Derek Sivers

Nietzsche: a complete introduction - by Roy Jackson

Nietzsche: a complete introduction - by Roy Jackson

ISBN: 1444790579
Date read: 2022-08-07
How strongly I recommend it: 7/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Clear summary and explanation of Nietzsche’s writing. I’ve listened to a whole audio course on Nietzsche and read another summary of his philosophy, but this book explains it best.

my notes

Nietzsche was attacking a belief in objective faith, but also a belief in objective values or truths.
Their reluctance, to face the reality of their situation, is self-deception.
We must choose our own values.

Nietzsche writes so that his reader can dip into his books as if they were jumping into a glacial stream, that is, in and out quickly with the expectation that the experience will be remembered for some time to come.

Analytic philosophy aligns itself with science, and focuses on clarification of terms, rather producing whole systems of philosophy.

Nietzsche’s assumes that his reader is already familiar with philosophy.

Kant argues that there are two worlds:
•  the world of phenomena or ‘appearance’
•  the world of noumena or ‘reality’.
Like wearing irremovable spectacles that make you see the world unlike how it really is.
Kant concluded that there is the world of appearance that we impose through our ‘irremovable spectacles’ and there is the world as it really is, which we cannot perceive.
Kant argues that if there is an ‘apparent’ world there must also be a real world.

Schopenhauer believed that it is possible to know the noumenal.
The world as it is perceived is the creation of the mind that perceives it.
In other words, ‘the world is my idea’.
Schopenhauer equates the real world with the ‘I’ who has the idea.

Ideas = appearance = body and other objects
The ‘I’ that has the idea = reality = will.
The world is a duality.

Schopenhauer saw consciousness as the mere surface of our minds.
Under the conscious intellect is the unconscious Will, which is a striving, persistent force.
It may seem that the intellect drives the Will, but it is, in fact, the other way round.
When you desire something it is not because you have found a good reason to desire it, but, rather, that you desire something first and then establish reasons to cloak those desires.
Denying the Will (which is the only reality) and being left with ideas (which are not real), is extinction of the self.
This philosophy now enters the realms of ascetic sainthood, and Schopenhauer reveals the influence of Buddhism.

Nietzsche’s greatest, most mature works:
Dawn (1881) attacks the idea that morality has any objective basis
The Gay Science (1882) first declares the death of God
Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885) talks of the ‘Superman’
Beyond Good and Evil (1886) brings together all of his philosophy in the most systematic way.
His aphorisms were brought together and published as Human, All Too Human (1878) and Dawn (1881).

Rée’s view of existence as having no ultimate meaning led him into pessimism, whereas it tended to liberate Nietzsche.

Nietzsche saw the villa as a ‘monastery for free spirits’.
‘In Sorrento I shook off nine years of moss.’
The three ‘free sprits’ worked on their books.

Nietzsche, in line with how he perceived the ancient Greeks and the original purpose of philosophy, believed that his writings were not intended to be mere expositions of a philosophical point of view, but transforming, consciousness-raising exercises.
He believed that those who read his books could be seduced into a new way of life.

Morals and beliefs are a product of a particular time and place.
Therefore, there is no such thing as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

Nietzsche saw Socrates as representative of the desire to explain, to engage in argument and counter-argument, rather than accept that ultimately there are no explanations.

Nietzsche hoped one day to combine philology with music, to produce music written with words rather than with notes.

In a dream, you express fantasies, but these are a way of forgetting the world rather than confronting the realities of the world.

Paintings are only representations of the world.
They are fantasies that allow us to turn our backs, at least for a while, from the world we live in.
Dionysian intoxication is forgetting your self and experiencing more of a mystical communal union, akin to music.
Dionysiac energies are dangerous, grotesque, cruel, sexual and wild.

Normative ethics may advise us on whether or not an action is morally good or bad.
Meta-ethics is more concerned with how we define ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Meta-ethics is more concerned with the language we use.

“Beyond Good and Evil” raises the question of why we want truth: why not untruth?
Philosophers seek for truth, but the most important question should not be what is true or not but the extent to which a belief supports life and maintains a species.
When philosophers make claims to truth, they are merely presenting a preconceived dogma that tells you more about the philosopher’s beliefs.

See Nietzsche’s moral philosophy as an attempt to get us to react, to present a psychological thesis, rather than to argue for any factual account of morality.

An error in logic: to move from factual statements to value statements: from an ‘is’ (fact) to an ‘ought’ (value).
For example, consider the following argument:
1 There are many poor people in the world.
2  The wealthy nations have the financial means to end world poverty.
3 Therefore, the wealthy nations should end world poverty.
Given the first two factual statements above, Hume observes that the conclusion does not logically follow.
You could quite easily replace the conclusion with, for example, ‘Therefore, the wealthy nations should get wealthier!’
While we may be morally outraged by this conclusion, there is nothing logically necessary in the statement that rich nations should help poor nations.
Hume brilliantly highlighted a crucial error here, which applies equally to Kant (we are rational, therefore we ought to be rational) and Aristotle (we have a function, therefore we ought to fulfil our function).

