What is wrong with the mythless ‘motleyness’ of modernity?...The first symptom is loss of unity. Since the unity of a community, of a ‘people’, can only exist when individuals are gathered into the ‘maternal womb’ of a unified myth, there is, in modernity, no community, no homeland. Instead, all we have is a ‘wilderness of thought, morals, and action’, a ‘homeless wandering about’…the society driven by the frenzied quest for ‘experiences’, cheap thrills; for sex, drugs, rock and roll and ‘extreme’ sports….Without the (healthy) stress provided by an identity-defining ideal, one can only try to preserve oneself from boredom through the ever-diminishing returns of ever more exotic thrills.
In explaining why this is our overriding task, Nietzsche appeals, not, this time, to high-flown metaphysics, but rather to biology…So, concludes Nietzsche, mankind ought to seek out and create the ‘favourable conditions’ under which those great men can come into existence…Nietzsche here is appealing to a version of (social) Darwinism…And what he is appealing to, in particular, is the value of, in Darwinian language, the ‘random mutation’. According to evolution theory, he is observing, a species evolves into a ‘higher’ species when it produces a mutation which is better adapted to the current state of the environment. Because the mutations breed successfully whereas the remainder tend to die out before doing so, gradually the species evolves into a new species better adapted to thriving in the current environment. Because human beings and human societies belong, just like plants and animals, to the realm of biology, Nietzsche concludes, we ought to apply this same principle to society and so do everything possible to promote the appearance of ‘chance existences’, random mutations.
On the Darwinian line of argument the great individual is again valuable only as a means, this time a means to the evolution of society as a whole to a ‘higher’ condition….
Are we all consigned to slavery to create his ‘freedom from the necessity of earning a living’? Should all non-geniuses become coal-miners or sock-darners? Not so. Even ‘second and third rate talents’ can contribute to the task by preparing both ‘within’ and ‘without’ for the appearance of genius. Presumably the idea here is that the higher the general level of culture the more favourable are the conditions for the appearance of genius.
…since a large gap between rich and poor causes envy and social unrest, the concentration of enormous wealth in private hands will be avoided. Businesses, in particular banks, that generate such wealth will be state-owned. This passage makes two things clear: that, at least in Wanderer, Nietzsche's ‘anti-socialism’ is in fact anti-communism, and that the social-democratic ideal of partial nationalisation of the means of production and exchange is something he actually endorsed.
But everyone can, in a way that fits their expertise and station in life, contribute to the well-being of the community as a whole and in that way secure self-respect and their own kind of feeling of power: their own happiness, in other words.
The positivist worldview offered a theory of the world of incredible power and efficiency in comparison with that which had preceded it. And that, surely, one can imagine Nietzsche saying, is some kind of evidence of truth. Creatures, that is to say, who are radically mistaken about the nature of the world tend to die out before reproducing. Conversely, those whose power over their environment enables them to survive and thrive are probably close to the truth… Nietzsche can never be certain that his metaphysics of will to power is true. What, then, is its intended epistemological status?...The best theory is that which ‘works’, which, in other words, gives us power over ourselves and our environment. Nietzsche's claim for the will to power – his, as he sees it, corrected and completed version of Darwinian science – is that it comprehends reality in a way that is more comprehensive and powerful than any rival theory. He would, I think, also add, as I suggested in discussing Dawn, that the fact that a theory ‘works’ well is evidence – less than completely conclusive evidence, to be sure, but still evidence – that it is true.
It is, in other words, the ‘survival of the fittest’ in a competitive and, at least potentially, hostile environment. Nietzsche applies this theory to human society, which makes him a ‘social Darwinist’: he regards human societies as organisms subject to the same laws as organisms in general…a ‘universally binding…faith’ sometimes also ‘morality’ or ‘custom’. It is such a faith that constitutes the community as a community, orders the relations between individuals in such a way as to enable the social organism to function as an efficient survival machine.
Without the social glue of a communal faith a society loses its capacity for collective action and becomes ripe for destruction, either through internal disintegration or through colonization by a more successful society. The principal means by which the community – or ‘herd’ – preserves conformity to communal faith consist in more or less crude forms of social ostracism. What makes this effective is the individual's basic need for community. ‘Even the strongest person…fears a cold look or a sneer on the face of those among whom he has been brought up. What is he really afraid of? Growing solitary’. Nietzsche calls this ‘the herd instinct’ in the individual. The ‘herd instinct’ has thus two aspects. On the part of the community it is the instinct to exert pressure on the individual to conform. And on the latter's part it is the instinct to give in to that pressure.
