Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mr Gabriel Syme fights Nietzsche's battles for him.

Today's thoughts:

I was fossicking around on Facebook and found this picture a friend had put up last year. At the time it prompted a most remarkable outpouring of hate from a most remarkable bell-end, which in turn prompted me to respond in kind. It's a good summary of his works - I think - regardless of how unnecessary and pretentious it is to argue Nietzsche for several hundred words on Facebook.

Some samples of the intellectual offerings, first of all: well as the charming assertion that "I'm not sure you could describe Nietzsche's later works as "thinking". They're completely unintelligible to even the most experienced of minds!"

Ha. Well. We know better than that, don't we?

I replied:

For someone who considers Nietzsche's work "unintelligible", you certainly seem to think you know it better than the man himself. It may alarm and surprise you to learn that not everyone merely attaches themselves to a dogma - perhaps the benefit in Nietzsche is not blindly following his writings but contemplating what they mean. Trying to understand what at face value seems so utterly alienating and repellent is a practical intellectual exercise that raises our consciousness and strengthens us as individuals.

I couldn't help myself, and came back a little while later with the following. You can see how overzealous I'm getting by my first sentence:

Since I can't stand the butchery of Nietzsche's incredible and revolutionary philosophy, I'll offer my own interpretation:

Nietzsche's view of reality is that no objective moral standards exist. There is no metaphysical authority and no meaning to our own lives. Our perceptions, our values and our desires are all subjective, and therefore to shape the world as we wish it we are required to inflict this subjectivity on others (this can take some contemplation to understand, but it's well worth the time). This is what Nietzsche called "will to power".

Moralities are ways of harnessing and restricting this will to power. When you tell people to repress their desires - we're not attaching a "good or bad" label to such an action at this point - in favour of following a set code of ethics and meaning, you are restricting their own agency, freedom and individuality. Perhaps this is necessary to create a functioning and cohesive society, perhaps not - at this point, it's just an observation.

"Slave moralities" like Christianity are so called because they do not allow individuals to enact their will to power. Everyone is a slave of the overarching system which has been set in place. Like a piece of clockwork, the system of morality has been fashioned and then set in motion, and everyone becomes a slave of its beliefs and dictates. A "master morality", which Nietzsche himself preferred (but we do not have to), is one where individuals rise above the system and create their own moralities. Nietzsche did like the idea of the strong and exceptional - those who could think for themselves - being freed from moral constraints, but to equate this with Social Darwinism and presumably thus Nazism is to miss the point so far that I suggest no one need listen to you on this topic until you've shown yourself capable of anything more than pointless, ad hominem ranting.

And then a few minutes later:

You know, I felt bad about my rather angry closing remark, but on re-reading this whole discussion I think anger is the right response.

Free-thought cannot be stifled by doctrine, no matter how "insane" they may be considered by their peers - references to Galileo at this point seem very apt. We can't read Nietzsche if we're conservatives, because any attempt to question the status quo must be quickly suppressed.

If we're name-dropping philosophers, everyone should read Hannah Arendt's lecture "Thinking and Moral Considerations". In it, she shows that heinous crimes such as the Holocaust are not the result of dangerous thinkers, but by the masses of people who *fail* to think. Please, for the love of whatever banal and unoriginal god you may insist on following, spend as much time as you can questioning everything and everyone. And if you don't agree with me... good. Why not?

No replies after that. So, I guess I.. won? Arguing on the internet, Special Olympics, all that.

By the way, if anyone wants to plagiarise this for some school/university essay, go ahead. Formal attribution is not required. And yes, high schools do teach Nietzsche. I supervised last year's VCE Philosophy exam, amongst others, and the big N was most prominent on the paper. Surely Year 12 is the last period of someone's life you want to spend dissembling their hierarchies of structure and meaning.

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