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Nietzsches Marginal Children: On Friedrich Hayek | The Nation

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One day, Nietzsche wrote in Ecce Homo, my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous, a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience. It is one of the ironies of intellectual history that the terms of the collision can best be seen in the rise of a discourse that Nietzsche, in all likelihood, would have despised.

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In 1869, Nietzsche was appointed professor of classical philology at Basel University. Like most junior faculty, he was bedeviled by meager wages and bore major responsibilities, such as teaching fourteen hours a week, Monday through Friday, beginning at 7 am. He also sat on multiple committees and covered for senior colleagues who couldnt make their classes. He lectured to the public on behalf of the university. He dragged himself to dinner parties. Yet within three years he managed to complete The Birth of Tragedy, a minor masterwork of modern literature, which he dedicated to his close friend and sublime predecessor Richard Wagner.

One chapter, however, he withheld from publication. In 1872, Nietzsche was invited to spend the Christmas holidays with Wagner and his wife Cosima, but sensing a potential rift with the composer, he begged off and sent a gift instead. He bundled The Greek State with four other essays, slapped a title onto a cover page (Five Prefaces to Five Unwritten Books), and mailed the leather-bound text to Cosima as a birthday present. Richard was offended; Cosima, unimpressed. Prof. Nietzsches manuscript does not restore our spirits, she sniffed in her diary.

Though presented as a sop to a fraying friendship, The Greek State reflects the larger European crisis of war and revolution that had begun in 1789 and would come to an end only in 1945. More immediately, it bears the stamp of the Franco-Prussian War, which had broken out in 1870, and the Paris Commune, which was declared the following year.

Initially ambivalent about the war, Nietzsche quickly became a partisan of the German cause. Its about our culture! he wrote to his mother. And for that no sacrifice is too great! This damned French tiger. He signed up to serve as a medical orderly; Cosima tried to persuade him to stay put in Basel, recommending that he send cigarettes to the front instead. But Nietzsche was adamant. In August 1870, he left for Bavaria with his sister Elisabeth, riding the rails and singing songs. He got his training, headed to the battlefield, and in no time contracted dysentery and diphtheria. He lasted a month.

The war lasted for six. A half-million soldiers were killed or wounded, as were countless civilians. The preliminary peace treaty, signed in February 1871, favored the Germans and punished the French, particularly the citizens of Paris, who were forced to shoulder the burden of heavy indemnities to the Prussians. Enraged by its impositionsand a quarter-century of simmering discontent and broken promisesworkers and radicals in Paris rose up and took over the city in March. Nietzsche was scandalized, his horror at the revolt inversely proportional to his exaltation over the war. Fearing that the Communards had destroyed the Louvre (they hadnt), he wrote:

The reports of the past few days have been so awful that my state of mind is altogether intolerable. What does it mean to be a scholar in the face of such earthquakes of culture! It is the worst day of my life.

In the quicksilver transmutation of a conventional war between states into a civil war between classes, Nietzsche saw a terrible alchemy of the future: Over and above the struggle between nations the object of our terror was that international hydra-head, suddenly and so terrifyingly appearing as a sign of quite different struggles to come.

By May, the Commune had been ruthlessly put down at the cost of tens of thousands of livesmuch to the delight of the Parisian aesthete-aristocrat Edmond Goncourt:

All is well. There has been neither compromise nor conciliation. The solution has been brutal, imposed by sheer force of arms. The solution has saved everyone from the dangers of cowardly compromise. The solution has restored its self-confidence to the Army, which has learnt in the blood of the Communards that it was still capable of fightinga bleeding like that, by killing the rebellious part of a population, postpones the next revolution by a whole conscription.

Of the man who wrote these words and the literary milieu of which he was a part, Nietzsche would later say: I know these gentlemen inside out, so well that I have really had enough of them already. One has to be more radical: fundamentally they all lack the main thingla force.

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The clash of these competing worlds of war and work echoes throughout The Greek State. Nietzsche begins by announcing that the modern era is dedicated to the dignity of work. Committed to equal rights for all, democracy elevates the worker and the slave. Their demands for justice threaten to swamp all other ideas, to tear down the walls of culture. Modernity has made a monster in the working class: a created creator (shades of Marx and Mary Shelley), it has the temerity to see itself and its labor as a work of art. Even worse, it seeks to be recognized and publicly acknowledged as such.

The Greeks, by contrast, saw work as a disgrace, because the existence it servesthe finite life that each of us liveshas no inherent value. Existence can be redeemed only by art, but art too is premised on work. It is made, and its maker depends on the labor of others; they take care of him and his household, freeing him from the burdens of everyday life. Inevitably, his art bears the taint of their necessity. No matter how beautiful, art cannot escape the pall of its creation. It arouses shame, for in shame there lurks the unconscious recognition that these conditions of work are required for the actual goal of art to be achieved. For that reason, the Greeks properly kept labor and the laborer hidden from view.

Throughout his writing life, Nietzsche was plagued by the vision of workers massing on the public stagewhether in trade unions, socialist parties or communist leagues. Almost immediately upon his arrival in Basel, the First International descended on the city to hold its fourth congress. Nietzsche was petrified. There is nothing more terrible, he wrote in The Birth of Tragedy, than a class of barbaric slaves who have learned to regard their existence as an injustice, and now prepare to avenge, not only themselves, but all generations. Several years after the International had left Basel, Nietzsche convinced himself that it was slouching toward Bayreuth in order to ruin Wagners festival there. And just weeks before he went mad in 1888 and disappeared forever into his own head, he wrote, The cause of every stupidity todaylies in the existence of a labour question at all. About certain things one does not ask questions.

One can hear in the opening passages of The Greek State the pounding march not only of European workers on the move but also of black slaves in revolt. Hegel was brooding on Haiti while he worked out the master-slave dialectic in The Phenomenology of Spirit. Though generations of scholars have told us otherwise, perhaps Nietzsche had a similar engagement in mind when he wrote, Even if it were true that the Greeks were ruined because they kept slaves, the opposite is even more certain, that we will be destroyed because we fail to keep slaves. What theorist, after all, has ever pressed so urgentlynot just in this essay but in later works as wellthe claim that slavery belongs to the essence of a culture? What theorist ever had to? Before the eighteenth century, bonded labor was an accepted fact. Now it was the subject of a roiling debate, provoking revolutions and emancipations throughout the world. Serfdom had been eliminated in Russia only a decade beforeand in some German states, only a generation before Nietzsches birth in 1844while Brazil would soon become the last state in the Americas to abolish slavery. An edifice of the ages had been brought down by a mere centurys vibrations; is it so implausible that Nietzsche, attuned to the vectors and velocity of decay as he was, would pause to record the earthquake and insist on taking the full measure of its effects?

If slavery was one condition of great art, Nietzsche continued in The Greek State, war and high politics were another. Political men par excellence, the Greeks channeled their agonistic urges into bloody conflicts between cities and less bloody conflicts within them: healthy states were built on the repression and release of these impulses. The arena for conflict created by that regimen gave society time to germinate and turn green everywhere and allowed blossoms of genius periodically to sprout forth. Those blossoms were not only artistic but also political. Warfare sorted society into lower and higher ranks, and from that hierarchy rose the military genius, whose artistry was the state itself. The real dignity of man, Nietzsche insisted, lay not in his lowly self but in the artistic and political genius his life was meant to serve and on whose behalf it was to be expended.

Instead of the Greek state, however, Europe had the bourgeois state; instead of aspiring to a work of art, states let markets do their work. Politics, Nietzsche complained, had become an instrument of the stock exchange rather than the terrain of heroism and glory. With the specifically political impulses of Europe so weakenedeven his beloved Franco-Prussian War had not revived the spirit in the way that he had hopedNietzsche could only detect dangerous signs of atrophy in the political sphere, equally worrying for art and society. The age of aristocratic culture and high politics was at an end. All that remained was the detritus of the lower orders: the disgrace of the laborer, the paper chase of the bourgeoisie, the barreling threat of socialism. The Paris commune, Nietzsche would later write in his notebooks, was perhaps no more than minor indigestion compared to what is coming.

Nietzsche had little, concretely, to offer as a counter-volley to democracy, whether bourgeois or socialist. Despite his appreciation of the political impulse and his studious attention to political events in Germanyfrom the Schleswig-Holstein crisis of the early 1860s to the imperial push of the late 1880she remained leery of programs, movements and platforms. The best he could muster was a vague principle: that society is the continuing, painful birth of those exalted men of culture in whose service everything else has to consume itself, and the state a means of setting [that] process of society in motion and guaranteeing its unobstructed continuation. It was left to later generations to figure out what that could mean in practiceand where it might lead. Down one path might lay fascism; down another, the free market.

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Around the timealmost to the yearthat Nietzsche was launching his revolution of metaphysics and morals, a trio of economists, working separately across three countries, were starting their own. It began with the publication in 1871 of Carl Mengers Principles of Economics and William Stanley Jevonss The Theory of Political Economy. Along with Lon Walrass Elements of Pure Economics, which appeared three years later, these were the European facesAustrian, English and French-Swissof what would come to be called the marginal revolution.

The marginalists focused less on supply and production than on the pulsing demand of consumption. The protagonist was not the landowner or the laborer, working his way through the farm, the factory or the firm; it was the universal man in the market whose signature act was to consume things. Thats how market man increased his utility: by consuming something until he reached the point where consuming one more increment of it gave him so little additional utility that he was better off consuming something else. Of such microscopic calculations at the periphery of our estate was the economy made.

Though the early marginalists helped transform economics from a humanistic branch of the moral sciences into a technical discipline of the social sciences, they were still able to command an audience and an influence all too rare in contemporary economics. Jevons spent his career as an independent scholar and professor in Manchester and London worrying about his lack of readers, but William Gladstone invited him over to discuss his work, and John Stuart Mill praised it on the floor of Parliament. Keynes tells us that for a period of half a century, practically all elementary students both of Logic and of Political Economy in Great Britain and also in India and the Dominions were brought up on Jevons.

According to Hayek, the immediate reception of Mengers Principles can hardly be called encouraging. Reviewers seemed not to understand it. Two students at the University of Vienna, however, did. One was Friedrich von Wieser, the other Eugen von Bhm-Bawerk, and both became legendary educators and theoreticians. Their students included Hayek; Ludwig von Mises, who attracted a small but devoted following in the United States and elsewhere; and Joseph Schumpeter, dark poet of capitalisms forces of creative destruction. Through Bhm-Bawerk and Wieser, Mengers text became the groundwork of the Austrian school, whose reach, due in part to the efforts of Mises and Hayek, now extends across the globe.

