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Boydstun

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The Original Sham was that mortality was not naturally inherent in life. According to this sham, death as a general phenomenon among humans needed an explanation outside the nature of life, the explanation on offer being that there had been an artificial devising of a systematic preclusion of endless life, making all humans mortal.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and care for it. He told the man ‘You may eat from every tree in the garden, but not form the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for on the day that you eat from it, you will certainly die’.

. . .

“God answered ’Who told you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I forbade you? , , , , 

 

“To the woman he said:

‘I will increase your labour and your groaning, and in labour you shall bear children.

You shall be eager for your husband, and he shall be your master’.

 

“And to the man he said:

‘Because you . . . have eaten fruit from the tree which I forbade you, accursed shall be the ground on your account. With labour you shall win your food from it all the days of your life. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, none but wild plants for you to eat. You shall gain your bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground; for from it you were taken. Dust you are, to dust you shall return.’

 

“The Lord God said, ‘The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; what if he now reaches out his hand and takes fruit from the tree of life also, eats it and lives forever? So the Lord God drove him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he had been taken.”

 

So there I was, a child in the 1950’s tilling the ground, where we would raise all the fruits and vegetables our family would need for a year. It was hot as promised, and there were sand burrs, goat heads, and thistle, and thorns on the dewberry vines for getting your hands all scratched up. We canned; we stored—in the basement of the house we built—jars of green beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, stewed tomatoes, (pared, sliced, cooked) apples with a cinnamon stick, peaches, apricots, cherries, pickles, pickled crab apples, strawberry preserves, and apple butter; along with honey from my beehives, wine we made, potatoes and sweet potatoes, onions, and pork we had butchered on the farm of relatives and which we sugar-cured in our basement. Someone had invented freezers, and we stored food also in there. Including bread made by our stepmother. Wheat was grown on farms of wider family, but at that stage of economic development, we bought the flour in a grocery store. Unlike the family of Adam and Eve, we were smarter and more fortunate than the Lord God had hoped, and we did not have to eat none but wild plants. We did pick wild sand plums that grew along roads such as Rt. 66, but they were wonderful, boiled for dessert or made into jelly.

There are many puzzles arising from the text I have quoted from the New English Bible. Theologians of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions have thought about them for hundreds of years. I’m sure they have many interesting things to say about this story known as The Fall and the attendant doctrines of Original Sin and mortality, heritable from Adam and Eve on down to me picking off potato bugs. I have too many researches going on at this time to dig into the writings of those great theologians. It is another, shorter study I’ve wanted to do for years that I’ll finally do in this thread. That is a comparison of what Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche had to say about the doctrine of Original Sin, which became a setup for the Christian story of salvation from death and terrors of death.

(To be continued.)

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Some handy helpful background:

Original Sin –from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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The Christian doctrine of original sin can also be understood as a kind of state or “condition” (see Mann 2001: 47). While, as discussed in section 2.1, primal sin refers to the temporally first sin, original sin is original in the sense that “it is an evil at the origins of human agency, and from which human agency flows” (Couenhoven 2016: 193). Original sin is sometimes referred to as human beings possessing a “sinful nature”. This view leads to certain Christological worries, however: if the Second Person of the Trinity becomes incarnate and assumes a human nature, then if human nature is somehow itself sinful, Christ would also be sinful. But all Christian theories hold that the Incarnate Christ is fully human as well as fully divine, and yet without original sin. (For discussions of the relationship between Christ’s divine nature and the human nature assumed in the Incarnation, see Pawl 2019 and 2016). Some Christian traditions also hold that Mary the mother of Jesus also was free from sin via the immaculate conception. Because such language about human nature itself becoming sinful can be misleading (see Copan 2003: 523) and also potentially in conflict with the conviction that all things created by God are good, original sin is perhaps better described in terms of human nature’s being distorted. In virtue of its distorting effects, original sin thus “becomes the origin of actual sins” (Blocher 1997: 19), and perhaps even a condition that almost inevitably leads to sinful actions (see Franks 2012: 3).

While the doctrine of original sin isn’t explicitly taught in the Christian scriptures, it “was developed from scriptural warrants” (Green 2017: 115). It also is a distinctively Christian doctrine (Quinn 1997: 541), rejected by both Judaism and Islam. Augustine played a central role in the historical development of the doctrine of original sin. In contrast to Pelagius and Caelestius who denied that humans inherit original sin via the fall (see Timpe 2014a: chapter 4 and Couenhoven 2013), Augustine maintained that through Adam’s sin, the whole human race is now

bound by the chain of death and justly condemned, …lead by a succession of miseries from its depraved origin, as from a corrupt root. (Augustine City of God, XIII.14)

 

 

Kant famously wrote: "out of such crooked wood as the human being is made, nothing entirely straight can be fabricated" (Idea for a Universal  History with a Cosmopolitan Aim, 1784, translation by Allen Wood). The context of this quote is an acknowledgement that formation and exercise of a political constitution for a society, is in human hands and minds, which means no constitution and its exercise can be perfect. The conclusion, I say, is fair enough truth, but the antecedent thought that humans are made of crooked timber—human nature is corrupt—seems very likely nothing original with Kant; rather, a common view, come down from the likes of Augustine and put about from Christian pulpits of Kant's era (and ours).

