Category Archives: Friedrich Nietzsche

Last Men or New Men? Nietzsche in the Global Age

Does Nietzsche have anything important to say to us, we the current inhabitants of a global age?

Nietzsche speaks of spiritual health as a result of the superabundance of the life force, of a Dionysian affirmation of one’s existence of one’s process of becoming what one is.

The courage of laughter is called for. A profound laughter that is in a position to negate what Nietzsche regarded as the worst possible thought: that existence, my existence, repeats itself over and over again without end, forever.

With this terrible thought as guide, am I still strong enough to absolutely affirm my current existence as it is, as well as the choices I am about to make for myself? Do I have the necessary spiritual resources to fully affirm myself and my willed trajectory of self-becoming?

Whether or not Nietzsche thought that the Eternal Return of Everything was an ontological reality or not (after all it could never be conclusively proven) is not the point. We must act as if it were real. Its function is as the ultimate moral instance in Nietzsche’s entire philosophy.

For indeed, despite some of his histrionic protestations Nietzsche is a moral philosopher.  Did he not call for a reevaluation of all values?

In his writings he went a long way towards such a reevaluation. For Nietzsche, everything that encouraged extreme energetic creativity was good, all that stood in its way was bad.

And, furthermore, all doctrines, habits, thoughts that steered ones gaze away from the world as experienced by our senses was delusion, demagoguery, and decadent.

Nietzsche, similar to Tocqueville, Mill, and Mathew Arnold, envisioned a future where people would be culturally, politically, emotionally, and, philosophically castrated. Nietzsche referred to such pitiful creatures as the “last men” or “men without chests”. Individuals purely concerned with their material well being, believing themselves to be perfectly happy in the historically diminished possibilities of their lives. These future beings would be the antithesis to the hero and would experience the current existence of such a person among them as “mad”. In the future there are no great deeds, only herd like obedience. Aldous Huxley wrote an entire book about them: Brave New World.

But what of our world? Are we too “last men” or are we, instead, preparing for the arrival of the overman (Übermensch)?  For Nietzsche, man was something that was to be overcome. He was a “rope tied between beast and overman–a rope over an abyss”.
In 2009, Stefan Lorenz Sorgner wrote a famous essay comparing Nietzsche’s philosophy with transhumanism. Not surprisingly, he found some strong overlap between the two. In this same essay, Sorgner also coined the expression “autonomous eugenics”. By this he meant the freely chosen physical transformation of the individual through the intervention of technology. Ultimately, according to Sorgner, the how, how much, and why of self-enhancement mediated by future technologies is, and should be, a moral choice, not, as in the past, a coercive policy carried out by the state (State Eugenics).

Where I take issue with Sorgner’s provocative article is whether Nietzsche really had the post-human of the Twenty-First century in mind. Frankly, I don’t think that he could have. I believe that Nietzsche, rather than looking to the far future of a technologized humanity, had the example of Aristotle’s “great souled man” in mind when thinking about the eventual arrival of the overman. Like Rousseau and Hegel before him, Nietzsche looked to some of the ancient Greeks for examples of exemplary human beings.

Continuing this thought, I suspect that Nietzsche would be initially suspicious of the transhumanist project of human enhancement or transformation. He, being a man of his time, would have expected the coming of the overman to be a question of self-discipline leading to a psychological transformation not a physical one. Indeed, we can ask in what way would a post-human necessarily be better at the self-creation of new life-affirming values than the old human being? Would physical, technological enhancement by itself lead to superior forms of cultural existence? I think Nietzsche would have been skeptical at the prospect.

Arguing now for the other side and thus beyond Nietzsche, I think Sorgner and other transhumanists are possibly right in assuming that a posthuman would be in a good position to create new values and ways of living. Simply because it is hard to imagine what the removal of the threat of imminent death would do to the self-understanding of a sentient being. What cultural, political projects would such a person pursue? Neither Nietzsche or anyone else for that matter has a clear answer.  So what’s the verdict? Last men or new (over) men? Some of both, I think.

Insofar as many of us are caught up in a lifestyle of consumption and the cultivation of daily, small pleasures, we cannot view ourselves as unduly heroic or value creating. On the other hand, technological advances are slowly holding out the promise of physical transformation, of a human being qualitatively different from the one now existing. Even so, it will remain a question for some time yet whether or not those who are pursuing transhumanist dreams are the harbingers of the overman or the last instance of a neurotically self-preoccupied, overly self-satisfied, fantastically egoistic, petty, cowardly, morally small pipsqueak of a human whom Nietzsche assumed would eventually and permanently inherit the earth.

