An Orthogonal Critique of Nietzsche

My good friend-and-colleague at SUNY Oswego, Richard Cocks, who teaches on the Philosophy Faculty, has a discussion of the contradictoriness of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Existentialism at Angel Millar’s always-provocative People of Shambhala website.  The article is succinct.  I strongly recommend it to aficionados of The Orthosphere.  The article is entitled “Nietzsche: Allure and Misunderstanding on the Left and Right.”

Here is a sample:

The saint of acceptance tries to accept everything as a consequence of unconditional love. But when he tries to accept Nature, he finds endless death and no mercy. Better and worse. Strong and weak. Out of love and compassion he will send the weak to the gas chambers and deny their pleas for help because in not accepting their fate, the weak are rejecting LIFE. They must be shown the light. Those who seek to protect the weak are the naysayers.

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36 thoughts on “An Orthogonal Critique of Nietzsche

  1. The Western philosophers observed the same dualities in the world as the Eastern philosophers, but they had no practices such as meditation to help them deal with the same, therefore they tended toward nihilism. Western Civilization is therefore at its core, nihilistic.

    • Depends on what you mean by Western Civilization. One of my favourite conservative commentators called ‘occidental’ the culture that replaced ‘Christian’ culture in the West. Nietzsche was part of the occidental culture and his idea of accepting life as mentioned in the article above seems to be closer to eastern philosophies than to Christianity.

      The practise of meditation doesn’t really deal with the reality of Nature as the result is mere acceptance. How is that different from Nietzsche? Gospel seems to be the only way out.

      • “The practise of meditation doesn’t really deal with the reality of Nature as the result is mere acceptance. ”

        Hi RT. Which particular meditational practice, from which particular tradition, has as its practical result a mere acceptance of nature?

      • Does it really make a difference? Meditation could be defined as training the mind towards an end through increasing consciousness. In eastern religious practises the end usually is realizing the atman, satori or nature of being. Basically, this is a onesided act that changes only our relationship to or how we perceive the “life eats life” issue. I called that acceptance to show it has something in common with Nietzsche’s philosophy.

        On the other hand, Christian good news i.e. Christ overcoming death is completely different and in my thinking real solution.

        In a way, the post-Christian western culture is closer to eastern cultures than to its Christian predecessor. Currently it is hostile to tradition but maybe this is sort of a transitional phenomenon. Perhaps in order to survive it will install its own non-Christian tradition.

      • “Does it really make a difference?”

        It most certainly does. I am intimately familiar with more than just a few specific Eastern traditions and none of them have as their ultimate end result a “mere acceptance of reality”, so again I ask, which particular tradition are you speaking of?

      • “In a way, the post-Christian western culture is closer to eastern cultures than to its Christian predecessor. ”

        In which particular way. I certainly don’t see it, but am curious as to your novel perspective.

      • Om shanti om, I speak about meditation in general.
        Both Eastern cultures and current Western culture don’t have any real solution to the major problem of human life. The problem is unescapable fact of death. Meditation can bring relief, not solution.
        I believe this shapes all these cultures such a way that they have something in common and miss something the old Christian culture had.

      • To some extent, yes. As I understand it, the liberation from samsara or becoming one with Brahma doesn’t really deal with death. It seems to be different kind of death.
        It probably is profound experience, it may even reduce one’s suffering but it doesn’t change the fact of death at all.

      • “It probably is profound experience, it may even reduce one’s suffering but it doesn’t change the fact of death at all.”

        It does. Because death does not in that state. Nor does suffering. So suffering is not just “reduced” but it doesn’t exist at all. Suffering and death happen in the embodied state, not the eternal state.

        4 things are dealt with by liberation from samsara;

        1. Birth
        2. Death
        3. Old age
        4. Disease

        The reason is that it is eternal life in an unembodied state.

      • Om Shanti, are we still talking about the state or experience that one can reach through meditation or a concept of afterlife?
        If it is the former, notice there still is your body that is subject to illness and aging and will eventually die. So what is the difference? This state is said there is no self that could suffer which is referred to as non-duality or becoming one with Brahma. You say it is eternal life. If I understand it correctly and there really is no person of yours or the self somehow expanded to all existence then, in my view, it is just different form of death. That’s why I refer to it as acceptance or relief. Perhaps not very accurate terms but useful to make distinction between partial and real solution to the problem of death.

        My thanks to admin for correction of errors in one of my previous posts. I will try to be more careful.

      • Hi RT! This is why I first asked you days ago to state specifically which particular school of thought you were referring to, to which you replied “how does it matter”. Well, the confusion you display in your comment is the reason why it matters.

        I don’t know where you got the idea that “there is no self that could suffer which is referred to as non-duality or becoming one with Brahma. You say it is eternal life. If I understand it correctly and there really is no person of yours or the self somehow expanded to all existence then,”

        Again I ask, from where are you getting this information and which particular philosophy or school of thought are you referring to?

        ” Om Shanti, are we still talking about the state or experience that one can reach through meditation or a concept of afterlife?”

        I was talking about the afterlife. The afterlife for a liberated atma is eternal. There will be no more births or deaths. That is what liberation from samsara means.

