December 10th, 2021
I started reading this at work because I had little to do and have never read Nietzsche. This work seemed short enough that I could read it in a weekend. I read the first three chapters, and so far Nietzsche hasn’t said much. It can be pretty easily summarized. The first chapter is about the inability of philosophers to be objective and they cannot separate themselves from their ideas. They often are pushing something that is their own personal opinions or claim they have “discovered” something new, and become dogmatic about it. The second chapter seemed to jump around, but is titled “The Free Spirit”. He does mention several times his Will to Power theory. I guess he was trying to say how we have no more freedom than our drive for “more” or are victim to someone else’s. He also goes into the dichotomy of “true” and “false” and “good” and “evil” and how our philosophy is hedged in by the language of opposites, how philosophers die for their “truth” while putting down the “untruth”, instead of seeing there are degrees of truth. He also mentioned maintaining ignorance “in order to enjoy life”, which I thought was interesting. As he said, societies are built on untrue ideas, and it would be better (in the viewpoint of stability) to keep that ignorance in place, else the system would collapse. The third chapter is the anti-religious chapter. He talks about the strangeness and unnaturalness of “denying” to oneself, as the Christian does, or the monk. I thought paragraph 51 was very interesting, which says:
The mightiest men have hitherto always bowed reverently before the saint, as the enigma of self-subjugation and utter voluntary privation--why did they thus bow? They divined in him-- and as it were behind the questionableness of his frail and wretched appearance--the superior force which wished to test itself by such a subjugation; the strength of will, in which they recognized their own strength and love of power, and knew how to honour it: they honoured something in themselves when they honoured the saint. In addition to this, the contemplation of the saint suggested to them a suspicion: such an enormity of self- negation and anti-naturalness will not have been coveted for nothing--they have said, inquiringly. There is perhaps a reason for it, some very great danger, about which the ascetic might wish to be more accurately informed through his secret interlocutors and visitors? In a word, the mighty ones of the world learned to have a new fear before him, they divined a new power, a strange, still unconquered enemy:--it was the "Will to Power" which obliged them to halt before the saint. They had to question him.
But overall he acknowledges the nonsense that a religious life has imposed on people. I don’t remember where, but he mentioned the historical change of morality. He claimed ancient morality was based on the results, which in the later eras became based on the means, and in the modern era morality is based on the intent. I don’t know how historically accurate that is.
December 11th, 2021
The fourth chapter is a bunch of aphorisms. Here are the ones which I liked:
68. "I did that," says my memory. "I could not have done that," says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually--the memory yield
112. To him who feels himself preordained to contemplation and not to belief, all believers are too noisy and obtrusive; he guards against them.
146. He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.
149. That which an age considers evil is usually an unseasonable echo of what was formerly considered good--the atavism of an old ideal.
156. Insanity in individuals is something rare--but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule.
157. The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets successfully through many a bad night.
160. One no longer loves one's knowledge sufficiently after one has communicated it.
173. One does not hate as long as one disesteems, but only when one esteems equal or superior.
180. There is an innocence in lying which is the sign of good faith in a cause.
182. The familiarity of superiors embitters one, because it may not be returned.
183. "I am affected, not because you have deceived me, but because I can no longer believe in you."
The fifth chapter is about the history of morals, I guess. It’s kind of all over the place. He mentions Plato describing evil as purely uninteninonal, and thus anything that brings unpleasantness is evil, and a man who is aware that something is evil would not do it. Nietzsche then goes on about how modern morals are the morals of a herd society, of weak sheep who want to rid their lives of fear and anxiety and their morals only stem from the elevation of the herd. What is so wrong and “degenerating” about minimizing the unpleasantness of life? According the Nietzsche, the man who seeks to end his internal struggles does himself injustice. The man who is able to use his internal struggles as a stimulus can accomplish great things. The Epicurean or the Christian, seeking peace, is weak. Then he attacks democracy, socialism, and equal rights as deteriorating man and ruins his potential and the potential of all mankind. It’s all very bizarre. It’s as if he believes in some idealistic man who is capable of anything he has the will or desire to do. I’m not married to democracy, but it seems that a man who can make himself chosen by millions of people has a higher “will to power” than a man who is born and waits for his dad to die. Very backwards thinking
December 12th, 2021
Chapter six is generally about “scholars” and “philosophers”. Nietzsche more or less attacks the “scientific” man as a weak, non-self-sufficient type who falls under his “herd” type described in chapter five. Paragraph 207, hit a little close to home. I see a lot of what he calls the “objective man” in myself, which he describes as essentially unfeeling, indifferent, ungenuine, who only wants to “expand” himself. Felt kinda bad. The rest attacks skepticism, which seemed like Nietzsche doesn’t like fence-sitters, and philosophers who just “reflect” and categorize the past. He clams that a real philosopher give commandments and bring laws, on how the future must be constructed. A philosopher dissects his age, is the “bad conscience” and seeks a “new greatness”. I have to say this is the most interesting chapter so far. Probably worth a reread.
