Quora answer: How do followers of Nietzsche’s philosophy describe the basic/core tenets of his philosophy?

Apr 08 2013

Nietzsche’s philosophy is quite complex but aphoristic and so easy to absorb in small chunks, each of which seems fairly independent of the others  (as if Non sequiturs)  yet also intricately connected. No summary or commentary really can do it justice. But there are many great philosophers who have done their best like the multi-volume Heidegger study, or Deleuze’s book on Nietzsche and Philosophy and many others. To entertain producing a bullet list such as:

  • Eternal Return
  • Will to Power

This really does not convey anything worthwhile, and the reason is that Nietzsche alone of the philosophers roots his entire philosophy in metaphors. And so the real essence of his philosophy is to think through the implications of these metaphors. For instance:

  • Truth is a Woman

If we listen to Nietzsche himself he said his greatest discovery was the Value of values. He was the first to ask whether Value had any value of its own. And his ultimate answer was that the Values had values to the extent that they promoted the viability of life. Even very negative and seemingly crazy values like those of Christianity could be seen as having some value in this regard, even if it promoted life in a very backhanded way by denying it.

So rather than reading my summary, or anyone else, I suggest you get one of his books like Twilight of the Idols for instance and read an aphorism, the think about it, then read another one, and then think about it, etc until you have absorbed the whole book. Then move on to the next one until you have read everything, and then it is time to circle back around and read the first one again, one aphorism at a time, looking for the metaphors and pondering them. Basically Nietzsche reverses everyone else. Where Schopenhauer is depressed about the human condition, Nietzsche is delighted. When Hegel says that only slaves can have self-consciousness, he sets out to define a morality and self-consciousness for the nobles. Where Wagner breaks down and Christianizes his Ring Saga Nietzsche hold true to Indo-European roots. Where everyone venerates Socrates, Nietzsche says that philosophy was the worst disaster for mankind and goes back to the Pre-Socratics as his idea of what a philosopher should be thinking about. And we only have fragments from the Pre-Socratics so he produces Aphorisms that could be fragments of philosophy. Where everyone else thinks the Western domination of the world is bringing civilization to savages, Nietzsche sees the deeper barbarism of the Europeans. He identifies the basic sickness of the Western Worldview as Nihilism. He goes deep, and then is dissatisfied and goes deeper still. And when that is not enough he dives into the core of the worldview and looks what Conrad calls the Terror of it in the face, and then he takes it on, all of it, and claims that it is his ownmost possibility. He knows that deep down he is the blond beast. And that is why he must make way for the ubermen, who will come after the last men who stand blinking . . . blinking. We now know that they are blinking because they are surrounded by screens, screens of useless data and infomercials everywhere. In the midst of that deep darkness he finds hope, and so he wrote Zarathustra who descends from the mountain where he had his eagle and snake for companions. He descends to tell us about the Uberman as a possibility which is our ownmost possibility in the midst of the Abyss that is the Western tradition. We cannot be the ubermen but we can make way for them. They are close to the earth. They do not corrupt everything they touch. They are not destroyed by us but are impervious to our disease of nihilism. Each part of Thus Spake Zarathustra is worth thinking about carefully.

For instance, there is the place where he is climbing the mountain, and reaches a point where the mountain comes into manifestation as he puts down his foot for the next step (it comes to meet his foot), but then he finds a way to the Headland Above the World which is the transcendentals, at which he climbs onto and over his own head. But then he comes down and goes to the Sea, and talks to the sea about all its terrible memories, all the wrongs lost in oblivion, that everyone thought that they could cover up, but actually they never go away, but are lodged forever in the sea that moans with its burdens. Just considering these nihilistic opposites is enough to serve as food for thought for some time for all of us. Or for instance the tale at the beginning of the tight rope walker who falls, because the uberman jumps over him on the tightrope, and then Zarathustra has to carry his corpse. We are that corpse. We have lost the Feorh.

Conversing with the Philosopher yourself is always better than the summaries of others. The only thing better than that is being the Philosopher who you are yourself.



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