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Eiuol

What are the similarities between Rand and Nietzsche?

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On 5/11/2015 at 9:52 AM, Boydstun said:

Never forget Nietzsche’s BGE 265, which is antithetical to Rand’s ideal in Anthem (1937) and to her mature ideal of Atlas Shrugged.

Stephen, a long while ago, I meant to address some of your essays on Nietzsche. I read at least half of them, and I found them very useful, but the scope of their content ended up  being wider or different than my thread here. By now, I read some more works by Nietzsche, even an obscure one, and I'll get a book soon on lectures he gave about education.

Regarding BGE 265, I think you may be overlooking Nietzsche's literary style, which is aimed at exploring, altering, or even denying prior statements. True, he mentions egoism being mixed with the lower sacrificing to the higher, but I think as the book progresses, he becomes aware of the major tension this causes when he talks about how noble souls don't care about other people being subordinate. In Zarathustra, he seems to get at the idea that the absolute most noble souls don't concern themselves with things like being superior to or subordinate to. That would be for people still concerned with morality, not for his new philosophers. The problem for Nietzsche is that he didn't think such noble souls ever existed in totality, and was never clear if they could exist in the future. I don't think he was ever able to resolve whether an ideal the egoist could exist by nature of how he thought human thought worked.

The interesting to me is that I think Rand resolved Nietzsche's conflict and explained how heroes really could exist. She accomplishes this by her theory of epistemology, explaining how objectivity is possible in a contextual way.

Edited by Eiuol

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Eiuol,

I don’t have anything to say at this time on Nietzsche’s progression from BGE 265 through the remainder of that work and how it may dissuade me from taking Nietzsche at his word in 265. As for Z, however, I’d emphasize the chronology. Z before BGE. Also, always I keep in mind that Part 5 of GS is written after Z, the earlier parts of GS before Z. The problem your pose for Nietzsche looks right.

I don’t see yet how Rand’s contextual view of truth and her subject-related notion of objectivity contributes to solving Nietzsche’s problem. I look forward to your further development of this proposal.

I’d like to step back to Rand’s 1936 We the Living (WL) and some apparent nearness to BGE 265, which Rand very soon came to flatly oppose. Early in their relationship, Kira and Andrei discuss Communism, for which he has sacrificed lives and his own blood too. Kira maintains that the ideal of living for the state is wrong. Andrei asks what better purpose there could be. Kira replies “Don’t you know that we live only for ourselves, the best of us do, those who are worth leaving alive?” (WL 93). Kira’s phrase “those who are worth leaving alive” suggests Nietzsche’s chronic talk about the ways in which calamities like wars get rid of superfluous humans and raise the type man to greater heights (GS I–IV 1, 19, 92; Z I “On War and Warriors”). However, in the situation, it is types like Kira who are not being left alive. So one might have thought that Rand’s 1936 Kira was only pleading: If some people are to be sacrificed for the sake of others, do not sacrifice the best of people, the people who live for themselves.

That interpretation is quickly quashed. Andrei tells Kira that we cannot sacrifice the masses for the sake of the few. She replies: “You can! You must. When those few are the best. . . . What are your masses but mud to be ground under foot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it [deserve life]? What is the people but millions of puny, shriveled, helpless souls that have no thoughts of their own, no dreams of their own, no will of their own, . . . And for those you would sacrifice the few who know life, who are life?” (WL 93–94).

Let me repeat Nietzsche’s BGE 265 here: “At the risk of annoying innocent ears I will propose this: egoism belongs to the essence of the noble soul. I mean that firm belief that other beings will, by nature, have to be subordinate to a being ‘like us’ and will have to sacrifice themselves. The noble soul accepts this fact of its egoism without any question-mark, and also without feeling any harshness, compulsion, or caprice in it, but rather as something that may well be grounded in the primordial law of things. If the noble soul were to try to name this phenomenon, it would call it justice itself.”

Nietzsche and early Rand are seriously at odds over what type of characters should be counted as of noble spirit, as the best type of humans. However those two types are to be rightly characterized, early Rand evidently shared with Nietzsche the view that there has to be sacrifice between types higher and types lower.

That view is in tension with the ideal Rand was upholding by having Kira say a few lines later that she does not want to be for or against the people; she only wants to be left alone to live (WL 94). It is also in tension with a concept of life expressed by Andrei when he has come over to Kira’s viewpoint (Rand’s viewpoint): “Every man worth calling a man lives for himself. . . . You cannot change it because that’s the way man is born, alone, complete, an end in himself” (WL 501).

