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NIETZSCHE v. RAND -- SOME FACETS

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I evidently pulled together these elements of Nietzsche and Rand in 2010. The remarks in this thread have been part of my thread “Nietzsche v. Rand” on OBJECTIVIST LIVING, a site where I posted from 2006 to 2016. As of this month, November 2019, that thread has had about 20,600 reads. I’d like to display this work here as well. The bulk of my work on Nietzsche-Rand is in “N v R – Truth of Will and Value” which I shall shortly post here in BOOKS TO MIND, in four threads: Before Zarathustra / Rand 1929–38 / Rand 1938–46 / Rand in Full.

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Your Moral Ideal

“Man knows that his desperate need of self-esteem is a matter of life or death. As a being of volitional consciousness, he knows that he must know his own value in order to maintain his own life. He knows that he has to be right; to be wrong in action means danger to his life; to be wrong in person, to be evil, means to be unfit for existence.” (AS 1057)

“Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value . . . —that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is born able to create, but must create by choice. . . .” (AS 1021)

“Do you wish to fight for my world? . . . Do you wish to undertake a struggle . . . where the hardships are investments in your future, and the victories bring you irreversibly closer to the world of your moral ideal?” (AS 1068)

Pride is one of the seven virtues Ayn Rand crafted for her ethics (AS 1018–21). These virtues are said to be necessary means for a life whose “supreme and ruling values” are: reason, purpose, and self-esteem (AS 1018). Those three values are together “the means to and the realization of one’s ultimate value, one’s own life” (OE 25).

The virtue pride corresponds with the value self-esteem, corresponds as necessary means to end (OE 25). Pride is the process of achieving self-esteem by thinking for oneself (AS 1057), by “unbreached rationality” (AS 1059), “by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice and by never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational—by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected” (OE 27; see also “Selfishness without a Self” and Tara Smith’s ARNE 236–47).

The virtue productiveness corresponds with the value purpose, corresponds as necessary means to end. Productiveness is means to human survival, but it also provides a central purpose to the life of the rational animal that is man. The central purpose is “the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values” (OE 25). Productiveness is means to purpose by way of realization of purpose. Productiveness is the continual process of “remaking the earth in the image of one’s values.” It is “the process of achieving your values, and to lose you ambition to values is to lose your ambition to live” (AS 1020; see also ARNE 203–5, 209–12).

I should mention that Rand conceives of the particular forms of the virtue productiveness as economically adaptive (AS 713–27). Moreover, the concept productiveness is broad; it includes the work of parents, educators, and counselors (AS 785, 994–95).

The virtue rationality corresponds with the value reason, corresponds as activity to faculty of the activity. Distinctively as virtue, “rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action” (OE 25). Rationality is the fundamental necessary means for human survival and psychological well-being (AS 1016–18).

In Rand’s ethics: “Virtue is not an end in itself. Virtue is not its own reward . . . . Life is the reward of virtue—and happiness is the goal and reward of life” (AS 1021).

To the contrary, Friedrich Nietzsche writes in Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

“You still want to be paid, you virtuous! Want to have reward for virtue, and heaven for earth, and eternity for your day?

“And now you’re angry with me for teaching that there is no reward and paymaster? And truly, I do not even teach that virtue is its own reward.

“Oh, this is my sorrow; reward and punishment have been lied into the ground of things—and now even into the ground of your souls, you virtuous!

. . .

“All the secrets of your ground will be brought to light . . . . Your lie will be separated from your truth.

“For this is your truth: you are too pure for the filth of the words revenge, punishment, reward, retribution.

“You love your virtue as the mother her child; but when did anyone ever hear that a mother wanted to be paid for her love?

. . .

“Your virtue should be your self and not a foreign thing, a skin, a cloaking; that is the truth from the ground of your soul, you virtuous!” (Z II “On the Virtuous”)

According to Nietzsche, virtue is not means to any end, not even to itself as end. “You say it is the good cause that hallows even war? I tell you: it is the good war that hallows any cause” (Z I “War and Warriors”).

Virtue is an ascent. One creates one’s virtues from one’s unique suite of drives and passions and one’s unique experience.

“You set your highest goal at the heart of these passions, and then they became your virtues and passions of pleasure.

“And whether you stemmed from the clan of the irascible or the lascivious or the fanatic or the vengeful:

“Ultimately all your passions became virtues and all your devils became angels.

“Once you had wild dogs in your cellar, but ultimately they transformed into birds and lovely singers.” (Z I “On the Passions of Pleasure and Pain”) (See also HH II[1] 91, II[2] 70, and D 560.)

A year earlier, in The Gay Science:

“Have you never heard of an intellectual conscience? A conscience behind your ‘conscience’? Your judgment ‘this is right’ has a pre-history in your instincts, likes, dislikes, experiences, and lack of experiences. . . .

“The firmness of your moral judgment could be evidence of your personal abjectness, of impersonality; your ‘moral strength’ might have its source in your stubbornness—or in your inability to envisage new ideals. . . .

