Nietzsche’s Philosophy – Carroll College

Posted: July 18, 2016 at 6:48 pm

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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.

Read more:
Nietzsche's Philosophy - Carroll College

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July 18th, 2016 at 6:48 pm

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