Reconstructions of Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche genealogically derives the slave-aristocratic morality distinction, and thus wages a ‘Campaign against Morality’ in response to the life-denying nature of slave morality, and morality itself. Slave morality has emerged through ‘Judeo-Christianity’, and may transform into nihilism upon the realisation of the ‘death of God’, that is, the erosion of the moral significance of the idea of God, as a product of the rationalist Enlightenment. Nietzsche encounters difficulties in his genealogical methodology, via his insufficient engagement with history and philosophy, which render the necessity of the Übermensch, through the will to power, problematic, from which Nietzsche departs from moral traditions, in his rejection of moral realism.

Nietzsche’s ‘Campaign against Morality’ constitutes a response to slave morality, and rejection of the ‘true-value’ distinction of rationalist morality, in favour of the ‘good-bad’ distinction, such that he thought it necessary to institute a moral transvaluation. Nietzsche derives the slave-aristocratic morality distinction through an excavation of socio-cultural development, and its underpinning phenomenon of the ‘will to power’, the ‘instinct of freedom’, and manifestation of all human behaviour and reasoning. Deleuze and Bataille suggest it is crucial to refrain from interpreting the will to power as seeking domination over another, such that it is even antithetical to the fascist will; rather, it is reversed from popular conception: ‘power is what is wanted in the will’, such that ‘power, as a will to power, is not that which the will wants, but what which wants in the will’. Nietzsche observes a general historical under-over class antagonism, from which he identifies attributions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, not according to any traditional basis, like utility or intention, but according to the inherent goodness attributed by these ‘good men’ of society. Nietzsche asks: ‘what is the true etymological significance of the various symbols for the idea ‘good’ which have been coined in the various languages?’, and suggests that responses return to ‘the same evolution of the same idea- that everywhere ‘aristocrat’, ‘noble’, … is the root idea, out of which necessarily developed ‘good’ in the sense of ‘with aristocratic soul’, ‘noble’, in the sense of ‘with a soul of high calibre’, ‘with a privileged soul’- a development which … runs parallel with that other evolution by which ‘vulgar’, ‘plebeian’, ‘low’, are made to change finally into ‘bad’’. Aristocratic morality defines itself in prescribing titles relative to power, for example, ‘master’, ‘commander’, ‘wealthy’, but also in terms of some ‘characteristic idiosyncrasy’, which concerns Nietzsche, ‘the noble’, ‘the one’, ‘the truthful’. Thus, Nietzsche extracts several significant differentiations: Aristocratic morality is self-affirming; spontaneous and internal, seeking its antithesis for greater self-affirmation; sees enemies as honourable and respectable, evoking the true sense of ‘lov[ing] their enemy’, whereas slave morality rejects what is outside self; dependent upon external conditions for reaction and rejection; sees enemies as evil, for rejection and self-imposition as contrary. The priestly Jews ‘eventually realised that the one method of effecting satisfaction on its enemies and tyrants was by means of a radical transvaluation of values’, seeking to reverse the aristocratic equation of ‘good = aristocratic = beautiful = happy = loved by the gods’: ‘the wretched are alone the good; the poor, the weak, the lonely, are alone the good, …, but [these] aristocrats, … are … evil’. The slave revolt, led by the Jews, began in the sphere of morals, birthed in ressentiment by function of the repression of their will to power, and therefore, ‘imagined revenge’, lasting two millennia, and in the present day has ‘moved out of our sight, because it has achieved victory’. The Judaic ‘good/evil’, and therefore, the ascetic ideal, had won over the Roman ‘good/bad’, broken temporarily by the Renaissance, but then reasserted by the Reformation and French Revolution. The aristocrat’s ‘good’ has come to mean the slave’s ‘evil’, and the aristocrat’s ‘bad’ has come to mean the slave’s ‘good’, giving rise to the ascetic ideal, which Nietzsche critiques for ‘what it means; what it indicates; what lies hidden behind it, beneath it, in it’- merely constituting a compensation for humanity’s dependence upon meaning: ‘man will rather will nothingness than not will’. The ideal holds no intrinsic value, offering a multiplicity of meanings for certain groups: for the artist, the ascetic ideal means ‘nothing or too many things’, such that a closer approximation is only possible through reference to the philosopher, as was the case with Wagner’s dependence on Schopenhauer. For the philosopher, the ideal means ‘a sense and instinct for the most favourable conditions of higher spirituality’, to satisfy a desire for independence, but like the priest, remains trapped by ‘poverty, chastity, humility’. For the priest, the ideal constitutes the ‘’supreme’ license for power’, seeing himself as the ‘saviour’ of the physiologically deformed, offering an anesthetising solution that fails to address the origins of suffering. Nietzsche proposes possible opponents to the ideal: modern science, modern historians, and ‘comedians of the ideal’. Science constitutes the ‘most recent noblest form’ of the ideal with no faith in itself, acting as a means of self-anesthetisation for those unwilling to confess their suffering. By eroding the theological importance of humanity, science substitutes its cynicism as the ideal’s antithesis. History, in aiming to rid itself of biases to reflect ultimate reality, upholds ascetic nihilism, and rejection of teleology: their ‘last crowings’ are ‘to what end?’ The ‘contemplatives’ are self-satisfied hedonists, ‘comedians of the Christian-moral ideal’, who ‘arouse mistrust’ in the ideal. This will to truth, promoted by asceticism, has brought about a pursuit of truth, bringing the will to truth into self-obstruction, such that what is now required, for Nietzsche, is a critique of the value of truth itself, and as Christianity and nihilism are merely concerned with post-earthly existence, denying earthly pleasures in favour of eternal existence, and neglecting meaning in the earthly and post-earthly existence, respectively, a need for an earthly-oriented super-morality. Nietzsche admires this transvaluation of morals, but rejects its values, suggesting that this is precedent for a further ‘revaluation of values’ to lessen the effects of slave morality on the development of the Übermensch, humanity’s state of overcoming which recognises morality as socially constructed, through the will to power, based in finite existence, yet revaluation is possible through realism, and philosophical, and historical, engagement.

Nietzsche declared that ‘God is Dead’, not in atheistic proclamation, but as diagnosis of Western society, in which he observed the erosion of the Judeo-Christian God as moral authority; however, Nietzsche fails to engage in religious history and philosophy. For Nietzsche, Humanity has unknowingly killed God, or the idea of God, through the rationalist Enlightenment: ‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him’. Nietzsche, through the allegory of Zarathustra, the Zoroastrian prophet, encounters an aged ascetic who expresses misanthropy, yet a love of God, to which Zarathustra exclaims, ‘this old saint has not heard in his forest that God is dead!’ By this death of God, it becomes possible that humanity may no longer believe in any moral order, leading to not only the rejection of morality, but to that of absolute values, thus eroding into nihilism. Upon the realisation of the death of God, humanity may either return to the comforts of slave morality, which provides meaning amidst chaos, or enter into nihilism- both of which are life-denying, or, as Nietzsche advocates, adopt a super-morality that is life-affirming, through the life of the Übermensch, whereby humanity turns from the supernatural to acknowledge the value of this world. The Übermensch does not accept moral authority, instead creating his own morality, based in secular materialism, providing a quasi-Stoic steadfastness and purpose, from which he dedicates himself to humanity’s development, freeing people from the bonds of institutional morality; however, he is yet to appear. Nietzsche’s lack of historical apprehension is illustrated by his conflation of Judeo-Christanity, and therefore understating its Jewish persecution, not exclusively on the basis of ethnicity, but of morality- for example: King Edward I of England’s Edict of Expulsion, the Catholic Monarchs of Spain’s Alhambra Decree, Dagobert I of Austrasia’s forced baptisms, Hitler’s Nuremberg laws, and the rejection of wartime refuge by Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. ‘Judeo-Christian’ has been used as a stand-in for the Western dichotomous attitude against the ‘Other’; apathetic to, or against, the inclusivity of Jews, but enunciative of the division between the West and these otherised regions. To conflate Judeo-Christianity, and their moralities ‘risks viewing Judaism as an archaic precursor to Christianity rather than a continuing unique … tradition’, inferring an erasure of Judaic values by simply assuming they are the same as those of Christianity, like in the case of ‘supersessionism’ advocated by Christian polemicists, the idea that Christians have replaced Jews as God’s people. Supersessionism is apparent in the case of the Epistle of Barnabas: ‘[the Jewish cult] he abolished in order that the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is without the yoke of necessity, might have its oblation not made by man’. There is a theological pattern which transforms across the Old to the New Testament: ‘The days are surely coming … when I will make a new covenant with … Israel and … Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of … Egypt — a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord’. This passage is quoted in the New Testament, yet ‘though I was their husband’ becomes ‘so I turned my back on them’- Jews no longer find favour with God as he has made a new declaration with the Christian Church. Conflating Judeo-Christianity, therefore, misses the central mood shift which dictates morality henceforth. Philosophically, Nietzsche cannot demonstrate that Christian teachings are a priori wrong, but that the dicta of the church need to be evaluated in terms of consequences, contradicting his anti-consequentialism. Nor does Nietzsche account for what Christ represents in the divergence between Judaism and Christianity, and fails to