File spoon-archives/nietzsche.archive/nietzsche_1998/nietzsche.9801, message 11

Date: Sun, 11 Jan 1998 13:42:46 -0500
Subject: Re: Nietzsche and Rationalism

Hi, John T. Duryea!

You ask:
>I wonder if Nietzsche is not criticising here the entire European
>"Enlightenment", including Darwin and Marx among others?
>With the Imperium, philosophy, as such, disappears.

And I would have to say "yes and no". Let's see if I can deconstruct the
text and see if what I see is what you see, or if it sheds a different
light, or... what.

>Twilight of the Idols, 10:
>"If one needs to make a tyrant of reason, as Socrates did, then...

He is using Socrates as a symbol, of course. Socrates is more than just a
"tyrant of reason". Marx thought he had summed up who was doing what to
whom, and how to stop it. Darwin was much more open-ended, and people like
William James, and Nietzsche, probably, realized this. The, as what James
calls, here:

  " ....Things are 'with' one another in many ways, but nothing includes
everything, or dominates over everything. The word 'and' trails along after
every sentence. Something always escapes. 'Ever not quite' has to be said
of the best attempts made anywhere in the universe at attaining
                ---William James, from _A Pluralistic Universe_

The "ever so much, but escaping" effect of searching for knowledge. James,
too, by the way, bashes Socrates. Here:

        "I saw that philosophy had been on a false scent ever since the
days of Socrates and Plato, that an _intellectual_ answer to the
intellectualist's difficulty will never come, and that the real way out of
them, far from consisting in the discovery of such an answer, consists in
simply closing one's ears to the question. When conceptualism summons life
to justify itself in conceptual terms, it is like a challenge addressed in
a foreign language to some one who is absorbed in his own business; it is
irrelevant to him altogether-- he may let it lie unnoticed...."
        ---William James, from _A Pluralistic Universe_

And for the same reason that Nietzsche does, as early as "The Birth of
Tragedy". That LIFE is not the same thing as an intellectual response, or
what Blake called Aristotle's "skeleton". That there's *mystery*, hence
James's fascination in what is now called parapsychology.

>there must exist no little danger of something else playing the
>tyrant. Rationality was at that time divined as a saviour;

And of course PASSION is very much a part of our lives, too. Jesus, Blakes
tells us, operated on sheer impulse. Sounds Dionysian, doesn't it?
(Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

>Socrates nor his 'invalids' were free to be rational or not, as
>they wished- it was de rigueur, it was their last expedient.

Still-- do you think Nietzsche would just turn TOTALLY away from the
rational, which is spiritual GodFather, Emerson (see Walter Kaufmann intro
to GAY SCIENCE for more info), often put as the source beam of hope? Reason
is still a solid ground, but it's *how* it's used. Is it used to
efficiently gas Jews? Is it used to pull body away from "mind" (Descartes'
error?). Or is it used to realize that there is MORE than just reason, and
that body and mind are part of the same condition, being alive, with enigma
far greater than our "knowing" will ever know?

>fanaticism with which the whole of Greek thought throws
>itself at rationality betrays a state of emergency;

As it was, also, during Nietzsche's time, was it not? And when Lenin's
Revolution happened, some came back and said, "I have seen the future and
it works!" But it wasn't as simple as that, was it! And neither can one
disclaim how much Mao HELPED China, even as he did other really bad things,
or that the literacy rate in Cuba is highest in the Caribbean, even as free
press there is only on paper!

>one was in
>peril, one had only one choice: either to perish or - be absurdly

Again, this is Nietzsche's "construct", but it's interesting. It's why
Blake set up Urizen (Reason) against Los (The Prophet of the Eternal
*Imagination*) as dialectics. Yes. Something got LOST along the way, under
Urizen's tyranny.

>The moralism of the Greek philosophers from
>Plato downwards is pathologically conditioned:

This IS a gross generalization, of course. Aristotle at least defended the
theater and "art", unlike Plato, and had some interesting theories that I
think are still valid. These thinkers aren't TOTAL bunk. It's just that
they're limited, and THINK they're know-it-alls. I would like to think that
this is Nietzsche's complaint, made sarcastic and sometimes shrill to the
point that, like Blake at times, you can't hear that he also has *some*
respect for them, too.

Remember that if Dionysus and Apollo came back, all we'd have is
intoxication and dream. Do you think Nietzsche would be averse to the
scientific method HELPING people (SuperPeople like Madame Curie, or the
invention of pennicilin?)...? And people helping THE PLANET, i.e.
endangered species, etc.? It's in our self-interest to be selfless, at

>likewise their
>estimation of dialectics.

This is a good point. As Emerson said, "life is not dialectics". Dialectics
are a way to view things, but as Nietzsche shows, it's only when you allow
them to mutate even as you use them, that they're alive and not

>Reason = virtue = happiness means
>merely: one must imitate Socrates and counter dark desires
>by producing a permanent daylight - the daylight of reason.

Yes. And although, again, there is *some* truth in wanting to "attain
happiness", as the Declaration of Independence in the US declares, there is
also some truth in the fact that some of the best art (Van Gogh, Blake,
Lawrence, and others come quickly to mind) is actually the product of great

>One must be prudent, clear, bright at any cost: every yielding
>to the instincts, to the unconscious, leads downwards..."

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." - Blake, MHH again

And, again, Blake's assertion is merely a half-truth, or "contrary" (dark?)
to the light. And also, as Fritjof Capra puts it in _The Tao of Physics_,
being at peace with NOT knowing, or knowing that when you view something as
Y, you may be abnegating that it's also Z, is being at peace with
half-truths, glimpses of the truth, realizing that there is more to life
than "Enlightenment" in the Western sense of the word. How about, for
example, "Enlightenment" in the Zen Buddhist sense of the word, which
perhaps is why Nietzsche is so popular in Japan?

        ---Randall Albright


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