Monthly Archives: January 2014

Max Stirner, A Third Face of Genealogy?

I do not presuppose myself, because I am every moment just positing or creating myself, and am I only by being not presupposed but posited, and again, posited only in the moment when I posit myself; that is, I am creator and creature [Schöpfer und Geschöpf] in one.

Max Stirner, 1844. (The Ego and Its Own. Ed. David Leopold. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.)

In human beings, creature and creator are combined: in humans there is material, fragments, abundance, clay, dirt, nonsense, chaos; but in humans there is also creator, maker, hammer- hardness, spectator-divinity and seventh day:—do you understand this contrast?

Friedrich Nietzsche, 1886. (Beyond Good and Evil. Trans. Judith Norman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.)

October of 1844 was quite the interesting month for births in the Saxon city of Leipzig and surrounding area. On the 15th of that month just outside of the city in the village of Röcken-bei-Lützen Freidrich Nietzsche was born into the word by mama Fransizka and papa Carl. Also that same month in the city itself there was born into the world the work Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum by papa Max Stirner, known most-often in English as The Ego and Its Own.

There is much constroversy and debate around the extent to which Nietzsche was aware of Stirner and his magnum opus, and even if he plagiarized his predecessor. Since I brought up Stirner in seminar and no one outside of Lee seemed to have even heard of him, I feel obliged to provide at least a brief run-down of Stirner’s work and connect it to Nietzsche since even if Freidrich did not plagiarize Max, The Ego and Its Own is still highly relevant to any study of Nietzsche in general and our looking at genealogy in particular.

Max Stirner was a student of G.W.F. Hegel and one of the group of Left or Young Hegelians that included the likes of Bruno Bauer, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels (the latter two of whom would seek to skewer ‘Saint Max’ in the third chapter their German Ideology).

Stirner’s The Ego and Its Own covers much of the same ground that the infant Nietzsche would also cover later in life, and acts to foreshadow greatly Nietzche’s work. The book is divided into two parts, the first of which is simply titled ‘MAN’ and has Stirner tracing his own genealogy of human ‘self-discoveries’. For Stirner, to be born is to be thrust into the world as a physical entity – into the combat of self-assertion with other physical entities of the natural world. As children, we seek out the weaknesses of our ‘enemies’ (the punishment rod of our parents, for example), in order to ‘get behind’ and conquer them. This search leads us to our first ‘self-discovery’, that of our ‘obduracy’, or more generally the discovery of the intellect, spirit, or geist. With this discovery, the youth now recognizes ‘spirit’ as the dominant force over the natural/bodily world, and seeks to align itself with the purity of ‘spirit’ and concern itself only with intellectual or ‘spiritual’ matters. However, ultimately the youth must come to terms with the fact that due to its embodied nature it will never be able to achieve purity of ‘spirit’. This leads to the second ‘self-discovery’, whereby man ‘gets behind’ this ‘spirit’ and discovers his corporeality. At this point, man is concerned to live egoistically and according to its own interests. Finally, as to the question of what becomes of man later in life when he becomes an old man, Stirner says only, “When I become one, there will still be time enough to speak of that.”

Following this same evolving, dialectical movement of physical-ideational-egoistical, Stirner drafts a similar genealogy of the devolpment of humankind as a whole (read: the Western world). For ‘the Ancients’ (Greeks, Romans) the natural world was their primary concern and they were ‘enslaved by existing things’. However, between the work of the Sophists and Socrates there began a process of ‘self-discovery’ and ultimately self-denial in the world of the ‘Ancients’ that culminated with the work of the Skeptics. From here, Stirner sees Judeo-Christianity and the figure of Christ in particular as key in initiating the transition to ‘Modernity’ and the complete denial of bodily self for the sake of purified spirit, i.e., God. Then, Stirner departs from mirroring his earlier genealogy of personal/psychological/moral development by suggesting that his liberal, post-Christian contemporaries are not ‘the Free’ as they like to think of themselves, but rather are really only “the more modern and most modern amongst the ‘moderns’”. Although they may have ‘gotten behind’ God, they have not truly ‘gotten behind’ the spirit of the age, and instead have only replaced the Christian God with their own Modern, secular gods of liberalism, humanism, and socialism whereby one is still required to deny one’s corporeal, egoistic self for the sake of some ideational/spiritual ‘other’ (pure morality, humanity, the state, etc.). This is where the first part of the book and Stirner’s genealogy ends. The second part of the book, ‘I’, consists of Stirner’s extended character treatment of the egoistic ‘unique one’ who, unlike Stirner’s contemporaries, goes beyond simply seeking to ‘brush away’ the ‘other world outside us‘, to also to ‘brushing away’ the ‘other world in us‘ as well; to remove not only God, but Man as well from the ‘Modern’ picture of self as ‘God-man’. Here too Stirner briefly sketches out the ‘egoistic future’ of these ‘unique ones’ as ‘creative nothings’.

