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.

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The End of Purpose and the Crisis of Creativity

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In his 1981 thesis, ‘Simulacra and Simulation’, Jean Baudrillard lamented the ruination of the university: “non-functional … lacking cultural substance or an end purpose of knowledge.”[i]

Perhaps we should not victimise the universities, the same can be said of our entire nihilistic culture, nevertheless, the idea that a university lacks a reason for learning is a tremendously sad one.

The crippling result of the lack of purposiveness allows societies to throw in their own self-interested crutches: the university becomes a simple place to prepare people for the work-force, or, on a more hopeful level, an environment that will stimulate creativity. But if there is no purpose or reason, why be creative? In fact, how can one be creative when nothing matters? Or the opposite is true: it’s very easy to be creative when nothing matters – too easy.

Either way, the result will always be a crisis of creativity.

“Today’s nihilism is one of transparency, and it is in some sense more radical, more crucial than its prior and historical forms, because this transparency, this irresolution is indissolubly that of the system, and that of all the theory that still pretends to analyse it.”[ii]

Baudrillard regarded Romanticism as the first great manifestation of nihilism; the destroyer of the order of appearances. The second great manifestation came through Dada, Surrealism, the Absurd, and political nihilism – corresponding to the destruction of the order of meaning.

But, destruction is inevitable when appearances and meanings themselves are devoid of substance; when they are castles made of sand. It wasn’t the Romantics or Dada that destroyed meaning; they were merely realisations that meaninglessness had evolved around them. The real destroyers were those in the institutions themselves, trying to maintain a system which made no sense.

Such a condition can only be perpetuated by dissimulation, and only whilst society swallows the performance in the staging of an ersatz purpose that the system offers them. Once the society grows tired of the theatrics played out before them they will start to yawn, or grimace if they are injured by it, and through that yawn or grimace they will see through the stage-craft to the emptiness behind it. When this happens on a massive scale, real revolution or a brutal reaction can take place.

This awareness is happening today, it has been bubbling for some years, but the train is turning toward the Dystopia rather than any purposive Utopia.

Buadrillard observed a similar scenario in the student revolts of Paris, 1968. Why didn’t a revolution happen then? Why is a purposive revolution unlikely to happen now?

According to Baudrillard, the staging carried out by the media is no longer a staging. He calls the media: “a strip, a track, a perforated map of which we are no longer mere spectators”. All that remains, he says: “is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms for the very operation of the system that annihilates us.” [iii]

In other words, we are enchanted and enamoured by the same media that is strangling us and numbing our brains. We love to see the violence and perversion that the society produces so much that we would probably fall into a kind of spiritual crisis if the brutality of the system was taken away from us.

[i] J. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, Michigan, 1994, digital version p. 98

[ii] Ibid, p.104

[iii] Ibid

Where does our Conception of God come from?

Image result for eternityYayoi Kusama: Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009

We didn’t conceive and refine the Judaeo-Christian concept of God out of natural phenomenon or even logical deduction – apart from a First Cause, there is no logical need for God. Instead, it was formed out of a mainly intuitive comprehension of Humanity’s own potential. The image we have of God is a reflection of what our own collective intellect could be capable of being and producing, and of the incredible power that a highly advanced and evolved humanity could be capable of achieving if it survives, and manages to develop in a progressive way, for millions of years to come.

At the moment we have to be considered very poor candidates for the Master of the Universe. Nevertheless, we stand at a crossroads that demands that we must now take an optimistic evolution into consideration or perish. It is time to shake off our tremendous nihilism and pessimism and admit that an anthropogenesis into a God-like species is an idea that ultimately reflects our own collective potential – albeit in a far, far distant future. Of course, the entire history of our civilisation has been a process of turning our backs on that potential; God was created in our own image to mitigate the obligation to become godly ourselves. The responsibility is awesome, but sooner or later we will have to embrace it or disappear: that is the ultimate choice between purposiveness and nihilism.

REALITY AS A PURPOSEFUL LIE

The mystic philosophers were right when they told us that reality is elsewhere, but they were wrong in claiming that our ultimate delusion came from a lack of spiritual insight; our alienation from reality is a psychological and social delusion created by our tendency to perceive reality in lies.

In essence, however, even this delusional tendency to believe things that cannot be proven, may be a necessary element for any positive human view of reality.

