Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nietzsche's Genealogy: Revealing "the inheritor of affects"

Of all the books regarding Nietzsche I have read and reread since beginning this blog, few have impressed me as much as Beyond Selflessness by Christopher Janaway.  The book is subtitled “Reading Nietzsche’s Genealogy” and offers some significant and precise insights into understanding not only Nietzsche’s great work but his philosophy as a whole.  It is so chocked full of insights into understanding Nietzsche that I will quote extensively from it in the next two posts.

In contextualizing On the Genealogy of Morals, Janaway writes: "...the work has come to be regarded, especially in the English-speaking world, as his most sustained philosophical achievement, his masterpiece, and the most vital of his writings for any student of Nietzsche, of ethics, or of the history of modern thought." (page 1)

"Nietzsche's genealogy is an attempt to explain our having those beliefs and feelings that constitute our moral values in the here and now, by tracing their casual origins to generic psychological states - typically drives, affects, inclinations, and aversions - that we reconstruct as having existed in certain types of human beings in the real past, and as having caused types of human being in the real past, and as having caused our present attitudes through the meditation of interpretations and conceptual innovations made by successive developments of culture." (Page 12)

Janaway points out how the polemic is not only against the origins of western morality but also against the, to Nietzsche, faulty analysis of morality specifically in the work of Paul Rée and Arthur Schopenhauer, two powerful figures in Nietzsche’s past who he had fallen out of respect for in his later years.  Most striking, perhaps, is the importance Nietzsche placed on applying his insights to human feelings, the emotive and instinctual aspects of living.

"His most fundamental point of disagreement with Rée is over the assumption Rée shares with Schopenhauer: that 'the unegoistic' is constitutive of morality and is something of positive value....Nietzsche charges such thinkers with allowing their inherited conception of value to govern their conception of method and their own self-understanding as enquirers." (page 40)

"It seems clear that the revaluation of values Nietzsche ultimately seeks is not just a change in judgments but a revision at the level of affects too. After we have learned not to make judgments using the standard vocabulary of 'good', 'evil', 'compassionate', and 'egoistic', we finally may come, says Nietzsche, to feel differently - an even more important attainment, it seems....If my understanding of the origins of my moral prejudices is to be genuinely transformative of my attitudes, it must proceed from and work upon my feelings, not consist in merely holding certain hypotheses about myself. But the arousal of affects could be even more embedded that this in Nietzsche's project.  It could be, I want to argue, that the very task of arriving at truths about the origin of my values demands activation of my own feelings." (page 48)

"So we have found two Nietzschean objections to Schopenhauer's morality of compassion that do not depend upon criticism of his metaphysics and cannot obviously be deflected by the charge that they attack only non-Schopenhauerian attitude of pity.  The two objections are: (1) that the morality of compassion is founded upon a questionable notion of a universal equality in value between individuals; (2) that feeling compassion is not in itself a good and beneficial attitude, because it can divert one from attending to one's own life and rob one of the sense of a right to one's own well-being." (page 67)

"Nietzsche's fundamental shift is towards differentiating concepts according to the individuals or classes who use them, and who thereby control and create values.  So Nietzsche alleges that 'the judgment "good" does not stem from those to whom "goodness" is rendered'.  Rather 'the noble, powerful, higher-ranking, and high minded' laid claim to the description of themselves as good, and by virtue of the 'pathos of distance' regarded as bad 'everything base, low-minded, common, and vulgar' (GM I. 2)" (page 81)

"Nietzsche's mature writings, and the Genealogy in particular, aim to release the reader from the 'illness' allegedly manifest in adhering to moral evaluations of a Christian or post-Christian nature. The first part of the therapeutic process is to diagnose the functions that such evaluations (concepts, beliefs, desires, emotional attachments, and aversions) fulfill for those who make them.  In describing these functions Nietzsche typically uses the terminology of drives and affects whose activity is furthered by the adoption of evaluation attitudes.  The second part of the therapeutic process is to overcome the need to hold the evaluation attitudes one has inherited, and to create new evaluations which are expressive of one's own strength, unity of character, or affirmation of life." (page 91)

The questioning of compassion and the elevation of the morality of the noble class are difficult to relate to with our contemporary democratic welfare-state ethics and values. But it is this difficulty that Nietzsche brilliantly guides the reader into the very frame of mind he wishes to invoke. His writing is intended to affect the reader.

"At least some of these uncomfortable passages are uncomfortable because the writing is openly concerned with probing the affects of the reader. To this end the literary violence is an effective means. Nietzsche's project of revaluing moral values contains as an essential part the uncovering of a multifarious affective life beneath our moral judgments. By provoking a range of affects in the reader, Nietzsche enables the reader to. Locate the target for revaluation, the 'morality' which comprises a complex of attitudes of his or her own, central to which are affective inclinations and aversions." (page 96)

"Earlier we saw that Nietzsche's end was to make us 'feel differently', changing or reversing our inclinations and aversions, losing our habitual or inherited attachment to the attitudes that comprise the morality of selflessness. How, then, would Nietzsche think that his envisaged end could be brought about, and how might his own writing contribute to that end? Here is a program that would at least make sense: Detach people from their practice of making moral judgments, thereby enabling them to feel non-moral inclinations and aversions.  How to detach people from making moral judgments? Show them the inherited affects of which these judgments are the ex post facto rationalizations. How to show people the affects they have inherited? Provoke affective responses in them, and invite them to reflect on the explanation for their having them." (page 99)

"The pair of concepts 'good' and 'bad' originally existed, forming the basis of a noble or aristocratic form of evaluation: the good are those who are capable, strong, powerful, those to be admired for what they have and are; the bad are simply those who no one would have wanted to be if he or she had the power - the weak, the incapable, the subservient.  In the story that Nietzsche tells morality was an invention in human history, and the driving force behind this invention was the class of people who were weak and marginal according to the aristocratic value system.  Morality resulted from the Judaeo-Christian 'slave revolt' which creatively fashioned a new pair of values, and finally convinced even the powerful that to exercise their power over others weaker than themselves was 'evil', and that to be powerless - not to exercise power - was 'good'." (page 99)

Janaway shows that Nietzsche used his writing style in the Genealogy to jolt and shock the reader with the specific intent of revealing to the reader, through style as much as words, where the reader’s morality resides within.  Thusly identified, Nietzsche proceeds to address morality as feeling and, having pointed out the location of such feelings, allows the reader to reflect upon what Nietzsche is saying in the context of their internal feelings.  This creative use of philosophical style is typical of Nietzsche, dating at least back to the “God is dead” proclamation of The Gay Science but it is perhaps expressed at its height within the Genealogy.

"Readers will be indignant about the nobles as Nietzsche describes them.  They will react with fear and disquiet, and moreover a disquiet that, on behalf of the imagined victims, gives rise to a desire to judge the nobles' behavior wrong.  Nietzsche must know this because he knows that the value system that originated with those who feared and recoiled from the nobles 'has become victorious' (GM I. 7)." (page 100)

"Thus Nietzsche prompts the reader to become conscious of himself or herself as an inheritor of affects whose origin is 'slavish'.  But he does not leave matters there.  In particular, note two further effects on the reader that he provides for in GM I: (1) The reader is given the opportunity to become conscious of himself or herself as the inheritor of some attitudes more in line with a noble mode of evaluation. (2) The reader is encouraged to recognize that slave morality shares the same ultimate origin as the noble mode of evaluation, and to reorient his or her feelings accordingly." (page 101)

"Section 14 of the First Treatise is a good example of Nietzsche's use of artistic methods in pursuit of his diagnostic and therapeutic aims.  He invents a character with whom the essay's narrative voice suddenly enters into comic dialogue.  It is like calling for a volunteer from the audience: 'Would anyone like to go down and take a look into the secret of how they fabricate ideals on earth? Who has the courage to do so?' The supposed volunteer is addressed as mein Herr Vorwitz und Wagehals - rendered by translators variously as Mr. Rash and Curious, Mr. mosey Daredevil, Mr. Daredevil Curiosity, or Mr. Wanton-Curiosity and Daredevil. The narrator affects to send this member of the public down into a fetid, cavernous workshop, reminiscent of Wagner's Nibelheim, where morality is cobbled together by shadowy, stunted creatures brimming with ressentiment. The authorial voice receives reports from the front-line emissary as if from the safety of surface daylight, goading him on until what he witnesses becomes unbearable and he demands to be returned to the open air.

