The time has come for humanity to set itself a goal and plant the seeds of its highest hopes. There is an urgency. The anti-human has plundered the earth and now the earth groans with the pain of its scars. Very soon, the Mother Earth that has engendered us will hate us and turn against us, turning its back to us and making itself inhospitable for us. The terrain for planting our hopes is already barren and the soil will need to be turned over and well-watered for it become fertile again. The Wasteland needs the planting of trees in order to cool the terrain. Trees create conditions for growing trees in. The anti-human has become obsessed with cutting and clearing and that must now change. But what form must such a change take? To answer this we need to look more closely at what it is that needs to be altered.
Anti-human history has given birth to the most contemptible species of anti-human beings – the ones who can no longer have contempt for themselves. Nietzsche called this species The Last Men, the last humans, but really they are the last of the anti-humans.
“What will our profit be from theses high hopes?” groaned the last of the anti-humans: “Why change our anti-humanity? What can we hope to gain by changing what has always been?” the anti-humans bleated. “We want jobs so that we can make money, but your hopes only point to poverty,” screamed the last of the anti-humans with his hands pushed firmly into his pockets.
The Earth has become small, and upon it hops the anti-human, who makes everything small. He is a pestilence, like the locust, turning fertile forests into deserts.
“We civilised the world,” say the anti-humans in a whimpering chorus, blinking and forgetting that what they really did was surrender themselves to perpetual slavery and misleading themselves that they themselves are really human and not anti-human at all – they actually think of themselves as human beings whilst constantly acting in a humanistically antagonistic way over and over again.
Becoming ill and being mistrustful are considered sinful by them, even though they no longer know what sin is. In general, they proceed with caution, lest they should be tempted to lose their anti-human traits and become human again. Anti-humans allow themselves a bit of poison every now and again, that makes for pleasant dreams, but they know not why they are living, for they are terrified of death. This horror encourages them to prolong their lives as long as possible. Even when their bodies and brains hardly function at all they are kept alive by artificial means, misleading themselves that the mere act of breathing can be interpreted as a genuine mark of authentic human (i.e., anti-human) activity.
They hate work but cannot renounce it as they lust after the money that can only be found by working. They think it is labour and toil that gives them the moral right to live, but it really merely enslaves them to jobs that are actually unnecessary. The only aim of work is to enable the anti-human civilisation to participate in the anti-human game of wealth distribution. This game is obligatory, and because of that there is an effort to make work never too burdensome, although it should always be stressful. This paradoxical situation is taken for granted by nearly all anti-human societies. They no longer become rich or poor, which are both too burdensome.
The anti-humans are nihilists. They either live for no good reason at all or lose themselves in religious fantasies of nihilistic paradises beyond this world.
They despise their governors but have no idea how to get rid of them. Politics has no interest for them except when they can reduce it to the most simple and absurd levels, otehrwise it is just too intellectual and difficult. Because of this the political class has to be, or at least appear to be, as simple and ignorant as the vast majority of anti-human voters who elect them. It is for this reason that politicians have no sincere interest in the people, except in their capacity as voters, which is what presumably determines the kind of government each society obtains.
Anti-humans are a homo economicus, but the economy too is too complicated to worry about. The anti-humans hate using their brains to think. They believe there is something anti-natural and anti-life in any abundance of intellect and in anything provoking a need to think. But there is hope in the current existential misery we face …
The anti-human can only change in one direction, it must become human, must become a sapiens organism again rather than the herd animal it presently is, now subjected to the tremendous lies of our anti-human course of history. For humanity to be reborn there needs to be a new enlightenment, a rebirth of the intellect and reason. We need to put argumentation back into the argument again.
“What is great about human beings is that they are a bridge and not a purpose: what is lovable about human beings is that they are a crossing over and a going under.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nietzsche saw human beings as a bridge between the animal and the Übermensch (the superhuman), this superhuman being the next evolutionary step beyond humanity. For him this evolution was necessary to pull humanity forward again, away from a tendency to slip back down to the animal.
