Friedrich Nietzsche, (born October 15, 1844, Röcken, Saxony, Prussia [Germany]—died August 25, 1900, Weimar, Thuringian States), a German classical scholar, philosopher, and critic of culture was one of the most-influential of all modern thinkers. He unmasked the flaws that underlie traditional religion and created a philosophy that is as poignant and as relevant today as it was was in his time -and that is the mark of a true genius.
Sigmund Freud said Nietzsche had a more penetrating understanding of himself than any man who ever lived or was ever likely to live, and it appears, he was right about that. It is consequently reasonable to postulate that philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche are in fact the best psychologists because instead of judging, they expand understanding and in the process, they provide us with the capacity to make more meaningful evaluations.
One of Nietzsche's fundamental ideas is that we, as part of nature, are dominated by the drive for autonomy, and that is the basic building block that underlies all of our actions. Consequently, his primary concern was to reduce barriers to freedom. Life evidently did that through what Nietzsche called the “will to power,” an instinct for growth and durability.
Nietzsche's probing analysis and evaluation of fundamental cultural values led him to criticize what he called the "herd instinct" or the mentality characterized by a lack of individual decision-making or thoughtfulness. In particular, when individuality is decimated, herd instinct becomes a kind of herd morality where the desire for revenge is equated to the desire for justice and hatred of one’s enemy becomes a hatred of injustice.
Nietzsche should be praised for predicting, not only the Nazi phenomenon but all conflicts because they appear to nurtured and sustained by Nietzsche's herd instinct analysis.
Nietzsche died in 1900 and if his philosophy was widely acknowledged and understood, the prejudices, the hatred and the herd mentality which made World War I and World War II inevitable would not have existed to the degree that placed horrific war in the realm of plausibility.
What is the cause of this profound ignorance of ourselves and the world? In The Gay Science 115, Nietzsche notes that humankind has been educated by ‘the four errors’: we see ourselves only incompletely; we endow ourselves with fictitious attributes; we place ourselves in a ‘false rank’ in relation to animals and nature – that is, we see ourselves as being inherently superior to them; and, finally, we invent ever new tables of what is good and then accept them as eternal and unconditional.
Nietzsche believed that genuine morality was about freeing human beings from their false consciousness. Consequently, existing moral values damaged human development because morality as symptom, as mask, as sickness or as stimulant is more like poison than anything that can be called good. This naturally lead Nietzsche to seek out a "higher morality" and he developed the concept, 'beyond good and evil' -a unique interpretation that seeks to replace the prejudices of the past with a philosophy for the future.
"Beyond good and evil" is thus an aphorism for genuine morality freed from prejudice. If we are not as just as we should be, it is invariably due to faulty evaluation or inadequate interpretation and it is essential to reject common prejudices about good and bad to be able to aim higher. In order to appreciate the deep historical insight which lead Nietzshe to detach himself from moral valuations it is necessary and essential to read his essay "GOOD AND EVIL", "GOOD AND BAD".
Nietzsche's philosophy is quite transparent. He believed that genuine morality was the great antidote to practical and theoretical nihilism. In his lifetime, the need for this antidote had at least bugun to wane because individual autonomy was beginning to encroach upon the power of absolute domination: "in our Europe, life is no longer quite so uncertain, contingent, nonsensical. The power man has achieved now allows a reduction of those means of discipline of which the moral interpretation was the strongest."
It is easy to note that power and freedom are practically interchangeable in Nietzsche's thinking and that is quite deliberate because one frequently presupposes the other in the natural world.
What is the actual nature of the morality that Nietzsche ultimately embraced? Was it just an idea? Was it an instinct about good or about love? The following paragraph evidently captures the depth of the spiritual essence Nietzsche proposed:
A full and powerful soul can not only cope with painful, even terrible losses, privations, dispossessions and disdain: from such hells it emerges fuller and more powerful and - the crucial thing - with a new growth in the blissfulness of love. I believe that the man who has sensed something of the deepest conditions of every growth in love will understande Dante when he wrote over the gate to his Inferno: I too was created by eternal love'.