 

Grace, Predestination, and Original Sin –from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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From the Middle Ages onwards, Augustine’s theology of grace has been regarded as the heart of his Christian teaching, and with good reason. As he points out himself, his conviction that human beings in their present condition are unable to do or even to will the good by their own efforts is his most fundamental disagreement with ancient, especially Stoic, virtue ethics (De civitate dei 19.4; Wolterstorff 2012). After and because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we have lost our natural ability of self-determination, which can only be repaired and restored by the divine grace that has manifested itself in the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ and works inwardly to free our will from its enslavement to sin. Confession of sins and humility are, therefore, basic Christian virtues and attitudes; the philosophers’ confidence in their own virtue that prevents them from accepting the grace of Christ is an example of the sinful pride that puts the self in the place of God and was at the core of the evil angels’ primal sin (De civitate dei 10.29).

The main inspiration for Augustine’s doctrine of grace is, of course, Paul (even though remarks on human weakness and divine help are not absent from the ancient philosophical tradition and especially from Platonism which had had a strong religious side from the beginning; Augustine claims that with such utterances the Platonists inadvertently “confess” grace . . . .

 

 

Catholic Encyclopedia – ORIGINAL SIN

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Original Sham – Rand and Nietzsche

I said the Original Sham was that death was not naturally inherent in life. A little-sister sham is misrepresentation in the thought that one’s death is one’s eternal nonexistence. The truth is that a nonexistent has no passage, no situations, and no character. Those are the fundamental categories of things in existence. Some traces of one’s existence from before its end—traces in existents continuing to exist, with their passage, situation, and character, beyond one’s own death—indicate to succeeding humans some of the particular passage, situation (and situating), and character that had been oneself. There is an eternal nonexistence of one before one lived and after one lived, but those do not belong to one. Talk of one’s eternal nonexistence is a lie if the eternity is insinuated to be something attaching to one or endured. Posters reading “Where will you spend eternity?” are a sham multiple times over. 

Blaise Pascal (1623–62) famously formulates putatively rational arguments—which are known  under the umbrella “The Wager Argument,” for why it is not irrational to believe in God.* Pascal first argues that because God would be without limit in Its nature, we who are finite, can know by reason neither the existence or nature of God. I should say such a conception of something, here labeled God, ensures that it does not exist. A thing without limit in its nature can be identically one with my axe and not identically one with my axe. Existence is Identity, as Rand would say. More specifically, and in terms of my own metaphysical categories, Existence is passage, situation, and character. The existent is not free of those limitations (as I have proven elsewhere). Further, if God is not conceived as a particular, indeed a concrete particular, then Its worth is a batch of empty words.

Should we allow Pascal, for the sake of further examination of his wager, his false premise that we cannot know by reason whether an infinite thing called God exists? No. His argument requires one enter a game-choice situation in which one is being invited to base belief on desirability of outcome rather than on grasp of fact. Rather, what should be done is this: set aside such morally disrespectful tom-foolery and find the truth. Virtue lies in aiming for truth, and we have gotten it (as surely as we’ve gotten that there are no contradictions in reality because we’ve gotten the Law of Identity): There is no such thing as God or anything supernatural and no such thing as eternal life nor any happiness, suffering, or perspective of one before one existed or after one existed. Nor is there an infinitely long period of non-existence attaching to one before and after one existed.

From Pascal’s Pensées:

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§277 

The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. I say that the heart naturally loves the Universal Being, and also itself naturally, according as it gives itself to them; and it hardens itself against one or the other at its will. You have rejected the one, and kept the other. Is it by reason that you love yourself?

§282

We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart, and it is in this last way that we know first principles; and reason, which has no part in it, tries in vain to impugn them. . . . . For the knowledge of first principles, as space, time, motion, number, is as sure as any of those which we get from reasoning. And reason must trust these intuitions of the heart, and must base them on every argument. (We have intuitive knowledge of the tri-dimensional nature of space, and of the infinity of number, and reason then shows that there are no two square numbers one of which is double of the other. Principles are intuited, propositions are inferred, all with certainty, though in different ways.) And it is as useless and absurd for reason to demand from the heart proofs of her first principles, before admitting them, as it would be for the heart to demand from reason an intuition of all demonstrated propositions before accepting them.”

 

 

Pascal was a booster of the Original Sin idea. In §446 Pascal relays text he takes from a text he thought to be Jewish; it was really written by a Christian monk:

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§446

“Of original sin. Ample tradition of original sin according to the Jews.

