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Bertrand Russell on Nietzsche

Russell in 1907 (from Wikipedia)

In my last post, Part One of a two-part series on Bertrand Russell’s monumental A History of Western Philosophy, I highlighted the author’s critical views of Plato and Aristotle from the ‘Ancient Philosophy’ section of the work. Now, in Part Two, I will summarize and comment on just one chapter from the ‘Modern Philosophy’ section of this same work–the one dealing with the German-born philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. As with Plato and Aristotle, Russell is highly disapproving of the outcome of much of Nietzsche’s thought; unlike with the former two thinkers, however, Russell’s critique of Nietzsche seems like a personal ad hominem polemic against the latter. Russell does not only seek to demonstrate scientific, logical, or methodical errors or prejudices, as with many of the philosophers he discusses, but intends to completely ridicule, demolish, and discredit the entire foundation on which Nietzsche’s ideas are built. In addition to prima facie philosophical disagreement, most of the hostility of Russell (who was writing this book in the last years of WWII) comes from the fact that he sees Nietzsche as the most recent example of a European philosophical tradition that has culminated in, or at least prepared the way for, Fascism. Though he would not find Plato innocent of these same charges, it was difficult to trace such a direct line of influence from antiquity to the modern age and the war that was then in progress. This, according to Russell, could not be said about many philosophers of the modern era ever since the successors of John Locke. Here is an example of Russell’s commentary from the chapter entitled “Locke’s Influence”:

Since Rousseau and Kant, there have been two schools of liberalism, which may be distinguished as the hard-headed and the soft-hearted. The hard-headed developed, through Bentham, Ricardo, and Marx, by logical stages into Stalin; the soft-hearted, by other logical stages, through Fichte, Byron, Carlyle, and Nietzsche, into Hitler. This statement, of course, is too schematic to be quite true, but it may serve as a map and a mnemonic… A man’s ethic usually reflects his character, and benevolence leads to a desire for the general happiness. Thus the men who thought happiness the end of life tended to be the more benevolent, while those who proposed other ends were often dominated, unconsciously, by cruelty or love of power.

Russell further compares the evolution of ideas to the present day in terms of romanticism, which he opposed, and rationalism, which he supported. From the chapter entitled “Currents of Thought in the Nineteenth Century”:

This revolt (against traditional systems in thought, in politics, and in economics) had two very different forms, one romantic, the other rationalistic. The romantic revolt passes from Byron, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche to Mussolini and Hitler; the rationalistic revolt begins with the French philosophers of the Revolution, passes on, somewhat softened, to the philosophical radicals in England, then acquires a deeper form in Marx and issues in Soviet Russia.

Nietzsche in 1869 (from Wikipedia)

For me, one of the most interesting things about Russell’s views on Nietzsche, and the reason I have chosen to comment on this chapter, is the fact that it is perhaps the only place in A History of Western Philosophy in which I found myself in something less than complete substantive acquiescence with Russell. For reasons that are not entirely known to me, I think Russell’s assessment of Nietzsche was too harsh, too biased, or possibly based on an incomplete reading, interpretation, translation, or understanding.

The following series of quotes will provide a brief, but representative, synopsis of Russell’s chapter entitled “Nietzsche”, which will be followed by a few of my own thoughts on the matter:

His general outlook remained very similar to that of Wagner in the Ring; Nietzsche’s superman is very like Siegfried, except that he knows Greek. This may seem odd, but that is not my fault.

Lord Byron, Romantic rogue

In spite of Nietzsche’s criticism of the romantics, his outlook owes much to them; it is that of aristocratic anarchism, like Byron’s, and one is not surprised to find him admiring Byron. He attempts to combine two sets of values which are not easily harmonized: on the one hand he likes ruthlessness, war, and aristocratic pride; on the other hand, he loves philosophy and literature and the arts, especially music. Historically, these values coexisted in the Renaissance; Pope Julius II, fighting for Bologna and employing Michelangelo, might be taken as the sort of man whom Nietzsche would wish to see in control of governments. It is natural to compare Nietzsche with Machiavelli, in spite of important differences between the two men… Both have an ethic which aims at power and is deliberately anti-Christian, though Nietzsche is more frank in this respect. What Caesar Borgia was to Machiavelli, Napoleon was to Nietzsche: a great man defeated by petty opponents.

Nietzsche alludes habitually to ordinary human beings as the “bungled and botched,” and sees no objection to their suffering if it is necessary for the production of a great man. Thus the whole importance of the period from 1789 to 1815 is summed up in Napoleon: “The Revolution made Napoleon possible: that is its justification…”

It is necessary for higher men to make war upon the masses, and resist the democratic tendencies of the age, for in all directions mediocre people are joining hands to make themselves masters… He regards compassion as a weakness to be combated… He prophesied with a certain glee an era of great wars; one wonders whether he would have been happy if he had lived to see the fulfillment of his prophecy.

There is a great deal in Nietzsche that must be dismissed as merely megalomaniac… It is obvious that in his day-dreams he is a warrior, not a professor; all the men he admires were military. His opinion of women, like every man’s, is an objectification of his own emotion towards them, which is obviously one of fear. “Forget not thy whip”–but nine women out of ten would get the whip away from him, and he knew it, so he kept away from women, and soothed his wounded vanity with unkind remarks.

He condemns Christian love because he thinks it is an outcome of fear… It does not occur to Nietzsche as possible that a man should genuinely feel universal love, obviously because he himself feels almost universal hatred and fear, which he would fain disguise as lordly indifference. His “noble” man–who is himself in day-dreams–is a being wholly devoid of sympathy, ruthless, cunning, concerned only with his own power. King Lear, on the verge of madness, says: “I will do such things–what they are yet I know not–but they shall be the terror of the earth.” This is Nietzsche’s philosophy in a nutshell.

It never occurred to Nietzsche that the lust for power, with which he endows his superman, is itself an outcome of fear. Those who do not fear their neighbours see no necessity to tyrannize over them… I will not deny that, partly as a result of his teaching, the real world has become very like his nightmare, but that does not make it any the less horrible.

We can now state Nietzsche’s ethic. I think what follows is a fair analysis of it: Victors in war, and their descendants, are usually biologically superior to the vanquished. It is therefore desirable that they should hold all the power, and should manage affairs exclusively in their own interests.

Suppose we wish–as I certainly do–to find arguments against Nietzsche’s ethics and politics, what arguments can we find?… The ethical, as opposed to the political, question is one as to sympathy. Sympathy, in the sense of being made unhappy by the sufferings of others, is to some extent natural to human beings. But the development of this feeling is very different in different people. Some find pleasure in the infliction of torture; others, like Buddha, feel that they cannot be completely happy so long as any living thing is suffering. Most people divide mankind emotionally into friends and enemies, feeling sympathy for the former, but not for the latter. An ethic such as that of Christianity or Buddhism has its emotional basis in universal sympathy; Nietzsche’s, in a complete absence of sympathy. (He frequently preaches against sympathy, and in this respect one feels that he has no difficulty in obeying his own precepts.)

For my part, I agree with Buddha as I have imagined him. But I do not know how to prove that he is right by any argument such as can be used in a mathematical or a scientific question. I dislike Nietzsche because he likes the contemplation of pain, because he erects conceit into a duty, because the men whom he most admires are conquerors, whose glory is cleverness in causing men to die. But I think the ultimate argument against his philosophy, as against any unpleasant but internally self-consistent ethic, lies not in an appeal to facts, but in an appeal to the emotions. Nietzsche despises universal love; I feel it the motive power to all that I desire as regards the world. His followers have had their innings, but we may hope that it is coming rapidly to an end.

So what are we to make of Russell’s scathing indictment of Nietzsche? Russell has certainly made a strong and convincing case for his opinions, but one that I feel is only one possible interpretation and in one historical context. This interpretation seems too shallow and dismissive of such a complex well-spring of ideas that was Nietzsche. For example, I understand and sympathize with Russell’s rejection of the concept of the Übermensch and the Will to Power as an ‘aristocratic lust for power’. I am not so sure about the validity of Russell’s conclusion that Nietzsche’s philosophy was the result of universal hatred and fear. My reading of Nietzsche is incomplete, but it is already clear to me that he is more important and useful than Russell gives him credit for. He is one of the most original and captivating Western thinkers of modern times (or probably of any age), and the breadth of his influence already shows that his ideas cannot be pigeon-holed or dismissed so easily.

As for the historical context, Russell was writing during World War II, as an obvious opponent of Fascism and war in general. It is true that Nietzsche’s works had influenced German militarism and nationalism in both world wars, including misuse by the Nazis. This cannot necessarily be understood as a fault of Nietzsche, who was an opponent of Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, and Germany itself (he renounced his citizenship and was officially stateless for the last 31 years of his life). Hitler probably never actually read Nietzsche, and the Nazis mostly cherry-picked lines that seemed convenient to them. This is hardly a surprise in the case of such a multi-layered and open-to-interpretation thinker such as Nietzsche. Indeed, some of his earliest followers were not Fascists but left-wing anarchists and Zionists, and poets such as Yeats and Mencken, as well as virtually every ‘Continental’ philosopher of the 20th century–Heidegger, Sartre, Strauss, Camus, Derrida, Foucault, etc. It is with them in mind that I shall conclude this post.

(The above video is a spoken excerpt from Russell’s chapter on Nietzsche, followed by Martin Heidegger’s contradictory remarks on the importance of Nietzsche).

Martin Heidegger was heavily influenced by Nietzsche and wrote a 4-volume work on him. Though I am less familiar with the notoriously difficult Heidegger than I am with Nietzsche, the emphasis of the former seems to be much more on the individualistic and ontological aspects inspired by the latter. For example, Heidegger continues Nietzsche’s veneration of pre-Socratics such as Heraclitus over Parmenides and the Platonic tradition. Heraclitus believed that everything was in a state of flux, famously stating that a person cannot step twice into the same river, and therefore the focus was on the process of Becoming. Parmenides, followed by Plato, believed that everything is eternal and unchanging, with the focus on the state of Being. Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche led to his own attempt to redefine the meaning of Being itself and its consequences for human affairs. I have found here a useful synthesis and exegesis of many of Heidegger’s working notes on Nietzsche.

Existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, though opposed by Heidegger on different grounds, continued this line of thought further from its Nietzschean origins. When taken out of his political context, it is in this regard that I think Nietzsche may still be useful, contra Russell. The fact that Nietzsche helped diminish the role of metaphysics has led to questions as to the nature of our existence, which was expressed by Sartre as “existence precedes essence.” From a certain perspective, it even seems possible that Nietzsche’s philosophy has much in common with Russell’s Analytical school in that they, too, had no use for metaphysics. Their solutions to this problem differed, with Nietzsche prophesying and attempting to create a new morality “beyond good and evil”, and Russell adamantly advocating the case for logic, reason, and liberalism.

This is certainly not a closed book, and at this point I can come to no definite conclusions, except for a tentative belief that Russell’s criticism is not wholly valid, and that other uses of Nietzsche are possible. For example, here is a curious article I have found that attempts to portray Nietzsche as a proto-egalitarian. As with most thinkers, Nietzsche is often misunderstood and can quite easily be exploited or twisted into service for many ends. I will have some occasion to discuss this in the future, as, for example, in the unfortunate case of Ayn Rand. On the other hand, I believe there is still a place for a positive and empowering individualistic interpretation of Nietzsche, such as was used, I believe, by Nikos Kazantzakis (whom I discussed here). Walter Kaufman’s excellent translation and commentary (which I employ) has done much to rehabilitate Nietzsche’s post-WWII image in the Anglo-American world. I will continue to search for a common-ground between divergent modern philosophical ideas as represented by Russell and Nietzsche (which sums up, on a smaller scale, the ongoing conflict between Analytic and Continental philosophy), as I believe both provide useful tools for asking questions and finding solutions as to the nature of truth and existence in the universe and in our lives.

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42 thoughts on “Bertrand Russell on Nietzsche

  1. Pingback: Defining Philosophy and its Uses « Tigerpapers

  2. Though his early work was related, Wittgenstein wasn’t a logical positivist.

  3. alex, thanks for bringing that to my attention. that was a careless line by me.

