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Gramlich

Nietzsche Was Evil; Right?

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I've started reading Friedrich Nietzsche, and I can't help but be confused anyone took him seriously. The man seems to advocate for ideas that ultimately imply a kind of evil, and I'm wondering if I'm missing historical context that helps explain some of his more ridiculous statements.

In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche writes: "For us, the falsity of a judgment is still no objection to that judgment -- that's where our new way of speaking sounds perhaps most strange. The question is the extent to which it makes demands on life, sustains life, maintains the species, perhaps even creates species. And as a matter of principle we are ready to assert that the falsest judgments (to which a priori synthetic judgments belong) are the most indispensable to us, (emphasis mine) that without our allowing logical fictions to count, without a way of measuring reality against the purely invented world of the unconditional and self-identical, without a constant falsification of the world through numbers, human beings could not live -- that if we managed to give up false judgments, it would amount to a renunciation of life, a denial of life."

Isn't the advocacy of falsehoods as "most indispensable" implying that one should engage in falsehoods as often as they can, that fictions are the true preferred content of one's mind and thoughts? I could understand how he could say that falsehoods were "indispensable,"  with his subsequent argument, but I can't understand how he would say they're "the most indispensable." Obviously, if a person was entirely contained with falsehoods, none of their words would count. They would have to admit that they're not seeking truth,  and we have no reason to assume that the words they write and speak are expected to be truth. It all seems self-contradictory, and I would expect someone to assume that Nietzsche is simply a charlatan trying to manipulate people for some alternative, personal purpose.

Yet, people seem to think he's a great philosopher, so I'm wondering if I'm missing historical context or whether the speech of the times lent itself to peculiar wording.

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28 minutes ago, Gramlich said:

Isn't the advocacy of falsehoods as "most indispensable" implying that one should engage in falsehoods as often as they can, that fictions are the true preferred content of one's mind and thoughts? I could understand how he could say that falsehoods were "indispensable,"  with his subsequent argument, but I can't understand how he would say they're "the most indispensable." Obviously, if a person was entirely contained with falsehoods, none of their words would count. They would have to admit that they're not seeking truth,  and we have no reason to assume that the words they write and speak are expected to be truth. It all seems self-contradictory, and I would expect someone to assume that Nietzsche is simply a charlatan trying to manipulate people for some alternative, personal purpose.

Yet, people seem to think he's a great philosopher, so I'm wondering if I'm missing historical context or whether the speech of the times lent itself to peculiar wording.

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From what I recall, Nietzsche accepts Kant's doctrine of "the categories," but thinks that this doctrine is more consistent with skepticism than with Kant's qualified defense of science. So, when he says that the falsest judgments are the most indispensable, he means that we can't think without employing categories like causality and substance that are derived from our own mental constitution rather than from reality.

Eioul is the resident Nietzsche expert, so he will likely have a better explanation. Regardless, dismissing a major philosopher before you understand him properly is a bad idea.

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Yeah so first of all, reading Nietzsche in the original text is very difficult, I don't recommend it for your introduction to him. One should read commentaries and interpretations first, while studying a biographical approach. It is indeed important to place him in historical context, like many philosophers in order to fully understand what he's talking about.

In this segment of BGE, he's commenting on epistemology and culture kind of simultaneously. The specific passage where he's talking about false judgments comes after where he's commented on the nature of truth and what he calls the "will to truth," which is kind of, as I understand it, examining why people in society (priests, artists, scientists, intellectuals, etc.) strive for truth vis a vis what the average man deals with as common sense reality.

It is important to understand Nietzsche is a mixed bag. Some ideas are good (he's generally pri-life, pro-this world, pro-reality, individualist, egoistic, and anti-state), and some of his ideas are bad (he's generally anti-reason, pro-emotionalism, and some passages endorsing force in a subjectivist-egoist manner.) 