Perhaps Rand’s talk in 1936 of the masses being fuel to be burned for lives of the few, best men was with the thought that, in existing human societies, there had to be sacrifice between types of people and that the interests of the masses should be sacrificed to the interests of the superior spiritual class. By the summer of ’37 for sure, she was thinking that, at least in ideal social relationships, the best individuals are not dependent on the existence of the masses. That is one of the messages of Anthem.

There is another possibility to consider concerning Kira’s talk of “mud to be ground under foot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve [life].” That is the possibility that this was not Rand’s own sentiment in 1936, only attitude for the young character Kira. After Andrei’s final correction of his earlier errors, Rand gives him lines expressing the correct view in the quotation to follow. Remember that Andrei had not shared Kira’s moments of hostility or of indifference towards the masses. Rather, he had wanted to bring them up to his level, and one of his mistakes, which now he realizes, was in thinking that could be done by force. Here is his statement, late in WL 1936, addressing Party members, parallel Kira’s statement to him early in the book, but without her sacrificial elements: “No laws, no books, no G.P.U. will ever grow an extra nose on a human face. No Party will ever kill that thing in men which knows how to say ‘I’. But you can try. Oh, you can try. You’ve tried. Now look at what you’re getting. Look at those whom you allow to triumph. Deny the best in men—and see what will survive. Do we want the crippled, creeping, crawling, broken monstrosities we’re creating? Are we not castrating life in order to perpetuate it?” (502).

Notice that in Andrei’s words there is some shift from simply types of men to elements and potential within individual men, apparently any and all individual men. Rand leaves those lines of Andrei in tact in her 1959 edit and reissue of WL. Kira’s lines about sacrifice of lower humans for the sake of higher humans are expunged. Much of the preceding in this post is from my series Nietzsche v. Rand, though amended, as I now possess the first edition WL 1936.

Below is an additional bit of Rand’s trajectory on her wrong words from Kira, taken from my NvR:

\\"The Fountainhead includes a remedy of Rand’s very wrong passage in We the Living (1936). . . .

. . .

During the Banner’s campaign against Roark’s newly completed Stoddard Temple of the Human Spirit, Roark is interviewed by reporters. “He spoke without anger. He said: ‘I can’t tell anyone anything about my building. If I prepared a hash of words to stuff into other people’s brains, it would be an insult to them and to me’” (ET XII 365). The Banner reports the interview, twisting Roark’s view into one contrary to his. Their account is a report of precisely what Roark did not think: “‘Mr. Roark . . . stated that the public mind was hash’” (ibid.). To a distinguished and ignoble literary critic in the circle of villain Toohey, Rand gives the line “I have a right to wish to impress my own personality upon people” (GW VI 503). Rand’s respect for the mind(s) of the public expressed by Roark was also expressed by the sympathetic character Sasha in We the Living (II, §II).

. . .

Here is the Fountainhead passage in which Rand supersedes her grievous passage in We the Living (1936). There is metaphorical feeding of bodies into a furnace, but without sacrifice of one spiritual class of people to another. At his office, Roark never speaks to his employees, except of their work. “The place seemed cold and soulless like a factory, until they looked at him; then they thought that it was not a factory, but a furnace fed on their bodies, his own first” (ET VI 268).//

 

Edited by Boydstun

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Thanks for that, Stephen. Separate from where Nietzsche comes down on the issue of sacrificing others for self, it is quite clear what BGE265 means and where Rand comes down. This was clear to me before, but it's interesting to see it drawn out in Rand's progression as a novelist. It's especially interesting to see how Rand thinks about similar issues as Nietzsche a lot of the time, despite some glaring differences in some positions.

" I don’t see yet how Rand’s contextual view of truth and her subject-related notion of objectivity contributes to solving Nietzsche’s problem. "

When I said this, it seemed obvious to me, but since you ask this, I see how there's a lot to pin down about it. More or less, I see it as contextual truth as making creative power so essential to life as accessible to people in general as opposed to people who are properly bred in a proper environment. Your environment wouldn't distort or frustrate efforts at knowledge. Subject-related objectivity makes it so heroes have a means to say why they are able to succeed as individuals without appealing to either simply feelings of power or to a disinterested standard. Nietzsche seemed conflicted about creative geniuses (Goethe) and powerful rulers (Napolean), and didn't know a non-subjective way to think of heroism. To be sure, heroes should feel a personal power, but Rand is able to offer ways to identify heroism.