In a Darwinian world the law is: mutate or die. The agents of such mutation are the non-‘herd’ types, those who resist the pressure to conform to current norms, free themselves from the chains of current morality: the ‘free spirits’. ‘The celebrated European capacity for constant transformation’ depends on such ‘malcontents’. China, on the other hand, Nietzsche claims, is a country in which large-scale discontent became extinct centuries ago, and with it the capacity for change. (Hence, presumably, its history of colonisation and exploitation by European powers, and later Japan.)
Thus, whereas the factory owner is mostly seen by his workers as nothing but ‘a cunning bloodsucking dog of a man’, the military leader is often treated with respect. The crucial point is that the leader should have some kind of nobility, should appear to be of a ‘higher race’ than the led. ‘The masses are basically prepared to submit to any kind of slavery provided that the superiors constantly legitimize themselves as higher, as born to command, through refined demeanour’.
With the abruptness of a deranged, born-again Christian (as well, perhaps, as the relief of speaking after ten years of silence), Zarathustra spews out the sum of his decade of wisdom-gathering. Man, he shouts, is a ‘rope stretched between beast and superman’. The superman is the ‘meaning of the earth’. Beloved are those who take the dangerous path of dedicating themselves to making the world a ‘house for the superman’. Man needs an ‘ideal’. But since the supernatural is a delusion, we must reject all other-worldly ideals. Our ‘greatest hour’ is when we see that we fall as far short of the superman as the ape does of us.
This, then, is why the motleyness of European modernity threatens its ‘death’: lacking a shared ‘game plan’, it lacks the capacity for effective collective action, in particular, for action directed at its own preservation and expansion.
Nietzsche takes it as self-evident that the death of European humanity would be a bad thing. Those with a more jaundiced, more guilty, view of the European tradition might think otherwise.
Master morality was, then, self-focused. Slave morality, by contrast, was other-focused. It was based on hatred and fear of the slaves’ oppressors. So it was that the hate-filled word ‘evil’ replaced ‘bad’, the expression, merely, of contempt. In the ethical ‘revolt’ of the slaves the good–evil dichotomy came to replace the good–bad dichotomy of the masters. The hard qualities of the masters were given new names – ‘self-confidence’ becomes ‘arrogance’, ‘resoluteness’ becomes ‘ruthlessness’, and so on…The second disastrous consequence of the triumph of Christianity is that it ‘keeps the type “man” on a low…level’… It does this in two ways: by preserving life's ‘failures’ and by disabling its potential ‘successes’. It preserves failures on account of the supposed virtue of compassion. Compassion means that a Christianized culture preserves ‘too much of what should have perished’ Though there is no reason to think of the extermination camps, here, there is no getting away from the harshness of this view. What Nietzsche is talking about, I believe, is the eugenics – ‘breeding.’…Christian morality disables life's potential successes because it ‘throw[s] suspicion on delight in beauty, skew[s] everything self-glorifying, manly, conquering, autocratic, every instinct that belongs to the highest and best-formed type of “human”, twist[ing] them into uncertainty, crisis of conscience, self-destruction at the limit’.
…‘socialism’ (a term covering both social democracy and communism), and finally, and particularly vociferously, feminism. All these movements are applications of the doctrine of ‘equal rights’, which makes them ‘heirs’ to Christianity's doctrine of the equality of all souls before God.
If Nietzsche treats ‘lower’ types as mere means, if he treats them as things rather than people, then he really is an immoral (and ontologically blind) thinker.
‘If we win’, he writes, ‘we have overcome the absurd boundaries between race, nation, and classes (Stände): there exists from now on only order of rank (Rang) between human beings.' The difference between rank and class is the difference between ability and birth. What Nietzsche seeks, as we shall see in detail in discussing The Antichrist, is a hierarchy not of blood but of natural ability and aptitude.
As we have seen, in order to survive in a competitive, Darwinian environment, a community must have a morality which provides the ‘hardness, uniformity and simplicity’ of, as I put it, a shared ‘game plan.'.
‘Woman as such’, the ‘eternal feminine’, lacks the capacity for ‘manly’ pursuits. Women have no concern for truth – their great talent is in the (slavish) practice of lying. They have no capacity for ‘enlightenment’ (rational objectivity) and so should be silent on religion and politics – and on the question of ‘woman as such’. Women do not even know how to cook, though they have been at it for millenni…Is this just a mass of prejudices – or, at best, ‘period errors’ – or is there a serious point mixed in with this, as it now seems, unintentionally comic rave?
For ultimate value attaches not to the ‘tree of knowledge’ but rather to ‘the tree of life’.
