Monday, 19 March 2012 07:48

Freidrich Nietzsche: Men of Ideas

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German Philologist and philosopher. Nietzsche wrote many books and aphorisms. It appears that his mission was to say it as it is, as he believed that he saw it. He particularly did not like what he called Christian sentimentality, and wanted to show that human existence is not what Christians made it out to be.

Christians made life to seem benign; as if there is a god that protects people and that if they lived ethical lives they would be rewarded by that god. Nietzsche set out to show that there is no such God (God is dead) and that human life is a tragedy.

We are born, suffer and die. We are on our own; no one out there is looking after our interests.

The realistic individual, Nietzsche seems to be saying, ought to see life for what it is, a tragedy, and still resolve to live it to the fullest and then die and disappear into the great oblivion from whence he came.

The individual ought to be a hero of his own life; he ought to do his best and optimize his life but do so without illusions of there been life after death, immortality and other such suiting illusions.

Live well today and die tomorrow (Carpe Dien) the stoic Horace taught Romans. This seems to be what Nietzsche in his convoluted German writing was trying to say.

In Thus Spake Zarathustra, he propagated his heroic philosophy. He appeared to be urging folks to defy all authority that holds them back, particularly the authority of the church, and live their own lives as they see fit. He gave a wonderful analogy of what human life seems like.

Human beings, Nietzsche said, are like camels, they squat down and allow other people to place heavy loads on them, and bid them to get up and carry those loads to wherever those people want to go and they do so.

In other words, the leaders of society and culture, in general, enslave folk with superfluous ideas and make them live life according to those enslaving ideas.

Throw off the load weighing you down and, like a free soul, go do your own thing. Only you should define what you consider worth doing and go do it

Life may be tragic but affirm it any way. To chicken out of living fully is cowardice and Nietzsche has no sympathy for the coward; he admires those with will to power.

Did Nietzsche live as he urged folk to live? Of course he did not. He attempted pleasing one great man after another, Wagner for example.  Ultimately, he suffered mental breakdown. Thereafter, he was cared for by his sister for the rest of his life.

This is not exactly how a tragic hero lives. If by tragic hero we think of Achilles and other Greek heroes, we understand folk who look life in the face, look death in the face and fight on until they are killed in battle.  The tragic hero has a character flaw that pushes him on and on and would eventually bring him down, a flaw that those around him sees and he doesn’t see, for it is his destiny to do what that flawed character disposes him to do, and if need be die doing it. Correcting his character foible and living as a mere human being is not good enough for the hero.

Consider a man motivated to conquer the world and have access to many beautiful women. This irrational drive drives him to achieve social heights and spread his oats among women.  Now, suppose that he understands what is motivating him, and gives up his desire to be the number one person in the world, and stops questing after sex (perhaps now sees himself as a sex addict and tries to cure it by not having sex with women) what would such a man be doing on earth? He would live quietly, right? Is living a quiet, uneventful existence a good enough way to live?

Live tumultuously and die and let philosophers and psychologists, idle folk, worry about why you lived as you did.

Nietzsche was an armchair hero but in real life was no real hero. His writing is said to have given such wannabe heroes as Adolf Hitler the justification to do whatever they want to do.  Nevertheless, Nietzsche has useful points but his fight with Christianity blinded him to the recognition that despite the metaphysical nonsense found in Christianity that it contains an ethical principle that no other religion matches: it asks folk to do unto others as they want them to do to them. We all wanton be loved and cared for by other people, so let charity begin with one; one should love and care for other people.

Nothing is more heroic than loving and caring for other people, especially those who do not care for one. Love the world even if the world does not love you and you are a true hero.

This is what Nietzsche and other so-called philosophers failed to appreciate. One could careless about the theology of Christianity, the notion of dying and resurrecting (why would one want to live in body and live in body for ever and ever) and other such nonsense. What one sees as useful in Christianity is its ethics of love and caring. As for whether god exists or not, whether there is life after death or not, there are other ways of approaching those issues than Christianity.

Hinduism teaches that there is another world, a world totally the opposite of our world, a world that does not even know that our world exists, a world that we do not have to earn by pleasing God, a world that we attain by negating our world, by escaping from our world. In meditation Hindus try to tune out our world so as to attain that other world, a unified spiritual world.

I do not know whether Hindus succeed or not in attaining the unified spirit self they quest for. What I do know is that our present world has to be lived to the fullest. Tragic or not, we must study science and technology and use them to make our lives as exciting as is possible. One is not an escapist from this world.

However, it does not hurt to think about Hinduism’s thesis that there is a world of unified spirit.

As for Nietzsche’s thesis, what is? I do not see any.

REFERENCE

Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Spake Zarathustra. (1883)

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176