It's something I want to write more about.

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On 25.08.2014 at 5:23 AM, Eiuol said:

there are some constraints that you can't just pretend aren't there - or in Rand's terms, the mind has an identity

The mind indeed has an identity, but in Nietzsche's case the position is not mind (as we cannot see or feel the internal 'I,' as he writes in BGE), but instead the body, which we immediately perceive. Therefore, I strongly urge not to mix Rand with Nietzsche, as the latter is a reduction of Rand's philosophy. I agree that Rand misunderstood Nietzsche, but then she misunderstood many others (e.g., Kant) because she couldn't follow their philosophy. The explanation for this I like to call circle-square analogy. Rand's circle doesn't fit into any square, whether Nietzsche's or Kant's, no matter how much you try. They are fundamentally different philosophies, and therefore they necessarily misunderstand each other, as they should, since they have very different worldviews. You must understand, Eiuol, that Rand dropped Nietzsche not just for any reason: she abandoned Nietzsche because she outgrew him and realized she was a circle rather than a square.

On 25.08.2014 at 5:23 AM, Eiuol said:

N is opposed to Plato, Kant, Spinoza, Pascal, Schopenhauer, British Empiricists (e.g. Hume).

I do not buy one bit that N opposed Schopenhauer and Hume. Please provide exact evidence of this. In my view, N is not categorically different from Schopenhauer (his primary inspiration; remember the 'Will') and Hume. Besides these two, if you look at the list of people who influenced him on Wikipedia, you'll find that these are virtually all the same (in terms of the overall structures of their philosophies): Voltaire, Heraclitus, Epicurus, Feuerbach, Poe, Rochefoucauld, Stirner, and de Sade. You can therefore surmise N's philosophy from these predecessors. If you claim that N opposed any (or even all) of them, then this kind of 'opposition' is internal from their convergence. Internal opposition is not as strong as external because it only involves opposition of mere ideas (categories in the general sense) rather than their overarching structures of reason. We all have our own ideas, but that doesn't mean that we all should conflict.

Now, if N opposed so many people with even similar ideas to his own, then this shows him to be a person who was prone to conflict, like one existing in a Freudian reality of fighting as a natural way of existing. So even in this opposition he still shows himself to be similar to these philosophers, as they would have opposed him on the same grounds. Yet, I claim that this kind of opposition, although perhaps meaningful to N and his aforementioned kind, is utterly meaningless to those who don't share the same purely internal conflicts (like Rand and I, for example).

On 25.08.2014 at 5:23 AM, Eiuol said:

N speaks in metaphor a lot, not really philosophical precision. Then again, Rand doesn't write like mainstream philosopherrs of her day either.

Weak argument based not even on style (as you see N's and Rand's styles are starkly different) but on being or trying to be different. Guess what, everyone is different to some extent from another, whether they try to force their differences, but why focus on such trivialities? Now, if such trivialities are important to you as internal opposition to philosophers preceding him in his tradition for N, then you are showing yourself as not much different from N and thus not a Randian. You are trying to not simply 'correct' Rand et al.'s mistaken interpretations/understandings of N but also attract Objectivists to N's (and your own) side. I see this as a reduction to N's philosophy, and thus advice all Objectivists to see it as it is and not fall in this trap (supported by Reidy's second comment; I wish comments were numbered).

On 25.08.2014 at 5:23 AM, Eiuol said:

N also sometimes changes his mind by the end of a work (Aristotle did it too).

Yeah, this is like comparing apples and oranges, circles and squares, artists and scientists.

On 25.08.2014 at 5:23 AM, Eiuol said:

[N] seems to only deny rights that make us equal in ways besides legal equality.

Now this supports his opposition on the trivial basis of differing ideas. However, I agree with some points from N, especially his understanding that fighters of monsters sooner or later become monsters themselves and his nihilistic wonder with the 'abyss' (these are aphorisms from BGE), and this rejection of rights, in whose existence, regardless of Rand's abstract claims, I do not believe. Human rights seem to be only internal constructs having nothing to do with reality, a la Kant. Thus we could have a person who believes in his rights and a person who doesn't coexist without any conflict. 'Human rights' as a concept is therefore trivial.

New Buddha is right, however, to point out or at least imply that Nietzsche may have served a principal purpose as a bridge between Kant to Marx and Hitler.

