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December 17, 2003

Coming To Grips With Nietzsche, Part III


In my (no doubt) long-awaited third posting on Nietzsche, I want to discuss where I think his ideas have been significant to me, and where I think he went wrong. Because I haven’t touched on all aspects of his thought in my previous posts, I beg your indulgence while offering a brief summary:

God is Dead—This is Nietzsche’s term for the collapse of belief in God and the Christian interpretation of the meaning of life, a process that had been underway for a century but was accelerating in his time. The Christian interpretation of the world had served as a way of giving meaning to suffering, death and worldly frustration, so it kept under control humanity’s tendency towards nihilism—i.e., the belief that life is meaningless suffering, with its consequential world weariness and will to death. Nietzsche therefore anticipated that he lived at the beginning of an epoch during which nihilism would spiral out of control. However, he notices that although belief in God was diminishing, the credence given to Christian moral judgments seems to be doing fine.

This leads him to ponder the source and nature of morality and value systems, a project he entitles the Revaluation of Values. By contemplating history and psychology, Nietzche rejects the notion that values and moralities are handed down from on high and are thus absolute. He finds, rather, that values and moralities (which are, in essence, systems of guidance) are developed to serve the needs of particular human groups, communities and classes. He finds that the group whose needs are served by taking guidance from Christian values are the weak and suffering majority of mankind. He also finds Christian values to be infused with envy and resentment against the powerful. By the powerful he meant the well-formed, those who do not suffer, those who get what they want. Nietzsche also thought that these ‘lower class’ values had hampered the few well-formed powerful individuals of his time from actualizing themselves.

Nietzsche also saw that the values of the secular ‘religions’ of his time (democracy, socialism, feminism, nationalism) were likewise in the service of the same weak and suffering majority, and were laden with the same resentment. (As you might expect, Nietzsche was against all of these secular ‘religions,’ which makes the Nazis’ appropriation of his philosophy sort of a bad joke.) Looking back in history, he saw, however, that the weak and suffering had not been the only human group that had created a set of values. According to Nietzsche, the classical Greeks and Romans, who were dominated by the upper classes—that is, the masters, the powerful and well-formed, those that never doubted that they should be in charge and get what they want—had believed in a very different set of values. This ‘master’ morality was not full of resentment, as those that believed in it didn’t feel weak or powerless. Nietzsche also found that this ‘master’ morality had encouraged the remarkable development of superior human beings in the Classical era and their critical contributions to culture and science.

Of course, such two-thousand year-old value systems are fine and dandy, but only as theoretical counter-examples. Nietzsche was well-aware that the Christian morality and value system (i.e., altruism = good and egoism = bad) were overpoweringly dominant in his era. And again, although he saw that belief in God was fading, he noted that Christian value judgments thoroughly informed the secular ‘religions’ that were rising in its place. However, Nietzsche doubted that these value judgments could work in a secular context, because of the problem of meaning. He believed that people need an interpretation of the world that endows suffering, frustration and death with meaning. In other words, something that answers the question: how can these negative aspects of life be given a purpose? Secular religions, lacking a God and an afterlife, can only strive to reduce suffering and frustration as much as possible, and also to enlist the sufferers in a war on the rule of the powerful (i.e., the unjust) who are presumed to be the cause of most suffering and frustration. Nietzsche suggests that when suffering has been reduced but not eliminated, and when the war on the powerful comes to an end, it will become clear that the secular ‘religions’ really fail to provide any meaning for suffering, frustration or death.

As a result, Nietzsche sees that the problem of meaning as having two possible outcomes, which he personifies as the Over-man and the Last-Man. Either strong, superior, masterful, creative spirits (i.e., the Over-man) will develop new, life-enhancing meanings for suffering, and new ambitions and purposes for mankind, or humanity will degenerate, becoming so tame, so similar to a herd-animal, that the Last-man will be able to do without meaning, and be entirely content with a program of minimizing its personal suffering. (Nietzsche, by the way, considered this ‘degeneration’ to be a literal, physical process, already underway and visible in his era.) If it's not clear already, Nietzsche was a big fan of the first alternative, and loathed the second.

