Nietzsche (Great Thinkers on Modern Life)

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I was looking into a mirror that reflected the world, life and my own mind with hideous magnificence. In an letter to Cosima Wagner — the second wife of the famed composer Richard Wagner, whom Nietzsche had befriended — he professed, more than a decade after encountering Schopenhauer:.

On virtually all general propositions I am not on his side. This turning point is how Nietzsche arrived at the conviction that hardship is the springboard for happiness and fulfillment. De Botton captures this beautifully:. And this, perhaps, is the reason why nihilism in general, and Nietzsche in particular, has had a recent resurgence in pop culture — the subject of a fantastic recent Radiolab episode. The wise and wonderful Jad Abumrad elegantly captures the allure of such teachings:. Look how brave I am! And perhaps there is nothing wrong with that.

After all, Viktor Frankl was the opposite of a nihilist, and yet we flock to him for the same reason — to be assured, to be consoled, to feel like we can endure.

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The Will to Power remains indispensable and The Consolations of Philosophy is excellent in its totality. Complement them with a lighter serving of Nietzsche — his ten rules for writers , penned in a love letter. Some authors claim that he probably never read Nietzsche, or that if he did, his reading was not extensive. On the other hand, it is known that Mussolini early on heard lectures about Nietzsche, Vilfred Pareto , and others in ideologically forming fascism.

A girlfriend of Mussolini, Margherita Sarfatti , [14] who was Jewish, relates that Nietzsche virtually was the transforming factor in Mussolini's "conversion" from hard socialism to spiritualistic, ascetic fascism, [15] : "In he presented his conception of the superman's role in modern society in a writing on Nietzsche entitled, "The Philosophy of Force.

Nietzsche's influence on Continental philosophy increased dramatically after the Second World War. During the 19th century, Nietzsche was frequently associated with anarchist movements, in spite of the fact that in his writings he definitely holds a negative view of egalitarian anarchists. According to a recent study, " Gustav Landauer , Emma Goldman and others reflected on the chances offered and the dangers posed by these ideas in relation to their own politics.

This calls into question the innovative potential of post-anarchism. Some hypothesize on certain grounds Nietzsche's violent stance against anarchism may at least partially be the result of a popular association during this period between his ideas and those of Max Stirner. Spencer Sunshine writes, "There were many things that drew anarchists to Nietzsche: his hatred of the state; his disgust for the mindless social behavior of "herds"; his anti-Christianity; his distrust of the effect of both the market and the state on cultural production; his desire for an "overman" — that is, for a new human who was to be neither master nor slave; his praise of the ecstatic and creative self, with the artist as his prototype, who could say, "Yes" to the self-creation of a new world on the basis of nothing; and his forwarding of the "transvaluation of values" as source of change, as opposed to a Marxist conception of class struggle and the dialectic of a linear history.

According to Sunshine: "The list is not limited to culturally oriented anarchists such as Emma Goldman , who gave dozens of lectures about Nietzsche and baptized him as an honorary anarchist. Also more recently in post-left anarchy , Nietzsche is present in the thought of Hakim Bey and Wolfi Landstreicher. The Italian and German fascist regimes were eager to lay claim to Nietzsche's ideas, and to position themselves as inspired by them.

Also in , Elisabeth gave to Hitler Nietzsche's favorite walking stick, and Hitler was photographed gazing into the eyes of a white marble bust of Nietzsche. Nietzsche was no less popular among French fascists, perhaps with more doctrinal truthfulness, as Robert S. Wistrich has pointed out. The "fascist" Nietzsche was above all considered to be a heroic opponent of necrotic Enlightenment "rationality" and a kind of spiritual vitalist, who had glorified war and violence in an age of herd-lemming shopkeepers, inspiring the anti-Marxist revolutions of the interwar period.

According to the French fascist Pierre Drieu la Rochelle , it was the Nietzschean emphasis on the autotelic power of the Will that inspired the mystic voluntarism and political activism of his comrades. Such politicized readings were vehemently rejected by another French writer, the socialo-communist anarchist Georges Bataille, who in the s sought to establish in ambiguous success the "radical incompatibility" between Nietzsche as a thinker who abhorred mass politics and "the fascist reactionaries.

