Nietzsche is perhaps more readable than other philosophers due to his refrain from mentioning too many influences. Yet he does manage to sneak in Spinoza now and again. The mere frequency of mention, whether the context be in agreement or not, somehow underlines the influence the published thoughts of said Dutch thinker have on our good German friend. If you begin to read up on this Spinoza character you will find a reference of Descartes and thus the chain goes on. It doesn’t seem too forward to assume that all these meta physicists flog each others work perhaps in the hope that their posthumous treatment would be similar. I for one find the act of associating one self with some already published author too cumbersome. With too many intellectuals about perhaps this compartmentalization using terms like Spinozist or Marxist are mandated for the ease of conversation and debate. But this crude generalization on the basis of one identifying oneself with a few lines written by a now dead European seems too limiting.
There are strong vibes of distinction and segregation in this book. The wit and generally humorous nature of the text is getting clearer as I read on, so the distinction between sarcasm and sincere statements is becoming more difficult. A talk of baser men and their inability to comprehend much of life(their life) and its complexity speaks with a degree of realism and perhaps arrogance which it’s hard to see any publisher of today digesting. He(N) speaks of the norm and the exception and how for the latter it is better(more interesting) to study the former than itself. Here he doesn’t speak of it as a matter of utility by application of the study to a majority. The idea is certainly acceptable and to any egotist appealing in the sense that it recognizes his/her exceptional nature while suggesting a decent path of scholarship. But Nietzsche is not subtle in his intellectual bigotry(can’t think of a better word but bigotry is generally irrational : the idea here is segregation on the basis of intellectual capacity and propensity).
You should not go to church if you want to breathe clean air.
The statement above is neither from his church hating paras nor implying anything about being in the company of sinners. It is something more basic, a general accusation of distastefulness in the common man and how the observation of such should hold greater promise than the adoration of things that are refined. Perhaps what to me was defining in this entire discourse circling the intellectual distinctions between men was the following statement:
Cynicism is the only form in which base souls touch upon that thing which is genuine honesty.
A glum but appealing view, but then as the author says that the unpleasantness of a truth can’t change its validity and our embrace of the free spirits shouldn’t lead to an expectation of constant pleasantness. Here we also come upon his views on the translation of philosophical works and the loss of meaning by the change in language. This is something which seems more than apparent in this work too where the excessive exclamations in the English version seem too uncharacteristic for a man who could write such content. (Or perhaps sarcasm has lost its potency in the translation process)
Now things begin to get murky again as he insists on an independence, its needs and benefits and nature. On how to subscribe to this new age of philosophy one must be independent of others, of matter and of language. Thoughts must not be confined by the limitations of grammar nor by their reception by one’s immediate audience. Here the degree of conviction is almost fanatic prompting the reader to ask aloud : “Have you, oh mustachioed one, considered the possibility of you being completely wrong?” Luckily this inexplicable journey for a disassociating independence ends as abruptly as it began. We come now to a common ground, religion.
Generally I shy away from religious philosophy, it’s after all rather headstrong and to quote Nietzsche, dogmatic. Over certainty in things non -provable has always been an issue with me. So while men and women of heightened religiosity may have had some wonderful and insightful thoughts over their mortal spans, their inclination to introduce doctrines in simple conversation is irritating. So like me many an admirer of Modern philosophy finds solace in those authors who bash religion for its simplistic exploitation of simpletons. That is to say to a mind like mine perhaps the only form in which the heterogeneous mixture of religion and philosophy is acceptable is that of the two in conflict. The author of this book is not unabashed or even bridled in his theological views. He lashes out against the church, especially the Catholic church in vehemence. He explains that the foundations of monotheistic religions lay in the liberation of the oppressed. But so used were these souls to repression that they enjoyed a new form of deprivation and slavery which the church demanded of them. He speaks of the joy of repentance after sinning and so on. The idea seems to be more than plausible and applicable to religions beyond the cross. The rationalization of a human demand for subjugation immediately makes one think of a misanthropic Bond villain. Such a rationale pales certainly when compared to the scientific explanations to pious deprivation which seem to constitute social media posts. But the idea is not one to be lightly brushed aside.
Another observation is the idleness of the religious. While they may be ritualistic, a general resignation to fate and the ridicule of the industrious is addressed. If you look at even the Hindu cycle of life there is an obvious reverence to meditation and resignation from worldly duties after a certain age. This socially acceptable form of idleness irritates Nietzsche. To whom the purposes of religion are to be limited to the deliverance of philosophy to the masses who can’t appreciate wisdom in its purest form. He goes on to argue that dealing out hardcore texts of metaphysical thought to the common base man may do more evil than good. After denouncing the Bible he puts rather bluntly the after effects of religion as :
Until a stunted almost ridiculous type, a herd animal well meaning, sickly and mediocre has finally been bred; the European of today.
Like all Western philosophers Nietzsche’s focus is on the Church and Europe but he recognizes texts and thinkers from the East and West. The orient is mentioned and the Brahmins lauded for being king makers and not kings. For using religion to achieve a better society than to propound a constant fear of the almighty. An understanding which holds no water today but still.
The 1st post in this series can be found here