Nietzsche's unique views and valuations are refreshing because he focused, not on any particular interpretation but on what he called becoming, a rather timeless hopeful endurance. Having taken the good and the bad out of value judgements, the manner in which Nietzsche described criminal conduct is also a perspective that is unique, insightful and still relevant:
Crime belongs under the heading 'Rebellion against the social order'. A rebel is not 'punished'. He is suppressed. A rebel may be a wretched and contemptible man, but in itself there is nothing to despise about a rebellion - and to be rebellious with regard to our kind of society, does not, in itself, lower a man's value. There are cases where one would even have to honour such a rebel, because he senses something about our society against which war is needed: cases where he rouses us from our slumber.
Regarding punishment, Nietzsche said, "One can only elevate those men one does not treat with contempt; moral contempt is a greater degradation and damage than any crime."
Nietzsche also draws interesting parallels between crime, punishment and moral inadequacy, using the words "spiritual health" to describe what is lacking:
For the promotion of health. - One has hardly begun to reflect on the physiology of the criminal, and yet one already stands before the irrefutable insight that there exists no essential difference between criminals and the insane: presupposing one believes that the usual mode of moral thinking is the mode of thinking of spiritual health. But no belief is so firmly believed as this is, and so one should not hesitate to accept the consequence and treat the criminal as a mental patient.
Nietzsche was distressed by the manner in which society treated the criminal because, "for the time being the courts continue to maintain our detestable criminal codes, with their shopkeeper's scales and the desire to counterbalance guilt and punishment: but can we not get beyond this?"
Everything Nietzsche wrote reads like a prelude to a better philosophy for the future. "The Will to Power" developed both the spiritually of the lost individual and society, and it is difficult to argue with the premise because Nietzsche evidently used the words Power and Freedom interchangeably, it was the engine of becoming and the active will to oppose dominance is not easy to block.
Thus spoke Nietzsche with the confidence to Re-valuate all Values, and he made it very clear that the only way to assure the autonomy of the individual was by transferring obedience from the domain of the highest authority to the individual morality of the individual.
What are the roadbloaks of the above effort? "False textual interpretations."
The spiritual connection between will and power is also very significant because Will To Power is the antidote of feelings of worthlessness and powerlessness. We do not struggle for domination. We "struggle for dominion".
The act of becoming is consistent with the need to "extricate ourselves from the lazy routine of old valuations which degrade us in the best and strongest things we have achieved." Herd morality is dangerous because there can be no meaningful or authentic relationship if the autonomy of the individual is supressed. Nietzsche's spiritual or psychological insight is Jungian in nature and that is quite apparent through statements like "sense perception happens without our awareness: whatever we become conscious of is a perception that has already been processed." It is certainly no surprise that Carl Jung was influence by Nitzsche's work.
Many people have embraced the sound, psychological implications of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil philosophy. For example, Nietzsche evidently echoes current psychological insights through comments like the following:
What torture for a child always to posit his good and evil in contradiction to his mother, and to be mocked and despised whereever he reveres.
Nietzsche sought a society where the sovereign individual is master of a strong and durable will, a supraethical personality which has risen above systems of cruelty. His proposal is essentially about the common decency of a will that can make and keep promises in the context of specific material practices and social relations. A will that is founded on freedom rather than compulsion is the cultural achievement that Nietzsche would have called moral if it in fact existed.
The logic appears to be sound because, as Nietzsche reminds us, unfreedom of will is "you do what you do not voluntarily but unwillingly, ie., under coercion." Only obedience to one's will is not called coercion for there is pleasure in it. That you command yourself, that is freedom of will.'
