VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT: “WHAT DOES NOT KILL ME MAKES ME STRONGER”: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

“WHAT DOES NOT KILL ME MAKES ME STRONGER” (Nietzsche): WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

by Joseph Suglia

 

Wherein I lecture on Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols: Or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer [Götzen-Dämmerung: Oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert] and muse over the aphorism “Lesson from the School of War: What does not kill me makes me stronger,” which appears in this book.

 

It is impossible to believe in an ideal and still sufficiently love yourself.

Hello, everyone.  My name is Joseph Suglia, and I will be holding a lecture on Götzen-Dämmerung: oder Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert, Twilight of the Idols: Or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer, by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Let me begin by expatiating on the title.

Twilight of the Idols, Götzen-Dämmerung, recalls the fourth part of Richard Wagner’s Ring opera, which is entitled Twilight of the Gods, GötterdämmerungTwilight of the Gods concerns Ragnarök, which is the spectacular destruction of the world and the gods by submersion in water.  However, Twilight of the Idols means something quite different.  Nietzsche is suggesting by his title that there are no gods, but there are certainly idols.

All idols are anti-life, and all idols should be demolished.  An idol is the deification of nothingness, and Nietzsche proposes that we would be better off without any idols, we would do well to dispense with all idols, idolatry, and idolization.

If you idolize an imaginary entity, you diminish yourself.  Even to hold up rationality as an ideal and to call the human animal “the rational animal” is to disgrace the body and to disgrace the totality of the human beast.  The vital impulses, such as selfishness, are diabolized, and the anti-life impulses, such as asceticism, such as chastity, such as meekness, are angelized by classical morality and classical religion.  What Nietzsche does, first, is to depose the angelized impulses, such as self-denial.  Then, he valorizes the demonized impulses, such as selfishness.  Finally, he displaces the difference between “virtue” and “vice” altogether.  There are no virtues, and there are no vices.  There are, however, values, and each human being should invent one’s own values.  A common value is no value at all, since value is based of rarity, not on commonness.  That, in a nutshell, is Nietzsche’s argument.

The secondary title, How to Philosophize with a Hammer, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert: What does this mean?  It has at least two connotations.  The first is that Nietzsche intends in this book, as well as in most of his others, to shatter ideals, to blow them up, to explode them into flinders.  All of Nietzsche’s late polemical writings have as their object the defamation of ideals.

What is an ideal?  An ideal is any principle, any idea, any concept that is placed above humanity.  Such as the soul, such as the gods, such as the Beyond.  If you believe in ideals, this means that you believe in the ideal world, the epekeina.  And if you believe in the ideal world, this implies that you are defaming the this-world, the actual world, the only world there is.

If you believe in the purity of ideality, then you are devaluing yourself.

It is impossible to believe in an ideal and still love yourself.  And what Nietzsche wants to do is raise humanity, elevate humanity to the status of gods.  Be your own idol, be your own hero, be your own god.  Every human being has the desire to become a god, and all idols deserve to be slaughtered.

So, Nietzsche’s philosophizing is the hammering of ideals, the destruction of all ideals, for every ideal posits a transcendence, a beyond, a world that is higher than the world in which we are living.

Every ideal humiliates humankind, lessens humankind, which means that ideals narrow human possibilities.

So, that is the first connotation of “philosophizing with a hammer.”  The second connotation that is likely intended is that of the reflex hammer.  This book was published in 1888, and guess what else was released in 1888!  The tomahawk reflex hammer—also known as the Taylor reflex hammer—was developed by John Madison Taylor in 1888, in the United States of America.  Now, perhaps Nietzsche was unaware of this development, but he did read newspapers, albeit with a thick admixture of contempt and disgust, and this was the first reflex hammer ever invented.  The second connotation, then, is that Nietzschean philosophy tests the soundness and healthiness of ideals—and always reveals such ideals to be hallow.

Nietzsche never actually writes, “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”  Or: “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”  This statement is one of the most famous statements that have ever been attributed to Nietzsche, and one can find it in the music of Kayne West and all over MySpace.com.  The original statement is Aphorism Number Eight, and it occurs in the first section of the book entitled “Epigrams and Arrows,” Sprüche und Pfeile.  However, again, Nietzsche does NOT actually write, “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”  This is one of the most miscited passages in the history of philosophy.

What Nietzsche actually writes is this: “From Life’s School of War: What does not kill me makes me stronger,” Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens.—Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.

What does Nietzsche mean by this, precisely?

When Nietzsche writes, “What does not kill me,” he is referring to the crisis of deep suffering.  The loss of a parent, the loss of a child, the loss of one’s property, the loss of a spouse, a gnawing, debilitating illness, abuse, violence: All of these things are examples of profound crisis and the crises of deep suffering.

What does Nietzsche mean by the first “Me”?: “What does not kill me.”  Who am “I”?  I am anyone, anyone who is not yet distinguished, anyone who is not yet distinctive, anyone who is not yet differentiated, anyone who is still immature and not yet vornehm.  At this stage, I am mobbish; I am a member of the mob, of the crowd, of the canaille.

What does Nietzsche mean by “makes me stronger”?  He means this:

What does not kill me makes me distinguished, distinctive, elegant, dignified, vornehm.  Deep crisis confers upon me the right to separateness—the ability to experience long solitude.  Deep suffering makes me capable of living separately from other human beings; it also makes me more profound.  The crisis of deep suffering transforms me into a free spirit.

What does not kill me kills me.

Deep suffering makes one deeper.  Deep suffering makes us profound—but who are we?  We are the free spirits.  And what transforms us into free spirits?  The crisis of profound suffering.

To put it another way: Deep trauma gives birth to the sovereign individual.  It is not just that trauma allows us to grow; it is that trauma is necessary for growth into the sovereign individual.

What does not kill me, the crisis of deep suffering, transforms me into the free spirit.

Now who is the free spirit?  The free spirit is, negatively, one who does not think according to a program, an ideology, a dogma, a policy, or a party.  The free spirit is capable of thinking for oneself and is capable of thinking two or more thoughts at once, both Pro and Contra, both “Yes” and “No” simultaneously.

Another word for a free spirit is “libertist” or “antinomian.”  A free spirit is opposed to all idols, to all traditions, and destroys ideals in order to clear a space for one’s own freedom.

The free spirit, the libertist, the antinomian, makes trauma the organ, the function, of one’s own power.

So, the free spirit converts trauma into strength.  The free spirit transforms trauma into an appendage of the will-to-power.

