Nietzschean Shards

Is it time for yet another ‘new Nietzsche’? Any such vogue might be no more that a distraction, compared to what really matters, which is that splinters of Nietzschean insight refuse to quietly date, and instead re-make themselves as our contemporaries, commenting with astonishing perspicacity upon the unfolding chaos of the times.

There might never have been a thinker more deserving of a short, ragged, and inconclusive blog post. Here are some Nietzschean themes that are still with us — or with us more than ever.

(1) Will-to-Power. Power is abstract means, or instrumental capability. To make of it the determining object of the will, therefore, is to twist ordered teleological structure into a reflexive, paradoxical circuit. Will-to-power says that means are the ultimate end, and even those disposed simply to reject this disturbing formula are challenged to accept that it is at least thinkable.

(2) Slave Revolt in Morality. To discriminate between good and bad, as they were once understand, is evil, and only those opposing such discrimination are good. Has anyone before or since approached Nietzsche’s acuity in grasping the systematic insanity of our dominant value systems?

(3) Nihilism as Destiny. In the final years of the 19th century Nietzsche declared that nihilism was the interpretive key to understanding the Occidental history of the two hundred years to come. Christianity, mortally wounded by its own tolerance for honesty, was passing into eclipse, with nothing positioned to replace it. (Not only nothing, but Nothing, lay ahead.) Has anything happened since to disconfirm this vision of gathering civilizational ruin?

(4) Overman. Humanity is something to be overcome, Nietzsche proclaimed, and transhumanism was born. Cyborgs are his mind-children.

(5) Eternal Recurrence. We have misconceived the topology of time, and in doing so closed the gates connecting time with eternity. The recovery from this greatest of errors will sift the strong from the weak, setting the capstone of the ‘Great Politics’ that open at the end of nihilism. Eventually, the philosophy of time will decide.

October 26, 2013admin 38 Comments »
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38 Responses to this entry

  • Mark Warburton Says:

    Points 2 and 3 are so intimately tied to leftism’s moralisms, decadence, and disregard for anything but the now, I can’t help but wonder why it didn’t click for me that I’ve been a right-wing Nietzschean all along. I needed the ex-cultural officer of the BNP to spell it out for me! RIP.

    BTW, I was at an against the state conference today. Someone was making a case against ‘exit’ strategies. Your chin would of hit the floor. His entire case was against ‘Sea Land’, mumblings about capitalism not going away, and displayed some cartoon-like tics whenever he mentioned Marxism.

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    Posted on October 26th, 2013 at 3:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    I needed the ex-cultural officer of the BNP to spell it out for me! RIP.

    Did you ever read Apocalypse TV? A tour de force.

    [Reply]

    Mark Warburton Reply:

    I have it sitting on my HD – worth a read, hey.

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    Alex Reply:

    It’s lovely — a Nietzschean and a traditionalist Christian discuss modernity.

    [Reply]

    Mark Warburton Reply:

    Reading!

    Posted on October 26th, 2013 at 5:12 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hypothetical Says:

    I am in adamant agreement that Nietzsche simply refuses to die (even though I may disagree on your more specific points).

    However, as far as #2 goes, there are a few individuals who come to mind as having demonstrated the Nietzschean acuity. Foucault and Brassier spring to mind most immediately; but also non-Continentalists such as John Gray, and even someone as frustratingly Marxist as Adorno.

    I have some questions on your last two points; not concerning the relevance of the concepts, but concerning your own language. First, you speak of “transhumanism”; I’m wondering why you choose this over “posthumanism.” Of course, in a Nietzschean schema, the Ubermensch seems to suggest the prefix “trans-“, especially considering Nietzsche’s emphasis on the transvaluation of all values. I would resist this, however, and push toward a less progressive conceptualization. Even if we consider human development (and abandonment) in an evolutionary sense, we should resist apply a teleological framework. The cyborg may very well be our evolutionary progeny, but there is no necessity or ascension in this development; it’s merely technology’s co-option of “the human” (whatever we have decided this to be). If this allows something of human consciousness to persist, so be it; but that isn’t any kind of transcendence. It’s simply evolution.