He is dealing with a Kantian influenced cultural background in which "reason" is thought of as idealistic and a priori, so even his rejections of "reason" are sometimes correct rejections of bad epistemology, but he is very influenced by Schopenhauer and had a pessimistic view of reason. He is also struggling with his own childhood and upbringing as an extremely devout pietist household, so when he is rejecting "truth" what he means is rejecting what he has been told all his life and reevaluating things.

Anyways, back to that passage, and this is basically how I interpret it, Nietzsche does believe that there is objective truth, but what he is questioning is the value of truth. Much of what the theologians are striving for as "truth," or even the scientists, has no value to our lives. And in general, he is skeptical about whether people abandon a belief because it is false, or if they abandon it because it serves no life-affirming purpose. And since N is skeptical about reason, but pro-life and achieving value, truth should indeed ultimately be judged based on its life-affirming purpose and not necessarily to correspondence with objective reality. He's not saying you should go around lying and deceiving people. It is a pragmatic point about how to approach philosophy, that one should not hold to some high theoretical truth if it interferes in your ability to achieve a flourishing life. It's kind of a Humean point, that if the philosophers have destroyed reason by proving it distortive and beyond the common man, then the common man should reject philosophy and just life his life in a common sense way.

Again, not exactly a point objectivists would agree with, but kind of understandable given the mileu he was working with.

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To speak of Nietzsche seriously, one needs to read Nietzsche. It is not that difficult these days with all the fine English translations in the Cambridge series. The worst possible place to begin reading Nietzsche is with Zarathustra. One can come to understand that work, but only if one reads and connects what he wrote before it (leaving aside Birth of Tragedy) and after it: Human, All Too Human; Daybreak; Gay Science I–IV; Zarathustra; Gay Science V; Beyond Good and Evil; and Genealogy of Morals. That's the package. A decent first-over would be to begin in GS I-IV, then read the remainder in order. Then if continuing with him, circle back to the first two, HH and D.

The Cambridge series has Introductions for each text, written by a contemporary Nietzsche scholar, and these are helpful. The Introduction for Z was written by my Nietzsche professor. It was a great boost (and joy) to have studied under him. But the main thing is to read Nietzsche's texts, then give your citations when you represent his ideas. The latter is useful to audience seriously interested in his ideas, including to your own future self, when you have been away from the material for a while.

Ayn Rand read Nietzsche for herself. She could read German, but for getting subtle philosophical ideas, one would need to have a great mastery of the language of the author. She read some Nietzsche in Russian before coming to America. It is my understanding that all Russian translations of Nietzsche at that time were atrocious. She began reading his works in English translations soon as she got to America, her English got better and better, and by the late ’30’s she had some favorite passages from BGE selected as epigraphs for her work THE FOUNTAINHEAD and each of its four parts. She argues against some Nietzschean ideas in that work, and by the time of ATLAS, with Aristotle firmly in hand, she’s ready to press Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche with a steamroller.

I invite readers here to study my series of papers Nietzsche v. Rand.

Nicholas, I see your quotation is in #4 of Part 1 of BGE. From the same: “Without a constant falsification of the world through numbers, people could not live. . . . To acknowledge untruth as a condition of life: this clearly means resisting the usual value feelings in a dangerous manner; and a philosophy that risks such a thing would by that gesture alone place itself beyond good and evil.” No, not beyond evil. Beyond good and true. Intellectually and morally irresponsible. Not an intellectual bravery. A poetics. Enormously ignorant of the mathematics and physical science of his day. Resisting it.

“The motive of the anti-measurement attitude is obvious: it is the desire to preserve a sanctuary of the indeterminate for the benefit of the irrational---the desire, epistemologically, to escape from the responsibility of cognitive precision and wide-scale integration; and, metaphysically, the desire to escape from the absolutism of existence, of facts, of reality and, above all, of identity.” Ayn Rand in ITOE, p. 39.

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PS - Delighted to see here just now that the number of reads on my 'Nietzsche v. Rand' series has now surpassed 19,000.