Now, we should discuss the will-to-power.

The will-to-power means that the whole of life is a perpetually self-permuting sequence of power struggles and that every living entity seeks to exert power over all other living entities.  Life is violence, but not violence in the literal sense.  Life is violence in the sense that every living organism seeks to overthrow obstacles that impede its growth and wants to escalate its degree of power.  This is a peculiarly Nietzchean idea: Life is violence.  The Latin word for “life” is vit, and vit is also the basis for the word violence.  The word for “life” in Latin, vit, is the same word that is contained in the word violence.

Ressentiment is inimical to life, it is an anti-life position.  You might not know what I am talking about.  If this sounds strange, please watch and listen to my videos on On the Genealogy of Morals, especially the second and the third video in the series, in which I discuss ressentiment.

Ressentiment is what Nietzsche calls “misarchism” because it denies that all organisms seek mastery, domination, lordliness over all other organisms.  Misarchism holds that all government, all administration, is evil, but it is a necessary evil, whereas anarchism holds that all government should be annihilated.

Life, by its very essence, is dissymmetrical and hierarchical, according to Nietzsche.

Let us not be ungrateful toward those who have power, he is suggesting, for they impel us to take power away from them.

So, Nietzsche is affirming life as the power-will from an extramoral perspective, beyond good and evil, without the interference of moral judgement or moral evaluation.

Some assume that Nietzsche must be a fascist because he developed the theory of the will-to-power.  Those who believe this have no understanding of fascism and no understanding of Nietzsche.  Nietzsche was a lifelong anti-nationalist and vituperates endlessly against anti-Judaism or what he calls “anti-Semitism.”  Nietzsche was a friend of the Jews.  He loved the Jewish people and even loved the Hebraic Bible, the central text of Judaism.  Let no one therefore mistype Nietzsche as a “fascist” or a “proto-fascist.”  Nietzsche was an enemy of, if not fascism, then at least many of the lineaments of what would come to be known as “fascism.”

Neither was he a misarchist or an anarchist, for hierarchies must exist, he thought.

He had a certain sympathy for the idea of an aristocracy, it is true.  But he was no proto-fascist, not at all.

So, what affects me calamitously, what affects me catastrophically paradoxically intensifies my personal power.  That is what Nietzsche means when he writes, in this book, “From life’s school of war: What does not kill me makes me stronger.”

*

The first idol that Nietzsche smashes is “the problem of Socrates.”  What is the problem of Socrates?  The problem of Socrates is the following problematical equation: Reason = Virtue = Happiness.  Vernunft ist gleich Tugend ist gleich Glück.

We learn from Socrates—particularly, in the Charmides—that the wise person is the one who restrains one’s desires.  This restriction of the impulses, of the desires, of the inclinations, of the appetites, of the proclivities, of the predilections is called “sophrosyne,” and it is linked to human flourishing or eudaemonia.

Nietzsche never actually uses the term sophrosyne in this text, but he is clearly thinking of it.

The Socratic problem, then, is that the restriction of the desires leads to virtuousness or the virtuous character and the virtuous character leads to human flourishing or eudaemonia.

Now, there are massive problems with this Socratic equation.  The first—and the one on which Nietzsche fixes his attention—that restraining one’s impulses will lead to happiness.  No, it will not.

Nietzsche writes: “When people need reason to act as a tyrant, which was the case with Socrates, the danger cannot be small that something else might start acting as a tyrant.”

What might that “something else” be?  Nietzsche does not give us a direct answer to this question, but I think that I know.  Restraining the desires by reason will lead to the recrudescence, the resurgence of the desires in their fullest force.  The more you try to repress your desires, the more your desires will surge upward.  This is what Freud calls “the return of the repressed,” Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten.

Repression is one attempt to manage the unruliness, the untrammeledness of the riot of emotions and the other feelings and moods.  But there is another form of self-maintenance, and that is the justification of the feelings and the moods.

For instance: Rationalized love.

Rationalized love is not instinctual love.  Think of a woman who tries to find a man attractive, even though she has no genuine passion for him.  She rationalizes her desire for the man—that is to say, she gives reasons to desire him.  This sort of thing seldom works.  Rational desire is not authentic desire at all.

Happiness comes from the release of the instincts, the liberation of the desires, the affects, the feelings, the instincts, not from the repression of the desires, the affects, the feelings, the instincts.  I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to say something in German: Die Moral ist eine Qual.  Morality is torment.  That is to say, the inhibition of the inclinations is a torment.  Every child knows this, but let no one suppose that Nietzsche is a hedonist.  Let no one suppose that Nietzsche is a eudaemonist, a sybarite, a hedonist.  No, not at all.

In the section of the book entitled “Morality as Anti-Nature,” Moralität als Widernatur, Nietzsche makes it quite clear that he is not endorsing the running-wild of the desires, the running-amok of the desires, the running-riot of the desires.

No, not at all.  The passions ought to be intellectualized, cosmeticized, sublimated, rather.  And the name of the intellectualization, cosmeticization, and sublimation of the passions has a name.  Its name is “love.”

Nietzsche writes: “The intellectualization of sensuality is called love: It represents a great triumph over Christianity,” Die Vergeisterung der Sinnlichkeit heisst Liebe: sie ist ein grosser Triumph ueber Christenthum.

Well, first of all, let me say that this is reminiscent of something that Nietzsche writes in Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future: “What is done out of love always occurs beyond Good and Evil,” Was aus Liebe getan wird, geschieht immer jenseits von Gut und Böse.

The meaning of both of these statements is essentially the same.  Classical religious morality separates two different kinds of romantic love.  The first kind of romantic love is the pure kind, the sacred kind.  And the second is what is called concupiscence—that is to say, carnal love or lust.

Now, classical morality condemns carnal love.  It seeks to extirpate desires that are inextirpable.  Morality is inimical to the impulses; it rebels against life, it revolts against the impulses of life.

Nietzsche is affirmative of the impulses of life, but he is not a carnalist, either.  He doesn’t believe in a rigid distinction between pure love and carnal love.

This is a false antinomy, according to Nietzsche, even though he does not explicitly write this in the passage that I am citing.  The antithesis between pure love and fleshly passion is a false distinction.  What Nietzsche names “the intellectualization of sensuality” is the supersession of the false dualism between the so-called “spiritual love” and the so-called “carnal love.”  I believe that this is the main point which Nietzsche is making, even though he does not make this point explicit.