“What? You admire the categorical imperative within you? This ‘firmness’ of your so-called moral judgment? This ‘unconditional’ feeling that ‘here everyone must judge as I do’? Rather admire your selfishness at this point. And the blindness, narrow-mindedness, and modesty of your selfishness. For it is selfish to experience one’s own judgment as a universal law; and this selfishness is blind, narrow-minded, and modest because it betrays that you have not yet discovered yourself nor created for yourself an ideal of your own, your very own—for that could never be somebody else’s and much less that of all, all!” (GS 335; see also 120 and BGE 221, 228, 272)

(The translation of the preceding passage is Walter Kaufmann’s except that I have put narrow-minded for kleinliche where he put petty, and I have put modest for anspruchslose where he put frugal. It is perhaps unnecessary to say, but I will say it just to be sure: Nietzsche espouses a type of noble selfishness, which the selfishness criticized in this passage is not. Rand, of course, espouses a variety of rational selfishness.)

In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche writes of his competitors:

“Whether it is hedonism or pessimism [sympathy/pity], utilitarianism or eudaemonism [well-being/happiness]—all these ways of thinking that measure the value of things in accordance with pleasure and pain, which are mere epiphenomena and wholly secondary, are ways of thinking that stay in the foreground and naïvetés on which everyone conscious of creative powers and an artistic conscience will look down . . . .

“In man creature and created are united: in man there is material, fragment, excess, clay, dirt, nonsense, chaos; but in man there is also creator, form-giver, hammer hardness, spectator divinity, and seventh day . . . .

“There are higher problems than all problems of pleasure, pain, and pity; and every philosophy that stops with them is naïveté.” (BGE 225)

In Zarathustra:

“Those who care most today ask: ‘How are human beings to be preserved?’ But Zarathustra is the only one and the first one to ask: ‘How shall human being be overcome?’

“The overman is in my heart, that is my first and my only concern—and not human beings . . . .

“Oh my brothers [you higher men], what I am able to love in human beings is that they are a going over and a going under . . . .

. . .

“Today the little people have become ruler: they all preach surrender and resignation and prudence and industry and consideration and the long etcetera of little virtues.

. . .

That [which is of little people] asks and asks and does not tire: ‘How do human beings preserve themselves best, longest, most pleasantly?’ With that—they are the rulers of today.

. . .

“Overcome for me, you higher men, the little virtues, the little prudence, . . . the pitiful contentedness, the ‘happiness of the greatest number’!” (Z IV “On the Higher Man”)

On Rand’s view, “man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads” (AS 1069). The roads of man are of unlimited good prospect because of the possibility of men embracing the value of human existence and the virtue of rationality, because of what men will discover and invent, because of their advancing material productions.

When Rand writes of the individual “shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man,” it is man we know, with moral virtues right for all men; it is not man becoming some faint fancied overman. These universally fitting human virtues are not strangers; they are of one’s self.

When Rand writes of a struggle wherein “the hardships are investments in your future, and the victories bring you irreversibly closer to the world of your moral ideal,” the ideal is more fully embodied than in the quotation of the preceding paragraph. Here “the world of your moral ideal” is success in one’s particular ventures of production together with success in joint efforts to create a dependable and just legal framework for those ventures. Rand’s term irreversibly is puzzling. It seems to me that she was thinking of a relative irreversibility, a relative reliability of advance, in comparison with prospects under false virtues and under law not protecting true, individual rights.

A world in which virtue brought one (not relatively, but absolutely) “irreversibly closer to the world of your moral ideal” would seem to be a world with dynamics of human action “as it ought to be.” I expect there is some sense to this plane of ethical thought—I’m reminded of the idea of an evenly rotating economy in economic theory—but for now its moorings remain in the mist.

–References–

Human, All Too Human (HH) 1879–80 (II). R. J. Hollingdale, translator. 1986. Cambridge.

Daybreak (D) 1881. R. J. Hollingdale, translator. 1997. Cambridge.

The Gay Science (GS) 1882 (I–IV). W. Kaufmann, translator. 1974. Random House.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Z) 1883 (I&II), 1885 (IV). A. Del Caro, translator. 2006. Cambridge.

Beyond Good and Evil (BGE) 1886. W. Kaufmann, translator. 1966. Random House.

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Desire to Live?

“Physiologists should think twice before positioning the drive for self-preservation as the cardinal drive of an organic being. Above all, a living thing wants to discharge its strength—life itself is will to power—: self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of this.” (BGE 13)

Nietzsche is not saying that we and other living beings do not have a natural drive for self-preservation (or an “instinct for self-preservation” in Kaufman’s translation of the passage; see also GS 1, 3, 11). He credits humans with drives and instincts. We have a drive for self-preservation—of the individual and of the commonwealth—but it is not most basic. It cannot exist without another, deeper drive. It is dependent upon and is one manifestation of the deepest drive bespeaking the essence of life: the will to power (Z II “On Self-Overcoming”). When Nietzsche writes of a drive for self-preservation, it is a will of life itself, which he then casts as a will to power (BGE 36, 44, 259; GS 349).

Rand writes: “An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess. An ‘instinct’ is an . . . automatic form of knowledge. A desire is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living. And even man’s desire to live is not automatic . . .” (AS 1013). Rand is using instinct in a sense more narrow than simply drive or desire.

