FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

Posted: June 30, 2017 by vequinox in Art, ARYAN CYCLE, Eternal Recurrence, German, GREAT INITIATES, Literature, Nietzsche
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FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE’S

 

Pluralism

We have seen that Nietzsche promotes a number of different values. In some cases, these values reinforce one another. For example, Nietzsche’s emphasis on affirming life could be taken to enhance or to confirm the value of life itself, qua successful expression of will to power, or conversely, one might trace the value of affirmation to its acknowledgment of our inescapable condition as living, power-seeking creatures. Similarly, we saw that both the virtue of honesty and the value of art and artistry play essential roles in support of the person’s ability to affirm life (Anderson 2005: 203–11). Nietzsche appeals to the metaphor of a tree’s growth to capture this sort of organic interconnection among his commitments:

For this alone is fitting for a philosopher. We have no right to be single in anything: we may neither err nor hit upon the truth singly. Rather, with the necessity with which a tree bears its fruit our thoughts grow out of us, our values, our yes’s and no’s and if’s and whether’s—the whole lot related and connected among themselves, witnesses to one will, one health, one earthly kingdom, one sun. (GM Pref., 2)

However interrelated Nietzsche’s values, though, they appear to remain irreducible to a single common value or principle that explains them all. For example, the account of honesty and artistry explored in sections 3.2.3 and 3.2.4 revealed that the support they provide to the value of affirmation depends on their opposition to one another, as “counterforces” (GS 107): if this is right, then Nietzsche’s various values may interact within an organic whole, but some of the interactions are oppositional, so they cannot all arise from a monistic philosophical system.

That very fact, however, fits nicely with another of Nietzsche’s core values, the value of pluralism itself. For Nietzsche, a person’s ability to deploy and be responsive to a multiplicity of values, of virtues, of outlooks and “perspectives”, is a positive good in its own right. Nietzsche’s defense of this idea is perhaps clearest in the epistemic case, where he insists on the value of bringing multiple perspectives to bear on any question: the thinker must “know how to make precisely the difference in perspectives and affective interpretations useful for knowledge”, because

There is only a perspectival seeing, only a perspectival “knowing”; and the more affects we allow to speak about a matter, the more eyes, different eyes, we know how to bring to bear on one and the same matter, that much more complete will our “concept” of this matter, our “objectivity”, be. (GM III, 12)

As the passage makes clear, however, Nietzschean perspectives are themselves rooted in affects (and the valuations to which affects give rise), and in his mind, the ability to deploy a variety of perspectives is just as important for our practical and evaluative lives as it is for cognitive life. In GM I, 16, for example, he wraps up a discussion of the sharp opposition between the good/bad and good/evil value schemes with a surprising acknowledgment that the best of his contemporaries will need both, despite the opposition:

today there is perhaps no more decisive mark of the “higher nature”, of the more spiritual nature, than to be conflicted in this sense and to be still a real battleground for these opposites. (GM I, 16; see also BGE 212; TI V, 3; and EH I)

While efforts to provide a systematic reconstruction unifying Nietzsche’s philosophy around one fundamental thought or basic value retain their attraction for many commentators, it is fair to say that all such efforts have remained controversial. Meanwhile, Nietzschean pluralism has been a major theme of several landmark Nietzsche studies (e.g., Nehamas 1985, Schacht 1983, Poellner 1995, Richardson 2004), and some of the most sophisticated recent treatments of his value theory have returned evaluative pluralism to the center of attention (Railton 2012; Huddleston, forthcoming, b). Huddleston’s view is particularly noteworthy, since he argues that Nietzsche’s conceptions of strength and health—which, as we saw, are connected to the allegedly foundational value of power—are themselves disunified “cluster concepts” involving an internal plurality of separate and irreducible commitments. In fact, Nietzsche’s commitment to pluralism helps us understand how his diverse positive values fit together. From his pluralistic point of view, it is a selling point, not a drawback, that he has many other value commitments, and that they interact in complex patterns to support, inform, and sometimes to oppose or limit one another, rather than being parts of a single, hierarchically ordered, systematic axiology.

 

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nietzsche/

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