  4. Russell’s ostentatious contempt toward Nietzsche, heard in his famous ( I rather call it infamous ) speech, or, displayed in his written opinions, shows arrogance, ignorance, lack of respect for the truth. Bertrand Russell, the so called lover of universal peace, the man who tried to make mathematics a system of logic thought, is shown to be viciously unfair, pitiful, and lowered himself to the level of pamphlet writers . What triggered my strong repulsion to Russell’s statements is, first of all, my profound admiration for Nietzsche’s philosophy, for his intellectual curiosity, for his incomparable genius as a writer, his love for music, in short, all of the above, that, when put together, make him unique.

    “European noblesse-of feeling, of taste, of manners, taking the word, in short, in every higher sense- is the work and invention of France; European vulgarity, the plebeianism of modern ideas, that of England”.
    (“Beyond Good and Evil”) This is why Russell disliked Nietzsche !

    • Stephen on said:

      If discourse was like this in linguistics, nothing would ever get done. You may thank Nietzsche for the way you can simply degrade a great mathematician and political writer like Russell, without addressing the material of his work. Instead you mock Principia Mathematica as too quixotic. How about Nietzsche? Can your incredulity at some of his conclusions apply? At least this is a task with concrete measures, and questions, unlike the swooning of power thirsty readers. Principia Mathematica may have had no avail; maybe you aren’t aware of how faithful a scientist may be. It was the people who tried to dissolve mathematical questions who developed the computer. Nietzsche has paved the way for emoting and impunity. He has paved the way for postmodernism, and Naziism. No single man, I think, has caused anymore trouble in this world than Nietzsche. I can’t possibly like Nietzsche.

      What the analytic philosophers and mathematicians did at the turn of the century was quite a nobel pursuit. To see whether philosophy stands up to the scientific standards is not something which can be simply disregarded, until you see the end of that pursuit. And you are taking advantage of our point in history. “Philosophy simply puts everything before us and neither deduces or explains anything,” said a wise man. In the philosophical domain this sort of activity ended in deconstruction of the linguistic prestidigitation in philosophy, which is indeed the way one philosophy has always succeeded the next, but they made this obvious to someone. David Hilbert had Russell-like tendencies, when he tried to turn mathematics into something you could do thoughtlessly. He wasn’t wrong, because with a computer this is possible, and the computer is possible with other algorithms to construct new FA machines. Wittgenstein, who, if he had actually been understood, would end our attempts to account for these great truths, in language games. Nietzsche, the anti-father of philosophy gave me insight into what Wittgenstein meant when he said: “Philosophy simply puts everything before us and neither deduces or explains anything.” I understood immediately why Nietzsche’s works were polarized between liberalism and authoritarianism, between stoicism, peace and war, between hedonism, asceticism, and aesthetism. Philosophy didn’t suffice for him; he needed something more. What emerged from that realization was a conflict of opinions, in embarking on chimeras with language games. “It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but a great conductor of light.” ~ Sherlock Holmes (Hounds of Baskerville)

      I think we suffer from the Nietzschean disease also largely because we are unable to admit that anything so famous, so well written, could be so empty and meaningless. Because when we do set our sights on an honest understanding of it, we seem derisive, and impudent, like Russell is being accused of. There is nothing to respect in Nietzsche’s philosophy, though. I believe we call that: “calling it for what it is”. A blatant misunderstanding of Darwinian theory and a series of slanders. What has it done? I also couldn’t help but notice in Nietzsche contra Wagner a sad attempt at explaining the workings of music, which he simply didn’t understood. Russell tried to understand math via propositions. Nietzsche tried to understand great music via consciousness. One thing I took from Nietzsche was a suspicion of our superficial language games, which you’re inundated with in any conservative or progressive article, with discussions in linguistics.

      For a man who says that everything is perspectival, he should have actually have identified with the problems philosophers were trying to answer. All I perceive is countless insults to people to whom he should be thankful.

      In a few years, maybe, you won’t see things through Nietzschean glasses. Oh yes, there a clear similarities between Hitler’s style of writing and Nietzsche’s. If there was another man in the world who saw things from Nietzsche’s point of view, it was Hitler. Quit making excuses, mainly that Nietzsche hated this, hated that. He probably hated anti-semitism as much as he hated Jews, and as much as he hated everything else.

      • Subterranean on said:

        ” I understood immediately why Nietzsche’s works were polarized between liberalism and authoritarianism, between stoicism, peace and war, between hedonism, asceticism, and aesthetism. Philosophy didn’t suffice for him; he needed something more. What emerged from that realization was a conflict of opinions, in embarking on chimeras with language games. ”

        Philosophy was indeed sufficient for him, and it’s pathetic to dismiss his aphorisms and complex thoughts as simply “language games”. You are also wrong to call him a bad follower of Darwin’s theory, as if Darwin had such an influence in philosophy. His thoughts were based on Schopenhauer, Emerson, Rochefoucauld, Montaigne, and Machiavelli.

        His writings are not meaningless either, what it lacks is a clearly stated foundation. And that might be because he was still searching for the truth until the end, it does not make his thoughts meaningless. As for pointing out mistakes, he has already pointed out a ton of issues with previous philosophers (the fault with Cogito Ergo Sum, Schopenhauer’s error, Kant’s mistakes, Socrates etc.) as well as their suggestions and opinions (why Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is wrong). There is quite a bit of content in his writing.

        There is no need to dismiss his attempts to get at the truth, attack it for what it is.

        • Philosophy was sufficient for him, but he battered every philosopher’s work before him. They were too dogmatic for him! This an example of the polarization in his works.

          And no, he studied Darwin intensively and deviated only slightly from that mindset for other similar evolutionary paradigms, which were plausible at the time. If you read “A Will to Power”, which is collection of his notes, you’ll see a great many references to Darwin and evolution. And you can’t underestimate the similarities between Schopenhauer and the early Darwinists, (think psychoanalysis).

          Darwin’s theory of the world allowed philosophers to reject the necessity of a God; remember that. It is a theory which can explain how complexity can arrive from chaos and disorder, and I don’t imagine Nietzsche so boldly writing Also Sprach Zarathustra, declaring the death of God in, say, 1850. He parried against nihilism; When did people adopt a nihilistic outlook? without evolution?

          He hated Kant for similar reasons that I dislike him, but it seems as though repudiating that ineffectual, and generalizing philosophy led him to the path of discovering his general philosophical viewpoint. His ideas are as repugnant as that of a dogmatists, including his criticisms which are only accepted if you accept Nietzsche’s comprehensive philosophy. And could you take the time to explain his criticism of Schopenhauer? You’ll either sound like Ayn Rand (if you explain his opposition to sympathy), or you’ll be playing language games (if you compare it with Christianity).

          A denial of the will; Nietzsche seems to advocate an ugly voracity, that worships what illusions the will brings. A perfect demonstration of Schopenhauerian philosophy, which I regard as having an ample amount of substance.

          This is all of Nietzsche’s meta-philosophical and therefore, philosophical, writings in a maxim: Method as a means of human creativity, versus objectivity and coarse thinking. Anything which receives philosophical discussion gets subsumed under this viewpoint. That’s the very epitome of a language game; we can do without his redundant mass of works. Nietzsche is like the kid in physics class, looks at the symbols and exclaims, “Those are not real!”

          Nietzsche was probably the second philosopher, after Schopenhauer who were conscientious as to the “meaning” of philosophical discourse. Nietzsche removed the foundations of systematic philosophy. Therefore, the only thing which holds weight is what inflames great emotion, what works on the passions.

          Read Philosophical Investigations again.

          I didn’t put nearly enough paragraph breaks in my first comment. And I probably sound like Richard Wagner (his grand, convoluted writing style).

          Don’t think that I’m a foundationalist. I think you show so much of Nietzscheans, that you assume that. Indeed, in the postmodern, existentialist and Nietzschean world people are only able to distinguish between religious foundationalism, and anti-structuralism. I’m purely Wittgensteinian. You wish you could say denselben für Nietzsche.

          You’re writing to the wrong person. I’m not who you think.

          I wish I could fix my mistakes, or just re-write it!

          *resolve *disquieting mathematical questions (Freudian error, no doubt. A marriage of the two words: “dissolve”)

          ended in *the deconstruction

          made it obvious to Wittgenstein not Hilbert

          *and in linguistic discussions

      • George Foca-Rodi on said:

        I have to start with some history that will make it easier for you, Stephen.
        Nietzsche’s influence on the existentialist movement of the later Sartre and Camus is better understood after reading Heidegger’s commentaries on “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, “The Antichrist” and “The Will to Power”.
        Becket and Ionesco, the “absurdists”, were also inspired by Nietzsche’s style of writing (caustic-with incisive irony), especially when referring to The Old and especially New Testament. These Holy Books dominate the realm of the absurd, unchallenged by any other absurdities ever created by mankind. Eve’s fable is a masterpiece that exemplifies the absolute need for ignorance and deep fear of knowledge, professed firmly by the “Creators of God”, the writers and prophets of The Old Testament, and the Four Apostles— The Holy Gospels’ “story tellers” of the New one. Heidegger’s opinion was that, when Nietzsche stated “God is Dead”, he became a nihilist, proclaiming victory over the devaluation of all values of life. Heidegger regarded Nietzsche as being a metaphysical thinker who perfected nihilism!
        The term nihilism, applied to some of Nietzsche’s thoughts, evolved over time and lost its significance. Listen to Nietzsche himself talking about nihilism: “I praise, I do not reproach, (nihilism’s) arrival. I believe it is one of the greatest crises, a moment of the deepest self reflection of humanity. Whether man recovers from it, whether he becomes master of this crisis, is a question of his strength!”
        “The Eternal Recurrence” and “The Becoming” are the most significant concepts of Nietzsche’s philosophy. The following example about the eternal return is as profound as it is beautiful: “What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you, into your loneliest loneliness, and say to you: This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and every unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust! Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.”
        We must remember also Eugene Ionesco’s King Beringer, who rages in despair: Why was I born if it wasn’t forever? (“Exit the King”).
        This question proves again and again, that, beyond painful doubts, there is always left in our hearts a last hope for an “eternal recurrence”.
        Nietzsche challenged his readers to question all false values deriving from a doctrine that destroys life’s energy and its atavic instincts. Christian Doctrine was rejected by Nietzsche.
        As a corollary, all ethical values of that doctrine became inconsequential. The meek and obedient, with sheep mentality, were horrifying to Nietzsche. He declared that humans must fight for a better life while living here on earth and not hoping for a next time chance somewhere in paradise, in a fictional form of existence that has no basis to be expected. Nietzsche’s existentialism is profoundly in contrast to Kierkegaard’s concept regarding humanity’s behavior and choices.
        Christian moralities, according to Nietzsche, endanger man’s survival. He believes that a need to conquer, to exercise his will to power, is the only way man can survive and become an accomplished being, in control of his destiny. Imposing his will becomes the duty of a superior man who cannot be restrained by morals promoting equality between… “the few creative and the worthless many”. Fighting relentlessly against “a herd’s mentality” is the only chance for man’s real freedom and progress. Vacuous righteous men, sinless people, priests, puritans, all of them, were a repulsive obnoxious irritant for Nietzsche, who stated in one of his famous quotes: “After coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I have to wash my hands”!
        You state that Nietzsche’s contribution to philosophy is unimportant. In fact you want your readers to believe that he is not a philosopher but rather a somehow talented writer whose work should not always be taken seriously. I will not respond to this nonsense.
        I enjoy your style of writing and I believe that you are a somehow educated but confused intellectual, unfortunately influenced by Russell, who, in spite of being an aristocrat by birth, proves to be a plebeian in spirit. Why is it that some people do not understand what a low class character this man proved to be when incensing the two super powers ( first the Soviet Union and later the USA ), without discrimination, hoping to be invited to some conferences dedicated to “world peace”. When you mention the art of thinking philosophy in mathematical terms, you don’t convince me, because, I hope you are aware of it, Pythagoras, developed ideas that explain “Infinity” as proven by the never ending flow of numbers.
        Heidegger’s criticism of metaphysical concepts is that European philosophers did not discriminate between. “Seiende” – Being, and “Sein” -To Be. The majority of these philosophers renounced asking what it means to exist, and, especially, what “a Being” really is.
        In “Sein and Zeit” he states that this is a failure of philosophy in general, calling it
        Seinvergessenheit ( The oblivion of being). The difference between “a being” and “Being” (Existence) is apparent and easy to understand. The meaning of “beingness” is what Heidegger discussed in his book and, of course, what a being’s importance is in relationship with other beings. Beings are alive and they define what life means. But “The Existence” represents the complex sum of all things that are found in the universe, alive or not, actually, “The Universe” itself. In spite of this, only humans should be considered “beings” because they are the only ones who can understand their “beingness”! Among all forms of life, the consciousness kind, is the only one capable of determining what “to be” means. Two forms of “Dasein” exist: The first one is authentic and the other is inauthentic, undefinable and shapeless (You MUST read Heidegger).
        Nietzsche imagined this concept 30 years prior to Heidegger but his creed was that “the Becoming” has greater significance. The Becoming is born out of “ the will to power” that eventually metamorphosizes into “ the will to live”. Therefore, Nietzsche’s conclusion “That everything recurs, is the closest approximation of the world of “Becoming” into one of “Being”: a climax of meditation” (Heidegger). As a result, “Becoming” is life’s crescendo – necessary for the existence of beings. I hope you know that Nietzsche was adamantly opposed to the concept of “transcendental beingness”,because it motivates and explains the need for God.
        Some critics of Nietzsche’s philosophy seem to hang on to a simplistic and false assumption that he was delusional. In the opinion of his detractors, he was an elitist who dreamt about the governance of the powerful over the masses of common men.
        Nietzsche argued that there are existing two moralities living side by side: the morality of the master, born in the soul of a generous, noble man, and the morality of the meek and unworthy, that is born in the hearts of the weak.
        Zarathustra teaches the Übermensch to separate from the herd and guide lesser humans to a brighter life. His example of courage, dignity, desire for all that makes life worthy to be lived, will excite and convince the masses to follow him on a path that will, finally, bring happiness to all. The Übermensch, according to Nietzsche’s critics, is entitled to make the last decision concerning the faith of many, regardless of whether pain and suffering are the results of such an act. Therefore, the concept in itself seems to be unethical because it leads to dictatorship. Nothing is further from the truth than this falsitude, promoted by Russell and his followers. I will not repeat my comments regarding this subject. I discussed this theme with David James. You can read it. It became part of our discussions on this matter, published on May 28, 2012.

