You may have noticed that I like to make a game of seeing how often I can apply a quotation from Nietzsche to whatever topic I’m writing about. Honestly, when I started this blog with that amusing idea in mind, I thought it might be a little more of a challenge! But evidently, he had something to say about damn near everything, and lately, the Internet just keeps teeing up one opportunity after another. Well, who am I to refuse these gifts?
It used to be thought for the longest time, going back for thousands of years of philosophical investigation, that people think of why a certain behavior might be wrong. They think of all the rational reasons, all the things they can come up with, they go through all the pros and cons, and then arrive at the judgment, and say, “Behavior X is either wrong, or very wrong, or not so wrong, it’s fine”, and so on. So it used to be thought that people think long and hard, and then figure out the answer.Now it turns out that actually this does not seem to be the case because first of all, people don’t always think that much, and many thought processes are not really conscious, but rather, they happen outside of consciousness. Many thoughts just happen incidentally, and people aren’t even aware of them. Therefore, instead of all these sophisticated thoughts and reasons, accidental factors enter the picture such as feelings and intuitions, for example, a sense of, “Well, I just have an intuition that this is the case”, and such factors can be much more powerful than rational thought. For morality this idea first became popular in 2001 when Jonathan Haidt published his paper on the social intuitionist model, which has been a really influential idea.
First became popular in 2001? Would you believe 1881-1888?
• They all pose as if they had discovered and reached their real opinions through the self-development of a cold, pure, divinely unconcerned dialectic (as opposed to the mystics of every rank, who are more honest and doltish – and talk of “inspiration”); while at bottom it is an assumption, a hunch, indeed, a kind of “inspiration” – most often a desire of the heart that has been filtered and made abstract – that they defend with reasons they have sought after the fact. They are all advocates who resent that name, and for the most part even wily spokesmen for their prejudices which they baptize “truths” – and very far from having the courage of conscience that admits this, precisely this, to itself; very far from having the good taste of the courage which also lets this be known, whether to warn an enemy or friend, or, from exuberance, to mock itself.• Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier, and simpler.• …so “being conscious” is not in any decisive sense the opposite of what is instinctive: most of the conscious thinking of a philosopher is secretly guided and forced into certain channels by his instincts.• ‘Once I have said I will do a thing, I do it’ – this mode of thinking counts a sign of possessing character. How many actions have been done, not because they were chosen as the most rational, but because when they occurred to us, they in some way tickled our vanity and ambition, so that we stuck with them and blindly carried them out! In this way they increase our belief in our own character and our good conscience, and thus in general our strength; while the choice of the most rational course keeps alive skepticism towards us and to this extent a feeling of weakness.