Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blog #57 - Nietzsche's Philosophy

According to French philosopher, Luc Ferry, the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche is the zenith or pinnacle of Postmodern thought.  By this, Ferry means that Nietzsche tried to destroy two modernist convictions: 1. the belief that mankind is at the center of our moral and political world; 2. reason is the "irresistible force for emancipation and progress...we are going to become ever freer and happier (Ferry)."

"Improve mankind?  That is the last thing that I of all people will promise to do.  Don't expect new idols from me; let the old idols learn what it costs to have feet of clay.  To overthrow idols - my world for "ideals" - that rather is my business" - Nietzsche

Before the Enlightenment, modern science (by modern, I mean heliocentric world, Copernicus and onward) had taken away a lot of the mystery of the cosmos and also weakened religious authority by giving us explanations for why things occurred.  During the Enlightenment, we read that some of the leading thinkers became deists (belief in the clockmaker God) because they had a difficult time believing in God who intervened in human affairs.  Democracy and freedom were the ways of the future and considered signs of progress. 

"God is dead" - religion
Nietzsche, on the other hand, was ready to destroy.  he felt that all ideals, religious or other-wise, insisted on assuming a here-after that is better than what we have now.  Conservatives would be skewered by Nietzsche because they believe that we can learn from the past to improve tomorrow.  Liberals would also fall under Nietzsche's hammer because they tend to foster progress as a goal for a better, future society.   For FN, nothing exists outside our reality, no heaven or hell, and all of our ideals - he feels - of politics, ethics, and religion are "fables that turn their back on life prior to turning against life (Ferry)."  He is famous for stating "God is dead" because he felt that we can't learn anything from religion.  He is not a systems builder like Plato, Descartes, or Berkeley.  He is a systems destroyer for the sake of making a stronger society that doesn't coddle the weak or follow the herd mentality. 

Behind every value and every ideal, Nietzsche found hidden judgements.  There is no objective or disinterested view point b/c everything, everyone has a bias from which they judge life.  All of our "judgements, all our utterances, all the sentences we employ, all our ideas, are expressions of our vital energies, emanations of our inner life and in no sense abstract entities, autonomous and independent of the forces within (Ferry)."  And since philosophers want to examine what's behind the curtain, what they will find, in FN's opinion, is a void. 

"There are no facts, only interpretations" - Nietzsche
Art and the Meaning of Life
Since there's a void or an abyss that Nietzsche talks of, trying to impose reason on this chaos of varying opinions and values is a waste of time.  One of the only ways to make sense of the world is to be creative, to construct your life as a piece of art.  For him, self-expression was the meaning of life.  More important than reason were passion, love of adventure, artistic creativity, and an effort to go beyond rational principles.  If a creative individual rejects the disintegration and decadence of modern society, the rules of that society should no longer apply.  There's no need to justify an artist's principles, because he / she is attempting to refute the works of art that came before him/her. 

Lastly, Nietzsche's philosophy includes something called a master - slave morality.  Published in The Genealogy of Morality, he says that we've forgotten the morality of the past, where things used to be judged by the consequences of an action, and not the utilitarian idea of whether or not an action is useful.  Master morality is determined by what is noble, courageous, truthfulness and creativity - that is good.  What is bad in the Master Morality is weak, cowardly, timid, and petty.  The noble man knows morals as "what is harmful to me is harmful to society." 

Slave morality, on the other hand, is a reaction to oppression, it villanizes the oppressors and in many ways is the opposite of master morality. Slave morality is pessimistic and cynical and tries to subvert master morality.  What is best for the society is "good," not what is good for the strong.  Christianity and democracy are part of this slave morality -- turning the other cheek, humility, charity, and pity.  Since the strong and noble are few in numbers, according to Nietzsche, the slaves / weak convince them that slavery is wrong.  Democracy is the high point of slave morality b/c of its "obsession" with equality and freedom. 

Pick one of the three areas that Nietzsche expounds upon (religion, art/meaning of life, and morality) and discuss whether or not you agree with him and why.  Some of these positions have pitfalls if they're applied today, but maybe that's what he wanted. 

Due Friday night by 11:59 p.m. (February 15th).
250 words minimum.