Herd-Mediocrity and The Meta-Narrative of Bourgeois-Capitalism

The Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is committed to mediocrity. In fact, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism celebrates it. Everywhere the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism reigns supreme, mediocrity follows, due to the fact mediocrity is the order and the criterion of any type of hierarchy founded on the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Indeed, as Nietzsche states, under such rubric “one and all [is] adjusted…to the most dubious mediocrity”.1, as the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism concerns itself, foremost, with the propagation, the celebration, and the production of mediocrity, in and across, the stratums of everyday life and socio-economic existence. The reason is due the fact that mediocrity is most profitable and the most obdurate socio-economic substance any socio-economic formation or narrative can fashion for itself.  Meaning, mediocrity increases capitalist profit and the chances of duration, longevity, and resilience, pertaining to any ruling power.

Mediocrity is a congealed, unyielding, mass of citizens, intolerant to social change, novelty and liberty in the sense that mediocrity wants its own suppression, enslavement, and homogenization, which any ruling power can readily accommodate easily. Mediocrity is a herd, according to Nietzsche:

It is a bulbous mass stringently against [differences] of all kinds. [That is,] conservative…par excellence, slow to adopt, reluctant to let go, and [highly] enduring in the midst of …tremendous change and mixture of elements. Mediocrity [is]… consolidated and solidified [around a grounding] truth. [Its herd is always mediocre and solid.2

In this regard, for Nietzsche, herd-mediocrity is “inertia…[where] the middle… is considered the highest and most valuable”3 in the sense that this middle-of-the-road “herd mentality is forever directed towards stand still and [its] preservation”.4 And, due to this fact, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is dead-set on manufacturing, maintaining, and celebrating mediocrity of all types and kinds in its attempt to preserve and profit from its totalitarian supremacy.

Moreover, mediocrity of all types and kinds is where capital accumulates in the greatest number, as mediocrity is the dictatorial center, the average median and middle, which houses the greatest number of generic people, thus, the greatest sum of potential capital; i.e., surplus value. Mediocrity is profitable. It is the most generic and the most average; therefore, mediocrity, atop of being obdurate and unyielding to any type of change, is also the biggest reservoir of untapped capitalist profit, hence, the increasing emphasis and focus by bourgeois-state-capitalism, on averages, medians, and generic middles etc., that is, the dictatorship of the middle and/or the dictatorship of mediocrity. For example:

In its effort to maximize profit and its supremacy, the logic of capitalism ever-increasingly propels itself towards the lowest common denominator, [in search of maximum profit], where capital, authority and legitimacy is most robust, concentrated and abundant, namely where the majority resides. This means that all types of commodities are increasingly trite, pointless, disposable and/or identical. Whether politically and/or economically, all commodities are increasingly purged of substance, rareness, spirit and/or individuality so as to mimic the average stereotypes of the median majority. The lowest common denominator, located in the most basic average general median, is the most profitable, the most powerful and the most fixed position with the parameters of [bourgeois-state-capitalism].5

Consequently, mediocrity is the most inflexible form and profitable form the general-population can be fashioned into. And, this is exactly what the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, which is imprinted upon all the stratums of everyday life, does and/or attempts to do, at all times and in all spaces in and across of the capitalist-system. As a result, mediocrity personified, exterminates heterogeneity, plurality, and diversity, through maudlin, sappy, popular tastes and generic ways of life, which, in fanatic fashion hunt, trap, and asphyxiate, all that is truly different, novel, heterogeneous, plural and post-modern. The goal of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is to produce, disseminate, and propagate, endless rounds, stops and starts, of fashionable mediocrity; i.e., profitable mediocrity, which can again breed ever-new rounds of profitable mediocrity, ad nauseam.

Profitability breeds profitability. Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. And, mediocrity can only see, believe, and understand its own kind, namely, universal mediocrity as “herd-[mediocrity] seeks [only] to preserve one type…itself”6, and more importantly, it “hates those who detach themselves [from it]…[and thus it] turns the hatred of the all…against them”.7 Therefore, mediocrity only celebrates its own kind in a sort of lame over-excessive jubilation, such is what the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism does, or attempts to do, through its omnipresent spectacle, showered onto the general-population and the art-world. The point is to captivate and manufacture herd-mediocrity long enough in order to siphon capitalist profits out of this herd-mediocrity, all the while placing these capitalist profits into the hands of a state-finance-corporate-aristocracy.

