Category Archive 'Friedrich Nietszche'

20 Jul 2018

Nietszche’s Philosophic Writings Succinctly Summarized

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05 Jul 2018

Žižek on Houellebecq

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Michel Houellebecq

Slawomir Sierakowski interviewing Slavoj Žižek back in 2015 after the Charlie Hebdo murders.

Do you see common ground between you and Michel Houellebecq, with his critique of Western liberal societies, combined with no justification for reactionary alternatives like Islamist or Russian ones?

Yes, definitely. Crazy as it may sound, I have much respect for the honest liberal conservatives like Houellebecq, Finkielkraut, or Sloterdijk in Germany. One can learn from them much more than from progressive liberal like Habermas: honest conservatives are not afraid to admit the deadlock we are in. Houellebecq’s Atomised is for me the most devastating portrait of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. He shows how permissive hedonism turns into the obscene superego universe of the obligation to enjoy. Even his anti-Islamism is more refined than it may appear: he is well aware how the true problem is not the Muslim threat from the outside, but our own decadence. Long ago Friedrich Nietzsche perceived how Western civilization was moving in the direction of the Last Man, an apathetic creature with no great passion or commitment. Unable to dream, tired of life, he takes no risks, seeking only comfort and security, an expression of tolerance with one another:

    A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end, for a pleasant death. They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health. “We have discovered happiness,” — say the Last Men, and they blink.

RTWT

02 Jul 2018

The Illiberal Nietzsche is the Only One There is

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Drawing of Friedrich Nietzsche by Karl Bauer.

Post-modernist leftists have a habit of invoking Nietzsche as an authority justifying their nihilist rejection of the natural order and conventional morality, but, as Brian Leiter, writing in the Times Literary Supplement clearly understands, Nietzsche is not on the side of Ameliorism, Social Justice, or Egalitarianism in the least. Nietzsche is not a Leftist at all. Nietzsche is the most extreme aristocrat.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) pursued two main themes in his work, one now familiar, even commonplace in modernity, the other still under-appreciated, often ignored. The familiar Nietzsche is the “existentialist”, who diagnoses the most profound cultural fact about modernity: “the death of God”, or more exactly, the collapse of the possibility of reasonable belief in God. Belief in God – in transcendent meaning or purpose, dictated by a supernatural being – is now incredible, usurped by naturalistic explanations of the evolution of species, the behaviour of matter in motion, the unconscious causes of human behaviours and attitudes, indeed, by explanations of how such a bizarre belief arose in the first place. But without God or transcendent purpose, how can we withstand the terrible truths about our existence, namely, its inevitable suffering and disappointment, followed by death and the abyss of nothingness?

Nietzsche the “existentialist” exists in tandem with an “illiberal” Nietzsche, one who sees the collapse of theism and divine teleology as tied fundamentally to the untenability of the entire moral world view of post-Christian modernity. If there is no God who deems each human to be of equal worth or possessed with an immortal soul beloved by God, then why think we all deserve equal moral consideration? And what if, as Nietzsche argues, a morality of equality – and altruism and pity for suffering – were, in fact, an obstacle to human excellence? What if being a “moral” person makes it impossible to be Beethoven? Nietzsche’s conclusion is clear: if moral equality is an obstacle to human excellence, then so much the worse for moral equality. This is the less familiar and often shockingly anti-egalitarian Nietzsche. …

Nietzsche’s central objection to morality is more radical and illiberal: any culture dominated by Judeo-Christian morality, or other ascetic or life-denying moralities, will be one inhospitable to the realization of human excellence. What if, as he says in On the Genealogy of Morality, “morality itself were to blame if the highest power and splendor possible to the type man was never in fact attained? So that morality itself was the danger of dangers?”

Consider his objection to moral views that demand that we eliminate suffering and promote happiness. In Dawn, he writes, “Are we not, with this tremendous objective of obliterating all the sharp edges of life, well on the way to turning mankind into sand? Sand! Small, soft, round, unending sand! Is that your ideal, you heralds of the sympathetic affections?” In Beyond Good and Evil a few years later, he objects to utilitarians that, “Well-being as you understand it – that is no goal, that seems to us an end, a state that soon makes man ridiculous and contemptible . . . . ”

Does a focus on happiness really make people “ridiculous and contemptible”? Nietzsche offers a more ambitious explanation in Beyond Good and Evil:

The discipline of suffering, of great suffering – do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far? That tension of the soul in unhappiness which cultivates its strength, its shudders face to face with great ruin, its inventiveness and courage in enduring, persevering, interpreting, and exploiting suffering, and whatever has been granted to it of profundity, secret, mask, spirit, cunning, greatness – was it not granted to it through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?

