HCJ THREE: Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Nietzsche (1844-1900) is regarded as the successor of Schopenhauer (https://brackenstockley.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/hcj-hegel-and-schopenhauer/). Like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche’s view of women was very poor. In his “pseudo-prophetical” book, Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883-1885), he says that women are not, as yet, capable of friendship; they are still cats, or birds, or at best cows. He says: “Man shall be trained for war and woman for the recreation of the warrior. All else is folly.”

Nietzsche believes the will has ethical as well as metaphysical primacy. Although a professor, Russell regards Nietzsche as a literary rather than an academic philosopher as he invented no new technical theories in ontology or epistemology – his importance primarily in ethics, and secondarily as a historical critic.

Nietzsche had a ‘passionate’ admiration for Wagner, but quarrelled with him over Parsifal – which he thought, was too Christian full of renunciation. He even went so far as to accuse Wagner of being a Jew. However, his general outlook remained very similar to that of Wagner in The Ring as Nietzsche’s superman is very alike to Siegfried.

Russell explains how Nietzsche was ‘not consciously’ a romantic (he often severely criticises the romantics) but Hellenic – with ‘the Orphic component’ omitted.

Nietzsche had a low opinion of Kant, whom he calls “a moral fanatic à la Rousseau.” (https://brackenstockley.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/hcj-kant/)

Russell adds that is ‘natural’ to compare Nietzsche with Machiavelli (https://brackenstockley.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/history-and-context-hobbes-machiavelli-and-the-godfather/).  Nietzsche’s political philosophy is ‘Analogous’ to that of The Prince (not The Discourses). Both Nietzsche and Machiavelli have an ethic that aims at power and is deliberately anti-Christian. In summary: what Cesare Borgia was to Machiavelli, Napoleon was to Nietzsche: a great man defeated by petty opponents. However, the two men had their differences. Machiavelli was a man of affairs, whose opinions had been formed by close contact with public business. Nietzsche, on the other hand, was a professor, a ‘bookish man’, and a philosopher in conscious opposition to what appeared to be the dominant political and ethical trends of his time.

Nietzsche’s book, Beyond Good and Evil (1886), focuses on his opinion as to what is good and what is evil, but confesses to be praising what is “evil” and decrying what is “good.” For example, he says that it is a mistake to regard it as a duty to aim at the victor of good and the annihilation of evil; this virtue is English, and typical of “that blockhead, John Stuart Mill,” a man for whom he has a specially ‘virulent’ contempt. Of him he says: “I abhor the man’s vulgarity when he says ‘What is right for one man is right for another’; ‘Do not to others that which you would not that they should do unto you.”

Nietzsche believes in Spartan discipline and the capacity to endure as well as inflict pain for important ends. Russell describes how he ‘admires’ strength of will above all things. “I test the power of a will” he says, “according to the amount of resistance it can offer and the amount of pain and torture it con endure and know how to turn to its own advantage; I do not point to the evil and pain of existence with the finger of reproach, but rather entertain the hope that life may one day become more evil and more full of suffering than it has ever been.” He regards compassion as a weakness to be combated.  Russell makes a strong point, however, that Nietzsche is not a worshipper of the State but a passionate individualist and a believer in the hero.

It is important to point out that Nietzsche is not definitely anti-Semitic, though he thinks Germany contains as many Jews as it can assimilate, and ought not to permit any further influx of Jews. He dislikes the New Testament, but not the Old, of which he speaks in terms of the ‘highest admiration’.

According to Nietzsche, The French Revolution and Socialism are essentially identical in spirit with Christianity; to all alike he is opposed, and for the same reason: that he will not treat all men as equal in any respect whatever. Buddhism and Christianity, he says, are both “nihilistic” religions, in the sense that they deny any ultimate difference of value between one man and another, but Buddhism is much ‘the less objectionable’ of the two. Christianity is ‘degenerative, full of decaying and excremental elements’; its driving force is the revolt of the ‘bungled and botched’. Nietzsche condemns Christian love because he thinks it is an outcome of fear.

Nietzsche’s “noble” man (who is himself in day-dreams) is a being wholly devoid of sympathy and is ruthless, cunning, cruel and concerned only with his own power. In Shakespeare’s, King Lear, on the verge of madness, the King says:

“I will do such things,

What they are yet I know not, but they shall be

The terrors of the earth.”

Russell describes this as Nietzsche’s philosophy in a nutshell.

Lecture Notes

 Main themes in Nietzsche’s works:

  • The Will to Power (his debt to Schopenhauer and Hinduism/Buddhism)
  • Self-Control; Self-Mastery; Stoicism; Autonomy – from the pre-Socratics
  • Unbermensch – the Scientist-Artist supermen of the future (Klee, Bauhaus)
  • Implacable Atheism – anthropological basis of spirituality
  • Apollo and Dionysus
  • The individual right to Absolute Freedom; Absolute Self-Determination
  • Existentialism
  • The Avante Garde
  • Anti-Narrative / Aphorism
  • Gender politics, liberation politics – Will and self-determination

About brackenstockley

Contributor to the JusticeGap and WINOL. Currently studying journalism at the University of Winchester (Year Three).
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