Consequently, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism “presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than ‘that which appears is good [and] that which is good, appears”.8 This omnipresent positivity is then channeled into capitalist consumption whereupon commodities connected to the herd-majority, and a sense of belonging to this herd-majority, are designed to embody this omnipresent positivity, which is manufactured by the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism through its controlling media-outlets, star-personalities and incessant, bourgeois-propaganda.  Hence, the primary reason why the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism has to be smashed, deconstructed, and fragmented beyond recognition since the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism endlessly promotes mediocrity ad nauseam, namely, a type of bourgeois-capitalism mediocrity, which ultimately, stifles innovation, creativity, plurality, heterogeneity and the flourishing of post-modernism. Namely, the progress, plurality and diversity stemming from all the independent micro-narratives interweaving the island-pockets of post-modernity, dotting the capitalist-system.

According to Nietzsche, meta-narratives lack verity and grounding truth. They are imposed onto the world so as to make sense of it, a meta-narrative “decides the character of appearance, [namely] reality”.9 However, for Nietzsche, there is “no limit to ways in which the world can be interpreted”10, because as Nietzsche states, “underneath it all…there is no grand unity…[all] is perspectival appearance, whose origin lies in us. To this extent…the denial of …a truthful world, [or] being, is…the only way of thinking”.11 The reason is due to the fact any meta-narrative lacks universal validity in the sense that any meta-narrative is an illusory manifestation of the will to power in its attempt to establish and impose its own despotic dominion on the world.

According to Nietzsche, “it is our needs that interpret the world…[that is] our lust to rule”12, which imposes meaning and sense onto the world. And, out of this will to power, meta-narratives like the Enlightenment and bourgeois-capitalism have developed and encroached upon western civilizations in a authoritarian manner. They have been utilized to build despotic dominions, both conceptual and material, pertaining to how the general-population thinks and acts within society.  Without meta-narratives, according to Nietzsche:

An infinite plurality of perspectives [awaits]…[as] there are not facts, [or truths, to hold us]. Everything is in flux, incomprehensible, elusive [and a matter of] our opinion. What man things is nothing but what he himself has imported into them… [via his or her] will to power.13

In effect, for Nietzsche, plurality, flux, incommensurability, and partial incomprehensibility is the underlying human condition in the sense that humans can never possess a complete comprehension and mastery over reality, phenomena and/or situations. They understand only partially from the finite limits of their positional perspectives, which are forever fleeting, due to the inherent flux and existential anarchy of existence. All that meta-narratives do is impose a one-dimensional interpretation on events and phenomena, impeding plurality, heterogeneity, and the flourishing of post-modernism so as to flatter a totalitarian point of view, that is, an arbitrary/artificial meta-narrative designed to monopolize interpretation, power and knowledge.

For Nietzsche, such overarching perspectives, like the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, are designed to cultivate converts, namely, a herd of followers. Meta-narratives, like bourgeois-capitalism, require converts; i.e., believers, in order to establish their despotic dominion over reality. As a result, these converts are forced to exercise a certain level of self-denial and deception, on others and themselves, in order to manifest the plausibility and effect of truth, pertaining to the illusory universal verity of the ruling meta-narrative, in this case, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism.

For Nietzsche, any “truth is…the consequence of an illusion”10, derived from its particular perspective; i.e., narrative, and believers must learn to deny their internal disbelief and impose the “artificially built chimera”14, both on themselves and others, which in essence, is all that a meta-narrative is, namely, a chimera. That is, a perspective arbitrarily and artificially imposed and applied to the world and reality, which is inherently without universal verity, other than, “as a tool of power [exercised by] the will to power”.15 Subsequently, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is but an arbitrary/artificial conglomeration of wills to power, forming one giant will to power, designed to despotically impose an arbitrary/artificial order on the variability of phenomena, reality and socio-economic existence, devoid of any verity other than the accumulation and monopolization of power in the hands of a select few.

Moreover, according to Nietzsche, “for every age and every new type of [society] …new truths…[new] delusions,…new values”16 are enunciated, for which the general-population must learn to abide by and accept as timeless verities. It is in this regard that the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism transforms the general-population into an obedient, docile, herd-mediocrity, reflecting its bogus verities and baseless beliefs. Initially, “the program of [bourgeois-capitalist] Enlightenment…was the disenchantment of the world; the dissolution of myths and the substitution of knowledge for fancy. [Yet] knowledge, which is power, knows no obstacles [and has resulted] in the enslavement of men [and] compliance with the world’s rulers”.17 As a result, the Enlightenment, through its meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, cunningly continues to exercise totalitarian control and domination over mankind, which is forced to increasingly accept and internalize a false, one-dimensional, abbreviated world-view imposed upon it. Herd-mediocrity is a product of this imposition and enslavement.