It is not possible to fully define the process of becoming a fully autonomous individual. Our ability to learn is also influenced by what Nietzsche calls psychology and theory of knowledge and by that, he is referring to the subconscious as well as the conscious mind:
I maintain that the inner world is phenomenal as well: everything we become conscious of has first been thoroughly trimmed, simplified, schematised, interpreted - the real process of inner 'perception;, the causal association between thoughts, feelings, desires is absolutely hidden from us, like tat between subject and object - and may be just a figment of our imagination. This 'apparent inner world' is managed with quite the same forms and procedures as the 'outer' world. We never encounter 'facts': pleasure and unpleasure are late and derivative phenomenon of the intellect.
Consequently, an ideal is nothing more than a "dumb desire" because striving is not even necessary when we are merely becoming. Beyond that, it is also quite destructive becuase the consequence of trying to meet the expectation of another is not, by any means, the choice of the autonomous individual. Nietzsche defined the general principles that are necessary to be able to realize individual potential, and the following is, in part HIS prescription:
Let us strive to see beyond good and evil, to open our eyes in the manner that Nietzsche advised in his book Joyful Wisdom wherein he wrote:
Where Goodness Begins. — Where bad eyesight can no longer see the evil impulse as such, on account of its refinement, — there man sets up the kingdom of goodness ; and the feeling of having now gone over into the kingdom of goodness brings all those impulses (such as the feelings of security, of comfortableness, of benevolence) into simultaneous activity, which were threatened and confined by the evil impulses. Consequently, the duller the eye so much the further does goodness extend! Hence the eternal cheerfulness of the populace and of children! Hence the gloominess and grief (allied to the bad conscience) of great thinkers.
Let us ignore the following distress:
The Desire for Suffering. — When I think of the desire to do something, how it continually tickles and stimulates millions of young Europeans, who cannot endure themselves and all their ennui, — I conceive that there must be a desire in them to suffer something, in order to derive from their suffering a worthy motive for acting, for doing something. Distress is necessary! Hence the cry of the politicians, hence the many false, trumped-up, exaggerated " states of distress " of all possible kinds, and the blind readiness to believe in them This young world desires that there should arrive or appear from the outside — not happiness — but misfortune ; and their imagination is already busy beforehand to form a monster out of it, so that they may afterwards be able to fight with a monster. If these distress-seekers felt the power to benefit themselves, to do something for themselves from internal sources, they would also understand how to create a distress of their own, specially their own, from internal sources. Their inventions might then be more refined, and their gratifications might sound like good music : while at present they fill the world with their cries of distress, and consequently too often with the feeling of distress in the first place! They do not know what to make of themselves — and so they paint the misfortune of others on the wall ; they always need others! And always again other others! — Pardon me, my friends, I have ventured to paint my happiness on the wall.
Let us create:
It has caused me the greatest trouble, and for ever causes me the greatest trouble, to perceive that unspeakably more depends upon what things are called, than on what they are. The reputation, the name and appearance, the importance, the usual measure and weight of things — each being in origin most frequently an error and arbitrariness thrown over the things like a garment, and quite alien to their essence and even to their exterior — have gradually, by the belief therein and its continuous growth from generation to generation, grown as it were on- and-into things and become their very body ; the appearance at the very beginning becomes almost always the essence in the end, and operates as the essence ! What a fool he would be who would think it enough to refer here to this origin and this nebulous veil of illusion, in order to annihilate that which virtually passes for the world — namely, so-called "reality"! It is only as creators that we can annihilate! — But let us not forget this: it suffices to create new names and valuations and probabilities, in order in the long run to create new "things."
Let us remember that the highest tribute is Humanity.
Friendship was regarded by antiquity as the highest sentiment but a friend who restricts a person’s development and ultimately the progression of humanity, is best discarded. Nietzsche believed that worthwhile discussion distinguished human from animal and it was simply not possible to maintain a friendship that did not continually evolve or maintain the opportunity to share experience. It is better for friends to find fault and to challenge each other, aiming to improve both themselves and their friend, than it is to always be agreeable, sacrificing one’s true opinions and convictions to avoid conflict with another. Like Socratic love and friendship, the aim is to better oneself and another through discourse. In particuar, a friend who criticizes obtrusiveness, laziness, weakness and crudeness – all life-denying characteristics of the herd – is one who becomes a creator of new values. Moreover, all of the above is motiveated by “the common goal to erect a new image and ideal of the free spirit.”
