On Nietzsche (Part 1)

Despite reading only 2 books by Nietzsche (Beyond Good & Evil, Thus Spoke Zarathustra), he is undoubtedly my favourite writer. He inspired the name of my blog, I quote him at appropriate times on forums and on facebook, and generally make a big deal out of him.

 His books went widely unappreciated during his lifetime. The subtitle of Zarathustra was “a book for everyone and no one.” It just so happened that when he wrote it, it really was a book for no one. He was Hitler’s favourite philosopher, which also dented his reputation, but I’m coming to that point now.

 One of the most appealing features of Nietzsche’s philosophy is its ambiguity. Nietzsche has been used as inspiration by anarchists, communists, socialists, nazis and more. For example, allow me to indulge and present a quote:

 

“What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.”

-The Antichrist, Part 2

 

 While you may read this and think ‘what a bold statement’ as Nietzsche is essentially saying what true happiness is. Think of your aim in life; to help people? To rise to the top? To have a family and kids? No, it isn’t. Your aim in life is happiness, because whatever your aim is, it will bring you happiness. Please note I am not saying happiness is the meaning of life, I am simply referring to human goals in life.

 Going back to the quote, Nietzsche tells us what good, evil and happiness is, all in a few sentences. But the whole point of using this quote is to show the ambiguity. He tells us a few things (results is the best way to describe the 3 things he talks about) but leaves most of it up to us.

 For example, what does heighten the feeling of power in man? In fact, what is power? These are unquantifiable, abstract notions, left up to the reader to choose and think over, rather than crammed down their throat. Communists and egalitarianists (including racial and gay equality advocates) would say equality is power. Therefore they will believe that happiness is the growth of equality and overcoming of segregationism/racism/discrimination/capitalism. If you’re wondering what my personal interpretation of power is, I’m getting to that.

 I go by the idea that the “feeling of that power is growing” is in essence, self-improvement in relation to your own set of morals. What I mean by this is that my “will to power” is to self-improve in the ways I want, be that ethically or otherwise. A basic example would be this very essay. I want to study philosophy at university, come back and look at this essay and snort with contempt. I want to improve my thoughts and skills, because that is what “good” is for me. That is in fact a very basic example, by the way.

 I could go on, but I think you get the point. However, there was another point that was nagging me. A chapter in Zarathustra was a rant on a set of people called “tarantulas.” Here’s a quote:

 

“With these preachers of equality will I not be mixed up and confounded. For thus speaketh justice unto me: “Men are not equal.”And neither shall they become so! What would be my love to the Superman, if I spake otherwise?”

-Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Tarantulas

 

 You may be thinking ‘hang on, isn’t he ranting on communists, such as yourself, J-Man?’ No, he is ranting on those who believe all beings are equal. I believe in equality between beings of the same level, that is our current stage of human civilization. Perhaps I should simplify this. On a political level, I believe in equality. On a philosophical level, I do not. Nietzsche is ranting on those who believe we are all equal and always shall be the same, which directly opposes Nietzsche’s belief in the Superman.

 

“All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment…”

-Thus Spoke Zarathustra

 

 Nietzsche had a theory of a higher level of man, which was set in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The theory stated we must aim as a civilization to reach a higher stage of humanity, to become the superman. However, the true meaning of this is still not known, and is unlikely to be discovered. I like to think of it as another example of Nietzsche leaving it up to the reader.

 It was an interesting idea, and I’m going to write my take on it. Firstly, humanity has existed for thousands upon thousands of years, and we still have not attained the status of the supermen. Can we really hope to achieve that? Perhaps what Nietzsche meant was that humanity should always strive to be the best, and exceed expectations.

 Was Nietzsche really just talking about the superman, or was he simply showing his disdain for current humanity, like saying ‘you guys are pathetic compared to this.’

 Some will also compare the transition to supermen to be similar to evolution, but they are wrong in that firstly, it is willed to be a superman, and secondly, Nietzsche is talking on a philosophical rather than physical level.

 If I may relate this to my explanation of the first quote, I believe Nietzsche is simply talking about the will to power in a more concentrated way. While my “will to power” will result in self-improvement, I get the idea that the superman is a perfect people, one that do not require self-improvement.

 

But whatever. I just hammered this out from 8 o’clock in the morning on saturday, for nietzsche’s sake. I’ve never had any philosophical education, so these thoughts are probably basic and undeveloped, but I’d love to discuss it with any commenters, and I’m probably going to write a few more essays on stuff like this.

 

6/12/08

 

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4 Responses to “On Nietzsche (Part 1)”

  1. peterd102 Says:

    Hmm, intersting post. The ‘supermen’ of this society may be the degenerates of the next, and I think that humanity will go on improving as technology improves.

  2. That’s a good point. It always seems to me that old folks generally don’t understand what the modern age ushers in and helps to benefit humanity (e.g. blogs). I really hope that I’m not like that. When (my?) grandchildren ask me what games I played when I was young I hope they don’t snort with derision when I mention Deus Ex.

    Basically, I hope I don’t become a degenerate.

    But then again, how will we know when humanity has actually achieved ‘superman’ status? Perfection is an unquantifiable value, and if everyone as perfect, no-one would be…

  3. Sorry for the double post, but another question that just popped up is; how do we know we aren’t already the supermen? What if we’re on a wild goose chase to an unattainable level of humanity?

    Ok, enough philosophy from me.

  4. […] it’s a problem with wordpress. It doesn’t like copy and pasting. Also, be sure to read On Nietzsche (Part 1), as this essay contains a lot of similar […]

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