consider the merits of argument for certain beliefs, but whether those believing such do so for good reasons, contradicting his anti-deontology. Christ is best understood as the point at which the Judaic anxiety shifts to the Christian love: in Judaism, God is the Lacanian non-existent ‘Big Other’, but Christianity, for Žižek, rejects the Other, through treating Christ as being of God, such that the death of Christ is simultaneously that of God, who hitherto withholds his true desires and intentions, causing anxiety amongst the Jews.. The death of Chirst, and therefore, of God, relieved this longing through a love-based ‘resolution of radical anxiety’, where the crucifixion therefore does not reinstate the metaphysical certainties of monotheism or paganism, nor any redemption, ‘it’s simply the disintegration of the God which guarantees the meaning of our lives’. For Lacan, the subject is a short-circuited dialectic, meaning that its being is a constant search for jouissance, in which it assumes that the Other knows how to find it; however, when the subject comes close to obtaining what it assumes will provide jouissance, it recognises that the object won’t satisfy, and thus short-circuits, spiralling into some other goal. The role of the psychoanalyst, for Lacan, is to make the patient accept this paradoxical dialectic, as Christianity kills the entity who could provide purpose. From the death of Christ, and therefore, God, the idea that ‘there is no God’ is internal to Christianity, such that it is only in the syllogism of self-consciousness that the Holy Spirit lives on in the human community. The Hegelian syllogism denotes an awareness of oneself in an Other, connecting universality, particularity, and individuality: ‘objects are individuals mediated by particularities that are essential to them qua individuals, and these particularities are in turn mediated through a universal that is essential to the particularities’. For Žižek, the death of God, in Christianity has already transpired, providing this radical freedom which Nietzsche is fearful; however, this enters a new creditor-debtor relationship with Christ, with God becoming the ‘creditor playing scapegoat for his debtor, from love’. This creditor-debtor relationship compounds intergenerationally with greater need to demonstrate gratitude to ancestors in proportion to greater freedom and prosperity, from which the bad conscience arises, the self-inflicted restriction upon the will to power. This creates shifts in religious modes: in Christianity, atonement is made through sacrifice; the subject is stained by the Original Sin, of which one works to rid themselves; Moses’ commandments are not considered eternal nor of ultimate value, and; only Christians are granted admission to heaven. In Judaism, atonement is made through repentance; the subject begins with an innocent conscience; the commandments are considered eternally of ultimate value, and; all those righteous are admitted to Heaven. These epistemic departures place clefts between their moral systems, through the bad conscience, such that one cannot equate one with the other, with Christianity adopting a greater level of asceticism as the product of Christ’s suffering, meaning that Nietzsche’s critique is so liberally applicable, although ‘God is Dead’.

Nietzsche departs from dominant moral traditions, critiquing moral realism, in favour of an egoist-constructivist defence of the ‘eternal recurrence’ as the basis of the Übermensch’s overcoming super-morality, but Deleuze allows the reconstruction of a realist Nietzsche. Nietzsche critiques the ‘English psychologists’ who take humanity’s intrinsic gravitation toward morality as axiomatically fundamental, and thus assume moral truths to exist. For Nietzsche, these philosophers mistakenly assume modern philosophical principles, with vague reference to the Kantian categorical imperative, which requires universalisability, or Millian utilitarianism, which requires impartiality, or some general altruism, which counters egoism- all of which Nietzsche detests. Nietzsche replaces a priori morality with skepticism, as ‘there are no moral facts’, merely illusions that shouldn’t be taken literally, but recognised that they serve as valuable ‘psychological symptoms’ of culture, like claims of ‘moral superiority’. Nietzsche breaks from Platonic moral realism which posits the inference: ‘from the existence of things that make moral [statements] to be true to the existence of moral facts’. Braver treats Nietzsche as an A2 anti-realist: ‘the criterion of truth resides in the enhancement of the feeling of power’, and Kant, an A2 realist, as he ‘defends a cognitivist success theory which holds that some moral judgements are true’, but Kant is also considered a moral constructivist, believing that moral statements can be true or false, in the sense that practical reason itself ‘constitute[s] a conception of value’. For Formosa, a weak moral realist is ‘committed to nothing more than the truth of some moral judgements, that is, to a cognitivist success theory’, and Formosa argues that constructivists should be committed to this weak moral realism, such that one considers them identical. Kant’s categorical imperative constitutes the basis of an autonomous self-legislating being, rationally bound by function of it being a requirement of practical rationality. For this binding nature to exist, agents