On the saying in Genesis viii, 21: "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth."

R. Moses Haddarschan: This evil leaven is placed in man from the time that he is formed.

And on Psalm lxxviii, 39: "The spirit passeth away, and cometh not again"; whence some have erroneously argued against the immortality of the soul. But the sense is that this spirit is the evil leaven, which accompanies man till death, and will not return at the resurrection.

And on Psalm ciii the same thing. [. . . has the Lord compassion on all who fear him. / For he knows how we were made, / he knows full well that we are dust.]

§552

Jesus is in a garden, not of delight as the first Adam, where he lost himself and the whole human race, but in one of agony, where He saved Himself and the whole human race.

§792

Jesus Christ . . . is come to the eyes of the heart, which perceive wisdom!”

 

Nietzsche does not throw Pascal’s faculty of “heart” out the window. He throws philosophy without such faculty out the window.

“Carefree, mocking, violent—this is how wisdom wants us: she is a woman, all she ever loves is a warrior” Nietzsche writes (GM III, §1, 68). For Nietzsche, finding truth is a ravishment, with the press of perspective that requires. The possibility of an objective standpoint for metaphysics and morals, such as Rand’s standpoint, is out the window.

Nietzsche and Rand rejected the supernatural and, along with it, traditional stories on the origin and mortality of human life. The natural and plain view, when supernaturalism is set aside, would be, I say: a person’s self being identically a living process, when an individual dies, it is the complete end of that individual, that self.[1] Notwithstanding his naturalism, Nietzsche comes up short of admitting the absolute, complete finality of the end of one’s one and only sequence of episodes of life, the life engaging one last week, yesterday, and at this moment. I’ll return to this in the sequel.

Rand takes religions to contain some amount of mysticism, and that seems correct to me. In her Atlas Shrugged, she takes religious folk to be “mystics of spirit.”[2]

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When you listen to a mystic’s harangue on the impotence of the human mind and begin to doubt your consciousness, not his, when you permit your precariously semi-rational state to be shaken by any assertion and decide it is safer to trust his superior certainty and knowledge, the joke is on both of you: your sanction is the only source of certainty he has. The supernatural power that a mystic dreads, the unknowable spirit he worships, the consciousness he considers omnipotent is—yours. (Rand 1957, 1044)

In my experience, that picture by Rand of what is going on in the heads of mystics is a poor fit with what is going on (I say in part from my own case). The mysticisms I’m much acquainted with are those holding as part of their faith the Genesis story of the origin of the earth and humans. Probably those were also the faiths most familiar to Rand. She evidently understood, correctly, that much mysticism is planted in the minds of children (see her next paragraph), but she imputes lack of critical, independent mind in the child, as in the adult, to a failure in choices. “Faith in the supernatural begins as faith in the superiority of others” (ibid., 1045). Applied to a first-grader, that is an equivocation on the word “faith.” It is a fact rationally known to the child that the knowledge of adults is superior to her own knowledge. Applied to an adult in the audience of a Billy Graham crusade at the time Atlas Shrugged was published, yes, then the word “faith” is used in constant voice in that statement: a willful suspension of one’s critical independent rationality, thereby aligning with the views of others. I should add, however, that a man getting “saved” at the crusade was able to change his belief about the world and his situation in it only because of the ability of humans to let (to some extent) their beliefs be taken on board by some overriding feelings and wishes, which is intellectual dishonesty and a malfunction of mind.

Rand is mistaken in taking placement of other minds above one’s own authority as the root of mysticism of spirit. What will be the content of a mystic’s belief will have been contoured by sermons and childhood indoctrinating stories, to be sure. But the root of all mysticism of spirit is hard-mystic experience. That is a solitary thing. It can spring from miscreant brain states and can be set to holding in abeyance primal fears of absolute annihilation at death. Such a solitary experience was pivotal in the life and mind of Pascal (Hawton 1952, chap. III).

One is blameless for accepting mystical beliefs, such as Original Sin, in childhood from one’s elders. In adulthood one is intellectually capable and responsible, and, due to one’s love of God and one’s love of any other faith-imbued family members, one is intellectually courageous to disabuse oneself of such beliefs and the method of faith. Einstein’s childhood religious faith ended abruptly at age twelve. I was eighteen, and the shift was likewise abrupt. No doubt it came to me with my growing background in modern science, but the explicit thought was elementary: Is it possible the universe is just holding itself up, just existing, without assistance from anything supernatural, namely God?—parallel the earth holding itself up without a character such as Atlas? This was somewhat before I began to read Ayn Rand. As soon as I allowed the question to come seriously before my mind, I conceded the affirmative, indeed the actuality of the possibility (and felt a great cleanness, followed by feeling a great benevolence towards all mankind).

