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Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

[ Edited ]
Philosophy shares a lot with literature. For one, philosophy doesn’t just tell the naked truth about life; it also reveals the personality of the author telling this particular part of the story. Any book carries the voice of its author. If A Tale of Two Cities welcomes us into Dickens’s witty, Victorian lens, and Harry Potter reveals JK Rowling’s creative eye, then philosophy books also give the unique perspective of a writer’s mind.

Friedrich Nietzsche (German, 1844-1900) is often called the most literary philosopher. He did consider his writing art: He exaggerated most of what he said to give it punch; he used fragments rather than full texts when he wanted to leave us wanting. He wrote that a philosopher could “wish [nothing more than] to be…a good dancer. For the dance is his ideal…his ‘divine service.’”

In my mind, “to be a good dancer” means admitting you don’t know everything about the world but engaging in art which shows what you do not know. Some of Nietzsche’s texts, like Beyond Good and Evil, are essentially long collections of aphorisms—short pieces to dip into, laugh at, take, reject, or dance off of. Other of his books, like Thus Spake Zarathustra, are philosophy books that read a lot like novels.

Nietzsche was probably flatly wrong in a lot of his ideas: He said women were the weaker sex; his own ego (he admitted this) was big enough to distort his “truth.” But he also left great flashes of insight on Earth. “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star,” he said. He knew our illogical side was creative.

Because some of Nietzsche’s sayings have actually been floating around on this board over the last few weeks, I thought this would be a good time to list some of them, to see what we make of them. These aphorisms come from scattered places in his texts. Which strike home—as art, as exaggeration, or as accurate—to you?

The Aphorisms

#1. “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.”


I’m first quoting this one alone because some members of this book club were quoting this line in altered versions last week. What do you think: Is drama an important element in what we describe as meaningful or worthwhile lives? Is some tension necessary for making our lives deep?
If you could imagine heaven, what would it be?

One study from psychology is worth mentioning here: Psychologists have uncovered what they name the “memory bump.” Studies show that if you ask anyone to recall a memory that represents some theme, they’re most likely to pull up that memory from between the ages of 10 and 30. This is partly because most of our first disappointments happen in those years. These are the years in which we try, fail, and rethink big activities like riding a bike or dating. Psychologists suggest that these moments of struggle are crucial in building self-understanding, and so for beginning the major themes of our lives. What do you think: How important a player was struggle in forming your identity?
The philosopher Roger Crisp wrote that if we were constantly living in placid peace, it would be like living as an oyster on the ocean floor—unmolested but unexcited, like “humans when floating very drunk in a warm bath.” He meant that striving for things is necessary for what humans label worthwhile, thoughtful life. Socrates also has a line about all this: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” What do you think makes an “examined life”?

#2. Nietzsche’s Aphorisms on Friendship:
“A friend should be a master at guessing and keeping still: you must not want to see everything.”

“Go up close to your friend, but do not go over to him! We should also respect the enemy in our friend.”

“People who have given us their complete confidence believe that they have a right to ours. The inference is false, a gift confers no rights.”

“Rejoicing in our joy, not suffering over our suffering, makes someone a friend.”

“Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes.”


We’ve been discussing this one too this week. We sometimes don’t want to reveal our entire lives to our friends, and maybe we shouldn’t demand to know too much about each other, either. Nietzsche says there’s reason to resist the full question-and-answer. (Ralph Waldo Emerson said this too. He said that his friends grew boring if they became too familiar; even “every hero becomes a bore at last.”) Nietzsche says we can’t possibly like everything in our friends; getting along includes selective blindness. How can you build on any of his aphorisms above, or add to his description of friendship?

#3. On Argument:
“Anyone who has declared someone else to be an idiot, a bad apple, is annoyed when it turns out in the end that he isn't.”

“Those who cannot understand how to put their thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of debate.”

“Extreme positions are not succeeded by moderate ones, but by contrary extreme positions.”

“We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.”

“Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.”

“When a hundred men stand together, each of them loses his mind and gets another one.”

“Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”


A lot of ideas here. Members on this board like Sunltcloud and Pedsphleb said some smart, related things about argument last week: that our arguments are often more about emotions than the facts behind the debate. Sometimes we can’t hope to convert the other person through talk but need to cool an encounter down by simply stepping back.

About the first aphorism here: I do think it’s difficult for us to change our opinions about other people, once we’ve started to gather steam in one direction. Changing my mind means admitting I was once wrong, that I was judgmental without justification. Admitting you were once quick to judge is painful.

See the last three quotations, too: Do we lose our minds and gain new ones when we’re in groups? When we fight extremists, do we become extremists? I’d be interested in comments on modern politics, too. (Though this takes us to a whole new place. Then we might all become monsters, as Nietzsche says happens in heated debate.)

