Nietzsche: Prophet of Doom (Part 4)

Nietzsche’s Ideal
I want to look at the functionality of Nietzsche’s philosophy. What kind of world does Nietzsche’s philosophy create? Nietzsche’s philosophy creates a world in its own image, one in which people bite and devour each other.

Nietzsche’s philosophy creates all sorts of problems. For example, Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite; he disagreed with his sister and brother-in-law who were. But, it is hard to say upon what grounds. When there is no morality, when “god is dead,” it is hard to criticize morality in other people. Yet, we see him do this time and time again. When we say there is no God, when we say there is no morality, if we are to be consistent we must realize there is no morality and we must come to terms with the world that it creates. So, I am not necessarily pointing out that Nietzsche was wrong, though I think he was, but I want to point out that he and many who have come after him are inconsistent. We cannot hold up Nietzsche’s ideas in the many forms they take and not expect a torrent of injustices to overwhelm us that harken back to Auschwitz.

Nietzsche hated Christianity’s morality that was based, in his opinion, on “pie in the sky.” However, Nietzsche’s morality, or lack thereof, leads to hell here. Nietzsche very likely would not have supported Nazism, and it seems as if he was not anti-Semitic, but many of his writings support the atrocities of the holocaust.

If Nietzsche is right that God is dead then his morality is right as well. That is, there is no right, there is no wrong, there is in sum, no morality. As Ivan Karamazov said in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s book The Brothers Karamazov, “If God is dead, everything is permitted.” In fact, morality is unhelpful. Nietzsche basically says that morality is nihilistic. He says, “Morality is a way of turning one’s back on the will to existence.”[1]

However, we cannot really live in a world like that, we, at least, would loathe that world. But, that’s the bitter truth if God is dead. If God is dead there is no killing a billion devils. Hell may not then be literal, but hell on earth is. If God is dead, humanity is “free;” free to wallow in its own mire. Free to oppress, free to enslave, free to hate, free to do whatever it is we feel to do, so long as we are more powerful than the powers that be…

So, Nietzsche’s atheistic “morality” might be freeing, if you’re at the top of the food chain. But if you’re a minority or a small off-shoot fringe group that’s not accepted by the powers that be, you are likely to be stubble for the Übermensch’s flame. Freedom it seems only would come to the “god” of this world, the “god” that is strong enough to enslave others (of course you might say, that even that “god” is then enslaved to continually fight for his so-called “godhood”). And so, we see that Nietzsche provides no freedom, he just provides a different master, one that (Romans 6 reminds us) brings a litany of death, debauchery, chaos, and everlasting curse. Nietzsche and his morality—and Darwin and Dawkins[2]—do not finally bring freedom and fun or hope of heaven on earth, they bring a very real type of hell to life on earth; they, when their philosophy is lived out to its logical conclusion, nearly have the power to give demons flesh.[3] They, short of incarnating evil, do image their master the devil. They carry out his deeds by their acts; acts of rape, acts of mutilation, acts of vile debauchery and calculated cruelty, they glory in their shame and they praise and promote those who do the same. They do this because they did not see fit to honor God, they thus become futile in their thinking, and do the works of their father the devil.

My goal is not so much to prove Nietzsche wrong, in my opinion, he has done that himself. My goal is to prove that if “God is dead” it follows that there is no morality and that makes for a terrible world. This is immediately relevant to our current culture. We desire Eden—healthy people and planet, peace, and prosperity—all the while saying there is no God and we can do as we like.[4]

It seems then that Hitler’s Mein Kampf was influenced by Nietzsche’s work. It seems to me that a seed was planted in Nietzsche’s work that Hitler would later cultivate to very destructive ends.[5] Nietzsche may not have foreseen or intended all the Nazi party carried out but it seems that what they did is in line with his thought So, although Nietzsche himself may not have supported the Nazi party, his thought when taken to its logical conclusion, does seem to lead to many of the things that the Nazi party did. Nietzsche, from my reading of him, would certainly have no grounds to criticize anything that they did.