 

 

Edited by Boydstun

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It's important to understand that what N writes in one paragraph might evolve in later sections. His style is to guide you through ideas and questioning the truths you've been fed throughout your life. One thing consistent about N is his devotion to life. He sought life affirmation. But, he struggled to find it his whole life. There wasn't anyone really who offered much about life affirmation, so he preferred ancient Greek and Roman writers.

As for this quote, consider that N was primarily referring to Truth, capital T, that an intrinsicist like Kant would believe. So if said a judgment is false because it is not True, N would not see this as an actual objection. That is, if a Kantian says you made a false judgment, N would respond that this is not a valid objection. So of course this would sound strange to a Kantian.

N clearly states that a priori synthetic judgments are false. Except he writes this part speaking as a Kantian in an ironic way. Here he is writing about eternal truths, but N up to this point had written that we can't know such truths or that humans can't know them. Yet N doesn't want to ignore that people need these "falsest judgments" in order to measure reality and live. Since N measures value in terms of sustaining or promoting life, these falsehoods are worth holding.

Imagine speaking like a Kantian with Kantian terms but actually you're not a Kantian and sneaking your own beliefs in ironically. You get this passage. Then picture what it would mean to measure ideas according to life. To be sure, he has a pragmatic definition of truth at this point in his writing. Rand has a little pragmatism, but it's more like "the truth leads to promoting life" as opposed to  "the truth is true because it promotes life". N has no sufficient theory of concepts to offer a full alternative, though.

N uses irony a lot. He means more than he says directly.

 

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“The invention of the laws of numbers was made on the basis of the error, dominant even from the earliest times, that there are identical things (but in fact nothing is identical with anything else) . . . . The assumption of plurality always presupposes the existence of something that occurs more than once: but precisely here error already holds sway, here already we are fabricating beings, unities which do not exist. . . . To a world which is not our idea the laws of numbers are wholly inapplicable: these are valid only in the human world.” (HH I:19) (1878)

Wrong (and boringly unoriginal).

Logic too depends on presuppositions with which nothing in the real world corresponds, for example on the presupposition that there are identical things, that the same thing is identical at different points of time: but this science came into existence through the opposite belief (that such conditions do obtain in the real world). It is the same with mathematics, which would certainly not have come into existence if one had known from the beginning that there was in nature no exactly straight line, no real circle, no absolute magnitude.” (HH I:11)

Wrong (. . .). There is a certain number of letters in this sentence. Whether we express that number in base 10 (from normal number of fingers) or in base 8 (from normal number of spaces between fingers—practice and origin for a tribe in South America), the number of letters in the sentence is what it is regardless of the base we select for expression of that number. The number of items is there, and in this case, a child beyond age 6, including the reader, can know that number present, obfuscations of philosophers notwithstanding. / On exactly straight lines (and so forth), whether in a flat Euclidean plane or on the surfaces of elliptical or hyperbolic geometry, the number of exactly straight lines is infinite (as recognized by both Descartes and Newton for the geometry they knew, the Euclidean). The fact that we arrive at idealizations of the physical world by abstractions does not mean that those idealizations are not also concretely instantiated. Electrons are concretely real even though we have to have a lot of abstraction to get to them.

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In Gay Science III, §111 (1882), Nietzsche repeats the old baloney I quoted from Human, All Too Human. But he begins to get more vicious and ad hominem about it, and this is some originality. The Introduction to GS in the Cambridge edition is written by Josefine Nauckhoff, who is also the translator. She includes the following comment in that Introduction.