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger , who was with great harm to his subsequent reputation an active member of the Nazi Party, himself noted that everyone in his day was either 'for' or 'against' Nietzsche while claiming that this thinker heard a "command to reflect on the essence of a planetary domination. Schrift cites this passage and writes, "That Heidegger sees Nietzsche heeding a command to reflect and prepare for earthly domination is of less interest to me than his noting that everyone thinks in terms of a position for or against Nietzsche.

In particular, the gesture of setting up 'Nietzsche' as a battlefield on which to take one's stand against or to enter into competition with the ideas of one's intellectual predecessors or rivals has happened quite frequently in the twentieth century. Marching in ideological warfare against the arrows from Bataille, Thomas Mann , Albert Camus and others, the Nazi movement, despite Nietzsche' virulent hatred of both volkist- populist socialist and nationalism "national socialism" , did, in certain of its emphases, share an affinity with Nietzsche's ideas, including his ferocious attacks against democracy , egalitarianism , the communistic -socialistic social model, popular Christianity , parliamentary government, and a number of other things.

In The Will to Power Nietzsche praised — sometimes metaphorically, other times both metaphorically and literally — the sublimity of war and warriors, and heralded an international ruling race that would become the "lords of the earth". Here Nietzsche was referring to pan-Europeanism of a Caesarist type, positively embracing Jews, [ according to whom? The Nazis appropriated, or rather received also inspiration in this case, from Nietzsche's extremely old-fashioned and semi-feudal views on women: Nietzsche despised modern feminism, along with democracy and socialism, as mere egalitarian leveling movements of nihilism.

He forthrightly declared, "Man shall be trained for war and woman for the procreation of the warrior, anything else is folly"; and was indeed unified with the Nazi world-view at least in terms of the social role of women: "They belong in the kitchen and their chief role in life is to beget children for German warriors. During the interbellum years, certain Nazis had employed a highly selective reading of Nietzsche's work to advance their ideology, notably Alfred Baeumler , who strikingly omitted the fact of Nietzsche's anti-socialism and anti-nationalism for Nietzsche, both equally contemptible mass herd movements of modernity in his reading of The Will to Power.

The era of Nazi rule — saw Nietzsche's writings widely studied in German and, after , Austrian schools and universities. Despite the fact that Nietzsche had expressed his disgust with plebeian-volkist anti-Semitism and supremacist German nationalism in the most forthright terms possible e. Nietzsche's reception among the more intellectually percipient or zealous fascists was not universally warm.

For example, one "rabidly Nazi writer, Curt von Westernhagen, who announced in his book Nietzsche, Juden, Antijuden that the time had come to expose the 'defective personality of Nietzsche whose inordinate tributes for, and espousal of, Jews had caused him to depart from the Germanic principles enunciated by Meister Richard Wagner'. The real problem with the labelling of Nietzsche as a fascist, or worse, a Nazi, is that it ignores the fact that Nietzsche's aristocratism seeks to revive an older conception of politics, one which he locates in Greek agon which [ Once an affinity like this is appreciated, the absurdity of describing Nietzsche's political thought as 'fascist', or Nazi, becomes readily apparent.

Jacob Golomb observed, "Nietzsche's ideas were widely disseminated among and appropriated by the first Hebrew Zionist writers and leaders. Nietzsche was enlisted as an authority for articulating the movement's ruptured relationship with the past and a force in its drive to normalization and its activist ideal of self-creating Hebraic New Man. Francis R. Nicosia notes, "At the height of his fame between and , some of Nietzsche's ideas seemed to have a particular resonance for some Zionists, including Theodore Herzl.