    Second, concerning the philosophy of time separating the strong from the weak; I’m assuming this philosophy of time is the same one that Meillassoux has spoken of, and that Brassier has developed. Your separation of strong and weak appears (to me, at least) to re-inscribe a valuation of ability onto evolutionary biology. That is, those who are strong will survive, and those who are weak will perish. While I understand how an entirely non-valuative framework might inform this approach, the reference to “strong” and “weak” recalls, to my mind, the Spencerian claims of vulgar “social” Darwinism. As soon as we begin justifying economic and political measures through appeals to natural progress, we’ve wandered into the delusional realm of exceptionalism.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The last three points are place-holders (as indicated by the absence of links to relevant recent elaborations here). Any depth engagement with them is going to overshoot. That said, suitably slender responses to your questions:
    (1) ‘Posthumanism’ generally seems to be a critique of humanist philosophical assumptions, rather than a program for advance beyond human limits, and thus strikes me as less attuned to Nietzsche’s own concerns than the transhumanist ‘movement’ — however eccentric and gestural the latter can often be.
    (2) I’m solely indicating what I take to be the uncontroversial stance, taken in Nietzsche’s late writings, that the doctrine of Eternal Recurrence is an effective ‘test’, and not merely a speculative thought. Any connections this might have to ‘Social Darwinist’ ideas remains unexplored at this stage. (There does not seem much ground for assuming that Nietzsche was himself forging this connection with any special dedication.)

    [Reply]

    Scharlach Reply:

    Yes, whenever I hear “posthumanism” tossed around on my campus, they are usually talking about the sort of drivel written by people like Donna Haraway.

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    Posted on October 26th, 2013 at 5:37 pm Reply | Quote
  • Antisthenes Says:

    Do we need a new Nietzsche?

    What gods have we erected in the time since Nietzsche, that will not submit to his hammer?

    None, I would say. There can be no new Nietzsches, only new interpreters of the various strands of Nietzscheanism.

    That is, unless one looks over Nietzsche’s shoulder, as it were, to get a view of all the Nietzsches that were before him (not to mention those that ran alongside him), but who we have forgotten and cannot imagine other than as precursors to Nietzsche.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 26th, 2013 at 10:29 pm Reply | Quote
  • fotrkd Says:

    2) Spinoza?

    3) Some stuff coming out of China?

    4) i. The Last Man (toads)

    5) Would love some more, please.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 26th, 2013 at 11:28 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    (1)
    Seriously thinking about this would put you in an infinite loop. As as sentence, ‘the point of power is to get more power’ doesn’t resolve into anything.

    Luckily brains are not subject to the halting problem, or thinking it would be a lethal accident.

    (2)
    I think it would be a good thing if someone dedicated themselves to studying this in a ‘normal science’ way. And reminding us every couple weeks or so.

    That said I suspect ‘slave’ morality is just 150-man tribe morality from 10 000 years ago. Christianity does this trick where it salves the egos of the commoner, disingenuously. One of the problems of progressivism is, in it’s Jim-style quest to be holier, it un-disingenuates some particulars.

    Turns out we should have just grown up instead. I would call it not slave morality, but child morality. (I just realized.)

    (3)
    Nihilism is more associated with decadence than with the failure of any particular philosophy. In commoners this may be unavoidable. However, a serious scholar need never be nihilist.

    Do you want the world to have actual, real value? Fine. If you don’t know what it is, then go look for it. If it has been shown that your previous Christian values are not correct, that only proves how much you have to learn. Don’t just give up.

    Of course on the flip side, a serious scholar can also argue themselves into nihilism even when the surrounding culture is not decadent. However, I’ve never seen any argument for nihilism except that from ignorance.

    (4)
    We cannot control whether or if we become cyborgs.
    However, given the plasticity and generality of the brain, we can become overmen anyway. It seems that the brain comes stocked with all sorts of interesting functions we cannot instinctively use. Spandrels of other adaptations. Unlocking/learning about them has been quite a ride.

    (5)
    Time as eternal or illusory is empirically unsound. Ditto general relativity’s pure determinist 4-D prism interpretation. They fail the kitchen test: it’s not predictive of what happens in my kitchen.

    This is the opposite of the relationship between GR and Newtonian physics. Newton is GR with limit c -> (infinity). (Take h-bar to zero and you get Newton from QM.) There’s no way to recover the immutability of the past or the unknowability of the future – or even the basic asymmetry – from any popular theory of time.

    By contrast, my theory of time takes these things as the starting point. (Physics is functions: time is the independent variable.)

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “… thinking about this would put you in an infinite loop.” — This works on so many levels, I’m still circumambulating whilst admiring it.

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    Thales Reply:

    Luckily brains are not subject to the halting problem, or thinking it would be a lethal accident.

    Yep, one difference between between neural networks and state machines. Sadly, race conditions are still an issue (e.g.: remembering to stop by the dry cleaners before you drive all the way home.)

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    Posted on October 26th, 2013 at 11:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kgaard Says:

    Julius Evola is a wonderful interpreter of Nietzsche and he also made the point (writing in 1961) that in the 80 years since Nietzsche had written(1880-1960) nobody had gone beyond him. The hipsters and beats were simply LIVING OUT the implications of Nietzsche’s philosophy without actually going beyond it. It was a great point. I like Evola in part because he lived into the 1960s (actually the ’70s) so he is a pre-WWII rightie giving us commentary on the ’60s. A rare and useful thing. Hemingway and Camus would have been GREAT commenters on the ’60s but they both died in ’60-61.

