Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Friday, April 20, 2012
Interestingly, the novel "Mrs. Dalloway" provides a exemplary example of this destructive process, and religion in this case (as with many) is the driving force which encourages and exacerbates guilt. Indeed, guilt seems to be the primary tool utilised by religion to bring people under control. Miss Kilman claims that turning to religion sooths "the hot and turbulent feelings which boiled and surged in her" (Woolf 124). These feelings, however (which could be seen as Nietzsche's 'will to power'), rather that being assuaged, are internalised instead of discharged on the world. This causes Miss Kilman intense suffering and unhappiness. Her very act of "trying to subdue [the] turbulent and painful feeling" (128) fails, because even if she masters it and convinces herself that "it is in the flesh" (128) she will continue to feel a "violent grudge against the world" (129), that is, a resentment stemming from bad conscience or the internalised violence against herself.
Other than religion, what other societal mechanisms wedge guilt and bad conscience in place?
Thursday, April 19, 2012
This week in class we talked about the ubermensch or the ‘overman’ or ‘superman’ and how he is the future of mankind (gendered language here and in the rest of the post is Nietzsche’s not mine). While this ubermensch will go beyond man as he is thought of today, he will also come from man in an almost dialectical manner. If we see our current (slave morality) views of human beings as the thesis, then Nietzsche is arguing that we need an antithesis. This can be seen in the way Nietzsche characterizes exactly what the sickness of bad conscience is. “The bad conscience is an illness, there is no doubt about that, but an illness as pregnancy is an illness” (88). Pregnancy is first of all an illness that can only last for a certain length of time. After nine months, either the illness kills you, or you are then able to return to being healthy. Also, pregnancy is a kind of illness for the mother, but is not for the baby. In fact, it is only because of the illness that the baby can be. It is also only because the mother endures the illness and does not seek treatment for it that the baby is allowed to be born. This ‘illness’ is both a positive and negative symptom of modern society and slave morality. It is positive because it leads to the ubermensch, but it is also negative because it is a kind of nihilism that is life-denying.
Nietzsche describes this illness in reference to Europe. “Here precisely is what has become a fatality for Europe – together with the fear of man we have also lost our love of him, our reverence for him, our hopes for him, even the will to him. The sight of man now makes us weary-what is nihilism today if it is not that? – We are weary of man” (44). Here Nietzsche is recognizing the illness as nihilism, but rather than remove the problem, he is in fact advocating that we must embrace man. This does not mean that we look past his faults, but rather that we recognize the illness for what it is, and move beyond our current, nihilistic conception of ourselves. At the end of the second essay, Nietzsche argues that the “man of the future” will “redeem us not only from the hitherto reigning ideal but also from that which was bound to grow out of it, the great nausea, the will to nothingness, nihilism” (96). This man of the future is not just wishful thinking, but “he must come one day” (ibid).
Given Nietzsche’s insistence on necessity, it makes sense that this man of the future must come. But what will this look like exactly? Is it Hegelian/Marxian insofar as it is a dialectical process?
Friday, April 13, 2012
"But how could we presume to blame or praise the universe? Let us be on our guard against ascribing to it heartlessness and unreason, or their opposites; it is neither perfect, nor beautiful, nor noble; nor does it seek to be anything of the kind, it does not at all attempt to imitate man! It is altogether unaffected by our aesthetic and moral judgments! Neither has it any self-preservative instinct, nor instinct at all; it also knows no law. Let us be on our guard against saying that there are laws in nature. There are only necessities: there is no one who commands, no one who obeys, no one who transgresses. When you know that there is no design, you know also that there is no chance: for it is only where there is a world of design that the word 'chance' has a meaning" (Book III, paragraph 109).
Nietzsche's point here is similar to the one he makes in the Geneology of Morals about the strong acting strong and the weak acting week. It is absurd (says Nietzsche) to fault the strong for being strong. It is who they are. In both texts, what Neitzsche is basically saying is that there is no such thing as an 'ought' claim, only 'is' claims. Saying something ought to be a certain way can be true regardless of whether that thing is that way or not. For Neitzsche, this is complete fiction. We may be able to imagine the ability to make such claims, but they have no relationship to the real world. According to this logic, morality is meaningless because it prescribes normative claims about the way we should act.
By arguing this, Nietzsche’s critique goes beyond the current ‘slavish’ moral systems we have today. Yes, asking the strong to be weak is absurd, but in a way, so is asking them to be strong. If Nietzsche is right, then ‘asking’ to do anything is not appropriate, regardless of what we are asking. The insight that ‘there are only necessities’ not only questions the legitimacy of slave morality, but also any kind morality in general. It questions the possibility of values in general. If everything is necessity, then my choosing to value something as good or bad (or any other value for that matter) is also a necessity. In this way, the noble morality falls into a similar problem if it is articulated as the principle ‘might is right’ or ‘might determines right.’ What this principle assumes is that the strong deserve to make choices about what good and bad mean. But this is just as problematic as allowing the weak to determine good and evil.
Perhaps this is why in addition to warning us that we shouldn’t think of the world as perfect, eautiful, or noble, we should also “guard against ascribing to it heartlessness and unreason.” The universe is neither organized nor unorganized, it just is. This appears to me to be a very strange metaphysical stance. It seems like such a world is devoid of any meaning. While many have argued that Nietzsche is a nihilist, Nietzsche himself says that nihilism is one of the worst consequences of slave morality and is something he wants to avoid.
How can Nietzsche advocate for a particular way of looking at the world when there is only necessity? Nietzsche often uses medical metaphors, arguing that people in the modern world are ‘sick.’ How can Nietzsche make a judgment claim about sickness? Why not prefer sickness to health? Sickness, after all, is a natural phenomenon. Isn’t it ‘necessary’ for people in the modern world to be sick?
The protest might go: "If we subscribe to some moral system (e.g., a deontological theory like Kant's), then our judgments/actions are not motivated to establish rank but rather to do the right/good thing (like acting for the sake of duty and the moral law). I think Nietzsche's naturalist approach will be helpful in seeing how even these moral judgments/actions are still in fact rank-ordering. Given Nietzsche's set-up of master (aristocratic, Homeric, etc.) values and the oppression experienced by slave peoples, it seems then that moral theories, or morality in general, seem to arise as an expression of ressentiment of these slaves. The very nature of this expression is indicative of the higher motive to invert the values of master morality. We should note a distinction here, a sort of dual-way we can look at morality: either as (1) within a moral system or (2) outside of a moral system (such as the naturalist perspective). Within the confines of a given moral system, actions and judgments are never regarded as rank-ordering. However, if we step outside of these confines into the perspective of the naturalist observer, we see that these ostensibly "good deeds" actually have an ulterior motive to invert the values of the master class -- and inverting values is in fact one way of establishing rank. The ulterior motive of any morality project then seems intrinsically rank-ordering.
For comments, is there a way that we can view morality from an objective third-person standpoint (not as an adherent to the moral system) and still see moral judgments as actions as genuinely for the sake of the good, or are we forced to admit that there is always an ulterior rank-ordering motive?