The contributions of Jevons and Menger were multiple, yet each of them took aim at a central postulate of economics shared by everyone from Adam Smith to the socialist left: the notion that labor is aif not thesource of value. Though adumbrated in the idiom of prices and exchange, the labor theory of value evinced an almost primitive faith in the metaphysical objectivity of the economic spherea faith made all the more surprising by the fact that the objectivity of the rest of the social world (politics, religion and morals) had been subject to increasing scrutiny since the Renaissance. Commodities may have come wrapped in the pretty paper of the market, but inside, many believed, were the brute facts of nature: raw materials from the earth and the physical labor that turned those materials into goods. Because those materials were made useful, hence valuable, only by labor, labor was the source of value. That, and the fact that labor could be measured in some way (usually time), lent the world of work a kind of ontological statusand political authoritythat had been increasingly denied to the world of courts and kings, lands and lords, parishes and priests. As the rest of the world melted into air, labor was crystallizing as the one true solid.

By the time the marginalists came on the scene, the most politically threatening version of the labor theory of value was associated with the left. Though Marx would significantly revise and recast it in his mature writings, the simple notion that labor produces value remained associated with his nameand even more so with that of his competitor Ferdinand Lasalle, about whom Nietzsche read a fair amountas well as with the larger socialist and trade union movements of which he was a part. That association helped set the stage for the marginalists critique.

Admittedly, the relationship between marginalism and anti-socialism is complex. On the one hand, there is little evidence to suggest that the first-generation marginalists had heard of, much less read, Marx, at least not at this early stage of their careers. Much more than the threat of socialism underpinned the emergence of marginalist economics, which was as opposed to traditional defenses of the market as it was to the markets critics. By the twentieth century, moreover, many marginalists were on the left and used their ideas to help construct the institutions of social democracy; even Walras and Alfred Marshall, another early marginalist, were sympathetic to the claims of the left. And on some readings, the mature Marx shares more with the constructivist thrusts of marginalism than he does with the objectivism of the labor theory of value.

On the other hand, Jevons was a tireless polemicist against trade unions, which he identified as the best exampleof the evils and disasters attending the democratic age. Jevons saw marginalism as a critical antidote to the labor movement and insisted that its teachings be widely transmitted to the working classes. To avoid such a disaster, he argued, we must diffuse knowledge to the workersempowered as they were by the vote and the strikeand the kind of knowledge required is mainly that comprehended in the science of political economy.

Menger interrupted his abstract reflections on value to make the point that while it may appear deplorable to a lover of mankind that possession of capital or a piece of land often provides the owner a higher incomethan the income received by a laborer, the cause of this is not immoral. It was simply that the satisfaction of more important human needs depends upon the services of the given amount of capital or piece of land than upon the services of the laborer. Any attempt to get around that truth, he warned, would undoubtedly require a complete transformation of our social order.

Finally, there is no doubt that the marginalists of the Austrian school, who would later prove so influential on the American right, saw their project as primarily anti-Marxist and anti-socialist. The most momentous consequence of the theory, declared Wieser in 1891, is, I take it, that it is false, with the socialists, to impute to labor alone the entire productive return.

* * *

With its division of intellectual labor, the modern academy often separates economics from ethics and philosophy. Earlier economists and philosophers did not make that separation. Even Nietzsche recognized that economics rested on genuine moral and philosophical premises, many of which he found dubious, and that it had tremendous moral and political effects, all of which he detested. In The Wanderer and His Shadow, Nietzsche criticized our economists for having not yet wearied of scenting a similar unity in the word value and of searching after the original root-concept of the word. In his preliminary outline for the summa he hoped to publish on the will to power, he scored the nihilistic consequences of the ways of thinking in politics and economics.

For that reason, Nietzsche saw in labors appearance more than an economic theory of goods: he saw a terrible diminution of the good. Morals must be understood as the doctrine of the relations of supremacy, he wrote in Beyond Good and Evil; every morality must be forced to bowbefore the order of rank. But like so many before them, including the Christian slave and the English utilitarian, the economist and the socialist promoted an inferior human typeand an inferior set of valuesas the driving agent of the world. Nietzsche saw in this elevation not only a transformation of values but also a loss of value and, potentially, the elimination of value altogether. Conservatives from Edmund Burke to Robert Bork have conflated the transformation of values with the end of value. Nietzsche, on occasion, did too: What does nihilism mean? he asked himself in 1887. That the highest values devaluate themselves. The nihilism consuming Europe was best understood as a democratic hatred against the order of rank.

Part of Nietzsches worry was philosophical: How was it possible in a godless world, naturalistically conceived, to deem anything of value? But his concern was also cultural and political. Because of democracy, which was Christianity made natural, the aristocracy had lost its naturalnessthat is, the traditional vindication of its power. How then might a hierarchy of excellence, aesthetic and political, re-establish itself, defend itself against the massparticularly a mass of workersand dominate that mass? As Nietzsche wrote in the late 1880s:

A reverse movement is neededthe production of a synthetic, summarizing, justifying man for whose existence this transformation of mankind into a machine is a precondition, as a base on which he can invent his higher form of being.He needs the opposition of the masses, of the leveled, a feeling of distance from them. [He] stands on them, he lives off them. This higher form of aristocracy is that of the future.Morally speaking, this overall machinery, this solidarity of all gears, represents a maximum of exploitation of man; but it presupposes those on whose account this exploitation has meaning.

Nietzsches response to that challenge was not to revert or resort to a more objective notion of value: that was neither possible nor desirable. Instead, he embraced one part of the modern understanding of valueits fabricated natureand turned it against its democratic and Smithian premises. Value was indeed a human creation, Nietzsche acknowledged, and as such could just as easily be conceived as a gift, an honorific bestowed by one man upon another. Through esteeming alone is there value, Nietzsche has Zarathustra declare; to esteem is to create. Value was not made with coarse and clumsy hands; it was enacted with an appraising gaze, a nod of the head signifying a matchless abundance of taste. It was, in short, aristocratic.

While slaves had once created value in the form of Christianity, they had achieved that feat not through their labor but through their censure and praise. They had also done it unwittingly, acting upon a deep and unconscious compulsion: a sense of inferiority, a rage against their powerlessness, and a desire for revenge against their betters. That combination of overt impotence and covert drive made them ill-suited to creating values of excellence. Nietzsche explained in Beyond Good and Evil that the self-conscious exercise and enjoyment of power made the noble type a better candidate for the creation of values in the modern world, for these were values that would have to break with the slave morality that had dominated for millennia. Only insofar as it knows itself to be that which first accords honor to things can the noble type truly be value-creating.

Labor belonged to nature, which is not capable of generating value. Only the man who arrayed himself against naturethe artist, the general, the statesmancould claim that role. He alone had the necessary refinements, wrought by that pathos of distance which grows out of ingrained difference between strata, to appreciate and bestow value: upon men, practices and beliefs. Value was not a product of the prole; it was an imposition of peerless taste. In the words of The Gay Science:

Whatever has value in our world now does not have value in itself, according to its naturenature is always value-less, but has been given value at some time, as a presentand it was we who gave and bestowed it.

That was in 1882. Just a decade earlier, Menger had written: Value is therefore nothing inherent in goods, no property of them, but merely the importance that we first attribute to the satisfaction of our needs, that is, to our lives and well-being. Jevonss position was identical, and like Nietzsche, both Menger and Jevons thought value was instead a high or low estimation put by a man upon the things of life. But lest that desiring self be reduced to a simple creature of tabulated needs, Menger and Jevons took care to distinguish their positions from traditional theories of utility.

Jevons, for example, was prepared to follow Jeremy Bentham in his definition of utility as that property in an object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness. He thought this perfectly expresses the meaning of the word Economy. But he also insisted on a critical rider: provided that the will or inclination of the person concerned is taken as the sole criterion, for the time, of what is good and desirable. Our expressed desires and aversions are not measures of our objective or underlying good; there is no such thing. Nor can we be assured that those desires or aversions will bring us pleasure or pain. What we want or dont want is merely a representation, a snapshot of the motions of our willthat black box of preference and partiality that so fascinated Nietzsche precisely because it seemed so groundless and yet so generative. Every mind is inscrutable to itself: we lack, said Jevons, the means of measuring directly the feelings of the human heart. The inner life is inaccessible to our inspections; all we can know are its effects, the will it powers and the actions it propels. The will is our pendulum, declared Jevons, a representation of forces that cannot be seen but whose effects are nevertheless felt, and its oscillations are minutely registered in all the price lists of the markets.

Menger thought the value of any good was connected to our needs, but he was extraordinarily attuned to the complexityand contingencyof that relationship. Needs, wrote Menger, at least as concerns their origin, depend upon our wills or on our habits. Needs are more than the givens of our biology or psyche; they are the desideratum of our volitions and practices, which are idiosyncratic and arbitrary. Only when our needs finally come into existencethat is, only when we become aware of themcan we truly say that there is no further arbitrary element in the process of value formation.

Even then, needs must pass through a series of checkpoints before they can enter the land of value. Awareness of a need, says Menger, entails a comprehensive knowledge of how the need might be fulfilled by a particular good, how that good might contribute to our lives, and how (and whether) command of that good is necessary for the satisfaction of that need. That last bit of knowledge requires us to look at the external world: to ask how much of that good is available to us, to consider how many sacrifices we must bearhow many satisfactions we are willing to forgoin order to secure it. Only when we have answered these questions are we ready to speak of value, which Menger reminds us is the importance we attribute to the satisfaction of our needs. Value is thus a judgment that economizing men make about the importance of the goods at their disposal for the maintenance of their lives and well-being. It does not exist outside the consciousness of men. Even though previous economists had insisted on the objectification of the value of goods, Menger, like Jevons and Nietzsche, concludes that value is entirely subjective in nature.

