Friedrich Nietzsche

October 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Friedrich Nietzsche was an influential German philosopher, whose writings are considered some of the founding works of existentialism.

Nietzsche’s father, a Lutheran minister, died when he was four years old. Six months later, his younger brother also died. These traumatic events shaped Nietzsche’s outlook on life. Another shaping event was his discovery of Schopenhauer’s The World As Will and Representation at age 21; he found Schopenhauer’s view of life, the “cadeverous perfume” of his philosophy, intoxicating. At the age of 24, while attending the University of Leipzig, Nietzsche met Richard Wagner, the German composer. The friendship of these two men was often stormy. Even after their falling-out, Nietzsche viewed their friendship as one of the greatest achievements of his life.

After Nietzsche’s death, his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, popularized his work in the German National Socialist movement. This has led to many misunderstandings about Nietzsche’s philosophy, especially his views on Judaism and Jews. Nietzsche has been portrayed variously as an anti- and philo-semite. The truth, as you can see from the quotes below, is more complicated than either position allows––while he disliked anti-semitic “screamers” and admired certain things about Jewish culture, he detested Jewish “slave morality” as he saw it.

Every nation, every man has disagreeable, even dangerous characteristics; it is cruel to demand that the Jew should be an exception. ––Human, All Too Human, section 475

[T]he youthful Jew of the stock exchange is the most repugnant invention of the whole human race. ––ibid.

The command ‘love your enemies!’ had to be invented by the Jews, the best haters there have ever been… ––Daybreak, section 377.

Friedrich Nietzsche, at age seventeen.

Friedrich Nietzsche, at age seventeen.

The man of an age of dissolution which mixes the races with one another, who has the inheritance of a diversified descent in his body––that is to say, contrary, and often not contrary, instincts and standards of value, which struggle with one another and are seldom at peace––such a man of late culture and broken lights, will, on an average, be a weak man: his fundamental desire is that the war which he is should come to an end… ––Beyond Good and Evil, section 200.

What Europe owes to the Jews?  Many things, good and bad, and above all one thing that is of the best and of the worst:  the grand style in morality, the terribleness and majesty of infinite demands, infinite meanings. ––Beyond Good and Evil, section 250.

I’ve seen proof, black on white, that Herr Dr. Förster has not yet severed his connection with the anti-Semitic movement…Since then I’ve had difficulty coming up with any of the tenderness and protectiveness I’ve so long felt toward you. The separation between us is thereby decided in really the most absurd way. Have you grasped nothing of the reason why I am in the world?…Now it has gone so far that I have to defend myself hand and foot against people who confuse me with these anti-Semitic canaille; after my own sister, my former sister, and after Widemann more recently have given the impetus to this most dire of all confusions. After I read the name Zarathustra in the anti-Semitic Correspondence my forbearance came to an end. I am now in a position of emergency defense against your spouse’s Party. These accursed anti-Semite deformities shall not sully my ideal!! ––from a draft of a letter to his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, December 1887.

Your association with an anti-Semitic chief expresses a foreignness to my whole way of life which fills me again and again with ire or melancholy…It is a matter of honor with me to be absolutely clean and unequivocal in relation to anti-Semitism, namely, opposed to it, as I am in my writings. I have recently been persecuted with letters and Anti-Semitic Correspondence Sheets. My disgust with this party (which would like the benefit of my name only too well!) is as pronounced as possible, but the relation to Förster, as well as the aftereffects of my former publisher, the anti-Semitic Schmeitzner, always brings the adherents of this disagreeable party back to the idea that I must belong to them after all…It arouses mistrust against my character, as if publicly I condemned something which I have favored secretly––and that I am unable to do anything against it, that the name of Zarathustra is used in every Anti-Semitic Correspondence Sheet, has almost made me sick several times. ––from a letter to his sister, Christmas 1887.

Incidentally, the Celts were a thoroughly blond race. People are wrong when they link the traces of a basically dark-haired population, which are noticeable on the carefully prepared ethnographic maps of Germany, with any Celtic origin and mixing of blood, as Virchow does. It is much rather the case that in these places the pre-Aryan population of Germany emerged. (The same is true for almost all of Europe: essentially the conquered races finally attained the upper hand for themselves once again in colour, shortness of skull, perhaps even in the intellectual and social instincts. Who can confirm for us that modern democracy, the even more modern anarchism, and indeed that preference for the “Commune,” for the primitive form of society, which all European socialists now share, does not indicate a monstrous counter-attack and that the ruling and master race, the Aryans, is not being defeated, even physiologically?)––Geneaology of Morals, Essay I, section 5.

At the bottom of all these noble races we cannot fail to recognize the beast of prey, the blond beast splendidly roaming around in its lust for loot and victory. This hidden basis from time to time needs to be discharged: the animal must come out again, must
go back into the wilderness,—Roman, Arab, German, Japanese nobility, Homeric heroes, Scandinavian Vikings—in this need they are all alike.