Indeed, once established, according to Nietzsche, “the herd…consolidates its mediocrity and always goes against everything new and exceptional. The power of the herd [and its] institutions,…[is meant to] grind the unique into uniformity and turn it into herd”.18 Herd-mediocrity is the essential substance and reason for the longevity of bourgeois-capitalism and its ever-accumulating profits. It provides the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy of bourgeois-capitalism with a bottomless reservoir of available and exploitable, capitalist profits while simultaneously providing the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism with an endless procession of religious, capitalist converts, ready to sing its praises. It is in this regard that, according to Horkheimer and Adorno, “in service of the present age, [the] Enlightenment [has] become [the] wholesale deception of the masses”.19 Through its cherished meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, the Enlightenment turns “the evolution of the machine…into…the machinery of domination…[wherefore] technical and social tendencies, [now] interwoven, converge in the total schematization of men”.20 And, the end result is mediocrity, profitable-mediocrity, the most treasured output of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, that is, herd-mediocrity.

The meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is a machine, an ideational comprehensive framework, both material and conceptual, where all questions, problems and/or situations have their black and white answers/interpretations, yes and no procedures, where, all social-ills have their easy-fix solutions and scapegoats. And once, ingrained and programmed into the general-population, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism wreaks havoc in and across the everyday life of the workforce/population, grinding it down into an ironclad herd uniformity, mentality, and mediocrity, which can only serve capitalist profitability and bourgeois-capitalism-authority, all the while leaving the workforce/population confused, dumbfounded, brainwashed and/or socially embittered.

Notwithstanding, the consolidated red-thread weaving this herd uniformity, mentality, and mediocrity, is the red-thread of the Enlightenment, that is, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, whose underlying “prime directive is forever to maximize the accumulation and extraction of …capital, by any means necessary…as soon as possible”.21 Consequently, herd-mediocrity is the primary product of the red-thread, that is, bourgeois-capitalism, not the other way around. In fact, without the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, the herd becomes post-modern, plural, poly-rational, and fully heterogeneous, devoid of bourgeois sensibilities, tastes and/or any overarching bourgeois status quo. When post-modernism reaches its nth degree, post-modernism will as well reach the pinnacle of its development, maturity, diversity, plurality and heterogeneity, which can only mean the total deconstruction of bourgeois-capitalism. Without the red-thread of bourgeois-capitalism, total insurrection, and the realization of full-fledge post-modernism, pure, simple, and unadulterated, devoid of any overarching authority and/or unified logic, other than, the poly-logic of multiplicity, plurality, heterogeneity, and pragmatic egalitarianism, whereupon all decision-making-authority is shared in relative equal measure.

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols, Trans. R.J. Hollingdale (New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1990) p. 75.
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) p. 461.
  3. Ibid, p. 159.
  4. Ibid, p. 162.
  5. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural-Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016).
  6. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 161-162.
  7. Ibid, p. 157.
  8. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, (Detroit: Black and Red, 1983) p. 12.
  9. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) p. 149.
  10. Ibid, p. 326.
  11. Ibid, pp. 13-15.
  12. Ibid, pp. 267-269.
  13. Ibid, pp. 327-328.
  14. Ibid, p. 302.
  15. Ibid, p. 266-267.
  16. Ibid, pp. 461-462.
  17. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 2000) pp. 3-4.
  18. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 461-462.
  19. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 2000) p. 42.
  20. Ibid, p. 35.
  21. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural- Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016.).

Nietzsche and Christ vs Christianity

Beyond Good and Evil is the title of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical work.  It is a highly controversial book in which he successfully debunks the tenets of Christianity and in which he relativises the notions of good and evil.  There are two types of morality, he argues, the ruler-morality and the slave-morality.  It is the difference between them which is considered good and evil.  The ruler-morality considers good to be the ‘noble’ and the ‘warlike’, the strong and the powerful, the dominant with the will-to-life (which is power and control by another name).  The good in the slave-morality consists of attributes such as compassion, charity, forgiveness, fortitude in suffering etc.  – values which, he says, arise in the subjugated and the oppressed.

For Nietzsche, society and the masses should serve an elite few – the aristocracy – so that a few ‘supermen’ can be bred from this group which will contribute to the overall creativity and intelligence of the world.  It resembles a Hellenic conception of power (whose ‘democracy’ allowed for slaves).  But Nietzsche does not adopt Platonic and Socratic ideas of what is good and evil for these are absolute in concept and more interesting.