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In their war against socialism, the philosophers of capital faced two challenges. The first was that by the early twentieth century, socialism had cornered the market on morality. As Mises complained in his 1932 preface to the second edition of Socialism, Any advocate of socialistic measures is looked upon as the friend of the Good, the Noble, and the Moral, as a disinterested pioneer of necessary reforms, in short, as a man who unselfishly serves his own people and all humanity. Indeed, with the help of kindred notions such as social justice, socialism seemed to be the very definition of morality. Nietzsche had long been wise to this insinuation; one source of his discontent with religion was his sense that it had bequeathed to modernity an understanding of what morality entailed (selflessness, universality, equality) such that only socialism and democracy could be said to fulfill it. But where Nietzsches response to the equation of socialism and morality was to question the value of morality, at least as it had been customarily understood, economists like Mises and Hayek pursued a different path, one Nietzsche would never have dared to take: they made the market the very expression of morality.

Moralists traditionally viewed the pursuit of money and goods as negative or neutral; the Austrians claimed it embodies our deepest values and commitments. The provision of material goods, declared Mises, serves not only those ends which are usually termed economic, but also many other ends. All of us have ends or ultimate purposes in life: the cultivation of friendship, the contemplation of beauty, a lovers companionship. We enter the market for the sake of those ends. Economic action thus consists firstly in valuation of ends, and then in the valuation of the means leading to these ends. All economic activity depends, therefore, upon the existence of ends. Ends dominate economy and alone give it meaning. We simply cannot speak, writes Hayek in The Road to Serfdom, of purely economic ends separate from the other ends of life.

This claim, however, could just as easily be enlisted as an argument for socialism. In providing men and women with the means of lifehousing, food, healthcarethe socialist state frees them to pursue the ends of life: beauty, knowledge, wisdom. The Austrians went further, insisting that the very decision about what constitutes means and ends was itself a judgment of value. Any economic situation confronts us with the necessity of choice, of having to deploy our limited resourceswhether time, money or efforton behalf of some end. In making that choice, we reveal which of our ends matters most to us: which is higher, which is lower. Every man who, in the course of economic activity, chooses between the satisfaction of two needs, only one of which can be satisfied, makes judgments of value, says Mises.

For those choices to reveal our ends, our resources must be finiteunlimited time, for example, would obviate the need for choiceand our choice of ends unconstrained by external interference. The best, indeed only, method for guaranteeing such a situation is if money (or its equivalent in material goods) is the currency of choiceand not just of economic choice, but of all of our choices. As Hayek writes in The Road to Serfdom:

So long as we can freely dispose over our income and all our possessions, economic loss will always deprive us only of what we regard as the least important of the desires we were able to satisfy. A merely economic loss is thus one whose effect we can still make fall on our less important needs. Economic changes, in other words, usually affect only the fringe, the margin, of our needs. There are many things which are more important than anything which economic gains or losses are likely to affect, which for us stand high above the amenities and even above many of the necessities of life which are affected by the economic ups and downs.

Should the government decide which of our needs are merely economic, we would be deprived of the opportunity to decide whether these are higher or lower goods, the marginal or mandatory items of our flourishing. So vast is the gulf between each soul, so separate and unequal are we, that it is impossible to assume anything universal about the sources and conditions of human happiness, a point Nietzsche and Jevons would have found congenial. The judgment of what constitutes a means, what an end, must be left to the individual self. Hayek again:

Economic control is not merely control of a sector of human life which can be separated from the rest; it is the control of the means for all our ends. And whoever has sole control of the means must also determine which ends are to be served, which values are to be rated higher and which lowerin short what men should believe and strive for.

While the economic is, in one sense readily acknowledged by Hayek, the sphere of our lower needs, it is in another and altogether more important sense the anvil upon which we forge our notion of what is lower and higher in this world, our morality. Economic values, he writes, are less important to us than many things precisely because in economic matters we are free to decide what to us is more, and what less, important. But we can be free to make those choices only if they are left to us to makeand, paradoxically, if we are forced to make them. If we didnt have to choose, wed never have to value anything.

* * *

By imposing this drama of choice, the economy becomes a theater of self-disclosure, the stage upon which we discover and reveal our ultimate ends. It is not in the casual chatter of a seminar or the cloistered pews of a church that we determine our values; it is in the duressthe ordealof our lived lives, those moments when we are not only free to choose but forced to choose. Freedom to order our own conduct in the sphere where material circumstances force a choice upon us, Hayek wrote, is the air in which alone moral sense grows and in which moral values are daily re-created.

While progressives often view this discourse of choice as either dime-store morality or fabricated scarcity, the Austrians saw the economy as the disciplining agent of all ethical action, a moment ofand opportunity formoral artistry. Freud thought the compressions of the dream world made every man an artist; these other Austrians thought the compulsions of the economy made every man a moralist. It is only when we are navigating its narrow channelswhere every decision to expend some quantum of energy requires us to make a calculation about the desirability of its posited endthat we are brought face to face with ourselves and compelled to answer the questions: What do I believe? What do I want in this world? From this life?

While there are precedents for this argument in Mengers theory of value (the fewer opportunities there are for the satisfaction of our needs, Menger says, the more our choices will reveal which needs we value most), its true and full dimensions can best be understood in relation to Nietzsche. As much as Nietzsche railed against the repressive effect of laws and morals on the highest types, he also appreciated how much on earth of freedom, subtlety, boldness, dance, and masterly sureness was owed to these constraints. Confronted with a set of social strictures, the diverse and driving energies of the self were forced to draw upon unknown and untapped reserves of ingenuityeither to overcome these obstacles or to adapt to them with the minimum of sacrifice. The results were novel, value-creating.

Nietzsches point was primarily aesthetic. Contrary to the romantic notion of art being produced by a process of letting go, Nietzsche insisted that the artist strictly and subtlyobeys thousandfold laws. The language of inventionwhether poetry, music or speech itselfis bound by the metrical compulsion of rhyme and rhythm. Such laws are capricious in their origin and tyrannical in their effect. That is the point: from that unforgiving soil of power and whimsy rises the most miraculous increase. Not just in the artsGoethe, say, or Beethovenbut in politics and ethics as well: Napoleon, Caesar, Nietzsche himself (Genuine philosophersare commanders and legislators: they say, thus it shall be!).

One school would find expression for these ideas in fascism. Writers like Ernst Jnger and Carl Schmitt imagined political artists of great novelty and originality forcing their way through or past the filtering constraints of everyday life. The leading legal theorist of the Third Reich, Schmitt looked to those extraordinary instances in politicswar, the decision, the exceptionwhen the power of real life, as he put it in Political Theology, breaks through the crust of a mechanism that has become torpid by repetition. In that confrontation between mechanism and real life, the man of exception would find or make his moment: by taking an unauthorized decision, ordaining a new regime of law, or founding a political order. In each case, something was created out of nothingness.

It was the peculiarand, in the long run, more significantgenius of the Austrian school to look for these moments and experiences not in the political realm but in the marketplace. Money in a capitalist economy, Hayek came to realize, could best be understood and defended in Nietzschean terms: as the medium through which a forcethe selfs desire for power to achieve unspecified endsmakes itself felt.

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The second challenge confronting the philosophers of capital was more daunting. While Nietzsches transvaluation of values gave pride of place to the highest types of humanityvalues were a gift, the philosopher their greatest sourcethe political implications of marginalism were more ambidextrous. If on one reading it was the capitalist who gave value to the worker, on another it was the workerin his capacity as consumerwho gave value to capital. Social democrats pursued the latter argument with great zeal. The result was the welfare state, with its emphasis on high wages and good benefitsas well as unionizationas the driving agent of mass demand and economic prosperity. More than a macroeconomic policy, social democracy (or liberalism, as it was called in America) reflected an ethos of the citizen-worker-consumer as the creator and center of the economy. Long after economists had retired the labor theory of value, the welfare state remained lit by its afterglow. The political economy of the welfare state may have been marginalist, but its moral economy was workerist.

The midcentury right was in desperate need of a response that, squaring Nietzsches circle, would clear a path for aristocratic action in the capitalist marketplace. It needed not simply an alternative economics but an answering vision of society. Schumpeter provided one, Hayek another.

Schumpeters entrepreneur is one of the more enigmatic characters of modern social theory. He is not inventive, heroic or charismatic. There is surely no trace of any mystic glamour about him, Schumpeter writes in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. His instincts and impulses are confined to the office and the counting table. Outside those environs, he cannot say boo to a goose. Yet it is this nothing, this great inscrutable blank, that will bend a nation to his willnot unlike the father figures of a Mann or Musil novel.

What the entrepreneur hasor, better, isare force and will. As Schumpeter explains in a 1927 essay, the entrepreneur possesses extraordinary physical and nervous energy. That energy gives him focus (the maniacal, almost brutal, ability to shut out what is inessential) and stamina. In those late hours when lesser beings have given way to a state of exhaustion, he retains his full force and originality. By originality, Schumpeter means something peculiar: receptivity to new facts. It is the entrepreneurs ability to recognize that sweet spot of novelty and occasion (an untried technology, a new method of production, a different way to market or distribute a product) that enables him to revolutionize the way business gets done. Part opportunist, part fanatic, he is a leading man, Schumpeter suggests in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, overcoming all resistance in order to create the new modes and orders of everyday life.

Schumpeter is careful to distinguish entrepreneurialism from politics as it is conventionally understood: the entrepreneurs power does not readily expandinto the leadership of nations; he wants to be left alone and to leave politics alone. Even so, the entrepreneur is best understood as neither an escape from nor an evasion of politics but as its sublimation, the relocation of politics in the economic sphere.

Rejecting the static models of other economistsequilibrium is death, he saysSchumpeter depicts the economy as a dramatic confrontation between rising and falling empires (firms). Like Machiavelli in The Prince, whose vision Nietzsche described as perfection in politics, Schumpeter identifies two types of agents struggling for position and permanence amid great flux: one is dynastic and lawful, the other upstart and intelligent. Both are engaged in a death dance, with the former in the potentially weaker position unless it can innovate and break with routine.

Schumpeter often resorts to political and military metaphors to describe this dance. Production is a history of revolutions. Competitors command and wield pieces of armor. Competition strikes at the foundations and very lives of firms; entrepreneurs in equilibrium find themselves in much the same situations as generals would in a society perfectly sure of permanent peace. In the same way that Schmitt imagines peace as the end of politics, Schumpeter sees equilibrium as the end of economics.

Against this backdrop of dramatic, even lethal, contest, the entrepreneur emerges as a legislator of values and new ways of being. The entrepreneur demonstrates a penchant for breaking with the routine tasks which everybody understands. He overcomes the multiple resistances of his worldfrom simple refusal either to finance or to buy a new thing, to physical attack on the man who tries to produce it.