#4. Last ones: Aphorisms on Your Opinions
“Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself.”

“It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them!”


I understand the first one: Lately, one friend of mine has spoken non-stop when I’ve seen her, so I don’t get word in. Her steady talk feels like armor. She doesn’t want to let me in to something.

I also think #2 makes sense. Your habits can grow in one way, as opposed to another, so that one day we wake up and see ourselves as “Republican” or “Marathoner” or “Mother” or “Teacher.” Identity is built through family history and other habits, and we can’t track them as they snowball. Ask me to defend my opinions, and I will. But ask me how I formed them, and the details of that path are not as clear.

These are a lot of scattered thoughts. But Nietzsche also called the fragment an energetic art. The fragment just sticks out there—ready for you to pick up and to complete in an unexpected way. A fragment is an invitation to join the art.

I’d love to hear how anyone can build on or fight against any of the aphorisms above.

Is there another literary artist you like who’s worked with fragments or aphorisms?




-Ilana
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Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 06-25-2007 01:03 PM



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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

Ilsns,

I think thst msny interesting people will be in heaven though what I envision as heaven may not be the same as others. As for friendship I think that we can see up close to others but that we accept them as they are; the good and the bad and when needful we can tell them when they are out of line without losing their friendship. It os woth acquatinces that I might not get as close with. I don't think love is blind but that we try to talk ourselves into not believing things about that person.

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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things



Nelsmom wrote:
Ilsns,

I think thst msny interesting people will be in heaven though what I envision as heaven may not be the same as others.

I have to agree with you. I know some people have a fascination with evil, but for myself I have never found evil people to be particularly interesting. I wonder who Nietzche thinks those interesting people not going to heaven are?

And I think it's sad that he thinks either that he isn't interesting, or that he isn't going to heaven. I wonder which. (Or, of course, it could be both.)
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

[ Edited ]
It the later. He was the atheist whose most famous line (other than "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" ) is "God is Dead." He meant we underrate how much we actually enjoy a struggle--like the struggle to better ourselves.



Everyman wrote:


Nelsmom wrote:
Ilsns,

I think thst msny interesting people will be in heaven though what I envision as heaven may not be the same as others.

I have to agree with you. I know some people have a fascination with evil, but for myself I have never found evil people to be particularly interesting. I wonder who Nietzche thinks those interesting people not going to heaven are?

And I think it's sad that he thinks either that he isn't interesting, or that he isn't going to heaven. I wonder which. (Or, of course, it could be both.)



Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 06-22-2007 08:49 AM



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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things



Nelsmom wrote:
[In] love...we try to talk ourselves into not believing things about that person.

Toni




I think this is true. And when you fall out of love, you can sometimes look back on someone and think, "What was I thinking?"



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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

[ Edited ]
In The Gay Science (nothing to do with homosexuality) one of Nietzche's characters, a madman, said:-

Whither is God," he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. All of us are murderers.... God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him...

In the second edition Nietzsche wrote:-

"The greatest recent event—that God is dead, that the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable..."

Nietzsche meant that the Christian notion of God is dead, that this notion had become unbelievable to people. At the time of Nietzsche's writing in the latter half of the nineteenth century, this shared belief was waning all over Europe. Science, art and politics were all moving beyond the universal belief in the religiosity of the past. Many intellectuals and writers in Europe had abandoned traditional Christianity, perhaps as a result of industrial and scientific progress, perhaps because of Charles Darwin's publication of the Origin of the Species. This created a crisis of faith and also a crisis of culture. As science and philosophy and politics treated God as irrelevant, humanity - 'humanism' - became the mantra.

Nietzsche became an atheist, yes, but these aren't the ideas of an atheist they are the ideas of a philosopher looking at Christianity and seeing the changes that had come about. It is a matter of fact that church attendance and belief in God has declined since Nietzsche's day. Christians here may observe that the crisis he observed and commented upon is still apparent today.

He also said that 'the last Christian died on the cross' and I think his scepticism was more to do with the institution of religion, its hierarchy, its various corrupt practices, than with Christianity itself.

Nietzsche was a philologist, an expert in Greek and Roman language and texts, and his admiration for the ancients colored his philosophy, although he did not believe that we should imitate their polytheism. Nietzsche thought that the gods were always creations of man, addressing a cultural need of one kind or another - that man is the creative power, creating values and the gods who represent them. This is a nice inversion of both Marxist thought, which holds that the gods are created by the ruling class to keep the lower class in check, and of earlier Christianity which kept women and the 'lower orders' in check. Nietzsche thought Man should be the ruler of his own destiny, the creator of gods who operated in his service. His attitude towards the ancients is interesting in the light of our earlier discussions because he was definitely an elitist, believing in a 'vanguard' - he admired Napoleon and disapproved of democracy.

