Excuses, Getting into PHDs, Nietzsche and Christ

So first off, sorry for the lack of posts. I should have a real one up soon enough.  Over the last month and a half I have started a new job, finished a quarter of school and started a new one, fought off a bad case of bronchitis, sinusitis, and an ear infection–honestly, who gets an ear infection after five–and had some discouraging and encouraging talks about PHD programs–how to get into a good one, which one to choose, etc.–with several people. 


On that front, the best of recent event was a conversation I had with Creston Davis regarding just that. Not a whole lot of new insights obtained, but very encouraging to talk to someone who has similar passions/goals, believes in God’s Kingdom and its ethical call on all of our lives and has achieved a lot. I am not attempting to make any claims that he at all approves of anything I have written on this site, I am just very grateful that he was willing to chat with me for awhile. 


In other news, I have been reading Dussel, Twenty Thesis on Politics, which is very cogent: Badiou’s Infinite Thought, also clear and profound on many levels, so far my favorite essay is “Philosophy and Communism”; still slowly working through Theology and the Political, favorite essay still being Philip Goodchild’s although Milbank’s is also very stimulating; and finally Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. 


This is probably my favorite Nietzsche text so far. I haven’t pick him up since a directed reading I took under Craig Hovey–which I never officially registered for nor finished since I got married in the middle of it, but nevertheless read almost all the material; and am enjoying him once again. So far he has picked on Kant, Descartes–most visciously; Schopenhauer and Compte. His polemics never bore. 


However, I am still not sure how to read Nietzsche. Between his chauvenist, racist and elitist overtones and at times explicitly despotic, tyrannical statements it is some times very hard to give him the benefit of the doubt. Im always tempted to side with Geof Waite, in rejecting Nietzsche and his reception with all it entails, but want to give old Nietch, along with Kaufmann and his other disciples, a shot for a little while longer. 


And yet, I am suspicious that some Nietzschians maybe guilty of the same type of fraudulent moves that Christians often attempt make with Christ or Paul. Take the Samaritan women whom Jesus referred to as a dog. Now I know that there are ways of reading this text that make it less offensive–there was a socio-political context in which the woman’s tribe(s) had been raiding other’s, namely the Jews. Thus the reference to dogs is meant to make the link between her social group and scavengers, what dogs were considered, etc. Yet, at the end of the day we are left with Jesus’ being at least implicitly racist. Of course he does change his opinion based on her response and it is possible that he was testing her, although why do we feel we must make excuses for Jesus. Is it possible that he was just racist and that when he was forcefully confronted by this women in her humanity he was opened up to a new way of seeing her and a new way of seeing Gentiles? Of course this assumes, for the orthodox, that cultural presuppositions, including racism, aren’t necessarily sinful as long as they are open to be changed when proven wrong. This may be a bad assumption, or just an honest one.


The point is, is it possible that Nietzsche really was just a chauvinist, totalitarian, elitist, asshole and if so can we not still learn a thing or two from a nevertheless brilliant thinker and critic? 


All that being said, I should be posting more soon.


7 thoughts on “Excuses, Getting into PHDs, Nietzsche and Christ

  1. Nietzsche could very well be all that, but at least he had the integrity to ask through his Zarathustra: this is my way, show me yours.

  2. Pierre,

    thanks for commenting. I did not mean to say that Nietzsche was not important. I think that he is very important and has a lot to offer the critical and engaged reader. However, I am not sure that him taking his own way is what I appreciate about him most. Many people have done that. Two come to mind, Lavern and Shirley.

    One thing that is incredibly important is his suspicion. Suspicion towards the foundation of morality–resentment; suspicion towards philosophical systems and dogmatists–will to truth, will to virtue or ethics, etc. While this has infiltrated our current ethos psyche in ways that may not be the healthiest, leading to wide spread cynicism, which I must add Nietzsche would not be a fan of, this form of “psychology” has been invaluable in unearthing some of our, or our societies, churches, etc., real motives.

  3. It was Zoroaster who, having truth for a guide, devised morality as a code of living by relying on the absolute benchmark against which to judge, and now it is this same striving for truth which has unsettled the benchmark and made it tremble, thus making morality nonsensical (at least in its absolute form).

    Nietzsche was writing in a culture in which the human being is automated, made to conform, forfeit his uniqueness and adhere to the herd (in that respect I’d say things have gotten worse). It is from this same aspiration that many others wrote such as Stirner and Marx.

    When it fringes on how a society should look like according to Nietzsche, not too many answers are provided and the vision gets dimmer in the light that his foremost concern was the individual.

    His foaming against Christianity and the herd transpire a not too healthy attitude.

    Here’s an essay contrasting anarchism with Nietzsche’s herd ressentiment:


    1. Pierre,

      Thanks for the essay. I looked at it briefly and will possibly get to the whole thing some time soon. It looks interesting.

      As for the Zoroaster comment I have to admit I find it rather cryptic, which may just be due to my ignorance. Are you talkind about Zoroaster the founder of Zoroasterism or just giving a different name to Nietzsche’s Zarathustra? My guess is the former. Could you elaborate on the benchmark for morality? Are you speaking about God, Reason, Truth, or something else?