Neitzsche also developed a personal ‘metaphysics’ to accompany his analysis of values. I use ‘metaphysics’ here to refer to the best statements that Nietzsche thought could be formulated about the ultimate nature of reality. One part of his metaphysics was his notion of Will-To-Power. He expanded the psychological notion of ‘will’ to the physical universe, using it to explain the universe, human psychology and history. Will-to-power divides the world and everything in it solely into (1) resistance and (2) the overcoming of resistance. While this principle was operative from the atomic level up, at the level of human pyschology, resistance is perceived as pain or frustration and the overcoming of resistance is perceived as a pleasurable feeling of power. (According to Nietzsche, this is the origin of the pleasure principle, but he regarded philosophies that stressed the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain as superficial, since in his view people were willing to suffer great pain in pursuit of great power.) Since all of reality, including human beings, are nothing but expressions of will-to-power, Nietzsche correspondingly denied that the mind is an autonomous, logical agent and maintained that thought was merely one more means to an end.

Although the will-to-power was intended as a single factor explanation of reality, Nietzsche developed an interesting complicating idea (which he termed the Self-Overcoming of the will-to-power). Because will-to-power can’t be contained in any schema, it eventually overturns all structures and arrangements, including those previously erected by itself, in its perpetual quest to overcome ever-greater resistance. (To give one example: long ago, religion enjoined on people the commandment to tell the truth. Eventually people got so devoted to telling the truth that they stop believing in religion. Religion has thus, in Nietzsche’s terms, ‘overcome itself.’) In fact, Nietzsche acknowledges that the Christian religion, his great bugaboo, has in fact served to discipline and even strengthen the spirit (at least of powerful human beings). Hence Christianity has been a vehicle for making the will-to-power more internalized and more spiritual. Thus even developments that Nietzsche has found negative have served as the agent of the will-to-power in building itself up to tackle ever-greater challenges.

When Nietzsche extended the notion of self-overcoming from the psychological sphere to the physical world, he conceived another metaphysical notion, The Eternal Recurrence. Since reality simply is will-to-power, which because of its endless drive for overcoming resistance has no possible end-state, the constant efforts of the will-to-power to overcome what amounts to itself will eventually cause it to ‘repeat’ all possible variations of its own internal struggles and alignments. This process will continue forever and ever. Nietzsche found the ability to accept this notion to be the ultimate expression of a pro-life mentality: the ability to accept infinitely repeated failure, pain, suffering and death as the inevitable results of will-to-power, and hence to be embraced along with the pleasurable, powerful parts of life.

This is the end of my summary. How do I evaluate all this? Well, let’s start with where I find his ideas lacking.

To the extent that I understand Nietzsche’s metaphysics, it seems inconsistent with positions he takes in his analysis of values. If all of life (and indeed reality) is will-to-power, then presumably so is nihilism. Hence, if nihilism (as he appears to suggest) is the will-to-power blocked in its external goals and expending its power on destroying itself, why should we resist this outcome? 'Meaning,' which in Nietzsche’s thought refers either a higher purpose or a comforting illusion, in either case a sort of stratagem designed to keep the will-to-power from tearing itself to pieces, would seem to be pointless and even wrong, a resistance to fundamental reality.

I find the same inconsistency with his metaphysics when Nietzsche urgently advocates the adoption of the un-Christian values, claiming that they will be necessary to permit the Over-man to come into being. In his analysis of conscious thought, Nietzsche maintains that mental activity exists solely to help realize the body’s physiological goals—food, sex, power,etc. To put it another way, the will-to-power of one’s physiology is the cause or the independent variable in Nietzsche’s psycho-physiological equation, and ideas are the effect and thus the dependent variable. If this is true, how do values—which would seem to be ideas and thus examples of conscious thought, in other words mere effects—somehow end up controlling the show, as he repeatedly suggests is the case? How could lowly ideas prevent the exuberantly physiologically powerful over-man from evolving? But Nietzsche’s writings are full of passages to the effect that values will end up modifying the physiological nature of the people that accept them. The Over-man isn’t the only example of this line of thinking; Nietzsche also seems to be saying that the ordinary human being will degenerate physiologically into Last Man herd-animals as a result of the Christian values of his ancestors.