Let us recognize the danger of the "herd instinct".
Wherever we meet with a morality we find a valuation and order of rank of the human impulses and activities. These valuations and orders of rank are always the expression of the needs of a community or herd: that which is in the first place to its advantage — and in the second place and third place — is also the authoritative standard for the worth of every individual. By morality the individual is taught to become a function of the herd, and to ascribe to himself value only as a function. As the conditions for the maintenance of one community have been very different from those of another community, there have been very different moralities: and in respect to the future essential transformations of herds and communities, states and societies, one can prophesy that there will still be very divergent moralities. Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual.
Let us recognize "Thy virtue is the health of thy soul."
For there is no such thing as health in itself, and all attempts to define a thing in that way have lamentably failed. It is necessary to know thy aim, thy horizon, thy powers, thy impulses, thy errors, and especially the ideals and fantasies of thy soul, in order to determine what health implies even for thy body. There are consequently innumerable kinds of physical health; and the more one again permits the unique and unparalleled to raise its head, the more one unlearns the dogma of the "Equality of men," so much the more also must the conception of a normal health, together with a normal diet and a normal course of disease, be abrogated by our physicians. And then only would it be time to turn our thoughts to the health and disease of the soul and make the special virtue of everyone consist in its health ; but, to be sure, what appealed as health in one person might appear as the contrary of health in another.
Let us recognize the contribution of religion.
Christianity also has made a great contribution to enlightenment, and has taught moral scepticism in a very impressive and effective manner, accusing and embittering, but with untiring patience and subtlety; it destroyed in every individual the belief in his virtues: it made the great virtuous ones, of whom antiquity had no lack, vanish for ever from the earth, those popular men, who, in the belief in their perfection, walked about with the dignity of a hero of the bull-fight. When, trained in this Christian school of scepticism, we now read the moral books of the ancients, for example those of Seneca and Epictetus, we feel a pleasurable superiority, and are full of secret insight and penetration, it seems to us as if a child talked before an old man, or a pretty, gushing girl before La Rochefoucauld: we know better what virtue is! After all, however, we have applied the same scepticism to all religious states and processes, such as sin, repentance, grace, sanctification, etc. , and have allowed the worm to burrow so well, that we have now the same feeling of subtle superiority and insight even in reading all Christian books: we know also the religious feelings better! And it is time to know them well and describe them well, for the pious ones of the old belief die out also; let us save their likeness and type, at least for the sake of knowledge.
Let us recognize our limits.
A New Precaution. Let us no longer think so much about punishing, blaming, and improving! We shall seldom be able to alter an individual, and if we should succeed in doing so, something else may also succeed, perhaps unawares: we may have been altered by him! Let us rather see to it that our own influence on all that is to come outweighs and overweighs his influence! Let us not struggle in direct conflict! all blaming, punishing, and desire to improve comes under this category. But let us elevate ourselves all the higher! Let us ever give to our pattern more shining colours! Let us obscure the other by our light! No! We do not mean to become darker ourselves on his account, like those who punish and are discontented! Let us rather go aside! Let us look away!
Let us Question and Answer.
— What do savage tribes at present accept first of all from Europeans?
Let us question our rational thoughts.
Conscious thinking and especially that of the philosopher, is the weakest and on that account also the relatively mildest and quietest mode of thinking: and thus it is precisely the philosopher who is most easily misled concerning the nature of knowledge.
It appears that the philosophy that Nietzsche proposed is a deeper psychology and that it is still necessary to criticize psychologists who lack ‘spiritual vision of real depth – in short, philosophy.’
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