It was the noble races which left behind the concept of the “barbarian” in all their tracks, wherever they went. A consciousness of and a pride in this fact reveals itself even in their highest culture (for example, when Pericles says to his Athenians, in that famous Funeral Speech, “our audacity has broken a way through to every land and sea, putting up permanent memorials to itself for good and ill.”)—this “audacity” of the noble races, mad, absurd, sudden in the way it expresses itself, its unpredictability, even the improbability of its undertakings—Pericles emphatically praises the mental balance of the Athenians—its indifference to and contempt for safety, body, life, comfort, its fearsome cheerfulness and the depth of its joy in all destruction, in all the physical pleasures of victory and cruelty––everything summed up for those who suffer from such audacity in the image of the “barbarian,” the “evil enemy,” something like the “Goth” or the “Vandal.”

The profound, icy mistrust which the German provokes, as soon as he arrives at power––even at the present time––is always still an aftermathof that inextinguishable horror with which for whole centuries Europe has regarded the wrathof the blonde Teuton beast (although between the old Germans and ourselves there existsscarcely a psychological, let alone a physical, relationship). ––ibid.

There still shines the most important nuance by virtue of which the noble felt themselves to be men of a higher rank. They designate themselves simply by their superiority in power (as “the powerful,” “the masters,” “the commanders”) or by the most clearly visible signs of this superiority, for example, as “the rich,” “the possessors” (this is the meaning of ‘Arya,’ and of corresponding words in Iranian and Slavic). ––ibid.

It was the Jews who, in opposition to the aristocratic equation (good = aristocratic = beautiful = happy = loved by the gods), dared with a terrifying logic to suggest the contrary equation, and indeed to maintain with the teeth of the most profound hatred (the hatred of weakness) this contrary equation, namely, “the wretched are alone the good; the suffering,the needy, the sick, the loathsome, are the only ones who are pious, the only ones whoare blessed, for them alone is salvation––but you, on the other hand, you aristocrats,you men of power, you are to all eternity the evil, the horrible, the covetous, the insatiate,the godless; eternally also shall you be the unblessed, the cursed, the damned! ––ibid, Essay I, section 7.

Assuming…that it is precisely the purpose of all culture to breed a tame and civilized animal, a domestic pet, out of the beast of prey “man,” then we would undoubtedly have to consider the essential instruments of culture all those instinctive reactions and resentments by means of which the noble races with all their ideals were finally disgraced and overpowered––but that would not be to claim that the bearers of these instincts also in themselves represented culture. It would much rather be the case that the opposite is not only probable—no! nowadays it is visibly apparent. These people carrying instincts for oppression and a lust for revenge, the descendants of all European and non-European slavery, and all pre-Aryan populations in particular, represent the regression of mankind! These “instruments of culture” are a disgrace to humanity, more a reason to be suspicious of or a counterargument against “culture” in general!  ––ibid, Essay I, Section 11

That every will must consider every other will its equal––would be a principle hostile to life, an agent of the dissolution and destruction of man, an attempt to assassinate the future of man, a sign of weariness, a secret path to nothingness. ––ibid, Essay II, Section 11

I also do not like these latest speculators in idealism, the anti-Semites, who today roll their eyes in a Christian-Aryan-bourgeois manner and exhaust one’s patience by trying to rouse up all the horned-beast elements in people by abusing the cheapest
forms of agitation, in a way that exhausts my patience. ––ibid, Essay III, section 26.

Already in the summer of 1876, when the first festival at Bayreuth was at its height, I took leave of Wagner in my soul. I cannot endure anything double-faced. Since Wagner had returned to Germany, he had condescended step by step to everything that I despise––even to anti-Semitism. ––”How I Got Rid of Wagner,” from Nietzsche Contra Wagner

That which is un-German in Wagner. He lacks the German charm and grace of a Beethoven, a Mozart, a Weber; he also lacks the flowing, cheerful fire (Allegro con brio) of Beethoven and Weber. He cannot be free and easy without being grotesque. He lacks modesty, indulges in big drums, and always tends to surcharge his effect. He is not the good official that Bach was. Neither has he that Goethean calm in regard to his rivals. ––aphorism 36, from “Selected Aphorisms from Nietzsche’s Retrospect of His Years With Wagner.”

Terrible wildness, abject sorrow, emptiness, the shudder of joy, unexpectedness,—in short all the qualities peculiar to the Semitic race! I believe that the Jews approach Wagner’s art with more understanding than the Aryans do. ––aphorism 38, ibid.

One pays heavily for coming to power: power makes stupid. The Germans–once they were called the people of thinkers: do they think at all today? The Germans are now bored with the spirit, the Germans now mistrust the spirit; politics swallows up all serious concern for really spiritual matters. Deutschland, Deutschland über alles––I fear that was the end of German philosophy. ––”What the Germans Lack,” 1888.

What the German spirit might be–who has not had his melancholy ideas about that! But this people has deliberately made itself stupid, for nearly a millennium: nowhere have the two great European narcotics, alcohol and Christianity, been abused more dissolutely. Recently even a third has been added––one that alone would be suffficient to dispatch all fine and bold flexibility of the spirit––music, our constipated, constipating German music. ––ibid.