        (“We suffer from the Nitzschean disease …There is nothing to respect in Nietzsche’s philosophy, though…Oh yes, there are clear similarities between Hitler’s style of writing and Nietzsche’s. If there was another man in the world who saw things from Nietzsche’s point of view, it was Hitler. Quit making excuses, mainly that Nietzsche hated this, hated that. He probably hated anti-semitism as much as he hated Jews, and as much as he hated everything else”).
        These are your words !

        Well, Stephen, did you read Nietzsche’s books? I’m tempted to conclude that you did not. Why? Because it is impossible for someone who knows his books to make these kinds of statements. I accused Russell of being superficial, hateful of Nietzsche, because, as a good Englishman, he took offense when discovering the irony and dislike of the puritanic, deeply religious, Christian way of thinking of the Brits, found in the German philosopher’s books. In so many words I realized that he did not read with attention Nietzsche’s works !( May 28,2012 )

        Nietzsche was wrong about Wagner ( Read my explanation on this matter.-Same date). He disliked the extreme nationalistic tendencies found in some of his statements as well as Wagner’s departure from the tradition that was born after Bach and Beethoven in Germany and Vienna. One should not forget that at one point there were great conflicts between the critics of Europe, mostly in Vienna, regarding the provocative music of Wagner, compared to Brahms’ ,who continued the German tradition.
        The great Celibidache, considered by many the most interesting conductor of the last century, disliked Wagner’s operas also. He was, though, the most formidable interpreter of the symphonic pages of Wagner’s music. The Preludes and Ouvertures to his operas are extraordinary. I give you this information as a sign of courtesy, because it is not your fault if your expertise in music is limited.
        Music is listened to and understood, not just with the ears. Education plays an important role also. If you like rap, pop, or Mike Jagger, then you will not listen to Bach’s music.

        In conclusion, only after reading Machiavelli, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, and of course only after knowing what the ancient Greeks wrote, only at that moment, will you understand the incomparable importance of Nietzsche’s work.
        I suggest starting with Parmenides, Pythagoras, and then slowly go through Plato and Aristóteles. In order to comprehend “The Birth of Tragedy”, you must read Sophocles, Eschil, Euripides.
        Read Vergillius, Petronius, Cesar ! Later, Cervantes. Even Shakespeare will help.
        Don’t waste time with Dickens. Read Joyce ! In order to understand the Übermensch you are obliged to know about Thucydides, Alexander (the Great), Cesar, and, especially, you must try to understand who Napoleon (Bonaparte) was. Forget about the English interpretation of history. Read the French, the German, the Russian. Read “Crime and Punishment “by Dostojewski and after that, Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling”. Nietzsche’s existentialism in contrast with Kierkegaard’s, will educate you, and ,I’m sure, you will feel much better about yourself when you really find out, the importance of this giant. And, a last advice, never use the word (name) Wittgenstein on the same page with Nietzsche. The fact that Russell liked him was bad news to begin with !..
        What else ? Well, I have a lot of ideas, but for the moment you have plenty to study. Thanks for your letter. I’m sorry but I have to stop our conversation.
        It ends now.

        • Stephen on said:

          You said you enjoyed my style of writing… Isn’t it ironic that I can’t help but apologizing for the quality of my comment. So clumsily do I use the word language games! I badly misrepresent Wittgenstein.

          I need more pauses in my comment, too. The problem is that you take notes and keep track of your ideas on certain things; they pile up; your ideas are at first confused, then they are pretentious, and then they turn complicated. Afterwards, they might be valuable, but in philosophy plenty of those ideas are illusions.

          Thank you for that comment. It was perfect to say the least.

          I firstly have to say that the first time I read Nietzsche’s will to power, I was truly moved in an existential sort of way. I wouldn’t dare call your impression of Nietzsche hackneyed, but it is this very impression which I have rebuked in myself before.

          I won’t begin to delve into what I ungratefully call “language games”, because it can take an enormous amount of time accounting for why philosophy has no power to account for transcendental things (or that is what Wittgenstein calls them.) First you have to step outside the matrix of philosophizing and judge whether the activity leads to new truths. It is a tricky business. I’ll merely give a fragment of the sort of thought outlined by Wittgenstein. (Or my personal interpretation. I would rather call it a personal awakening).

          There is a piece in Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation; it was an addition to the second edition; Schopenhauer attempts to account for how the human’s ability to understand “concepts”, as opposed to the animal’s instincts, will empower a person to incredibly stupid things. So, the paradox has been said before, the human race is certainly the stupidest.

          What he attempts to account for is really akin to human creativity… like in language.

          You can tell, as his essay begins to go in circles, that he has no clear way of explaining how concepts are sufficient for human stupidity. That is, how the concept’s addition, from the basic template (this template is assumed) of the animal with instinct, can cause acts of stupidity to come about.

          What he speaks about is its arbitrariness, again, its creativity; or at least that is how it should be interpreted by any perceptive linguist. How it has no immediate connection to the physical world as opposed to instinct, which is in animals.

          Can a dog have hope? Wittgenstein asked this. It seems to expose the great assumptions we make when we philosophize. In which way can he have hope?

          Indeed the answer yes or no are mutually exclusive, yet complementary entailing two different things. So, in one way an animal must have concepts, but in Schopenhauer’s way they don’t. You may look at human capabilities, and notice that they are outside, or totally, inexplicable, extrinsic to the world. We point to it with nothing but our concepts, indeed our human capabilities.

          These are deep ideas: free will, God (yes, I happen to be a theist, an irreligious one, though), morality, etcetera. Language and philosophizing are totally inadequate.

          Maybe I’m being disingenuous when I say “Nietzsche is not himself luminous,”
          because I mean that I could tell that in some way he did know that philosophy wasn’t good enough to answer the truth of some of these ideas.

          Descartes’ philosophy marvels at things like language, the substance of mind. Kant expressed the magnificence of knowledge and logic. I hate the fact that philosophers can denigrate their achievements, or mock the logicism in Kant, or in Russell. Again, you could not say that logicists view of the world is incomplete until they did their work at the beginning of the 20th century. I feel that everyone takes advantage of that

          One looks at aesthetic work (Nietzsche contra Wagner is an aesthetic work), and you immediately get a sense of how overly ambitious, how quixotic, such that it really runs the world into trouble.

          “What does a clarinet sound like?” Wittgenstein asked once.

          “Music is listened to and understood; not just with the ears.” Here, I think you’ve misjudged me. I can’t help but wonder: “do you think that I listen to rap, pop, or Mick Jagger.”

          Wagner is my occasional favourite, although at times I can’t handle the dissonance and bombast. In those times it is Beethoven, but then the beauty of his works lies in its unity, and so I may not always have the attention for it; and then I would resort myself to the effortless banality of Brahms.

          This is an aesthetic epigram which shows that multifarious understanding you speak of: “Beethoven tells you what it is like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it is like to be human. Bach tells you what it is like to be the universe.” ~ Douglas Adams. This is a different kind of observation than the assertions of Nietzsche. I won’t explain.

          I read the Brothers Karamazov, and Crime and Punishment, although I didn’t finish it because what Dostoyevsky resonated to cohesively with Freud. I’m not one to repeat my lessons. I admire Dostoyevsky as much as I admire Freud.

          Hegel, you mention, is another one of those thinkers who fuelled genocides and repressions. Karl Marx, one of the most naturally gifted thinkers, re-embodies tyranny and calls it a kind of socialism. It seems like cold scientific analysis, like in Das Kapital is better prescribed for understanding the workings of society than the philosophy in “The Communist Manifesto.”

          I’ve never read Hegel, or Sartre, or Heidegger. I attempted Hegel and found it stagnant and full of polysyllabic words, obscuring the pragmatic truth of philosophy. (To use a Marxist notion). Sartre’s views are tempting, as I like Camus so much. I’ve never thought about reading Heidegger; nothing compels me… I’ve heard so many good things and so many bad things about Martin. And he did support the Nazis, quite passionately. He broke off relationships with people because of it. That’s what has generally repelled me, and I don’t think that is a bad thing to be repelled by, either.

          Kierkergaard’s fideism I think is way overdrawn. What is this leap of faith? What am I to do? What does that mean? Although I’ve never read him.

          I think that you’re unfair to Russell. What I was saying about Principia Mathematica was that it fits into a different kind of philosophy (although they are all the same) than what it is usually taken for.

          And yes, people underestimate Nietzsche’s impact on Hitler, whether you like it or not.

          I wrote another comment above yours, labelled Steve instead. Just in case you didn’t see it.

          • George Foca-Rodi on said:

            Stephen, this will be my last response to your comments.
            If my ideas pile up, it is because I don’t jump all over the place changing the story
            or playing with words, but remain constantly focused on the subject and must, sometimes, increase the argumentation up to the point of becoming redundant.
            It is necessary to act professorial and boring, from time to time, because, it so happens,
            I am obliged to respond to misinformation, falsification, lack of intellectual probity, and, in some instances, de facto, lack of education.
            You did not “misrepresent “ Wittgenstein. Well presented or not, he cannot be part of a discussion about Nietzsche. By the way , I don’t keep track of “certain things”.
            The so called “things” are…the great works of the Greek and German philosophers, the French, German,Spanish, Russian, Italian, Irish literature, Shakespeare, and so on. When it comes to music, you make a serious but unwilling mistake trying to explain to me what Wagner’s operas are about. I am a musician. Wagner’s symphonic pages are extraordinary. Nietzsche is right disliking the long and sometimes boring arias of Wagner’s heroes ,and, in general, the poor construction of the libretti, in most of his operas. He loved the Prelude to Parsifal. He never contested Wagner’s genius.
            We should remember also the opinions of some famous musicians ( Debussy), that Wagner missed the chance to become the greatest symphonist of Germany.
            I deplore Nietzsche’s mistake of being unfair with Wagner. In my essays I explain what motivated him to become vicious in his criticism. It is exactly what Russell did not understand about Nietzsche : The philosopher did not like the German bourgeois mentality, in fact, he did not like anything about the Germans. He became a Swiss citizen, hoped to be of Polish extraction, etc. He never contemplated such a nightmare as what the Nazis did in Europe. Because you admire Russell, a man without intellectual integrity, and because, most likely, you did not read carefully Nietzsche’s books, the errors committed by the (in)famous Brit, became, as a consequence, yours also. How sad it is ! You confess that, in a non religious way, you are a theist. You believe but- don’t believe – in …God. Well, I sense fear in your statement. Nothing else . That’s OK. Is it not possible that, somehow, your dislike for Nietzsche is caused by your “understanding” ,and, maybe, “acceptance as final truths”, the Bible’s anecdotes?