To act with confidence beyond the range of familiar beacons and to overcome that resistance requires aptitudes that are present in only a small fraction of the population and that define the entrepreneurial type.

The entrepreneur, in other words, is a founder. As Schumpeter describes him in The Theory of Economic Development:

There is the dream and the will to found a private kingdom, usually, though not necessarily, also a dynasty. The modern world really does not know any such positions, but what may be attained by industrial and commercial success is still the nearest approach to medieval lordship possible to modern man.

That may be why his inner life is so reminiscent of the Machiavellian prince, that other virtuoso of novelty. All of his energy and will, the entirety of his force and being, is focused outward, on the enterprise of creating a new order.

And yet even as he sketched the broad outline of this legislator of value, Schumpeter sensed that his days were numbered. Innovation was increasingly the work of departments, committees and specialists. The modern corporation socializes the bourgeois mind. In the same way that modern regiments had destroyed the very personal affair of medieval battle, so did the corporation eliminate the need for individual leadership acting by virtue of personal force and personal responsibility for success. The romance of earlier commercial adventure was rapidly wearing away. With the entrepreneurial function in terminal decline, Schumpeters experiment in economics as great politics seemed to be approaching an end.

* * *

Hayek offered an alternative account of the market as the proving ground of aristocratic action. Schumpeter had already hinted at it in a stray passage in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Taking aim at the notion of a rational chooser who knows what he wants, wants what is best (for him, at any rate) and works efficiently to get it, Schumpeter invoked a half-century of social thoughtLe Bon, Pareto and Freudto emphasize not only the importance of the extra-rational and irrational element in our behavior, but also the power of capital to shape the preferences of the consumer.

Consumers do not quite live up to the idea that the economic textbooks used to convey. On the one hand, their wants are nothing like as definite, and their actions upon those wants nothing like as rational and prompt. On the other hand, they are so amenable to the influence of advertising and other methods of persuasion that producers often seem to dictate to them instead of being directed by them.

In The Constitution of Liberty, Hayek developed this notion into a full-blown theory of the wealthy and the well-born as an avant-garde of taste, as makers of new horizons of value from which the rest of humanity took its bearings. Instead of the market of consumers dictating the actions of capital, it would be capital that would determine the market of consumptionand beyond that, the deepest beliefs and aspirations of a people.

The distinction that Hayek draws between mass and elite has not received much attention from his critics or his defenders, bewildered or beguiled as they are by his repeated invocations of liberty. Yet a careful reading of Hayeks argument reveals that liberty for him is neither the highest good nor an intrinsic good. It is a contingent and instrumental good (a consequence of our ignorance and the condition of our progress), the purpose of which is to make possible the emergence of a heroic legislator of value.

Civilization and progress, Hayek argues, depend upon each of us deploying knowledge that is available for our use yet inaccessible to our reason. The computer on which I am typing is a repository of centuries of mathematics, science and engineering. I know how to use it, but I dont understand it. Most of our knowledge is like that: we know the how of thingshow to turn on the computer, how to call up our word-processing program and typewithout knowing the that of things: that electricity is the flow of electrons, that circuits operate through binary choices and so on. Others possess the latter kind of knowledge; not us. That combination of our know-how and their knowledge advances the cause of civilization. Because they have thought through how a computer can be optimally designed, we are free to ignore its transistors and microchips; instead, we can order clothes online, keep up with old friends as if they lived next door, and dive into previously inaccessible libraries and archives in order to produce a novel account of the Crimean War.

We can never know what serendipity of knowledge and know-how will produce the best results, which union of genius and basic ignorance will yield the greatest advance. For that reason, individualsall individualsmust be free to pursue their ends, to exploit the wisdom of others for their own purposes. Allowing for the uncertainties of progress is the greatest guarantor of progress. Hayeks argument for freedom rests less on what we know or want to know than on what we dont know, less on what we are morally entitled to as individuals than on the beneficial consequences of individual freedom for society as a whole.

In fact, Hayek continues, it is not really my freedom that I should be concerned about; nor is it the freedom of my friends and neighbors. It is the freedom of that unknown and untapped figure of invention to whose imagination and ingenuity my friends and I will later owe our greater happiness and flourishing: What is important is not what freedom I personally would like to exercise but what freedom some person may need in order to do things beneficial to society. This freedom we can assure to the unknown person only by giving it to all.

Deep inside Hayeks understanding of freedom, then, is the notion that the freedom of some is worth more than the freedom of others: The freedom that will be used by only one man in a million may be more important to society and more beneficial to the majority than any freedom that we all use. Hayek cites approvingly this statement of a nineteenth-century philosopher: It may be of extreme importance that some should enjoy libertyalthough such liberty may be neither possible nor desirable for the great majority. That we dont grant freedom only to that individual is due solely to the happenstance of our ignorance: we cannot know in advance who he might be. If there were omniscient men, if we could know not only all that affects the attainment of our present wishes but also our future wants and desires, there would be little case for liberty.

* * *

As this reference to future wants and desires suggests, Hayek has much more in mind than producers responding to a pre-existing market of demand; hes talking about men who create new marketsand not just of wants or desires, but of basic tastes and beliefs. The freedom Hayek cares most about is the freedom of those legislators of value who shape and determine our ends.

The overwhelming majority of men and women, Hayek says, are simply not capable of breaking with settled patterns of thought and practice; given a choice, they would never opt for anything new, never do anything better than what they do now.

Action by collective agreement is limited to instances where previous efforts have already created a common view, where opinion about what is desirable has become settled, and where the problem is that of choosing between possibilities already generally recognized, not that of discovering new possibilities.

While some might claim that Hayeks argument here is driven less by a dim view of ordinary men and women than his dyspepsia about politics, he explicitly excludes the decision of some governing elite from the acid baths of his skepticism. Nor does he hide his misgivings about the individual abilities of wage laborers who comprise the great majority. The working stiff is a being of limited horizons. Unlike the employer or the independent, both of whom are dedicated to shaping and reshaping a plan of life, the workers orientation is largely a matter of fitting himself into a given framework. He lacks responsibility, initiative, curiosity and ambition. Though some of this is by necessitythe workplace does not countenance actions which cannot be prescribed or which are not conventionalHayek insists that this is not only the actual but the preferred position of the majority of the population. The great majority enjoy submitting to the workplace regime because it gives them what they mainly want: an assured fixed income available for current expenditure, more or less automatic raises, and provision for old age. They are thus relieved of some of the responsibilities of economic life. Simply put, these are people for whom taking orders from a superior is not only a welcome relief but a prerequisite of their fulfillment: To do the bidding of others is for the employed the condition of achieving his purpose.

It thus should come as no surprise that Hayek believes in an avant-garde of tastemakers, whose power and position give them a vantage from which they can not only see beyond the existing horizon but also catch a glimpse of new ones:

Only from an advanced position does the next range of desires and possibilities become visible, so that the selection of new goals and the effort toward their achievement will begin long before the majority can strive for them.

These horizons include everything from what we regard as good or beautiful, to the ambitions, goals and ends we pursue in our everyday lives, to the propagation of new ideas in politics, morals, and religion. On all of these fronts, it is the avant-garde that leads the way and sets our parameters.

More interesting is how explicit and insistent Hayek is about linking the legislation of new values to the possession of vast amounts of wealth and capital, evenor especiallywealth that has been inherited. Often, says Hayek, it is only the very rich who can afford new products or tastes. Lavishing money on these boutique items, they give producers the opportunity to experiment with better designs and more efficient methods of production. Thanks to their patronage, producers will find cheaper ways of making and delivering these productscheap enough, that is, for the majority to enjoy them. What was before a luxury of the idle richstockings, automobiles, piano lessons, the universityis now an item of mass consumption.

The most important contribution of great wealth, however, is that it frees its possessor from the pursuit of money so that he can pursue nonmaterial goals. Liberated from the workplace and the rat race, the idle richa phrase Hayek seeks to reclaim as a positive goodcan devote themselves to patronizing the arts, subsidizing worthy causes like abolition or penal reform, founding new philanthropies and cultural institutions. Those born to wealth are especially important: not only are they the beneficiaries of the higher culture and nobler values that have been transmitted across the generationsHayek insists that we will get a better elite if we allow parents to pass their fortunes on to their children; requiring a ruling class to start fresh with every generation is a recipe for stagnation, for having to reinvent the wheelbut they are immune to the petty lure of money. The grosser pleasures in which the newly rich often indulge have usually no attraction for those who have inherited wealth. (How Hayek reconciles this position with the agnosticism about value he expresses in The Road to Serfdom remains unclear.)

The men of capital, in other words, are best understood not as economic magnates but as cultural legislators: However important the independent owner of property may be for the economic order of a free society, his importance is perhaps even greater in the fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs. While this seems to be a universal truth for Hayek, it is especially true in societies where wage labor is the rule. The dominance of paid employment has terrible consequences for the imagination, which are most acutely felt by the producers of that imagination: There is something seriously lacking in a society in which all the intellectual, moral, and artistic leaders belong to the employed classes. Yet we are moving everywhere toward such a position.

When labor becomes the norm, in both senses of the term, culture doesnt stand a chance.

* * *

In a virtuoso analysis of what he calls The Intransigent Right, the British historian Perry Anderson identifies four figures of the twentieth-century conservative canon: Schmitt, Hayek, Michael Oakeshott and Leo Strauss. Strauss and Schmitt come off best (the sharpest, most profound and far-seeing), Oakeshott the worst, and Hayek somewhere in between. This hierarchy of judgment is not completely surprising. Anderson has never taken seriously the political theory produced by a nation of shopkeepers, so the receptivity of the English to Oakeshott and Hayek, who became a British subject in 1938, renders them almost irresistible targets for his critique. Andersons cosmopolitan indifference to the indiscreet charms of the Anglo bourgeoisie usually makes him the most sure-footed of guides, but in Hayeks case it has led him astray. Like many on the left, Anderson is so taken with the bravura and brutality of Strausss and Schmitts self-styled realism that he cant grasp the far greater daring and profundity of Hayeks political theory of shopkeepinghis effort to locate great politics in the economic relations of capitalism.

What distinguishes the theoretical men of the right from their counterparts on the left, Anderson writes, is that their voices were heard in the chancelleries. Yet whose voice has been more listened to, across decades and continents, than Hayeks? Schmitt and Strauss have attracted readers from all points of the political spectrum as writers of dazzling if disturbing genius, but the two projects with which they are most associatedEuropean fascism and American neoconservatismhave never generated the global traction or gathering energy that neoliberalism has now sustained for more than four decades.

