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51120Re: Nihilism, Nietzsche and creating values

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  • Mary
    Mar 4, 2010
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      Regarding science, Nietzsche seemed more concerned with the valuation of truth and belief in Truth. He worried that theoretical science would merely replace the ascetic, life denying ideal. Mary

      From On The Genealogy of Morals (post The Gay Science):

      Now, let's consider, on the other hand, those rarer cases I mentioned, the last idealists remaining today among the philosophers and scholars. Perhaps in them we have the opponents of the ascetic ideal we're looking for, the counter-idealists? In fact, that's what they think they are, these "unbelievers" (for that's what they are collectively). That, in particular, seems to be their last item of belief, that they are opponents of this ideal, for they are so serious about this stance, their words and gestures are so passionate on this very point:—but is it therefore necessarily the case that what they believe is true? We "knowledgeable people" are positively suspicious of all forms of believers. Our suspicion has gradually cultivated the habit in us of concluding the reverse of what people previously concluded: that is, wherever the strength of a faith steps decisively into the foreground, we infer a certain weakness in its ability to demonstrate its truth, even the improbability of what it believes. We, too, do not deny that the belief "makes blessed," but for that very reason we deny that the belief proves something—a strong belief which confers blessedness creates doubts about what it has faith in. It does not ground "truth." It grounds a certain probability— delusion. Well, how do things stand in this case?—These people who say no today, these outsiders, these people who are determined on one point, their demand for intellectual probity, these hard, strong, abstemious, heroic spirits, who constitute the honour of our age, all these pale atheists, anti-Christians, immoralists, nihilists, these sceptics, ephectics, hectics of the spirit (collectively they are all hectic in some sense or other), the last idealists of knowledge, the only ones in whom intellectual conscience lives and takes on human form nowadays— they really do believe that they are as free as possible from the ascetic ideal, these "free, very free spirits," and yet I am revealing to them what they cannot see for themselves—for they are standing too close to themselves—this ascetic ideal is also their very own ideal. They themselves represent it today. Perhaps they are the only ones who do. They themselves are its most spiritual offspring, the furthest advanced of its troops and its crowd of scouts, its most awkward, most delicate, most incomprehensibly seductive form. If I am any kind of solver of puzzles, then I want to be that with this statement! . . . They are not free spirits—not by any stretch—for they still believe in the truth. When the Christian crusaders in the Orient came across that unconquerable Order of Assassins, that free-spirited order par excellence, whose lowest ranks lived a life of obedience of the sort no order of monks attained, then they also received by some means or other a hint about that symbol and slogan which was reserved for only the highest ranks as their secret, "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." . . . Well now, that was freedom of the spirit. With that the very belief in truth was cancelled. . . . Has a European, a Christian free spirit ever wandered by mistake into this proposition and its labyrinthine consequences? Has he come to know the Minotaur of this cavern from experience? . . . I doubt it. More than that: I know differently:— nothing is more immediately foreign to people set on one thing, these so-called "free spirits," than freedom and emancipation in this sense: in no respect are they more firmly bound; in their very belief in the truth they are, as no one else is, firm and unconditional. Perhaps I understand all this from far too close a distance: that admirable philosophical abstinence which such a belief requires, that intellectual stoicism, which ultimately forbids one to deny just as strongly as it forbids one to affirm, that desire to come to a standstill before the facts, the factum brutum [brute fact], that fatalism of the "petits faits" [small facts] (what I call ce petit faitalisme [this small factism]), that quality with which French science nowadays seeks a sort of moral precedence over German science, the attainment of a state where one, in general, abandons interpretation (violating, emending, abbreviating, letting go, filling in the cracks, composing, forging, and the other actions which belong to the nature of all interpretation)—generally speaking, this attitude expresses just as much virtuous asceticism as any denial of sensuality (basically it is only one mode of this denial). However, what compels a person to this unconditional will for truth is the faith in the ascetic ideal itself, even though it may be its unconscious imperative. We should not deceive ourselves on this point— it is a belief in a metaphysical value, a value of truth in itself, something guaranteed and affirmed only in that ideal (it stands or falls with that ideal). Strictly speaking, there is no science "without presuppositions." The idea of such a science is unimaginable, paralogical: a philosophy, a "belief," must always be there first, so that with it science can have a direction, a sense, a border, a method, a right to exist. (Whoever thinks the reverse, whoever, for example, is preparing to place philosophy "on a strictly scientific foundation," first must place, not just philosophy, but also truth itself on its head—the worst injury to decency one could possibly give to two such venerable women!). In fact, there is no doubt about this matter—and here I'm letting my book The Gay Science have a word (see its fifth book, Section 344)—"The truthful person, in that daring and ultimate sense which the belief in science presupposes in him, thus affirms a world different from the world of life, of nature, and of history, and to the extent that he affirms this "other world," well? Must he not in the process deny its opposite, this world, our world? . . . Our faith in science rests on something which is still a metaphysical belief—even we knowledgeable people of today, we godless and anti-metaphysical people—we, too, still take our fire from that blaze kindled by a thousand years of old belief, that faith in Christianity, which was also Plato's belief, that God is the truth, that the truth is divine. . . . But how can we do that, if this very claim is constantly getting more and more difficult to believe, if nothing reveals itself as divine any more, unless it's error, blindness, lies—if even God manifests himself as our longest lasting lie?" At this point it's necessary to pause and reflect for a long while. Science itself from now on requires some justification (by that I don't yet mean to claim that there is such a justification for it). People should examine the oldest and the most recent philosophers on this question. They all lack an awareness of the problem of the extent to which the will to truth itself first needs some justification—here is a hole in every philosophy. How does that come about? It's because the ascetic ideal up to this point has been master of all philosophies, because truth has been established as being, as god, as the highest authority itself, because truth was not allowed to be problematic. Do you understand this "allowed"?—From the moment when the belief in the god of the ascetic ideal is denied, there is also a new problem: the problem of the value of truth.—The will to truth requires a critique—let us identify our own work with that requirement—for once to place in question, as an experiment, the value of truth. . . . (Anyone who thinks this has been stated too briefly is urged to read over that section of The Gay Science, pp. 160 ff, which carries the title "The Extent to Which We Also Are Still Devout," Section 344—or better, the entire fifth book of that work, as well as the preface to The Dawn.)

      On the Genealogy of Morals
      A Polemical Tract by Friedrich Nietzsche
      Third Essay-What Do Ascetic Ideals Mean? (24)
      Translated by Ian Johnston
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