Like Nietzsche’s mentor Schopenhauer (WWP I.2.180–81, I.4.350–53), Rand understood some animals to possess instincts, but in the case of man, took instincts to be supplanted by reason (AS 1013, 994; F 737; OE 19–20; FNI 14–17; but see Branden’s Psy S-E 2.2; cf. Peikoff’s OPAR 193–94 and Binswanger’s BBTC 32–36). Rand also denied that man has an “instinct for tool-making.” Rather, man has conceptual ability (AS 1043–44). She denied further that what is called man’s moral faculty, or “moral instinct,” is anything other than the rational faculty. “Man’s reason is his moral faculty” (AS 1017).

In the nineteenth century, as now, instinct was used broadly to mean a natural drive or innate behavioral tendency in animals, but it was also used more narrowly to mean a complex unlearned animal behavior adaptive for a species. Examples of the latter include spiders spinning webs and birds building nests (WWP I.2.136). Schopenhauer had written of instincts in this more narrow sense as “co-existing with animal activities directed by perceptual cognizance and its motives, [but] an activity accomplished without the latter [i.e., without motive of the accomplished end], thus with the necessity of blindly effectual will, namely in mechanical drives that, directed by no motive or cognizance, have the appearance of in fact producing their works in response to abstract rational motives” (WWP I.2.180).

In their moral psychology, Nietzsche clearly credits humans with instincts not only broadly, but narrowly. “‘Instinct’ is the most intelligent type of intelligence discovered so far.” Example: “the unconscious cunning that all good, fat, well-behaved, mediocre spirits have shown toward higher spirits and their tasks, that subtle, intricate, Jesuitical cunning that is a thousand times more subtle than any taste or understanding evinced by [that stupid] middle class in its best moments—it is even more subtle than its victims’ understanding” (BGE 218; see also “instinct for mediocrity” in BGE 206, “feminine instincts” in 239, and “instinct for rank/respect” in 263; also GS 118). When it comes to valuations more generally, instinct is at work under the name faith, which is belief without conscious reason (BGE 191; see also D 58, 22).

Nietzsche maintained, furthermore, that “the greatest part of conscious thought must still be attributed to instinctive activity.” This is instinct in a fairly narrow sense: “Most of a philosopher’s conscious thought is secretly directed and forced into determinate channels by the instincts” (BGE 3; see also BGE 211).

Thoughts themselves, in Nietzsche’s view, are merely relations among our desires and passions, our drives (BGE 36). Rational understanding “is actually nothing but a certain behavior of the instincts toward one another” (GS 333).

Nietzsche did realize, as Schopenhauer had stressed, that rationality is necessary for human survival (GS 76). Furthermore, even beyond the attainment of its continued existence, man’s life is not a waking dream in which free desire attains waking value (GS 59; also 324, 346).

In the fourth paragraph above, I mentioned Rand’s denial of a variety of instincts in humans, where instinct is used in the narrow sense. Another human ability from which she would dispel instinct is logical thought. “Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct” (AS 1012).

Nietzsche had wrestled with the origin and place of logic in the biological world (HH I 18) and in Greek and contemporary philosophy (D 544; GS 111). He observed that it is a good intellectual habit by which men at odds can come to agreement (GS 348).

Continuing a quotation above, from Beyond Good and Evil, we have: “Most of a philosopher’s conscious thought is secretly directed and forced into determinate channels by the instincts. Even behind all logic and its autocratic posturings stand valuations or, stated more clearly, physiological requirements for the preservation of a particular kind of life” (BGE 3).

“The project for philosophical laborers on the noble model of Kant and Hegel is to establish some large class of given values . . . and press it into formulas, whether in the realm of logic or politics (morality) or art. . . . But true philosophers are commanders and legislators . . . . True philosophers reach for the future with a creative hand and everything that is and was becomes a means, a tool, a hammer for them. Their knowing is creating, their creating is a legislating, the will to truth is —will to power.” (BGE 211 [Horstmann and Norman]; see also the Preface §4 added to Daybreak the same year as BGE.)

–References–

Binswanger, H. 1990. The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts (BBTC). ARI.

Branden, N. 1969. The Psychology of Self-Esteem (Psy S-E). Bantum.

Nietzsche, F.

———. 1881. Daybreak (D). Clark and Leiter, trans. 1997. Cambridge.

———. 1882. The Gay Science (GS) §§1–342). Kaufmann, trans. 1974. Vintage.

———. 1883. Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Z II). Del Caro, trans. 2006. Cambridge.

———. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil (BGE). Horstmann and Norman, trans. 2002. Cambridge.

———. 1887. The Gay Science (GS §§343–83). Kaufmann, trans. 1974. Vintage.

Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (OPAR). Dutton.

Rand, A.

———. 1943. The Fountainhead (F). Bobbs-Merrill.

———. 1957. Atlas Shrugged (AS). Random House.

———. 1961. For the New Intellectual (FNI). Signet.

———. 1961. The Objectivist Ethics (OE). In The Virtue of Selfishness. Signet.

Schopenhauer, A. 1859 [1819]. The World as Will and Presentation (WWP I). Aquila, trans. 2008. Pearson Longman.

