Posted On 10 Nov 2021
N.B.: The following post is the sixth of a 7-post sequence on love. Since I wrote them, I’ve revised them and put them together into Interpersonal Love, Falling in Love, and Being in Love. Instead of reading the sequence here, I encourage you, if possible, to download it for free with no strings attached at: https://endfearfast.com/love/ If you do and are able to print it out, it’ll be easier to read on paper and you’ll be reading the final revisions. I hope you’ll find it very helpful and I welcome your feedback. Be well, Dennis
Nietzsche is the last major philosopher in our quick survey. It’s interesting that Nietzsche’s ideas on loving are reminiscent of Aristotle’s despite the fundamental differences in their worldviews. Aristotle’s world was eternally fixed and static, whereas Nietzsche’s was a continuous process.
For Nietzsche, it’s not just love that is a creation, but human life itself is a creation. The best life is like the beautiful creation of an artist.
By way of background, yes, Nietzsche experienced falling in love and sex, but, no, he was never married.
The death of God, the recognition of the irrelevance of the Christian God, unfetters us: “the sea, our sea, lies open again; perhaps there has never yet been such an ‘open sea.’” [From The Gay Science. All quotations from Nietzsche here are translations by Walter Kaufmann, except those from The Will to Power, which was translated by R. J. Hollingdale along with Kaufmann.]. When we stop deceiving ourselves about how to live, we are on the true ground of morality. [In another post, https://dennis-bradford.com/nietzsches-evaluation-of-christ/, I emphasize the important difference between Nietzsche’s evaluation of Jesus from his evaluation of Christians.]
Nietzsche correctly thinks of falling in love as merely a “possessive craving of two people for each other” that ought to give way to friendship, which is “a shared higher thirst for an ideal above them” [Quoted by Singer, The Nature of Love, III, 89.].
“Marriage as a long conversation. When marrying, one should ask oneself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this woman into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory . . .” [from Human, All Too-Human].
Recall Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s well-known line that “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Nietzsche would have used ‘upward’ rather than ‘outward.’
Looking upward toward what ideal? Simultaneously thirsting for what?
It’s not looking toward something ordinary like the friendship of old lovers. “Love of one is a barbarism; for it is exercised at the expense of all others.” [From Beyond Good and Evil]
It seems to be the ideal of a sage as a superabundant source of love, an overflowing of goodness. Achieving this state of creativity requires not only self-understanding but also the freedom and power of a great philosopher.
“A philosopher may be recognized by the fact that he avoids three glittering and loud things: fame, princes, and women . . .” [from Genealogy of Morals]
A great philosopher is not only solitary and self-sufficient but also overflowing with love: “Indeed, a lake is within me, solitary and self-sufficient; but the river of my love carries it along, down to the sea.” [from Thus Spoke Zarathustra]
Similarly, “Life is a well of joy; but where the rabble drinks too, all wells are poisoned.” [from Thus Spoke Zarathustra]
The fact that this ideal is from Zarathustra is significant because he regarded it as his best work: “Among my writings my Zarathustra stands to my mind by itself.” [from Ecce Homo]
Stillness and solitude are somehow critical to this ideal. “ . . . the greatest events – they are not our loudest but our stillest hours. Not around the inventors of new noise, but around the inventors of new values does the world revolve; it revolves inaudibly. . . my stillest hour: that is the name of my awesome mistress.” [from Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Nietzsche’s emphasis.]
Freedom is also involved. He clearly distinguishes both types: “Free from what? . . . free for what?” [from Thus Spoke Zarathustra]. He most frequently writes about the sage as wholly accepting responsibility for being a creator of values, which is in contrast to an ordinary person, a “herd human,” who is bound by traditional values.
This is where to locate his critique of Christianity. “What is wrong with Christianity is that it refrains from doing all those things that Christ commanded should be done. . . Christianity is still possible at any time . . . Christianity is a way of life, not a system of beliefs . . . The commandment to love one’s neighbor has never yet been extended to include one’s actual neighbor.” [From The Will to Power; Nietzsche’s emphasis.]
The problem with Christians is that, unlike Christ, they are not philosophers. “The really royal calling of the philosopher (as expressed by Alcuin the Anglo-Saxon): prava oorrigere, et recta corroborare, et sancta sublimare.” [From The Will to Power; Nietasche’s emphasis. The Latin means “To correct what is wrong, and strengthen the right, and raise what is holy.”]
He agrees with the conclusion of Plato’s argument in Euthyphro. “In itself, religion has nothing to do with morality.” [From The Will to Power]
Since there is no God to ground absolute morality, we must create our own values. “My chief proposition: there are no moral phenomena, there is only a moral interpretation of these phenomena.” [From The Will to Power; Nietzsche’s emphasis.] To create values is to create interpretations.
In other words, there’s no cognition about values. Facts are “precisely what there is not, only interpretations. We cannot establish any fact ‘in itself’” [From The Will to Power]
Then we export our valuations into the world: “Our values are interpreted into things.” [From The Will to Power]
There’s no guidance about right and wrong actions: “But does one know its consequences? . . . Who can say what an action will stimulate, excite, provoke?” [From The Will to Power] This is an important point. Unless we take the absurd position that the consequences of our actions are irrelevant to their moral evaluation as right or wrong, since we cannot know those consequences, we cannot distinguish right actions from wrong ones.
Actually, there’s no morally culpable actor either. There is no self or person who is choosing to act or not: “there is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed . . .” [from Genealogy of Morals]
Similarly, there’s no thinker behind a thought. “. . . a thought comes when ‘it’ wishes, and not when ‘I’ wish . . . It thinks . . . Even the ‘it’ contains an interpretation of the process, and does not belong to the process itself. On infers here according to the grammatical habit . . . [from Beyond Good and Evil; Nietzsche’s emphasis.] There’s no self or person doing the thinking. There’s just a thought or judgment that happens.
