Nietzsche

Cino

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In a recent thread, @Ahanu mentioned having read certain texts of Nietzsche very carefully on the recommendation of a roommate.

Since I only casually read "The Gay Science" and "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", decades ago, and admittedly for the shock value (I was a believer back then), I would like to have a more in-depth discussion of his work, and learn from those who know his works.
 

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I was really hoping this thread would take off. I know nothing of Nietzsche but I have seen some pretty strong reactions to his name being mentioned. What on earth did he do? I would love to do a bit of digging but my reading list is already far too long.
 

Cino

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Me too!

Unlike in a recent thread on the intricacies of Buddhist translation challenges, where I felt I knew my stuff, as far as it went, I really don't know much about Nietzsche.

So no worrirs, @Ahanu - I'm really here to learn, not match my (nonexistent) knowledge with yours.
 

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I casually through a photographer friend knew his great (great great?) grandson, Leo Nietzsche, in Cape Town in the 70's. He didn't like people knowing the connection. He was around the 'hippie' edge. Apart from that ...

(I've checked and it seems Frederich Nietzsche had no direct descendants. Or 'children unknown' https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Nietzsche-5 Sorry. Anyway, Leo was some sort of descendant, I believe. Not important ...)
 
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Ahanu

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In a recent thread, @Ahanu mentioned having read certain texts of Nietzsche very carefully on the recommendation of a roommate.

Since I only casually read "The Gay Science" and "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", decades ago, and admittedly for the shock value (I was a believer back then), I would like to have a more in-depth discussion of his work, and learn from those who know his works.

You said you read Nietzsche for "the shock value," so I presume you knew a little something about him before picking up The Gay Science or Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Is this accurate? If so, how did you perceive him at the time?
 

Ahanu

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I was really hoping this thread would take off. I know nothing of Nietzsche but I have seen some pretty strong reactions to his name being mentioned. What on earth did he do? I would love to do a bit of digging but my reading list is already far too long.

Unlike today's atheists, Nietzsche denounced Christianity for what it actually is: an ethics of compassion.

Also, Nazi Germany did twist his idea of the superman to promote its own ideology of an Aryan master race. This racial ideology is not in Nietzsche's original thought, but it did throw some shade on his ideas in popular opinion about his philosophy.
 

Cino

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You said you read Nietzsche for "the shock value," so I presume you knew a little something about him before picking up The Gay Science or Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Is this accurate? If so, how did you perceive him at the time?
At the time, I was a Christian teen-ager (from an interfaith background), and all I knew from hushed references by other Christians was that he had proposed that, "God is dead".

When I read his works I was deeply fascinated, as it portrayed such an open vista of taking responsibility for my own actions and decisions. I did not feel he was talking about God at all, but about us human beings. That felt very good and refreshing. It actually strengthened my commitment to Christianity at the time.
 

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At the time, I was a Christian teen-ager (from an interfaith background), and all I knew from hushed references by other Christians was that he had proposed that, "God is dead".

When I read his works I was deeply fascinated, as it portrayed such an open vista of taking responsibility for my own actions and decisions.

Yes, Nietzsche argues God is dead. Although we must take responsibility for our own actions, we must mature and perceive that religious moral values are worthless as well.
 

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I do recall being in a pub conversation where Nietzsche's name cropped up. Only one claimed to have read him. He explained that Nietzsche was aware of spiritual experiences but knew that people often feel the need to develop a frame of reference for the experience. From there it is a short step to rules, hierarchy and all the rest. That is the point at which religion is effectively neutered.

I have no idea if any of this is accurate, the man talking did seem to be an expert on everything but I can see some merits in the argument.
 

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Yes, Nietzsche argues God is dead. Although we must take responsibility for our own actions, we must mature and perceive that religious moral values are worthless as well.

What is worthless about them, according to Nietzsche?
 

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Everything!

"Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life's nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in 'another' or 'better' life. Hatred of 'the world,' condemnations of the passions, fear of beauty and sensuality, a beyond invented to slander this life, at bottom the craving for nothing, for the end . . . all of this always struck me, no less than the unconditional will of Christianity to recognize only moral values, as the most dangerous and uncanny form of all possible forms of a 'will to decline' - at the very least an abysmal sickness, weariness, discouragement, exhaustion, and the impoverishment of life. For confronted with morality (especially Christian, or unconditional, morality), life must continually and inevitably be in the wrong, because life is something essentially amoral, and eventually, crushed by the weight of contempt and the eternal No, life must then be felt to be unworthy of desire and altogether worthless. Morality itself - how now? might not morality be 'a will to negate life,' a secret instinct of annihilation, a principle of decay, diminution and slander - the beginning of the end? Hence, the danger of dangers?

It was against morality that my instincts turned with this questionable book, long ago; it was an instinct that aligned itself with life and that discovered, for itself a fundamentally opposite doctrine and valuation of life - purely artistic and anti-Christian. What to call it? As a philologist and man of words I baptized it, not without taking some liberty - for who could claim to know the rightful name of the Antichrist? - in the name of the Greek god: I called it Dionysian."
-The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche
 
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Cino

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Not a bad critique of the stifling atmosphere that was the norm in the second German empire. Evangelical to the bone - Lutheran pietism was the state sponsored religion of Prussia, the most powerful of the states in the empire. The German emperors had ambitions for Berlin to be "the evangelical Rome", complete with an oversized basilica in the center of the city.

On the other hand, Nietzsche invokes a god, Dionysus, to show the way. Actually, in this passage, he's in full "prophet mode", as I mentioned earlier. Compared with a literary prophet of the Bible, there are so very many parallels. Again, not a bad way of getting the audience to follow. People were reading the scriptures and would have recognized the mode.

