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Old 04-20-2004, 11:18 PM
White Craw White Craw is offline
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The Historical Nietzsche and the Nietzsche Legend

There is a useful distinction which some historians draw between the historical Nietzsche and the Nietzsche legend.

The legend began to develop shortly after Nietzsche became insane. His writing had until then received scant attention. It wasn’t until the Jewish scholar, Georg Brandes, gave the first lectures on Nietzsche in Copenhagen in 1888 that his writing became marketable.

The first to market Nietzsche’s writing was his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. She began to employ it in the service of that very Christianity and chauvinistic racism which Nietzsche had loathed as ‘scabies of the heart’ (Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft) and for which he had denounced both his sister and Wagner.

Elisabeth established her authority over the interpretation of Nietzsche’s writing by first gaining exclusive rights to her brother’s literary remains and then refusing to publish some of the most significant among them while insisting on their significance. Thus no one could challenge the authority of her interpretations, since the material of those interpretations remained unpublished and could be accessed only through her writing. She also developed an increasingly precise memory for what her brother had said to her in conversation.

Elisabeth published edition after edition of Nietzsche’s ‘collected works’, continually rearranging the material. She withheld Nietzsche’s later writings for years, while spicing her own writing with quotations from it. Elisabeth also patched together some of the thousands of scribbles and notes which Nietzsche had over the years accumulated in notebooks, which she published in various editions under the title Der Wille zur Macht, a copy of which was standard issue to German troops during the 1914-18 war. It was not until the copyright expired that Nietzsche’s unadulterated writing became available to the general public.

The suppression of these later writings can be explained by the fact that they contain many explicit repudiations of the ideas which Elisabeth attributed to Nietzsche and which have in the popular mind been associated with him right down to the present day. The Nietzsche legend can thus be traced back to his sister: by bringing the heritage of her Christianity to her publication of Nietzsche’s writing, she prepared the way for the belief that Nietzsche was a proto-Nazi.

Nowhere is Elisabeth’s influence more evident than in the fate of Nietzsche’s conception of the overman. This conception might in any case have supplied a Darwin-conscious age with a convenient symbol for its own faith in human progress; but the development of a legendary association of Nietzsche with a Darwinistic superman was aided by the long delay in the publication of Ecce Homo, which contains a vitriolic denunciation of this misinterpretation.

During the 1914-18 war, Nietzsche’s overman came to be associated with the German nation, and militarism and imperialism came to be read into Nietzsche’s conception of power; misinterpretations which were again at least partly inspired and supported by the work of Nietzsche’s sister. The advent of Nazism and its brazen adaptation to its own propagandistic ends of this earlier misinterpretation only strengthened the Nietzsche legend.

Nietzsche’s own conception of the overman cannot be appreciated unless it is considered in the context of his writing as a whole and against the background of the contemporary German culture and its Christianity against which Nietzsche railed.

The first thing to notice is that Nietzsche didn’t invent the overman. He found it in the writings of Lucian, in the guise of the hyperanthropos. The concept had also been employed by Heinrich Müller, Johann Herder, John Paul, and Johann Goethe. The conception turns on how we understand the connotations of the word ‘über'. In the third of his Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, Nietzsche wonders how one might give meaning to one’s life and make it more than just a thoughtless accident of nature; and he suggests that one might do this by considering one’s ‘educator’ and meditating on those features which one has always loved most. In this way, one comes to think of one’s true self (what one would aspire to become) as something which ‘does not lie deeply concealed inside you [like a ‘mind’ or ‘soul’ or ‘ego’] but immeasurably high over you [über dir]’.

Nietzsche connects explicitly this conception of one’s true self with the conception of the overman in Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft. Nietzsche denounces monotheism for its preaching the existence of a single norm to which all men must conform. The advantage of polytheism is that allows for a ‘multiplicity of norms’; hence it allows for individuals (Dostoyevskian ‘idiots’) and for the honouring of individuality. Nietzsche applauds polytheism for ‘the invention of gods, heroes, and Übermenschen’, as well as of Nebenmenschen and Untermenschen: dwarves, fairies, centaurs, satyrs, demons, and devils. These Übermenschen appear to Nietzsche as symbols of the repudiation of any conformity to a single norm; antitheses to mediocrity and stagnation. In looking for an ‘educator’ in whose beloved qualities they might behold their true selves, the Greeks had envisaged their gods and heroes.

It is in Zarathustra that the overman makes his first public appearance; and Zarathustra may be read as an exegesis of ‘über'. There is an almost über-profusion of ‘über’ words in Zarathustra, some of which are new coinages and some of which allude to earlier German literature – over-fullness, over-goodness, over-time, over-kind, over-wealth, over-hero, over-drink – and they are all variations on the notion of ‘overcoming’. The overman of which Zarathustra speaks is the man who has overcome or ‘surpassed’ himself; the self-conqueror.

