Some criticisms/thoughts on Nietzsche.

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Reply Fri 28 Nov, 2008 10:58 am
I have recently been reading some criticisms of Nietzsche that have interrsted me. I was wondering whether other members of the forum felt these arguments were worthy or not.

The first is from In Search of Zarathustra, by Paul Kriwaczek.

I came to my own conclusion about what Nietzsche really stood for. He thought he was overturning Zarathustra's teaching, I think he was simply reinterpreting it for a post-religious age.

Two thousand years of Christian thought - combined with a strong dash of Plato - had taken the Persian prophet's message as implying a material world that was wholly evil, and a spiritual world that was entirely good. But Nietzsche was no longer a Christian, no longer a believer in god. His love of high mountains, of snow and ice, was his atheist's way of rising above a corrupt earth and coming closer to heaven. No longer a believer in life after death, he knew that the drama must be played out within each individual - the struggle between what a person is and what he or she might become. No longer a believer in the liberation of the soul, he proposed striving to become superhuman in its place.

So I concluded, Nietzsche was actually preaching a form of Zarathustra's philosophy after all. His genius was to wrap in modern packaging a belief that has run as a constant thread throughout European history, a heretical doctrine that orthodox Christianity spent centuries trying bloodily to extirpate. Humanity is flawed, said Nietzsche, rise above it. The world is evil, said the Cathars, leave it behind.

The second from Straw Dogs, by John Gray:

Schopenhauer wrote: "What history relates is in fact only the long, heavy and confused dream of mankind." Nietzsche attacked Schopenhauer's view of history as pessimism. Yet in denying that history has any meaning, Schopenhauer was simply drawing the last consequence of what Nietzsche was later to call "the death of god".



Nietzsche's collapse was prefigured in his thought. He had dreamt of such an incident the previous May, and written about the dream in a letter. Possibly, Nietzsche's gesture mimicked that of Raskolnikov, the criminal hero of a novel Nietzsche had read and much admired, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, who dreamt of throwing his arms around a mistreated horse. Perhaps it can be seen as an attempt to beg forgiveness from the animal for the cruel treatment it had received, a cruelty that Nietzsche may well have believed flowed from the errors of philosophers such as Descartes, who held that animals were unfeeling machines.

It is ironic that Nietzsche's breakdown should have been triggered by the sight of an animal being cruelly treated. Against Schopenhauer, Nietzsche had often argued that the best people should cultivate a taste for cruelty. Schopenhauer had been Nietzsche's first love in philosophy, but in his early book The Birth of tragedy, he is already urging that pity - the supreme virtue according to Schopenhauer - should not be allowed to destroy the joy of life. In later writings Nietzsche insisted that pity was a sign of weak vitality. If pity became the core of ethics, the result would only be more suffering, as misery became contagious and happiness an object of suspicion.

Yet it was not the coldly cheerful Schopenhauer, the "flute playing pessimist" as Nietzsche scornfully described him, who was destroyed by pity. It was Nietzsche, whose acute sensitivity to the pain of the world tormented him throughout his life.

The circumstances of Nietzsche's breakdown suggest another irony. Unlike Nietzsche Schopenhauer turned away from Christianity and never looked back, and one of the core Christian beliefs that he left behind was the belief in the significance of human history. For Christians it is because they occur in history that the lives of humans have meaning that the lives of the other animals do not. What enables humans to have a history is that they can choose freely how to live their lives. They are given this freedom by God, who created them in his own image.

Looking for meaning in history is like looking for patterns in the clouds. Nietzsche knew this; but he could not accept it. He was trapped in a chalk circle of Christian hopes. A believer to the end, he never gave up the absurd faith that something could be made of the human animal. He invented the ridiculous figure of the superman to give history a meaning it had not had before. He hoped that humankind could therefore be awakened from its deep sleep. As could have been foreseen, he succeeded only in adding further nightmares to its confused dream.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Fri 28 Nov, 2008 02:06 pm
@Dave Allen,
It would be interesting to see the citations of Nietzsche's works on which either built his conclusions. It would also be useful, before commenting on these interpretations, if it would be possible to site the sources from which these were copied.

On the face of it, both seem to be Christian "interpretations" of Nietzsche and not philosophical analyses of his thought, especially given the superficial discussion of what he meant by ubermensch and its place in Nietzsche's thinking. Both writers, rather than honestly confronting his thought, find ways to turn him into some "secret" Christian despite all that the wrote.

For a philosophical analysis based on a thorough reading of his books, Hollingsdale, Schacht, or Kaufmann are certainly to be preferred to either.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Wed 4 Feb, 2009 02:34 am
@jgweed,
Without finding citiations, the word that comes to mind is No, resoundingly. The only thing Nietzsche wanted to deny, to 'call evil' (though he would never use that phrase) was the doctirne which denied life. The only thing he wanted to 'ascend to' was life unrestrained by the christian pathos, the will to death. One more thing. I have started to read a few criticisms of Nietzsche and for some reason I always stop because I hear Nietzsche loudly applying his own criticism to these critics in the back of my mind. Intellectually speaking, anyone who isn't wholley with N. has to be against him, in the interest of self-preservation (at least in terms of his negative philosophy, not neccessarily the details of his new valuation, which was never fully worked out), and so I always find the critics unconvincing, but more importantly, a little desperate.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 4 Feb, 2009 03:07 pm
@BrightNoon,
One must be either wholly against Nietzsche's thought or wholly in agreement? And because of this, you find critics unconvincing, and more importantly, desperate?

To the first: I see no reason to think that one must either totally agree or totally disagree with Nietzsche. For example, one might disagree with his ethics yet agree with him when he writes that Buddhism is the most reasonable of religions (from The Antichrist).

