Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil Part Six

Welcome to Part Six of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. I’m reading from the Kaufmann edition, but you can find this text online, for example, Ian Johnston’s.

This section is titled “We Scholars.” Uh oh.

In this section Nietzsche attacks his fellow philosophers, as well as the scientists of his day. Nietzsche notes that science is valued more than philosophy:

Science is flourishing today and her good conscience is written all over her face, while the level to which all modern philosophy has gradually sunk, this rest of philosophy today, invites mistrust and displeasure, if not mockery and pity.

Nietzsche notes that “today” if a man is praised for being a “philosopher”, it’s not because he has truly engaged with life, but because he lives apart, “prudently” or “wisely”:

Wisdom — seems to the rabble a kind of escape, a means and trick for getting well out of a wicked game. But the genuine philosopher — it seems to us, my friends? — lives “unphilosophically”and “unwisely,” above all imprudently, and feels the burden and the duty of a hundred attempts and temptations of life — he risks himself constantly, he plays the wicked game–

Nietzsche offers a psychology of the “scientist” and “scholar” as weak, concerned overly with reputation, lazy, complacent, in general, lacking a will to power, a saying yes to life.  At best, says Nietzsche, these men are tools belonging in the hand of one more powerful.” He criticizes them for their pursuit of truth, of objectivity, the desire to sort of sit still and serve as a reflecting mirror for Truth:

his habit of meeting every thing and experience halfway, the sunny and impartial hospitality with which he accepts everything that comes his way, his type of unscrupulous benevolence, of dangerous unconcern about Yes and No…

his mirror soul, eternally smoothing itself out, no longer knows how to affirm or negate; he does not command, neither does he destroy.

Nietzsche then moves into a discussion of the fashionable but poisonous type of skepticism that goes with this type of scholar. The skepticism of the philosopher of his day…

is the most spiritual expression of a certain complex physiological condition that in ordinary language is called nervous exhaustion and sickliness.

What he says immediately after this in section 208, I’ll skip, because it has to do with ridiculous 19th century theories about class and race mixing.

Although it is not super clear here, Nietzsche attacks the ascetic ideal in both the scientist and philosopher (i.e. skeptic) of his day. In Nietzsche’s view, asceticism is a response to a fact of human existence: suffering. Asceticism makes suffering meaningful (think of the Christian account of suffering). In Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche suggests that science is a possible rival to the ascetic ideal, because it is Godless, and seems to eschew the virtue of denial. But there, and here, Nietzsche ultimately rejects science as a rival to asceticism, instead seeing it as a new expression of it.

Just like philosophy, science thrives on the idea that it is purely objective, and that it is a “will to truth.” Nietzsche objects to both of these ideas: he thinks you can’t get rid of human psychology, human perspective, human history, and he thinks that the “will to truth” obliterates or obscures a lot of other things that make life worth affirming. Although Nietzsche likes science, and likes truth, he thinks the “will to truth” overvalues truth.

Genuine philosophers, Nietzsche says in this section of BGE, are not mere critics or instruments of science, they are:

commanders and legislators: they say, “thus it shall be!” They first determine the Whither and For What of man, and in so doing have at their disposal the preliminary labor of all philosophical laborers, all who have overcome the past. With a creative hand they reach for the future, and all that is and has been becomes a means for them, and instrument, a hammer. Their “knowing” is creating, their creating is a legislation, their will to truth is — will to power.

This section touches on Nietzsche’s concept of the “will to power”, and his theory of truth. I can’t get into them at the moment, so I’ll take the easy (“pop psychology Nietzsche”) way out and say that one way to read this section is as asking the reader what she is doing and why. What contribution does she take herself to be making, and for what? Is she an instrument or a user of instruments?

Finally, we can ask, following Nietzsche’s separation of philosophers into two categories in section 211, whether one must be one or the other. Was not Plato, for example, both a “servant” and “critic”  of philosophical frameworks and questions he inherited from Socrates and also a a “creator of values”?

I’ll close with another great quote:

So far all of the extraordinary furtherers of man whom one calls philosophers, though they themselves have rarely felt like friends of wisdom but rather like disagreeable fools and dangerous question mark, have found their task, their hard, unwanted, inescapable task, but eventually also the greatness of their task, in being the bad conscience of their time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 responses

  1. I really like how you write. I like how he has two view-points when it comes to skepticism. In 207 he says why are philosophers in such a rush, some skepticism is good. And then there are places in the next aphorism where he claims that a certain kind of skepticism can lead to objectivity.

    He also talks about skepticism as very beneficial because it leads to new questions and then new answers.

    Like

  2. @Hadeel: Thansk for your comment and the link back to your site. I agree with you on Nietzsche’s take on skepticism. A real skepticism, not a pose, can be beneficial in just the way you say.

    Like

  3. I’d like it if you could say a little bit more, or perhaps write an aside, about N’s will to power. That concept is one that interests me mightily but that I’m foggy on.

    Like

gorillasinthemistblog

a site about Dian Fossey, scientist

Literature and Medicine

Reading Literature for Life

Prof's Progress

... on making sense, one word at a time

Bkwurm

Bkwurm: /book*worm/ n. a person devoted to reading and study

Nyssa Harkness

Media and Cultural Studies - Disability Studies, Genre Fiction, & Gaming

Shelf Love

live mines and duds: the reading life

Love is the Best Medicine

Harlequin/Mills and Boon Medical Romance Authors

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.

specficromantic

reviews by a speculative fiction romantic

Centre for Medical Humanities

This site has now closed

Miss Bates Reads Romance

Miss Bates is Austen's loquacious spinster in Emma. No doubt Miss Bates read romances ... here's what she would've thought of them.

Badass Romance

heroes, heroines, and books that demand to be taken seriously

badnecklace.com

not quite pearls of wisdom

Thinking in Fragments

but making connections too

Tales from the Reading Room

A Literary Salon Where All Are Welcome

momisatwork

thinking about teaching, learning, home and family

Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

Feminist reflections on fitness, sport, and health

Heloise Merlin's Weblog

Virtual people read books, too!

Bblog Central

Your source for book blogging.

A Striped Armchair

Bookish thoughts from a woman of endless curiousity

Sonomalass's Blog

Another day in paradise

RR@H Novel Thoughts & Book Talk

Featuring Author Interviews and Commentaries

Something More

my extensive reading

avidbookreader

a reader blog

The Romantic Goldfish

"Cheapest mother fucking goldfish on the planet"

Shallowreader

...barely skimming the surface

Joanna Chambers

Romance author

THE DAILY RUCKUS

ROYALTY, ROMANCE NOVELS, AND A LITTLE RUCKUS