Science gives us a view of reality that goes beyond the narrow confines of the world that we perceive. In this way, science is an attempt to uncover the delusional nature of our lying perceptions. The real is not really what we see and feel.

Nevertheless, scientific objectivity clashes with our attempts to forge a positive view of our place in the cosmos. Ultimately, scientific truth is nihilistic. Vanity of vanities. Everything is headed to an inescapable thermal death. All things will come to an end. There is no ultimate purpose to the Universe.

But does an acceptance of this ultimately pointless reality do humanity as a whole any good? Science tells us how insignificant and ultimately pointless we are in the Universe. The result is nihilism and a depression that bleeds down through the entire fabric of contemporary, nihilistic civilisation. Live the moment. Reality is ephemeral. And so, religion has to be saved or even restored. We need hope, don’t we? Even if that hope is a blatant lie.

But even religions are essentially nihilistic as far as humanity goes. For religions, reality is elsewhere, in the Paradise after death. And so we ask: Why is reality so negative? Why is truth so grim?

A positive view of historical human reality can only be truly comprehensible to human beings from the point of view of humanity itself. However, this statement implies an anthropocentric view, which most scientists now reject as biased; and because of that consider it to be unrealistic.

But, does this mean that in order to be realistic we have to forfeit any positive view of humanity?

In actual fact, science itself gives us a way out here; for there is cosmological data that points to a sentient-life purpose evolution of the Universe. Data exists that explains how the self-organising of the Universe was able to create conditions for organisms so complex that they can comprehend that same organisation.[i]

In order to determine reality without deluding ourselves in lies we need to look at the debate that scientists are having on the idea of a purposefully determined cosmos. In this argument the science that has to be allowed the most authority is cosmology. So, what do cosmologists and other physicists really think about the idea of a deterministic Universe; one that implies that we are evolving purposefully towards an ultimate goal?

Some scientists, like cosmologist Martin Rees and the physicist Paul Davies, are in favour of the idea of purposefully orientated evolution, whilst almost any quantum physicist would argue against the anthropocentric view, in favour of indeterminism. Nevertheless, arguments can be found, that take a middle ground. And perhaps it is here that we can resolve the debate.

We think this middle ground has been nicely described by Dan Pipono:

“There is no meaningful difference (between determinism and indeterminism). Suppose at some moment there is some kind of undetermined probabilistic event and the universe forks in one of two ways. Then mathematically we can describe the situation in two distinct ways A and B: (1) we could say that after the fork, the universe is either in state A or state B. The universe is non-deterministic because we don’t know which of A and B it is going to be before the fork. OR (2) the universe is in a state that consists of two pieces, A and B, each of which contains a copy of us. The universe is deterministic but appears non-deterministic because we don’t know which of A and B is the one that contains us. Some people will use Occam’s razor in this situation. Some will use it to argue for (1) because a universe with just A or B is simpler than a universe with both A and B. Some will use it to argue for (2) because often (2) is mathematically simpler than (1). I can’t see any way of distinguishing (1) and (2). In practice I’d use whichever is more convenient for whatever I’m trying to do.”[ii]

Like Pipono and Occam, we argue that reality needs to be viewed according to what is most convenient to what needs to be done with that reality. And what we, as humans, need to question is what is the most convenient reality for humanity; a purposeful state or a nihilistic one? If we still cannot, with true scientific certainty, resolve the debate in favour of either purpose or nihilism, which view of reality is ultimately more convenient for us; for our survival and progress?

 

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe

[ii] See Dan Pipono https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-evidence-for-and-against-determinism

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

Ideology/Identity and Nihilism

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Ideology/Identity tries to contain thought within an enclosed space that is the reality-that-is for those within it. It may be dynamically charged with the concept that it is also the reality-that-should-be or the best reality for everyone. In the latter case the Ideology/Identity runs the risk of exploding into a surge of imperialism (e.g.: the West, on one hand, and the Islamic Nation on the other). In the case of the West, despite its grand ideology of “freedom” the spaces enclosed by Ideology/Identity are consciousness-restricted spaces that are determined by dogmas and xenophobias as opposed to any authentic lust for liberating awareness and opportunities. The borders of the USA, for example, enclose an enormous conglomeration of Identity ideologies and the idea of the nation-state system working in harmony and bringing all these ideologies together within the same enclosed space is promoted as a magnificent example of what the Global-economy Ideology of Freedom can do. But, in truth, Ideology/identity can only be obtained by promoting the opposite of freedom. It requires false consciousness or even unconsciousness.