[H]ow much beer there is in the German intelligence! How is it at all possible that young men who dedicate their lives to the most spiritual goals do not feel the first instinct of spirituality, the spirit’s instinct of self-preservation––and drink beer? ––ibid.

I was speaking of the German spirit: it is becoming cruder, it is becoming shallower. Is that enough? At bottom, it is something quite different that alarms me: how German seriousness, German depth, German passion in spiritual matters are declining more and more. The verve has changed, not just the intellectuality. Here and there I come into contact with German universities: what an atmosphere prevails among their scholars, what desolate spirituality––and how contented and lukewarm it has become! ––ibid.

Culture and the state–one should not deceive one-self about this–are antagonists: “Kultur-Staat” is merely a modern idea. One lives off the other, one thrives at the expense of the other. All great ages of culture are ages of political decline: what is great culturally has always been unpolitical, even anti-political. Goethe’s heart opened at the phenomenon of Napoleon–it closed at the “Wars of Liberation.” At the same moment when Germany comes up as a great power, France gains a new importance as a cultural power. ––ibid.

Who among Germans still knows from experience the delicate shudder which light feet in spiritual matters send into every muscle? The stiff clumsiness of the spiritual gesture, the bungling hand at grasping–that is German to such a degree that abroad one mistakes it for the German character as such. The German has no fingers for nuances. ––ibid.

it is the hatred of the free and self-respecting orders for those who are pushing, and who combine timid and awkward gestures with an absurd opinion of their [own] worth. ––Will to Power, section 186.

A declaration of war on the masses by higher men is needed!…Everything that makes soft and effeminate, that serves the end of the people or the feminine, works in favor of universal suffrage, i.e. the domination of the inferior men. But we should take reprisal and bring this whole affair to light and the bar of judgment. ––ibid, section 864.

The homogenizing of European man…requires a justification: it lies in serving a higher sovereign species that stands upon the former which can raise itself to its task only by doing this. Not merely a master race whose sole task is to rule, but a race with its own sphere of life, with an excess of strength … strong enough to have no need of the tyranny of the virtue-imperative. ––ibid, section 898.

When one speaks of “aristocrats of the spirit,” reasons are usually not lacking for concealing something. As is well known, it is a favorite term among ambitious Jews. For spirit alone does not make noble. Rather, there must be something to ennoble the spirit. What then is required? Blood. ––ibid, section 942.

The doctrine of equality!…there is no more venomous poison in existence: for it appears to be preached by justice itself, when it is actually the end of justice…”Equality to the equal; inequality to the unequal” — that would be true justice speaking: and its corollary, “never make the unequal equal.” ––Expeditions of an Untimely Man, from Twilight of the Idols

Friedrich Nietzsche, circa 1875.

Friedrich Nietzsche, circa 1875.

The Jews are the most remarkable nation of world history because, faced with the question of being or not being, they preferred…being at any price:  the price they had to pay was the radical falsification of all nature, all naturalness, all reality, the entire inner world as well as the outer…Considered psychologically, the Jewish nation is a nation of the toughest vital energy which…took the side of all décadence instincts––not as being dominated by them but because it divined in them a power by means of which one can prevail against ‘the world.’  The Jews are the counterparts of décadents: they have been compelled to act as décadents to the point of illusion…[T]his kind of man has a life-interest in making mankind sick, and in inverting the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ ‘true’ and ‘false’ in a mortally dangerous and world-maligning sense. ––The Antichrist, section 24.

As an artistic triumph in psychological corruption … the Gospels, in fact, stand alone … Here we are among Jews: this is the first thing to be borne in mind if we are not to lose the thread of the matter. This positive genius for conjuring up a delusion of personal “holiness” unmatched anywhere else, either in books or by men; this elevation of fraud in word and attitude to the level of an art — all this is not an accident due to the chance talents of an individual, or to any violation of nature. The thing responsible is race. ––ibid, section 44.

One would as little choose early Christians for companions as Polish Jews: not that one need seek out an objection to them––neither has a pleasant smell. ––ibid, section 46.

The God that Paul invented for himself, a God who “reduced to absurdity” “the wisdom of this world” (especially the two great enemies of superstition, philology and medicine), is in truth only an indication of Paul’s resolute determination to accomplish that very thing himself: to give one’s own will the name of God, Torah — that is essentially Jewish. ––ibid, section 47.

Christianity destroyed for us the whole harvest of ancient civilization, and later it also destroyed for us the whole harvest of Mohammedan civilization. The wonderful culture of the Moors in Spain, which was fundamentally nearer to us and appealed more to our senses and tastes than that of Rome and Greece, was trampled down…Why? Because it had to thank noble and manly instincts for its origin—because it said yes to life, even to the rare and refined luxuriousness of Moorish life!…Intrinsically there should be no more choice between Islam and Christianity than there is between an Arab and a Jew. The decision is already reached; nobody remains at liberty to choose here. Either a man is a Chandala or he is not. ––ibid, section 60.

Thanks to Thomas Dalton and Project Gutenberg.

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