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BrianMDelaney

Nietzsche

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Dean, I'm impressed at how well you grasp Nietzsche's thought!

 

We can discuss Nietzsche at length at the conference.

 

Briefly for now: Nietzsche would have scoffed at all manner of life-extension, including CR. But, as you note, he was an ascetic himself, in many ways, but that was largely because of his numerous serious health problems.

 

When he went out to eat, he would study the menu carefully, making sure to order only those things that agreed with his delicate constitution. From the outside, of course, he might have looked like a CR practitioner!

 

By the way, if you read German, an amazing, gripping, philosophically rich biography is Janz's three-volume work. I see it's also been translated into a few languages, though not yet English.

 

- Brian

 

P.S.

 

FAQ:

 

Q: But wasn't Nietzsche some kind of Jew-hating proto-Nazi??

 

A: Nope. On the contrary, Nietzsche was strongly opposed to anti-Semitism. To contend that Nietzsche was a proto-Nazi, is, in fact, to sympathize with Naziism itself, in a sense: it is to agree with Hitler's hack scholars (and Nietzsche's own, stupid, anti-Semitic sister, who burned the parts of Nietzsche's correspondence that contained Nietzsche's criticisms of anti-Semitism) who twisted Nietzsche's words to make him seem like a philosopher who would have agreed with Hitler's mission.

 

In Nietzsche's very early years, there are some claims consistent with anti-Semitism, but they seem to be mostly an attempt to impress Wagner. Later, any critical claims about Jews are virtually always made in connection with the history of Christianity, to which Nietzsche was much more seriously opposed. (This is why, towards the end of his productive career, he wrote a book called The Anti-Christian (Der Antichrist), not The Anti-Jew.

 

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Thanks Brian,

 

I'm looking forward to discussing Nietzsche and other things with you at the conference!

 

BTW, what is the thesis of your Nietzsche thesis? I'd like to read and think about your topic before we meet so I can speak more intelligibly.

 

--Dean

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One more question Brian - do you find it necessary to include the disclaimer about Nietzsche actually being an anti-anti-semite whenever you tell people you are a Nietzsche scholar? I can imagine that many people have the mistaken impression he was a proto-Nazi.

 

--Dean

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Dean, my thesis is, to simplify a bit: Nietzsche was not, at the most fundamental level (of many complex levels of his thoughts and efforts), trying to get us to "affirm life" in the face of some sort of ultimate meaninglessness (this is the claim of Reginster and most N scholars), but, rather, was focused on getting us to see the very challenge in such an attempt at affirmation, in part by getting us to see the full implications of the "death of God" (the collapse of the Judeo-Christian basis of our values).
 
The difference might seem minor, but it's not. One, the traditional view of Nietzsche, is: "Here's the answer (about how to affirm life)". The other (my view): "Let's continuing thinking/philosophizing! (because we don't actually have the answer)"
 
And about explaining to people Nietzsche wasn't a proto-Nazi: yes, it's necessary quite often. It's odd that, even today, it's needed more among Nietzsche scholars than Heidegger scholars.
 
- Brian

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Brian,

 

Thanks. I definitely see the distinction you are making with your thesis, and from what (little) I know and have read of Nietzsche, I agree. Nietzsche's often bombastic, over-the-top style was meant to wake people up more than provide them with pat, comforting answers. He left it up to strong individuals (like himself) to figure out for themselves how to deal with the absurdity of life once they've awakened.

 

From what I know of Heidegger (even less than Nietzsche), he was, unlike the likeable and upstanding Nietzsche, a rather ambiguous character (to put it mildly), as illustrated by his turning a blind eye to the plight of his mentor Husserl during the dark days of Nazism in Germany.

 

--Dean

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I have a new favorite Nietzsche quote, that I think pretty accurately characterizes the attitude of my CR folk towards like. It least it captures mine. 

 

We, however, want to become who we are — human beings who are new, unique, incomparable, who give themselves laws, who create themselves! To that end we must become the best students and discoverers of everything lawful and necessary in the world: we must become [scientists*] in order to be the creators in this sense — while hitherto all valuations and ideals have been built on ignorance of [science] or in contradiction to it. So, long live [science]! And even more long live what compels us to it — our honesty!