Most suffering is nothing more than misery for its subject, and most happy “comfortable” people are not exemplars of human excellence. Nietzsche surely knew this. (He was no “tourist” when it came to suffering – even before his disability-related retirement from Basel in 1879 and continuing on until his final mental collapse in 1889, he suffered from excruciating physical maladies, probably due to untreated syphilis). What Nietzsche noticed is that suffering, at least in certain individuals (including himself), could be the stimulus to extraordinary creativity – one need only read a biography of Beethoven to see a paradigm example. But even if Nietzsche has correctly diagnosed the psychological mechanism at work, why should a morality of pity for suffering present an obstacle to sufferers realizing their creative potential? Nietzsche’s crucial thought is that in a culture committed to happiness and the elimination of suffering as its goal, nascent Nietzsches and Beethovens will squander their potential in pursuit of both those aims, rather than in pursuing creative work. After all, if it is bad to suffer, then all your efforts should be devoted to avoiding suffering; and if it is good to be happy, then, that should be the aim of everything you do. But human excellence is compatible with neither the pursuit of happiness nor the flight from suffering.

If Nietzsche’s speculative psychology is correct, then we arrive at a startling conclusion. In a hedonistic and sympathetic culture, which devalues suffering and prioritizes its relief, the glorious spectacle of human genius will be missing from the world: no Beethovens, Nietzsches or Goethes.

RTWT

12 Sep 2017

That’s What I Say

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11 Sep 2017

Oh, No! Yale’s Philosophy Department Lacks “Diversity”

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Detail, Raphael, The School of Athens, 1509-1511, Apostolic Palace, Vatican. Seriously lacking in Diversity.

The OCD is reporting on another crucial problem at Yale.

Yale’s Philosophy Department… has historically been majority white and male.

Philosophy has struggled as a discipline to attract students from diverse backgrounds, and faculty and students within Yale’s Philosophy Department told the News that while the department is not as diverse as it could be in terms of racial and gender makeup or curricular offerings, ongoing efforts to remedy the problem are a cause for optimism.

“[Lack of diversity] has inspired a lot of soul-searching in the discipline in recent years,” said Joanna Demaree-Cotton GRD ’21, co-coordinator of Yale’s chapter of Minorities and Philosophy which works to combat issues faced by minorities in academia. “Lots of departments, including ours at Yale, have started asking tough questions about the cause of this drop-off in the representation of women and racial minorities, and how we might go about ameliorating the problem.” …

“There is no question that as a field, philosophy is significantly less diverse nationally in terms of race and gender than we would like it be,” said Stephen Darwall, philosophy professor and former department chair.

He said that 2 percent of philosophy graduate students at Yale are black, and that there are no black faculty members currently in the department. …

Gender disparities also persist at the faculty level. Darwall said that five out of 18 philosophy ladder faculty, or 28 percent, are women. He added that the department focuses on identifying and recruiting talented women and philosophers of color to the doctoral program.

RTWT

For a Philosophy Department anywhere to fail to conform to contemporary notions of “Diversity” ought not to be surprising in the least.

In the first place, anyone sufficiently intellectually competent to study Philosophy could not possibly avoid noticing that Diversity as presently defined is a purely arbitrary and fundamentally bogus concept. Only identity groups identified with political grievances count toward Diversity. Nobody cares how many Appalachian hillbillies, Swedes, Belgians, Corsicans, Lithuanians, Eskimos, or Tibetans are studying Philosophy at Yale. Only identity groups with a litany of complaints and power-seeking political agendas count.

