The More Natural Man: Our Nihilistic Age as foreseen by Nietzsche

1)

THE MORE NATURAL MAN

In section #120 of The Will to Power, Nietzsche argues that man, in the 19th century, had become more natural and his subsequent definition of the ‘more natural man’ is subtle, ironic and replete with satirical criticism as it is, essentially, an attack on Rousseau’s ‘return to nature’. Yet, seen from our 21st century standpoint, the short essay offers much more than a criticism of Rousseau’s noble savage, it is, like all of Nietzsche’s thought, full of prophetic insight regarding the kind of man to come, which is to say, the kind of people we now are.

One of the first points he makes is that there never has yet been a natural humanity, and this is true. The anti-human historical process that has created our WEIRD civilisation has always been a steady movement away from nature.

It could be argued that our de-naturalisation process began with the advent of language. As soon as we started representing everything in the abstract field of names, we lost our direct touch with the natural world. In many ways, the ability to use and understand languages defines humanity and, although it would be hard for most of us to concede human status to an AI machine, even if it were housed in a perfect replica of a human body, nevertheless, if a human mind could be transplanted into a mechanical body, it would be more human than a human being who had lost the capacity of language.

Pessimists often use the excuse of human nature to criticise the so-called Utopian fantasies created by faith in human potential, but the truth is, humanity is far more of a conditional animal than a prisoner of the restrictions of nature. In a sense, language liberates us from nature by alienating us from it. Whenever we look at an object and think of it in terms of its name, we are stepping away from it into the objective realm of being-apart which allows the naming process to take place.

When claims of the apparently flawed side of human nature are made, (usually defending a thesis that humanity is an incorrigible species and that society’s problems are inherent in our biological makeup) they often refer to restrictions born from the process of socialisation and other cultural manipulations than impediments coming from natural instincts. But this thinking is erroneous and mendacious: most negative pre-programming is, in fact, social rather than genetic.

For Nietzsche, however, the natural man is something which should be aspired to. Not because it is ennobling and we all have a noble savage inside us, but because, quite the opposite, we should nurture our natural sides because nature is immoral. The more natural man therefore is the immoral man – the nihilist. In section #120, he proceeds to describe this natural-immoral man, this nihilist, and much of what he sees can be found reflected in society today. Nietzsche knew the nihilists were coming, and in this essay, he seems to welcome it.

2)

OUR NIHILISTIC AGE

Nietzsche’s attitude to nihilism is extremely ambiguous, he both welcomes and fears it, often seemingly at the same time. The only thing that seemed absolutely clear to him was that a nihilistic age was dawning. It would be an age that would bring with it the profoundly negative figure of the Last Man, in which he saw the hopeless, herd-following nihilist society that civilisation would only be saved if another, new kind of humanity can evolve out of the nihilistic mess. This Last-Man-transcending being he called the Übermensch, the Overman, which has also been translated as the Superman.  

a)    THE ONE PERCENT  

  

In section #120, Nietzsche’s More Natural Man is presented as ‘our first society’, the wealthy class. In our own times, it would represent that 1% of filthy rich and the other 10% of very well-to-do individuals who belong to the star class of business folk, finance folk and celebrities (our film stars, pop stars and sports stars). Nietzsche calls them ‘the leisure class’, for whom love (sex) is reduced to a ‘kind of sport’ in which marriage ‘is an obstacle and a provocation’. It is a purely hedonistic class, who ‘live for pleasure’. This class is more natural because a nihilist system, without any grand or authentic purposes, demands an unethical breed of unscrupulous immoralists, the members of which are ‘curious and bold’.

Bold, perhaps, as lovers of extreme sports and high-risk gambling in the financial markets. According to these definitions,the Wolf of Wall Street would be a logical, and natural product of the nihilistic system he saw unfolding into the future.

Humans have a thirst for knowledge, but the more natural man does so with a ‘libertinage of the spirit’ that hates ‘pompous and hierarchical manners’ and delights in ‘what is most forbidden’. Or, in other words, Nietzsche was predicting a lust for the perverse and the radical. They ‘should hardly know any longer of any interest of knowledge if the way to it were paved with boredom.’ The more natural humanity, therefore, will only learn, and its members will only allow themselves to be educated, if the learning process is fun. They will learn what they want to learn, not what they need to know. This explains the enormous manifestation of ignorance in our information rich world. It is not because society is saturated by information, as many of our sociologists tell us, but because it is bored by the important stuff and seduced by the fun of triviality. And it is for this reason that so many of those in the information age prefer to remain in the most part ignorant.