“In his earliest writings about truth and error, Nietzsche sometimes spoke as though he could compare the entire structure of our thought to the ‘real’ nature of things and find our thought defective. . . . Later he rightly rejected this picture . . . . There are passages in The Gay Science where it is unclear whether he is still attached to this picture. He discusses fictions, the practice of regarding things as equal or identical or mathematically structured when they are not so or only approximately so . . . . He is making the point, certainly, that mathematical representations which are offered by the sciences [think Maxwell, who died in ’79] are in various ways idealizations, and this is entirely intelligible. There is greater ambiguity when he suggests that nothing is really ‘identical’ or ‘the same’. To take an example: the concept ‘snake’ allows us to classify various individual things as ‘the same snake’. It is trivially true that ‘snake’ is a human concept, a cultural product. But it is a much murkier proposition that its use somehow falsifies reality—that ‘in itself’ the world does not contain snakes, or indeed anything else you might mention. Nietzsche came to see that this idea of the world ‘in itself’ was precisely a relic of the kind of metaphysics that he wanted to overcome. As a remark in the Nachlass puts it (The Will to Power 567): ‘The antithesis of the apparent world and the true world is reduced to the antithesis “world” or “nothing”’.”

So far as I recall, Nietzsche made no progress in setting forth a plausible metaphysics or anti-metaphysics in which that old divide, prominent in Plato and Kant, could be laid to rest. Certainly, Rand was in no debt to Nietzsche in her own efforts on this divide. 

Against Kant and in step with Aristotle, Rand writes: “‘Things as they are’ are things as perceived by your mind” (AS 1036). Rand spoke in that passage against Kant of “things as they are” and not of “things in themselves.” She was right to avoid the latter phrase because of the well-known shading of it. That latter phrase, down from Kant, intimates a severance of existence with its character from our grasp of it. In the same vein, rightly she would reject talk of the transcendental object or talk of noumena and its sundering distinction with phenomena, the latter a foul concept when transplanted from its use in Newton to fundamental ontology. Joseph Owens: “Aristotle’s procedure is to let things speak for themselves. They show themselves to be the same in some ways, to be different in others. Concepts and words simply follow and reflect as best they can the nature of things themselves” (1978 [1951], 138).

Nietzsche in his mature thought would replace metaphysics with psychology (armchair) as “queen of the sciences” (BGE 23). Kant had used that phrase in noting the disrepute to which metaphysics had fallen by his time (1781). Kant was himself, in his mature, critical thought, not proposing yet another metaphysics. He was proposing a method and critical awareness of the bounds of cognition under which a future metaphysics might merit respectability. Nietzsche’s sayings against logic, truth, mathematics, and metaphysics are not focused on Kant. They are wide-armed against the entire Socratic-Platonic and Aristotelian traditions and against the no-stopping tidal wave of the modern hard sciences.

 

Edited by Boydstun

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On 2/26/2018 at 9:40 AM, Boydstun said:

 

Nietzsche in his mature thought would replace metaphysics with psychology (armchair) as “queen of the sciences” (BGE 23). Kant had used that phrase in noting the disrepute to which metaphysics had fallen by his time (1781). Kant was himself, in his mature, critical thought, not proposing yet another metaphysics. He was proposing a method and critical awareness of the bounds of cognition under which a future metaphysics might merit respectability. Nietzsche’s sayings against logic, truth, mathematics, and metaphysics are not focused on Kant. They are wide-armed against the entire Socratic-Platonic and Aristotelian traditions and against the no-stopping tidal wave of the modern hard sciences.

 

As far as I've read and interpreted, N more or less was opposed to so-called Rationalists and not necessarily anti-Aristotelian. He certainly was against the modern errors within hard sciences and others, and all the -standard- ways of looking at things. He was quite aware how what we do to describe reality doesn't mean that's how reality is. So he warns us of all the issues that come with modernism, to push us to think differently. Push us to disagree with him, to come up with new systems of thought. I would argue that N had some Aristotelian ideas in terms of ethics but was wary of essentialism.  

I don't disagree that N is more of a nominalist and non-cognitivist in terms of epistemology (i.e. truth is real but unattainable), but this doesn mean he didn't see better and worse ways of thinking. If something was anti-man, he hated it. His issue was, as you said, that he made no progress in these issues. In a way I think Rand continued what he did, and in true form to N's "new philosophers" did not become a disciple to N. She ripped apart his errors. That is, I think she is indebted to N because he impacted her quite clearly to question the prevailing standards of the time.