Our interpretation of the human condition is a little different to Nietzsche’s. For us, the evolutionary leap is already inherent in the nature of our species as homo sapiens sapiens, but that the sapiens quality of humanity has been retarded by the anti-human historical processes imposed on humanity by civilisations dominated by the power of wealth. Humanity, from our assessment, is more alike a road or a river that we are not allowed to travel very far along because the path has been diverted and drawn back in a circling way. Because of this we seem to be unable to make real progress and our distant past seems closer than any dawning great new future and subsequently, this constant coming back (which is real way that humanity moves, rather than Nietzsche’s crossing over) results in our losing touch with human purpose and become easily lost in nihilisms engendered by prophets and economists.
“I love the one who lives, in order to know, and who wants to know, so that one say the Übermensch may live.”
Here we have a definition of Nietzsche’s purposiveness. Nietzsche loves the one who lives in order to know because that is the most authentically sapiens quality (and anti-animal quality) of our humanity, and it reiterates Nietzsche’s idea of spiritual progress, that through exerting our will to know we transcend our animal state and become the superhuman, or transhuman, authentically sapiens species.
For us, this knowing has to be exercised in all fields of existence and Being, fulfilling itself through a knowing, sapiens relationship with the Universe. A relationship creating an authentic and spiritual relationship of absolute Being. For a more detailed explanation of Authentic Purpose and Being see the related article: AUTHENTIC PURPOSIVENESS: THE THING – THE WORD – BEING | pauladkin (wordpress.com)
Kant’s main work on aesthetics is The Critique of Judgement, which is basically about aesthetics and purposefulness and we think that Nietzsche would have had to have had Kant’s associations somewhere in his mind when using the term in Beyond Good and Evil, after all the bracketed note he makes defining the falsest judgements as that to which synthetic judgements a priori belong, is using purely Kantian terminology.
Kant’s book begins with a Critique of Aesthetic Judgement and an analysis of beauty. Kant argues that it is important to understand that something is beautiful only because we judge it to be so and that it cannot be beautiful until that judgement is made, and this is the basic idea that Nietzsche is leafing through in The Will to Power when he argues that, despite the idea that the world astounds us, we basically ignore the fact that there is nothing awesome at all in the world except that which we ourselves infuse it with. Kant attributed four distinguishing features to aesthetic judgements: subjectivity (that the beauty and ugliness we find in the world is disinterested and therefore its appreciation depends on our subjective interpretations); universality; necessity; and purposiveness. Now what Nietzsche does in his own critique of religion, is stress the subjectivity without completely falling into the traps of Berkeleyan idealism, as seen when he ironically makes his hero Zarathustra cry out to the sun: “Great star! What would your happiness be, if you had not those for whom you shine!”[i] The great star, the sun, exists, but its meaning can only come through the meaning granted it by the sapiens observer, and this is what Kant was saying. The sun is only happy because we, or someone, perceives it that way, and, on a larger, metaphysical scale, this means that the Universe is given meaning through being perceived and being analysed judgementally. Or, in other words, the meaningfulness of the Universe is an aesthetic, judgemental construct that we are playing an active role in – and it is this awesome idea, not the idea of God, that needs to inspire humanity if we are ever able to overcome our indifference and incredulity towards human advancement in the world.
(CONTINUED IN PART THREE
[i] Friedrich Nietzsche, THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA, Prologue, Section 1
In his Critique of Religion in The Will to Power, Nietzsche begins with an original insight into the psychological nature of aesthetics (the beauty and sublimitybestowed upon real and imaginary things), calling it our fairest apology[i], and insinuating that through our admiration and worship of things we are actually humbling ourselves as we do not want to admit to ourselves that the world is as it is because we alone have created it to be that way. The idea he expounds here is a kind of Berkeleyan (albeit atheistic), subjective idealism, that the world is the creation of the (human) perceiver, and that it does not take a meaningful shape until the perceiver begins to understand and define what is perceived. But Nietzsche’s original twist to this old idea is that the awesome power granted by the realisation of this concept is, in fact, paradoxically, an ultimately debilitating force. As Nietzsche says: “it raises in him (humanity) a doubt about his own person: he does not dare to think himself the cause of this astonishing feeling – and so he posits a stronger person, a divinity, to account for it.”[ii]Or, in other words, Nietzsche argues that because we cannot cope with the responsibility of our power as creators, we need to invent the idea of God as a greater than human power in the Universe. In this way, the God we make can bear the brunt of the responsibility of creation, while we humans get on with leading the irresponsible kind of life we enjoy the most.
