Nietzsche and Knowledge

nietzsche1

“Our treasure lies in the beehives of our knowledge. We are perpetually on our way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind,”[i] wrote Nietzsche. Our honey, the sweet fruit of our labour is the knowledge we gather. So perhaps Nietzsche would have been at least sympathetic to the idea that Knowledge is Becoming. Nevertheless, knowledge itself was not enough for Nietzsche and he chose to place absolute accomplishment in “power and freedom”.[ii] Despite his grand pretension of the revaluation of all values, he championed the Status Quo by enslaving knowledge to power, and by associating power with freedom.

We need to be firm with Nietzsche here, because it is precisely this traditional combination, embracing the death of God and the rise of nihilism, under the guise of a promise of creativity, which managed to seduce even the so-called “lefty”, post-structuralist thinkers of the 20th century. Seduced they were, by the seemingly complex psychology that Nietzsche revealed in the anti-humanism of his revolutionary reestablishment of the aristocracy and his great promise of creative freedom to all the Übermenschen.

Like many aristocrats before him Nietzsche went mad and left behind a legacy of madness: the insanity of the 20th century – a nihilistic century of Last Men who believed themselves to be Übermenschen. That was Nietzsche’s most unfortunate legacy. The legacy of placing knowledge under the yolk of power and freedom. As if it were a new thing! As if power had never before known the revelation that its sovereignty lay in its acquisition and ownership of knowledge.

In this way the guillotine had been a pruning instrument, cutting away the old wood so that new thorns could grow in its place. Through the Übermensch the roots of the cancer were revitalised and the Liberal-Democracy was able to find the crown it always lusted after. The French Revolution, the War of Independence, the Fascist and Communist revolutions, all became a manifestation, retrospectively or in foresight, of the Will to Power. The World Economy: the IMF and the World Bank, the United Nations, the USA and the EU, the invention of the Stock Exchange and creation of the Star System in the entertainment industry, of sporting hero millionaires and entrepreneuring inventor billionaires – it is there that we see Nietzsche’s new aristocracy. In the famous 1 percent that possesses such an enormous chunk of the pie of wealth.

But what happened to the real treasure that Nietzsche himself was so familiar with: that honey that lay in the beehive of our knowledge? What ever happened to knowledge itself? Why did Nietzsche forsake it? Why could he not see that the real revaluation would have to be one that placed power and freedom below knowledge itself?

Nietzsche, despite his Human All Too Human, was an Anti-humanist. He was too infected by a misanthropic cynicism to see the Sapiens in humanity, and had to resort to the Übermensch. Instead of a going-forth, bee-like, to gather Sapien-knowledge of the world in the ecological way that bees know best, he proclaimed that the bees should become hornets, take whatever they could find and sting to death any resistance. The Übermensch is the Wasp-man.


[i] Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Preface, I

[ii] Ibid, Second Essay, II

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