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Choice to Live

Nietzsche began work on Beyond Good and Evil in June 1885. When he opens §3 with the remark “the greatest part of conscious thought must still be attributed to instinctive activity,” he is in step with a French author he had been studying the preceding month. The rest of §3 is distinctively Nietzsche, but that general opening idea is to be found (albeit with instinct taken in the broad sense) in that new book from Paris: A Sketch of Morality without Obligation or Sanction (1885).

The author Jean Marie Guyau writes that it is erroneous to think “that most of our movements spring from consciousness, and that a scientific analysis of the springs of conduct has only to reckon with conscious motives . . . . Even those acts achieved in full consciousness have generally their beginning and first origin in dumb instincts and reflex movements. Consciousness is, therefore, only a luminous point in the great obscure sphere of life; it is a small lens, gathering in bundles some rays of the sun, and imagining too readily that its focus is the very focus from which the rays start” (S 74).

In that paragraph, Guyau mentions a question then being debated in France and England as to whether “consciousness is, in life, but an epiphenomenon, in the absence of which everything would go on in the same way” (S 74). Nietzsche completed BGE in January of 1886. In the autumn of that year, he composed Book V of The Gay Science to be added to a new edition of that 1882 work. In V he entertains the idea that “we could think, feel, will, and remember, and we could also ‘act’ in every sense of that word, and yet none of all this would have to ‘enter consciousness’ . . . . The whole of life would be possible without, as it were, seeing itself in a mirror. Even now, for that matter, by far the greatest portion of our life actually takes place without this mirror effect; and this is true even of our thinking, feeling, and willing life . . . . For what purpose, then, any consciousness at all when it is in the main superfluous?” (GS 354) Nietzsche conjectures that consciousness is proportionate an animal’s communication capabilities, that these capabilities have had advantages for survival, and that in humans thought-with-language has brought consciousness and self-consciousness beyond what is needed for survival (GS 354).

At the time of Sketch, Guyau was not familiar with any of Nietzsche’s work. There were remarkable affinities between their ideas. In common background, they had certain authors and currents in contemporary psychology, biology, and philosophy. Like Nietzsche, Guyau rejected the pessimism that Schopenhauer and his followers had decorated and that, really, had been cultivated as far back as Buddha.

Guyau argued against the pessimistic view of life that condemns pleasure and desire. Guyau looks “not only to psychology, but to biology [to] find out whether the actual laws of life do not imply a surplus value of welfare over pain” and to show that the morality he would uphold on scientific grounds “would be right in wanting to conform human actions to the laws of life, instead of aiming at final annihilation of life, and of the desire to live” (S 33).

“If, in living beings, the feelings of discomfort really prevailed over those of comfort, life would be impossible. . . . The subjective discomfort of suffering is only a symptom of a wrong objective state of disorder . . . . The feeling of well-being is like the subjective aspect of a right objective state. In the rhythm of existence, well-being thus corresponds to evolution of life, pain to dissolution” (S 33–34).

“If the human race and the other animal species survive, it is precisely because life is not too bad for them. . . . A moral philosophy of annihilation, to whatever living being it is proposed, is like a contradiction. In reality, it is the same reason which makes existence possible and which makes it desirable” (S 37).

Guyau concludes “that suffering is not the evil most dreaded by man—that inaction is often still worse; that there is, moreover, a particular kind of pleasure which springs from conquered sorrow, and, in general, from every expended energy” (S 30).

“There are two kinds of pleasure. At one time pleasure corresponds with a particular and superficial form of activity (the pleasure of eating, drinking, etc.); at another time it is connected with the very root of that activity (the pleasure of living, of willing, of thinking, etc.). In the one case, it is purely a pleasure of the senses; in the other, it is more deeply vital, more independent of exterior objects—it is one with the very consciousness of life” (S 77).

Rand writes that her morality of reason “is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live” (AS 1018). The traction she gets in constructing definite broad values and virtues for human life comes from the specific constitution of Man and his Life which is raised as standard for life-affording correct values and virtues. In other words, the traction she gets is in the specific identity of human being per se, including all the conditional relations bearing on human life as well as the possibility that humans can power down and stop making life-affording values operative in themselves. All along the days one is chugging away with those values and virtues functioning in one’s machinery, one is affirming life. But there can come times when one has lost greatly loved persons or projects or one has badly lost some treasured abilities, or one is in great pain. For these times, I appreciate especially that Rand had written “and a single choice: to live” and not “and a single choice: to be happy.” One may no longer remember what happiness was, but one may still see what life is. You may still be able to think on continuance of your self, of your world with you alone in it; and those underlying, basis pleasures, noted by Guyau, may idle you along. In a while, you may choose life anew.

(Nietzsche had learned to read French with ease in time for Guyau 1885. An expanded second edition of this book appeared in 1890, two years after Guyau’s death (age 34), one year after Nietzsche’s complete mental collapse. Guyau’s Esquisse d’une Morale sans Obligation, ni Sanction was translated into English by Gertrude Kapteyn in 1898. Hers is a translation of the second edition. Outside the Sorbonne several years ago, I purchased the second edition in the original language for a memento of the trip. So I have been able to verify Kapteyn’s translation. Some years ago, I found the first edition in Regenstein at Chicago. I marked up my second edition to indicate the alterations and additions made from first to second. I have relied solely on what was in the first edition for my discussions of Nietzsche’s Guyau.)

