Philosophy / Nietzsche'S Revaluation Of All Values
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Autor: anton 27 September 2010
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Nietzsche's Revaluation of All Values
In the nineteenth century, popular philosophy - particularly the Hegelian dialectic - professed that mankind was developing in an upward direction, becoming more angelic as it were. Man's moral laws were more advanced, as support for democracy and equal rights were beginning to become popular. However, Friedrich Nietzsche believed that mankind was entering a downward spiral towards complete decadence. Modern man, with its "advanced" morality, was, in truth, decaying on the inside. Claims of morality merely masked modern man's decay:
he is veiled behind moral formulas and concepts of decencyÐ’â€¦. [not] to mask human malice and villainyÐ’â€¦. [but] it is precisely as tame animals that we are a shameful sightÐ’â€¦. The European disguises himself with morality because he has become a sick, sickly, crippled animal that has good reasons for being "tame". [GS 352]
Nietzsche believed this to be a form of nihilism because mankind valued precisely what was halting his advancement. With this in mind, Nietzsche began his bold movement towards the revaluation of all values.
We need a critique of moral values, the value of these values should itself, for once, be examinedÐ’â€¦. [What if] morality itself were to blame if man, as a species, never reached his highest potential power and splendour? [GM P 6]
In this essay I will first look at several reasons for the necessity of a revaluation of all values. Then I shall look at Nietzsche's conception of the "noble" and how through egoism, they can undertake the revaluation of all values.
Nietzsche's most famous statement is, without a doubt, that "God is dead" (GS 108/125, Z P 2, etc.). Through many years of being quoted, contemporary society seems to have lost the significance of such a profound statement. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this statement is that "we have killed him - you and I. All of us are his murderers" (GS 125). It is important to remember that Nietzsche did not believe this to be a literal event. Instead, he explains "that the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable" (GS 343). Such disbelief has begun to cast morality, indeed mankind's meaning, into doubt. Without God, how can universal moral truths be justified? Where is the meaning of man?
What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? [GS 125]
While God's death implies mankind has no external guidance, Nietzsche believed that guidance was still needed. This guidance must be internal, from man himself: "is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?" (ibid.) On an interesting side note, Nietzsche seemed to imply, however, that not all men find God unbelievable. The Saint in Zarathustra who says, "I make songs and sing them, and when I make songs, I laugh, weep, and mutter: thus I praise God" (Z Prologue 2), is spared the news of God's death because he actually believed. The vast majority of mankind, though, is not like this. They are without God and need to become gods themselves in order to restore value and meaning to their actions. This need is a first indication of the necessity to revaluate all values and create new ones.
Strangely enough, a second sign of the need for revaluation of values comes from Nietzsche's doctrine of eternal recurrence. This is best described by the demon of the Gay Science:
this life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every sign and everything unutterably small or great in you life will return to you, all in the same succession and sequence. [GS 341]
As Arthur Danto relates, this was Nietzsche's "greatest weight" (ibid.), as Nietzsche himself only spoke of it in hushed tones. Zarathustra himself was not free from its gravity and pain - exemplified by an evil dwarf and black snake - as related in "The Vision and the Riddle" and "The Convalescent." While scientific backing for such a statement is dubious at best, it is still a powerful philosophical concept: "if this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you" (GS 341). Like god's death, this exposes the inherent meaninglessness of the world because the world goes on eternally, devoid of a meaningful conclusion. Furthermore, in saying that there is nothing new under the sun, "but everything old under the sun is going to keep coming back" (Danto 1965, p. 210), there is grave disappointment because mediocrity cannot be annihilated: "alas, man recurs eternally! The little man recurs eternally!" (Z "The Convalescent" 2) Nietzsche does not want us to despair, however, because, acceptance is
the ideal of the most high-spirited, alive, and world-affirming human being who has not only come to terms and learned to get along with what was and is, but who wants to have what was and is repeated into all eternity. [BGE 56]
As with the death of god, this provides man an opening to begin providing value and meaning to his existence by undertaking the revaluation of all values.
Nietzsche's belief that current values were decadent points to a further need for the revaluation. The values were decadent because they deprived mankind of what it needs most, affirmation of life: "I call an animal, a species, an individual depraved when it loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers what it harmful to it" (AC 6). He was further infuriated since these "values of decline, nihilistic values hold sway under the holiest names" (AC 6). Nietzsche's favourite examples of decadent values were altruistic.
An Ð’â€˜altruistic' morality, a morality under which egoism languishes - is under all circumstances a bad signÐ’â€¦. [because] to choose what is harmful to oneself, to be attracted by Ð’â€˜disinterested' motives, almost constitutes the formula for decadence. [TI "Expeditions of an Untimely Man" 35]
In demonstrating the harmful effects of altruism, he attached little value to pity because "pity, insofar as it really causes suffering Ð’â€¦ is a weakness, like every losing of oneself through a harmful affect" (D 134). Pity promotes nothing of value, instead
this depressive and contagious instinct thwarts those instincts bent on preserving and enhancing the value of life: both as a multiplier of misery and as a conservator of everything miserable it is one of the chief instruments for the advancement of decadence. [AC 7]
Nietzsche believed that pity came from a mistaken notion that suffering is evil. However, "the discipline of suffering, of great suffering - do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far?" (BGE 225) Pity alters great suffering into pathetic group misery that has no value. Other values are decadent due to their universal requirement. Chastity, for example, is harmful to some:
not a few who sought to drive out their devil entered into the swine themselves. Those to whom chastity is difficult should be dissuaded from itÐ’â€¦. [But] truly, there are those who are chaste from the very heart. [Z "On Chastity"]
With such values causing harm, a revaluation of all values in necessary to determine whether a new value system might be beneficial.