Nietzsche explicitly repudiates in Ecce Homo any similarity between his concept of the ‘overman’ and, on the one hand, Darwin’s ‘fittest specimen’ and Carlyle’s ‘moral heroes’ on the other. Darwin’s ‘fittest specimen’ is a ‘thoughtless accident of nature’, which is precisely the existential predicament that Nietzsche’s overman has overcome in his self-mastery. Carlyle’s ‘great men who make history’ and on whose Nürnburg-style worship society depends for its moral order have instrumental value for the maintenance of society and the avoidance of anarchy, while Nietzsche’s overman has no such social value but is valuable only in himself as the source of all other values: ‘The value of a human being does not lie in his usefulness: for it would continue to exist even if there were nobody to whom he could be useful.’ No hint of the Hitlerian ideal of service there.

Neither is tyranny over others any part of Nietzsche’s overman, though the failure to indulge in bullying is itself no virtue unless one has the power to do so but refrains deliberately from exercising that power. The ideal for Nietzsche is thus ‘the Roman Caesar with Christ’s soul’. The overman is master of himself; mastery of others is a kind of weakness, a corruption of the character. Tyrants are corrupted by rather than the masters of their power.

Nietzsche’s overman is in short a passionate man who controls his passions, a man who performs a unique deed of self-integration, self-creation, and self-mastery in the face of his own disintegration and weaknesses, a man who has overcome his animal nature, organised the chaos of his passions, sublimated his impulses, and thereby given style to his character; someone who has ‘disciplined himself to wholeness’, who has become a ‘man of tolerance, not from weakness but from strength’; ‘a spirit who has become free [of the flesh]’.

It is often asked if Nietzsche may be considered responsible for the Nietzsche legend and the uses and abuses to which his writing was put during the 20th century, insofar as his writing invites misunderstanding. I think that he can. Nietzsche himself acknowledged that his writing – and especially the symbolism of Zarathustra - could be misconstrued Darwinistically or in the manner of Carlyle’s fascistic cult of hero-worshipping, but only by ‘scholarly oxen’ and other mediocre minds; and, since Nietzsche had nothing but contempt for such types who could not even overcome their mediocrity to read him properly, this did not concern him greatly. Nietzsche makes abundantly clear in his prefaces that not everyone will understand him, and that his writing requires a kind of reading of which not many are capable, a kind of reading which is itself a kind of self-overcoming. Reading Nietzsche is not like reading a newspaper or a scientific paper. His writing has to be studied ‘rück- und vorsichtig', not just carefully but also with an eye to what comes before and what comes after in the ‘constellation’ of his aphorisms, ‘with doors left open, with delicate fingers and eyes’. It has rather to be read as one would read collections of poems or short stories. And many cannot be bothered to do this.
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  #2  
Old 08-04-2004, 07:57 PM
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wow, its a really nice essay!

Is Nietzsche your favorite philosopher too? You know, for me, Nietzsche is THE PHILOSOPHER! As it were he gave me new life;he made me be born again and realize my ever constantly self-transcendence.

True,many people tend to misunderstand his philosophy especially his concept of Ubermensch,the Eternal Return,Death of God,and the Will to Power.At first glance his philosophy appears to aim solely for destruction but if one would just be more open and see beyond what appears to be immediate, then people will realize that he is actually putting forward the possibility of human for transcendence.
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Old 08-04-2004, 08:09 PM
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Nietzsche is in the top few in my list as are Hume and Schopenhauer.
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Old 08-05-2004, 01:07 PM
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It's a nice essay White Craw. Are you a nietzschean too? just like femme fatale...

Nietzsche wrote "Schopenhauer as Educator", I would like to write an essay entitled "Nietzsche as my Educator".

for further reading I suggest Walter Kauffman's book titled "Nietzsche Philosopher, Psychologist, AntiChrist". A great book which is a complete challenge to those who misunderstands Nietzsche.
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Old 08-07-2004, 07:34 AM
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Before I may comment, I must ask: is this for personal use, junior high, high school, or college?

By the way: Reading Nietzsche
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Old 08-20-2004, 05:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daybreak
Before I may comment, I must ask: is this for personal use, junior high, high school, or college?

By the way: Reading Nietzsche
It's for personal use, sorry for the one line.
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Old 08-21-2004, 02:56 AM
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In that case I find it fantastic.
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Old 08-21-2004, 07:48 AM
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Considering this "White Craw" person hasn't been to this thread in months, this post might be useless. Nevertheless, the above exchange seems to include a misunderstanding. Midou Ban, my question ("is this for personal use, junior high, high school, or college?") was intended for the author of the thread. In turn, the post above ("In that case I find it fantastic") has no application.

Just a clarification.
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Old 12-11-2004, 02:32 PM
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A very interesting essay White Craw. Well done.