don’t need to do something, just be capable of acting autonomously on the basis of reason, on which ‘all rational agents could will as a law for themselves’, as ends, but not as means. This realist-constructivist view is not based on the independent conception of value which precedes and grounds law, but is rather based on the ‘constructivist claim that practical reason constitutes a conception of objective value, namely of the absolute worth of rational agents and the conditional worth of their rational ends’. One realist argument suggests that one should be a realist concerning epistemic norms, and epistemic norms and moral norms are relevantly similar, so one should be a realist concerning moral norms. Cueno argues that anti-realist arguments imply an argument against epistemic realism, the view that some beliefs are objectively more justified than others, such that, in turn, the anti-realist is committed to denying that anti-realism is more justified than realism, remaining in epistemic limbo. Huemer also argues that it is rational to prima facie trust the way things appear to subjects, until one has good reason not to, and by denying this principle, one enters into ‘severe self-defeating epistemic skepticism’. One should prima facie trust those moral intuitions that imply moral realism, and Huemer argues that anti-realist arguments appeal to premises that are less intuitive than moral intuitions: realist intuitionism argues that intuitions are capable of providing prima facie justifications for claims. One is justified in believing they have hands, due to sensory observation, such that one is prima facie justified in believing they have hands, just as morally, it appears that it is wrong to torture children, such that the same elements that underwrite non-moral beliefs, underwrite moral beliefs- justifications stop at the point of intuition. Kant aimed for an internal ‘immanent critique’ of rationalism by rationalism, which, for Deleuze, is an impossible ‘contradiction’ which Nietzsche would overcome through his notion of the will to power that is able ‘to make possible the transmutation’, allowing one to consider the ‘origin of values and the value of the origins’. For Deleuze, Kant was unable to achieve this, never engaging in a ‘true critique’ because he ‘did not know how to pose the problem of critique in terms of values’. Nietzsche is opposed to the idealism of Kant and Hegel, instead aiming to ‘introduce the notions of meaning and value’, reorienting philosophy from questions of truth and falsity to those of good and bad, ‘according to the nature of the forces that take hold of thought itself’. Nietzsche’s critical genealogy substitutes the differential element of eternal recurrence for the Kantian maxim and utilitarian principle of resemblance, reflecting the genealogical distance from origins, and challenges the value of truth. Eternal recurrence, the idea that one ought to ‘act so that you would be willing to always have your action recur’, attempts to derive a new metaphysics for human finitude, escaping nihilism by grounding values in finite existence. Deleuze and Bataille suggest it is crucial to refrain from interpreting this as ‘a return of the same, a return to the same’, but as confirming becoming over being, or ‘a moral hypothetical that underscores the exigency of judgement and decision’. Deleuze develops eternal recurrence as the equivalent of the Kantian maxim, rather than a rejection of morality: ‘the eternal return is the new formulation of the practical synthesis: What you want, want it in such a way that you also want the eternal return’. Eternal recurrence embodies the Ubermensch’s super-moral quasi-Stoicism, in which the Übermensch thoroughly lives with aristocratic vigour and nobility, such that one would aim to relive it, yet relies on a total rejection of moral utility and value, contrary to the subject’s intuition, and the nature of morality. Eternal recurrence may be reconstructed through realism, in Nietzschean subjectivity, whereby the Übermensch’s preferences define goodness and badness, from which relativist true-false statements may be made concerning actions’ alignment with one’s preferences. For example, the Übermensch’s preference to live Stoically constitutes the basis of super-moral truth, such that one ought to live Stoically if it aligns with their preferences. Therefore, Nietzsche’s super-morality may be plausible, if one is ignorant of objectivity, and willing to indulge in realist relativism.

Nietzsche, when declaring ‘God is Dead’ somewhat misplaces his fear by his lack of philosophical and historical engagement, conflating Christianity and Judaism, thus unable to deal with Christ, such that a moral transvaluation, if necessary, may be otherwise done through moral realism. Overlooking Nietzsche’s contradictions with consequentialism and deontology, and although the Übermensch’s super-morality is antithetical to the utility of morality- it provides value in itself- such that, although eternal recurrence obstructs moral objectivity in favour of subjectivity, it may supplant the Kantian categorical imperative or Millian utility, by Deleuze, where one indulges in some form of realist relativism, whereby ‘true-false’ statements are defined according to the Übermensch’s ‘good-bad’ statements.


plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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