The West is, then, in a parlous condition. In its ‘motley’ state it lacks the ‘hardness, uniformity and simplicity of form’ of a shared, as I called it, ‘game plan’ possession of which is necessary to survive and thrive in a competitive world. But the situation is not hopeless. For one thing, for all the difficulties it creates, the collapse of Christianity, since it made our culture sick, is fundamentally a cause for celebration. For another, we possess a secret ‘faith’, a vision of what should and must redeem us from the present and the past.
…he will not support any anti-Semitic undertaking, he does not trust her any more, he hopes all the anti-Semites will leave Germany and join them, and he hopes that the Jews come to power in Europe.
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.
At the end of the story, therefore, the unconditional will to truth becomes the criterion of psychic health.
What the passage does, it seems to me, is to endorse modernity's unlimited will to power over both nature and human nature. It is one of those things which used to be considered ‘bad’ – ‘playing God’ – but is really good. And here, it seems, Nietzsche offers us a new ‘one goal’ to override all other goals, an ultimate goal to replace the ‘one goal’ of Christianity: making ourselves masters of the universe. A glance into the notebooks of the period makes this clear. So we read, for example, that ‘what is necessary’ in place of the old morality is a ‘reversal of values’ which will produce ‘a morality that has the intention of breeding a ruling caste – the future masters of the earth’. In The Gay Science Napoleon is admired for wanting to make Europe ‘mistress of the earth’, an admiration which incorporates the desire for the domination of the globe by European culture that goes back to Human, All-Too-Human.
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’.
What Is the Nature of Reality? The fourth of the work's eleven parts, which runs to half a page, is titled ‘How the True World Became a Fable’. There are six stages. First the ‘true’ (the term is of course ironic), supernatural world of ‘being’, the opposite of this natural world of pain and ‘becoming’, was immediately accessible to the sage's – Plato's – mental gaze. Then it became something to one had to wait for; Christianity postponed the true world, transmuted it into the future home of the virtuous. With Kant it receded further, since it could no longer be known to exist. Yet as a consoling hope and as something we had to believe in for morality to make sense, it lingered on in a twilight state. But then came the ‘cockcrow of positivism’, the thought that something unknown could hardly be consoling. ‘Gray morning’, Nietzsche's stage direction, as it were, reads at this point, ‘first yawn of reason, cockcrow of positivism’. This lead to the coup de grâce. Positivism, when it finally arrives, abolishes the true world (denies it, one might say, ‘rights of citizenship in science’). Nietzsche applauds from the sidelines: ‘Bright day; breakfast; return of good sense; Plato blushes in shame; pandemonium of all free spirits’. And now the conclusion arises that since there is no ‘true’ world, it makes no sense to call ‘this’ one a merely ‘apparent’ world. There is only one world and ‘this’ is it. As Ecce Homo puts the conclusion: the ‘true world’ is a ‘made up world’, so that what used to be called ‘the world of appearances’ is, in truth, ‘reality’.
And Nietzsche's idea, here, looks to be something like what we would now call genetic determination: the idea that an individual ‘is’ the sum of the genes inherited from both parents, which they have inherited from their parents, and so on. Notice that this idea explains Nietzsche's continued belief in the importance of eugenics.
But Nietzsche by no means rejects the notion of freedom as such. ‘My idea of freedom’, he writes, is that it is a matter of ‘being responsible for oneself’, maintaining one's ‘distance’, ‘becoming indifferent to hardship’, ‘being prepared to sacrifice people to your cause, yourself included’. To be free means that ‘the instincts which take pleasure in war and victory have gained control over the other instincts’, the instinct to ‘happiness’, for instance, happiness, at least, as conceived by ‘grocers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats’. Freedom is not a birthright. Rather one ‘becomes free’ by being a ‘warrior’ on the internal battlefield of the soul. The degree of freedom one possesses is measured by the degree of ‘resistance one has overcome, the amount of effort it costs to stay on top.'
As I emphasised earlier, a great deal of Nietzsche's philosophy has been a preparation for this validation of Dionysian feeling, for validation of the idea that one's ‘true’ life is universal, that individual life is ‘untrue’: the persistent theme of the individual as the summation of the causal history of the universe to date, the individual as nothing substantial but rather a temporary conglomeration of forces that will soon reconfigure itself, a momentary ‘wave in the necessary wave-play of becoming’.
One values one's enemies, Nietzsche continues, because one only discovers one's identity when faced with opposition. This is as true of individuals as of political parties.
So what, then, does Nietzsche have to say about such ‘healthy monsters’? Do they not represent a counter-example to his claim that no healthy person knowingly does evil, that a well-formed person, a ‘happy’ one, never knowingly performs harmful actions? I think not. For Borgia, Napoleon, the Vikings, though healthy and happy, are not, in Nietzsche's sense, ‘well-formed’.