Though it is only in philosophy that someone who goes insane and believes that they are (among others) Jesus Christ, Buddha and Napoleon Bonaparte can be held in such high esteem. Plus, the reason he went insane was because of the syphilus he contracted when visiting a brothel in his early manhood.

Liked the essay though, despite the fact that I am not overly enthralled with Nietzsche's philosophy.
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Old 03-01-2005, 05:59 AM
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Proverbial preface: I don't want to get into a pissing contest, but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fallen
...it is only in philosophy that someone who goes insane and believes that they are (among others) Jesus Christ, Buddha and Napoleon Bonaparte can be held in such high esteem.
Not that we can get into the head of a lunatic, but if you're talking about how he signed some late letters, only "the Crucified" gives any credence at all to the above. Moreover, "the Crucified" can be understood as an identificational metaphor in the sense Nietzsche admired Jesus and probably recognized similarities between his own quest and that of Jesus; "the Crucified" is more than appropriate in that sense and in no way justifies the notion he "thought he was Jesus."

If you know of letters he signed "Buddha" or "Napoleon," or even letters that imply anything similar, please give a link or reference - I've never seen them.

Quote:
Plus, the reason he went insane was because of the syphilus he contracted when visiting a brothel in his early manhood.
So?
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Old 08-02-2005, 11:57 PM
White Craw White Craw is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fallen
A very interesting essay White Craw. Well done.

Though it is only in philosophy that someone who goes insane and believes that they are (among others) Jesus Christ, Buddha and Napoleon Bonaparte can be held in such high esteem. Plus, the reason he went insane was because of the syphilus he contracted when visiting a brothel in his early manhood.

Liked the essay though, despite the fact that I am not overly enthralled with Nietzsche's philosophy.
It's a moot point how Nietzsche contracted the syphilus which contributed eventually to his complete mental and physical collapse. It is recorded by one of his companions on the visit to the brothel that, on entering the establishment, Nietzsche was overcome with confusion and embarrassment, went over to a piano, belted out a song, and then fled the building. He never visited a brothel again, and - it is believed - died a virgin. His pathological inability to form - let alone consumate - any sort of sexual relationship with women is well documented, especially in relation to the two great loves of his life - Cosima Wagner and Louise von Salomé. It seems that Nietzsche contracted the disease rather from the contact he had with the wounds of infected soldiers, during his service as a medical orderly during the Franco-Prussian War. In any case, his illness was congenital; his father suffered the same fate as Nietzsche, and at much the same age. Though there is little doubt that, in Nietzsche's case, his collapse was precipitated by a chronic syphilitic infection and drug abuse.
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Old 11-06-2005, 05:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by White Craw
In this way, one comes to think of one’s true self (what one would aspire to become) as something which ‘does not lie deeply concealed inside you [like a ‘mind’ or ‘soul’ or ‘ego’] but immeasurably high over you [über dir]’..
Actually, that might conform to Freud's notion of the Super-Ego...

Quote:
Originally Posted by White Craw
The overman of which Zarathustra speaks is the man who has overcome or ‘surpassed’ himself; the self-conqueror...
That is an important point...

Quote:
Originally Posted by White Craw
Nietzsche explicitly repudiates in Ecce Homo any similarity between his concept of the ‘overman’ and, on the one hand, Darwin’s ‘fittest specimen’ and Carlyle’s ‘moral heroes’ on the other. Darwin’s ‘fittest specimen’ is a ‘thoughtless accident of nature’, which is precisely the existential predicament that Nietzsche’s overman has overcome in his self-mastery. Carlyle’s ‘great men who make history’ and on whose Nürnburg-style worship society depends for its moral order have instrumental value for the maintenance of society and the avoidance of anarchy, while Nietzsche’s overman has no such social value but is valuable only in himself as the source of all other values: ‘The value of a human being does not lie in his usefulness: for it would continue to exist even if there were nobody to whom he could be useful.’ ...
That is fascinating. I haven't read it put into the proverbial nutshell like that before. I think that you are absolutely on-target with this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by White Craw
The overman is master of himself; mastery of others is a kind of weakness, a corruption of the character.
I totally agree with you about that, as well. It makes for a wonderful quote, and a very true one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by White Craw
Nietzsche’s overman is in short a passionate man who controls his passions, a man who performs a unique deed of self-integration, self-creation, and self-mastery in the face of his own disintegration and weaknesses, a man who has overcome his animal nature, organised the chaos of his passions, sublimated his impulses, and thereby given style to his character; someone who has ‘disciplined himself to wholeness’....
Yes. The integrated man. The man who has integrated the dispirate elements of himself into one and who can move between them by turn or enjoy them all as a synthesized "one". That is quite a challenge that Nietzsche sets us...

Sorry to both chop up your essay and praise-you-up too much, but I wanted to isolate and highlight the bits I liked best.
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