Many students of Philosophy these days take a particular interest in the philosophical thought of Friedrich Nietszche. Anyone adequately read in Nietszche cannot possibly avoid recognizing in “Diversity” what the great philosopher identified as “the slave revolt in morality,” the inversion of values, and the cynical and calculating attempt of the base and unworthy to gain power over their betters through the exploitation of their charity and benevolence. Anyone familiar with Zur Genealogie der Moral (1887) can hardly avoid identifing “Diversity” as nothing other than Ressentiment deceptively packaged for purposes of marketing.

(Disclosure: NYM’s proprietor was a white, male Philosophy major at Yale.)

04 Oct 2014

Not Syphilis

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hierarchical aestheticism: Goes mad and dies from a brain tumor; suffers more than a century of lies about it being due to syphilis.

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Telegraph:

Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher thought to have died of syphilis caught from prostitutes, was in fact the victim of a posthumous smear campaign by anti-Nazis, according to new research.

A study of medical records has found that, far from suffering a sexually-transmitted disease which drove him mad, Nietzsche almost certainly died of brain cancer.

The doctor who has carried out the study claims that the universally-accepted story of Nietzsche having caught syphilis from prostitutes was actually concocted after the Second World War by Wilhelm Lange-Eichbaum, an academic who was one of Nietzsche’s most vociferous critics. It was then adopted as fact by intellectuals who were keen to demolish the reputation of Nietzsche, whose idea of a “Superman” was used to underpin Nazism.

The new research was carried out by Dr Leonard Sax, the director of the Montgomery Centre for Research in Child Development in Maryland, America. Dr Sax made his discovery after studying accounts of Nietzsche’s collapse with dementia in 1889.

Full article.

16 Sep 2014

You Know What They Always Say

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Stephen Hilyard, Dougal, Leysin, 1977.

“Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Böse.

Hat tip to Madame Scherzo via Karen L. Myers.

09 Aug 2014

Nietszche’s Rules of Style

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Lou Andreas-Salome poses jestingly as dominating female with Paul Rée and Nietszche.

Maria Popova shares the ten rules of writing sent by Friedrich Nietszche to Lou Andreas-Salome.

Between August 8 and August 24 of 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche set down ten stylistic rules of writing in a series of letters to the Russian-born writer, intellectual, and psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé — a woman celebrated as the “muse of Europe’s fin-de-siècle thinkers and artists,” to whom Rainer Maria Rilke would later come to write breathtaking love letters. …

Collected under the heading “Toward the Teaching of Style,” they read:

    Of prime necessity is life: a style should live.

    Style should be suited to the specific person with whom you wish to communicate. (The law of mutual relation.)

    First, one must determine precisely “what-and-what do I wish to say and present,” before you may write. Writing must be mimicry.

    Since the writer lacks many of the speaker’s means, he must in general have for his model a very expressive kind of presentation of necessity, the written copy will appear much paler.

    The richness of life reveals itself through a richness of gestures. One must learn to feel everything — the length and retarding of sentences, interpunctuations, the choice of words, the pausing, the sequence of arguments — like gestures.

    Be careful with periods! Only those people who also have long duration of breath while speaking are entitled to periods. With most people, the period is a matter of affectation.

    Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.

    The more abstract a truth which one wishes to teach, the more one must first entice the senses.

    Strategy on the part of the good writer of prose consists of choosing his means for stepping close to poetry but never stepping into it.

    It is not good manners or clever to deprive one’s reader of the most obvious objections. It is very good manners and very clever to leave it to one’s reader alone to pronounce the ultimate quintessence of our wisdom.

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The 1882 photo scene depicted in “Beyond Good and Evil” (‘Al di là del bene e del male’) by Liliana Cavani (1977).

07 Jun 2014

University of London Student Union Votes to Bans Nietzsche Club

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abyss
“Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Böse.

Via Legal Insurrection:

In the name of “a socialist transformation of society,” intolerant students at University College London (UCL) have violated the rules of their student union by banning a group calling itself the Nietzsche Club, after German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The official resolution speaks for itself and might even violate British law.

According to Union Policy UP1343, passed earlier this year and available at the Union’s website, the UCL Union (basically the student government) officially believes that the Nietzsche Club “is aimed at promoting a far-right, fascist ideology” and must be stopped at all costs.

In case there was any question, UCLU adds that “there is no meaningful distinction to be made between a far-right and a fascist ideology” and that “fascism is directly threatening to the safety of the UCL student body.”