It would be a mistake to draw too sharp a line between the marginal children of Nietzschewith political man on one branch of the family tree, economic man on the other. Hayek, at times, could sound the most Schmittian notes. At the height of Augusto Pinochets power in Chile, Hayek told a Chilean interviewer that when any government is in a situation of rupture, and there are no recognized rules, rules have to be created. The sort of situation he had in mind was not anarchy or civil war but Allende-style social democracy, where the government pursues the mirage of social justice through administrative and increasingly discretionary means. Even in The Constitution of Liberty, an extended paean to the notion of a spontaneous order that slowly evolves over time, we get a brief glimpse of the lawgiver whose task it is to create conditions in which an orderly arrangement can establish and ever renew itself. (Of the modern German writings on the rule of law, Hayek also says, Schmitts are still among the most learned and perceptive.) Current events seemed to supply Hayek with an endless parade of candidates. Two years after its publication in 1960, he sent The Constitution of Liberty to Portuguese strongman Antnio Salazar, with a cover note professing his hope that it might assist the dictator in his endeavour to design a constitution which is proof against the abuses of democracy. Pinochets Constitution of 1980 is named after the 1960 text.

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Nietzsches Marginal Children: On Friedrich Hayek | The Nation

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Philosophers answer the big question how should we live? – The Sun Herald

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Two books on philosophy give both a theoretical and practical view of where philosophy has taken us, and the direction in which it is leading us today.

The first is A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living, by French philosopher Luc Ferry, Ph.D.

Philosophy, Ferry argues, should be what Epicurus termed it, medicine for the soul.

Its theoretical tasks, he maintains, are to help us gain a sense of the world we are in and to gain instruments for understanding it.

Its practical tasks are to teach us the ethics of living with others and to bring us salvation, or at least wisdom, in preparation for the demise that awaits us all.

All philosophy lies in two words: sustain and abstain, said the ancient philosopher Epictetus.

Ferry traces the paths down which several key philosophers have led us toward finding wisdom and salvation. He first notes how Stoics such as Zeno, Epictetus, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius suggested that we become at peace with the living cosmos and accept everything that happens with serenity; that we limit our attachments to people and things and live ethically, so that death and separation lose their sting.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Jesuss offer of eternal life upon our agreement to give love a chance wrested philosophical supremacy from the Stoics, who offered only a serene end to our existence. But the age of reason, enlightenment and humanism, ushered in by Descartes and Rousseau, declared that man is distinct from nature in that he can change, and that unlike the animals, his existence precedes his essence. Man was then free to set his own destiny based upon reason, not faith. The individual became an end in himself, in search of his own ethical philosophy unbridled by the philosophies and religions of the past.

This, Ferry observes, led to creating godless doctrines of salvation, i.e, Rousseaus French Revolution, the scientific revolution, Democracy, Marxs Socialism and Lenins Communist revolution.

Socrates was the buffoon who got himself heard, said Friedrich Nietzsche.

Ushering in post-modernity with his phrase God is dead, Nietzsche bemoaned the fact that the humanists had simply replaced God with false idols of their own republicanism, Communism and scientific rationalism, just as the Stoics falsely ascribed order to a chaotic universe. Previous philosophers were all reactive, Nietzsche declared, tearing down other philosophies only to erect more absurd constructs in their place, leaving humanity no signposts for the future. Nietzsche posited the true creative genius with his active vital forces the artist, or the creative leader of nations, living their lives intensely as the only ones with a chance to lead us out of the darkness.

His will to power, Ferry explains, was not a will to conquer, but to enjoy a maximum intensity of life, dispensing with guilt, and every morality based on religions and political philosophies that were no longer relevant. His theory of Eternal Recurrence simply meant the virtue of living ones life as if one had to repeat every moment again and again throughout eternity; the virtue of making each moment count.

Then came Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, Ferry notes, leaving a weary humanity enraptured with sciences brainchild- technology.

Todays philosophy, Ferry urges, must retake its place beside technology, and drag itself out of speculative academia, not to restore old questions, but to rethink them afresh, to give humanity more than mere technology offers. To offer them true wisdom to use their technology, and if at all possible, salvation from both the fear of death and a life bereft of ultimate meaning.

Author and history professor Arthur Herman yields another unique perspective on philosophy with his The Cave and the Light: Plato versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization.

His premise: that the Western world has gravitated back and forth between the teachings of Plato and Aristotle in deciding how life should best be lived. And he supports that theory with a wildly interesting approach.

For Plato, knowledge is the prerequisite of virtue, and grasping a standard of perfection, i.e., God, the Good, etc., through the dialectic approach, is how we transform ourselves into virtuous and happy people. Aristotle, the lisping doctors son and father of the scientific method, saw things differently. He trusted the evidence of the senses, not transcendental theories. He placed his faith not in Platos God, moral absolutism, or other abstractions, but in science, ethics and rational politics.

Ancient world scientists such as Strato, Galen, Ptolemy and Archimedes appeared to be taking the world in an Aristotlean direction, but the great Roman stoics, Cicero, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius headed things back on a Platonic course.

All of this was prelude for what would follow throughout Western history.

Jesus Christs arrival, and the subsequent melding of Greco-Roman philosophy with Christianity by Augustine, led to 500 more years of Platonic supremacy in the Western mind.

This changed, Herman notes, at the end of the Dark Ages when those like Abelard (b. 1079) began rediscovering Aristotle logic from Arabic texts. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) attempted a synthesis of the two, arguing that faith and reason supported each other in their joint search for truth.

But the Western world would have none of that, and when the Renaissance (c. 1300) arrived, it grasped tightly to Aristotles reason and didnt let go until the High Renaissance of Michelangelo (b. 1475) Galileo and Leonardo brought the Platonic mystical vision of beauty equals truth back to the fore.

The Reformation brought an Aristotle resurgence that was supported with a vengeance by the rise of science in the age of Newton, and by the philosophers of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire, Locke and Jefferson. The tables turned once more with Rousseau and the Romantics, Wordworth, Blake, Byron and Shelley, et al., mystical visionaries in search of beauty, truth and a higher existence unknown to science and reason.

But the Romantics vision would ultimately fall to the more practical views of Hegel (German Idealism), Marx (Socialism) and John Stuart Mill (Utilitarianism), who saw in the modern state the ultimate salvation of mankind. This was reminiscent of Platos vision in The Republic, where a philosopher king ruled for the greater benefit of all. Nietzsche, of course, raised a new voice against Plato deploring Platos god worship and Hegels state worship in equal measure.

So where does that leave us, according to Herman? He finds the present day Western mind in thrall to American Exceptionalism, an odd mixture of Platonic religious mysticism (Christianity) and Aristotlean worship of science and technology. Both are necessary for the fulfillment of the Western soul, Herman suggests, so long as the worst of Platos and Aristotles legacies (heartless governments and soulless technology) do not ultimately predominate.

But most interesting in Cave is how Herman draws so many of Europes artists, painters, political and religious leaders and scientists into the struggle between Plato and Aristotle.

Whether discussing their influence on Michelangelos paintings, Wordsworths poetry, or Lenins politics, Herman effectively demonstrates that, as with the Chinese and Confucius, we Westerners are never far from the sway these philosophical giants still hold over us today.

The Cave and the Light: Plato versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization

704 pages; Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition, June 3, 2014, English

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living

304 pages; Harper Perennial; Original edition Dec. 27, 2011, English

Philosophers answer the big question how should we live? - The Sun Herald

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Urban Dictionary: Ubermensch

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The Ubermensch is Friedrich Nietzsche's answer to the problem of Nihilism. Nietzsche begins his premise with the assumption that God does not exist, and if God does not exist, thus objective morality and inherent value are not possible since there is no ultimate being that exists to create morality and value in the first place.Nietzsche's Ubermensch will act as his own God, giving himself morality and value as he sees fit according to him alone. The Ubermensch is neither slave or master as he does not impose his will upon others. The Ubermensch is an independent individual who has the power to banish herd instincts from his mind and become a master of self discipline.

Above all, the Ubermensch is the next step in human evolution. Every human must deal with the question "What is the meaning of life"- some say God and Heaven, others say ultimate objective virtue, but the Ubermensch will give life value that is not based on superstition or mystical folly. The Ubermensch finds value in his life experience because it cannot be reasoned out through argument and logic. The Ubermensch would say that the meaning of life is that you die, so make it valuable.

The Ubermensch is the ultimate realization of the Will to Power, but no necessarily over others. His most valuable power is over himself. "He cannot rule himself will certainty be ruled by others"- Nietzsche

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Urban Dictionary: Ubermensch

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Gina Barreca: How I Handle Nastygrams – Hartford Courant

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How do other people do it? How do other people deal with the etiquette of hate?

Even as a kid, I've always seen the world as one big potential pen pal. I try to answer letters and emails from readers as swiftly as possible. So grateful am I for a response to my column, I reply even to those written with toothpicks and nail polish (I'm hoping it was nail polish; it was deep red).

Most days, I answer the angriest and most scathing notes immediately. I'm driven neither by virtue nor by discipline. I simply want to get the vitriol out of my head because some of the language my correspondents use makes Anthony Scaramucci sound like Captain Kangaroo.

Despite coming from a background strikingly similar to that of our short-lived White House communications director meaning that I am fluent in profanity I nevertheless try to answer messages from Enraged Readers with as much grace and honesty as possible.

I'm no lady, but I try to write like one when the occasion demands.

What tickles me pink is when Enraged Readers suddenly become Reasonable Adults, which is what often happens once folks realize there's an actual human being behind the column. Even the most passionate antagonists immediately withdraw their fangs (you can hear the clicking noise) and make cogent arguments in meaningful, respectful and compelling ways.

Although their opinions on whatever topic is under discussion women's rights, health care benefits, why major universities still need to have brick-and-mortar libraries and not only hot tubs will not have changed, their demeanor will have shifted.

The change in tone makes my day.

Their replies back to me usually begin with "I never expected to hear from you," followed by an apology for rough language. As my student Julia put it (because Julia is getting a good education at a university with a library), "They're a little bit like Nietzsche, thinking that they're simply shouting into the abyss without ever thinking that the abyss might not only shout back, but even more weirdly, reply immediately and cheerfully."

