Nietzsche: Problems with Tourists and History

In both the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, Nietzsche at one point bemoans the problems of writing philosophy: people will always misconstrue your argument, misunderstand it, or only take specific points out of context in order to further their own argument. I suppose I’m probably just another not-complex-enough reader, but I did find Nietzsche’s arguments often hard to follow and it was even harder to actually grasp something tangible. Perhaps it’s the translation, but The Genealogy of Morals felt at times like a constant thought stream in which ideas jump around all over the place. It was as if I was trying to chase Nietzsche through a huge complex system of alleyways and I kept getting lost. I think in the end I got the point, though: Morals really don’t exist in any direct or easy sense. Every moral system in place in society is the result of a norm created by some sort of historical development of man. There is no true basis for Good or Evil, no easy commandments to follow. Good and Evil is simply a history lesson. Eg, Guilt came about because of owing people things, and fearing the repercussions of not paying them back. Good and Bad is an idea based on how people were treated over time, not how they should be treated.  Dear Nietzsche, I’m incredibly sorry about bastardizing your complex theory and fitting all it’s complexities into a few sentences, but I hope that it will eventually lead to me “getting it”. From Sam.

The interesting thing is that Nietzsche seems to question literally everything. It is hard to make a definite argument because every definition is also in question. I think this is probably a good way to see the world. I strive to think like that. People (including me) like to see the world in concrete shapes, and in things that are definitive and can be classified. Nietzsche seemed to be pushing against this in The Genealogy of Morals, and complicated as it can be, I think it’s very important.

When I got to Ecce Homo things changed. This section is written very differently, and seemed more to suit the modern first year attention span.  In a few paragraphs Nietzsche can go from the morality of equality to the problem with tourists… “They climb mountains like animals, stupid and sweating; one has forgotten to tell them there are beautiful views on the way up.”  After a few such maxims he goes on to figure out how we are who we are, which is handy.

Looking at this blog, it seems to come across as just a broad summary of my reading experience. Maybe I am too desperate to see Nietzsche as one whole unified theory, and am trying too hard to pull all the ideas together. One particular idea that stuck with me was when he defined culture purely as a means to domesticate man. I think we as a society often feel the need to domesticate ourselves, and have created this system of control purely to feel safe. Then we complain about freedom, or being in a rut, although we really wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. Nietzsche’s definition reminded me of animals in kennels. I don’t doubt that’s what we are, the interesting thing is we built those kennels ourselves.


See you tomorrow!

2 thoughts on “Nietzsche: Problems with Tourists and History

    • …You’ve thrown me into self doubt. I guess we probably didn’t. It did feel like a lot of reading after all.
      Funny enough Ecce Homo was the bit I actually liked. Oh well.

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