It is no mere coincidence that, with the arrival of German power, German spirit, German culture, has disappeared. For, as we know, there is an ‘either–or’ choice to be made. If – either as an individual or a nation – one expends all one's energy on ‘economics, world commerce…power, and power politics’, one will have none left for culture.
Notice the rationale, here, for authoritarian conservatism – as his reviewers thought, a kind of ‘Junker philosophy,' for all Nietzsche's loathing of Bismarck. Without it, the capacity for resolute collective action disappears, so that the community degenerates and eventually disappears.
Whatever morality the new society possesses, it will have differential rights and duties for different kinds of people. Though hierarchical, it will be the opposite of homogeneous.
Looked at psychologically the Jews are the people with the toughest life force; when transplanted into impossible conditions they took sides with all the instincts of décadence…out of the most profoundly shrewd sense of self-preservation – not because they were dominated by these instincts, but because they sensed that these instincts had a power that could be used to prevail against ‘the world’.
The real Jesus was no metaphysician, had no supernatural beliefs whatsoever. For him, ‘the kingdom of heaven’ is a ‘state of the heart’. It lies neither ‘above the earth’ nor ‘after death’ but is achieved here and now in the practice of universal love. Jesus taught by parable and by example. His death was not an expiation of human sins but rather the ultimate demonstration of his doctrine of nonresistance. He was, in short, a kind of Buddhist, Buddhism being also a non-metaphysical life-practice engendered by hypersensitivity to pain. Jesus represented a ‘Buddhistic peace movement.' This true, original Christianity represents a ‘life that is still possible today, for certain people it is even a necessity’. Possible and in the 1960s, surely, actual.
Sixth, modern Christian theologians lie through their teeth. They know ‘there is no “God” anymore’, that the ‘God-hypothesis’ is incompatible with all the other furniture of the modern, educated mind. Everyone knows that there is no ‘last judgment’, no ‘sin’, and no ‘redeemer’, yet everything goes on as before. It is notable that the ‘Law against Christianity’ that concludes The Antichrist reserves the harshest punishments for liberal Christians, on the grounds that ‘the criminality of being Christian increases with one's proximity to science’.
‘The Antichrist’ delivers his judgment that Christianity is the worst disaster ever to have befallen the human race. In promulgating his concluding ‘Laws against Christianity’ he condemns it to having all its priests either expelled or imprisoned, along with all preachers of chastity. All its churches are to be razed to the ground with farms for poisonous snakes erected on their sites (‘holocaust’ memorials, as it were).
…the superman ‘is a superman specifically when compared to the good ’ – he stands ‘super’, above, their morality. Nietzsche adds, recalling the Genealogy's point that most free spirits will be ‘martyred’ by the forces of social conservatism, that ‘the good and just would call [Zarathustra's]…superman a devil.’
Entirely sane, too, is the idea that war can only finally be overcome through the abolition of national and dynastic egoisms, an abolition that requires European unification and, in the end, world government. These ideas, Nietzsche's cosmopolitanism and his understanding that only the abandonment of armed nationalism can produce genuine peace, are paragons of sanity…
…it follows that morals are just, as it were, an instruction manual for the ‘preservation and growth’ of either of an individual or a community.
In a nutshell, the lesson Jünger took from Nietzsche was: If you cannot mould the world to fit your morality you must mould your morality to fit the world.
Darwin's theory is not a theory of cultural evolution, and in any case he claims not that species become more ‘perfect’ but only that they become more adaptive.
Nietzsche's heart, then, is in the right place. Violence, brutality, and barbarism ought to be expelled from human life.
Almost from the beginning, the Försters’ Paraguayan venture found itself in deep trouble. Based on Aryan ideology rather than skill and planning, it soon found itself short of water and, with no roads or railways, unable to transport the timber that was to have been its economic foundation to any market.
(In the 1930s she welcomed many of the Nazi bigwigs, including Hitler himself, to the house (see Plate 32) – their stench somehow remains to this day. There is no trace of Nietzsche.)
Though Nietzsche's philosophy was likely produced by a manic-depressive (as, probably, were the works of Plato, Newton, Mozart, Hölderlin, Coleridge, Schumann, Byron, Van Gogh, Geog Cantor, Winston Churchill, Silvia Plath, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen and many other great human beings), there is nothing ‘pathological’ about it – apart from the views on women.
Young's interpretation that Nietzsche's mental breakdown was completely psychological is not the last word on the subject. It may be true - however, Young is very selective of the physiological mechanisms he refutes - essentially restricting it to syphilis and a brain tumor. Looking at the biomedical literature, one can see alternative neurological diagnoses. We cannot know which is "true" (Nietzsche I suspect would approve), but, nevertheless, one should show a bit of reserve instead of making dogmatic statements on the matter.