Very few people have ramped up the rage. Quite the opposite: Several exchanges that began on a harsh note have become, if not harmonious, then at least entertaining. Very often they're illuminating. I've come to enjoy these debates.

But what do you do when you get a note from somebody you've never met, or somebody you knew 35 years ago, or a friend of a friend who more or less demands a favor and then despises you if you dare to decline? That's a different kind of hate.

I'm far happier getting into a fierce argument over why the gender gap in wages is not only real but genuinely bad for all Americans than I am explaining why I can't read somebody's 1,079-page manuscript by the end of the month ("Just print it out and make suggestions in the margin before you mail it back!") or get them six tickets to the women's basketball games ("I haven't exactly read your stuff, but you gotta know coach Geno Auriemma, right?").

If I don't answer in the enthusiastic affirmative, I get replies that make me want to purchase Kevlar vests in a variety of charming colors.

Julia says that she stopped accepting every social media invitation to be "friends" in seventh grade and that I also need to be more discerning.

I did learn one lesson: I no longer let the whole world post stuff on my Facebook page. One actual friend explained that "your Facebook page is like your fridge door: You're the only one who gets to decide what stays up there."

Her analogy gave me the permission I needed to remove comments that are off-topic, annoying or belligerent. If, after repeated warnings, somebody doesn't get the hint, I put them on the list of those who are unwelcome in my virtual kitchen.

I did this last week, only to have one guy fume that I was assaulting his right to free speech by refusing to allow him to call me an idiot on my own Facebook page. I suggested that, as a personal favor, he read the Constitution to grasp more fully the First Amendment.

Let's see if he writes back.

Gina Barreca is an English professor at UConn and author of "If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?" and eight other books. She can be reached at

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Gina Barreca: How I Handle Nastygrams - Hartford Courant

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Eternity after Nietzsche – First Things (blog)

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Eternity after Nietzsche | Peter J. Leithart | First Things

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A decade ago, self-proclaimed born-again pagan and New Yorker-proclaimed Sage of Yale Law Anthony Kronman responded to critics in Comment with this:

In short, Nietzsche's doctrine of the eternal return is an attempt to put time and eternity back together again, after their long Abrahamic separation. This is a promising possibility, more attractive to me than either resignation or revival.

This represents a thin, thoroughly Nietzchean distortion of Christianity. Perhaps the Christianity Nietzsche encountered had connected the separate realms of eternity and time with a Savior and a church, but that's hardly characteristic of the Christian tradition as a whole.It certainly doesn't reflect the biblical Abrahamic faith, which is trust in a promise of land and seed, a promise that Abraham will be, inPaul's phrase, heir of the world. Christianity insists that the eternal kingdom is preciselythisworld transfigured into the kingdom of God (to quote Schmemann, the anti-Nietzschean).

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Eternity after Nietzsche - First Things (blog)

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T.J. Miller is the worst kind of grad-school bro. – Slate Magazine – Slate Magazine (blog)

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That Guy.

Getty Images for the Critics' Choice Awards

Erlich, the name of the popular character T.J. Miller played on Silicon Valley until last monthwhen he departed the show in a blaze of whatever the opposite of glory isis a variation on ehrlich, the German word for honest that is also used as a stand-alone expressionEhrlich?meaning, Really?

This is, coincidentally, how much of humanity felt when we beheld this astounding profile of Miller by Vultures David Marchese, a profile worth reading in its entirety but whose deadpan brilliance is well-distilled into the following sentence:

The Mucinex seems to have no role other than satisfying the strange terms of his sponsorship deal; the facial mist he uses to punctuate the staggering stream of (possibly Aurelius-inspired) word salad to which he subjects Marchese and the world at large.

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This particular sort of pontificationname-dropping the Stoic philosophers and persuasion theory, issuing proclamations such as In the American Zeitgeist, you have to recognize that there is no Zeitgeist (yes, that is a direct quote)is a phenomenon you dont have to be a Heideggerian to encounter. Indeed, anyone who has been within 10 miles of a graduate school has met That Guy, a dude exactly like T.J. Miller: the first- or second-year Ph.D. student in comp lit or whatever whos just started reading Deleuze and thinks hes blown the universe wide open.

Of course, it doesnt take a Ph.D. to see that T.J. Miller is definitively The Worst and almost certainly full of horsenuggets, but I just happen to have a largely unused doctorate sitting around and can thus explain exactly, and to what extent, his particular brand of horsenuggets resembles the seminar-room stylings of every graduate programs That Guy since time immemorial.

Take, for example, his claim that Nietzschean moral relativism is frustrating, because its so dangerous. The only thing first-year grad students love more than Two-Buck Chuck is being so over Nietzsche whilst having read a negligible amount of him. Assuming that Miller is referring here to select snippets from Genealogy of Morals, I think hes talking about Nietzsches explanation of Judeo-Christian morality as a societal construct that came out of the slave culture of ancient Greece. While the masters had lives full of pleasure, the slaves had to invent a system of morality that honored sacrifice and suffering, whose rewards came in the afterlife instead of this one. This is all very controversial if you are a seminary teacher in 1887, but when I think of the current dangers to the world, Nietzschean perspectivalism probably falls somewhere beneath I think my roommate gave my parents HBO Go password to her shifty boyfriend.

Anyone who has been within 10 miles of a graduate school has met That Guy.

Then theres the part where Miller explains that his words have no teleological destination. Ah, yes. Teleological is pretty much grad students favorite word. It comes from telos, the Greek for end. In my own first year of grad school, I insisted to a guy I was dating that he neednt worry about me pushing for a serious relationship too quickly, because I viewed romance in, I quote, a phenomenological rather than teleological sense, meaning, in the most insufferable way possible, that I was more concerned with what I was experiencing in the moment than what might happen in the future. 1) I ended up marrying that guy. 2)Teleological destination means end-based end, a piece of actual gibberish that means nothing.

Later, when asked why he doesnt quit Hollywood, Miller rolls his eyes and proclaims: Contradiction is something to pursue rather than avoid. I lied: There is one thing That Guys love more than being over Nietzsche, and thats the gleeful embrace of contradictions. Toward the end of Kafkas The Trial, a priest all but rolls his eyes and informs Josef K., Understanding something correctly and misunderstanding the same thing are not mutually exclusive. I spent a good 40 pages of my dissertation yammering about that line, and Im not proud of it. Josef K. dies.

Speaking of bad Kafka parody, Miller probably hits Peak Grad Student when he tells Marchese, If nothing means anything, then anything can mean everything. This is, alas, Nietzsche again, straight out of On Truth and Lying in the Extra-Moral Sense, founding document (more or less) of language skepticism and what some people (me) might identify as the first tremulous step onto the slippery slope of poststructuralism. Language, Nietzsche insists, only works insofar as its users insist on believing it does. I suppose the designation full of shit is, itself, just a moving army of metaphor, a coin whose face has worn off but stays in circulation, but to be sure Id need to consult the dude in my narrative theory seminar whose thing is that he doesnt wear shoes.

It doesnt take a Ph.D. to see that T.J. Miller is definitively The Worst and almost certainly full of horsenuggets.

I realize my particular antipathy toward Millers posturing comes from the discomfiting specularity of self-recognitionor, in human language, because I, too, was once an early-career graduate student and probably this insufferably confident in my own intelligence. Luckily, I grew out of it, as do most other grad studentsbeaten down as we are by the realities of an employment future of $28,000 program-director jobs, not to mention the funny thing that happens where the more you actually learn about something, the less confident you get about how much you know (#Socrates).*

The trouble with T.J. Miller, of course, is that instead of languishing in obscurity in some doctoral program, spending his teeny stipend on flip-flops and Trader Joes frozen quiche, hes a rich-ass Hollywood actor with a massive platform, surrounded by sycophants (and one long-suffering publicist).

Miller will never see his precious unifying epistemology obliterated thanks to the equalizing misery of comprehensive exams. He will never come to the lonely, sobering realization that successfully finishing a dissertation is about 97 percent tolerance for drudgery and only 3 percent successful quotation of Rabelais and correct deployment of facial misting spray. Ehrlich, T.J. Miller is probably stuck this way, a teleological destination of his own making.

*Correction, July 26: This post originally misspelled the name of Socrates.

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T.J. Miller is the worst kind of grad-school bro. - Slate Magazine - Slate Magazine (blog)

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August 1st, 2017 at 9:44 pm

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‘Troilus and Cressida’ at Pa. Shakespeare Festival: Energetic attempt to breathe life into a flawed play –

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The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival ends its 26th season with an energetic revival ofTroilus and Cressida.In itstraditional end-of-summer romp, the festival strives to recreate the spontaneity of Elizabethan theater by staging a play after only four days of rehearsal, scrounging set, props, and costumes from other shows.

Shakespeares play is an unwieldy blend of HomersIliadand ChaucersTroilus and Cressida, a platform for lampooningthe values of love and heroism. Its a flawed work, and directors Patrick Mulcahy and Dennis Razze give the actors lots of freedom in trying to rescue this problem play from its cardboard characters and nihilism.

Especially in the first act, the actors move the show in a cabaret direction. You laugh at the antics of Ajax (Andrew Goebel), a blockheaded man of valor. Pandarus (Carl N. Wallnau) is in the spotlight, comical as the go-between whose very name suggests pimp. Later, Troilus (Brandon J. Pierce) and Cressida (Mairin Lee) are exposed as false lovers, and revered Ulysses (Greg Wood) is reduced to the role of vicious, scheming courtier.

Almost every character is an object of ridicule. Only Hector (Luigi Sottile) invites sympathy, but hes mainly a foil for revealing the treachery of heroicAchilles (Justin Adams). Thersites (Susan Riley Stevens) may be the voice of Shakespeare, a limping slave who keeps popping up to cuss everyone out, like a Greek chorus gone crazy.

In Elizabethan England,Troilus and Cressidamay have been performed only for the Queen, perhaps full of inside jokes only those in the monarchy understood. With the pessimism that followed World War I, there was renewed interest in the play, but it never became mainstream. Its too troubled, with scenes that dont climax, and two story lines that never meld.

At his best, no writer can match Shakespeares marriage of psychological insight and poetry. Over and over, his characters deliver lines at climactic moments that buckle your knees. But there are no such moments here.Troilus and Cressidamay hold up as poetry to read, but as live theater, the orations of its burlesque, one-dimensional characters are unaffecting.

