Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strength vs. cunning: a separation of lighting from the flash

In our last class some of our classmates and I voiced our concern that Nietzsche was inappropriately separating intelligence, or “cunning”, from strength and putting them in different categories. It is my opinion that intelligence is necessarily a strength and so the categorization of intelligence as something else falls under the fallacy that Nietzsche makes metaphor of as the lighting separated from the flash. Nietzsche would claim that my argument is a result of slavish thinking, but I think that through reason we can find evidence that is unmistakable regardless of social conditioning.

Let us first begin by trying to define “strength”. From an evolutionary standpoint strength could be viewed as the ability of an individual or species to ensure their own survive and successful propagation of their offspring. Evolution has granted different species different tools to accomplish this task. Snakes have speed and poison, bears have claws, teeth, and brute force, but when the “top of the food chain” is considered, a new element is introduced: intelligence. Lions, wolves, what little we know of raptors, all possess physical force, claws, teeth, the tools of all other predators, but what sets them apart, what sets them on top, is intelligence. Lions, wolves, and raptors all hunt in packs and use tactics, ranging from basic to complex, to trap and kill their prey. If one searches for a definition of strength in nature, one will find it replete with examples of intelligence.

Perhaps one might disregard nature, or claim that humans are wholly above it. whatever the reason, if nature does not suffice, we must only look to our own culture for definitions of strength. The English language is full of sayings, proverbs, and clichés that contemplate the nature of strength. The first saying that comes to mind is “he is strong like an Ox”. How does an Ox compare to a human? An Ox many times outweighs a human, it can generate many times more force than a human, and an Ox possess natural weapons in the form of horns. Despite all of these advantages or “strengths” over humans, haven’t Oxen been used as beasts of burden by humans for centuries? What is the difference? What is that “strength” that allows humans to subdue virtually anything? Intellect. I have heard some people referred to as hard like an oak, but though oak trees last for many human lives and their wood is far stronger than flesh and bone, what tree cannot be cut down?

Another example of strength that comes easily is seen in war. What is a weapon? A weapon is the result of cunning. Technology is key aspect of waging war. impenetrable castles were shattered by advent of cannons. How can swords and shields stand up to guns and tanks? The Spartans are held up as some of the strongest warriors of antiquity, but would a phalanx of Spartans stand any chance against a lesser force of Navy SEALs? Technology is the results of cunning, tactics are the results of cunning, and both are an inseparable part of strength. Knowing all this, how can one even question whether cunning is separate from strength?

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