Nietzsche on Christianity, Nihilism, Meaning Options
#1 Posted : 1/3/2021 5:39:51 PM


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Joined: 01-Oct-2017
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Heyo folks, been a while since I contributed anything here through the forum, nowadays I mostly jump into the chat.

I recently wrote up a piece on Nietzsche which received many positive reactions, so I decided I'd share it here on a forum that appreciates philosophy, and many other topics.

I've been studying him for the past 6 months or so and am making decent progress. When you actually study Nietzsche correctly, it will really shock you how misinterpreted of a philosopher he is. If you're reading this right now and your ideas of what Nietzsche's philosophy was amounts to something along the lines of "he was a nihilist", "loved the fact that god is dead", or "he was a nazi", then you too have a terribly skewed understanding of what Nietzsche was about.

It's difficult to summarise Nietzsche as a philosopher because he was quite a complex thinker. But a recurring theme in his philosophy is diagnosing the ills of his time, and dismantling philosophies/religions of the past, all to set the stage for the revaluation of all values.

Nietzsche often refers to the Ancient Greek and Roman (Pre-Christian) periods of history, societies which he held in high regard. He viewed these cultures as upholding the virtue of master morality. Nietzsche essentially celebrates the heroic in society, and he thinks this is part of the essence of what makes great individuals, who exercise their "will to power". Traits associated with these strong, heroic figures could include open-mindedness, control over impulses, courageousness, a strong sense of self-worth, etc. He contrasts this with what he refers to as "slave morality". He often associates Christianity with slave morality, which emphasizes the virtues of compassion, forgiveness, charity, humility, pity etc. Moralism is also strongly associated with Nietzsche's typical interpretation of slave morality. It was Nietzsche's view that master morality was eventually overthrown in both Greek and Roman culture.

Nietzsche dislikes the triumph of slave morality in the West. He viewed it as the weak conquering the strong, ressentiment (a form of resentment towards an object which is the source of one's frustration, an inferiority complex, and a jealousy over what one does not have themself) conquering sentiment (the trait of master morality). Morality, he thought, was invented by these weaker people, by making their weaknesses justifiable, and making their source of envy an immorality/evil. Not only does this place society into great mediocrity, he also considers this an unhealthy, "life-denying" philosophy.(edited)

Consequently, Nietzsche views the West as a product of the triumph of Christian/Slave values. He criticised movements in his time, which he viewed as reflecting this same slave morality, those who trace their suffering back to the structure and fundamental nature of society, as opposed to implementing some healthy control over their own chaotic natures, and aspiring to achieve what the more accomplished individuals have themselves achieved.

The will-to-power in Nietzsche's philosophy is an individual's fundamental libido/drive. Nietzsche argues that we exercise power over other people both by benefiting them and by hurting them. When we hurt them we make them feel our power in a crude way, and also a dangerous way, since they may seek to revenge themselves. Making someone indebted to us is usually a preferable way to feel a sense of our power; we also thereby extend our power, since those we benefit see the advantage of being on our side. Christianity, although born out of a the slave revolt's will-to-power, attempts to put constraints on the individual's will, think "thou shalt not". Also, through it's restrictive morality, it fails to take into account situations of individual circumstance where these "thou shalt nots" no longer seem to apply as well.

It's worth noting that Nietzsche himself did not necessarily support the pursuit of power. He praises those who are able to turn their will to power towards self overcoming (achieving self-mastery and self transformation, becoming a life-affirming philosophy). Nietzsche also recognised that not everyone could adopt master morality as the answer to all issues. After the transvaluation of all values, he thought the inconsistencies in master and slave morality would be corrected, but still viewed master morality as preferable to slave morality for the individual.(edited)

Thus far, we see Nietzsche's disdain towards the slave morality of Christianity, though this is just one facet of his disagreements with Christianity. Another aspect of Christianity which Nietzsche devotes a lot of criticism towards is the afterlife. Neo-Platonism undeniably had a significant impact on Christianity's roots. Plato believed that there existed a world of forms, where things and concepts exist in a state of perfection where change does not occur. This dualist philosophy of Plato's was influential on the dualist philosophy of Christianity. Christianity would have it so that its followers prioritise the afterlife, and negate the world in which they currently live in for the reward of the "superior world", what Nietzsche sarcastically calls the "apparent world". Nietzsche viewed this is a degenerate philosophy, why privilege the illusory afterlife as opposed to prioritise this world, the one true world? Nietzsche considered this another aspect of Christianity's "life-denying" philosophy.

Nietzsche was also critical of Christian pity. He viewed it as a weak, degenerate approach, something along the lines of pathological pity. He was not critical of all pity, though. Pity can be expressed by strong, affirmative life along the lines of what might be called "tough love". It's not about trying to avoid suffering, pain and the like, it's rather to recognise it is part of the cycle of life, to learn, embrace, and incorporate these experiences and emotions in life so as to further grow.(edited)

Now I guess I'll address the famous quote from Thus Spoke Zarathustra which goes as follows:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Nietzsche did not necessarily celebrate the death of god. Despite his wide disdain for it above, he also recognised how foundational it was in Western society. Christianity gave life meaning in the West, its followers were the children of god, promised a place in heaven by acting virtuous. It was Christianity which propped up the idea of humanism, it told us we had free will, and it was this which separated us from the rest of the animal kingdom, we were God's chosen species, given a special place in the universe.

With the passion for science, the age of enlightenment and the philosophy of the influential Immanuel Kant, Christian metaphysics is abandoned. Therefore, a lot of the thought in the West which was propped up by Christianity now begins to fall apart. If god does not exist, then humanity loses a lot of the crucial meaning which god provided in the West. This creates a meaning crisis for Nietzsche, all of our old values have been abandoned, it's his opinion that society will therefore eventually turn towards nihilism. Nietzsche now thinks that only a few great individuals (the ubermensch) may initially overcome this nihilism. With god out of the way, the over human now finally has the opportunity to create their own life affirming values, where their will to power is exercised. They will create their own meaning in life. Nietzsche sees the individual creating their own life-affirming values as vastly superior to Christianity. Nietzsche did not celebrate nihilism whatsoever, he wants people to get out of the meaning crisis. This is why Nietzsche is an existentialist, and not a nihlist (there's a big difference).

Oh, just a little side note about the whole association with Nazism. There are aspects of Nietzsche's philosophy which you could view in a vacuum and lump in with Nazism, but his worldview as a whole was opposed to this. He hated anti-semites, and continuously criticises them and shares his hatred for them throughout his works. His sister though, was a nazi, and when Nietzsche went insane, she edited a lot of his works and published them in their bastardised forms. She then spread it to Hitler as he was gaining popularity, and Nietzsche was therefore a well-liked philosopher among the Nazis, little did they know, they were actually reading a skewed version of Nietzsche, if Nietzsche was there at the time to see what his sister did with his philosophy, he would've been very angry to say the least.

Lastly, I figured it would be good for clarity's sake that I don't necessarily agree with everything I've typed above, but if I edited things in his ideas that line up with my own views, I would be unfairly misrepresenting his views, so if there a discussion at all that follows, perhaps I can sum up my own view on Nietzsche's philosophy.
If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear - George Orwell

The human being is this night, this empty nothing, that contains everything in its simplicity—an unending wealth of many representations, images, of which none belongs to him—or which are not present. ... One catches sight of this night when one looks human beings in the eye—into a night that becomes awful - Hegel

Anything perfect is worth destroying, in fact it is desirable to destroy it, true beauty lies in imperfection - Nietzsche

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