Its interesting to compareTroilus and Cressidawith the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, 300 years later. He, too, liked to examine the soft underbelly of stated beliefs and values. But Nietzsches revaluation ofallvalues includes biting criticism of the kind of cynicism that underlies Shakespeares play, and Nietzsche resonates with the larger goal of overcoming nihilism.

The same instinct motivates this revival. Isnt overcoming nihilism the goal of cabaret? Actors improve the plays climax, rushing on and off stage to create a brilliant, choreographed image that unifies confusion of values with the chaos of war. But, short of rewriting the script, the show cannot escape the burdens this play imposes suffering without meaning, ridicule for the sake of ridicule, and undramatic poetry.

Troilus and Cressida. Through Aug. 6 at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Labuda Center, DeSales University, 2755 Station Ave., Center Valley. Tickets: $25-$75. Information:610-282-9455,

Published: July 31, 2017 3:01 AM EDT | Updated: July 31, 2017 3:36 PM EDT

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'Troilus and Cressida' at Pa. Shakespeare Festival: Energetic attempt to breathe life into a flawed play -

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August 1st, 2017 at 9:44 pm

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Pakistan needs its Rousseaus and Voltaires – DunyaNews Pakistan (blog)

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Pakistani society lacks philosophical synthesis. Today the nations that we see as global leaders, all of them have a long history of philosophical evolution and background. It was Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau who contributed to the French Enlightenment and were instrumental figures in the French revolution. The works of Voltaire and Rousseau influenced the modern Western educational and political thought to this day. Today France is among the most powerful states on the planet. Bertrand Russell, an English philosopher, opposed the wars, primarily the Second World War (WW2). He highlighted the problems of the world and set the direction for Britains political and social governance. Bertrand Russell in his book Fact and Fiction writes that the world is facing three dangers rapid population growth, the threat of a nuclear war and climate change. It is surprising to see what Bertrand Russell predicted and analysed decades ago is still relevant today. Russell denounced fears based on superstitions and said that overcoming fear is the beginning of wisdom. He was of the view that world can only attain peace if it is led by a single government.

Similarly, John Locke, another great English philosopher and the father of modern democracy, gave the concept of modern government structure based on checks and balances. He was a staunch promoter of political freedom. Today Britain is well known for its democratic values and freedom of speech. Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher and a staunch critic of the Catholic Church, is famous for his remarkable works in the form of Beyond good and evil and Thus spokes Zarathustra. For Nietzsche, good and evil are just words and it has been used by powerful to justify their atrocities against their adversary by terming them as evil. Nietzsche along with Machiavelli is considered as the father of modern Realism, a prominent thought in international relations according to which every nation state tries to maximise her power. Today, realism along with liberalism is the base of the discipline of international relations. Many people do not recommend reading Nietzsche because he went insane and attribute him with the thought of depressive nihilism. But it was the superhuman of Nietzsche which he called Ubermensch that is full of love for life. Simone de Beauvoir, a leading proponent of Feminism, in her book The Second Sex wrote about the oppression faced by women in the society. Furthermore, her works also contributed to the rise of the second wave of feminism in which the women from around the world demanded equal property and voting rights. Though, Simone de Beauvoir never called herself a philosopher, her works are of vital importance in existentialist and feminist philosophy.

Pakistan today is facing the same problems once faced by Western nations. Democracy in Pakistan is facing many dangers and its youth is struggling in understanding the benefits of democracy because political leaders lack philosophical and political thought. The origin of our problem lies in the educational institutes. The curriculum of schools does not allow students to think beyond the artificial barriers made by society resulting in the decline of Philosophical thought. Furthermore, the other major hurdle to rational Philosophy is the believing in superstitions and dogmas. Moreover, violence against women is rampant in our society since decades and many feminists are active in promoting women rights through their respective platforms. But there is difference between feminists and feminist philosophy. It is due to the lack of feminist philosophy that Pakistani women lack clarity of thought. On other hand, it is the lack of realist philosophy that is creating hurdles in pursuing our national interests.

Similarly, just like European Renaissance which takes all its roots and inputs from Muslim demise, the importance of Western philosophy needs to be highlighted as West is home to those enlightenment philosophers who laid the foundation of the modern European political thought and were also responsible for European Renaissance and all reformist and revolutionary movements. Pakistan and specially its young generation badly need a philosophical synthesis for its unity to develop a worldview for its progress and national direction. Philosopher kings and leaders are missing from national discourse and narrative.

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Pakistan needs its Rousseaus and Voltaires - DunyaNews Pakistan (blog)

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August 1st, 2017 at 9:44 pm

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Nietzsche’s Philosophy – Carroll College

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*see note under Schopenhauer's philosophy 1. THE AFFIRMATION OF LIFE

The two key insights (in my opinion) to all Nietzsche

(A) Life is terrible and tragic [just like Schopenhauer said]

(B) The superior person realizes this and has the strength to say "yes" to life [unlike Schopenhauer, who advocated the resistance and the denial of life ("eluding" Being by retreating into our non-being). Schopenhauer was decadent and weak-willed!].

In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche maintains that the Greeks knew well that life is terrible, inexplicable and dangerous yet didnt surrender to pessimism by turning their backs on it. Instead, they "transmuted" the world and human life through art. Their culture [Culture itself!] is a unity of two "attitudes"the forces of life (Dionysian) and the love of form and beauty (Apollonian).

Dionysian (stronger one): "stream of life itself", breaks all barriers and ignores all restraints. Affirms and embraces existence in all its darkness and horror, producing tragedy and music.

Apollonian: light, measure, restraint, the principle of individuation. Creates an ideal world of form and beauty, producing the Olympian mythology, epic and plastic arts.

Nietzsche believed that the German culture characterized by domination of knowledge and science had exposed itself to the revenge of the Dionysian or vital forces.


In his decadence, Schopenhauer saw the world as meaningless and purposeless Will to Existence or Will to live. He had failed to see the sense of joy and vitality that is achieve when the superior person faces the meaningless world and clear-sightedly imposes his own values on it. The superior person neither shrinks from the struggle of life, nor struggles blindly, but wills to live deliberately and consciously. Nietzsche calls this sense of joy and vitality accompanying the imposition of values on a meaningless world tragic optimism. It is belies the "reality" that the world is not Will to Existence, but Will to Power.

"This world is the Will to Powerand nothing else! And you yourselves too are this Will to Powerand nothing else!"

The world is not illusion (see below, #6), so the Will to Power is not some underlying, transcendent metaphysical unity [like Schopenhauers Infinite Will] but the actual process of becoming in the world. Will to Power is the intelligible character of this processhowever it is not the "truth" about the world. Will to Power must be understood not as new metaphysical doctrine about reality but a way of looking at the world, perhaps a "hypothesis."

In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche notes that logical method compels the look for a principle of explanation: "A living thing desires above all to vent its strengthlife as such is will to power: self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of it" (13).

"Granted finally that one succeeded in explaining our entire instinctual life as the development and ramification of one basic form of willas the will to power, as my theory; granted that one could trace all organic functions back to this will to power and could also find in it the solution to the problem of procreation and nourishmentthey are one problemone would have acquired the right to define all efficient force unequivocally as: will to power. The world seen from within, the world described and defined according to its `intelligible characterit would be `will to power and nothing else." (36)


There are two "moralities" Master-morality or aristocratic morality: good/bad = noble/despicable. Applied to men, not actions. Values are created out of the "abundance" of the noble human beings life and strength and imposed upon the world by will to power.

Slave-morality or herd-morality: Good/evil = what is useful to the society of the weak/what threatens or harms the herd. Born of resentment "becoming creative."

From the point of view of the higher human being, co-existence is possible, if the herd was content to keep its values to itself. But it isntit tries to impose its values universally, and succeeded in Christianity.

For Neitzsche, the universal, absolute moral system should be rejected and replaced with graduation of rank among different types of morality. In Beyond Good and Evil he advocates rising above the herd-morality which favors mediocrity and prevents higher development. Nietzsche does not advocate immorality [even though he referred to himself as an "immoralist"people who reject morality will destroy themselves. The higher individual respects values and needs self-restraint. This individual goes beyond good and evil as these terms are understood in the morality of resentment. The higher individual integrates human nature in all its aspects as an expression of strength.


The concept of God is hostile to life (remember we are supposed to affirm life, see #1)

For Nietzsche, some great men have been believers. But now, when the existence of God is no longer taken for granted by most people, freedom, strength and independence demand aethism. Nietzsches own rejection of God proved his inner strength to himself. He was able to live without God.

Implications of the Death of God according to Nietzsche:


Ubermensch or superman [Zarathustra] is not superior in breeding or endowment, but in power and strength. The superman confronts all the possible terrors and wretchedness of life and still joyously affirms it. In Thus Spake Zarathustra Nietzsche proclaims, "Not `humanity but Superman is the goal." "Man is something that must be surpassed; man is a bridge and not a goal."

Superman is not inevitable, the result of some determined process. It is more a myth, a goal for the will: "Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: Superman is to be the meaning of the earth." Superman cannot come unless superior individuals have the courage to transvalue all values.

Nietzsche never gives a clear description of Supermanhow could he, he does not exist! He describes him as "the Roman Caesar with Christs soul," as Goethe and Napoleon in one, the Epicurean god appearing on earth. Superman or Zarathustra would be the highest possible development and integration of intellectual power, strength of character and will, independence, passion, taste, and physique. He would be highly-cultured, skilful in all bodily accomplishments, tolerant out of strength, regarding nothing as forbidden unless it is weakness ("virtue" or "vice"). He is the man who has become fully free and independent and affirms life and the universe. [Perhaps he would be everything that the ever sick and torment Nietszche wanted to be? And could a woman be a superman?]


There is no deep reality, no underlying objective and unchanging reality. According to Nietzsche, this is a lie because life is meaningless, and what you see is what you get. We must rely on sense and common sense as most useful means to understand the world. This doesn't give a "correct" view, however, because there is no such thingeven the view that life is really meaningless isnt true, if this is understood as a metaphysical account of reality! So common sense merely supplies the perspective by which we live. "The apparant world is the only one: the "real world" is merely a lie." Twilight Ch 3 Ap2

A problem. In the words of Arthur C. Danto: "How are we to understand a theory when the structure of our understanding itself is called in question by that theory? And when we have succeeded in understanding it, in our terms, it would automatically follow that we had misunderstood it, for our own terms are the wrong ones" ("Nietzsche" in A Critical History of Western Philosophy, Edited by D.J. OConnor).