What is more, in the nihilist civilisation, not only knowledge, but anything that has to be acquired has to be fun, or exciting. Given a choice, (and nowdays there is always a choice) the more naturally nihilist individual will always choose to do that which is pleasurable over something which is necessary or beneficial …

Or at least whilst the situation at hand does not involve a life-or-death consequences scenario like we have seen created by the Covid-19 pandemic. With the coronavirus crisis we have witnessed the hedonistic values of our nihilistic civilisation profoundly challenged, and the necessity of protecting our health has been able to put the universal libertinage of the spirit on stand bye.

b)    NIHILISM AND COVID-19

The pandemic experience has also revealed all the dangers enmeshed within the nihilistic attitude of our times, and we can now see more clearly what we lost when we surrendered to capitalism and the nihilisms it generated. The first casualty of our nihilist era was reality itself. Wealth, and the power it wields, has denied, or tried to deny, any needs that do not favour the acquisitions of what it wants or which impede the playing out of its own exciting fantasies and games. It is for this reason, for example, that capitalism has resisted the necessary conversion to green energy sources, because lurking beneath any new green deal is a greater purpose for humanity which threatens the basis of the nihilistic era itself. Likewise, Wealth has created false needs (those which the marketplace is more or less defined by) in order to push all surplus upward and allow the wealthy to acquire whatever they can imagine desiring.

The Covid-19 crisis has also shown us what little regard the more natural nihilists that drive our System have for humanity and human suffering. In the major capitalist states like the USA and the UK, the desire to protect the economy and keep trade flowing has been eagerly expressed even above the aim to protect lives against the disease. The natural nihilists have even made calls to citizens to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the economy and President Trump went as far to call the American people ‘warriors’ as he incited them to sacrifice themselves to the greater good of American business.

The more natural nihilist, argues Nietzsche, is practically amoral and principles for him or her have become ridiculous. Duty is only ever spoken about with irony, says Nietzsche. But the nihilist is not completely immoral. He or she has the morality, he says, that comes from his or her instincts – without explaining what these moral instincts are. In fact, the idea contradicts another theme of the essay, that nature is immoral. If there is no morality in nature, Nietzsche suggests, what can our moral instincts be? And if they have no instincts regarding morality, why should the more natural nihilist have any instincts at all? So, when he does talk of the nihilist’s morality, we think that he is referring to the morality that the nihilistic system manufactures and propagates to serve the desires of Wealth: the morals involved in the patriotic duties that demand sacrifices in times of crises – when those crises threaten the interests of Wealth.

c)     NIHILISM AND POLITICS

When he discusses politics in #120, Nietzsche intuits the evolution of his more natural nihilists into dictators and fascists. Politics is a problem of power, he says, and “we do not believe in any right that is not supported by the power of enforcement.” In order to rule the upcoming nihilistic societies, politicians will have to do it through force. All rights will be conquests, he says, implying that this necessary struggle for power, between “one quantum of power against another,” will make society strong.

Again, his prophecy came to fruition, although in a far shakier way than Nietzsche probably anticipated. At the turn of the 20th century the nihilist era quickly sank into a dark age of struggle, wars, revolutions, and incredible anti-human dictatorships, replaced, in the latter half of the same century, by less natural nihilist democracies. Representative democracy became the norm and politics was reduced internationally to a constant, if banal, struggle between left and right to win the votes of the centre, while the real natural nihilists, the capitalist corporations, accumulated incredible wealth and power by installing an economic paradigm above the political one. The resulting global empire, of corporations and international finance, became our most natural nihilist, driving the hedonism of consumerism to such orgiastic levels that it now threatens an ecological breakdown through an over-consumption of natural resources and a largely unchecked contamination of the environment. But while this global commerce increased its immense power, its fragility also increased at a reciprocal, chaotic rate. All it needed to bring about its collapse was a tiny germ; an unexpected new virus – with Covid-19 the world economy practically came to a complete standstill.

Nietzsche seemed to be speaking sincerely when he applauded the more natural nihilists’ politics of force, but what we have seen emerge from this constant struggle between each nihilist quantum is not a more noble kind of power, but quite the contrary. Civilisation has, for the most part, grown politically tired, at times even exhausted, with a tendency towards inefficiency and apathy rather than real struggle. A life that is continually fighting to obtain rights or power is not much of a life if there is no clear purposiveness to accompany the struggle. The obtaining of rights in the nihilist era is a step forward on a treadmill that takes us nowhere. All the more natural nihilist has is the possibility of the enjoyment derived from winning the game, but we are playing in a league that seems to have no end, because when it does the same team always wins.

This is where the seeds of apathy in our more natural nihilist world lie. The competition culminates in elections that become a race between the same old teams, and even when those teams are joined by new parties, the game still manages to retain the same predictable results only with an increased, cacophonic squabbling between the players involved. Our nihilist societies want excitement, but this same old game is boring. As with any continuum, when struggle is reduced to repetition it becomes insipid and pointless. Only an honest, authentic purposiveness is truly worth fighting for.

d)    NIHILISM AND THE GREAT CRIMINALS

The more natural man, says Nietzsche, considers passion a privilege, and he goes on to explain this by adding the audacious: “we consider nothing is great unless it includes a great crime.”

The 20th century and what we have so far of this century, are full of these bold anti-heroes, and we have seen how so many of them have unashamedly committed their great crimes against humanity over and over again. Greatness, claims Nietzsche, consists of transcending social morals. In the purposeless universe there can be no true morality – and this is correct, but in the purposeless world even the greatest criminal nihilist will eventually disappear in the same void that the purposelessness they so revere creates.

