rather its opposite, a lamb - would he not be good?' there is no reason to find fault with this institution of an ideal." (Genealogy of Morals §13)
  4. The slave revolt in morals begins by rancor turning creative and giving birth to values - the rancor of beings who, deprived of the direct outlet of action, compensate by an imaginary vengeance. All truly noble morality grows out of triumphant self-affirmation. Slave ethics, on the other hand, begins by saying no to an "outside" and "other" a non-self, and that no is its creative act. (250)
  5. [T]he rancorous person is neither truthful nor ingenuous nor honest and forthright with himself. (250) 
  6. Their happiness is purely passive and takes the form of drugged tranquility. (250)
  7. [Religions] side with the defectives . . . they confirm the rights of all those who suffer from life as though it were a disease; they would like to render invalid and impossible any other sentiment besides theirs. (251)
  8. [Religion] in physiological terms is hypnosis - the attempt to achieve for man something approximating the hibernation of certain animal species. (251)
Culture, the
and the
  • Decadence of Contemporary Culture
    • "despiritualizing influence of our current science and industry"1
    • creating dispirited -- equalized, mediocratized -- masses2
    • easy prey for would be demagogues & tyrants3
  • The Existential Problem
    • to live suspended over the abyss of meaninglessness4
    • without the comforting cop-outs
      • of religion: "God is dead"
      • or progress5 
      • or hope for escape7
        • eternal return: there is no hope of escape
          • finitely many particles can only combine in finitely many ways
          • time is infinite
          • :. events must repeat6
    • by sheer courage8
  • The Overman: overcomes meaninglessness by courageous self-assertion9
    • contrast the religious mystic & saint
      • courage v. resigned acceptance
      • self-assertion v. self-denial10
      • rooted in natural instinctual fact not supernatural fiction11
    • transforms himself and the world12
    • a whole, balanced, undivided, & self-created self13
  1. For seventeen years I have never tired of calling attention to the despiritualizing influence of our current science and industry. (252)
  2. The same new conditions which will, on the average, bring about an equalization and mediocratization of man, a useful hardworking adaptable herd-animal of many uses, are also disposed in the highest degree to the creation of exceptional men of most dangerous and fascinating quality. (252)
  3. The democratization of Europe is at the same time an involuntary arrangement for the training of tyrants. (253)
  4. Courage also slays dizziness at the edge of abysses: and where does man not stand at the edge of abysses? Is not seeing always -- seeing abysses? (254)
  5. Must not whatever can happen have happened, have been done, have passed by before? (255)
  6. "And this slow spider, which crawls in the moonlight, and this moonlight itself, and I and you in the gateway, whispering together, whispering of eternal things -- must not all of us have been here before? And return and walk in that other lane, out there, before us, in this long dreadful lane -- must we not eternally return?" (255)
  7. Duration 'in vain' without end or aim is the most paralyzing idea. (Will to Power §55)
  8. Courage, however, is the best slayer - courage which attacks: which slays even death itself, for it says, "Was that life?  Well then! Once more!"
  9. [The Overman is] the truly exuberant, alive and world affirming man who does not merely resign himself to and learn to get along with all that was and is, but who want everything as it was and is back again, back forever and ever, insatiably calling da capo, not only to himself but to the whole spectacle and performance .... (256)
  10. What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad?  Everything that is born of weakness... the weak and the failures will perish: first principle of our love of man. And they shall be given every possible assistance. (The Antichrist)
  11. This world of pure fiction is vastly inferior insofar as [it] falsifies, devalues, and negates reality. Once the concept of 'nature' had been invented as the opposite of God', 'natural' had to become a synonym of 'reprehensible': this world of fiction is rooted in hatred of the natural" (The Antichrist).
  12. A man in this state transforms things until they mirror his power -- until they are reflections of his perfection. This having to transform into perfection is art. (258)
  13. What [Goethe] wanted was totality; he fought the mutual exclusiveness of reason, sense, feeling, and will (preached with the most abhorrent scholasticism by Kant); he disciplined himself to wholeness; he created himself. (259)