Saturday, June 6, 2009

St. Nietzsche IV: Arguments II and III

Is it really so easy to counter Nietzsche as to note that there is no human greatness--no "uber-mensch"--without the long patience with weakness and smallness on every level that form the crucial initial stages of every human beings history? Well, it was with the first of the three arguments. Let's look at the next two. (And just a reminder, I'm basically vamping on implications taken from one of Nietzsche's aphorisms, which you can read by looking back a couple of posts.)


This argument begins with the point that the first argument turned on (see last post): If the two main ideas connected to "justice" are getting what one deserves and delivering equality of opportunity, then justice is inherently elitist in that it should overturn any biases AGAINST the best--the greatest--among us from getting the lion's share of the goods sought for in competition with other lesser human beings. And stated in the abstract, it is undoubtedly true. The entailments of the two main senses of "justice" brought into conjunction auger in Nietzsche's favor. I am both surprised that Nietzsche never offered this argument directly and sincerely of the opinion that the simple and summary critique offered above--and in the last post--counters it effectively. Consequently, my best guess is that Nietzsche also saw that making the argument explicit was a dead end. But that suggests the question, if he saw that this argument was a dead end for the reason stated, what else did he presumably see in it (to account for the fact that he did not recant)? That brings us to the second argument.

The remaining rationale is, in fact, easy to locate: Nietzsche thought that it was bad for human society to corrupt the moral law in order to overturn the elitist bias natural to justice. It is bad precisely because it is against nature.

So here's the second argument, reduced to a sentence: to the extent that it's against nature, human beings should not value mercy and compassion, as Christianity teaches them/us to do.

Notice that this second argument--or this supplement to the first, if you like--does not fall by applying the critique of the first: Since human beings mature slowly and need much nurture, it is good to be patient with the weakness and smallness of human beings in development. And if the more talented often take longer to develop because they are in training for the more difficult disciplines, well then, we should indulge them fully with patience and good will as they take their time developing.

And so it seems that there is a simple and effective Nietzscheian rejoinder to the simple and effective anti-Nietzschian rejoinder offered in response to the first argument.

Critique of the SECOND ARGUMENT:

Much of the human society each of us keeps is weak and small. Should I not love and honor my 85 year old mother because she has become frail and weak? That would imply an inhuman smallness of a particularly repugnant sort, certainly not something to be credited to an "uber-mensch." It is healthy and and good BECAUSE NATURAL for human beings to cherish friendships and institutional connections just because our personal histories--if nothing else--are tied to them. Nietzsche's crude endorsement of "greatness" and "nature" simply offends human nature.


This is the argument I originally was going to critique, before discovering while forming its critique that there were three separate points or arguments that needed a response. (And as a reminder, I am working this out for putting together as a more considered monograph-length essay to complement "Into the World.") Here it is, again, modified in accordance with my evolving understanding of it:

Tautologically, everyone wants what they want, and if one really wants something, all things considered, one also wills the means. This is a rationale for Nietzsche's will to power: we all want what we want along with the means to get it; the will to power is a truism.

Accordingly, the moral law as something people want is subject to the will to power.

But then it is the will to power and not the moral law that is fundamental to human motivation.

Accordingly, seeking to follow the moral law does not change human nature, fundamentally.

In that case, any hope to bring real, fundamental change to humanity must be by way of addressing the will to power, not through the moral law.

This, by the way is the "Principle of Futility" that I announced as forthcoming in a post about three weeks ago--should have made that connection earlier. Oops! The futility is with respect to the moral laws ability to change human nature for the better. That is, fundamentally the moral law does not make us more moral. If you think of Paul's view of the law as presented in Galations and Romans, I'm pretty sure you can see how this can be developed.

Critique of the THIRD ARGUMENT:

I have no critique of this argument, narrowly considered. That is, I think that Nietzsche is correct. But here's the fun part. I think he is making the same point as the Apostle Paul! I'll make that connection explicit in the next post, along with how Christianity addresses the will to power with the gospel...

[Note: I'm trying to get a business off the ground, and one that must "make hay" in the summer. It just might be a couple weeks before I can post again. Sorry about that.]

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