As for the Islamic Nation it has no borders and its Ideology/Identity is firmly rooted in the idea of Islam, which means submission to Allah, or, in practical terms, to those who profess to know how to interpret Allah correctly.

Seen as freedom versus submission the West and the Islamic Nation are antithetical forces which offer very little to each other in terms of creating any Yin Yang type harmonious separation. Nevertheless, both systems do have a common ground based on their shared anti-human nihilism created by a dualism of believers or non-believers. The nihilism of the non-believers versus the nihilism of the faithful; the nihilism in the belief in the paradise beyond the earthly versus the nihilistic faith in the fact that nothing we do in our lives makes any sense other than that we make the most of our limited time here on earth.

This nihilism is a direct result of the process of Ideology/Identity formation. As if the last thing we should consider is that we are human beings and that humanity has an authentic purpose in itself. It is a process of separation and segregation through the creation of enclosures. Separation breeds ignorance and ignorance is a kind of slavery for Sapiens. A fetter holding humanity back from uncovering its real destiny as a species.

Melancholia – Lars von Triers’ depression

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What could be sadder than the idea that the only life in the universe is about to be extinguished? Or perhaps not. But then, what kind of heart could not be saddened by this idea?

Lars von Triers spreads the idea out before us in his film Melancholia: should we feel sad? There is no chance for deliverance in Melancholia, the Earth’s destruction is a purely cosmological matter, a question of physics. It is beyond our control and because of that it does not matter. But still the dilemma stays with the spectators – should we be sad?

The fact is the film is certainly not a tear-jerker, despite the powerful feelings generated by Tristan and Isolde’s tragic love theme, pounding us incessantly with the gut wrenching chords of Wagner’s emotional masterpiece. But it is not a tear-jerker because the characters are hardly endearing and this removes most of us from any audience-character empathy at the moment of the final tragedy. Also the perspective is insular, the characters themselves are isolated individuals which cuts us off completely in any emotional sense from the rest of the world that perishes with them. And this is the brilliant thing in the film’s art – we are alienated from any deep involvement in the tragedy and left with the debate. Should we feel sad? Or, perhaps even – what is the difference between sadness and melancholy? Between sadness and depression?

Von Trier’s film is about depression, with a narrative and composition that is rich in symbolism. Depression itself could be seen as a rejection of the outward experiences with the world as something pointless and absurd. The depressive’s journey is an escape to the world within and von Trier’s is right in suggesting that it is not a fear of an antagonistic world – as is the idea of the naked man alone in nature – but of the absurd human creation we are immersed in that torments the depressive. It is the human specular existence that the depressive flees from not the cold laws of nature.

Von Trier’s film is the tragedy of all tragedies and we are told by the protagonist that it is this tragedy of tragedies which is going to be the great liberator from the evil of life on earth. But through alienation techniques the film is also testimony to the great absurdity of our specular human reality, a tremendous eschatological paradox that tells us that it is impossible to escape from the horror we have created except via our absolute annihilation.

Despite attempts to find religious significance in the film it is deeply nihilistic (but then again all religions are also deeply nihilistic). The depressive’s antagonism to the absurd and pointless must succumb to the absurdity of salvation. If all endeavour is rendered pointless by an Apocalypse, why go on? Why go forward? The only escape from the ridiculous is an autistic regression, an instinctive sinking back into the Uroboric, prenatal state of a pure self-satisfied existence, without will.

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THE CHEATING GAME

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It is obvious that the triumph of Western liberal democracy[i] and its subsequent process of Globalisation has done very little toward bringing humanity more closely together. Quite the opposite is true: we all seem to be drifting further and further apart. But, if it has failed with humanity, what has two centuries of liberal democracy achieved with the individual? How successful has it been in its attempts to forge a society of strong-selves? If we have failed with the whole, then surely we must have succeeded with the individuals who are the antithesis of the whole?

But again it is obvious that we haven’t? In Nietzsche’s terms, we have achieved neither the Human nor the Superman, just the Last Man. The pathetic Last Man, bumbling through a cheating-game world of relativity and conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories because, whether we accept them or not, they point an accusing finger at the basic fabric of the system, undermining all responsibilities and moralities with scepticism. How can one be morally responsible in a system which is inherently corrupt? The individual, rather than standing strong and finding a good position in the competitive world, finds him or herself immersed in a society of cheats. The system has now become a cheating-game and the strong-self has to be identified in such an environment as a morally irresponsible subject.

