aristocracy, Christianity, evaluation, evil, good, human, judgment, life, morality, nobility, origin of language, power, psychoanalysis, question, reality, subject, the future, utility, value

Evaluating Value

Under what conditions did men invent for themselves these value judgments good and evil? And what inherent value do they have? Have they hindered or fostered human well-being up to now? Are they a sign of some emergency, of impoverishment, of an atrophying life?

Or is it the other way around—do they indicate fullness, power, a will for living, courage, confidence, the future?

Friedrich Nietzsche, Preface to the Genealogy of Morals

Why is this work a genealogy of morals? Nietzsche does not ask for the origins of good and evil as essences. Nor even does he ask for the conditions of possibility for good and evil as judgments. In fact, he proposes a third and entirely more subtle question, concerning the “conditions” under which these value judgments (“good” and “evil”) were first invented — he presumes that they were invented by human beings — and perhaps owing to this assumption, he immediately turns to question the inherent value of these value judgments themselves. To be precise, he asks what inherent value they possess — whether, for instance, they have so far hindered or fostered human beings.

We already grasp here in rough outline a critique of the metaphysics of morality — what we may perhaps call an extrusion of the irrational “core” or “substrate” of moral valuations — which seeks to question the value of morality itself. To put it briefly, this “question mark so black” asks about the worth of the “unegoistic,” the value of the pity-instinct — in short, it questions the value of ascetic values. The problem of pity is not an isolated question mark, but in fact demands a critique of moral values whose first object is to question the very value of these values. In other words, we need “a knowledge of the conditions and circumstance out of which these values grew, under which they have developed and changed” — the kind of knowledge which not only has not been available until now, but has not even been wished for.

The value of moral values has been taken as given, self-evident, beyond dispute — i.e., that “good” men are more valuable than “evil” men — but Nietzsche asks us to pause before common sense, and consider the possibility that the opposite were true: “What if in the ‘good’ there lay a symptom of regression, something like a danger, a seduction, a poison, a narcotic, something which makes the present live at the cost of the future?”

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capture, Christianity, domestication, herd morality, individual, Manu, morality, Nietzsche, power, virtue, war, Zarathustra

The Will to Virtue and the Morality of Capture

 

 

“Neither Manu, nor Plato nor Confucius nor the Jewish and Christian teachers have ever doubted their right to lie. They have not doubted that they had very different rights too. Expressed in a formula, one might say: all the means by which one has so far attempted to make mankind moral were through and through immoral” (Twilight, 505).

Nietzsche despises the improvers of mankind because they have typically been priests, otherwise known as “the preachers of death.” Nietzsche claims that “improvement” is actually a pretty word for the weakening of mankind in general (Twilight, 502). In physiological terms, in order to breed a docile aggregate of human semi-animals, the improvers of mankind thought that “to make them sick may be the only means for making them weak. This the church understood: it ruined man, it weakened him—but it claimed to have ‘improved him’” (503). This physiological interpretation is essential to Nietzsche’s project here: he claims that any morality “is mere sign language, mere symptomatology” (501). The problem with the domestication of mankind is that it has not had the right physicians to diagnose what could truly improve man as a whole; or, in a sense more befitting of Nietzsche’s views, the wrong question has been proposed for mankind’s progress. It is not the masses that can be elevated, but only the individual that can be ‘willed’ to be improved: the project for future physicians is to diagnose the symptoms whereby a human individual will become successful. Continue reading

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Antichrist, breeding, Christianity, corruption, exception, individual, kant, morality, Nietzsche, overman, pity, power, species, Spinoza, suffering, superfluous, values, virtue

Nietzsche, Pity and Virtue: From the Superfluous to the Exceptional

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The weak and the failures shall perish: first principle of our love of man. And they shall even be given every possible assistance (The Antichrist, 570).

In the opening sections of The Antichrist, Nietzsche raises the question of what type of man shall be bred, continuing a line of thought developed in Twilight of the Idols in relation to the Laws of Manu. In former times, Nietzsche argues, the exceptional human was a fortunate accident; it was never willed that an individual would become exceptional—for the most part, this was dreaded. It is this denial of the exceptional that constitutes for Nietzsche the development of the other type of breeding in man’s history, that of the herd animal domesticated through Christianity.

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anti-philosophy, atheism, badiou, Christianity, declaration, event, fidelity, Paul, universal politics

‘The Teacher of the Destruction of the Law:’ Introduction to Alain Badiou’s St. Paul

Badiou, Alain. Saint Paul: The Foundations of Universalism. Trans. Ray Brassier. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2003.

Badiou starts off his book with an interesting definition of the fable:

A ‘fable’ is that part of a narrative that, so far as we are concerned, fails to touch on any Real, unless it be by virtue of that invisible and indirectly accessible residue sticking to every obvious imaginary (4).

Thus Badiou asserts that Paul reduces the Christian narrative to the singular element of fabulation, “with the strength of one who knows that in holding fast to this point as real, one is unburdened of all the imaginary that surrounds it” (4-5).

This seems like a good way for Badiou to preclude any question of the supposed myths surrounding Christianity. Badiou is atheist, but in his reading of Paul he strictly excludes this from affecting his interpretation. In fact, one could say he suspends or brackets off this part of his perspective in order to forestall any skepticism that might encounter Paul along the way of his enunciation of the Christ event.

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Christianity, existentialism, freedom, marxism, ontology, project, responsibility, Sartre, subjectivity, teleology, universal

‘A Doctrine for Specialists and Philosophers:’ Sartre’s Existential Universalism

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In his Existentialism and Human Emotions published in 1947, Sartre notes that what existentialists have in common is the fact that “they believe that existence comes before essence—or, if you will, that we must begin from the subjective” (3). Yet immediately after establishing this as his existentialist slogan, Sartre begins to argue that objects have essence because they were made according to a certain plan and because they serve a definite purpose. So the essence of the object precedes its existence because of its determined production and because of the use to which it is put. Continue reading

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