Can you expand on why specifically N would replace metaphysics with psychology? In terms of him emphasizing how psychology is a huge factor to any and all human endeavors now and in the future, I see that. But as a replacement to metaphysics? I'm skeptical.

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I'm skeptical myself just because from about 1882 forward it seems Nietzsche has found his distinctive metaphysics in which he is quite content, and that is his doctrine of the will to power. Not only does he try to cram the animate world into that paradigm (ultimately sprung from his supposedly profound insight into human psychological nature), but, at least in his Nachlass, he has notes in which he imputes the principle of the will to power to all inanimate nature as well as its deepest and universal dynamical principle. That looks like a continental metaphysics to me (and not a seriously grounded one).

But to your request concerning the ambition of replacing metaphysics with psychology, I'll just have to leave you with BGE 23 and with a book on this topic by my distinguished teacher. Because, I have to stay on course with other philosophy studies (for the discussion of Peikoff's dissertation and for the theoretical-philosophy portion of my book in progress, and of course Nietzsche is not significant in those areas and their histories). Nietzsche, Psychology, & First Philosophy by Robert Pippin. I think you would so enjoy this book. --S

.

Edited by Boydstun

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11 hours ago, Boydstun said:

.I have to stay on course with other philosophy studies (for the discussion of Peikoff's dissertation and for the theoretical-philosophy portion of my book in progress, and of course Nietzsche is not significant in those areas and their histories).

 

How did you get access to Peikoff's dissertation? I would willing to buy it, but I've never seen a reasonably priced edition for sale online.

 

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Hi William,

It is available for purchase here at the ProQuest site, where any dissertation can be purchased. I always get them in paperback, but even so, as I recall, each dissertation costs about $70. There is a little wait for them to produce the book, but the quality has been excellent on all my purchases there, and they have been completely reliable. --S

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PS

LP diss.JPG

Edited by Boydstun

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His main goal,  according  to me is to attach great meaning to our lives. A life worth living would be something like fighting against the church, questioning the political system, personal growth and so forth. He considers our understanding of good and evil as a product of Christianity, so not relevant to him and his freedom. 

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I love Nietzsche.  I suppose it comes from a familiar unbridled rebellion that runs in my family.  I was raised by teenaged alcoholic drug addicts.... I love my family.  A thousand generations of prostitutes daughters got to this point in time just as surely as a thousand generations of preachers sons.  Any time you are faced with the stanch pride of an idiot arrogantly defending his right to his beliefs, remember his DNA is 3.8 Billions years as old as you are.  Remember also, your children's DNA is 14 to 75 years older than yours. 

The same rebellion that drove us across the ocean in rat infested wooden ships, the same rebellion that drove us across the prairies... makes us gaze at Mars in strange anticipation.  Forever running from the controllers.  Nietzsche explores the intricacies of rebellion with such a playful rhythm.  Irrationality as a necessity of evolutionary adaptation.  Imagination can get you through years of imprisonment and a few dark ages.  

"Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music" - Nietzsche

Beyond Good and Evil begins: "What if the truth is a woman?  What then?"  By the time I get to the end of it, I think maybe a woman wrote this book, used his name, and she is the reason Nietzsche went crazy and spent his last ten years in isolation.  If you go through the whole book and replace truth with false, false with truth, man with woman, woman with man, woman with truth, man with false....  And pay extra special attention to the very intricate broad abstractions he punctuates with a "WHAT?" throughout.  Its just breathtaking how many ways I can imagine him meaning everything and its opposite.  It is an Olympian sized exercise in exploring any given topic from as many angles and positions as possible, you find the truth in there, and she is not such a weakling as to need rescuing.  

I forgive his shortcomings thinking you can only do so much, on your own, during the times in which you live.  

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