So, there is much to be made of comparing Nietzsche to Stirner on their use of genealogy. Like Stirner before him, Nietzsche begins his genealogy of morality with a take on the ‘ancient’ world of nobles, knights, and noble morality as one concerned primarily with the natural world, physicality, and action. Like Stirner’s first ‘self-discovery’, Nietzsche too sees the physical powers and prowess of this ancient/noble/knightly morality overcome by the ideational/spiritual/otherworldly slave revolt in morality brought on by the priestly class, most typified by the dominance of Christianity and its attendant self-denying obedience to a supernatural god. And as Stirner sees his contemporaries as still bound up with the very ‘Modern’ need for some external other even after the ‘death of God’, so too does Nietzsche view post-Christian modernity. Finally, as Stirner enigmatically points to a sort of quasi-achieved, quasi-yet-to-be-achieved ‘unique one’ as the ‘creative nothing’, we see Nietzsche enigmatically pontificating about his quasi-achieved, quasi-yet-to-be-achieved Sovereign Individual.

As quick and dirty as this run-down of a fairly obscure and esoteric precursor to Nietzsche has been, hopefully it has shown the distinct possibility that along with Nietzsche’s more well-known influences of Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer and Paul Rée, the Übermensch was also was reacting to, and building off of, the legacy of Max Stirner.

Free online copies of Stirner’s works:

The Ego and Its Own:

Stirner’s other works:


Nietzsche and Calculation

Hello again guys,

I get into a huge pickle when I start contemplating what the individual or society ought to do, according to Nietzsche, in regards to how to live or be.  Perhaps Nietzsche is not a thinker that you should be contemplating in terms of an end goal in any aspect, but for the sake of speculation, here goes, let me show you this pickle.

On the one hand Nietzsche calls for all values to reject dogmatism and be susceptible to reevaluation if it is found to be unhealthy or if an alternative value is healthier.  If a particular value, let’s say, becomes too inherent in the subject’s constitution, we can say that the subject has been enslaved by that value, since he accepts it without thinking of its contingency.  So the Nietzschean subject, for the sake of freedom and autonomy, embodies his values to the extent that they form him a solid identity and presence, but not to the extent so that they enslave him.  I see two problems with this. 1) The subject will not be able to embody his values deeply enough because he will be crippled by indecision and faithlessness in the rootlessness of his own values.  He will be constantly changing his values so as not to be enslaved by any particular value, but this constant flux will really render any values meaningless.  2) The subject will hold on to a set of values that work for him in terms of corresponding to his will to power and, thus, he will not change his values to something that might not work. Does that mean he is enslaved by these values?

This pickle is really secondary to a bigger problem I see with Nietzsche: calculation.  Nietzsche has stated that although the trait is unnatural to man, and sprouted out of the most negative place, ressentiment, it has had beneficial consequences for now it allows us to reexamine everything.  I might be wrong but I do not think that Nietzsche wants the powerful to reexamine much, they should just be powerful.  His message to slaves might be to reexamine, but to nobles, it would be to work upon others with their unique skillset, thus, be slaves to their own skillset and will.  He does not want power to be gained by deception or, i would argue, calculation, like his Jews and Christians, for that would be impure and untrue to man’s essence.  He wants people to bravely wear themselves and then the most powerful among them will on top and then our race will be represented by the most powerful, which is what Nietzsche would want.  To me Nietzsche’s ideal value system is one which does not impede the most powerful individuals from getting to the top where they belong. And for the individual, one which does not impede him from obtaining as much power as possible over others.