Rand draws attention to some elements of the Garden of Eden story in its Original-Sin overlay that are profoundly false and morally perverse. Nietzsche rates highly, in some respects, the mindset of Pascal, as we have seen. Nietzsche rejects, however, the supernatural and the notion of Sin. He sees Pascal as of noble soul, but crushed by “the Christian understanding of the weakness and depravity of man” (Pippin 2010, 10).

To be continued.

 

Notes

[1] Likewise for the species: When the last members needed for reproduction die, the species is ended absolutely, left to nature.

[2] Close kin of mystics of spirit would be the idealists in metaphysics from the traditional spectrum idealist-realist-materialist, as well as epistemological skeptics.

 

References

Hawton, H. 1952. The Feast of Unreason. London: Watts.

Nietzsche, F. 1887. On the Genealogy of Morality. C. Diethe, translator. 2017. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pascal, B. 1662. Pensees. W.F. Trotter, translator. 1958. New York: Dutton.

Pippin, R.B. 2010. Nietzsche, Pychology, and First Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House.

 

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Original Sham – Rand and Nietzsche (continued)

Allowing ‘tree” as metaphor for any organically unified process and resulting formation, the “tree of life” in the Garden of Eden is a sham: there is no provider of eternal life ready-made for humans to take. The “tree of knowledge” in the Garden of Eden can be metaphor for something not entirely a sham, though its dedicated fruit (bringing knowledge of good and evil [most particularly, knowing of sexuality]) and the reverence accorded exclusively to that specific sort of knowledge is the stock in trade of shaman and tribalist, and it is in truth not superior to knowledge of how to cultivate a garden. There is only one valid tree for human existence, and this is a tree of limited, but growing knowledge protecting and improving mortal, human life.

In all that, I think this apple (my mind) does not fall far from the tree Objectivism. Here are thoughts from Rand on Original Sin.

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“Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demands that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accept his own depravity without proof. . . .

. . .

“The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin.

“A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man’s sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man’s nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code.

“. . . If the tendency [to evil] is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.

“What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge—he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil—he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor—he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire—he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy—all the cardinal values of his existence. . . .

“Man’s fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin. His evil, they charge, is that he’s man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives.” (1957, 1025–26)

 

This is some great writing, but for inaccuracy in what the old story says. The story says that man was made in the image of God. A reasonable and traditional reading of that is that man was given the power of reason. He was given the rule to not eat from a certain tree, and at that stage, there is no indication that the man lacked the power of free choice in that matter. It was not from eating the forbidden fruit that man got reason or free will in the picture set forth in the Garden of Eden story. “The devil made me do it” would not have been a valid defense if we stick to the scenario crafted in Genesis.

Rand is of course correct in condemning the subsequent determinism towards evil of humans who were descendants of Adam and Eve. That is, she is correct, like many before, to condemn the doctrine of heritable evil in human nature (humans with healthy brain), which is from the doctrine of Original Sin (which does not mean merely the first sin) lain over the story of The Fall and expulsion from Eden, lain over by early Christian theologians.[1] [2]

It has occurred to many a thinking Christian that the concept of Original Sin is unjust and does not square with the manifest free will of individuals. They are told by the higher-level defenders of the faith that God’s justice is not the same as human justice, and we cannot fathom the rightness of all the actions of God. There is excellent human irrationality at that Stop sign.

Rand errs again, as many do, in thinking of Adam as not already a producer in the Garden of Eden. But the old story says he was a gardener (unlike Tarzan). And he was allowed to eat most any of the produce far as I see in the story. That arrangement might reasonably be seen as commercial transaction in which one’s only asset is one’s labor. Getting expelled and cursed meant for the gardener not that he would have to begin working for a living, only that there would be less success in agriculture, more pain in the labor of it, and a need for overalls.

The old story goes that God breathed life into his creature Adam. It would seem unlikely that God needed a garden or gardener, but It might realize a man needs purposeful projects. The Genesis story of the origin of man on the earth does not entail condemnation of human life, reason, morality, or productivity.

From Augustine’s sick angle, the story does entail taking sexuality as evil. He and many others take Adam hiding from God after eating the forbidden fruit to be on account of Adam coming to have sexiness in his naked body and to know that sense is shameful. I’d think it more obvious in the story that Adam was hiding mainly because he figured he was in a heap of trouble, regardless of his excuse that he was hiding because he did not want to be seen naked. But, heaven knows, social regulation of sex is ever a burning issue of religions from tribes to Bible-thumpers of today.

Kyle Harper concludes in a meticulous study of the Christian transformation of sexual morality in late antiquity: 

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The legacy of Christianity lies in the dissolution of an ancient system where status and social reproduction scripted the terms of sexual morality. The concept of sin, and its twin, free will, entailed what Nietzsche called “eine Metaphysik des Henkers,” a metaphysics of the hangman, which is foundationally distinct from the social metaphysics of pre-Christian sexual morality. Shame is a social concept, instantiated in human emotions; sin is a theological concept. They represent different categories of moral sanction. That is the point [of this study]: the transition from a late classical to a Christian sexual morality marked a paradigm shift, a quantum leap to a new foundational logic of sexual ethics, in which the cosmos replaced the city as the framework of morality. (2013, 7–8)

The next installment will be the last in the present study. There I’ll let Nietzsche have his say.