December 13th, 2021
The seventh chapter is an interesting one, though the last third of it goes on a diatribe against women. The header claims the chapter is about virtue and makes a good point on the diversity of moralities in a person, and their different moralities will cause conflicting actions. Paragraph 217 is a painful one, which says a moral person will never forgive someone who witnesses them commit an immoral act. I know I’ve been that person, unfortunately. Paragraphs 224 and 225 delve into the idea that man is meant to suffer and only through struggling can he grow. He says we “are only in OUR highest bliss when we--ARE IN MOST DANGER”, and says that philosophical systems that grade things on pleasure or pain (e.g. hedonism) are naïve. Then in paragraph 229, Nietzsche explains his idea that men seek cruelty, and much of men’s actions are based on the fact that “he is secretly allured and impelled forwards by his cruelty, by the dangerous thrill of cruelty TOWARDS HIMSELF.” The seeker of knowledge is cruel towards himself as he is fighting his own instincts for ignorance and contentness. Paragraph 230 is the most important, in which Nietzsche describes his theory on the spirit. In short, the spirit has its “will to power” and wants to be master over itself and its external world. Like a living creature, it wants to grow and seeks new experiences to feel growth. Simultaneously, like a stomach that cannot eat anymore, it will close itself off and say “no more”. It will seek to keep out anything new and shut itself in. This is a very important paragraph. I have expressed my own belief that stagnation is death, but I’ve never considered the “spirit as a stomach” idea, and that it can only consume so much before it finds anything further revolting.
December 15th 2021
Finished Beyond Good and Evil. The eighth chapter is a bit nationalistic, but has some interesting thoughts. Nietzsche clearly hates democracy and any sort of welfare type system, claiming it degenerates men and creates a new type of slavery. He could be right, however distasteful it sounds. He also says the strong man will only get stronger as there are more opportunities, not just for the privileged. He claims there are two types of geniuses, those who can create and those who can “form” or “mold”, and of course makes claims as to what country is capable of what. Not a very important chapter. The ninth and final chapter is more interesting. Nietzsche gets into his idea of nobility and aristocracy. Society is full of varying ranks and requires slavery (not literally). Civilizations begin with the strong barbarian. He conquers the peaceful nation or the weakened civilization and establishes his caste in its place. The higher caste were the barbarian, the warrior, who has the strongest will. The aristocracy must not be a function of king or government, but the basis of it. He claims life is conquest and appropriation. Individuals cannot treat each other as equals, or they are denying their own will. “Exploitation” is not primitive, but crucial to a natural life. There are is a master-morality and a slave-morality, which may be mixed within a person, or morals of rulers and the ruled. The rulers determine what is “good”, or noble. The generosity of nobility comes not from pity or sympathy, but from an excess of power. He should have a hard heart. Modern ideas such as democracy are the antithesis of this. The slave morality is one of utility, what is useful for existence. Nietzsche claims that a desire for freedom is slave-morality, while reverence is aristocratic. Very bizarre thinking to the modern mind. But is he wrong? It’s nice to think of everyone as equal, but it is obvious this is not reality. Based on intelligence and capability, the is are higher and lower degrees of man. But should a higher man have a harder heart, no sympathy? I can’t say I agree. He throws some social Darwinism in there and says that strength is gained from unfavorable conditions. While this may be true, it should not be assumed that stability leads to weakness. Though people tend to be proud of their hardships, I wouldn’t say this makes them stronger than someone who has not struggled as much. Maybe more accustomed.
Some more interesting parts: paragraph 272 “Signs of nobility: never to think of lowering our duties to the rank of duties for everybody; to be unwilling to renounce or to share our responsibilities; to count our prerogatives, and the exercise of them, among our DUTIES”, paragraph 273, to paraphrase, men who strive for great things use people to their advantage, and if they are not helpful they are a hindrance (sounds distasteful but I think I agree with it). Paragraph 274 is a good one, titled “The Problem of Those Who Wait”. He claims that fortunate chances are rare and waiting for the right moment will lead to nothing. The odds are when the chance comes to you, it will bet too late for you. 277 has is a nice insight on people. “The melancholia of everything COMPLETED!”, meaning when the work is done, you are empty Paragraph 279: “279. Men of profound sadness betray themselves when they are happy: they have a mode of seizing upon happiness as though they would choke and strangle it, out of jealousy--ah, they know only too well that it will flee from them!” All in all a very interesting chapter. Chapters 6, 7, and 9 I will have to reread. I don’t like everything they say, but they are well thought out. And the book ends with a song. Very unique.