–References–

Guyau, J. 1885, 1890. A Sketch of Morality without Obligation or Sanction. Kapteyn, trans. 1898. Watts & Co.

Nietzsche, F. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil (BGE). Horstmann and Norman, trans. 2002. Cambridge.

———. 1887. The Gay Science (GS §§343–83). Kaufmann, trans. 1974. Vintage.

Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.

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Claiming Nobility

Among the aphorisms composing Nietzsche’s 1878 work Human, All Too Human, is this one:

Wealth as the Origin of a Nobility of Birth. – Wealth necessarily engenders an aristocracy of race, for it permits one to select the fairest women, pay the best teachers, grants to a man cleanliness, time for physical exercises, an above all freedom from deadening labour. To this extent it creates all the conditions for the production over a few generations of a noble and fair demeanour, even noble and fair behaviour, in men: greater freedom of feeling, the absence of the wretched and petty, of abasement before breadgivers, of penny-pinching. . . .” (479)

In We the Living (1937), the reader learns of heroine Kira that she “was born in the gray granite house on Kamenostrovsky. In that vast mansion Galina Petrovna [Kira’s mother] had a boudoir where, at night, a maid in black fastened the clasps of her diamond necklaces; and a reception room where, her taffeta petticoats rustling solemnly, she entertained ladies with sables and lorgnettes. . . . / Kira had an English governess, a thoughtful young lady with a lovely smile. She liked her governess, but often preferred to be alone—and was left alone. . . . / . . . The first thing that Kira learned about life and the first thing that her elders learned, dismayed, about Kira, was the joy of being alone” (36–37).

At eighteen the eyes of Kira “looked at people quietly, directly, with something that people called arrogance, but which was only a deep, confident calm that seemed to tell men her sight was too clear and none of their favorite binoculars were needed to help her look at life” (35). It seemed that her body’s “sharp movements were the unconscious reflection of a dancing, laughing soul” (35).

In Atlas Shrugged (1957), hero Francisco d’Anconia “was the last descendant of one of the noblest families of Argentina. He owned cattle ranches, coffee plantations and most of the copper mines of Chile. He owned half of South America and sundry mines scattered through the United States as small change” (53). One generation after another, “The d’Anconia heirs had been men of unusual ability, but none of them could match what Francisco d’Anconia promised to become. It was as if the centuries had sifted the family’s qualities through a mine mesh, had discarded the irrelevant, the inconsequential, the weak, and had let nothing through except pure talent; as if chance, for once, had achieved an entity devoid of the accidental” (93).

The boy Francisco would be brought every summer, by “a stern South American tutor,” to spend a month at the Taggart estate on the Hudson (90). The Taggart children, James and Dagny, are future heirs of a transcontinental railroad. A friend of their father once remarked of Francisco “That boy is vulnerable. He has too great a capacity for joy” (97). When they were teenagers, Dagny once asked Francisco  “‘What is the most depraved type of human being?’” He replied “‘The man without a purpose’” (99).

Nietzsche looks on wealth of the nobility as making possible the development of the noble in a man. A noble man “has become accustomed to desiring nothing of men and always bestowing gifts” (497). Rand’s youthful heroines and heroes are self-sufficient in disposition, but they are focused on their present and future creative productivity. Kira builds a raft to ride a rapid river, and she takes up the study of engineering to build great bridges; Francisco builds an elevator to ascend a cliff, and he studies everything bearing on the enterprises he will inherit. Francisco is not focused, at least not at his outset, on the benefits his future productivity can bring to his fellow human beings. He acknowledges no social responsibility concerning the fortune he will inherit. His focus, like the focus of the Taggart heir Dagny, is on finding ways of increasing the fortune.

Rand looks on the fortunes of wealthy families as the results of the noble in a man. For a family fortune in her fiction, she wants to tell the story of the man who first made the fortune. His traits are noble traits, under Rand’s cast of the noble in human beings. The children of the wealthy are indeed advantaged in their education. Some of such children will not be noble humans, neither under the cast of Nietzsche nor under the cast of Rand. On that Nietzsche and Rand concur.

That a conception of a new nobility, for the modern age, should include the traits of being a self-starter and having a self-sufficient disposition is agreed by Nietzsche and Rand. Nietzsche writes in The Gay Science (1882):

The Ultimate Noblemindedness – So what makes a person ‘noble’? Certainly not making sacrifices; even those burning with lust make sacrifices. Certainly not following some passion, for there are contemptible passions. Certainly not that one does something for others without selfishness: perhaps no one is more consistently selfish than the noble one. – Rather, the passion that overcomes the noble one is a singularity, and he fails to realize this: the use of a rare and singular standard and almost a madness; the feeling of heat in things that feel cold to everyone else; a hitting upon values for which the scale has not yet been invented; a sacrifice on altars for an unknown god; a courage without any desire for honors; a self-sufficiency that overflows and communicates to men and things.” (55)

Rand’s Kira is one who feels the heat in things that feel cold to everyone else.