        You seem to be confusing atma with the concept of anatma. But even Buddha who used the term anatma taught that there was a self, a “buddha nature”.

        I take it you have not studied any of the South Asian philosophies enough to know that there is a diversity of concepts regarding the self, non-self, form and no-form, because you have appeared to have jumbled up a bunch of “non-concepts” into one non-concept that I have never heard of.

      • Om Shanti, there certainly are many things I don’t know about your tradition. But I am trying to convey something about meditation that I believe is not limited specifically to Hindu tradition though it is rooted there.

        The conversation started with my claim that meditation can’t help with the problem of death. I meant meditation in general, meditation as a practice that can be found in different belief systems of Asia. Given the similarities of meditation practices in systems like Chinese and Japanese Zen, Indian Buddhism and Hinduism and given our human nature, it is not unreasonable to assume that the end is the same state of consciousness. Of course, there are other kinds of meditation directed to different ends like those known in Christianity, Islam etc. I did not mean them. So would you agree that what is called satori in Zen, nirvana in original Buddhism or moksha in Hinduism refers to the same state of consciousness (below I will call it satori to make it short)?

        Or see this: “…meditation is done to realize union of one’s self, one’s atman, with the omnipresent and non-dual Brahman. This experience is referred to as moksha by Hindus, and is similar to the concept of Nirvana in Buddhism.” at
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation. Would you agree with that?

        I practiced zazen for couple of years. I did not have the satori experience myself but I met a few people that had. They often described the experience as kind of disappearing or dissolution of one’s self. Or expanding one’s self that it becomes one with some kind of universal consciousness as opposed to personal consciousness. I think it’s quite common description of that state of consciousness.

        Slowly I was realizing there is something wrong with that. So I stopped practising zazen. Later I read this book: http://www.amazon.com/Lexperience-interdite-lashram-monastere-Edition/dp/2850497622/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1383498277&sr=8-10&keywords=verlinde%2C+joseph-marie
        This author speaks about dangers and limits of Eastern meditation practices and their end. He puts in words what I vaguely felt myself. For some time he was a student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation that belongs to Vedanta tradition of Hinduism. He also had the “satori” experience. Now he is Catholic priest, Ph. D., university teacher and seems to have vast knowledge of Eastern religions. I think he knows what he’s talking about and he describes the experience of satori in similar terms I used above.

        Regarding the afterlife, your tradition probably claims that this state of consciousness extends beyond death and then is never born as a new individual. Perhaps it is so I don’t know.
        I would point out one thing. There are different concepts of afterlife in many religions. But notice it usualy involves death of the body and transformation into another form of existence that is I believe incomplete since man is made of body and soul. Hindu tradition is not an exception.
        In this sense, none of these concepts and practices, no matter how valuable they are in other ways, brings any real solution to the problem of death, except for Christianity.

      • “So would you agree that what is called satori in Zen, nirvana in original Buddhism or moksha in Hinduism refers to the same state of consciousness”

        No. Absolutely not.

        I don’t see how Christianity “solves the problem of death” as Christians die, like everyone else. Mortality is a fact of life.

  2. I don’t see Nietzsche in the same light. the linked post/article reads like the author stands as judge and jury but fails to fulfill the executioner’s role. While there are many valid criticisms of any philosophy none are complete without fulfilling all three roles… if you see what I mean.

    Life eats life eats life eats life …. this is very necessary. Compassion is thusly limited in scope and becomes relativistic when we step away from nature’s cruelty and harshness. In doing so we create the dichotomy that I believe Nietzsche was addressing and he criticized those that believe there is a universality or absolute manner to move from nature toward a more perfect ideal. He wrote the ‘IOU’ because in the end it is relativistic…. nobody’s version is right or better. We can only say what is wrong with each attempt at perfect society.

    The way that the human mind works drives us toward the polar positions of master morality and slave morality. We humans fall into about three categories: leaders, followers, and loners. The Venn diagram of that leaves loners out of the overlap between the other two and so it is for the other two. Philosophers strive to define perfect as the unoccupied space between the three circles…. it remains an unsolved problem.

    • In Hindu culture we have a saying, “one living being is food for another”. Its either an Upanishadic, Vedantic or Vedic saying.

      That hasn’t stopped us though from developing entire philosophies around ahimsa or non-violence to other beings.

    • Dear MAL:

      I’m not replying on behalf of Richard. He can do that himself and he probably will. I want to direct a question or questions to Nietzsche’s repudiation, which you seem to endorse, of “those who believe there is a universality or absolute manner to move from nature toward a more perfect ideal,” and to your statement that, “he [Nietzsche] wrote the ‘IOU’ because in the end it is relativistic… nobody’s version is right or better.”

      The just finished century was one of the bloodiest and most utopian on record, the bloodiness and utopianism of which are inextricable. The utopians were to a person trying to build the perfect society. Faced with the Turkish massacre of the Armenians, the establishment of the gulags under Lenin, the mass-starvation of the Ukrainian peasantry under Stalin, the Nazi holocaust of the Jews, Mao’s millions of victims, and Pol Pot’s, all on the one hand, and, let’s say the Swedish welfare state between 1945 and 1965, on the other — do you really, actually, honest-to-God, believe that “it,” by which presumably you mean any deed or occurrence, “is relativistic… nobody’s version is right or better”?

