PHILOSOPHY – Nietzsche

The challenge begins with how to pronounce
his name. The first bit should sound like ‘Knee’, the second like ‘cha’ Knee – cha. Then we need to get past some of his extraordinary
and provocative statements: ‘What doesn’t kill me makes
me stronger’ ‘God is dead! And we have killed him.’ And his large moustache. But when we do, we’ll discover a thinker
who is intermittently enchanting, wise and very helpful. Friedrich Nietzsche was born in 1844 in a
quiet village in the eastern part of Germany where his father was the priest. He did exceptionally well at school and university and so excelled at ancient Greek that he was made a professor at the University of Basel when still only in his mid-twenties. But his official career didn’t work out.
He got fed up with his fellow academics, gave up his job and moved to Sils Maria in the
Swiss alps where he lived quietly, working on his masterpieces, among them: The Birth of Tragedy,
Human, All Too Human, The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil,
On the Genealogy of Morals, He had lots of problems:
– he didn’t get on with his family: ‘I don’t like my mother and it’s painful
even for me to hear my sister’s voice.’ – women kept rejecting him.
– his books didn’t sell – And when he was only forty-four, he had
a mental breakdown, precipitated when he saw a horse in a Turin street being beaten by its driver and ran over to embrace him shouting
‘I understand you’. He never recovered and died eleven sad years later. But his philosophy was full of heroism and
grandeur. He was a prophet of what he called: SELBSTÜBERWINDUNG or SELF-OVERCOMING, the process by which a great-souled person – what he called an ÜBERMENSCH rises above their
circumstances and difficulties to embrace whatever life throws at them. He wanted his work to teach us, as he put
it, ‘how to become who we really are’. His thought centers around 4 main recommendations: Own up to envy Envy is – Nietzsche recognised – a big
part of life. Yet the lingering effects of Christianity generally teaches to be feel ashamed of our envious feelings. They seem an indication of evil. So we hide them from ourselves
and others Yet there is nothing wrong with envy, maintained
Nietzsche, so long as we use it as a guide to what we really want. Every person who makes
us envious should be seen as an indication of what we could one day become. The envy-inducing
writer, tycoon or chef is hinting at who you are capable of one day being. It’s not that Nietzsche believed we always end up getting what we want. His own life had taught him this well enough). He simply
insisted that we must face up to our true desires, put up a heroic fight to honour them,
and only then mourn failure with solemn dignity. That is what it means to be an ÜBERMENSCH 2. Don’t be a Christian Nietzsche had some extreme things to say about Christianity ‘In the entire New Testament, there is only person worth respecting: Pilate, the
Roman governor.’ It was knockabout stuff, but his true target
was more subtle and more interesting: he resented Christianity for protecting people from their
envy. Christianity had in Nietzsche’s account
emerged in the late Roman Empire in the minds of timid slaves, who had lacked the stomach to get hold of what they really wanted and so had clung to a philosophy that made a virtue of their cowardice. He called this SKLAVENMORAL Christians – whom he rather rudely termed
DIE HEERDE, the herd – had wished to enjoy the real ingredients of fulfilment (a
position in the world, sex, intellectual mastery, creativity) but had been too inept
to get them. They had therefore fashioned a hypocritical
creed denouncing what they wanted but were too weak to fight for – while praising what they did not want but happened to have. So, in the Christian value system, sexlessness turned into purity [show text changing] weakness
became goodness, submission-to-people-one-hates became obedience and, in Nietzsche’s phrase,
“not-being-able-to-take-revenge” turned into “forgiveness.” Christianity amounted to a giant machine for
bitter denial. 3. Never drink alcohol Nietzsche himself drank only water – and
as a special treat, milk. And he thought we should do likewise. He wasn’t making a small, eccentric dietary point. The idea went to
the heart of his philosophy, as contained in his declaration: ‘There have been two
great narcotics in European civilisation: Christianity and alcohol.’ He hated alcohol for the very same reasons
that he scorned Christianity: because both numb pain, and both reassure us that things
are just fine as they are, sapping us of the will to change our lives for the better. A
few drinks usher in a transient feeling of satisfaction that can get fatally in the way
of taking the steps necessary to improve our lives. Nietzsche was obsessed with the awkward truth
that getting really valuable things done hurts. “How little you know of human happiness
– you comfortable people” he wrote “The secret of a fulfilled life is: live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes
of Mount Vesuvius!” 4. “God is Dead” Nietzsche’s dramatic assertion that God
is dead is not, as it’s often taken to be, some kind of a celebratory statement. Despite his reservations about Christianity,
Nietzsche did not think that the end of belief was anything to cheer about. Religious beliefs were false, he knew; but
he observed that they were very beneficial in the sense of helping us cope with the problems
of life. Nietzsche felt that the gap left by religion
should ideally be filled by Culture (he meant: philosophy, art, music, literature): Culture should replace Scripture. However, Nietzsche was deeply suspicious of
the way his own era was handling culture. He believed the universities were killing the humanities, turning them into dry academic exercises, rather than using them for what they were always meant to be: guides to life. He admired the way the Greeks had used tragic drama in a practical, therapeutic way, as an occasion for catharsis and moral education
– and wished his own age to be comparably ambitious. He called for a reformation, in which people
– newly conscious of the crisis brought on by the end of faith – would fill the
gaps created by the disappearance of religion with philosophy and art. Every era faces particular psychological challenges,
thought Nietzsche, and it is the task of the philosopher to identify, and help solve, these. For Nietzsche, the 19th century was reeling under the impact of two developments: Mass Democracy and Atheism. The first threatened to unleash torrents of undigested
envy; the second to leave humans without guidance or morality. In relation to both challenges, Nietzsche
remains our endearing, fascinating often loveable and moustachioed guide.