 

– Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Cambridge University Press: 2001, pp. 187–189

 

*I've substituted the words "physics" & "physicists" in the original translation with the words "science" & "scientists" since I think they better captures the spirit of what I think Nietzsche probably had in mind.

 

The last word in the passage, honesty, I find interesting. The focus of the second half of the passage appears to be an advocacy of the empirical method to discover Truth - i.e. "everything lawful and necessary in the world". It's interesting because I've never thought of Nietzsche as putting too much emphasis on Truth, and certainly not universal Truth. He perhaps doesn't deny there may be some ultimate Truth (although he may deny it, I'm not sure).  He just thinks Truth isn't that interesting or important, and he thinks the "Will to Truth" (i.e. Truth at any cost) sometimes undermines ones projects, and one's flourishing.

 

Must the selves we create, and the laws we give those selves, be firmly grounded it Truth to have value and be worth creating? Personally I lean towards answering with a (provisional) yes. For example, I want my theory about the benefits of CR + cold exposure to be grounded in reality, to be True in some real sense, rather than (or in addition to) just being an amusing fiction I tell myself and others to give us something to think and argue about, and to give myself an additional physical/mental challenge to overcome to satisfy what Nietzsche would call my "Will to Power".

 

But I'm a bit surprised that Nietzsche seems to express the same sentiment, at least in this passage, given what I take to be his perspectivalist/projectivist view on the nature of reality. Just how grounded do our concepts (and our self concept in particular) have to be in the brute facts of the world on Nietzsche's account? 

 

Brian (if you are out there) how would you put the second half of this passage in the context of Nietzsche's other writings? And what do you (or others) personally think about this perspective about creating/defining ourselves by giving ourselves laws and exercising our power of will to abide by them, within the constraints of our own nature and the laws governing the world?

 

--Dean

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Mike,

 

Regarding Neitzsche's "will to power"

Q: How much “ego” do you need?
A: Just enough so that you don’t step in front of a bus.
~ Shunry

 

I don't necessarily see anything "wrong" with such a self-deflationary perspective - in my book there really isn't anything that's right or wrong, only what works. And for some people, the type of selfless, ascetic existence Shunryu Suzuki promotes in that quote seems to work for them, as individuals. Whether widespread adoption of such a perspective would promote a flourishing society, I have serious doubts. Just look at the unfortunate Tibetans, whose deeply buddhist culture was pretty backwards by contemporary standards (e.g. most Tibetans lived as serfs, and the role and rights of women was pretty abominable) even before the Chinese came in and gutted everything.

 

Ego-less Buddhist monks (or those aspiring to such a state) around the world have always relied on the hard-working common people to make their ascetic, contemplative existence possible - e.g. via daily alms giving & receiving. If everyone was hanging out in the type of egoless state Suzuki advocates, I think a strong argument could be made that society (at least as we know it) would quickly fall apart. You might argue that what would take its place might be better, but from my perspective there is something to be said for supermarkets & indoor plumbing.

 

Shunryu ascetic, self-undermining perspective is exactly the attitude that Nietzsche railed against because it discourages individuals from living up to their unique potential. I agree with him. And if someone aspires to be the next Buddha, or at least the most selfless of monks in the Sanga, more power to her! Yes, I realize how paradoxical personal striving towards a state of egolessness sounds - but hey, it eventually worked for Sakyamuni didn't it? Whether it took seven days or seven weeks, it required a lot of personal discipline to sit in meditation under that bodhi tree until he achieved enlightenment.

 

--Dean

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Hi Dean, the critical point is of course what is actual. Is the ego a case of mistaken identity? Who are we? Evolution requires survivability and a sense of self that is separate, otherwise it don't work. If that is where your at and you are aware of it then fine, but I would contend you are allowing evolution to manipulate you into a delusional state of mind designed for survival purposes.