To be continued.

 

Notes

[1] On the power and the glory of human free will, highly recommended: East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1953), his masterpiece.

[2] When I was a child in the 1950’s in America, there was an additional determinism of human nature being put about by millions of Christians. The tale was that Negroes were descendants of a son (or grandson of Noah. Noah's son, in that Bible story, had seen his drunken father lying naked, for which Noah awarded a batch of curses and made the grandson a slave. Going beyond the biblical text, the linkage of the cursed son (or grandson) of Noah to Negros—accursed man begetting the Negros—was part of a characterization by Whites of Negroes as being by nature inferior to Whites. I heard that story a lot. I have other memories of ordinary thinking in those days of badness in individuals being due to “bad blood” at the level of family heredity and hatreds. But enough.

References

Harper, K. 2013. From Shame to Sin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Original Sham – Rand and Nietzsche (continued, completed)

I remarked earlier: "Notwithstanding his naturalism, Nietzsche comes up short of admitting the absolute, complete finality of the end of one’s one and only sequence of episodes of life, the life engaging one last week, yesterday, and at this moment." 

On 11/28/2019 at 6:44 AM, Boydstun said:

. . .

Zarathustra lightens the load by stopping the climb, having the little monster off his shoulder, and spelling out what is the deep abyss drawing down his spirit: The present moment, and every present moment, is connected to an infinite past and an infinite future. Whatever occurs now must have occurred before in such an infinite past and must occur again in such an infinite future. Over and over, it goes (Z II “On the Vision and the Riddle” 2). “The knot of causes in which I am entangled recurs—it will create me again! I myself belong to the causes of the eternal recurrence. / I will return . . . not to a new life or a better life or a similar life: / —I will return to this same and selfsame life, in what is greatest as well as what is smallest . . . . / . . . / to once again teach the eternal recurrence of all things” (Z III “The Convalescent” 1).

Zarathustra is teacher of Nietzsche’s doctrine of the eternal recurrence (GS 341). This idea is false if taken literally (and I suppose Nietzsche took it literally; contra Williams 2001, xvi) because not all infinities are equally large. The fire in the fireplace yesterday is one among an infinite potential of particular fires-for-a-day. That infinity is larger than the infinity of infinite time. That fire need never occur again, even in an eternity. Indeed the chance of it is nil. But Nietzsche is under the gripping spell of the eternal recurrence. Let us follow his thought under this spell.

In Zarathustra laughter is not only emblematic of Nietzsche’s general campaign against the spirit of gravity. It is emblematic more particularly of reconciliation with the chains of determinism and more particularly still with eternal self-returning determinism. There is a laughter to be longed for, the laughter of one “no longer human,” a being “transformed, illuminated . . . . / Never yet on earth had I heard a human being laugh as he laughed!” (Z III “On the Vision and the Riddle” 2; contrast my treatment of this passage in relation to Roark with the treatment in Milgram 2007, 31–32.) That laughter was only in a vision, in which a shepherd in the field wakes to find a snake has entered his mouth and lodged its bite in the his throat. The shepherd bites off the head of the snake, spits it away, and laughs the laugh beyond the human, the laugh so much to be hoped for.

It was the laugh of a character in a vision, not the laugh of an actual overman. It was not Zarathustra’s laugh either. The abysmal thought of the eternal return continues to gnaw at him. “I have not been strong enough for the lion’s final overreaching and cheeky mischief. / [Abysmal thought,] your gravity alone was always terrible enough for me; but one day I shall yet find the strength and the lion’s voice to summon you up!” (Z III “On Unwilling Bliss;” further, Z IV “The Sleepwalker’s Song” and “The Sign”).

In a still hour before sleep, Zarathustra has been told, by the clock of his life, when it drew a breath, that the one who is needed most by everyone is “‘the one who commands great things.’ / And I answered ‘I lack the lion’s voice for all commanding’. / Then it spoke to me again like a whispering: ‘The stillest words are those that bring the storm. Thoughts that come on the feet of doves steer the world’” (Z II “The Stillest Hour”). Later in the adventure, Zarathustra: “Here I sit and wait, old broken tablets around me and also new tablets only partially written upon. When will my hour come? / . . . / This is what I wait for now; signs must come to me first that it is my hour—namely the laughing lion and the swarm of doves” (Z III “On Old and New Tablets” 1).

At the close of Zarathustra, his higher men have begun to learn to laugh against the spirit of gravity, and he has given them his song “One More Time.” His hour has come. His midnight of joy deeper than the deep pain of the world wants it all again, wants deep, deep eternity.