"This is a striking, virtuosic piece of writing, but also perhaps a good example of the embarrassment commentators can feel through apparently having no purchase on why it might benefit Nietzsche to write in this way. I assume that virtually everyone who writes about Nietzsche, form undergraduates on, has read this passage. It has scathing humor, deadly similes, a novel dramatic structure, and great rhetorical power." (pp. 102 - 103) 

"I suggest (1) that Nietzsche here completes the transformation of his treatise from a past-directed enquiry into a critique whose focus is the here and now, the present attitudes of his reader; (2) that his emotive rhetoric aims at harnessing the reader's own disquiet over the untrammeled exercise of power by the overtly powerful - a disquiet he elicited and carefully nurtured earlier in the text - and converting it into a still greater disquiet over the covert desire to exercise power that drives Christianity and the post-Christian moral attitudes which are likely to persist in the reader. Nietzsche uses this dramatic characterization to enact disgust on the reader's behalf." (pp. 103 - 104)

"Nietzsche's thought is that prior to the invention of the idea that we are free to be other than we in fact are - that our essence resides elsewhere than in the sum of our behavior and underlying drives - we could not have believed in accountability or blame in the manner required to maintain the moral practice of judging actions good and evil.  The notion of a radically free subject of action is required in order to make human beings controllable, answerable, equal, and in particular to redescribe inaction as a virtue of which all are capable and dominant self-assertion as a wrong for which all are culpable. Note the role of feeling's in Nietzsche's explanation. It is the reactive affects of the weak, described as 'hiddenly glowing', that drive the need to assign blame and call to account.  This accords with the wider tendency of Nietzsche's genealogical explanations to trace moral beliefs and conceptual distinctions back to more basic feelings. Present-day adherents of morality have inherited affective habits because of the prevalence of the system of concepts good, evil, blame, guilt, and so on, and that system of concepts came to exist because of ressentiment, hatred, revenge, fear, joy in inflicting cruelty, at earlier historical stages." (pp. 112 - 113)

"The salient point is that the redescription of the agent as existing in isolation from the pressures of nature, culture, and circumstance is already a moralized description, one you would make only if you already thought in terms of moral goodness and responsibility, and hence sought a target for blame. The human being naturalistically described, as the product of actual physical and cultural forces, does not provide a proper target for blame, so we resort to metaphysics." (page 113)

"There is a vagueness in Nietzsche's evocations of what future values and future individuals will be once they have liberated themselves from moral self-descriptions.  We may excuse the vagueness to some extent: Nietzsche is writing of a mere aspiration that he thinks has rarely, if ever, been realized....the following is an approximation to Nietzsche's sovereign individual: someone who is conscious of the strength and consistency of his or her own character over time; who creatively affirms and embraces him - or herself as valuable, and who values his or her actions because of the degRée to which they are in character; who welcomes the limitation and discipline of internal and external nature as the true conditions of action and creation, but whose evaluations arise from a sense of who he or she is, rather than from conformity to some external or genetic code of values. This is a glimpse of the sense in which fRée will might be attained or regained for Nietzsche." (page 119)

The second treatise in the genealogy analyzes the place of guilt in human culture and experience and its relationship to human cruelty.  "...Nietzsche takes himself to have shown that guilt came to be regarded as a good in the Christian world-view because the conception of our natural instinctual selves as an ultimate transgression against God allowed us the most powerful guarantee of being able to vent our inbuilt drive towards cruelty upon ourselves. Nietzsche evaluates this state of self-torture as 'the most terrible sickness that has thus far raged in man' (GM II. 22). But then he offers us the healthy alternative, 'a reverse attempt...namely to wed to bad conscience the unnatural inclinations, all those aspirations to the beyond, to that which is contrary to the senses, contrary to the instincts, contrary to nature' (GM II. 24) - though he doubts that any but the most exceptional human being of the future, the redeeming, creative spirit of great health, will be able to accomplish this." (page 121)

"Feeling guilty is insidiously, incriminatingly, related to cruelty, and is even the same as it is essence.  The Second Treatise is structured around two central thoughts concerning cruelty and its 'turning back' against the self. The first, which Nietzsche calls 'an old powerful human-all-too-human proposition' (GM II. 6) might be put as follows: (A) Because of an instinctive drive, human beings tend to gain pleasure from inflicting suffering. 

"We might call this the 'pleasure-in-cruelty' thesis. The second thought, which I shall state also in my own formulation, posits a psychological process which Nietzsche calls Verinnerlichung or internalization (see GM II. 16): (B) When the instinctive drives of a socialized human individual are prevented from discharging themselves outwardly, they discharge themselves inwardly, on the individual him- or herself

"Nietzsche's 'own hypothesis' concerning the origin of 'bad conscience', a pivotal hypothesis in the whole essay, makes use of both of these thoughts and might be expressed thus: (C) Because human beings have an instinctual drive that leads them to gain pleasure from inflicting suffering, human beings subjected to the restrictions of civilized society, and so constrained to internalize their instincts, satisfy their instinctive drive by inflicting suffering on themselves

"In Nietzsche's own words: 'Hostility, cruelty, pleasure in persecution, in assault, in change, in destruction - all of that turning itself against the possessors of such instincts: that is the origin of 'bad conscience' (GM II. 16)." (pp. 125-126)

"'The feeling of guilt...had its the oldest and most primitive relationship among persons there is, in the relationship between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor' (GM II. 8). One of the main sources of explanatory energy for the whole essay is the repeated play on Schuld, Schulden, Schuldner (guilt, debt, debtor), at its most salient in Nietzsche's thought that 'that central moral concept 'guilt' had its origins in the very material concept 'debt' (GM II. 4). But if this is the origin of the consciousness of guilt, why give us also the apparently quite separate hypothesis that consciousness of guilt originates in internalization of the instincts of hostility?" (page 132)

"...the consciousness of guilt is a means of punishing oneself, and punishment originates in the debtor-creditor relationship; hence it makes sense for Nietzsche to say that consciousness of guilt originates in the debtor-creditor relationship.  But self-punishment is also a form of self-cruelty or self-persecution, and outlet (or inlet) for the instinctive drive of living beings to dominate over something. Hence, if consciousness of guilt is a form of self-punishment, then Nietzsche can intelligibly claim both that it originates in internalization of the instincts and that it originates in the debtor-creditor relationship." (page 134)

"We are being cruel to ourselves because, given our instincts as living beings, we are driven to be cruel to something, but we interpret the self-cruelty as deserved and rightful, as punishment of ourselves by ourselves. We give ourselves permission to despise and maltreat ourselves. Why should we do this? Because of a further need thematized in the Genealogy as a whole, the need to give meaning to suffering." (page 135)