In short, Nietzsche at times maintains that body’s goals dominate the mind, which he portrays as merely the body’s servant, and then he turns around and shows the mind and its ideas dominating the body. This is having it both ways. I guess it’s possible that Nietzsche thought values and mental activity were forms of self-overcoming. That is, mental activity could starts out as the servant of the body but then perform a back-flip and become its master. Unfortunately, if this is the case, I’m not aware that he ever said so, and I think untangling this would force him to significantly rethink major sections of his philosophy.

Okay, so to appreciate Nietzsche (like every other philosopher I’ve ever read) we have to ignore a few aspects of his thinking. That leaves plenty of valuable insights:

First, Nietzsche was one heck of a social critic and prognosticator. The prevalence of belief in Christianity did decline precipitously, especially in Europe. The void that resulted was ‘filled’ by secular ‘religions’ (Nationalism, Marxism, Fascism, Modernism, Freudianism, Existentialism, Feminism, Multi-Culturalism, to name a few) that made totalizing claims as a way of distracting attention away from their inability to deliver a strong-enough dose of meaning (in Nietzsche’s usage.) And, per Nietzsche’s prediction, most, if not all, of these secular ‘religions’ did preach values laden with resentment of the powerful and happy. Moreover, a strong undertone of nihilism and a constant hunger for meaning have characterized the era since he wrote.

Second, Nietzsche’s ‘revaluation of the values,’ has provided an always-useful criticism of any value-system that strives to avoid being labeled the values of this or that community, and posture itself instead as simply the One True Faith. It is always useful, I believe, to look at what community such value-systems come from and whose interests such values serve.

Third, Nietzsche will always have my gratitude for blowing the whistle on a phenomenon I can only describe as ‘judging reality.’ In practice this amounts to asserting that human beings constantly violate this or that sacred rule (they exploit, they murder, they rape, they conduct wars, they pollute, they exterminate helpless animals and plants, etc., etc.) and as a consequence the entire race deserves moral condemnation and, presumably extinction as a just punishment. (The death sentence, it is implied, will only be stayed if humanity repents PDQ and forswears such activity in perpetuity.) After reading Nietzsche, it is hard to refrain from asking on what metaphysical authority people criticize humanity in this fashion. What non-human pinnacle do they stand on to have a right to such a point of view? (And, of course, what do they hope to gain by making such judgments?)

Recently evo-bio thinkers, like Steven Pinker in his book “The Blank State,” have rather generously advanced the notion that ‘educated opinion’ over the past century simply didn’t believe in ‘human nature.’ I think Mr. Pinker is wrong. I think the people who held those ‘educated opinions’ knew very well that human nature existed—they simply viewed human nature as being bad. And such people realized that if they had admitted that human nature was thus and so, then they would have had to admit that such bad tendencies had probably contributed to our remarkable success as a species fully as much as our good tendencies have. Moreover, they would also have to admit that those same bad tendencies were probably not only part of their own makeup but were active in them at that very moment—that something remarkably like will-to-power lurked in their negative judgment of mankind. And since these people didn't want to admit any of this, it was darn useful to pretend to 'disbelieve' in human nature.

Fourth, I think that Nietzsche’s concept of the disciplining of the human spirit as a necessary prelude to many types of higher tasks is right on the money. The following quote from “Beyond Good & Evil” has always been one of my favorites:

The essential thing `in heaven and upon earth' seems, to say it again, to be a protracted obedience in one direction: from out of that there always emerges and has always emerged in the long run something for the sake of which it is worthwhile to live on earth, for example virtue, art, music, dance, reason, spirituality--something transfiguring, refined, mad and divine.