The more natural nihilist reduces nature to the devilish and dumb, and for that reason he or she respects it, because they too are devilish and dumb. Neither the more natural nihilist nor nature itself aspires to virtue. In actual fact, the nihilist society respects nature only for what it can take from it. Natural beauty becomes an excuse to go somewhere, where that beauty exists, but when it is reached, if it ever actually existed, it is lost because of the invasion of those searching for it.

Above all, in the nihilistic age nature represents opportunities to make fortunes if one knows how to exploit it. Our nihilist society does have its base, vulgar purpose: making money, and all nihilistic purpose is embedded in it. Money equals exchange and implies acquisition. Nietzsche ignores this vulgar trend for consumerism, or relegates it to the realm of the Last Men. Devilish and dumb are the Last Men consumers, so is this what they have in common with the more natural nihilists that govern them?

e)    NIHILISM AND POSITIVISM

The more natural nihilist remains cold to the beautiful, illusory lies of art and looks for something more brutal – positivism.

Positivism thus becomes the antithesis of beauty. This is an interesting aesthetic statement from Nietzsche: nature itself is not deliberately beautiful, but it is positive. Nature as something fecund, with a desire to manifest itself, grow and propagate itself. Beauty is a human prejudice on nature and so, to be honest in a nature-centred sense, it should be rejected.

But again, rejecting beauty is a rejection of purposiveness, and without purposiveness there can be no real positivism.

f)      THE ANTI-NIHILIST PURPOSIVENESS OF UNCONCEALMENT

That Nietzsche saw nature to be devoid of purposiveness was his greatest mistake. Purpose through a will to Unconcealment is embedded in the ontology of the cosmos. The human ability to perceive beauty may in fact be one of the deepest instincts for survival in our species.

Another, more traditional, way of expressing this would be to proclaim our ability to perceive beauty as an essential element in our souls. An element that nihilism erodes by cutting it off from the nourishment it could receive from any meaningfulness.

Without that nourishment, beauty sinks into the swamps of melancholy and the subsequent depressions that our nihilistic society is infested with.

Nietzsche’s argument that we have grown stronger by being more natural nihilists is wrong – we have grown more adolescent, full of the great capriciousness and bored peevishness characteristic of adolescence. There is nothing noble in this, quite the contrary, its egoism is dangerous and its immaturity has created catastrophic levels of corruption, decadence and political stupidity.       

Nietszche and Nihilism

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Nietzsche made nihilism acceptable and reasonable, even respectable, for the neoliberal, capitalist society evolving: firstly, by exalting the selfish instincts of the desire to dominate he made heroes of the exploiter class of capitalists; and secondly, by ranting against decadence and equating it with a lack of instinct to dominate, he offered a moral justification (ironically enough) for the economies of continual growth.

Our Centuries

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The 20th Century

 

Nietzsche summarised the modern world by looking for the essence of each century and attributing a philosopher to each one[i]: The 17th century is aristocratic and ruled by Descartes; the 18th is feminine and dominated by Rousseau; and the 19th is animalistic and under the sway of Schopenhauer.

Following the same line of thought we could call the 20th century nihilistic and Nietzschean. The spirit of the 20th century is, above all, one of a paradoxical dominance: individualism rules, but so does the herd, and both are motivated by a dictatorial will. Because of this paradox, the 20th century is Nietzschean but also anti-Nietzschean: the Last Man has an ubiquitous presence whilst the Übermensch is a dangerous illusion that only appears in a form that has been perverted by the Last Man (Nazism). It is adolescent in spirit, greedy and neurotic.

But while the 20th century is Nietzschean, it is also Marxist and Capitalist and it is the century of economy more than anything else, one that is dominated by the god of money.

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The 21st Century

 

This century is yet to have begun for we are still immersed in the nihilist, plutocratic century of Nietzsche. Nevertheless, we can imagine what it needs to be like if we are ever to survive the internecine forces driving our lives at the moment.

If civilisation is to survive the 21st century, it must be a period of responsibility: ecological duties are pending, and these responsibilities are also linked to human rights and justice.

The philosophical will need to generate awareness and the transformation will only come about through the communication of that awareness. In that sense, the 21st century will have to be a new era of enlightenment. Likewise, it will be a time of maturing: the adolescent 20th century needs to become an adult. It will need to be forward looking, even teleological, and imbued with far-reaching teleological purposiveness. Everything must change, and it will be the most revolutionary era since the Neolithic.

The 21st century will see the emergence of a more consistent humanity that will start to identify itself as humanity instead of as a nation, religion, or race. Human nature will start to be perceived as the nature of the species – homo sapiens; homo habilis – rather than the manifestations of activity by the many kinds of social animal or the homo economicus.

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[i] See f. Nietszche, THE WILL TO POWER, #95 – The Three Centuries

Heidegger’s Accordance (via Nietzsche)

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In the third volume of his opus on Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger asks:

‘In what direction does the security of stability of the living being “man” go?’[1]

In other words: what line must the train of history be carried along in order for the stability of humanity to be guaranteed?

Given the ever-present threat of ecological collapse, and the social-political-economic chaos that would result from such a break-down, this question is paramount for humanity at the moment. So …

what was Heidegger’s answer to the question? And …

can his analysis, made in 1939, shed any light on our human condition eighty years later?