“It is, I suggest, the supposed goodness of feeling guilty that Nietzsche thinks requires metaphysical underpinning. This provides a clearer sense in which moralization of guilt presupposes an ‘entanglement with the concept of god’, as Nietzsche says in section 21.  It is a good thing to punish myself if I deserve punishment in principle and essentially. And the Christian conception of the self and its place in the world – the infinite all-valuable divine order and the pernicious animal self in perpetual transgression against it – provides the guarantee of punishments being wholly deserved.  Moralization is the elevation of feeling guilty into a virtue, it incorporation of the kind of person one should want to be, by means of the rationalizing metaphysical picture in which the individual’s essential instinctual nature deserves maltreatment, because it stands in antithesis to an infinite creditor.” (page 141 - 142)

“Without a doubt Nietzsche presents the nobles in the First Treatise as human animals instinctively striving for conditions in which to express their strength and gain a maximum feeling of power, and therefore as manifesting will to power.  And similarly in the Second Treatise cruelty represents a basic human tendency to release one’s power to the detriment of another and temporarily at least ‘become master’ over them.  But there is a shock in each essay: the salves’ invention of good-evil opposition and labeling of themselves as good is driven by the need to overpower the powerful in a more subtle and underhand way, and the imposition of guilty bad conscience on ourselves is an inward deflection of cruelty, the instinct to release at the expense of something else.” (page 144)

I will pick up with Janaway’s interpretation at this point in my next post and proceed through his analysis of the critical undercurrent of the will to power and personal “affects” to his work.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Second Revaluation

As usual, Julian Young offers unique insights in his analysis of Nietzsche's Genealogy. Like Hollingdale and Cate, he finds the work closely connected to Beyond Good and Evil (BGE). Somewhat unlike these other scholars, however, Young does not specially emphasize the "will to power" as contained in the work, he only acknowledges it as an underlying influence. Further, he stresses that the work is more polemic (its subtitle is "A Polemic") than BGE against the influence of Christian morality on western culture. 

According to Nietzsche, Christianity (and associated influences) revalued the morality of the ancient world. This sets up the potential for another change in valuation. The specifics of this change remain rather vague, however. Nietzsche builds his case for reevaluation without a specific program for replacing all the flaws he details in the work, though it seems the morality of the Greco-Roman world is a good, general model to use.

"The central aim of the Genealogy is to liberate Nietzsche's - as usual 'few' - proper readers from the power of Christian morality and point them towards a better morality.  As we shall see, it is definitive of the 'higher' type to whom the Genealogy is addressed that he is not completely taken in by received, Christian, morality but is, rather, the 'battleground' of a fight between it and the older, classical morality that it supplanted.  Nietzsche's aim is to bring into the open the subterranean battle between 'Rome' and 'Judea' and to make sure that 'Rome' comes out the victor." (page 460)

"The Genealogy's first essay is an expansion of Beyond Good and Evil's account of historical origins of Christian morality in the 'revolt' of the ancient world's slaves against the morality of their masters.

"'Slave morality' originated, says Nietzsche, with the enslaved Jews.  It was they who, out of 'unfathomable hatred', first conquered the nobles by bringing about the replacement of noble morality's equation, 'good = noble = powerful = beautiful = happy = blessed', with slave morality's 'good = suffering = poor = powerless = lowly'.  This is what Beyond Good and Evil called 'the first revaluation of values'." (page 461)

"Whereas with the nobles self-esteem is what creates, the slave revolt begins when 'ressentiment becomes creative'.  Whereas the noble says 'Yes' to himself, the slave says 'No' to the other.  So while master morality is self-focused slave morality is other-focused, reactive. This is why, while the focal word in noble morality is 'good' - 'bad' being just a pale and conceptually necessary contrast - the focal point in slave morality is the hate-filled 'evil' - 'good' being just its pale and necessary contrast.  Noble morality starts with the virtues and adds vices as an 'after-thought'; slave morality does the opposite.

"The second fundamental contrast is between the 'diseased' condition of the slaves and the psychological 'health' of the nobles.  Whereas the 'squinting' souls of the slaves, especially their priests, are disfigured, 'poisoned', and eaten away by cancerous 'worms' of ressentiment, the nobles are psychologically 'magnificent' - 'blond beasts of prey avidly prowling round for spoils and victory', for the exercise, that is, of their will to power." (page 463)

"Nietzsche thinks that, though slave morality is indeed dominant within our culture, there are still plenty of places where the 'battle' is undecided.  The 'well-being and the future of the human race', Nietzsche suggests, depends on a moral revolution which will bring about the 'unconditional rule of aristocratic vales, Roman values'." (page 464)

"What we need in place of Christian emasculation is Greek sublimation: we need not the abolition of Eris but the transformation of her 'bad' into their 'good' manifestations, the transformation of war into 'competition'.  We need to preserve war and the warrior instinct, but, to repeat, it should be 'war without gunpowder and smoke'.  In this way we avoid the Unmensch while not destroying the possibility of the Ubermensch, a being that will be 'beyond' the morality of good and evil though emphatically not beyond the morality of good and bad." (page 465)

In the Genealogy's second essay Nietzsche is perhaps more concrete and specific than in the other sections of the work when he attacks the affect of slave morality.  He uses guilt as a primary example of the first revaluation.  Guilt serves as an illustration of how slave morality "reversed" valuations and became a force in contemporary morality. The essay details why it is important to supplant guilt with a greater sense of self-esteem as a basis for living. 

"Over many millennia the enforcement of 'custom' ingrained the habit of 'responsibility', of fulfilling the implicit promise to obey the rules of custom.  Man became a being with an ingrained habit of being true to his commitments.  One day - Nietzsche makes no attempt to explain how those happens, there is just, in the language I have been using, a 'random mutation' - an individual arises in whom the habit of responsibility, the 'long, unbreakable will', fixes itself onto a new target: it's own standard of value.  The individual, while every bit as 'responsible' as the custom-driven person, becomes 'free', not, of course, in the sense of having an uncaused 'free will' (an illusion, Nietzsche consistently believes), but in the sense of 'autonomy', of being a self-driven rather than custom-driven individual. He becomes, in the language of The Gay Science, a 'free spirit', free to follow his own 'dominant instinct'. (page 466) 

"Having completed the discussion of the sovereign individual, Nietzsche finally gets to the point, the genealogy of Christian 'guilt'.  The inspiration for the genealogy is once again etymology: the fact that 'guilt (Schuld)' descends from the 'very material' concept of 'debt (Schuld)'.  This derivation is suggested by the fact that in modern German, Schuld (still) means both 'debt' and 'guilt'." (page 468)

"Nietzsche's counter-ideal will not simply replace Christianity with atheism but will offer something like an alternative religious outlook.  In order to glimpse something of this alternative 'ideal', let us return to the origins of religion in the sense of 'debt' to the powerful, transcendentalized ancestor. These origins, he points out, have nothing to do with 'piety': religion originates in 'fear'.

"As we have seen, the Greek gods, in Nietzsche's view, were glorified self-portraits, expressions of profound self-esteem. From this we can infer, yet again, that gods who promote, not human self-loathing, but rather human self-esteem will inhabit the 'shrine' that belongs to Nietzsche's ideal future. This is why he speaks of his ideal as the 'reverse' of Christianity: his second 'revaluation of values' is, in outline, simply the cancellation of the first." (page 470) 

The work's third essay begins with the rather brilliant acknowledgment that, since all human "knowledge" is a matter of "perspective", the more perspectives a human being is capable of "assimilating" the greater that individual's knowledge of things will be. Philosophy is uniquely qualified to prepare for this process of assimilation. Nietzsche then proceeds to attempt his own experiment in assimilation by taking a closer look at Christianity.  Ordinarily, he considers the religion a detriment to relevant modern living. But, he admits, it has a positive side from a historical perspective.  Nietzsche primarily focuses on how the "ascetic ideal" affected the basis for morality and how its residual effects fundamentally undermine the necessary elevation of self-esteem that is most needed in modern society.