      What do you say to the bloodthirsty maniac who comes to eat you? Do you have any compelling arguments to make on your own behalf?

      And which are you — a leader, a follower, or a loner?

      Sincerely, TFB

      • When you ask the question:

        do you really, actually, honest-to-God, believe that “it,” by which presumably you mean any deed or occurrence, “is relativistic… nobody’s version is right or better”?

        You imply a moral standard that nature does not have. To imply this without justification is what, in part, Nietzsche attacked.

        As for the bloodthirsty maniac – I give you this quote from Lamb of God lyrics:

        Whoever appeals to the law against his fellow man is either a fool or a coward.
        Whoever cannot take care of himself without that law is both. For a wounded man shall
        say to his assailant, “If I Live, I will kill you. If I Die, you are forgiven.” Such is the
        Rule of Honor.

        It is the rule of nature.

        I am a loner.

        We were all born alone, and alone we will die…. it’s the law… of nature.

      • I suppose the one nice thing about dealing with nihilists and post modernists is that you don’t have to feel so bad when you put their necks under your heel; they don’t really mind being trampled underfoot as long as you say “it’s nature’s law” or “it’s for our local definition of the good.”

        They’re really kinda dead on the inside already, anyways. Would it be such a bother to kill such a person? Or would our own conscience and standards get in the way? All my friends have only ever killed Muslims, so I’m not sure about killing nihilists and post modernists. But they really are kinda like bugs in some ways. Heck, they themselves think they are apes!

      • Earl, you may have missed one of my points. For your sentiment to be of any value, you have to be able to put your boot on my neck…. in the calm voice of a lion, I say ‘do what you have to do….’ we’ll see what happens.

        I am a hairless ape, of a species originated long ago in African continent. My species has done and seen many things. We have created weapons of unbelievable destruction and we have been and are a most violent species. If you think your boot heel was designed for my neck, make sure you get right with your god before you come looking for my neck. That is the law of nature….

      • Myatheistlife, “We were all born alone, and alone we will die…. it’s the law… of nature.”

        So, you weren’t attached to an umbilical cord, which itself was not attached to your mother, with you, her and other people such as your father, siblings, mid-wives or doctors/nurses in the room as well who all held you and cleaned you and fed you?

        While some humans and perhaps even some animals, may indeed die alone, I’ve yet to be named a single one that is actually born alone

    • MAL, you say you are a loner — and yet you come to have conversation with us.

      P.S. To Earl: I asked MAL a couple of blunt questions and he gave answers consistent, so to speak, with his performatively contradictory dilemma. I observe again — MAL has come to have conversation with us even though he describes himself as a loner. To imply that MAL is an empty robot is to endorse his bad argument. (Sincerely, TFB)

      P.P.S. To MAL: We are not a bank; we are a conversational circle. Neither Richard Cocks nor I is a bank teller; we are devotees of conversation, a social institution, and a venue of the Word.

      • In the perspective offered, I am a loner in that I do not seek to lead or to follow. I am a meat robot, just not an empty one. To converse is not the same as joining… exchange of information with the bank teller does not make you a bank employee.

      • ” I am a meat robot”

        Ba be boop zee chirp do de (more R2D2 audio track sounds). . .

        Statements like that really do constitute self-parody.

  3. It is easy to joke about MAL’s “meat robot” statement, which makes him sound as though he is channeling the Goth kids (“per se”) from South Park, But I urge my fellow Orthospereans to see the pathos in MAL’s self-declarations.

      • Very well then, Earl. You should be able to see the contradiction between MAL’s words and his decision to seek conversation with the audience of an explicitly Christian, or at any rate explicitly religious, website. I urge MAL to spend some time perusing The Orthosphere. Kristor and Alan Roebuck (not to diminish anyone whom I fail to mention) have explored the epistemology of unbelief at length and persuasively in “these pages.” MAL, if honesty meant anything to him (or could mean anything to him, given his premises), might find much good meat in various Orthosphere discussions.

      • I didn’t say “respect,” Earl; I said, “see.” I don’t respect it — the position, that is; I believe that the position is an error in need of correction, and that the error until it is corrected is probably painful (at least it is harmful) to the person. This error is widespread today, and the ones who suffer from it are not merely the ones who are directly afflicted by it. Where does the course of correction begin?

        P.S. To Earl: Spiritually speaking, the fellow who insists that he’s a “meat robot” is already dead; but the dead may be resurrected and the treatment is correction of the error. If you were once a nihilist and now you’re not, then you too felt the grace of spiritual resurrection. And if you, my dear fellow, why not MAL?

    • You have something against robots? Or meat?

      And it is the Vamp kids, not the goth kids, who go “per se”. They are like totally different!

      • Dear A.Morphous, I assume you mean it is the Vamp kids per se, who say “per se.” I stand corrected.

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