On 25.08.2014 at 8:10 AM, Eiuol said:

Some say [N]'s a non-cognitivist, that is, the truth exists, but it's not possible to find the right answer.

Sounds like a Humean/skeptical interpretation of N, with which I'd agree.

On 25.08.2014 at 8:10 AM, Eiuol said:

Will to power I'm still trying to understand, but a strong will here would be a desire for power over life for creative ends.

Eioul, I notice that you keep mentioning 'creativity' to interpret N's philosophy. Although you may think of his creativity in an artistic sense, I don't think this directly relates to creativity in the sense of being a productive member of society, that is, in a more concrete sense following Rand. Rand was opposed to those artists like N who created their subjective works for nothing better than to show their own metaphysical views of reality not as it is but as they artistically perceive it. Thus I think Rand would have been opposed to your equivocation of creativity as being both art and a concrete productivity as it relates to reality or life. Besides, N's opposition, based on your own statements, may materialize in a conflict with such creativity as end-in-itself in a strictly Randian sense (that is, not subjectively aesthetic, Wildean sense of art for art's sake, as it may be related to N's).

---

I agree with Eamon Arasbard's first comment. Interpretation of N's amorality is shared by some scholars (e.g., my professor Dr. John D. Schaeffer and his friends in philosophy department) who view N's call to go beyond good and evil as to side with evil, as one has to whenever trying to transcend (i.e., oppose) good or otherwise mix it with evil ("one bad apple spoils the whole bunch").

On 28.08.2014 at 8:08 AM, Eamon Arasbard said:

[N] also regarded all morality as socially prescribed, and nothing more than the will of the strong imposed on the weak, and did not recognize any possibility of an objective morality based on the value of human life.

Eamon, please provide a reference from N that supports this because this is a very interesting claim, considering that, if it's true, it would relate N to Foucault, and thus would also show that N was directed toward the same kind of loss of identity that Foucault proclaimed by ignoring his own self.

---

Jennifer Burns's thesis in Goddess of the Market seems to support Eiuol's comparisons of Rand's philosophy to N's, but Burns wasn't an Objectivist and could have inappropriately reduced Rand, which I also think what Eiuol is (sometimes implicitly) doing (like in this comment).

On 31.08.2014 at 1:57 AM, Eiuol said:

N's sister published two of his unfinished works, "Antichrist" and "Will To Power", without his permission after he died.

I see that The Antichrist was originally published in 1895, and Nietzsche died in 1900. From the same Wiki page, an interesting bit of N's favorable stance in regard to Buddhism:

Quote

Although he considered both Christianity and Buddhism to be nihilistic, decadent religions, Nietzsche did consider Buddhism more realistic because it posed objective problems and did not use the concept of God. In all religious history, Nietzsche believed, Buddhism was the only positivistic religion because it struggles against actual suffering, which is experienced as fact or illusion (the concept of Maya) in various Buddhist traditions. Christianity, by contrast, struggles against sin, while suggesting that suffering can have a redemptive quality.

Nietzsche claimed that Buddhism is "beyond good and evil" because it has developed past the "...self–deception of moral concepts... ."[26] Buddha created the religion in order to assist individuals in ridding themselves of the suffering of life. "The supreme goal is cheerfulness, stillness, absence of desire, and this goal is achieved."[27] Buddhism had its roots in higher and also learned classes of people, whereas Christianity was the religion of the lowest classes, Nietzsche wrote. He also believed Christianity had conquered barbarians by making them sick.[28] Buddhism objectively claims "I suffer". Christianity, on the other hand, interprets suffering as related to sin.[29] Buddhism is too positivistic and truthful, according to Nietzsche, to have advocated the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity. He called these virtues the three Christian shrewdnesses.

Hereby, I believe, Eiuol, you've made two mistakes. One in misrepresenting The Antichrist as being published with Nazism in mind, and the second, from our private messages, that N opposed Buddhism as a nihilistic religion.

On 11.05.2015 at 4:52 PM, Boydstun said:

Nietzsche’s conception of life in terms of will to power includes domination of organism by organism in all the forms of life.

Quite Freudian (influenced by N). A side note: this is not Darwinist, as Darwin had a kind of moral teleology.

On 25.03.2016 at 11:48 PM, Eiuol said:

In Zarathustra, he seems to get at the idea that the absolute most noble souls don't concern themselves with things like being superior to or subordinate to. That would be for people still concerned with morality, not for his new philosophers.