Nietzsche and Phenemenology: Egological vs. Non-Egological

I have never heard Nietzsche mentioned in the context of phenomenology but he says several things in The Genealogy of Morality which seem to be relevant to the phenomenological debate concerning egological versus non-egological conceptions of the self in support of the latter position. To provide some background for anyone who has never encountered the aforementioned concepts, phenomenology, broadly, is the study of the structures of consciousness from the first person perspective. Phenomenologists who support an egological view of the self posit the existence of an ego or an “I” that stands behind or pervades all of conscious experience to account for the unity/continuity of our conscious experiences. Phenomenologists who support a non-egological view of the self, by contrast, suppose the positing of a pervasive ego or “I” to be unnecessary; conscious experiences, they claim, are self-unifying and the ego or “I” only appears reflectively . Subsequently, Nietzsche famously claims that “there is no being behind the doing, effecting, becoming; the doer is simply fabricated into the doing -the doing is everything”. Nietzsche seems to reject the introduction of a pervasive “I”, thus I wonder if, from a phenomenological perspective, he could not be said to be supporting a non-egological account of the self. He says several things in the first section of the preface which also seem to support this idea. He compares conscious experience, for instance, to the toll of a bell which we only hear after the final stroke has fallen; only after the experience has already occurred can the “I” appear in reflection and take possession of the latter, deciding what it was or what it meant: “[like a] self-absorbed person onto whose ear the bell has just boomed its twelve strokes of noon suddenly awakens and wonders “what did it actually toll just now?” so we rub our ears afterwards and ask, completely amazed, completely disconcerted, “what did we actually experience just now?” still more: “who are we actually?” and count up, afterwards, as stated, all twelve quavering bell strokes of our experience, of our life, of our being- alas! and miscount in the process…” In addition, Nietzsche, like proponents of the non-egological perspective, leaves room for the potential of misinterpretation and/or alienation from one’s experiences which can arise in reflection; we remain “unknown to ourselves, we knowers…strangers to ourselves, we do not understand ourselves”. 

What do you think? Would Nietzsche support a non-egological view of consciousness?

Love Thine Enemy…


This concept has always struck me as extraordinarily implausible and perhaps propagated by people who don’t really have a good handle on the concept “enemy”. I find that the Genealogy provides me with the first theoretical framework in which I have ever been able to make any sense at all out of this idea. I believe that authentically “loving” one’s enemy could only come out of a psychological state that is at the core of a “master” or sovereign individual’s personality. If one love’s one’s enemy as a “slave”, this is nothing more than the slave morality at work: stoicism as an aesthetic (not to be confused with ascetic) which will be rewarded somehow in an afterlife or by self-imposing the idea that suffering is noble and tolerating something which is intolerable is a virtue. Seen from the point of view of the state, pushing something seemingly nonsensical like this makes good sense, the state has an overwhelming interest in preserving order and “peace” (notice that “peace” really means complacency in this context) for its own survival. From the point of view of an individual, the notion is very problematic, and in the case where enemies pose a serious threat it is blatantly stupid.

Let’s consider what “enemy” really means. Roughly speaking there are two broad categories which define enmity; one way is on the level of the individual and the other is on the level of nation states. This does not mean that the two are mutually exclusive, and an individual could hate an entire state (most people thinking as individuals probably hate Nazi Germany), and the state can hate an individual. Most criminals fall into the latter category, but for specific examples consider Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Louis Riel, Black Beard, and Billy the Kid. All of these people managed to incur the wrath of an entire state as individuals. Right now I am only talking about enmity between single individuals. There is also a consideration of whether or not a state of enmity actually includes hatred. I believe this is more of semantic issue than anything because people often say “enemy” but mean competitor. Most of the time I do not think people truly hate their competitors. So for the sake of precision the famous prescription “love thine enemy” really means love someone you hate. Prima facia, it seems logically contradictory to ask someone to love what they hate, and overcoming the psycho-physiological component of hatred – what it is to hate someone, the intense physical and emotional charge that the state of hatred carries – is impossible for the vast majority of people.

Imagine returning home one night to find your partner(s) and child have been victims of a home invasion and have all been brutally murdered with a claw hammer. A scene of intense violence, gore, and mayhem. Now imagine that the perpetrators are caught and when you are in court they taunt and mock you while you are testifying, they make twisted jokes about murdering your family, and during their final statements swear that they will have gang members kill you for testifying. Now love them. Authentically and deeply (how could real “love” be otherwise?).