Zarathustra lastly rises glowing and strong in the morning. His signs have come. His doves are a cloud of love about his head. His lion has come and chased off the higher men. Zarathustra’s last sin, his pity for the higher men, is gone. His lion is near to him. His day and work begin.

The ringed determinism binding the human will is a very hard one in Nietzsche’s understanding. “If ever a breath came to me of creative breath and of heavenly necessity that forces even accident to dance astral rounds: / If ever I laughed with the laugh of creative lightning that follows rumbling but obediently the long thunder of the deed: / . . . / Oh how then could I not lust for eternity and for the mystical ring of rings—the ring of recurrence! / . . . / For I love you, oh eternity!” (Z III “The Other Dance Song” 3; see also I “On the Three Metamorphoses;” II “On Redemption.”) Nietzsche, loving life and the world, reaches yet for joy even with all the pain and heavy chains of necessity (Z IV “The Sleepwalker’s Song” 8–10; cf. BGE 9).

. . .

I suggest that Nietzsche's elaborate wrestling with an eternal return of the same is a self-deceit decked out in a Yes-saying to a false contrivance. (Contrast with the commendation by John Richardson in his Nietzsche's Values [2020].) The real gravity Nietzsche cannot get rid of is mundane and plain: his own death will necessarily occur, and that will be his complete annihilation. Some non-metaphorical and sensible lifting of that gravity is here:

On 1/6/2024 at 3:38 PM, Boydstun said:

Original Sham – Rand and Nietzsche

I said the Original Sham was that death was not naturally inherent in life. A little-sister sham is misrepresentation in the thought that one’s death is one’s eternal nonexistence. The truth is that a nonexistent has no passage, no situations, and no character. Those are the fundamental categories of things in existence. Some traces of one’s existence from before its end—traces in existents continuing to exist, with their passage, situation, and character, beyond one’s own death—indicate to succeeding humans some of the particular passage, situation (and situating), and character that had been oneself. There is an eternal nonexistence of one before one lived and after one lived, but those do not belong to one. Talk of one’s eternal nonexistence is a lie if the eternity is insinuated to be something attaching to one or endured.

. . .

Nietzsche moved his pen to much upset of Christian doctrines. (His father was a Lutheran minister.) One erroneous view he failed to jettison in his own philosophy is the presumption (of Moses, Socrates, and many others) that knowledge of human constitution is the most important kind of knowledge for the human world, whether life of the individual or situation of the species. It is important, I say, though not most important and most-maker of humanity’s epochs.

Knowledge more important in making the human world: how to make a spear and a bow for arrows; script for language; a wheel and its bearing; a plow; metals from minerals; irrigation channels; working animals; power from water wheels, combustion engines, and electric motors; computation, communication, and illumination from electromagnetism; and scientific medicine. 

Rand championed such knowledge as that, but for her atypical miss of the productivity of the gardener in the myth of the Garden of Eden. “All work is creative work if done by a thinking mind” (AS 1021). Frankly, one is not going to have supper on the table or fire in the fireplace without some labor and some thinking mind preparing those results, and either there are going to be some sparkles of creativity all along the way or the required thinking and the result will not be attained.

Rand held advances in science, mathematics, logic, and engineering to be exemplars of noblest human morality. That in man which makes those advances possible and actuated is identically moral goodness, both-and-one of which man should be rightly pleased and proud. “A rational process is a moral process” (AS 1017).

Nietzsche disdained and belittled such knowledge. He fancied new epochs in the human world by new ways in new religions (viz., as when Christianity overran Greco-Roman religions) and new philosophies (for the future, particularly his own philosophy) bringing forth from man the following: higher, nobler, more active beings (who evidently omit working for a living) (GM I.10).

Nietzsche thinks European fellows of his time are a value-dead, sorry lot much in need of new, exciting values now that God is no longer a live source of credible values. So far as I know, this claim of deficiency in his fellows and their consequent need of a solution is a fake, a sham. It remains an unfounded estimate concerning plebeians, folks in production and trade, nothing more.

Nietzsche writes, plausibly, that he cannot refrain from philosophic thought, such as he conceives such thought, and its continual improvement in himself (GM I.2). He claims of himself a durable will to knowledge, but only knowledge of a sort he would enshrine as the purpose of scientific knowledge. Nietzsche was in fact an ignoramus concerning scientific, mathematical, and engineering advances of his own time, and what interest he had in them was for twisting them into bolsters for his psycho-dynamical speculations, his favorite activity.

Nietzsche is awake to the existence of physical goods such as life on earth. He is awake to psychological goods such as the absence of suffering and unearned guilt. He knows to reject moralities of guilt, Sin, Original Sin, debt to God, and duty; moralities against sexual enjoyment (GM II.21, III.16, III.22–22). He and Rand, in their different ways, survey past moralities and expose their defects. Nietzsche failed to find any new, coherent morality corrective of the past ones and based in life and its enjoyments. Rand succeeded.