"Having criticized the tradition of objectivity, he feels it incumbent on him to develop his own account. Rather than thinking of objectivity as disinterestedness, he suggests, we should think of it as 'having in our power our "fors" and "againsts" so that, with respect, precisely, to the difference in perspectives and affective interpretations, one knows how to make them useful from the point of view of knowledge'. Since there is only perspectival 'knowing', he continues, 'the more affects we allow to speak about a thing, the more eyes, various eyes we know how to bring to bear on the same thing, the more complete will be our 'concept' (Begriff) of the thing, our 'objectivity'.  But to eliminate the will completely and turn off the emotions without exception, assuming we could, would that not be to castrate the intellect?'

"The basic idea, then, is to admit the perspectival, interest-impregnated nature of knowing and then assemble as many perspectives as possible.  The big question is: how can a bunch of 'affective interpretations', perspectives, possibly end up producing something one could call 'objectivity'? How can adding a whole lot of, as one might again call them, 'spins', add up to something that is unspun?" (pp. 474-475)

"One of his great strengths as a philosopher, which coexists, paradoxically, with his taste for radically biased polemics, is his fair mindedness.  Consistently, his itemizing of the downside of, for example, Christianity is balanced, sooner or later, by admission of its upside.  Christianity gave us a meaning of life, made us more spiritual....The more aspects of Christianity one assembles the more 'complete' is one's knowledge of it and the better placed one is to decide whether it has been, on balance, a good thing or a bad thing." (p. 476)

"What is really going on, Nietzsche says, is that /'the ascetic ideal springs from the protective and healing instinct of a degenerate life'/.  He continues by saying that the priest's success in gaining widespread acceptance of the ascetic ideal 'reveals a major fact, the sickliness of the type of man who has lived up to now, at least of a tamed man.' The ascetic priest is the incarnation of his be elsewhere', his 'nausea' and 'fatigue'.  The ascetic priest makes himself the leader of the whole herd of failures, 'the disgruntled and underprivileged' and actually persuades them to 'retain their hold on life'.  He achieves this because the ascetic ideal's big 'No' brings with it a host of 'tender Yeses'." (page 477)

"So how, contrary to appearances, does the ascetic priest with his Christian propaganda, the ascetic ideal, preserve the life of the 'slave' classes? First, the priest defends the 'sick' against healthy nobles....Second, the priest protects the slaves against envy of the healthy (and so against the futility of a 'ghetto uprising'....Third, the ascetic priest defends the herd against 'anarchy and the ever-present threat of inner dissolution'.  The threat exists because, as Zarathustra puts it, 'the weak who have to serve the strong seek to be masters of the weaker still'.

"The fourth and, it seems to me, by far the most important life-preserving effect to the ascetic ideal, Nietzsche reserves, for dramatic effect, to the very end of the essay, section 28.  Whatever its downside, the ascetic ideal gave us a 'meaning' of life.  This meant that 'the will was saved', saved from 'non-meaning'. And the fact is that 'man would rather will nothingness that not will'. 'Any meaning', that is to say, 'is better than no meaning at all'." (pp. 477-478)

"The basic point, here, is that because we have retained Christian morality we have inevitably retained the thought of man as a flawed, sinful being. The gap between the Christian 'ought' and the natural 'is' is as large as ever.  But this, Nietzsche suggests, leaves post-metaphysical humanity even worse than before. We have retained the disease, the perceived need for 'redemption' from the flesh, but have lost the remedy.  The result is that any kind of an Eastern guru, or salvation-mongering artist like Wagner, has a ready market, since the will to abandon this world for a better one - life-denial, in other words, 'nihilism' in Nietzsche.s most fundamental use of the term - is the basic character of modernity." (pp. 478-479)

"What, actually, is wrong with the ascetic ideal? Nietzsche's fundamental objection is simple and has been with him since Human, All too Human: the priest, the 'doctor' to the sick who is sick himself, combats 'only the suffering itself, the discomfort of the sufferer...not its cause, not the actual state of being ill - this must constitute our most fundamental objection to priestly medication.  The main means  is to produce an 'excess of feeling', 'strong emotions', 'paroxysms of unknown happiness', which, when released, 'combat lethargy'.  Afterwards, however, like a 'narcotic', they only leave the sick sicker than they were before." (page 479)

Nietzsche outlandishly writes that the ascetic ideal and modern science ironically bring the same ultimate result - the will to power expressed as 'the will to truth'.  This is, according to Nietzsche, a distinctively modern idea.

"What we must now realize is that the will to truth is itself a 'problem'.  Thus, Nietzsche would say, by questioning the validity of the unconditional will to truth, he has raised himself out of the ascetic ideal. Having used the ladder of 'Christian' truthfulness to climb out of Christian metaphysics, he is now kicking it away beneath him. Notice, here, the plausibility...that Nietzsche is best seen as, not an opponent, but rather a radical continuation of the Protestant - Protest-ant - tradition in which he was brought up.  What overcomes, first Christian metaphysics, and then Christian morality, is Christian morality - Christian truthfulness - itself.

"What does 'questioning' the will to truth, turning it into an issue, mean for Nietzsche?  It means elevating life, healthy life, into a higher value than truth.  If self-deception, illusion, is what best promotes your psychic health that is what you should go for. Nth is, however, by no means represents the demise of the 'will to truth'..." (page 481)

"Nietzsche's language of 'rape', 'violation', and 'mastery' closely resembles that used by Martin Heidegger to describe the world of modern technology.  The difference, however, is that whereas Heidegger condemns modernity's unlimited will to power, here at least, Nietzsche endorses it.

"Living in the times that we do, we may well find ourselves agreeing with Heidegger's condemnation. We may find Nietzsche's approval of the unlimited will to power repellent, find it to be indeed hubris, the fateful recompense for which - the meltdown of our climate - we are now experiencing.  That, however, is something we have to live with.  For all his criticisms of the effects of modern technology, at least some of the time, Nietzsche inhabited the modernist spirit of the age that invented railways, electric power, the telephone, and the bureaucratic state, the age in which the world seemed technology's inexhaustible oyster. Perhaps the best that can be said for him is that if he were alive now he would certainly classify the unlimited will to power as one of those things that used to be considered 'good' but is now 'bad'." (page 483)

"The datum is a specific aspect of modern humanity's sickness, our 'bad conscience', lack of self-esteem. The question once again is, what has caused it? And the answer is that it originated in the internalized aggression of the human animal 'caged' behind the bars of civilization, an aggression that was then shaped, endorsed, and massively intensified by Christianity.  From this, Nietzsche concludes that Christianity is the major contributory cause for our current sickness.  His therapy is a morality that returns humanity to an esteem for its basic instinct for aggression, but one which has the same civilization-preserving /effect/ as Christian morality by endorsing cultural rather than natural, sublimated rather than crudely physical forms of it s expression.  Once again we are presented with a paradigm of 'medical' reasoning, a paradigm that contains not the slightest hint of the irrational or the merely polemical." (page 484) 

Put simply, for Young the Genealogy is a polemic regarding how the origins and development of Christian morality is a "sickness" in modern society, which can only be "healed" through a second revaluation of values that elevates the self-esteem of the individual instead of viewing our humanity as fundamentally flawed and "sinful." How this revaluation should take place involves multi-perspective assimilation and a deconstruction of values to reposition our humanity as a natural and inherently "good" part of the world without need for redemption. 

