Sunday, September 30, 2012

On Nietzsche

It has been a while since the last time I read Nietzsche, the philosopher who inspires me the most, not so much because I agree with him more than other philosophers but because as the introduction in the Norton Anthology says his philosophy lies "somewhere between poetry and philosophy" (p. 873).

In some remote corner of the universe, flickering in the light of the countless solar systems into which it had been poured, there was once a planet on which clever animals invented cognition. It was the most arrogant and most mendacious minute in the ‘history of the world’: but a minute was all it was. After nature had drawn just a few more breaths the planet froze and the clever animals had to die. Someone could invent a fable like this and yet they would still not have given a satisfactory illustration of just how pitiful, how insubstantial and transitory, how purposeless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature; there were eternities during which it did not exist; and when it has disappeared again, nothing will have happened. (p. 874)

It is odd that the intellect can produce this effect, since it is nothing other than an aid supplied to the most unfortunate, most delicate and most transient of beings so as to detain them for a minute within existence (p. 875)
Ouch, right? Now Nietzsche hurts our pride, reminds us our vanity and I like that. He makes me think in different ways. His call for accepting ourselves and then transcending that is quite inspirational.   

What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, antropomorphisms, in short a sum of human relations which have been subjected to poetic and rhetorical intensification, translation, and decoration, and which after they have been in use for a long time, strike people as firmly established, canonical, and binding: truths are illusions of which we have forgotten that they are illusions, metaphors which have become worn by frequent use and have lost all sensuous vigour, coins which, having lost their stamp, are now regarded as metal and no longer as coins. (p. 878)
Here one can certainly admire humanity as a mighty architectural genius who succeeds in erecting the infinitely complicated cathedral of concepts on moving foundations, or even, one might say, on flowing water. (p. 879)

The fundamental recognition that everything exists is a unity; the view that individuation is the primal source of all evil; and art as the joyous hope that the spell of individuation can be broken, a premonition of unity restored. (p. 893)
Ah, so poetic!

Leitch, V. B. (Ed.) (2001). The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W. W. Norton Company.

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