Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Nietzsche's Moral and Political Philosophy"--New Version on SEP

Here. Changes mainly in the section on Nietzsche's political philosophy, including mention of Shaw.


Rob said...

Clark's (perhaps not widely enough read) "Nietzsche's Antidemocratic Rhetoric" might be worth consideration for, at least, inclusion in your bibliography.

david said...

I take it as self-evident that Nietzsche offers nothing remotely deserving of the title 'Political Theory'(although it's debatable why this omission exists). It's also true that Nietzsche appreciates that his own evaluative preferences are just precisely that; related and symptomatic of his contingent perceived conditions of preservation and growth, with no external objective/transcendent authority.

Many will (and do) take comfort from this fact, since it appears to legitimise forcefully ignoring or opposing Nietzsche's explicit and unrepentant elitism with the calm retort of -'that's all very well, but we simply disagree, and, more to the point, 'we' have the power'. This therefore has the illusory effect of making Nietzsche's philosophy appear to be compatible with 'Liberalism' (as commonly understood), but which, in practice, opposes Nietzsche's 'pathos of distance' with a vengeance, considering it effectively 'beyond the pale'.

However, what is a fact, is that people simply aren't equal. Yet to tell the truth in this sphere is to be immediately stigmatised by all 'good men' (including most Nietzschean scholars). A comedy fit for the gods, no doubt. . .

A Studen said...

Prof. Leiter,

I very much enjoy reading your excellent articles on Nietzsche (N) and just re-read your entry on N in the SEP. I wanted to call to your attention two points:

1. You claim that the doctrine of the will to power (WP) as the only standard of value for N is incorrect. You provide several pieces of evidence, among which are these two:

a) since N uses phrases such as "lacking" a WP or a "decline" in the WP, such terms show that N thought that other values or realities existed besides the WP. But the conclusion doesn't follow. There can be stronger WP and weaker WP. Words such as 'lack' of a will to power or 'declining' WP only mean that there is very little power relative to others who have stronger drives. In other words, all people aim at enhancing power, but some are better than others, some are deluded into thinking liberalism or slavish desires enhance their power, etc., but all people still aim at power. an analogy: for Aristotle, all people aim at happiness, some may think honor provides the greatest happiness, but in reality, they are deceived, contemplation is a higher form of happiness. For A, there is only one aim: Flourishing, for N, there is also only one aim: enhancement of Power, all people aim at it, some do it poorly and self-deceptively, hence they "lack" power, but there is nothing else that people want...

b) M. Clark argues that N doesn't believe in the causality of the will. This does not seem right. N doesn't believe in a self-caused will or a free will, but he believes in the causality of the will, what you have dubbed "will as a secondary cause." This is sufficient to counter Clark's argument presented in your article.

2. you claim that N was not a political thinker. But we can distinguish between having a positive political doctrine and a negative one. That N did not possess a positive doctrine seems clear enough. But he certainly thought that some political arrangements were more or less conducive to the creation of the higher types than others. After all, N thinks morality, culture and religion influence the kind of men which can get produced. By what reasoning then, should political arrangements be exempted from the law of causality such that all other significant areas of social life can have a beneficial or deleterious effect on human flourishing but not political arrangements? If slavish morality can negatively impact the creation of the higher man, so can liberalism, democracy, etc. In other words, N certainly had strong opinions as to which forms of political life retarded human flourishing, that is, N had what I would call a "negative" political philosophy.

Looking forward to your response and thank you again for your excellent essays on Nietzsche.

A Studen

david said...

A Studen,

re your political remarks. I think the last line of BGE.251 illustrates Nietzsche's stance accurately-

". . .But here it is fitting that I should break off my cheerful Germanomaniac address: for already I am touching on what is to me serious, on the 'European problem' as I understand it, on the breeding of a new ruling caste for Europe". (BGE.251).

Why does he "break off" precisely when things get "serious"? i.e. even though what he wants (viscerally) is some form of aristocratic political rule for Europe, he nowhere begins to address this issue in a sustained and serious manner, either conceptually or practically. This begs the question - why? Why, if it's so serious to him, does he not work seriously on this problem?

Several answers suggest themselves here, but I think the most crucial is that he knows all too well that his real concerns are in deep opposition to the vast majority of people (including most aristocrats),and that the 'tide of history' generally is also very much against him. (e.g. TI.Expd.40'The Labour Question').

I would agree with you that, in effect, Nietzsche would have viewed our current political, social, psychological, moral norms with extreme distaste, and viewed many of them as purposely constructed to actively thwart and stigmatise any real, genuinely 'Nietzschean' forms of excellence. I tend to agree with him here, and in this light, many recent historical developments seem comically/tragically inevitable.

"There is nothing for it: one has to go forward, which is to say step by step further into decadence (- this is my definition of modern 'progress'. . .)". (TI.Expd.43).