            By the way, calling Wagner’s creation bombastic or dissonant, convoluted, I’m sorry to tell you, shows that you write about music with opinions injected in your mind by some critics who shaped your taste. When you write about the effortlessly banalities of Brahms’ music you commit an unbelievable blunder. Let’s hope that you did it FOR THE LAST TIME!. Stephen, for your good, don’t embarrass yourself with such statements ! There is a saying among musicians: The Germans gave the world the four great “B’s”: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner !
            I forgive your mistake because, I assume, this was not your opinion, but rather of some idiot who needed 15 minutes of fame. Listen carefully to Brahms’ symphonies and you will become more refined, and, who knows, you may understand Nietzsche better- afterwords. Another advice: never quote Douglas Adams. When it comes to music,
            his opinions are those of a… NOBODY !

            Not knowing Hegel’s works and connecting him to Marx, as the communists did for so many years, ( lying about the so called correlation that exists between his dialectical mode of analyzing existence and “The Capital” ), is sad ! So what if Marx and Engels liked him. Marx was a great thinker. Like everybody (who is somebody) he was under the influence of writers and philosophers from the past.

            Instead of rushing to conclusions “Listen” to Hegel’s words:
            “Reason is the substance of the Universe”… “Spirit, and the course of its development, is the substantial object of the philosophy of history. The nature of Spirit may be understood by contrasting it with its opposite, namely Matter. The essence of Matter is Gravity; the essence of Spirit is Freedom. Matter is outside itself, whereas Spirit has its centre in itself. Spirit is self-contained existence”. “Reason is the conscious certainty of being all reality”…
            “This unity is consequently the absolute and all truth, the Idea which thinks itself”.
            It is not Hegel’s sin that his philosophy was misrepresented by the Marxists, and, you should understand this also,it is not Nietzsche’s fault that Hitler selected, out of context, certain paragraphs from “Also Sprach Zarathustra” or “The Will to Power” !

            I must make you aware of your mistakes when espousing frivolous statements about Schopenhauer. Try to understand these extraordinary lines:
            “Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. It is absurd to look upon the enormous amount of pain that abounds everywhere in the world, and originates in needs and necessities inseparable from life itself, as serving no purpose at all and the result of mere chance………
            The pleasure in this world, it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an
            even balance between the two. If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is
            true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged in eating the other. The best consolation in misfortune or affliction of any kind will be the thought of other people who are in a still worse plight than yourself; and this is a form of consolation open to every one. But what an awful fate this means for mankind as a whole!“

            You confess that Kierkegaard is not your speciality or that you did not finish reading “Crime and Punishment”. Well, allow me to educate you !
            In “Fear and Trembling” Kierkegaard talks about “faith” , “paradox” and the “leap”. Concentrate, please:
            “All Christianity is rooted in paradox, according to Fear and Trembling ,yes, it is rooted in fear and trembling, (which are specifically the desperate categories of Christianity and the leap-whether one accepts it) (that is, a believer) or rejects it (for the very reason that it is the paradox)”.… Monotony exercises in the course of time a benumbing influence upon the mind. Like the monotonous sound of water dripping from the roof, like the monotonous whir of a spinning wheel, like the monotonous sound of a man walking with measured tread back and forth on the floor above, so, this movement of reflective grief finally gives to it a certain sense of numb relief, becoming a necessity as affording it an illusion of progress. Finally, an equilibrium is established, and the need of obtaining for itself an outward expression, in so far as this need may have once or twice asserted itself, now ceases; outwardly, everything is quiet and calm, and, far within, in its little secret recess, grief dwells like a prisoner strictly guarded in a subterranean dungeon, who spends year after year monotonously moving back and forth within its little enclosure, never weary of traversing sorrow’s longer or shorter path….What is a leap of faith? “It is the act or an instance of believing or trusting in something intangible or incapable of being proved” .
            Kierkegaard considers existence of greater importance than the essence of being!
            He believes that man must define himself, become aware of his presence in the world, and only afterword, should he question the essence of his existence.

            Jean Paul Sartre articulates the concept of existentialism very simply:
            “Man first of all, exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards”.

            For your enjoyment, I selected a few of Nietzsche’s famous quotes:
            “Faith: not wanting to know what is true”.
            “Every church is a stone on the grave of a god man: it does not want him to rise up again under any circumstances”.
            “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies”.
            “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything”.
            “Fanatics are picturesque, mankind would rather see gestures than listen to reasons”.
            “I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time”.
            “I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance”.
            “In Christianity, neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point”.
            “The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad”.
            “Fear is the mother of morality”.
            “Is man one of God’s blunders? Or is God one of man’s blunders?”
            ”Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual.”
            “The word “Christianity” is already a misunderstanding – in reality, there has been only one
            Christian, and he died on the Cross.”.
            “Two great European narcotics, alcohol and Christianity”.
            ““In heaven, all the interesting people are missing”.

            About music now. You quote Douglas Adams. How boring!
            Then Wittgenstein, your so much admired thinker : “What does a clarinet sound like”?
            Response : In words, we cannot explain sounds ! Really? What a great discovery !
            Of course not !
            Read Romain Rolland ! He explains why, much better and more beautifully.
            Listen to “Le Sacre du Printemps” . Should I tell you who composed it ? I will not !
            Find out and listen to it conducted by Igor Markevitch. Don’t miss the end !
            As far as “Crime and Punishment” goes, Stephen, you did not read the ending of a great book !!! How can you even mention that you attempted to read it but did not have the curiosity to find out the conclusion of this masterpiece ? I’m sorry to tell you, you display a kind of superficiality that causes me some unflattering opinions about your intellectual curiosity. I hope, and, sincerely, I WANT to be wrong !

            Stop stewing together Darwin, Dostojewski, Schopenhauer, Freud with Wittgenstein, etc. You did not prove a real connection among them. Nietzsche understood and admired Dostojewski. It is interesting. Find out why !
            Do you realize what you did when commenting about my criticism of Russell ?
            The French call it: “Plaider le faux pour savoir le vrai “!
            All right. I made the effort to tell you the truth.
            In conclusion, I offer you a splendid quote from Marc Aurelius’ “Meditations” :
            “ The Universe is change, life is an opinion”!

            • I am not an idiot looking for fifteen minutes of fame. I am indignant, because we take Nietzsche so seriously. I particularly hate writing internet comments; what I found was so unnerving.

              Oh yes, I quote Douglas Adams. Yes, I enjoy my life. Yes, I like to laugh. Yes, the observation he made is available to anyone who enjoys music. But that is because it is like a phenomena of the mind. That is the way linguistics, music should always be viewed. People hear the same music and the same words. And then there are non-peoples: snobbish elitist philosophers, who hog bandwidth, and post about something a philosopher, whom they think is irrelevant, talk about someone for whom they have unbreaking admiration.

              You insult: “the effortless banality of Brahms.” Maybe I don’t mean this literally. I mean kind of ironically; yet not ironically; yet ironically. You are not used to people being novel anymore, clearly. (Don’t take everything so seriously)

              What Nietzsche does in Nietzsche contra Wagner is really try to explain the phenomena through pathetic introspection. It is like understanding what a language means; what guiding spirit carries semantics. The rule following paradox therefore applies, until we look at it (music) empirically. That doesn’t mean we can uncover everything through empiricism, though.

              We all know of “the soft-headed” philosophical tradition – to borrow a term from William James – that there propositions are meaningless. The more we clean our propositions of the chaos of life; the more meaningless they become…

              I honestly think that you are psychologically unwell. Kierkergaard’s leap of faith is unpragmatic! How can you not see that? Immediately? Propositions have been washing over you, and they haven’t made the smallest imprint, except to add to your ability to philosophize.

              What I am merely contending about Nietzsche is that he can be understood perfectly coherently if we look at it as philosophy imbued with Darwin. Evolution was a very radical development at the time. Don’t forget that.

              Oh, What a waste of words. A philosopher never for a second looks at meta-philosophy; that’s why he is still a philosopher.

              I know something extra about music myself. The theory, the playing of the piano adds to your vocabulary, and increases adeptness. The phenomena is still inexplicable to me.

              I used to be an inveterate atheist. I still despise Christianity, and I agree with Nietzsche (except the first quote, which is the worst argument atheists continually repeat. A faith is a belief. A belief is a position on something debatable. Atheism is a faith, too!). It does inculcate a slave mentality, hence their insane politics. It furnishes a cynical view of the world, which is wholly unrealistic. But, look at the unlikelihood of it all; you must admit that there is a being guiding it, something which favours our existence. That’s too logical though.

              I don’t imagine that he intervenes in our affairs. It is yet not meaningless to say: there is a god(s).

              Yet these quotes by Nietzsche. Whoah! How brilliant! I never thought these things once when I was confronted with religion it’s most indigestible form. Nietzsche is too familiar with the methods of philosophers; you can basically predict what he is going to say next.

              I do keep misrepresenting Wittgenstein. Though, even the logical positivist view was enough to dethrone “The Queen of the Sciences”, as Carnap calls it. As long as the founder of logic, philosophy, can’t define the words it uses and set up a proper grammar, there is no extent of our practical knowledge, but that, of course, depends on theories from logic, which, undoubtedly, you’ve never read. These theories encompass far less than their early developers insisted on. I have complicated views that which I have so far resisted from unleashing.

              I compare Schopenhauer with Freud; I don’t confound them. Their philosophies and ideas are unique. I would never claim such a thing. (straw man)

              Maybe it is due to how little I am affected by what I read, but I couldn’t pull anything out of Crime and Punishment that wasn’t in psychoanalysis. But that is based on my interpretation; nothing more.

              What I was saying about Marx (and you clearly misunderstood) was that it took the philosophy of Hegel for a man as intelligent as Marx to create something as ridiculous as communism. It is when philosophers abstract things, and generalize–the more they insist that all is the same, men then have a pretext to evil actions; an umbrella to do them. It has actually been proven that it requires a philosophy, or a political ideology to do great acts of evil. Could you honestly say that that makes no sense? That that isn’t likely to be the case? What is your issue with that? Is not sophisticated enough? Is my nose not stuffed up enough for you? What I say is logical, and that is all that really counts.

              If you like Hegel, you haven’t understood Nietzsche.

              I don’t present any arguments because I don’t care that much and my ideas don’t fit into a tiny comment section… Go figure!

              Last point: If Nietzsche’s philosophy is not confused, then what are his political ideas?

            • By the way, I don’t claim that their philosophies in their entirety would have supported those genocides. They made them possible, nonetheless.

              What Nietzsche would have been staunchly against Hitler, but it is not hard to imagine what he would support. Something which breaks the same moral barriers as Nazism.

            • George Foca-Rodi on said:

              Stephen,
              Thanks for your response. I have enjoyed reading your opinions in spite of not agreeing with mostly of them. You seem upset with me. Probably I deserve this.
              I was wrong being facetious with you. Of course you know about Napoleon or Caesar. The reason why I cannot continue the dialog with you is TIME. It is short for me. I compose day and night. I must finish my work. If, by any chance, you are interested in my music, check Yahoo or Google, click my name, and open Live Performances. There you’ll find a fragment of my piece “An American in Moscow”. Also, you can watch my symphony “Sounds of an Ending Century”, performed by the Bucharest and Iassy Philharmonics.