I don’t have space here to take on the ways in which many post-modernists have misread Nietzsche (whether deliberately or ignorantly), but I would simply ask you to consider if that quote is consistent with the whole ethos of Po-Mo. (And, not to unfairly single out our contemporaries, I would note that this quote also suggests a powerful critique of the 'perpetual aesthestic revolution' declared by Modernism.)

Fifth, I think Nietzsche issues a challenge to liberalism, either of the classic variety or the modern-day procedural variety. He was well acquainted with the democratic point of view that society should be agnostic about having any overarching goal and hence structured to permit everyone to pursue his or her own ‘desired end state.’ He clearly doubted that such a social organization was optimal for cultural creativity, and he thought that people living under such a system would suffer from the absence of meaning and tend to fall prey to resentment and nihilism. I’m not so sure that the society we’re living in has entirely avoided these perils.

But by his example in putting forward the Over-man as the ‘meaning of the earth’ (whether you agree with him or find this ludicrous) Nietzsche makes it clear how intellectually flaccid it is to argue for or against, say, a social policy on the basis of abstractions like ‘liberty,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘fairness.’ I have nothing against such concepts, but clearly they are pretty vague and toothless in the absence of an explicit goal or a stated purpose. I mean, who really thinks they are here on earth to pursue perfect liberty, perfect justice or perfect fairness as ends in themselves? Aren’t liberty, justice and fairness valuable only as means to some end? But can we really be surprised that the average American ends up living a life of ‘mindless consumerism’ when he or she can’t state a social goal more profound than ‘eliminating injustice’?

But I share Nietzsche’s skepticism about how long an era that remains agnostic about any higher or supreme goal can stave off the hunger pangs of meaning. As evidence of this, I would point to the rise of movements like sociobiology, and perhaps the aesthetic theories like those of Christopher Alexander. Although Sociobiology, for example, is too shy to come right out and admit that it nurtures such an ur-goal in its bosom, I think it is clearly implied: that we should live so as to maximize the odds that our descendants will survive and thrive. And since our biological ‘nature’ is the only possible basis for profound human ‘meaning,’ we must come to terms with it, if only in order to survive long enough to accomplish our goal.

These philosophies seem to me to the first signs of what I would term the emergence of post-nihilistic ‘meaning,’ but I doubt they will be the last. I look forward to seeing others arise as well. Let me announce my formula: Nihilism is dead.



P.S. I realize having posted this that I've ignored one other great virtue of the Terrible Teuton, that he was a brilliant literary stylist, a great writer--something that can be said of vanishingly few philosophers. If you want to experience that, however, you're going to have to read him yourself.

posted by Friedrich at December 17, 2003


'Nietzsche found the ability to accept this notion to be the ultimate expression of a pro-life mentality: the ability to accept infinitely repeated failure, pain, suffering and death as the inevitable results of will-to-power, and hence to be embraced along with the pleasurable, powerful parts of life."

In my simpleton terms then---he's saying that pain and suffering are obstacles to be overcome in terms of becoming "the over-man" in this life (before we die), while Christianity considered them obstacles to be overcome in order to achieve "perfection" or "heaven" in the next life (after we die).

But...if his theory is correct, wouldn't the will-to-power just be working in everyone all the time (if it's an inherent Truth) and therefore, whether you BELIEVED your "reward" was here or later, you'd still be moving toward "over-man" status all the time. How could you not be? So, why would Christian beliefs (or Nazaiism or feminism, or whatever) "stop" anything from happening? If our inherent nature is to keep overcoming obstacles, wouldn't we continue to do this despite what we "believed."

Or is he saying that Christian beliefs inherently made people "choose" to stop "overcoming"? Because then he seems to be saying that the will-to-power isn't inherent, it--in and of itself-- is a choice?

Posted by: annette on December 17, 2003 4:24 PM

The will to overman status is obvious today.

Alpha male anyone?

Posted by: M. Simon on December 18, 2003 9:51 AM

I wonder why always only the first three words of that one quote are given. It seems to me this is quoting out of context.