Psychologically speaking (in the context of the Genealogy) the awesome stupidity of this notion can be taken in 3 ways: from a slave morality believing in some otherworldly retribution, from insanity one could “snap” and in a delusional state believe that they loved the murderers (but this would be false like the slave morality), and from the point of view of the Übermensch or master. This last way of taking the murder is psychologically the only plausible condition in which one might “love” the murderers because it intrinsically implies that one could get “over” hatred. The Übermensch is not faced with the sheer psychological impossibility of such a task or the logical incoherence of loving what they hate – this is the key: they do not hate. We might conceive of a radical “yes saying” where one’s sheer love of life and affirming once’s existence -no matter what it entails- is absolute. Nietzsche does talk about coming to a position where one affirms one’s life no matter how brutal or “unfair” and to such an extant that one would willingly, even lovingly “do it all over again” out of the sheer love existence or “yes saying”.   One of the most emancipatory conditions of the master is that psychologically speaking they do not hate because they do not have to. Overwhelming importance is placed on deeply loving and affirming simply being alive.

I do not think this is realistically attainable for the vast majority of people (likely animals too). Do you love life so much that even finding your family butchered would not dull this love? So much so that you would choose it again, butchered family and all? If you answer yes, then I believe you would also likely be in the only psychological state that would authentically allow you to love the murderers. It might even come to an “overman” that the murderers had done one of the only things they could to become worthy of being called an enemy – and in this relation also worthy of love. After all, very few people would be capable of reaching the status of being a true enemy of an overman (sorry for the sexist pronoun one could just as easily be an “overwoman”).

Impressions of Nietzsche

In reading Nietzsche and, to some degree, the analysis of his writings, I am sometimes struck by the idea that perhaps we are trying all too hard to understand the details of his work. I wonder if he would look at the careful analysis of his work and feel a hopelessness or even contempt. This thought was partly brought on by the comment in Thursday’s class, that perhaps the third treatise may just be a joke. Nietzsche’s work, the Genealogy within that, is a set of works which seems to call into question peoples’ willingness to absorb and be motivated by a will outside of their own. This is partly what differentiates the sovereign individual, and is in part what Gemes’ article touches on. From what I gather from the article, or its claims regarding Nietzsche, the idea is that the sovereign individual, in contrast to the masses, “is acting from a kind of inner necessity” (Gemes, p. 332), rather than being “merely passive conduits” (Gemes, p. 332). I feel at times when reading Nietzsche that we are almost “passive conduits,” reading carefully, analyzing to the greatest depth, being as philosophically rigorous (at least in our, or the common understanding) and simultaneously gathering both too much and not enough out of the texts.

Nietzsche’s work is particularly emotive, and it seems very much deliberatively so. Furthermore, the work itself clearly puts an emphasis on throwing off the rigid structures we seem to worship, on accepting and to an extent listening or heeding our drives (even thought they ought to have some coherent order). As such, I sometimes wonder if we are missing Nietzsche’s point, examining the trees all too closely and in some ways missing the forest. This is not to say that Nietzsche’s work should not be reflected upon, or that the themes which we have pulled from it have been entirely wide of the mark, I just wonder if it would not be more appropriate to read Nietzsche and take from it not details, but impressions, and even after more readings to take more, and more nuanced impressions even.

Why Nietzsche Stands against Slave Morality.

Why Nietzsche stands against slave morality.

I initially intended to write a comment on a post below on the question of “What about slave morality is so disagreeable with Nietzsche?”  and realized it would be done better as a post of its own.

I would just like to discuss why Nietzsche preferred the master morality to the slave morality.

If will to power is innate in all animals including humans, and if the slaves, driven by their will to power, pulled off a reversal of the values and their morality reigned supreme for a good part of human history, what seems to be the problem according to Nietzsche? Why not praise the slaves who have imposed their morality on us all and gave us the ability to be more cunning, more interesting?

I will venture a guess.

I find it difficult to delve through Nietzsche’s writing without constantly reminding myself of what his end goal is.

(Nietzsche attacks Slave morality, advocates freedom from slave morality so that we can be more animalistic/free/natural beings, and submit to more robust master morality. But why? Say we are brave, strong, creative and guilt-free, why is that better? )

I would argue that ultimately, Nietzsche considers the Ubermensch or the Sovereign individual as the good in itself, and the slave morality-ridden world of his day was harmful to such special few, in other words, men like himself.