Edited by Boydstun
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On 1/6/2024 at 3:38 PM, Boydstun said:

Rand is mistaken in taking placement of other minds above one’s own authority as the root of mysticism of spirit. What will be the content of a mystic’s belief will have been contoured by sermons and childhood indoctrinating stories, to be sure. But the root of all mysticism of spirit is hard-mystic experience. That is a solitary thing. It can spring from miscreant brain states and can be set to holding in abeyance primal fears of absolute annihilation at death.

In thinking about religion, especially as regards its social aspects, I'm continually surprised at how often I come back to conservatism as a nearly fundamental driving force, whether in epistemology, metaphysics, or ethics. The question always remains: conservative of what? The only plausible answer that I ever see put forward, especially concerning the origins of animism, is: belief in the afterlife as revealed in dreams/hallucinations. No doubt mystical experience has its roots in a very early, all-consuming intrinisicism, notably the kind exhibited by children, but what is the origin of that intrinsicism? Is it possible that mysticism is itself a kind of epistemological conservatism?

For example:

My father appears to me, alive and well, and asks me to bury him. Conclusion: Look, there's my father.

Granted, my father died a week ago. However, it has always been the case that, when my father appears to me alive and well, it is because, naturally, there's my father. Conclusion: I was right all along. My father is indeed dead, and there he is, alive and well. One day, I too will be dead and alive. How can this be true? Better ask my father.

Furthermore, is it possible that idealism itself has its roots in a kind of cosmic sociality? For children, I think there is often an implicit identification between parents and metaphysics. I think something similar happens when idealists/intrinsicists convert to materialism/subjectivism and adopt the myth of "the myth of scarcity" -- in other words, "capitalism creates poverty". On Marxist grounds, the Myth of Scarcity occupies the same metaphysical position as Original Sin: unavoidable yet not permanent (in the Marxists' case, we rise to grace rather than fall from it).

This position, of course, stinks of social determinism, but I don't see why mysticism can't be an outgrowth of what, in primitive times, was a more or less tribalistic social determinism. We were social before we were rational, and irrationalism has a self-perpetuating nature. Is it the case that happy accidents were necessary in order for man to discover reason and individuality/selfhood? Are mysticism and authoritarianism really all that different? Of course, Rand didn't take the argument this far, but I think Objectivist epistemology seems to imply it.

Also, I'm curious about what you mean when you say "holding in abeyance", mostly because I don't hear that phrase often. Am I to take it to mean some kind of evasion, in this case of mortality?

This would all be a good start on a possible explanation for a problem which has been plaguing me: why perfection as an epistemological starting point? The story of the Garden of Eden sounds to me to be just a metaphor for childhood. In other words, mystics - of spirit or muscle - just don't want to grow up. In other other words, childhood is the sham in their eyes. There is no such thing as security or guiltless pleasure on Earth. Not ever since Abba Father made it that way. And I think it makes sense that this approach would be so persistent. I don't know any parents (personally) who would have a good answer to the question of how to teach children that that life after childhood (ignorance) isn't essentially a matter of sacrifice and pain.

Seen this way, it is no wonder that Christian ethics is so ass-backwards. The metaphysics is rotten from the core (pun not intended).

Ironically, this realization played no role in my own fall from theological grace. It was the denial of free will (via Wikipedia articles) that was my "fruit". I went on to have some existentialist-style "optimism" about life choices, but it took me a long time to see how in the world man could be viewed as heroic in any sense other than Byronic.

Funny enough, one could re-construe the Garden of Eden as a warning against mysticism. If the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life are taken as metaphors for beliefs in a utopian existence, which occur to one as effortlessly (and non-rationally) as eating a piece of fruit, then yes, leaving behind the peaceful modus operandi of cultivating a garden - a knowledge which is, as you say, superior - would be a fall from grace. And working to satisfy your now limitless desires would be painful indeed. It was Baconian obedience ("Nature, to be commanded...) that was the true virtue in the Garden.

Perhaps Rand did misunderstand the story. Perhaps the authors of the Bible did as well. Max Muller's contention was that religion is a "disease of language" and that early mystics were more like poets than priests, using and abusing the power of metaphor. One theory I've been thinking over is that part of how religious beliefs develop (and how intrinsicism operates socially) is that ideas are communicated as metaphors and then understood as literal and that a sort of cycle is formed where beliefs are passed around between those with philosophical tendencies and those who preferred magic. Is it possible that there was rational wisdom in the Creation story that underwent this process? Surely, intrinsicism has never had a total monopoly over the mind. 

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2 hours ago, HowardRoarkSpaceDetective said:

. . .