This is interesting and useful because I want to be like that. :) I am still struggling with an idea that I am not better or worse than others, especially Kant. I need to overcome my opposition against Kant, which is probably tied to my bond with Rand, and I cannot let go of Rand, as she is my only popular support. I don't want to be 'concerned with morality,' as it seems to be a subjective thing, and my Diagram doesn't allow any objective ethical evaluations of others' philosophies, yet I still cling to my so-called 'moral compass' based on the differences of my philosophy with that of Kant and even N.

On 20.04.2016 at 4:35 PM, Boydstun said:

To a distinguished and ignoble literary critic in the circle of villain Toohey, Rand gives the line “I have a right to wish to impress my own personality upon people” (GW VI 503).

Cool passage, reflecting Lenin's thought (Toohey was supposed to, I believe, represent Lenin). Yet, as we know from the 60s, Rand also impressed her own personality upon people, those poor souls she used and then threw out of her camp, if they didn't follow her to a t. (I once saw a video interview with a woman who was so mentally abused and felt guilt from Rand even after she was kicked out, for she idealized her so much but struggled with the consequences of the 'teaching' all her following life.)

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5 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

I agree that Rand misunderstood Nietzsche, but then she misunderstood many others (e.g., Kant) because she couldn't follow their philosophy.

This is a strange view that seems like a strong Kuhnian premise that different frames of reference cannot be understood by each other. At least on this forum we try to grasp arguments and reason against (or with) ideas. So this thread was intended to set the record straight on some elementary common misunderstandings on N - particularly with Oist premises. That isn't to say similarities are compatibilities. There's a likeness, but Rand's emphasis on reason makes her also quite different.

5 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

I do not buy one bit that N opposed Schopenhauer and Hume.

Read all of BGE. It sounds like you only read the Wiki and Anti-Christ. He rejected Schopenhauer specifically, stated so, and explains it. I don't know the passages offhand.

5 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

Weak argument based not even on style (as you see N's and Rand's styles are starkly different) but on being or trying to be different.

Yeah, I was saying it's not a good difference. The notable difference is in the next sentence...

5 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

Rand was opposed to those artists like N who created their subjective works for nothing better than to show their own metaphysical views of reality not as it is but as they artistically perceive it.

Rand said art portrays metaphysical value judgments of the creator. Rand said some artists portrayed malevolent ideas and aren't admirable or were non-objective. N made no judgments at all about creating, but he spoke of creation all the time. Rand and N agreed on what art -does- but wildly differed on -judging- art.

5 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

I see that The Antichrist was originally published in 1895, and Nietzsche died in 1900.

My bad. He had his mental breakdown in 1888. After that he wasn't able to write or think coherently. He never got to edit his notes and writing. Perhaps he was re-evaluating Buddhism. N's sister was an anti-semitic nationalist, a proto-Nazi I'd say.

6 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

fighting as a natural way of existing

This is quintessential Nietzsche! :) It's also one of my major disagreements with N.

 

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46 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Read all of BGE.

I've read it. Also Z and AC. I didn't notice particular differences from Schopenhauer, whose The World As Will and Idea I've also read. I mentioned before (on the 'transcending' thread) that, judging by their lives, Schopenhauer is a softer one than N, but philosophically speaking, a will is a will, is it not? And a bodily will at that. It's not like it was a Kantian will, no!

49 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

[fighting as a natural way of existing]'s also one of my major disagreements with N.

That's strange, considering that you are being so aggressive putting Rand and N together on this thread. I highly doubt you'd be able to drop N from the picture, though.

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Eiuol, if you strive to attain understanding of others' philosophies by any means possible, that is, if you see no limits in doing this, then you are bound to reduce someone's philosophy to fit into your square. However, if you reduce a circle to fit into a square, what you're doing is taking a part or a copy of someone's philosophy without consulting the whole or even while ignoring the whole or the actual. I wish you wouldn't do this, especially with Rand. Just keep her circle as it is without cutting its edges off or minimizing it to the point that it's not Rand anymore.

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1 hour ago, Ilya Startsev said:

Just keep her circle as it is without cutting its edges off or minimizing it to the point that it's not Rand anymore.

This is a thread about comparison and failure to understand N on Rand's part. People should be able to notice that explaining is not the same as endorsing; pointing out a similarity doesn't mean I'm equating N with Rand. I didn't write a substantial essay on how Rand gets right the things N was skeptical about and/or denied. N didn't believe in systemetizing, Rand did. 

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