      Nietzsche’s enthrallment with the individual maybe the biggest obstacle for me. I understand his critique of the herd mentality and do see the obvious connections between that and Marx’s critique of religion. ( I have not read Stirner so I can’t comment on him.) However, Marx was concerned with freeing the masses from religious and all other forms of ideology, while Nietzsche, as you said, only seemed to be concerned with the individual qua great man, new philosopher, Ubermensch. From my read it seems that he saw a graded hierarchy–inherit in nature? the higher up being more pure expressions of the will to power?–in which certain great men were above the unfortunate masses. It is this aspect of Nietzsche that I find problematic and I find the attempts of some to excuse his excessive statements unsuccessful.

      1. If you want to know more about what N means by superman and the will to power, read new book by Bernard Reginster ” The Affirmation of Life” to get a different and I think, more correct interpretation.

  4. 1 – Well, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is Zoroaster the founder of Zoroastrianism. Nietzsche reckoned that Zoroaster, being the first to claim eternal truth as the basis of morality (a truth preordained by a deity), now must himself drink the same bitter cup as truth was no longer valid to be such a basis (God is dead, and truth indeed is one of God’s shadow that is waiting to be dissolved).

    “The suffering and helplessness of his people had shocked Zoroaster into a torn, conflicted vision. The world seemed polarized, split into two irreconcilable camps. Because Indra and the cattle raiders had nothing in common with Lord Mazda, they must have given their allegiance to a different ahura. If there was a single divine source for everything that was benign and good, Zoroaster concluded that there must also be a wicked deity who had inspired the cruelty of the raiders. This Hostile Spirit (Angra Mainyu), he believed, was equal in power to Lord Mazda, but was his opposite. In the beginning, there had been “two primal Spirits, twins destined to be in conflict” with each other. Each had made a choice. The Hostile Spirit had thrown in his lot with druj, the lie, and was the epitome of evil. He was the eternal enemy of asha, of everything that was right and true. But Lord Mazda had opted for goodness and had created the Holy Immortals and human beings as his allies. Now every single man, woman, and child had to make the same choice between asha and druj.” Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation

    2 – Nietzsche would make use of this longing for truth when he claims, holding the disciples of truth to their words: “One must be intellectually honest to the point of harshness.” And thus Science, for instance, with logic as its epitome, and the search for truth its eternal quest, would bite on its own tail: “But science, spurred by its powerful illusion, speeds irresistibly towards its limits where its optimism, concealed in the essence of logic, suffers shipwreck. For the periphery of the circle of science has an infinite number of points; and while there is no telling how this circle could ever be surveyed completely, noble and gifted men nevertheless reach, ever half their time and inevitably, such boundary points on the periphery from which one gazes into what defies illumination. When they see to their horror how logic coils up at these boundaries and finally bites its own tail—suddenly the new insight breaks through, tragic insight which, merely to be endured, needs art as a protection and remedy.” Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

    3 – Nietzsche’s universe is an aesthetic universe, which resembles at best a child who in his play, joyfully would tear off the wings of a butterfly. It is under this light that Nietzsche sees morality as a justification for an existence which requires no such justification, and thus morality in its attempt to make existence bearable hinders us from wholly embracing existence, being happy individuals in the heightening of their “will to power.” Of course Nietzsche is not here advocating mere barbarism or the slaughtering of your own mother, but rather claiming that the soul that is able to overcome its own weaknesses and shortcomings, being able to embrace existence in its totality and saying Yes to life, gains an understanding of the condition within which others too are encapsulated, and is thus able to interpret humanely the existential condition and pass it on to others, without hindering their own becoming.

    Modern restlessness. The farther West one goes, the greater modern agitation becomes; so that to Americans the inhabitants of Europe appear on the whole to be peace-loving, contented beings, while in fact they too fly about pell-mell, like bees and wasps. This agitation is becoming so great that the higher culture can no longer allow its fruits to ripen; it is as if the seasons were following too quickly on one another. From lack of rest, our civilization is ending in a new barbarism. Never have the active, which is to say the restless, people been prized more. Therefore, one of the necessary correctives that must be applied to the character of humanity is a massive strengthening of the contemplative element. And every individual who is calm and steady in his heart and head, already has the right to believe that he possesses not only a good temperament, but also a generally useful virtue, and that in preserving this virtue, he is even fulfilling a higher duty. Nietzsche, Human All Too Human

    4 – The Ubermensch is not necessarily a single philosopher or individual, as certainly societies under exceptional and accidental strokes of luck might come to represent the state of the Ubermensch, as certainly Nietzsche held the ancient Greeks of the tragedy to represent such a state.

    5 – Nietzsche’s society is an aristocratically graded society, which considers masters’ values as its values. These values are by definition self-overflowing and certainly not ones premised on re-actions, an inability to deal with oneself. He does rule out the prospect of any religion, race, society or historical epoch from being able to become master in his or their own terms, for what is needed is primarily a recognition and an acting-will to conquer oneself.

    Nietzsche tells of a lake that one day refused to let itself flow off and formed a dam; ever since it has risen higher and higher. He concludes: ‘Perhaps this very renunciation will lend us the strength to bear renunciation; perhaps man will rise ever higher when he no longer flows off into a god.’ From Keith Ansell Pearson, How to Read Nietzsche

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