              My dislike of Russell is caused not by philosophical reasons only. When it became clear to us, Romanians, as well as others in Eastern Europe, that, not Roosevelt, but Churchill was the one who conceded that part of the world to Stalin, we became outraged. The “Perfidious Albion” proved again and again to be miserable, small minded, pitiful, displaying fear of Russia. At that point in my life, I listened to Russell’s speeches, and I became disgusted with him. I was shocked and horrified, discovering that a famous British thinker was proclaiming that the Soviet Union loves and promotes “Peace in the World”. Later, I realized that he was superficial and unfair with Nietzsche. He distorted the meaning of Nietzsche’s “ Also Sprach Zarathustra”, and, because of him, many of his followers continued a campaign of degrading the German philosopher to the point of accusing him to be the creator of the Nazi’s way of thinking. This is totally false and I feel that all honest thinkers should challenge this injustice. I agree with Nietzsche in mostly of his opinions. Unfortunately, in some of his statements, he was wrong, especially when writing about Wagner. We should remember that Nietzsche understood, better than many, the importance of great music in peoples lives.

              I close with the hope that you will open your heart and mind to Nietzsche’s ideas.
              Read carefully and try to understand “The Becoming” ,and “The Eternal Recurrence”.
              I sympathize with your “believing but… not believing” in a greater power that controls the Universe. I think and hope that I understand you, Stephen.

              You write beautifully, you are extremely talented and I wish you the best.
              As I stated at the beginning of this page, time is short for me. I allow my music to be listen via the internet. Very soon, the web will have more of my music. It is very expensive to have it performed in USA. Agents cost lots of money, and it is difficult to find sponsors of “classical music” etc. Rap makes money!
              I’m happy that, in Romania, the best orchestras play my compositions.
              I have to say Goodbye now .Thanks for our dialog. Sincerely, George Foca-Rodi

  5. George,
    I am pleased to hear your thoughts, and I see that we had a similar reaction to Russell’s invective against Nietzsche, though mine was less strong than yours. My own opinion seems to differ from yours in that I do not see Russell’s views as representative of any ignorance or lack of respect for the truth (though, in this case, I cannot rule out a certain level of the arrogance you cite). As I wrote in my post, I was especially moved to write about this single chapter of A History of Western Philosophy because it was the only time I can recall disagreeing with Russell, or feeling as if he was not being as objective as he should have been for being such a strong proponent of logical analysis and reason.
    With that said, after further pondering and reading of Nietzsche since I wrote this post, I must admit that I actually agree in principle, though not in tone, with most of what Russell said. Nietzsche is, as you wrote, unique. He is a genius in any sense of the word, especially the literary one. I think Zarathustra is a masterpiece warranting every bit of Nietzsche’s own braggadocio. His ideas are thought-provoking, iconoclastic and powerful, and, yes, he loves music (like many of us). I am not so sure about his intellectual curiosity (which surely fits Russell at least as well, if not better, than Nietzsche). All in all, I don’t think Russell disliked Nietzsche because of this one of his many rather pithy dismissals of English “vulgarity” that you cited (Russell mocked Nietzsche for mocking J.S. Mill’s own Utilitarian restatement of the Golden Rule, writing that “I seem to recall that someone anticipated Mill in this dictum.”), but because of the things that Nietzsche’s philosophy involved–hatred, fear, love of power, and the strong few ruling over the many weak. I know that Nietzsche has often been taken out of context or misinterpreted, and I can find many individual lines from Nietzsche’s works that I find striking and agree with, but, in the final appraisal, I can still find no justification or lend any support to the morally bankrupt ideals of the “overman” or the “will to power.” Russell, writing during the height of World War II, no doubt made a connection between the ideas of Nietzsche and the actions of the Third Reich, as many have done (the connection was real in many senses, and even from WWI German soldiers were issued copies of Zarathustra). If he was too emotional about the subject matter at that time, I think it is a forgivable error. Even if we condemn Russell’s tone, we still must answer the main question as to whether we condemn altruism and support an aristocracy of the strong over the weak, and if Nietzsche would have indeed approved of or supported the many fascistic real-world nightmares that can be somewhat attributed to a continuation of his theoretical ideas.
    Thanks for writing, and please let me know how you resolve this ethical dilemma.
    David

    • George Foca-Rodi on said:

      David,
      I feel that you believe too much in Russell’s intellect and honesty.This is my response to your comments:

      Bertrand Russell in his “A History of Western Philosophy “describes Nietzsche as an insecure man, motivated by hatred against Christianity, fear of moral values etc. In his critique of Nietzsche’s books, Russell rushes to conclusions that, unfortunately, show disdain for the man as well as for the philosopher .
      Some English and German scholars underscore the fact that Russell did not study carefully Nietzsche’s works. I agree with this point of view. After listening to Russell’s recorded conference about Nietzsche, I discovered that some of his statements show clearly that he misses, among many other things, the main idea of Nietzsche’s“Also Sprach Zarathustra” , in which the philosopher becomes a poet whose love and dream for the beauty and perfection of a special and unique man make him a prophet who envisions the birth and the future existence of such an ideal being. I have to confess ,it was very unpleasant listening to Russell’s barking about Nietzsche’s philosophy ( His recorded voice sounds harsh, like that of a high tenor in bad shape ).

      Like communist thinkers of the Stalinist era, Russell considers the German philosopher a reactionary, the one who inspired what will become the doctrine of Nazi Germany. Moreover, Russell’s critique of “The Antichrist”, displays, I’m sorry but not shy to say, ignorance about the reason why the book was written, and, of course, what, in fact, is the substance of it.
      About Nietzsche’s Übermensch: Well, to make it clear from the beginning, the philosopher never contemplated that such a being would be of German origin. The bourgeois state of mind in Germany during Nietzsche’s life was deeply disliked by him. His Übermensch has nothing to do with the “blond beast” that came into being about 30 years after his death. I quote from The Antichrist : “These Germans, I confess, are my enemies: I despise all their uncleanliness in concept and valuation, their cowardice before every honest yea and nay. For nearly a thousand years they have tangled and confused everything their fingers have touched; they have on their conscience all the half-way measures, all the three-eighths-way measures, that Europe is sick of,—they also have on their conscience the uncleanest variety of Christianity that exists, and the most incurable and indestructible—Protestantism…. If mankind never manages to get rid of Christianity the Germans will be to blame… Here it becomes necessary to call up a memory that must be a hundred times more painful to Germans. The Germans have destroyed for Europe the last great harvest of civilization that Europe was ever to reap—the Renaissance”
      It is obvious that Russell did not read these lines ( or willingly ignored them ).
      Hitler’s Übermensch was not the one described in “Also Sprach Zarathustra”. The nobility of that uniquely beautiful being has its origin in a compounded image of the great men from the past and has nothing to do with the super race of “blond beasts”. Bertrand Russell shows bad faith or, if an excuse can be employed on his behalf, superficiality, to say the least. Another reason why Russell disliked Nietzsche is caused by the low esteem the German philosopher had for the English way of thinking. The following are quotations from Beyond Good and Evil :
      „English clumsiness and peasant seriousness is still disguised most tolerably – or rather elucidated and reinterpreted – by the language of Christian gestures and by prayers and singing of psalms. And for those brutes of sot and rakes who formerly learned how to grunt morally under the sway of Methodism and more recently again as a «Salvation Army», a penitential spasm may really be the relatively highest achievement of humanity to which they can be raised: that much may be conceded in all fairness. But what is offensive even in the most humane Englishman is his lack of music, speaking metaphorically (but not only metaphorically): in the movements of his soul and body he has no rhythm and dance, indeed not even the desire for rhythm and dance, for «music». Listen to him speak; watch the most beautiful Englishwomen walk – there are no more beautiful doves and swans in any country in the world – finally listen to them sing! But I am asking too much…
      European noblesse-of feeling, of taste, of manners, taking the word, in short, in every higher sense- is the work and invention of France; European vulgarity, the plebeianism of modern ideas, that of England”.
      As I stated before this lines explain why Russell did not like Nietzsche !

      The philosopher’s preoccupation with art and music is due to his understanding of their importance to “life itself ”. His profound analysis of the Apollinic and Dionysiac, in his first book “The Birth of Tragedy”, is, probably, the most comprehensive in the history of literature.
      One cannot separate man from the best of what he ever created, which is music and the arts. There is no contradiction between the nobility of a proud warrior and his love for the beauty of music, theatre and the arts.

      The ”will to power” coexists, in the soul of a superior human being , with the love for music.(“The Will to Power” published after Nietzsche’s death)
      It is sad but, as on many other occasions, Russell distorts willingly Nietzsche’s thoughts and intentions. This is even more obvious when he objects to the German philosopher’s dislike for Christian doctrine, stating that Nietzsche fears love for humanity, and does not understand the manifestation of compassion found in the teachings of Christ. How false and far from the truth is Russell’s attempt to present Nietzsche as a man who hates all that is good in human nature. Let me briefly clarify what in fact are Nietzsche’s thoughts about the Christian doctrine: Nietzsche accuses Christianity of falsifying the truth about the universe around us .
      The Christian God, “the divinity of decadence,” represents a Mighty God who contradicts life itself. The slaves, the impotent people, the creators of such image of God, their own, do not want to call themselves “the weak,” so they become “the good.”
      “Mankind has just as much need for an evil god as for a good god; it doesn’t have to thank mere tolerance and humanitarianism for its own existence. . . . What would be the value of a god who knew nothing of anger, revenge, envy, scorn, cunning, violence? Who had perhaps never experienced the rapturous ardeurs of victory and of destruction? No one would understand such a god: why should any one want him?”–The Antichrist
      When it comes to Christianity, Nietzsche’s criticism is especially harsh regarding Paul’s profound distortion of Christ’s wishes. He demonstrates that Christianity, the way we know it, is, in fact, Paul’s doctrine that caused a great part of humanity to become weak in spirit, lacking pride, renouncing happiness during earthly life, in which men “must be humble, asking for forgiveness”, even when sin was not committed ( “because men are born as a result of an original sin”) . It is important to observe that Nietzsche’s criticism is not directed toward Christ, but mostly at the concept of permanent humility that is so unnatural for man. The concept of the weak, who, on his knees, waits for forgiveness from His Maker has been repugnant to him. In spite of his dislike of Catholicism, Nietzsche gives credit to the great achievements of the Renaissance, in part, sponsored by the Catholic Church. He is disgusted with Luther‘s “Reform” that shows intransigence for the beauty of the arts which… “distract the righteous” from their main mission to be “humble sheep”, asking all the time for God’s forgiveness ! His irony is extraordinary, when narrating about the Catholic Church, which ordered the public baths to be destroyed in Alhambra…( the Moors loved to bathe )… because this kind of “physical indulgence” contradicted the teaching of being humble and preoccupied only with “God’s desires “. Nietzsche admires Greek Civilization, the achievements of the Roman Empire, but is disgusted with the reactionary doctrine of the Christian Church that was instrumental in the destruction of ancient Rome.
      “All the labour of Antiquity in vain. I have no words to express my feelings at such a catastrophe” . The Antichrist.
      In conclusion, as arrogant as it may appear, I state without any doubt that Bertrand Russell was unfair and mostly uninformed about the scope and importance of Nietzsche who, maybe, was too much for him. Russell’s “obese” volume on Western Philosophy , is in many respects superficial, though written with some wit.
      Qui trop embrasse mal étreint !
      George Foca-Rodi
      (About the ethical dilemma another time).