That you see critics as unconvincing is no surprise because you agree with Nietzsche. But that you find critics desperate is odd. Why do you see them as desperate?
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Tue 17 Feb, 2009 09:52 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
First, let me remind you that I'm only talking about his negative philosophy: the work devoted to the destruction of all prevailing values. The constructive works are much more controversial, especially because Nietzsche never worked them out fully and he seems contradictory at times. So, to continue; critics of N. must either be with him (be willing to consider that all values are doubtable) or against him (cling to x or y vestige of an earlier system on faith). I say this because, in my opinion, Nietzsche's demolition of western values is so extraordinary, complete and effective, that he really changed everything; everyone since has to either acknowledge his discoveries or willfully ignore them. That's the desperate critic: one whose criticism seems less an argument than a plea to preserve what Nietzsche's in the process of burning down: e.g. a critic who dosen't refute Nietzsche's argument that there is no such thing as 'will' and goes on as if he never made the argument.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Tue 17 Feb, 2009 10:15 pm
@Dave Allen,
Just because Nietzsche may have destroyed prevailing values, unfortunately he had no effect on the prevailing population. Thus, his major impact did little outside the realm of philosophy minus the ridiculous attempt of the Nazis to use him as their main philosopher.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Tue 17 Feb, 2009 10:23 pm
@Theaetetus,
Yep, tragic on both counts it would seem.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Tue 17 Feb, 2009 10:42 pm
@Dave Allen,
It is rather unfortunate that Plato and Nietzsche will be forever stuck in the realm of the misinterpreted.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Tue 17 Feb, 2009 11:13 pm
@Theaetetus,
Maybe I'm a misinterpreter, but I despise Plato, and all subsequent forms of Platonism. Essences my foot!
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2009 06:06 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
First, let me remind you that I'm only talking about his negative philosophy: the work devoted to the destruction of all prevailing values. The constructive works are much more controversial, especially because Nietzsche never worked them out fully and he seems contradictory at times. So, to continue; critics of N. must either be with him (be willing to consider that all values are doubtable) or against him (cling to x or y vestige of an earlier system on faith). I say this because, in my opinion, Nietzsche's demolition of western values is so extraordinary, complete and effective, that he really changed everything; everyone since has to either acknowledge his discoveries or willfully ignore them. That's the desperate critic: one whose criticism seems less an argument than a plea to preserve what Nietzsche's in the process of burning down: e.g. a critic who dosen't refute Nietzsche's argument that there is no such thing as 'will' and goes on as if he never made the argument.
So what is it about John Gray's comments on the irony of Nietzsche's breakdown that you feel puts him in this camp of a 'desperate critic'.

I think his observations of Nietzsche v Shopenhauer (in which I feel Nietzsche is guilty of the same "take what I like dismiss what I don't" attitude that you seem to suggest should be banned to those who seek to criticise Nietzsche) are perfectly pertinent.

You seem to be argueing one must accept all or nothing of Nietzsche. I think this is quite nonsensical really, why shouldn't his thoughts be judged on their individual quality.

And why shouldn't people note the pathos and irony of the manner of his disintergration?

And you MUST be with someone who says all values must be doubted? That's a clear oxymoron.
 
RDanneskjld
 
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2009 09:50 am
@Dave Allen,
There is no doubt that Nietzsche did use some Christian images within his work(some images used in Nietzsche's work have close parralels of what is seen in some of Martin Luther's writting's and even almost direction quotations from Bible) He also remarks how we would not be rid of God, until we are rid of grammar itself and how fundamental the idea of God was to thought.

But whether that makes him a religous thinker is extremely dubious. We also see how it is the Madman who in the Gay science is the one who warns the Atheists about the 'Death of God', he is worried about an impending nihlism that this could bring, which he is very apposed too. He seems to want a new foundation on which to base society, and is excited at the possiblilty of this with the escape from Slave master morality.

Interesting 30min lecture on Nietzsche YouTube - God Is Dead Nietzsche and Christianity Part 1
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2009 04:08 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
Maybe I'm a misinterpreter, but I despise Plato, and all subsequent forms of Platonism. Essences my foot!


Not that this is a thread on Plato, but what Plato says is not nearly as important as the method used to say what he does. Also, the problem of nearly all Platonism is based on misinterpretations of Plato. The most famous misinterpretation of Plato--the idea that he actually endorsed the guardian state. I will go into more depth on the topic when I have extra time either tonight or Friday to specifically look into that subject. Anyway, back to Nietzsche!

I do have to say one thing on putting to much value on secondary work within philosophy. If you want to really now what a thinker said or would say, you cannot trust the secondary sources--you must look at the primary source, and if you can, in the primary language. Some of the secondary scholarship out there is lazy at best.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 02:28 am
@Dave Allen,
Nietzsche is great, but at times he seems completely devoid of the golden laughter he commended. There's something Quixotic about his values-tirade. At times he himself is just one more metaphysician, this sickly macho Romantic with his Will-to-Power. At other times he was a female element (Ecce Homo), or a stick of dynamite. I like him best when he's in good mood.
Like most sensitive artistic folks, he wanted a world that was more noble, more beautiful. At times he's just a voice of impotent outrage. At other times he is the great prose-poet of mountain-tops and other classical spiritual themes.

I think he's at his best when he is tearing the prejudices of philosophers to shreds. He is a depth-psychologist, a linguistic philosopher, a meta-philosopher, an updated cynic, a buffoon, an a**hole (Ecce Homo).

He's a one man band, spiced with contradictions and no small amount of the mystical. Just what are we to make of his Dionysus? Also consider the passage on inspiration in Ecce Homo.

I believe his books were considered literature before Heidegger (I think it was Heidegger) got them generally thought of as philosophy. Correct me (politely?) if I am wrong on this.

Wink
 
 

 
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