(My favourite Nietzsche atheistic quote is 'I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time'.)

Message Edited by Choisya on 06-22-2007 10:26 AM
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

[ Edited ]
I don't think that not liking the idea of heaven is necessarily a fascination with evil. For me it is a dislike of the idea of perfection everywhere, of sameness, the same universal values, even the perpetual beauty of paradise. My ideal in life is Vive la Difference and that must include some flaws. As George Bernard Shaw wrote in Man and Superman (Act III Don Juan in Hell) 'A Lifetime of Happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be a hell on earth!.' The Act III dream sequence of Man and Superman where Don Juan meets the devil is both interesting and amusing - I commend it as an alternative point of view. There are also some funny digs at Socialism which would please you. The conversations of Don Juan with the Statue and the Devil are the best bits - don't bother with the Introduction etc.

http://www.bartleby.com/157/3.html




Everyman wrote:


Nelsmom wrote:
Ilsns,

I think thst msny interesting people will be in heaven though what I envision as heaven may not be the same as others.

I have to agree with you. I know some people have a fascination with evil, but for myself I have never found evil people to be particularly interesting. I wonder who Nietzche thinks those interesting people not going to heaven are?

And I think it's sad that he thinks either that he isn't interesting, or that he isn't going to heaven. I wonder which. (Or, of course, it could be both.)



Message Edited by Choisya on 06-22-2007 10:55 AM
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Nietzsche -- Aphorisms and Proverbs

Ilana -- have been sitting here struggling/playing with these posts from Nietzsche, a writer/philosopher whom I might well call a stranger -- someone I do not know, except by reputation.

One place my stream of consciousness goes is to the role of aphorisms, proverbs, horoscopes, quotations, ... in literature and human communications. It seems to me that we are often so capable of putting our own spin or interpretations on these pithy sequences of words that we can often ascribe them meaning -- whether they have any or no. (Or maybe meaning is only in the ascribing.)

Perhaps later I shall do some Internet exploration on the literature forms of aphorisms and proverbs. For now, I am going to be daring enough to put these comments out for reactions here.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things


Choisya wrote:
(My favourite Nietzsche atheistic quote is 'I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.')

What irony, coming from Nietzsche!

My immediate thoughts are of the writings of Henri Nouwen (at the moment, "Bless," from "The Heart of Henri Nouwen, His Words of Blessing," edited by Rebecca Laird and Michael Christensen), but since you have stated that you oft find religious oriented writings off-putting, I'll simply repeat from Ilana's quotations of Neitzche: “Rejoicing in our joy, not suffering over our suffering, makes someone a friend.”
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things



Nelsmom wrote:
Ilsns,

I think thst msny interesting people will be in heaven...




Moses, Michaelangelo, David, Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Esther, Ruth, Deborah, and that's all the time I have for now.
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

Yes he was a pretty conceited guy too. That title would make me run a mile!:smileysurprised: I looked at the synopsis and felt off-putted - Sorry!




Peppermill wrote:

Choisya wrote:
(My favourite Nietzsche atheistic quote is 'I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.')

What irony, coming from Nietzsche!

My immediate thoughts are of the writings of Henri Nouwen (at the moment, "Bless," from "The Heart of Henri Nouwen, His Words of Blessing," edited by Rebecca Laird and Michael Christensen), but since you have stated that you oft find religious oriented writings off-putting, I'll simply repeat from Ilana's quotations of Neitzche: “Rejoicing in our joy, not suffering over our suffering, makes someone a friend.”


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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things



Peppermill wrote:

Choisya wrote:
(My favourite Nietzsche atheistic quote is 'I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.')

What irony, coming from Nietzsche!




:smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy:
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

Moses, Michaelangelo, David, Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Esther, Ruth, Deborah, and that's all the time I have for now.

Gosh, at least three of those had pretty suspect lives Laurel - do you think they might get absolution/redemption or whatever it is, for their work/contribution to society? I used to have a musician friend who thought all the great musicians would get to heaven on this basis and my response was 'what a cacophony there would be!':smileyvery-happy:




Laurel wrote:


Nelsmom wrote:
Ilsns,

I think thst msny interesting people will be in heaven...




Moses, Michaelangelo, David, Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Esther, Ruth, Deborah, and that's all the time I have for now.


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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

I know. David actually committed adultery and murder. I believe in amazing grace. And thanks for reminding me of the musicians. Bach, Mendessohn, Handel. . . .



Choisya wrote:
Moses, Michaelangelo, David, Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Esther, Ruth, Deborah, and that's all the time I have for now.