      • George Foca-Rodi on said:

        David, I forgot to inject a few ideas.
        Nietzsche was not just a music lover.He was a composer, not a great one, but his chamber music is performed from time to time. He understood music better than the so called music lovers. As far as intellectual curiosity goes,Oh God, how can you compare a titan with a pygmy ? Nietzsche surpasses all the German philosophers, among other reasons, because of his knowledge in so many subjects.
        And, when I say Germans, I mean the most important philosophers after the Greeks. Nietzsche’s enormous spectrum and preoccupation with history, literature, arts, science, music,politics, etc, reminds me of Diderot .
        In spite of winning a Nobel Prize, Russell belongs to the second row of thinkers.
        I close with this thought: When you put a pygmy on a giant’s shoulders, in spite of becoming tall , he looks at and understands the world with the mind of a pygmy. About the ethical consequences of Nietzsche’s writings I have many things to say. At this time, I refrain from comments.
        George Foca-Rodi

        • George,
          Thank you for your very detailed and interesting comments, that have made me evaluate some aspects of this subject once again. At last, I have not changed my opinions, however, and will have to humbly disagree with many of your points. I am not convinced that Nietzsche was the greatest of the German philosophers (Kant?), nor that he was so knowledgeable in many areas as you suppose. I think his worldview was probably rather limited and somewhat delusional. I would not suppose the British philosophers to be any less important than the Germans, and, from my point of view, were quite clearly more important. Diderot, like Voltaire, was a thoroughly rational man and probably very little like Nietzsche as I understand him. Despite how you may feel about him, Russell was in no way in a “second row” of thinkers. He is only possibly the most important all-around thinker of the 20th century. He was also not uninformed about Nietzsche’s works, but only disagreed with them vehemently. If you and I agree that he was perhaps unfair in his method, that does not make his conclusions invalid. This language about pygmies, titans, superior men, etc., is not very convincing to me, but that is probably because I am not very comfortable with Nietzschean terminology. I understand that Nietzsche’s ideas were abused by later reactionaries, but even if we dismiss this fact (which is not inconsequential, by the way), I am personally rather uninspired by this business of the ‘over-man’, etc. I am happy if it is a comforting or inspiring thought to you or others, but I don’t think it is necessarily a useful or even healthy way to see the world. We already know it can lead to very ugly consequences. Why should it continue to carry theoretical weight, when it doesn’t work in practice? After reading many of Russell’s works to this point, I personally find all of his ideas to be better than Nietzsche’s across the board, and much more useful and hopeful for a better world. Thanks again for your insightful comments in any case.
          David

          • George Foca-Rodi on said:

            David,
            Nietzsche is a subject that has preoccupied me for many years. I have
            published articles about it in Symposion, a magazine belonging to the
            Romanian Academy, as well as in my book, “Eseuri Transoceanice”, which
            means “Transoceanic Essays”. I feel the need to clarify a few important
            items for you and the readers of Tigerpapers. I will do my best, in a few
            words, to ruminate about this fascinating subject, hoping that those
            interested in Nietzsche’s thoughts will read his books.

            There are philosophers, like Heidegger, who believe that the end of
            metaphysical thought is to be found in Nietzsche’s works. Heidegger
            argues that Nietzsche is the most significant philosopher after Plato. He
            regards Nietzsche’s explanation of the “eternal recurrence “, as well as his
            conclusion that we should be more interested in the “becoming” , rather
            than in the “being”, of crucial importance.
            Nietzsche considers the tradition of Western Philosophy, in its core, to be
            obsessed with a “redundant need to promote a metaphysical concept”
            that was inherited from Plato. Nietzsche opposes Plato’s reasoning for the
            “need of a First Mover” (the one who caused the motion of everything that
            exists, in short, life and all the consequences of it). I have to underline
            Nietzsche’s interesting opinion that Plato did not continue the more
            creative thinking of Anaximander and Heraclitus, being influenced by
            Pythagoras and Parmenides (while critical of both). Nietzsche’s opinion
            was, that, in spite of the obsession with the “cause of existence,” the
            traditional philosophy of Europe did not search the meaning of what it is
            to exist. This opinion was later adapted and developed by Heidegger, who
            explored in depth the nature of Being in his famous Sein und Zeit.
            Heidegger points out the difference between the existence of “ Being” and
            the“rest of things that exist”.

            Nietzsche’s influence on Heidegger was extraordinary. In his early life,
            when he was a teacher and speaker at various universities of Germany,
            Heidegger was obsessed with Nietzsche. He incorporated Nietzsche’s
            opinions in his speeches, sometimes in a dialectical mode, even harshly
            argumentative, because of the need to clarify his own thinking .
            According to Heidegger, when Nietzsche states that “God is Dead”, he
            becomes a nihilist who declares triumph over the “devaluation of all
            values of life”, caused by “a false doctrine that was necessary only for a
            complete control over men with mentality of slaves”. Heidegger thinks of
            Nietzsche as being a metaphysical thinker who perfected nihilism !
            Actually, the term “nihilism”, applied to some of Nietzsche’s thoughts ,
            evolved over time and lost its significance. The contemporary analysis of
            Nietzsche’s work does not mention it, except from a historical point of
            view, that is needed to explain some of the vicious interpretations of his
            “Will to Power” and “The Antichrist”.

            The reason I talk about Nietzsche with such enthusiasm goes far beyond
            his philosophy.
            We need to reflect and absorb all the information that flows out of his
            pages, and, as a consequence, feel compelled to “travel” wherever
            Nietzsche sends us, in all corners of the world, searching all times of
            history, to learn about what the great minds of the past have written.
            We’ll find out what poets, historians, philosophers, artists, politicians and
            military leaders have thought and written about, from the beginning of
            time, etc.
            As a consequence, we learn about the universe and humanity’s understanding
            of it, because …we have no choice !
            After reading Nietzsche’s Schriften für und gegen Wagner, one listens
            “better” to Wagner’s music. The philosopher’s objections to the poorly
            written libretti, by the composer himself, as well as his criticism about the
            shape and structure of some musical ideas, Wagner’s famous Leitmotifs,
            are interesting. Unfortunately, when it comes to the evaluation of music
            itself, Nietzsche was wrong and unfair. But, besides the weaknesses in the
            composer’s libretti, there is something more significant and profound to be
            discovered when searching Wagner’s ideas. What is it ? Well, first of all, it
            is Wagner’s inner conflict, his enormous ego, his musical genius, his
            arrogance. Secondly, it is his ill- conceived “will to power”, and, tragically,
            the promotion of a narrow minded Germanic nationalistic dream! Finally,
            if we add his vicious antisemitism to all of the above, our perplexity
            becomes extraordinary when realizing the contrast that exists between a
            pitiful man and the magnificence of his music.
            When the emotions caused by “listening to the miracle” of Bach’s ,
            Beethoven’s or other great composers’ music, become overwhelming,
            (of course, at that moment, not thinking of Nietzsche), the catharsis
            caused by the “sublime art” bewilders us. After a while, we pause and
            understand. For the educated, the joy is much greater !
            Continuing the thought about Nietzsche’s influence in many domains,
            I have to mention Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem, Also Sprach
            Zarathustra, inspired by the philosopher’s book.

            It makes no sense to escalate the disagreement between us about who is
            more important, Nietzsche or Russell. It is obvious to me that you have
            made up your mind. I observe that, in spite of the comprehensive
            explanation found in my reply, about the significance of the Übermensch,
            you continue to have doubts about what Nietzsche’s vision ( dream), of
            such a being was.
            You seem to hang on to a simplistic and false assumption that Nietzsche
            was delusional.
            Nietzsche, in the opinion of his detractors, was an elitist who dreamt about
            the governance of the powerful over the masses of common men. The
            Übermensch, according to his critics, is entitled to take the final decision
            concerning the faith of many, regardless of whether pain and suffering
            were the result of such a decision. Therefore, the concept in itself seems to
            be unethical because it leads to dictatorship.
            Before trying once more to explain the meaning of the Übermensch,
            I want to remind you that Alvin Toffler’s predictions come into being right
            now. Already the many and less educated follow the thinkers, the elite
            inventors and innovators, without questioning or resisting all the gadgets
            that come their way daily, which, in the last instance, succeed in making
            them more dependent and therefore more insignificant.

            The new leaders of the world are the “one percent”, the money oligarchs ,
            the cynical few, who decide about war and peace. In short, they are the
            ones who control peoples’ destiny!
            What these kinds of leaders are lacking , is the beauty of that superior
            being, whose high morals and noble aspirations will bring hope and a
            better life to all the meek and needy.
            The Übermensch does not want to exploit the common man for his own
            benefit.
            The “less gifted” will be guided toward a future in which their lives will
            become“meaningful ”, based on their abilities and capacities to produce.
            The superiority of the Übermensch is not due to a specific race. He does
            not have a lust for power. It is his natural gift that will allow and oblige
            him to lead the common men toward a better life. As a consequence, the
            masses “will feel the need to follow him”.
            I wish sincerely that you would make another attempt, and read once more
            Nietzsche’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra”. Who knows, you may become
            more generous and more inclined to understand this masterpiece.
            My addendum was vitriolic, but one should, rather, must, be aware of
            Nietzsche’s impact on philosophical thought during the last 100 years.

            Let me explain once more why Russell disliked Nietzsche.
            Read the following lines from Beyond Good and Evil (252)
            “They are no philosophical race, these Englishmen: Bacon signifies an
            attack on the philosophical spirit; Hobbes,Hume, and Locke a
            debasement and lowering of the value of the concept of “philosophy” for
            more than a century. It was against Hume that Kant arose, and rose;
            it was Locke of whom Schelling said, understandably,”je méprise Locke”
            (I despise Locke), in their fight against the English-mechanistic
            dollification of the world, Hegel and Schopenhauer were of one mind (with
            Goethe)”…
            ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..”It is characteristic of such unphilosophical race that it clings firmly to
            Christianity; they need its discipline to become “moralized” and
            somewhat humanized”.
            ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
            “For more sensitive nostrils even this English Christianity still has a
            typically English odor of spleen and alcoholic dissipation against which it
            is needed for good reasons as a remedy- the subtler poisoning against the
            coarser: a subtler poisoning is indeed for clumsy peoples some progress, a
            step toward spiritualization”…

            To me, Russell, the troubadour, who serenaded with “sweet songs for
            peace”, the two superpowers of the last century, was a humanitarian
            activist, with great appeal to the less informed, but, I cannot find any depth
            in his thinking. Preaching about the goodness of man, the importance of
            friendship between nations, or the misery of war, etc., does not make one a
            philosopher. I suggest that Heidegger and Sartre are of much greater
            significance than Russell.
            George Foca-Rodi

            • George Foca-Rodi on said:

              David ,
              For your enjoyment read this.The Gay Science (341)
              What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and every unutterably
              small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence- even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust !” Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine”.
              ……Think about this beautiful lines and the significance of Nietzsche’s Eternal
              Recurrence. George

            • George Foca-Rodi on said:

              George Foca-Rodi on June 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm said:
              David ,
              For your enjoyment read this.The Gay Science (341)
              What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and every unutterably
              small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence- even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust !” Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine”.
              ……Think about these beautiful lines and the significance of Nietzsche’s Eternal
              Recurrence. George
              I hate when I make mistakes.

            • George,
              The way you describe your understanding of the Übermensch makes me tend to agree with you. What we have is a difference of interpretation or understanding. It is easy to imagine how this is possible with such an oracular writer as Nietzsche whose views can be open to many interpretations. In the end, this is probably one of the reasons I have mostly rejected him– not only my own negative interpretation, but the fact that many people have felt the same way. Russell, like all analytical thinkers, disliked Nietzsche for this reason as well. Due to my own background and perspective, I am much more at home in the Anglo-American analytic tradition and this is also why I am uncomfortable with Nietzsche. Your comments on Heidegger are interesting, as I have been looking at some of his work recently, and trying to find some common ground between this Analytic-Continental divide. There are many ways to live or understand the world, and I don’t want to be too rigid about any of it. Basically, I am ultimately more interested in how someone acts than how he thinks. Thanks for the discussion.
              David

      • Ann Nymous on said:

        So, in sum: Nietzsche, the man who called Kant the chinaman of Konigsberg and an impediment to an already dismal German integrity, who dismissed Spinoza as a sickly aenemic spinning metaphisical webs, who called Mill a blockhead, who dismissed Hume as an afterthought, and in whose writings a constant stream of philosophers appear only for a derogatory fragment of a sentence never to be heard of again…
        THIS man, was done a great disservice by a sarcastic Brit portraying him as a sadomasochistic meglomaniac with unresolved incestuous feelings for his sister? Sir, you are an idiot. Ask yourself which seems more Nietzschean: a pathetic and pedantic desire for philosophical pantheon building and homoerotic hero worship such as you seem to display, or using gratuitus sarcasm to quickly and flippantly dismiss whoever seems to you unworthy of attention?
        Your charge is that Russell is /unjust/ to Nietzsche? Your charge is that he doesn’t spend a great deal of time sympathetically constructing his philosophy as you no doubtably have? He doesn’t spend his efforts worshiping and groveling at his feet like you? I know who you are now… you are the old theologician from the Bachi! My greetings to you revrend sir!