Now, although Nietzsche never actually uses the term aesthetics in these passages, the beauty and sublimitybestowed upon real and imaginary things should almost certainly be considered a simple definition of an aesthetic process, and so the association being made here is between aesthetics and religion, and that is another great Nietzschean insight. While he makes his proposal in order to simply critique humanity and religion, we have found a much deeper insight buried here. Nietzsche is describing a psychological attitude which not only colours our attitude to religion, it also effects the question of our capacity for freedom and, because of that, inhibits our ability to make true moral and social progress in the world.
If Nietzsche was right, embedded in the development of both religions and aesthetics lies an enormous irresponsibility – the denial of ourselves as supreme creators. This denial exposes a human immaturity, a fear of accepting the responsibility of the awesome nature of what we are, and a nihilistic pessimism that negates any attempts to develop our human potential to its fullest. Likewise, it is the fundamental reason behind the domination of classes: by creating a mythical idea that we are subjugated to the will of the gods or God it opens the doors to the possibility for one section of the tribe, state, empire to dominate the rest of us by taking control of that subjection and exploiting it.
This process is quite easy to discern when we compare the development of the priestly-caste and witchdoctors into the mammoth monotheistic church congregations we have today alongside the evolution of Wealth and the great class-divide between rich and poor, but while this exploitation of the human fear of our awesome creativity is easy enough to find in the history of religions, what does it tell us about the history of aesthetics and, ultimately, about what aesthetics potentially means. While in these passages, Nietzsche is merely pointing to the fact that both the religious and aesthetic sense of awe originate in the same negation of human responsibility, by doing this he opens up a can of philosophical worms that reverberate back through his earlier writings on aesthetics, creating a seemingly contradictory dialectic within his own arguments … but then, being seemingly contradictory is a typically Nietzschean trait; it is what makes his writings so interesting and awesome.
To unravel this contradiction, let us start with section 4 of Beyond Good and Evil. In that passage he discusses the virtues of false judgements: “The falseness of a judgement is to us not necessarily an objection to a judgement … The question is to what extent it is life-advancing, life-preserving, species-preserving … the falsest judgements (to which synthetic judgements a priori belong) are the most indispensable to us, that without granting as true the fictions of logic, without measuring reality against the purely invented world of the unconditional and self-identical, without a continual falsification of the world by means of numbers, mankind could not live – that to renounce false judgements would be to renounce life, would be to deny life.”[iii] From this fragment of his earlier writing, his earlier thinking seems to be a complete antithesis of what he states later: if by judgement he is talking about aesthetics and religion (don’t worry, this link between judgement and aesthetics will be explained in due course) , instead of seeing a tragic human irresponsibility, he sees it as the most indispensable trait for humanity’s survival.
For those who know Nietzsche this contradiction probably comes as no surprise, he was antithetical to philosophical systems and his thoughts are mainly expressed in aphoristic or short-essay-long snippets which mitigate cohesion, but why are we presuming there is any relationship between the Critique of Religion from the Will to Power and passage 4 of Beyond Good and Evil at all?
If we look at the final part of passage 4 the idea seems even less plausible. The section continues with: “To recognise untruth as a condition of life: that, to be sure, means to resist customary value-sentiments in a dangerous fashion; and a philosophy which ventures to do so places itself, by that fact alone, beyond good and evil.”[iv]
This seemingly quirky idea of the indispensability of false judgements is suddenly exalted by championing the title of the entire book; insinuating that the central idea around this collection of essays is the motivation for a new philosophical thinking that can embrace untruth and by doing so create the kind of thought that can transcend the concepts of good and evil.
However, the subtle ironies that this passage is full of become clearer when seen in light of the seemingly contradictory passage from The Will to Power: the untruth of Beyond Good and Evil is the falsity of the conventional truths created by religion and aesthetics to “conceal from himself (humanity) that it was he who created what he admired.” In this way it becomes clear that the untruth is the revealing of an older truth long hidden by the human failure to embrace our own awesome capacities.