These become beliefs when they are considered true. “What is a belief? How does it originate? Every belief is a considering-something-true.” [from The Will to Power; Nietasche’s emphasis.]
“The ‘subject’ is not something given, it is something added and invented and projected behind what there is.” [From The Will to Power] It’s not something that has will, either: “. . . there is no will . . .” [from The Will to Power. Permit me here to add that The Will to Power is not the title of one of Nietzsche’s own books; rather, it’s a collection of notes that were put together by editors after his death.]
So, he agrees with Hume, Butchvarov, me, and many other philosophers who fail to find a self (person, substratum, substance). Since this was an idea that, as far as we know, originated with The Buddha, this is an excellent example of how Nietzsche helped to prepare the groundwork for the western flourishing of Buddhism in the 20th century.
There’s more that follows. “If we give up the concept ‘subject’ and ‘object,’ then [we give up] also the concept ‘substance’ – and as a consequence also the various modifications of it, e.g., ‘matter,’ ‘spirit,’ and other hypothetical entities . . .” [from The Will to Power] This is so because we are relying on another misleading idea in addition to that of an individual self, namely, the idea of causation itself.
The distinction between the emotions and reasons made by Hume, Kant, and most philosophers from the western tradition is confused because they interpenetrate. “The misunderstanding of passion and reason, as if the latter were an independent entity and not rather a system of relations between various passions and desires; and as if every passion did not possess its quantum of reason.” [from The Will to Power]
There no self or person who causes a thought or anything else: “. . . things . . . effect nothing: because they do not exist at all – that the concept of causality is completely useless . . . There are neither causes nor effects.” [from The Will to Power]
If causation is the cement of the world, then the world just fell apart! That’s exactly the kind of mind expansion that sometimes recent sages express. In other words, we should become skeptical about ideas such as self, substance, and causality. These abstract mentations are mere theory and no better than the physicists’ ether.
For Nietzsche, “There exists neither ‘spirit,’ nor reason, nor thinking, nor consciousness, nor soul, nor will, nor truth: all are fictions that are of no use. . . The character of the world in a state of becoming as incapable of formulation . . . Language depends on the most naïve prejudices . . . we think only in the form of language.” [from The Will to Power; Nietasche’s emphasis.]
It’s foolish to talk about human progress. “’Mankind’ does not advance, it does not even exist.” [from The Will to Power]
Similarly with respect to causation, the recent sage with the highest personal calibration (namely, 996) was David R. Hawkins and he repeatedly wrote that causality is a delusion. “In Reality . . . Nothing is caused by anything else.” [David R. Hawkins, I, p. 201. Cf. Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method.]
The same holds for his agreement with Nietzsche’s radical subjectivity. “All reactions to life are subjective . . . One’s reality is the context and not the content.” [David R. Hawkins, I, p. 260.]
In terms of our inhumanity to each other, the 20th century was the worst century of our history. The estimates vary and cannot be known with precision, but the violence just to ourselves resulted in hundreds of millions of premature human deaths. Apparently, we’re not just satisfied with killing ourselves but we are also hell-bent on degrading and destroying our environment as well as the environment for other Earth-bound life forms.
Permit me to suggest to you that Nietzsche identified the critical problem: “We are altogether unable to think anything at all just as it is –” [from The Will to Power] Is that so? If so, how it be explained? How might we fix it?
To think is to conceptualize. All thoughts or judgments are conceptualizations. A concept is a principle of classification. There’s no thought without concepts. Concepts do the important intellectual work of separating (classifying, sorting, dividing, categorizing). We sort objects, for example, into those that are edible and those that aren’t, into those that can harm us and those that can help us, into those that we like and those that we don’t like, and so on.
To evaluate is to think. Since all thinking occurs from a specific perspective and since evaluating is thinking, all evaluating occurs from a specific perspective. “Insight: all evaluation is made from a definite perspective . . .” [from The Will to Power] In other words, all thinking, including all evaluating, is perspectival.
That’s why it’s impossible to think everything. To think is to separate and to think a whole without separating it is impossible. Therefore, all thoughts are partial. No thought ever captures the whole truth. In that sense, all thoughts are distorted. If so, we never think anything the way it is in reality.
Since we prefer some values to others and export those values into reality, the values that we may pretend are real and objective are actually only subjective. There is no objective ground to morality. There are only preferences that are sometimes dressed up as objective.
What happens when we cease exporting our subjective values into reality?
We wind up with a world in which all different entities have the same value. In other words, there are no better or worse entities.
Nietzsche grasped this. Since events are entities, ultimately none are better than others. He mentioned in The Will to Power “ . . . the homogeneity of all events.” Exactly!
Despite these radical and seemingly gloomy conclusions, Nietzsche near the end of his time wrote that he remained hopeful. “From my childhood I have pondered the conditions for the existence of the sage, and I will not conceal my joyous conviction that he is again becoming possible in Europe . . . such philosophers are cheerful.” [from The Will to Power]
At least if we include North American civilization as an offshoot of European civilization, the good news is that his prediction has come true in the sense that, at least after a couple of decades into the 21st century, some cheerful sages such as David R. Hawkins and Eckhart Tolle have appeared.
The bad news is that they are still few and far between. Still, how has it happened? If we are able to understand that answer, perhaps we could somehow stimulate its happening more frequently.
I’ve some ideas about that. The next post introduces them.