The entity doing the banning is University of London’s University of London (Student) Union. The “fascists” being banned are the University of London chapter of the Traditionalist Youth Network, a group representing about as much of a political threat as a Philatelists’ Club.

The motion passed by these snot-nosed communist little buggers reads:

This Union notes

That a group positioning itself as a “student club about traditionalist art and philosophy” and as “Tradition UCL”, has started operating at UCL.

That this group has been putting up posters with their contact details around UCL campus.

That their posters’ heading reads “Too much political correctness?”, and they advertise a study of the philosophers Nietzsche, de Benoist, Heidegger and Evola.

That a second poster appeared around four weeks after the previous one had first been put up, bearing the title “Equality is a false god” and, once again, advertising the philosophers de Benoist, Heidegger and Evola for study.

That on this second poster the group has repositioned itself as a “Nietzsche Club” and altered its contact details to include a new email address.

That the aforementioned philosophers and thinkers are on the extreme-right, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, homophobic, anti-Marxist, anti-worker and have had connections, direct or indirect, with Italian fascism and German Nazism.

This Union believes

That this group is aimed at promoting a far-right, fascist ideology at UCL.

That there is no meaningful distinction to be made between a far-right and a fascist ideology.

That this group may have connections to the wider fascist movement and other organised groups, specifically those groups using the name “Radical Traditionalism” to describe their ideology, such as the “Traditionalist Youth Network”, and the “Traditional Britain Group”.

That fascism is directly threatening to the safety of the UCL student body and UCLU members.

That fascism is used by the ruling class to divide workers and students along ethnic, national, religious, and gender lines, as a measure to split them and thus weaken their effectiveness as a force and undermine their resistance to policies of austerity, attacks on living standards and public services, and other consequences of the crisis of the capitalist system.

That fascism has no place at UCL or UCLU, and that any attempts by fascists or the far-right to organise on campus must be met with unconditional resistance.

This Union resolves

To ban and otherwise prevent the installation of any further publicity of this group around UCLU buildings, and to urge UCL to adopt the same policy in the university buildings.

To prevent any attempts by this group to hold meetings and organise events on campus.

To reject any attempts by this group to seek affiliation and official recognition from UCLU as an official club or society.

To commit to a struggle against fascism and the far-right, in a united front of students, workers, trade unions and the wider labour movement, with the perspective of fighting the root cause of fascism – capitalism. Thus, the struggle is to be united under the programme of a socialist transformation of society.

21 Sep 2013

Nietszche’s Daily Habits

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Sils-Maria, Switzerland. 2004. Photograph: Patrick Lakey

From Curtis Cate’s Friedrich Nietszche.

With a Spartan rigour which never ceased to amaze his landlord-grocer, Nietzsche would get up every morning when the faintly dawning sky was still grey, and, after washing himself with cold water from the pitcher and china basin in his bedroom and drinking some warm milk, he would, when not felled by headaches and vomiting, work uninterruptedly until eleven in the morning. He then went for a brisk, two-hour walk through the nearby forest or along the edge of Lake Silvaplana (to the north-east) or of Lake Sils (to the south-west), stopping every now and then to jot down his latest thoughts in the notebook he always carried with him. Returning for a late luncheon at the Hôtel Alpenrose, Nietzsche, who detested promiscuity, avoided the midday crush of the table d’hôte in the large dining-room and ate a more or less ‘private’ lunch, usually consisting of a beefsteak and an ‘unbelievable’ quantity of fruit, which was, the hotel manager was persuaded, the chief cause of his frequent stomach upsets. After luncheon, usually dressed in a long and somewhat threadbare brown jacket, and armed as usual with notebook, pencil, and a large grey-green parasol to shade his eyes, he would stride off again on an even longer walk, which sometimes took him up the Fextal as far as its majestic glacier. Returning ‘home’ between four and five o’clock, he would immediately get back to work, sustaining himself on biscuits, peasant bread, honey (sent from Naumburg), fruit and pots of tea he brewed for himself in the little upstairs ‘dining-room’ next to his bedroom, until, worn out, he snuffed out the candle and went to bed around 11 p.m.

Hat tip to Rhys Trantner.


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