“She stopped suddenly, as they walked down a street in the evening, and pointed to a strange angle of white wall over battered roofs, luminous on a black sky in the glare of an old lantern, with a dark, barred window like that of a dungeon, and she whispered “How beautiful!”. . . . / . . . She had the same feeling for white statues of ancient gods against black velvet in museums, and for steel shavings and rusty dust and hissing torches and muscles tense as electric wires in the iron roar of a building under construction.” (38–39)

All of the traits Nietzsche takes for admirable, and names noble, in the portion of §55 of Gay Science that I quoted above are also taken by Rand as admirable. One of them is as old as Socrates (and Homer?). That is “courage without any desire for honor.” There was another element in ancient conceptions of nobility somewhat at odds with that one: care for one’s reputation.

Nietzsche hewed closer to the ancients, than did Rand, in what he would include in a new conception of nobility as an ideal. He writes in Daybreak (1881):

We are nobler. – Loyalty, magnanimity, care for one’s reputation: these three united in a single disposition – we call noble, and in this quality we excel the Greeks. Let us not abandon it, as we might be tempted to do as a result of feeling that the ancient objects of these virtues have lost in estimation (and rightly), but see to it that this precious inherited drive is applied to new objects.” (199)

Nietzsche emphasized magnanimity; Rand did not. Nietzsche embraced the ancient noble hallmark leisure as fertile field required for the development of the noble youth and for creativity of the noble man. He writes in Gay Science:

Leisure and idleness. – . . . How frugal our educated and uneducated have become concerning “joy”! How they are becoming increasingly suspicious of all joy! More and more, work gets all good conscience on its side; the desire for joy already calls itself a “need to recuperate” and is starting to be ashamed of itself. “One owes it to one’s health” – that is what one says when caught on an excursion in the countryside. Soon we may well reach the point where one can’t give in to the desire for a vita contemplativa (that is, taking a walk with ideas and friends) without self-contempt and a bad conscience. Well, formerly it was the other way around: work was afflicted with a bad conscience. A person of good family concealed the fact that he worked if need compelled him to work.” (329)

Rand’s noble ones take their greatest joy in productive work, most particularly commercially valuable work. Two things were impossible to the youth Francisco: “to stand still or to move aimlessly” (94). Eddie, a childhood friend of Francisco’s through the Taggart children, once asked Francisco, “as they stood by the tracks of the Taggart station, ‘you’ve been just about everywhere in the world. What’s the most important thing on earth?’ ‘This’, answered Francisco, pointing to the emblem TT [Taggart Transcontinental] on the front of an engine” (95).

Nietzsche saw something savage, ignobly savage, “in the way Americans strive for gold; and their breathless hast in working (GS 329). The only way he sees the arts of buying and selling—the art of trade—as something noble is under a wild fancy of a future possible world in which trade is no longer a necessity, but is engaged in by some individuals “as a luxury of sentiment” (GS 31).

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part III (1884):

Before Sunrise

“‘By chance’ – that is the oldest nobility in the world, I give it back to all things, I redeemed them from their servitude under purpose. / This freedom and cheerfulness of the sky I placed like an azure bell over all things when I taught that over them and through them no 'eternal will' – wills. / This mischief and this folly I placed in place of that will when I taught: 'With all things one thing is impossible – rationality!' / A bit of reason to be sure, . . . .)"

It is rationality, not nobility, that Rand will unveil as the center of that in human being that is to be admired (in Fountainhead, and all the more in Atlas). That idea has a long philosophic pedigree, though Rand will cast the concept of rationality anew. Rand’s noble ones are rather venturesome; they engage in risk, particularly, purposeful entrepreneurial risk. So chance is part of their world and is not entirely unwelcome.

The reader may have noticed that Nietzsche’s embrace of the nobility of leisure and contemplative life is in the step of Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics X) and Greek philosophers in general. In Happy Lives and the Highest Good, Gabriel Richardson Lear argues that the virtues of courage, temperance, and greatness of soul (notice, magnanimity is under that last one; cf. pride in Rand’s ethics) “are fine because they show the agent’s commitment to the most excellent leisurely use of reason. In the press of practical affairs, the virtuous agent orients his actions—both in terms of the states of affairs they aim to produce and, more important, in what they celebrate—toward a conception of the human good that is both leisurely and excellently rational. This emphasis on the leisurely use of reason turns out to be significant. For when we get to book X, Aristotle will argue that the most leisurely use of reason, and therefore the use of reason most suited to be an end, is philosophical contemplation.) (125)

This Aristotelian human ideal is too rational and systematic to suit Nietzsche. For Rand, of course, its orientation of reason runs the wrong way. Reason keeping the trains running is second to none in nobility, and philosophy protecting and nurturing that reason is philosophy most fine.

References

Nietzsche, F. 1878. Human, All Too Human – A Book for Free Spirits. R.J. Hollingdale, translator. 1986. Cambridge.

——. 1881. Daybreak – Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality.  M. Clark and B. Leiter, translators. 1997. Cambridge.

——. 1882. The Gay Science. J. Nauckhoff, translator. 2001. Cambridge.

——. 1884. Thus Spoke Zarathustra – A Book for All and None (III). A. Del Caro, translator. 2006. Cambridge.