Gott ist tot: aber so wie die Art der Menschen ist, wird es vielleicht noch jahrtausendlang Hohlen geben, in denen man seinen Schatten zeigt.

[God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. ]

Nietzsche is such a good stylist I simply cannot read him in English. So even when Friedrich writes many wise observations here, their value diminishes somewhat for me because they're done in English.

The Übermensch is a different beast than overman.

But then, I cannot stand Hollywood movies with English speaking Nazis either [like that awful Schindler's List]. Language is more than words, there's also style and something like tone.

Please don't regard this as criticism; it's just a very persoal response.

Posted by: ijsbrand on December 18, 2003 10:14 AM

Alpha male

Posted by: M. Simon on December 18, 2003 11:23 AM

"Nihilism is dead" -- excellent!

Fun to watch you combing through Nietzsche's thoughts. There is something bizarre about watching the ideals of liberal neutrality and egalitarianism become fanatically-held-to quasi-religions in themselves, isn't it?

I guess what you've got me wondering is this: assuming that a society (like an individual) needs a reason to exist (or at least a feeling that it has such a reason) and that societies find it almost intolerable to get by while staring the Immense Nothingness of it All in the eye ... (Which seems to be the reason agonistic/neutral societies always seem to be grasping at pseudo-religions.)

Well, to what extent does that reason or purpose need to be made manifest in a society's political organization? I mean (and I'm not advocating this, just reasoning my way randomly around), societies have existences on many different levels. And the "liberal" level has its advantages, at least so long as the "liberalness" isn't made into a quasi-religion. So maybe it's possible to keep a loosely liberal thing going on the political level while other levels (art, patriotism, sport, religions, informal organizations) take care of the "purpose" thing.

Of course, it would have to be a loosely liberal thing that (unlike contempo liberalism, market version or welfare version) was willing to coexist with other aspects of society, and wasn't determined to mow them down and make them conform. A pragmatic (rather than an ideological) liberalism that acknowledged the importance of art and religion and such, and was willing to make room for them. A juggling act.

An advantage of this would be that the political realm wouldn't have to configure itself into some heavily-directed, everybody-get-on-board entity. (And can "purpose" be written into law anyway?) The political realm would have to some bias towards protecting and nourishing the society it was part of, but it'd also have to be willing to take a more modest part in the shaping of the society.

What's your hunch about this? And what was Nietzsche's?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 18, 2003 4:31 PM

In your account of what is lacking in Nietzsche's writing, you point to an inconsistency whereby at times he treats ideas as no more than the expression of particular (strong or weak) life forms, so that their only value is physiological, not philosophical; while at other times he argues as if ideas had the power to actually strengthen or weaken life forms ("philosophy rules").

He does not seem to have decided between these two sets of values: the values of "truth" or the values of "life". Many of the inconsistencies in his writing can be interpreted in light of this indecision. At times he embraces his own theory of un-truth and acts in consequence, formulating theories (e.g. the eternal recurrence) whose intended value is not that they are true but that they are conducive to "strong" life forms (i.e. useful fictions). At other times he rejects all theories and beliefs on the grounds that they are not "true".

You point to a particular inconsistency: "'Meaning,' which in Nietzsche’s thought refers either a higher purpose or a comforting illusion, in either case a sort of stratagem designed to keep the will-to-power from tearing itself to pieces, would seem to be pointless and even wrong, a resistance to fundamental reality." I think this is perfectly understandable in that for Nietzsche fundamental reality is not necessarily more valuable (nor more "true") than comforting illusions. And no illusion could be more comforting (con + fortis, "strong-making") than culture (music, literature, theater, etc.), which he considered to be one of the great joys of life.

All of this links back to the Birth of Tragedy and the Essay on History. I don't have the text at hand, but there's a passage where, in an attempt to describe the experience of tragedy (i.e. life in its highest expression), he cites the example of a dreamer who, in the midst of a nightmare, shouts to himself words of encouragement, saying, It's just a dream. Dream on!

