Sunday, April 25, 2010

Assorted Thoughts Inspired by Nietzsche

Throughout his Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche asks, “what is the value” of many different things. These include most obviously morals, but also various tenets of or actors within morality, such as the self, guilt, and the conscience. Morality, Nietzsche says, is the instrument by which the weak suppress the strong. The self, guilt, and the conscience are the tools by which this swap of roles is made possible.

With all of this value assessment, might we not apply the same to our author and his ideas? When we ask, “What is the value of Nietzsche,” I think some interesting aspects of his philosophy are brought to light.

This question, “What is something’s value,” presupposes a system of valuation. Nietzsche’s own seems to lie somewhere between utility, truth, and reality. We see value as utility in Nietzsche’s general consideration of morality. This is evidenced by his portrayal of slave morality as a tool of the weak. However, Nietzsche’s criticism of this morality suggests that he values something like reality. The ascetic hero is not stronger than the Olympic hero. This Nietzsche would say with certainty. But where does this certainty come from? I sense a belief in nature or reality, the existence of something real and true. This is a certainty I do not share, so perhaps I am misunderstanding what are clearly another man’s thoughts. Should I be so fortunate as to have had legitimate insight into the man behind our text, let us continue.

Nietzsche also displays a great respect for context, something I greatly applaud. In this regard, he reminds me of my favorite elements of the French philosopher Henri Bergson. In Bergson’s consideration of both life and time, he stresses context, continuity, and looking at things in their entirety. I find a similar care taken by Nietzsche. Nietzsche stresses that you cannot isolate the self from a human, a statement I find similar to Bergson’s crusade against looking at time like cinema (as a collection of “moments,” which he holds do not exist).

All this talk of separation led me to think of something far less serious- my favorite Jim Henson film. The Dark Crystal tells the tale of Jen, who must restore the Dark Crystal. In doing so, he brings back the urSkeks, a race of beings that had been divided into two other types of being when the Crystal was damaged. What I think the movie does well is show how different things appear when they are split apart (or wrongly divided). I encourage any of you who have not seen this film to check it out. It’s a pretty cool story, fodder for your imaginations and critical minds, and a splendid vehicle through which to explore identity and morality (which it admittedly handles with rather heavy hands).


  1. I found your inquisition about values interesting. You are right that Nietzsche presupposes a value system, but don’t humans, especial in the context of a society, necessarily value everything. I’ll have to check out Dark Crystal, sounds interesting.

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  3. Oh man DARK CRYSTAL! Totally Spendid.

    On a more formal note, "What is the value of Nietzsche?" is an interesting one. The idea of a geneology of something necessitates a kind of succession of relationships. That kind of reading of Nietzsche seems almost Hegelian. But in this case, it seems that the progression towards absolute truth or knowing is not necessarily reveal positive or advantageous results.

    So truth or otherwise, if the value of Nietzsche is found in the utility of his geneaology than i guess the next question would be is his geneaology useful?

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  5. I find Nietzsche's process most interesting in light of the context in which I've studied him - as philologist. The discipline traditionally studies a specific word within a specific text, often drawing connections to and from cultural implications within a specific time period. Nietzsche criticized the state of the discipline early in his career (see "We Philologists"), but obviously retained much of the methodology - in exploring the historical meanings of words as they've changed culture and vice versa.


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