One can only be a strong, successful player in the cheating-game by being a good cheat. This of course makes all success seem suspicious. Eventually decisions need to be made in which “honesty” is needed, but… who can we trust anymore? A strong leader is obviously a good liar and a very good cheat. This kind of leader is useful at convincing us that we are happy in a world that in reality offers us very little… Useful that is until we start to understand the truth. And the simple truth is that we are being cheated.

The first great lie is freedom as individuality and its idea of the unfettered individual along with the creation of a passion for strong individuals. Freedom is now a term used to propagate the unfettering of power: freedom to dominate; freedom to manipulate. The second great lie is democracy itself. The lie of free choice. The lie of majority rule. The lie of the individual’s capacity for achievement in the system.

The only way to combat the lie is by establishing positive, human objectives. We must look beyond the individual and the tyranny of egos in order to establish goals that are out of the cheating game. Goals without any other reward except progress towards human fulfilment. Goals that would pull us out of the cheating-game into another game with real rules that we know will really protect us and protect the world we depend on for our survival. All the rest is petty bickering, which is inevitable when you’re playing the cheating-game.

[i] See Francis Fukuyama’s thesis THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Last_Man

NIETZSCHE’S LEGACY (the danger of scepticism)

Friedrich_Nietzsche_drawn_by_Hans_Olde

Forget the Übermensch, the Last Man and the Eternal Return, if Nietzsche really did have a determining influence on 20th century intellectual thought it was through his idea of the historical reinterpretation of reality:

“There is no set of maxims more important for an historian than this: that the actual causes of a thing’s origin and its eventual uses, the manner of its incorporation into a system of purposes, are worlds apart; that everything that exists, no matter what its origin, is periodically reinterpreted by those in power in terms of fresh intentions; that all processes in the organic world are processes of outstripping and overcoming; and that, in turn, all outstripping and overcoming means reinterpretation, rearrangement, in the course of which the earlier meaning and purpose are necessarily either obscured or lost. No matter how well we understand the utility of a certain physiological organ (or a legal institution, a custom, a political convention, an artistic genre, a cultic trait) we do not thereby understand anything of its origin.”[1]

Suddenly everything we know becomes suspicious. The accounts we have been given are no longer reliable, in fact they are almost certainly smoke-screens erected to hide the truth. And then comes the realisation that – if everything we know has come from distractions, deliberate lies even, then what do we know? Here we see the best of Nietzsche’s scepticism and cynicism. Like Diogenes, some two thousand years before him, he was looking at the Emperor, saw that he was naked and proclaimed the truth.

 

From Nietzsche onwards history “becomes a continuous chain of reinterpretations and rearrangements, which need not be casually connected among themselves.”[2] Evolution “is a sequence of more or less profound, more or less independent processes of appropriation… as well as the results of successful counterattacks.”[3]

 

The observations are brilliant, but Nietzsche himself does not conclude a subsequent need to discover and unveil the truth from this constant chain of falsities and falsifications, rather he applauds the falsifications as necessary (without using the actual term) and imagines his Will to Power exploiting this condition in which progress “is measured by all that must be sacrificed for its sake”[4], coming to the proto-fascist conclusion that: “To sacrifice humanity as mass to the welfare of a single strong human species would indeed constitute progress…”[5] Unfortunately, there could not be a more perfect Nazi slogan.

 

Nietzsche, who saw the great dangers of nihilism and was terrified by them, just as he was terrified by the negating process of scepticism, needed an anchor for his thought, an anti-nihilistic grounding, for he knew that without one humanity was doomed. The will to power was one of those anchors, as was the Eternal Return. While the latter was indefinite, fantastical and weak, the former was perverse, only succeeding in dragging his most brilliant sun-scorched illuminations into the cool shade of the status quo. His idea of power as freedom would prove to be deeply reactionary and after Nietzsche the 20th century produced a succession of power/freedom regimes that have made humanity more insipid and ignoble than ever before. We now have a power/freedom aristocracy that is driving humanity to the brink of destruction and Nietzsche’s dreams of sacrifice for the good of the single strong species seem hardly any different to Christian fantasies of the Apocalypse.

 

 

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, THE GENEALOGY OF MORALS, 2nd Essay, XII

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid