Nietzsche I feel was often acting out the wisdom of Christ, facing the whole world angrily, as if he had found the moneychangers in the temple. Indeed he loved to hate all ‘counterfeiters’. He also hated intellectual corruption, manipulation and lies; he abhorred pettiness, meanness, envy and vengefulness; he loathed mediocrity. Though he could be defensive, blunt, obsessive, and quick to take offense, Nietzsche combined a high, austere intellect with a boundless religious need and a striking sweetness of heart. He was endlessly self-questioning and self-critical.
…The retreat into mind and solitude magnified every common perception Nietzsche had of the foolishness of life, the incongruous judgments, the misunderstandings, the sheer intellectual impurity of the whole martyrous thing, and what came out on the page was laughing contempt and chuckling malice. Wasn’t it clear the world was all dressed up with lies and tricks, nothing but tromperie, all its order fake and deceptive? It would take an idealist to fight it, and an ascetic to withdraw from it.
…Nietzsche turned to color and music because of the absence of a suitable response to the death of God. Color replaced sense and meaning. Color and music were what life had to offer. They were the original tragic vision. Life was a goat-dance performed to the accompaniment of pan-pipes. The actors wore masks and walked on stilts. All life was like that, a ‘serious joke’, or ought to be seen as such; yet most people took it with a seriousness Nietzsche could only laugh at; seriousness which was without foundation and sapped energy. That energy might be better directed into celebrating the rite of existence.
What Nietzsche feared was the growth of a civilization in which individuals lacked the strength to convert the fear and the threat of the irrational into a force for positive living. What he wanted to see was joyous human self-affirmation despite and in the face of an absence of absolute values and fixed answers.
Though to a surprising degree, we agree on who is attractive and who isn’t, differences in looks remain largely unmentionable, unlike divisions of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation. There is no lobby for the homely. How do you change a discriminatory behavior that, even though unfair, is obviously deep, hard to pin down, and largely unconscious—and affects people who would be hurt even to admit they’re in the stigmatized category?
Tentatively, experts are beginning to float possible solutions. Some have proposed legal remedies including designating unattractive people as a protected class, creating affirmative action programs for the homely, or compensating disfigured but otherwise healthy people in personal-injury courts. Others have suggested using technology to help fight the bias, through methods like blind interviews that take attraction out of job selection. There’s promising evidence from psychology that good old-fashioned consciousness-raising has a role to play, too.
…Other ideas, based on traditional legal and economic remedies for unfairness, can seem a bit utopian (or Orwellian): Hamermesh has proposed “affirmative-action programs for the ugly,” or extending the Americans with Disabilities Act to include the unattractive. But without a broad public understanding of the concrete disadvantages of unattractiveness, these ideas sound to many critics like social engineering run amok.
Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s what it sounds like regardless. Oh, if only people could be purely rational, like robots…
The social form of the biological defense mechanism of mimicry is the ability to blend in with crowds, to adopt the manners and mores of social groups, to mimic conventional moral or social values. Such cleverness obviously has a high degree of survival value. Sometimes Nietzsche has been thought to contradict himself by arguing that the weaker or the unfit survive and reproduce while the fit and the stronger tend to perish. But there is no contradiction here at all. Independent, self-directed, intelligent, perceptive, creative, and solitary individuals who are able to go against the grain of the majority are stronger, fitter types of human beings individually. But they are no match for cooperative, dependent, uncreative, sociable majorities. Exceptional individuals who are, in the strict sense of the word, “unpopular” have “the majority against them.” This is more or less the point that Emerson made when he quoted with approval de Boufflers’ observation that the majority “have the advantage of number…It is of no use for us to make war with them; we shall not weaken them; they will always be the masters.” Of course, a cultural world in which the majority are the masters is looked upon by Emerson, to say nothing of Nietzsche, as a deplorable state of affairs.
Religious contextualizing aside, it is clear that a new ideal of romantic love had emerged. What made it new was that it portrayed love as an affair of the heart at the core of which is service to the beloved. In Europe, before this time, love, especially between husband and wife, tended to be thought of as a practical arrangement. While there may have been no precedent for the new ideal, either in pagan or Christian sources, there is a source: twelfth-century troubadours, especially William of Poitiers, who expressed in his love poems that the lover’s happiness is dependent on that of the beloved and that service to the beloved is an important component of a meaningful life.
At the same time, however, it was perfectly clear that Nietzsche looked to art, religion and philosophy — and not to race — to elevate man above the beasts, and some men above the mass of mankind.
Though Nietzsche may shock us with his elitist and warrior language, the Übermenschen near to his heart are his aesthetic comrades, “philosophers, saints, and artists.” The unspoken but always present thesis is this: It is in the romantic practice of artistic creativity that modern excellence can be achieved and in an exquisite sense of personal taste and experience that it is realized.
Neither one side nor the other in these pairs of extremes is correctly designated by itself as “Nietzschean” or as the core of Nietzsche’s thought. This is not to say that in the contest of extremes that forms Nietzsche’s thought one side does not gain the upper hand. It is, however, to insist upon the centrality of the contest that holds these rival and extreme opinions together and the fundamental assumptions about human beings and the cosmos that generate it.
Two things are necessary, therefore to social growth: a living sense of community and ‘degenerate’ natures which help it to evolve. And they are of equal value: “Only when there is securely founded and guaranteed long duration is a steady evolution and ennobling inoculation at all possible.” And what guarantees such steady evolution is that the majority of souls remain fettered spirits, since “all states and orderings within society — classes, marriage, education, law — derive their force and endurance solely from the faith the fettered spirits have in them.” So what Nietzsche will later call “the herd” is a vital necessity. The fettered spirit must always remain the rule, the free spirit the exception.
That may be good public relations, but it is bad public education. We also argue that it is fundamentally bad science. The brain-disease model of addiction is not a trivial rebranding of an age-old human problem. It plays to the assumption that if biological roots can be identified, then a person has a “disease.” And being afflicted means that the person cannot choose, control his or her life, or be held accountable. Now introduce brain imaging, which seems to serve up visual proof that addiction is a brain disease. But neurobiology is not destiny: The disruptions in neural mechanisms associated with addiction do constrain a person’s capacity for choice, but they do not destroy it. What’s more, training the spotlight too intently on the workings of the addicted brain leaves the addicted person in the shadows, distracting clinicians, policy makers, and sometimes patients themselves from other powerful psychological and environmental forces that exert strong influence on them.
…The brain-disease narrative misappropriates language better used to describe such conditions as multiple sclerosis or schizophrenia — afflictions of the brain that are neither brought on by the sufferer nor modifiable by the desire to be well. It offers false hope that an addict’s condition is completely amenable to a medical cure (much as pneumonia is to antibiotics). Finally, as we’ll see, it threatens to obscure the vast role of personal agency in perpetuating the cycle of use and relapse.
Nietzsche thinks that music allows us to face the tragedy of human existence, not so much in the sense of a diversion but as a means of “speaking” about life. There are things that can be “said” musically — or perhaps sung — that cannot be said philosophically.
…Since language is always metaphorical — and so never delivers to us the “thing itself” — music is all the more significant. For Nietzsche (like the German Romantics) thinks it has a directness that is unlike language. When Nietzsche contrasts the value to the words of a lyrical poem (and thus the images it conjures up) to the music to which it is set, he makes it clear that music has a revelatory power that language and its images simply cannot have: “Confronted with the supreme revelations of music, we feel, willy-nilly, the crudeness of all imagery and of every emotion that might be adduced by way of an analogy. Thus Beethoven’s last quartets put to shame everything visual and the whole realm of empirical reality.” So music has a significant edge over words. Of course, whatever it is that music conveys cannot be conveyed by words. So, at a certain point, we are — by definition — unable to “describe” exactly what it is that music says. If it could be put into words, we wouldn’t need music.
…Nietzsche is convinced —as were the ancient Greeks — that words sung in rhythm had a special effect upon one that simply was not matched by the bare spoken word.
[F]or Nietzsche nihilism is rooted in the attempt to ground and secure one’s being, to master it in a way that excludes boredom, suffering and tragedy. But this grasp for mastery is self-defeating, for in the end it leaves one with nothing: unable to acknowledge the reality of this world of suffering, one puts one’s faith in something beyond the real (for instance God or Truth), in what for Nietzsche literally is nothing.
…Affirmation, as Nietzsche’s response to nihilism, is not a kind of salvation in the sense of a solution or justification of the difficulties and pain of human existence. Nietzsche imagined an affirmation that eschews the need for promises of paradise or purity, certainty and security — or even more mundane promises of “improvement” or “progress.” For him, the problem of affirmation becomes the problem of how we affirm a life without the hope that the negative — evil and suffering — will slowly wither away to nothing. To affirm life only in the hope that we are able to end suffering — or to affirm life only from the perspective of that goal (“it was difficult, but it was worth it”) — is not to affirm this life.
Nietzsche thinks, therefore, that we must embrace a certain meaninglessness, a certain muteness in existence, instead of wishing it or thinking it away with “solutions” such as God or Truth; nihilism, he contends, can be a “divine way of thinking.” But such divine nihilism must be contrasted with the exhausted, life-hating nihilism of the Western tradition. As he explored the nihilism of modernity and imagined a joy that transcends the rational ego-centered consciousness, Nietzsche’s thinking recovered certain religious concepts and practices.
As the play of images on the surface of consciousness is translated into the sounds of words, concepts are formed by abstraction from individual images and are then used to construct a framework by means of which the dynamic manifold of experience can be controlled and made secure. This construction — which Nietzsche characterizes in magnificent imagery of pyramids, Roman columbaria, spiders’ webs, and bee hives — comes to stand on a foundation of “running water,” over the unstoppable flux of life. Experiential stability is achieved by virtue of ignoring the flow below:
Only by forgetting that primitive world of metaphor, only through the solidification and rigidification of a primordial mass of images streaming forth from the primal faculty of human phantasy in a fiery fluidity…and only through the human being’s forgetting himself as an artistically creating subject does he live with any peace, security and consistency.
This is the first full formulation of Nietzsche’s radical conception of the phantastic relation of the human self to the world, which will remain at the core of his mature thought. The world of everyday experience is a construct imposed by conceptualization upon an underlying flux of imagery.
With this in mind, it seems clear that Nietzsche is best understood as the John the Baptist of panta rheism then, wouldn’t you agree?