Love—Nietzschean love—exists beyond conventional religious morality because it is the synthesis of the pure and the crude; it is the marriage between the dove and the pig.

Happiness comes from the feeling of the enhancement, the intensification of one’s vitality.  But this is not some kind of do-whatever-you-want, let-chaos-reign, all-hail-disorder.  It is not some kind of unconstrained scruffiness, some kind of laisser-aller.

Nietzsche teaches us this in a different book, but one that was written in the same year as this book was written, The Anti-Christian, Der Antichrist.

According to Nietzsche, Socrates had a pathological obsession with reason.  Socratic philosophy is the pathology of rationality (according to Nietzsche).

Nietzschean thought is not a rationalism.  It is an agonistics and an erotics.

*

The second ideal that Nietzsche explodes is the idea of absolute being, the permanency of absolute presence.  The idea of a permanent being behind the whirlwind of the senses.  Now, this permanent being might be the stability of the “I” (the unchanging center of the Self).  It might be the eidos of Plato, which would exist in some spaceless space, in some timeless time.

It might be the idea of a signified meaning that exists behind words.

Meaning does not exist behind words—it is generated by the relations among words and among letters and syllables.

Permit me to quote Shakespeare, Henry IV: Part One.  The lines are spoken by Falstaff:

​“What is honour?  A word.  What is in that word honour?  What is that honour?  Air.  A trim reckoning!”

What Falstaff says about the word honour may be fairly said about all words.  What is a “man”?  “Man” is a word.  What is within that word?  Air.

The subject “I” is a grammatical superstition, and our concept of the Self (as an unchangeable and unageable center of consciousness) comes from a prejudice of Western grammar.  Because so many of our sentences begin with the word “I” (or some other subject), we assume, unconsciously, that every action has an agent.

As Nietzsche writes in this book, famously, “I am afraid that we have not got rid of God because we still have faith in grammar,” Ich fürchte, wir werden Gott nicht los, weil wir noch an die Grammatik glauben…

It is quite rare for a philosopher to write about the body.  Schopenhauer was one of the first philosophers to take the body seriously, in a positive manner.

Nietzsche, fascinatingly, writes about the nose, the nose which can detect motion.  Nietzsche thinks that the nose can distinguish subtleties that a spectroscope would miss.  That is an intentional allusion to a Brian Eno song.  Nietzsche inspired many musicians, including Marilyn Manson.  It is clear that Nietzsche’s The Anti-Christian inspired many of Marilyn Manson’s lyrics.

I’m not sure if the nose can detect motion, but I do know that the olfactory sense plays a role in hearing and gustation (the sensation of taste).

Nietzsche writes about the nose in order to highlight his argument that the so-called world of the appearances, the world of phenomenality, IS the so-called true world.  Our senses do not lie, as Plato believed.  The sensorium gives us the only information about the world that we can have: sensory information.

All of this is to highlight the argument that the nose and the other sense organs bring us into closer contact with reality than mathematics or logic.

There is no logos behind the maelstrom of appearances.  There is no Parousia, no permanence of absolute presence.  Everything is motion without fixity, everything is change without stasis.

Neither is there the absolute origin or the absolute finality.  What seems to be a terminal point is a node in a web.  There are no absolute beginnings or absolute ends.  There is only becoming, not being—if by “being,” one means “the stasis of presence.”

So, appearances—what appears to our senses—are not errors.  The dichotomy between the so-called “true world” and the so-called “world of appearances” is a false dichotomy.  There is only one world, and that is the world of the senses.  This is why Nietzsche writes, in italics: “[W]e got rid of the illusory world along with the true one!” [M]it der wahren Welt haben wir auch die scheinbare abgeschafft!  The true world is a fiction (I mean “fiction” in the sense of “something that has been fabricated”).

The importance of art, for Nietzsche, is that art reminds us that phenomena are all that we have.  Art highlights phenomenality—works of art illuminate the “fact” that there is only one world, the only demonstrable, probative, provable, livable world is the phenomenal world.

*

The third idol that is twilit in this book: Imaginary causation.

We know now that devils do not cause illnesses.  We know now that angels do not heal the sick.  We no longer believe that daemons imprecate humanity by diffusing plagues throughout the world.  But there was a time when such things were believed.

There was a time when people believed that meat gave birth to maggots.  Maggots emerge from meat left out in the sun.  This, of course, is a confusion of cause and effect.  There was a time when people believed that grain gave birth to mice.  This is another confusion of cause and effect.

There was a time when people thought that certain babies were evil.  I don’t believe this!  Don’t blame me!  They also believed that evil babies came from incubi—the mother mated, perhaps unknowingly, with an incubus who crawled into her bed at night.  The products of such an unholy union were called “cambions,” half-human, half-daemonic hybrid offspring.

Imaginary causality works in this fashion: A phenomenon is experienced and then an imaginary cause is superadded after the fact.  A chimerical cause is chimerized where a natural explanation would do much better.  Instead of applying Occam’s razor, one introjects an imaginary cause to a natural process.  Flies are attracted to meat and lay their eggs on meat to which they attracted; the larval stage of a fly is a maggot.  Mice are attracted to the grain in the barn.  The farmer sees a mischief of mice in the barn and assumes, erroneously, that the grain gave birth to the mice.  A child is born, and that child is unruly, unmanageable.  The father believes, falsely, that his wife coupled with an incubus.

This false logic might also take the form of the confusion of chronology and causality.  I went to a Japanese restaurant and woke up sick this morning.  I am now convinced that the food that I ate last night sickened me.  This might be the case, but it is not necessarily the case.  A creepy, irritating man leaves an insulting comment on someone’s YouTube channel.  The next day, the person who runs the YouTube channel deletes it.  I suppose that the manager of the YouTube channel deleted her channel because she was offended.  But there is no immediate evidence that would support this assertion.  Post hoc ergo propter hoc, “after this because of this,” is the confusion of chronology with causality.  Simply because something happens first does not mean that it is the cause of something else.

Morality is based on imaginary qualities or causes, such as human responsibility or the free will, to which I shall presently return.  There is a great deal of talk in this culture about whether or not it is necessary to believe in God in order to be a moral person.  Then there is the theodical cliché: How can you reconcile the idea of a beneficent god with a world that is overflowing with misery?

But one doesn’t have to go that far.  Atheists have the tendency to attack theists for believing in an intervening God, but that seems hypocritical to be.  So many of the godless seem to believe in the imaginary.  Consider the imaginary presuppositions of traditional morality.  Traditional morality, even without religion, is based on the imaginary.