Gosh, at least three of those had pretty suspect lives Laurel - do you think they might get absolution/redemption or whatever it is, for their work/contribution to society? I used to have a musician friend who thought all the great musicians would get to heaven on this basis and my response was 'what a cacophony there would be!':smileyvery-happy:




Laurel wrote:


Nelsmom wrote:
Ilsns,

I think thst msny interesting people will be in heaven...




Moses, Michaelangelo, David, Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Esther, Ruth, Deborah, and that's all the time I have for now.





"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

He was the atheist whose most famous line (other than "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" ) is "God is Dead."

This isn't the place for an extended theological discussion (or is it?), but I think it's valuable to note that the "God is Dead" movement was not an atheist movement per se, but was saying that the God as envisioned throughout most of Christian history -- the wise bearded man sitting on a throne among the clouds with Christ sitting at his right hand -- was a defunct view of God, and needed to be replaced with some other concept of God.
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things



Choisya wrote:
I don't think that not liking the idea of heaven is necessarily a fascination with evil. For me it is a dislike of the idea of perfection everywhere, of sameness, the same universal values, even the perpetual beauty of paradise.

Your view of Heaven is very different from mine. Since no person is perfect, there will be no perfect people in heaven. They will have flaws, often very interesting flaws. The condition that gets them into heaven may be, depending on your theology (well, not yours, but the theology of someone who believes in God) that God has elected them no matter how flawed, or that they have genuinely repented of their sins prior to death, or that they have been given proper rites from a representative of Christ, or that they have genuinely tried to live a good life to the best of their ability. The only people who most or all Christian faiths believe will definitely not be in heaven are those who at the time of their death still deny Christ and do not seek repentance, and those who choose and embrace lives of evil.

Those who prefer to spend eternity in the company of such as the Borgias, Hitler, Stalin, certain Roman emperors, and their ilk will undoubtedly prefer not being in heaven.
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Nietzsche -- Aphorisms and Proverbs

[ Edited ]
Peppermill, take these for a spin :smileywink: ~ http://www.willrogers.org/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius



Peppermill wrote:
Ilana -- have been sitting here struggling/playing with these posts from Nietzsche, a writer/philosopher whom I might well call a stranger -- someone I do not know, except by reputation.

One place my stream of consciousness goes is to the role of aphorisms, proverbs, horoscopes, quotations, ... in literature and human communications. It seems to me that we are often so capable of putting our own spin or interpretations on these pithy sequences of words that we can often ascribe them meaning -- whether they have any or no. (Or maybe meaning is only in the ascribing.)

Perhaps later I shall do some Internet exploration on the literature forms of aphorisms and proverbs. For now, I am going to be daring enough to put these comments out for reactions here.



Message Edited by KathyS on 06-22-2007 11:41 AM
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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Nietzsche -- Aphorisms and Proverbs



Peppermill wrote:
For now, I am going to be daring enough to put these comments out for reactions here.




This, I think, is the spirit of aphorisms--putting it out there, unfinished but waiting for reaction. I like it.



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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

You and Choisya have both cautioned me on the word "atheist" here. I did extend my comments on this line in the "More on Nietzsche" note, outside of this thread. You guys are right: He'd techincally be an agnostic. But his thrust was clear--to kill off our interest in a higher God. He wanted to show that any "meaning" that can matter to humans is human meaning.



Everyman wrote:
He was the atheist whose most famous line (other than "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" ) is "God is Dead."

This isn't the place for an extended theological discussion (or is it?), but I think it's valuable to note that the "God is Dead" movement was not an atheist movement per se, but was saying that the God as envisioned throughout most of Christian history -- the wise bearded man sitting on a throne among the clouds with Christ sitting at his right hand -- was a defunct view of God, and needed to be replaced with some other concept of God.





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Re: Ilana's Journal Week 5: Friedrich Nietzsche On Many Things

But his thrust was clear--to kill off our interest in a higher God. He wanted to show that any "meaning" that can matter to humans is human meaning.
____________________________________________________________________

Nietzsche comment that "In heaven, all the interesting people are missing" assumes that heaven is filled with placidly peaceful humans. As Roger Crisp wrote: "...humans ...floating very drunk in a warm bath."

That does depend on one's idea of heaven. I agree with Everyman's comment that we humans are imperfect, and therefore there never will be perfect people in heaven.

Interesting people are those who have struggled with their unformed selves to form their identities; who make difficult choices and decisions to create meaningful and worthwhile lives for themselves, and their fellow humans.

That is a fine definition of saints. They were all imperfect humans who tried, and failed, and struggled to make their faith and beliefs strengthen their self-understanding.

Their struggles as imperfect humans was directed towards an understanding, and an interest in a higher God. Who's to say that any "meaning" that can matter to humans is human meaning. If searching for God gives meaning to saint-like people, that gives is human meaning.
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