The brutality that Hitler and his regime carried out was necessary as Nietzsche described: “man’s sacrifice en bloc [all together] to the prosperity of one single stronger species of man—that would be progress.”[6] Thus the brutality and sacrifice would be worth it in Nietzsche’s mind because it would bring about a new and better age. Nietzsche, I am sure, could concur with these words from Hitler: “Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.”[7]

Nietzsche said this in Beyond Good and Evil:

The crucial thing about a good and healthy aristocracy… is that it does not feel that it is a function… but rather its essence and highest justification—and that therefore it has not misgivings in condoning the sacrifice of a vast number of people who must for its sake be oppressed and diminished into incomplete people, slaves, tools. Its fundamental belief must simply be that society can not exist for its own sake, but rather only as a foundation and scaffolding to enable a select kind of creature to ascend to its higher task and in general to its higher existence.[8]

As we have said, we can extrapolate, especially with hindsight, that Nietzsche’s philosophy had an impact (though to what degree we cannot say) on Nazism. If there is no right and no wrong, only what is desirable and undesirable for the particular individual, then we allow, even give precedence, for all sorts of moral degradation (because, after all, moral degradation does not actually exist, only the will to power). Thus, we see Nietzsche’s ideal, his philosophy, ultimately promotes violence and all sorts of vile practices. 

________________

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, par. 11.

[2] Richard Dawkins follows Nietzsche in saying that “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life [New York: Basic Books, 1995], 133).

[3] If morality was just a “misfiring” or a “Darwinian mistake,” even a “blessed, precious mistake” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion [New York: Mariner Books, 2008], 253) it would not be grounds for living a moral life. Yes, one certainly could still live a moral life, as apparently, Dawkins claims to. He even makes fun of the consideration that people would need a judge in the sky to make us moral. However, Dawkins does not take into account various atheists that attest to the truth that we need a judge in the sky to keep humanity from caring out acts of atrocity on others (cf. e.g. Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ). If there is no evil, no true transtemporal truth, then there really are no real acts of atrocity. If God is dead, all things are permissible. They may not always be efficient or wise but they are permissible. Efficiency itself becomes the criteria of right and wrong (cite eugenics, euthanasia, Trump’s taxes, etc.). Efficiency becomes a parallel to Nietzsche’s “will to power.” The person that rises above the system (e.g. moral, political), uses the system, or beats the system is the “over-self” that bends the world to its own ends. This is the new “morality,” striving and thriving to subdue life and life’s systems to whatever end is desirable. The true “over-self” may not call themselves a disciple of Nietzsche, it may even be unwise of them to make that claim, but if they live in the ways mentioned above then they are a disciple of Nietzsche even if they don’t know it. They may claim they’re not, they may claim to be pragmatists but they seem to be Nietzsche’s disciples nonetheless.

[4] It reminds me quite a bit of the first sin: forgetting God and doing as we desire. Here we see the danger of autonomous reasoning. From the beginning, even before the Fall, we have been dependent upon God for everything, revelation directing us to know what we should desire. In fact, I think Nietzsche would be happy in that it seems like the only morality today seems to be to do whatever suits the particular individual (unless it infringes upon what someone else wants to do or is really nasty). So, there seems to be no rules, except do not make rules for others or do “really bad things” (like pollution, Christian hypocrisy, and pedophilia).

[5] The Stanford Encyclopedia says “during the 1930s, aspects of Nietzsche’s thought were espoused by the Nazis and Italian Fascists, partly due to the encouragement of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche through her associations with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. It was possible for the Nazi interpreters to assemble, quite selectively, various passages from Nietzsche’s writings whose juxtaposition appeared to justify war, aggression and domination for the sake of nationalistic and racial self-glorification” (Wicks, “Friedrich Nietzsche” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

[6] Par. 12 of the Second Essay in On the Genealogy of Morality.

[7] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 289.

[8] Nietzsche, Beyond God and Evil, par. 258. Cf. Darwin’s thoughts on the queen bee. He said, “we ought to admire the savage instinctive hatred of the queen-bee, which urges her instantly to destroy the young queens her daughters as soon as born, or to perish herself in the combat; for undoubtedly this is for the good of the community; and maternal love and maternal hatred, though the latter fortunately is most rare, is all the same to the inexorable principle of natural selection” (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species [London: Penguin, 1968], 230).

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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