That attitude to life, embracing the extremes, the cosmic insignificance and the enormity of evil, justifies his apparent inconsistency.

Posted by: Steve Waller on December 18, 2003 6:43 PM

Last Man here...

I've long wanted to take Neitzsche by the collar and yell: "God can't be dead, idiot, if he never existed in the first place. Get over it!"

It seems to me that N. willfully refused to accept the implications of atheism, since was having so much fun elevating Man, Mind, Will-to-Power or whatever, onto the deity's vacant plinth.

Posted by: Alan Sullivan on December 19, 2003 9:34 AM

I must say, I think Alan's comment is pretty darn funny...

Posted by: annette on December 19, 2003 9:58 AM

If the desire to judge the human race is a common stable feature, then it needs to be embraced, too. What it's for is an interesting question: on one level, it's simply a way to depress yourself, but it's also a way of getting your agenda at least partially taken up.

Site note: the comment counter is broken--it says three comments when there are actually eight. This matters because I only open comments if there's some reason to think there are new ones.

Posted by: Nancy Lebovitz on December 19, 2003 10:12 AM

User note: the counter works OK. Try hitting your "refresh" key, otherwise your computer may just display its own temporary internet file rather than the latest view of a site.

Posted by: Alan Sullivan on December 19, 2003 2:03 PM

as i have said before, Nietzsche "invented" the 20c....

but the greatest benefit of reading him is not, however, absorbing his opinions but rather the mental excitement that an encounter with them can provoke. most philosophers put you to sleep; Nietzsche wakes you up.

IMHO his greatest error was underestimating women & (in general) the yin element in human nature & in history.

but that's another, MUCH longer topic...

Posted by: graywyvern on December 20, 2003 9:50 PM


The contradiction you find between the metaphysics (i.e., will-to-power is everything, and thus the underlying trend behind trends that Nietzsche considered bad--i.e., Christianity--as well as the trends he considered good--i.e., the Over-man) and his ethics (Over-man = good and Christianity & resentment = bad) is real. I can't explain or justify it. I think Nietzsche would have done better to keep at least some of his theories on the psychological level, and point out the shortcomings of resentment-based values and leave it at that. I guess his error was to make more broadly-based claims than he could entirely think through...although, in his defense, it should be said most of his philosophical writing occurred in a single decade; I've always wondered what Nietzsche's thinking would have come to if he had remained sane another 10 or 20 years.


I'm sure you're right about the shortcomings of Nietzsche in translation although I don't read German and thus can't appreciate him in the original; after reading your comment I wondered if I shouldn't have used the English formula of "That which is above Man" instead of the easily misunderstood "Superman" or "Over-man." Translation...what a bummer.

Michael Blowhard (even though you mistakenly[?] posted your comment in my name):

You raise a very complicated question, which Nietzsche sort of addressed but didn't fully address. At one point in "Beyond Good and Evil" he describes the evolution of a culturally fruitful communities, using the ancient Greeks and the medieval Venetians as examples. In both of these examples he finds that the communities developed tremendous power and discipline by being forced to stick to fairly narrow 'business' or 'life' strategies by their circumstances. Each was hemmed about with many enemies and had to stick to the basics--their basics, the idiosyncratic things that worked for them over the years--just to survive. He claims that you can see the effects of this tremendous discipline in all aspects of their societies: in short, they were hard asses, lots of things were simply forbidden, everybody agreed on the paramount necessity of staying on their straight and narrow track lest they all perish. Then they triumph over their adversaries, and the societies relax, and all the power that has been built up comes out in a flowering of culture (e.g., Periclean Athens and Renaissance Venice) as well as new and novel human types. (Perhaps something similar could be said of Florence, which in addition to being beset by external enemies was divided for centuries by bitter internal conflicts as well. And a similar argument could be made about the flowering of Japanese culture under the Shogunate.) However, Nietzsche recognized that the purity of such communities was a thing of the past, that Europe (in service of its ever-more-ambitious will-to-power) was striving to become unified, and this implied that the European of the future would be a 'mixed breed' or a hybrid, so to speak. But he never explained how cultural evolution would work in such a society.