For Plato, what is good is the ‘agathon’ – the pure.  But for Nietzsche purity is an idealistic term whose original meaning escapes him.  It is the ‘pure’ of theology he deconstructs and shows how this good is linked in with the life-denying concept of original sin and pain and suffering for the rewards of a hypothetical here-after.  Such concepts were popularized by medieaval church scholars, like Thomas Aquinas.  Ecclesiastical goodness and purity is that which is non-sexual, non-physical and is burdened by a good dose of martyrdom.

It was not the Christ figure of Jesus that Nietszsche reviles, but rather the ideology perpetuated and propagated by the ruling class of the day.  The Christianity adopted by the ‘disciples’, many hundreds of years after the event, was an amalgam of Judaic and Islamic scriptural discourses.  In these discourses, god is a great punitive judge, patriarchal, and full of avenging wrath and power.  This great judge not only punishes one for his crime (whatever that was in the day) but he promises to punish generations of his children aeons into the future (sic!).  There are only a few direct quotes from the great enlightened master, Jesus and the most significant ones are not included in the Bible (all versions) but were found in Thomas’ and other gospels found in the late 19th Century. (Such revolutionary notions as we are all god’s children and heaven exists in the heart of all human beings.)

Nietzsche rightly points out that Jesus was a man of peace.  His words were in diametrical opposition to the scriptural dogma of the day.  He preached love and maintained that to love your loved ones is easy, but the aspiration should be to love your enemies.  Turning the other cheek, was a controversial idea in those days, given the ruling class’s belief in an avenging male god who judged and punished for the smallest misdemeanour.  Jesus embodied peace and maintained his silence even when the church and state crucified him.  I consider it a profound tragedy and stupidity that this brutality has been privileged as his divine purpose!  Sacrificing the man of peace is clearly symbolic of a more ancient heritage – the sacrificial lamb.  For to kill and sacrifice one’s own is to placate the war-like monster/god, or a fertility symbol, to help make crops grow.  The concession to violence because god is on one’s side, is still a prevalent and dangerous medieaval theological teaching  today.

So Nietzsche tears into the anti-life theology which breeds hatred of the body and eulogizes pain and suffering.  In this theology, there is no mention of a heaven-in-life, on earth, but the mere belief in a heaven which comes only after death (if you are good that is – whatever that means).

Having tried Christianity and found it wanting on many counts, Nietzsche declares god to be dead.  This became the catchphrase of European intellectuals and artist from early 20th century culminating the nihilism of postmodernist thought.  For the latter, there is no god, no absolutes, and nothing outside of language.

Nietszche found Eastern philosophies much more to recommend them.  He liked the idea of (ego) self-transcendence and the life-affirming qualities of joy, peace and prosperity here on earth.  But being a man of words, essentially, not experience, he remained entangled by his own discursive web, finally succumbing not to self-transcendence, but insanity.  He died in a mental asylum, completely unaware of his meteoric fame and Europe’s eulogy of his works.

So we may ask is there anything beyond good and evil?  Obviously, these are relativist terms since what is good for one culture may not be good for another.  As Nietzsche cleverly points out, these notions are relative to one’s class and position in the pecking order.

Enlightened discourse recognises that even a murderer has the opportunity to know his/her own true self.  It recognises the potential of ALL human beings to know and experience (as a feeling, not a thought) a realm beyond good and evil and beyond judgment.  All human beings house the boundless and infinite power of what we commonly refer to as god.  To know this state, is to be full of peace and love (and a great many other things besides).

Socrates is rarely quoted by Plato.  One quote, however, remains ‘know thy self’ and it was inscribed on the entrance of the Delphic temple ages prior.  Plato believed that the pure, the agathon, existed in the realm of ideas (messing with philosophy for centuries later).   One cannot easily dismiss, however, his belief, that human beings exist in a land of shadows and half-baked perceptions.  Plato’s writings are a poor testament to the great revolutionary and enlightened teachings of Socrates – so revolutionary, the authorities so threatened by his influence on the young, that they poisoned him to death.

To know one’s self implies an answer, as the great man of peace, Prem Rawat, points out in contemporary times.  It implies that if one pursues self-knowledge, that the profound meaning of that inner experience will propel one into the self-transformation of a Socrates, a Kabir, a Meera, a Rumi and countless others who acknowledged the power and the knowledge of the Self (the divine within) and found in their experience, the experience of the Absolute – the one truly beyond Good and Evil.