A kind of resolution: "Even if on his own view of truth, his theories necessarily assume the character of myth, these myths were intimately associated with value-judgments which Nietzsche asserted with passion. And it is perhaps these value-judgments more than anything else which have been the source of his great influence." Frederick Coppleston, History of Philosophy: Fichte to Nietzsche

It fits with Nietzsches emphasis on strength that philosophy itself is another test for the superior man; like belief in God, he must test himself to see if he is strong enough to live without it.


In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche asserts that the point of Thus Spake Zarathustra was not Superman, but the doctrine of "eternal recurrence." Eternal recurrence is the highest form of "yea-saying" that can be attained. (See #1). The idea is that life, even in its smallest details, will recur innumerable times. This dismaying and oppressive notion is a (guess!) a further test of strength for the Ubermensch. The world-approving man is the one who wishes to have life in all its misery and terribleness play over again and again, and who will cry "Encore" each time. This would be the ultimate liberation. "Oh, how should I not be ardent for eternity and for the marriage-ring of ringsthe ring of the return?"

But this is more than a test of strength for Nietzsche. In the worlds of Frederick Coppleston, the doctrine of eternal recurrence "fills a gap in his philosophy. It confers on the flux of Becoming the semblance of Being, and it does so without introducing any Being which transcends the universe." According to Nietzsche, if you say that the universe never repeats itself but constantly creates new forms, this displays a yearning after the idea of God. The world must be enclosed upon itself if transcendence is to be banished.

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Nietzsche's Philosophy - Carroll College

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July 18th, 2016 at 6:48 pm

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God is dead – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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"God is dead" (German: "Gott ist tot"(helpinfo); also known as the death of God) is a widely quoted statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It first appears in Nietzsche's 1882 collection The Gay Science (also translated as "The science of joy" German: Die frhliche Wissenschaft)[1] However, It is most famously associated with Nietzsche's classic work Thus Spoke Zarathustra (German: Also sprach Zarathustra), which is most responsible for popularizing the phrase. The idea is stated in "The Madman"[1] as follows:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

But the best known passage is at the end of part 2 of Zarathustra's Prolog, where after beginning his allegorical journey Zarathustra encounters an aged ascetic who expresses misanthropy and love of God:

When Zarathustra heard these words, he saluted the saint and said 'What should I have to give you! But let me go quickly that I take nothing from you! And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing as two boys laugh.

But when Zarathustra was alone, he spoke thus to his heart: 'Could it be possible! This old saint has not heard in his forest that God is dead!'

Although the statement and its meaning is attributed to Nietzsche it is important to note that this was not a unique position as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel pondered the death of God, first in his Phenomenology of Spirit where he considers the death of God to 'not [be] seen as anything but an easily recognized part of the usual Christian cycle of redemption'.[4] Later on Hegel writes about the great pain of knowing that God is dead 'The pure concept, however, or infinity, as the abyss of nothingness in which all being sinks, must characterize the infinite pain, which previously was only in culture historically and as the feeling on which rests modern religion, the feeling that God Himself is dead, (the feeling which was uttered by Pascal, though only empirically, in his saying: Nature is such that it marks everywhere, both in and outside of man, a lost God), purely as a phase, but also as no more than just a phase, of the highest idea.'[5] Of course the spirit in which it is intended is a verily Nietzsche manifestation, however it is important to consider the material that gave rise to this idea.

The phrase "God is dead" does not mean that Nietzsche believed in an actual God who first existed and then died in a literal sense. Rather, it conveys his view that the Christian God is no longer a credible source of absolute moral principles. Nietzsche recognizes the crisis that the death of God represents for existing moral assumptions: "When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident... By breaking one main concept out of Christianity, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one's hands."[6] This is why in "The Madman", a passage which primarily addresses nontheists (especially atheists), the problem is to retain any system of values in the absence of a divine order.

The death of God is a way of saying that humans are no longer able to believe in any such cosmic order since they themselves no longer recognize it. The death of God will lead, Nietzsche says, not only to the rejection of a belief of cosmic or physical order but also to a rejection of absolute values themselves to the rejection of belief in an objective and universal moral law, binding upon all individuals. In this manner, the loss of an absolute basis for morality leads to nihilism. This nihilism is that for which Nietzsche worked to find a solution by re-evaluating the foundations of human values. This meant, to Nietzsche, looking for foundations that went deeper than Christian values. He would find a basis in the "will to power" that he described as "the essence of reality."

Nietzsche believed that the majority of people did not recognize this death out of the deepest-seated fear or angst. Therefore, when the death did begin to become widely acknowledged, people would despair and nihilism would become rampant. This is partly why Nietzsche saw Christianity as nihilistic.

When first being introduced to Nietzsche, a person can infer the death of God as literal. To Nietzsche, the concept of God only exists in the minds of his followers; therefore, the believers would ultimately be accountable for his life and death. Holub goes on to state that God has been the victim of murder, and we, as human beings, are the murderers.[7]

Another purpose of Nietzsches death of God is to unmask the hypocrisies and illusion of outworn value systems.[8] People do not fully comprehend that they killed God through their hypocrisy and lack of morality. Due to hypocrisy God has lost whatever function he once had because of the actions taken by those who believe in him.[9] A god is merely a mirrored reflection of its people and the Christian God is so ridiculous a God that even were he to have existed, he would have no right to exist.[10] Religious people start going against their beliefs and start coinciding with the beliefs of mainstream society. [Moral thinking] is debased and poisoned by the influence of societys weakest and most ignoble elements, the herd.[11]

Humanity depreciates traditional ethics and beliefs and this leads to another misunderstanding of the death of God. During the era of Nietzsche, traditional beliefs within Christianity became almost nonexistent due to the vast expansion of education and the rise of modern science. Belief in God is no longer possible due to such nineteenth-century factors as the dominance of the historical-critical method of reading Scripture, the rise of incredulity toward anything miraculous ... and the idea that God is the creation of wish projection (Benson 31). Nietzsche believed that man was useless without a God and no longer possesses ideals and absolute goals toward which to strive. He has lost all direction and purpose.[12] Nietzsche believes that in order to overcome our current state of depreciated values that a strong classic pessimism like that of the Greeks is needed to overcome the dilemmas and anxieties of modern man.[13]

Either we died because of our religion or our religion dies because of us.[14] This quote summarizes what Nietzsche was trying to say in his concept of the death of God- that the God of Christianity has died off because of its people and their beliefs. Far too often do people translate the death of God into a literal sense, and depreciate the value of traditional Christian beliefs - all leading to the misunderstandings of Nietzsches philosophy of Gods death. Now in a world where God is dead we can only hope that technology and science does not take control and be treated as the new religion, serving as a basis for retaining the same damaging psychological habit that the Christian religion developed.[15]

Martin Heidegger understood this part of Nietzsche's philosophy by looking at it as death of metaphysics. In his view, Nietzsche's words can only be understood as referring not to a particular theological or anthropological view but rather to the end of philosophy itself. Philosophy has, in Heidegger's words, reached its maximum potential as metaphysics and Nietzsche's words warn of its demise and that of any metaphysical world view. If metaphysics is dead, Heidegger warns, that is because from its inception that was its fate.[16]

Paul Tillich as well as Richard Schacht were influenced by the writings of Nietzsche and especially of his phrase "God is dead."[17]

William Hamilton wrote the following about Nietzsche's view:

For the most part Altizer prefers mystical to ethical language in solving the problem of the death of God, or, as he puts it, in mapping out the way from the profane to the sacred. This combination of Kierkegaard and Eliade makes rather rough reading, but his position at the end is a relatively simple one. Here is an important summary statement of his views: If theology must now accept a dialectical vocation, it must learn the full meaning of Yes-saying and No-saying; it must sense the possibility of a Yes which can become a No, and of a No which can become a Yes; in short, it must look forward to a dialectical coincidentia oppositorum. Let theology rejoice that faith is once again a "scandal," and not simply a moral scandal, an offense to mans pride and righteousness, but, far more deeply, an ontological scandal; for eschatological faith is directed against the deepest reality of what we know as history and the cosmos. Through Nietzsches vision of Eternal Recurrence we can sense the ecstatic liberation that can be occasioned by the collapse of the transcendence of Being, by the death of God . . . and, from Nietzsches portrait of Jesus, theology must learn of the power of an eschatological faith that can liberate the believer from what to the contemporary sensibility is the inescapable reality of history. But liberation must finally be effected by affirmation. . . . .( See "Theology and the Death of God," in this volume, pp. 95-111.[18]

Nietzsche believed there could be positive possibilities for humans without God. Relinquishing the belief in God opens the way for human creative abilities to fully develop. The Christian God, he wrote, would no longer stand in the way, so human beings might stop turning their eyes toward a supernatural realm and begin to acknowledge the value of this world.

Nietzsche uses the metaphor of an open sea, which can be both exhilarating and terrifying. The people who eventually learn to create their lives anew will represent a new stage in human existence, the bermensch i.e. the personal archetype who, through the conquest of their own nihilism, themselves become a sort of mythical hero. The 'death of God' is the motivation for Nietzsche's last (uncompleted) philosophical project, the 'revaluation of all values'.

Although Nietzsche puts the statement "God is Dead" into the mouth of a "madman"[19] in The Gay Science, he also uses the phrase in his own voice in sections 108 and 343 of the same book. In the madman's passage, the man is described as running through a marketplace shouting, "I seek God! I seek God!" He arouses some amusement; no one takes him seriously. Maybe he took an ocean voyage? Lost his way like a little child? Maybe he's afraid of us (non-believers) and is hiding?-- much laughter. Frustrated, the madman smashes his lantern on the ground, crying out that "God is dead, and we have killed him, you and I!" "But I have come too soon," he immediately realizes, as his detractors of a minute before stare in astonishment: people cannot yet see that they have killed God. He goes on to say:

This prodigious event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars and yet they have done it themselves.

trans. Walter Kaufmann, The Gay Science, sect. 125

Earlier in the book (section 108), Nietzsche wrote "God is Dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we we still have to vanquish his shadow, too." The protagonist in Thus Spoke Zarathustra also speaks the words, commenting to himself after visiting a hermit who, every day, sings songs and lives to glorify his god as noted above.

What is more, Zarathustra later refers not only to the death of God, but states: 'Dead are all the Gods'. It is not just one morality that has died, but all of them, to be replaced by the life of the bermensch, the new man:


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God is dead - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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April 14th, 2016 at 12:44 pm

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