Rand, A. 1936 (1959). We the Living. Signet.

——. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.

Richardson Lear, G. 2004. Happiest Lives and the Highest Good – An Essay on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Princeton.

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Parallels and Influence

Rand had been introduced to Nietzsche in Russia. Allan Gotthelf records that Rand was introduced to Nietzsche “by a cousin, who informed her that ‘he beat you to all your ideas’” (2000, 14).  When she came to America in 1926, the first book she bought in English was Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “and she underlined her favorite passages” (18n7). Rand had considerable affinity with the Nietzsche of that work. Prof. Gotthelf notes that the remark by Rand’s cousin suggests that Rand already held some ideas in common with Nietzsche before being introduced to his thought. He hastens to add that Nietzsche surely did have an influence on Rand’s thought as she came read some of his work.

I remember a high school class in which I had spoken up concerning individualism, self-reliance, and freedom. The teacher had said in a friendly way “You should read Ayn Rand. You’re just like her.” I would come around to reading Rand about three years later, by another encouragement. That later nudge was through receiving Fountainhead and Atlas as a Christmas gift. The giver had written in the front of Atlas: “Read ‘The Fountainhead’ first.” When I opened Fountainhead and began to read about Howard, I could not help but notice that he was a lot like me, especially in the part in which Peter’s mother gets after Howard to leave his drawings and go to see the Dean. It is not implausible to me that two people can independently of each other have a good many values and personal characteristics in common. Moreover, it is not implausible to me that a thinker, even one further along in intellectual development than Rand had been at her discovery of Nietzsche, could have independently come to a good many of the same explicit and rare philosophical views. For there was such a man, his writings endure, and his name is Jean Marie Guyau.

When Guyau wrote A Sketch of Morality without Obligation or Sanction, he was not acquainted with Nietzsche’s writings. In the fall of 1884, Nietzsche ordered this book, soon to be issued, from Paris. Guyau was a new philosopher and was unknown to Nietzsche until he received this book, which he had begun to study by May 1885.

There were remarkable affinities between their ideas. In common background, they had knowledge of certain authors and currents in contemporary psychology, biology, and philosophy. In this 1885 work, Guyau was setting aside morality from religious faith, from Kantian duty, and from utilitarianism. He was investigating how far morality could be determined from a purely scientific view of the nature of life. Here was a kindred spirit for Nietzsche (and, more importantly for Nietzsche, a competitor). There were differences: Guyau had some training in and love for science; he prized modern, capitalistic life; and although his was a thoroughly individualistic vision, it was not an egoistic vision.

Like Nietzsche (GS §48; BGE §56), Guyau rejected the pessimism that Schopenhauer and his followers had decorated and that, really, had been cultivated as far back as Buddha. Guyau argued against the pessimistic view of life that condemns pleasure and desire. Guyau looks “not only to psychology, but to biology [to] find out whether the actual laws of life do not imply a surplus value of welfare over pain” and to show that the morality he would uphold on scientific grounds “would be right in wanting to conform human actions to the laws of life, instead of aiming at final annihilation of life, and of the desire to live” (S 33).

“If, in living beings, the feelings of discomfort really prevailed over those of comfort, life would be impossible. . . . The subjective discomfort of suffering is only a symptom of a wrong objective state of disorder . . . . The feeling of well-being is like the subjective aspect of a right objective state. In the rhythm of existence, well-being thus corresponds to evolution of life, pain to dissolution” (S 33–34).

“If the human race and the other animal species survive, it is precisely because life is not too bad for them. . . . A moral philosophy of annihilation, to whatever living being it is proposed, is like a contradiction. In reality, it is the same reason which makes existence possible and which makes it desirable” (S 37).

Guyau concludes “that suffering is not the evil most dreaded by man—that inaction is often still worse; that there is, moreover, a particular kind of pleasure which springs from conquered sorrow, and, in general, from every expended energy” (S 30).

“There are two kinds of pleasure. At one time pleasure corresponds with a particular and superficial form of activity (the pleasure of eating, drinking, etc.); at another time it is connected with the very root of that activity (the pleasure of living, of willing, of thinking, etc.). In the one case, it is purely a pleasure of the senses; in the other, it is more deeply vital, more independent of exterior objects—it is one with the very consciousness of life” (S 77).

With those few samples from Guyau, a little of his kinship with both Rand and Nietzsche is apparent. Guyau, however, was not a proponent of any sort of egoism, and his praise of concern for one’s fellows was repellant to Nietzsche. Guyau motivated such concern in a conception of life that included expansiveness and growth in its fundamental nature and that included a stress on the love of risk in human nature. Nietzsche increased his attention to those factors in his subsequent representations of life, though he continued forth with his recently distilled fundamental characterization of life as will to power, quite at odds with Guyau’s concept of life.