        A small note on your analogy of the pigmy however:
        “Appreciation of Simple Truths.—It is the characteristic of an advanced civilization to set a higher value upon little, simple truths, ascertained by scientific method, than upon the pleasing and magnificent errors originating in metaphysical and æsthetical epochs and peoples. To begin with, the former are spoken of with contempt as if there could be no question of comparison respecting them, so rigid, homely, prosaic and even discouraging is the aspect of the first, while so beautiful, decorative, intoxicating and perhaps beatific appear the last named. Nevertheless, the hardwon, the certain, the lasting and, therefore, the fertile in new knowledge, is the higher; to hold fast to it is manly and evinces courage, directness, endurance. [...]
        The reverers of forms, indeed, with their standards of beauty and taste, may have good reason to laugh when the appreciation of little truths and the scientific spirit begin to prevail, but that will be only because their eyes are not yet opened to the charm of the utmost simplicity of form or because men though reared in the rightly appreciative spirit, will still not be fully permeated by it, so that they continue unwittingly imitating ancient forms (and that ill enough, as anybody does who no longer feels any interest in a thing).

        • George Foca-Rodi on said:

          I cannot waste time trying to explain Nietzsche’s joke about Kant.
          It will help you understand what Nietzsche thinks about Chinese morality and culture-“that seems to be too moralistic, suffering from a kind of ossification, that, eventually, will have an undesirable impact on European thinkers”- if you sit down and read his books, instead of echoing Bertrand Russell’s stupidities.
          Just read the following:
          “They are no philosophical race, these Englishmen: Bacon signifies an attack on the
          philosophical spirit; Hobbes,Hume, and Locke, a debasement and lowering of the value of the concept of philosophy, for more than a century”.
          “It was against Hume that Kant arose, and rose; it was Locke of whom Schelling said, understandably, ”je m’eprise Locke” (I despise Locke); in their fight against the English-mechanistic dollification of the world, Hegel and Schopenhauer were of one mind (with Goethe)”…
          “It is characteristic of such unphilosophical race that it clings firmly to Christianity; they need its discipline to become “moralized” and somewhat humanized”. “For more sensitive nostrils, even this English Christianity still has a typically English odor of spleen and alcoholic dissipation against which it is needed for good
          reasons as a remedy – the subtler poisoning against the coarser: a subtler poisoning is indeed for clumsy peoples some progress, a step toward spiritualization”.
          Vacuous righteous men, sinless people, priests, puritans, all of them, were a repulsive obnoxious irritant for Nietzsche, who stated in one of his famous quotes: “After coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I have to wash my hands” !
          You called me an idiot.You may be right.I wasted already too much of my time
          responding to your plebeian, mediocre ideas and style of writing .
          Are you a small college teacher? Perhaps…
          If you are from South Carolina, go to Mac Donald, have a beer after, and watch a basketball game . If you are a Brit a sausage will do it . I wish I could pay for all of the above to make you feel good this afternoon. I suggest take a good and long shower, because, for reasons too complicated to explain, I believe you need to wash (your text smells of a blue color – low class resentment).
          I’m sure, you hate “Also Sprach Zarathustra” .
          Is it not so? I think … I’m right ! You will not hear from me again.

  6. Subterranean on said:

    This was a good post, but I will focus on your new evaluation of Nietzsche.

    Nietzsche is one of the greatest attackers on the assumptions for modern superstition, let it be gods or morality or “thing-in-itself”. Moreover, Nietzsche formulation of philosophy is not a search of “truth” but to create something that is life-affirming, healthy, and a way to preserve the species as a whole. So when you are making the claim that Nietzsche is morally bankrupt, it is important to understand on what basis you are making that claim. More importantly, what the result of these claims will do to humanity.

    For Nietzsche, pain and pleasure were not important in and of itself. Pain could be withstood, pleasure could be sublimated, raising them to maximal importance was a reactionary thing to do and would ultimately lead to staleness. What Nietzsche did was create a higher goal towards existence that would account for the many experiences in life, a holistic interpretation of the universe (a casua prima) that would account for the many problems of previous philosophers. A thing not in and of itself but from the beginning a relation between two objects, from the beginning then, a universe of flux. And at the end a being who is not gaining strength like a miser or a cold distant “objective viewer” who has forsaken the world, but overflowing with strength and affirming the universe by actively shaping it. What is important for Nietzsche is the study of the relationship two objects for that tied him to the universe, a lack of engagement or staleness was to him death, at least an eventual one.

    So the question to him is, what is pity? And what will the desire of equality do to man? What would a body be like if each and every cell would never accept an adverse condition? What would a body do if each of your impulses had equal demand? How could the body FUNCTION without the weaker obeying the stronger? And what about individualism, or man to separate and create their own parties with their own goals? Is this worth the outcome that they may generate conflicting goals that will come into conflict with each other?

    What about conflict? Hasn’t the most progress been achieved in times of a war or opposition? For Nietzsche does not just affirm aristocracy but also heroism and hazard. For him, the most valuable insights were the ones that were taken in danger. So it is not all that clear that the modern moralizing is indeed the best path for humanity, even though our sympathy would say otherwise.

  7. You present a very strong argument in favor of a sympathetic interpretation of Nietzsche. I still find many aspects of his philosophy troubling, even despite your noble attempt to portray it in a more positive light than I have done (and certainly more than Russell had).
    I have no qualms with Nietzsche’s attacks, and I think they are generally ‘fair-game’. I already start to become wary of your description of Nietzsche’s philosophy as “not a search of “truth” but to create something that is life-affirming, healthy, and a way to preserve the species as a whole.” If philosophy is not a search for the truth but only a subjective opinion about what is useful or beneficial to an individual or society, then I see a potential danger in that view. It is one of the issues I have against Pragmatism, as much as I find some of that school to be rational and a matter of common sense. Nietzsche, I think, could not be characterized as a pragmatist, but I think, against your characterization of him, we must separate “truth” from “usefulness,” “healthiness,” or any other subjective ideal. One of the (possibly unfair) knocks against Nietzsche was the historical misuse of his philosophy to give intellectual and philosophical support to an insane idea of what could preserve the species as a whole. It can also be used by social Darwinists (or worse, people like Ayn Rand) to construct a political position that might favor intolerance or the strong over the weak. That is always an issue when we try to say that a philosophy is merely subjectively useful, rather than truthful.
    The rest of your comment seems to be a quite eloquent defense of exactly why we should support the pursuit of power and conflict. Maybe I am mistaken, but you seem to be of the opinion that since conflict is inherent in nature, and some beings are stronger than others, than we are not bound to find an ethical solution for how to create a tolerant, orderly, or more equal society. Yes, progress has come from times of conflict and war, but only because there has rarely been a time in human history without these prerequisites. I think it is incorrect to think that, without war, there would be no progress. In fact, I feel that we would achieve much more collective progress in times of peace and stability.
    Nietzsche lived a life of intense suffering, mostly devoid of pleasure. His philosophy, which you defend, is in large part a product of this unfortunate situation. I still think that Russell correctly characterizes Nietzsche as day-dreaming and fantasizing about heroes and the lust for power (Napoleon, Siegfried, the overman). That may have been a life-affirming and healthy escapism for someone like Nietzsche, but to some people, including me, it is an unnecessary relic of our primate origins and our tendency towards tribalism. In my opinion, humans need no extra inducement to lust for and seek to assert power over others, since it basically comes naturally to us (just like greed, for example). What we need is a rationally-constructed ethical solution for how to create a tolerant, just, equal, fair, liberal, peaceful society. I hope I am not exaggerating or distorting your position too much, but the problem is not one of personal life-affirmation, or self-actualization for the more philosophically inclined (like you and I), but one of how this philosophy, in absence of individual moderation, can lead to negative political consequences and a continuation of your seemingly resigned sense of the conflict.
    It is not clear that war-mongering and absence of pity is indeed the best path for humanity, even though our primitive instincts constantly tell us otherwise.

  8. Subterranean on said:

    “Nietzsche lived a life of intense suffering, mostly devoid of pleasure.”

    This is a fabrication, I do not understand how you can read the Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra without feeling that this guy really enjoyed philosophy and the world. The amount of enjoyment I have gained from Nietzsche is more than Emerson, and Emerson is someone you can read to share his intense gratitude towards the world. Just because we know that he had painful wracks of physical and mental pain means nothing, and it is not useful for you to PROJECT these feelings into a person, especially when you have not felt it. He said of Schopenhauer that if he had experienced pain, then he knew that this was not a condemnation of anything, which goes to show you how he was completely grateful for this pain and hardship, and was in no way driven by scarcity or lack as you or russell keep projecting to him.

    “It is not clear that war-mongering and absence of pity is indeed the best path for humanity, even though our primitive instincts constantly tell us otherwise.”
    This, btw, is much further advanced than claiming something is morally bankrupt. For it is not clear, and the opposition is not clear either, so your brain will need to see the positives and the negatives for both view. What you should not do is simply run away from the topic or bow down to the demonizing of the moralists just because it is easier. It is the fastest way to stop progress by simply calling another “evil.”

    “Maybe I am mistaken, but you seem to be of the opinion that since conflict is inherent in nature, and some beings are stronger than others, than we are not bound to find an ethical solution for how to create a tolerant, orderly, or more equal society. Yes, progress has come from times of conflict and war, but only because there has rarely been a time in human history without these prerequisites. I think it is incorrect to think that, without war, there would be no progress. In fact, I feel that we would achieve much more collective progress in times of peace and stability.”
    You are being selective, both war and peace had both existed for quite a lot of time. One only needs to look at agrarian societies to see that some form of hierarchy (a strong and a weak) is absolutely need to make significant progress of any kind, and the desire to rule goes hand in hand with great civilizations. And would society advance quickly without an opposition? Would the space race have gone so quickly without the Soviet Union pressing forward so quickly? Was not the economy which was mired in a depression stimulated after World War II? And did Hitler, as evil as he was, completely reinvograte german economy? Is the pity towards the third world countries helping them or hurting them?

    And note here that Nietzsche was a great affirmer of not just Caeser but Brutus as well.

    “If philosophy is not a search for the truth but only a subjective opinion about what is useful or beneficial to an individual or society, then I see a potential danger in that view.”
    You cannot hold the notion that truth is a kind of error, without standing outside of truth. Here, from Nietzsche:

    The falseness of an opinion is not for us any objection to it: it is here, perhaps, that our new language sounds most strangely. The question is, how far an opinion is life-furthering, life- preserving, species-preserving, perhaps species-rearing, and we are fundamentally inclined to maintain that the falsest opinions (to which the synthetic judgments a priori belong), are the most indispensable to us, that without a recognition of logical fictions, without a comparison of reality with the purely IMAGINED world of the absolute and immutable, without a constant counterfeiting of the world by means of numbers, man could not live–that the renunciation of false opinions would be a renunciation of life, a negation of life. TO RECOGNISE UNTRUTH AS A CONDITION OF LIFE; that is certainly to impugn the traditional ideas of value in a dangerous manner, and a philosophy which ventures to do so, has thereby alone placed itself beyond good and evil.

    Be that as it may, Nietzsche still goes much further in truth than his peers BECAUSE it is life-preserving. A person that can recognize untruth as a condition of life, is afterall, much more TRUTHFUL than his contemporary who must believe in the “objectivity” of the world. What Nietzsche is doing is being honest when creating a grand interpretation of the world, an interpretation that has gone further than any one in the past and still towers over future attempts.

  9. Subterranean on said:

    And by no means am I suggesting WAR ABOVE ALL. What I am telling you is that to actually make the claims you are making, you must attempt to overcome Nietzsche’s formulation of the world by taking it seriously and not devolving things to black and white, good and evil, you must be beyond it. Attacking a projection, a caricature, can only be done because of weakness. Again Nietzsche:

    The perfect sage without knowing it elevates his opponent into the ideal and purifies his contradictory opinion of every blemish and adventitiousness, only when his opponent has by this means become a god with shining weapons does the sage fight him.