Beyond this, however, the "prescription" Dr. Nietzsche offers contemporary society in the Genealogy is rather vague.  In other works Nietzsche stresses the importance of creative expression as a source of (the will to) power in a (naturally good) person’s life. The commitment to discovering one’s ‘style’ in The Gay Science and to creative living in BGE are examples. But that is not the concern of his Genealogy, a work many feel is his most impressive philosophical achievement.  Since this work is a polemic, Nietzsche is more interested in diagnosing an illness than he is on expounding about the cure.

The exact nature of a second revaluation of values remains elusive.  As I have suggested before, Nietzsche never got around to crystallizing this revaluation. We have only fragments and isolated sections written in his own hand regarding the revaluation’s nature and qualities. Apparently, he simply became distracted with his thoughts in his last works. While brilliant in sections or in concept, the post-Genealogy Nietzsche never advanced the revaluation the way, say, BGE did as prelude to whatever never came next, the philosophy of the future.

Who knows?  Maybe Fritz got distracted by the implications of his own thought. And his mind wandered away from the revaluation project even as he was about to go insane.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Triumph of Judea

Curtis Cate's analysis of On the Genealogy of Morals (GM) does not stress the "will to power" to the extent that Hollingdale did (see previous post).  Instead he emphasizes other strands of Nietzsche's thought (amor fati and various positions first enunciated in his "Untimely Meditations", for example) threaded into the work.  Cate agrees with Hollingdale, however, that GM is an extension and clarification of Beyond Good and Evil.  Let's begin with an understanding of how spontaneously Nietzsche completed the core of the work, indicative of his writing style since the first part of Zarathustra was completed four years earlier.

"On July 17, barely two weeks after beginning, Nietzsche informed Naumann, who must have been astonished by the 'half-blind' professor's prolixity, that he had completed a small Streitschrift (polemic pamphlet) intended to amplify and elucidate Beyond Good and Evil.  The title he had chosen was Zur Genealogie der Moral (On the Genealogy of Morals).

"More compact, strictly disciplined, and less diffuse than any of the books he had written since the four 'Untimely Meditation', the text Nietzsche now sent to Naumann consisted of two essays, each composed of a number of sections.  At the risk of being simplistic - all too easy in analyzing Nietzsche's writings - one could say that the first, titled 'Good and Evil, Good and Bad', was essentially an exercise in linguistic etymology applied to moral values, while the second essay, 'Guilt, Bad Conscience, and the Like', was an attempt to develop an 'anthropology of morals'.

"Nietzsche began, in the first essay, by expressing a grudging admiration for 'English psychologists' - by whom he meant Hebert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, and other proponents of 'Utilitarianism' - who had at least tried to bring notions like 'good' and 'bad' down to earth from imaginary empyrean where they had been placed by Plato and after him by Christian theologians. But these would-be 'historians of morality' had arbitrarily decided that the notion if 'good' from the point of view of those who benefited from them. But in so doing, Nietzsche argued, these British 'psychologists' were yielding to sentimentality. In reality the criterion of what is 'good' was not based on 'others', on those to whom 'goodness' is shown.  It was invented by a dominant caste, imbued with the 'pathos of distinction and distance', in contradistinction to what members of the dominant caste regarded as 'bad' - as low-minded, mean and 'vulgar' (in German, pobelhaft, 'rabble-like' - a favorite word with Nietzsche, the pejorative force of which is attenuated by the usual English translation of 'plebeian'.)  What is 'good', in those distant times, was what the ruling caste decided was 'good' and imposed on the rest of society.  Only when aristocratic values began to lose their force and were challenged by the 'herd-instinct' of the ruled, did 'good' come to be associated with 'unselfish', 'unegotistical', and the term 'bad' with 'selfishness'.

Nietzsche draws upon his expertise as a former professor of philology to make assertions about morality as revealed in the roots of various languages. For him, language is a key revelation into the evolution of basic human moral expression.  He then parlays this linguistic exploration to make some highly conjectural thought experiments into the nature of "good" and "bad", relying heavily on an examination of ancient Greece and Rome and Judaism. 

"This was followed by a fascinating etymological analysis (sections 4 and 5) of various adjectives invented by aristocratic ruling classes to distinguish the 'good', the 'noble', the 'brave' - the Sanskrit arya the Greek esthlos and agathos the Latin bonus, the German gut, the Gaelic fin - from their 'bad', 'common', 'craven' opposites: the German schlecht (bad), the Greek words kakos and deilo (the 'vile' or 'craven' antithesis of agathos, the Latin malus (derived from the Greek melas, meaning 'dark' or 'black', an adjective applied to the blond conquerors to the darker-skinned, darker haired inhabitants of pre-Aryan Italy) etc.

"How then did the term 'good' closely associated with nobility and courage, come to have an entirely different connotation?  Nietzsche's answer (section 6) was that this semantic transformation was essentially the work of priests, and in particular of triumphant priesthoods, for whom robust manliness, virility and courage were less important than 'cleanliness' and 'purity'.  There was always, he claimed, something unhealthy in such priestly aristocracies. The 'cures' - everything from avoidance of meat, fasting and sexual abstinence to the autohypnosis of fakirs and Buddhistic concentration on nothing - were more dangerous than the 'maladies' they were supposed to cure." (pp. 499 - 500) 

"Now applying the criterion of 'underdog' or 'slave resentment' which he had unveiled in Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche went on to contrast the 'knightly-aristocratic' mode of valuation - with its healthy love of war, adventure, hunting, dancing and war-games - with the sickly ethos of priests, born of hatred and a sense of impotence.  For, he declared roundly, 'the truly great haters in the history of the world have always been priests, and likewise the most ingenious haters'.  Already, in Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche had called the Jews 'great haters,' but now, throwing caution to the winds with an intrepidity  that was to earn him the title of the 'Thunderer of Sils-Maria', he went much further:

"'All that has been done on earth against 'the nobles', 'the mighty', 'the overlords', 'the power-wielders' is as nothing compared to what the Jews did against them: the Jews, the priestly people who were only able to obtain satisfaction against their enemies and conquerors through a radical revaluation of the latter's values, that is, by an act of the most spiritual revenge.  This befitted a priestly people, this people of the most deeply repressed priestly vengefulness. It was the Jews who with awe-inspiring logical consistency dared to invert the aristocratic value-equation (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = beloved of God) and who clung to it with the teeth of the most abysmal hatred (the hatred of impotence), saying 'the wretched alone are the good ones; the poor, the helpless, the lowly are alone the good ones; the sufferers, the have-nots, the sick, the ugly are also the only devout ones, the only God-blessed, for them alone is blessedness - whereas you, you who are powerful and noble, are to all eternity the evil ones, the cruel, the lustful, the insatiable, the godless, and forever will you be the unblessed, the accused and the damned!'

"In short, as he has already pointed out in section 195 of Beyond Good and Evil, it was with the Jews that there began the 'slave revolt in morality', a revolt with 2,000 years of history behind it which had gradually vanished from sight precisely because it had ended up victorious." (pp. 500 - 501)

"Indeed, Nietzsche fearlessly and, it must be said, recklessly added that underlying all noble races one could not but recognize 'the beast of prey, the magnificent blond beast lustily prowling in search of spoils and victory; from time to time an explosion is needed from this inner core, the animal must break out again, must return to the wilderness - the Roman, Arabic, Germanic, Japanese aristocracies, Homeric heroes, Scandinavian Vikings were all alike in [satisfying] this need.'