 

Heidegger claimed that we are moving ‘In a twofold direction,’ adding: ‘that is already prefigured in the essence of man,’[2] by which he means, by our relationship to other people and things.

For Heidegger then, or for Nietzsche as Heidegger understood him: ‘Man stands in relation to man, man stands in relation to things.’[3]

From this double relationship a kind of two-fold mutual accordance is made in which individuals relate, not only to the other individuals that make up our societies, but also to the things which we, and those other people, relate to. At first, this seems to be just another way of saying no man is an island, but then Heidegger makes a more committed definition, stating: ‘that accordance in the essential sense is the highest and most difficult struggle, more difficult than war and infinitely remote from pacifism. Accordance is the highest struggle for the essential goals that historical humanity sets up over itself.[4] And then, in the same paragraph, he makes a claim which, we believe, makes as much sense now as it would have done in the tragically turbulent 1939: ‘… in the present historical situation, accordance can only mean having the courage for the simple question as to whether the West still dares to create a goal above itself and its history, or whether it prefers to sink to the level of preservation and enhancement of trade interests and entertainments, to be satisfied with appealing to the status quo as if this were absolute.’[5]

However, we would now add that the situation has become so grave that the ‘daring’ attitude has become the dangerously daring one which maintains the status quo, whereas the act of creating a goal above itself and its history would be one of simple good-sense.

*

The positive view that Heidegger’s logic shows us, is that the direction towards a higher goal is no more difficult than the pursuit of the status quo: it is all just a matter of accordance. To go either way, the same procedure has to be followed – we have to be able to count on each other. In either case, we must think ahead ‘to a horizon that contains directives and rules in accordance with which what throngs towards us is caught and secured.[6] To go forward unto a Utopia, is no different to creating the Dystopia that promises to arise if we maintain the status quo. Whichever way we go, the choice must be made by establishing a process of accordance.

*

According to Heidegger/Nietzschean logic: ‘Representing beings and thinking rationally are the praxis of life, the primordial securing of permanence for itself,’[7] and in order to secure permanence today, humanity has to move in a direction that goes above and beyond the status quo that we have today. In order for survival to be guaranteed, a doctrine of permanence needs to be accorded; a doctrine that can replace the internecine doctrine of constant, economic growth that currently drives the status-quo, and which threatens rather than guarantees safety and survival.

 

 

[1] Martin Heidegger, NIETZSCHE, Volumes III and IV, ed. David Farrell Krell; Harper Collins, 1991; p.90

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid, p.91

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid, p. 92

[7] Ibid

OVERCOMING OUR AGE OF NIHILISM: METAPHYSICS & SCIENCE

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Nietzsche said that nihilism is reached when “all one has left are the values that pass judgment – nothing else.” A Nihilistic Age is, therefore, an age when everyone is held accountable for their actions without taking any higher purposes into consideration, because there are no common higher purposes. It is a tragic age. It is our age.

The Nihilistic Age needs to be overcome if humanity is going to progress and any Superman-leap over the Last Man that is blocking our way[1] must be via an injection into values: a vaccination which will see clear, irrefutable purposeful-values that cannot be judged – being beyond judgement, because they are true.

 

In the dialectics between the two-sided judgement that is passing values, the weak will perish. For that reason, Power (which in our society is Wealth) constantly recreates these black and white arguments. There can only be one winner, Power (Wealth) itself. This Nietzsche understood, but he failed to see the way over the dilemma; failed to see that blocking the way on the tight-rope was Power itself, and that to become the Superman, the hero had to leap, not only over the Last Man, but over Power itself. Going beyond good and evil means going beyond the judgement-passing values created by Power; going beyond the separating fundamentals of identities, so deeply rooted in human cultures. This also implies a going-beyond our misapprehension of our human nature. Division and competition is deeply rooted in our Power/Wealth forged psyches – but so are so many other types of psychological traumas fetishes and complexes. The fact that they are there, does not mean that we cannot overcome them.

But how?

To begin we must question our own identities. This means we must question the failed concept we have of ourselves as a species: question our own status as Humans. Throw the term out of the window, it is too splattered with failures and pessimism. Embrace a new clearer definition of our species: we are the Sapiens-Sapiens part of larger genus of all Sapiens beings in the Universe. We are those that know ourselves, capable of understanding the very Universe itself. This is an optimism that does not currently exist.

The way out of pessimism is optimism, but optimism itself is a very dangerous thing that has created many irrational, cruel regimes.

Any enduring optimism, therefore, must itself be rooted in meaning; in an answer to the metaphysical problem of Why?. But this raises another conundrum, because the problem of the metaphysical why is that its answer must always also be metaphysical, unprovable and a question of faith. Or at least, that is what we have been led to believe from the professionals in metaphysics; the monotheistic religions. Theirs is a messianic optimism: the gift from he who dares pronounce himself to be in possession of truth. The fact that we have had two millennia of believers demonstrates the thirst we have for optimism, which is the thirst created by the dry, hot sun of pessimism.