I agree that 20th century examples of governments imposing societal goal in a 'top-down' method are pretty horrific and, perhaps more to the point, ineffective. Maybe the key might be to look at what makes each society unique and strive to run with that. I don't know if that's just my personal preference or what: I don't claim to understand how societal goals come about, just that people hunger for them, whether they realize this or not. But I think we'll see some hints about this if we live long enough.

Mr. Waller:

I'm not sure I can follow you here. Nietzsche asked real questions that I'm not sure he could always answer. I honor the questions but I think some of his answers side-tracked his thought. I think the task for us interested in his questions might be trying to rethink his answers in a more coherent way. (Freud, to take one example that I don't think very highly of, rethought Nietzsche in a rather superficial way so that he would be acceptable--all too acceptable--to middle-class Europeans.)

Mr. Sullivan:

'God is dead' refers to a historical process, not a statement of fact. It also is a reference to the legend that after the Buddha died, his enormous shadow was shown to travelers in a cave for centuries--to wit, that the shadow of the belief in a Christian god would linger for centuries, coloring what came after.)

I'm not sure what you mean the implications of atheism in this context. If you'll spell it out, I'll be glad to respond.

Ms. Lebovitz:

I agree that the desire to judge the human race is a stable aspect of life, but I doubt anything good can come of it until those doing the judging get enormously more honest about where they are coming from. This lack of honesty is, perhaps, the single aspect of left-wing culture that offends me most.


The topic of Nietzsche's sexuality and women (as he appeared to be heterosexual) is a very interesting one. I think a lot of Nietzsche's philosophy can be understood in terms of his psycho-sexual life experiences; certainly the notion of will-to-power as resistance and the overcoming of resistance has a very sexual ring to it. Also, I'm not so sure that Nietzsche was quite as down on women as he is often made out to be; at various times I think he is quite perceptive and sympathetic to them. Anyway, as you point out, the topic for another post someday--although I think I'm out of the Nietzsche post-writing business for a while.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 21, 2003 11:37 AM

I still am of the OPINION that Nietzsche understood the human psyche exactly this much:

And he still strikes me as someone who just needed to find some girl who understood him - or at least one who told him to shut the hell up and clean out the ______ like she freakin asked him to a week ago.

Writing interesting prose does not equate to having interesting - or especially relevant - ideas.

Still, though, great posts! Someday I hope I can do as much justice to the spotty genius of Harlan Ellison.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on December 28, 2003 11:48 PM


I absolutely don't suggest that one has to agree with Nietzsche, but I think the issues he raises can't be quite so simply dismissed as you do above. To quote my post:

First, Nietzsche was one heck of a social critic and prognosticator. The prevalence of belief in Christianity did decline precipitously, especially in Europe. The void that resulted was ‘filled’ by secular ‘religions’ (Nationalism, Marxism, Fascism, Modernism, Freudianism, Existentialism, Feminism, Multi-Culturalism, to name a few) that made totalizing claims as a way of distracting attention away from their inability to deliver a strong-enough dose of meaning (in Nietzsche’s usage.) And, per Nietzsche’s prediction, most, if not all, of these secular ‘religions’ did preach values laden with resentment of the powerful and happy. Moreover, a strong undertone of nihilism and a constant hunger for meaning have characterized the era since he wrote.

I think that suggests an understanding of the human psyche that's a bit more on-target than you're granting him. To quote another one of my posts, if you want to get past the Terrible Teuton, I think you're going to have to get down in the mud and wrestle with him.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 30, 2003 3:15 PM

I think rather than wrestle with Dr. Teuty, I'll just take Twain's advice (perhaps too late) and (I paraphrase), "be thought a fool rather than open my mouth and remove all doubt".


Posted by: Yahmdallah on January 5, 2004 6:35 PM

where do you see that he's perceptive and understanding to women? do you have a reference for your statement that maybe he's not so down on women? thanks

Posted by: college student on May 10, 2004 9:06 PM

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