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On the other hand, Gabriel Sheffer suggests that Herzl was too bourgeois and too eager to be accepted into mainstream society to be much of a even if "aristocratic" revolutionary, and hence could not have been strongly influenced by Nietzsche, but remarks, "Some East European Jewish intellectuals, such as the writers Yosef Hayyim Brenner and Micha Josef Berdyczewski , followed after Herzl because they thought that Zionism offered the chance for a Nietzschean 'transvaluation of values' within Jewry". Martin Buber was fascinated by Nietzsche, whom he praised as a heroic figure, and he strove to introduce "a Nietzschean perspective into Zionist affairs.

However, praise for Nietzsche was not by any means universal among Zionists.

Nietzsche, Friedrich | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Max Nordau , an early Zionist orator and controversial racial anthropologist, insisted that Nietzsche had been insane since birth, and advocated "branding his disciples [ Carl Jung , the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology, recognized Nietzsche's profundity early on. For Nietzsche, nihilism is the problem not the solution.

He actually has no solution. What he considers as a solution — the idea of the superman — is actually a phantom, an illusion. Sokol: To regard Nietzsche as a nihilist is a mistake, an unobservant reading. He was rather an excessively sensitive person horrified by a world where nothing has rules and stands for nothing. It is also true today that only what is rare, difficult, risky and demanding has value, and we all avoid these things.

We prefer to wait for how things turn out. In one matter Nietzsche, like Heidegger, may be mistaken. For a person to dare to do this, he needs at least the hope that failure will not mean personal catastrophe. But in the realms of morality and of personal evaluation, the person has lost, together with Christianity, such concepts as repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Without them, it is difficult to risk losing — especially when, as Pascal says, we do not lack much.

The ideas of the herd should rule in the herd — but not reach out beyond it. When Nietzsche re-evaluates our moral habits, he underlines how they become obstacles to freedom when they serve as final destinations. But that is not to reject their uses and benefits.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844—1900)

They can be well exploited as stepping stones. The highest in rank give evidence of a constant striving for excellence. This striving produces endemic change in the individual who is involved in the project of overcoming himself. Just as there is a role for personal habits, and for a need to go beyond them in all self-overcoming, so there is a need for herd values, and a need to go beyond them.

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Herd values, which I understand to be moral habits conducive to a common life, are precious achievements that contribute to our personal and social constitutions. Though Nietzsche is often read as advocating their wholesale abandonment, I believe he understood the need to build upon them. But, in the end, the goal is to live with oneself, including all those personal and social habits that make one a unique individual and human being.

The purpose of human life is not the establishment of a utopia in which the victorious forces of radical individualism and free spiritedness have eliminated all herd values and personal habits. Life has no purpose but itself. The battle between individual spirit and herd-like habits is not a prelude to some future state of tensionless existence.

The good life is a life of daily struggle with the habitual and herd-like in each of us, a struggle that does not deprecate what it seeks to surpass. Such deprecation would constitute a defamation of life. Likewise, the psycho-spiritual self-overcoming that he charts with such acuity in his writings, find their models in worldly power struggles. So, my claim here is that the order of rank that Nietzsche celebrates is meant to be achieved first and foremost within ones own soul.

In this internal constitution, Nietzsche acknowledges, herd values have their place. Like personal habits, they serve as stable foundations that allow for the flight of free spirit. Take away the tarmac, and you never get off the ground. Nationalism is a very bad thing, but we learn what is dangerous about it by studying history, not through philosophical reflection. With a little ill-will, we can see in this the origin of Nazism; or rather, the Nazis could also adopt this idea and call themselves the master race. Bergmann: Nietzsche invoked the good European at the nadir of European cosmopolitanism. Today we understand better his thesis that nations are not fixed natural phenomena, but human creations. On the other hand, it seems to me that he very much under-estimated nationalism and regarded it with contempt.

He did not worry about where it was actually going and what it was expressing, why it was so strong in precisely his period. Therefore, we do not get very far with Nietzsche in this area. Rorty: Nietzsche never let himself be bothered by the facts, so a resuscitated Nietzsche probably would not have been willing to listen to people pointing out that democracy has done pretty well in the century since his death.

Democracy is a way of ordering human affairs — the best way so far invented. But this way of ordering affairs does not presuppose, nor does it create, a particular kind of human being.