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    Posted on October 27th, 2013 at 3:11 am Reply | Quote
  • Kgaard Says:

    I’m also reminded of the chapter in Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind, entitled “The Nietzscheization of the Left.” Bloom sold 250,000 books in 1986 arguing that the Left had co-opted Nietzsche and were running with all his key principles simultaneously (i.e. slave morality + will to power). Still the case to this day of course. That book changed my life.

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    Posted on October 27th, 2013 at 3:31 am Reply | Quote
  • Jack Crassus Says:

    As a very amateur Nietzschean and a budding post-libertarian, I suggest H.L. Mencken’s translation of Nietzsche’s “The Anti-Christ”. Yes, we are bored of Dawkins-like attacks on Christianity, but that is not what this is. Nietzsche attacks Christianity, not for its failure to adhere to secular/rationalist values, but for its decadence – which he defines as a quality belonging to beliefs detrimental to health and life.

    What I love about Nietzsche (and Moldbug) is anti-idealism. Nietzsche reminds us that morality is not real. Health, power over our surroundings, thriving – these things are more real. If our morality makes us sick, are we forced to keep sipping the poison?

    Nietzsche challenges us to approach the challenge of life as art, instead of the challenge of living by a rule book. Do we dare to paint breathtaking lives with our blood?

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    Posted on October 27th, 2013 at 7:13 am Reply | Quote
  • Antisthenes Says:

    @Kgaard

    Nietzsche is diagnosing the Left from beyond the grave.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 27th, 2013 at 7:15 am Reply | Quote
  • Antisthenes Says:

    @Jack Crassus

    Nietzsche holds a special place in my reading because he reminds us how to practice a vital suspicion of ideals, without making suspicion itself an ideal (Freud, Derrida, the Frankfurt School), and compels us to remake our lives in language, without fetishising language itself (pick almost any analytic thinker).

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    Scharlach Reply:

    “Remake our lives in language.” Very leftist. You can try to get concept-clusters circulating in meme-space, but ultimately, life is made and remade by processes much less tractable than our grammars. Language reflects reality. It doesn’t construct it. The best we can hope is that our language reflects reality as accurately and realistically as possible. Hence why I don’t mind the reacto-sphere’s frequent rhetorical flourishes and moments of hyperbole. Even our hyperboles are at least embodying ideas that, at their roots, make reality just a little more tractable.

    [Reply]

    Antisthenes Reply:

    Not leftist at all. You don’t value the poetic aspects of Nietzsche?

    [Reply]

    Scharlach Reply:

    I very much value the poetic aspects of Nietzsche. I would just caution against the slipper slope down toward “reality is a linguistic construct,” a slope which many of fallen down after reading our German mensch. If that wasn’t your intention, I apologize for misreading your comment.

    Scharlach Reply:

    “Remake our lives in language.” Very leftist. You can try to get concept-clusters circulating in meme-space, but ultimately, life is made and remade by processes much less tractable than our grammars. Language reflects reality. It doesn’t construct it. The best we can hope is that our language reflects reality as accurately and realistically as possible. Hence why I don’t mind the reacto-sphere’s frequent rhetorical flourishes and moments of hyperbole. Even our hyperboles are at least embodying ideas that, at their roots, make reality just a little more tractable.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 27th, 2013 at 7:23 am Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    @Kgaard

    Thanks. I’ll have to read this chapter. I have a seminar coming up on Nietzsche and debt – I have a feeling it’s not going to agree with me.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 27th, 2013 at 9:11 am Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    http://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/monarchy/#comment-3417

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 27th, 2013 at 10:14 am Reply | Quote
  • Matt Olver Says:

    Nietzsche has always been a relevant figure to me. I think he falls out of favor with many people who become academics because most people get into his ideas at a young age, and he usually ends up succeeding in exploding their worldview to a point. At some point people lose the wit and the irony of what he was all about. The fun of it all falls by the wayside and the power of a dry logical argument dominates rather than a dominating style of writing backing a logical argument. As Gottlob Frege said, “What really pertains to logic lies not in truth, but in the asserting force by which truth is spoken.” I did most of my Nietzsche training at the University of Wisconsin; I attended lectures by Ivan Soll on existentialism and a full Nietzsche course by Lester Hunt. Soll was a direct student of Walter Kaufmann. Soll was fully grounded in all things German philosophy. Hunt took a virtue ethic approach to Zarathustra which I found compelling because it was from a libertarian viewpoint. I like your reconceptions of some of the standard concepts and terms of Nietzsche, mainly because I think you made a comment in one of your writings about Nietzsche scholarship and you have a European perspective. Of course in the U.S. he is a much different figure. Certainly the same can be said of Heidegger who I think has an interesting outlook on Nietzsche as well. Similar to how you have lead with The-Will-to-Power. In modern day U.S. scholarship I really think Bernard Reginster has understood this concept the best explained in his book The Affirmation of Life.