By choosing "life" as the opponent of Christian morals, he is subverting the pietism of his times. After all, the bible from the start depicts God as the origin of life, whose epithet recurs as "the living God".

Everything!

Do you think his critique might apply to contemporary society as well? While Evangelical pietism lost its appeal over here in Germany over the past century, it seems to be very much alive in the US.
 
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Ahanu

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At the time, I was a Christian teen-ager (from an interfaith background), and all I knew from hushed references by other Christians was that he had proposed that, "God is dead".

There is a lot to be said about Nietzsche and "God is dead" in his thought.

Let's start with a somewhat positive note, with something he said that can be interpreted as a beneficial thought experiment. He feared that the death of God would lead others to a life of apathy, so he formulated an idea called eternal return. Under this belief one should live life in such a way as to desire it again. It engages you into asking essential questions like these: Would I want this again? Would I want that again? Again, it is an interesting thought experiment that can be used on a deeper level to create meaning and ask more profound questions than these about the way we live our life and deal with death, but I don't think it actually solves the problem if it were true that "God is dead" in reality. In a way an eternal return is contradictory for an atheist anyway in my opinion. In formulating an eternal return, Nietzsche is saying our universe is beyond space and time! These are transcendental thoughts, and why should those kinds of thoughts reside in an atheist's mind? But I digress . . .
 

Cino

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In a way an eternal return is contradictory for an atheist anyway in my opinion. In formulating an eternal return, Nietzsche is saying our universe is beyond space and time! These are transcendental thoughts, and why should those kinds of thoughts reside in an atheist's mind? But I digress . . .
Believers often know so much about proper atheist conduct, it's almost as if... 😉

I think Nietzsche's eternal return works better as a daily practice than as a one-off thought experiment. Maybe analogous to certain prayers, like mealtime grace? Their purpose is also practical, not theoretical?

More questions:

Is the idea of "the eternal Now" a transcendental idea?

Can an Atheist enjoy reading New England Transcendentalists?
 

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all I knew from hushed references by other Christians was that he had proposed that, "God is dead".
I don't know enough about the guy to defend anything he says, but!

This is related to what you two wrote earlier, that what he saw was a society that spoke of God but the words were empty. God was dead in so far that we had killed him though our hollow worship.

Further, I find his examination of Judaism and Christianity as 'slave morality' absolutely fascinating and insightful in many ways. But I also find it a bit like a strawman. He takes the worst of religion and tells a story about it. It's not completely untrue, but it lacks some very important elements.
 

Ahanu

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Believers often know so much about proper atheist conduct, it's almost as if... 😉

I think Nietzsche's eternal return works better as a daily practice than as a one-off thought experiment. Maybe analogous to certain prayers, like mealtime grace? Their purpose is also practical, not theoretical?
I agree.

Is the idea of "the eternal Now" a transcendental idea?
I think so.

Can an Atheist enjoy reading New England Transcendentalists?
Sure.
 

Ahanu

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Not a bad critique of the stifling atmosphere that was the norm in the second German empire. Evangelical to the bone - Lutheran pietism was the state sponsored religion of Prussia, the most powerful of the states in the empire. The German emperors had ambitions for Berlin to be "the evangelical Rome", complete with an oversized basilica in the center of the city.

On the other hand, Nietzsche invokes a god, Dionysus, to show the way. Actually, in this passage, he's in full "prophet mode", as I mentioned earlier. Compared with a literary prophet of the Bible, there are so very many parallels. Again, not a bad way of getting the audience to follow. People were reading the scriptures and would have recognized the mode.

By choosing "life" as the opponent of Christian morals, he is subverting the pietism of his times. After all, the bible from the start depicts God as the origin of life, whose epithet recurs as "the living God".



Do you think his critique might apply to contemporary society as well? While Evangelical pietism lost its appeal over here in Germany over the past century, it seems to be very much alive in the US.
I think Nietzsche is more like Celsus - a 2nd century critic of Christianity - than, say, the prophet Isaiah. Nietzsche would have joined hands with Celsus in the 2nd century and critiqued Christianity. He would have critiqued Jesus to his face if he were present during the Sermon on the Mount. He is subverting Christian morality for all times, not only for his own decadent times. To me, he is a prophet insofar as he foresees how a worship of nationalism, for example, replaces religious worship. Well, something has to fill the void. White Evangelicals are inseparable from nationalism.

To demonstrate the difference between Nietzsche and Christianity for all times, I can start from many points, but I think I'll note Nietzsche adopts an epiphenomenal view of consciousness - just like our atheist friend @Aupmanyav. This view is incompatible with Christianity. Nietzsche asserts "that a thought comes when ‘it’ wishes, and not when ‘I’ wish." Thoughts like this led him to assert that one morality cannot be applied to all. "Morality in Europe today is herd animal morality . . . in other words . . . merely one type of human morality beside which, before which, and after which many other types, above all higher moralities, are, or ought to be, possible." According to him, this kind of morality prevents life's growth. All life has a desire for growth or a will to power. One's degree of power determines one's values. A moral value is "slave morality," "anti-natural," or Christian morality when it teaches you to "despise the very first instincts of life," "to experience the presupposition of life, sexuality, as something unclean," and search "for the evil principle in what is most profoundly necessary for growth, in severe self-love." It is no wonder some Christian readers came away from Nietzsche's writings thinking he wants morality to be a solitary affair rather than a social one, and they thought this was his mistake in his thinking about morality.
 
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