Optimism has been rooted in meaning, but by doing so we have also perverted metaphysics by infecting it with the mythological. This was Plato’s strategy when he created the myth of the Noble Lie[2], and that Noble Lie was itself born out of a deeply pessimistic belief in the uniqueness of intelligence – only the philosophical caste can be capable of truly understanding the metaphysical; as for the rest of them, let them eat myths.

So, if we have to root optimism in meaning, we need to ask ourselves what is the nature of that meaning? We must look at the quality of the meaning: a quality that has to be gauged according to the measuring stick of truth. But how can we approach any demonstration of the metaphysical truth if the metaphysical can’t be demonstrated?

Firstly, by admitting our limitations, that the metaphysical truth can only be an approximation until we have developed our physical understanding well enough to unveil the authentic, physical nature itself. By unveiling the truth in the grey cloud of the metaphysical, what we do in fact is kill the metaphysical component of that truth. The concept of the metaphysical truth is valuable however, because it points the sciences in meaningful directions of investigations, in order to uncover authentic purposeful directions for our Sapiens-Sapiens species to take.

In this approximation-to-truth, we have a positive stance in itself: in a belief that through investigation and the development of technology, authentic meaning can be uncovered. To embrace this in a positive way, we must assume that through thinking, observing and discovering (or, in other words, through the scientific process), we will uncover the meaning of the Universe.

 

As for the inherent dangers embedded in the truth-seeking optimisms, the danger that it will collapse into a dogmatic proclamation of a truth now found, when, in reality, nothing certain has been uncovered at all, is palliated by science’s inherent scepticism.

In scientific terms, reality can only be what we think we know, but while science still operates, or while there is still a need for science, then what we know is always open to being questioned. It is the constant questioning of what is, converting what is into what it seems to be with a sceptical suspicion that it might be something completely different, that gives science it dynamism and power. Science can only uncover whilst it is obsessed with the desire and need to search. Science, per se, does not interest itself with the metaphysical why?, and yet the scientific process is always working towards uncovering that why.

Science evolved out of the Greek philosophers’ metaphysical questions, and those same metaphysical questions have never been fully extracted from science.

 

So, for our Nihilistic Age to be overcome, we need to inject values with purposeful-truths; truths that should be derived from science and scientific investigations of philosophical or metaphysical questions of why.

[1] The Last Man (der letzte Mensch): Nietzsche introduced the concept of the Last Man in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra, as the antithesis and antagonist of the Übermensch , the Overman or the Superman. The last men are a herd-like species: tired of life, taking no risks, and seeking only comfort and security; the Overman on the other hand has a clear vision of progress, but needs to overcome the Last Man if he is to advance. In TSZ, Nietzsche created a short parable describing a funambulist crossing the rope of human evolution between animal and the Overman. On his way, an imaginary clown, or demon, comes out behind the tight-rope walker and leaps over him, causing him to fall. By taking Zarathustra into consideration, our image here images the tight-rope with the lazy Last Man perched in the middle, so one must jump over him before one can cross the rope and progress in an evolutionary way.

[2] Plato brought up the idea of the Noble Lie in the Republic. It revolved around the necessity to create a myth which would convince the people of a natural division of classes in society, created by the gods.

The Sapiens Superman versus Nietzsche

Superman vs Nietzsche

When Nietzsche proclaimed that ´Life is Will to Power’ he was both right and wrong. Life as we perceive it is the life enslaved by the Will to Power, but he was wrong to deduce from this that such an apparent reality was the essence of life itself.

‘Life is Will to Power’ can be seen as a lucid evaluation of the way things are, but it should not be interpreted metaphysically or as a definitive statement on human nature.

Nietzsche’s sharp mind was able to see the dangers in and undermine the teachings of Christ and Plato, but he was unable to make the Superman (Übermensch) leap over the monkey himself and see how Power, in the human-society sense, had absorbed knowledge – and hence Plato and Christ – into itself, for its own egotistical enhancement and preservation.

Instead of being a liberating force, Power, which in our civilisation has always been Wealth-as-power, is a selfishly conservative force that is constantly moulding reality into the forms and architectures of its own interests. Interests that are often contrary to the cosmological-will itself. A universal, physical-metaphysical drive that is geared towards the creation of knowledge in what is otherwise a predominantly unconscious space.

One of the greatest leaps in the history of thought has been the need to either divorce ourselves or reclaim our marriage vows with our nature. Both ways have done little to enhance our knowledge, or enhance our lives through knowledge. The great divorce between the body and spirit is just as knowledge-numbing as the hedonistic quest of the sensualist. But even more deadly to the essential Sapiens values of the enhancement[i], are those ideas that claim their justification in nature.

Thus, Nietzsche raged against the ‘Denaturalisation of values,’[ii] and came to defend Aristocratic Power as an example of natural rank. What Nietzsche ignored was that the evolution of the Sapiens brain was an enhancing step in which life went beyond its own limitations by fine-tuning the ability to determine what its own limitations should be. The essence of physics and nature is a logical process and in this way, we see that an intuitively logical procedure is ultimately responsible for the creation of logic.

The dead-rock and all-consuming fireball universe, made up of particles of space and light, has evolved into life-creating conditions: but how? And why? By an accident; or the work of some time and space transcending creator – God? Or, why not consider evolution to be a self-evolving evolution of itself into the natural evolutionary realm of complexity – until the complexity itself finds itself willing an unravelling of itself.

An unravelling which can only take place through perception and knowing. Some millions of years after the Big Bang an intuitive mechanics has evolved in the universe. What we call the laws of physics, accidentally created but now imbued with their own tremendously creative potential and intuitively striving to Be – which is to be known – which needs a new kind of physical nature, the creation of biological organisms – life. A new complexity capable of evolving into a form which is both complex and efficient enough to comprehend the logic behind this whole incredible process that is unravelling – the Sapiens brain.

Through the evolution of the Sapiens brain, we see that life is not Will to Power, but a will to know and a desire to preserve that knowledge.

The Superman (Übermensch) doesn’t evolve through an evolution of power, but through a liberation of knowledge.

[i] For an explanation of the idea of “enhancement” see the articles WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? (parts one and two) https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/what-is-the-meaning-of-life-part-one/

https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/what-is-the-meaning-of-life-part-two-why-there-is-no-authentic-meaning-in-our-lives/

[ii] Nietzsche, THE WILL TO POWER, #37

What is the Meaning of Life? (Part One)

Meaning of Life

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Is there a bigger question than this? Some will answer that there is none; or, that only God can know the answer; or that it’s whatever you make of it. A philosopher might argue that the word-level in the question is wrong; that we need go deeper to answer the question “What is the meaning of meaning?” before we can say what the meaning of life is. A philosopher like Nietzsche would rephrase it as “What is the value of life?” because all meaning is subject to value judgements. But in order to determine this, as Heidegger knew, we need to get down to the most basic level of questioning and ask, as the pre-Socratic Greeks did, “What is the essence of life?”[i]

Of course, we are talking about Life, with a capital L, although by answering that question one should also be a huge step closer to understanding the meaning of their own individual life; defining the generic does help us understand the specific. The generic form of it makes it, in part, a question for science, and, in another part, a question for logic. Nevertheless, the resolution of the query has been severely soiled and butchered by being taken as a theological one.

“Whatever essential characteristics value has as condition of life depends on the essence of life, on what is distinctive about this essence.”[ii]

What is the distinctiveness of life from non-life? Isn’t it life’s distinctive ability to reproduce itself; its capacity for evolving into forms that are better suited for survival; in its desire for survival itself, which could be seen as a will for an abstract concept of permanence through reproduction.

quote-the-sole-meaning-of-life-is-to-serve-humanity-leo-tolstoy-185827

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF HUMANITY?

Yet, if the purpose of life is survival, then the evolution of the potentially life-threatening organism that humanity has become, seems like an ultimately failed process rather than a great triumph of world-will.

The reason for this resides in the fact that evolution is blind. It seems to have a purpose (survival) and a creative process capable of learning and relearning things in order to ensure the final success of that purpose (evolution), but there is no hand manipulating that process other than the achievements of the process itself.

Does this then make us a mere accidental product of a random evolution designed to survive certain inhospitable conditions arising at any given moment? If we answer in the affirmative, then we accept that there is no meaning to humanity, a nihilistic view that renders everything to the coincidental, with no footing in any certainty at all.

However, the sceptic must eventually become sceptical of his/her own scepticism. So, sceptical of scepticism we return to the question at hand: Why would life evolve into a life-threatening form like humanity? What can Life gain from humanity?

If we can find a positive answer to that question, then perhaps we can answer the query into the meaning underlying our human existences as well.

smithsonian-hallofhumanorigins2

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF HOMO SAPIENS?

A word carries a lot of semantic baggage and ‘humanity’ has a lot of negative connotations for a lot of people that are embedded within our pessimistic notions of ‘human-nature’. In order to imbue our humanity with a less prejudiced vision, we will use the scientific term for our species homo sapiens sapiens. By doing this we also clearly leap beyond the reductionisms of race, religion and nationalities and treat ourselves as members of a species, which is what we ultimately are. So, what does Life gain from our species? What does Life gain from Sapiens that it doesn’t get from other non-sapiens organisms?

Immediately we have an answer: knowledge of Itself.

Through Sapiens organisms, life knows itself. Existence becomes something more than just a thing that flows over one, or that which we float in and react to. Through a Sapiens consciousness existence is grasped as something which has come from somewhere and is moving forward into something different. Knowing gives existence a sense of permanence, and a conscious creative vision that comes from the realisation that all things can change.

Here, a circle of logic closes in on itself: knowing tells us that the essence is permanence through creative evolution. But this conclusion also immediately throws us out of its apparent circle. A circle is a non-evolving cycle – evolution, however, is always a leap beyond the apparent enclosure of the self-reproducing cycle.

Nature creates evolutionary leaps genetically, in a way that is even superior to the species’ own will to survive through carbon-copy reproduction; and also technologically, via the use of tools manipulated by organisms.

dna-double-helix

SAPIENS: THE TECHNOLOGICAL SPECIES

Homo sapiens is the technological species par excellence. Sapiens is the knowing, technological animal.

Technology and knowing evolve in a spiral way, and we could probably map their relationship in a form that would very much resemble a DNA helix.

The spiral is a dynamic form of the circle. It winds itself, but in a way that moves forward as well as around. Because it has an elongated form it can advance and change. It can progress through self-change and adapt to changing environments.

Perhaps we could call this creative process ‘enhancement’, as Heidegger did: “Enhancement implies something like a looking ahead and through to the scope of something higher.”[iii]  

(TO BE CONTINUED)

[i] Heidegger, Martin, NIETZSCHE, vol. III + IV, Harper One, p. 16

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

OUR THYMOTIC PATHOLOGY 2: Achilles, Odysseus and the Bicameral Mind

In the evolution of Greek culture from the menis (cholera/rage) of Achilles to the metis (astuteness) of Odysseus we see a new power emerging in our species – the power of consciousness; the power of the mind. It is Odysseus and not Achilles who vanquishes Troy.

If Jaynes’ analysis of Homer and thymus is correct[i] and that an evolutionary leap took place between the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey, showing us a literary expression of the transformation of the Bicameral unconscious man (Achilles) and the Conscious man (Odysseus), thymus and menis could also be regarded as biological facets of our temperament that were necessary to the unconscious man in his bicameral state, but became only a troublesome element for the conscious intelligence of our non-bicameral minds.

It is not the Achilles figure bursting with menis, or Hegel’s aristocrat hero sacrificing himself for his slave who should be posited as candidates for the title of the First Man, but rather the wily Odysseus. Odysseus is the first man, the first figure in world literature, who would be the first to display the tremendous advantage of consciousness and the astuteness that that consciousness empowered him with. Rather than a step forward, Fukuyama’s Hegelian idea of the triumph of thymus and the megathymotic instincts of liberal-democracy and capitalist society is in actual fact a backward leap in ontological evolution.

The Iliad man is slave to passions, which are not his passions but drives instilled by gods. It is Achilles’ thymus, stirred by Apollo, that makes him rise, leave his tent and go to battle. Achilles is a kind of schizophrenic automaton. He doesn’t think of himself but only acts when the gods tell him to act or when they stir his thymus. He is a patient potency that will explode when ignited. He will sit and wait, absorbing the world until he is called to act. He is an archetype for the invulnerable power of the masses. The masses who are stirred via their own thymus: the thymus of all religions and all nationalisms; loyal to all flags; the champion of all victims of any injustices. Achilles evolved into the masses and his thymus and his menis were preserved for anyone cunning enough to tap into to use.

Achilles, the archetypal hero of all who act when they are stirred, is a robot warrior. He is superseded in homo sapiens evolution by Odysseus, the genius survivor. As the archetypical automaton-man, Achilles is the first example of Nietzsche’s Last Man. The gods of Olympus are no longer the instigators and thymus stirring invisible protagonists of our current unfolding tragedy. They have been replaced by the cunning sons of Odysseus who learned the art of domesticating all Achilles-men. But now Achilles’ descendants, the Last Men, also have consciousness, or at least a latent consciousness, and the new god-king race of the Odysseus family must apply even more ingenious methods of manipulation to maintain the Achilles-masses automaton-slave condition.

The historical process has become a struggle to manipulate the Achilles-automatons, and keep them unconscious by convincing them that they are really free. But in between the Odysseus-god-kings and the Achilles-automaton-slave-masses are the other classes of men and women. Strange Odysseus-like creatures who use their intelligence not for cunning and manipulation but for knowing and teaching. They evolved in the post-Homeric times of poetry and philosophy (and Homer himself belonged to this same class). They stand on the outskirts of the prayer process of history, part of it, but never really accepted by it or accepting of it. They try to reshape it, redirect it.

 

If Jaynes is right, mankind as a consciously thinking species, as a true homo sapiens, has only existed for some four thousand years. Hegel saw life as a long process of becoming. A tedious but necessary process. We know that evolution has had its failures and there have been countless extinctions, so how should we imagine mankind in one or four thousand years’ time? If we were to meet such a person time-travelling back to our era we would probably not consider them human any more, just as we would probably have trouble relating in any meaningful way to Achilles. We are always in the middle of what we once were and will eventually become.

In the 1960s, when science-fiction writers tried to envisage an evolved humanity they gave us huge hands and long fingers. But our next great evolutionary leap will probably be like our last, not a physical change but a leap of consciousness. In the future men and women will have a more quantum awareness, perhaps with greater sensitivity to electromagnetic fields and, certainly, areas of the brain will be activated that we have never consciously used up to now. The shift from Jaynes’ bicameral Achilles to conscious Odysseus involved a shutting down of the bicameral activity and an activation of that part of the brain that makes us aware of the I.

We have evolved and we will evolve again if we survive extinction. “The goal is Spirit’s insight into what knowing is,”[ii] wrote Hegel. And for the Spirit to know through mankind then mankind’s perception will have to grow more acute and more finely tuned to nature. In the meantime, we must struggle against the bi-polarising of society into a conscious and unconscious one and the maintenance of that bi-polarised status quo. We still have a segregated society of Odysseus-royal-elites and Achilles-slave-masses, and a power struggle between the two. The automaton class tryies to preserve its dignity by demonstrating that it has clear consciousness, while the royal elite amplifies the servility of its multitude through the machinery of religions, patriotisms, publicity, spectator sports and other spectacular events for the masses.

 

[i] Julian Jaynes, THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND, First Mariner Books, 2000

[ii] G. W. Hegel, PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT, p. 17

 

PART ONE:

https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/our-thymotic-pathology-1-fukuyama-and-sloterdijk/

 

Incomplete Nihilism

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In the Will To Power Nietzsche has a brief note mentioning the concept of an incomplete nihilism:

Incomplete nihilism; its forms: we live in the midst of it.[i]

We are in the midst of it, but what does that mean? Does our condition reconfirm what Nietzsche says or has contemporary society evolved out of the incomplete nihilistic state? Our civilisation certainly possesses a dynamic in which the big questions are played down and made flimsy whilst the old values are maintained in order to give us something to hold on to whilst we blindly stagger through the void – is this what Nietzsche was referring to? A nihilism that hides itself in religions and ideologies? We live in a nihilism but it doesn’t actually feel nihilistic. Is this what Nietzsche sensed as well?

What is civilisation driven by if not a flimsy will to acquire more wealth, or to improve our personal image as we measure ourselves against the acquisitions of all the others. We are in awe at the novelties of technology rather than creating a technology that will free our human gifts of real invention and allow us real freedom from the obligations of mindless, soulless labour. We are immersed and trapped in the money system and the anti-human behaviour it engenders in our lives like violence, poverty, crime, hunger and war. The only justification for any of this are flimsy ones: weak-willed arguments that our weaknesses are ingrained in our human nature, stamped in our genes. The real Sapiens’ potentials are not encouraged unless they can promote egoistic acquisitions. Even medical research is only carried out when potential profits are seen.

And through all this weak-willed pessimism and egoism the system is bolstered up by the values of the family, God and the nation. The nihilism is incomplete, but it is there, and, paradoxically, all its weak-willed nihilism is, because of this incompleteness, enormously powerful.

This condition is of real benefit only to a select few, although, absurdly enough, it seems perfectly rational to the majority. They see it, not as a flimsy superficial existence but quite simply as the way things are. Which is also the way things have always been, and this collapses into the submission to the way things have to be – until we die.

The system is our oxygen. The majority believe and can only imagine anything different to be an utter disaster.

Nietzsche believed that the only way to escape our nihilism was to revalue the values we have held so far. This is obviously very difficult to do, but, as Heidegger says:

“Revaluing becomes the overturning of the nature and manner of valuing.”[ii]

However, it is the uncertainty in this overturning that frightens us. A fear of opening a hole in the wall of the dam; of creating a deluge by inventing a way of making it rain.

Nevertheless, perhaps the answer to the problem of our incomplete nihilism is also an incomplete revaluation. I.e., not to revaluate everything but to revalue with real values: values that all human beings can call authentic because they are authentic human values; that a strong humanism is the answer to a weak and incomplete nihilism.

 

[i] Friedrich Nietzsche, WILL TO POWER, #28

[ii] Martin Heidegger, THE QUESTION CONCERNING TECHNOLOGY, p.70

GOD IS DEAD or THE END OF THE SUPRASENSORY

According to Heidegger, Nietzsche’s statement that God is dead is referring not just to the Christian God but to the general suprasensory world, or the realm of Ideas and ideals.[i] Its death is a loss of power.[ii] The human ideal, through a suprasensory or metaphysical partnership with God, has been replaced with squabbling idealisms that are rooted in nationalisms or warring monotheisms that take on a political or economic significance, in the service of Wealth. Through separation the original metaphysical partnership loses its vitality and the great unifier degenerates into a chaos of warring factions struggling for power. However, it is a power which is already degenerate, for the God of the monotheisms has demanded too much. The needs of the Wealth-driven-Power look to liberate through an enslaving of the others rather than by establishing a partnership with the human. In this way, as Heidegger says, metaphysics is “cut off from its essence, (and) is never able to think its own essence.[iii]

Or, as we interpret it, humanity is cut off from its origin and authentic purpose as Sapiens, and is made unable to think purposively beyond the great distractions of God, or Economics and/or Nationalism or the Family. The metaphysical charges into historical progress, evolving into economic progress, and now the Measure of Man is based on how much money one has managed to obtain and what image of oneself one has been able to fashion because of that money. For Heidegger, Nietzsche pronouncement was an affirmation that we are “straying through an infinite nothing,”[iv] cut off from our essence. There is no longer anything left to cling on to and orient ourselves with.[v] “Nihilism, the most uncanny of all guests, is standing at the door.”[vi]

Within this environment technology has become an adornment to human life. It has not effectively liberated humanity from any drudgery as much as it has given us a reason to endure the drudgery. We work to acquire more knick-knacks, which in turn seduce us and draw us away from any meaningful or fulfilling reasons for living, and pulls us apart from the authenticity of our human condition. Our authenticity as Sapiens.

[i] Martin Heidegger, THE QUESTION CONCERNING TECHNOLOGY AND OTHER ESSAYS, Garland, New York & London, 1977, p.61

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ibid

[vi] Ibid, p.62