Archive for March, 2010

Nietzsche’s Error

March 28, 2010

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), in his exhaustive philosophizing, produced writings that remain popular. Nietzsche believed that the basic impulse for all human actions traces to an inborn “Will to Power,” a will exceeding desire to survive and prosper, a will to dominate. In examining Western civilization, largely through others’ eyes, he identified its core (sexist) purpose as being the production of “great men.” His writings preceded and—all apologetic defenses aside—helped fuel fascist ideologues, a force far from vanquished in the defeat of Nazi Germany. 

Nietzsche used his “Will to Power” idea—a presumed basic human drive and dream to control all others—as his window on the flaws of civilization, an idea strongly influenced by Schopenhauer’s view of the will as foundational, by genius composer and political revolutionary Richard Wagner, by Renaissance historian Jacob Burckhardt, and by his own suppressive upbringing and fears. We see Nietzsche’s rebellious, self-obsessed yet self-sabotaging mind as producing an assessment that is scholarly but lacking both originality and an enlightened systematic grasp of the human condition in Western society; this despite his intelligence and insights—which is why PluribusOne™ sees his “dangerous philosophy” as a loosely-jointed hypothesis. Some of his critics have gone further and identify his “insights” with psychology more so than true philosophy. 

In studying civilization, Nietzsche accepted the classical Greek vision of “Apollonian” forces of light working to restrain “Dionysian” forces expressing “dark” instincts. Yet we see his perception of that yielding a topsy-turvy effect, confusing light with darkness—an apparent repression/perversion of his own natural instincts, his own normal inclination to “individualism.” He was aware that civilizing forces, established to restrain natural instincts (later addressed by Freud’s Pleasure Principle), were responsible for the terrorizing witch hunts and genocides that plagued European history, driving illuminated segments of society “underground.” Those same “civilizing forces” also appear responsible for Nietzsche’s impoverished mental climate. 

As we see it, through the struggle of his life-force (the id) against contravening corrective judgment (the superego’s domain), Nietzsche ended-up serving as an advocate of the superego/adversary/devil, which is ironic considering that the chief nurturer of the suppressive superego in Nietzsche’s day was the Church he had unmasked as source of such great hypocrisy that his belief in a Supreme Being had died. Such is the evidence for allegations of apparent contradictions in his books. Was the conflicting rhetoric rooted in an unconscious love-hate relationship with his Lutheran pastor father?—we suspect it was, and that this same conflict and confusion led him to suicide. 

At bottom, we see Nietzsche’s philosophizing as a failed effort to prove a preordained point: the “Will to Power.” The “Will to Power” theory is provocative but erroneous. The primary human drive can be better labeled as: the Will to Experience, fulfillment of which is only realizable through enlightened self-governance and autotelic action.