Robert Mayhew notes that Rand had read “all the major works of Nietzsche, in Russian translation, before she left for the United States” (2005, 37). I would count as major The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, and On the Genealogy of Morals. Prof. Mayhew does not specify which works of Nietzsche he means as major. Another widely read work of Nietzsche’s, and one read by Rand sooner or later, was his The Birth of Tragedy (1872). I shall neglect this early work of classical studies and cultural commentary. After the professional failure of that work, Nietzsche turned away from writing philology and inched towards writing philosophy. He finds his own philosophic voice (reached by the fourth) in the sequence Human, All Too Human (1878–80); Daybreak (1881); The Gay Science (1882 [I–IV]); Zarathustra (1883 [I–II], 1884 [III], 1885 [IV]); Beyond Good and Evil (1886); The Gay Science (1887 [V]); On the Genealogy of Morals (1887).

Statements and concepts expressed with multiple possible meanings in the early works of this sequence are put to decided meaning, integral to his mature philosophy, in the later works. That is the way I look at Rand’s philosophical statements within her We the Living (1936) and her Anthem (1938). In these works, Rand had not yet found the positive philosophy fully her own. She sometimes used the philosophic voice of the mature Nietzsche, but with meanings less definite than his and without their organic connectivity in Nietzsche’s mature thought. In subsequent installments, I shall trace various Nietzschean chimes in Rand’s early works to their replacements in her mature philosophy. There we arrive at the oppositions of Rand’s mature philosophy to Nietzsche’s. This project can be given the smiling title “Overcoming Nietzsche.”

In the piece “Your Moral Ideal” at the beginning of this thread, I addressed the Nietzschean idea that there is not some one morality appropriate for all men; I addressed the contrast with Rand’s mature position. Nietzsche writes in Beyond Good and Evil:

“Not one of these clumsy, conscience-stricken herd animals (who set out to treat egoism as a matter of general welfare) wants to know . . . that what is right for someone absolutely cannot be right for someone else; that the requirement that there be a single morality for everyone is harmful precisely to the higher men; in short, that there is an order of rank between people, and between moralities as well. (§228)

“Signs of nobility: never thinking about debasing our duties into duties for everyone . . . .” (§272)

Reaching back in Rand’s intellectual (and literary) development, we find her writing in We the Living (1936): Kira: “I know no worse injustice than justice for all. Because men are not born equal and I don’t see why one should want to make them equal.” (Quoted in Sciabarra 1995, 101; and in Mayhew 2004, 211)

– References –

Gotthelf, A. 2000. On Ayn Rand. Wadsworth.

Guyau, J. 1890 [1885]. A Sketch of Morality without Obligation or Sanction (S). G. Kapteyn, translator. 1898. Watts & Co.

Mayhew, R. 2004. We the Living: ’36 and ’59. In Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living. Lexington.

——. 2005. Anthem: ’38 and ’46. In Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem. Lexington.

Nietzsche, F. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil. Horstmann and Norman, translators. 2002. Cambridge.

Rand, A. 1936. We the Living. Macmillan.

Sciabarra, C.M. 1995. Ayn Rand – The Russian Radical. Penn State.

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ET, from what I sampled of it, it seems fine. At one point, he quoted from Steven Aschheim, and that is a book I’ve confidence in: THE NIETZSCHE LEGACY IN GERMANY. The book by Stephen Hicks is also good: NIETZSCHE AND THE NAZIS.

One needs texts such as those to get serious on these questions, but the professor in this lecture at Lahore can at least get one piqued to pursue what the contemporary scholars have shown in their research texts.

Nietzsche does have all sorts of facets, drifts, and tones (even looking only at his works from DAYBREAK to his last ink) from which a power-luster can imagine himself to fit the specs. Nietzsche was not particularly concerned to make square, stand-fast specifications anyway. (In the same vein, he also did a lot of dance-around-and-pretend-you-have-opaquely-dissolved-enduring-philosophic-issues-by-poetic-expression.) Rand, by contrast, aimed and succeeded in specifying very clearly what she had on offer.

The NAZI imaginings about who they were, I’d say, is nothing very new in the human psyche (think Pharaohs). If you don’t have a Nietzsche trove of sayings, find or write another bolstering trove.

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3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I was wondering if this video regarding Fascism and its overview of Nietzsche is accurate.

It seemed okay, but it isn't anything I would cite as a source for Nietzsche's thinking. He certainly said that a master morality is superior to slave morality, but he didn't say that either one was desirable. When he said he wanted to philosophize with a hammer, he didn't just mean he wanted to smash slave morality. He wanted to smash our idols of all kinds, which would mean both slave and master morality should be smashed. Once they are destroyed, we can reevaluate everything in our lives and rebuild. A fascist would agree that master morality is superior to slave morality, but wouldn't agree that the idols of the past should be destroyed. "Should" is a tricky word to use with Nietzsche, though. I'm using "should" to convey what would be ranked as superior according to Nietzsche. Superior minds and superior philosophers are the ones that can do the smashing. Fascists are the ones unable to do this due to their instincts. 

My point is that Nietzsche's relationship with Fascism is less to do with his thinking, and more about accepting his ranking of master morality as superior to slave morality while rejecting his notion that destroying antiquated thinking would lead to superior ways of living. Nazism isn't quite the same as Fascism. Nazism I think is even further away from Nietzsche. What was virtuous or degenerate to a Nazi had little relationship with Nietzsche as far as I know. Nazi-ism always seemed more collectivistic than Italian fascism to me.

 

Thanks for the post by the way, Stephen. Very useful and valuable information.

 

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