POLB72H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Friedrich Nietzsche, Kantian Ethics, Plantman

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14 Aug 2016
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POLB72 - Nietzsche Lecture Notes
Supposing truth is a woman”
Meaning:
This is a claim about knowledge and truth, a claim about the entire Western intellectual canon.
It is a claim about the Western compulsion to seek certainty and truth yet this is difficult to
attain, just like a woman.
Relates to his claim about “dogmatism” (the tendency to lay down principles as
incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others)
Philosophical dogmatism cannot hold/possess the truth
In summary:
Basically, the efforts of philosophers to capture philosophical truth through their own
philosophical dogmatism is like the attainment of a woman: difficult and cannot be possessed
He believes that:
There is degeneration/ sickness (errors) in Western intellectual history
He points to Socrates and Plato’s invention of the Good, of intelligible Forms. Believes Plato
was corrupted by the teachings of Socrates
There are errors but we shouldn’t be ungrateful for them (an ambivalence to them) where there
are positive and negative attributes to them
Points to Christianity : The fight against the “Christian-ecclesiatical pressure of millennia” has
created in Europe “a magnificent tension of the spirit
About Christianity:
It has “purified" and “sharpened” our drives and instincts
The European spirit learned how to be subtle, faithful, strong
We, “the free spirits”, must unbend the bow and “shoot for the most distant goals”
His critique of Truth and Knowledge :
-The quest for truth and certainty/knowledge = central to Western civilization
About truth:
-Value of truth: We seek “the true, the truthful, the selfless” over “deception, selfishness and
lust” because
“Behind all logic and its seeming sovereignty of movement, too, there stand valuations or,
more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a certain form of life” (3)
Meaning: Behind consciousness and thinking stands an instinct to the preservation of a form of
life
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-What is important is not whether a judgement is true or false; what matters is to what extent a
judgment “is life-promoting, life-preserving, perhaps even species-cultivating”
-Fictions/ false judgments may be necessary for life
He critiques past philosophers:
-Most philosophers are simply advocates of their prejudices, which they baptize “truths” (5);
every great philosophy is a “personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and
unconscious memoir” (6).
-“It is no more than a moral prejudice that truth is worth more than mere appearance” (34)
Meaning: Most philosophers are simply actors that display their philosophies as the truth with
the interests of power, pride and/or money as their motives
-Philosophy (or truth) is only an interpretation, a perspective, a fiction who serves the instinct
of life preservation and the will to power
othe love for truth is in fact a will to power
o“life itself is will to power”; a “living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength”
(13). Two enduring fictions : free-will & immortality
oFreedom of the will is simply the expression of a delight of the person who exercises
willing, who commands (19)
oAll wiling is a question of commanding and obeying (19)
o“in real life it is only a matter of strong and weak will” (21)
Marks of a strong will: independence
o“Independence is for the very few; it is a privilege of the strong”(29)
oOne must test oneself to see that one is destined for independence and command -
ono attachments: “Not to remain stuck to a person - not even the most loved - every
person is a prison”; “not to remain stuck to a fatherland”; “not to remain stuck to some
pity”; “not to remain stuck to a science” (41)
Masks:
“Whatever is profound loves masks”; “Every profound spirit needs a mask” (40)
Meaning: Whatever is profound and true is often hidden and not easily seen
“What serves the higher type of men as nourishment or delectation must almost be poison for a very
different and inferior type” (30)
Meaning: What is profound and true knowledge is not easily attained for everyone and can be
beneficial to one person while harmful to another.
“Books for all the world are always foul-smelling books” (30)
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Meaning: same as prior quote regarding truth and knowledge
Critique of Kant:
Kant’s belief: the value of an action lies in the value of intention
Nietzsche’s counterargument:
“we believes that the intention is merely a sign and symptom that still requires interpretation”
Critiques the Kantian morality
Nietzsche says: “the morality of intentions was a prejudice”, and it must be overcome
“There is no other way: the feelings of devotion, self-sacrifice for one’s neighbour, the whole
morality of self-denial must be questioned mercilessly and taken to court” (33)
Critiques Kants’ universality of the truth- (Kant says that truth is universal)
N: Truth is not universal. Only the great have access to such a high good. Anything great is not
common (that would make it decrease in value). So the truth is not common/universal.
About the free spirits and new philosophers:
N: We, “the free spirits”, must unbend the bow and “shoot for the most distant goals”
The free spirits:
- are the new philosophers
- the opposite of socialists
- they will oppose Christianity
- they know that all greatness grows in danger, suffering, need :
“…where and how the plant ‘man’ has so far grown more vigorously to a height”
Meaning: The plant/man symbolizes greatness that of which has grown to such a great height
through the treacherous conditions of hardness, danger and suffering
-The free spirits can bear solitude (socialism is about solidarity)
-They reject the lures of honours, money or offices or enthusiasm
-They are inventive
“A new species of philosophers is coming up” (42)
-They will not be dogmatic - although they will love truth
-They will be free spirits
-They will not be similar to socialists, even though they both claim to fight for emancipation and
freedom, socialists are levelers “slaves of the democratic taste”
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