As class, we discussed a lot about Nietzsche’s style. I agree with many who said that Nietzsche appeals to emotions. However, it seems that this book can elicit the desired effect only when it is in the hands of Nietzsche’s intended audience,

I feel that his target audience/readers are the ones who are ready to discover the hold that the slave morality has on him, grow perplexed at the fact that one had submitted to it unknowingly (one day found himself living within its rigid constraints), and the ones who would come to agree with Nietzsche that master morality is superior, and proceed to throw off the slave morality.

A person who is perfectly in tune with the slave morality, or does not care either way, would not benefit from the book, and the Ubermensch/Sovereign individual who has already learned to throw off any value that are not self-imposed would not find this book any helpful. Ultimately, he speaks to the individuals who have just begun to, or have the potential to realize that there is something wrong with adhering to the dominant liberal/democratic/Christian values without serious reflection of why they do so.

Ideally, his readers would have been perplexed with certain questions related to moral values in the past, or could easily be woken up by his words to be perplexed about the fact that they have adhered to a moral system without a serious reflection on why they do so.  They would see that there is something unnatural and undesirable about taking for granted that one should love one’s neighbor, experience guilt after giving into his/her animal instincts as much as they like to, in other words, they would discover Nietzsche’s master in themselves.

Having been subject to the influence of slave morality, and the herd mentality himself as a son of a Lutheran pastor in the 19th century Germany, Nietzsche must have subscribed to the Christian morality himself. He himself must have been filled with resentment toward the more powerful, more successful around him. I can’t imagine otherwise given his insight into the emotion of resentment.

Having gone through the whole process of evaluating his values himself, and having proclaimed himself as the Ubermensch and a sovereign individual, he walks the readers through what he had to go through. He convinces readers the master morality is superior to the slave morality. He is not concerned with giving them the whole picture of what a master is since readers should find that in themselves once they throw off artificial constraints and impose their self-created values on themselves.

I do not even think he concerns himself with the plight of the community. Masses by definition will always be inferior to the Ubermensch, thus irrelevant except in respect to how they influence the Ubermensch. They are always unimpressive; as Nietzsche surely did not believe everyone living in the Ancient Athens before coming of the Christian era were all Ubermensch. He remarked in Human All too Human (to paraphrase) that we ultimately judge the civilization by their finest specimen, in other words, when we look back at ancient Greece, we often identify the civilization with the achievements of Plato, Aristotle, Pericles, and other notable figures, not how the average citizen fared in it.

When he concerns himself with the public, I believe he writes about them in relation to how it affects the development of the Ubermensch. The special few who have overcome the human all too human, the Ubermesnch is the good in itself according to Nietzsche. Therefore, if a society is filled with people who adhere to slave morality, engaging in various acts motivated by envy and resentment, the “bad air”, would prevent the growth of the potential Ubermensch, because, I would argue, he found it himself to be an obstacle to his realizing his potential as the Ubermensch. I believe when he refers to “bad air”, he is implying that the environment of his time, the spiritual temperature of the herd is such that it is hostile / not conducive to the development of the Ubermesch.

(Why that is so should be another topic for another day)

Nietzsche famously said He “will never forgive Christianity for ruining a man like Pascal”, acknowledging in him his equal who had gone down under the tyranny of the slave morality.

I believe his approach to human life is that of “Ubermensch or bust”. I don’t think there is a middle ground for NIetzshce for he does not speak of it. It seems like for NIetzche, there exists only slaves and masters.




The SI and Promises

At the end of his Tracy Strong’s paper, he concludes with a question, which he doesn’t answer: what does it mean to be a person with the “right to promise?” I think we all have had a bit of trouble with the idea of the Sovereign Individual “laying hands on the future,” and the question has come up in class: what does it mean to promise “against fate?” My reading of promising for Nietzche is the following.


I personally find virtue ethics quite compelling as a way of moral explanation, and as I have mentioned in class, given Nietzsche’s familiarity with classical texts, I think it is not a stretch that some of the ideas of it may have seeped in to his thought. Promising, for Nietzsche is a statement of strength of character. A statement that something will happen, regardless of circumstances. Imagine the following:


You promise your friend that you will attend their gig at a local bar across town. In the morning of the gig, you experience acute depression, a regular condition for you, and can’t get out of bed. You spend sometime working through this and get up and go to work. At work you pull a muscle and end up sore and limping. You become irritated and want dearly to go home and soak in the tub. You clean up and head out. On the way to the gig the bus breaks down, and you are left a mile and a half from the bar where your friend is playing, in 15 minutes. You run for it, aching all the way and show up on time to watch your friend play his set.