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    Posted on October 27th, 2013 at 1:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • fake_username Says:

    Rereading Nietzsche the other day, I was overwhelmed by its relevance to contemporary concerns. Marx now reads like a caricature of itself, which explains why Marxist so-called social theorists are perpetually scrambling to conform their theories with a reality that has so blatantly discredited their underlying assumptions. Nietzsche requires no such apologetics. Although it wouldn’t be deleterious, a new Nietzsche isn’t an imperative; we only need better spokespersons for the old one, and to undermine his postmodern misappropriation.

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    Posted on October 28th, 2013 at 3:03 am Reply | Quote
  • James James Says:

    1. Your formulation of Will-to-Power, as means as the end, reminds me of your exposition of your position against the orthogonality thesis. It is certainly thinkable, but it doesn’t disprove the orthogonality claim. By contrast, paperclippers are conceivable and do seem to prove the orthogonality claim. A deterministic program cannot overcome its utility function (the utility function *is* the program — whatever the program does can be viewed as its “utility function” by definition), so you must argue that certain utility functions cannot exist for a level of instrumental intelligence. Paperclippers are conceivable, so apparently they can. Perhaps you could explain further why you think paperclippers are impossible?

    On the other hand, humans exist, and its not obvious what our utility functions are and where they come from. Nietzsche was able to have will-to-power as his utility function, which is evidence for your position. To resolve this question, we must work out where human values come from. If art was built-in by natural selection, why? If not, where did it come from?

    2. Slave morality is misnamed. Ayn Rand is the only popular exponent of the division I know of, and she named them looters/moochers. They don’t want to be slaves, they are grabbers.

    3 Nihilism as Destiny and 5 Eternal Recurrence: could you explain these a bit more?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    1. Why do you think paperclippers are conceivable? An advanced intelligence could not be a paperclipper, because linear program compliance and intelligence are mutually inconsistent.

    2. Slave morality began amongst slaves.

    3. Sure, but at some future time. (There’s nothing ready-to-go in the cupboard.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 28th, 2013 at 1:40 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    Doesn’t (2) undermine (1)? If all that counts is the expansion of power, why does Nietzsche so resent the sullen yet cunning ressentiment of the weak which has, after all, given them power over the strong? It seems he kicks orthogonality out of the front door only to smuggle it in through the back.

    [Reply]

    Antisthenes Reply:

    @Alex

    Now there’s a question: does Nietzsche resent?

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    On reflection, “resent” was a facetious cheap shot; but it does seem that, by exalting the vigorous virtù of the masters over the sneaky mean-spiritedness of the slaves, Nietzsche is appealing to a transcendent hierarchy of value, a kingdom of meaningful ends orthogonal to the republic of endless means.

    [Reply]

    Antisthenes Reply:

    I interpret the Will to Power as a means to get beyond both master and slave moralities, but otherwise I think that’s a fair call.

    I get the impression that he’s appealing to the reader’s abhorrence of hypocrisy (master morality is at least not hypocritical in the way that slave morality is) to a greater degree than to a transcendent positive evaluation of “vigorous virtue”.

    admin Reply:

    My knee-jerk response would be based on the assumption that slave morality is degenerative because it reduces the aggregate capability to act. It’s close to the technoparanoid position: “Let’s try to make sure nothing arises that’s intelligent enough to be a problem for us.”

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    slave morality is degenerative because it reduces the aggregate capability to act.

    Makes sense.

    It’s close to the technoparanoid position: “Let’s try to make sure nothing arises that’s intelligent enough to be a problem for us.”

    I suppose one could derive a kind of technoparanoia from a ‘master-morality’ perspective: “Too many machines will make us soft and weak!” Perhaps there’s a case for moderate reactionary primitivism.

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    Posted on October 28th, 2013 at 8:09 pm Reply | Quote
  • Peter A. Taylor Says:

    I was listening to an audiobook of Eric Vögelin’s _Science, Politics, and Gnosticism_, which talks about Nietzsche a fair bit and ties into the question of how Progressivism is related to Christianity.

    Did God die of natural causes, or was He murdered?

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 30th, 2013 at 1:49 am Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    “Beans are the new Meat” – Tyler Cowen.

    Now that is nihilistic Will To Power.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 31st, 2013 at 11:43 am Reply | Quote
  • tonreihe Says:

    I think it’s time for another “new Spinoza” myself. Isn’t Gnon just another word for Deus sive Natura?

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 2nd, 2013 at 1:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • Estilhaços Nietzscheanos – Outlandish Says:

    […] Original. […]

    Posted on September 18th, 2016 at 11:23 pm Reply | Quote

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