Also, I'm curious about what you mean when you say "holding in abeyance", mostly because I don't hear that phrase often. Am I to take it to mean some kind of evasion, in this case of mortality?

. . .

Well, yes, it is an evasion, and a repression requiring continual reinforcement that has been going on since one understood that we each die. 

My picture is that all people live under a terror of death once they learn solidly that each life ends. And it looks to me that an awful lot of people's behavior should be looked at as how they are responding, how they are carrying on, under that terror. How do they skirt around their eventual (or imminent) absolute annihilation? Or perhaps they face it squarely, brutally honestly, as I do. I've endured deaths of quite a few loved ones and family members (starting during the American war in Vietnam). I lived under a specific death-expectation horizon (2-year) myself for many years. I was with my first life-partner when he died, and I think about when I or my husband die and the other is left alone. I think about it squarely, and although some of my poetry is about death, there is no skirting it there either.

I gather that not all religions are such a blatant skirt-around of death as Christianity. My conjecture is that all of them are importantly, if not wholly, about that mental coverup and relief. My relief is by getting as much correct setting of death in mind as possible, including not only recognizing that it is end of existence, but end of specific fundamental categories of existents. Sort of like cleaning better and better any stowaway remnants of existents and our conscious experience lurking in one's head in conceiving death.

Rand apparently thought about her own death as ending of the world. I don't much like that perspective, even as some sort of metaphor. I keep my eyes set on the world as it continues beyond my death, not on me going out; set on the continuing existents, especially the human world, which is what I most cherish; then too, on where I got to in my work and remember my dear ones. Clearly, Rand didn't always think of her death that world-ending way; she prepared best she could to have her work remain a mark in the world after her life and find minds who would respond to it as others of us did while she was alive.

The social element I notice in one's mind encountering the world has a spring for belief in spirits beyond nature, and this is not the social element Rand stressed in her 1957 composition concerning mystics of spirit. My take is here.

 

Edited by Boydstun
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On 1/25/2024 at 5:56 PM, Boydstun said:

My relief is by getting as much correct setting of death in mind as possible, including not only recognizing that it is end of existence, but end of specific fundamental categories of existents. Sort of like cleaning better and better any stowaway remnants of existents and our conscious experience lurking in one's head in conceiving death.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by this.

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17 minutes ago, HowardRoarkSpaceDetective said:

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by this.

 

On 1/6/2024 at 3:38 PM, Boydstun said:

Original Sham – Rand and Nietzsche

. . . A little-sister sham is misrepresentation in the thought that one’s death is one’s eternal nonexistence. The truth is that a nonexistent has no passage, no situations, and no character. Those are the fundamental categories of things in existence. Some traces of one’s existence from before its end—traces in existents continuing to exist, with their passage, situation, and character, beyond one’s own death—indicate to succeeding humans some of the particular passage, situation (and situating), and character that had been oneself. There is an eternal nonexistence of one before one lived and after one lived, but those do not belong to one. . . .

 

All Along

Become some reason, then all along,

beneath each chant, arch, trance, and tear,

was known

stop-still of life, the end, no more,

no something, no place, no passage.                                 (Sept. 2021)

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The Original Sham – Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

PS – Again, the original sham is that mortality is not naturally inherent in life. The idea of the natural as in contrast to the supernatural was unlikely to be an intelligible distinction for Moses and his tribes. I gather that our meaning to that distinction is a transfiguration of Aristotle's distinction of the sublunary world (natural) and the world beyond that, namely, the heavens (supernatural). The supernatural today does not mean that at all.

As against the natural motion of a thrown baseball, Aristotle would have the catching of the ball as an intervention against the natural motion. So he did have a distinction of the natural trajectory as distinct from the artifice of the players catching the ball and powering it in a new natural trajectory back to his mate. The supernatural today is that sort of artificial, intelligent intervention, but by an invisible agent who in principle could redraft what are the natural trajectories among the plethora presented by geometry.

Anyway, in the original sham in the Garden of Eden story, we should notice and add that all bad things—death, suffering, setbacks in production—are to be blamed on the humans. This blaming continues today, whether within a religious or a secular head: if there is a calamity, then it should be blamed on human behaviors.

Some say that in such blaming, people are being impelled to conceive themselves as in more control of things than in fact they are. A hailstorm or a death in the family may well have been purely a course in nature. Humans or invisible engineers are not in control in what happened nor rightly to blame. That is, people are exaggerating what control they have, and in the  same stroke, they are struggling to regain control and stabilize their course of life.

I conjecture an additional reason humans so often fall into blaming themselves or other humans for natural calamities. They have some inkling of the Morality of Life, eventually found and articulated publicly by Rand, which says that right action is from the nature of life and that engaging in right actions supports life. They are often mistaken that their behavior caused the calamity, but their continuation of life with a renewed sense of holiness in the actions they will take might have at least a symbolic relationship to the truth, often subconscious, that is the Morality of Life.

 

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