Friday, January 22, 2010

Nietzsche Presentation for Early Existentialism

In his preface to The Case of Wagner, Nietzsche makes the seemingly nihilistic claim that “morality negates life.” However, when understood within the context of his philosophy, it is clear that this statement is, in actuality, an expression of war on nihilism as he saw it. In the second half of On the Despisers of the Body, Nietzsche deals with the psychological problem of rancorous, self-loathing human beings in a state of decadence  that is, a state of decline and decay  who can only express themselves in a morally oppressive manner, infecting others with their low-mindedness, morbidity, resentment and unwarranted guilt. In this way they can suck the life out of those who dare have more joy in vitality and worldly success than they, and, at the same time, gain a feeling of mastery, accomplishment and self-worth by tyrannizing over themselves. This is where their power lies, and their so-called morality is, for Nietzsche, something to be condemned. They do not express their ascetic ideals for the good of anyone but their own impoverished egos, and so he has his Zarathustra reprimand them, saying, “Even in your folly and contempt, you despisers of the body, you serve your self.” As with his other works, the problem of morality is of prime interest. A major aspect of it is, of course, that people use morality to appear and feel superior to others. It is a weapon and tool for their inferiority and feebleness, a mask and masquerade. In aphorism 352 of The Gay Science, he propounds that the person who needs this moral attire the most, is not the barbaric type, but the weak “herd animal with its profound mediocrity, timidity, and boredom with itself,” who then uses morality to appear justified and “divine.” 
Nietzsche often wrote as if he believed in breeds of man, and, for him, the type Christian has always existed: world-weary calumniators of the earth and slanderers of the body, completely degenerate in instinct, retarded in spirituality. Socrates and Plato are perfect examples of this. In his preface to Beyond Good and Evil he calls Christianity “Platonism for the people,” and in Twilight of the Idols he states that Plato built the “bridge which led” from antiquity “to the ‘Cross,’” claiming him to be “morally infected and so much an antecedent Christian” (What I Owe to the Ancients, 2). These “despisers of the body,” whom he chastises, are such a type as this, and so his Zarathustra tells them, “I say unto you: your self itself wants to die and turns away from life.” And in turning away from life they live as though dead, and this, in turn, ties in with an interpretation of the statement “God is dead,” which is rarely discussed or even touched upon.
           As far as Nietzsche could see, the Christian god wants more than anything that we deny ourselves the sensualities and worldliness of this life (Stoic philosophy, the dominating philosophy of Tarsus, where St. Paul was from, being the backbone of the New Testament). But for Nietzsche, self-denial is the embrace of nothingness (a dominating theme throughout his later works). It is the embrace of death while still alive. Basically, it is the crucifixion of all that makes us human. For Nietzsche, the Buddhist or Christian monk who has been able to kill off all his desires, and blunt himself against life, is officially dead. He walks, talks, eats, breathes, etc., but he is dead. The shell of a hallow man, one might say. And because the Christian god wants self-abnegation of us as an ideal, he – is dead. It is for this that in Twilight of the Idols he calls Christianity a “hangman’s metaphysics,” (The Four Great Errors, 7), and says that “Christianity, which despised the body, has up till now been mankind’s greatest misfortune” (Expeditions, 47). Or as he so succinctly summed it up in The Anti-Christ: “In God nothingness deified, the will to nothingness sanctified!” (18).
This ascetic ideal as a crutch for the self-image of such a miserable lot is perfect for those who are “no longer able to create beyond” themselves, though that be their “fervent wish,” as Nietzsche puts it, and that is why they have become “despisers of the body,” for it both eludes and fails them time and time again. “And that is why you are angry with life and the earth,” Zarathustra rails at them. “An unconscious envy speaks out of the squint-eyed glance of your contempt.” Parallel this with his words in On the Genealogy of Morals:
The sick are man’s greatest danger; not the evil, not the “beasts of prey.” Those who are failures from the start, downtrodden, crushed – it is they, the weakest, who must undermine life among men, who call into question and poison most dangerously our trust in life, in man, and in ourselves. Where does one not encounter that veiled glance which burdens one with a profound sadness, that inward-turned glance of the born failure which betrays how such a man speaks to himself – that glance which is a sigh! “If only I were someone else,” sighs this glance: “but there is no hope of that. I am who I am: how could I ever get free of myself? And yet – I am sick of myself!” (III:14).
And in Human, All Too Human:
There is a defiance of oneself of which many forms of asceticism are among the most sublimated expressions. For certain men feel so great a need to exercise their strength and lust for power that, in default of other objects or because their efforts in other directions have always miscarried, they at last hit upon the idea of tyrannizing over certain parts of their own nature, over, as it were, segments or stages of themselves. ...thus a philosopher adheres to views of asceticism, humility and holiness in the light of which his own image becomes extremely ugly. This division of oneself, this mockery of one’s own nature, this answering contempt with contempt of which the religions have made so much, is actually a very high degree of vanity. takes a real delight in oppressing himself with excessive claims and afterwards idolizing this tyrannically demanding something in his soul. In every ascetic morality man worships a part of himself as God and for that he needs to diabolize the other part (I:137).
And, hence, his thesis statement and conclusion to his third and final essay of On the Genealogy of Morals, What is the Meaning of Ascetic Ideals?  that “man would rather will nothingness than not will.”

No comments:

Post a Comment