Morality is a result of circumstance, not the other way round.
Morality serves a useful function in that it binds the fabric of the group.
Morality can outlive its use and become a hindering custom.

The expression of pity is a weapon the weak use against the strong.
Nietzsche did not believe it was possible to literally feel someone else’s pain and, therefore, experience true pity.
To want pity is to want others to suffer with you.
The effort of some neurotics to arouse pity in others is because they wish to hurt others and to demonstrate that they at least have this power.

Why Christianity originated with the slaves of the Roman Empire, Nietzsche argued that the slaves saw it as a way of releasing themselves from bondage. As the slaves were not powerful enough to literally free themselves from their masters, they were consoled by religious belief that provided them with spiritual liberation. The first Christians were slaves under the Roman Empire and the only way they could assert any kind of superiority over the Romans was to assume a higher spiritual status. This was achieved by inverting the values of society. Christians regarded values such as compassion or pity as righteous values that would lead to reward from God, whereas other values such as self-interest were seen as sinful.
The real motive for promoting Christian values was not because there actually is a God that enforces such values, but because the slaves resented the status of the Romans and wanted to possess their power.
The slave feels impotent compared with the master and he is not able to accept the idea that he is treated worse than others. What is the slave to do? He cannot simply use brute force, as this will result in him being in a worse state than before, and so he must use guile. In order to enact revenge upon his master, the slave uses the weapon of moral conduct. It consists of getting the master to acquiesce to the moral code of the slave and appraise himself according to the slave’s perspective. As Christians, the slaves do not have the option of revenge, for they should ‘turn the other cheek’. However, so successful were the slaves in their guile and secrecy that they managed to disguise their revenge under the cloak of pure intentions.
If you are frightened of your neighbour, you react by wanting your neighbour to love you. This is why love is a Christian virtue.

The slave’s morality is a reaction to the actions of others. That is, when someone does something to you that you resent, then you class it as ‘bad’ and, consequently, you create a morality in opposition to this – one that is ‘good’.
The master’s morality, however, is not a reaction to others at all. The master has no need to view himself according to the actions of others, but rather affirms himself. He does not require to be loved or for everyone to conform.

Nietzsche regards Jesus as a member of the master morality because Jesus was a life affirmer who criticized the Jewish priests for using religion as a means of social control.
Nietzsche places the blame firmly on St Paul as the one who misinterpreted Jesus’ teachings. St Paul corrupted Jesus’ teachings to suit his own ends.
St Paul said this world was inferior to the next world. The priests turned Christianity into life denying, instead of Christ’s life affirmation.

Nietzsche himself sees Christianity as nihilistic, as life denying and depraved, in which life can have meaning only by reference to some otherworldly realm.
Cannot human life be self-affirming?
Question whether humanity really needs redemption from the divine.

The Superman has mastered himself and creates his own values.

Nietzsche was a trained philologist and he chose his words carefully.

As soon as any philosophy begins to believe in itself, it creates the world in its own image.

Nietzsche knows he is seeing the world from his own perspective. How can anybody do otherwise?
The knowledge that one cannot demonstrate objective truths, that one cannot step outside one’s own perspective, is not a reason to remain silent or to adopt a nihilistic stance towards our values.

Rejoice in the realization that we cannot know what is true.

When faced with a world that no longer had meaning or credibility in his eyes, he creates a world that has meaning for him.
Whether it is ‘true’ or not is irrelevant.

Say ‘yes’ to life and go on the offensive against mediocrity and decadent values.

Writing was a form of therapy, but also he believed that reading his works could be therapeutic for the reader. Philosophy as therapy.

The life you have lived and continue to live will be the same life you will live again and again for infinity.
If this were the case, would you cry out in despair over such a prospect, or would you think it to be the most wonderful outlook ever?
You do not have to believe it is true. Merely consider the prospect of it being true and the psychological effect this has upon you.
The aim is to provide an insight into the way we live our lives and, perhaps, even to change the way we live our lives.

The words ‘mind’ or ‘soul’ are so embedded within our language.
Our language is based upon humankind’s early use of language, upon a more primitive psychology that we therefore cannot escape from because of our use of everyday language.
When we use a word, we still remain attached to the common-sense view that the word actually refers to something, rather than it being the product of humankind many generations ago.

Cultural claustrophobia, leading to a longing for other cultures.
He wanted to live in Japan simply because it is so radically different from his own European culture.
Nietzsche used other cultures as a battering ram against his own culture.
Presenting possible alternatives.

We need role models that inspire us to greatness through imitation.
They must be mythologized, not deconstructed and individualized.
Our heroes need to be lacking specific detail, to be blurred around the edges, so that we can fill the gaps with our poetic invention.

A life devoted to labour makes it impossible to create great art.
Nietzsche argued that slavery is an essential feature of any society that wishes to attain high culture. Slavery is the essence of culture.

A nihilist is only negative and puts nothing forward in its place.

Albert Camus: for life to be meaningful we must live every moment like a person who has just come out of prison and smells the fresh air, feels the sunlight and the ground below.

What Nietzsche actually meant by ‘blond beast’ was a reference to the lion as king of the beasts.