Seen from our 21st century perspective, Nietzsche’s thoughts take another twist. The nihilism that Nietzsche had resolved himself to as a negative but necessary state that had be endured before any revolution of the Overman (Übermensch) could come about, has now become entrenched in our global civilisation with tremendously negative consequences for any harmonious development of humanity. Instead of paving the way for the Overman, the nihilist century behind us has inspired an upsurge in religious fanaticisms and evangelical crusades that threaten to become a new dominant power in the chaotic condition of this budding century. In fact, what we are witnessing now is a tendency to reverse the process of false judgements that Nietzsche envisaged. An irony over Nietzsche’s own ironies in which religions use their lies to reinstate the old untruth, injecting it into the gaping vacuum opened by the unbearable relativity of the everything-is-nothing truth of the nihilistic world. In 2020, the recognition of untruth as a way of life is now the normal state of things, but there is no positive transcendence beyond good and evil here. By embracing lies as a way of life we have thrown civilisation into an existence-threatening, barbaric state.
But the irony of this situation does not stop there: Nietzsche was right, the only way forward for humanity is its awakening into the realisation that we truly are the great bestowers of judgement on reality and that the Universe is meaningful because we are able to give it that meaning; that it is time for humanity to stop apologising for itself and be itself; but that this step forward is impeded by the nihilistic civilisation that Nietzsche himself has been an integral part of creating.
The question now is: Can the awakening allowing a great revaluation of purpose still take place and save humanity from itself? But first we have to deal with another query: What does any of this have to do with aesthetics? To answer that we need to look back to an older pre-Nietzschean philosophy and sift Nietzsche’s concepts through the sieve of Kant.
(But that will be dealt with in Part Two …)
[i] Friedrich Nietzsche, THE WILL TO POWER, Ed. Kaufmann, Vintage, New York, 1968, p. 85
All living organisms are influenced by a will for survival. Of course, this statement is tautologically obvious, without a will for survival, living things could not exist. Even the passivity of domesticated and farmed animals has beneficial consequences for the survival and multiplication of the species. But does this obvious fact, that embedded in life is the will to live, tell us anything useful? Could there be any philosophical meat in this will, of the kind that Nietzsche found in his Will to Power?
Considered separately, species will struggle for their own survival, even at the cost of other living organisms. Species compete with each other: when herds or other kinds of communities are formed these will compete with each other for genetic proliferation through mating rituals and alpha male domination, and with other species for territories or for the food and water sources available in those areas. In some fragile environments this competition might be an existential one. Nevertheless, humanity is unique as a species that will kill, even slaughter members of its own species for reasons that may be purely emotional (out of revenge or even resentfulness) or ideological (political or racial differences) that have nothing to do with the necessities of survival.
Nietzsche interpreted this struggle to indicate a natural will to power, indifferent and superior to the will to survival: live and let die. And yet if power actually threatens survival itself, what would be the stronger instinct? Obviously, it would have to be the will to survive – the will to life. The will to life above all else, and this means that Nietzsche was mistaken to make power the essential human drive. Power can only ever be chosen when it augments the will to life, and the idea that it a priori enhances the will to life is erroneous. Power can threaten the extinction of the species when it clashes with power, putting existence on the brink of an absolute mutual destruction. There can be no authentic will for such an internecine negation.
In fact, power should be seen as a perversion of the will to life, the fundamental will of which is for permanence through the survival of the species. Our sapiens species has to preserve what is unique to its own peculiar evolution, its ability to uncover reality, to discover and to use its peculiar imagination to invent and fabricate its own special kind of world within the world. Power, as such, only makes sense if it works in favour of the ability of the species to perpetuate itself (which does not mean to multiply itself, as overpopulation also creates an existential threat to the colony). To be a legitimately species-perpetuating quality, power has to be a tool for the development of our sapiens species’ most positive faculties geared towards our survival. If it is not, then it is an aberration.
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’, although the concept’s roots go right back to the Greek sophists. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[i] See f. Nietszche, THE WILL TO POWER, #95 – The Three Centuries
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?’
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,’ 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.’
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.’ 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.’
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.’ 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,’ 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.
 Martin Heidegger, NIETZSCHE, Volumes III and IV, ed. David Farrell Krell; Harper Collins, 1991; p.90
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 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.
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, 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.
 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.
 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.