Reading Nietzsche: A Strange Nihilism

From Twilight of the Idols – or – how one philosophizes with a hammer:

Concerning life, the wisest men of all ages have judged alike: it is no good. Always and everywhere one has heard the same sound from their mouths–a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness of life, full of resistence to life. Even Socrates said, as he died: “To live—that means to be sick a long time: I owe Asclepius the Savior a rooster.” Even Socrates was tired of it. What does that evidence? What does that evince? Formerly one would have said (—oh, it has been said, and loud enough, and especially by our pessimists): “At least something of all this must be true! The consensus of the ages evidences the truth.” Shall we still talk like today? May we? “At least something must be sick here,” we retort.

Some people consider Nietzsche to be the first, or first modern, or even best existentialist in history. Others, too—especially those who haven’t read his work—assume that he, like the other existentialists, offered a dark, cold, mechanical view of human nature and of the universe: he was (gasp!) a nihilist. But to the contrary, this loathing (and self-loathing) was precisely Nietzsche’s critique of most philosophy and of all religion, especially Christianity. “Do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes,” he wrote in Zarathustra, “Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying and poisoned themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so let them go.”

Derrick Jensen’s 14th premise sounds similar:

From birth on—and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case—we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.

Ask yourself what kind of worldview starts with the idea that humans are evil, or fatally flawed, or sinful or selfish on their own, without influence from an external authority to correct them, by a weird paternalistically euphemized judgment and punishment. Would this kind of worldview lead to a healthy interaction between humans, or any interaction at all between humans and other species, or between humans and rivers?

I submit, like Nietzsche did, that all notions of other worlds are necessarily harmful to this, material one we live on/in/with. The “logical” conclusion of a denial of humanity, a denial of ecosystems, is religion: another, ethereal place—an escape pod from reality. I for one wouldn’t want to escape Earth even if it were possible, bodily or mentally. But of course it isn’t, so that should leave all ethical and moral questions to deal only with the material planet.


6 thoughts on “Reading Nietzsche: A Strange Nihilism

  1. It’s good to read a post about Nietzsche by somebody who reads Nietzsche. What you write about the christian world view also makes sense and I like the clear, readable blog.

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