"These dangerous words, which certain Nazis were to take quite literally as a philosophical justification for their bestial behavior, were written at Sils-Maria during the month of July 1887.  And the question that arises is why Nietzsche felt the need to hammer home this point (in the crucial 11th section) and even to repeat the expression 'blond-Bestie' a little further on, in referring to the 'deep, icy mistrust that the German arouses as soon as he comes to power', this being the psychological aftermath of 'that inextinguishable horror with which for centuries Europe watched the raging of the blond Germanic beast'.  Clearly embarrassed, Walter Kaufmann, in commenting on this passage in his book on Nietzsche, claimed that the 'blondness' here was not derived from any notion of Aryan racial superiority - Nietzsche regarded such theories as socio-historical claptrap - but referred to the tawny 'blondness' of the Lion, the animal chosen in Zarathustra's first speech to symbolize the second, essentially destructive stage in human development, in which necessary destruction precedes a new creativity.  The association of 'blond' color and tawny beast may well have existed in Nietzsche's mind; but the point he was stressing here concerned historical facts, at any rate as he interpreted them, with relation to what most interested him: the past, present, and future of Europe." (pp. 502 - 503)

"This brings us back to Nietzsche's concept of amor fati (love of fate), first enunciated in the fourth part of The Joyous Science, as a wise encouragement to accept the world as it is and not as we would like it to be, or to have been.  What we experience as 'the world' of 'life' is not simply the fleeting present;  it is also the remembered past, which alone offers us a reliable guide for the future - provided that its 'lessons' are properly interpreted and not distorted by visionary fantasies or moral prejudices.  In Zarathustra II Nietzsche had denounced the tendency to reinterpret and rewrite the 'savage' in accordance with standards of a soft, squeamish, effeminate and not least of all revolutionary pseudo-Christian 'morality'. The feudal order, based on 'outrageous inequalities' and 'injustice', was for these reasons fundamentally 'evil', 'unprogressive'.  The turbulent fifth to eighth centuries AD, when the lawlessness was at it height, had accordingly been denigrated as the 'Dark Ages'.  Nothing was more childish and insidiously pernicious than this peremptory condemnation of the past by 'modern' and thus 'superior' human beings for not having seen what it should have been (a smug, self-righteous sitting in judgment on the past which Nietzsche has criticized in his second 'Untimely Meditation').

"That the Jacobin revolutionaries of 1789 who had destroyed the ancien regime in France were hate-filled 'men of ressentiment' hardly needed to be proved.  Still draped in the sacred garments of pious hypocrisy, on the other hand, was the popular illusion that Christianity was still, as it had always been, a religion founded on Faith, on Love, on Hope. 'In faith of what?  In love of what?  In hope of what?' Nietzsche asked, in a section (15) whose ferocity matched his devastating critique of St. Paul in Morgenrote.

"In the millennial struggle between Rome and Judea, Judea had triumphed.  Centuries later, at the time of the Renaissance, it looked for a moment as though the miraculous had occurred and that the old Roman virtues were about to be resurrected.  But once again Judea triumphed - thanks to that fundamentally vulgar, plebeian German and English movement of ressentiment known as the 'Reformation'. This, however, was merely a foretaste of what was to come.  For, as Nietzsche concluded, Judea triumphed yet again, and in a deeper and more decisive sense, with the French Revolution.

"In the second essay Nietzsche set out to do what Paul Ree had failed to achieve with a short book published in 1885: provide a rational explanation for the historical origins of two related sentiments - the sense of 'guilt' and that of 'bad conscious' - which had played such a paramount role in the development of modern man.  This anthropological explanation for such deeply rooted sentiments was totally at variance with the prevailing belief, popularized by Christianity, that human beings, from the time of Creation on, were all born with innate 'conscience' and instinctive notion of 'good' and 'bad'." (pp. 504 - 505)

"Nietzsche's 'pre-historical' investigation was greatly influenced by the German word for 'guilt' (Schuld), which also means 'debt'.  One of his theses - for as usual there were many separate strands, tied into a bundle - was that the notion of 'guilt' in primitive societies was intimately associated with the notion of indebtedness, not only towards human 'creditors' but also towards one's ancestors and gods.

"Let us, for the sake of brevity, concentrate on this single strand of thought, arbitrarily disregarding the many interesting things Nietzsche had to say on the nature, necessity, efficacy and ineffectiveness of punishment, and not least of all self-punishment (essential to the development of culture - a fascinating anticipation of Freud's famous essay on Civilization and its Discontents.  In primitive societies punishment was not meted out to the committer of the crime because he was deemed 'guilty'; it was meted instinctively, much as an angry parent slaps a child.  The wrong committed was thus righted.  The notion of 'personal responsibility' - meaning the wrong-doer was 'free' and could have acted differently - appeared fairly late in the development of primitive societies (section 4)....As communities grew more secure, the collective wrath against malefactors became accentuated.  Out of this there grew a system of 'justice' and a penal system based on compositio - the settlement of grievances between the offended party and the 'offender'." (page 506)

"In primeval times all tribal communities tended to revere their ancestors and in particular the 'founders' of their tribe.  They felt that they owed them a debt of thanks for having displayed their heroism and tenacity needed to survive (section 13).  These debts were settled through various sacrifices: offerings of food, the slaughtering of animals, even human sacrifices.  As the tribe grew stronger, so did the stature of their legendary 'founders', whose prestige kept growing until they became colossal figures, demigods, and finally gods.  Along with basic concepts such as 'good' and 'bad', which were imposed on them by the master-caste of 'rulers', the great majority of subjects inherited this sense of indebtedness to certain deities and, finally, after the establishment of empires (like those of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar) to a single, autocratic God." (page 507)

"In Human, All Too Human Nietzsche had already declared that the notion of 'sin' was a pernicious invention of semitic thought.  Now he claimed that the ancient, 'lion-hearted' Greeks had kept this inhibiting, tormenting, joy-destroying notion of 'bad conscience' at arm's length by having their gods regard the misdeeds of mortals not as 'sinful' but as acts of foolishness, of momentary 'disturbances of the mind'. In this way the ancient Greek gods had helped to exonerate the misdeeds of human beings, being themselves the causes of evil and thereby assuming responsibility not for the punishment but - something far nobler and more distinguished - for the guilt.

"Exactly when 'modern man' would finally put an end to this 'conscience-vivisection', to this self-inflicted 'cruelty to human animals', Nietzsche could not say. But in the culminating section (24), which rose to a Zarathustran crescendo, he expressed his sublime conviction that one day a new savior, a 'redeeming man of great love and scorn', would surely appear to deliver mankind from 'the great disgust, the will to nothingness, nihilism'; and at the 'bell-stroke of midday and the great decision' he would 'restore its goal to the earth and hope to Man, this anti-Christian and anti-nihilist, this victor over God and nothingness' - yes, 'he must one day come'. (pp. 507 - 508)

Nietzsche engages in pure conjecture throughout much of GM.  There is little in the way of truly "scientific" (archaeological, anthropological, etc.) in his writing here. As such we might be tempted to dismiss his reasoning as overly speculative. Nevertheless, the basic premises of the work reveal themselves in our current world, so we must avoid the temptation to discredit them outright.  As with Hollingdale's analysis in the prior post, Cate affords us a basis for evaluating the validity of Nietzsche's ideas as the modern world has evolved in the past century since his death. 

Today we can easily see the legitimacy of Nietzsche's critique of "ressentiment" (resentment) in our absurd culture of political correctness.  The number of "victims" of society is ever-growing.  What is more, being a democratic society (something Nietzsche rightly appraised as herd-like), the victims validate one another through the political process.  Slave morality has never been stronger.  Master morality, while still expressing itself in ways mentioned at the conclusion of the previous post in addition to elitist forms of art and music and "high" or exclusive memberships, clubs and culture, is an accepted target of slave revolt. "Privilege" is fair-game for attacks and condemnation by mediocrity; it is seen in classic slave morality as a great "No" - the fullness of human potential and its resulting expression of elitism is damned by the mainstream perspective.  So, while Nietzsche's interpretation of how the Master-Slave Morality might have worked through history seems a bit sketchy, there is little denying that it is working today just as Nietzsche describes in GM.

The difficulty comes with Nietzsche's "faith" that some "redeeming savior" will emerge to address the unnatural imbalance created by slave morality over master morality. This strikes me as highly "romantic" in its logic, showing that Nietzsche could not escape the essence of his times no matter how radical his ideas seemed.  In the unfolding reality of current events, there is no indication that the question of morality will be readdressed by any forthcoming "master" or morality.  Instead, as before with Hollingdale, it seems to me that the "savior" is a dispersed force within a multitude cultural expressions.  Again, my examination of this possibility awaits a future post.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hollingdale's take on Nietzsche's "Genealogy"

R.J. Hollingdale ranks alongside Walter Kaufmann as among the foremost scholars on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Hollingdale's approach to Nietzsche's next great work, On the Genealogy of Morals, concentrates heavily on what the work says regarding the phenomenon of the "will to power" and "the master/slave morality" structure. This post extensively quotes from Hollingdale's philosophical biography of Nietzsche.  BGE is the abbreviation I use for Beyond Good and Evil.  GM stands for On the Genealogy of Morals.

"Beyond Good and Evil is devoted to an elaboration and explanation of theories put forward in Zarathustra, and Towards a Genealogy of Morals is described as performing the same service for Beyond Good and Evil, so the two books can best be considered together." (page 180)

"The first problem Nietzsche faces is the difficulty involved in saying that the will to power is 'true' if the search for truth is itself prompted by will to power....philosophy must be in some way a means to power and not primarily a means to truth: the philosopher must desire not merely a passive knowing but an active creation of knowledge:

"'...a philosophy...always creates the world after its own image: it cannot do otherwise; philosophy is this tyrannical impulse itself, the most spiritual will to power, to 'creation of the world', to causa prima. (BGE 10)

"'The task of philosophers is 'to create values'...their knowing is creating, their creating is law-giving, their will to truth is - will to power.' (BGE 211)

"Secondly, he appeals to the requirement of logic to recognize one kind of causality and to exploit it to the limit in an effort to make it responsible for every known effect. According to his own theory that the world is explicable in itself, that it 'works' without any contribution from 'outside', it must be possible to determine its 'intelligible character' - that is, understand it in the form in which it presents itself to our senses - by reference to a basic principle.  This principle, he suggests, is the will to power." (page 181)

"If it is proposed that will to power is the basic drive in all life, the question arises: what is the nature of the Will as such?  There still seem to be two forces at work: will, and that will which seeks power; the concept of 'will' still exists as a substratum, will in Schopenhauer's sense, a metaphysical basis for life. There is, (Nietzsche) says, no such thing as will. Just as the soul turns out on inspection to be a word for a complicated system of relationships and therefore cannot be said to exist, so the will has no discrete existence: there is no force emanating from within the body which can be identified as 'will'.  'Willing' is a product of a complex of sensations; and the sensation of willing is felt when the sensation of command succeeds in dominating the other sensations. What we recognize as 'will' is the act of commanding: there is no substratum of 'will-in-itself' which appears in the form of commands.  Nietzsche makes clear in the Genealogy what he means by denying that the will can exist as a separate entity:

"'To require of strength that it should not express itself as just as absurd as to require of weakness that it should express itself as strength...popular morality separates strength from expressions of strength, as if there were natural substratum behind the strong man...But there is no such substratum; there is no 'being' behind doing, working, becoming: the 'doer' is merely added to the deed - the deed is everything'. (GM I 13)" (page 182)

"'Willing seems to me to be above all something every will there is, first of all, a plurality of sensations, namely the sensation of the condition we leave, the sensation of the condition towards which we go, the sensation of this 'leaving' and 'going' itself, and then the accompanying muscular sensation...will is not only a complex of feeling and thinking, but above all an emotion: and in fact the emotion of command.  What is called 'freedom of will' is essentially the emotion of supremacy in respect of him who must obey; 'I am free, "he" must obey' - this consciousness adheres to every will...A man who wills - commands something in himself which obeys or which he thinks obeys...inasmuch as in the given circumstances we at the same time command and obey,...'freedom of will' the expression for that complex condition of joy of the person who wills, who commands and at the same time identifies himself with the executor of the command...' (BGE 19)

"The nature of the will, then, is, in its 'intelligible character', will to power; it appears when a certain relation - the power relation - is established between the elements of a 'social structure', whether that structure be an individual, a nation, or the universe as a whole, life as such. This conclusion is consistent with Nietzsche's conclusion concerning the nature of morality - which he repeats in Beyond Good and Evil:

"'Every morality is...a piece of tyranny against 'nature', also against 'reason':...The essential and invaluable element in every morality is that it is a protracted constraint...The essential thing...seems to be...a protracted constraint...The essential thing...seems to be...a protracted obedience in one direction.' (BGE 188)

"In the Genealogy he draws a further conclusion that it is important in linking the theory of the will to power with the need to establish 'meaning' for life.  Just as life is will to power, so the 'meaning' of life is the feeling that the will to power is operative, that something is subject to the will - no matter what it may be: it is the fact of commanding which counts:

"'Apart from the ascetic ideal, man, the animal man, had no meaning.  His existence on earth contained no goal...This is precisely what the ascetic ideal means: that something was lacking, that man was surrounded by a fearful void - he did not know how to justify, to account for, to affirm himself, he suffered from the problem of his meaning...his problem was not suffering itself, but that there was no answer to the crying question 'why is there suffering?'...The meaninglessness of suffering, not suffering itself, was the curse which lay over mankind - and the ascetic ideal gave it meaning! was saved thereby...he could now /will/ something - immaterial to what end, why, with what he willed: the will itself was saved.' (GM III 28)"  (pp. 183-184)

"In this will he recognized the origin of nihilism: an individual, a nation, a civilization deprived of positive goals destroys itself by willing the last thing left in its power of will - its own destruction; and it will will rather than not will.  Nietzsche now gained the authority to distinguish between different victorious moralities: that a certain morality had established itself did not imply it was a movement for the enhancement of power - it might be a nihilistic morality, and its triumph the triumph of a will to nothingness.  He therefore began to speak of 'life-enhancing' or 'ascending' and life-denying' or 'declining' morality, and he was able to condemn the latter without self-contradiction." (page 184)

"Nietzsche re-emphasizes that conflict and contest are the basis of life, and that the good impulses derive from the bad:

"'All psychology has hitherto remained anchored to prejudice and timidities: it has not ventured on to the deep.  To conceive of psychology as the morphology and development-theory of the will to power, as I conceive it - has never yet entered the mind of anyone else:...The power of moral prejudices has penetrated deep into the intellectual world, which is apparently the coolest and least prejudiced:...A genuine physio-psychology has to struggle with unconscious resistance in the heart of the investigator; it has to struggle with unconscious resistance in the heart of the investigator; it has 'the heart' against it: even a theory of mutual dependence of the 'good' and the 'bad' impulses causes, as refined immorality, distress and aversion to a conscious still brave and strong - and even more theory of the deprivation of all good impulses from the bad.  When, however, one regards even the emotions of hatred, envy, covetousness, lust for power as life-conditioning emotions, as something which, in the total economy of life, must be present fundamentally and essentially, and which consequently must be furthered if life is to furthered - he suffers from this conclusion as from seasickness.' (BGE 23)" (page 185)

And with the aforementioned "power of moral prejudices" Nietzsche begins to shift his metaphysical focus into a thread that rides his "mature" (his middle and later works as opposed to early "positivist" works from Birth of Tragedy to Zarathustra) philosophical narrative.  The master and slave morality transcends race or class, arranging and critiquing society in a unique way.  This is an important point about Nietzsche.

"He never speaks of the master race, and clearly he never imagined one existing race to be superior to all others. (Even if he had, one may add in parentheses, he would hardly have designated the Germans that race.) He never uses the word in the sense of 'pure race': for Nietzsche a 'race' was a group of people who had lived together a long time and as a result had certain needs and certain characteristics in common; and it was in this sense that he looked forward to a 'European race', which he hoped might vie in achievement with the most celebrated of all 'mixed races', the Greeks.  But his opposition to racism was not merely temperamental bias, or an occasional expression of opinion.  Any philosophy which places conflict at the heart of things and sees it as a ladder to perfection must turn its back on 'pure race' as pure absurdity." (page 186)

"The concept 'master and slave morality' is an attempt to explain how antithetical moral judgments are possible. Before trying to see exactly what is implied in this passage, let us look at those passages in the Genealogy which are an elaboration and extension of it:

"'...the judgment 'good' did not originate with those to whom 'goodness' was shown! Much rather it was 'the good' themselves, that is to say, the noble, powerful, high-stationed and high-minded, who felt and established themselves and their actions as good, that is, of the first rank, in contradistinction to all the low, low-minded, common and plebeian.  It was out of this pathos of distance that they first seized the right to create values and to coin names for values: what had they to do with utility' (GM I 2)

"'...everywhere 'noble', 'aristocratic' in the social sense is the basic concept from which 'good' in the sense of 'with aristocratic soul' necessarily developed: a development which runs parallel with that other in which 'common', 'plebeian', 'low' are finally transformed into the concept of 'bad'...With regard to a genealogy of morals this seems to me a fundamental insight.' (GM I 4)

"'The slave-revolt in morals begins with resentment...becomes creative and gives birth to values...While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is 'outside', what is 'different', what is 'not itself': and this No is its creative act...its action is...reaction...The man of resentment...has conceived 'the evil enemy', 'the Evil One', and this is his basic idea, from which he then evolves, as a corresponding and opposing figure, a 'good one' - himself! (GM I 10)." (page 188)

"'One cannot fail to see at the core of all these noble races the animal of prey, the splendid blonde beast prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get out again and go back to the wilderness: the Roman, Arabian, Germanic, Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian Vikings - they all shared this need.  It is the noble races which have left behind them the concept 'barbarian' wherever they have gone.' (GM I 11)" (page 189)

"The first thing to note is that Nietzsche explains 'class' in terms of 'race'.  The ruling class, he thinks, are the descendants of the conquering race, the ruled, class of the conquered race; in time, racial differences vanished - partly through intermarriage, but mainly because 'race' is essentially a body of characteristics shared by people who have lived together in the same place for a long time - but the power relationship remained.  The aristocracy then became racially indistinguishable from the common people - they were, in fact, one race - and the concept of 'class' appeared to explain the power relationship between rulers and the ruled. It is by means of this power relationship that he seeks to explain the origin of opposite types of morality, 'soul', bad conscience, guilt feelings, and so on.  The aim is to employ the theory of will to power as that 'one kind of causality' demanded by logical method.

"Because slave morality is essentially a reaction against a life of suffering, against life conceived as suffering, it is a 'life-denying' morality; it is protective, it wards off, it reduces vitality; in an extreme form it becomes a Buddhistic flight from reality, a morbid sensitivity to pain that suffers from life as from an illness; he recognizes in Schopenhauer the philosopher who had taken this tendency to its furthest limits.  Against this tendency he sets an opposite ideal:

"'...the ideal of the most exuberant, most living and most world-affirming man, who has not only learned to compromise and treat with all that was and is but who wants to have it again as it was and is to all eternity, insatiably calling out da capo not only to himself but to the whole piece and play...' (BGE 56)" (page 190)

"'The essential thing in a good and healthy aristocracy is...that it does not feel itself to be a function (of a kingdom or of a commonwealth), but as the meaning and highest justification thereof - that it should therefore accept with a good conscience the sacrifice of innumerable men who, for its sake, have to be suppressed and reduced to imperfect men, to slaves and tools.  Its basic faith must be that society should not exist for the sake of society, but only as foundation and scaffolding upon which a select order of beings may rise itself to...a higher existence.' (BGE 258)

"The logic of this attitude, given all that has gone before, is inescapable; so unfortunately for Nietzsche, is its unreality. It is doubtful if he himself thought such an aristocracy was possible; certainly it is not presented as a picture of any actually existing aristocracy. The difficulty, however, is not insurmountable; it derives mainly from the archaic language which Nietzsche here employs, and the outmoded state of society which it calls to mind. The idea behind it is that which we have seen formed the basis of all his thought: that existence is in itself not significant, and mankind can derive no significance from being a function of it; mankind must become this significance and justification of existence. (pp. 191-192)

This last point is interesting because it reveals Nietzsche's distinctive "aristocracy" is something yet to be in the future, to be created by the values of the overmen as a "higher" society emerges completely supported by "herd" society, the mass of ordinary human beings.  It can seem idealistic to suppose such a culture-wide becoming is possible. But a look at the world view of current human events gives a great deal of credence to the idea that a power construct is working within a master-slave context for defining true (actualized) human morality.  

Three examples of how this "will to power" might be manifesting today within a "master-slave morality" construct: 1) The metaphysical clash that results in "income inequality." 2) The aggressive atheism that critiques mass religion. 3) The elitist pockets of society that reside in multiple countries, using their private jets within a global interplay of capitalism and art and dandyism. Whatever. Hollingdale's approach to Nietzsche highlights "the will to power" and "master-slave morality" as basic themes throughout On the Genealogy of Morals.

As Hollingdale admits, none of this "aristocracy" suggests an actual "group."  So it is somewhat surprising to realize that Nietzsche's tangible aristocracy apparently "exists" only as isolated symptoms, fragmented aspects of culture dispersed throughout the spectrum of human culture. If we are to apply the weight of the course of human history since Nietzsche's death to Nietzsche's philosophical aspirations, then we must admit a singular higher culture does not exist, but characteristics of it do exist and have effect, deeds as Nietzsche would have it above. The deed is greater than the doer as manifested in culture. Perhaps the will to power only expresses itself through disconnected cultural drives (as deeds) and never coalesces into a culture. This is a possible interpretation of applying (re-valuating) Nietzsche today.  

When considered along with my previous mention of Nietzsche offering a psychological basis for his ideal "aristocracy" and of the influence of Prussian culture (see here and here) on Nietzsche's perspective, Hollingdale's analysis suggests that the idea of what a "society" is might need adjustment, in ways, I suggest, that accommodate Nietzsche's thought and yet are even more radical than Nietzsche's thinking. Namely, that the characteristics of the overman and of higher existence might be dispersed across multiple societies and not unified in any specific society. I will consider the ramifications of this in a future post.