Sunday, February 17, 2008

Making Sense of Nietzsche

It's no small task to make sense of Nietzsche, but this discussion among six contemporary philosophers is a worthwhile attempt. Addressing some of the simplification of Nietzsche on politics, Jan Sokol:

It seems to me that Nietzsche does not criticize egalitarianism, but rather a sort of shapelessness, comfortableness and inability to stand on one's own feet and think with one's own head. At first sight Nietzsche sounds authoritarian, yet in Zarathustra he says: "Poets lie too much – and Zarathustra is also a poet." He provides no explanations, makes no doubt about his own position and rams his arguments left and right. But in fact, he desperately waits for somebody somewhere to stand up and begin to defend all those glorious values – yet there is silence.
Toward explaining Nietzsche's famous "God is dead", Leslie Paul Thiele:
To explain away suffering as punishment for sins committed, or as a promissory note to be redeemed for happiness in an afterlife is, effectively, to deprecate life. Life is growth, and growth is self-overcoming. Shedding old skin is not painless.

Nietzsche did not claim responsibility for the death of God, but he showed us how to celebrate the wake. The Nietzschean project was to establish a passion for growth and greatness in a world without gods. That project requires us to engage in the art of judgment. It requires judgment in the absence of final adjudicators sporting white beards. It requires judgment without the benefit of a god's eye view from which our verdicts might be rendered with certainty.

The question Nietzsche posed (but often failed to exemplify himself) is how do we cultivate the art of judgment while simultaneously counteracting the resentment, projections, fears, and ego-investments that make us (morally) judgmental? Yes, this challenging project of cultivating judgment is particularly necessary today, in an age of rising fundamentalism and intolerance.

How do we learn to judge well without undermining our gratitude for worldly life? No small feat. One worthy of the gods.
These are just two observations that stood out for me, but the article has lots more. It's not exactly surprising to see six philosophers arrive at seven opinions, but here I think it suggests something about the richness of the underlying subject matter. He was a thinker who truly "contained multitudes."



Domestically Challenged said...

I did my senior thesis on Nietzsche and the Leather Scene (BDSM).... it started out as alternative lifestyles in general but the leather scene proved to be too great a topic to leave room for anything else.

Dale said...

Well, Nietzsche did talk a lot about asceticism, so this sounds like a useful approach.