The final major push for the revaluation of all values is Nietzsche's fear of the levelling of men. The supreme result of this are men - who no longer create and live in supreme "happiness" and equality - called the Last Men.
Ð’â€˜What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?' thus asks the Last Man and blink.
Ð’â€¦ Ð’â€˜We have discovered happiness,' say the Last Men and blink.
Ð’â€¦ No herdsman and one herd. Everyone wants the same thing, everyone is the same. [Z Prologue 5]
Nietzsche implied that such a race was virtually inevitable because "they are the men of the future, the only survivors: Ð’â€˜Be like them! Become mediocre!' is now the only morality that still makes sense, that still gets a hearing" (BGE 262). As Zarathustra's audience demonstrated, the Last Man is a frightening popular desire. In particular democracy and other hedonistic political theories appear to wish to bring about this change because
what they would like to strive for with all their powers is the universal green-pasture happiness of the herd, with security, lack of danger, comfort and an easier life for everyone. [BGE 44]
Such an existence was pathetic to Nietzsche. As I quoted before, he believed that a measure of "great suffering" was necessary for a great man. No race like the Last Man could possibly have the strength to become creators and ennoble mankind by undertaking the revaluation of values.
Nietzsche seems to reject most aspects of modern morality in perceiving the need for his revaluation. Present values and desires for complete equality were seen as decadent. Does Nietzsche advocate something new to put in its place? He himself answers that "if a shrine is to be set up, a shrine has to be destroyed: that is the law - show me an example where this does not apply!" (GM II 24) Furthermore, Nietzsche did not deny the necessity of a form of morality, or rather, values:
It goes without saying that I do not deny - unless I am a fool - that many actions called immoral ought to be avoided and resisted, or that many called moral ought to be done and encouraged - but I think the one should be encouraged and the other avoided for other reasons than hitherto. [D 103]
The new reasons for the establishing values could be determined by the "noble." Such individuals are recognised by neither actions nor "works," but by one trait: "the noble soul has reverence for itself" (BGE 287). This
egoism belongs to the nature of a noble soul - I mean that unshakable faith that to a being such as "we are" other beings must be subordinate by nature and have to sacrifice themselves. [BGE 265]
As seen with his contempt for the Last Man, Nietzsche believed that society was not equal, nor would it ever be. The noble must dominate society at the expensive of the mediocre in order to develop into greater individuals:
society must not exist for society's sake but only as the foundation and scaffolding on which a choice type of being is able to raise itself to a higher task and to a higher state of being. [BGE 258]
Nietzsche believed that this higher state of being would result in brilliant cultural progress. More importantly, the noble, with their egoism, possessed the necessary attributes to begin the revaluation of all values.
Remembering Nietzsche's account of truth, we know that Nietzsche wished to deny that truths could be universal - the same goes with morality. In fact, Nietzsche wished "to deny that moral judgements are based on truths" (D 103). With their egoism, the noble believe that universal morality is not acceptable. A sign of nobility: "never thinking of degrading our duties into duties for everybody" (BGE 272). Again, when talking about free spirits and truth, "it must offend their pride, also their taste, if their truth is supposed to be a truth for everyman" (BGE 43). In rejecting universal moralities, they are prepared to act as individuals for the revaluation of all values, which will give value and meaning to their actions.
Furthermore the noble can peer deep into himself and determine what he, as an individual, wants. Nietzsche believed that only those virtues "which have learned to get along best with our most secret and cordial inclinations, with our most ardent needs" (BGE 214) to be of value. Such virtues would be in accordance with life; "I consider life itself instinct for growth, for continuance, for accumulation of forces, for power" (AC 6). The noble and their egos possess such an instinct for power. Since an individual's needs differ from person to person, the noble cannot share their values. This is not selfish, though, on the other hand
it is selfish to experience one's own judgement as a universal law: and this selfishness is blind, petty, and frugal because it betrays that you have not yet discovered yourself nor created for yourself an ideal of your own - for that could never be someone else's and much less that of all, all! [GS 335]
Nietzsche believed that the ego is very important for the revaluation of values. It provides a person with the proper attitude to look within himself and determine those values that are in accordance with personal well-being. The ego also gives the person the conviction to act upon them.
In the end, Nietzsche began to perceive that his "wicked thoughts" on the revaluation of all values were themselves becoming eternal truths: "you have already taken off your novelty, and some of you are ready, I fear, to become truths: they already look so immortal, so pathetically decent, so dull!" (BGE 296) Nietzsche implies that his views on issues might not be correct, such as when he claims "assuming that it is now known at the outset how very much these are after all only - my truths" (BGE 231) before beginning a sad tirade on women. The danger of stating a method of creating truth that is indefinite is that certain aspects will be cast into truths in the future, much against the spirit of Nietzsche. While his elitist views might seem extreme, perhaps he is only offering his truth to creating meaning, and it is our individual duty to come up with our own.
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