This is a bit farcical, but events like these in the face of promises are a day-to-day fact. The ability to promise in our day-to-day lives then is inherently based on overcoming “fate.” (As Nietzsche seems to be a determinist, this may be a more serious assertion for him.) But the ability to overcome fate, the fortitude to keep going, and the power to control the circumstances to the greatest extent possible  are therefore qualities that come from a strength of character. What it means for a person to promise is for them to have a character and a situation from which one can promise: for one to be able to be sovereign over their selves and life. This is why the Sovereign Individual’s ability to promise is so important to the process of making consciousness instinct: he makes a statement about the state of his character and in fulfilling the actualizes his strength. Strong notes are what make the Sovereign Individual “Sovereign.” Promises, then, are inherently statements of strength.


I am puzzled however, what Nietzsche’s stronger individual looks like specifically. If any of you who have read Thus Spake have any input here it would be much appreciated.

Is Nietzsche’s Epistemology Self-Defeating?

In Owen’s Chapter 7, sec. III, he makes a lot of really interesting arguments about Nietzsche’s epistemology, and Nietzsche’s criticisms of ascetic epistemology. He (with help from Ridley) extracts these from Treatise 3, sec. 12, in which Nietzsche argues for perspectivism, in opposition to the ascetic ideal’s drive for objective truth. However, the more I think about Nietzsche’s perspectivism, the more it seems to me that it falls into a trap of self-defeat. I am completely open to the possibility that I’m not thinking about this properly, or that I’m just way overthinking it, so please try to set me straight if that’s the case!

Owen identifies three main purposes in Treatise 3, sec. 12, the second of which is that Nietzsche wants to point out “the self-contradictory and paradoxical character of the ascetic ideal itself in which a perspective is driven to deny its own perspectival character.” The ascetic ideal, which is itself one among many perspectives, claims to be perspectiveless, so it is self-contradictory.

Breaking this down, the ascetic ideal says:

  • [1] The ascetic ideal’s perspective sees objective [detached from all perspectives] truth about at least some matters.

Nietzsche obviously needs to be able to refute [1] to preserve his perspectivism, so he argues:

  • [2] [1] is self-contradictory because if the ascetic ideal’s knowledge comes from the ascetic ideal perspective, then it is not detached from all perspectives.

To be able to refute [1], Nietzsche needs to be able to assert [2]. But, because of his very perspectivism, I’m not sure that Nietzsche can assert [2]. I’ll attempt to explain why.

There are of course people that would disagree with [2] (most obviously, people who ascribe to the ascetic perspective). Thus, [2] is itself one perspective among a set of possible perspectives.

This isn’t a problem for [2] right away—Nietzsche’s perspectivism is not (I think) relativism, in which all perspectives are equally valid. So, to avoid relativism, there must be some kind of a rule or mechanism by which we can determine that some perspectives are better than others, and that we would be justified in holding these better perspectives. I haven’t looked into Nietzsche enough to know what this mechanism would be, or what it means for a perspective to be “better” than others, but I don’t think that matters at this point—I will just call this mechanism X. So, we could now say:

  • [3] By X, [2] is a good perspective.

X doesn’t need to prove that [2] is the only good perspective among competing perspectives, it just needs to tell us that it is a good one; if [2] is a good perspective, then [1] is pretty much done for.

Of course, there are perspectives which will view X as a valid rule, and there are perspectives which will disagree with X’s validity. So, now we need a rule that helps us decide which of these perspectives are good. This obviously can’t be X (circular reasoning), so we need to come up with a new rule, Y, by which we conclude that the perspectives that tell us X is a good rule are better than those that don’t. We would then say

  • [4] By Y, the perspectives that favour X are good perspectives (thus preserving the validity of X and of [3]).

But, Y will now come to the same problem that X did—some perspectives will claim Y is a good rule, while some won’t—and then we’ll need a new rule, Z……………………..etc. Because we end up in this infinite regress, I don’t think that Nietzsche is ultimately able to assert [2], so his take-down of [1] fails.