 

Again that is ok cause that is what is actual. But I find it hard to resist an attempt at transcendence wherein through the state of awareness one can observe a state of being that is independent of any sense of a personal self which is obviously a mental construct imposed by culture and evolutionary forces. Therefore one can come to an understanding that is entirely consistent with science and that is the self is illusory. A wave in the ocean if it had consciousness could began to believe it was distinct from it and had a life of its own until the day it crashes to the shore and simply dissolves. It never was separate; it simply took a form that was always an aspect of the whole here represented by the ocean.

 

As to your point that we need ego to provide all the neat stuff and necessities of life I suppose you have a point. But my point is not to destroy the ego or do anything with it, but rather to simply see it and realize it for what it is and utilize it when needed, like avoiding the bus. But always knowing that it is delusional in ultimate terms. Me, myself, simply an ever changing manifestation of whatever the ultimate reality is as it expresses itself in one form or another. The "doors of perception" are tightly fitted to an egoic mode of view. Like a reducing valve designed to survive and procreate the mind is quite feeble and severely limited in its scope; however there does seem to be a potential to move beyond these imposed limitations and I for one feel it is a worthy pursuit.

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Mike,

Hi Dean, the critical point is of course what is actual. Is the ego a case of mistaken identity? Who are we? ...

 

But my point is not to destroy the ego or do anything with it, but rather to simply see it and realize it for what it is and utilize it when needed, like avoiding the bus. But always knowing that it is delusional in ultimate terms. Me, myself, simply an ever changing manifestation of whatever the ultimate reality is as it expresses itself in one form or another. 

 

Well said Mike. Of course the ego is illusory and of course there is no free will in the libertarian sense of the word. Nietzsche recognized this, as do I.

 

We are all just tiny, transient, ever-changing, natural and unique molecular-energy patterns interacting in a competitive/cooperative fashion to form the vast molecular-energy dance we call the "universe", which is evolving moment-to-moment exactly as it should and as it must according to the immutable laws of physics, cause and effect, and evolution by natural selection, in an apparent attempt to iteratively explore and investigate every nook and cranny of the "adjacent possible" to discover, instantiate, embody, exercise and experience new molecular-energy patterns and processes that are better, fuller, richer, more complete and effective than any previous molecular-energy patterns by being more resilient, robust, prolific, and creative in the current context and thereby winning out in the competition for scarce resources.

 

We are all impermanent, interdependent and individually inconsequential parts of a much larger whole. To the degree to which we can come to accept, appreciate and surrender to the ultimate meaninglessness of life, and the absurdity of the human condition, while paradoxically continuing to strive to make things better for ourselves and others so as to enable each of us to contribute maximally, as individuals and as a collective, to the universal expression of Nietzsche's "Will to Power" (what I'd rather call the "Will to Challenge"), to that degree we will have achieved transcendence/enlightenment.

 

Life is a pretty absurd game. But a lot of trouble went into setting it up this way. So I figure we might as well play along, engage with the world and appreciate the spectacle, rather than "checking out" by transcending our egos completely. In other words, while I admire all three men greatly, it's better in my book to be a Mahatma Gandhi or the Dalai Lama than a Ramana Maharshi.

 

I'm not sure, but I think we may be on the same page in this regard.

 

--Dean

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We are indeed. Ghandi Is certainly one who understood this probably better than anyone I can think of.

 

I would also have to say my perspective on this is more positive than yours. I don't necessarily see it all as absurd. I take a more mystical or contemplative approach. If we are the universe, and that is undeniable as far as anyone can tell and completely in line with science, then I choose to look at it from a perspective of "Oneness". The trick of course is to bypass the conditioned self and to experience the fundamental one. The real self which IS part and parcel of all reality. For me it's like Pascal's bet. Why not perceive our situation from A unity and positive perspective; after all we really cannot be certain and, as you say we have this power and a Nietzschean responsibility to live up to our potential. So for me, Making meaning from our existence and creating a better and more hopeful world by sharing this is one of the the potentials I seek and pursue with meditation and my reading. And of course there are those moments that surpass the conceptual and they certainly add to my hopeful outlook.

Edited by mikeccolella

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