  10. I was probably mistaken in grafting any biographical details of Nietzsche’s seemingly unfortunate life onto his philosophy. Though Nietzsche probably received much pleasure from philosophical and intellectual pursuits, I still think it is not out of the question to connect his physical and mental illness with a certain amount of his philosophic worldview. For me, I also detect a vague sense of fear and hatred in Nietzsche’s philosophy which is anything but life-affirming for me, but, of course, that is my own (possibly flawed) interpretation.
    I am happy you claim to not suggest war above all, but you still seem to rely on the argument that conflict is inevitable, and even a positive thing in some instances. I find two main errors with this view. The first is that you seem to follow a sort of teleological train of thought in that all economic and technological progress comes through conflict (Hitler, Great Depression, etc.) and cannot exist without it. I see no reason why this has to be true, and seems to me to be a somewhat Hegelian, Marxian, or even Darwinian idea, all of which influenced Nietzsche to some extent I believe, though he would probably never admit it. The second issue is that you seem to argue that these types of economic or technological progress are ends in which any means were necessary to achieve. From my perspective, I feel that these types of progress have come without the same level of corresponding human ethical or philosophical progress. Yes, progress and conflict have often been connected in the past, but does that mean we are powerless to write the future in another way? I can imagine a possible scenario in which the world may progress without always requiring a corresponding crucible of conflict in which to brew it, and which human society may proceed forward with an ethics and politics which is further evolved (more just, equal, tolerant, whatever the case may be) than that which has hitherto been seen in the kings and governments of human history. By the way, I am not sure why we, or Nietzsche, must be an affirmer of either Caesar or Brutus in the example you give. I would have chosen other models for social or political emulation than a simple choice between warlords or other ‘heroes’. (Don’t laugh, but Bertrand Russell comes to mind).
    I have to admit that your explication on Truth and Untruth is somewhat incomprehensible to me, and certainly not life-affirming or useful in any practical way (to me, at this moment). It seems quite metaphysical, which is ironic since Nietzsche seemed to have represented a sort of end of metaphysics, from what I understand.
    The only thing I still cannot figure out is if you find my understanding of Nietzsche’s philosophy as a lust for power and rule of the strong over the weak as a valid summary, and, if so, if you have any rebuttal or just accept that this is inevitable and part of the natural order of things (and if this is the answer to the riddle of the ‘revaluation of all values’ and the ‘beyond good and evil’).

  11. Subterranean on said:

    “For me, I also detect a vague sense of fear and hatred in Nietzsche’s philosophy”
    As Nietzsche would say, what seems like poison to the weak might be necessary for the strong, you are just projecting what you would feel if you were in that situation. For you can’t just take will to power, but eternal recurrence as well. “What if a devil came to you at the dead of night….” well look it up in google, it’s very evocative. There is no way to affirm such a world view while being ashamed of yourself.

    “I am happy you claim to not suggest war above all, but you still seem to rely on the argument that conflict is inevitable, and even a positive thing in some instances”
    I am telling you that in any situation where you have individualistic viewpoints, in a situation where there is a lack of 100% pure knowledge, conflict is inevitable and a required necessity of life. Whether it be in the physical battleground or in the intellectual pursuit of science, it must exist. Otherwise it’s the hegemony of the self-same.

    “I see no reason why this has to be true, and seems to me to be a somewhat Hegelian, Marxian, or even Darwinian idea, all of which influenced Nietzsche to some extent I believe, though he would probably never admit it.”
    He admits their influence, it is just that he is criticizing their weakness. And you don’t see why that could have essences of truth? You don’t see why men learned to build high walls, not because of friends, but because of his enemies?

    “Yes, progress and conflict have often been connected in the past, but does that mean we are powerless to write the future in another way?”
    a) I am not saying you are powerless to do anything.
    b) What I am telling you is that conflict, despite it’s evils, has pushed forward technological progress in great leaps and bound and keeps men much more straightforward (power as a origin drive, it is difficult to fake). Thus you cannot just wish it away. There are numerous numerous counterexamples where peace and sustainance has simply led to either archaic or corrupt environments, which I mentioned were the primitive agrarian societies, so you have to understand that there are serious problems you need to overcome with the psychology of men to achieve your goals.
    c) And what IF progress at that pace REQUIRES conflict? What if genetic advancement, space technology, neurological advancement, grand art or whatever will only advance in rapid pace with a grand opposition to face?

    The strong will push the weak and go beyond them, that’s just a natural order of things, it is how ancient greece was able to achieve so much so quickly after all (just think, could Heraclitus, Democritus could have existed without an aristocracy?). The human psychology is very adept at handling hierarchical order of things. And I this is not only goes in war and politics, but everything else as well. Art, Science, you name it. Like I said before, pain and pleasure can be withstood or sublimated. But power cannot.

    But I suspect that you cannot stand “beyond” hedonism as I have told you that you should. So that there is the essential problem, but I suggest you to give Nietzsche a serious reading, and not to shirk away from his possibilities.

  12. Power, too, can be withstood, fortunately. Forgive me if it seems to me that your arguments are running out of steam, repeating the same things about ‘the strong’ and ‘the weak’ and ‘building walls’ and the ‘necessity of conflict’. I’m not interested in what you or your mentor are selling. I have indeed given Nietzsche a serious reading and I want no part of his worldview. I, for my part, will do what I can to advance or support some sort of progress (be it ethical, political, educational, or whatever I can make a positive contribution) without holding to your assumed need for conflict or supermen or aristocracies. I consider that to be one of my responsibilities, and I will do my best not to shirk it.

  13. Subterranean on said:

    “Power, too, can be withstood, fortunately. ”
    Yes, because you can withstand your death, or someone exploding a bomb under you. Right. Power can only be opposed with power.

    Anyway, you are right, I have rapidly lost steam to have this argument. But I want to thank you, because somehow I have found someone of really high value while searching for the exact phrase to use. I am excited, the guy is called Miles Mathis and he is freaking awesome from the 10 mins I have read of him. Good day, and I wish you the best of luck.

  14. Subterranean on said:

    And another reason to thank you is to stopping the conversation before it got completely out of hand, no doubt due to your age and experience. I would not be that wise.

  15. Just to chime in–the last time I studied Nietzsche in depth was 2001, though have periodically reacquainted myself with his works since then, especially Beyond Good and Evil and the incredible Genealogy of Morals. I cannot reference specific passages to support this reading but felt that the redemptive quality of Nietzsche’s work, as a whole, lay in its appeal as a sort of guidebook for an individual seeking to perfect himself. Understandably emotional given the well-documented restrictions of his age, and the barely-muted hysteria European society provoked in attempting to control every public and private interaction through custom, his works were not intended to perpetuate the systems of strong over weak, but encourage every person to be their own “overman.” I believe he felt everyone was inherently capable of achieving this, or equally incapable of it–every major idea that was later mis-appropriated by various political interests reflects that desire through a distorted mirror. The destruction of Christian religion. The early glamorization of Wagner. Dislike of national institutions.

    Adrian

  16. Subterranean on said:

    “His works were not intended to perpetuate the systems of strong over weak, but encourage every person to be their own “overman.” ”
    Well, each individual can overcome himself, but this is a mishandling of Nietzsche. What he is doing is attempting to remove the resentment of the weak to the strong. “Be the best you can be and don’t become resentful to your superiors” A very militaristic, disciplined, simple, hierarchical society that follows the rules of power– out of profoundness. There is, in fact, very little wrong about this ancient, aristocratic formulation of the world.

    • Well–it’s difficult if not impossible to know exactly what Nietzsche meant, as what he says is, as David pointed out, so literary and full of symbolism that can be interpreted in various ways–but I think it’s worth taking into consideration that the attempts to harness his ideas in the political sphere led to brute force and the oppression of individuality. It does not seem likely that this is what Nietzsche intended in writing and thinking. In the sphere of psychology, however, and especially in Freud and Jung, and later Campbell, you find a very different application of Nietzsche’s ideas–very much in keeping with the idea of bettering the self. I’m not trying to claim that Nietzsche was an advocate for self-help, necessarily, and especially given what it’s turned into in the 20th and 21st century. On the other hand, suggesting that he supported a system that forced individuals to embrace servitude on any level–service to aristocrats, service to God, service to an idea of a better world after this one–leads to a reaffirmation of guilt and resentment, necessarily, and is thus incompatible with his primary point. I think you have to acknowledge that only by taking his philosophy as a moral guidebook for an individual (again, almost by definition this person would be an “overman” in order to read, wrestle with, and eventually master his collected works) does it make any kind of sense, imperfect and highly subjective as it may be.

      • Subterranean on said:

        “On the other hand, suggesting that he supported a system that forced individuals to embrace servitude on any level–service to aristocrats, service to God, service to an idea of a better world after this one–leads to a reaffirmation of guilt and resentment, necessarily”
        No, it doesn’t. I can recognize that Nietzsche is a superior philosopher than me. Should that make me RESENTFUL that he is my superior? Does that make me feel guilty? No, I love Nietzsche for what he has done and how far he was able to come with philosophy. But still, we must go beyond him, that is why everybody needs to go as far as he can, without needing to demonize the great historical works. To be the next step to Nietzsche, means first of all, to take him critically and overcome his strength with yours, as he did to his ancestors (Plato, Heraclitus, Aristotle, Hegel, Kant, Spinzoa, Emerson). To go beyond their work, to attack his teachers, that is his love.

        Can you feel resentful if you cannot overcome it? Sure you can, and there are a lot of examples. Look at modern “art” and what resentment has done there, completely destroying the fundamentals and the essentials of technique because they couldn’t keep up with a Bouguereau or photography or w/e. But this is ultimately a step BACKWARDS in total power. The overman must OVERCOME his opposition at their strength, that’s the fundamental rule.

        “I think you have to acknowledge that only by taking his philosophy as a moral guidebook for an individual (again, almost by definition this person would be an “overman” in order to read, wrestle with, and eventually master his collected works) does it make any kind of sense, imperfect and highly subjective as it may be.”
        I don’t have to acknowledge any of it. And not only that, Nietzsche’s criticism works better in this century than even the 19th century, especially the idea of the Last Man. Nietzsche’s analysis of society has, so far, been more accurate than every other philosopher besides Heraclitus.

      • Subterranean on said:

        Oh, and something I still can’t take is that it is “impossible to know exactly what Nietzsche meant.” It is NOT impossible, it is only difficult.

        Nietzsche is a very rigorous thinker and the many rabble’s inability to decipher his aphorism means nothing. There are some mistakes, no doubt, but they are few and far in between. You are not taking him seriously enough, you are running away from the societal criticism he levels towards us. To a society where equality and comfort has become a GOD and cannot put it at stake anymore.

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  18. Nietzsche himself said on misrepresentation: “The worst readers are those who behave like plundering troops: they take away a few things they can use, dirty and confound the remainder, and revile the whole.”
    (Human, All Too Human, II.137.)

  19. The danger of studying Philosophy is that one can become deeply immersed, personally and literally in a particular doctrine or advocate. Thus a critique on one’s chosen mode of thought or way of seeing the world causes personal offence. This results in a lack of objectivity and comments that are indoctrinated and clouded by the need for retaliation to the perceived offence.
    This is true for both some of the comments left here and to a lesser extent Russell’s depiction of Nietzsche. It remains a fault of Russell that he evidently did not comprehensively read Nietzsche’s work, and regarded him with intellectual contempt, no doubt influenced by the strong currents of thought of the time (still evident) portraying him as a proto-fascist. Perhaps if Russell had given him thorough reading he would have produced a less transparently personal, although I am certain it would remain vehement, critique.
    It remains that Russell and Nietzsche were at odds in Philosophy with the latter following in the romantic and literary lineage and Russell predominantly in pure Mathematics and logic, what is generally called ‘technical’ Philosophy. Despite some similarities overlooked by Russell, due in part to his contempt, I could not envisage the two coming to an agreement, primarily due to the perceived and actual lack of humanitarianism in salient aspects of Nietzschean thought.
    As a disclaimer, I personally do not see Nietzsche as anti humanitarian on the whole, rather large parts of his work are characterised by a despairing love or lamentation for Humanity (coupled with a conscious and inspiring anti-establishment sensibility) . However I would always, as Russell does, maintain that in practice, however ingenious they may be, certain aspects of Nietzschean thought are undesirable for a fair and open society.

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