Games of Affect?

I don’t think anyone would describe reading Nietzsche as fun, and much less as easy. Perhaps those select few oddballs, prone to indie music and arguing too forcefully might secretly hide under their covers on a Friday night, reading the Genealogy by torchlight, but they are the minority. David Owen notes s the introduction to his book on Nietzsche’s Genealogy, that western-analytic philosophy seems to have disregarded the “event” of Nietzsche’s attack on morality. I would venture that the reason for why Nietzsche can be difficult to interpret and why it is easy to disregard Nietzsche as an interesting oddity rather than an account of morality to be contended with rest primarily in his style.

You don’t need to look farther than his first treatise “Good and Evil,” “Good and Bad” see why a casual reader of Nietzsche (whoever they might be) might be put off. As part of his argument, Nietzsche incorporates a dialogue with a fictional character, uses entirely Latin for a chapter, and frequently goes off on eloquent and moving, but seemingly unnecessary tangents. The question then arises, if Nietzsche is not trying to convince us of something in the conventional way, what is he doing? Janaway, argues in his paper that Nietzsche’s eclectic style is due to his belief that affect underlies morality, and as such he takes the reader on a affective journey of sorts employing such devices in order to prompt an intimate attack on the reader’s own conventional slave morality.

While I agree with Janaway’s line and find it greatly enhances my reading of Nietzsche, a further question arises: does Nietzsche sacrifice the soundness and strength of his argument in order to play a game of affect? In ch 16, it is hard not to take his history as entirely conceptual conjecture. He simply states that the entire renaissance and reformation were periods of noble and slave morality vying for power and then goes on to praise Napoleon as “the most individual and late-born human there ever was.” How then does this help his argument? Furthermore, in speaking in difficult to digest metaphors (such as complaining of “bad air” from those confined by slave morality) he easily (and perhaps intentionally) alienates the reader. But this does not explain the details of his position about the effects of slave morality versus noble morality upon the practitioner. He does not give us a “why,” he simply states that the slave stinks from decay. How can we be sure of the validity of the conclusions Nietzsche is leading us to if we cannot follow his reasoning? We trust and apply a logically grounded argument style because we find that it leads to easy communication and critique of ideas and lends strength to its conclusions. When we encounter someone who doesn’t write in that style, then, does that mean their conclusions are inherently less valid?

Personally, I find Nietzsche highly compelling, his style highly effective relative to his affective goal, and I agree with many of his assertions, but I can’t seem to shake this question.


Can Nietzsche Escape Contradictions in Conception?

     In Gemes article, he argues that Nietzsche emphasizes an agency-centred conception of free will over one of desert. One distinguishing feature of this will is its self-directed mastery over its drives. However, it becomes unclear what self-justified foundation provides Nietzsche the ability to make this assertion. Let me explain.
Before the age of two, we are merely conscious. This means that the environment externally pulls and pushes us according to our drives (i.e., eat, sleep, poop etc.). However, when we become self-conscious, or when we realize that we are free to control other agents, we become pushed and pulled by the values of those surrounding us. This is what Nietzsche posits as succumbing to the moral (i.e., groupthink).
Nietzsche suggests that agents ought to overcome the moral and become autonomous. However, in order to take this step, and to evaluate what values are worth preserving and discarding, one needs a self-justified principle to reason from. Otherwise, one could imagine a rebel that simply says no to everything that is moral and is considered a sovereign individual simply by merit of this fact—which is absurd.

What Nietzsche titles a “ruling idea” seems to be his conception of the basis for our autonomy. However, since, as Janaway notes, the sovereign individual is pursuing the truth of who they are, this ruling idea cannot be detached from the social sphere (17). That is, we need to take the values of others seriously if our ruling idea is going to have gravity.
This would suggest that our ruling idea is necessarily communicable, and that there is a hope of coming to consensus with others—though not necessarily all others. This also goes in line with Camus’s and De Beauvoir’s notion that destroying others’ self-consciousness or freedom is wrong simply by merit of the fact that it is a contradiction in conception (you should not destroy what allowed this very realization to be possible). This leads me to conclude that perhaps Nietzsche’s project simply provides the space for a diversity of fundamental values whereas Kantian ethics is too narrowly constructed? Thoughts?