With Nietzsche, one of the first fears is spelling his name wrong but that should be the least of one’s worries. (always a bad sign when I refer to myself as one). Well this text [Beyond Good and Evil] is proving difficult and not for the conventional reasons of confusion and density. No, its more to do with the way it’s written and what that says about the man who wrote it. You can make allowances for the losses in translation but not so much as to alter everything entirely.
So what’s bothering me? The general tone of the text to begin with. Its rather accusatory and although he uses that all to familiar method of ‘us’ (the author and his audience) against the World, it doesn’t really stick. Much too often you find yourself sympathizing with one or the other faction against which this German rants. Then there is that very common aroma of dead certainty which makes me uncomfortable. Most of the famed philosophers of past and even of today seem to fling at you with a heightened degree of surety, whatever is that they believe in. Nietzsche himself begins this text with a mention of truth and it being what it is, by the definition of those who seem to be seeking it. While doing this he himself seems too sure of what he thinks, leaving too little scope for doubt. Perhaps for the initial pedaling of any metaphysical idea one must portray an undying and unwavering belief in it? If the search then indeed is for something which is objective then can the concepts of belief and such surety even creep in? Should not these claims be surrounded by reasonable assumptions and possible flaws? There again we have an issue, for if an idea whether it be in morality or in ethics or any other form of the metaphysical were to be taken as true then it must be so under all circumstances and for all beings be true. If not then we have case specific philosophy which is perhaps easiest to digest but not so easy to sell.
After all philosophy like any other cure for a malady must be generic enough to apply to multiple wounds of multiple souls but specialized enough for it to appear esoteric to the commoner. Then only can a man or a woman who makes this his or her trade hope to earn a living or name, whatever is more dearer. The act of delegating societal thinking about non material processes has been long prevalent. Most of us are too occupied with keeping our affairs in order to delve into that mysterious realm in which sages and nearly-mad men wander. Thus those with an inheritance and thus relieved of the burdens of bread and butter procurement often end up with the task of experimenting with the human psyche and so on. Even to such materially comfortable souls the allure of appreciation, adulation and if nothing else, acceptance; must be strong. To be able to propound something popular is thus an attractive proposition. One which is capable of swaying these otherwise stellar individuals from the true nature of things. Such an understanding is apparent in the reading of Nietzsche. He says that the pursuit of knowledge although a noble enough goal for the purposes of statement, is in fact mostly hollow. Underlying quests for a better life, family, money and fame are what drive scholars to scholarly works instead of just wanting to know.
Such a theory is of course palatable especially with the knowledge that one now has about those who pursue scholarship professionally. There is also the question of what is knowing? Here the author is unclear but points us in the direction of morality. As I should have anticipated from the title itself, Nietzsche reduces the meaning of everything to the distinction between good and bad (to begin with). One obviously anticipates the cold and calculated dissolution of this proposition soon but for now the them seems to be that the pursuit of morality is what most philosophers have been busy in. One can’t be as harsh as the author in the judgement of his predecessors. Primarily because of the insights which we now have. The early to ancient philosophers got patronage from powers that were instead of merely academic institutes thus the pursuit of good vs evil and setting the self serving norms of such distinctions is perhaps understandable.
Finally by the second part(which is as far as I have gotten to) there is the diminishing of the concept of free will. This according to the author is just a tool which has been too overused by prior philosophers to explain much of human activity. How free is this will actually and is willing something enough? Can we suppose that willing to do something very strongly is as good as doing it? After all if a person wills something and we can control external circumstances then he or she must go ahead and do it, after all this idea of it needing doing was one of his own conception. As I write this statement I am reminded of a strong disapproval which this author expresses of language defining philosophy. The way we envision and imagine things has become too dependent on our form of verbal expression. Hence when we talk or write about thinking we see it as a discrete activity. We define the metaphysical as processes, using verbs to describe something which we know to have no form. While the convenience of all of this obvious so must be the downfall in trying to give dimension to something which has none.
Overall till now although the text has been perplexing due to the over abundance of exclamations, accusations and emotions, it is still enjoyable. It doesn’t seem as old it is and it not hard to relate to this man who certainly drove himself if not others insane. Perhaps that is what is so frightening about it?