There are a number of famous atheists who seem very religious to me, for these atheistic public intellectuals believe in imaginary causes, such as moral responsibility.  It has never been proven that any human being is morally responsible.  Now, one might say that being morally responsible has its benefits, but isn’t that another question?

If someone believes in moral responsibility, that person believes in imaginary causation.  And it is very likely that such a person believes that morality is universal, as well, which it is not.

I have expanded on this subject elsewhere, but let me say a few words to refute the fallacious claim that morality is universal.

Anyone who believes that morality is universal is ignoring the historical fact that marriage, for example, was at one time regarded as something transgressive.  Today, marriage is regarded as a virtue; at other times, it was regarded as a vice.  For instance, throughout Europe, there was a practice known as jus primae noctis, “the right of the first night,” or the droit de seigneur.  The right of a feudal lord to take possession of a bride on the day of her wedding or at any time he wanted to.  This was a practice that we would regard as disgraceful today, but the point is that marriage was once regarded as something that was contrary to the right of the lord.

Hubris was regarded as a transgression in Ancient Greece.  Consider the myth of Prometheus—Prometheus stole fire from the gods and was punished by being shackled to a rock.  Every night, an eagle would devour his liver, which would then regrow only to be re-devoured.  In Ancient Greece any violation of nature (the gods were emblematical of nature) was seen a transgression, but look at the violation of nature which is mountaintop blasting!  This is something that is often practiced in our societies.

Revenge was considered a virtue in Ancient Greece (read the Orestia), but we disapprove of it today, etc., etc.

*

The fourth idol which is toppled from its pedestal is the argumentum ad consequentiam, the argument from consequence, though Nietzsche does not use this term.  The argumentum ad consequentiam is a logical fallacy.  I might believe that I am a hammerhead shark with every fiber of my being, but that does not mean that I am a hammerhead shark.  But pleasure proves nothing.  The pleasure produced by an idea proves absolutely nothing about the soundness of that idea.  Nietzsche makes the point that hope ferments comfort—it could just as easily be argued that hope ferments discomfort, but fine.  Irenicism might bring me comfort, I might desire with my entire being for there to be peace in the near future, but that doesn’t mean that one can look forward to the prospect of an irenic future.  It is impossible to make absolute statements about the future with any degree of justification, and the future doesn’t care about me and my emotional state.  Just because I desire a comforting cause, this doesn’t necessarily imply that the ostensible cause is the cause.

*

The fifth mythology is already one of the best-refuted mythologies in existence: voluntarism, the mythology of the freedom of the will.  Nietzsche doesn’t actually demolish the concept of the freedom of the will in this book.  He already annihilated the factitious concept of the free will in other of his books.  Instead, Nietzsche is wondering: What is the benefit of having other people believe in the freedom of the will?  Cui bono?

This is the argument, and it is an interesting one: Those who are invested in the propagation of free-will theory are practicing a form of sadism.

Epexegesis: “There must be a free will because I have the emotional need to believe in the free will” (this is another version of the argumentum ad consequentiam).  But there is a specific emotional need at play here:

Translation: “There must be a free will because I want to punish people.  And I cannot punish them by inflicting them with guilt unless they believe that they are free to choose whatever they choose.”

Now, we were taught in On the Genealogy of Morals that all human beings are cruel, but some of us interiorize our impulse toward cruelty.  When cruelty is reintrojected in the human self, that is called “guilt” and “the bad conscience.”  And the inculcation of guilt actively negates my self-esteem.

But all human beings are cruel.  Nothing is more natural to the human animal than a taste for cruelty.  Though Nietzsche never writes about sociopathy, this idea makes me rethink modern psychology’s take on sociopathy.  Perhaps it is inaccurate to throw certain people into a bucket labelled “Sociopaths.”  Perhaps there is an economy of sociopathy.  Perhaps everyone has the capacity for sociopathy.  If I am wrong about this, why do so many people enjoy violent sports, such as boxing or tauromachy (bullfighting)?  Is there a certain moment at which any human being can read about the destruction of other human beings with coldness, with indifference?

*

The sixth idol which is blown into smithereens is the ideal that life has a purpose.  Another of the most famous statements that Nietzsche ever made also appears in this book, and you will find it on memes all over social media.  It is Aphorism Twelve: “If someone has a Why? in life one can get along with almost any How?”

However, this aphorism has been often misinterpreted.  Nietzsche is suggesting that the idea of a purpose in life makes life tolerable, to be sure, but he is not suggesting that life actually has a real purpose.  Life has no purpose at all, according to Nietzsche.  As I wrote in my essay on Human, All-Too-Human: A Book for Free Spirits, all is purposeless yet necessary.

Life does not move in the direction of some transcendent goal, unless death and decomposition would be considered a “goal.”

But everyone is necessary in relation to the whole economy of life.  There is an amazing profusion of human types in the economy of life.  And one should never wish to wish away any human being, for each human being is necessary for the operation and self-maintenance of the whole economy of life.  Every mediocrity is essential to the economy of life; without the mediocre, the remarkable would be unremarkable.  Bad books are essential because they are consonant with the tastes of undiscerning people.

*

The seventh idol is that the idea that humanity is progressively improving, which it manifestly is not, and it is refreshing to read Nietzsche’s counter-argument to the Enlightenment.  If you’d like an example of the Enlightenment hypothesis that humanity is gradually refining itself, read Lessing, “The Education of the Human Race,” Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts.

I already discussed Nietzsche’s diagnosis of modernity in my lecture series on Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future.  The malady of modernity, for Nietzsche, is the paralysis of the will.  In Götzen-Dämmerung: Oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert, Nietzsche has a slightly different critique of modernity.  In modernity, according to the logic of this book, progression and regression are one and the same.  The ostensible “refining” of humankind is really a taming, a domesticating, a making-docile of the human beast.  Animals are trained—this doesn’t mean that they become sophisticated.  Neither is it the case that the human beast becomes sophisticated simply because it is trained to be “civilized.”  Making-civilized is retrogressive; it is the manipulation and curtailing of the life-instincts.  An uncaged animal is more advanced than the modern human being.

Nietzsche is in good company.  Kafka said something similar to Gustav Janouch: “In the light of Darwinism, human evolution looks like a monkey’s fall from grace.”

H.L. Mencken wrote something quite similar, but regrettably, I can’t find the citation.  Mencken made the argument that the human being evolved into an ape.  Of course, it is a falsification to think that human beings evolved from apes; they did not.  Mencken was inverting the common misconception of Darwinian evolution.

As I have said above, Nietzsche is an antinomian.  He reminds us, again and again, not to believe in any traditional concept that you haven’t evaluated yourself.  It makes no sense to believe in a concept merely because it is old.  To do so is to enter the logical fallacy known as the argumentum ad antiquatitam, the argument from tradition.  Simply because an idea is hoarily old, this does not imply that such an idea is valid.

Permit me to enumerate all of the ideals that are detonated in this book, all of the idols that are twilit:

False Idol One: Reason leads to virtue, which leads to happiness.

False Idol Two: Absolutes exist.  There is such a thing as absolute, motionless, changeless being, whether it is the Self, permanency, an unconditional origin, absolute finality, signified meaning that comes before language, etc.

False Idol Three: Imaginary causes are real causes.

False Idol Four: A belief that gives me pleasure is a true belief.

False Idol Five: There exists something like a free will.

False Idol Six: Life has a transcendent purpose.

False Idol Seven: Humanity is progressively improving.

*

The End

Joseph Suglia

A commentary on HUMAN, ALL-TOO-HUMAN by Nietzsche / MENSCHLICHES, ALLZUMENSCHLICHES: Nietzsche and Sam Harris / Nietzsche on Women / Was Nietzsche a sexist? / Was Nietzsche a misogynist? / Nietzsche and Sexism / Sam Harris and Nietzsche / Sexism and Nietzsche / Misogyny and Nietzsche / Nietzsche and Misogyny / Nietzsche and Sexism / Nietzsche and Feminism / Feminism and Nietzsche / Friedrich Nietzsche on Women / Friedrich Nietzsche and Sam Harris / Is Sam Harris Influenced by Nietzsche?

HUMAN, ALL-TOO-HUMAN / MENSCHLICHES, ALLZUMENSCHLICHES (Friedrich Nietzsche)

A commentary by Joseph Suglia

MAM = Menschliches, Allzumenschliches. Ein Buch für freie Geister (1878); second edition: 1886

VMS = Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche (1879)

WS = Der Wanderer und sein Schatten (1880)

The following will not have been an interpretation of Nietzsche’s Human, All-Too-Human.  It will have been a commentary: Comment taire? as the French say.  “How to silence?”  In other words: How should the commentator silence his or her own voice and invisibilize his or her own presence in order to amplify the sound of the text and magnify the text’s image?

An interpretation replaces one meaning with another, or, as Heidegger would say, regards one thing as another.  A commentary adds almost nothing to the text under consideration.

Nietzsche’s Psychological Reductionism and Perspectivalism

Human, All-Too-Human is almost unremittingly destructive.  For the most part, it only has a negative purpose: to demolish structures and systems of thought.  However, there is also a positive doctrine within these pages, and that is the doctrine of total irresponsibility and necessity (to which I will return below) and the promise of a future humanity that will be unencumbered by religion, morality, and metaphysics.

In the preface of the second edition (1886), Nietzsche makes this thrust and tenor of his book clear with the following words: The purpose of the book is “the inversion of customary valuations and valued customs” (die Umkehrung gewohnter Wertschätzungen und geschätzter Gewohnheiten).  The highest ideals are reduced to the basest human-all-too-humanness of human beings.  This is a form of psychological reductionism: Once-good values (love, fidelity, patriotism, motherliness) are deposed.  The man who mourns his dead child is an actor on an imaginary stage who performs the act of mourning in order to stir up the emotions of his spectators—he is vain, not selflessly moral.  The faithful girl wants to be cheated upon in order to prove her fidelity—she is egoistic, not selflessly moral.  The soldier wants to die on the battlefield in order to prove his patriotism—he is egoistic, not selflessly moral.  The mother gives up sleep to prove her virtuous motherliness—she is egoistic, not selflessly moral [MAM: 57].

The inversion of valuations leads to an advocacy of the worst values: vanity and egoism (but never the vaingloriousness of arrogance, against which Nietzsche warns us for purely tactical reasons).  As well as lying.  Nietzsche praises lying at the expense of the truth to the point at which lying becomes the truth, and the truth becomes a lie that pretends that it is true.  This, of course, is a paradox, for anyone who says, “There is no truth, only interpretations of truth” is assuming that one’s own statement is true.

Again and again, Nietzsche phenomenalizes the world.  Appearance (Schein) becomes being (Sein): The hypocrite is seduced by his own voice into believing the things that he says.  The priest who begins his priesthood as a hypocrite, more or less, will eventually turn into a pious man, without any affectation [MAM: 52].  The thing in itself is a phenomenon.  Everything is appearance.  There is no beyond-the-world; there is nothing outside of the world, no beyond on the other side of the world, no επέκεινα.

As far as egoism is concerned: Nietzsche tells us again and again: All human beings are self-directed.  I could have just as easily written, All human beings are selfish, but one must be careful.  Nietzsche does not believe in a hypostatized self.  Every individual, Nietzsche instructs us, is a dividual (divided against himself or herself), and the Nietzsche of Also Sprach Zarathustra (1883-1885) utterly repudiates the idea of a substantialized self.  To put it another way: No one acts purely for the benefit of another human being, for how could the first human being do anything without reference to himself or herself?: Nie hat ein Mensch Etwas gethan, das allein für Andere und ohne jeden persönlichen Begweggrund gethan wäre; ja wie sollte er Etwas thun können, das ohne Bezug zu ihm wäre? [MAM: 133].  Only a god would be purely other-directed.  Lichtenberg and La Rochefoucauld are Nietzsche’s constant points of reference in this regard.  Nietzsche never quotes this Rochefoucauldian apothegm, but he might as well have:

“True love is like a ghost which many have talked about, but few have seen.”

Or:

“Jealousy contains much more self-love than love.”

Whatever is considered “good” is relativized.  We are taught that the Good is continuous with the Evil, that both Good and Evil belong to the same continuum.  Indeed, there are no opposites, only degrees, gradations, shades, differentiations.  Opposites exist only in metaphysics, not in life, which means that every opposition is a false opposition.  When the free spirit recognizes the artificiality of all oppositions, s/he undergoes the “great liberation” (grosse Loslösung)—a tearing-away from all that is traditionally revered—and “perhaps turns [his or her] favor toward what previously had a bad reputation” (vielleicht nun seine Gunst dem zugewendet, was bisher in schlechtem Rufe stand) [Preface to the second edition].  The awareness that life cannot be divided into oppositions leads to an unhappy aloneness and a lone unhappiness, which can only be alleviated by the invention of other free spirits.

What is a “free spirit”?  A free spirit is someone who does not think in the categories of Either/Or, someone who does not think in the categories of Pro and Contra, but sees more than one side to every argument.  A free spirit does not merely see two sides to an argument, but rather as many sides as possible, an ever-multiplying multiplicity of sides.  As a result, free spirits no longer languish in the manacles of love and hatred; they live without Yes, without No.  They no longer trouble themselves over things that have nothing to do with them; they have to do with things that no longer trouble them.  They are mistresses and masters of every Pro and every Contra, every For and every Against.

All over the internet, you will find opposing camps: feminists and anti-feminists, those who defend religious faith and those who revile religious faith, liberals and conservatives.  Nietzsche would claim that each one of these camps is founded upon the presupposition of an error.  And here Nietzsche is unexpectedly close to Hegel: I am thinking of Nietzsche’s perspectivalism, which is, surprisingly, closer to the Hegelian dialectic than most Nietzscheans and Hegelians would admit, since they themselves tend to be one-sided.  In all disputes, the free spirit sees each perspective as unjust because one-sided.  Instead of choosing a single hand, the free spirit considers both what is on the one hand and what is on the other (einerseits—andererseits) [MAM: 292].  The free spirit hovers over all perspectives, valuations, evaluations, morals, customs, and laws: ihm muss als der wünschenswertheste Zustand jenes freie, furchtlose Schweben über Menschen, Sitten, Gesetzen und den herkömmlichen Schätzungen der Dinge genügen [MAM: 34].  It is invidiously simplistic and simplistically invidious to freeze any particular perspective.  Worse, it is anti-life, for life is conditioned by perspective and its injustices: das Leben selbst [ist] bedingt durch das Perspektivische und seine Ungerechtigkeit [Preface to the second edition].  A free spirit never takes one side or another, for that would reduce the problem in question to the simplicity of a fixed opposition, but instead does justice to the many-sidedness of every problem and thus does honor to the multifariousness of life.

There Is No Free Will.  Sam Harris’s Unspoken Indebtedness to Nietzsche.

Let me pause over three revolutions in the history of Western thought.

The cosmological revolution known as the “Copernican Revolution” marked a shift from the conception of a cosmos in which the Earth is the center to the conception of a system in which the Sun is the center.  A movement from geocentrism (and anthropocentrism) to heliocentrism.

The biological revolution took the shape of the theory of evolution (“It’s only a theory!” exclaim the unintelligent designers), which describes the adaptation of organisms to their environments through the process of non-random natural selection.

There is a third revolution, and it occurred in psychology.  I am not alluding to psychoanalysis, but rather to the revolution that predated psychoanalysis and made it possible (Freud was an admirer of Nietzsche).  Without the Nietzschean revolution, psychoanalysis would be unthinkable, and Twitter philosopher Sam Harris’s Free Will (2012) would never have existed.

I am alluding to the revolution that Nietzsche effected in 1878.  It was a silent revolution.  Almost no one seems aware that this revolution ever took place.

It is a revolution that describes the turning-away from voluntarism (the theory of free will) and the turning-toward determinism, and Nietzsche’s determinism will condition his critique of morality.  Nietzschean determinism is the doctrine of total irresponsibility and necessity.

[Let it be clear that I know that Spinoza, Hume, Hobbes, Schopenhauer, et al., wrote against the concept of the free will before Nietzsche.]

The free will is the idea that we have control over our own thoughts, moods, feelings, and actions.  It conceives of the mind as transparent to itself: We are aware in advance of why we do-say-write-think the things that we do-say-write-think.  This idea is false: You no more know what your next thought will be than you know what the next sentence of this commentary will be (if this is your first time reading this text).  It is only after the fact that we assign free will to the sources of actions, words, and thoughts.  Our thoughts, moods, and feelings—e.g. anger, desire, affection, envy—appear to us as isolated mental states, without reference to previous or subsequent thoughts, moods, and feelings: This is the origin of the misinterpretation of the human mind known as “the free will” (the definite article the even suggests that there is only one).  The free will is an illusion of which we would do well to disabuse ourselves.

We do not think our thoughts.  Our thoughts appear to us.  They come to the surfaces of our consciousness from the abysms of the unconscious mind.  Close your eyes, and focus on the surfacings and submersions of your own thoughts, and you will see what I mean.

This simple exercise of self-observation suffices to disprove the illusion of voluntarism.  If your mind is babbling, this very fact of consciousness refutes the idea of free will.  Mental babble invalidates the voluntarist hypothesis.  Does anyone truly believe that s/he wills babble into existence?  Does anyone deliberately choose the wrong word to say or the wrong action to perform?  If free will existed, infelicity would not exist at all or would exist less.  After all, what would free will be if not the thinking that maps out what one will have thought-done-said-written—before actually having thought one’s thought / done one’s deed / said one’s words / written one’s words?

Belief in free will provokes hatred, malice, guilt, regret, and the desire for vengeance.  After all, if someone chooses to behave in a hateful way, that person deserves to be hated.  Anyone who dispenses with the theory of the free will hates less and loves less.  No more desire for revenge, no more enmity.  No more guilt, no more regret.  No more rewards for impressive people who perform impressive acts, for rewarding implies that the rewarded could have acted differently than s/he did.  In a culture that accepted the doctrine of total irresponsibility, there would be neither heroes nor villains.  There would be no reason to heroize taxi drivers who return forgotten wallets and purses to their clients, nor would there be any reason to heroize oneself, since what a person does is not his choice / is not her choice.  No one would be praised, nor would anyone praise oneself.  No one would condemn others, nor would anyone condemn oneself.  Researchers would investigate the origins of human behavior, but would not punish, for the sources of all human thought and therefore the sources of all human behavior are beyond one’s conscious control / beyond the reach of consciousness.  It makes no sense to say / write that someone is “good” or “evil,” if goodness and evilness are not the products of a free will.  There is no absolute goodness or absolute evilness; nothing is good as such or evil as such.  There is neither voluntary goodness nor voluntary evilness.

If there is no free will, there is no human responsibility, either.  The second presupposes the first.  Do you call a monster “evil”?  A monster cannot be evil if it is not responsible for what it does.  Do we call earthquakes “evil”?  Do we call global warming “evil”?  Natural phenomena are exempt from morality, as are non-human animals.  We do not call natural phenomena “immoral”; we consider human beings “immoral” because we falsely assume the existence of a free will.  We feel guilt / regret for our “immoral” actions / thoughts, not because we are free, but because we falsely believe ourselves to be free: [W]eil sich der Mensch für frei halt, nicht aber weil er frei ist, empfindet er Reue und Gewissensbisse [MAM 39].  No one chooses to have Asperger syndrome or Borderline Personality Disorder.  Why, then, should someone who is afflicted with Asperger syndrome or Borderline Personality Disorder be termed “evil”?  No one chooses one’s genetic constitution.  You are no more responsible for the emergence of your thoughts and your actions than you are responsible for your circulatory system or for the sensation of hunger.

Those who would like to adumbrate Nietzsche’s “mature” thought should begin with Human, All-Too-Human (1878), not with Daybreak (1801).  Nietzsche’s critique of morality makes no sense whatsoever without an understanding of his deeper critique of voluntarism (the doctrine of free will): Again, the ideas of Good and Evil only make sense on the assumption of the existence of free will.

Anyone who dispenses with the idea of free will endorses a shift from a system of punishment to a system of deterrence (Abschreckung).  A system of deterrence would restrain and contain criminals so that someone would not behave badly, not because someone has behaved badly.  As Nietzsche reminds us, every human act is a concrescence of forces from the past: one’s parents, one’s teachers, one’s environment, one’s genetic constitution.  It makes no sense, then, to believe that any individual is responsible for what he or she does.  All human activity is motivated by physiology and the unconscious mind, not by Good or Evil.  Everything is necessary, and it might even be possible to precalculate all human activity, through the mechanics of artificial intelligence, to steal a march on every advance: Alles ist notwendig, jede Bewegung mathematisch auszurechnen… Die Täuschung des Handelnden über sich, die Annahme des freien Willens, gehört mit hinein in diesen auszurechnenden Mechanismus [MAM: 106].

If you accept the cruelty of necessity (and is life not cruel, if we have no say in what we think and what we do?), the nobility of humanity falls away (the letter of nobility, the Adelsbrief) [MAM: 107].  All human distinction is devalued, since it is predetermined—since it is necessary.  Human beings would finally recognize themselves within nature, not outside of nature, as animals among other animals.  I must cite this passage in English translation, one which is not irrelevant to this context and one which belongs to the most powerful writing I have ever read, alongside Macbeth’s soliloquy upon learning of his wife’s death: “The ant in the forest perhaps imagines just as strongly that it is the goal and purpose for the existence of the forest as we do, when we in our imagination tie the downfall of humanity almost involuntarily to the downfall of the Earth: Indeed, we are still modest if we stop there and do not arrange a general twilight of the world and of the gods (eine allgemeine Welt- and Götterdämmerung) for the funeral rites of the final human (zur Leichenfeier des letzten Menschen).  The most dispassionate astronomer can oneself scarcely feel the lifeless Earth in any other way than as the gleaming and floating gravesite of humanity” [WS: 14].

The demystification of the theory of free will has been re-presented by Sam Harris, who might seem like the Prophet of the Doctrine of Necessity.  Those who have never read Nietzsche might believe that Dr. Harris is the first person to say these things, since Dr. Harris never credits Nietzsche’s theory of total human irresponsibility.  If you visit Dr. Harris’s Web site, you will discover a few English translations of Nietzsche on his Recommended Reading List.  We know that Dr. Harris’s first book (unpublished) was a novel in which Nietzsche is a character.  We also know that Dr. Harris was a student of Philosophy at Stanford University.  He would therefore not have been unaware of the Nietzschean resonances in his own text Free Will.  Why, then, has Dr. Harris never publically acknowledged his indebtedness to Nietzschean determinism?

Nietzsche Is / Is Not (Always) a Misogynist.

In 1882, Nietzsche was sexually rejected by Lou Andreas-Salome, a Russian intellectual, writer, and eventual psychoanalyst who was found spellbinding by seemingly every cerebral man she met, including Rilke and Paul Ree.  Since the first edition of Human, All-Too-Human was published four years before, Salome’s rejection of Nietzsche cannot be said to have had an impact on his reflections on women at that stage in the evolution of his thinking.

Nietzsche is sometimes a misogynist.  But I must emphasize: He is not always a misogynist.

At times, Nietzsche praises women / is a philogynist.  To give evidence of Nietzsche’s philogyny, all one needs to do is cite Paragraph 377 of the first volume: “The perfect woman is a higher type of human being than the perfect man” (Das volkommene Weib ist ein höherer Typus des Menschen, als der volkommene Mann).  Elsewhere, Nietzsche extols the intelligence of women: Women have the faculty of understanding (Verstand), he writes, whereas men have mind (Gemüth) and passion (Leidenschaft) [MAM: 411].  The loftier term Verstand points to the superiority of women over men.  Here, Nietzsche is far from misogynistic—indeed, he almost seems gynocratic.

Nor is Nietzsche a misogynist, despite appearances, in the following passage—one in which he claims that women tolerate thought-directions that are logically in contradiction with one another: Widersprüche in weiblichen Köpfen.—Weil die Weiber so viel mehr persönlich als sachlich sind, vertragen sich in ihrem Gedankenkreise Richtungen, die logisch mit einander in Widerspruch sind: sie pflegen sich eben für die Vertreter dieser Richtungen der Reihe nach zu begeistern und nehmen deren Systeme in Bausch und Bogen an; doch so, dass überall dort eine todte Stelle entsteht, wo eine neue Persönlichkeit später das Übergewicht bekommt [MAM: 419].

To paraphrase: Nietzsche is saying that the minds of women are fluxuous and not in any pejorative sense.  He means that multiple positions coexist simultaneously in the consciousnesses of women.  Personalities are formed and then evacuate themselves, leaving dead spots (todte Stellen), where new personalities are activated.  This does not mean that the minds of women contain “dead spots”—it means that they are able to form and reform new personalities, which is a strength, not a weakness.  And yet does he not say the same thing about his invisible friends, the free spirits?  Free spirits are also in a state of constant flux, and their fluxuousness, while necessarily unjust to their own opinions, allows them to move from opinion to opinion with alacrity and to hold in their heads multiple opinions at the same time.  Free spirits have opinions and arguments, but no convictions, for convictions are petrific.  Free spirits are guiltless betrayers of their own opinions [MAM: 637] and goalless wanderers from opinion to opinion [MAM: 638].

Why would the substitution-of-one-position-for-another, intellectual inconstancy, be considered as something negative?  Is it not a trait of the free spirit the ability to substitute a new position for an older one with alacrity?  And is the free spirit not Nietzsche’s ideal human being—at least before the overhuman takes the stage?  Such is my main argument: Free-spiritedness is womanliness, and free spirits are womanly, if we accept Nietzsche’s definitions of “free-spiritedness” and of “womanliness.”

This is not to deny the strain of misogyny that runs throughout Nietzsche’s collected writings.  Yes, Nietzsche does write unkind and unjustifiable things about women—some of his statements about women are downright horrible and indefensible.  My objective here is to highlight the polysemy and polyvocality of his writing, its ambiguity.  For a further discussion of Nietzsche’s ambiguous representations of the feminine, consult Derrida’s Spurs, wherein he analyzes the figure of the veil in Beyond Good and Evil.

To say or write that Nietzsche is always a misogynist would be to disambiguate his work—if by “Nietzsche” one is referring to the paper Nietzsche.  (For a series of accounts of Nietzsche as a human being, see Conversations with Nietzsche: A Life in the Words of His Contemporaries, published by Oxford University Press.)  Nonetheless, let us pause over the historical, living human being Friedrich Nietzsche, who was male, and his relation to one historical, living human being, who was female: Marie Baumgartner, the mother of one of Nietzsche’s students and his sometime French translator.  In the original manuscript of Mixed Opinions and Maxims, the first appendix to Human, All-Too-Human, Nietzsche wrote: “Whether we have a serpent’s tooth or not is something that we do not know until someone has put his heel upon us.  Our character is determined even more by the lack of certain experiences than by what we have experienced” [VMS: 36].  In a letter to Nietzsche dated 13 November 1878, Marie Baumgartner wrote: “I would gladly have added to your very striking maxim: ‘a woman or mother would say, until someone puts his heel upon her darling or her child.’  For a woman will not silently allow something to happen to them that in most cases she patiently accepts for herself.”  Nietzsche was so affected by Baumgartner’s rather delicately worded suggestion that he modulated the text to reflect her proposal.  If Nietzsche regarded women as inferior (and he never did), why would he take seriously something that a female reader wrote about his manuscript—so seriously that he modified his manuscript to incorporate her words?  The fact that Nietzsche reflected Marie Baumgartner’s suggestion in the revision of his manuscript is evidence enough that he respected the intelligence of this particular woman—the grain of his own writing confirms that he respected the intelligence of women in general and even considered women in general to be more intelligent than men in general.

Nietzsche Was Not an Atheist, if by “Atheist” One Means “Someone Who Does Not Believe in God.”

Nietzsche tells us, in Paragraph Nine of the first volume, “Even if a metaphysical world did exist, it would be nothing other than an otherness [Anderssein] that would be unavailable and incomprehensible to us; it would be a thing with [purely] negative characteristics.”

My question (which has been inspired by Nietzsche) is the following: Why do we even care about the beyond?  Should questions such as “Is there life after death?” not be greeted with apathy?  Why are we engaged with such questions to begin with?  Do not such questions merit indifference rather than seriousness?

Questions such as “Does God exist?” and “Is there life after death?” cannot be answered scientifically or logically.  We do not require their answers in order to live.  All of us live out our lives without knowing the answers to such questions.  Not merely that: It is entirely possible to live out our lives without ever ASKING or PURSUING such questions—and would we not be better off for not having done so?

Let me put it another way: Do the questions “Why does the world exist?” and “Why is there being rather than nothing?” not presuppose a reason for existing and a reason for being?  I am looking at you, Heidegger.

The Nietzsche of 1878 is not an atheist, if by “atheist” one means “someone who does not believe in God.”  Those who contest the existence of a deity or deities are practicing a form of skiamachy.  Nietzsche, on the other hand, is someone who considers questions about the existence of God, or of any extra-worldly transcendence, to be superfluous.  Otherworldliness is not something that can be discussed, since it is purely negative.

Moreover, the Nietzsche of Human, All-Too-Human is not merely not an atheist.  He is also not a philosopher, if by “philosopher,” we mean someone who speculates about imaginary worlds / is an imaginary world-builder.  Nietzsche will not become a philosopher, speculative or otherwise, until the very end of his period of lucidity, with the doctrines of the Eternal Recurrence of the Always-Same and the Will to Power.

Nietzsche Contradicts Himself.  Often.  But This Is Not a Flaw in His Thinking.

Nietzsche contradicts himself—often—but this is not a flaw in this thinking.  He tells us to stop using the word “optimism” [MAM: 28] and then uses the word himself, without any perceptible irony, in other sections of the book.  After scolding us for believing in heroes, he warmly sponsors the “refined heroism” (verfeinerten Heroismus) of the free spirit who works in a small office and passes quietly into and out of life [MAM: 291].  In Paragraph 148 of the first volume, Nietzsche claims that the poet alleviates (erleichtert) life—this seems to contradict his claim, five paragraphs later, that “art aggravates the heart of the poet” (Die Kunst macht dem Denker das Herz schwer), that listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony infuses the listener with the heavy feeling of immortality, with religious and metaphysical conceptions.  If Nietzsche contradicts himself, and he does, this is because free-spiritedness is multitudinous, multi-perspectival, self-contradictory thinking.  Free-spiritedness is multi-spiritedness.

Aphorisms Inspired by Nietzsche

On Religion and Politics

What is religious is political, and what is political is religious.

On Morality

Morality depends on opportunity.

On Communication

A word means something different to you than it does to me, which means that communication is impossible: Nothing is communicable save the power to communicate the impossibility of communication.  (Nietzsche suggests that the worst alienation is when two people fail to understand each other’s irony.)  Consciousness of this fact would liberate us from the bitterness and intensity of every sensation.

On Interpretation

The mind is geared not toward what has been interpreted, but toward that which has not been interpreted and might not even be interpretable.  Nietzsche: “We take something that is unexplained and obscure to be more important than something that has been explained and made clear” [MAM: 532].

On the Voice

We often disagree with someone because of the sound of his or her voice.  We often agree with someone because of the sound of his or her voice.

On Salvation

In a 1966 interview with Der Spiegel, Heidegger claimed: “Only a god can save us.”  This statement must be revised: Not even a god could save us now.

On Censorial America

In contemporary America, you may be prosecuted and persecuted for what you think, insofar as what you think is available in language.

Joseph Suglia